36th Parliament, 1st Session

L173 - Wed 5 Mar 1997 / Mer 5 Mar 1997


















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I rise today to present to the House a message from the people of Bruce county. They delivered to my office yesterday copies of letters that they had presented to the Grey-Bruce District Health Council in response to itsreckless and insensitive recommendations on the future of health care in their area, these recommendations of course made necessary by the cuts to hospitals of this government.

These letters are coming from people specifically supporting the Bruce hospital in Walkerton. After a general mailing to 9,000 households, the hospital received 7,946 letters in return in support of the hospital and against the restructuring plans of the Grey-Bruce District Health Council. Eighty eight per cent of the residents took time to respond to the restructuring plans. This is an overwhelming show of support and contrary to the actions of the government which made it necessary.

As the House is aware, the Minister of Health has asked the Grey-Bruce District Health Council to postpone his report until he can develop his last-minute rural health policy. We hope the House will recognize that it is these 7,946 people who want the government to draft a policy that will allow them to have quality and complete health care in their home communities.

The people who wrote these letters have a commitment to their hospital that this government cannot afford to ignore. They donate every year to support its activities. They are scared that if their hospital is gone their doctors will also be lost. They know that change is necessary, but these 7,946 people want the government to listen to their concerns.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I rise today to give my support to SOS Montfort and to the Franco-Ontarian community in its efforts to save Montfort Hospital.

The recommendations of the Health Services Restructuring Commission appointed by this government do not reflect in any way the fact that Montfort is the only community hospital in the country that offers a full medical training program in French. Doctors are trained to practise in smaller hospitals in urban and rural areas. This is crucial for northern Ontarians, to have French doctors who receive training that really reflects the needs of our northern communities. This hospital also provides training for 14 other health care specialities. In the last five years, more than 1,000 students have trained at Montfort.

Many of my constituents of Cochrane North have been hospitalized in Montfort for specialized care, and all agree that it is not only reassuring but also crucial to be able to communicate with staff and doctors in their mother tongue. I would also like to stress that 77% of Montfort's clientele is French, and in terms of long-term and psychiatric care, this figure goes as high as 98%.

In the last week the francophone community has been mobilizing its efforts to fully inform the commission, the government and the public of the crucial importance of this institution. I'm urging today the minister of francophone affairs to wake up and do his job and stand up for the Franco-Ontarian community. Stop hiding behind the commission and take action.

I might point out that if it wasn't for Bill 26, which was brought in by Mike Harris and this Conservative government, we wouldn't be seeing hospital closures across this province, especially Montfort Hospital, which is crucial to the people --

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


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I'm pleased to rise in the House this afternoon and comment on an important project in my riding of Simcoe East. The project is the twinning of the Atherley Bridge.

The constituents in my riding have shown great concern over the frustrating traffic congestion on the bridge, especially during the peak summer tourist season. The opening of Casino Rama, while it is a wonderful benefit to the area, did add a tremendous load to the already heavy traffic over the bridge at the narrows. This was not properly planned in the previous government's casino approval.

I've personally worked hard and long with the local municipal council and the Ministry of Transportation expressing the importance of the widening of this bridge. Just over a year ago I forwarded a memo to the Ministry of Transportation urging them to act as quickly as possible to correct this situation. With the opening of Casino Rama in July, I knew an explosive situation was about to happen.

I am pleased to see this project is becoming a reality. The Ministry of Transportation has announced they expect the bridge project will be tendered in the next few weeks. Currently the ministry is working on an agreement with the Ontario Casino Corp to fund the three-year project, which is expected to be in the neighbourhood of $16 million to $18 million. This funding will come from the 20% the government collects from casino revenues in Ontario.

Special care will be taken to protect the fish spawning beds located in the area.

I commend the city of Orillia and Ramara for the hard work they have done.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Behind closed doors and in secret, the Harris government is taking a major step backwards in the protection of the environment.

While the attention of the province is riveted on the Toronto amalgamation issue, the municipal downloading and the closing of hospitals, the Harris regime is taking responsibility for the Niagara Escarpment Commission away from the Ministry of Environment, which is there to protect the environment, and giving it to the Ministry of Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the exploitation of our natural resources.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has no interest in the protection of our unique escarpment lands. In fact, we can expect to see more gravel pits and all kinds of development on an environmental gem which has been designated by the United Nations as a world biosphere.

Besides placing the Niagara Escarpment Commission under the control of the Ministry of Natural Resources, a ministry with a dreadful record in the field of environmental protection, Premier Harris is removing Norm Sterling, the minister in the Davis government responsible for establishing the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the only minister with a commitment to preserving and protecting Niagara Escarpment lands, from responsibility for this important file.

This is a shameful day for the Conservative government of Mike Harris and a mighty sad day for the environment.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Earlier this week, on Monday to be exact, I brought Mary Carlucci to this place to share with us the stress that she's under, incurred by National Grocers as they tried to take away her store. In light of the fact that this is 1997 and Saturday is the day the international community sets apart to recognize the role of women in society, some of her comments are interesting. She says:

"National Grocers also lied to me when they got me into this franchisee arrangement; they told me, `Don't worry, you will make money in our stores.' I trusted them. I believed what they told me. I quit a job I had with Loeb and brought the National Grocers store from $9 million a year volume to $22 million. Now they want the store for their own, just like the Loeb situation. They make me buy products at a high price and sell it at a low price so the store loses money. They also don't want me running one of their stores because I'm a woman. I'm the only one in the entire chain. I was good enough when they wanted my family name and my experience to build up the store business. Now, after using me, National Grocers thinks they can toss me aside. I've been told I shouldn't be running a store, that I should be at home where I belong. Can you imagine that kind of attitude? I've even been told how to dress by the National Grocers old boys' club. Discrimination? Yes, I think so....

"I even wrote a personal letter to all the board of directors...including its chairman, Galen Weston, and to Mrs Hilary Weston. (I thought she should know what kind of company her husband is operating.)" Today --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Members, thank you. That's improper. Please bring it down. I'm warning you to take it down. The members for Sault Ste Marie and Cochrane North, I'm warning you. Statements?


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): In an innovative and inclusive process, more than 400 employees of Glaxo Wellcome responded to a survey asking for ideas on where the company should focus its charitable contributions. The majority chose hospice care.

Hospice gives people with life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to be cared for at home surrounded by people they love. The goal of hospice care is to make the final months of life in the home comfortable and peaceful. Volunteers, who are the hands and heart of hospice, provide emotional support, practical help and companionship during times of grief.

Glaxo Wellcome is the largest research-and-development-based pharmaceutical manufacturing firm in Ontario and the second-largest in Canada. Through R&D investments, Glaxo makes significant contributions to the health care of Canadians. In this partnership, they plan to build a model to address the issues affecting Canadian society using the powerful combination of expertise, volunteerism, partnership and funding to make a difference. This kind of initiative, this government supports. This partnership should be a model for other companies who want to make meaningful contributions in the charitable field.

I would like to thank Paul Lucas, the employees and the management of Glaxo, and I would like to thank Janet Napper and the board of Hospice Ontario for their commitment to the patients and families in Ontario.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): This is an open letter to the Minister of Education, Mr Snobelen:

"Last year at this time, we were very concerned about the cancellation of the summer jobs program for youth. So too were students from across Ontario. In fact, in very short order, you heard from student groups across Ontario, begging you not to cancel the programs. Thanks to their efforts, they saved the programs, although you scaled them down severely.

"Minister, one year later, your government's policies have created alarm in a great number of young people across Ontario.

"The unemployment rate for young people is worsening. In fact, the standard rate is 2% higher in Ontario than in the rest of Canada. You are forcing tuition fees to soar. This is hardly helpful.

"This is not the time to eliminate student summer jobs programs. Unfortunately, I understand that this is exactly what you intend to do. Once again this year it is your intention to scrap the youth jobs programs. Instead you plan to tell young people to go find their own jobs and maybe some companies possibly could, perhaps, be eligible for a $2-an-hour cheque at the end of the work period.

"Minister, this is not acceptable. For example, non-profit organizations find the Environmental Youth Corps program vital...."

It is just not acceptable.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I stand here today in order to speak out on behalf of what is going on across this province and how Mike Harris's cuts to government are affecting people in their lives.

Government says over and over again that it wants to cut through red tape. They want to do this in order to make government more efficient for the people of Ontario so we can get business done.

I have a group in my riding which for the last 14 months has tried to get incorporated. The SPCA in Timmins, by Marg Kilgore, has been trying for 14 months to get themselves incorporated. They can't get their application from the bottom of the pile to the top because the government has laid off a majority of the employees within those offices, so the normal processing of simple things like incorporation papers cannot be done in a timely fashion.

Is this common sense? I say it's nonsense. You're supposed to be there and the government is supposed to deliver services to assist businesses and assist individuals to do business in this province. Well, this ain't the case. The government with its cuts is making it more difficult for people to access government, making it increasingly longer for people to work their applications through the system. We have yet another example where in Timmins Marg Kilgore and the SPCA have now waited 14 months to get their thing through, and it's not there.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): Every dollar wasted in the hospital system is a service lost for patients who need care. We spend more than any other jurisdiction in the world, yet Ontario's health care system is not reaching its real potential.

Taxpayers expect nothing less than a hospital system that puts patients first. The restructuring commission will achieve this by removing waste and maximizing the dollars that go to direct patient care. Restructuring is long overdue. In the last 10 or 15 years, 30 district health councils have looked at restructuring 134 hospitals.

My friends in the third party were also familiar with the need for change. They will recall that the Perth hospital exhausted every avenue with that government to obtain funding for a capital project. When I met with the then minister, the honourable member for Beaches-Woodbine, she agreed that funding would be available if the Perth and Smiths Falls hospitals restructured.

The boards and the DHC and I worked through a restructuring plan that merged two administrations into one. This restructuring was the first for small hospitals in Ontario and has saved over $4 million to date.

A condition of the merger is that investments would be made in chronic care beds in Smiths Falls, which we are currently addressing with Minister Wilson. I congratulate the officials.


Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): May I have unanimous consent, Mr Speaker, to make a statement regarding Easter Seals today?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Unanimous consent for a statement on Easter Seals: Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Mrs Ecker: On November 28, 1922, the Ontario Society for Crippled Children, now known as the Easter Seal Society, was created to help raise funds and enable thousands of children with disabilities to receive the help they need regardless of their parents' ability to pay. Over the last 75 years the society has opened its arms to these special children and developed community services and supports to respond to their needs.

It is my pleasure today to congratulate the Easter Seal Society as they celebrate their 75th anniversary. I would also like to introduce two very important guests with us today, the Easter Seal children who will be the ambassadors for all children with disabilities. I am sure all members will join me today in welcoming the 1997 provincial Easter Seal Timmy, T.J. Perry from Oshawa, and also Anna Mejewska, from Brampton, who is the 1997 local Easter Seal Society Tammy.

The Easter Seal Society continues to make a positive difference in the lives of children with physical disabilities and their families by providing a unique and wide range of direct programs and services. These include direct and consultative nursing services to help families care for their children in their homes, schools and communities.


The society provides families with support through educational workshops and information about treatment facilities, clinics and other services that are available. The society also offers financial assistance for medically prescribed equipment, parent relief, summer camps, preschool programs, transportation and other supports.

Through the Easter Seal Research Institute, the society funds research, development and professional training in the prevention, treatment and management of physical disabilities in children.

Over the last 75 years, the Easter Seal Society has helped these children and their families through fund-raising in the community. March is when the society asks all of us to contribute to this important work; I would encourage us all to do so. I wish the society much success in this year's campaign and much success to this year's Timmy and Tammy.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): We can't tell you, T.J. and Anna, how pleased we are to help say happy 75th anniversary to Easter Seal.

There was a Rotary Club of Windsor president named Arthur Fitzgerald, and in 1922 he made a phone call to a Rotarian he knew in Alleyria, Ohio, and at that time he said: "We really need help here in Ontario. We have young kids we're just not able to help. Let's do something about that."

As a result of one phone call, many Rotarian presidents got together for a remarkable meeting. That meeting happened in Windsor several months later, and that was the founding of the Ontario Crippled Children's Society at that time. Over the years, of course, it's become so well known and represented by that Easter Seal stamp that all of us know so well, and it is in fact the Easter Seal Society of Ontario.

Many communities across Ontario participate in the Easter Seal Walkathon and the Easter Seal Telethon, and that gives all of us an opportunity to meet our local Easter Seal kids. What's most important to people in Ontario is to know that these are extraordinary kids, and we want to help extraordinary kids do very ordinary things.

In Windsor we had Very Special Experiences, just as they've had in Pembroke, one of the best telethons in Ontario, which probably raises the highest per capita of all telethons across the country.

We met a young man named Chris Hornsby. As a result of the funding by Easter Seal, this child from Windsor was able to participate in summer camp; in fact he went several times. The older he got, he used to come home to his parents with pretty remarkable stories for a nine-year-old. At the end of one summer, he came back with an earring, much to his parents' chagrin. The summer after that, he came back with a girlfriend. This certainly shows us that these kids are in fact extraordinary kids doing very ordinary things.

All of the Rotarians, all of the Kiwanis, all of the service organizations, the Knights of Columbus, genuine folk who watch the telethon and claim and call in their pledges, all of them do that to help the Easter Seal Society of Ontario continue in its mandate, and that is: helping extraordinary kids do very ordinary things.

On behalf of all of us in the House, T.J. and Anna, the kids you represent, happy anniversary to the Easter Seal Society of Ontario.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On behalf of the New Democrat caucus, I'm delighted to have this opportunity to welcome T.J. and Anna to be with us this afternoon. It's great to see you here. I want you to say a big hello to all the kids you represent.

It's fun to be part of a celebration, and this is something worth celebrating, 75 years of the Easter Seal Society putting kids first. There's a lot of rhetoric at times in this House about the lofty ideals we all share, and putting kids first is one of them, but here's an organization that does it well, that does it in spades and to whom we all in our communities owe a lot.

