36th Parliament, 1st Session

L169 - Wed 26 Feb 1997 / Mer 26 Fév 1997



















































The House met at 1333.




Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Once again this government is ignoring the most vulnerable in our society by refusing to take action.

Ms Price, a constituent of mine, has been trying to collect support payments from her ex-husband since July 1995. After numerous court appearances and promises of payment, Ms Price has not received any money from her ex.

On February 18, 1997, she found herself before a judge yet again, who ordered her ex-husband to pay $3,000 within seven days or he was going to jail, the judge said. Monday, February 24, was the seventh day and Ms Price had received no money. When she called the family support plan, they were only able to say that no money had been received.

Mr Price has been ordered to pay support numerous times and he has not done so. He has been told that if he did not comply with the court order, he would be sent to jail. He has not served a single day.

I'm asking the Premier to intervene and ensure that his Attorney General and his Solicitor General take action in this situation. Deadbeat dads feel they don't have to pay support order payments because there are no penalties if they don't comply.

Ms Price and her children are desperate. They have no place to turn. They are asking only for what is rightfully theirs. I'm asking this government and this Premier to intervene on behalf of her and all parents who are not receiving support payments.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): In light of yesterday's ruling against the trustees in Bill 103, the Minister of Municipal Affairs seems intent on still trying to ignore the importance of that ruling.

He is quoted as saying today, "We have stated on numerous occasions...the trustees do not have any jurisdiction until such time as the legislation is passed." Of course he also said, as the judge in the case himself quoted in his judgement, as the trustees' "right to examine municipal decisions will be retroactive to the date this legislation was introduced" it is "in everyone's interests to cooperate with them."

Clearly the Minister of Municipal Affairs was trying to have it both ways and the judge in the case found exactly to that effect, because the justice went on to find and to say: "As a practical matter the municipal councils must conform now to the legislative scheme of an act not yet in force. If these orders in council were allowed to stand, the government would be allowed to do indirectly what it cannot do directly."

That is wrong. The justice found it to be wrong. The Minister of Municipal Affairs would do well to understand that it was wrong and he should adhere to that.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I solemnly rise in the House today to recognize the services of a citizen of this province. Orillia alderman Al Smith passed away last Friday evening. Cam Jackson, minister responsible for seniors' issues, and I paid our respects on behalf of the people of Ontario at yesterday's funeral services.

Al Smith is best known to the members of this House as president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario. He was a persistent advocate for seniors in this province, lobbying on their behalf both the federal and provincial governments.

Mr Smith was an initial supporter of the Canada-US Games and was made an honorary citizen of Auburn, New York. Al Smith was an avid outdoor sportsman, member of many service clubs and also the conservation club in Orillia.

He was first elected to Orillia council in 1975 and served for 22 unbroken years, longest in the history of the city of Orillia. Mr Smith was also actively involved in several community service clubs. A local newspaper described Al Smith as a "feisty alderman who never gave in to despair."

On behalf of the members, I send sympathy to Al's wife, Marie, and family. Ontario has lost a courageous citizen.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): The recently announced mini-casino initiative by the Harris government will begin the first wave of video slot machines -- over 6,000, in fact.

These machines are well-known to be highly addictive and are considered the crack cocaine of gambling. They're also the prime target of a grass-roots rebellion against gaming that has started in the west. The town of Rocky Mountain House overwhelmingly decided they don't want VLTs in their community. Similar referenda and plebiscites are planned for dozens of other communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In every case, communities are saying the same thing: Governments have gone too far by introducing these insidious little machines.

If this slot machine scheme was really about obtaining better funding for charities, why is the government prepared to take some $730 million from slot machines alone in this mini-casino scheme, while it's content to give the charities only $180 million? That's four times less than the government's share.

The trend in this country is towards eliminating slot machines, not increasing them. Not only have the Premier and his government thrown out their conscience on this issue, but they've broken their promise on referenda for communities. It's clear that the Mike Harris government has become the biggest addict to gaming in this country.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Last week I met with CUPE members, teachers and parents who are not only deeply concerned about Bill 104 but feel this government is deliberately hiding the real agenda behind this legislation.

What we know is that the unelected and unaccountable Education Improvement Commission set up by this legislation will make recommendations on how to promote and facilitate the outsourcing of non-instructional services of school boards.

What this really means is that a large number of school workers, including workers responsible for caretaking, daycare, payroll, maintenance and lunchtime activity programs, will see their jobs privatized. We all know companies that will take over these jobs will not pay the fair wages, benefits and job security that these workers have won through decades of collective bargaining.


If workers from sectors other than school boards think this will not happen to them, think twice. The blueprint will be used for municipalities and health care workers right across this province.

Citizens and taxpayers of this province have every reason to be worried by a plan that will eliminate good jobs and that will lead to reduced access to services for our children. They have every reason to be worried, because this government has a hidden agenda. Since January we have seen the Premier on TV ads promoting his education reform and asking the population to call a toll-free number to find out more about their plan. Guess what? I did call and was told that the package would not be ready before the beginning of April. What a coincidence. This education reform package will be available only after Bill 104 hearings are over and done with.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Hockey unites Canadians. Hockey cuts across all differences. The competition, the rituals of the game, diffuse differences in both the players and the fans. That's what happened last weekend when members of provincial Parliament from Quebec and Ontario vied for hockey supremacy.

There's not a game more thrilling than the Montreal Canadiens playing the Toronto Maple Leafs. But almost as thrilling was the two-game series between the Ontario Legiskaters and the members of the National Assembly of Quebec. Toronto beat Montreal, and Ontario beat Quebec. The Quebec members were most gracious hosts, losing 13-10 at the Molson Centre and losing again 8-5 at Pierrefonds.

The stellar coaching by Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard couldn't keep pace with Ontario's coaching staff of Gary Fox, Gary Leadston and Bob McAllister. Referee Daniel Johnson was generally impartial, although a two-minute penalty for a Conservative playing left wing is a dubious call.

Premier Mike Harris got a goal and an assist, Minister Hodgson led the series in scoring and Minister Johnson led the series in body-checks and penalties. Speaker Stockwell took one for the team when he separated his shoulder and continued to play. Goaltender Gary Carr was spectacular, stopping about 500 shots.

Both teams thanked organizers MPP Morley Kells and MNA Russ Williams.

On behalf of the Ontario MPP Legiskaters, I want to thank our gracious hosts from the Quebec National Assembly and the Montreal Canadiens. We'd like to invite Quebec legislators to Toronto for another exciting series for hockey supremacy. In the meantime, we'll be gracious champions.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): The Minister of Education commissioners are already out talking about outsourcing, privatizing things like school custodial care and school secretaries. The commissioners are hearing how concerned people are about this idea, and the committee holding hearings on the minister's Bill 104 has heard from hosts of parents who stressed the importance of the school secretary and custodian to the safety and the wellbeing of their children.

But now the minister's cohorts in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs are going in a totally different direction. It seems that they want to dump all school construction, maintenance, secretarial staff, bussing and who knows what else on municipalities.

This government has made a huge mess with mega-dumping, and now it wants to try to fix the problem by creating an even bigger mess. This is a $2.8-billion dump at the very least. It is an abandonment of the government's responsibility to provide good school buildings, and the Minister of Education knows how many new schools have to be built to replace hundreds of portables and how many schools are literally falling apart.

But even more than that, this would mean a huge loss of jobs and the disruption of hundreds of lives. It would be a huge loss for kids, because schools will be divided in half, with multiple employers, dial-a-cleaners and drop-in secretaries.

This government cannot fix the mess it has created by making another one. Why don't they just admit they have made a huge mistake with mega-dump and scrap the whole idea?


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to respond to statements that the Minister of Labour made on Monday of this week, where she said, "At the present time, workers across Canada do not have secured creditor status under the federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act." She went on to say, "I regret to inform you that the federal government will not be making any changes to the legislation, and so unfortunately our workers will not be protected and they will not have preferred status."

It's for that reason that in 1991 our government, under Labour Minister Bob Mackenzie, brought in the employee wage protection plan, retroactive to 1990, to deal with the thousands of workers who were being thrown out of work as a result of the free trade agreement and the ongoing recession. That provided workers with an ability to claim for wages, vacation, severance and termination pay that they were entitled to. It was this government, under Bill 7, that took away the right of those very workers to claim for termination and severance pay and reduced their ability to claim from $5,000 to $2,000.

That's what you did in terms of workers who are facing bankruptcy, and you have the audacity to stand in your place as a minister of the crown, as a minister of the Harris government, and blame the feds. You gutted that program that provided for workers, and unfortunately we're awaiting the other shoe to drop when you take away the rest of the plan so you can take $20 million more.


M. Marcel Beaubien (Lambton) : Le 21 février, au Centre Molson à Montréal, les députés de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario ont remporté une victoire de 13 à 10 contre les députés de l'Assemblée nationale du Québec. Cette victoire ne s'agissait pas d'une ronde constitutionnelle mais bien d'un match de hockey amical.

L'accueil chaleureux des membres de l'Assemblée nationale du Québec, des représentants du club de hockey Canadiens et du Centre Molson était extraordinaire. Un gros merci aussi à l'entraîneur de l'équipe du Québec. Le premier ministre, Lucien Bouchard, a finalement dû avouer que sa stratégie secrète n'avait pas donné le résultat auquel il s'attendait.

La stratégie de l'équipe ontarienne était d'avoir le premier ministre, Mike Harris, jouer sur l'aile gauche. Ayant beaucoup de difficultés avec cette position, on le retrouvait souvent, sans qu'il ne s'en rende compte, sur l'aile droite. Cette stratégie a eu un résultat positif pour le premier ministre Harris, car c'est sur cette aile qu'il a compté un but.

En conclusion, j'aimerais bien remercier le député d'Etobicoke-Lakeshore, M. Morley Kells, et son équipe, qui ont travaillé d'arrache-pied pour s'assurer du succès de la fin de semaine, et ce sans l'utilisation des deniers publics.

C'est avec fierté que l'Ontario sera à la hauteur du défi pour accueillir avec autant d'hospitalité à Toronto des membres de l'Assemblée nationale pour un autre jeu l'année prochaine.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I'm pleased to announce that today Ontario is moving to improve service and reduce costs in its regulatory and adjudicative agencies. We will act on the recommendations released today in the third and final report of the Government Task Force on Agencies, Boards and Commissions, chaired by London South MPP Bob Wood.

Mr Wood has outlined a plan to produce an administrative justice system which is more streamlined, responsive and efficient. I want to commend Mr Wood and his task force for the excellent work they have done in identifying improvements in the very important agency sector.

The task force recommendations, to combine 35 regulatory and adjudicative agencies with similar client bases and mandates, to eliminate five agencies whose mandates are now obsolete and to streamline hearings procedures, will allow us to create a simpler, better coordinated and more service-oriented tribunal system for the people of Ontario. The redesigned system will mean better service and less red tape for individuals and businesses who are awaiting a decision by one of these agencies.

As you will recall, I'm sure, the task force report on the first phase, unveiled in May 1996, made recommendations concerning 50 government advisory agencies. The report on the second phase, which was released in January, examined 62 operational agencies. The government target is to save $220 million in taxpayers' dollars by March 1998 from the agencies, boards and commissions. Already we have identified $80 million in savings.

Regulatory and adjudicative agencies are independent bodies which operate at arm's length from the government. Of the 79 agencies examined by the task force, 19 were regulatory, 37 adjudicative and 23 combining both roles.


The task force made the following recommendations: five agencies be eliminated because their mandates are obsolete; 10 agencies are no longer needed because their functions can be delivered through other levels of government, the private sector or self-management; 35 agencies that deal with similar subjects, clients and decision-making procedures be consolidated into 10 larger agencies which will ensure continued access to the required base of expertise while at the same time reducing duplication and overlap; 26 agencies be retained in their current or a restructured form. Three agencies are currently undergoing broader review, and decisions will be deferred on them.

In addition to agency-specific recommendations, the task force also made sector-wide recommendations which will modernize and strengthen the delivery of administrative justice to the public.

Based on these recommendations, the government will be pursuing three reforms through a working group that will include agency participation. These three reforms are: simplifying and standardizing agency hearing procedures; coordinating and rationalizing the delivery of common services; and finally, requiring agencies to manage their performance and outcomes in a publicly accountable manner.

In conclusion, I believe this redesigned system will maintain the special expertise critical to ensuring sound regulatory and adjudicative decision-making while at the same time reducing delays and resulting in lower costs and better administrative justice service to the businesses and individuals in Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Responses. The official opposition, member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): The people of Ontario will always welcome a review when a review is to look at ways to do better. The Ontario public will always be supportive of that. If this review, in particular certain areas of delivery of government services, is simply disguised in order to privatize certain segments, reduce wages and put people on the street, that is not going to be acceptable to the people of Ontario. A tax cut will do absolutely nothing for people who are no longer working or for people who are making significantly less.

I turn your attention to something that affects all of us in the House, in this precinct of Queen's Park, our housekeeping services, an area of general service delivery under review by this minister and through these various reviews. This is a particular group, the housekeeping services, for the majority of whom English is not their first language and whose average age is over 50. Some have over 20 years of civil service experience here, working for you, Minister. I see this as simply an attempt to offload them to some private company, to the highest bidder. That is not acceptable.

My colleague would like to go further with other areas.

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have no problem with the government taking a look at these various agencies and restructuring them in the interests of more efficiency. But I can tell you that the experience this government has had to date hasn't been that great. All we have to do is look at the efforts of the Attorney General and what he had to do with the family support program, which was supposed to be more efficient. As you know, it is a total disaster.

There are a couple of areas that have been targeted for elimination. I find one particularly disturbing and that is the Environmental Compensation Corp, in which the rationale is to relieve the taxpayers of the burden of compensation at the same time as this government is actually weakening environmental protection and is exposing citizens of this province to greater environmental hazards, yet the government is trying to distance itself from that responsibility.

I have other problems with some of the programs, and one has to do with the whole area of the Pay Equity Commission, where the statement says, "The government remains committed to supporting the principle of pay equity," but having said that, they want to explore other ways to deliver the remaining work of the commission. I would suggest to you that you find the other ways first before you announce that you're going to eliminate this particular commission, because as you know, pay equity is certainly an area that requires a great deal of attention.

I'm also curious to know the rationale behind the Ontario Provincial Police Grievance Board, about which you state: "The work of the board is necessary, but does not need to be delivered by an agency. The task force recommends eliminating the board and exploring other ways of delivering the service." That thread runs throughout this report where they announce, "We think you should get rid of these areas which are trouble areas for the province and explore other ways of doing it."

I suggest that before you announce you're going to eliminate these things, you come up with an alternative so that at least there can be some public discussion by those people who are going to be impacted by these particular initiatives to make sure that in fact the alternative is better than what is there at the present time. I think that is absolutely critical.

There's another one where they're going to deliver through another means, and that's the Public Service Grievance Board. The recommendation is that "the board be eliminated and other ways explored for delivering the service, including increasing the opportunities for private sector involvement." I suggest to you that is code for absolutely outsourcing, contracting out, and I think that again is an area that should be very carefully explored before the announcement is made.

There are areas that without doubt have outlived their usefulness. I think it's important that we try to rationalize these things. On the other hand, it's absolutely critical that we make sure that before we shut something down, we have something that is in place that is going to absolutely do the job it's supposed to do and that we don't put some of these programs at risk for the sole reason of trying to get some fiscal savings.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): The Chair of Management Board's announcement today is remarkable in the sense that he wants to try to say to the public that he's going to save some money, but he very deliberately avoids telling people where the hits are going to be. He very deliberately avoids saying here today what areas of administrative law, what people, what institutions are going to be sacrificed to finance his tax scheme for his wealthy friends. Fortunately, we have a list of the areas that are going to be hit.

Let's look at the area of health. We know the government is vulnerable for health. We know this government wants to offload a lot of health care services on to municipalities and on to the municipal property tax. We know this government is closing hospitals and cutting hospital-at-home for the aged budgets, and this government knows that they're going to be all sorts of implementation problems. It knows it's going to have a lot of unhappy people out there who can't get the health care services they need and deserve.

What's the government going to do to make sure those people are shut out? Well, the Health Facilities Appeal Board is going to either disappear or be shoved to the side. The Health Protection Appeal Board, the Health Services Appeal Board, the Laboratory Review Board, the Nursing Homes Review Board -- Ah, yes, create chaos in the health care system, deprive people of the health care they need, but then deprive them of any means they have of having their issues addressed. That's what this is about.

Let's turn to the environment. We know this government doesn't give a hoot about the environment. The Premier says it's okay for the government to be figuring out legal defences when members of the public come to sue the government for not enforcing their own environmental laws.

If that sounds a bit like Mexico, it's exactly like Mexico. Mexico passes the environmental laws and then does away with any possibility of enforcing them. That's where this government is headed, only instead of putting their emphasis on enforcement, they're going to figure out unique legal defences to defend themselves from the public when the public wants to know why our environmental laws are not being enforced.

So the government brings in another step. On the environment, they're going to do away with the Environmental Appeal Board, the Environmental Assessment Board including the Niagara Escarpment.

We see here that health and the environment are going to help pay for this government's tax scheme for its wealthy friends.


But it goes further. The Environmental Compensation Corp: The government knows it's going to have a problem with all those members of the public who become angry and become concerned about the fact that their water, their land, their air is being polluted, and they're going to go after compensation, so the government's going to strike that off too.

Let's go down a little further. Ah, yes, the Pay Equity Commission. We already heard in the government's famous red tape report that it believes women who work in workplaces with 100 employees or less should get lower wages. This government already believes the Pay Equity Act should not apply in workplaces of 100 employees or less, so what is it going to do to facilitate that? They're going to do away with the Pay Equity Commission. They don't want the commission there to enforce pay equity. This government believes women should pay for their tax scheme for the wealthy and they're doing everything they can to ensure that happens.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission: This one's interesting. We already know from their red tape report that they want to totally turn around the Ontario Human Rights Commission. They want to put all of the emphasis on the victim. The victim will have to go out and hire their own lawyer, their own private investigator. The commission will not do anything to help them. The government's sensitive to that, so what do they say here? They're going to defer, for more study, the Ontario Human Rights Commission. People should not take any false sense of security in that. That is on the hit list as well.

Yes, the government's going to find some money for its tax scheme, but it's going to find it at the expense of people who need health care, at the expense of the environment, at the expense of low-paid women, and ultimately at the expense of human rights. Shameful.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): On Thursday, February 20, 1997, the member for Nepean (Mr Baird) rose on a point of privilege concerning the wording of a pamphlet produced by NDP caucus services.

The member was concerned about a specific statement in the pamphlet which states that: "The Harris Conservatives have downloaded more than $500 million in costs for services on to Metro. As a result, we will see services cut and property taxes rise dramatically."

