36th Parliament, 1st Session

L166 - Thu 20 Feb 1997 / Jeu 20 Fév 1997




















































The House met at 1002.




Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I move private member's notice of motion number 43:

Whereas the Harris government is closing hospitals in communities across Ontario, and thereby threatening patients' access to care when and where they need it; and

Whereas the new hospital bed standard that is being imposed by the government's restructuring commission is overly aggressive and unrealistic, especially in rural and northern Ontario; and

Whereas the downloading of responsibility for long-term care on to municipalities will put additional pressure on the hospital sector;

Therefore, be it resolved that in the opinion of this House the Ontario Ministry of Health must develop a hospital restructuring policy that properly addresses such factors as the need for core hospital services, the availability of non-hospital alternative care and the geographic realities of rural and northern Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Mr Conway has 10 minutes.

Mr Conway: I come before the House this morning as a member of the Legislature for an eastern Ontario constituency that in very recent weeks has faced severe cuts to its hospital sector.

I have raised on previous occasions the decision of the hospital restructuring commission made on December 3, 1996, which will close the Pembroke Civic Hospital. In so doing, with that decision, the Harris government will take out of our community, a small city in eastern Ontario, $14 million of annual hospital budget. We are going to lose not just a century-old facility, we're not just going to lose $14 million annually in terms of hospital budgets in Pembroke, but we're going to lose 300 jobs.

The report of the restructuring commission in respect of Pembroke also calls for dramatic cuts in areas like chronic care. The Pembroke report of the hospital restructuring commission recommends that the city of Pembroke, which now has 70 chronic beds, go down to 18 chronic beds. This is a huge cut in an area where we've already got unmet pressures.

The government's commission has been through not just Pembroke but Sudbury, Thunder Bay, it's been to Sarnia and into Petrolia, and I hear this morning it will very shortly be in Ottawa, Toronto and London. People increasingly across the province are becoming concerned about the range and depth of the Harris government's cuts to the hospital sector. It is a matter of record that this provincial government led by Mr Harris has cut more deeply into hospital budgets than any other provincial government across Canada.

Just a few weeks after the Pembroke Civic Hospital was closed, hospitals in Arnprior, Renfrew, Barry's Bay and Deep River in my eastern county of Renfrew were told that they would lose another $1.6 million -- that on top of the $14 million net loss to Pembroke. That means that just in the last few weeks in my county of less than 100,000 people, we've been told by this government to get ready to lose $16 million-plus on an annual basis. There is no doubt, as people are now starting to observe, that this is cutting into patient care.

We have on the record in just the last few weeks the tragic testimony of Paul Kaihla, a distinguished Maclean's reporter, about the circumstances of his father at the Sault Ste Marie Plummer. We had last week the testimony of several of the Peterborough medical society, which doctors wrote in the public domain that the cuts in Peterborough are now serious and threatening patient care. Just a few days after that letter, we have the tragic story of an 82-year-old man who was found by his family dead on a hospital cot in the corridors of the Peterborough Civic Hospital.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): It's outrageous.

Mr Conway: It is outrageous, and it is deeply worrisome to families and caregivers across the province. The Kaihla story in the Sault at the Plummer, the case of the 82-year-old man in Peterborough are but two examples of evidence to support the claim made in recent days by the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, Mr David MacKinnon, who strongly urges the current government to stop, look and listen in terms of its hospital cutting and its restructuring policy.

David MacKinnon is no wild-eyed radical. He's a long-serving Ontario public servant just recently made president of the Ontario Hospital Association. He said to a legislative committee just in the last few days, "The Harris government's current policy towards restructuring of hospitals and the health system as a whole is seriously flawed and must be fundamentally changed before irreparable damage is done." He goes on, does the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, "Unless changes are made, the people of this province will face reduced access to care and the quality of that care may decline significantly."

We have a commission that is travelling around and about the province, the so-called Health Services Restructuring Commission, that is acting as the government's agent. These are good people, well intentioned to be sure, but they are using as one of their principal planning tools a new hospital bed standard. I repeat today what I've asked the Minister of Health on a number of occasions earlier this month. I want the government of Ontario to tell me today which Ontario hospitals are today meeting that new hospital bed planning standard they are using to restructure Ontario hospitals, to shut down hospitals in Pembroke and Sudbury and Thunder Bay and to substantially reorganize hospitals in Sarnia and Lambton.


Give me and the people of Ontario the hard copy, the list of those health care institutions, those hospitals that are today meeting your standard. I don't think you can because I don't think there are any hospitals that as entire facilities today are meeting that standard, but I'm quite prepared to be proven wrong and incorrect. I say again to the parliamentary assistant, give this House the list of those hospitals meeting that standard.

All of this cutting to the hospital sector -- $1.3 billion to be taken out of the hospital sector in just three years -- comes before we have the downloading of long-term care and home care and ambulance services on to the land tax, the property tax. As the chair of the Health Services Restructuring Commission, Dr Sinclair, said, that is wrong-headed policy and is going to make the ambition of an integrated health delivery system very much more difficult to achieve. But these billion-dollar cuts to the hospital sector that are causing such angst in places like Pembroke and Sudbury and Peterborough and Chatham and Thunder Bay and soon Ottawa, London and Toronto, are coming before the downloading of home care and long-term care to the land tax, to the property tax.

I met recently in my community with all the administrators of the homes for the aged and nursing homes and they are apoplectic at what they are going to do. In Pembroke we are told we have to give up 70% of our chronic hospital beds at a time when we're having very real difficulties meeting the needs of the long-term-care patients. My constituents with elderly relatives are asking me now, "Where are we going to take our grandparents, our parents?" It's bad now; you reduce by 65% the chronic care capacity in the Pembroke hospital centre and these caregivers tell me a bad situation is quickly going to get much worse.

I say most sincerely to the House and to the parliamentary assistant, stop, look and listen to what doctors in Peterborough, constituents in Pembroke and the president of the Ontario Hospital Association are telling you.

A final observation, as a member from rural Ontario: I firmly believe that the health ministry's current planning standard fails to adequately address the particular health care and cultural needs and realities of rural and northern Ontario. I look at the Pembroke report and I look at the comparison of utilization rates. Yes, it's very clear what the standard is. It's a standard that's currently being met in -- where? -- Toronto, Ottawa, London and Hamilton. The larger the urban community with the greater collection of existing institutional services, the better the communities perform.

You get out into the rural Ottawa Valley, you get up into northern Ontario, and you notice that the utilization rates are substantially higher. I believe that one of the reasons for that is that the current planning standards just do not adequately address the rural and northern needs of Ontario. I represent people in places like Palmer Rapids and Rolphton and Whitney where now it's a one to one-and-a-half-hour drive to Pembroke; it's a two to two-and-a-half or three-hour drive to Ottawa. These people are terrified that this new planning standard is going to undermine their access to quality health care, particularly in the hospital sector.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for York South.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is at once a pleasure and problematic to take part in this debate. I want to thank my colleague from Renfrew North for raising this matter, but at the same time of, course, my colleague from Renfrew North is trying to make sense of the unfathomable: the hospital policy of this government. The assumption that there might be a germ somewhere, a scintilla of sense to the approach that this government is taking is what underlines the good faith of the motion we have before us today; that somewhere within the government's approach to hospitals is logic; that somewhere within it might be some evidence-based practice, some idea of what actually could be done for the betterment of health care.

As the Liberal health critic, I've had opportunity to look in detail at what the hospital restructuring commission is doing, what premises it's based on, and what we have is a hugely academic exercise using models. Some of the answers that my colleague may get from the success of this motion would show him, I believe, standards that are completely unrealistic and completely unsuited to the Ontario experience.

Let's go back a bit and look at the genesis of the Harris hospital mess in Ontario, generated exclusively by this government, an atmosphere of fear and concern generated by decisions made by this government: the passage of Bill 26; the suspension of normal rights of appeal, of democratic intercourse with their government for the towns and the cities affected by the hospital restructuring's attentions -- totally wiped out by the new acquisition of powers by the Minister of Health to go around this House, to go around the normal channels of democracy, and instead to give those powers to unelected officials appointed to carry the bag for this government, unwilling to state its opinion on the most important issue of the day, which is, what the standards are going to be for health care in this province, a government bereft of its own ideas of what that responsibility is. In even reducing health care down to these little methodologies -- and I'll say in a minute where those little methodologies came from -- but to make it an academic exercise shows a profound lack of understanding on the part of this government of what health care is all about.

Certainly, it takes the "care" completely out of health care. That's what the Conservative government has done with the appointment of a hospital restructuring commission that sees no emotional connection on the part of small towns, on the part of patients with the care they're supposed to be getting in these institutions. Instead, the government cannot move off an interpretation of hospitals as lines on a budget, as moneys to be extracted.

And what does this government hope to obtain? The other decision this government made, uniquely, was to cut $1.3 billion from hospitals over the course of three years, a historical slashing of health institutions in this province, done, one would hope, after some level of deliberation, some level of study, some level of comprehension; but no, instead done by a government desperate for cash, a government that wants to tithe -- more than tithe; decimate, literally and beyond -- the function of hospitals to pay for new needs in the health care sector, to pay for the cash flow they require for a $5-billion-a-year tax cut, a sad and sorry sacrificing of the wellbeing and the health of people in this province.

The consistency, of course, is there in terms of the genesis of this. We see this government again abrogating its own responsibility, deciding it can't stand up and doesn't have the courage to tell Ontarians where it is coming from in health care. Does it believe people should still get services in hospitals, or does it want it to be in the community? Does it want those to be one monolithic, integrated institution, or does it have some regard for competition and flexibility and service responsiveness? None of those things is this government prepared to tell us. Instead, as it has done in other areas, as it proposes to do with the megacity in Toronto, as it proposes to do with the education system, it hands off the responsibility that we're paid to do in this House to handle and find political solutions to the problems of the day. This government has abandoned its responsibilities and gotten rid of those difficult problems, it believes.

It has handed it off to an academically based -- we say that; we'll give them some due; some people who have some background certainly in terms of the field of health, but it's handed them a dirty assignment. It has not said to them, "What's in the best interests of patients, of the people of Ontario in terms of the health care system?" It has said to this restructuring commission: "We're cutting 18%, $1.3 billion across the board, and you're the executioner. You've got to go out there and do this according to these guidelines." We've seen time and time again that this restructuring commission has been willing to do that.

Out of Thunder Bay it's taken a profit of $41 million for this government in excess cuts over any so-called reinvestment. That's $41 million worth of health care that those residents of Thunder Bay won't have, and we're going to find that repeated over and over again.


The formula has come not from an academic, detached entity but rather from the Ministry of Health itself. What people don't realize is that even though the health restructuring commission hasn't yet made it to their town or city, the district health councils have been working in anticipation. Those district health councils have been handed off formulas. Health care is now reduced to formulas: 70% day surgery; all kinds of allocations based on notional ideas of what things could be.

What I would recommend to anybody listening to this important debate raised by the member for Renfrew North is to sit down and talk to your hospital administrator and ask your hospital administrator a couple of questions. Ask them whether they're experimenting with your health, because the formulas engaged by the Ministry of Health, even though it tries to skirt around it, the Ministry of Health and the district health councils, those formulas are causing the people responsible -- the boards and the administrators of hospitals -- to experiment with people's health.

I spoke with one administrator who used the ministry formula for releasing pregnant mothers and who found instead, a year later, that not only was it harmful to their health to put them out of hospital that soon, but the readmission rates were so high it cost money.

That's what happens when a government won't take its responsibility, when a government runs away from the tough decisions, when a government won't stand up for health care in this province in a most fundamental way. We've heard this week and last week the cost that lack of gumption on the part of this government has, the price that having no courage when it comes to health care exacts.

We've heard of an 82-year-old man who died in the hallway in Peterborough, a hallway cluttered with stretchers because of the millions of dollars in cuts that have taken place, because the cuts are taking place completely out of sync, without even the pretence of hospital restructuring. There's no connection between them.

Now we know, as of yesterday, that the association representing all the hospitals in the province, whose initial judgement was to go along with the government -- which I'm sure many citizens out there would like to do as well, would like to believe that when the government embarks on this kind of hazardous activity, changing systems that have been around for 15 and 20 years on the turn of a dime, they have a plan. We now have the association representing the institutions most affected saying yesterday that this plan is flawed, it's haphazard and second rate.

We know now that the minister, Dave Johnson, the part-time health minister, wears no clothes. We know now that the Tory caucus, who across the province have been making noises about hospitals, who have been saying, "We'd like to keep these hospitals," that that's just noise. Instead, every single member of the Tory caucus has proved unwilling to stand up for decent health care. They must be aware. In fact, I happen to know they're aware.

I have here a speech given by the head of the OHA to the Health Policy Advisory Council of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. This was a speech given to the members opposite to give them a chance to realize that health restructuring based on formulas that don't have any application to reality is wrong, that it's bad for the people they represent, that it's hazardous to the health of the people they represent. They were told this, in confidence, in privacy. They were given a chance to do something different.

On January 20, the members opposite were told that this can't be done. A significant price is going to be paid. The changes that hospitals are making "will impair the system," and "For the third year...all bets are off," because "the third year targets" cannot be achieved without "reductions in services."

This government knows. It's not even a question of whether they've got the best formulas; they know it's impossible. It can't be done. Yet on February 1 of this year, they persisted.

The Acting Speaker: Let me express to the member for Nickel Belt, I'm sorry for the lack of protocol accorded to him before the last speaker. Now the Chair recognizes the member for Nickel Belt.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Thank you, Mr Speaker. If that's the worst you ever do to me, I will not be concerned.

I wanted to take a few minutes of the time allocated to our caucus to talk about hospital restructuring and to commend the member for Renfrew North for bringing this before the House.

Basically, what it's doing, for those who tuned in late, is calling upon the Ministry of Health as it goes about hospital restructuring to think about special factors, such as core hospital services that are required, non-hospital alternative care, which I gather means community-based care, and some of the realities of rural and northern Ontario.

I can tell you that I have no problem with the need for hospital restructuring in this province, and I doubt very much if the member for Renfrew North does either, although I don't want to put words in his mouth. As a matter of fact, it was our government that started the whole hospital restructuring process, so I don't have any problem with the need for that.

But I do recall, when we started the process, the enormous pressure put on us by the opposition at that point, the Tories in opposition and, quite frankly, the Liberals as well, for us to make sure that every dime saved in a community was reinvested in that community, reinvested in community-based care or in capital or whatever; whatever savings were achieved in a community, they'd have to be reinvested in that community. We thought long and hard about that and finally we agreed to do that.

This government refuses to do that. They say they're not cutting health care, but they will not reinvest savings in the local community. If that's the case, where are those savings going? They're going to one of two areas: They're going to go into places like Toronto or Ottawa, and I don't believe that either. Therefore, it's going to meet their fiscal bottom line, namely, the tax cut. That's what it's for. That's what this is all about.

I would not be upset with hospital restructuring. I might have problems with some of the specifics, but I would be more supportive if I thought this hospital restructuring was being done for the right reasons. But this hospital restructuring is being done, plain and simply, for that tax cut which you seem determined to believe that your well-heeled friends need more than people in the community need good health care.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Why did you close the beds? How many beds did you close? Who did you give the money to? What did you do with the money?

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Order.

Mr Laughren: I think the judge should crawl back under his bench.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Laughren: Crawl back underneath your bench, Judge. We don't need your heckling. Wait until the restructuring commission comes to Ottawa and see what your reaction will be then.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Laughren: I can tell you, I am not opposed to hospital restructuring. Even in Sudbury, where they've closed two out of the three hospitals and they're going to replace them with one large hospital, I have not been critical of that. I think that needs to be done. It'll be interesting to see how the Tory backbenchers, like the ones from Ottawa, react when the hospital commission leaves town after having made its decision there.

There are some areas where I think the Ministry of Health needs to get it back together. They have given the Health Services Restructuring Commission certain responsibilities but other responsibilities they've kept unto themselves, such as labour adjustment when hospitals are closed and layoffs occur, such as the capital sharing. They said it was 70-30 in one community; they did not say it was 70-30 in every community. I haven't heard them say that and they need to make it clear that the capital sharing will be at least 70-30 in all communities.

Also, they need to tell us what's going on with community-based care that's in this resolution by the member for Renfrew North. There has been no commitment in my community that any savings will be put back into community-based care. All they're doing is closing hospitals. It makes no sense whatsoever. The restructuring commission is doing its job, given its mandate, but the Ministry of Health isn't looking after the other half of the equation and saying, "What about capital, what about reinvestment, what about community-based care?" They have refused to do that. We shouldn't be surprised --

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): We continually said that.

Mr Laughren: Well, come to my community and say it. We shouldn't be surprised when the head of the Ontario Hospital Association, Mr MacKinnon -- whom I know and respect; I think he has served this province very well over the years and he's hardly anybody's political pawn, I can tell you that -- comes out and says that what the government is doing is wrongheaded and too fast. They've got to slow down and think about it and do it properly. He said that before a legislative committee.


I can tell you that I am for hospital rationalization. That's clear from public comments I've made in my own community and elsewhere. But I am very, very suspicious of exactly what it is that's motivating this government when it closes hospitals and restructures the health care system. Nobody believes that it is being done so we get a better bang for our buck in the health care system. If that was what was motivating this bunch of Tories, then I would be supporting them. But that's not what's motivating them. What's motivating these Tories is simply the bottom line so they can give the tax cut to the most prosperous citizens in this province. Nothing more, nothing less.

You should not be surprised, my friends, when there's resistance in the community, because it's so transparent that what you're doing has nothing to do with better or more rational health care; it has to do with paying for the tax cut. That tax cut is going to cost about $5 billion a year in revenue and you have to make that up somewhere as you try and reduce the deficit, and guess where the biggest spending occurs. It's in health care and it's in education. You can trim all the other programs and you won't get to the dollars you need to provide that tax cut. You have to go after health care and you have to go after education, so no one should be surprised that those are the two areas where you're spending most of your time in cutting programs.

In conclusion -- I want to save some time for my colleague from Cochrane South -- I simply say that I will be supporting and we will be supporting this resolution from the member for Renfrew North, not because of the need for rationalization but because of the motivation that lies behind what this government is doing.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): It's a pleasure to join in the debate today. I first would like to say that this government is listening to the people of Ontario and we care incredibly about the quality of health care in the province of Ontario.

The OHA and a number of different organizations have agreed that restructuring has to happen. As we all know, hospital beds have been closed throughout the province over the past eight to 10 years. In fact I have the numbers now that say that in the Liberal time frame 1,200 beds were closed across the province, but with the NDP 8,800 beds were closed. So I'm not surprised that the member for Nickel Belt agrees that something had to be done. They didn't have the nerve to take the final step to be able to do something. They closed beds all across Ontario but never turned out the lights, never stopped paying taxes, heat, light, hydro on the buildings. It's outrageous that we continue to do those things.

Money has to be focused on the patient. The patient is the most important issue when it comes to quality of care and health care in Ontario. I know after I finish speaking today the member for Nickel Belt will be supporting me in my opposition to this resolution because he will see that we truly are reinvesting money back into health care. I know the member for Nickel Belt is a very informed and well-versed and long-standing member here and will know that when he looks at the financial statements of this place he sees that more money has been invested in health care from this government than was when he was elected and a member of the ruling party, I guess would be the way to say it.

In June 1995 the government was spending $17.4 billion in health care, and at the end of our first fiscal year it was $17.7 billion. So even though we have made some reinvestments, we continue to have a strong and ever-growing commitment to health care.

Along the line, though, we all recognize that technologies have changed, that the world is a different place than when we built these hospitals in the 1950s and the 1960s and we have to change the way health care is funded in the province. Even the Ontario Hospital Association recognizes this. I have a statement that the member for Renfrew North started to speak about but he never finished the comments. It says:

"OHA and its members have been, and continue to be, supportive of restructuring in the hospital sector. Restructuring has been made possible by the successes of hospitals in introducing new technology, drug therapies and innovations in the delivery of patient care. These have led to reductions in lengths of stay, a significant shift to outpatient and ambulatory care, which in turn reduces the need for facilities, beds and resources for acute inpatient care."

If we listen to the Liberal members today, they would have us believing we're kicking people out of hospitals before they're ready to come out. This truly says, as doctors and the Ontario Hospital Association are saying, that technologies have changed, our ability to treat people more quickly has changed, and we need to change the way that hospitals work in the province.

It's very important to recognize that we have no cookie-cutter approach to restructuring in Ontario. What we say is that the district health council must come forward and tell us what makes sense locally in their community. The district health council comes to us. It presents from the community what should happen in their community to meet the ever-changing needs. Then the restructuring commission comes in.

If we were to listen to what they said across the way, I could make the decision just sitting here in the back row at Queen's Park and everybody would have exactly the same hospital system, but we don't do that. The restructuring commission goes in, talks to people in the community, talks to the district health council, looks to see what the community needs, and with that comes a report. This is very locally driven, something that I, as a representative of rural Ontario, feel very strongly about. My decisions should not be Toronto-based, nor will they be.

The members seem to be talking about us taking this money and siphoning it into some unknown place other than health care. It's really important for everyone today to recognize that the reinvestments in health care are substantial. We have had to make reinvestments to be able to make the health care system work better for all of us. If we left everything as the status quo, as the honourable opposition would like me to do, then we would have no new technologies, no ability to deal with some of the doctors' concerns in Ontario, no ability to have emergency services for my people. Since this government has come to power we have given $70 an hour for evenings and weekends to allow my emergency room in rural Ontario to stay open. We have made some substantial changes to help rural Ontario meet the needs of its people, and this has to happen as we continue to evolve health care so that it meets every one of our needs.

I'd like to talk a little bit about some of the investments that are important for us. I've talked about the $70 an hour, and 90% of the rural hospitals in Ontario have tapped into and are using this fund to keep their emergency rooms open and available to people. One of the things I felt quite strongly about as a rural member was that people could not go to the emergency room at night with their little children and not wonder if there was going to be somebody there to help them. We've rectified this situation and we continue to do that.

We have made reinvestments in paramedic training. In my riding and other areas about rural Ontario all across the province we have put defibrillators in ambulances. We can save people's lives with defibrillators; we can move them. We need to have these reinvestments.

We've reinvested $14 million back into northern hospitals. We've put $10 million into community-sponsored contracts, which allow hospitals that have never had the opportunity to get a doctor, or have been without a doctor for a substantially long time, to have doctors. In Vernon, for example, we have a doctor who came to them as a result of one of these community-sponsored programs. What happens in these cases is that they come into the community and they provide services for a fixed fee. In this particular case, the gentleman's fiancée came to a town close by, so we got two doctors into two areas which had always had trouble with doctors and physicians' services.

The recent agreement with the physicians has made a substantial difference to rural Ontario, another reinvestment to rural Ontario, because it has allowed us to move doctors from areas where we have too many doctors to areas where they need to be. That has to be, in many cases, rural northern Ontario. It's definitely outside five core areas where we're overserviced at this particular point.

We're making many changes because we believe this is the right way to go. We have a strategy that will integrate health care in Ontario and allow us to bring services to people where they need them, when they need them and at the time they need them.

Today's resolution suggests we don't care about rural Ontario and I'd like to say that rural Ontario is the basis for many of our reinvestments in health care. We are not doing a cookie-cutter approach across Ontario; we are working hard to find solutions that meet the needs of rural Ontario.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to commend the member for Renfrew North for bringing this resolution forward. If there's one issue that is worrying the people in this province and indeed in many parts of this country, it's the issue of health care.

In the Niagara region we are already underfunded by approximately $25 million, according to authoritative sources, for all the services we require, yet we have a local hospital restructuring commission, faced with another $44-million cut in funding for hospitals, recommending now that certain hospitals close or have their role changed drastically.

That report was entitled Made in Niagara. It was made anywhere but in Niagara. It was developed by a consulting company from Toronto which has used its same pattern in many other areas, but also the policy is developed here in Toronto. If you're going to take $44 million out of hospital funding in the Niagara region, that means the local commission has no alternative but to recommend the closing of hospitals.

If you didn't have that hammer hanging over the head of the local hospital restructuring commission, my guess would be that the report would be drastically different. They have called for the closing of the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, which has an oncology division that is second to none and a kidney dialysis division and several other important services of a specialized nature. That is destined to be closed by this government's policies.

In Port Colborne thousands of people showed up for a public meeting; in Fort Erie they showed up for Douglas Memorial Hospital; in Niagara-on-the-Lake there was a large delegation out; in Grimsby, the largest gathering of people ever. I understand that today in Kitchener-Waterloo they're announcing that they're going to lay off hundreds of hospital workers, 350, something of that magnitude.

We have an aging population in the province, particularly in the Niagara Peninsula, where people on average are older than in other areas and where older people, it's a fact of life, will need hospital services more than others. This government has lots of money to give to a tax cut for rich people in this province, lots of money for that. Make no mistake about it: That's what these cuts are motivated by. I'm sure that many people in the government caucus never realized how much was going to be cut to feed this tax cut which benefits the wealthy people to the greatest extent.

Dr Ron Casselman, who is a urologist in St Catharines, made I thought an excellent point before the commission when he quoted a special report from an expert in the field, who said: "You can't rush into the closing of these hospitals. You've got to take your time and do your restructuring right." Instead the government is just using the bulldozer, moving quickly, drastically, not looking at the consequences of their actions.

The intimidation factor is out there. District health councils, local commissions, even hospital boards are afraid of the government. They think if they keep quiet, somehow they will avoid the bullet that's being fired. When the commission report comes down, of course those who have dodged the bullet are either going to be supportive or very silent of that recommendation because they dodged the bullet.

When you have all these hospitals closing, when you have hospital workers being fired left and right, when you have nurses who are now out of the hospitals, you have a lower standard of care, not because the people who are there don't care; they do. You don't have the people any more. That's why in Peterborough you had them stacked up in the hallways. Yesterday an individual passed away very tragically in a hallway. In all the hospitals they're lined up in the hallways for beds. The emergency services are backed up.

You people want to take more away. I don't understand it. I can understand some of your other initiatives, but if there's one thing that unites people of all political affiliations, of all backgrounds, it's good quality health care. Instead what you're moving to is an American system, a two-tier system. That is what is going to develop in this particular case.

I hope the members of this assembly will support the resolution by the member for Renfrew North and I hope the government will reconsider its ill-advised position on hospital closings.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I stand today as the representative of the riding of Cochrane South to report back to this House, especially to the government on the other side, that there seems to be quite a bit of discrepancy between what was said in the last election in the Common Sense Revolution and what is happening now, and further and more important, between what was said by the then leader of the third party and the now Premier of the province.

I think it's good that every now and then we turn back to the Common Sense Revolution to make sure that as members of this Legislature we keep the government accountable to its promises. I remember that particular document and I remember promises in the last election. One of the promises made by the Tories in the last election read something like this: "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important, and frankly, as we get older, we're all going to need it more and more. Under this plan, health care spending will be guaranteed."

I'm here to tell you that we've lost health care dollars in Cochrane South; we've lost health care dollars in Cochrane North. We are seeing amounts of money being withdrawn out of our hospitals this year, over $1 million out of the Timmins and District Hospital. That means the good citizens of the city of Timmins and the people within the district, because we have a district hospital, have that many fewer services to rely on from the Timmins and District Hospital.

What's worse is that south of us, 300 miles down Highway 144, lies the community of Sudbury, which is a very important regional health care centre for northeastern Ontario. When I call the three hospitals down there and others in the health care field, I find there have been cuts to health care budgets in the city of Sudbury. What that means to the citizens of northeastern Ontario and particularly to the citizens of Cochrane South is that we now have to wait longer and longer on waiting lists to be admitted to places like Sudbury Memorial for cardiac surgery and Laurentian for cancer treatment.

I turn back to the Common Sense Revolution. I want to show it. I want people to remember what the government, the then third party, said during the election and what they are doing now, because they like to pride themselves in being a party which sticks to its word and follows like the gospel the words it spoke in the last election. I want to remind members that they talked about a couple of things here, specifically in the Common Sense Revolution, "For many who need care" -- I'll read it from the beginning. It talks about patient-based budgeting and about waiting lists and how it's a terrible thing that patients are having to wait for services. It goes on to say:

"For many who need care, this should mean an end to rationing and waiting lists. The fact that cancer patients can be trapped on waiting lists for months is a crime. The fact that pregnant women can't get epidurals is a scandal. The fact that people needing kidney dialysis have to wait in line is unacceptable."

It goes on to talk about how the government is going to put an end to those waiting lists and make sure that people are going to get into those much-needed services almost immediately.