The Easter Seal Society makes a really positive contribution to our communities. They make a positive contribution to children and their families by providing a unique and wide range of services. Some of those services that they operate are a province-wide community nursing program that's so important in providing that individual counselling and help in families' homes; the camp, and you've heard my colleague from Windsor speak about some of the experiences some of the kids she knows have had at the wonderful camp; financial assistance to families to get equipment such as wheelchairs, braces and communications devices, all of those tools that help kids in ordinary functions of life and just make it so much easier to accomplish that; respite care, where trained caregivers can go into the home and give family members a break; integrated preschool programs; transportation assistance, which is really important to get to hospitals and preschools and treatment programs; parent-to-parent links -- the northern clinics have a network of parent delegates which is really important in helping to support parents and develop their advocacy skills so they can represent their issues to themselves; research -- the minister spoke about the research activities and the advocacy network that has been set up.

Organizations like Easter Seal really try to fill the gaps that governments leave. Governments can't fill all gaps, so we know it's really important work, and of course it's necessary in these days more than it ever has been.

While we are celebrating some 75 years of hard work and dedication in our communities that the Easter Seal Society has provided, I want to pay a special tribute to all the volunteers who make their work a reality. There are more than 240 Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Kinsmen and other service clubs, as well as countless volunteers, over half a million volunteers and donors who help raise the funds that provide these direct services to families, to children, in partnership with Easter Seal, and 86 cents of every dollar that is contributed to the society goes directly to providing those services for kids.

The majority of the money raised for Easter Seal comes from individual donors and corporate sponsored events. Because of their support, the support of the people who give of their time and their financial resources, these kids can look forward to a brighter future which includes full individual potential and greater independence.

There's an opportunity to get involved. While there are half a million volunteers already, we can always use more. It's important work. Individual volunteers can get involved in the society by doing things like chairing a task force or planning committee; providing office support by proofreading publications; participating in group activities like mailings, folding and stuffing envelopes, getting those mailings out, those appeals out.

You can help out on special event committees or on the activities, the days of special events. You can be a "day of" volunteer to help coordinate and be there. You can participate in many events by collecting pledges or by entering a team.

There's a whole list of activities that corporations can do to provide that kind of support that's so necessary, and of course service club partners that are already very active participants in the Easter Seal campaign have a whole range of activities they organize.

You can help. All of us can help. It's such an important contribution that we as individuals and organizations can make, and one I urge all of us to participate in.

I would like to wrap up by reading the mission statement of the Easter Seal Society. It reads as follows:

"We are dedicated to helping children with physical disabilities achieve their full individual potential and future independence. Easter Seal people make a difference in the lives of children and their families by providing direct services, programs, research, advocacy and public education. There is much more to do."

I agree with that. There is much more to do and it is a continuing challenge to all of us -- organizations, volunteers and governments -- to work together and to try and ensure we are truly meeting the slogan of the Easter Seal Society, "Putting Kids First."

The Speaker: Thank you to the minister, the member for Windsor-Sandwich and the member for Beaches-Woodbine.

To Timmy and Tammy -- T.J. and Anna -- welcome. I hope you enjoy this period, and I'd be interested in hearing your comments once you've finished watching.




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Health. I want to come back to the issue of the closing of the Montfort Hospital. This issue, as I'm sure you will now recognize, is of great importance. It's not only about accessible health care, it's about the protection of minority language rights.

To Ontario francophones, this issue strikes at the very heart of their identity and in fact the place they occupy in Ontario society. It's about respect and it's about equality. Surely you can understand and respect why the closure of the Montfort Hospital, the only francophone hospital in Ontario, is seen by our francophone friends as a slap in the face. Will you not at least, here and now, acknowledge the tremendous symbolic importance of the Montfort Hospital for Ontario's French-speaking minority?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I have tremendous respect for the work that's being done at that hospital, but also, in saying that, in no way do we want, and I don't think the honourable member wants, to demean the valuable work and the valuable training that's being done in the French language at other institutions like the Civic, the Royal Ottawa, the heart institute and in other parts of Ottawa-Carleton where they're also providing French-language health services to the people who need them.

Mr McGuinty: I believe the minister, in fairness, is not aware that the Montfort is the only hospital in the province where medical records are kept in French, where francophones can communicate with all their doctors and all their nurses in the French language and where francophone doctors are trained and educated in their own language. There are eight anglophone hospitals in the province of Quebec. There is one francophone hospital in Ontario and you are now moving to close it.

In closing the Montfort, you're doing more than just shutting down a hospital. You are removing a very real and concrete expression of the respect we hold for our minority group, the francophones. Minister, why is it --

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

Hon Mr Wilson: I don't understand why the honourable member doesn't direct his comments more directly to the people who have cut health care spending in this country, and that's the Liberal Party of Canada, some $2 billion; second, the honourable member has a lot of nerve when it was his party that cut 700 beds out of Ottawa-Carleton beginning in 1988-89. So you've closed the beds and all the commission -- not this government but the commission -- is trying to do is to find the administrative savings, merge the programs on to fewer sites and free up dollars for the badly needed health services that the people, including the francophones of Ottawa-Carleton, need.

Mr McGuinty: The minister may not want to hear this, but some things are of greater value to us as Ontarians than simply money. Quality health care, for instance, and protection of rights for our francophone minority are things of that nature. The closure of the Montfort is of national significance. The Prime Minister himself, provincial premiers and political leaders have pleaded with you to intervene on behalf of our francophone minority, not because they want to meddle in our affairs but because they recognize the symbolic importance of this hospital.

Francophones everywhere in Ontario right now are waiting with bated breath for your response. They have no interest in your commission because they understand, as I'm sure you do, that when it comes to the protection of minority rights, that is hardly the responsibility of an unelected commission, but that is clearly the responsibility of this government.

Minister, will you or will you not take this opportunity right now to tell us that you are going to intervene and ensure that Montfort Hospital will not close?

Hon Mr Wilson: The commission in its interim report went to great length, I think, to ensure that French-language services would be in place for the people who need them in that part of the province and in other parts of the province where they've been.

The honourable member knows, and he said in his question, that some people have no interest in the commission. I say with respect that everybody better get interested in the work of the commission, because the law is clear in this province that that commission has the authority to restructure the health services system and to actually create a system because of all the beds and the federal budget cuts that your party's imposed on this province.

They're now going to create a health care system so at the end of the day we have modern hospitals with new technologies, the newest drug therapies, more nurses and more doctors available to cure more people. I would ask that during this period the Montfort Hospital and others direct their concerns, provide their data and evidence to the commission, which has given this period of time for all of us to direct our concerns to them before they make their final submission.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): In the absence of the Premier and the Deputy Premier, I'll go to the Chair of Management Board, I guess. For the past six weeks, my colleague Gerry Phillips and I have been engaged in a very productive exercise. We have travelled the province, met with community groups and determined what the consequences of the downloading are going to be for Ontario communities. They told us that the number one effect is going to be an increase in property taxes. London Deputy Mayor Hopcroft said property taxes are going to go up by 20%. Timmins Mayor Vic Power said property taxes in that city are going up by 40%. Kingston Mayor Bennett said commercial property taxes are going to go up by 42%. Will you now admit that your government was wrong when it claimed that its policies of downloading will not lead to an increase in property taxes in Ontario?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I certainly won't admit that. The whole process is one that municipalities have been looking forward to for many years.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): They never asked for social services to be downloaded. Come on.

Hon David Johnson: The previous governments attempted to do this under disentanglement, as the former mayor of Kingston will realize. This government has proceeded to install accountability measures, to clarify which level of government is going to deliver what service. That will make the whole situation more accountable, less expensive, and I believe provide the possibility and the likelihood for municipal property taxes to go down.

Bear in mind that one of the major components and the most expensive service, bar none, is the cost of education, and this government finally, after years and years of requests by municipalities, by people, by businesses across the province, is saying, "Let's take the cost of education at least off the residential component," and that's exactly what we've done.

Mr McGuinty: If everything is going so swimmingly and all is truly well in Camelot, why is there such desperate, mad, frantic scrambling going on behind closed doors inside the Minister of Municipal Affairs' office? They're trying to salvage this botched proposal. There's only one description for this: It's policy on the fly, and policy on the fly always makes for bad policy.

Let me tell you what Terry Cooke, regional chair of Hamilton-Wentworth, said about the downloading: "The disentanglement process is fundamentally flawed. My fear is we will divide this province into a series of communities, some of which have and others which have not."

Not only are we talking about Ontarians paying higher property taxes; they're going to get a province unlike this one. They're going to get a province where some communities, many communities, will not have the wherewithal to care for their needy.

Minister, the plan is fundamentally flawed. Will you now admit you've downloaded the wrong services?

Hon David Johnson: It's called consultation; what's going on is called consultation. I know it's a word that may be foreign to the opposition parties. It's called consultation.

The head of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Terry Mundell, is integrally involved in the consultation process. Committees have been set up involving the municipalities, involving the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. They are working with the province to make this separation of services work, and they're confident and I'm confident that this will work to the betterment of the people of Ontario. At the end of the day there is only one taxpayer, and what we need to do and what we're working on for that one taxpayer is to separate these services, to make them more accountable and to make them more effective and efficient.

Mr McGuinty: When I was elected leader, I promised that I would not merely criticize but put forward some positive alternatives.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Let's hear them.


Mr McGuinty: I'm coming to that; hang in there. Here's my advice. You've got to go back to the drawing board and bring us a solution that reflects the following four basic principles:

(1) The province must in all instances retain its capacity to care for our needy, especially children and seniors. We cannot devolve that to municipalities.

(2) Any new transfer responsibilities should be, must be, an even swap.

(3) The province should be responsible for soft services like welfare, child care and senior care, and the municipalities for hard services.

(4) Finally, and this is a novel concept to the government, the public must be involved. They've got to be involved in developing changes.

I developed these four principles together with my colleague. We travelled the province. That's based on consultation. Minister, will you tell us today that you're going to bring back new proposals that meet those four principles?

Hon David Johnson: When the leader of the official opposition indicated that he had some advice to offer, I thought perhaps he was going to recommend the commercial concentration tax again. Of course this is the kind of approach that we had from the Liberal government in the 1980s.

This government has ensured that the needs of the elderly and the needy are protected through the new welfare approach, through the approach to long-term care, the integration of the health services at the local level, where those within their communities will realize what services are required for the people who live within those communities.

This government has brought forward a proposal that not only is neutral, but we've brought forward a proposal which through accountability measures, through efficiencies, will involve lower cost to municipalities and lower municipal taxes.

Finally, this is a consultative process --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. New question.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I wanted to ask this question of the Premier. He's not here. I wanted to ask it of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He's not here. So I will try --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Could you ask it to the people who are here, leader of the third party?

Mr Hampton: I'll try to ask it of the government House leader. Today I joined my NDP colleagues in welcoming hundreds of people to Queen's Park. They marched from Toronto city hall to officially present you with the referendum results. No one came out to see them. No one came out to talk with them. In fact, you treated them with extreme disrespect and arrogance.

Minister, the people voted against your megacity bill. They didn't say, "Tinker with the bill." They didn't say, "Work on it." They said no to it. They don't want it. When are you going to listen to them? When are you going to listen to the people of Toronto who are trying to give you some helpful advice?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): The government's approach to the referendum on Monday is indeed to listen, and there's no question that there are messages being conveyed through that. This government intends to take its time and get this right. The government is listening to the messages that are conveyed.

I'll tell you some of those messages. Some of those messages are concern about the possibility of tax increases. We believe that certainly won't happen, but there is concern about tax increases. There's concern about the impact on the welfare system. There's concern about communities and the retention of neighbourhood communities, and that communities fear it within Metropolitan Toronto. Those are a few of the concerns that are being expressed. The government is listening to those concerns. The government is going to, in the fullness of time, deal with them and bring forward amendments to address those very concerns.

Mr Hampton: We heard yesterday about the government's plans for amendments. We heard that the government is, in effect, going to introduce amendments into committee of the whole. But the fact is, and the House leader would know this, under the time allocation motion there's only going to be one hour for committee of the whole. In other words, there's going to be no debate, no discussion. You haven't changed anything. You'll introduce a few amendments and then ram it through in an hour.

Minister, don't you get it? People have had it with your arrogance; they've had it with your disrespect for democracy; they've had it with the fact that you don't listen. They're trying to send you a message: "Withdraw Bill 103. Withdraw it." Will you do that?


The Speaker: Order. I want to just quickly caution the gallery. There's no applause, there's no shouting out, there's nothing in the way of a demonstration.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): But you can smile if you want.

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, I appreciate all your help, and you're as helpful as usual, but I would ask you -- it's difficult, I'm sure, as it is.

Hon David Johnson: This government some time ago embarked on a very lengthy, time-consuming process and it was called democracy. The process involved over 100 hours of public hearings. Over 600 people came to advise the government. Then there was the referendum in the various municipalities over this past Monday.

The government, out of respect for that democratic process, is going to listen; it's going to analyse the results. It has heard a number of concerns that have been raised. The government is going to take its time and the government will come forward with an approach to address the many concerns that have been raised through this process. At the end of the day, through the committee of the whole process, we will see amendments to address those concerns.

Mr Hampton: The government House leader says they're listening. Thousands of people marched here today and your government did not even have the sense of decency or respect to go out and meet them. The mayor of Toronto was here, the mayor of East York was here, the mayor of Scarborough was here, several city councillors were here, and you didn't even have the respect to go out and meet them and talk to them. So how can you say you're listening to anybody?

The gig is up. You're moving according to the same schedule you were moving on before, exactly the same schedule. You want the House to come back in the first week of April and you want no more than one hour of debate in committee of the whole and third reading of your so-called amendments. That's not listening, that's not consultation and that's not showing respect for democracy.

We gave you a proposal yesterday that allows you to go back to the drawing board and begin a real consultation process: Scrap Bill 103. Go back to the drawing board. Start talking to people. Will you do that and show some respect for democracy?

Hon David Johnson: This government has talked to people and is listening to people. This government has just gone through a process where over 600 people have had the opportunity. I wonder how many bills brought forward by the previous government had the opportunity of over 100 hours of public participation. How many bills from the previous government had over 600 deputations to speak to --


The Speaker: Order. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: The message delivered today was received by the Premier's office. The Premier himself has indicated that we need to take our time and to get this right. This was one of the messages, I may say, by the mayor of the city of Toronto: "Take your time. Get it right." That's what we intend to do. We have listened to the people through the public hearings; we have listened to the results of the referendum. We're going to analyse that, take our time, bring forward the amendments, address the concerns and get it right.