I have to say to the member for Nepean that I cannot find a relationship between that statement and any particular parliamentary proceeding currently before this House. While the member has made an argument that the statement is somehow related to Bill 103, as far as I can determine, it deals with matters that are in fact not contained in that particular piece of legislation.

It is even impossible for me to know whether the policies referred to in this statement would be done through legislation or regulation.

The member himself stated that in his judgement the House has not debated one single bill with respect to the statement in question. In contrast, the subject of my ruling of January 22 clearly related to a proceeding of this House.

Therefore, I find there is no prima facie case of privilege or contempt.

In closing, I want to take this opportunity to advise all members of the House to reflect carefully on the wording used in such documents and to suggest that the Board of Internal Economy may wish to review its policy with respect to publications paid for by caucus services.

Yesterday the member for Oakwood (Mr Colle) raised a point of privilege relating to a recent court decision on Bill 103; the member for Dovercourt (Mr Silipo) and leader of the third party (Mr Hampton) raised similar points.

Before I deal with the specifics of the points raised, I want to address the issue of the jurisdiction of the Speaker.

It must be understood that as Speaker, I am restricted to ruling on matters of a parliamentary or procedural nature and not on questions of legality or constitutionality.

This is the view held by previous Speakers in this House and in other parliaments throughout the Commonwealth. It is a view shared by the parliamentary authorities.

Citation 168(5) at page 49 of Beauchesne reads as follows:

"The Speaker will not give a decision upon a constitutional question nor decide a question of law, though the same may be raised on a point of order or privilege."

In full awareness of these restrictions, let me deal with the concerns raised.

Members contended that the stance of the agent of the Attorney General in the court case respecting Bill 103 may be seen as contemptuous of this House by claiming royal prerogative and thereby diminishing the role of this House.

This is not the first time in the history of this House that members have objected to a submission that an Attorney General had made in a court of law. However, I have not found anything in my research that stands as an authority for the proposition that such submissions can raise a matter of order or privilege in this House.

The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the province and is empowered under the Ministry of the Attorney General Act, an act duly passed by this Legislature, and it is not for the Speaker to define the limitations to be placed on the Attorney General's authority.

It would be very unusual, to say the least, for a Speaker to in effect pass judgement on such submissions that form part of the core function of the Attorney General.

Now, as to the assertion of some members that the appointment and actions of the trustees were carried out before passage of Bill 103 and therefore constitute contempt, I will remind members of my January 28 ruling on this issue, at which time I stated that "there is a legal issue involved in this course of action, however, and the Speaker cannot rule on the legality of the provisions contained in legislation or the actions of a government. These would be matters for the courts to decide." I think that events have unfolded which have borne that decision out. It does not now, by virtue of a legal decision, somehow become a procedural issue.

The member for Dovercourt in his submission yesterday argued that the Speaker should take certain actions in light of the court decision. I want to respond by saying to the member that his comments might more properly be directed to the government.

Also yesterday, the member for Fort William (Mrs McLeod) raised a point of order asserting that certain provisions in Bill 104 are similar to the provisions in Bill 103 that were the subject of the recent court ruling and suggesting that the Speaker should therefore take some action. The member for Dovercourt (Mr Silipo), the member for Oriole (Mrs Caplan), the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) and the Minister of Education all made submissions on this point.

I am going to begin by reiterating what I said yesterday. It is not within the authority of the Speaker to decide on a legal issue. I am not a judge and this is not a courtroom. Regardless of how close a parallel you see between the two pieces of legislation, the question of the legality of Bill 104 is a determination that rests with the courts and the courts alone.

In this regard, I want to refer the member to a decision rendered in the House of Commons of Canada.

On May 2, 1989, Speaker Fraser delivered a ruling following arguments that provisions of the Financial Administration Act were unconstitutional and therefore the bill should be ruled out of order, arguments that I found to be similar to those raised by the member for Fort William. Speaker Fraser stated the following:

"The Speaker should not sit in judgement on constitutional or legal matters. That role belongs more properly to the courts and the administration of justice."

Speaker Fraser concluded by stating that "the government has respected all of the procedures required by the House." The same can be said in the case of Bill 104. The procedures of the House have been followed. Fundamentally, there is nothing out of order.

It's time for oral questions.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, can I get a point of clarification on your ruling?

The Speaker: A brief clarification? Can we save this clarification? Because really it's neither a point of order or privilege, and there's nothing in the rule book that talks about clarification.

Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Is what you're saying then that despite the fact that the government -- and this is a point of order, because I want to find out what the Speaker really means here -- is moving where the courts say they are moving illegally, there is nothing we in this House can do to prevent the government from moving forward with legislation which the courts say is illegal? Is that what you're saying?

The Speaker: That's really not a point of order. What I'm saying simply is this: It's not up to me as Speaker to decide what is legal and what is illegal. That is up to the courts to decide, and obviously, if it's deemed to be illegal, then the government would have to follow the law of the land. That's the catch.




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. Today I want to speak to you in your capacity as the chief advocate for the protection of patient care in Ontario hospitals. I don't want to talk to you as the deputy minister, I don't want to talk to you about programs and policies and restructuring and billions of dollars; I want to talk to you about your role as an advocate for quality patient care in Ontario hospitals.

In that capacity you should understand that you can't cut $1.3 billion from hospitals and not affect the quality of patient care. You should understand that your actions are leading to the layoff of 15,000 Ontario nurses. You can't do that and not affect the quality of patient care.

We have raised with you a number of horror stories. We have raised those because they're in connection with the result of your first $365 million in hospital cuts. Notwithstanding that, you are bent on proceeding with a further $935 million in cuts. Do you understand that by your actions you are creating a health care crisis in Ontario?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): What would be wrong is to continue what has been going on for a number of years in the health care system, and that is to spend too much money on administration, on in many cases half-empty hospital buildings, on maintenance --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Nurses are not administration.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Oriole, come to order. I want the House to be somewhat more orderly than yesterday. I would ask the members to allow the minister to answer.

Hon Mr Wilson: What we have seen -- because we're the last province to restructure our hospital system and our health system in a comprehensive way -- from all the other provinces, from governments of different political stripes covering the spectrum, is an improvement of health care services across the country, and it's time Ontario improved the system.

We have not removed $1.3 billion from hospitals. We are in the process of reinvesting every dollar that we've seen in savings so far from hospitals back into the health care system, including hospitals. Today our reinvestments far exceed in dollar amounts anything we've seen in savings from the system to date.

Mr McGuinty: Your job is to address the very serious problem of patient care in hospitals today. It's not to stand there and talk in some kind of a rarefied and abstract way about restructuring and what you're going to do in the future. Patients are suffering today, now, in Ontario hospitals.

Even your own experts say your cuts are not realistic in a three-year time frame. They say it's going to further hurt patient care, and your own hospital hatchet man, Duncan Sinclair, says your cuts are making him close hospitals first and figure out what replaces them later.

You won't listen to us; you're obviously not prepared to listen to patients who put their stories through us into this House. Will you not at least listen to your own experts, who tell us that you are hurting patients in this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: When the honourable member's party was in government in this province, and the previous government, just slightly under 10,000 hospital beds were closed. What previous governments failed to do was to reduce the administration then and to amalgamate those hospital buildings into fewer buildings.

We will have fewer hospital buildings in the province but we'll have more nurses, modern technologies, the newest drug therapies and greater access and higher-quality services in the buildings that remain. That is the goal of Dr Duncan Sinclair and the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

They are guided by the principles of improved quality, greater access and, yes, sustained affordability of the system, because many more people in the next few years will become senior citizens. They're going to require more hospital care and more health care and we're preparing the system for that inevitability while looking after today's patients.

The fact that your party and members from time to time bring up individual cases that point out problems in the system speaks volumes to me, and I think to the people of Ontario, that the system has to change. We have to learn from those problems and we have to work --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: Your job is to lend comfort to Ontario's sick today. Your job is to reassure them that you will protect their right to quality health care. Far from reassuring them, Ontario patients and their loved ones are frightened of having to either stay in or visit an Ontario hospital. Health care is an extremely important issue, as you well recognize, and many people were induced to vote for your government because of an assurance that the Premier provided on province-wide TV during a debate. I want to repeat what he said. He said, "Certainly I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals." That is what your leader said.

So far, you've closed 10 hospitals. There are at least 18 others on the immediate chopping block, and we could very well end up with one third of Ontario hospitals being closed as a result of your policies. Just today you closed three more in London and you've stolen, on top of that, 70 million of their health care dollars.

Minister, will you admit today that it is your cuts that are causing the patient care --

The Speaker: Thank you very much. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: This government has not cut one penny of health care. The fact of the matter is, the budget is up significantly, and certainly at the level of $17.7 billion, it's some $700 million more than what the Liberals promised in their red book.

I think the honourable member has a lot of audacity to try and lecture this government about health care and about health care spending when it's your federal cousins, Mr Chrétien and Mr Martin, who have cut our health care transfers --


The Speaker: Order. Minister, just a minute. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: I would remind people that the facts speak for themselves in this debate. The federal government has cut us some $2 billion in health and social service transfers. We've had to cut many, many other things in government. There used to be about 30 cabinet ministers; there's 19 now. We got rid of our pensions. We've cut other ministries dramatically and we've put more money into health care because our goal is to have a more efficient, more accessible, modern health care system with the newest technologies to ensure that people are well served into the future.

The Speaker: New question. Leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: The question is for the Minister of Health again. A short time ago I received a letter from Mr Keith Cooper, a 32-year-old man from St Catharines. He was involved in a car accident in January of this year. He was rushed by ambulance to the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, and there he lay on a hard backboard for several hours before being seen by a doctor. When he was seen, he was told that the hospital did not have the necessary diagnostic equipment and that it would be necessary to transfer him to another hospital for those purposes.

He stayed in a hospital bed for three days, in pain and not knowing what his injuries were, before being transferred. An Ontario patient in an Ontario hospital lay in a bed for three days after suffering severe injuries in a car accident, not knowing what he was suffering from and not having any diagnosis and not even having any commencement of treatment.

The Speaker: Question?

Mr McGuinty: How could this possibly happen on your watch?

Hon Mr Wilson: The fact that from time to time we have individual cases raised that point out problems in our health care speaks volumes for the need to restructure. If we had fewer and more efficient hospital buildings, we would actually be able to concentrate more services, more nurses, modern technology in those remaining hospitals. That's the consensus of the health care community, it's the consensus of the commission and it's the consensus of all of the experts who give this government advice and give your party advice, frankly, on health care.

That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to do it as quickly as possible so at the end of the day we have that modern technology available and when people see the blue H on the highway and they pull into one of our hospitals, it's not like what you did with closed emergency wards in Shelburne and throughout the province or 18-hour emergency wards rather than 24-hour emergency wards, but that they're full-service --


The Speaker: Member for Windsor-Sandwich, I'm warning you to come to order; the member for Hamilton East as well. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: -- but that that blue H stands for a full-service, modern hospital with the latest technologies and the highest quality health care available in the world today.

Mr McGuinty: When it comes to improving health care in Ontario, your cure is worse than the disease.

This is what happened to Keith Cooper when he was finally transferred to another hospital: He was diagnosed as having shattered vertebrae and he was told he would require five hours of surgery to clean out the shattered bone and replace that bone with other bone from his hip. Throughout it all, he was in intense pain.


On the first day that his surgery was scheduled, it was rescheduled four times before being cancelled. On the second day, it was scheduled and rescheduled five times before being cancelled. On the third day -- this is the sixth day since the car accident; this man has yet to be treated. On the sixth day he received the surgery after it was rescheduled two more times. Six days after breaking his back in a car accident in Ontario, a patient is finally treated at an Ontario hospital.

In his letter, Keith talks about it taking over an hour for a nurse to arrive after his IV fell out, which was supplying --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: Again, it would be very unfair to blame the restructuring for these problems. The restructuring is only --


The Speaker: The member for Oriole, it's a final warning. You have to come to order. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: The hospitals monitor very carefully the quality, and they have quality councils to ensure that the quality is maintained and indeed enhanced. As we go through the restructuring, we're going to see dollars freed up so that the hospital buildings that remain will have all of the service needed to serve the patients who arrive at those buildings.

The fact that individual cases are raised today when the restructuring has not taken place, it's just beginning, speaks volumes for the need to continue to redouble our efforts and to move towards those modern, fully equipped hospitals that we all want for the people we serve in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: Let's hear Keith Cooper's analysis of what's going wrong. He says: "The doctors, nurses, assistants and aides were cheerful and helpful despite being clearly overburdened. I noticed that all personnel spent their shifts in an unending frenzy of rushing from one duty to another just to prevent themselves from falling behind. In my case, and in many others I noted, relatives were either asked or simply volunteered to attend to the needs of their loved ones for lack of hospital personnel." That lack of hospital personnel is a direct result of your cuts. There is no two ways about it. Patient care is suffering in Ontario as a result of your actions.

Minister, do we have to raise more horror stories in here day after day after day? Do we have to tell you how your policies are hurting Ontario patients? Are you going to stand up right now and say, "I admit I made a mistake and I'm not going to proceed with the cuts"?

Hon Mr Wilson: Tens of thousands of Ontarians receive the best health care available in the world today right here in Ontario and in our hospitals. I'm very, very proud as Minister of Health, and I know all members of the government side are, at least, very proud of the work that our nurses and our doctors do to treat tens of thousands of patients every day in our over 200 public hospitals in the province.

In spite of the $2 billion in federal cuts to health, we spend 6% more per person in Ontario than any other province in Canada, and we're right up there with -- we're either number one, two or three in the entire world on health care spending right here in the province of Ontario, depending on how you measure it.

We spend enough money. The honourable member said that in the debates when he was running for the leadership of his party. We all agree that we have to restructure the system and make sure that money is spent on the patient you mentioned, and make sure that we continue every day to work towards improving the quality and making sure we indeed have a world-class system and Ontarians are confident.

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

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Minister of Health. I would say to the Minister of Health that it's obvious to everybody else out there that you're not changing health care, you're cutting health care. I think you ought to own up to it.

Speaking about cuts, we've learned this morning that your hospital restructuring commission has decided that both mental health facilities in the London area, the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital and the London Psychiatric Hospital, are to close. That means 300 beds for mental health gone. It means taking $46 million a year out of mental health in southwestern Ontario.

Minister, your commission made a recommendation. They recommended that you reinvest the full $46 million in community-based services. I ask you, will you make a commitment here today to reinvest the full $46 million in London, in southwestern Ontario, in mental health?

Hon Mr Wilson: During this 30-day process -- right now the commission has made its interim findings in London -- it's inappropriate at this point for the government to give its official response. That response will come during the 30 days and it will be made fully public.

I'll want to have further discussions, now that they've made some decisions, with the commission to see how they want that money spent. The commission has ordered, and we're all bound by this, that the plan be in place for mental health services before any of the changes are made in the psychiatric hospitals.

I will remind people again that the beds have been closed in those psych hospitals for years. They were built for almost 1,160 beds, I think, and for the last few years only 38% of those two buildings has actually ever been used to see patients. There's been a tremendous waste in maintenance and administration in those hospitals, and the commission is doing the right --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Supplementary, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: What's interesting is that in Thunder Bay, in Sudbury and now it appears in London the minister has no trouble endorsing the commission's recommendations on closure of institutions, but when it comes to making a commitment to reinvestment he moves to the side, he moves back to the other side, he tries to find a place to hide.

The question is very simple. You're taking $46 million a year out of mental health in the London area, and your own commission is recommending that you reinvest $46 million a year into community-based mental health services. That's the question. I understand why you're trying to hesitate. You're trying to hesitate because you want to take that $46 million and slide it over to the Minister of Finance so he can put it into his tax cut for your wealthy friends. That's the real game that's going on here.

Minister, why don't you speak up for health care? Make the commitment today --

The Speaker: Thank you, Leader. Minister of Health, go ahead.

Hon Mr Wilson: We're making the commitment. The honourable member is premature. We might have to spend more than $46 million. That's been the case in other parts of the province so far with restructuring. We've actually had to spend more than what the commission is recommending in terms of community investments, and those plans and those announcements are well under way.

I must admit that the $46 million of new money on mental health for one area of the province is more than the NDP spent in its entire five years. You announced a community investment fund of $20 million, and during your entire five years you never spent one penny. That was $20 million for the whole province. We came to office in 1995, and one of our first announcements was to begin to flow $23 million into the community investment fund.

We didn't make airy-fairy announcements, and I'm not going to be pressured into making one like you used to make. When we flow dollars under our budgeting system, we mean those dollars are flowing and the real, hard services are going in place. We're going to work with the commission to make sure those services are up and running for the people --


The Speaker: Member for Sudbury East, I ask you to come to order, and the member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Hampton: That lecture coming from a Minister of Health who not a month before the last election said, "No hospitals will be closed by a Progressive Conservative government" -- "No hospitals will be closed" was your statement -- rings hollow all across the province.

We have an example of some reinvestment. Yesterday when we challenged this minister about cardiac care, he came up with all kinds of excuses. He said that it was a matter of capacity. But today, after getting some letters from some physicians and having the facts explained to him again, he finally admitted that there had to be more reinvestment in cardiac care. If you are making policy, Minister, it appears that you're making it on the fly.


My issue is this. Minister, you talk about capacity. If capacity is not the availability of operating rooms, the availability of acute care beds, the appropriate number of nurses to care for patients, then what is it?

Hon Jim Wilson: I will apologize for my comments yesterday. I was in error. I had misread a note that was given to me by the department. I have corrected that error today and indeed we are flowing dollars immediately to the hospitals.

We made the largest single investment in recent years in cardiac surgery, some 19% increase in cardiac surgeries. We were told to do that last year by the Cardiac Care Network over three years. We flowed the dollars over two years -- so we speeded up the process -- and they've come back just recently when Mr Johnson was in the chair and asked for some more money to catch about 277 cardiac patients on the waiting list. We're going to flow those dollars right away to make sure those lists are shortened up and will be meeting on Monday with Mr Monaghan and others from the Cardiac Care Network to further develop long-range plans.

The province is growing a little older and getting incidents of heart disease even more often than the experts are predicting --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: My next question is to the minister responsible for municipal affairs. I'd say to the Minister of Health, though, it is sad that people have to die on the cardiac waiting list before you recognize your mistakes.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Municipal Affairs, yesterday the Ontario Court of Justice threw out your attempt to assert a divine right of kings over local councils in Toronto. You've tried to shrug off the ruling, saying it has nothing to do with your legislation.

Minister, on January 14 in this Legislature you said, "However, as the trustees' right to examine municipal decisions will be retroactive to the day this legislation was introduced, it is in everyone's interests to cooperate with them."