I recognize that you can't do it immediately, but certainly the government, the third party, in the last election promised that it would lower waiting lists for cardiac surgery and for cancer treatment. I raised cases in this House where people have been waiting for eight months, nine months to get into Sudbury Memorial for cardiac surgery. I raised the case where a woman literally had to threaten to commit suicide to get into the Sudbury Memorial for valve replacement. I've been called by others within the community of Timmins now waiting for valve surgery who can't now get in themselves and wonder: "Am I going to be able to get in in time? Do I have to live in fear because this government is cutting health care budgets?"

I thought that in the last election the Tories were quite clear. I thought they said that if they stood for anything other than fiscal conservatism, they had a belief in our health care system. They said they would maintain hospitals and maintain those budgets.

It is not happening. The government has gone against what it said in the Common Sense Revolution. They have cut health care dollars, something they said they would not do. They're not reinvesting whatever dollars they're cutting back into the communities. As the member for Nickel Belt said, that's something we had committed to as a government. We said that wherever we restructure within the hospital system, those dollars would be reinvested directly back into the communities from which the dollars came. This government is taking money out of health care and putting it into the coffers of Ernie Eves so he can afford to pay for his tax cut and give people who have the most amount of money the biggest of tax breaks.


The biggest promise that -- you know, you don't even hear about this one any more. That really strikes me because I thought the Tories were on to something in that last election when they talked about the fair share health care levy. How many Conservatives remember that one, where the Conservative government, then the third party, said that if the Tories were elected they would give Ontario citizens a 30% tax break, but in order to make it fair they would put in a health care levy for those income earners with a wage of over $50,000 per year? Where is that? I don't see that happening. No, it's not happening. What you're doing is giving people a tax cut and we're not getting anything back into the health care system in return.

They talked in the Common Sense Revolution about how that was going to result in $400 million being brought back into the coffers of the province of Ontario to offset some of their tax cut. Well, it ain't happening to the degree that the government said it was going to happen; in fact, they're falling far short of the mark. For a government that prides itself on holding itself to its promises and doing what it says, it turns out in health care, as in many other areas, the government is actually going in the opposite direction and breaking those promises.

I see on committees, as groups come to present to the government on various bills, there are many other people who are starting to recognize this. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is starting to recognize that the government broke its promise when it came to what it would do around municipal downsizing and what it was going to do with municipal government. We're seeing Tory members of the past come to committees and speak out against this government. I say to those watching, it's important that you come in and tell your story, because it does have an effect.

The last thing I'd like to say in the last two minutes I've got is that it is unbelievable in this House during question period when we listen to the answers of cabinet ministers. There was a question in this House this week some time, or late last week, where a question was asked on the part of the opposition to the Minister of Health around hospital closures. The minister stood at his bench in this House and said, "We have not closed any hospitals in the province of Ontario and neither do we plan to close any hospitals." I sit here and I say, what planet are these people living on? Are they living in the province of Ontario or do they shuttle out of Ontario at night, whenever they're finished work here at Queen's Park, and go and live somewhere in the Cayman Islands?

I go around the province and I see hospital closures happening at a fairly alarming rate. In the community of Timmins, specifically South Porcupine, as a result of the decisions of this government to reduce funding to hospitals, the Porcupine Continuing Care Centre, which is one of the hospitals in Timmins, was shut down. The people in South Porcupine are still reeling from the effects of what that means to that part of the community.

So when I listen to the Minister of Health across the way stand in this House and say, "We're not going to shut any hospitals down, and neither have we," I sit here in disbelief. I know that I couldn't say something unparliamentary, but I'll tell you, I'm awful tempted, because when the citizens of South Porcupine talk to me on weekends and when I'm in the community on other days, they always remind me about what happened to South Porcupine, and I say it was a direct result of what this government did. The minister has a lot of nerve to stand in this House saying, "I've never closed a hospital and neither will I," because I can give you a list that's not very proud for the Conservatives.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I'm certainly very pleased to be able to address the resolution put forward by the member for Renfrew North. Certainly hospital and health care restructuring is a topic that's very important to everyone here in the province of Ontario. I found it quite interesting, in some of the polling that was carried out by the federal government recently prior to its budget coming out, that the top two issues were health care and education. That should come as no surprise to us, but both of these two happen to be within the provincial jurisdiction, so the information really wasn't of too much use to them.

Health care systems across Canada are indeed changing, and here in Ontario we have been lagging behind the pack for almost a decade. Under the two former governments health care issues were allowed to slide. Even as health care providers were moving forward with innovative medical solutions, new technologies and shorter hospital stays, government bureaucracy and its attachment to bricks and mortar were indeed holding them back.

The member for Renfrew North should realize that the closure of beds started with the Liberal government when some 1,200 beds were closed, followed by the NDP with another 8,800-plus beds, so we're now well over 10,000 beds that have been closed by those two governments. That's equivalent to more than 33 mid-sized hospitals. But did they close any hospitals? No. Instead of putting money directly into patient care, hospitals were forced to put it into administration, operating empty rooms where the money was doing the least good.

Our government has recognized that that was the wrong approach and as a result hospital restructuring is urgently needed. We need to improve efficiency, eliminate waste and put health care dollars back where they're needed most: caring for patients. We're also committed to ensuring that quality patient care continues to be available to all Ontarians.

That is why the Health Services Restructuring Commission was set up in early January 1996. It is charged with moving the Ontario hospital system from one with high administrative costs and needless infrastructure to one that is focused on providing front-line patient services in a continuum of quality care. If in the course of its mandate the commission finds it beneficial to close redundant hospitals in Ontario, then it has the power to do that.

I point this out only because the member's resolution states that the government is closing hospitals and threatening patient access to care. I respectfully submit that the resolution is wrong on both counts. While the commission keeps the minister informed of its activities, it operates at arm's length from the government. That is as it should be.

I'd also like to point out that we're doing more than either of the two previous governments to improve the health care system in the province. We're finding efficiencies across the system, eliminating waste and reinvesting in front-line medicine. That's what is important in this discussion here today and I think it needs to be emphasized.

Why, in the member's own area of eastern Ontario we've reinvested some $1.6 million in expanded mental health care programs alone. That's just part of the $23.5-million reinvestment program provided under the community investment fund established by this government. I'd also point out that home care in eastern Ontario has increased by approximately $15 million from two years ago to now.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. In December 1995, we provided some $390,000 base funding in the Ottawa Civic Hospital for expanded cardiac surgery, and in May last year the Royal Ottawa Hospital rehabilitation centre received $1.1 million to improve rehab services in Ottawa. They're just some of the examples from the member's own area.

Across Ontario, we've reinvested millions more, starting with $170 million in long-term community care. That of course is another area of concern in this resolution before us today.

We've announced $14 million in growth funding for northern Ontario hospitals this year. Then there's the $45 million we're reinvesting in community programs to attract doctors to underserviced areas, the $7.1 million for long-term-care capital projects, the $45 million for the Trillium drug plan expansion for 140,000 more Ontarians and the $15.5 million for paramedical training programs.

The list goes on and on, for a $683-million total reinvestment to date. All of these reinvestments point to a health care system that is getting better, not one that is threatening patient care. I believe we're now on the leading edge of health care reform in this country, redefining just what it means to be responsive and responsible.

That is what this restructuring exercise is all about. We're moving from being a passive payor to an active manager of Ontario's health care system. We're building an integrated health care system based on medical advances and community care, and we're doing everything possible to reverse the downward slide that began under the previous two governments. Our aim is quality health care, and changes now under way will lead to a seamless and accountable health care system for all Ontarians.

I would point out that the member for Renfrew North and the member for Nickel Belt did not offer any alternative suggestions. They seem to be still in the same old mode of, "Let's just spend and tax and borrow." That status quo doesn't work. We were looking for some alternative suggestions from you, but all you had was the status quo, and that just doesn't fly any more. Maybe the member for Renfrew North could turn to our Liberal friends in Ottawa and ask where did the $2.1 billion go in transfer payments that they cut off to the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Renfrew North.


Mr Conway: I say to the member for Northumberland, how dare you make some of those assertions? Let me just tell you: In my county of Renfrew, looking at the government's own data before the cuts, before any of these cuts, before you took $14 million out of the Pembroke hospital centre and before you slammed the door shut on the century-old Civic Hospital and before you took $1.6 million out of the budgets of the Arnprior, Renfrew, Deep River and Barry's Bay hospitals, let me tell you what your own government data say about Renfrew county.

Looking at key indicators in terms of per capita health expenditure, before any of this, Renfrew county is at 80% of the provincial average. On hospital and related facilities, before any of the recent cuts, Renfrew county is at about 83% of the provincial average. On OHIP expenditures, we are at about 70% of the provincial average. On mental health services, before any of these cuts, according to your own data, we are at about 40% of the provincial average. On key indicators, before any of the cuts, we are well below the provincial average.

How dare you tell the old people of Pembroke and area that they should just take it as part of some kind of seamless new web that you're going to weave. I just find that extraordinary. You are right, some of you over there, to say that hospitals weren't closed to any great extent in the period from 1976 through to 1992. Do you know why? Because when Frank Miller tried to do it in the early 1970s, with the best of intentions and all kinds of fancy data, he botched it and we had messes in Toronto and in the western peninsula, in communities like Huron and Bruce -- botched it big time.

No government of whatever stripe could ever go back to those communities and try to undo those mistakes. I simply ask for the government to stop, look and listen, and particularly to listen to the needs of rural and northern Ontario which are not being recognized in this current madness based on these gossamer criteria that you've developed someplace.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to ask for unanimous consent to amend the resolution, adding after the first paragraph, "We demand that the Chrétien government immediately stop its multibillion dollar cuts to health care and that fiscal savings derived from hospital restructuring should come from the" --

The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Nepean, order. That is not a point of order.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I move private member's notice of motion number 66:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should urge the government of Canada to ensure that the powers of the federal Competition Act are exercised to their fullest in eliminating anti-competitive practices in the retail gasoline marketplace and that the competition bureau place the highest priority possible on investigations that may affect the survival of small, independent gasoline retailers in the marketplace.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Quinte has 10 minutes.

Mr Rollins: In my opinion, a fair and competitive marketplace is essential to ensure that Ontario customers have the right to choose where they purchase gasoline, at the best service and at the best price.

The retail gasoline marketplace involves small independent suppliers as well as outlets representing large oil companies, many of which can exert significant influence over the retail price of their own outlets and those of independent retailers. Price rivalry is a major factor in ensuring that consumers have true purchasing power and the presence of viable independent retailers in the marketplace is important in ensuring price rivalry and healthy competition.

Consumers and small retailers in Ontario and other parts of Canada are concerned that predatory pricing practices may be exercised by some large suppliers, such as artificially depressing a retail price temporarily to drive down price and small retailers out of business. Under the federal Competition Act, the competition bureau and Industry Canada have a clear national responsibility to investigate uncompetitive practices, including abuse of dominant position in the marketplace, price-fixing and other activities adversely affecting competition and consumers.

I do not propose that the government should set gasoline prices. However, I believe that government should follow through on the practices and make sure that the independents have the opportunity to buy petroleum product at the same price as the other people who are buying from large companies that are in the same competition market.

A little bit of background about Doug Rollins: I started with Shell Oil back in 1962. I'm one of the first persons to have driven a pup truck in Ontario. It was in 1963 or 1964 that this Legislature passed legislation to allow vehicles of over 47 feet in length. Shell had bought a truck from British Columbia and parked it at the Lakehead. It was the first pup truck. When that legislation was passed and became law, they put the licence plates in my suitcase, flew me up to the Lakehead, and I brought back that truck. That was the very first one to my knowledge that was driven in the province of Ontario, particularly with licence plates on it.


Mr Rollins: Well, there are some farm wagons running around with the same practical thing.

After working for Shell for five years, I took over a service station, and as of May 15 of this year I will have been in that station for 30 years.

In my city of Belleville, when I opened a service station, there were 65 small outlets in Belleville. Today there are 15. Of those 65 outlets that we had in the city of Belleville, each one of them had one or two mechanics; each one of them had one or two and maybe three part-time people after school, on weekends and nights.

With the institution of allowing the large companies to come in and use their dealers at a different rate and in a different way than the operators that paid the rent, with the deal with them, it was free enterprise, but the big oil companies pushed down hard on the independents. So at the present time you're down to 15 or 16 outlets and the only major competition is the large corporate giants in the oil industry. We know there are four of them and we know there are lots of regulations they have to meet. They have to meet the regulations of supply and security and things of that nature.

But one of the biggest factors in the oil business and the gasoline business today is that the price of the product for the independent is paid for when a load of gas comes to his or her place of business. The problem is, with the major oil companies, when they bring that product to their suppliers, we've got to have some people who want to be able to sell that product the next day that oil company bills that station for what the product costs them. It puts those customers who have to pay for that load of gas when it comes to their place at a very great disadvantage. They cannot compete. There's a margin of profit in there.

I know the oil companies stand there and say they are certainly good corporate citizens, which in most cases they are, but the biggest thing they want to do is to make sure they have the biggest part of the supply. If they can crowd out another one -- in the last three years they've closed out over 1,500 independent stations in Canada. Has that done away with a lot of jobs? I think it has certainly done away with an awful pile of jobs.

The Bureau of Competition Policy, if they would look at the business properly, adjust it properly and go into how the dollars -- we don't need to change the regulations. They're already there. All we want to do is make sure that those regulations are adhered to. Is it right that a person from Sarnia, Ontario, where most of the gas is produced through the refineries, should be paying 61.9 cents a litre for gasoline, yet here in Toronto or in other places they are paying 53 or 54 cents? I don't think so. I think we should have the price of gasoline very competitive across the whole. I don't think as a government we need to regulate the price, but we need to regulate the selling practice, because the selling practice is what needs to be looked after.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Get a wishing wand.

Mr Rollins: No, we won't need one of those.

We've got about four different operations that the companies work under. The operations they work under are company-owned and -operated and they control the price. You've got your commission retailer, where the company guarantees the price of that product, so when I am a commissioned operator or retailer, I am guaranteed by Imperial, Shell, Sunoco, Ultramar, one of the biggies, that regardless of what the price is, I am given my guaranteed margin. I don't have to pay for the load of gas when it comes in, there are no taxes collected. You and I do not see the tax cheque until after the next day, when the product is sold. I feel that's a very unfair practical way of putting small independent businesses very much at a disadvantage. We've got to look after them.

You've got your leased operators. The leased operators are people who lease from the oil company, they pay their rent, they pay their head costs on to it, the load of gas comes, they pay for it. They are close to being in the same position as the independent. But when the unbranded dealer's truck goes to the refinery, the gasoline is paid for at that time. Just remember that the gasoline is a byproduct of the refinery business. The oil companies won't always offer you that.

But how many times have you driven this province of ours and seen the price of diesel change? It changes very little. How much are the heating oil changes over the course of a year? It changes very little. But it upsets me, it upsets a lot of people when you see fluctuations in the price of gasoline of six or seven cents in a matter of a few hours, yet they're allowed to do that when they have no dollar cost tied into it.

Years ago, we used to have consignment. The government, in its wisdom, took away consignment. They said that was illegal. Now we have competition where the seller does not own the gasoline until the day after he sells it. So the day after he sells it, he runs down to the bank, puts the money in the bank and puts the taxes up. The taxes are collected for Ottawa, the taxes that the oil company pays, which is the second-biggest tax collector that the government has -- second only to tobacco. They put together some $9 billion in tax revenues.

In the share of market today Shell has approximately 13% of the market; Esso, 20%; Petro Canada, 20%; Sunoco, about 9%; Ultramar, 2%. Independents in 1993 had 29% of the market. Today they're down to 26%. They have rack pricing in Toronto and they tell you that rack pricing is the ultimate in being able to control the price. I want to inform you that Imperial Oil told me it has 113 different pricing zones in Ontario. If you think this kind of legislation can help to nullify those 113 different pricing zones and make this market a little bit fairer, I ask for your support.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I am privileged and feel it an honour to get up to support the member for Quinte's resolution. I thought that perhaps the Tories had forgotten their roots. At least we have one who understands that the small business person in Ontario is important and is important to competition. I'm certainly glad we have at least one Tory who doesn't believe that bigger is better. This government believes that bigger government, bigger companies, bigger banks and bigger oil companies are better. I'm certainly happy to see that the member is putting this resolution before us.

I have in my constituency a large number of independent gas dealers. I think of Charlie at Charlie's Shell in Gore Bay or Danny Forest in Gore Bay, Dave Montgomery in Kagawong, Bob Melis in Spanish. They tell me the same things the member's telling me today. They understand that they are always at the whim of the big oil company. The big oil company controls their destiny; it controls their profits; it controls what the consumer price will be.

They have great difficulty but, more than that, my constituents cannot understand why we pay prices that are absolutely outrageous. We pay prices on Manitoulin Island and in Elliott Lake along the North Shore that are in no way competitive with the rest of the province. The fact is, in my constituency driving is not a choice. You cannot get on the TTC; you cannot take public transportation. What you have to do if you want to get from A to B, if you want to get to the hospital, if you want to get to the doctor's appointment, if you want to go to the grocery store, you have to get in your car and you have to use gasoline. That means we have to do something. We've talked about this for 30 years in this province, about having real competition in the gasoline retail business.

The only problem I have with the resolution that the member's putting forward -- and I agree we should ask the federal competition bureau to do something about this, investigate and see that things are fair, but there is something we can do. There is something his own government can do -- and it's been done. It's been done in Quebec and in New Brunswick and in 22 states in the home of free enterprise, the land of the free and the brave. Some 22 states have legislation which prohibits some of the practices that he is talking about here today.

Why don't you go talk to Dave Tsubouchi and Norm Sterling, the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations? They can do something; they can do something right now. We don't have to wait for a bunch of bureaucrats in the federal government to run around and have an investigation which will decide all is well and good, I'm sure. You can do something. I'm asking on behalf of those independents in my constituency, some of whom can tell you some very interesting stories about what big oil companies can do to them -- and when they do it to them, they do it to the consumer because choice in the marketplace is reduced.

I'm just suggesting to the member what he should do. What would be far more productive is to ask the minister. Maybe he could get up this afternoon and ask the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations if he will move today to do what 22 states and two provinces in this nation have done and bring in laws that protect the independent from the kind of price manipulation and unfair competition practices that have put people in my constituency out of business.

It means you don't have choice. It means higher prices. It means all those things. So I ask the member -- this is nice but the real answer lies right here in the Legislature of Ontario -- to stand up and ask the minister this afternoon if he'll get on with his job.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I was happy to see this on the order paper for the two hours we spend on Thursday morning when private members bring up issues. I appreciate the member has some extensive personal background in the industry and brings some of those insights to it, but this isn't novel. Look at the history of what's happened.

The member may well understand small business because he's been involved in it, but I'm convinced this government doesn't understand small business. This government, like its friend Catherine Swift, who I'm convinced from time to time isn't that swift, believes that small business is 100 or so non-union, low-wage, preferably minimum-wage employees. Small business is exactly what the member is talking about: small, owner-operated businesses where one works with one's partner, and if their kids are old enough, their kids get brought into the business -- the sort of culture I grew up in. I know what he's speaking of.

Look what the oil companies have been doing over the course of the last 20, 25 and even 30 years. Look how they sold the gas bar. They promised lower prices, didn't they? In the course of selling us on the gas bar, they put out of business dozens and dozens, in every given community, of small service stations that provided service, that provided repair service for people who had an emergency, and that were able to support their families and send their kids to college and university, which is going to become increasingly difficult now as this government raises college and university tuitions and as small business people are increasingly under attack.


The oil industry is surely predatory. I have no quarrel with the member in describing it as such. Among its prey have been the small independent operators. I tell you, and the member speaks of this, the small lease operators are as much a victim of the predatory nature of these big oil companies as are the independents. I think one of the things we can do, and I try to do it as often as I can, is to make sure I buy gas from family-operated service stations, sometimes independents, people like Chris Shoemaker's Welland gas station over at Thorold Road in Welland, sometimes admittedly from the chains, like Fralick over on Niagara Street, but again owner-operated. They've got the service bays and they're the sort of people who, if you need an emergency repair or some quick assistance, are as likely to do it no charge as not because they're going to give you what Shell and the others aren't.

Look at the insurance industry. Talk about a predatory industry. Talk about an industry that's going to gang up on its own brokers, because they're putting the boots to brokers just as the big gasoline industries are putting the boots to their own lease operators and to the independents and again to consumers. We've got classrooms of young people up here who are going to ill afford to be able to drive a car at their age because they simply can't afford the insurance premiums because we've got an insurance industry in this province that can run roughshod over drivers, especially young drivers, and gouge them and grind them to the point where they're inevitably going to be forced to pay more in insurance than they're going to pay for that first car.

This government has failed to rein in the insurance industry and is allowing the insurance industry to continue to run roughshod over drivers in this province. The insurance industry is just like the oil industry: short arms and deep pockets. If they can pick your pocket, they will, quick as a boo, in a New York minute. Look at the other victims of this predatory corporate, multinational fuel industry, the gasoline and oil industry. Look at the other victims.

I appreciate the member's courage in bringing forward this resolution because, by and large, the front benches of this government have a special affinity for big, multinational corporations. They're the ones who hired Andersen Consulting out of Chicago, which stands to earn up to $180 million. This government would rather work with an American-based multinational and pay them $180 million to attack the poorest here in Ontario than look to made-in-Ontario expertise. These guys don't understand that it's Ontarians who need jobs and that there's a whole lot of expertise available in the province that could fix their computer system, if indeed it needs fixing, in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. They didn't have to go to Chicago to make a deal. Some slick deal: a firm that just had to pay out $82 million in a settlement for their negligent audits in the savings and loan industry, which cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. These are the kinds of corporate multinationals that this government likes to do business with.

I applaud this member's courage in taking on the same multinationals that his front benches want to get in bed with. It demonstrates some insight. It demonstrates some compassion for consumers, because the other victims of these oil companies are the consumers. Just as the member talks about these big oil companies being able to artificially lower their prices to put the boots to the independent operator to put him or her out of business so they can take over the whole industry, we've also seen the price increases on weekends, especially long weekends, vacation weekends, when that same oil industry, I am convinced, and so are thousands and thousands of drivers and consumers, will artificially escalate its prices to gouge people who want to use the roadways when they have the leisure time to do so.

So I'm going to support Mr Rollins's proposition and I'm going to applaud his courage for breaking with his government and their pattern of crawling into bed with the largest and the biggest and the most vicious of multinational corporations. Now, Mr Rollins may find himself in the position where he's never invited in the cabinet door, other than perhaps to pick up a file from an aide or so, and I think that's okay, because Mr Rollins is sticking up for the little guy, something that his government is disinclined to do.

I say to Mr Rollins, God bless you, sir. I say on behalf of the independent operators, and most of them are members -- they have an organization, the Independent Retail Gasoline Marketers Association. No doubt Mr Rollins has been in touch with them. No doubt he knows those people well. These are the little people. These are the real small business people, not Catherine Swift's small business people: as I say, 100 non-union employees making minimum wage and big profits for their bosses, the sort of people Frank Stronach would want to force to work for him, the kind of people Frank Stronach would exploit and abuse when they try to organize a labour union, a trade union, within their workplace.

These little independent retail gasoline marketers, they're real small business. I know who they are; the folks in Welland-Thorold know who they are. I say we should be encouraging people to shop at owner-operated stores and business places and we should be encouraging people to buy the gasoline and use the services of owner-operated service stations.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I'm pleased to rise and address the resolution proposed by my colleague the honourable member for Quinte. I support the resolution. A fair, competitive marketplace is essential in ensuring that Ontario consumers have the right to buy gas where they want based on price and service. A fair, competitive marketplace is also the best way of ensuring that small independent gasoline retailers continue to play an important role in the marketplace, ensuring healthy competition, including price competition.

The plain fact is that the more competition there is, the better the price for the consumer. This government certainly supports these priorities, but it is Ottawa's responsibility constitutionally, the federal government's responsibility, not Ontario's, to ensure a competitive market under the federal Competition Act. In response to the resolution before us, Ontario wants Ottawa to exercise those powers.

Gasoline prices are much like other commodities; they are best set in a competitive marketplace, drastically reducing the potential for so-called predatory pricing. Under the Competition Act, the federal government has the power to protect consumers from anti-competitive pricing in the retail gasoline business. Our government has written to the federal industry minister about this matter. When he was the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the Honourable Norm Sterling clearly expressed in writing our province's concern about gasoline prices in this province.

We are aware that several other provinces have expressed similar concerns. I understand the government of Quebec has introduced legislation establishing a formula for minimum pricing of gasoline and diesel fuel. That legislation does not give the government the power to set prices. Quebec's legislation was a response to gasoline price wars in Montreal and elsewhere between August and October 1996. Independent retailers complained that large retailers were selling gasoline below cost and using that practice to try to force independent retailers out of business.

What we truly need is for Ottawa to foster this kind of competition in every part of this country. The resolution we are considering today asks Ottawa to move on this important issue in the interests of all Canadians. Anti-competitive practices such as those which this resolution asks Ottawa to redress do not help anyone. They are bad for the consumer, they are bad for the marketplace, and ultimately they are bad for business.


Our government is committed to providing consumers with a fair, competitive marketplace, whether it's at the gas pump or at the front door of their homes. We're not asking Ottawa to regulate gasoline prices. That would not be in the interests of the consumer or the industry and it would be very much at odds with our own commitment to promoting the free market system.

With this resolution the federal government is being told to do two things: first of all, to ensure fair pricing in the retail gasoline market; and secondly, to help keep viable, independent retailers in business as a way of ensuring competition. It is important to do both. They are connected. One cannot occur effectively without the other.

May I congratulate the honourable member for Quinte on his initiative in bringing this important resolution before the House. I support his resolution.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is a significant issue which is being dealt with today. We in the opposition have directed many questions to the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations regarding this matter. Each time, they bail out and refuse to take any significant action against the gouging of consumers by the major gas companies in this province, the oil companies which produce gasoline for automobiles.

I would have a lot more sympathy for this resolution if it were directed to the provincial government, but the government members are past masters at pointing the finger somewhere else. The solution lies with the provincial government. I will support the resolution and I have no reason to doubt my friend from Quinte's sincerity in this. He's spoken out on this in the House, he's voted for opposition initiatives in this regard, and I'll be supporting his resolution. I simply want to say to his colleagues, particularly the cabinet members, that they should be taking initiatives themselves.

We have in at least two provinces and 22 states a law which says that the major oil companies can't undercut the independents. In other words, they can't sell gasoline for 54 cents a litre to an independent and then turn around and sell it in the same community for 52 cents to undercut them and put them out of business, because while there's a short-term benefit to the consumer in that regard, once you wipe out the competition, once you wipe out the independents, then you can be sure prices will rise considerably. That's what the member's trying to get at: keeping the independents in business.

This is, however, contrary to the thrust of this government in terms of deregulation. I see my good friend Frank Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, sitting with the powers that be behind the Speaker's seat. He came out with a report which called for all kinds of deregulation, and I don't know whether he's going to be able to support this now. I'll be watching that carefully. So this flies in the face of the general thrust of this government.

All of us can't stand the up and down to the prices. You watch them change at one gas station and they're up and down, and the only difference is about a tenth of a cent per litre or a couple of tenths of a cent per litre, so there's no real competition there and that annoys all of us who are consumers.

We can't see these independents wiped out, because they try to keep the big companies honest. I would have thought that with a government that has so many friends in big business, the Premier would have gone to the major oil companies and said: "This is unfair practice. You know I'm your friend, so why don't you do something to protect the consumers and the independents in this province?"

You have those contacts. Large as life, they troop out to support you on so many occasions.

The other problem my friend the member for Quinte also notes, as I do, is the long weekends, where more often than not up goes the gas price. It's now way up around 60 cents; no more do you see under 50 cents a litre any more.

There was another initiative before the House, the bill by the member for Ottawa West, Bob Chiarelli, which, if the government wanted to proceed with that bill, would address some of this problem, but they usually bury it somewhere so that it doesn't proceed any more.

I've heard this provincial government say it wants more power for the provinces. Well, here's a good opportunity. All the province has to do is pass a law which says that the major oil companies cannot undercut the independents. That would be a major initiative. I'll tell you, it would get three readings in one day in this House if that law were brought forward. I'd be here to support it strongly; I'd recommend it to my colleagues.

I say to my friend from Quinte, I am pleased to see this matter addressed. I know it's a matter of great interest to him. He has as much expertise in this field as anybody I know and has shared that with many of us who've had concerns about this matter.

I'll support this resolution and I'll also support the provincial government taking immediate action within its jurisdiction to save independents in this province.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Nickel Belt.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I shall be supporting the member for Quinte's resolution because I do think there is a problem.