The Speaker: New question; leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: We know what this government's version of consultation is. It's to look in the mirror and say, "Mirror, mirror on the wall."



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is to the Minister of Health. On the eve of your Metro hospital closure announcement, you need to know the current state of patient care in hospitals. On Monday at the Hospital for Sick Children, seven children were turned away from their scheduled appointments for cancer chemotherapy -- seven children in one day.

Catherine Gordon's 10-month-old son Paul is one of those children suffering from cancer who was turned away. Why were Paul and six other children suffering from cancer turned away? The hospital admitted it was because there weren't enough nurses that day. The hospital's official line is, "There is no staffing problem," but they admit that if children get sick in clusters, if a couple of nurses are off sick, if there are several emergencies in one day, they can't meet the situation.

Catherine Gordon wants to know, what are you going to do to ensure that those seven children receive the --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I appreciate the question from the honourable member. I think the examples he's raising speak volumes for the need to restructure. These are today's problems that need to be solved because we need every dollar into front-line services.

We spend enough money on health care. The leader of the Liberal Party has said that many times. The federal government has said that. We spend 6% more on health care per person in this province than any other jurisdiction in Canada, than any other province. But we need to better target that money to more nurses, more services and modern hospitals. That's what restructuring is all about and that's the road we're on, to improve those services. We'd expect you to be constructive during this period to help hospitals to beef up their services and get rid of their administration and their excessive overhead and duplication and put every dollar into the patients, because it's the patients we have to focus on.

Mr Hampton: The minister thinks he'll just repeat that bunk and people will believe it. The fact of the matter is, you've taken $800 million over the last two years out of hospital budgets. That's why hospitals are laying off nurses. That's why when children go to get cancer therapy they can't get it, because there aren't enough nurses there to provide it every day.

We raised with your predecessor a couple of weeks ago --


Mr Hampton: I know the Conservative bench doesn't want to hear about this.

We raised with your predecessor a couple of weeks ago that because of your hospital budget cuts in many hospitals across the province, registered nurses and registered nursing assistants are being laid off while other hospital staff are being asked to take over their duties with minimal training.

At Matthews Memorial Hospital at Richards Landing near Sault Ste Marie, where the emergency services of the rural hospital are being severely cut back, there was a suggestion to the hospital board that housekeeping staff should be used for medical emergencies; in other words, that cleaners should down their mops and give CPR.

The Speaker: Thank you, leader. Minister?

Hon Mr Wilson: As you know, the government doesn't own the hospitals. The 209 hospitals in the province are owned by their community boards. Those community boards have quality councils that monitor the quality of the health care being delivered by those hospitals, including nurses on those boards. This matter would be a matter of first dealing with the hospital. If you are suggesting the government go further, I'd like to hear that suggestion, but we would expect your backing if you'd suggest the government go further than to bring the matter to the board and make sure they have appropriate staffing in their hospitals.

Again, we are trying to clean up the mess created by the inaction of the previous governments, and yes, we need more services for people. The population is growing older and it's growing and we need to drive every dollar to patient services. That's what we're doing.

Mr Hampton: The problem at Matthews Memorial Hospital is this minister has already affected them. He's already put them through a restructuring and then cut their budget such that they don't have the nursing staff they need. But let me take the problem a bit further.

Because you are closing hospitals and because you are not providing the community services up front, what in effect is happening is that patients across the province are having to carry the load. I'll give you a typical result: Here is Margot Grabarger. She called our office. She reports that in order to stay alive, she needs to spend $28 for nasal pillows. These used to be provided at a hospital but she gets put out of the hospital and she has to pay the $28 for these nasal pillows. Then there's $95 out of her pocket for this humidification chamber. That would have been provided in the hospital but you cut that and she's forced out of the hospital. She's on home care and she has to buy it herself. Then there's this filter for $27 that she has to buy. What's clear here is this: You go around the province and tell people you're saving money. What you're doing is throwing people --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Wilson: It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that we're saving money from hospitals, absolutely ridiculous, when the member knows that the health care budget is up from $17.4 billion to over $17.7 billion. The honourable member knows full well that we've seen no more in savings of $300 million from hospitals. This year alone we forgave, in one-time accounting changes --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Wilson: We've reinvested close to $1 billion into health care, three times more than we've seen in any savings that we've tried to achieve in working with our hospital partners. All of that is out in the public. Today we have better dialysis services and ambulance services and home care services as a result of those reinvestments, and more to come. Included in our reinvestments is the addition of 377 new drugs, free drugs, on the seniors and social assistance formulary, and that's contrary to the 250 drugs --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question; official opposition; member for York South.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I think the public watching must be wondering, what is it going to take --

The Speaker: Your question, sir; is it to the Minister of Health? Thank you.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): The public must be wondering, what will it take for this minister to show an ounce of accountability or responsibility for the health care system that's now back again under his watch? We have some clues from the Premier's statement today to the media, where he likened the nurses losing jobs in hospitals to hula-hoop workers who lost their jobs in factories.

Minister, I'm going to ask you to respond today to somebody much more credible on health care than the person just mentioned, someone who is one of the top cardiologists, Dr Bernard Goldman, the chair of the Association of Cardiac Surgeons of Ontario. To the minister he says that $2.5-million Band-Aid he put up, as much as it was welcomed, represents a degree of political opportunism.

Minister, will you do what this doctor asks? There is a need to have long-term, realistic commitments from the minister.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I remind the honourable member that our historic reinvestment of $170 million into home care which began last year creates 4,400 new jobs for nurses and other front-line providers as we go through this transition period. That's historic and something we should be very proud of.

When we made the announcement last week about another $2.5 million, which builds on our unprecedented level of funding of $16 million last year and a 20% increase in cardiac surgeries, I said we would be coming out very shortly -- and people have been working at it for the past several months, along with the Cardiac Care Network and ministry officials -- with a comprehensive plan for cardiac care in the province. I expect to make that announcement in the very near future.

Mr Kennedy: Minister, you will start being a tiny bit credible when you put a date behind that intention.

You need to understand that the Rykene family suffered because of your cuts. You have cut hospitals such that Leie Rykene died February 11 after five days of waiting for a bed for an angiogram so that she might benefit from some of the money you announced.

Today I got a copy of a letter sent to your predecessor on January 13 from a cardiologist, Dr David Fell, and he says it's the cuts, Minister, your cuts signed for on your desk to Toronto Hospital and a 30% cut in the heart catheterization lab budget, which are jeopardizing cardiac patients in this province. Now, stand in your place and speak to the people of this province who need those cardiac services and tell them you'll stop the cuts to hospitals and you'll take responsibility as the Minister of Health and you won't hide behind anyone else.

Hon Mr Wilson: Again the honourable member has his facts wrong. Since this government came to office cardiac programs in all of our hospitals are protected programs. They've not been cut one penny. We added $16 million last year. We added $2.5 million. What is happening, if the honourable member would like to get into contemporary health care, is that the population is growing faster and older than anyone predicted, including Dr Gold, including all the good folks at the Cardiac Care Network.

We will very shortly announce Ontario's first comprehensive plan for cardiac care, because I agree with the honourable member and some of the experts in the field that government can't keep playing catchup to the population, that we have to get ahead in terms of our funding and our programming, as we've done on dialysis and other projects that we've tackled. By God, we're going to bring in a cardiac program that nips this problem once and for all in the bud and gives us absolute world-class heart care in this province.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. The minister will know that the Niagara Escarpment is a unique treasure of Ontario's environment. We are all proud of the work that has been done by governments of all three parties to preserve and to protect the escarpment. It has been recognized by the United Nations as a world biosphere reserve.

Now your government, the Harris government, has decided to give responsibility for the escarpment to the Ministry of Natural Resources, a ministry that's been busy privatizing all of its environmental responsibilities. Environmentalists across the province are outraged. Minister, how can you defend this decision to remove responsibility for the Niagara Escarpment from the Ministry of Environment? How can you defend that?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): As the Niagara Escarpment Commission is now a responsibility of the Minister of Natural Resources, I will refer the question to him.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): In reference to your answer, this was an internal change on government administration when we announced Lands for Life last week as a process to protect nature's best. It's the role of the MNR to protect nature's best. The Niagara Escarpment, as you've mentioned, is a world-class biosphere that's been recognized by the United Nations and we're going to be consulting on how to protect this in a more permanent fashion. The commission will be kept, the act will be kept; there will be no changes to that. I'll be happy to meet with any of your --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Hold on. Supplementary.

Mr Hampton: I think we know what's going on here. The announcement was barely made and the king of severances on the Niagara Escarpment, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, was over asking the minister for a round of severances.

The reality is that you're the Minister of Natural Resources who has already given the aggregate producers basically free rein in terms of opening new gravel pits and new aggregate bases. You're the minister who has already privatized most of MNR's other environmental responsibilities. This is a tragic day for anyone who cares about the environment. It's a tragic day especially for the member for Carleton. Creation of the Niagara Escarpment Commission was an excellent achievement for Ontario.

Are you going to guarantee for us that the Niagara Escarpment Commission is going to continue? Are you going to guarantee for us that the Niagara Escarpment is going to be protected now as it has been in the past? Are you going to give us those guarantees?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I'm not sure it's appropriate that he malign the character of the fine, upstanding MPP from Grey-Owen Sound and my parliamentary assistant for Northern Development and Mines. For the MNR, with Lands for Life, we're going to protect nature's best.

Yes and yes is the answer to your two questions. Is the commission going to remain in place? Yes. Is protection going to be continued? Yes. In fact, I think we can make it better. That's the role of the MNR: to balance the interests of resource users with protecting what is nature's best.

Last week's announcement on Lands for Life, which is a process to protect nature's best, was endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlands League and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. To quote from the World Wildlife Fund, Monte Hummel: "Though Ontario was in the lead nationally in 1989, its performance has faltered since then." I wonder who the Minister of Natural Resources was during those years? I wonder who the government was when we took a leadership position and faltered --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): My question is to the Attorney General. Minister, a little over a year ago Christie Christie was brutally murdered by shotgun-wielding young offenders. One of the suspects was a 12-year-old. After being shot, Christie lived for two and a half hours. Her wounds were so severe that her mother knew she would die. Christie's dying wish was for her mother to look after her younger brother.

Ishmael Spence had his throat cut at the Kennedy Road subway station a year ago by a young offender.

I know you recently talked to federal Liberal Justice Minister Allan Rock about the Young Offenders Act. Tracey Christie, the Spence family and many more of my constituents are waiting for action on the Young Offenders Act. Would you please tell the House what Mr Rock said he plans to do about the YOA?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I had discussions with the federal minister last week and I advised him that Ontarians are fed up with legislation that protects young offenders from the consequences of their actions.

I've urged the federal minister to lower the age to 15 from 17. I've urged him that if he doesn't want to lower the age, at least to rationalize the transfer provisions. I've said to the minister that the criminal justice system has to have a role when an offender is younger than 12, that the criminal justice system can't be left out. I've urged the minister to allow publication of names of young offenders and I've urged him to permit legal aid only in situations where young offenders' parents can't afford to provide counsel to a young offender.


Mr Jim Brown: Minister, what more can I tell my constituents about the Young Offenders Act? Some 65% of young offenders are repeat offenders, and federal Justice Minister Rock has done nothing. Louis Ambus was murdered by two young offenders nearly two years ago. What can I tell his mother and his family?


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Members for Kingston and The Islands, Scarborough North and Hamilton Centre, please come to order.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I take it they support the Young Offenders Act.

The Speaker: Member for Halton North, I don't really need your help right now.

Hon Mr Harnick: There is absolutely no doubt about it that young offenders treat the Young Offenders Act as a joke, and the reason they treat it as a joke is because it doesn't provide any sense of deterrence.

The Liberal government in Ottawa isn't helping matters any. They've cut funding to the youth justice system in Ontario by $200 million since 1989, and instead of getting tough on young offenders, they're asking us to end a system that can jail young offenders who commit serious, violent crimes.

Quite simply, I think we have to have a new look at the Young Offenders Act. Tinkering won't do. The public tells us that, and I hope the federal --

The Speaker: New question, the official opposition.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. Last week your health restructuring commission rolled into town and imposed a conveyor-belt health care program on the residents of Ottawa-Carleton, a set flow of patient traffic that will be in and out of hospital doors.

Your commission, in determining the number of beds required, got rid of acute care beds occupied by patients awaiting more appropriate placement. The alternative level of care indicator is assumed to be zero -- absolutely incredible.

You're taking away any flexibility in the system to deal with fluctuations in the need for beds caused by any extraordinary medical disaster. In short, you're underservicing the health care needs of Ottawa-Carleton and you're instituting conveyor-belt health care.

Minister, will you direct your commission to go back to the drawing board, use reasonable assumptions about the required number of beds, and instruct them to use a scalpel and not a meat cleaver?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): If the honourable member feels the commission has some of its data wrong or some of its assumptions wrong, he must bring that to the attention of the commission. That's what this period of time is for and I'd urge the member to do that. The commission I don't think pretends to be perfect, and the chair of the commission, Dr Duncan Sinclair, has said on many occasions that he wants to hear if they did get some of the data wrong, particularly with the ALC mention you just made.

Mr Patten: Minister, according to Bill 26 you have the ultimate responsibility for these decisions, but your restructuring commission performed elective surgery on the Ottawa hospital community instead of improving the quality of care. The recommendations have placed Ottawa's health care community into critical care.

Ottawa, as you well know, has the lowest rate of hospital beds for its population in all of the western world, and Ottawa-Carleton is well below the Ontario average. This is largely due to good utilization of management practices. Ottawa-Carleton at the moment has a hospital acute care utilization rate of 551 patient-days per 1,000. The district health council expected that this could decline to 506 by the year 2000, but your restructuring commission is forcing a targeted rate of 416 patient-days by the year 2003.