It's clear that through Bill 103 and your trustees you are trying to intimidate municipal staff into doing something that you don't have the legal authority to enforce. You are wrong, Minister, and you are wrong about Bill 103. Will you go back to the drawing board, withdraw Bill 103 and sit down and begin a discussion with the people of Toronto?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I just want to ensure that the record shows that in that statement I made in January I also indicated that the trustees had no legal jurisdiction until such time as the legislation passed.

The court's decision yesterday only addressed the issue of processing an order in council prior to the legislation being passed. That's all the judgement called for. We have always said, as I indicated yesterday, that the trustees had no legal powers until such time as the legislation is passed. We've repeatedly said that.

What we wanted the trustees to do in the interim was to provide advice to municipalities after we introduce the legislation. It was the municipalities that were calling, asking who the trustees were and when they could meet to speak to them.

Mr Hampton: Sometimes this minister borders on the theatre of the absurd. This is what the judge said: You broke the law; you were acting outside the law. He said: "As a practical matter the municipal councils must conform now to...an act not yet in force. If these orders in council were allowed to stand, the government would be allowed to do indirectly what it cannot do directly." You'd be allowed to do unlawfully what you cannot do lawfully. The judge said you broke the law. Admit it -- now.

The real issue here is everything else you've done: You've been found in contempt of the Legislature, a prima facie case; you've accused the mayors of electoral fraud --

Hon Mr Leach: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The comments made by the member are incorrect and I'd ask that he -- that situation did not occur, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Although I know in the past that you've attempted to rise, I did think he added after "contempt," "on a prima facie case." I agree with --


The Speaker: Order. The minister has a good point here. The House did not find a prima facie case of contempt, so we have to be clear on what it is we're saying in the future.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): He came in to apologize.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Cochrane South.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): We're just helping him along. Listen to him.

The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, I appreciate your assistance. I would caution all members, when referring to that particular ruling, that we do so in the proper manner. Minister of Municipal Affairs, I accept that and I would caution the members of the House. Leader?

Mr Hampton: Speaker, to be sure, you found a prima facie case of contempt against this minister, and this minister accused the mayors of electoral fraud.

Minister, here it is: You've broken the law; a prima facie case of contempt against you; you've accused the mayors of electoral fraud. I'll tell you where this has gotten you: 68% of the people in Metropolitan Toronto now say they're going to vote no to your scheme.

Show some humility and show some credibility. Withdraw Bill 103 before you make another mistake.

Hon Mr Leach: I guess that's better than 90% that voted against the NDP in the last election.

To repeat --


The Speaker: It's all of their time. Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Again to address the issue, it was the processing of the orders in council that was in question. To repeat, we have been consistent in stating that the trustees did not have any legal jurisdiction until the legislation was passed. I can tell the House that the work that has been done by the trustees over the past month has been of great assistance to the municipalities. As a matter of fact, there will be a number of amendments introduced to the legislation as a result of the input from the trustees and their interface with the municipalities over the time they were there.

We certainly accept the position of the judge yesterday, and the board of trustees has been directed not to carry out any more work until the legislation --


The Speaker: Thank you. Members for Cochrane South and Welland-Thorold, please come to order. Thank you.

Mr Hampton: To explain it again to the minister, the courts said you broke the law. You can try to finesse that any way you like; that's the fact.

There's another fact here. Deloitte and Touche, a respected chartered accounting firm, has just done an analysis of your KPMG report. I know you don't want to hear this. I know --


The Speaker: Order. Government members, I appreciate the helpfulness of the government side as well, but it would be helpful if you just allowed him to continue.

Member for Durham East. Thank you.

Mr Hampton: This is what they say: "It is clear to us at this stage that there has not been put forth any concrete evidence that would support that there are savings of up to $865 million over the first three years and $300 million annually thereafter." That's what they say about your scheme: no proof whatsoever. They're basically being polite.


In fact, Minister, according to the Environics poll, 53% of the people in Metropolitan Toronto believe their property taxes are going to go up under your scheme; only 7% believe they're going to go down. The taxpayers believe your scheme is taking them in the wrong direction.

Hon Mr Leach: I've never heard of an accounting firm the member mentioned. However, the report produced by KPMG is backed up by KPMG, one of the most respected firms in North America, and I believe its numbers are correct.

I know that when amalgamation takes place and we have an opportunity to introduce best-practice standards throughout the new city, the costs of running government in this area will reduce. There will be the elimination of waste and duplication that we have now. There will be the elimination of six fire departments and seven planning departments and seven garbage departments. There will be substantial savings as a result of that as soon as this legislation is passed.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Ministry of Energy and it has to do with the safety of Ontario's nuclear generating stations. Minister, yesterday, after more than a year of delay, you finally released a damning report on the safety of Ontario Hydro's nuclear reactors. This report was hidden for over a year. In fact, Ontario Hydro even went to court to keep its contents secret, and now we know why.

That report makes it look like Homer Simpson would be very comfortable working at Ontario's nuclear reactors. We've got accounts of workers sleeping on the job. We've got accounts of workers playing computer games. The report describes further situations which, if not corrected, "increase the probability of a significant event, with serious consequences," at the plant.

Minister, what do you have to say to the people living in the shadows of our nuclear reactors? How can they expect to have any confidence in the safety of those plants with that kind of report in front of them?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): We are of course concerned with the safety of our nuclear facilities. The members for Durham West, Durham East and Bruce have been in constant contact with me over these kinds of issues as they are expressed by their residents.

The peer reports which the Leader of the Opposition is talking about were for the time period which was basically covered by the previous government and the previous chair of Hydro, from 1992 to 1995. There have been many corrective actions taken since that point in time.

The nature of a peer review report is like an internal audit and is practised by various nuclear facilities across the world. This is a very common procedure. By the very nature of disclosure of the information, it impugns the process in the future to have people come forward with honest, straightforward information. That's the theory of it.

Mr McGuinty: I have an internal memo of the Atomic Energy Control Board written in August of last year. It reads as follows, in part: "Pickering A risk assessment shows a relatively high severe core damage frequency. The severe core damage frequency as published is higher than is normally calculated in other risk assessments worldwide." It also says, "Nuclear safety, supervision and management issues continues to be a significant problem."

Minister, you're telling us that everything is fine or that the responsibility lies somehow with the previous government. This licence is up for renewal now. It was only extended for six months last time. The usual length of extension is for two years. That licence is up for renewal. When I hear, as a member of the public, that Pickering has a "relatively high severe core damage frequency," I get concerned. Why aren't you?

Hon Mr Sterling: Of course I'm concerned and of course I have to rely as a minister on the Atomic Energy Control Board, which is a federal agency, as you know, and is responsible for the regulating and licensing of these facilities. When they examined the safety procedures of the Pickering plant and issued a licence in December for a further six months, I presumed they knew what they were doing because they are a very credible organization and therefore approved what was going on there.

I might add that over the past six months the chairman of Hydro has recognized the concern shown by the AECB and last summer created a nuclear safety review committee to oversee the utility's nuclear program, and more recently, about a month ago, appointed a seven-member team of nuclear experts --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister. New question, third party.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ma question est pour le ministre de la Santé.

Vous le savez, je vous rappelle, que suite à un incident l'automne dernier ici à l'Assemblée législative, le premier ministre a affirmé aux journalistes que votre gouvernement n'était pas seulement pour protéger les services en français, mais que vous alliez les promouvoir. Comme vous le savez, la commission de restructuration des hôpitaux a recommandé que l'hôpital Montfort, le seul hôpital francophone en Ontario, soit fermé.

Je vous rappelle que c'est votre gouvernement qui a fait cette promesse l'automne passé que vous n'alliez pas seulement protéger les services en français, mais que vous alliez les promouvoir.

Êtant donné que vous avez fait cette promesse, êtes-vous prêt à renverser la décision de la commission de restructuration pour empêcher la fermeture de l'hôpital Montfort, le seul hôpital francophone en Ontario ?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank the honourable member for the question. I know he's very sincere in stating the concerns that have been expressed by some members of the francophone or French-language community in Ottawa-Carleton. The Health Services Restructuring Commission, under the leadership of Dr Duncan Sinclair, I think shares your depth of sincerity on this issue. They've gone to great pains to ensure that a plan is in place and will be further developed to ensure that French-language services are available to the people who need those services in Ottawa-Carleton.

There are a number of health care institutions already in that area designated to provide those services now, and I think you'll see a maintenance of the level of service now available; in fact, I think you'll see an improvement.

M. Bisson : Ce n'est pas acceptable. Ce n'est pas ma sincérité que le monde d'Ottawa craint, c'est la vôtre. Je vous rappelle que c'est votre décision, c'est vous qui est en charge, c'est votre gouvernement qui va faire cette décision, et c'est seulement à vous, comme ministre de la Santé, de renverser la décision de cette commission.

Je reviens à ma question : l'automne passé, suite à un incident malheureux ici à l'Assemblée où je me suis fait dire, «Speak English,» le jour suivant, le premier ministre essayait de rassurer le communauté francophone que votre gouvernement non seulement respecterait les services en français, mais que vous alliez les promouvoir.

Avec la fermeture de l'hôpital Montfort, est-ce que votre gouvernement dit à la communauté francophone, «Speak English,» quand on veut avoir des services en français ?

Hon Mr Wilson: The hospital building itself doesn't provide the services; it's the people. Many of the staff from Montfort Hospital will acquire new jobs in the Civic and in the General and in the other hospitals that remain. It's the people who speak the language, it's the people who love the culture, not the building. Those people will move and they'll provide more services.

There was a case raised yesterday by the other opposition party about a patient being transferred from one hospital to another and allegedly not being able to receive services. There will be better French-language services. They will be required by the law. The law is fully intact, the French Language Services Act, as the people move to provide those services. The Ottawa Heart Institute, in fact, perhaps will gain under this scenario and have more people on staff who speak French, and that's where the heart surgery is done, not at Montfort Hospital. So I can see a number of scenarios where French-language services will improve for the people who need those services.



Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Yesterday, Torontonians were greeted with yet another announcement of a world-class aquarium in a series, a procession of announcements that have been made over the years of such a proposal for an aquarium. Can you tell us what makes this one more likely to take place, and if it does take place, why is it taking place on crown land, on public sector land? What is the relationship between the operator, Ontario Place and the government? What will be the job spinoffs and what will be the spinoffs for tourism?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very happy to respond to the member for High Park-Swansea. This is a very good example of more private sector participation with our government and it underlines the thrust of our government to have this happen. It's going to be located on public lands at the eastern end of Ontario Place. It is an investment of more than $80 million. It is a facility of more than 100,000 square feet. There will be 300 construction jobs and 150 full-time jobs. The forecast is two million visitors per year. It is very good news for Ontario's economic development and it means more jobs for our province.

Mr Shea: Now we come to the hard part of the question. The last time an aquarium was proposed for this municipality, there was a huge debate about whether there would be mammals such as whales and dolphins involved in the aquarium.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Tell us a fish story, Derwyn.

Mr Shea: It may not be of any concern to the members of the third party, but it is to a lot of other people in Metropolitan Toronto and beyond. Will you tell this House what will be the policy in terms of mammals at the aquarium? Will there be whales and dolphins held in captivity?

Hon Mr Saunderson: There's never an easy question from that gentleman over there, particularly when the seals over there are all making a noise. There will be many thousands of fish, many species of fish, and there will be one million gallons of water in the aquarium, but there will be no whales or dolphins. They will not be displayed.

There will be a special exhibit on Canada's marine life. The goal of the builders, Ripley Entertainment Inc, is to build the best aquarium in the world. There will be technical facilities for our schools and our university students. It's just another example of the confidence that will be shown in our special area of Toronto.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. Your restructuring of health care is continuing to create chaos across Ontario. You have created a crisis in almost every community. You have cut hospital budgets, and you are going to reinvest that into community health care. In my own community, you cut over $30 million out of hospital budgets. Then you moved to cut $8.5 million out of Macassa Lodge -- community health care. Let me give you a couple of examples of the impact this is having.

Mrs Fitzpatrick, a constituent in Hamilton Mountain, suffered a major stroke in August 1996 and was put on a waiting list for surgery in March 1997. In January 1997 she suffered another major stroke. Her doctor made it very clear in talking to us that it would have been avoided had she received surgery and medical attention earlier.

Ms Jeanette Guigue, of Hamilton, in July 1996 was brought into an emergency room in a Hamilton hospital as a result of chest pains. There was a shortage of beds, a shortage of nurses, confusion in the emergency room. She was released. An hour and a half later, she died in the arms of her common-law spouse at home. Can you explain to these families who have family members at Macassa Lodge how your cuts are not hurting people?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): In the time period the honourable member is discussing, we were just beginning to improve services in the health care system. The fact of the matter is that Hamilton is about to undergo, when the commission gets to Hamilton, restructuring. The fact of the matter is that today we're wasting money on things other than spending that money on patients. I think all members honestly agree that we have to pool the money and make sure that we have more nurses and more services available in the hospital buildings that remain.

The honourable member may wish to also bring the individual particulars of this case to the ministry's attention, and I'd be happy to facilitate that, because it's very important that as problems occur and as individual cases occur, every day we --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.

Hon Mr Wilson: -- ensure that we take every step possible to make sure that those problems don't occur again and that corrections are made.

Mr Agostino: I wish I could bring those cases to your attention, but in one she has already passed away and the other one has suffered a second major stroke as a result of waiting. It's a little late for those folks. Let me tell you that the chief of medical staff at Joe Brant hospital, Dr Ben Carruthers, in response to your cuts, said: "It's not the level of care a community expects or deserves. It will reduce quality and it will increase health care risks."

As a result of your policies, Joe Brant hospital has now put in a policy where men and women have to share rooms as a result of a bed shortage. That's a result of your cuts. That policy was abandoned many years ago across this province. Your own member for Burlington South suggested that accident victims or people who are injured in Hamilton or Stoney Creek, because there's a shortage in Burlington and the emergency room was closed, should now be taken to Joe Brant hospital.

You're now putting walls, you're now dividing communities, you're now putting hospital against hospital. How long can you continue this reckless abandonment of health care in Ontario and how many people have to die or be turned away from emergency hospitals before you come to your senses and restore some sanity to health care in this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: Ontario is the last province to restructure its health care system. As I look at the literature that's available, and in the discussions I've had with other health ministers across Canada, clearly restructuring improves the quality and the accessibility of services.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): In Alberta?

Hon Mr Wilson: Yes, in Alberta, in Saskatchewan. Ask the Liberal health ministers, ask Dr King, the chair --

Mr Kennedy: It didn't work.


The Speaker: The member for York South, come to order, please, and the member for Oriole. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: Ask Dr Russell King, chair of Canada's health ministers this year, who's undergone extensive restructuring in New Brunswick and was able to improve. Ask the Liberal health minister in Newfoundland who closed a hospital in his own riding and was able to show that access improved because they took a couple of hospitals that were half-empty, put them together and ended up with more nurses, more doctors, modern drug therapies and modern technologies.

That's what we're trying to do here in Ontario with the help of the Health Services Restructuring Commission. They themselves are recognized throughout the world as leaders in restructuring the health care system and we're using and relying on the advice from those --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question. Third party.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I want to raise the concerns of people of the Picton area with respect to your proposed closure of Prince Edward Heights. As you know, this is a facility for people with developmental disabilities. There are about 228 clients living there, many of whom have lived there for most of their lives. Most of these clients are adults.

I want to be very clear with you: Our party supports deinstitutionalization and moves to the community, but you're closing this facility at the same time as you are cutting supports to the community. You can't transfer people to the community when the supports aren't there.

In addition to that, there will always be some clients who function at a level so low that they require the intensive supports like those at a facility such as Prince Edward. It is incredible. There's a ward system, with professional staff, kinesiologists and others who work with those low-level-functioning clients, that is world-class. There's a village setting that is phenomenal.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question.

Ms Lankin: I actually believe if you went there and you saw that, you would agree with us that this is one facility that you shouldn't close, that you need that resource for the people who are there now and who will need that service in the future.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I appreciate the concern that motivates the question. It's a very difficult issue as we try and do what many other governments have been doing, what many other jurisdictions are doing, and take people from institutions and give them better quality care in the community.


The member is right to point out that some individuals require different kinds of care in the community. Some are able to live more independently; others need round-the-clock care. That is one of the reasons why, in the announcement last year, we're taking the next four years to slowly build the community supports, so that as these transfers take place, those families can rest assured that their loved ones, their children will get the care they need.

As the honourable member also knows, one of the things we are doing in moving resources from the institutions is taking those resources and transferring them to those very important community supports. It was a move that her government supported as well.

The Speaker: Supplementary. Leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): We wanted to give this supplementary to your member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings, Mr Fox, but he's not here any more, or not around, so I'll ask it.

I was in Picton a week ago for a community meeting to which you were invited, Minister. You were invited to the community meeting to talk about the closing of Prince Edward Heights. I went, you didn't, and I heard first hand from the people who were there that they see the community supports being cut; first hand that they know there are people now at Prince Edward Heights who can't survive in the outside community. They simply will not be able to exist in the outside community, especially if you cut the community supports.

I also heard that closing Prince Edward Heights affects the whole community of Picton. It means pulling $20 million out of the local economy in a town of 4,000 people.

Minister, I think you owe it to the residents at Prince Edward Heights and to the people who work there to go to the community and to hear their case. Will you commit to doing that, going there, talking to the people and seeing the facilities?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would like to remind the honourable member that I don't think trying to politicize this particular issue is going to help the families with the residents they have in this particular facility.

I would like to remind the honourable member as well that the Prince Edward Association for Community Living applauded the provincial government's plan to move people from institutions back to the community. They said last summer when we made this announcement: "This is a great day for people with developmental disabilities and their families. We hold the view that all people have a right to a decent life in the community. This is an important step on the path towards that vision."

I would also like to remind the honourable member that I can appreciate that members of the union who have staged the meeting and who wanted to get their concerns on the record have concerns about their jobs. I appreciate that. I have a concern about making sure that the services and the supports are there for those members who are moving from the institution --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I've been asked by a number of municipalities in my riding about the changes which are occurring as a result of the change of responsibilities between the provincial and municipal levels of government. Would the minister please tell me what process has been put in place to allow municipalities a say in the formulation of requirements for the $1-billion community reinvestment fund, the $800-million municipal capital and operating fund and the $700-million municipal social assistance reserve fund?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for Norfolk for giving me the opportunity to tell the House about our partnership with municipalities and how we're going to deal with the Who Does What fiscal swap.