I agree with the member for St Catharines that it is a bit wearisome to have Tory members standing up in private members' hour and directing their initiatives towards the federal government when they have a government of their own here that could be doing some things. I find that passing strange, but nevertheless I am going to support this.

I am concerned, though, about the member for Quinte. Despite what the member for Durham Centre says, that this is not a bill that regulates, I am concerned that the member for Quinte, a long-standing member of the Conservative community in this province, would launch this vicious attack on free enterprise in Ontario. I find this appalling. Here we have a party; you think you know what they stand for; you think they stand for free enterprise and deregulation. And then the member for Quinte stands in his place and says, "We've got to regulate the oil companies so that they stop beating out the competition." My goodness, Mr Speaker, I must tell you that I really am shocked and appalled that this member would launch this kind of attack on his friends in the free enterprise system.

I can only imagine that the phone calls from the Fraser Institute and the National Citizens' Coalition will be pouring into this member's office this very day. If they're not, they're not doing their job. I hope they understand how subversive this resolution is towards the free enterprise system. You could bring the free enterprise system to its knees if you were to launch this kind of program to stop people from selling at a price they think will attract business, because that's what you're doing.

I support you. I hasten to add that I support the member for Quinte because I don't like the pricing practices of the oil companies either.

I have a community in my own constituency, a little community called Chapleau, where I've seen the price of gasoline at over 70 cents a litre, more than 10 cents a litre above just a few miles away; well, 100 miles away. In that part of the country that's not a long way. Ten cents a litre before we went to metric would be over 40 cents a gallon more. Do you think the consumers would have put up with a 40-cent difference in gasoline? They live with a 10-cent litre difference because they have no choice, but they're angry. They're always angry. So I hate the pricing practices of the oil companies myself.

Nobody will ever believe that it has to do with transportation costs -- absolutely not. That's been proven. There were studies done in this province that showed that kind of difference has absolutely nothing to do with delivery costs; it has only to do with what the market will bear, how much the market will pay because there is not enough competition in that community. Everybody understands that.

But I must say, at the end of the day, even though I'm going to support this, I really don't know about Tories any more. I was absolutely convinced that this bunch of neo-conservative reformers had their act together when it came to the marketplace and that they would never intervene in the marketplace this way. This is intervention on a massive scale. I can't imagine what the oil companies would do if you were to pass this and convince the federal government that it should do this. Can you imagine the chaos in the marketplace, in the oil patch? I can just imagine.

At the end of the day, I am going to support this resolution, but I must say that my faith in the ideology of the Tory party has been shaken to the core. I thought I knew who they were, where they came from, what they believed in, that they were at least consistent. Even though I am adamantly opposed to virtually everything you people stand for, at least I felt it was consistent.


I sometimes had problems with my friends in the Liberal Party about consistency and where they stand on various issues, but I never before had that problem with the Tories. Now I must say I'm perplexed. I am going to have to go back to school and study what it means to be a Tory again, because I'm worried. Now this is just one private member's resolution. I appreciate that and I don't want to read too much into it. I don't want to say that this was drafted by Tom Long, because I don't believe Tom Long would draft this. I'll bet you that when Tom Long sees this, he goes on medication for a week, because I really believe he will be as shocked and appalled as I am with the inconsistency in what the Tory party now apparently stands for.

We'll see. Maybe the Tories will all vote against the member for Quinte. This is going to be a fascinating thing to watch. I hope that people are watching this debate very closely, not because I'm speaking but because of what the resolution by the member for Quinte says. It'll be interesting to see how many cabinet ministers support the member for Quinte on this resolution and how many of the Reform-minded members of the Tory Party, like the member for Nepean, will actually support the member for Quinte in his resolution.

If the Tories pass this resolution, you will have set in place a force that you may not be able to cope with, because you will have undermined very fundamentally the entire free enterprise system in this country. Therefore, I am going to support it. For that reason alone, I'm going to support it. I commend the member for Quinte for bringing this forward and I wish him well.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I am pleased to rise today to speak on the private member's resolution from the member for Quinte, Doug Rollins, and also to listen to the comments made by, most recently, the member for Nickel Belt. I'd like anyone listening to the debate to recognize that there is an element of risk here when he's so wildly supportive of this. But I think if you look at what we're trying to attempt here, it is to look at the individual case before us. Each person who has put gas in the car realizes that there is a wild fluctuation in price, depending on if it is a long weekend or we're entering into the summer driving season. Why is it? Why is there such a wild fluctuation in price?

The background to the member's resolution this morning comes from a very sincere knowledge of the business he speaks of. Mr Rollins is, of course, well-known in his riding as being a long-time independent, a person who's operated in a competitive environment by his own will and his own fortitude.

I might add that there are other members in the House -- the member for Peterborough, Gary Stewart, and his brothers are long-time members of the business community, but first started as independents in the fuel business, so in this caucus there's a lot of information on small business.

I think, in the research on this, the small business community is under siege and under threat in this particular environment. When you look at the recent statistics, the decline in the membership of the independent producers from some 22% to some 12%, there needs to be some action taken to ensure we have competition. It's a case of a David-and-Goliath kind of scenario.

We are still friends of small business and always will be. That's the very thrust of much of what we're doing. There were some comments made about Catherine Swift. I think they are the sole supporters. If you listen to the member for Nickel Belt, obviously there was no support from him for small business. That's what I heard him say.

Our government is clearly on record as in support of small business and competition. There are three key elements to this resolution, in my view: It's small business or the independent versus the multinational; second, it's competition versus monopoly; third, it's an appeal to Ottawa to exercise the authority it currently has, whether it comes to the federal Competition Act or the competition bureau's function.

As we approach the long weekend, as I said, each one of us has a vested interest in making sure there's fair pricing and competition. I compliment the honourable member for Quinte for standing up for small business and the consumers of Ontario.

I will be supporting this resolution. Thank you for allowing me to speak on it.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to join the debate and say to my friend from Belleville that I will be pleased to support his resolution. Where I come from the name Rollins is synonymous with gasoline distribution, in north Hastings, Hastings and Renfrew. Clarke must have been a relative -- that's right, he was a relative. So I've got a long association with the Rollins name in this business. I think he makes a very good point. There is no question that there are a lot of people out there who I represent who are extremely upset at what they see as manipulation in the marketplace.

There are a lot of small retailers who quite frankly don't believe there is any kind of marketplace and it is hard not to agree with them. I want to say to my friend from Belleville that we have known that big oil has behaved this way since the days of John D. Rockefeller. Why should we be surprised that it's any different today? Oh, yes, there's some kind of a regulatory framework and there is a different kind of mood out there, but big oil has just got one interest: maximizing big profits.

I find it interesting, as do my colleagues here, that it is the intent of this resolution that the federal competition branch should get more active. I have no problem with that at all. I'm waiting for the day, by the way, when my friends on the treasury bench or somebody in the government caucus brings forward a motion to encourage the federal competition branch to get more active with the Black press, but I suspect that's not going to happen, I say to my friend from Nickel Belt.

The provincial governments, like the state governments in the United States, have an opportunity, and I would argue as my friend from St Catharines and my colleague from Manitoulin did, we too have some responsibilities. I have no difficulty in supporting the intention, because a lot of people, a lot of consumers and a lot of small retailers really have said to me in recent times, in places like Griffith and Chalk River and Barry's Bay that they feel they are getting manipulated, to use the polite phrase. They are, I think. I don't doubt for a moment they are.

They're not just angry, by the way, about big oil. They're pretty upset with the provincial government and its partnership with big oil. I'm sure my friend from Quinte hears what I hear. All of these little retailers up Highway 62, up Highway 41, out Highway 60 are not very happy, many of them, with the constant changes and pressures from the provincial government around retailing gasoline.

Every two or three years we seem to be telling them as a provincial government -- Liberal, Tory and NDP -- that they've got to dig up the tanks and spend $10,000 or $5,000 they don't have to meet some new standard that may not be necessary to meet their particular situation. All of us want a good environmental standard, but I'll tell you, if you're Gary Burchat running BB's Lunch Bar near Wilno, you're not very happy about the provincial government coming in every couple of years and saying, "Dig them up and spend $5,000, $6,000, $7,000" to meet some new changed standard, notwithstanding the fact there is no evidence that there has been any problem; none whatsoever.

I was in the little hamlet of Griffith in the southwestern part of my constituency the other day and the owner of the Pineview Restaurant and Gas Bar was very upset because he was going to have to spend money he didn't have to meet a standard he just didn't understand on the basis of his situation. When the margins are as small as they are -- nobody knows that better than the sponsor of this resolution -- we as a provincial government have got to understand that our regulations are imposing real cost on these small independents.

I don't know whether anybody has mentioned it, but I was looking at some files earlier this morning. The market share of the independents in Ontario has dropped from something like 22% to 12% in just the last couple of years. There's a sense among these small players, these small retailers, that there is perhaps even an unintended collusion between big oil and big government, whether it's national or provincial, to squeeze these little people out. I want to say on behalf of the Gary Burchats and others, the Etmanskies, a good Shell retailer up there in Barry's Bay, that they want not just action from the federal competition bureau but they want action from the provincial Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and others.


I just want to say, in conclusion, it's good to see a Tory like my friend Rollins; it's good to know that the Harry Stevens tradition in Conservative politics has not died; that there are some small business people still in the Tory party who are not slavish acolytes like that Horatio Alger, like David Frum and his hard-put-upon friend Tom Long who just would have us all believe that, "Give us a pure, unadulterated marketplace and big oil and big banks and big corporate agriculture will provide a nirvana of social peace and economic prosperity."

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I should explain, for those who don't know, that my injury did not result from arm-twisting by the member for Quinte to support his resolution, although I will be supporting it today. Neither did it result from a visit by the big oil companies last night; it resulted from a hockey injury. I was warned that when I got into this business, I might get beaten up in the media but I didn't know I might get beaten up by the media.

However, I am happy to speak to this resolution today. I want to say how pleased I am to see that there seems to be general acceptance of the need for stronger action by the federal Competition Act people to make sure that a free marketplace exists.

I couldn't help but notice the amusing remarks from the member for Nickel Belt. He has had the opportunity over the time he's been here to develop quite a good sense of humour, and I know he's having some fun with our party on this particular resolution. I think it's still possible for a person who has been as schooled in economics as the member for Nickel Belt to go back to school, perhaps lose some of that school economics and pick up a little commonsense economics, which many members of the Tory party have from their own experience in small business.

While we've heard some disparaging remarks about how our party supports big business, most of the members of our party are very experienced in small business and have operated in a very small business way, and that is really the concern we all have in addressing this resolution.

In my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay there are numerous operators, some of them independents, but the majority of them are in a leasing situation with large oil companies. I've had the opportunity as a small-town lawyer to advise people who enter into agreements with large oil companies, and the size and density of the contracts the large oil companies use when they enter into a leasing situation has astounded me. It is difficult to determine exactly whether or not it is a leasing situation when you're going through the contracts.

It is certainly a worthwhile step to direct the federal government to pay attention to the particulars in the Competition Act and also to recall the early years when the Combines Investigation Act was first developed, very much in an attempt not to overregulate small business but to allow the marketplace to operate in a truly free way.

I take issue with some of the comments that were made by members who said that the provincial government would be free to enter this field and impose legislation. While there may be legislation in New Brunswick and Quebec which prevents or attempts to prevent the imposition of prices that are below the retail price in order to eliminate competitors, I think it's very questionable whether that legislation is enforceable. When you look at some of the legislation that has been interpreted by courts over the years under sections 91 and 92 of the British North America Act, in most cases, when the federal government is occupying the field, the provincial legislation is deemed to be ultra vires and has no effect.

I want to make it very clear from the outset that I am a believer in the marketplace and that I believe the consumer is the greatest beneficiary of a free market, provided that marketplace is in fact free.

In my riding I've had the opportunity to talk to a number of constituents who are very concerned, like the member for St Catharines, about the continuous up-and-down character of gasoline prices. Some of the prices that have been used today are similar in my riding and it seems that the prices fluctuate wildly, especially on long weekends. For most of my constituents, it's a matter of great concern. They also, as the member for Renfrew North has said, feel manipulated. They feel like there is a force out there that is operating to control these prices. It's not a matter of the marketplace that is controlling the prices.

The number of operators in the independent category has been reducing over the years. I too had the opportunity to look up some information supplied by the association for independent operators and indeed the number is down in the 12% range now.

In the riding I represent, people absolutely are dependent on gasoline. Most of the people who visit Muskoka-Georgian Bay as tourists do so in automobiles, and the issue of gasoline prices is very significant. We do not have a large public transit system. It is a matter of free enterprise. You either have a car and drive around or you walk.

Quite simply, I think the resolution should be implemented and we should pressure the federal government to fully implement the Competition Act and make sure that all retail gasoline marketers are on a level playing field.

For many of us the fluctuating pump prices are a bittersweet situation. When these prices fluctuate wildly, they force smaller operators from the field and the consumers do not benefit with the lowest possible price.

The federal Competition Act bans certain kinds of activities in the market, and among those activities are collusion and price fixing and predatory pricing. It's predatory pricing that we're really fixing on in this resolution, pricing that's designed specifically with the purpose of driving a competitor out of business so that prices subsequently can be raised.

Under the act wholesale suppliers are not allowed to apply pressure to their dealers to maintain prices at a given level. That is something I think is worth looking into as well. Having represented many independent operators who were in leasing situations with large companies, it certainly seems to me that there is not a great deal of pricing freedom in that relationship.

These are the elements of the act which, when enforced to their fullest extent, provide a level playing field for retailers in the industry, and those are the elements which will ensure fair prices for Ontario and Canadian consumers. I'm pleased to support the resolution today.

Mr Rollins: I first of all want to thank everybody who has spoken in favour of it. I also want to thank the member for Nickel Belt for changing his lifestyle today, or giving a little bit of hope for it, because I think the way he expressed himself, that he might have to do something tonight after dark, I'm not sure what that is, but I hope that it is something a little bit different than he has in the past.

I also want to bring to your attention that when we have and allow companies to have 110-plus pricing zones in the province of Ontario, we are allowing those people to fluctuate those prices. I know a lot of people say that's not an easy solution, that won't solve all the problem. I haven't had anybody tell me personally that it won't help the problem if we at least price the product when it leaves the refinery, not allow the oil company to deliver the product with no bill of lading other than the weight and the load and then price it the day after it sells. That is not fair. It puts an awful lot of strain on the independents because the independent people have to pay the price when it arrives on their ground and goes in the ground and is pumped back out.

It's very easy for the majors and the person who's running on commission to not worry about the price. They are the individuals who want us to put the price down because they are paid strictly on volume. If the price is down and of course if I'm the lowest guy in town, I will get the biggest amount of traffic and I'll sell the most gas and I'll make the most money. That puts the pressure back on an independent sitting there. What is he supposed to do?

Quite often the independents and quite often a lot of the gas stations today, over the time when I started into it, have another business. They have a car-wash business, they have a small grocery store, they have a lunch bar and a few things like that. It's a lot of mom-and-pop operations out of the greater Metro Toronto area. It's out in the communities like Renfrew and my community of Quinte and Belleville, the outlying parts of Ontario.

Those places supply an awful lot of first-time jobs for people out of high school, their first job to go and help, and that's the kind of impact that we need to look at. Those people who have those small jobs -- I know they're only part-time jobs, lots of them -- at least have a chance, and today those chances are being missed.

I want to encourage the support -- and by the sound of it I'm going to have it -- that we can push on to Ottawa to make them take a look at it and make sure it's -- they said they went and looked at it in 1994. I'll tell you one thing: If they would ask Doug Rollins to go with them when they go to take a look at it, I'll point out some of the places where they maybe should be looking and make the thing a little bit stronger and more supportive.

Once again, I thank all the members who have supported me in speaking for it.

The Acting Speaker: The time for private members' public business has expired.

I would like to take just a moment, if I could, to express some admiration for the deportment of the class in the west gallery. My compliments to the teachers and the class members.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will deal first with ballot item number 65. If there are any members who are against taking a vote on this at this time, would they please rise?

Is it the pleasure of the House that this motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

The vote will be deferred.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will deal now with ballot item number 66, standing in the name of Mr Rollins. If there are any members who are opposed to taking a vote at this time, would they please rise.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare it carried.

Call in the members; there will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1203 to 1208.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would the members please take their seats. Mr Conway has moved private member's notice of motion number 43.

All those in favour, please rise and remain standing.


Bisson, Gilles

Grandmaître, Bernard

Martin, Tony

Bradley, James J.

Kennedy, Gerard

McLeod, Lyn

Brown, Michael A.

Kormos, Peter

Phillips, Gerry

Churley, Marilyn

Kwinter, Monte

Pupatello, Sandra

Conway, Sean G.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Shea, Derwyn

Crozier, Bruce

Laughren, Floyd

Wildman, Bud

Gerretsen, John

Marchese, Rosario


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed please rise and remain standing.


Arnott, Ted

Froese, Tom

Munro, Julia

Baird, John R.

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Barrett, Toby

Grimmett, Bill

Preston, Peter

Brown, Jim

Guzzo, Garry J.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Carroll, Jack

Hardeman, Ernie

Ross, Lillian

Chudleigh, Ted

Hastings, John

Sheehan, Frank

Doyle, Ed

Johns, Helen

Skarica, Toni

Ecker, Janet

Johnson, Ron

Smith, Bruce

Flaherty, Jim

Jordan, W. Leo

Spina, Joseph

Ford, Douglas B.

Leadston, Gary L.

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fox, Gary

Martiniuk, Gerry

Wood, Bob

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 20; the nays are 33.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

It being after 12 of the clock, this chamber stands recessed until 1:30 o'clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1210 to 1331.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): My statement today is addressed to the Minister of Housing. He consistently keeps saying he does not believe the government should be involved in providing affordable housing, that he, including his government, should not be in the bricks-and-mortar business, as he calls it.

Minister, let me remind you that in Metro we have 33% of the non-profit housing and 45% of public housing. I also remind the minister that Metro has a huge, disproportionate number of seniors and needy people, urgently needing affordable housing. There is a long list of some 25,000 people with a waiting period of some six years. I wonder if you have forgotten about it or if it's an issue you would like to forget about.

Let me remind the minister that as the list of people gets longer, the waiting period gets wider. I'm talking of needy people. Let me just give you an example: In my own area I have a family of seven kids and two parents -- that's nine people -- living in a one-bedroom apartment, and the living conditions of that particular family are not very pleasant.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): The users, the patrons, the readers at the Welland Public Library, at the Thorold library, at the Pelham library, along with communities across this province and the people in those communities, as often as not seniors and young people who use their public libraries, are shocked and outraged at this government's abandonment of public libraries, at this government's refusal to recognize that public libraries in small-town and, yes, big-city Ontario form an important part of what makes a city a community and of what makes a city healthy for the people living in that community.

They're concerned, and rightly so, because this legislation from this government that doesn't give a tinker's dam about public libraries and a whole lot of other public institutions is going to destroy the equity of access across the province that had developed over the course of years with the provincial involvement in the maintenance of libraries.

They're concerned because the downloading that's been imposed, along with the abdication of this government's responsibility to assist in the funding of libraries, simply is going to mean that many of those libraries are going to shut down. Those that aren't forced into simply shutting down are going to be required to impose user fee after user fee, so that the very people who most need public libraries are going to be denied access to them. The doors to public libraries are going to be locked, bolted and barred to our seniors, our young people and --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Before entering the House today, I had the pleasure to participate in a ceremony acknowledging tomorrow, February 21, as International Tourist Guide Day. The ceremony today in this building was hosted by the Canadian Tour Guide Association of Toronto and it was attended by many members of that association.

Awards were presented to Minister Saunderson of the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, which I accepted on his behalf, along with tour bus companies Trentway-Wagar, Pacific Western, Can-Am and Penetang-Midland Coach Lines. Representatives of the tour guide association and the bus tour companies are present today in the west gallery. I'd like to acknowledge their existence.

February 21, International Tourist Guide Day, has given me the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the tourist guide operators of Ontario and their determination in promoting tourism in our province. I would like to ask all members of the House to join with me today in thanking the Canadian Tour Guide Association, who are resplendent in their scarves, and the tourist guides in their own ridings on International Tourist Guide Day. They do a tremendous job in Ontario to promote tourism and make sure people feel welcome in our province.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I will note that the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay -- I am sorry to see about your shoulder. It happened last night when the legislators thumped the press gallery 7-1 at the game.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Up to 130 well-paid jobs could disappear in Niagara when the region's only provincial jail is shut down. The Ontario government has announced that it will be closing the Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold, one of 14 facilities being shut down around the province, in favour of the so-called superjails.

To the people in the Niagara region it means the following: The closure means Niagara prisoners will be sent to Hamilton to serve their time. Scores of corrections officers, supervisors, cooks, counsellors and other jail staff will be looking for other jobs. This is indeed having a bad economic impact on our community as well as not being good for the corrections system.

Many believed the jail, a maximum security facility built to hold up to 256 inmates, would be spared because it's relatively new, only 22 years old. Brock University economics professor Lou Soroka said that on top of the initial loss of 130 jobs, another 65 jobs may be lost in negative spinoff from so many better-paid workers losing their purchasing power. Jim Wells, who's with the John Howard Society in Niagara as executive director, said that the new superjails, which would have fewer guards and rely more on video surveillance, would be harder to control, that there would likely be more incidents such as prisoners beating each other. Wells said many people end up in provincial jails who have mental problems and wouldn't be able to protect themselves in such situations.

There seems to be another consensus developing that the Niagara regional detention centre should be kept open and the government should reconsider its position. I agree with that.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have risen in this House numerous times about hospital restructuring in the Sudbury area and I rise on the same issue today.

I'll be meeting with the Minister of Health later today to discuss the restructuring issues that are the mandate of the ministry, not the commission. No matter how much this government says otherwise, ultimately the health care decisions in this province are made by the Minister of Health. I am pleased that the minister is taking the time to meet with us to discuss the remaining issues.

The Minister of Health makes the final decisions regarding money and restructuring. We still don't know how much money will be reinvested in the community as a result of hospital restructuring.

The community leaders would also like to know how much money the province will contribute to the capital costs associated with hospital restructuring. The workers are still waiting to hear about a comprehensive labour adjustment strategy. No restructuring should take place until this strategy is fully developed.

As well, the community wants to know what will happen regarding community-based services needed as a result of hospital closures. We must know how these community-based services are going to be funded and ultimately delivered. I look forward to continuing this valuable dialogue with the minister about the health needs of the people of the Sudbury area.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise today to speak about democracy. The opposition has been screaming about democracy for weeks now, calling on our government to be democratic and hold a referendum on the issue of Metropolitan Toronto amalgamation.

Let me inform the opposition about the total and blatant disregard of democracy that is taking place in Scarborough. I challenge the opposition not to support a vote where residents must place their name, their address and their signature directly on their ballot. Where has the secret vote gone in Scarborough?


The Scarborough referendum may go down in history as one of the most undemocratic votes in the history of the western world. My constituency office has been flooded with calls from many constituents who are refusing to vote, refusing to be part of this affront to their democratic rights, and I have many constituents who have come to Scarborough from parts of the world where political persecution is a way of life. Many came here as refugees trying to escape from undemocratic governments. What do I tell them about Scarborough's government? I challenge the opposition to stand up today and speak out against the Scarborough ballot. I challenge them to demand democracy from Scarborough council.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): The social development committee has been literally flooded with requests from worried parents and teachers who want to speak on Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act. So great is the demand for people to have their democratic say that we may only hear from 10% of those who want to present.

This government was elected on a populist wave and claimed to be committed to listening to the people, but actions speak louder than words. Both the process of this legislation and its content are profoundly undemocratic. This legislation will result in a dramatic overhauling of our education system. Local autonomy will be gutted in favour of even bigger bureaucracies.

This government claims to want to streamline administration, but its plan will only backfire, resulting in more spending on bureaucrats and less on kids. The Education Improvement Commission, handpicked by the minister, will have unprecedented and sweeping powers to impose decisions on our schools and communities.

The minister has waged a relentless attack on dedicated educators and trustees, who are key stakeholders in our education system. Instead of creating a crisis, the minister should have been creating cooperation between the stakeholders and focusing his energies on what really counts: the future of our young people.

Considering the dramatic impact that this legislation will have, we must have an extension in the time allocation motion to fully consider Bill 104's impact. I call on the government to stop this reckless abuse of its power in the name of democracy and for the wellbeing of our kids. That would be democracy.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I attended a meeting today at Harbord Collegiate in my riding. I understand that M. Snobelen was invited to come, but unfortunately he's a busy man and he couldn't come to the debate that we had today. He missed it. He's obviously busy.

People in this community, students and teachers, are very worried, and they're concerned about the rhetoric of this government talking about education being a great equalizer. It can be, but if you look at the rhetoric of this government versus the facts, it belies it.

They've already taken $800 million away from secondary schools and post-secondary education. They have effectively eliminated junior kindergarten, which can be an important equalizer in the education system for a lot of people. They have, through Bill 104, effectively exterminated local boards, exterminating an important voice for public education. They are silencing those voices that would keep governments accountable. That's why they're getting rid of the trustees by doing what they're doing. And they are increasing tuition fees yet again, twice in a row, last year and this year.

People are worried because they can't afford the kind of cutbacks this government is inflicting on students and parents of our communities. They urge this government to reconsider those cutbacks, and I --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): A true chorus of opinion and questions on the "one Toronto" proposal were heard all across Metro Toronto last night. Just over 2,000 people participated in a night of dialogue with Progressive Conservative MPPs and cabinet ministers in 18 town-hall-style meetings.

The goal of these meetings was for all sides of the amalgamation debate to be heard, and that's what was accomplished. These meetings basically built on the public consultation, the hearings that are taking place here at Queen's Park. These gatherings were pure public consultation. Ordinary citizens were able to ask government members questions and become fully informed on the issue. Many of the previous events staged have been organized by and geared exclusively to groups who are opposed to unifying Toronto.

Local citizens last night were given a great opportunity to learn what was being proposed and why. Each meeting had its own individual atmosphere in which the objectives were openly and democratically discussed.

We believe our unification proposal would mean an enhanced lifestyle. We believe the proposal would mean greater benefits to the citizens of Toronto.

Some criticism is honest, well intentioned and truly constructive; some criticism is based on a simple fear of change, which is understandable; some criticism is driven by personal or political self-interest.

In a world of necessary change, good government must be rational and yet decisive. The time for action is now.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I would like to raise a point of privilege based on your ruling of January 22, 1997, relating to the distribution of communications products.

I have a pamphlet here that was printed by the New Democratic Party caucus services. Taxpayers' money was used to print this pamphlet. Taxpayers' money was used to distribute this pamphlet. It is printed in NDP colours, and the NDP logo appears both on the inside of the pamphlet and again on the back cover.

Mr Speaker, your January 22 ruling clearly directed members of the House not to prejudge a decision of the House in their communications with the public. As you stated in your ruling relating to unqualified claims made in the government's communications pamphlet, "In my opinion, they convey the impression that the passage of the requisite legislation was not necessary or was a foregone conclusion," and that you would not have come to such a conclusion "had these claims or proposals...been qualified by a statement that they would only become law if and when the Legislature gave its stamp of approval to them."

As well, Mr Speaker, you clearly expressed your personal objection to the propriety of public funds being used to advocate, through advertising, a particular position on a matter that is before the House, stating that you "would find it offensive if taxpayer dollars were being used to convey a political or partisan message."

This pamphlet makes reference to policy matters that have not yet been passed by the House, specifically Bill 103, as the front cover reads, "What's the real cost of the Mike Harris megacity?" yet there is no reference anywhere in this pamphlet that the policy in question is currently before the Legislature or that amendments to the legislation are possible.

By your definition of January 22, 1997, this pamphlet has prejudged a matter before this House and made use of public funds in order to do so.

The point of privilege I am raising is not with reference to the erroneous or fallacious rhetorical flights of fancy or even the bad cartoons; the clear contempt you will find in this pamphlet, paid for with taxpayer dollars, is that the NDP caucus has prejudged the debate of the Legislature and given the reader the impression that the legislation, Bill 103, which is currently in the public hearing stage of committee, has already been passed into law.

I would ask that you, Mr Speaker, using the same logic you followed in your ruling of January 22, 1997, define that the distribution of this pamphlet by the members for Dovercourt, Beaches-Woodbine, Fort York, Riverdale and Rainy River, paid for by taxpayers and containing unqualified claims relating to as yet unpassed legislation, constitutes a prima facie case of contempt for this Legislature.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Nepean, could you just, in a concise way, point out to me the offending words that the prima facie case would be based on.