The commission, fuelled by the $1.3-billion cuts, of course, went too far. You're forcing people to move out of hospitals quicker and sicker, and according to the physicians I've talked to, hospitals will be discharging people who haven't recovered and rested fully from surgery and other medical treatment.

I ask you again: Will you instruct the commission to go back to the drawing board and --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Health.


The Speaker: Member for Ottawa Centre, when I stand, that means you have to sit.

Hon Mr Wilson: The commission's targets and time frame on the surface don't appear to be unreasonable. You've mentioned yourself the year 2003. Nobody is moving tomorrow. It's a substantial time frame to adjust, and we already have hospitals in this province that are below those benchmarks, so we already have hundreds of hospital beds in this province that are operating efficiently, and we don't recognize the fact that some parts of the province have already undergone restructuring and have achieved those targets. Quality improved, surgeries went up, and that has been the experience in other jurisdictions. When you get rid of the overlap and duplication, the excessive administration and the waste in the system, you have dollars to make sure you have more services.

Throughout this whole process, the quality councils of the hospitals are in place -- we announced last year a quality council in association with the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences -- to ensure that quality is maintained and indeed enhanced. That is the motivating factor behind the commission, and that will guide all of the decisions taken by the commission over this next period of time.

The Speaker: New question.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is also for the Minister of Health. You have tried to calm the waters with your calm assurances that everything is going to be all right, but we have real concerns about what will happen as these restructuring plans go through. Your commission was going to announce tomorrow its plans for Metro Toronto, and we know already that those plans will include the closure of some chronic care beds and possibly entire chronic care hospitals.

The problem, and it's a real problem, is already here in Metro Toronto, because you have a list here of over 4,500 patients waiting for long-term accommodation, and that list grows by 210 patients every month, because 550 patients are requiring placement and only 340 can be placed. Those figures are according to the placement and coordination services for Metro Toronto. The list is already out of hand because Metro hasn't seen any of the long-term dollars that you trot out every time we talk about this concern.

When this announcement is made tomorrow, will you --

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

Hon Mr Wilson: Again, a lot of nerve, coming from someone who was in government for five years, that's the NDP -- and the Liberals in 1988-89 froze nursing homes and homes for the aged beds. Not one was added during your entire five years, and now you get up and wonder about the waiting list.

We're going to add beds. Recommendations will be coming forward from the commission to add beds, and as we've followed up in Thunder Bay and as we're following up in Sudbury and as we will follow up in Ottawa and London, we will make the reinvestments to ensure that new beds are added to the system. That's our commitment. We will live up to that commitment as we've lived up to all of our commitments since forming the government.

Mrs Boyd: You can do the math and I can do the math. At 310 additional needed beds per month, we can count back the months. You know the problem started in a big way in Metro Toronto while you were Minister of Health, and you are making it worse with this restructuring committee, because you will be closing wards and closing chronic care hospitals. What you never take into account is the anguish that is caused to those 4,500 patients and their families while they wait for these promises to come true.

All we're saying to you is the reason you are facing so much hostility is that you don't seem to understand the human cost for people who are waiting now, who are being thrown out of hospitals now, because of the change in policy that has been put in place by your government. What we're asking for is not that you wait, not that you make these golden promises, but that when people know their hospital is going to close, they will know they or their loved one has somewhere to go. That's what we're asking.

Hon Mr Wilson: We monitor very carefully the need for new beds, and we'll be reinvesting dollars. So that everyone doesn't panic, the large number that's used, over half those people are already in facilities. They're waiting for placement in more appropriate facilities, which is what restructuring is all about. Fifty-six per cent of the people on that waiting list are currently in a bed but they're in the wrong bed. They're waiting for a more appropriate placement for long-term care and for the programs that go with long-term care in our nursing homes and homes for the aged, and we'll be doing that.

I don't need any lectures from the honourable member from the NDP, whose only legacy in health care and only legacy in government was to leave a $50-billion debt and no new beds. That is something we must never repeat for our children and grandchildren. You doubled the province's debt and you don't have one new nursing home bed to show for it. Our record will be far better than that because we're already reinvesting money in patients and we're going to open beds in this province.



Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. The opposition delights in confusing the public with talk that your ministry will eliminate the Ontario Human Rights Commission. We heard some of that last week again. In response to the tabling of the ABC task force, the leader of the third party said the government was poised to eliminate the Human Rights Commission.

Minister, my constituents are concerned about these rumours. Can you please tell the House today what this government's position on this issue really is and what your plans are with regard to the Ontario Human Rights Commission?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I'd like to thank the honourable member for his question. I think it's pretty typical that the NDP, unless we're finding new ways and creating ways of spending taxpayers' money, thinks we're going to eliminate everything. I've said repeatedly that throwing more money at the Ontario Human Rights Commission won't solve the problems at the commission. Unlike previous governments which spent money any way they liked, we're more interested in improving the overall effectiveness of the commission.

The reason for the reform is simple: Discrimination in this province is against the law and the Human Rights Commission is the primary body to respond to those issues. That's why this government is moving on its plan of restructuring and reform. Justice delayed is justice denied. They didn't do anything about it. We are.

Mr Martiniuk: Thank you, Madam Minister, for that response. Could you also update the House and my constituents on some of the reforms that have taken place to date and the result of those reforms?

Hon Ms Mushinski: It's a pleasure to report for the first time in recent memory, certainly in the last 10 years, that the commission is closing as many cases as it opens in a year, and that means for the first time in years the backlog of cases will actually get smaller. We can see that in the case of numbers, the average time a person now has to wait for their case to be resolved has decreased from 22 months, when they spent millions of dollars to increase it in 1992, to 16 months in 1996. Clearly the reforms that are taking place are working for the citizens and the taxpayers of Ontario.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Labour, and it concerns the Goldcorp strike in my riding which is now in its ninth month. Minister, as you're aware, negotiations between the management and the union have broken off and no end to the strike seems to be in sight for both the families and the community of this area.

Let me read from a local newspaper article on what effect the strike is having on these workers and their families. "`You are scared, you're really worried and you're not yourself,' one couple recently told the media." Because of this strike we have workers who have had to relocate to other mines, resulting in separation of dad from his family. Parents for the first time ever are feeling they are unable to take care of their families.

Minister, you are condoning by your inaction what Goldcorp is doing to these families and this community. Why are you doing this?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): The situation at Goldcorp unfortunately is one that has been ongoing now for a long time, since June 1996. I actually had an opportunity last week to communicate with some people in the local community. I know there certainly is a desire on behalf of individuals to see this issue resolved as quickly as possible. Although we've made attempts to help out with mediation, unfortunately at the present time there isn't a new agreement and there is no conclusion to the resolution. We have certainly made the mediation services available to both sides.

Mr Miclash: Let me continue reading from this recent article: "Another wife hates watching her husband and his co-workers walk the line while there are scabs on the property. It just doesn't seem right to her. Another father of four worries that his kids feel the stress and tension of being on strike."

Minister, your government's replacement worker legislation is a large part of the cause of the continuation of this strike. I ask you again, will you commit today to make whatever resources are necessary available to encourage or in essence demand that Goldcorp return to the table and bargain in good faith? Will you do this today?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I indicate once again to the member opposite that certainly we have made all of the services of our ministry available to the parties. I also indicate to you that last week I was in communication with people in the community, and we are endeavouring to do whatever we can to bring the entire issue to a resolution. We desire as much as you do that this particular problem can be resolved, because we know that unfortunately there is an impact on the community. I will certainly commit to you personally that if there is anything additional that we can do, we are quite prepared to do that.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. For the last 52 years the Ontario government has supported the Ontario Ranger program. This program run by your ministry has provided thousands and thousands of young people with a valuable outdoor summer experience, and in return these students have provided a valuable public service for minimum wage.

Last week we confirmed with your staff that there are no assurances this program will be funded and that application forms have not gone out to high schools, even though by now your ministry staff should be selecting the applicants. Minister, are you going to fund the Ontario Ranger program? Yes or no?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): The honourable member is aware that at this time of year every department in the government reviews their programs and takes forward what they think are the priorities in their ministry. These are times when we have to balance the budget, we have to live within fiscal constraints.

We realize the importance of Junior Rangers, but there are tough decisions that have to be made. There has been no final decision made on the future of Junior Rangers. However, I don't seem to recall the member's protest when she was in a cabinet that in 1992 reduced the program's participation from 900 to 438 17-year-olds and closed 14 Junior Ranger camps in this province. If she did stand up and make public pronouncements that this was devastating and, for all the reasons she stated, bad public policy, I don't seem to recall it. If she wants to clarify that record, I'd be glad to hear it.

Ms Martel: Minister, the real rate of youth unemployment in this province is higher than ever before, and your only answer is to cut the very programs the government has put in place to try to provide jobs to youth.

When I was minister at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, I put in place a youth unemployment program called Nortop. Nortop is a cost-sharing program with employers in the public and private sectors, a program which is now under review by your ministry, Minister. Some 3,000 students had a job because of the Nortop program last summer. There is no assurance that this program will continue. Are you going to fund Nortop. Yes or no?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I didn't hear an answer to the question when their government reduced the program by 14 camps and from 900 17-year-olds to 438. Did you protest? No. There might be more effective ways to deliver youth programs than having a 24-hour-a-day camp environment.

With regard to Nortop, when she was minister, yes, they did fund programs. Last year, though, when our government was in, we had more youth jobs through Nortop than at any time in your government's mandate, and our record stands for itself. She knows full well that these discussions are evaluated at budget time and there will be announcements following. Again, I know that last year I didn't see her press announcement congratulating the Harris government on a record number of youth employment opportunities through Nortop. Thank you. That's it.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Point of order, member for London Centre.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Mr Speaker, I wrote to you earlier today to tell you that I would be raising a point of order on standing order 97 regarding written questions.

It's my belief that there has been a serious breach of the standing orders and I felt I should bring it to your attention. The standing orders are very clear about written questions. All members have a right to submit them and ministers must respond within 14 days. Of course, ministers routinely miss the deadline and members have a right to bring that to the attention of the assembly, as I have done in cases where the minister's response was many months overdue.

The standing orders also state that the minister must inform the member of cases in which more time is required or, I am quoting here, "that the minister has declined to answer," as the case may be. That's standing order 97(d).

I have sent you three representative sample responses of questions that I raised with the Attorney General, and those are order paper questions 819, 820 and 826. I would stress these are representative sample answers only. I know that it is not your position as the Speaker to talk about the veracity or the legitimacy of answers to questions, so I want you to be very clear. I am not asking you to comment on either the veracity or the legitimacy of the answers that I was provided by the Attorney General.

What I am asking you to determine is whether the responses I have received from the Attorney General in fact constitute answers as contemplated by standing order 97. The Attorney General, if he does not wish to answer a question, can decline to do so, but to send along supposed answers to questions which read like the tape recording of this government's message as opposed to an answer to a specific question is not appropriate. The minister should be on the record as declining to answer the question, not giving a lot of pap around the question without any answer to the question.

I will read only the shortest one of these so that people understand what I'm talking about, and that is order paper question 826. I asked the Attorney General, "Would the Attorney General provide the number of judicial positions and the number of judicial vacancies for December 1993, December 1994, December 1995 and December 1996."

I asked this question on January 28 and this is the answer that I got last week:

"The Attorney General has made eight appointments to the Ontario Court (Provincial Division). The Attorney General, in consultation with the Chief Judge of the Ontario Court (Provincial Division), has been making appointments to fill vacancies for those positions that have been identified by the Chief Judge as being a priority. The minister will continue to work with the Chief Judge to ensure that Ontario has a sufficient judicial complement."

Mr Speaker, this is not an answer to my question, which asks for simple figures: the number of judicial appointees and the number of vacancies.

The Speaker: To the member for London Centre, firstly, I'd like to thank you for sending me the letter today. It was most appreciated. It also allows me to rule, obviously, the day you submit your point of order.

Having heard your point of order in writing and now orally, and I've checked the standing orders, it appears to me there is nothing in the standing orders that compels the Speaker to measure responses. Measuring responses is a decision that this House would take or the Attorney General would take. I can't measure the written questions nor can I measure the responses.

I might add the answers are truly bizarre but it isn't my decision as to whether they're applicable to the question that was placed. I would suggest possibly that maybe the Attorney General may want to review these on his own time. I can't do that for you. So your point of order is not in order other than to simply say it's curious, your responses. I can't explain it and I don't really expect you to understand it and all I can suggest is maybe the Attorney General would like to take this up with you.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Just to respond to you about the Minister reviewing the answers, he signed the answers.

The Speaker: With all due respect, there's no response, the ruling's been made and I appreciate your point of order.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I believe we have unanimous consent with regard to the schedule of committee hearings over the next few weeks.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Government House leader, I think you need consent before you go ahead. Agreed to consent? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: I move that the following committees be authorized to meet during the weeks of March 17, March 24, April 7 and April 14, 1997, in accordance with the schedule of meeting dates agreed to by the three party whips and tabled with the Clerk of the assembly to examine and inquire into the following matters:

The standing committee on administration of justice to consider Bill 84, An Act to promote Fire Prevention and Public Safety in Ontario and to amend and repeal certain other Acts relating to Fire Services, and Bill 105, An Act to renew the partnership between the province, municipalities and the police and to enhance community safety;

The standing committee on finance and economic affairs to consider matters related to pre-budget consultation, and Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government;

The standing committee on general government to consider 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;

The standing committee on government agencies to review intended appointments to the public sector;

The standing committee on resources development to consider Bill 98, An Act to promote job creation and increased municipal accountability while providing for the recovery of development costs related to new growth, and Bill 107, An Act to enact the Municipal Water and Sewage Transfer Act, 1997 and to amend other acts with respect to water and sewage.

The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have another petition addressed to the Legislature.

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

"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;

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

"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 will support it by adding my signature to this.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I'd like to present a petition from the staff of l'école Cité des Jeunes de Kapuskasing, which reads as follows:

«Nous, soussignés, demandons au gouvernement de reconsidérer sa décision de fermer le seul hôpital francophone de l'Ontario, l'hôpital Montfort, et appuyons les efforts du personnel et de l'équipe SOS Montfort.»