On February 21, I jointly announced with the Minister of Community and Social Services and the president of AMO the creation of two special transition teams that will be recommending ways of designing and implementing the proposed changes. Chairing both of the committees is Terry Mundell, president of AMO. The member for Chatham-Kent, Jack Carroll, who is the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services, will co-chair the social and community health services team, and the member for Oxford, Ernie Hardeman, who is the parliamentary assistant to my ministry, will co-chair the provincial-municipal team.

The first issue these teams will explore will be the design and distribution of the three funds to help ensure that the special needs of Ontario's municipalities are met.

Mr Barrett: Could the minister further inform the House about the reaction of the municipal community to the announcement of these two panels?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I would like to thank the member for his question, and share with all the members of the House the positive feedback we're getting from the municipal community. Municipalities have been assured that these teams, in the transition, will help implement the new municipal and provincial responsibilities in a very smooth manner. We're looking for advice from the municipalities on how best to proceed, and we are prepared to explore all the options with those municipalities. Terry Mundell, the president of the association, says that he feels very optimistic now that municipalities are at the table to assist us in this design and plan for change.

We feel it's essential for the province to work hand-in-hand with the municipalities, that we have to be partners in this process. They're there with us to make sure the transition works very smoothly.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. Minister, I listened with interest yesterday as you and the member for Huron bemoaned the fact that the Huron Board of Education was going to spend $7,500 on a court challenge to Bill 104 rather than spending it on textbooks. My first question is very simple. In fact it's a grade 5 mathematics problem. If the average textbook costs $25, how many textbooks can Johnny buy for $749,878?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm not surprised that the member opposite would ask the question. I'm a little surprised his research department couldn't give him the answer. Perhaps ours can, and I'll take the question under advisement.

Mr Bartolucci: Well, you could have asked any one of the pages who are in grades 7 and 8 and they would have told you. As the Minister of Education, you should have been able to figure out that you would have got 29,995 textbooks. Let me quote from Hansard when you said yesterday: "Spending $800,000...enough for textbooks for a thousand classrooms."

Minister, would you tell the people of Ontario that the answer you gave me to my order paper question is correct when you said: "The Ministry of Education and Training is running television ads featuring Premier Harris. The total cost of these ads is $749,878"? That's enough textbooks for a thousand classrooms. Will you tell the people of Ontario that the answer you gave me is correct, that $749,878 of their money is being spent on education ads featuring the Premier?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I welcome the question because it's an opportunity to address what is obviously a rather confused member. Yes, the government is getting its message out about changes to education to the people of Ontario, and improvements to education to the people of Ontario. Yes, we have boards across the province that have also issued information to people, and we have not objected to that. What we do object to is the cost being put into a legal format which is not necessary.

I can give the member opposite one more piece of information that may be useful to him. With our new funding plan we will make sure that the number of textbooks in the classrooms across the province is the number that is needed.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): With due respect to the Liberal Party, there is only so much time in question period. Clearly, if I get up the NDP will lose their question, and I think it's only appropriate that you respond appropriately with the little time left.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It's quite clear I won't have the supplementary, so I'll try to combine the questions.

Minister, this morning our leader, Howard Hampton, and the federal leader of the NDP, Alexa McDonough, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien urging him to break off negotiations with your government on the downloading of federal housing units. Tomorrow night hundreds of co-op members are going to be gathering together at a rally to fight this particular problem that they know is going to be one of the biggest worries they will have faced.


It's been estimated that if interest rates go up by 1%, it will cost municipalities $111 million a year. We fear and the co-op members fear that their plan to dump co-ops and non-profit housing on to the municipalities will put municipalities' property taxpayers and families at risk.

Minister, my question to you is: If the interest rates go up, who's going to pay?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): With the $6.2 billion in education costs coming off the property tax, that leaves a huge amount of room for municipalities to pick up the services we're asking them to be responsible for.

The municipalities have approached me and said, "We believe that we're best equipped to handle the administration and operation of social housing." Municipalities are responsible for social housing now. Have you ever heard of Cityhome? Have you ever heard of MTHA, the Metro housing organization? They're responsible for them now; they pay the subsidy now.

By the way, we're in negotiations with the federal government. We want to ensure that the federal money that flows to social housing from the federal government continues to do so, and I'm confident that it will.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 96(d), Mrs Pupatello and Mr Doyle exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business. I think that's what they want.

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


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I also move that the following substitutions be made to the membership of the standing committees:

On the standing committee on administration of justice, Mr Kormos for Mr Wildman and Mr Christopherson for Mrs Boyd; on the standing committee on estimates, Ms Lankin for Mr Kormos; and on the standing committee on social development, Mrs Boyd for Ms Lankin.

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; and

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition from the firefighters of Ontario, and like all my colleagues who have read these, I will read one into the record today. It reads:

"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I add my signature to this petition.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:

"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."


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Windsor-Essex county was the first community to undergo hospital restructuring; and

"Whereas the community supported the recommendations of the Win-Win report based on a funding model that included the expansion of community-based care; and

"Whereas recent reports estimate that Windsor-Essex hospitals are underfunded by approximately $122 million; and

"Whereas this represents the lowest funding per capita for hospital services of any community in Ontario with a population of over 200,000; and

"Whereas hospitals across the province have been forced to further reduce expenditures 18%; and

"Whereas these cuts have forced hospitals to eliminate emergency services in the west end of Windsor and cut desperately needed services; and

"Whereas the minister acknowledged that additional funding was necessary in high-growth areas; and

"Whereas Ontarians are gravely concerned with the historic $1.3-billion cut to base funding of hospitals;

"Whereas Ontarians feel that health services are suffering; and

"Whereas the government is reducing hospital funding and not reinvesting millions of dollars into the communities that they are being taken away from;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Conservative government to stop the cuts to base funding for hospitals across Ontario and to ensure that community services are in place before the removal of hospital services. The Conservative government must fund hospitals with a funding formula that reflects demographic and regional needs. The Conservative government must ensure that health services are available, including emergency and urgent care to all Ontarians."

I affix my signature.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I have a petition here signed by a whole whack of people concerned about what's happening to firefighters across the province under the guise of Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I have signed my name to this petition.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I continue to receive this petition from residents of East York. It's addressed to Legislative Assembly of Ontario and 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."


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I have a petition dealing with Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

This is duly signed, and I affix my signature to this as well.



Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition here addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and

"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control over schools and school programs; and

"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence to the government in the province of Ontario."

It's signed by people from Kapuskasing, Fauquier, Moonbeam and all throughout Cochrane North. I affix my signature to the petition.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): On behalf of the member for St George-St David, I have a petition in support of continuing Ministry of Health funding for the Regent Park Community Health Centre signed by a number of people in his riding, and I'm pleased to present it.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have another petition addressed 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 concur, and I will affix my signature to it.


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

"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."

This is signed by 15 residents of Burlington. I agree with the petitioners, and I have signed it as well.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Ontarians are gravely concerned with the historic $1.3-billion cut to base funding of hospitals; and

"Whereas Ontarians feel that health services are suffering; and

"Whereas the government is reducing hospital funding and not reinvesting millions of dollars into the communities that they are being taken away from;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Conservative government to stop the cuts to base funding for hospitals across Ontario and to ensure that community services are in place before the removal of hospital services. The Conservative government must fund hospitals with a funding formula that reflects demographic and regional needs. The Conservative government must ensure that health services are available, including emergency and urgent care, to all Ontarians."

That's signed by 46 people from my riding.


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

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and

"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control over schools and school programs; and

"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence to the government in the province of Ontario."

That's signed by a good number of my constituents from the Dryden area, and I attach my name to that petition as well.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by citizens from Hamilton, Stoney Creek and Burlington. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I proudly add my name to theirs.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition from my riding. I must say that the Minister of Health is addressing most of their concerns, but I will read it to the House. It's a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Ontarians are gravely concerned with the historic $1.3-billion cut to base funding of hospitals; and

"Whereas Ontarians feel that health services are suffering; and

"Whereas the government is reducing hospital funding and not reinvesting millions of dollars into the communities that they are being taken away from;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to call on the Conservative government to stop the cuts to base funding for hospitals across Ontario and to ensure that community services are in place before the removal of hospital services. The Conservative government must fund hospitals with a funding formula that reflects demographic and regional needs. The Conservative government must ensure that health services are available, including emergency and urgent care, to all Ontarians."


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition signed by over 100 people, presented by Rose Kulimowski and Mae Mussolum, who have been working very hard with their concern about health care. I have submitted these petitions before. It asks that the government maintain its promise to protect health care funding and to not cut health care. I affix my signature to this petition.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have another petition which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"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."

This is signed by 15 residents of Collingwood. I agree with the petitioners and I have signed my name as well.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas accidents are a common occurrence and because a report from the Rockland OPP shows that 23 serious accidents occurred on Highway 17 between Rockland and Orléans in the past eight months;

"Whereas a study shows that more than 18,000 cars travel on the stretch of 20 kilometres of Highway 17 every day;

"Whereas concept designs are done, public hearings were held and some pieces of land purchased,

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

"We ask that the Minister of Transportation, Al Palladini, put back the widening of Highway 17 from Trim Road to Clarence Point on his priority list as we ask the government to set aside the funds needed for this project before downloading Highway 17 responsibility to the municipality."

I affix my signature on this petition.



Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill Pr63, An Act respecting the Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company, Montreal Trust Company of Canada and Montreal Trust Company.

Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:

Bill Pr73, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.




Ms Mushinski moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 109, An Act to amend the Public Libraries Act to put authority, responsibility and accountability for providing and effectively managing local library services at the local level / Projet de loi 109, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les bibliothèques publiques de façon à situer à l'échelon local les pouvoirs, la responsabilité et l'obligation de rendre compte concernant la fourniture et la gestion efficace des services locaux de bibliothèque.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): As we begin second reading of Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act, 1997, I would like to say how proud we are of our public libraries. Libraries in communities throughout the province have touched the lives of every Ontario resident and have made a very significant contribution to the quality of life that we enjoy.

The new library framework proposes both to improve library service to the people of Ontario and to lower the costs for those services. The framework would make a significant difference -- for the better, we believe -- to the public libraries of Ontario by giving municipalities the authority to make the best use of their library resources.

Our public libraries have served the province very well for more than 100 years. They have evolved from a disparate group of individual collections of books to an interconnected information network. Ontario's libraries have not only kept pace with the information revolution, they have indeed led the way.

The government knows that libraries are an essential building block in the development of a well-educated workforce, which is one of our province's greatest assets. This bill and a new regulation under the Municipal Act would together form a new framework for our libraries. Under this framework, the government proposes that local officials be given the authority and the responsibility to effectively manage their libraries to the best advantage of their communities in which the libraries serve. We believe that local officials will make choices which are right for their communities.

The framework would also guarantee that our history of quality service will continue. Free access to information is the cornerstone of our proud library tradition. Under the proposed framework, libraries would continue to offer free access to library facilities; use of library materials on library premises would continue to be free of charge, as would the borrowing of books and other print material by residents; borrowing of special format materials for residents with disabilities would also be offered by libraries without charge. The framework would clarify libraries' right to charge for other services. This would permit the policies and fees governing these services to be set at the local level to reflect local priorities.

The essence of this bill is the placing of responsibility and authority for the effective management of our public libraries at the local level. Local authorities are the people who know what is best for their communities. The people who sit on library boards and on municipal councils are also patrons of their own libraries. They and their families will use and depend on the library resources in the communities. These are the people we can trust to make the decisions that are right for their libraries and for their communities.

At present, municipalities provide more than 80% of library funding, yet the legislation currently in effect prescribes an uncomfortable and often unclear mixture of local and provincial authority. The current Public Libraries Act creates extensive and unnecessary intrusions, dictating decisions that are best made at the local level. This proposed legislation defines the responsibility and authority for our public libraries and puts the onus of responsibility where it rightly belongs, at the local level.

This bill is part of a larger legislative framework which responds to the recommendations of the Who Does What panel. The review of library services undertaken by my ministry actually began before the work of the Who Does What panel. The goals of our review and the goals of the panel were very similar. Accordingly, the government's proposals on the new library framework are, by and large, consistent with the recommendations of the Who Does What panel.

The changes put forward by my colleague Minister Snobelen would relieve municipalities of the obligation to fund education. That measure, if adopted by this House, will free up municipal funds, which can be applied to other local services, including libraries.

We can also expect certain economies in libraries through the simplification of the administration of libraries. Most process-oriented requirements prescribed by the province under the Public Libraries Act would be removed by Bill 109. At present the province provides a small portion of the operational funding for libraries. The new library framework proposes that provincial contributions to operational funding be phased out. Provincial resources will continue to be directed at the network connecting Ontario's libraries.

Library users will be familiar with the advantages of this network, because a part of it is dedicated to the interlibrary loan system. We almost take for granted the fact that any library patron may request and receive a book from the circulating collection of any library anywhere in this province. In the future, the Ontario library network could connect our libraries with high-speed digital links over which information will be conveyed in multimedia formats. It is this umbrella network as well as policy support, strategic funding and forging partnerships that express the government's best role in our public library system.

I am pleased to recommend this bill to the members of this House. Its adoption would provide a solid basis upon which Ontario's public libraries can build their futures. This legislation and the new library framework can position our public libraries to continue to be the most accessible sources of information for the people of Ontario for another 100 years.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions and comments?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm intrigued by the minister's words today. What this is really about is downloading the responsibility and the having to pay for library services to the already overburdened municipal taxpayer.

We know that in this so-called wash the cost of this municipal downloading is at least $1 billion, and that is being charitable. We know this government has disregarded the comments of people like David Crombie. We know what they are about to do and what they are doing is at total odds with every recommendation made.

I wonder if sometimes the ministers of the crown have been out into communities like Manitoulin, Espanola, Elliot Lake, Spanish, Massey, where library services are very important but very difficult to provide. I know, because I've received petitions and letters from librarians throughout the constituency, that this is not what they wanted to happen, Minister. This is, I repeat, not what the people who were concerned with library services wanted to happen.

They did not want to see user fees introduced in a big way. They did not want to see library services curtailed, because many of our libraries in the smaller communities are not going to be able to exist. When municipal councillors have to choose between fixing the pothole and providing library services, I know which one they're going to choose, and it won't be library services. From a government that doesn't believe libraries are part of the educational system, I find this incredible.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'll have the chance to speak on this bill a little bit later on, but I just want to make a couple of comments and actually ask the minister if she would answer a couple of questions. There are three statements she made that I have to say I agree with. The first statement she made was that she's proud, as I am, of our public libraries. The second is that our public libraries have kept pace with the information revolution. The third is that free access to information has been and continues to be the cornerstone of the system.


With that in mind, I would like the minister to tell me, please, why it is that a fundamental part of this bill is to actually do away with the protection that now exists in legislation for free access to the use of libraries and free access to the borrowing of materials. That provision, as you may know and as the minister surely will know, is being taken out of the legislation and put under regulation in a watered-down version, because only certain things, such as the borrowing of print materials, will be allowed under the new regulation, and that, in and of itself, by regulation.

If that is such a fundamental principle, I wonder if the minister would comment on why she's taking this out of the legislation and putting it into a regulation, where it can be changed with a quick decision by cabinet, as opposed to the fundamental protection that exists now in the legislation and which in our view should continue to exist in the legislation.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today in support of what I consider our minister's very progressive piece of legislation, Bill 109, overdue amendments to the Libraries Act. In review of that, I spoke to our local chief librarian, Cynthia Mearns, and she was supportive. She recognized that there were challenging times in the economy today and she also was quick to point out to me that today the grants to the local governments of libraries have been steadily declining over many years and many governments.

But she was also pleased to say that the municipalities now had control over their own library boards and that there were still at arm's length library boards dealing with the governance of and fair access to library services. The minister has protected the very cornerstone of libraries in Ontario. That is access to free books and loans and access to our libraries and the ambience they provide our citizens. I'm speaking very much in support of this, along with, I might add, many of the municipal leaders and the librarians throughout Ontario.

Terry Mundell was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen on January 16 stating he welcomes the change and does not believe budgets will be decreased as a result. So I believe our municipal partners are fully responsible for the important service that libraries provide for not only our students, but our senior citizens and indeed a wide range and wide variety of our citizens in Ontario.

The minister has consulted broadly -- I know that; I've spoken to her directly -- and she's listened. She's come up with what I consider a fair and reasonable solution to libraries in Ontario, ensuring full and free access, but also affordability.

M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Encore une fois cela demande que le gouvernement veut transférer tous les services aux municipalités, mais aussi sans leur donner le pouvoir. Encore une fois aujourd'hui, cela demande que nous retirons des fonds qui étaient déjà garantis aux municipalités, des fonds qui étaient de très grande importance pour l'éducation, surtout chez nos jeunes. Lorsque nos jeunes doivent entreprendre des recherches, ils se rendent à la bibliothèque publique. On fait les recherches et ensuite nous complétons notre devoir, nos recherches que nous avions à compléter.

Mais aujourd'hui, avec ce transfert, où nous donnons la responsabilité aux municipalités, cela demande que le prêt de livres qui fonctionne actuellement entre les municipalités va cesser. Je crois que les municipalités, lorsqu'ils prendront la décision soit de réparer les routes ou d'améliorer les services à la bibliothèque, c'est définitivement la bibliothèque qui va en souffrir. J'ai toujours dit, une ville sans bibliothèque, c'est une ville morte. Encore une fois, cela demande que le gouvernement n'a aucun respect envers les personnes qui doivent se servir bibliothèques à tous les jours ou à toutes les semaines, selon le temps qui le leur permet aussi. La lecture est très importante. C'est un point d'éducation qu'on doit regarder chez nos jeunes et aussi bien chez nos adultes, qui veulent se dire à date avec l'évolution de notre pays.

Encore une fois, je crois que c'est une très méchante décision de la part de ce gouvernement de transférer la responsabilité à 100 %. Même si nous avons la responsabilité, du moins on devra avoir les fonds nécessaires pour sauvegarder les bibliothèques, surtout dans le secteur rural.

The Acting Speaker: The minister has two minutes to respond.

Hon Ms Mushinski: In response to the honourable member for Dovercourt, I might remind him that under Bill 26 all boards were given control to charge fees. What this regulation actually does is limit a library's ability to charge fees for basic book borrowing and access to libraries. Because municipalities will now have control over local libraries, which is what the Who Does What process was really all about, access must be given under the regulation under the Municipal Act. That's the reason that was done.