Mr Baird: I think the pamphlet clearly prejudges. It does not make one bit of reference to the public hearing stage of the committee. It states that it is a foregone conclusion.

The Speaker: With respect, to the member for Nepean, I'm not asking for you to make the same speech -- I appreciate it, and it was very well worded. What I need to know is what the offending words are that you believe would cause the prima facie case.

Mr Baird: Referring to the pamphlet, the reverse cover, the document states, "The Harris Conservatives have downloaded more than $500 million in costs for services on to Metro."

We have not fully considered or, in my judgement, debated one single bill with respect to that statement. It says "have;" it does not say "is proposing," it does not say "plans to" on the reverse cover. "As a result, we will see services cut and property taxes rise dramatically." It says "have downloaded."

With respect to your ruling, Mr Speaker, you said that these issues before the House must be considered before the decisions are made. This communications proposal states that the Legislature has acted. It says, "The Harris [government has] downloaded more than $500 million." It has not. That legislation comes before the Ontario Legislature and is debated.


It says the Mike Harris government "is making local governments pay for social services." It is proposing that a partnership be established. It has not done anything. It is proposing to. That is on the inside cover.

"This will mean," it says -- and if you recall my speech in response to the member for Oakwood, his comments, I specifically pointed to the word "will." In that speech I specifically made reference to "will." If it had said "would" it perhaps would have been less problematic. But this pamphlet clearly says "will." It does not anywhere in the pamphlet indicate that public hearings are being undertaken on a good number of the pieces of this legislation. It doesn't indicate that the bill has been introduced.

The Speaker: To the member for Nepean, I will take this under advisement. I appreciate the effort and the opportunity to review it when you gave it to me before making your point of privilege. That was very helpful. I'll look through it and report back to you and the members of this Legislature at a later date.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: You made some reference, when one of the members of the Legislature got up, about an injury that took place. I'm worried about the impartiality of the Speaker's position.

The Speaker: I'm afraid that's way out of order. So we'll move right to question period. Oh, I'm sorry, that's right. I appreciate the intervention from the member for St Catharines, but the record is correct.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table a special report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on the disclosure of personal information at the Ministry of Health submitted by Mr Tom Wright, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Where is the report?

The Speaker: The report is, in fact, downstairs.


The Speaker: I misunderstood your question. The report is now, I assume, at this point in time being put into the members' mailboxes downstairs.

Mr Wildman: I need it here.

The Speaker: I appreciate the fact you want it here, but there is no history for providing the report to the members in the Legislature. It's provided in the boxes downstairs. You may collect it. As of this moment it's being distributed.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Mr Speaker, I rise today on a point of privilege pursuant to section 21 of the standing rules of order, and beyond those I understand it's under your jurisdiction not only with regard to the privileges of members but also to their security in this precinct, and it's to that I speak.

This morning early, because it's my custom to get in very early in the morning before other staff and so forth come --


Mr Crozier: Wait till you hear this, this is serious. I was sitting reading and as I looked up I came face to face with a rat. I knew it --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Welland-Thorold, please. Let's continue.

Mr Crozier: Speaker, to continue, I knew it wasn't a member of the government caucus because I would have recognized it, and I didn't recognize this rat.

I don't know what the procedure is in the legislative buildings to control this kind of varmint, but what happened was that in pursuit of this rat, because being in the opposition I'm accustomed to it, I then --


The Speaker: The member for Essex South, if you'd wrap it up quickly. Thank you.

Mr Crozier: I pursued the rat. I pulled the couch out from where the rat went, and I couldn't find a hole and I couldn't find the rat. I can only assume that my rat -- the rat -- is in the couch. So I would ask, sir, if you would contact the appropriate department so they might help me do away with this problem. Thank you, sir.

The Speaker: There must be procedures in place, and I'm certain I can find them, that you can bring this up to the proper people besides the Speaker of the House and the Legislature. I can only say to the member that I will refer this to the --

Interjection: The rat pack.

The Speaker: -- to the rat pack, I suppose, yes, and I'll report to you through correspondence from my office with yours. I sincerely appreciate your bringing that up.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker -- I won't make reference to the hockey game that you played last night -- this is on a ruling that you made and I think it's very relevant to something that's happening at this very time. This is a different one from what was raised the other day.

Remember in your ruling, on page 18 -- this is the landmark ruling you made on government advertising -- you said as follows:

"On a separate but related matter, the member for St Catharines expressed concerns on Tuesday of last week about the unequal access to advertising resources as between the government and the opposition." This is your quote. "He asked whether the Speaker had any jurisdiction to restrict the government from disseminating allegedly self-serving, partisan advertising.

"At this point in my ruling, I want to express some personal concerns about the propriety of public funds being used to advocate, through advertising, a particular position on a matter that is before the House. Let me be clear: I am not speaking here about politically paid for advertising, but rather about funds that are contributed to by every Ontarian, regardless of his or her political view. Personally, I would find it offensive if taxpayer dollars were being used to convey a political or partisan message. There is nothing wrong with members debating an issue and influencing public opinion; in fact, it is part of our parliamentary tradition to do so. But I feel that it's wrong for a government to attempt to influence public opinion through advertising that is paid for with public funds -- which I might add, are not available to the opposition -- instead of through debate in the House."

My point is this: We have had raised in the House already the Ministry of Municipal Affairs' ads, I think worth $650,000, we had raised Ministry of Education ads, worth $650,000, both of which have the Premier on them giving what I think to be a partisan message. But now we have a further set of ads from the Ministry of Health, even though they weren't supposed to be forthcoming, again with the Premier on these ads. They're on the hockey games, they're on the newscasts, they're everywhere, and they're at the cost of the taxpayers of this province.

I would ask you again, in light of your comments, in light of your personal evaluation of the last set of ads, whether you would look into that matter to see if there's any comment that you might have of a further nature in this regard.

The Speaker: To the member for St Catharines, I appreciate the point of privilege. Let me just say if you had read the next paragraph of my ruling, it would have crystallized, I think, the issue very well.

Mr Bradley: I didn't want to take too long.

The Speaker: I appreciate that, so I'll just read it for you.

"As I say, these are my personal views. While I sympathize with the member for St Catharines, I do not have the jurisdiction to examine the propriety of such campaigns unless they raise a matter of privilege or contempt, a subject I have already addressed."

I say to the member for St Catharines, I've ruled they don't raise a matter of privilege or contempt. I've ruled on the other ones that you brought to my attention. Those did not raise an issue of privilege or contempt either. So I can only ask that you view the next paragraph, and as you can see, the decision I took at the time is consistent with what I've ruled subsequently.


Mr Bradley: So you still think that they are self-serving government advertising?

The Speaker: That's debate; again, it could be a good question.

Before you go on the point of privilege, member for Windsor-Sandwich, I will say that in checking the orders on tabling reports, the only report that gets delivered in here is the budget. All other reports get distributed exactly the way the privacy commissioner has distributed this report, which means it gets tabled, one copy, which has been done, and the rest get distributed downstairs.

I know that can make for a rush, but we, as this House, have agreed that the only tabling of a report to each member of this Legislature is a budget. Anything other than a budget will not be tabled and that's why the report from Mr Wright was not tabled today.

Mr Wildman: A modest proposal: Let's change that to make it simpler.

The Speaker: Again, the member for Algoma, that's a decision the House leaders will take. It's not a decision for the Speaker to take.

The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Yesterday I raised a point and called it a point of privilege, with regard to a question I'd asked in the House and the issue of the deputy minister not being aware of ads that we believe were through the political arm of the Premier's office.

For clarification today and after your recommendation to review page 14 of the standing orders, 21(a) and (b), I believe it likely doesn't fit within those confines and will be readdressing that in a more appropriate manner that doesn't include the Speaker's office.

The Speaker: I appreciate the information and thank the member for Windsor-Sandwich, and I will obviously not report back on it, then. I'll leave it to your good offices.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Education. I have given the minister notice of this question. Almost two years ago to the day, Mike Harris met in an Ottawa coffee shop with Rob Kirwan, father of Gordie Kirwan. Gordie is a 6-foot-tall, handsome, strapping 21-year-old in perfect health, but who has the mind of a three-year-old. Gordie does not speak. He's in diapers. He doesn't play with a football; he plays with teddy bears.

At that meeting with Mr Kirwan, Mike Harris made a personal commitment that he would amend the Education Act so that children like Gordie wouldn't be forced out of school after reaching their 21st birthday.

Minister, Gordie is still learning and making progress. Will you make good on Mike Harris's personal commitment? Will you amend the Education Act so that Gordie and others like him will continue to be able to learn in a school, regardless of whether they are 20 or 21 years of age?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): First, let me say to the Leader of the Opposition that I too share your concerns for this very difficult problem, and I understand that all three parties in this Legislature have grappled over the past 10 years with this issue.

I've spoken with the Premier as late as this morning and he has assured me again of his commitment to helping and supporting families with developmentally disabled children or adults who want to keep them at home.

I want to point out to the Leader of the Opposition that this government has already significantly increased its support for the developmentally disabled who stay at home, through the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The Ministry of Education and Training is prepared to sit down and examine how legislation could further help these families. If the Leader of the Opposition has legislation he has drafted or some ideas on legislation that might be drafted, I'd ask him to bring it forward to the ministry and we will most certainly work on it with him.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, you will know that Gordie's parents have not had it easy. They do everything for their son. They bathe him, they feed him, they brush his teeth and, despite his age, they continue to change his diapers. Not once have they shirked their responsibility as loving parents. Gordie has now turned 21 and his parents now have to pay, by virtue of that fact, $14,000 a year to keep him in school to ensure that he can continue to learn and develop his skills.

Quite simply, that's just not fair. Gordie's parents have told me that it means a lot to them to know that when they die their son will be able to point to a picture that means, "I'm hungry," or to point to another picture that means, "I want to go to the washroom," or to point to another picture that means, "I'm tired and I want to go to bed."

The Education Act is before committee as we speak, and there's a possibility that arises as a result of that. You could introduce an amendment right now to ensure that the Education Act is changed so Gordie will be able to continue in school at no expense to his parents. Will you do that?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me say again that like many other people in this Legislature, I have some personal experience with family members who struggle with this same issue, who worry about their adult children who are developmentally disadvantaged, who worry about who will care for them when they're gone. We've already taken some action as a government to make sure there is more assistance available for those people. But I would not suggest to you, Mr Speaker, nor to the Leader of the Opposition that the system is perfect or that we can't improve it, and we are certainly willing to do that.

The Leader of the Opposition has my personal commitment that if there is legislation he can see that would be useful, we will consider it, we will entertain it, certainly, and if it could be useful for this family and other families, we'll take it on.

But I want to point out that these individual cases are difficult to legislate. I know the Leader of the Opposition appreciates that and understands it, so I would enjoy his input on what legislation might be useful.

Mr McGuinty: I've asked you to act and you have not agreed to do so. If you won't act, I will. I'll introduce a private member's bill, and if you won't support it, my government will. I'm making that commitment right here and now. I believe we have a very special responsibility for our most vulnerable, and that includes Gordie Kirwan. His parents are sitting there in the gallery now. They're not asking for much; they're prepared to assume complete responsibility for Gordie until they die. But I think we have a corresponding responsibility, and you and I can help.

I don't think we should make them wait any longer, or other families like them, and you have my assurance that if you were to introduce your amendment, you would have the support of my caucus. So I'm going to ask you again, Minister, will you amend the Education Act to help Gordie Kirwan?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me stand again and assure the Leader of the Opposition that if he has draft legislation in mind, if he would send it over I would be more than happy to work with him to bring that forward in whatever format would be most useful. If there is a way to improve the situation, he can be assured of this government's support and this government's commitment to help the families of adult disabled people in this province. I give you that assurance once again. I believe this is something all parties would like to cooperate in -- I do not believe these are things that should be left for partisan politics -- so I would encourage you to do so.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is for the Minister of Health. I think it's perfectly clear to everybody who's paid any attention to this that health care is suffering, particularly basic nursing care in Ontario, as a result of your government's cuts. Every week we hear stories from across the province, stories we thought unbelievable the week before. We've got a story of a man left dead in a hospital hallway; we've got a story of a man tied to a chair naked, 89 years of age; we've had a story of someone's father whose diapers were not being changed while he was in a hospital. We've had stories of people not receiving basic nursing care. Remember, I'm not talking about doctors or fancy, high-tech, expensive medical equipment; I'm talking about basic nursing care.

Minister, it's your hospital cuts that are the problem. Will you stop cutting dollars from Ontario hospitals?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): What this government will do is continue on a program -- indeed, I'm convinced we need to speed up the program -- to restructure the hospital system in the province of Ontario. This is an initiative which was begun under the previous government through the district health councils. It's driven from the community level, driven from the grass roots through the district health council reports given to the restructuring commission: How can we deliver better services through our hospitals in our local communities?

I think we need to speed up that program, I think we need to ensure that the program has the resources it needs to complete its study, and I think we need to advance the reinvestments. This government has announced many reinvestments in the hospital system. Indeed, the reinvestments have exceeded the reductions to the hospitals, but I think we need to tie that hand in glove, the reinvestments with the restructuring, to make sure we have the best possible care in our communities.


Mr McGuinty: Yesterday this government hit a new low. Yesterday marked the appearance of a television ad that is costing us 650,000 taxpayer dollars, and do you know what that does for patient care in this province? Nothing. The minister can stand in his place today and tell us he's doing all kinds of things. There's 650 grand, 650 big ones that could have been used for nursing care; $650,000 would have bought 40,000 nursing care hours. If you want to know where you can invest that money properly, start with that.

Minister, how can you justify, how dare you spend $650,000 on television ads when people don't get the health care they need right now?

Hon David Johnson: First of all, I want to say that we take each one of these situations very seriously. The ministry is pursuing the individual case that was raised yesterday. I expect the ministry will be in discussions today -- if not today, early next week -- in that regard. I find it interesting to have this point of view raised from the Leader of the Opposition, who when his party was in government spent twice as much on advertising for their red card, for their hospital card, some $1.5 million. Could we all agree that $1.5 million spent by the Liberal government in 1990 could be better used for health care in Ontario? In overall terms, the advertising budget of the Liberal government in 1990 will be at least double what this government will spend this year.

Mr McGuinty: Basic nursing care in Ontario is disintegrating on your watch. That's the issue and don't forget that. I'm a bit confused about this, Speaker. They've got $650,000 to waste on health care commercials, but yesterday the Grand River hospital in Kitchener had to lay off 356 hospital staff, most of them nurses, because of this minister's cuts. Yesterday in this House, after hearing that 20 to 30 patients were lining the hall at Peterborough Civic Hospital, all the minister could say was that the hospital closing commission wasn't acting fast enough.

The issue is not how fast you can close hospitals, but how quickly you will act to ensure that Ontario maintains a decent standard of basic nursing care in its hospitals. That's the question. Minister, when are you going to act on that front? When are you going to act to ensure that we maintain in Ontario a decent standard of basic nursing care in Ontario hospitals?

Hon David Johnson: When I receive this question, I look across and see members of the Liberal Party who were in government in 1988, 1989, 1990, who closed over 1,200 beds in Ontario, over 1,200 beds closed by that government.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): What did you promise? No cuts.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Yorkview, you're also out of order and you're not in your chair, and the members of the Liberal caucus, I'd ask you to come to order. I'd like to hear the minister's answer.

Hon David Johnson: This government is committed to providing better health care, better hospital care in each of our communities in Ontario. It requires a plan. It requires the work coming up through the communities, through the district health process. That work is under way. We have committed to spend at least $17.4 billion a year on health care. I can assure you that we have exceeded that amount this year. We will exceed that amount again next year. The plan which is in place, which starts from the grass roots, from the district health councils, is rolling along and we will see those reinvestments, we will see that restructuring, we will see better hospital care in Ontario in each of our communities.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): In the absence of the Premier and the Deputy Premier, I'd like to direct a question to the Chair of Management Board, the government House leader and the Minister of Health with regard to the freedom of information commissioner's report that was tabled today. At the time the government decided to ask for this investigation, we were asking for a public inquiry and made the point that the commissioner did not have the wherewithal to carry out a full-fledged inquiry to get to the bottom of the situation.

We now have the report, which basically says that Mr James received the information from an e-mail that came to the minister's office because of a freedom of information request of one of the newspapers. Can the minister explain why the report does not make clear how widely this e-mail was distributed, who received it and why was it distributed in the way it was, giving out information about physicians' incomes?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): The member opposite will realize that I have not seen the report. The report has just been issued; I've been here answering questions, so I'm unable to answer any of the questions. I can tell you that this government acted quickly, acted to request the privacy commissioner to do this report. We were most anxious to get to the bottom of this situation. We gave our full and utmost cooperation to the privacy commissioner. I'm delighted that the privacy commissioner has now come forward with the report. I'm unaware of all the contents, as are most of the members of the House, because they've not had an opportunity to read it.

I do know that in the press release that has been put out by the Information and Privacy Commissioner he indicates that the information was disclosed on the personal initiative of the individual involved "without the knowledge of, or at the request of, Wilson, staff in the minister's office or the Ministry of Health." I think that clears the minister and the staff of the Ministry of Health.

Mr Wildman: Unfortunately, because of the restrictions on the privacy commissioner, the way he had to go about the work he was asked to do, there are many questions still unanswered.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): That's why they chose this route.

Mr Wildman: I suspect.

The commissioner, as you know, doesn't have the right to subpoena or examine under oath. I have the list, from his report, of the 18 people who were interviewed in his investigation. Could the minister explain why it is that the two individuals, Jan Dymond and George McCague, consultants to the ministry who were in the minister's office, according to the log, on the Saturday prior to James's files being packed on Sunday, are not listed among those interviewed by the commissioner? Why is that? Why is it that these individuals, who were working on contract to the ministry, who were in the office on the Saturday with access, apparently, to files --

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

Hon David Johnson: I'll say once again that I have not had the opportunity, nor have members of this House, to read this report. When this incident arose, the government took swift action to set this investigation in place. It was a thorough investigation and study. It was an independent investigation and study. It took place over a period of about two months. I have full confidence in the Information and Privacy Commissioner. I haven't seen his report, but I have no indication he did anything but the most thorough and professional job and I'm sure the report will speak for itself.

Mr Wildman: I refer to the report. On page 7, the commissioner says, "In our view, Wilson and James's offices and the records stored therein were secured from the afternoon of Monday, December 9, 1996, until Thursday, January 9," when the commissioner completed the investigation, but Jan Dymond, George McCague and others were signed in on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, to the minister's office. How can the public feel confident that these political staffers and consultants who were there on the weekend did not remove, tamper with or destroy records that were subsequently available to the commissioner?

Will the government agree that we have to have a full public inquiry with proper rights of investigation, subpoena and warrants and the right to demand testimony under oath in order to get to the bottom of this situation?

Hon David Johnson: I gather that the House leader for the NDP does not have confidence in the Information and Privacy Commissioner, does not have confidence in his report. I don't share that attitude. I believe the commissioner has received the full cooperation of the government. This government acted more quickly than any other government in a similar situation.

I will say in addition to that, the minister himself took the honourable position of stepping aside immediately and I think is to be commended for that. The government took the step of immediately setting in place this study, this independent, arm's-length, thorough study, and now we have the report. I have every confidence in the report and every confidence that this report has got to the bottom of the situation.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Health concerning the crisis in the community care access centres, which are his responsibility. He will know that in less than two months these community care access centres are supposed to be taking over the provision and coordination of long-term care and community-based services in the province and that funding to municipalities will cease as of April 1.

Given that there are only about 27 working days left until that occurs, could the Minister of Health tell us why he would send a memorandum to all the chairs, his appointed chairs, of these access centres instructing them to halt all transition activities, including the hiring of staff, including the signing of leases, the purchase of equipment and phone systems? Why, with so little time left before that transition occurs, would you be grinding this whole system to a halt?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): To the member for Nickel Belt, actually the letter was sent from the deputy minister, not from me, to all the CCACs in Ontario simply requesting that the CCACs develop a business plan. This is a simple requirement here in the province. All the ministries are going through this process. All the boards and committees are reviewed and expected to go through a similar process. We're simply asking the CCACs, as they come through this fiscal year, along with the ministries to present their business plans.

I will say in addition to that, we have every confidence in the CCACs. There are many volunteers involved who serve their community at great expense to themselves personally but at no remuneration. I believe, with the business plans and with the dedication they have shown, we'll provide a good service to the people of Ontario.

Mr Laughren: I'm not questioning the ability of the members of the access centres. I'm questioning your ability to manage this transition. As a matter of fact, the board of directors of the Durham community access centre have resigned en masse, resigned because of that letter sent by your deputy, presumably approved by you, something as important as that. You've caused a lot of anxiety in the Durham region because there's a lot of concern about provision of these services. Could you respond to the region in Durham or extend their funding at least, so we'll make sure there's no gap in the provision of these very important services to the people in Durham?

Hon David Johnson: I did talk to the chair from Durham yesterday. I'm confident that the CCACs will understand that a business plan is a relevant piece of information that's necessary in all facets of government. It may be something somewhat foreign to the previous governments, which ran up deficits of some $11 billion a year. The former Treasurer, former Minister of Finance, I would think, though, would encourage a business plan development through the ministries and through the boards and agencies of the province of Ontario.

I would also say that the CCACs -- I have confidence, because they're replacing the former multiservice agencies put in place by the previous government, a very bureaucratic situation with union domination that would not serve the people of Ontario. The CCACs will deliver a better service as this government has structured them.

Mr Laughren: The minister is very fond of trying to shift the debate from what he's responsible for to what previous governments were responsible for. This is your problem, this is your chaos, not ours, not the official opposition's. The access centre's board of directors did not resign under any previous government. It's you. They've resigned because of your activities.

What I'm asking you as the Minister of Health is why you will not guarantee, first, that the business plan submitted will be approved on time; and second, that there'll be absolutely no gap in the provision of services or the provision of funding. Keep in mind that you created this monster, that it's your responsibility and you can't pass it off to someone else. Will you give assurances to the people in Durham that there will be absolutely no gap in the provision of services or funding for these services?

Hon David Johnson: In fact the former Minister of Health set up the CCACs to replace the former multiservice agencies, which would not have delivered the service to the people of Ontario in an accountable and efficient fashion. I'm very confident that this organization, which replaces the home care agencies and the placement services, will provide a one-stop, better service to the people of Ontario. They will --


Hon David Johnson: Don't worry, to the member for Nickel Belt. There will be an organization in place. They will be accountable. I'm confident that once the business plans are in place, we will work with them to establish the business plans so the service will be delivered in an accountable, efficient and effective manner to serve the seniors of Ontario.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Health and it concerns his government's hospital policy. Yesterday, appearing before a committee of this Legislature, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, Mr David MacKinnon, said:

"The government's current policy towards the restructuring of hospitals and the health system as a whole is seriously flawed and must be fundamentally changed before irreparable damage is done. Unless changes are made, the people of this province will face reduced access to care and the quality of that care may decline significantly."

Minister, are you and your colleagues in government prepared now to adjust, amend and revise your hospital restructuring policy to take account of the very serious concerns that the Ontario Hospital Association brought to this Legislature yesterday?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): First, I'll say that this government and the Ministry of Health take very seriously the comments of Mr MacKinnon and the Ontario Hospital Association, but I will say that one other comment Mr MacKinnon made is, "OHA and its members have been, and continue to be, supportive of restructuring in the hospital sector."

What I believe is being expressed is some concern in terms of the resources, the number of commissioners. This government has responded by appointing another commissioner. This government has indicated its willingness to respond, to assist further in the resourcing of the restructuring commission.

Second, this government is committed to making the reinvestments along with the restructuring, and I have certainly given my undertaking to ensure that the reinvestments tie in with the restructuring so that the people of Ontario have a better health care system.

Mr Conway: Minister, last week a group of eminent physicians in the city of Peterborough wrote in a public letter, in part, "The medical staff of the Peterborough hospitals are becoming increasingly concerned about the deterioration of patient care in local facilities, our community and region because of government funding cuts."


Minister, yesterday the OHA in its submission admitted that it supports restructuring, but in a multipage report this presentation pulsates with real and serious concerns about the nature and extent of the cuts you are making in your hospital policy. Are you prepared today, in response to these several concerns not just of the OHA but of the Peterborough medical community, to amend, adjust and revise your current hospital restructuring policy so these people and thousands of patients and their families can be given some level of comfort that you are not going to wreck and ruin this part of the health system?

Hon David Johnson: I will reiterate, as I said in an answer to a previous question, that the Ministry of Health is sitting down with the people in Peterborough, with the hospital in Peterborough, to examine that particular situation, which was raised in this House yesterday. I expect that to happen today or very early next week at the latest.

Secondly, the people of Ontario have the right to be concerned about government cuts to health care, particularly $2 billion worth of cuts from the federal Liberal government. In the face of those cuts, notwithstanding that some small amount of $20 million has been reinvested through the recent budget, this government is committed to retaining at least $17.4 billion -- I'm here to assure you that it will be greater than that -- through the restructuring, through the reinvestments and so many different aspects, cardiac care, cancer treatment, kidney dialysis. This hospital system in the province of Ontario --

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


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): In the absence of both the Premier and the Minister of Finance, I too would like to direct my question to the Chair of Management Board.

You will recall that on Tuesday, the day of the federal budget, the federal minister Mr Martin, aside from his almost do-nothing budget, pledged $200 million. This is money leaving the federal government, directed to the most needy in our province, children. Yet in response your Minister of Finance, Mr Eves, said on Tuesday that the government had done exactly what you just said: that the federal Liberals had taken $2 billion in the past two years out of transfer payments in health, social services and education and now they're coming with a pittance.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question.

Mr Pouliot: Will you honour the commitment of the $200 million of federal money and not put it into your general fund, jeopardizing --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Lake Nipigon.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I believe this is a question which is more properly addressed to the Minister of Community and Social Services.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): To the honourable member, Ontario has already made a commitment some time ago that any moneys freed up through the national federal investment in a child benefit would go to target programs for high-risk children. That commitment stands. We have not changed. What we saw in the federal budget was an initial investment that will be required if we are to make the child benefit work. The provinces and Ottawa are now working on the final design to come up with an option that will work the best.

Mr Pouliot: I'll be very candid with you because we've asked the Premier and he's busy; we couldn't get a straight answer. Some members of your caucus, with respect, have referred to it as a $200-million windfall. Today you have given me the assurance that the money will go directly to the people who need it the most. In view of that I'm satisfied with your answer. I'll sit down right now. I have no further comment. Thank you.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I think some of the concerns we've seen expressed since the federal budget has come out about the actual impact on the ground on people who are either on social assistance or those who are low-income working poor, if you will, highlight the need for the further design work that the provinces and Ontario are trying to develop right now to make sure that we are not disadvantaging those who are on social assistance and to make sure that any funding does have an incentive to keep families in the workforce. Also, we're trying to make sure that duplication and overlap between the two levels of government are removed.

I look forward to those discussions. Actually, as a result of yesterday's meeting with Minister Pettigrew, we've shortened the time frame to see if we can't do the work faster.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. It's my understanding that your ministry has given awards to some 26 food retailers in Ontario. I'm very happy to note that Staffen's Food Market in Mitchell has been listed among the award winners and has received recognition for best creative display. I'm extremely pleased by this because the Staffen family run stores in St Marys and Mitchell and have always been strong supporters of their community and the riding of Perth and deserve recognition for their efforts.

For the benefit of other members of the Legislature and indeed those in Perth who are not aware of the recognition which they have received, could you please explain what Foodland Ontario awards are and why the ministry is sponsoring this event?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): For many years, the government of Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs have sponsored a program known as Foodland Ontario which helps Ontario producers sell their quality produce right here at home in Ontario through Ontario retailers. Part of Foodland Ontario is the retailers' award presentation, which recognizes retailers who have made a year-long effort in supporting and merchandising Ontario-produced goods.

May I also congratulate the folks here from Mitchell for their award. Last Monday, I presented these awards to the winners, and let me tell you that Ontario food retailers are doing a top-notch job in promoting Ontario produce. Ninety per cent of the consumers in Ontario recognize the Foodland logo and they will buy Ontario.

Mr Bert Johnson: I've seen the Foodland logo at my local supermarket and I myself buy Ontario products.

I know that Brian Gropp, the general manager of the Stratford Agricultural Society in Stratford, and Brunell Kipfer, Perth County Federation of Agriculture township director for Ellice, are in the gallery today. Both these gentlemen are very interested in the promotion of agricultural products in Ontario.