This petition is signed by 43 residents of Kapuskasing, Opasatika, Moonbeam, Harty, and I've signed this petition as well and support it.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I have a petition that reads:

"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."

Signed by a number of people in St Catharines.



M. Gilles E. Morin (Carleton-Est) : «À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que la recommandation de la commission de restructuration des soins de santé en Ontario ordonne la fermeture de l'hôpital Montfort et que cette décision constitue le rejet de la volonté de l'entière communauté francophone de la province et de la communauté de l'est ;

«Attendu que 40 % des francophones de la province de l'Ontario résident dans l'aire de service de l'hôpital Montfort, soit à l'est de l'Ontario, où la population connaît un des plus hauts taux de croissance dans toute la province, que le comté de Russell n'a pas d'hôpital et qu'en plus, Montfort dessert le nord le l'Ontario, où le nombre de francophones est très élevé ;

«Attendu que la fermeture de Montfort éloigne et diminue grandement l'accessibilité à une salle d'urgences pour plus de 150,000 personnes ;

«Attendu que Montfort est le seul hôpital d'enseignement et de formation des professionnels de la santé en français en Ontario et que la fermeture du seul hôpital spécialisé, offrant une gamme complète de services en français, mènera à la dilution et, éventuellement, à la disparition des services de santé en français en Ontario ;

«Attendu que l'on fait disparaître l'hôpital qui a un des meilleurs rendements de la province et qui, pour fins de comparaison, constitue l'exemple de choix du ministère de la Santé ;

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

«Nous demandons que le premier ministre de la province intervienne auprès de la Commission de restructuration des services de santé de l'Ontario afin que soit préservé l'emplacement actuel de l'hôpital et que soient consolidés la vocation, le mandat et le rôle essentiel que joue Montfort auprès de sa communauté.»

Il me fait énormément plaisir d'y apposer ma signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition sent to me by Shannon Dobson, who is a member of a health and safety committee in the community of Harrow. The petition is signed by many citizens of that community and it reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

I proudly add my name to theirs.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): "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."

It's from 140 people from the Quinte area, and I affix my name to it.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition qui vient de la bibliothèque publique de la ville de Rockland.

«Aux membres de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J'y ajoute ma signature.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by citizens from across the greater Toronto area, including a number of residents of my constituency, Beaches-Woodbine.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I am proud to affix my signature, as I am in complete agreement.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I appreciate the privilege to speak here in the House today.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Liberal member from Windsor-Sandwich, Ms Pupatello, presented a resolution during private members' period on Thursday, February 27, 1997, in the morning;

"Whereas the resolution was poorly worded and indeed contradictory;

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

"To either ignore resolution 67 or caution the Legislative Assembly's standing committee on social development of the contradictions inherent within the wording of the resolution.

"Furthermore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to return to the original Progressive Conservative mandate to ensure that every Ontarian has equal access to high-quality health care.

"Furthermore, that the government of Ontario is encouraged to have the federal Liberal government in Ottawa pay its fair share.

"Therefore, be it resolved that resolution 67 is considerably seriously flawed and unjust for many Ontarians."

I'm pleased to affix my name to this petition.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): "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

"Whereas 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 in the government in the province of Ontario."

I have affixed my signature on this.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition forwarded to me by Brad Grimwood, who's a Cambridge firefighter, and Mark McKinnon, who's a Toronto firefighter. Their petition 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."

This is signed by many citizens from Oakville, and I add my name to theirs.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'd like to present a petition on behalf of some of the constituents in the riding of Bruce.

"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."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition sent to me by Ms Chris McLean of Thunder Bay, who's a strong supporter of TVOntario.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario has served Ontarians of all ages for more than 25 years with quality non-commercial television that continues to focus 70% of its programming on education and children's programming; and

"Whereas TVO is available to 97.4% of Ontarians and for some uncabled communities is the only station available, making it a truly provincial asset; and

"Whereas TVO continues to work towards increasing self-generated revenues;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure that TVOntario continue to be a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster."

I'm proud to sign my name to this.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions signed by citizens from Harrow and Windsor:

To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): I have a petition of 150 good citizens of Cambridge. It's directed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

Pursuant to the standing orders, I affix my name to it.


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.



Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I beg leave to present the 33rd report of the standing committee on government agencies.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Does the vice-chair wish to make a brief statement? No?

Pursuant to standing order 106(g)(11), the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on estimates.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): The standing committee on estimates presents the committee's report as follows --

Interjection: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Dispense? Dispense.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to call the 19th order and have a division on second reading of Bill 109 and that there would be a five-minute bell.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Unanimous consent? Agreed.


Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of 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.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): It will be a five-minute bell; call in the members.

The division bells rang from 1526 to 1531.

The Speaker: All those in favour of Bill 109, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.


Barrett, Toby

Hardeman, Ernie

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Bassett, Isabel

Harnick, Charles

Parker, John L.

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Pettit, Trevor

Boushy, Dave

Hodgson, Chris

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Ross, Lillian

Carr, Gary

Jackson, Cameron

Sampson, Rob

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Shea, Derwyn

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Cunningham, Dianne

Jordan, W. Leo

Smith, Bruce

DeFaria, Carl

Kells, Morley

Snobelen, John

Doyle, Ed

Klees, Frank

Spina, Joseph

Ecker, Janet

Leadston, Gary L.

Stewart, R. Gary

Elliott, Brenda

Marland, Margaret

Turnbull, David

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Vankoughnet, Bill

Flaherty, Jim

McLean, Allan K.

Villeneuve, Noble

Ford, Douglas B.

Munro, Julia

Wilson, Jim

Fox, Gary

Murdoch, Bill

Witmer, Elizabeth

Froese, Tom

Mushinski, Marilyn

Wood, Bob

Galt, Doug

Newman, Dan

Young, Terence H.

Gilchrist, Steve

O'Toole, John


The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.


Bartolucci, Rick

Gravelle, Michael

Phillips, Gerry

Boyd, Marion

Kormos, Peter

Pouliot, Gilles

Bradley, James J.

Kwinter, Monte

Ramsay, David

Caplan, Elinor

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ruprecht, Tony

Castrilli, Annamarie

Lankin, Frances

Sergio, Mario

Cleary, John C.

Marchese, Rosario

Silipo, Tony

Cordiano, Joseph

Martel, Shelley

Wildman, Bud

Curling, Alvin

Martin, Tony

Wood, Len

Gerretsen, John

Miclash, Frank


Grandmaître, Bernard

Patten, Richard


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 59; the nays are 28.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried. Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, it goes to the general government committee for public input and debate.

The Speaker: So ordered.


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

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm glad that so many members are interested in my remarks right now --

The Speaker: You seem to have an interesting habit of clearing a room, member for St Catharines. I'll just give them a moment to find their way out. Don't worry if you hear an echo as you speak. Member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to address this particular piece of legislation. I know that those members who have to leave at this time will be watching it on the television sets in their offices. The member for Beaches-Woodbine has already said that she's even going to rush there so she can catch the remainder of my speech on this bill.

This is an important bill, there's no question about that, but we have to look at the reason that this bill is being introduced. I know it's against the wishes of some members of the Conservative caucus. I know the government whip, for instance, the minister for Don Mills-York Mills in his case, must be very concerned about the implications for the people in his riding. Ms Bassett, who was in the House today, will be very concerned about the implications for her riding.

What's happening is that the government is doing this while it is doing everything else. They don't want people to know what they are doing in this particular case so they are putting this in the context of the downloading that is taking place, the hospital closings that are taking place and many other initiatives that are taking place. We know it will affect many people adversely and that those people will certainly be speaking to the members of the government.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I'd like to point out to the member for St Catharines that I believe it's the tradition and the rules of the standing orders that we refer to members by their ridings, not by their names. The member for St Catharines is a veteran here. I thought he would know that. I'm totally surprised and shocked.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles Pouliot): Your point is well taken. The member for St Catharines will indeed acquiesce.

Mr Bradley: I'll absolutely acquiesce, but the problem is that many people who watch this on television, and there's an audience of millions, I should say to my friend the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, don't know the members by their ridings. I should perhaps correct it to say Isabel Bassett, the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, which I think is a reasonable way of putting it. People don't know necessarily who the people are for each riding and I want them to be able to know that out there.

Mr Hastings: On a point of privilege.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke wishes to be repetitious.

Mr Hastings: My point is that the member ought to be following the names of each of the ridings from which the members come. This weak excuse that the viewers don't know just doesn't cut it. Let's get back to tradition. The member is always talking about tradition and integrity in the House. Then let him carry through on his words for a change and address the members by the actual names of their ridings, not their surnames.

The Acting Speaker: The point has been made. Thank you.

Mr Bradley: Thank you for taking up so much of my time on trivialities this afternoon. I will remember that when you are up. This debate may not end today.

The Acting Speaker: Now what?

Mr Hastings: Now what, since you think it's so much of a "now what," I didn't think that any of the members in here could be referred to as trivialities or irrelevancies. I think the point of privilege is that the member ought to be addressing members by their ridings, not by their names. How many times do you have to make the point, Speaker?

The Acting Speaker: Obviously not as often as you are attempting to do. Thank you. The member for St Catharines, please.

Mr Bradley: Again I hope we are able to complete the debate because I want to tell you something. When we get interrupted this way, sometimes we are unable to complete the debate because we don't get all of our words on the record, and when we have to do that, sometimes the debate goes into the next day. I wouldn't want to see that happen because I know that the government House leader is very concerned that this bill get through today. That's all I worry about, because I know the government is eager to rush its agenda through.


You would know, for instance, that today is a very difficult day. This is a difficult week for the government. They just lost the referendum in Toronto. They lost a major referendum where the people said to the Conservative government of Mike Harris, the Premier of Ontario, the member for Nipissing, that they did not agree with his government trying to ram the megacity bill past the people of Metropolitan Toronto and in overwhelming numbers, some 76%, they said to the government, "We reject what you're trying to do."

You noticed, Mr Speaker, as I did today, the news that the Minister of Environment, the member for Carleton, I believe, is his riding -- Norm Sterling as he's known to the members in this House, but the member for Carleton as he would be known in his own caucus -- was removed from the position of overseer of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. It looks as though the good old boys have won that particular battle, because the parliamentary assistant, my good friend the member for Grey-Owen Sound, who was noted in his past incarnation for being in favour of a number of severances -- he gladly calls himself "the severance king." I know he has said that in years gone by. He smiles as I say that. He doesn't object to that. He has now been placed in the position, as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources, of having some say over who's going to get appointed to the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

Can you imagine the Niagara Escarpment Commission with the appointees that are recommended by my good friend the member for Grey-Owen Sound, who has been one of the strongest opponents of the work of the Niagara Escarpment Commission over the years? I know he's happy I said this because in his riding this will be perhaps an asset, but I think that in the rest of the province there may be a disagreement with that. But I don't want to get into that subject at great length.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Point of order.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Grey-Owen Sound, which standing order?

Mr Murdoch: I'd like to point out that I'm parliamentary assistant, Northern Development and Mines, not Natural Resources.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you kindly.

Mr Bradley: I'm glad you made that clarification. What I wanted to point out -- but the member for Rexdale was annoyed that I was using names. In this case, I'll have to say it. He's the parliamentary assistant to Chris Hodgson, who is the Minister of Natural Resources, as well as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. So he's the parliamentary assistant to the minister who will have jurisdiction over the Niagara Escarpment Commission and that is, I can tell you, a great worry to the many environmentalists, including Conservatives, in this province who now see that the one individual who was committed to Niagara Escarpment preservation -- I'll give him his credit, as I have on many occasions. If I didn't agree with anything else, I would say that Norm Sterling was very committed as the Minister of Environment to preserving the Niagara Escarpment. He was the person in the Davis administration, when he had the position of Provincial Secretary for Resources Development, responsible for establishing the commission and I know we all had his assurance that he would be there to protect the Niagara Escarpment.

Premier Harris has now removed him from that responsibility and turned it over to the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources could never be accused of being pro-environment. You could never accuse them of being raving environmentalists. My friend the member for Grey-Owen Sound would know that, which is why he smiles now that the Niagara Escarpment is in someone else's jurisdiction. It is a sad day for the environment. I think everyone agrees with that.


Mr Bradley: Some members don't. Some members obviously resent the fact that the Honourable Norm Sterling was getting credit for being a person who cared about the preserving of the Niagara Escarpment. They resent that.

I can understand why the minister today, when asked a question, flipped the question over to the Minister of Natural Resources, because he has had the knees kicked out from underneath him. He's had his legs severed by the Premier by taking away this responsibility. The one person in the cabinet who I knew -- maybe there are others -- cared about the Niagara Escarpment and its lands has been removed from that.

The member for Bruce is happy. The good old boys are in charge of it now. Bill and the boys are now in charge of it, and the good old girls I guess, if you're allowed to say that -- whatever. The good old women, the good old men are in charge of it now and Norm Sterling is taken out of that responsibility.

Every person with an environmental concern in this province -- I'm talking Conservatives too -- is going to be shocked and saddened by this development by the Premier. I don't know whether it's a sop to some of the rural members because he's closing their hospitals; I don't know whether that's the reason and so this is a way to try to make up for it. But whatever has happened, it is a bad day for the environment, and I think the government should be ashamed of itself.

I know those who genuinely care about the environment will be raising this with the Premier in the caucus of the Conservative Party next time it meets, because there have to be some people -- I look across at my friend the Minister of Labour. I'm sure she must be shocked and saddened and surprised by this particular development, because she's a moderate on this issue; she's a person I consider to be a moderate in the cabinet. Although I may not agree with the policies she brings forward in labour, I happen to think she is a moderate and an open-minded person on a number of issues. She must lament the loss of Norm Sterling as the protector of the Niagara Escarpment.

I know this is a matter of great concern to the government members now. They're hearing me talk about this. They're saying, "How on earth does this relate to this bill?" How is it related to the bill? It's related to Bill Murdoch, that's how it's related.

There are many people in the environmental movement who are surprised today, particularly that this was done so sneakily, so quietly. Behind closed doors in a very secretive fashion the torch is passed from the man who cares about the Niagara Escarpment and its protection to the unknown, to the Minister of Natural Resources and his parliamentary assistant, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, who, along with my friend the member for Lincoln, have been campaigning for this to happen for some period of time.