I would remind him that the whole purpose of the consultation process, and the message that we heard through the consultation process, was that we must protect the basic underpinnings of public library service, which are free access and free book loans. That's what this bill contains. That's what was recommended by the Crombie commission. We believed all along that it was sacrosanct to the basic requirement of public libraries. Clearly, we have listened to that consultation process and we have enshrined it within the act that's before us today.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): At the outset, our critic on libraries will be, with unanimous consent of the House, doing the 90-minute portion of the address at a later time. I wonder if we might have unanimous consent that that 90 minutes --

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Phillips: I'm pleased to join the debate on Bill 109 and to say to the minister that I think she appropriately put it in context, which is that it's part of an overall government program following the Who Does What committee's report. I think by now the public is aware that these are a few of the bills we're dealing with as a result of it. There are probably about 12 or 13 quite major bills in the Legislature or at committee now that comprise the package on the government restructuring. This bill deals with libraries.

The minister appropriately outlined the two major changes this bill implements. Just to express some concerns about those two major changes, one is that the bill does indeed ensure that if you are looking to access a book, printed material, you will continue to be able to do that free of charge. That goes back to the history of libraries, which were designed to ensure that all of the people in the community, regardless of wealth or income, had reasonable access to books, literature and things like that.

We are now, as we all know, in an era of technology. The printed book will still be with us in the future, but the growth is in electronic information. As a matter of fact, the minister said that the big innovation in libraries is a province-wide electronic linkup between libraries. So it's no accident that yes, you will in the future, I gather by regulation -- and the public should recognize that legislation requires a debate and something to happen publicly. Regulations can be changed like that. The only way you even know about it is if you read some obscure document called the Ontario Gazette, which comes out on a Saturday, strangely enough, and you find out there that the regulations have changed.

The thing that is protected only by regulation is that you can borrow books freely, but now your access to all of the electronic -- the future, the whole growth area -- will depend on your wealth. Believe me, libraries are right now and will in the future be in a constant battle for resources because the second thing that this does, without any doubt, is put libraries in the hands -- total control -- of councils.

That's what municipalities wanted; that's what they've got. That's what this bill does. There is no doubt about that. That's what the minister said. But now the two things that in the past have attempted to make sure that our communities -- the libraries, which have a longstanding tradition, in communities, of volunteers making sure that everyone had access to written information, now will be totally in the hands of the municipalities, the councils, and that's clear from the bill. Now obviously it will be fighting for its resources with all the other demands on the municipal taxpayer.


This is where I come to the important part of my comments, that this Bill 109 has to be put in the context of the whole package because that's how the government is proceeding. You've heard the terms and the public has heard the terms "mega-week," "mega-change." There is no doubt that Ontario is going through the most fundamental, dramatic change in its history, and part of that change is that the province, by its own admission, has decided to take education off the residential property taxpayers, and children's aid and women's shelters, but they've added far more than they've taken off. The government has said they're going to add another $1 billion of costs. The municipal leaders in this province say it's probably more like $1.4 billion. But suddenly now a whole bunch of new costs are on the property taxpayers, and I might add the biggest costs are for senior citizens' care.

Long-term care now is going on property tax. That used to be handled by the province. Let's recognize that well over half of all our social housing, our publicly assisted housing, is for seniors. In many communities, 70% to 80% of the housing is for seniors. That used to be handled by the province. Now all that is going on to the property taxpayer.

Public health programs, heavily designed for helping in preserving good health, all that is now moving on to the property tax. All the ambulance services, 100% of the ambulance services is now moving on to the property tax. Our special care homes are all moving on to the property tax, and our child care and our social assistance. Recognize that our social assistance is basically for children and seniors -- that is the majority of the people on social assistance -- and is moving heavily on to property tax.

The reason I raise that is that the government has made, in our opinion, a major mistake. They have decided that they are going to put on to the property tax some of the most sensitive social services: long-term care for seniors, ambulance services, social housing. I repeat for the community out there that the majority of social housing is for needy, deserving seniors who, just in order to survive, require this assistance. All that is going on to the property tax.

The minister said in her earlier remarks that this Bill 109 on the public libraries was in response to what's called the Who Does What panel, the David Crombie panel that you've heard about. That was a handpicked panel by the Premier. The Premier picked Mr Crombie and I think 14 other individuals from around the province, well-respected people, and said to them, "Tell us the services we should be handling provincially; tell us the services we should be handling municipally."

Here's what Mr Crombie said and here's what his panel said in response to this downloading, moving long-term care, social housing, child care, ambulance services on to the property tax.

First he said: "If you do that, you will undo much of the work that would be accomplished by the disentangling proposals." In other words, by doing this you're undoing this plan, to use the jargon we use around here, to disentangle, which simply means to try to get one level of government responsible solely for things.

Then he goes on to say about moving health and welfare on to property tax: "The panel strongly opposes such a move. We are unanimous in the view that if there's a choice between placing education or health and welfare on the property tax, it's clearly preferable to continue to rely on the property tax for the funding of education."

The reason I go through this is that the province has made for whatever reason a big mistake, a huge mistake, and David Crombie and his panel -- that was a handpicked panel of some of the most respected people in Ontario -- are saying it's wrong.

Our caucus, the Liberal caucus, has been travelling around the province in the last few weeks meeting with municipal leaders. I was in Sarnia and London last Friday. Unanimously, without exception -- and these are mayors and wardens and reeves and regional chairs and community leaders, chambers of commerce -- they all say that this is a big mistake. The board of trade here in Metropolitan Toronto, the United Way, everywhere across the province they said you've made a big mistake.

I think the government is beginning to recognize it. Certainly Mr Crombie, as I read the paper this morning, is trying his best to pull together something that will save the government from itself. In my opinion, some time in November or December, by mistake perhaps -- I don't want to sound overly provocative here, but I think in many respects by incompetence -- this proposal got out there. You cannot find one single credible organization -- I'll have to be careful of that; I haven't found one single credible organization -- anywhere in the province that supports this.

The Globe and Mail had I thought a very thoughtful editorial on it, so did the Sun, so did the Star, the three daily papers here in my home community of Metropolitan Toronto.

I say that this bill is part of a package, and if this package goes ahead and if libraries are going to have to compete with -- and, believe me, it's almost cruel that the province has decided to move our most vulnerable, our most sensitive services off the province and on to the property taxpayer.

We all know the area that is going to grow in demand over the next decade. It's our seniors. Everybody in this Legislature knows that. One of our huge challenges is how we are going to make certain that as our society ages, and we all know the demographics -- that is going to increase dramatically. I think it's either an honest mistake or incompetence, or it's worse: a deliberate attempt to move an area that we know the cost is going to go up on, we know the services are going to increase in demand, and put them on to the property taxpayer.

Every single councillor, mayor, chair, regional chair and warden said to us: "We know what's going to happen. Our future council meetings are going to be with our property taxpayers saying, `We can't afford property taxes going up,' and our seniors saying, `In our community we do not have enough services.'" As a matter of fact, in today's newspapers the waiting list now, I gather, is 16,000 in Ontario. We're going to move that on to property tax? Does anybody here in the Legislature, apart from the cabinet, think that's a good idea? Certainly nobody I've run into in any of the community leadership positions around the province believes it's a good idea.


As I say, the one possible encouraging piece of news, because overwhelmingly there's a recognition this is a huge mistake, is that now I find Mr Crombie trying to work with some people to pull something together. I hope AMO is able to persuade the government that this is a bad move and get this reversed, because to put these services on the property tax -- and I will add that without any question of a doubt the government has said it is prepared to have some funds to help out. We've looked at the funds, the municipal leaders have looked at the funds, and when everything clears, the province is prepared to put about $335 million of extra revenue in and is adding $1.3 billion of extra costs. So you are adding $1 billion of new costs on to the property taxpayer.

We met last week with the financial officials from the municipalities. When we met around the province with the mayors, the reeves, the wardens and the regional chairs, every one of them had had their officials go through this in detail. The county of Elgin had perhaps the most comprehensive series of numbers I've seen, and every single one of them shows a residential property tax increase of at least 10%, and that's after the provision of those funds.

The reason I raise that issue is that this is a package. We have to, because that's the way the rules work around here, deal with each of these bills individually. I think it's tragic, and that's what we heard also. People are saying, "Listen, we've got to pull all of this together." We're dealing with Bill 103, which is the amalgamation of Metro; Bill 104, which you've heard about, is the fundamental changes in education; Bill 105 is the policing; Bill 106 is going to change property tax like we've never seen it before.

I say to all of us: Wait till that one finally hits. The province has said, "We're going to eliminate something called the business occupancy tax." They're saying that's gone. Some people are saying, "Thank you very much," but it is 11% of all the tax revenue for municipalities. This wasn't something the province gave up. It was a gift from the province to the business community, but totally on the back of the municipalities. They've cut out $1.6 billion of revenue for municipalities and said, "Make it up somewhere else." It's going to be added right on to the property taxpayers -- residential property taxpayers and the commercial-industrial property taxpayers.

We are making a big mistake here of dealing with each of these bills as if they were independent and didn't all come together as a package. If I were in the back bench of the government, I would be saying to them, "Please tell me what this is going to mean when all these bills are passed and the property tax bill goes out some time about a year from now." It's going to go out to the residences probably in about April 1998. Luckily, Hansard here prints everything and I can keep a copy of it. I will say: "I warned you. You should have gone to Mr Leach" -- I should use the proper terminology -- "the Minister of Municipal Affairs and said, `Please tell me what this is going to mean when all of this gets done.'" I have my own opinion, which I'm sharing with you, but you make your own minds up, obviously.

We have done the analysis in conjunction with municipalities and it is very clear that they are saying to us and to you that this downloading is going to add probably at least 10% to municipal residential property taxpayers in Ontario.

The library bill does something that the councils have wanted, and that is that they want control. Councils do not like bodies that they do not have control over influencing their budget, and that's understandable. It's understandable that if they're going to be held accountable, they want to be in control of the budget. If they've got to raise the money, they don't like these independent bodies.

But I might add that the councils are saying: "Wait a minute. On the one hand you're now giving us the authority to get control of the $20 million you used to spend." But the provincial government has decided it's going to add two new costs to the municipal taxpayers, and I gather they'll have no control over it. Long-term care: The province will simply say: "You spend that amount on long-term care. Secondly, you give us that amount of money on the education property taxes on businesses."

This is going to be very interesting. I mentioned earlier that the province has taken education off the residential property taxpayer and left it on the business taxes. For the first time ever in the history of Ontario, the province is going to be essentially levying a property tax, in this case an education property tax on businesses. When the business community finally realizes the impact of that and the business occupancy tax, it will be interesting. The reason I raise that is that the councils will thank you for giving them complete control of the libraries but it is within the context of all the other things that they are going to have to now pick up from the province.

The second thing I'd say is that if the purpose of libraries is to ensure that regardless of income individuals in our society had access to educational materials, there's no one who does not believe -- I don't think there's anyone -- that the future of educational materials rests in new forms of provision, electronic forms, not the historical printed book. For the first time in the history of Ontario, at least probably in the last 100 years, we've decided that for many people access to the new form of information will be dependent on your paying a fee.

The reason I appreciated the minister and her remark that this is part of a package is because I think we have to view it as part of a package. I think we're making a huge mistake, and certainly the councils around the province believe we're making a huge mistake, trying to deal with this thing individually.


Some of these bills talk about jobs and job creation right in the title. I would say that as we're proceeding with these bills, on the belief that these things are driving job increases, I would once again remind us that, for whatever reason, Ontario is struggling right now on the job creation front. The tax cut, for whatever reason, has yet to produce the jobs. I repeat what I've said before. I was shocked when the government released its report dated February 14, and we got it on February 18. Ontario lost 7,000 jobs in January. We've lost 37,000 jobs in the last five months in Ontario. Everybody who's looked at that is scratching their heads, wondering what's happening. Why is it that we've lost 37,000 jobs in the province of Ontario?

Mr Michael Brown: What are the forecasts for Ontario?

Mr Phillips: My colleague says, "What are the forecasts for Ontario?" The government told us in the Common Sense Revolution, and it was unequivocal, "This plan will create more than 725,000 new jobs over the next five years." That's about 12,000 jobs a month. Losing 37,000 jobs in the last five months, believe me, is a shock to anyone who has looked at it. The rest of Canada, by the way, has gained 72,000 jobs. It cannot continue at that level.

The government promised the people, "If you go through all this pain of the cuts" -- the tax cut cost the province $5.5 billion a year in revenue; that's what the government said; that's about 10% of the revenue -- "if you do that, we will see 145,000 jobs a year created." I keep a little chart for myself of where the government said we would be and where we are. The government has now been in office 19 months; 12,000 jobs a month is 228,000 jobs. Actually, in the 19 months, 97,000 jobs have been created; there's a shortfall of 131,000. It has been 19 months of disappointment.

Mr O'Toole: Gerry, you know the economics --

Mr Phillips: The members of the public can't hear it, but the members across the way are barracking somewhat.

It was the promise of the 725,000 jobs that I think got Mike Harris elected. It wasn't "We hope" or "We think"; it was, "This plan will create more than 725,000 jobs." What we've found so far is an extremely disappointing performance, and I have said this. This morning, in the finance and economic affairs committee, we had the same discussion.

Perhaps the most concerning part is the unemployment rate among our young people, and this is what your own document dated February 14 said, that in January 1997 the Ontario youth unemployment rate was 18.6%, up 2.3% from January 1996. I have not seen that number, I have not seen a number as high as that among our young people in my memory in Ontario, and 2.3% higher than it was a year ago.

These disastrous numbers cannot continue. They have to pick up. It is impossible to continue at that rate. Certainly, it is so far extremely disappointing, because what the people of Ontario have been told is, "You go through all of this pain, the pain of cuts in services, the pain of cuts" -- and there's no doubt that the government has decided it's going to cut 20% from hospital funding. There's not a community in this province that isn't going to be touched by hospital closings.

On that front, they've been told by the person they put in charge of the restructuring, Mr Sinclair, they've been told by their own group -- they have a government group working with the hospitals -- they've been told by the communities: "This is not right. You can't cut 20% from hospitals over that short a period of time and hope to have any sensible operation in our hospitals. It just can't be done."

Mr Michael Brown: The Premier promised.

Mr Phillips: One of my colleagues said the Premier, when he was running in the election, promised he'd close no hospitals.

You can't cut 20% from hospitals in that period of time and hope they can run properly. All of us have hospitals in our communities, all of us talk to the people who are on those boards and trying to run those hospitals, and they will tell you that they are being put in a position where the very health, the very lives of the people they're trying to look after are being jeopardized.

The reason I raise that is that this is part of the package. The government is committed to a 30% cut in personal income tax. I understand that, but what it means for the people of Ontario is far deeper cuts in services, and now perhaps for the first time Ontario is beginning to say: "Wait a minute. What is happening here? Yes, I voted for the Conservatives. They won a majority."

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): You did what? I thought so.


Mr Phillips: You've got to listen carefully. I certainly didn't vote for the Conservatives. I said many people will say to me: "Listen, I voted for the Conservatives, but what is happening? I didn't realize that by voting for them it would mean this closing of hospitals, cuts in hospital care that are beyond what anybody in the health care sector would say is reasonable."

Even those who favour restructuring would say you are doing it incorrectly. Why are you doing it? Because you've got to fund a $5.5-billion tax cut.

I think the public now recognizes that the government has made a big mistake. For whatever reason, they've made a big mistake. They should never, ever be downloading long-term care, seniors' care, ambulance services, child care, social assistance for our young people on to the property tax. They should never be put there. It has to be changed.

This is part of this package and as we are being forced to ram this stuff through in a short period of time, it's a big mistake. The government should do what the public is saying to do: slow down and look at this whole package, because we're on the road to a very major problem in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I want to express my congratulations and appreciation to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt for having so clearly, as he has done, outlined the clear connection between this bill, Bill 109, which purports to make some major changes to the library system in this province, and the rest of the Who Does What package this government has brought about. As he mentioned, the minister herself in her opening comments acknowledged and pointed out that this was part of a larger legislative framework.

This particular bill begs the questions: Why is it here? Who's asked for this? What's the big problem this bill is trying to deal with and trying to fix, particularly when we have other pressing issues we should be dealing with?

Of course we know, as the member for Scarborough-Agincourt has pointed out, that this is part of the whole downloading framework this government has set out to put in place.

We are seeing that being rejected by people across this province. We are seeing municipality after municipality continue to express their outrage at what this government is doing. I look forward to the discussion on this bill in the hearings we will have to hear what people have to say specifically on this, but also to ensure that people understand the connection with the downloading of some $24 million here in this bill and how it connects to the downloading of billions of dollars under the other measures this government has taking place. You and I, Speaker, are quite involved in Bill 103, which is one of the other major issues going on right now, and Bill 104, the education bill, which is also in front of the Legislature as we speak.

These measures, together with others, all have to do with finding $3 billion so that Mike Harris can pay for his tax cut. They have nothing to do with improving the system, with making the system better or fairer or more equitable across the province. They have to do with making the rich richer and making the rest of us poorer. That's what the bottom line is all about.

Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): As a former teacher and librarian, I think I can speak to this bill and on this area with some knowledge and passion. It's my pleasure to speak in support of the Local Control of Public Libraries Act. In my view the minister has crafted this legislation carefully with exactly the right focus. She's ensuring that free access to all library materials and free book borrowing is protected. She's following the true spirit of determining who does what in this province by giving municipalities the greatest responsibility for management. Municipalities can, once and for all, determine the nature of their boards: the citizen composition, the qualifications, the size and the rules of operation.


The efficient and wise running of Ontario libraries is important to all of the citizens in this province, regardless of their age, interests, sex, race or religion. It's important to students who are looking for data. It's important for people in the workforce who are looking for changes. For most of us it's our greatest source of recreational reading material.

When I was a shopkeeper in downtown Guelph I noticed an interesting phenomena. Many of the families in Guelph would begin their Saturday mornings by going to the market. They would then do a bit of miscellaneous shopping, go to the library with their children and then go out for a snack or coffee. I think there are many families across the province who find going to the library a cherished part of their family traditions. It's interesting to note that in an increased era of video and computer presence, more and more books are being read by Ontarians.

I very much want to speak in support of this bill. I think it is exactly the right way to do this, because our government acknowledges that a very strong role for libraries in the province is important to all of us.

Mr Michael Brown: The first thing I would like to do is commend the member for Scarborough-Agincourt for his very interesting presentation. He's known around this Legislature and around the province as the authority on financial affairs in this province, and he has put this bill into context.

I have to tell you, one of the things that struck me about his speech was the government's attack on seniors. I say that because I think about the city of Elliot Lake, one that has reborn itself as one of the leading retirement communities in Canada. One of the things that Barb Fazekas, the librarian in Elliot Lake, has told me is that since having the seniors move to Elliot Lake in big numbers there has been a huge increase in the use of the public library service. That doesn't surprise me. Obviously, seniors have a fair amount of leisure time and would want to avail themselves of the materials at the Elliot Lake library.