Can the minister assure my constituents that the ministry is doing everything it can to promote Ontario food products and that this is taxpayers' money well spent?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Ontario consumers do enjoy Ontario produce, and the Food Land Guidelines have been our mark of showing the quality that is produced in Ontario. As you may know, the agrifood business is the second-most-important engine of the economy, a $50-billion business here in Ontario. We have been in the markets not only here but indeed exporting to the United States and to the world the well-known quality that is produced here in Ontario. I am proud to have the Foodland Ontario logo showing what indeed our producers can do here in Ontario.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question is for the acting Premier and Minister of Health. I want to refer you to the report released today which you say you haven't had time to read, yet you were very quick, in response to an earlier question, to say that it exonerates your colleague.

There were concerns raised in this Legislature at the time about the ability of the privacy commissioner to get to the bottom of this situation. There are many unanswered questions. If you look at page 15 of the report, there's a very weak statement made that based on the interviews conducted and information available to the privacy commissioner, he has no reason to believe that Mr Wilson's office or staff requested Mr James to disclose personal information.


I would say to you, Minister, and to your government, that that leaves a number of unanswered questions. Rather than infer those, I would ask, would you agree to have this referred to an all-party committee so that those questions can be answered, so that we can indeed, if that is your wish, find out if there is a basis for --

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

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): What I would agree is that this government took swift action, this government set in place an independent investigation and this government gave full cooperation.

What I did refer to, and the only information that I have at this point, since the report was released less than an hour ago and I've been in my place in the House since, is a press release from the Information and Privacy Commissioner himself. His words, not mine, are that the information was released "without the knowledge of, or at the request of, Wilson, staff in the minister's office or the Ministry of Health."

I think we all need to have the time to study this report. I have the utmost confidence in the abilities and in the study of the commissioner.

Mr Kennedy: It's very clear that there was a breach; there was a breach of section 42 of the act. The disclosure was not in compliance. This person worked in the minister's office. If you are of that confidence, then you should not have any problem with complying with what the Premier told me: that if there was anything else we wanted, it will all be made available to us.

I am asking you, as my leader Dalton McGuinty asked the privacy commissioner, to make available determinations about whether the Premier's office knew, because it's not in the report; whether the ministry files were sealed in a timely fashion that didn't compromise the report, because that's not covered; whether or not the inability of this commissioner to provide testimony under oath, to compel people to come forward, was an impediment; whether or not there should be sanctions, because it's not covered in the report, what sanctions; whether there should be a cross-reference here to any criminal things now that there has been a finding that the act has been violated; and any other steps to find out how this can be prevented in future.

Those are not addressed in the report. They are an important part of the understanding of the Legislature and the public in the confidence of your government. Without reading the report, will you undertake at this time to do the further steps necessary because of your confidence in the findings?

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite says it's a reasonable request that without reading the report I should specify that certain actions be taken. I don't think there would be very many people who would consider that to be a reasonable request. I think the members of this House should have the opportunity to read the report and see if they're satisfied.

I will say that right from the word go, this government has taken the maximum possible action: set up this study, set up an independent study. The individual in question resigned right from the word go. The minister himself took the most honourable course and stepped aside to allow this investigation to take place. The report has just been issued within the last hour. We should have the opportunity to read it, and I'm sure it will cast full light on this whole situation.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Earlier this week I asked you a question with regard to reflective taping on truck trailers. As you know, there is presently a requirement that all new trucks that are to be purchased in the province of Ontario have to have reflective taping on them in order to protect drivers from hitting those trucks, as often they're not able to see them when they're coming out of side roads.

I asked you the question earlier this week. I said, "Is the Ministry of Transportation prepared to make it a requirement that all existing trucks presently in the province of Ontario would be retrofitted with reflective taping?" At that time, you didn't adequately give me an answer. Quite frankly, you didn't answer, so I'll ask you the question again.

Are you prepared as the Minister of Transportation to leave this House today, to go to your cabinet office and go back to your ministry and make it a requirement of the province of Ontario that all existing truck trailers now in the province of Ontario will need to have reflective taping installed?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): Again, I'd like to thank the member for asking the question that he asked me the other day. I am going to try to give him the information that I feel the people of Ontario are entitled to know.

This government has taken many steps in making sure that truck safety in the province is done. We have also consulted with the industry and other jurisdictions, including the OPP and the CAA and so on. We are in the process of taking a look at a study that has just concluded with industry and MTO to see how we can implement a lot of changes. I want to say to the member that taping is on the table and there has been discussion with industry. We are going to take a look to see how we can implement what the member is asking. I certainly agree with what he's asking.

Mr Bisson: What I'm asking you to do is take the tape off the table and put it on the truck where it belongs. The trucking association and other shippers are asking, "Will you make this requirement so you can level the playing field within the trucking industry to make it a requirement for all truck operators?" It's an easy thing.

You say that you're serious about truck safety, you say that you want to make an impact on safety on our highways; this is an opportunity where you can do so. It's not a big-ticket item. The industry agrees; the OPP agrees; everybody in the field says it should be done. Will you commit today to go back to the ministry office and prepare to make the statement that you will make it a requirement in the province of Ontario for those trucks that are now on the road to be retrofitted with that tape? Yes or no?

Hon Mr Palladini: The question comes from a member whose party did absolutely nothing when it came to truck safety while they were in government. The member is basically asking a question that says, "Let's go buy a roll of tape and we're going to put it on a truck." The member thinks it's that easy. There are some things that have to be done in making sure that safety is protected on our highways.

I want to say to the member again that we are going to take a lot of initiatives, a lot more than he --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

New question.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Health and concerns hospital restructuring currently going on in the Niagara Peninsula. Recently, the Niagara District Health Council's hospital restructuring steering committee released its report entitled Made in Niagara. I believe the people in Niagara understand the need for change in the way our health care system works and I think they want to see the highest quality care while maintaining accessibility and accountability. However, from the point of view of Niagara's smaller communities, like Fort Erie, like Port Colborne, like Wainfleet, the Made in Niagara report simply overwhelmed any instinctive understanding and appreciation of the need for change.

I was with people in Fort Erie at the Leisureplex, 3,000 taxpayers who voiced their opposition to the closure of emergency at Douglas Memorial Hospital. I was at a similar meeting in Port Colborne at Lakeshore Catholic High School with 2,000 taxpayers. Frank Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, and I attended a similar meeting of 5,000 people in Grimsby. Frank Sheehan and I are supporting the people from our ridings and we want to know how can we assure those voices are heard in Niagara.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I thank the member for Niagara South because I know that he's been working hard with his constituents on this particular issue and a number of other issues. This is, of course, a process that began through the previous government, the district health council process. It's based on getting information up from the communities, from the local residents, to have consultations with them and recommendations for health care services, hospital services in their communities.

I would say to the member for Niagara South that those people deserve to be heard, they have the right to be heard. Frankly, from the point of view of the Ministry of Health, I fully expect that the district health council will indeed hear the people from Niagara as it goes through the process and reflect their views in the restructuring and the recommendations they make for hospitals in the Niagara region.

Mr Hudak: Obviously I'm very concerned about the difference between the small community hospitals and the larger centres. I attended the Ontario Hospital Association conference to hear an address by the parliamentary assistant for health, the member for Huron, Helen Johns. Mrs Johns said: We are aware of the special circumstances of rural Ontario. We are taking them into consideration. Let me assure you that there will be no cookie-cutter approach to hospital restructuring."

I fully agree with Mrs Johns's statement. Smaller communities in Niagara South, like Port Colborne and Fort Erie, have special circumstances that must be taken into account. Access to emergency services, for example, simply must be preserved. How can the people of Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Fort Erie be assured that their special circumstances will be taken into account?


Hon David Johnson: I would say to the member for Niagara South that indeed the people from Fort Erie, Port Colborne and Wainfleet have every right to expect, and I would insist, that the district health council consultation process will be sensitive to their needs, will listen to the people from these communities. I expect that the recommendations that come forward will indeed reflect the views that are being expressed in our communities.

The member for Niagara South has said this is not a cookie-cutter approach. I could not agree more. This is a process that needs to be sensitive to each individual community in the province of Ontario. In Niagara there are special circumstances, there are different circumstances. The restructuring commission and the district health council reports need to listen to the people, will not take a cookie-cutter approach and will make, in my estimation, recommendations which will reflect the needs of people in those areas.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development; I'll try him on this question. I asked him a question about gasoline pricing a number of months ago and he said he thought the prices were very good in the province; that's when people were being gouged. This morning in the Legislature the member for Quinte, large as life, was up pointing the finger at the federal government and saying, "Why doesn't the federal government do something about gasoline prices and predatory pricing," and so on.

You have within your jurisdiction provincially, without looking at the feds or the local government or anybody else, jurisdiction to end predatory pricing. Will you give an undertaking to the House today that your government will introduce provincial legislation to define predatory pricing as an offence outside of the federal Competition Act; that is, not allow the major oil companies to undercut the independents, put them out of business and remove all competition?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm happy to respond to the question. It's getting to be a habit, responding to that gentleman over there.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's the way it works.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Well, we hear him a lot.

I would just like to respond to the question by saying that of course, from an economic development and tourism point of view, we are concerned in this government about any price we think is not fair to the consumer. If you travel across Canada, I think our prices that I see at the pumps these days are quite fair. When one travels outside Canada, our prices here are also comparable -- and I say that again, "comparable" -- to what I see going on in the world. There are certain areas that are closer to gas and oil production facilities and therefore pay a lesser price, but I think under our circumstances our prices are quite fair.

Mr Bradley: The member for Quinte will be very surprised to know that the pricing seems to be all right.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Shocked and appalled.

Mr Bradley: "Shocked and appalled" I think is the terminology we would use. But I'm giving you a chance. I'm the House leader of the opposition. I'm prepared to speak on behalf of my colleagues. I would bet, if I were a betting person, that Bud Wildman as the House leader of the NDP would give the same permission. We will pass this bill, all three readings in one day, if you will bring forward a piece of legislation to define predatory pricing as an offence outside of the federal Competition Act; that is, if you will bring forward legislation to prevent the major oil companies from undercutting, from selling at one price to independents and then charging less than that in their own stations to put the independents out of business. If you will bring in such legislation, we in the opposition will pass it in one day. Will you do that today?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'd like to just respond by talking a little bit about the economic philosophy of this government.


Hon Mr Saunderson: I know, you laugh. Obviously you laughed when you were in power or we would not have the huge deficit that we have now in this government. But let me just tell you over there that we on this side of the House believe in the free enterprise system. We don't intend to dictate to companies what they should and should not do, provided they act with reason. I have no intention of interfering with the free enterprise system, the pricing system. If we were to do that we would be a laughingstock, sir. It would be a big mistake for this province. We would not attract businesses to this province.

What we have now is a system that encourages businesses. We've lowered the income tax rate. We've changed the labour laws. We've done a lot to encourage business to come here. That's what we mean on this side of the House that we are pro-business. We're open for business.

Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: Would you explain to us all here how the member for Quinte is going to be able to walk now that he's been cut off at the knees?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Minister of Correctional Services. The Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold is one of the newest detention centres in this province. It's also one of the most efficient, with a per diem cost of but $88 a day for adult inmates. It services a unique part of the province, Niagara region, where it has a large number of federal immigration detainees and some of the special pressures of border regions. Why would the Niagara Detention Centre, one of the newest, most efficient detention centres this province owns, be on your chopping block of detention centres and jails to be shut down or privatized?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The member is correct in respect to one of the newer facilities, but it is 24 years old, which makes it one of the newer facilities, I will grant you that, but the per diem costs are slightly under $100 per day and our objective is to drop the current rates quite dramatically. The average is $124 per day across the system. Niagara is somewhat under $100 per day. We're looking at an average across the system, with phase 1 of the restructuring program, of $75 a day, and achieving somewhere in the neighbourhood of $75 million to $80 million in annualized savings for the taxpayers of this province.

I appreciate the member's concerns with respect to his constituency and his community, but we have to look at the broader concerns with respect to the ongoing deficit and debt burden that all of us face as taxpayers in this province. We have to address it, and we're looking at the corrections system in terms of the most efficient operation we can operate in this province.

Mr Kormos: It remains one of the newest and one of the most efficient in terms of per diem cost. When one considers the transportation costs that are going to be incurred by transporting inmates and persons in custody to farther and farther distances away from Niagara region, when one considers the loss of the $1.2 million a year that the federal government pays for immigration detainees, this government, by virtue of shutting down the NDC, is going to create costs just out of this world. As well, it's going to destroy over 137 jobs in Niagara region by shutting down the Niagara Detention Centre. There's simply no rationale for it.

So be it, but it remains -- the mayor of Thorold has requested an opportunity meet with this minister to discuss his ill-conceived plans to shut down the NDC and to create 137 new positions on the soup kitchen lines for the jobless that are going to be created by virtue of it. Will this minister please tell us now that he's going to meet with Mayor Woodhouse and the folks from the city of Thorold?

Hon Mr Runciman: The member mentioned the transportation costs and a number of other elements of this decision, and they've all been factored in in terms of achieving the long-term goal of dramatically dropping the per diem cost to taxpayers in this province of housing people in provincial institutions, jails and prisons.

I don't want to encourage any misleading expectations on the part of the municipality, but I'm certainly prepared to arrange with the member an opportunity to sit down and discuss the situation with him. We have had some preliminary discussions with federal officials as well with respect to the possibility of their taking on one or two or perhaps more of the institutions we will be vacating, so we are having those kinds of preliminary discussions. I'm sure the member and I can discuss this afterwards and arrange a mutually suitable opportunity to sit down and discuss it with representatives from his constituency.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. As you know, my riding of Durham East is encircled completely by highways -- Highway 401, Highway 35, 115, Highway 12, 7A -- and I know how important highway safety is to my constituents. Indeed, Minister, I know how important it is to you. On occasion you've talked about the top priority of your ministry being truck safety, and I commend you for that.

Although some progress has been made, the area of wheel separation on commercial vehicles remains a serious concern to many Ontarians. Many of my constituents have submitted ideas to MTO on how to prevent wheels from flying off trucks. Many of these inventions are already out there. Could you please tell the House what process for evaluation of potential technical solutions for wheel separation is in place?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I'd like to thank the member for Durham East for the question. I certainly have made it very clear to my staff at MTO that we cannot ignore any ideas that are being brought forward. Yesterday members of the public were given an opportunity to present their ideas to MTO staff and industry staff to see what can be developed from that. This committee will be given a time frame of approximately six months in which to produce a report on the viability of any potential solutions. I want to assure this House that any submissions from citizens will be seriously considered in making sure that truck safety is protected.

Mr O'Toole: I'm pleased to hear this. One worry I have, however, is that an invention might only be seeking a commercial endorsement from your ministry. Could you tell me and the House the mechanisms that you have put in place to secure the independence of this commitment and the recommendations?

Hon Mr Palladini: The member for Durham East raises a very good point. I am pleased to tell the House that we have asked Professional Engineers Ontario to direct the committee and oversee the formal evaluation of the inventions. The federal Transport Development Centre, which is responsible for vehicle standards, will also assist in the evaluations. It is important to have a credible third party help with the evaluation process so that it is done in an unbiased matter.

The goal and purpose of this committee is to help promote truck safety. It is not the intention to provide commercial endorsements of any products but simply to recommend further research if necessary, and I look forward to what the committee has to say. But finally, I'd like to remind everyone that whatever is holding wheels on to a vehicle, maintenance of all components of a vehicle is important. No vehicle is safe unless it's properly maintained.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I move that, notwithstanding the order of the House on February 6, 1997, the standing committee on social development be authorized to meet for the purpose of public hearings on Bill 104 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm instead of 9 am to 12 pm on Tuesday, February 25, 1997.

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



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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition with well over 300 signatures, mostly signed by food bank recipients and low-income people in my riding. The petition reads:

"Citizens Have the Democratic Right to Be Heard on Megacity.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas `bigger government is not better' and the Mike Harris government has no right to dictate a megacity upon the citizens of Metro Toronto; and

"Whereas the megacity is being imposed on 2.3 million citizens in Metro Toronto without giving people a voice in the future of their cities and neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas Bill 103 puts municipal councils in Metro Toronto under trusteeship, ending local democracy; and

"Whereas a megacity could lead to mega property tax increases, mega user fees and mega cuts in services; and

"Whereas the Tories never proposed abolishing local government in favour of bigger government during the election campaign;" -- in fact, they pledged to do the opposite --

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

"To give the 2.3 million people in Metro Toronto a say in the future of their cities and stop the imposition of a megacity and stop the undemocratic takeover of our cities by non-elected trustees."

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


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by a number of people in the London area. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, demand that government legislation be introduced and passed into law forthwith to:

"(1) Abolish the mandatory counselling requirement attached to disclosure services under the Child and Family Services Act; and

"(2) Grant adopted adults right of access to their own original, ie, unamended, birth certificates.

"These commonsense measures will promote autonomy for Ontarians who happen to be adopted, will establish parity between adopted and non-adopted persons with respect to the right to obtain one's own birth information and will allow for the reinvestment of millions of tax dollars presently spent on perpetuating a myth."


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here that's signed by all of the teachers at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Kingston.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): No.

Mr Gerretsen: Mr Speaker, this is a petition. It's signed by all of the teachers there, and it basically says, "Don't allow the Tories to cut the heart out of education."

I've signed this, and I'd like to file this with the Clerk at this stage.


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

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

It's signed by Harry Fuchs of Burlington, by Ian Jones of Puslinch and by so many others, as well as by myself.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): In all respect to the member for Scarborough Centre, the Honourable Dan Newman, who is now attending the hearings on Bill 103, I present this petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm pleased to sign my name in support.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I've got a petition here saying:

"Stop Megacity Madness: Citizens Have Democratic Right to be Heard."

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas `bigger government is not better' and the Mike Harris government has no right to dictate a megacity upon the citizens of Metro Toronto; and

"Whereas the megacity is being imposed on 2.3 million citizens in Metro Toronto without giving people a voice in the future of their cities and neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas a megacity could lead to mega property tax increases, mega user fees and mega cuts in services; and

"Whereas the Tories never proposed abolishing local government in favour of bigger government during the election campaign;

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

"To give the 2.3 million people in Metro Toronto a say in the future of their cities and stop the imposition of a megacity."

I affix my name to this petition.



Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I've got a petition here from Centro Clinton Daycare. They appeared in my office a few days ago during the Valentine's Day campaign.

This petition is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

"We, the undersigned parents at Centro Clinton Daycare, are concerned about the Ontario government's proposed changes to child care and the elimination of support for junior kindergarten.

"Why is Ontario's child care system being dismantled by the provincial government?"

"Why are Ontario's young children the target of irresponsible cuts to child care?

"Quality child care for young children benefits everyone.

"Government action required:

"The provincial government must reassess the impact of its policies on young children and restore operating and capital funding for early childhood education programs. The provincial government must take the advice of every disentanglement task force and recognize that property taxes cannot support vital social services."

I fully support this petition.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the borough of East York is requiring voters in the current mail-in referendum to return their ballots in envelopes bearing their names and addresses; and

"Whereas the ballots are to be forwarded to the borough of East York at the East York Civic Centre and not to an independent elections commission; and

"Whereas the East York council has declared itself in favour of a particular result in the referendum; and

"Whereas the question itself is prejudicial in its wording and clearly slanted towards the result favoured by council; and

"Whereas all of the above factors violate well-established and universally acknowledged principles of a free democratic referendum process;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature to:

"(1) Speak out against the current flawed, undemocratic referendum in East York;

"(2) Disregard the results of the vote; and

"(3) Proceed with the government's program to provide for Toronto's future through the creation of one Toronto for all of us."


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition des Amis de la bibliothèque d'Alfred aux membres de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

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

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

«(1) Les subventions provinciales qui permettent d'assurer à tous les Ontariens et à toutes les Ontariennes un accès équitable aux documents et aux services de bibliothèque publique ;

«(2) La coordination des programmes de partage des ressources tels que le système de prêt entre bibliothèques et l'accès au réseau Internet ;

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

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

«(5) Une loi maintenant l'autonomie des conseils d'administration des bibliothèques publiques.»

J'y ajoute ma signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the United Steelworkers of America, and in fact the director of district 6 of the United Steelworkers of America for health and safety and WCB, Nancy Hutchison, is in the House here with us today. The petition reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs in support.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have a petition to deliver here on behalf of my friend and colleague the member for Don Mills. It reads as follows:

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


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have the following petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Bill 84 undermines the firefighting system that all Ontarians rely on; and

"Whereas Bill 84 puts communities at risk by jeopardizing fire safety; and

"Whereas Bill 84 allows the understaffing of fire halls and emergency vehicles even though coroners' inquests have repeatedly found that response time is critical to saving lives; and

"Whereas Bill 84 encourages added bureaucracy in the fire services where none has ever been needed, even though the fire marshal says the current system encourages teamwork; and

"Whereas Bill 84 was introduced without consultation with firefighters despite the Premier's explicit commitment to consult before any changes took place;

"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to listen to professional firefighters and protect fire safety for Ontarians. We call on the government to delete the many sections of Bill 84 that undermine emergency response and put communities at risk."

I affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement. I hand this petition to Lucas Parafianowicz of St Ann Elementary School in St Catharines.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a petition and it's headlined boldly, "Speed, Experience and Teamwork Save Lives: Don't Get Burned by Bill 84." It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

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

That's signed by Norah Sykes of Oakville, by Cynthia Nash of Oakville and by Lucy Pickering also of Oakville, and a whole lot of other people.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here.

"Stop Megacity Madness: Citizens Have Democratic Right to be Heard."

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas `bigger government is not better' and the Mike Harris government has no right to dictate a megacity upon the citizens of Metro Toronto; and

"Whereas the megacity is being imposed on 2.3 million citizens in Metro Toronto without giving people a voice in the future of their cities and neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas a megacity could lead to mega property tax increases, mega user fees and mega cuts in services; and

"Whereas the Tories never proposed abolishing local government in favour of bigger government during the election campaign;

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

"Give the 2.3 million people in Metro Toronto a say in the future of their cities and stop the imposition of a megacity."

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Canadian Auto Workers, CUPE and OPSEU. It reads as follows:

"To Save Workers' Compensation.

"To Premier Harris and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, oppose your government's plan to dismantle the workers' compensation system including reducing benefits; excluding claims for repetitive strain injuries, muscle injuries, strains, sprains, stress, harassment and most occupational diseases; eliminating pension supplements; handing over control of our claims to our employers for the first four to six weeks after injury; privatizing WCB to large insurance companies; integrating sick benefits into WCB; eliminating or restricting the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, WCAT; including eliminating worker representation on the board and eliminating the bipartite WCB board of directors.

"Therefore, we demand a safe workplace, compensation if we are injured, no reduction in benefits, improved re-employment and vocational rehabilitation, an independent appeal structure with worker representation, access to the office of the worker adviser, that the WCAT be left intact and that the WCB bipartite board of directors be reinstated."

On behalf of my caucus colleagues, I add my name to theirs.




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

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm very delighted to join with colleagues in the House in debating Bill 107, dealing with the transfer of responsibilities for water and sewage facility improvements to the municipalities and a clearer realigned role for both the provincial government, that is, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and the municipalities with respect to this very important service to the people of Ontario.

Up until the present time, the basic role of municipalities in water treatment and sewage facilities was one whereby the municipalities were the agents of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. We believe, as a government, that that particularly confused role needs to be straightened out. That is the fundamental rationale for Bill 107: to establish a clear line of responsibility as to who has what role; what the municipalities will do, what the Ministry of Environment and Energy will do.

In that new arrangement, starting in October of this year, you will see the same objectives that are carried out now in a clearer, more clarified context. That is to say, we are going to shift the remaining 25% of water treatment and sewage facilities to the municipalities. As a government, we fundamentally believe this is a responsibility that those municipalities that understand how to carry it out and have requested this transfer will do the best job, because we believe this kind of service is carried out more effectively if it's carried out by the level of local government that is closest to the people. In that sense, that is the role of the municipalities.

On the other hand, the clarified new role of the Ministry of Environment and Energy will be one to deal with the regulation and enforcement of clear, challenging standards. That's where the ministry will place its most clear and adequate resources for this service. Then we will have a clear understanding in people's minds who provides the service, which partner, and which agency is responsible for enforcement of very clear and tough standards.

I think it's interesting to review some of the notes made by members of the opposition parties regarding this very significant realignment of governmental responsibilities.

For example, in earlier remarks made this month by the member for Oakwood, the member for Oakwood was asking the question, "How are the municipalities going to carry out these additional burdens?" That clearly indicates, when you go through his remarks, that the member for Oakwood, and the member for Lawrence particularly, have failed to understand one of the new elements that has appeared on the governmental scene in the role of responsibilities for water and sewage treatment.

When the member for Lawrence, which I want to correct instead of the member for Oakwood, asked that question the other day, he obviously hasn't remembered or he has forgotten conveniently that one of the key ways of carrying out the transfer of this responsibility is that the municipalities can be the steerers of policy instead of the rowers of service, if you want to use a naval metaphor. That is to say, municipalities up till now have basically been the operators of the service and reported, on an "Aye, aye" basis, to the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

In the new-focus Bill 107, municipalities will now have an opportunity, and I think it will be a tremendous opportunity, to deal with new partners if they so choose under what I would call a public sector-private sector partnership. That is to say, municipalities may want to retain control and ownership of a water or sewage treatment facility but they may want to set out in very strict, clear guidelines a request for proposal for an operator to come in and look after the day-to-day operations of that facility if the municipality's council deems that this would be in the best interests of the folks of that municipality.

That isn't going to apply to everybody, but it will apply to a good number of municipalities that the opposition do not mention as to why they would want to have any shift of responsibilities. They want to keep the old style of thinking in place, that the Ministry of Environment not only be the policy rower but also the steerer. They want to be in a situation where the ministry can be all things to all people instead of clarifying the existing confusion.

If you look at a list of municipalities that have requested the transfer, I find one on the list that is most interesting, and that is the village of Chalk River. The member for Pembroke north has been asking in this House and also has made note through conversations to the ministry as to why the village of Chalk River can't get on with operating its own water facility.

A question emerges, unfortunately, and that deals with the whole situation of OCWA, the new crown agency that the previous government set up. OCWA became a crown corporation fundamentally for the purposes of offsetting financial problems of the previous government in its accounting. What they said was, "Let's create a new crown operation and we'll offset the costs and liabilities for water and treatment facilities right off the books of the consolidated revenue statement." And they set up -- guess what? -- another great bureaucratic operation. So we have in the instance of the village of Chalk River a clear example of where that particular municipality wants to get on with doing what it has done best, which is operate a water facility and provide clear standards for drinking water for the people of Chalk River. But guess what? It can't do it because OCWA stands in the way when it comes to the termination of the contract. There is no setoff date in that contract that OCWA had established with Chalk River and many other municipalities throughout Ontario, which prohibits them from getting on with doing their job.

Here we have a clear example of a crown agency that was set up to be an offset for fiscally deceptive purposes, in my estimation, whereby the agency itself has blocked a municipality from being able to provide the service which it deems appropriate for the people of its area, in this case the village of Chalk River. They are now trying to figure out a way of setting off a termination date in the contract, but OCWA, as I understand it, is saying, "Well, we might do that, but you folks are going to have to pay for the cost of the offset."

There are numerous other examples of this kind of situation within the operations of water and sewage treatment facilities in Ontario. I could go through a list not only of the smaller municipalities but also of the mid-sized, even many urban areas such as the city of Sarnia, which is very interested in getting on with the job of operating its own water and sewage treatment facility.


We have often heard from the folks from the other side that doing this at all is very dangerous, that it's going to create all kinds of problems. If you just followed the old style of thinking, as the member for St Catharines always reiterates around here, if you simply banned any kind of flexibility in terms of operation with the private sector or with even another public sector partner, we'll keep the old arrangement because that's the best, where the Ministry of Environment is at the top of the pyramid and they bestow their knowledge and standards down on to the municipalities. You can see it in other remarks of not only the member for St Catharines but the member for Hamilton East and the member for Lawrence, whereby they are intimating or alluding to the fact that the municipal governments lack the expertise in many areas of being able to operate their own water or sewage treatment facility and that the ministry will not provide any kind of assistance in terms of training and supervision, which I believe is not the case at all.

What we need to be doing is moving away from this old style of thinking and trying to create a new environment for public-private partnerships in Ontario. For example, in my own area, the Humber arboretum is a multiparty arrangement creating a nature facility within the city of Etobicoke using the city of Etobicoke, the Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority, Metro Toronto and Humber College, which all came together in a four-way partnership many years ago to create a tremendous, almost secretive area, because it wasn't well known until the last few years, where people in the area could go and visit and see nature at its best, not only old-forest growth but also the new horticultural design gardens.