It may get you some marks with certain people. We may be seeing severances. We'll probably see the Escarpment Hilton, the Escarpment Holiday Inn, the Escarpment Howard Johnsons. We'll see pits and quarries all over, we'll see garbage dumps, we'll see all kinds of development, and the severances will be aflowin'. It'll be like the good old days when my friend the member for Grey-Owen Sound was in municipal government, granting severances willy-nilly at that time. I think it's unfortunate.

The Speaker: The member for St Catharines, I just got back in the chair, and I was certain when I left we were debating the financing of local government. I'm lost.

Mr Bradley: I thank the Speaker for pointing that out. I was saying that this is because we must look at these bills in the context of the entire government program and all the initiatives.

I have here a very important report that would relate to this. It's called The Mike Harris Plan..."Fundamentally Flawed," and it is authored by Dalton McGuinty, MPP, and Gerry Phillips, MPP. It's a report of the community impact review committee of the Ontario Liberal caucus, which actually went out and spoke to municipal politicians about the problems that exist. It's an important report.

Everybody in the province, including you, Mr Speaker, will want a copy of this report, because it is one which really exposes what this government is up to. Who exposes it? The municipal politicians. You remember; you were a municipal politician. You would have been shocked, I'm sure, Mr Speaker, because you were that kind of person, a dedicated municipal representative. He would have been, I assure you. This Speaker would have been very concerned if he heard the Premier calling him a whiner.

I wouldn't have called this Speaker a whiner. I was the Minister of the Environment when this gentleman, the Speaker in the chair, Chris Stockwell, the member for Etobicoke West, was a municipal councillor. When he had something to say, he said it. He wasn't always complimentary of what the Ministry of the Environment of the day was doing, but I didn't call him a whiner. I didn't say he was a whiner; I said: "He is entitled to that point of view. I'm glad to see this vigorous debate." He may have been wrong, but he was not a whiner, of that I can assure you.

I know that all members of the public and all members of the news media will be interested in this document, which has many quotes from municipal politicians, the people the Premier calls "whiners," about what is happening as a result of the downloading. I suspect they're even talking about this bill. I would say they're talking about this bill.


I look at the names quoted here, and I can tell you there are a lot of Tories on here or people who might have supported the Conservatives in the last election who are absolutely astounded that they are going to be forced either to raise taxes very significantly -- property taxes, that do not take into account a person's ability to pay -- or they're going to be forced to impose user fees, which are hardest on the lowest-income people in our society.

In other words, the kids who have to play hockey -- the rich kids will continue to play hockey because their parents will have enough money to pay a registration fee which must take into account the cost of ice and other services provided by the municipality. Municipalities are going to be forced to do that or severely cut services. As we all know, rich people, the privileged people in our society, can afford those services, can buy them privately, can go elsewhere to get those services, but the average person in our society can't do that.

That's why this report produced by Dalton McGuinty and Gerry Phillips, a report that took the input that came from various municipalities, is such an important report. No doubt some of the people commented on the provisions of this bill we have before us today as well as all the downloading, because municipalities are having huge new costs and huge new responsibilities thrust upon them, responsibilities and costs which are best borne at the provincial level as opposed to the local level.

I was pleased that the St Catharines city council passed a resolution -- I think it was 11 to 2 -- calling upon this government to stop its downloading, to reconsider its position so that municipalities would not feel this adverse impact, so we wouldn't see gigantic increases in municipal taxes and of course the blame that goes with either the raising of those taxes or the cutting of important services while this government gives an income tax cut to the richest people in our society.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to rise and congratulate the member for St Catharines for his, as usual, broad view of this bill and most of the bills he speaks to, certainly for his ability to connect the various pieces this government has, really of its own doing, put in front of us: Bill 106 that we're dealing with today, which will increase property taxes on many residences, people who live in their homes or people who rent, as well as on small businesses. I'll have a chance to talk a little more about that when I get up in a little while.

The member for St Catharines clearly linked what happens in this bill to the whole downloading of costs that this government is putting through in all the various measures. We certainly have seen that in spades in terms of their announcements to take education from the property tax but to replace it with something that will make the situation far worse by having costs like social services and a number of health care service costs put on to the property tax base, clearly things that don't belong on the property tax base and things that now even this government, because many people across this province are realizing that is wrong and saying it is wrong, is beginning to at least understand they've made a big mistake about.

It will be interesting to see how they deal with that. If you judge from some of the statements we've heard today and statements in the media that ministers are looking at making some changes, particularly on the social assistance side, it will be interesting to see what they come up with. But clearly the message is there, they've received the message, and I think the member for St Catharines has tied that message very well to the specific provisions under Bill 106 that will help that download which the government seems to be so intent on doing.

Mr Murdoch: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this short time to speak on this bill and to speak on some of the comments from my good friend from St Catharines. He talks about the Niagara Escarpment. You know, there's something we must get quite clear here. I don't believe there's a Conservative over on this side who doesn't want to protect the escarpment. He gets a little mixed up in some of his comments. There's a Niagara Escarpment Commission, but there's also the Niagara Escarpment. I want it to be quite clear that, myself included, there isn't a member over here who doesn't want to protect the escarpment. We've known that forever.

He sometimes gets confused, and he's one who should know. He's the one who probably caused us more trouble than anybody on this whole escarpment deal when he was the Minister of the Environment and took it out of municipal affairs, where it should have been left. But I can live with it going to natural resources. I know the Minister of Natural Resources has concerns about the escarpment and he certainly will protect it.

Also, he mentioned that our Minister of Environment has done a good job of doing that and now it's in a spot where we can look at the parks system, which the escarpment was set up for. The Niagara Escarpment was there and the commission was to set up a parks system from Niagara Falls right up to Tobermory, and now it's in a ministry that can do that; a minister who will know about the parks system because he has that in his system.

It's unfortunate that the opposition on the other side, and especially my friend from St Catharines, gets a little mixed up in his age. This happens, I guess, when maybe sometimes you've been here too long. You sort of get names mixed up.

We're all concerned about the Niagara Escarpment, and in Grey county we've protected it more than anybody. I can tell you right now we have more land in the escarpment area than anybody and we have protected it quite well, and we haven't created a lot of severances on the escarpment. Off the escarpment, yes, maybe, but that's development and we like development in our area. But as far as the escarpment goes --

The Speaker: Thank you. The member for Kenora.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I would like as well to congratulate the member for St Catharines on his comments. He has touched on many issues that not only affect the southern portion of the province but affect small-town northwestern Ontario as well: the choice that the municipal leaders of all the communities within Ontario are going to have to face in the upcoming years, whether it be the cutting of services or the increase in user fees, the placing of user fees on various activities which have never seen them before. These are things that municipal councillors from across the province are going to have to contend with and things that they're going to have to take a very close look at.

As well, he has indicated that there is a true concern out there that what this government has done is certainly not, and nowhere close to being, revenue-neutral when it comes to small-town Ontario or any of the municipalities within the province. They're finding that they're going to run large deficits. Michael Power, the future president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, has indicated very clearly that what is being passed on to the municipalities in Ontario is certainly going to add to their costs.

The member also refers to a document called The Mike Harris Plan..."Fundamentally Flawed." This is a document of course developed by co-chairs Dalton McGuinty, my leader, and Gerry Phillips, who have gone out to municipalities throughout the province and have listened to presentations from municipal councillors, from citizens, and they have all indicated that this plan is fundamentally flawed and it has to be changed. This document I'm sure will be of great interest to the citizens of Ontario.

In wrapping up, I'd just like to again congratulate the member for St Catharines on his comments. They truly fit a pattern which we see throughout this entire province.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Mr Speaker, I have a new-found respect both for you and for your tenure. Your courage is great.

The Premier has chosen to deal the long-standing member for Carleton a very bad hand. He's the one who established the dossier of the Niagara Escarpment, and that man there, Harris, took it away and gave it to the minister who handles a chainsaw and an axe and guts the ministry and services to people, that of Natural Resources -- really unfair. When you look at Bill 106 and when you know the creator of this ongoing atrocity, you have to be against, like the member for St Catharines has mentioned so well, all aspects of the bill.

What do we have here? We have a scheme. We have a mechanism in place that allows for downloading. There is nothing which is revenue-neutral. The losers are the taxpayers of Ontario. There's no question about it. The government gives you a break, so they say, on education, but education is the most predictable of costs. The same government leaves you hanging with the unpredictable, with the demographics: More people, an aging population as a whole, and the taxpayers will pay the payola like they've always done.


At the same time as they're closing hospitals, the people who can run the fastest will line their pockets one more time. Does it make a lot of sense? Is this commonsensical? Only for them.

The Speaker: Thank you. The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: Thank you to the members for Dovercourt, Grey-Owen Sound, Kenora and Lake Nipigon for their contributions to this debate. It's symbolic that the member for Grey-Owen Sound, whom we affectionately know as Bill Murdoch, is now sitting in the Minister of Environment's chair, the Minister of Environment having been deposed as the person in charge of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. I wish there were photographers around or that the cameras were allowed to pan the House at this time and we could see this, because it is not only symbolic, it is realistic. The Minister of Environment has been turfed from that particular position.

I know he must be livid with the Premier. I don't blame him for being livid with the Premier. I must say that being criticized as Minister of the Environment for my actions with the Niagara Escarpment Commission by the member for Grey-Owen Sound, of course, is a real plus, because he was the person who was in charge of all the severances. He's always pro-severance. I listened to this talk about protection. Listen, there wouldn't have been applause over there if they had known that the Honourable Norm Sterling was going to be taken out of that responsibility.

Members mentioned other things. I was surprised that one of the government members didn't get up and talk about the hospital closings in the Niagara region. The hospital in Port Colborne, the hospital in Fort Erie, the Hotel Dieu in St Catharines, the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital, the West Lincoln Memorial in Grimsby -- all of those hospitals are destined to be closed by the local hospital closing commission because the Harris government is going to provide a $44-million cut in hospital funding.

I know that those who adhere to and support the Common Sense Revolution must then adhere to and support the closing of hospitals, because that's what results from the Common Sense Revolution that gives a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our society.

The Speaker: Further debate? The member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I rise to join in this debate on Bill 106 with some interest because I've been following, of course, more closely some of the other bills. We just voted earlier today on Bill 109, the libraries bill that will reduce the support that exists now for libraries by, among other things, moving the protection for fees -- no fees for the use of libraries that exists now in legislation -- into regulation.

I've been following more closely the debate on Bill 103 as the GTA critic for our caucus, the megacity bill, but I've also been paying attention, albeit a little bit from the sidelines, to Bill 106 because there are a couple of important provisions in terms of what this bill does that I think it's important that people out there understand.

I fear that at least one aspect of this hasn't been discussed anywhere near the level that it needs to be and I want to talk a little bit about that. That is, what does this bill do for businesses, particularly small businesses? I want to come back to that.

But let's just take a look at what this bill is supposed to do. The bill is called the Fair Municipal Finance Act. If you believe the government line, you would believe that what this government is doing through this bill is putting together a system of financing, or how we raise taxes at the local level, in a way that would be fair. Again, at a superficial level you actually could buy that argument because if you look at the notions that are here, it says one of the things that's going to happen is we're going to have a new assessment system in a way that will ensure that properties of the same value pay the same level of property taxes. That's generally the notion.

The reality is not quite that. The reality is that's not quite what's going to be happening. Of course, we have the nuance between market value assessment and actual value assessment. I know the government makes a lot out of saying this isn't market value assessment; this is in fact actual value assessment. I think at the end of the day, if you ask the typical homeowner or tenant who is going to be paying this, or if you ask the typical small businessperson who is going to be paying the tax that will be levied through this, they won't see a particular difference between AVA or MVA.

What they will see in many cases is just more taxes, and that's the sad thing about this, because I think we can agree that there needs to be some fixing of how the assessment system works, but this doesn't do it. This doesn't do it, because what we are doing is going right across the province now to clearly a more market value assessment system, a system that's going to tie more closely the taxes that people pay on their properties or businesses to the value of that property.


Mr Silipo: One of the members opposite is saying we backed away from that. Well, he's absolutely right. We looked at putting in place a system similar to this and we realized that it wasn't going to work. We realized it wasn't going to work for the home owners. We realized it wasn't going to work for the renters. We also realized it wasn't going to work for some of the business sectors. In fact, some of the stronger voices that came out at the time we were dealing with this were from the various business sectors. They pointed out to us the problems with moving to this kind of a system, and now, lo and behold, we have the government that purports to be supportive of business going ahead with exactly a scheme that will have nothing but increases generally for people across the province in terms of their property taxes.

But that should not come as any great surprise, because that really is what this government has been doing. That really is very much the attitude and the approach that this government has been taking, despite the fact that Mike Harris so proudly, prior to and during the last election, went around the province saying, "There's only one taxpayer, and no government should try to resolve its fiscal problems by downloading them on to another level of government."

We hear the Minister of Health continue to remind this House, as he should, about the over $2 billion in cuts of the federal Liberal government. The cutting of transfers to the province and the difficulties that poses for our health care system doesn't justify the additional cuts that the Minister of Health is imposing on our hospitals, but at least in reminding Ontarians and reminding members of this Legislature, as he does, that the problem really started with the Liberal government in Ottawa and with their cuts of $2 billion to the health care system, not to mention the cuts to the social assistance system and the rest of the social structure, he's correct in doing that. He's correct in reminding people.

You would think that a government that understood and understands how bad a policy that is when the federal government solves its fiscal problems, reduces its deficit, by simply reducing the funds that it transfers to provinces, particularly to Ontario, wouldn't then turn around and do exactly the same thing to municipalities and school boards.

Yet we know that what we have here in Bill 106 is merely one piece out of five or six key pieces that all have as their collective objective cutting $3 billion out of the provincial expenditures, or finding $3 billion. Why? Because of all the promises that Mike Harris made, the only one he seems to be really intent on keeping is the one about the 30% provincial income tax cut. That's the one that's going to mean that people who are already well off are going to be better off, and that's the one that's going to mean that the average family is going to be worse off.