It seems to me that when we attack seniors, we attack those people in our society who have paid their dues and are now rightfully looking forward to retirement. They've moved to communities like Elliot Lake where they've become a vital part of the community. They are entitled to those services and they are entitled to know that in Elliot Lake they can have long-term care. That means nursing homes. It means nursing home beds, which we've been fighting for in Elliot Lake for many years. It means maintaining the hospital services, which are being cut again. It means having a vital community, which means not destroying the Oaks detox centre, where many of the community's jobs reside. Those are the things that concern my constituents. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt has put this particular bill into the larger context.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I have consummate respect for my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt, who is a solid and thoughtful member of this House. I listened to his comments with great interest. He is on error in several points. I would be remiss if I didn't correct him and I think he'd appreciate that.

In terms of the roughly $6 billion that is coming off the property tax and the $6 billion that's going back on, he will know, as I and many others do, that the government has indicated the appointment of a committee which consists of a number of people who are well recognized in their communities, including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, to ensure that the balance is fair and equal and revenue-neutral.

The concern that my colleague expresses, that it may require additional taxes, is flawed. There won't be additional taxes. He recognizes that in his quote. The words that I took out very clearly were, "The councils will thank you for giving them full control over their libraries." That is what's happening. The response generally across the province is one of appreciation, acknowledgement that it is the appropriate thing to do. How on earth can you suggest that elected representatives are not going to do what the community wants them to do?

The fact is that they will be responsive to their ratepayers. I go further, to suggest that if there are any materials that you might conceivably charge for, other than books and so forth, I think the option is there right now, as it will continue in this bill, to allow the board to dispense with any fees that may be involved, whether it be for electronic media or anything else. The fact is that this bill gives them the ability to respond appropriately to the needs of a local community and it should be supported.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the comments. I have a lot of confidence in the municipal leaders and it is they who are telling us that you have downloaded $1.3 billion on to them. We've met with literally dozens of mayors and reeves and financial officials; it's them. The government itself has acknowledged that you're adding at least $900 million of extra costs, and then the municipalities say you're adding $455 million more. I might add that I've been trying to get the government to confirm those numbers, but I can't. No one will return my calls. These are the municipal leaders who are telling us this.

Then the government says, "Yes, but we're going to make up for it in money." The OHA, the Ontario Hospital Association, thought it could trust you too. Then it came and said: "Listen, what you're doing on hospitals is wrong. We should have spoken up months or years ago." The municipal leaders are saying the same thing. All the government has said is, "We'll have a $1-billion fund" -- that's all it said -- "but we're going to cut another $666-million fund out." The government has been very clear on that. So the municipal leaders say to us, "We believe, based on all of our analysis and everything we've heard, that you've added $1.3 billion of cost, and based on everything you've told us, you're giving us $330 million more revenue, so it's $1 billion."

Those are not my numbers. Those are the municipal leaders in the province. They put enough heat on the government. The government finally has said, "We better begin to admit we've made a mistake." You have made a mistake and you've got to change it.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Silipo: I'm pleased to have the chance to lead off debate on this bill for our caucus as the critic responsible, but I would like to ask for unanimous consent to split the leadoff time with my colleague from Fort York.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Silipo: I thank the members of the House.

I want to talk about this legislation. I want to assure members of the House that although, like the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, I believe strongly that there is a very clear link -- the minister herself talked about it in her opening comments -- between this bill and other measures that this government is taking to, as they would put it, shift and streamline costs or, as we would put it, to download on to municipalities a number of costs far beyond those that are being brought up to the provincial level in the way of the education costs that are now on the property tax, while I want to speak about that connection, I actually want to start my comments by commenting in some level of detail on some of the key points that have touched on Bill 109.

I think there are within Bill 109 some important issues that in and of themselves are significant and I would not want this debate to go by without those being put on the record and on to the floor of this Legislature and without us having a chance to debate those issues, both here in second reading debate and in the committee process that I gather will ensue. I understand that the government has agreed that this bill should go to committee and it's my understanding that it will go to committee during the week of April 7.

We'll have the opportunity, I hope, to also hear from people, hear from organizations like the Ontario Library Trustees Association, like the Canadian Union of Public Employees, like many of the representatives of different library boards across the province who have already written to us, to me certainly as the critic for our party and I assume to other members of the House, expressing their concerns about what the government is doing. Even though some of those letters go back to before the government introduced this piece of legislation and were responding to the Who Does What recommendations, the fact that this piece of legislation by and large reflects the recommendations of the David Crombie panel still, in my mind, makes it clear that a number of major concerns still exist that have not been addressed by this legislation, in fact have been rendered worse by this legislation. I think it's important that those be brought to the fore and debated during this process.


I look forward to hearing from those organizations and those individuals who, like me, believe very strongly that our public library system needs to continue to be supported, indeed needs to continue to be encouraged to grow, not diminished. I hope they will come forward and speak to us during the recommendations. It was the Ontario Library Trustees Association which, in writing to us, said they want us as legislators to work to strengthen, not dismantle, the current legislative and ministerial support for our public library system.

If you listened to the minister in her opening comments today, you would think that's what this bill does; you would think this bill strengthens the library system in this province. I want to say categorically that in my view this bill seriously endangers the public library system as we know it today. I want to get into some detail about why I believe that.

But first I have to ask the question of why this bill is even before us. Why do we have a bill in front of this House that purports on the one hand to improve the library system in this province and yet removes a number of basic protections, like the one on fees that I will talk about as well, and therefore renders the system weaker if this legislation is passed; while at the same time we have other issues that are far more pressing where there are some real problems that could be fixed and should be fixed?

We've heard the Minister of Transportation talk about his wish that we get on with some legislation he has presented that would improve highway safety. I have to ask as an opposition member: Why are we in this House debating a bill that is going to weaken the library system in this province rather than being here debating a system that would strengthen the protection of drivers on our highways and strengthen highway safety for all who use our public highways across this province? That's just this one example.

The answer I've come to is that this bill, as the minister put it, is part of a larger legislative framework which does not intend, which does not have as its objective in this case, to improve the public library system or to improve through the other bills the quality of decision-making that goes on at the local level, or indeed the responsibilities between the local level of government and the provincial level of government, but has very clearly a role to play in that larger legislative framework which has as its objective finding $3 billion out of the public purse, out of the public coffers, out of taxpayers' moneys, to be used by Mike Harris and company to fund their infamous tax scheme. It has everything to do with that. It has nothing to do with improving the library system in this province.

It has nothing to do with improving the library system of this province. If it did, you would not see the kinds of changes that are being made in this bill. I want to talk about some of those changes.

One of the things that's happening as a result of this bill and, again, part of the background the minister painted for us is that this -- and this is probably one of the few areas where I can actually say the title of the bill is correct. We know how mischievous at times even this government has been in terms of the titles they've put on their bills, but I have to say this one is closer to being correct.

It talks about giving responsibility and authority at the local level for managing the local library system. It does that indeed, but in doing so it takes away some basic protections. It is taking away some basic protections that exist now with respect to fees; it is taking away some basic protections that exist now with respect to the independence of library boards, with a citizen majority on those boards; it is going to decrease, not increase the role of volunteers in the system; it is going to mean that the government is stepping out of its role to ensure capital for the continued upkeep and maintenance and building and rebuilding of our libraries; and it does a great injustice to what should be a strong provincial interest in our library system across this province. I want to talk about some of those issues.

The independent library system: We have had a history in this province of having our libraries run by independent library boards, made up of elected councillors but by a majority made up of citizen members appointed by the local councils, in some cases by the school boards. That is going to change. It will still be possible if the local council decides to do that, but that basic protection will no longer be there if this bill is adopted. One of the things this government is doing in giving complete control to municipalities on this front is that it's doing away with that basic tenet that has made the public library system in this province the great system we know it to be and the great system the minister says she's proud of.

I read with interest the comments of the Ontario Library Trustees Association on this point. Let's be clear: We are talking here about people who serve on these boards on a volunteer basis. We are not talking about paid trustees; we are talking about people who give freely of their time to sit on library boards to ensure that the systems they have responsibility for run effectively, efficiently, with due respect for the sense of community those people are part of and that therefore serve the needs of those communities.

They are in the best position to deal with that, to deal with issues that have to do with libraries, with running those libraries, and they do that in a way that still maintains accountability to the local councils. I want to come back to that point, but I want to make that point now.

One of the notions we are getting from the government on this is that by making these changes, they are putting greater accountability for the expenditure of funds on to the municipal councils. While they will be to the extent that the councils will now have to come up with 100% of the funding for the library system, because the $24 million the province now spends to help fund libraries across the province will no longer be there -- that will be phased out as part of this exchange of funding, as part of this downloading on to municipalities -- that will, among other things, put incredible pressure on municipal councils as they have to deal with the growing costs in other areas, long-term care being just one example. It will put great pressure on them to be able to continue the level of funding they now provide to public libraries.

Let there be no mistake: If this government purports through this bill to give municipalities complete control of the budgets of public libraries, then you either don't understand the bill or there's been a serious misreading of the bill. Your own notes point out that this control exists there today. The budgets of public libraries today are controlled 100% by local councils. Yes, there is a contribution from the ministry, from the provincial government, but municipal councils have line-by-line jurisdiction over the budgets of public libraries. That is not going to change, but then you don't need a piece of legislation if you're not going to change that basic premise.

Coming back then to the relationship that exists now and that is being broken between the municipal council and the local independent library boards, which are made up now of a majority of citizen members, what is the value and what are we losing by taking that away? The value is that by having that independence, decisions that are made about the library system, the information that's available, the books, but all of the other information that's available -- are made, as they should be, in an arm's-length way, removed from the day-to-day activities that municipal councillors have to involve themselves in.


It's important to note here the comments that I have received from the Ontario Library Trustees Association, and I assume other members of this House have received, as they look at the experience of other jurisdictions that have tried to muck around with this very basic concept of the independence of library boards. They say that it's interesting to note that the provinces with the strongest public library systems are those where independent public library boards govern public libraries, and they point us to a couple of experiences in different parts of Canada.

They point to Alberta, which recently tried to dally with the concept of a legislative change in this area, but as a result of public discussions, public consensus there was for the retention of this governance model. There at least the government of the day listened to people, and I want to say I hope this government will listen to people out there if we, as I expect we will, hear from many individuals that this important tenet of the public library system should continue and not be done away with for the sake of just giving municipalities the power to do what they want.

British Columbia is given as another example of where libraries and library boards are alive and well, because there exists and continues to exist to this day this independent library board system. Contrast that, according to the Ontario Library Trustees Association, with the situation in Quebec, where public libraries are administered by municipal councils, with little public voice in their governance. They are considered to be among the most impoverished in Canada.

Another example the association cites, the city of Winnipeg, did not retain its independent library board during municipal amalgamation over a decade ago. Today the disputes among councillors, friends of the library, the emasculated board, library administration and members of the public make for an immense amount of fascinating newspaper copy.

As they point out, even though the Who Does What panel said that they praised the value of public libraries, that panel did not give any strong rationale, in fact did not give any rationale as to why we should do away with public library boards, and particularly why we should do away with a majority of those members being ordinary citizens who, again, as I say, serve on these boards not for any remuneration, volunteer their time free of any pay, simply because they believe in the strength of volunteer boards. Mr Crombie's report did not acknowledge this and did not acknowledge that that is a fundamental part that should continue, and that I think is a major flaw.

This government, I know, has talked many a good line about wanting to see volunteers involved. They have talked about wanting to see volunteers continue to be involved in all facets of public life, and to a large extent I agree with them.

I disagree with them when they go to the point of saying that volunteers should take the place of paid workers. I know that that also is one of the fears that many library workers quite frankly have, and justifiably have, of this piece of legislation: that one of the things that will happen is that as the funding to municipalities gets squeezed, as municipalities have to make choices, one of the choices they will undoubtedly make is to say to the public libraries: "Sorry, we wish we could give you the same amount of money, but we just don't have it any more, because the province isn't giving us all the money that they were giving us before. We don't have all the room that we had before to make up the difference. We have to pay for long-term-care costs. We have to pay for child care costs. I'm sorry. In the equation, you're not the high priority that you were."

That's going to mean less in the way of quality but it's also going to mean a growing pressure for volunteers to do not just the kind of basic volunteer work they do today but also it's going to mean increasing pressure for volunteers to actually pick up some of the work that will come about as a result of layoffs of people who now work in the public library system. That I think is going to happen and I fear it's going to happen unless the government changes its view.

The other contradiction I think the government has to face is that if it believes so fundamentally in the role of volunteers, here is a great place where volunteers are playing a tremendous role, as members of library boards, as friends of libraries in various associations throughout the province.

The letters I have received from those groups and those organizations so far tell me that they're not particularly happy. I know the minister said she's consulted, the parliamentary assistant said he's consulted with people, and they say that they're happy. I'll be interested in knowing who it is who's happy about this bill, because so far I haven't received many letters -- I haven't received any letters -- that tell me that people are happy about these changes. I've received letters that express a lot of concerns, I've received letters that express a lot of worry about what's going on, I've received letters that express a lot of opposition to what the government is doing following the recommendations of the Who Does What panel, and I think those need to be answered, those need to be addressed.

I hope at least on this issue, which after all, if you look at it in the whole sphere of things, while it's an important part, I think we would all agree it's not the most significant piece of the whole Who Does What process and show, but it is an important piece in terms of how it affects the quality of our library system and it is an important piece in terms of the danger that it poses for the future of our public library system. Therefore, I do hope that at least on this piece the government will be able, through the process, particularly the process of committee hearings, to show some flexibility, to show some ability and some willingness to listen.

But I fear this piece is important politically for them, to be able to say to municipal councils, "See, we've given you the right, we've given you the power to control things in this area at least." What I hope municipal councils are seeing, and what I know they are seeing as they look at this in the whole context of what they are being asked to deal with by this government, is what is being downloaded to them in terms of fiscal responsibilities. I know they are beginning to worry about how they're going to deal with this in the context of everything else they have to do.

I'd like to talk about fees, because to me what the government is doing here on the question of fees is probably the clearest example one can give of why this bill, rather than improving the system, is going to make it worse, and I would say it's going to make it much worse.

We have right now in the present legislation that governs libraries, the Public Libraries Act, a section, section 23, which reads as follows:

"(1) A board shall not make a charge for admission to a public library or for use in the library of the library's materials."

Quite clear. That's subsection 23(1). Subsection (2) reads:

"(2) Every board shall allow the public to,

"(a) reserve and borrow circulating materials that are prescribed or belong to a prescribed class; and

"(b) use reference and information services as the board considers practicable,

"without making any charge."

"(3) A board may impose such fees as it considers proper for,

"(a) services not referred to in subsections (1) and (2);

"(b) the use of the parts of a building that are not being used for public library purposes" -- that would involve, for example, meeting rooms -- "and

"(c) the use of library services by persons who do not reside in the area of the board's jurisdiction."

Right now there is basic protection in the legislation -- and I want to stress both parts of that phrase -- there is basic protection and that protection is in the legislation for the use of public libraries that covers circulating materials; not just books, not just print materials, but materials that circulate out of the library. People now are able to borrow materials the library has, are able to go in and use that material, are able to use that material free of charge, are able to borrow that material free of charge. That protection exists in the legislation that now governs public libraries across the province.


What is this act going to do to that section? First of all, it wipes it out. People need to understand that. It wipes that protection out. The minister can say all she wants in her statement that part of the objective is to protect free access to the library system, but they're taking that provision out of the legislation.

What are they doing instead? They're putting in place a regulation which says that a municipality or local board does not have the power to impose fees or charges for: (a) admission of the public to its libraries; (b) the use of the public of its libraries collection in the library; (c) -- and this is key -- borrowing from a public library by residents of books and other printed materials; and (d) borrowing from a public library by or for residents with a disability of materials specially formatted for persons with that disability.

Here is the change. First of all, the protections that now exist in the legislation are being taken out of the legislation. Secondly, the protections that are being put in its place are being put not in another piece of legislation, not in this act that's before us, but in a regulation that's going to be made under the Municipal Act.

People may say: "Well, what's the big deal? Why should anybody be concerned about whether something is in the legislation or is in the regulation?" Those of us who have been around this place, those of us who have had the good fortune -- or misfortune, as some would have it -- to sit around a cabinet table know exactly the difference, Madam Speaker. You would remember that.

A regulation can be changed by a decision of the provincial cabinet. There is no requirement that anybody else be notified of any change. There is no requirement that anything be brought in here for debate. There is no requirement that the public ever be told until the decision is made. It's not the same level of protection as exists in legislation; it's a very significant change.

The minister's explanation when I asked her about this earlier today was to say: "Well, remember Bill 26? Under Bill 26 we changed all of that so that we put a general power of fee-raising powers to all boards, including library boards, and now we have to limit that power."

I want to say to the minister and to the government, if you are serious about maintaining that basic protection, then keep section 23 of the present legislation, because it will override whatever changes you've made under Bill 26; and if it doesn't as it's presently written, you can make a simple change to that to say that protection will remain in the legislation. I'm not a legislative drafter, but I know it can be done very easily.

What is needed here is the political will by this government to say, if it is serious about maintaining the level of protection, that this level of protection, the free use of our libraries, needs to stay, as it is now, in the legislation, not be removed and put into a regulation, which the cabinet, at its whim, can change without notice to anyone.

But the other important change that's happening is that even in that regulation the protection that exists now is being significantly diluted, because, as you remember, the regulation that's proposed talks about not being able to charge fees for books and other printed material. But what about non-print material? Where is, therefore, the importance that the minister herself just earlier today placed on libraries having kept pace with the information revolution? We know that a library today is not like a library 20 years ago. The materials in the library, in addition to books and the traditional materials, include more and more information that is available and accessible technologically through computer systems. Library boards will be able to charge for that material.

If we are keeping up with the information revolution, then surely access to that information revolution today needs to be on a par with access to the traditional information, the traditional information being written publications, books, materials, reviews. Today, if much of that information is available on-line, there is no justification for saying that is something we are now going to charge the public for.

I say again to my colleagues across and to the minister and to the parliamentary assistant, if you are serious about maintaining the quality and the level of support and the recognition for our library system, then you will heed the advice you will no doubt hear during the hearings, that that protection should also continue, first of all, to be in the legislation, and secondly, to be as broad as it exists today, because that is also the point that is being made.

That support is being made in the letter I've received from the Ontario Library Trustees Association. They make the point: "The suggestion that libraries should charge for information services such as Internet access belies a lack of understanding of the importance and prevalence of electronic sources of information utilized in public libraries and the central role that access to information plays in the development and maintenance of a democratic society." I couldn't have said it any better.