This particular facility, Humber arboretum, is working very hard with a private sector partner to develop horticultural advice and a design for a proposed retirement community within the greater Toronto area. This is the sort of facility, this is the kind of partnership, that we ought to be encouraging with the municipalities. I use that only as an example. If the municipalities can be the guider and provider of policy and the standard setter consistent with what the Ministry of Environment and Energy is attempting to undertake in this new legislation, then let's by all means allow municipal governments that are responsible, that know how to deal with the issues of water treatment -- because in many, many instances, municipalities already have expertise of an engineering variety in place to protect the drinking water for the people of those different communities.

So I am completely in agreement with the objectives of this bill in terms of creating a more flexible environment, instead of hearing the old-style thinking which we get from across the way, which is essentially that the only way you can operate and protect people in terms of environmental protection is the old hierarchical, pyramidal approach to organization, and in providing service delivery on this vital issue, you have to have sort of the old Soviet command economy and the municipalities salute whenever the water inspectors come around to determine whether they are following those standards.

I think in this particular arrangement of new legislation, this government is undoubtedly exhibiting a stronger trust element in terms of how municipalities can get on with serving their people, their citizens, in water quality for the province of Ontario. This bill is going to provide the fundamental means of getting there, rather than relying on the old-style approach of the two opposition parties that bring up the old word of "privatization" and other things that scare the hell out of people but don't look at how privatization, if it is done at all, keeps control of the facility in the hands of the municipal government and allows an operator to provide the day-to-day service under very strict monitoring. That's a very strange and bizarre sort of proposal that especially the leader and the Liberals across the way have denounced in many instances. It has in many other fields ended up costing Canada thousands of jobs that we could have had, particularly in one area, airport construction. We have lost out in that particular area in terms of expertise.

I see in this bill the very seeds of new beginnings for utilizing engineering expertise and public-private partnerships to be able to sell that kind of expertise and knowledge to other places in the world which are crying for top-quality water. You can't provide that kind of an arrangement if you utilize the old, pyramidical, hierarchical approach which the Liberal Party over the years has advocated. I see through the remarks of the various folks from across the way who have spoken on this bill. It can't seem to penetrate their minds that there just might be another way. What they're involved in is clearly trying to confuse the issue instead of delineating what the potential would be in terms of assisting the municipalities in getting on with the job.

Let me just add that this bill achieves results and that's what we're going to get: clear, consistent results using the Ministry of Environment and Energy's clear guidelines, and a new, flexible environment for arrangements of public-private partnerships between municipalities or what have you in terms of getting on with the job and achieving results for the future citizens of this province.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I find it very interesting to listen to the member opposite talk about a Soviet command economy, particularly when we're talking about water and sewer plants. He forgets that most of these arrangements, indeed probably all of these arrangements, were set up and financed during the period of time that we had 42 years of Conservative rule up until 1985. That was your model, sir, that we're talking about. It was your model that created these ownership situations and that caused these problems.

With respect to the new partnership, there is no new partnership here. You as a government are saying to the municipalities, "You will own these plants, the 25% that aren't municipally owned right now, whether you like it or not." You tend to forget, particularly in these situations where the province got involved, that happened in cases where local municipalities simply did not have the taxing capacity and did not have the financial ability to build these plants. If it had not been for the provincial government in those days stepping in and building these water and sewer plants, it could very well be that there still would be areas in the province right now that wouldn't have these facilities available.

It is very easy for the government now to step away from all that responsibility and say: "All right, we no longer want to be burdened with the financial burden that a lot of these plants still carry. We're unloading it on to municipalities." The most cynical part about it is the fact that the municipalities have absolutely no choice as to whether or not they take over ownership of these facilities.

It may very well be, as the member has stated, that there may be some municipalities that in their particular case want some of these plants deeded over to them, but there are also municipalities that don't want that to happen. What this legislation clearly does, it forces this on to municipalities whether they like it or not, and that we find very objectionable.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has two minutes to respond.

Mr Hastings: Thank you, Speaker, for my two minutes' response. Let me just say to the member for Kingston and The Islands that I acknowledge it's true that the provincial government originally was responsible for creating that. That's a fact of life; one doesn't deny reality. But on the other hand, the member for Kingston and The Islands probably wouldn't accept, as I heard in his remarks, that there's no such thing as a partnership here.


If he's read the legislation at all and he's heard what the minister had to say and he's listened to other remarks of members in the House, especially the parliamentary assistant -- the member for Northumberland had said earlier that there is the potential here for creating public-private partnerships, that municipalities can join with other municipalities in the way in which they can operate or finance their infrastructure for sewage and water treatment or they can perhaps find another private sector partner whereby the folks across the way have said -- I heard the member for St Catharines explicitly point out that we ought to ban any kind of private sector ventures with --

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): What?

Mr Hastings: Yes -- the municipalities because of the fearmongering of the folks across the way. They couldn't make a business case for a private-public partnership.

I heard the member two weeks ago clearly point out that we should be doing a ban, not requiring, as it is in the legislation, that where a municipality decides to hook up with another partner for the continuation of clear water quality, the 25% capital cost of the loans and the interest has to be repaid to the province, to the provincial treasury, which was simply a built-in financial protection for this government, as you would want. No, you said, "Ban them," ban good new thinking. I can't believe you'd reject innovation.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: In his two-minute response the member at one time started saying that we were somehow against municipalities banding together to run these facilities. Let me make it quite clear: We're not against municipalities banding together because it's already happening in many parts of the province.

Mr Hastings: You banned that.

Mr Gerretsen: We did not. We've never said that. Private sector is something totally different. We believe that the quality of our drinking water supply in this province should be sacrosanct and we certainly want to make sure that the proper inspections take place and that municipalities have the ability to look after it.

But let me start once again: If the member really believes in all of these new partnerships, I would like him to explain to me at the appropriate time why he feels it is necessary for the province to pass legislation which in effect forces these facilities on local municipalities, whether they want to in their particular case or not. The legislation is quite clear when it states that the water and sewage treatment plants which are currently owned by the province will be transferred to municipalities. It doesn't say "may"; it says "will" be transferred to municipalities.

Again, we ought to remember that about 25%, I understand, of all the water and sewer plants are presently owned by the province. They were all in situations where the local municipalities simply would not have had the financial capacity to build these plants on their own accord. That basically is what government is all about. We live in a large province. I suppose when we first started, 150 years ago, there were certain elements in which government was involved and one of those elements was that it was going to help to provide services in those areas of the province where municipalities simply weren't able to deliver those kind of services or weren't able to pay for those services or didn't have enough of a taxing capacity to look after those services. That's what government is all about.

If the members opposite are saying that we're completely stepping aside from that and every municipality, not only in this area but in many other areas, will just have to make it on their own, then I think that we in this province are going to have a situation not too long in the future where we're going to have all sorts of different standards, whether we're talking about water and sewer capacity or quality, whether we're talking about social housing situations, whether we're talking about social welfare standards etc, that are going to be totally different from place to place.

Quite frankly, I don't see that that's the kind of society I would like to envision for the province of Ontario. I think we have to realize that this is another part of the downloading exercise on local municipalities. We have a whole list here, as we've indicated a number of times before, but I think it bears repeating, because I think the people of Ontario should clearly understand that merely because the education costs are taken off the residential property tax roll, there are a number of other costs being added on.

According to the ministry's own calculation, $5.4 billion in education residential tax burden is being taken off the property tax roll. Fine, I say; that's good. There may be some other arguments as to why the province should not be in complete control of the entire education system, but if that's what they want to -- that's the only message that they've sent out so far to the people of Ontario.

They haven't talked about the $6.3 billion that they're adding on to the property tax roll, and according to our calculations, a good $100 million of that is in the sewer and water transfer; $100 million is being transferred, particularly to those municipalities that will be least able to afford it, the smaller municipalities in this province, which won't have any say as to whether or not they want to get involved in this program. I have some concerns about that, and of course those are the kinds of concerns that have been raised in this House over the last month and a half.

It's interesting that there are a number of other areas as well that we've heard very little about. When we look at the idea of social housing, for example, and we look at the transfer of $890 million to the local municipalities in public housing and in social housing, and in many cases where these municipalities simply will not be able to absorb that, this is the concern that people have out there.

A week ago last Friday, we had some hearings in Kingston at which about 25 different groups made presentations with respect to how this downloading legislation is going to affect them. These weren't all municipalities. These were groups of individual citizens, they were social service providers, they were social housing providers. We heard from library boards etc.

One of the interesting presentations that we were given that day was done on behalf of the VON in Kingston. Their particular presentation dealt with maintaining the levels of care for senior citizens. They did some statistical work across the province of Ontario. It's very interesting, the statistics that they came up with.

One of the more interesting ones dealt with the fact that over the next 20 to 25 years, the number of school-age children or people involved in the school system is going to rise, but the amount of growth is going to be substantially less than the growth in the population of people 65 years of age and over. As a matter of fact, between now and the year 2011, they predict the growth in the school-age population to be somewhere around 9%, and then it levels down to about 2%, whereas during the same period of time the population aged 65 and over will increase by 55% by the year 2011.

What does all that mean? What it means is that over the next 20 years or so we can certainly expect a levelling off of the educational requirements, because the number of people who will be going into the educational system or will be part of the educational system will be quite a bit fewer, or at least not at as high a rate of increase, than people requiring social and health care services in this province.

What's behind this entire transfer, taking education taxes off and putting all these social services on to the property tax roll, of course is the notion that there will be greater pressures on municipalities in the years to come to provide these services. There will be much greater needs for dollars in order to make sure that the senior citizen population or the aging population of Ontario will have those services available to them.

I view this whole transfer somewhat cynically, because I know that the government can probably score some points with the notion that, "Yes, we're taking education off the property tax roll," and I'm sure that this is popular in some circles. Unfortunately, the people out there have no idea as yet how it's going to affect the property taxes they're going to be paying next year and the year after that because of the onloading of these social service costs. Let's just run through those costs again.


This water and sewer aspect, that's referred to in Bill 107, is an integral part of that, because I've already indicated that's $100 million.

In community policing, for example, $180 million is being added on to the property tax system, and it's going to be done particularly in the smaller municipalities, which right now get free OPP service. The OPP, I take it, is going to send a bill once a year to these smaller municipalities and say, "You owe us that for policing your communities." I think the property taxpayers in smaller communities in Ontario ought to be made aware of that.

How about the farm tax rebate system? That's going to cost $165 million. That will now come out of the local property tax payment system. Again, what kind of municipalities are we talking about? We're basically talking about the rural, more agricultural counties and townships in this province. Those taxpayers in those municipalities are going to have to pay that amount.

We already talked earlier about the property assessment services, where basically we're taking the assessment people who work for the provincial government and we're transferring that function, and hopefully some of the personnel as well, on to the local level. That's going to cost the local taxpayers $120 million.

Social housing: $890 million, as I mentioned earlier. This is a huge cost. In a lot of these situations, the municipalities were not involved in any of the arrangements that were struck between the province and the social housing providers in each municipality. Basically, municipal councils are just going to be told, "From now on, those contracts that we signed, whereby we agreed to subsidize the social housing in your community to a number of different groups etc, that's going to be your cost, local council." That's a cost that we all know, from figures that were presented here earlier this week in the House, is going to rise substantially. It has gone from something like $200 million to $300 million in the early 1980s to $890 million right now, and it will grow even further, because there are many more of these housing units available than there were five or 10 years ago.

The other one, of course, is ambulance services. I would dare say that most municipalities have not been involved with ambulance services at all over the last number of years. This is a brand-new responsibility that's going to be downloaded on municipalities.

Homes for special care: $25 million.

Community ferries: $15 million. This, of course, is one that is of extreme interest to me because, as the members of the House may know, I represent a riding that has about four ferries that go to three different islands.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's F-E-R-R-I-E-S.

Mr Gerretsen: That's F-E-R-R-I-E-S, that's right. This is a major concern to the people who live on Wolfe Island and Howe Island and Amherst Island. These communities, which have tax bases of about 100,000 to 300,000 at most -- in other words, that's all they collect in local taxes -- are going to have to somehow find the anywhere from $1 million to $2.4 million about which the province has basically said: "Look, we're no longer responsible for that. Here basically is the ferry, here it is, and now you operate it."

The Premier here in the House, as a matter of fact, made the statement one day when I questioned him on it that there will be other taxation sources available to those municipalities so that they can pay for the ferries' subsidy services, which is absolute nonsense, because there is no way those municipalities can raise the kind of taxes to pay for those services.

We can see how a lot of this downloading is affecting different municipalities in different ways. But the bottom line is -- I know in this House we've paid an awful lot of attention to how it affects the larger municipalities; I can tell you that as far as we are concerned it will affect the smaller municipalities even more, because their taxing capacity is so much less than the larger municipalities.

We also know, from the independent studies that have been done by the different treasurers in the different municipalities, that they have already come to the conclusion that this is going to significantly increase their need for money from the local taxpayers.

I'd like to correct a statement that I myself made. About a week or two ago I stated that in my own city's case, $23 million in more taxes was estimated to be required by the city as a result of the downloading upon municipalities. I was wrong in that, because last Friday we heard from our mayor and our chief administrator officer that the amount is $29.6 million. That is the difference between the amount of money that will be required from taking the education taxes off the property tax roll and adding on the new costs of the services that are provided by all of this mega-legislation that has been brought down for the last six weeks -- $29.6 million on a total budget of approximately $100 million.

Now that is not being put together on some sort of partisan basis by a political party or a political group. Those are the independent figures that have been arrived at by a highly respected CAO and treasurer and mayor of our community who are not in any way at all politicizing this particular situation, and that's just one example. The city of Brantford, $23 million more will have to be obtained from the local taxpayer; the city of London, $57 million; the city of Cornwall, $10 million; the city of Thunder Bay, $15 million; Timmins, $12 million; Peterborough, $13 million; region of Sudbury, $105 million, and we can just go on and on.

It is not that we are against change; it is that we are against the reckless kind of change that this government is wreaking on the people of Ontario.

We had a meeting today with the clerks-treasurers of the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario and they openly admitted that, first of all, they have no idea as to what's going to happen with respect to the assessment system for next year. They have absolutely no idea how they can possibly get ready for all these changes that are being contemplated right now.

They also totally agreed with me, by the way, that many of the smaller municipalities which are going to be given these water and sewer plants that we're talking about in Bill 107 -- how they'll be able to handle the financing of them. Remember, if it's a good deal for a municipality and if some municipalities want this to happen, then let it happen, but there are also many municipalities that simply don't want these plants. As I mentioned before, the legislation makes it quite clear that all of these plants are going to be downloaded on municipalities whether they like it or not. If the government feels so assured of its position that this is something that all of the municipalities wanted, why don't they just make it optional?

We of course believe that this is -- is the clock running on this or not?


Mr Gerretsen: All right. Thank you. I was hoping maybe we'd changed the rules and we would go back to the old rules and we could talk about these issues, which are extremely important to the people of Ontario, for as long as we needed to talk about them. We all know that we wouldn't be able to satisfy that by 6 o'clock this evening, or perhaps even for the next two or three weeks, because these are the issues that the people of Ontario care about. They don't want to pay more in their property taxes. They don't want to get a few dollars more in a so-called income tax cut, which we all know is going to favour the rich and famous substantially, those people who are making $100,000 or more, whereas the average person is going to get a few dollars more in their pocket but they're going to pay -- what? -- $530, $600 more in property taxes next year. So we could really talk about this as long as we wanted. I appreciate it, Mr Speaker, if perhaps this is sort of a Speaker's edict that you rule that we could talk about this as long as we want, because it certainly needs to be talked about.

You know, there are organizations and individuals throughout this entire country and province that have spoken out against this mega-legislation that we've seen here.

Let's take a look at what Mr George Fierheller, who's president of the Metro Toronto board of trade, said. I can't think of a more responsible organization, from an economic and financial viewpoint and from the economic community in Toronto, than the Toronto board of trade. What do they say about what this government's doing about all this downloading legislation? He said, "They've got this one wrong. Moving social services costs to municipalities is not logical, not sensible, not reasonable." So how can it be done?


This is presumably an organization that backs the government in most aspects, but they're saying this is totally wrong. We know that with every study that's ever been done, by either right-wing thinkers or left-wing thinkers, they've all come to one conclusion: You cannot fund health and social services out of a regressive tax system like the property tax system. You need to do that out of an income tax system that is progressive, so that the more people make, the more they pay, in effect. You cannot do that out of the property tax system.

What does Moody's of Canada, the bond rating service, state? I'm sure we're all very concerned about what they say about what's happening here. It states, "Municipalities may find it necessary to make significant adjustments to property taxes which could ultimately result in a less competitive tax regime."

If there is anything I would have thought would have made an impression on this government, more than the reasoning that may be put forth by anybody else, it is Moody's of Canada. We're concerned about the bond rating they have for this province. It states, "Municipalities may find it necessary to make significant adjustments to property taxes which could ultimately result in a less competitive" situation. That is pretty damning of this whole regime and the way it's gone about introducing these changes.

The government's own Who Does What committee is headed by that eminent former mayor of the city of Toronto, David Crombie, certainly a gentleman who is highly regarded I think by all political parties, and a man who certainly has been quite a force here in the city of Toronto.

What does he say? This is the government's own commission that it set up in determining how all these various funding changes should take place. He states: "Shifting social services to municipalities is both wrong in principle and devastating in practice. How this can be called disentanglement is an impressive stretch of definition."

He goes on, "I don't think there's a soul left standing that actually agrees with them," meaning the government, meaning the minister of privatization and the minister of industry and economic development who are both in the House right now. He says: "I don't think there's a soul left standing that actually agrees with them. In our final report, we wanted to make sure people understood that burdening municipalities with the cost of social services was absolutely the wrong thing to do. The only way that municipalities can deal with any increasing welfare caseload or any long-term care is either to cut services or to raise taxes, which either means you're going to hit the poor or drive out business. This is not appropriate public policy." That's from the government's own commission.

The people of Ontario ought to be made aware of that because that is really where it's at. One of two things will happen: Either we're going to increase taxes at the local level or services are going to be cut. Mr Speaker, you and I know, being former municipal politicians, what the local councils will do. They are responsible and they're basically going to try to keep the tax load, any tax increase, as small as possible. What's going to happen is that services are going to be cut, and maybe they'll be the hard-core services that are provided in a municipality, but there may also be cuts in the welfare services to municipalities and some of the other programs, such as the social housing programs.

That really I think leaves most people somewhat upset, because what we're going to have within our communities is one group of people fighting with another group of people, namely, the taxpayers that don't want to pay any more, and they may very well take it out against the less fortunate in our society who are probably in the worst position to defend themselves.

What that will lead to, because it was already intimated here earlier in the House this week, is will there be different standards of providing, for example, social services or welfare rates and welfare services in our province? Will they be different from municipality to municipality?

It's something I'm concerned about, because if that were to happen, the most vulnerable in our society -- to whom it's very easy to say, "Go and get a job," but we all know that in Ontario we have lost 37,000 jobs compared to the same time last year. That was in one of the government's own reports. We were the only province in Canada, as a matter of fact, that had fewer people working now than it did a year ago. We lost 37,000 jobs in this province. Those statistics came out earlier this week. It's very easy to say, "Go and get a job," but we all know the jobs aren't out there because we have over half a million people who are unemployed in this province.

What's going to happen then? We all know what's going to happen: It's going to pit one group in our community against another group. I've always believed that what government should be all about is to try as much as possible to level the playing field for people. Whether we're talking about health care services, and I think we would all agree we should be equally entitled to health care services, or whether we're talking about access to education, everyone should be able to go to school and learn to the best of their capability and economic factors should not play a role in that.

There's one other thing I just quickly want to say -- this ties into this particular bill because people may be wondering out there, "What's all this got to do with Bill 107?" It's all tied in. Basically what Ontario is trying to do here once again is to unload a responsibility that Conservative governments in the past of John Robarts, of Bill Davis, had taken on on behalf of those people in Ontario who couldn't afford these kinds of services, and they're downloading it whether the municipalities want it or not.

For example, what's to happen to the inspection system and the enforcement system? The member from Etobicoke said earlier, "We'll leave that up to the municipalities." I doubt very much that there are municipal employees around in all municipalities who are sufficiently well trained to be able to make sure that the kind of inspection and enforcement that is required for water and sewer services will be adequately done. We are concerned that they simply don't have sufficient training to adequately inspect new septic systems. That's not saying that municipal employees aren't hardworking. They just don't have the training or the capacity currently to look after these things.

The other thing which is very interesting, and it's just one of those minor little things, is that in Bill 26, and you may recall we talked about Bill 26 probably a year ago -- for whatever reason, the government eliminated the need for municipalities to hold referendums before selling off water and other public utilities.

It's kind of interesting because this is all happening at the same time as we've got a committee here at the Legislature, headed by the member from Brampton, Mr Clement, taking a serious look at referenda -- not only taking a serious look at them, but they want to institute referenda almost as by right, and that we should have a referendum held whenever the government feels like it should have a referendum.

Yet here in Bill 26 they have eliminated the need for municipalities to hold referenda before selling off water and other public utilities. It doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me to be promoting referenda legislation on the one hand and on the other hand saying, "No, but we're not going to have it when a municipality wants to sell off such important utilities as its water and sewer plants." I would have thought that if you're going to have any kind of referendum legislation at all, surely those are the areas where you want it, where in effect you're talking about selling off some of the main assets that a municipality may own.


It's also interesting to note that the Ontario Municipal Water Association, which is a group that represents over 220 drinking water plants already owned by municipalities, is very concerned that municipalities will either want to sell off their plants or be forced to sell them off to cover the additional responsibilities that are dumped on them by this Tory government.

In October of last year the OMWA released a poll which showed that 75% of Ontarians supported the public ownership of the water systems. That's a rather significant number: Three out of four people strongly believe that this is one of the main things they wanted from government and they want it to remain in government ownership. Of course there's nothing in the bill, as the member from Etobicoke has already indicated, that prevents a municipality from selling off its water plants.

He can talk in generalities about partnerships, and I say to you, let the municipalities determine that. Let them determine whether or not they want to get involved in these arrangements. Certainly I believe in municipal autonomy, but I also believe that a municipality should have the capacity to look after these facilities, and that certainly is not the case.

It's for these reasons that we cannot support this particular bill, and I would be more than pleased to answer any questions any of the members may have here.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I just want to congratulate my friend from Kingston and The Islands on his presentation on Bill 107. My main concern is similar to his with regard to this legislation, and that is the fact that, first, the government is forcing some very small municipalities that do not now own water and sewer plants that are within their borders serving their communities to take over those plants.

We recognize that the reason these very small municipalities don't own these plants -- only about 25% of the plants in Ontario are in this situation -- is because they were constructed by the government using almost completely provincial funds because those very small municipalities didn't have the wherewithal to raise the money to provide for the water and sewer facilities required to ensure that the residents had good, clean drinking water, something that we as Canadians tend to take for granted. That's number one.

Number two, my concern is that under Bill 107 there is nothing to prohibit municipalities that are facing a serious crunch financially because of the downloading by this government from privatizing those facilities and contracting out the ownership and operation of their water and sewer plants.

We all recognize the disastrous experience in the United Kingdom as a result of Thatcher's determination to privatize water in that jurisdiction. We now see higher rates, poorer reliability and serious problems with the delivery of good, clean water in Britain as a result of that experiment by the Thatcher government. We don't want to repeat those errors in Ontario.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's a pleasure for once to rise in the House and recognize the member for Kingston and The Islands and agree with him that back in the 1950s there was the appropriate policy. That's when the Ontario Water Resources Act came in and OCWA came in to look after some of the problems of the 1950s and the 1960s. They built plants and brought them up to date, up to standards. Now we're there. We've matured and we're now into the 1990s and it's time to move along with new policy, and that's exactly what we're doing with new standards.

It's also interesting to note that Kingston, of which the member for Kingston and The Islands was the mayor once upon a time, was one of the last large cities to have a secondary treatment for their sewage plant. You'd think a city like Kingston, with all the dollars that are available from government, from penitentiaries to universities to hospitals to military bases and so on, would have been moving much quicker with him as a leader, as their mayor, looking after their city. I'm disappointed that he would drag on so long and have the province force him to get on with developing their sewage treatment plant. He should be ashamed of himself for leaving it to that point.

The member referred to the "may transfer" versus "will transfer" to the municipalities. I can tell you this government was following the request. We had 10% of those who didn't own their plants wanting them. Now it's up to 30% of the 230 plants that are asking to get the plants into their ownership and there are many others who would like to own those plants that you may not be aware of. Maybe before you start pushing that point, you should be aware of what the people out there really want. They want to own these plants.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): First of all, I'd like to congratulate my colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands. I'm really quite concerned about the fact that this government is talking of transferring the responsibility for 230 water and sewage plants to the municipalities.

I was just listening to my friend Dr Galt, the member for Northumberland. He says that from 1960 on, the government has been upgrading the plants. Let me tell you, I have in my own riding of Prescott and Russell some plants that don't even meet 50% of the standards that have been put in place by this government in the last year. The acceptable trihalomethane, for example, is 150 parts per million. I have a municipality where the THM is over 3,000 parts per million. This is the village of St Pascal, and it's your government in place at the present time that is working on this plant.

What is going to happen to the municipalities where these water plants are to be transferred to their responsibility? Are they going to have the same borrowing power? At the present time, indirectly the municipalities are paying for it, but at least they don't carry the debt on their financial reports. From that point on, from the day this is going to be transferred to the municipalities, the municipalities will have to take over the responsibility of this debt, which will eliminate a lot of them from having borrowing power to increase the water plant or to upgrade the water plant.

I think for this government it's very important that they look at it very closely before they decide to pass third reading.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): The member for Kingston and The Islands brings to this debate his expertise and experience as a mayor and his familiarity with the people in his riding and, I'm convinced, the people across Ontario. The response of government members is one of disdain, one of scorn, an abusive berating of the member for having qualifications to be here, for the fact that he's been involved in his community in an elected position for a number of years in a responsible position and has utilized that background to bring to the debate over Bill 107 some insights that the government members would simply rather not concern themselves with.

As the member for Algoma pointed out, our preoccupation with water and sewage isn't just a matter of convenience, and I appreciate that, yes, it's taken for granted; it's very much the hallmark of a civilized society. We're talking here about the health of communities. We're talking here about clean water so families can avoid the disease and scourges that accompanied days when these types of services weren't permitted. This government wants to turn the clock back.

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

Mr Kormos: It does. This government wants to turn the clock back. I'm going to have a chance to speak on this bill and I've got a few other illustrations where this government wants to go back to times far less civilized than Ontario was before this government got elected. This government is wreaking devastation on municipalities across Ontario. They truly are Neanderthals and they are not serving their communities well. My only hope is that we can stop them before it's too late.


The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Kingston and The Islands has two minutes.

Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to thank the members for Algoma, Welland-Thorold, Prescott and Russell, and Northumberland for their comments.

The first thing the member for Northumberland should understand is that when a member gets up and talks about a particular bill, it isn't always done from a self-interest viewpoint.

In the city of Kingston, we've owned our own facilities and our own plants for longer than I can remember, so we're not going to be affected by it one way or another. I am not talking about the larger municipalities which may very well have the financial capacity and the taxing power to look after these plants, because in most cases they already own them. I'm talking about the smaller municipalities that couldn't afford to build them in the first place because they didn't have the financial capacity. The province came in under some more enlightened governments of Robarts, even Frost and Drew and Davis, and said: "Look, we've got to do something for the people here. They are entitled to clean water. They are entitled to proper sewage facilities. We're going to build these plants and we're going to run them for them."

Those are the kinds of people and the kinds of communities I am talking about. You're now turning them over, the 25% that are still left, to those municipalities whether they like it or not. Sure, you've got a long list there. You've got a very long list of municipalities that want them. I say, if they want them, more power to them. But there are also municipalities out there that cannot afford to run these plants, and your legislation says they will be transferred to them, whether they like it or not.

If you're so sure about this being a good thing for all the municipalities, why don't you just leave it optional to them? If they don't want to run it themselves, if they want to be in a position whereby they want the province to continue to run those plants and pay for them and then charge back something to the municipalities, allow them to do that. But your legislation isn't doing that.