When they look at the little advantage they will get, the little benefit they will get from that 30% tax cut against the increases in a variety of ways in which they're going to be paying more, including higher property taxes, then the average family of middle income and low income will end up paying more. That's what this is all about. That's what this whole special session of the Legislature is all about.

It's not about streamlining the responsibilities of government between the provincial government and the local government, although, yes, there's a little tinkering going on with that. It's not about giving municipalities greater power because the greater power that you're giving them is either to cut services or increase taxes or a combination of those two. Now we hear that there is even talk that maybe one of the things that the government will do in Bill 103, or maybe they'll apply it across the province, is to bring in a provision that will say local property taxes can't be increased.


Then what we'll do is we'll just leave municipalities with the only choice being that they can just cut services and they can do the hatchet work for the Mike Harris government. This from the Premier, this from the politician who said that he was going to keep his promises and this from the politician who said, "You don't resolve your problems by downloading." "There's only one taxpayer," he used to say. I haven't heard him say that very much these days.

When we look at Bill 106, we have to first of all look at it in that context of how it ties to the rest of the downloading. When we look more specifically at what we see inside Bill 106, we see that within it there are clearly provisions that will result in increases. I mentioned earlier the impact this will have on small business. If you look at the bill, there's just a very short section; even the explanatory note at the front of the bill talks about business assessment. It's the second issue addressed under the explanatory note. It simply says:

"Currently, in addition to the assessment of land, persons carrying on a business are assessed for business assessment. The bill eliminates business assessment by repealing the current section 7 of the Assessment Act and making a number of other consequential amendments removing references to business assessment."

You would think by reading that and you would think by looking at the section in the bill, which is section 5, which repeals sections 7 and 8 of the Assessment Act and substitutes a new prescribed set of classes in a very short section, that what we're talking about here are relatively minor changes. Not if you happen to be a small business person. If you happen to be a small business person you'd better take a good, hard look at that particular provision in the bill. Why? Because what that does is eliminate the business occupancy tax.

That's a tax that's levied now on businesses on top of the property tax that businesses pay and it's levied against the operator of the business rather than the owner of the property. It's a tax paid by people running businesses in addition to the property tax. It's a tax that goes back to 1904, and Minister Eves when he introduced this bill referred to this and said: "The new legislation will scrap the outdated business occupancy tax. This tax has been on the books...since 1904." Here's the part that I found interesting going back and reading this statement, "It is based on very arbitrary tax rates that have absolutely no relation to the modern-day Ontario economy."

I find that really interesting because the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale earlier on was asking, "When are we going to go back to tradition?" Here's one tradition that we should be upholding, and I want to tell you why. The business occupancy tax, I would argue, of everything that exists under the property tax scheme in Ontario is actually the most progressive part of the property tax system. Why is that? It's because the way in which that tax is levied is done in relation to some notion of how much people, or in this case businesses, can actually pay.

The rates vary by the type of business that's being taxed. The reason those rates vary is because at the time that the tax was brought in, again back in 1904, the variable rates were based on the perceived ability to pay. Some types of businesses were viewed generally as more profitable than others. In other words, that portion of the property tax is actually based on the notion that if you can afford to pay more, you should pay more and if you can't afford to pay more, you shouldn't.

Isn't it interesting that that's exactly what the income tax system has as a basic tenet; in other words, that people should pay progressively based on their ability to pay? It's the only section and the only portion of the property tax system that's based on that basic principle. Isn't it interesting that that's the piece being done away with?

People may say: "What's the big deal? What does that do?" Let's understand, first of all, that the business occupancy tax raises across the province $1.6 billion. Within Metropolitan Toronto, to put it another way, there is $600 million raised. That's a lot of money. What happens when the business occupancy tax is scrapped? At first blush, people who have businesses might think that's a good idea. They will say: "Well, there's a tax that now exists. That is being removed." But usually, when it comes to taxes being removed, people have gotten smart enough to ask the next question, which is, "What's going to replace it?" This is where the problem begins.

Municipalities are going to have some choices, but the choices they have are between a rock and a hard place. The question for the municipality is going to be, first of all, "Can you afford not to raise that money?" What municipality is going to be able not to raise that kind of money? I said it's $600 million in Metropolitan Toronto alone; it's $1.6 billion across the province if you add it all up.

It means the option that theoretically is being given to municipalities to say, "You don't have to raise this money," is not really an option. It's not an option, particularly because of the additional costs this government is putting on the municipal level. We know there's a gap of some $1.5 billion already between the amount the province is pushing up to the income tax, primarily the education portion of the property tax, versus the amount they're pushing down on to the property tax, particularly like increasing from 20% to 50% the share municipalities will have to pay for social assistance, increasing long-term care costs to 50% from zero that the municipalities will have to pay, increasing the costs they will have to pay for public housing and child care, and the list goes on.

We know that in that tradeoff there's already a shortfall, meaning that just in and of itself, as a result of that, property taxes will inevitably increase or municipalities will have to make major cuts in the services they now provide. They're not going to have the room to be able to say, "We'll just find ways to absorb this." Then they have to ask themselves the question, "If we're going to put this back on the tax system, how are we going to do it?"

They could decide to put it on to the residential property tax; they could do that. You find me a council that's going to be able to agree to shift what is now being taxed on businesses and put it on the residential property tax. I don't think there'll be too many councils doing that, and they shouldn't do that, in my view.

Their next choice will be, "If we keep it on the commercial, if we keep it on the business part of the property tax, what happens then?" This is the kicker, because what it means is that small businesses will get an increase and large businesses will get a decrease. If you're a bank or a large business institution, because of the new scheme you're likely to see a substantial enough decrease in that part of your property tax, but if you're a small business you're going to see a hefty increase in your taxes.

I'm not going to throw out numbers because, depending on the calculations, there are various numbers one can use. But any of the numbers I have seen clearly show that we could be seeing increases likely in the 50% range for small businesses in terms of this portion of their taxes, whereas banks and other large business institutions like that will likely see a decrease on average of about 40%.

That's very consistent with the philosophy of this government, which is, "If you're already well off, we're going to make you even richer, and the rest of you, we're going to make you pay for that."


What troubles me is that I'm not sure that, so far, many small business people have actually latched on to this particular piece of the whole package of changes going on under this Who Does What process. But as they begin to realize this, their eyes will be opened and they will see that this government, rather than supporting small business, is in its tax changes going to be making life not only harder for small business but in some cases it will be the last straw, the last piece that will result in more small businesses simply closing up. I think I'm generally a reasonable person. I don't try to get people into a state of turmoil unless it's something that I strongly believe is the case. I strongly believe, as I read this and as I've had this interpreted for me, that this is what's going to happen.

I would say to small businesses right across the province to take a good hard look at what this government is doing. Rather than a supportive attitude, rather than the rhetoric -- "We're streamlining things, we're cutting taxes, we're making things simpler, we're re-opening Ontario for business" -- what we're going to see here is the closing of many small businesses. What will happen as a result of these business occupancy tax changes, especially and particularly for small business, is that we're going to see increases in the taxes that small businesses now are paying.

It's true, and I want to be fair to the government, that they have put in some provisions which at first blush would seem to temper that. But the reality, as I see it and as I read it, is that the tempering won't be anywhere near the kind of protection that exists now under the business occupancy tax for small businesses in relation and in comparison to big business. That's something that should give small business operators right across the province some pause for thought.

Yes, it's good that we are cutting red tape, where we in fact are cutting red tape as opposed to simply getting rid of a whole bunch of regulations, which this government is doing. I remind members that in terms of beginning the process to remove red tape and facilitating registration for small businesses in one location or in one process as opposed to five or six different processes, as used to be the case, we were the government that actually put that in place. We certainly are glad and supportive when the government of the day continues along those lines and looks at making changes that go beyond that, where life, in terms of the reporting process, is made easier for small businesses. We believe that is where the majority of jobs are created and will continue to be created into the foreseeable future, through small businesses.

But I abhor completely a government and its actions, particularly compared to the rhetoric, which then in the most basic place important for small business -- that is, the taxes they pay -- in a sleight of hand results in higher taxes having to be paid by small businesses while large business is going to get a break. They're going to get a break not just through the 30% tax cut, but they're going to get a break if they're large businesses through the business occupancy tax changes. Small businesses, on the other hand, are going to get hit both ways: They're going to get hit first of all because they won't see much in the way of a benefit from that 30% tax cut, for which all this is being done, and second, they're going to be asked to pay for that portion on the business occupancy tax, because the only progressive part of the property tax system that exists now, that has been a tradition since 1904, to go back and paraphrase the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, is being removed by this government. That's what's happening.

When you add that to the other changes through the assessment, that will mean that for seniors, for people on fixed incomes, whether they're injured workers, whether they're people of low or middle income, they will see their property taxes go up as a result of the imposition of market value assessment. Many certainly in my constituency will see that happen to them. I think in the name of fairness what you're going to see are people who have not a lot in the way of income but who have put their energies and their resources into building their home, into keeping their home, into paying for their home, and now they're going to get whacked and they're going to get whacked really hard.

I don't want to stand here and say that I'm opposed to us finding a system to ensure that each pay their own fair share of taxes, but that's not what this is doing. What this is doing is ensuring that the average family of modest means is going to pay even more.

The new assessment system that will kick in place, while people will argue, because of the way it's been based, it's not going to have quite the same severe impact perhaps initially as would have happened under the 1988 assessment rolls, because properties, at least here in Metropolitan Toronto, have generally gone down in price, that gives you an indication of the volatility that's involved here. Even the three-year averaging of those costs that is envisioned in this bill will result at the end of the day in people's property taxes going up and going up in a continuously uncertain way.

That's not what property taxes should be about. Property taxes should be about paying for the so-called hard services -- that's a phrase we continue to use -- about paying for things that have to do with servicing that property, by and large.

I happen to agree with one particular piece that the government is doing in terms of moving services like the cost of education off the property tax, but I have to say unequivocally that I'm opposed to why they're doing it. I'm opposed to them doing it in the context that they're doing it now because they're not doing it to make the tax system fairer; they are doing it in effect to facilitate taking $1 billion out of the education system.

Once the Minister of Education will have full control of all the moneys spent on education, he will be able to implement his ridiculous notion about 45% of those funds being spent outside of the classroom, notwithstanding the fact that in that calculation he includes principals, vice-principals, support staff and many other services that directly support what goes on in the classroom, not to mention the fact that I thought we had moved away from the notion of the one-room school house to a notion that says that the way in which you best educate young people is, first of all, within the four walls not of the classroom but the four walls of the school, and second, and just as important, how you best educate our young people is in the broader community, that not all learning goes on inside the classroom alone.

Even for those reasons, what the Minister of Education is doing is wrong.


But the removal of education from the property tax as a notion and as a principle is a good one, because like other soft services that really are province-wide, education doesn't belong on the property tax. But when it's done as it is being done by this government, not in order to make the tax system fairer but in order to simply facilitate them taking $1 billion out and adding that to the billion and a half they're taking out through the downloading and adding that to the $500 million or so they have put as part of their transition funding, which we don't expect to ever see them spending, there, lo and behold, you have the $3 billion that Mike Harris and Ernie Eves need to be able to fund the remaining 50% of the 30% tax cut. As I began, so I wish to end: That's what this is all about.

Through Bill 106 there is an increase, particularly to small businesses. There is an increase to many homeowners and renters who live on properties that have been, under the traditional system, "underassessed." They will end up paying much more than they're paying now. It will mean -- notwithstanding the transition provisions that are here, which I don't know if municipalities will even be able to take advantage of, because again they're dealing with having to find room for a whole bunch more cuts, and so I'm not sure how much the provisions that temper the transition of those increases will mean at the end of the day. But even if they were to be implemented, the volatility that's going to be there in terms of those increases will make it harder, particularly for people on fixed incomes.

We're going to see higher property taxes, particularly through the provisions of Bill 106. We're definitely going to see higher property taxes as a result of the broader policies of this government, through the downloading. We're going to see, in effect, less money spent at the end of the day on our school system, because as the ministry and the government grab the $5.4 billion currently being raised through property taxes off the property tax system, what they will do with that is to simply take $1 billion out of it.

We're going to get less in the way of services, we're going to get more in the way of taxes, if you're the average family across the province. If you're well off, if you're rich, you're going to get a 30% tax break; if you're the rest of us, you're going to pay through the nose. That's the reality, that's the Mike Harris world, that's the Mike Harris revolution. People are realizing that more and more, and that's why this last Monday you saw the result that you did here in Toronto, and that's why people are going to continue to be upset.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise and participate briefly on Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government, and to respond to the member for Dovercourt, who made some comments. I was pleased that he has suggested he's supportive of removing education funding off the municipal tax base, because in that he's certainly in harmony with most of the residents of Ontario and most of the organizations representing AMO and ROMA and other elected officials in our municipalities.

The member knows full well that the assessment system has been broken for many years. In fact, their government was conducting research, whether it was the Fair Tax Commission or a series of investigations. They backed away from it. That's the truth of it all. We all recall the newspaper stories of how there was a great outrage.

But let's face it, if a tax in a community is not fairly distributed, then there's an unfairness inherent in it. Is he suggesting, for example, that we agree with something that's inherently unfair? The most envisioned function of the property tax system is to distribute the cost of services fairly over the whole tax base. It should be revenue-neutral. In other words, if a property tax goes up, one will go down.

He has to get with the trend, that there are no more tax increases. You're just missing it. There are no more tax increases. We've hit the wall; we've hit the ceiling. But it has to be distributed fairly, and that does include the business sector. The issue of fairness is not one of user pays; everyone should pay their fair share. I hope the member isn't suggesting for a moment that the assessment system is somehow a progressive tax system at the same time. I'd like to hear his response on the progressive nature of the assessment system, and I appreciate his comments.

Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I share some of the concerns the member for Dovercourt had about some of the changes in the legislation. I know property taxpayers can only pay so much. There were a number of other issues that weren't touched on.

The ministry is forcing some of the municipalities to upgrade their sewer and water projects, and some of these studies are complete and some aren't. Many in our part of Ontario, about 20 municipalities, are very concerned about the percentage they used to get from the provincial government; they're worried now that the money will not be there and the projects will not proceed. Some of these are older plants that have been in the municipality for a number of years.