The basic point is that you can't on the one hand say you believe in the public library system, you can't praise the fact it's kept pace with the information revolution, and then say, "But we're going to make sure libraries and municipalities can charge people to have access to what today is as much a part of the basic service as borrowing a book." I say again to my colleagues that I hope they will listen and look at that as one potential area of change.

The question of independent libraries, the question of volunteers, and the question of fees and user fees that will come out of this if this bill is allowed to stand as it is are three important concerns. I want to mention a couple more.

One of the things that will happen through this change is that the government is phasing out funding for the upkeep of libraries. It's phasing out its contribution of $24 million. I talked about that earlier. Part of what also is happening -- I have to confess that on this one I do not have a clear answer, but it's my sense that this also means the government is washing its hands of its responsibilities to help with the maintenance and building of libraries, the capital costs, not just the day-to-day running of the libraries but the capital costs.

I have to confess I don't know if that's entirely what's going to happen. It's my conclusion from what I've seen that is going to be happening. I want to say to this government, if that's what you're doing, then you're also losing sight of at least one remaining area you should continue to have some involvement in. I look forward to the discussion as it will unfold on that issue.

The Ontario Library Trustees Association points out that capital costs have traditionally been shared by the provincial government with municipal councils and library boards. They also talk about the use of development charges. I know we're dealing with that issue in another bill and we'll be glad to get into that.

The association, and I would agree with them, encourages all of us to continue to ensure that the provincial government plays a role in the capital cost funding of libraries. In addition to giving them complete responsibility for the running, for the day-to-day costs of the libraries, you cannot saddle municipalities, you cannot also say to them that the capital costs are something they have to be able to bear 100%.


That brings me to the last point I want to make specifically on the bill in terms of the details, which is what I think the government is doing. I want to come back and talk a little bit more about the connection between this bill and the other actions this government is taking. Specifically within the confines of public libraries, this government is losing sight of the fact that it has an interest and should continue to have an interest, as a provincial government, in the public library system of this province.

I don't think it's enough for the government and the minister to limit their understanding and their responsibility of that provincial interest to simply funding the provincial information network that's part of the public library system or the interlibrary loan service. It goes much deeper than that because the provincial interest should be exactly about the kinds of things I've been pointing out.

The provincial interest should be that the legislative framework that's in place that provides for running our public libraries ensures that there is a system that is going to be, first of all, appropriately funded. That's why the present legislation continues to provide a section that allows for the payment of grants from the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation to library boards and municipalities. That needs to continue. There needs to be an understanding that capital costs are something the provincial government needs to continue to be involved with.

There needs to continue to be an understanding and a commitment to the support of the independent public library system and the public library boards with a majority of citizens rather than a majority of local politicians on those boards. That is the best way you will ensure that you have a continued and appropriate role for volunteers, but more significantly, that individual citizens play a key role in the continued evolution of our public library system.

You need to have in place a piece of legislation that has as part of the provincial interest an understanding that our system needs to continue to be free for basic services and that those basic services today are no longer limited to borrowing books, that those basic services today provide through our library system a whole array of materials and that, just as is the case now, those materials are available to people free of charge and that this protection exists in the legislation. Then that provision should continue to be put not into a regulation, not put off where it can be changed at the whim of a decision by a minister or a cabinet, but put into the legislation, left in the legislation because it's there now.

When I look at all these changes being made through this piece of legislation I have to ask myself, why is this bill even before us? Why is this piece of legislation even here? Usually you bring in a piece of legislation to improve something, to make it better. What we have here is a piece of legislation that takes away protections that exist today.

I may not be personally the most avid user, but I have a son who is a very avid reader, and when we go from time to time to our local public library he likes what's there, he's able to make use of it, as I know many citizens across the province are. I'm not here to give any doomsday stories and say people will no longer be able to use libraries. Of course they will be able to continue to use libraries, but the quality of the service that is being provided is going to be seriously endangered by this bill. I ask myself and I ask members of the government, why is this bill even here? Why is it here when there are so many other more pressing issues that we could be dealing with?

I mentioned earlier the example of the Minister of Transportation wanting, as I think is his right, to get a piece of legislation in front of this House that deals with improving public safety on our roads and highways. Why aren't we debating that bill that would actually make a difference in improving the quality of our highways and the protection for our drivers and passengers on our highways, instead of debating a bill, as we are doing today and as we will be next week, that is going to make the public library system in this province weaker than it is today?

The answer is that this is one of the things this government feels it needs to give to the municipalities as it tries to quieten them down as they understand more and more the implications that are coming from the downloading of services, and as they begin to understand that the downloading of services is going to put them, as municipalities, in an incredibly difficulty position in making choices, to have to prioritize because they simply will not be able to continue to fund all the things they are funding now unless they're prepared to raise property taxes. We know that the pressure on them not to raise property taxes today is enormous, therefore what's left for them is to cut. Where are they are going to start cutting? They're going to start cutting in the budgets to public libraries. That's what's going to happen if this bill goes through.

I hope that as we go through this process of debate, even municipalities will have the courage to come forward and say: "When we talked about streamlining responsibilities, this is not what we were talking about. We weren't talking about getting the power from Queen's Park to be your hatchet persons. We weren't talking about gaining powers that would allow us to cut basic services like our library service. We were talking about a clear responsibility between the two levels of government."

That's what the disentanglement discussion has been about. It's been rejigged by this government into nothing other than a downloading exercise, nothing other than a push down on to the local tax base of services that don't belong there, particularly services like long-term care, the care for our seniors; particularly services like social assistance; particularly services like child care -- three services that are going to continue to grow in their demand and therefore in their call upon the public purse, services that therefore are going to put incredible pressure on municipal governments to find ways to trim their costs and still maintain a basic level of service. They will not be able to do it because there isn't, at the end of the day, that much fat left in the system; there isn't, at the end of the day, that much ability by the municipal system across --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There is not a quorum in the House.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Would you please check if there is a quorum.

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


The Deputy Speaker: It's nice to see a little life in the House, finally. Order.

The member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I will resist the request to start all over again because I know that my colleague from Fort York is going to pick up the balance of the time we have as I wind down my comments.

I wanted to go through both points in the legislation so that members opposite would understand that we have some real concerns about some basic changes that are being made to the public library system in this province. I talked about those changes, particularly the removal of the protection that exists now for no fees to be charged for using the libraries and for borrowing materials, not just print materials but all materials. That protection exists now.


I've talked also about the need to maintain the independent library boards with citizen majority, and I know my colleague from Fort York will be interested in speaking to this issue, because among the many contributions he has made to public life in the past was a period of time that he served as a member of a public library board, and I think he'll be able to bring that perspective to this debate as well.

I talked also about the need for the government to understand that there is a continuing provincial interest in terms of capital funding, in terms of maintaining an appropriate level of funding in the maintenance and the ongoing operation of our library system, but particularly in terms of ensuring two of the basic tenets of our system of public libraries, the free access and the independent library boards with a majority of citizen members, which are two significant pieces that have made the public library system in this province the high-quality system that it is.

Any move away from those two basic tenets will mean that the system will over time deteriorate because, as I was pointing out, the pressure that will be on municipal councils as they have to make cuts as a result of the downloading of costs on to municipalities that this government is imposing will mean that they will be faced with some very tough choices they'll have to make. Among those choices, I suspect, will be their inability to find the money without resorting to increases in property taxes to be able to keep the present level of funding that is there and which this government, through its actions, is removing.

Twenty-four million dollars is a lot of money. It's not a lot of money in terms of the whole level of funding of our library system, but it's a level of funding that continues to say the province has an interest in the future of our library system. By removing that, this government is endangering not the existence of our library system -- I'm not going to go to that extreme -- but the quality of our system as we know it today.

The experiences in other provinces tell us that where the removal of funding has taken place, where the removal of the independent public library boards has taken place, the quality of our system has deteriorated. I would think that at least here is an area where the government should be able to stand up proudly and say, "We are continuing to support our library system," rather than hacking away at this piece. But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see them hacking away here, because quite frankly they're hacking away just about everywhere else.

As we go out and talk with people in the four or five days that we will have in committee on this bill, I look forward to hearing not just from the people who run our system but from the people who use our system, from the people who are responsible now for overseeing our system. I hope the government will at least listen and in this area be prepared to make some changes, which after all involve essentially leaving the present legislation as it is.

There isn't a problem here. You don't have to fix anything. What you're doing is breaking something that's working. So don't make any changes; leave it as it is. Continue the level of funding; continue the legislation as it is now. Leave the structures that are in place, and don't muck around and break something that's working.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Marchese: I want to continue from where my colleague has left off with respect to Bill 109. There is, I must say, a great deal to add in this particular field. I have been very fortunate in terms of my experience. I was a library board trustee for two years with the Toronto board and it was a very good experience to have had, because one learns the law through that kind of voluntarism that I gave, that many library board trustees gave.

When I first was asked to participate as a trustee with a library board, they talked about one meeting a month. I thought, "One meeting a month isn't too bad; I think I can fit that into my schedule as a teacher." When I went there, I discovered that, yes, there was one meeting a month with the board, but then there were subcommittees of the board, of course, three of them. We were expected to be part of one of those subcommittees, and then there were additional kinds of things that the library board did, such as to visit libraries often to find out what we had in our system, how effective the system was, where there were possible gaps that we needed to fill. So often we went and visited the various libraries that we had in the Toronto system and discovered that it wasn't simply one meeting a month, but it was many meetings a month. We gave of our time to volunteer as part of our civic responsibilities to many of the things that we find important, and libraries are an important part of our community, in some communities more than others.

I'm not sure how often some of our members have had the opportunity to go into our libraries, but I can tell you they are used very frequently by many people of all ages and of all colours. Why? Because it is a point of access for many people to be able to get material that otherwise might be too costly for many of these individuals. Young people, seniors, people of modest means use libraries as a resource, as a way of getting information that otherwise would be denied to them because they can't afford it. They cannot afford to go elsewhere and buy the material they need.

I have been fortunate to have had that experience because it has taught me a great deal about, first of all, civic involvement in a number of boards, and that was one of them, and it taught me a great deal about our public library system, of which I had very little knowledge before I became a trustee.

But I want to come back to this particular bill, and before I do I want to explain my other involvement in this field as a former Minister of Culture, where I had to deal with a number of these issues that came to our attention. This issue that this government is now dealing with was something that was brought to my attention when I was the minister.

In fact, there was a great deal of pressure from some sectors of the community, particularly municipalities that wanted to have complete control of libraries. As a minister, I resisted that because I knew provincial involvement was critical to the maintenance of three essential principles -- universal access, preserving funding and preserving governance -- and that if the government abandoned its role, as it is now doing, we would suffer in those three basic principles to which I will speak. Those are preserving universal access, preserving funding and preserving governance, and that is what is at stake here.

When I went there as minister I discovered that the funding that was set aside for libraries had never received its inflationary increase the way some other sectors of the Ministry of Culture, before me, was receiving. In fact, everyone else literally was getting an inflationary increase except libraries. Because of my experience as a library board trustee, I insisted, as the minister, that libraries get their fair share, and during the time I was there libraries were getting their fair share of funding. I must admit, with this government, that's no longer the case.


I will touch on some of these, but I want to begin by going over some of the comments made by our illustrious Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and try to unpackage the nonsense that has been articulated by her in the best way I can. She says that under the new act, Bill 109, municipalities will have full authority to provide and "effectively manage" library services. What does that mean? How does she say this will be accomplished? I know that municipalities will now have the full authority to provide and manage library services, but what makes her qualify it by saying they will provide and "effectively manage"? How does she know? How in the world would she know?

When libraries across Ontario were very fearful of any government doing this, as they were with me and expressed it with me at that time, and were fearful that somehow by giving local control, some of the money that now goes to those libraries would be lost, how could she say municipalities will have full authority to provide and "effectively manage"? On what basis? On what evidence? On what research? Other than the desire to say to the general public that's listening to this debate that somehow they will effectively manage it. She's relying on nothing really to come to that conclusion. It is not based on anything that is valid. In fact, it's simply pure politics.

I'm looking forward to some of the members responding to my remarks because I'm sure many of you must have good experience in the library field to know and you must be worried. If you're not worried, you can defend your minister as she speaks about "effectively manage" library services. Please defend it for me. I want to be able to hear you somehow come to the same conclusion, presumably relying on some experience you might have. Hopefully you will enlighten me, some of you members who I know are listening very attentively to what I'm saying.

Listen attentively to what your minister is saying, because I am convinced she doesn't have a clue either that what this will do is to deteriorate library services to most of our users. You disciples and apprentices of these fine ministers, you have to listen very carefully to what they're saying, because I tell you, if you're not listening carefully, your apprenticeship may not be all that effective, I argue.

She continues, your illustrious minister, by saying that this this will "both improve" -- the delivery of -- "library services to the people of Ontario and lower the costs for these services," because local officials know what is best for their communities. What does she mean by this? Again, you disciples of this minister and others, you should be listening to this. I'm convinced your libraries in your small towns are going to have the same worries I do, because this statement makes no sense. They will "improve the delivery of library services." How? How will they do that?

She says it will "lower the costs for these services." How? On what evidence does she make that argument?

The minister I hope is listening. She's not here today to listen to our responses, but I do hope she's listening at the ministry office and that her assistant, who I know well, will pass on my remarks to her.

I have to tell you, Tony, there is nothing in what she said and in this bill that will produce lower costs. Tony, I want you to tell her that. Other than the politics of saying so, there is nothing in this bill that will produce lower costs. What this bill will do is to take funding away from libraries that they have traditionally had. That's what this will do. Tony, will you please pass it on? Thank you very much. It's important to be able to communicate these things.

I am very worried about librarians and their desire to provide accessibility and to provide a modicum of funding that will preserve the universality of that system and preserve the kind of governance that we've had that keeps members who are accountable and distant from political influence.

What this government has done in the last two years is to reduce funding 20% every year. In my time, we were providing approximately $40 million to libraries; it is now down to $25 million. The minister never refers to the figures, she simply says, "Well, we provide a modest amount" or "a small amount; it really isn't a great deal." But she never makes reference to the figure. It used to be $40 million, it's down to $25 million in the last two years of her slashing of funding to libraries and she's about to eliminate its funding completely.

In her statement the minister also says that provincial involvement was an unnecessary intrusion. What in the world is she talking about? To the assistant who sits in this House listening to my remarks, I ask you, what is she talking about? How is this an intrusion on libraries? By providing money to libraries that are desperately needed, this minister calls it an unnecessary intrusion?

This is why I say that some of these ministers have no clue what they're doing, because I suspect their speeches are written for them and they don't reflect on what they're reading, because if they did reflect on the speeches that are written for them, they would quickly come to the conclusion that in saying things that are patently untrue, they would look foolish.

Mr Shea: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know you heard that; you were listening intently. I find it passing strange that you would not challenge the member when he suggested that a minister of the crown would say things that are untrue. I ask you to bring the member to order, please.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm sure that if the member for Fort York has erred in any way, he will correct it.

Mr Marchese: If I did in any way, I would take it back, absolutely, yes.

When the minister argues that provincial involvement is an unnecessary intrusion, I ask you, honourable members, do you understand what she is saying? Do any of you have a clue what she is getting at? Have any of you questioned the remarks of this minister? They make no sense to me. I ask you, does it make any sense to you that the provincial involvement in providing desperately needed funding should be an unnecessary intrusion?

Speaker, I appeal to your sense of judgement as well, because through you I am trying to ask these members to reflect on what the minister has stated here today in the House. I listened attentively because I wanted to know what she was saying. I wanted to be sure that what she was saying had some connection to the reality of the world that she and I share. I tell you, her feet are not firmly rooted to the ground when she makes statements like that. Is that okay, Mr Shea, that her feet are not firmly rooted to the ground? Please, you don't have to stand up. It's okay.

Mr Shea: Speaker, if I'm permitted to respond to the hysterical hyperbole, I will, sir.

The Deputy Speaker: You can raise a point of order.

Mr Marchese: No, there's no point of order here, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Mr Shea.

The Deputy Speaker: There's no point of order.

Mr Marchese: There's no point of order. Thank you, Mr Shea.

The minister's feet are not firmly rooted to the ground, I tell you that.

For the honourable members' interest here, I've got about 100 letters that were given to me approximately -- not approximately; dated March 28, 1996, when they had an inkling that this government might do this evil deed. They were very worried, and I was worried. I had a sense that this government would do this, and in fact today we see it as a reality.

This is what they said; approximately 100 people here said the following. It's addressed to the Honourable Marilyn Mushinski, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, re provincial per-household grant to public libraries.

"I am writing regarding the possibility that the province may cancel all provincial funding to public libraries. It is my belief that the province must continue to play an important role in ensuring that public libraries are regulated provincially. Ontario's public libraries are a rich resource for the educational and information needs of all of our citizens, regardless of income and age. Public libraries are the most widely used institution in any community, more than schools, parks, recreational facilities.

"Provincial grants to public libraries ensure that the people of Ontario receive a basic level of library service through their local libraries. The provincial grant also sustains the province-wide information infrastructure already in place for interlibrary loans. Public libraries are needed more than ever to provide economic strength and quality of life at a time when technology is changing rapidly and job retraining and upgrading are in constant demand.

"The provincial government should not decrease its interest in a well-informed and literate population. With adequate provincial funding, excellent public libraries will continue to meet the needs and interests of all Ontarians, no matter where they reside.

"I urge you to work within cabinet to protect provincial funding for public libraries."


The urgings of these individuals were left unattended and unheard. They urged this minister to go in to cabinet and fight for their interest. It never happened. This minister wasn't there to intervene on their behalf. This minister wasn't there to preserve the provincial funding, to preserve excellent public libraries that will continue to meet the needs of all Ontarians, no matter where they reside.

I tell you this: This minister has let public libraries down, has let the users down, has let seniors down, and most of these users are going to find that what they used to receive by way of a service is no longer there. So to all of the people who have signed this, this government, through Mike Harris, has let you down, his disciples have let you down and this minister most certainly has let you down.

The minister says, through another comment that she made today in the House, that the province will continue to support the library system through partnerships, policy and funding of the province-wide network of shared resources, cooperative services and telecommunications links that connect Ontario's public libraries. I must say that at least I am happy that this minister is saying that some funding will continue. I am worried about what that means by way of funding or by way of obligation of her ministry to sustain this network.

She talks about continuing to support the library system through partnerships, policy and funding. Funding is a third component of how she says she will sustain the support. The other two are through partnerships and through policy. I'm not quite sure what "partnership" means, and I'm not quite sure what "policy" means by way of sustaining this network. I know the policy assistant or some other ministry assistant is there, and I hope that if she or the other assistant who was there has some advice to me, you might write it down so that I can be enlightened by you, if not the minister, at some later point.