So come clean with the people of Ontario. You are downloading once again something on the people who are least able to pay it, namely, the smaller municipalities in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Kormos: Here we are, and again I've got, as you know, about 30 minutes to address Bill 107. I have but 30 minutes. I intend to use every minute of those 30 minutes talking to Bill 107 and talking to the bill in the context of a legislative agenda that has been the most vicious, the most anti-family, the most anti-neighbourhood, the most anti-community agenda that this province has ever witnessed. We're looking at and witnesses to an agenda that's an all-out attack on the communities that people have struggled for generations to build: communities that people have made sacrifices for, communities that have been built around, yes, public institutions, public resources like public libraries, like public schools and public education and public hospitals, where, until this government began shutting them down, one could have access to quality health care regardless of whether one was rich, like the friends of this government, or a mere worker or a retiree, or indeed less than prosperous.

You know what's incredible, Speaker? I know that Speakers have remarked in their own minds to themselves, because of course Speakers can't speak, about the contradictions inherent in the titles of any number of bills that have come forward. Here we go again, and this is very scary stuff, that this government would somehow think that by mistitling this, along with so many other pieces of legislation, it's going to pull the wool over people's eyes. Bill 107, the Water and Sewage Services -- am I reading this right, Speaker? Bill 107, the Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act? These people are not only attacking communities and families in those communities; this government's attacking the English language. This government is distorting the English language and misusing it in such a way that it thinks that the mistitling of this bill, like so many others, is going to somehow delude people into thinking this is anything akin to an improvement act, least of all of water and sewage services.

I've got to tell you, down in Welland-Thorold where I come from there's been a great deal of debate over the course of the last several years about the way municipalities charge for water. There's been a real struggle, for instance, in the city of Welland over the concept of water meters. The debate has been such that, with the public water supply system, there's effectively no shortage of water; with the public system, as it is, the regionally owned system, no shortage of water in Niagara region. The cost -- well, it may have resulted in surcharges.

Let me tell you, the people in regional Niagara are going to face an additional property tax bill courtesy of this government to the tune of at least -- these are just the numbers that are in to date -- $73 million. We're talking about the regional share of expenses. The folks in regional Niagara -- Welland, Thorold, Pelham, St Catharines, every one of those communities -- are going to have to cough up, for the regional portion alone, a bare-bones minimum, new money, new taxes of $73 million, and the numbers haven't stopped coming in. That's the reality, not speculation. Those numbers are hard and fast, black and white: minimum $73 million.

Retirees are going to have to cough up hundreds of dollars in new property taxes because of this government's downloading on to regional Niagara and every one of the municipalities within the region, and, quite frankly, every municipality across the province.

Think, my goodness, about those 576 towns and cities in Ontario, the vast majority of them small towns, 800 population, 1,000 population, that are going to be forced to pick up the tab for Ontario provincial policing. They're not going to be whacked just with the downloading that's across the board, there's going to be even more, because they're now going to be taxed by this government -- that's what it is, that's what it amounts to -- for Ontario provincial policing; over 500 communities, some 576, most of them small-town Ontario, a big chunk of them in the north, and many of them, like Muskoka, like Huntsville, like Collingwood, in areas that have exceptionally high seasonal policing costs, not because of the residential quality of their community but because of the flow of huge numbers of tourists who travel through there.

This government is all about either downloading or simply shutting down. Surely there's been some reflection on the part of some of the government members.

It knows that the abandonment of public libraries is going to mean that there are going to be a whole lot of small-town Ontario libraries shut down. Doors are going to be shut, windows are going to be papered over, and the kids, the young people who've relied upon those libraries as places to -- one of the problems with more than a few people, and again, not to criticize, but for some of them it's been a long time since they've been in a public library, like the wonderful community library in Pelham, like Thorold's great community library and like the grand old building on King Street in Welland with its huge maple trees, the Welland Public Library.

These places are about books; of course they are, as they should be. They're also about knowledge that's not accessible in any other way. They're also about community activities. It's also about introducing little children into the world of research and fiction and history and community. And it's about giving seniors access to these same resources. I tell you, the two groups that use libraries to a large extent, perhaps greater than other groups, are young people, young students, especially at the elementary school level and to a certain extent at high school, and seniors, our folks.

Look at the things the library provides that seniors aren't going to get anywhere else, not unless they've got the big bucks, and increasingly seniors don't. They increasingly have to be more and more careful about how they budget their incomes based on pensions or some modest savings. Without public libraries -- and that's the kind of Ontario these Tories have in mind: no public libraries. They'd shut them down in a New York minute. Access to the large-print books for older folks, or for even younger folks whose vision is not as good as it used to be or as it could be, is going to be gone; it's going to be abolished. Access to audiotapes -- these are things libraries provide for free.


I remember my old grandmother. She's dead now. She was remarkable, because here's a lady whose first language wasn't English, who attended school, if at all, for a handful of days over in eastern Europe and who --

Mr Galt: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: Section 23(b), directing "his or her speech to matters other than...the question under discussion." I wonder if we could start debating Bill 107.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): The member for Northumberland may have noticed I've just come into the chair, so I will listen carefully to the member and determine whether or not he's staying on course.

Mr Kormos: Thank you, Speaker. Anyway, here's my grandmother, worked all her life, simply wasn't literate in her own language, in her original language, couldn't read or write her own language, never went to school. Worked all of her life, worked in a small business. That's how they supported their family, like so many immigrants to this country. She was well into her 60s when she started to learn how to read. She started to learn in what was a charming and wonderful way, using books for young people.

As she became more excited about this new skill that she was slowly acquiring, her eyesight started to go. That left her in despair until she discovered the audiotapes from the Welland Public Library. She could listen to those and she could venture into worlds that she never dared imagine existed. I tell you, that was a liberation. It was a true revolution for an old lady who had worked all of her life and whose knuckles were gnarled and swollen with arthritis and whose memories were of but hard work and sacrifice, to be able to use a public library and access these sorts of resources.

The Acting Speaker: We are debating, as I've now discovered, Bill 107, sewer and water, not the public library bill. Although hearing stories about your grandmother is very interesting, and I mean no disrespect in that, I would ask you to come back, at least in broad terms, to the sewer and water bill.

Mr Kormos: Speaker, please, I wish you had been here, and I understand that you only just took the chair. We're talking here about public versus privately owned and we're talking about Bill 107 as being part of an overall agenda by this government to destroy the public resources and institutions that generations have built.

Speaker, how many times have I told you this? And I'm going to tell it to you again: Every bit of legislation that this government has presented, perhaps but for a couple, and I can't recall them, that might have been innocuous, and even then I'm suspicious, every piece of agenda, every bill that's been presented in this House, it's like I told you a couple of days ago, is like a piece of a puzzle. Sometimes the pieces are bigger, sometimes they're smaller. Sometimes the pieces are more revealing about what part of the picture they're a part of. That's why puzzles are a challenge for so many people. That's why they're called puzzles.

But as you put the pieces together, all of a sudden a picture starts to appear in front of you. Here we are at Bill 107 and the picture is acquiring some clarity that it didn't have even back in the days of Bill 26. That was a big piece of the puzzle, and you had to spend a lot of time reflecting on it. Lord knows, the minister responsible for it didn't know spit from Shinola when it came to what the impact of Bill 26 was going to be, but a whole lot of people who spent more time than he did researching and considering the impact of the bill did.

Here we are up to Bill 107 in the course of this debate today, and we're starting to see very much the link between Bill 26 and Bill 107. We're starting to see a very different vision of Ontario than what my grandfolks had, and I'm going to tell you that it's necessary to illustrate how important public services are to our community. Yes, I'm going to refer to the abandonment of public libraries by this government to illustrate --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I think a member who has been in this place for 12 years, who knows the standing orders fully and well, should really respect those standing orders and you as Speaker and this chamber as a whole, and I think to continually talk about the libraries and the impact on libraries when we are discussing Bill 107, which bears no reference whatsoever to libraries, is totally out of order.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Mississauga South, I think every member in this House on all sides when debating bills expects some leniency from the Chair. I did speak to the member for Welland-Thorold and he did make an attempt to connect what he's saying to the bill at hand. I, of course, am not going to enter into the debate, but he has made an attempt to justify his interpretation of the bill. I will listen carefully, as I would ask all members to do. In my opinion, the member has come back and is making a case for the level of the debate which he has entered into. But I will listen carefully.

Mr Kormos: I don't understand, Speaker. My grandmother was such an inoffensive, kind, gentle woman.

Mrs Marland: Why weren't you like her?

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Come on now.

Mr Kormos: In my family we call the grandmother "baba." In many of the Slavic communities, that's an appellation for one's grandmother.

Here again, I just wanted you to understand how important public institutions are, and I've used my dear grandmother, and God bless her, she helped raise me. She was a wonderful woman, a great woman, she was, who worked hard --


Mr Kormos: -- all of her life and who asked for so little, but who worked to build and who understood public things, things that you shared with other people, the responsibility of financing that you shared with other people, because she knew what life was like before we had public water supplies and public sewage systems. She raised her kids over on a farm along the Welland River in Port Robinson. There was no public water source, there was no public sewage system, and she was one of the people, like so many others, who was prepared to make sacrifices, yes, and pay taxes, so that she could enjoy the help and security of publicly provided and clean water and a safe and efficient sewage system.

This government doesn't believe in the same sort of things that my grandmother did. I have no hesitation in suggesting that to you, and I'll tell you this: I'll stick with my grandmother's set of values before I'll join this government's set of values any day of the week, any minute of any hour, because she was a person who knew what family was and knew what community was. She knew what it meant to work together with others. She did it in her village in the old country, in eastern Slovakia. They knew how to work together. They knew what cooperative efforts were all about. That's how you harvested your meagre crop. You couldn't do it alone, nor could you do it by contracting out, nor could you do it by endorsing the privatization of community activities.


There'll be other times to talk more about my grandmother, I suppose. Do you know what? I think I'm going to, because I'm rather intrigued by the response that's generated in some of these government members. They not only don't like communities and families; they don't like grandmothers either. I find that rather intriguing. I happen to like grandmothers and I happen to have loved mine.

Let's take a look at what Bill 107 is going to do to places like Welland, St Catharines, Thorold, Pelham, Fort Erie, Grimsby, every single one of them. This bill is designed to facilitate and give effect to the private ownership of water and sewage systems. It's not particularly novel. It's very consistent with the agenda of this government, which is to hand over the public resources that people in this province have built with hard work and sacrifice and commitment, and yes, with their tax dollars, to this government's corporate friends.

Oh, there seems to be a unique preference for their American friends, the ones Stateside. It's this government that cares so little about jobs in Ontario that it contracts out its road-painting contract for the QEW down in Niagara. Does it contract it out to Canadian workers or Ontario workers? No. It contracts that out to a New York state company, bringing its workers across the Peace Bridge to come here to Ontario and work when Ontarians want to work and they're being told they can't by Mike Harris and his gang.

It contracts out the sign-painting along the highways. You heard the Minister of Transportation talk about how he was going to commercialize our highways. There we go again. They commercialize our highways by charging for signs. They're going to have these signs painted up. Does the Minister of Transportation contract out to Ontario sign-painters and Ontario sign-painting companies to do that work? No. This government doesn't care that workers are unemployed here in Ontario: skilled workers, qualified workers, and young people -- a level of unemployment among young people that's a multiple of what their parents suffer. Once again, it contracts it out to an American firm.

Ambulance services? This government is prepared to hand over ambulance services like that of Port Colborne to an American operator so they can charge what they will and reap the profits and flow them right back into the United States. That's what this government's all about.

Remember the Minister of Community and Social Services. She doesn't hire a made-in-Canada consulting firm to take a look at her computer systems in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. No. These guys have got friends over in Chicago, an American-based multinational, Andersen Consulting. That's the parent company of the gang they contracted with for a $180-million potential contract. It's big bucks. It would be nice to keep that taxpayers' money here in Ontario. No.

Of course it makes you wonder, it does make you wonder, whether all of this is really aboveboard. Far be it from me to suggest that this government could be bought. Far be it from me to suggest that maybe there's a little bit of grease, some payola going on here.

Mr Preston: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I brought a point of order last week that I talked to the Speaker about and that I could reintroduce today. The point of order was prompted by improper comments attributed to the member for Welland-Thorold. It was on Thursday, February 13. At the risk of being too obfuscatory, he's the master of superfluous vocal effluvium --

The Acting Speaker: Could you please just get on with your point of order.

Mr Preston: All right. I'm trying to tell the story, because it's backdated a little bit.

The Acting Speaker: Just get on with it.

Mr Preston: He did not withdraw. The Speaker didn't hear it and gave him a choice to withdraw, but probably because he didn't have the intestinal fortitude, he denied he said it. This is what was said at the time --

The Acting Speaker: The member for Brant-Haldimand, please take your seat.

Mr Preston: I don't have a point of order about something he said in this House? I'm sorry about that.

The Acting Speaker: No. Take your seat and I'll explain.


The Acting Speaker: Sorry, but your point of order is relating to something that happened on another day which you referred to the Speaker at the time. It was dealt with at that time. I can't take it as a point of order today.

Mr Preston: I believe you were the Speaker at the time this --

The Acting Speaker: It doesn't matter. It's done, it's over with. It was ruled on at that time. You can't raise it again.

Mr Preston: It was ruled on because the Speaker did not hear it, but it's in Hansard.

The Acting Speaker: It doesn't matter. I'm sorry. Could you please take your seat. It was dealt with that day. It's not a point of order now.

Mr Preston: Okay, I'm sorry.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I know you're concerned about having a matter brought to your attention, and just before my colleague rose on a point of order I know that you heard from the Chair the member for Welland-Thorold impugning other members of this House, and I think you would want to rule on that.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sure the member for Welland-Thorold would like to get back and spend the next six minutes on Bill 107. I did hear his comments and it came very close. Although he said he wouldn't wish to impugn those motives, it came very close to the line, and in fact I would ask him to withdraw.

Mr Kormos: Withdraw. Now, Speaker, what I find fascinating is that when I get into the topic of what would motivate these people to sign these deals -- just wondering -- look, one's suspicions are aroused. When you see the howls of protest at the mere mention of the prospect that maybe there's something more here than meets the eye that would motivate this --

Mr Preston: Madam Speaker, point of order: He's doing it again. Last time he said that the money was going into the pockets of the Attorney general.

The Acting Speaker: Okay. Thank you, I take your point. The member for Welland-Thorold -- both of you, take your seats a moment. The member for Welland-Thorold, the member is quite correct, you are coming very close to the line here. You know the parliamentary rule. Please be more careful.

Mr Kormos: God bless the member. So here we are, Speaker, when we generate this type of response it creates suspicion, not only in my mind but in the minds of thousands, I tell you, perhaps millions of Ontarians.

This government wants to see water and sewer systems sold off to big corporations, maybe the same firms that bought them in Britain where water rates have climbed two and three times what they were in a public system, and where the profits are millions and millions of dollars. It's big bucks. Corporations don't have souls or consciences and indeed will go a long way to buy their way into the sort of scenario wherein they can make those kinds of profits. Again, one merely hopes for the highest of standards to be followed when there's that much money involved in the pilfering of public assets.

I'm overjoyed by the howls of protest, the squealing, the porcine squealing that comes from the government benches at my concern about corruption. Because when we're talking about the pilfering of public assets and handing them over to big corporations, multinationals, US firms, one hopes for the highest of standards from all involved. But one also knows that the realities of those big money transactions, the potential for such great profits, the potential to exploit and abuse homeowners and residents of each and every community in this province by selling off their water and sewer systems to private corporate profit-motivated operations, and to make the poor homeowner, the senior, the retiree, the young, single mother who's already been attacked by this government -- why, one has at this point but the most modest of hopes for the highest of standards.

Do you want to know something? I'm not convinced this government has the highest of standards. We've witnessed, time after time after time, an abandonment of anything akin -- well, a complete aloofness from anything akin to high standards. Turning back the clock to a time when communities didn't work together, communities are being told that they can't work together, communities are being undermined, communities are being Scud-missiled by a government that clearly doesn't care about communities, doesn't care about the families in those communities.


It has declared it's anathema for women and the sick and the old and for workers who would dare to work collectively -- see, they're anti-public-ownership, they're anti-cooperative-ownership. They want to isolate people. They want to separate people. That's why they don't like trade unions, because they don't want to tolerate the prospect of workers who risk their life and limb and health in a factory, like Stelpipe down in Welland where they've had to be out on the picket lines since November 1 because you've got a company, Stelco, that feels as if it's gotten a licence, a blank cheque from this government to beat up on working people. This government doesn't believe in those sorts of things.

I tell you, I believe that the people of Ontario believe in those sorts of things. I give a warning to folks in this province: We'd better stop these guys fast and soon because we're not just talking about them taking little chips and chipping away at the foundations of our society. We're talking about them missiling and destroying and selling off what's left, such that the job of rebuilding could, if these people, these Tories are allowed to continue, take generations and could impose a cost on hard-working honest people like Ontarians are that's never been conceived.

Do I accuse this government of intellectual corruption? You bet your boots I do. Intellectual dishonesty? You bet your boots I do. There's nothing straightforward --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired, thank you. Questions or comments?

Mrs Marland: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Actually, it's a relief that this member's time has expired because we would be standing on our feet every two or three minutes to ask you to call him to order. It's highly regrettable when someone with the education of the member for Welland-Thorold, who is himself a lawyer, can stand in this place and enter into a debate with so much exaggeration and imputing the motives --

Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Point of order, the member for Welland-Thorold.

Mrs Marland: -- and he can't --

The Acting Speaker: This is getting out of hand. Can you come through with your point of order quickly, please.

Mr Kormos: About as quickly as the member sitting up there in the back row did. I should point out that I was called upon and pushed the envelope with a view to imputing motive and surely, as the clock ticks away on this member, surely the Speaker heard this member impute motive --

The Acting Speaker: Would the member for Welland-Thorold take your seat, please. The member for Mississauga South, I'm going to have the clock start again for you. Member for Mississauga South, just one moment, please. I would ask people to be a little bit more careful in what you say and to show each other a little bit more respect. Thank you. Now, member for Mississauga South, you can begin. Please start the clock again at two minutes. And order, please.

Mrs Marland: The member for Welland-Thorold, on whose speech I am now allowed to comment for two minutes, spent a great deal of his time causing concern for the members in this House because if there was any relevance to the truth in his comments it was merely coincidental.

Mr Kormos: She'll dive right in again.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, come to order now.

Mrs Marland: That's really a very polite way of saying something that all of us who have been sitting listening to him feel very strongly. It's very difficult to have a lecture from someone --

Mr Gerretsen: Not all of us. Point of order.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands, no.

Mrs Marland: -- whose government imposed the greatest costs ever on the backs of the people of this province, a government that took the provincial debt from $48 billion to $98 billion in five years, to have a lecture from you about our government imposing costs. We are the government that is fighting for equity of opportunity, smaller government, lower taxes and reducing the expenses and costs that governments like yours incurred on behalf of the people of Ontario.

Mr Kormos: That's $5 billion a year just to help you pay for a tax break for your rich friends, some of them corrupt.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, come to order.

Mrs Marland: It was bad enough that the previous government took our provincial debt from $25 billion to $48 billion in five years, but the NDP government took that $48 billion to $98 billion in five years. So please don't try to lecture us on who is imposing costs on whom. The decisions being made by our government are to reduce the cost of government for every person living in Ontario, and I'm proud of the decisions that our government is making.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Questions or comments.

Mr Gerretsen: Let's get one thing straight -- and the member from Mississauga has got it totally wrong -- of the $100-billion debt we have in this province right now, about $45 billion of that was due to Robarts and the Davis years. Your own government records clearly indicate that. I will admit that during the Liberal years about $10 billion was added to the debt, an average of $2 billion a year, and we all know about the $50 billion that came on during the time the NDP was in power.

But let's also not forget that this government is going to add $20 billion more to the debt of this province because it wants to give a tax break to the wealthiest in this province. We know that the 30% tax cut they promised in their Common Sense Revolution is going to cost the taxpayers of this province, according to their own records, an extra $20 billion. So by the end of this mandate, the public debt of this province will have gone up from $100 billion to $120 billion, which is absolutely unbelievable from a government that claims to be fiscally responsible. How you can possibly hand out money back to people before you've got a budget balanced in any one given year is absolutely beyond me.

We should also remember that the last balanced budget in this province was in 1989, and it was done by a Liberal government. The government's own financial records very, very clearly show that.

But let's also not forget the real purpose of what we're talking about here today, Bill 107: We're talking about a bill that is going to download on municipalities water and sewer services that the smaller municipalities of this province simply will not be able to afford. Don't do it. Withdraw the bill.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the speech of the member for Welland-Thorold. But first of all, I can't let it pass, and I don't think anyone would expect me to, I'm shocked that the member for Kingston and The Islands would be silly enough, actually, to talk about the last time there was a supposed balanced budget. We were only in power about two or three hours and your $25-million surplus suddenly became a $3-billion deficit, so you're not going to hold us on that one, and I'm surprised that you would go there.

Speaking very directly to the comments of the member for Welland-Thorold, it's always interesting to listen to him, and I'm sure that when he's on his feet the ratings and the number of viewers across the province leap to record numbers. A lot of it is because of the reaction of the government. The member for Welland-Thorold is talking about what he thinks will happen. He's using his experience, his principles, his understanding. He even talked about his grandmother for a great length of time in making his point. It never fails that when the member for Welland-Thorold is on his feet explaining, as he has a right to do, his opinion, you people go crazy, you go wild. What that says to an awful lot of folks is, "He must be touching a lot of open nerves." Why else would you do that? You do that because you can't afford to sit there and say nothing as he legitimately points out the failings in your agenda. The last thing this government should stand up and talk about is equity and fairness, because there's nothing about the Harris agenda that's equitable or fair, and that's what the member for Welland-Thorold is talking about.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Thank you very much for allowing me to speak with respect to the member for Welland-Thorold's comments on Bill 107, the Municipal Water and Sewage Transfer Act, with respect to allowing municipalities the privilege of taking over what in many cases -- as the member for Kingston and The Islands has said, the municipality of Kingston has owned most of its facilities for many years. In fact, I'm holding a list here from many municipalities throughout Ontario that have requested from the Ministry of Environment to be allowed to manage and to own their plants. That's what we're doing. We're being cooperative with the municipalities to allow them to become the official operators of their municipal water treatment plants.

The previous government, in all respect, did try to deal with it under OCWA. It was a way of carrying a debt off book, really is what it was. They were really transferring what looked to be part of their huge debt load, which as we all have just discussed was growing rapidly -- in fact it doubled -- but OCWA, although it was a government agency at arm's length, carried all the debt for the capital off book so that it didn't look like $100 billion.

To be put on the record, we are not privatizing the water and sewer treatment plants. What we're really doing is transferring them to the municipalities. Again, I could read into the record a list of many municipalities. Bancroft and the region of Durham, for example, are on record as requesting the minister to transfer these responsibilities to them.

There's some revenue that goes along with this as well. As we all know, we pay our water bill, we know that, but we are allowing them to use and work with a private operator working for the municipality.

I think this freedom and liberty is something that's been requested by the municipalities, and I'm going to be supporting this bill.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold can sum up.

Mr Kormos: I appreciate the comments of the member for Kingston and The Islands. I recall the balanced budget.

I disagree with the member for Hamilton Centre. I don't think it was days, it was mere hours before that balanced budget turned into a deficit. But I understood the urgency of the election call. That was that three-year election call, and they almost blew it by mere minutes. Even as it was, the public wasn't fooled.

I appreciate the comments of the member for Kingston and The Islands; and the member for Hamilton Centre, I enjoy his comments as well.

As to the member for -- what's her riding over here? The member who was going to be Speaker. She misstates realities, she misstates facts that she should know.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, please refer to the members in the House by their ridings.

Mr Kormos: Where are we here? Oh, Mississauga South. She misstates facts. I wouldn't for the life of me think she was misleading the House; she simply doesn't know. I can accept that. I appreciate that.

Let's get down, again, to the recoiling and the shock and the horror and the squealing and moaning and pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth on the part of these government members. Boy oh boy, can one ever provoke a reaction by talking about the prospect of corruption. As I say, one is looking at the multibillion-dollar giveaway of things that our parents and our grandparents built with their hard work. The prospect of corruption, giving away our hospitals, our health care system, our public education, our colleges and universities, our waterworks and sewage treatment plants, maybe this government is on the take. Maybe that's why there are such howls of protest.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, you can't say that. I would ask you to withdraw it, please.

Mr Kormos: No.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, come on. Member for Welland-Thorold, I have to warn you. Will you withdraw that comment?


The Acting Speaker: I have to name you, in that case. Mr Kormos, I'd ask you to leave the chamber.

Mr Kormos was escorted from the chamber.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Preston: I'm pleased to speak today in favour of this bill. I am disappointed that the member for Welland-Thorold is gone because I had a few things to say about his reprehensible actions.

Mrs Marland: He was ejected.

Mr Preston: Yes, he was ejected, and boy oh boy, it was about time. The man doesn't incite us because of what he says. The fact that he says it and does not come anywhere near the topic, the fact that he's rude, that he's crude, is what incites us.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Brant-Haldimand, please take your seat for a moment. I think you're falling into the same trap you're criticizing the member for Welland-Thorold for. It is not useful in this debate for members from any side of the House to continue in that vein. I would ask the member to please come back to the bill. As you can see, I grant a lot of leniency in what you talk about, but these personal attacks are not getting anybody anywhere.

Mr Preston: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and you're right. I was falling into the same trap. I'm glad you have acknowledged the trap.

Anyway, speaking on Bill 107, first of all, the quality of Ontario's drinking water is not a matter we're going to --

Mr Christopherson: Worry about.

Mr Preston: -- negotiate. No, it's non-negotiable.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, come to order, please.

Mr Wildman: What happened in the UK?

Mr Preston: In the UK, you ask, and I'll direct my comments to the Chair, the UK privatized its water and sewer systems. Contrary to some of the statements that were made today, we are not privatizing the water and sewer systems. We are handing them back to the very people the last speaker talked about, the people who worked so hard for them. We are handing them back to their local government so their local government can manage them properly.

Mr Gerretsen: This is pathetic.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Preston: England privatized its water and sewer at a time when its systems were completely run down; our systems, by and large, are in good shape, so there's no comparison between the two. First of all, we're not privatizing ours; we're handing them back to the municipalities where these people who, as have been mentioned, worked so hard for them can manage them.

I neglected to ask to split the time with another member of my party. Is that all right?

The Acting Speaker: Could you tell me who you're splitting the time with?

Mr Preston: The member for Mississauga South.

The Acting Speaker: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs Marland: I wasn't --

Mr Preston: Well, you're stuck now. I'll give you the rest of my notes.

With Bill 107, the municipality will be able to determine what works best for them.


Mr Preston: This is Thursday afternoon. This is normal for Thursday afternoon.

We have a problem with trying to get things through local governments. We have a spot in Cayuga called the Broecheler Inn, and with the municipality having control, they will be allowed to put in a septic tank, which is not allowed now because of the red tape we have to go through. The municipal health board says they can't put it in because of provincial regulations. The province will not say it should be put in, because they don't want to step on the toes of the local government. Consequently, this beautiful, beautiful inn can't operate. It will be able to operate when the municipality is responsible for the things that go on in the municipality, and that's what Bill 107 is all about.


The member for Kingston and The Islands spoke about a level playing field, and in everything we're doing, in education -- I got offtrack. In Bill 107, we're talking about a level playing field. In property taxes across Ontario, we're talking about a level playing field.

Mr Wildman: No, you're not. You're talking about hauling sewage uphill.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Algoma, come to order.

Mr Preston: A level playing field is what most of our legislation is about, fairness to the people of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Marland: This is a delightful opportunity. I am very happy to have this opportunity on Thursday afternoon to speak in support of Bill 107, the Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act. I would ask the members opposite to extend the same courtesy that I extend to them, which is that I do not interject.

Mr Wildman: But we can get up on points on order.

Mrs Marland: Yes, you may get up on points of order, but I will try not to impute your motives, as ours were by the previous colleague who was asked to leave the chamber.

One of the things that's always coming out in this discussion about the impact of this act is the question of the safety of our drinking water. I've always found that subject itself a very curious debate, because while we have a multibillion-dollar industry in the provision of bottled water in this province, which is not tested and doesn't require any evaluation other than one federal statute dealing with faecal coliform in the water -- we have this profusion and growth industry in the sale of bottled water, yet we have under question from time to time whether the drinking water that comes out of our municipal taps and our municipal water supply lines is safe.