But I tell you I am worried. I am worried that this government and their disciples here are not paying attention to this uncorking of countless bills that we are assaulted with and besieged and beleaguered by daily in this House. The uncorking of so many bills is confusing not only to the electorate but to these poor disciples who sit by every day, trying to understand the little bit that they can in this array or disarray of bills. I'm sure it's got them confused, no doubt. I know that the majority of the public is confused, but imagine these poor apprentices going through this political process for the very first time. It must be very tough.

Interjection: Look at their faces.

Mr Marchese: Yes, if you look at their faces, they look constantly in consternation at what this government does on a daily basis. Don't you see it? Don't you see that daily? I see it daily.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Tell us about partnerships. You don't understand.

Mr Marchese: Partnerships? The member from somewhere there talks about --

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Grey-Owen Sound.

Mr Marchese: Where is he from? Ah, Grey-Owen Sound. Listen to me, Speaker. The member for Grey-Owen Sound talks about partnerships. I tell you this: They hand down, download, a number of essential services that should be provincially funded to the municipalities and they say that's partnership. They hold a gun to their head and then they say, "This is what we mean by partnership."

Is that your understanding of partnerships, as you hold a gun to the municipality's head? Member for Grey-Owen Sound, please pay attention to what's happening here. They've got a gun on your municipalities and you call it partnerships? Come on.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Mike Harris is closing his hospital.

Mr Marchese: Mike Harris is closing his hospital? What else is Mike Harris doing to these fine disciples of his? He's shutting the whole province down. Mr Harris says this government is too bloated; he wants to shut it all down. He doesn't see a role for government except to facilitate for his developer friends. That's what it's about: facilitating a greater role for the uninvolvement of government so that the corporations, the banks and their fine rich friends can have access to anything they want, unrestrained by any regulation or laws. This government is cutting the red tape for them. That's what this is all about. This and every other bill is about using these disciples as instruments of their agenda, of the agenda of the wealthy financiers of this country.

I know, Mr Speaker, you probably are a bit puzzled by that remark too, but I tell you when you look at the global picture in terms of what globalization is all about, they want the harmonization of services to be decreased. They want all that cost to get out of the way. Why? Because they want us to be able to compete with those poor people of Burma, poor people of Asia, poor people of South America, poor people of Africa. They want us to compete with them, thus requiring everything that we do publicly, everything that protects the public interest to be diminished to its lowest common denominator. That's what this is all about.

I know this is very complicated for most people to see. How can you expect ordinary people trying to struggle through this society to survive, to feed their families, to have the time to reflect on these global connections, on what is happening around us as the financial institutions are finally taking over, breaking down all the barriers across the land, across this world, so they can have free access to their markets in the way they want. Tories and Reform parties are there to do their bidding, by and large, although I must admit the Liberals are doing that equally well at the federal level and other levels as well.

To get back to this whole issue of libraries, I have looked at the presentation done by Lynne Jordan, chief librarian, who is on the Kingston Public Library Board as a chairperson but also on the Frontenac County Public Library Board. She serves on those two boards. She makes some insightful comments which I think are particularly relevant for all of us and all of the constituencies that these fine Tory disciples hold in a lot of the areas around Ontario. They should listen carefully because it will affect them in three areas that she speaks to: preserving universal access, preserving funding and preserving governance.

She's very worried about the whole issue of free access to library resources. What used to be free access to library resources is going to become problematic in the future because the government, in cutting back 40% of public support for libraries, in dealing with those cutbacks, is going to be forced to charge user fees.


I know this government hates those words "user fees," but that's what they are involved in. Bill 26 confirmed the provincial government's support for user fees at the time. She knows that and she knows that in order to generate significant revenues to deal with the shortfall this government has caused and to deal with the shortfall that municipalities have had to deal with because municipalities generally have received 40% less in funding in the last two years, they are forced to institute user fees to be able to make up for the shortfall.

She's very, very worried about what that will do. She argues, and I agree, that what will be achieved by this legislation is two tiers of library services, and she's absolutely right about that. She says, "a basic level of library services for some for which there is no fee and an enhanced level of services for which users will pay." That's what this is all about, a two-tier system: basic service for reading materials and pay-as-you-go for enhanced services, particularly as it relates to information that is required electronically and other areas of service as well.

She's right. Is this what this government is forcing on our population? Is this what it wants? I have to say this is indeed what it wants because if it didn't want that, then it would continue to provide the support to libraries and not let them down. Library professionals who are experienced in filling information needs have never believed a format should determine what is basically library service and what is enhanced.

Experience has shown that use decreases once fees are implemented, but it's quite obvious, once you start charging a fee for whatever it is that one is required to pay for, that particular use for that material, whatever it is, goes down. That's a fact.

She says at Kingston Public Library a video insurance fee was implemented to recover the cost of damage to a particular collection, and she says a 37% drop in use resulted from the imposition of this fee. Quite clearly, we know what's happening. At Frontenac County Public Library, of which she's a board member as well, a drop of 50% in use of the videos resulted after the imposition of an insurance fee.

At best, only modest revenues can be generated using user fees. Annual membership fees in Edmonton and in Calgary public libraries generated only 3% of total revenues. This new legislation, she argues and I agree, ensures that availability of library service will be reduced for those who cannot pay. Those who can pay may preserve Ontario's libraries for their own use.

It's quite clear to me -- it should be clear to the assistant of the minister who still sits here listening to my remarks -- that libraries are going to be forced to charge a fee for use of many, many materials, what she calls enhanced materials, and only those who can afford to pay will have access to it. But she says, "As studies show, the more you are charged for something the less they use it and you only recover a bare minimal percentage because of user fees." So what you have guaranteed is less use of those materials that are of benefit to the majority of people who use libraries.

It's not Conrad Black who goes to the library. Conrad Black will buy what he needs. Conrad Black is not going to go to a library to have access to this information. He's going to buy it at a very heavy price. He doesn't need these little services, but seniors in Welland-Thorold will need them. Seniors in Nipigon will need them. Citizens in Sarnia will need them. Children all over the map that these people represent, in Brant-Haldimand, in Scarborough East, in Norfolk, all these people everywhere are going to need these services and they won't be able to afford them.

This government has the gall, this minister has the gall to say that provincial involvement is an unnecessary intrusion. She has the fortitude somehow to stand up here with an easy face saying this is an unnecessary intrusion.

The Local Control of Public Libraries Act provides no provincial funding for public libraries. That's what this is all about. Public libraries have received a 40% reduction, which I have alluded to already. "The elimination of provincial per-household grants will shut down a large number of small libraries" -- in some of those little places that some of you come from -- "and make the operation of county library systems which face the challenges of large geographic areas, long-distance telephone call, costly delivery services, multiple service points and lower taxation base more difficult."


Mr Murdoch: Are you making fun of our little places?

Mr Marchese: She's right. Member for Grey-Owen Sound, listen to what I'm saying. Pay attention. I'll repeat this for you because it's important. I'm not saying this.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Grey-Owen Sound; the member for Lambton.

Mr Marchese: This is what the chairperson, Lynne Jordan, chief librarian, has said. I believe it to be true: "The elimination of provincial per-household grants will shut down" -- Grey-Owen Sound. The member for Grey-Owen Sound is not paying attention.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Fort York, address the Chair.

Mr Marchese: Through you, Speaker, to the member for Grey-Owen Sound.

The Deputy Speaker: No, there are no questions back and forth. You address the Chair.

Mr Marchese: "The elimination of the provincial per-household grants will shut down a large number of small libraries" -- where many of you come from -- "and make the operation of county library systems which face the challenges of large geographic areas, long-distance telephone calls, costly delivery services, multiple service points and lower taxation base more difficult."

Mr Murdoch: Where did you get that from?

Mr Marchese: I read it to you. You weren't listening. That's why I repeated it to you. Mr Speaker, I was repeating this for his benefit so that he would know.

The Deputy Speaker: Take your seat. There's a period of questions and comments afterwards. The member for Grey-Owen Sound, if you have any remarks, bring them at that time. It's quite easy. Member for Fort York, please address the Chair; don't address the member for Grey-Owen Sound. You talk to me. Go ahead, please.

Mr Marchese: Thank you for your guidance and assistance, as usual.

She's worried about what will happen to a lot of these county libraries. Some will disappear. Where there are great distances, some of those libraries will become difficult. Where there's a low tax base, it will become difficult. The minister says, "Don't worry." She said to you and to me, "Don't worry, we're taking education out of the property tax." She says quite blissfully that now they're going to have a lot of funding as a result. She says that with a straight face and the disciples all agree like penguins. How does it provide more money --


Mr Marchese: Like penguins.

Mr Len Wood: Seals.

Mr Michael Brown: Seals, yes.

Mr Marchese: Seals? Close. How, by taking out that money, are we going to give more money to municipalities when we are unloading, offloading nonchalantly and without mercy to the municipalities housing, unloading uncharitably long-term care, unloading uncharitably welfare, unloading transportation, unloading some of the public health matters? They're unloading all that and people are adding up the figures and they're discovering that the charity of this government isn't much charity at all, that it's going to cost them a whole lot more.

Then this minister says, "But don't worry, folks, we're going to take this tax out, we can take a couple of billion out of education, and we're going to download to you unsuspecting fools a whole lot of problems that you're not aware of. You're going to be paying a whole lot of money, much more in your property taxes."

The poor libraries, struggling to get attention from the municipalities once you have done so, will not be able to sustain anywhere near the level of funding that they provided, and all of this provincial funding that we used to provide, the $40 million, will disappear. That's what will happen.


Removal of that funding from the province means the same system cannot be preserved. The suggestion that there will be more funds from municipal services with the realignment of education to the provincial tax base is not realistic. Everybody knows that. I make the point, but so does Lynne Jordan, chief librarian of the two library systems I mentioned. They all know this. It is not news to them, but it is news to the disciples here, who don't have a clue about what is taking place. When we get to these issues of access, when we get to the issues of providing full responsibility to municipalities, who knows what's going to happen?

Giving full governance to the municipalities means that we no longer have the kind of library system where we're guaranteed a majority of public citizens, ordinary citizens, to be there to preserve the public interest. When we take that away, which is what we had under the old act, we no longer will have, I suspect and fear, a citizenry that will be controlling those library boards, but we will have who knows what. We will have municipalities which will take complete control of those library systems, as many have wanted to do in the past. Many municipalities have wanted to take them over, and our suspicion is, and I believe Lynne Jordan probably agrees, that we could see the elimination of many chief librarians. Many municipalities may decide that we don't need chief librarians, that we can take it over by a bureaucracy of our municipal government and run it through other librarians, let them run whatever remains of our libraries in those towns and/or counties.

That would be the extent of what we are handing them down as we pass on governance, as we see it now, where they are non-political by and large, where we see the majority of the members being ordinary citizens who care, who volunteer because they care, and who might be taken over by municipal politicians completely.

In the Toronto board, where I was a member for a couple of years, we had one or two city councillors sit together with our board. It is true that they often did not come, that their attendance was oft-times very sporadic, but that was the extent of their involvement. The point was that we had citizens who controlled those library boards, we had municipal representation in order that they knew through the municipal councillors how money was being spent, and we achieved that kind of accountability through that representation.

I fear that what will happen now is a full control of those libraries by municipalities, where some chief librarians will no longer be there. Why? To save money, because the more money that is taken out of the system, the less money that this government provides, the more it is hell-bent on introducing the other 15% of income tax cut which flows out money to their banker friends, the more insanities they introduce of that nature and continue with, the more municipalities will find themselves with less funding and the more they will want to streamline -- so the line goes, a line this government likes -- their library operations.

So you will have user fees -- inevitable -- creating therefore a two-tier system. You will have citizen participation diminished. You will have many of those libraries controlled completely by municipalities, by municipal councillors. It no longer will be an operation, an entity, unto itself, but it will be taken over essentially. It will be taken over by the municipality. So much for that governance that has ensured for a long time a dispassionate and apolitical relationship where it ensured a great deal of citizen participation, where it ensured that the use of our library system had accessibility to all irrespective of income, irrespective of age, irrespective of colour.

What this government has done, in my view, is a very shameful thing of completely abrogating its responsibility to libraries, of completely denying a provincial role in setting important standards, of ensuring province-wide accessibility to those resources that we provide. What it tells me is that this government has no interest whatsoever in maintaining its role towards ensuring a universal system, towards ensuring more and greater public involvement. I'm sad to say that from everything I'm seeing here, this government is abdicating completely its provincial responsibility not just for libraries, but for many other things as well.

Speaker, I thank you. I'm looking forward to the apprentices and the disciples here responding to the kinds of comments that we've made here today.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Shea: It's with some regret that I have to rise and respond in part to the last speaker, who pranced and preened for 45 minutes and said nothing. His colleague who went before him did in fact add substantially to the debate, and I found that of considerable assistance to hear his comments.

Very briefly, I suppose the member from Fort York has a reason to be modest about his municipal experience. To compare that against the minister's of 13 years in municipal government, I think she does in fact understand the difficulties and the challenges of administering municipal budgets, understands the sensitivities that have to be reflected in terms of relationships with boards, and I think that is reflected in this bill. There is in fact considerable scope for councils and for boards to interact.

I might point out that the Who Does What panel suggested that we eliminate the boards and the minister was not prepared to accept that. The minister was quite adamant by saying: "No, the boards must continue. Yes, we'll let the local councils make the decisions of what size and how they'll be constituted, but the boards must continue."

That brings me to an interesting point, because the member for Fort York smiled throughout his speech, particularly as he got towards the end. As we saw his teeth, we saw blood dripping from them as he ripped the gullets out of local councils. He doesn't trust local councils. He doesn't believe they will do the right thing. A very curious argument for this member to take and to put before this House, when we put before us the remembrance of other issues that he debates in other quarters, particularly in the area of Bill 103. I frankly think that what he had to say can reasonably be discounted.

I am more interested in some of the points raised by the member for Dovercourt, and when I make my comments next week, I will refer to them directly.

Mr Michael Brown: I thought the remarks from the member for Dovercourt and the member for Fort York were extremely interesting and extremely valuable. I was particularly interested in the comments surrounding the smaller libraries in this province, the ones in places like Manitouwaning and Little Current, in Mindemoya and my own library in the township of Billings. I think about Lil Boyd, the librarian there, and the good people on the library board who have fund-raisers, bake sales and teas and that sort of thing to maintain this relatively small library. While the amount of provincial funding may not appear to be significant to the minister, that amount of funding that came from the province was significant to these small libraries and probably, in many cases, will make the difference in their level of service to a considerable degree.

As we think about what's going on here, we are now coming to an electronic age. The minister spoke to that briefly. I wonder if the smaller libraries are going to be able to manage the equipment costs, the hardware you will need, the computers, the printers, to make sure that the children, especially the children, in these small communities have access to information they should have access to.


It is a brave new world in many respects. The 21st century should allow people in rural areas the same kind of access you can have in our metropolitan centres. If our libraries cannot function in the smaller places allowing that kind of access to information at a reasonable cost, those in the rural areas are not going to be able to participate in this new information age.

Mr Len Wood: I enjoyed immensely the comments of the member for Fort York and the member for Dovercourt in the 90 minutes that they've explained the way they see the attack on libraries right across this province.

I know the small libraries in the communities of Cochrane, Kapuskasing and Hearst that were depending on provincial funding in order to make ends meet and give the service the communities needed are going to be in very difficult shape now as they extract money that was used for the libraries. The municipalities are going to have to try to find ways of increasing taxes because of the mega-week dump that we saw in order to try to find a 30% tax break to give to the wealthiest people of this province.

We know that education is under attack; hospitals are being closed. Even in some of the Conservative members' ridings hospitals are being closed. Funding for schools is being cut by $400 million last year, $1 billion this year, and we don't know how much more in the future there.

But I enjoyed immensely the whole area that was covered by the member for Fort York and the member for Dovercourt in their opening remarks on this particular bill, because I believe it's very important that the people in this province understand exactly what Mike Harris and his cabinet and the Conservative caucus are doing to this province because of the mega-week dump. It doesn't matter if it's Bill 103, Bill 104 and all the others in the series; in this particular case Bill 109, the libraries.

I have some comments from Cochrane. The people of Cochrane wrote letters, signed petitions, demonstrated by blocking a number of highways, but did the government care? No. They wouldn't even meet with the town officials to provide some answers as to why this ridiculous initiative is being taken by the government of Ontario concerning the town of Cochrane.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I want to comment and ask a question, because I listened with attention to the members for Dovercourt and for Fort York.

The member for Fort York used the term that "we used to have free access to libraries," and I guess I would ask him to explain that because I didn't think there was any such thing as free. I thought the province paid for it or the federal government or the municipal government, or in fact the people who use it.

The other thing was that the member for Dovercourt was explaining those financial difficulties the libraries would have. I'd say, yes, some of them have undergone those and indeed the province of Ontario has undergone those same sorts of financial difficulties. Both the member for Dovercourt and the member for Fort York should be very familiar with why Ontario has gotten into those financial difficulties. They of course were members of the government that taxed, borrowed and spent over the last five years, spent our grandchildren's inheritances and put us into those sorts of things.

I would also like to comment a little bit on downloading because when I was a member of the AMO committee on October 11, I believe it was 1992, the then NDP government had a definition before that panel on downloading. The next week when I wanted to get a copy of it, lo and behold, it was withdrawn because somebody said they didn't think they could support that definition of downloading. Indeed, the libraries in those municipalities that will be called upon to support them will have the tax dollars that used to go to education for that.

I'd like to thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York has the floor for two minutes.

Mr Marchese: I want to thank the members for Algoma-Manitoulin and Cochrane North for listening. I want to comment on the member for High Park's comments as completely irrelevant. His elucidations were irrelevancies. He talks about the minister having an understanding of the challenges and having a sensitivity to the challenges of library users in municipalities. Neither he, the member for High Park, nor this minister has any clue about the damage they're going to do to our libraries and our library users. He doesn't have a clue what he's talking about, and if he was listening, he would know that everything that I spoke about, by and large, was very much on topic.

This member for High Park, who is a former municipal councillor, doesn't have an understanding of the effect this will have. The person I was quoting often is a chief librarian and she understands, where this member for High Park does not because he's in complete ignorance of what this will do. This will create a two-tier system, to this member for High Park, one a basic system that everybody has access to and can afford and the other where people will have to pay for educational videos, audio books and other electronic material they need. A two-tier system -- speak to that when you're speaking. I'm looking forward to your remarks.

This chief librarian also says that, "Some small libraries will close and other county library systems that face the challenges of large geographic areas and long-distance telephone costs and low taxation base are going to find themselves in complete difficulty." I didn't say that; it's people in the field who are saying that. I don't mistrust municipal politicians, but when they get a 40% cut, they're going to have to cut back in library service.

The Deputy Speaker: Being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1807.