A number of years ago, I introduced a private member's bill in this House requiring a change in the industry of bottled water. People who were questioning the municipal water supply never realized the number of tests to which that supply is subjected. Obviously now, with this bill transferring the final 25% of ownership to the municipalities, which by the way have been doing a very excellent job in their responsibility for the operation of these facilities for the past number of years -- people would ask me, "Is the water that comes out of our taps safe to drink?" Frankly, I know the region of Peel is the same as other municipalities across this province, and that water has something like 347 tests a month for any number of chemicals and contaminants. However, bottled water is required to have only one test. Bottled water plants do not come under the federal Food and Drugs Act and they do not currently come under any provincial statute, yet people buy bottled water, including my own family. We now buy bottled water when we go to our cottage because of the pollution of the lake water. The point is that the water that comes out of our taps in our homes or anywhere where there's an online water supply through a municipal water treatment plant, yes, that water is very safe.

Tap water may not taste as great from time to time as bottled water, because different influences affect the taste. In my riding on the shores of Lake Ontario, when there are certain wind conditions and wave conditions on Lake Ontario, that does affect the taste of the water but it does not affect the safety of the water. I personally would give the tap water in the city of Mississauga to a newborn baby, because I feel absolutely confident about its safety. I think that speaks a great deal to how our system of water supply in the province has been provided, and I think we should be very grateful for that.

Personally, I think municipalities have done a very fine job of managing their 75% of Ontario's water and sewage facilities. By the way, we're talking about 937 water and sewage facilities. As a result also, I would say our government agrees with the recommendations of the Who Does What panel, which of course we all know was chaired by David Crombie. That recommendation was to transfer the ownership of the remaining 25% of the facilities, which are really only nominally owned by the province, so the municipalities will have the full ownership of something they have been responsible for operating to the tune of 75%.

There's another thing that I think is significant. We're always talking about what we do in Ontario and what we do in other provinces, and I think it's important to recognize that sewage and water treatment plants in other provinces are municipally owned and operated. Why should we be doing anything differently in Ontario? I really don't appreciate the fearmongering that's being introduced into the debate of this bill, that it means everything's going to be privatized and our water won't be safe and our sewage won't be handled properly. That's all -- the politest way to say it is that it's not factual. It's unfortunate that our citizens become concerned by that amount of misinformation.

I think the important thing is that when the Honourable Norm Sterling, the Minister of Environment and Energy, introduced this Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act on January 15, the purpose of introducing the act, as I've said, was to deal with the recommendation of the Who Does What panel. It also means we will achieve a taxpayer saving by sorting out provincial and municipal accountability for the services they deliver. Frankly, I think anything we can do to achieve taxpayer savings is very exciting and obviously is the platform of our government on which we were elected.

The act will give the minister the authority to transfer full title of water and sewage treatment facilities to municipalities. While the Ontario Clean Water Agency will no longer own water and sewage services, it will continue to operate these services for the municipalities. I think people are now quite used to hearing about OCWA, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, as an arm's-length agency of the government, and I think it has been doing a very good job.

The province will no longer be in a position of being the regulator, owner, operator and funder.

The province will focus on the setting and enforcing of higher standards for the operations of water and sewage treatment plants.

Consolidating control of water and sewage works at the municipal level of government will lead to a better, more efficient arrangement which is good for the environment. Anything we can do more efficiently and at a lower cost to taxpayers is a marvellous combination, especially when it's combined with greater protection of the environment.


In addition, services that are being restructured to improve the way they are delivered so that the taxpayer receives value and the best possible efficiency at the least cost are also moves to be applauded. I think the long-term outlook for Ontario's water and sewage system will be improved by the passage of this bill.

Also, where water and sewage works service more than one municipality and where service municipalities are jointly responsible for the debts, ownership of these works will be transferred to the municipalities jointly, under a new municipal management structure, and I really believe that is fair also.

I want to say a little bit more about water quality. I don't think there is anything more important to the people of our province, after health, than the quality of the water we drink. It's kind of ironic, living in a province which is made up more of water than it is of land mass that we even have to question the quality of water. Tragically, as lakes have deteriorated, the challenge of protecting our water source has become more real, more serious, more accentuated, because the environment as a whole worldwide presents the same kind of challenge when we talk about clean water and a guaranteed source of clean water for the people who live here.

It certainly is well known that Ontario's water and sewage systems are considered among the best in the world and I've said that ensures residents receive safe drinking water, but what we have to really do a lot of work on and continue to do a lot of work on -- I must say that in the past, previous governments have done a lot of work on this also -- is to protect our lakes and rivers from the contaminated waste water discharges. Fortunately, we now know a lot more about that subject than we used to. Fortunately, there are new technologies available, and as new technologies emerge, also the cost is reduced. The question of contaminated waste water discharges is one that every one of us in this chamber, no matter where we sit, I know holds very dear to their conscience. We all have to be part of that solution.

In my opinion, the quality of our drinking water is non-negotiable. We expect clear, drinkable and safe water. It is the province's job to ensure standards are enforced and that is why the ministry will continue to set standards and vigorously enforce them. That is why it makes sense for us not to be the enforcers or the guardians of something we also operate. I think the role for us as government is to make sure that water is protected and that therefore the citizens of Ontario are protected.

There will definitely be no compromise on the quality of our drinking water or the protection of the environment and human health. I know this is a matter the current Speaker who is in the chair has a personal interest in and to which she has demonstrated a personal commitment.

Ontario spends more on environmental protection than any other jurisdiction in Canada, so obviously that commitment is established, and whether we're dealing with taking drinking water out of the lake or discharging treated sewage into the lake, the safeguards and the management must be there.

We have twice as many staff in environmental monitoring and compliance as the federal government has in all of Canada, and I think that too says a great deal about where Ontario is today and what the ongoing commitment is.

There are other provisions in the Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act which deal with septic services. The responsibility for septic system inspections and approvals will appropriately be transferred to the municipalities this year as of October 1, 1997, and then municipalities will have a one-stop approvals process.

At the moment if you want to put in a new septic system, you go to the regional level of government for your permit. They tell you the size of system you need and the design of that system, whether it has to be an above-ground system or an inground system, the capacity of the holding tanks and the amount of weeping tile that is adjoined to that holding tank. It makes very good sense that they also, in giving the approvals, are responsible for the ongoing inspections and supervision. Of course, where we create a one-stop approvals and servicing process, obviously we're saving administrative costs and reducing the cost to government and therefore the cost to taxpayers.

I feel that the decision to transfer the remaining 25% of the ownership of these water and sewage systems in the province back to the municipalities makes very good sense. At one time, of course, the municipalities did own them and then the province took them over and then the province started building some of the newer plants. Certainly in a municipality like Mississauga with tremendous growth and expansion of residential and industrial developments, we have needed a lot of new water lines and watermains and we've also needed expanded capacity in our sewage treatment facility.

In my riding, interestingly enough, I have the major water treatment plant, the Lorne Park water treatment plant. It is a phenomenal, state-of-the-art engineering design. When you walk into it, it's almost like seeing something out of Star Wars. It's quite a phenomenal experience to see how that water intake from Lake Ontario, which we know contains a lot of things we wouldn't want to have in our drinking water, is treated and the number of processes it goes through in that water treatment plant to the point where it is safe, as I've said, for us to drink it.

I've also always found it very intriguing that I have the water treatment plant in the middle of my riding, and at each end of my riding, to the west and the east ends, I have a sewage treatment plant. So at each end of the riding I have treated waste water going out into the lake and in the middle of the riding I have the lake water coming in to be treated for drinking water. It is wonderful to know that the technologies of both those plants, the sewage treatment plants and the water treatment plant, are so sophisticated that it works. It's a system that works.


The one thing I might agree with in the comments of the member before he was ejected from the House this afternoon is the ability of the workers in those plants. We have a very dedicated staff at the Lakeview sewage treatment plant and the Lorne Park water treatment plant. For a very long number of years now, their commitment to their work, their high level of professionalism has made drinking water safe and accessible to everyone in the region of Peel.

Obviously, we don't supply just my riding. As we've had growth to the north all the way up to Brampton, we have a continuous supply of water coming from Lake Ontario. Frankly, it's quite exciting to think that with industry on the shore of Lake Ontario, all around the north shore of Lake Ontario, and the industry, of course, on the south shore of the lake but the north shore of New York state, it's a very challenging, complex matter to be able to take the water out of Lake Ontario and know that it's safe for drinking.

For those of us who have been involved in the environment for a very long time and were involved at the time of the Love Canal fiasco, the risk of the Love Canal and its impact on the Niagara River and the Niagara River flowing into Lake Ontario, when we went through those years, which is now 20 years ago, we were very nervous about whether our water treatment plants could keep up and still secure safe drinking water for the people of this province. Happily, the technology was there and there never was a risk for the people drinking Lake Ontario water.

In closing, I would just say that I commend the Honourable Norm Sterling, the Minister of Environment and Energy, for bringing forward Bill 107. It's a very straightforward piece of legislation. It's a commonsense move by our government, and obviously because the role of opposition is to oppose we won't expect to have any congratulations for this commonsense move. But anyone who would have knowledge of this bill and look into the impact on those services for the people of Ontario would know that it is excellent legislation. I'm very happy to stand in support of that legislation and to have had this brief opportunity to speak in support of it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr John O'Toole): Comments or questions?

Mr Lalonde: I'd just like to come back that I wonder if the member for Mississauga South knows about the water and sewers in the rural sector. There are a lot of municipalities that don't even have that. I refer to the fact that at the present time we have 937 water filtration and sewage plants in our province, of which 230 belong to the government. But let me tell you, we have 833 municipalities in Ontario. It shows there are quite a few municipalities that don't have the water and sewers, and at the present time what this government is going to do, they have cancelled all the grants that used to be available to enable small communities to have drinking water.

We have in Ontario over one million septic tank systems. The provincial government, this Progressive Conservative government, has decided to transfer this responsibility to the municipality. It's going to cost the municipality an average of $450 per household for the inspection, or whenever there's a requirement for a new building we average $22,000 new construction a year on a septic tank.

Just to tell you, the provincial debt at the time the government took over in the province was $96 billion. By the year 2000 it's going to be in the area of $117 billion. But what worries me the most at the present time, we would like to sell all the water plants that the municipalities don't own, that are owned by the provincial government, but if we sell those plants it might bring back about $9 billion to the government. So you're trying to reduce the debt --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr Christopherson: I want to comment on the remarks of the member for Mississauga South. I find it interesting that in her comments she said there isn't anything more important after health than clean water, and I wouldn't disagree with that. In fact, I would go a step farther and remind the member that experts in the field of public health and disease prevention will tell you that the greatest gain in health promotion was not the miracle drugs that we celebrate or the great surgery techniques or even the building of our great hospitals. No, the single greatest improvement was when clean water was provided for the public. That one measure prevented more illness and disease than any other single action taken by society in the history of society. I think that's a fascinating note and offers to support the point that the member for Mississauga South makes.

However, where I and my colleagues in the NDP part company with the member and her caucus is when she starts talking about the fact that this government is going to do more with less. That is simply not the case. The reality is, this is the government that has cut a third of the staff of the Ministry of Environment: 750 people whose sole job is to enforce the regulations that are in place, or used to be in place, and to care for and protect the environment.

This is a government that announced they're going to eliminate over half the regulations that are now in place that protect that water quality she professes to care about so much. They've also had Bill 20, Bill 57, Bill 73, hundreds of millions of dollars cut. People who are following this government on their environmental track record know they're not going to improve water quality, they're going to let it go.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further questions or comments?

Mr Galt: I first compliment the member for Brant-Haldimand and also the member for Mississauga South for two excellent presentations with a lot of good information. The member for Brant-Haldimand made the comment about in England it was privatized. Certainly we have no intention of doing that. We looked at it and rejected that idea.

What we are doing, and it's very clear, we are turning the plants over to the municipalities. How the municipalities operate them is their choice. They can run them themselves or the operation can be privatized, but we have absolutely no intention of having those facilities privatized. Only the title of the plant will change in name and certainly, as far as the operation of the facilities, the standards, the inspection are all going to continue in the same manner that they always have in the past.

The member for Mississauga South made reference to taking bottled water to her cottage and I can respect that -- sometimes lake water has an odour or a taste to it -- but let me assure you that the quality, the safety, of our Great Lakes has improved tremendously over the last two decades.

Back in the 1970s you might have considered some of the fish out of the Great Lakes almost a hazardous waste with the amount of toxins that were in them. That has turned around tremendously in the last two decades. Many of the pollutants have dropped to a quarter or less of what they were in the 1970s in the fish in the Great Lakes. So just to point out, the environment is improving, and I'm not being partisan here. Under all stripes and colours of government the environment and particularly the waters of the Great Lakes have been steadily improving.

We hear a lot of emotionalism, and the member for Hamilton Centre was trying to build it up again, saying we're cutting over half the regulations when in fact we're trying to clarify the confusion that that government brought in to those regulations.

Mr Gerretsen: I would just like to comment very briefly on what the last member stated. It may very well be that the environment, particularly of the Great Lakes, is improving compared to the way it was 10 or 15 years ago.


Mrs Marland: You are supposed to comment on my speech, not his.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, I realize that and I am commenting on your speech. I thought it was a great speech. Perhaps you don't quite see the world the way I do, but it was a good speech as far as speeches go.

I think what we are mainly concerned about on this side of the aisle is that the environmental protection and regulations that are in existence right now, especially the inspectors, will be there to make sure environmental improvements that may have taken place over the last number of years will continue to do so. When the Ministry of Environment in effect has only one air quality inspector east of Toronto in all of eastern Ontario, whereas at one time I think there were four or five inspectors, it seems to me that is not heading in the right direction.

The laws we make in this House are only as good as the inspection abilities we have, to make sure they are being maintained and adhered to by the people of Ontario. If inspection requirements and qualities and the number of inspectors we have are going to reduce at the rate that has already happened, particularly within the Ministry of Environment, where we've only got about a third of the inspectors left from the ones that were there two years ago, then I would take great exception with what the member for Northumberland is saying, that we're not heading in the right direction at all.

We cannot leave it to industry to regulate itself when it comes to the environment. Too many of us, all of us, owe it to ourselves and to our children to make sure the environmental rules and regulations are properly maintained and adhered to in this province.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Mississauga South has two minutes to summarize her argument.

Mrs Marland: I found it interesting that the member for Prescott and Russell was talking about the provincial debt in response to my comments, because I didn't mention the provincial debt in my comments. The fact that you have mentioned it gives me the opportunity to respond. I'm very happy to put on the record one more time that the provincial debt in 1985, when this province was 118 years old, was $25 billion. It's unfortunate that new members don't do their homework and get the figures correct, because it was $25 billion when the Liberal Party became the government in 1985 -- not that they were elected to become the government; they formed an accord with the NDP and they were the government, although they had 48 seats and we had 52.

Really significant was that five years later the provincial debt was $48 billion. What took this province 118 years to accumulate as a debt of $25 billion took the Liberal government only five years to take to $48 billion. What is probably even more significant and more depressing, and why our government is now in the position of having to make very tough decisions and take very strong measures to get the spending under control, is that it took our friends in the New Democratic Party, when they were the government, another five years to double the provincial debt again and leave us with a $98-billion debt. When people stand up in this place and talk abut these figures, they'd do well to do their homework and make sure their figures are accurate.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate.

M. Lalonde : Je vais vous adresser la parole en français pour les prochaines 20 minutes. Ça me fait plaisir de prendre la parole aujourd'hui sur le projet de loi 107, Loi visant à édicter la Loi de 1997 sur le transfert des installations d'eau et d'égout aux municipalités et modifiant d'autres lois en ce qui a trait à l'eau et aux eaux d'égout.

Ici en Ontario nous avons 937 usines d'eau et d'égout, aussi d'épuration des eaux usées. Nous avons 833 municipalités en Ontario. Cela veut dire que beaucoup de municipalités n'ont pas encore de services en place d'eau et d'égout. Pourquoi ? C'est que depuis un nombre d'années nous essayons d'obtenir les octrois nécessaires afin de mettre sur pied un système d'usines d'eau afin d'avoir de l'eau potable.

Mais actuellement nous étions sur le point d'avoir approuvé plusieurs nouvelles usines. Maintenant, avec ce projet de loi, ça va tout canceller les usines qui étaient en étude. De ce montant de 937 usines, nous avons 230 usines qui appartiennent au gouvernement provincial.

Le but principal de ce projet de loi est vraiment le transfert de ces 230 usines aux municipalités. J'ai dans mon comté de Prescott et Russell 19 municipalités, dont 18 qui sont les comtés unis de Prescott et Russell. Onze de ces usines d'épuration des eaux usées et quatre usines d'eau appartiennent au gouvernement.

C'est vrai que nous les payons indirectement à chaque année quand nous recevons une facture qui dit qu'on doit rembourser au gouvernement un certain montant. Mais je voudrais porter à votre attention la peur que nous avons dans le moment. C'est que nous allons demander aux municipalités un sous-octroi pour modifier ou améliorer votre système d'eau. Mais laissez-moi vous dire que nous sommes sur le point de transférer les responsabilités de ces 230 usines d'eau aux municipalités, des usines qui sont en défectuosité, des usines qui ne rencontrent pas les standards établis par la province, par le ministère de l'Environnement.

J'ai ici le village de Casselman d'une population d'un peu moins de 3 000, dont le plant avait été préparé pour un montant de 3 880 mètres cubes d'eau. Le ministère de l'Environnement a approuvé cette usine dont les plans avaient été préparés par une firme d'ingénieurs. Le ministère de l'Environnement à donné son approbation sur cette usine. Aujourd'hui nous nous apercevons que le village de Casselman ne peut plus développer parce que le ministère de l'Environnement a donné son approbation sur cette usine d'eau, ce qui démontre vraiment que seulement 1 950 mètres cubes d'eau peuvent être accommodés ou être desservis à la population. Nous avions un manque de plusieurs mille mètres cubes d'eau.

Mais qui va payer la facture pour l'augmentation ou pour remettre ce système en place tel que préparé lors des discussions avec le ministère ? Le coût de cette usine sera d'un montant d'au-delà tout près de 2 $ millions. Encore une fois, qui va payer la facture ? Je crois que c'est la responsabilité du gouvernement de l'Ontario à voir à ce que les montants d'argent soient a la disposition de la municipalité de Casselman afin de mettre à date le plant d'usine d'eau.

C'est pour une population de 3 100 personnes que nous avions préparé les plants. La population devrait atteindre 3 500, mais on ne peut pas l'atteindre. On a mis un gel sur le développement puisque l'usine d'eau ne rencontre pas les standards de la province. Encore une fois, est-ce que le gouvernement provincial va défrayer les coûts pour mettre a date cette usine qui ne rencontre pas les données qui nous avaient été fournies ?

Le coût total va être de 1 783 000 $. Espérons que le gouvernement, avant de prendre la position de transférer le tout à la municipalité, va faire les corrections nécessaires pour compenser le village de Casselman.

J'ai une autre inquiétude. J'ai le village de St-Paschal-de-Baylon, ou St-Pascal, que l'on l'appelle maintenant. Le plant d'eau a été construit voilà quatre ans. Les estimés étaient de 1,8 $ millions. C'était un «pilot project», qu'on avait dit. Donc, maintenant le coût après la construction complétée est au-delà de 3 $ millions, pour desservir une population de quelque 60 familles.

Aujourd'hui, on s'aperçoit que le gouvernement a changé ses standards pour le THM, mais avant d'aller aux standards de THM, j'aimerais vous dire que cette usine actuellement a coûté à certaines personnes -- un fermier a dû payer au début 25 000 $ et $4 000 par année.


Pour le mettre à date après quatre ans, on doit doubler, augmenter de 105 %, le coût de l'eau pour les consommateurs de St-Pascal. Pourquoi devons-nous augmenter le coût de 105 % ? Encore une fois, c'est une erreur du gouvernement ou du ministère de l'Environnement, et j'espère -- les gouvernements du passé ont été à faire les études, et nous étions sur le point d'octroyer le village de St-Pascal, ou la municipalité de Clarence, dont St-Pascal fait partie. Nous étions pour compenser ce village pour l'erreur qui s'était développé à cours de route.

Mais je crois que personne ici aurait accepté l'eau, l'eau potable, qu'on dit, à boire, dans ce village. Le montant de THM alloué est de 100 parties par million maintenant ; nous étions à 3 300 parties par million de THM.

Cela veut dire que lorsqu'on étudie l'effet sur une personne que le THM peut avoir, on peut développer le cancer, mais nous avons été un peu plus loin. Nous avons regardé quel effet le THM peut avoir sur la vache laitière. Le ministère de la Santé, le ministère de l'Environnement nous ont dit, «Aucun effet sur la qualité du lait,» mais on avait oublié de regarder la quantité du lait. Donc, le cultivateur qui était branché à ce système d'eau a dû cesser d'utiliser cette eau puisqu'on avait reconnu une diminution dans la quantité du lait. Après qu'il a coupé la consommation de l'eau de cette usine d'eau, la quantité de lait a augmenté. Le ministère m'a toujours dit, «Non, non, cela n'affecte pas la vache laitière.» Tout l'a prouvé ; le ministère des Richesses naturelles et le ministère de l'Environnement : «Nous avons trouvé que ça n'affecte pas la qualité,» mais définitivement la quantité.

J'ai ensuite le village de l'Orignal. Le village de l'Orignal, c'est une communauté de au-delà 2 600 personnes. Encore là, le ministère de l'Environnement a fait une grosse erreur. Nous avons construit un plant. Le village de l'Orignal, qui est le village le plus ancien de l'est ontarien, a fait construire une usine d'eau. Nous sommes situés sur la Rivière des Outaouais, tout le longue de la rivière, qui est une richesse naturelle pour les gens de l'est ; je suis fier de dire que la rivière des Outaouais est une richesse naturelle pour nous tous, Canadiens, Ontariens et Ontariennes.

Mais je ne sais pas quelle idée avait le ministère. Ils ont décidé de creuser deux puits. Ils ont dit, «Ça va coûter moins cher.» Il est vrai que ça va coûter moins cher sur le coup, mais ils nous ont dit qu'ils nous garantissaient qu'il n'y aurait aucun problème pour 40 ans. Voilà au-delà de 20 ans maintenant, nous avons été obligés de fermer un puits. Nous sommes laissés avec un puits, et actuellement il est très difficile de desservir la population.

Combien v-a-t'il coûter maintenant de construire une usine et s'approvisionner de la rivière des Outaouais ? Donc, ça va être très difficile, parce que le gouvernement, avec ce projet de loi, va couper touts les octrois qui étaient disponibles pour la construction d'usines d'épuration des eaux usées ainsi que d'usines d'eau potable.

J'ai le village de Wendover, qui est dans le canton de Plantagenet Nord. Encore là, nous avons fait beaucoup de recherches. Nous avions une usine d'eau. Nous sommes installés sur la rivière des Outaouais encore là. Tout d'un coup, on nous a dit, et puis j'ai le rapport ici, qu'ils demandent à toutes les municipalités qui ne rencontrent pas les critères après que le ministère de l'Environnement de réévaluer le montant de THM qui était permis pour la consommation d'eau. Le village de Wendover avait 160 parties par million de THM dans l'eau. Donc, on a dit, «Vous avez dépassé le montant de 100. Maintenant, vous ne pouvez pas vous approvisionner d'eau potable de votre usine d'eau. Donc, maintenant, pour vous vous servir de l'eau, on doit la faire bouillir.» Donc, encore là, nous avons fait une étude. Le gouvernement a défrayé les coûts pour faire les études au complet. Et même, encore là, on est sur la rivière des Outaouais ; on a dit, «On doit regarder s'il n'y aurait pas une bonne veine d'eau aux alentours.» Quelle plus bonne veine d'eau que la rivière des Outaouais ? C'est une rivière existante depuis -- ben, elle a toujours été là. Il faut dire qu'elle s'était peut-être réduite en largeur. C'était anciennement le lac Champlain, on nous dit, mais aujourd'hui, c'est une rivière qui est développée davantage et on peut s'approvisionner d'eau n'importe quel temps.

Mais le coût de mettre en place un système d'eau pour cette municipalité est au-delà de huit millions de dollars. Est-ce que vous croyez qu'une population d'au-delà de 700 personnes va pouvoir se permettre les dépenses de huit millions de dollars ? Jamais. Mais, je crois encore là, le gouvernement voit tout ça venir, et puis ils disent, «Il est grandement temps qu'on transfert le plus vite possible aux municipalités, parce qu'on va avoir des économies.» C'est vrai que vous allez avoir des économies. Est-ce que vous voulez que les gens déménagent tous à Mississauga ? Est-ce que vous voulez que les gens déménagent à Oshawa ?

Je crois qu'il est raisonnable de dire que nous vivons dans le plus beau secteur de l'Ontario, l'est ontarien, qui est Prescott et Russell, et les gens aiment demeurer là. C'est un coût maintenant que vous voulez transférer à nous dans nos municipalités. Rappelez-vous que vous ne nous découragerez pas. Nous allons continuer à habiter Prescott et Russell, mais je crois que le gouvernement, avant de transférer toutes ces dépenses et passer la lecture du projet de loi 107, qui va transférer les responsabilités aux municipalités, on devrait y penser deux fois.

Je sais que les personnes nous représentant du gouvernement qui viennent des grands centres ne connaissent pas ce que c'est qu'un secteur rural. Donc, encore une fois, la grosse peur que nous avons, c'est que le projet de loi 26 va permettre aux municipalités de vendre le plan d'eau, l'usine d'eau, ou l'usine d'épuration des eaux usées, pour essayer de faire des économies. Mais, à long terme, nous allons payer tellement cher pour avoir de l'eau potable, que ça va être plus économique d'acheter une bouteille de Coke, une bouteille de Seven-Up, que d'acheter une bouteille d'eau. C'est pour ça aujourd'hui qu'on fait fortune avec nos machines qu'on voit un peu partout. On vend l'eau en bouteille maintenant.

Donc, c'est peut-être que le gouvernement a des parts dans ces compagnies-là. Je ne sais pas si on va encourager maintenant la vente d'eau en bouteille. Comme mon collègue de Mississauga South m'a dit tout à l'heure, lorsque je me rends au camp, j'achète des bouteilles d'eau. Est-ce que vous voulez que les personnes qui vivent dans les communautés urbaines commencent à faire l'achat de bouteilles d'eau afin de pouvoir avoir de l'eau potable ? Je ne crois pas que ce soit la réponse actuellement.

Je vais revenir à St-Pascal. Je crois qu'il n'y a personne d'entre vous à l'autre côté qui aimerait vivre l'expérience que nous vivons. Je me rappelle, lorsque j'étais jeune, on aimait jouer avec de différentes expériences. Lorsqu'on voulait s teindre les cheveux, on se lavait la tête avec du peroxyde. Mais je vous dis que maintenant, dans le village de St-Pascal, on doit y injecter une quantité de peroxyde dans l'eau à tous les jours ; donc, les gens boivent du peroxyde. On dit que ça n'affecte pas la santé des personnes, mais moi-même, je n'aimerais pas boire de l'eau qui contient du peroxyde.

Mais à tous les jours, St-Pascal boit de l'eau dans laquelle on injecte du peroxyde à tous les jours afin de réduire le THM. Nous avons réduit le chlore, parce que le chlore causait un colorant dans l'eau. L'eau a été rendue jaune. On aurait pu dire de l'Orangeade. On ne pouvait plus laver notre linge dans cette eau. On a réduit le chlore, on a rajouté du peroxyde, pour dire aux gens, «Oui, vous pouvez boire de l'eau maintenant.» \

Mais encore une fois, une maison à St-Paschal-de-Baylon QU'ON payait à 440 $ par année pour l'eau, on vient la monter à 902 $, et une résidence, un «group home», qui a au-delà de 20 personnes, le coût par année va être 17 000 de dollars par année pour l'eau potable. Je crois, chers amis, qu'avant de faire tous ces transferts aux municipalités, on devrait prendre la responsabilité, que vous soyez un gouvernement ou non, que tout le monde devrait voter contre ce projet de loi ou y apporter les modifications nécessaires. Actuellement on devrait dire que nous allons mettre à date toutes les usines d'eau et d'épuration des eaux usées, et ensuite peut-être qu'on pourra penser à faire les transferts aux municipalités.

Donc, ça m'a fait plaisir de vous laisser savoir, de vous mettre au courant des problèmes que nous vivons dans le secteur rural. Je crois encore qu'avant de prendre une décision finale sur ce projet de loi-là, nous allons nous arrêter encore et regarder tout l'impact que ce projet de loi aura envers les municipalités rurales.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? Being none, Mr Galt has moved second reading of Bill 107. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): I believe we have unanimous consent to have a recorded division on this motion on Monday, February 24, immediately after question period.

The Acting Speaker: Carried? Agreed.

This House stands adjourned until Monday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1801.