The other thing they're very worried about are the worn-out provincial highways that have been dumped on them, on top of everything else, with no funds to upgrade them, in some cases 30% and in many cases less. These highways are worn out and they're going to be an awful burden on those municipalities.

In our part of Ontario, the old Highway 2, which runs between the Quebec border and on through Toronto, is going to be dumped back on the municipality. They're very worried. It's probably going to cost $15 million to upgrade. The province is going to come up with probably $4 million or $5 million, which will only --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): We hope they do, John.

Mr Cleary: Well, they're supposed to. That's something they should look at very carefully and not download on the municipalities, because the municipalities have no more money either.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): It's certainly a pleasure for me to speak briefly this afternoon on Bill 106. I am somewhat dismayed that the member for Kingston and The Islands, who was the former mayor of Kingston, would have the opinion he has on Bill 106, especially when we're talking about the business occupancy tax. I am sure as a former mayor he saw how difficult it was for his community to collect and how much money was lost by the community with regard to the business occupancy tax on small businesses. It's amazing how the mayor of Kingston, the member for --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. It's the member for Dovercourt who made the presentation, not the member for Kingston and The Islands. You meant the member for Dovercourt; is this what you meant? Did you mean the member for Dovercourt?

Mr Beaubien: I'll direct my other comments to the member for Dovercourt and I'll leave the member for Kingston and The Islands alone.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Beaubien: It's amazing that the member for Dovercourt seems to play large businesses against small businesses. He's always looking after the underdog. But I remember that during the mandate of his government, his government spent $1 billion a month more than it took in in revenues. This is a person who is concerned about the small business operator. We wonder who made the banks rich during that period.

I would suggest that the member for Dovercourt is speaking from both corners of his mouth. I would also suggest that probably not too many people would buy a used car from this person. If he is so concerned about small businesses, why is it that his government saw fit to spend $1 billion a month more, during the mandate of the former government of this province?

Mr Gerretsen: I appreciate the kind words from the member for Lambton, especially since I hadn't said anything today yet on this bill.

Mr O'Toole: Mr Speaker, point of order.

The Deputy Speaker: Which of the standing orders are you referring to?

Mr O'Toole: Mr Speaker, if I may, in the rotation, the government side spoke, the opposition spoke, the third party --

The Deputy Speaker: No, we started by you, we went there, we went there, and now it's the turn here.

Would you make sure you start the clock at two minutes again? That is not a proper intervention. The member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I think the standing orders are quite clear that there are four opportunities for questions and answers in rotation, and if one of the parties doesn't happen to have any members get up at that time, then obviously the rotation continues.


I believe in fairness of taxes. There's absolutely no question about that. That's what we should be about. We should be fair to all Ontarians. What we have found out from the task force we've had travelling the province and who made their report official today, from the Leader of the Opposition, Dalton McGuinty, and our finance critic, Gerry Phillips, is that Mike Harris's plan is fundamentally flawed. That's the conclusion we've come to. Over 300 people were interviewed on this plan and they all agreed that the $5.4 billion you're taking off the property tax roll in education is not matched by the $6.3 billion that in effect you're downloading on to municipalities.

Municipalities are going to have to raise more money locally. There are figures in this report that clearly indicate that in most municipalities the taxes are going to go up 10%, 15% to 20% if the same programs are to be delivered within the municipal sphere. Those are conclusions we came to. Many organizations felt that way. It is simply wrong.

Every study that's ever been done clearly indicates that you cannot download health care costs, social service costs and social housing on to the municipalities. The property tax base simply cannot react to that sufficiently. What it's going to mean is that Ontarian is going to be pitted against Ontarian, and this is something we in this party want to avoid, and this is something the government, if it gets all of its mega-legislation through, is going to foster in this province.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Dovercourt, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Silipo: I appreciate the responses from both sides of the House. It seemed to me that at least from the response I got particulary from the government side, from the members for Durham East and Lambton, that I had struck a little bit of a chord, and I think it's fair if we disagree. We clearly disagree in a very fundamental way. I'd say to the member for Durham East first of all that when he says there can't be more taxes, I agree with him. That's the point. There can't be more taxes, but at the same time you can't pretend that by doing this you're not increasing taxes. It's not as if you're saying that by removing the business occupancy tax you're somehow giving the municipalities the money to be able to find that. They're going to have to find it somewhere, and where are they going to find it? They're going to find it through increasing taxes.

The question becomes then, how are they going to increase those taxes, not whether but how? I say again to the member for Lambton, if he's really serious, as a member of his government, in supporting small business, then you don't hit small businesses where it's going to hurt them the most.

The reason I continue to talk about the differences between big business and small business is twofold. First of all it's because I agree with virtually every economist and every other commonsensical individual who has said and says that it's small business that by and large creates the jobs; and second, I believe that you can't say you believe in supporting small business and then whack them over the head with bigger tax increases while at the same time you're decreasing the business loads for those big businesses that don't create jobs in quite the same way as small businesses do.

I think, though, that what we're seeing from the government is consistency, because they would rather support those who are already better off instead of supporting the modest-means individuals and small businesses.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I am pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak in support of Bill 106, the Fair Municipal Finance Act.

Major changes are needed in property tax assessment in Ontario, and that's the reason for this reform. There is an unsatisfactory situation that has festered in Ontario for many years in many communities, that assessments have not been kept up to date. The consequence of that is serious for many people: The values have gotten out of whack, they are out of date, and the distribution of the property tax burden becomes unfair. This is so not only in the city of Toronto, about which we hear a great deal, but also in my riding in the town of Whitby and in the city of Oshawa, where antiquated tax bases are being used, resulting in inequitable tax assessments in various parts of those communities.

The principle involved is that the properties of similar value should be assessed in a similar way and therefore taxed in a similar way in any given community. We have not had that system in about a third of the communities in Ontario in recent years. The goal, of course, is that Ontario needs a fair and consistent wide standard, a standard across the province, that is similar in similar communities on similar properties.

Many governments have had the opportunity to address this problem and to do something about it and have not done it. Our government is facing the problem, as it has with a number of other difficult issues, and addressing it and doing something about it and fulfilling a commitment which was made to do so.

There are several concerns that have inhibited governments in the past from dealing with this difficult issue. One of them has been the difficulty that some seniors on fixed incomes, on low incomes, have in meeting assessments which might be increased if they live in homes, older homes as opposed to newer homes, post-Second World War homes in communities like Toronto and Whitby and Oshawa that are using very old assessment bases.

There is also the concern with persons with disabilities on low incomes and often on fixed incomes as well. Both of these concerns are addressed in the legislation, which gives the municipalities the opportunity to make provision for persons with disabilities and low-income seniors. This will take care of that serious concern that those persons would not be able to withstand any possible increases in their share of the property tax burden in the community.

The key is that the proposed bill provides that opportunity for municipalities, and I'm sure the municipalities will address that need since they're given that opportunity in this bill. Current value is the key, "current value" being defined in the act, and the act addresses the current value as the value of the property if it were sold, which avoids the difficulty which has been experienced in some places of properties being valued as if they could support a high-rise or whatever that is overvalued and the resulting assessment causing a tax assessment that is unwarranted on those particular properties. As I say, the mechanism used in the legislation is current value.

There are inequities in Toronto in particular, in Whitby and Oshawa and other communities. There are situations, for example, in Scarborough, and these are cited in the papers, of a couple paying $3,400 in taxes on a property with a market value of $227,000 and then a professional couple in the city of Toronto living in a home valued at $1.8 million paying a property tax of $3,750. So here, a few miles from each other, we have gross discrepancies in the amounts of property taxes being paid on properties of grossly different values. This is the type of result that this legislation corrects. It also means that the couple living in Scarborough is subsidizing the more expensive house in the city of Toronto and that the fair share is not being paid for the more expensive property. There are many other examples of that difficulty.

The bill addresses these problems in three ways.

First, it gets the assessments up to date by getting the assessments done now. Currently assessments are being updated on all properties province-wide. All properties will be valued in the same year -- that is, as of June 30, 1996 -- as recommended by Mr Crombie in his Who Does What commission.

Second, all properties in the province will be kept current with regular updates. This will avoid the problem that has festered over the past, and it's close to 50 years now in the province without being addressed, that assessments became grossly out of date.

Third, the assessments will be consistent across the province.

The three keys there are getting the assessments up to date, making sure they stay current and making sure they're consistent province-wide.

There is the specific problem which some have raised about fluctuations in the real estate market. There would be problems, for example, if we took the year 1988, when there was a real estate boom in full swing, and used that as the base year, because that would distort the market in later years. For that reason a year in which there was not a boom real estate market, 1996, was chosen as the evaluation year, the base year, and there is a three-year rolling average used to moderate changes from year to year. After a transition period, the annual assessment of properties will be based on the average value for the current year and the two previous years.


There has also been a difficulty with homeowners and other property owners understanding the assessment system. We've all had the experience -- I know I have -- of receiving assessment notices and not being able to understand them: decimals being used, multiplied by a mill rate, arriving at an assessment and having to consult with others and even pay others to tell you what the assessment means on your own home.

One of the goals of this legislation is to make the new system understandable and also transparent so that a homeowner receiving an assessment will be able to read what the tax assessor says the current value of their home is. It'll be a plain figure. They'll be able to compare it with their neighbours, they'll be able to compare it with their perception of the value of their property, of that neighbourhood and that community, and that way we will have accomplished the reform of making the system understandable.

There's also an advantage here, finally, for rental apartment buildings. In almost all Ontario municipalities rental apartment buildings are taxed at least twice as heavily as single-family homes and condominiums. This is an increased burden on tenants that is passed on to them in their rents by the persons who own the building. The Fair Municipal Finance Act will give municipalities the power to ensure that rental properties are taxed at a fair rate. In addition, municipalities will be able to request a separate tax class for new rental apartment buildings with seven or more units, which will enable municipalities to tax these new buildings at a level comparable to owner-occupied condominiums or single-family homes. High property taxes have been an obstacle to investment and creation of new rental housing in the province and this bill will help address that difficulty.

I'll mention condominiums for a moment because it is an area in which I've been involved as the parliamentary assistant in Consumer and Commercial Relations over the past 20 months.

Many people in condominiums have appealed their tax assessments over the years. The condominium form of home ownership has been widespread for only about a generation in this province. Many of the condominiums have been experiencing an unfair tax burden in terms of the distribution in those communities that have not had updated assessments. I think people living in condominiums or who will own condominiums in the future will appreciate this tax reform as moving towards fairness and equity for persons who own condominium units.

The practical effects of the new legislation in Ontario and in my area in Oshawa-Whitby will be that there will be a balancing out in the community so that persons in newer homes will no longer have a heavier tax burden proportionately than those who live in older homes in the community.

Appeals have always been a problem with respect to assessments, especially in recent years. The number of appeals, for example, in the city of Toronto have contributed to an erosion of the tax base. This unfairness in the system has led to appeals pushing up tax rates and making it more difficult for municipalities to pay for the services that residents want.

With respect to appeals, the new act, the bill which we're discussing today, streamlines the process and it also introduces a settlement process which should help resolve many of these disputes without the very substantial expenses which many property owners have had to incur when appealing assessments under the current system. The streamlining of the process of appeals provides that the Assessment Review Board will be restructured to create a single-tier assessment system, and as of 1998, the involvement of the Ontario Municipal Board as a level of assessment appeal will be eliminated. The act will require the taxpayer and assessor to try to resolve the matter before the Assessment Review Board becomes involved.

In the act, the scheme is set out so that initially someone unhappy with their assessment would file a request to the assessment commissioner to reconsider the assessment. The assessment commissioner would then be required -- it's mandatory -- to respond to and seek information from the property taxpayer. This is the sort of mandatory, conciliatory function which has proven very beneficial in all kinds of dispute resolution in the province of Ontario and I would hope would serve to resolve many of these disputes at an early stage and at very limited cost.

If the matter is not resolved at that early stage, then the appeal lies to the Assessment Review Board and there are the provisions which protect due process: the right to a hearing, the right of the parties to be heard and the hearing of evidence that the parties might want to hear. There's then the decision of the Assessment Review Board, and if there is a fundamental flaw in that decision, then there is the right to go to the Divisional Court of the Ontario Court (General Division) on a question of law, which would be the ultimate protection if there was an assessment that was for some reason in contravention of the law that will be set out in this act, if passed.

So that's the background with respect to assessment appeals, which for anybody involved in assessment appeals in the past in the province of Ontario will be viewed as a very important and money-saving reform.

In summary, this is a major change in property assessment in Ontario. It's long overdue. It will result in fair and equitable assessments. It is to be remembered that as a result of this new system, the property tax will only increase if it has been undervalued relative to similar properties, and that means that other property owners have been paying higher taxes to make up for the lower taxes on those properties. The effect of outdated assessments has been, and this will be corrected, that some property owners have effectively been paying other property owners' shares of taxes.

Where property owners do question assessments under the new system under Bill 106, there will be simplified resolution procedures and assessment appeal procedures available. These are progressive steps towards constructive early dispute resolution under this beneficial legislation.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree with the member. We should have a system that doesn't have any gross inequities and it should be a fair system, there's no question about it. Of course, the real question is whether or not any system that is based on any kind of market value or current value is really the way to go. Perhaps there's another way in which property taxes ought to be paid entirely.

But you know, where your system of so-called fairness totally falls down is in this notion of the downloading that you're doing on to municipalities right now. As I indicated before, we have just had a commission go through Ontario that talked to at least 130 people from all walks of life, many people who were involved in the municipal field, in the municipal service field etc, and they've all come to one conclusion. That conclusion is that you're downloading on to municipalities an extra $1 billion worth of costs. You're downloading $6.3 billion in areas where municipalities simply won't be able to cope. They will not be able to cope by taking over a much greater responsibility for social services costs, for health care costs, for social housing. Every study that's ever been done from the right or the left clearly indicates that these are not the kind of costs that should come out of a regressive tax system like the property tax system.

So, Mike Harris, your plan is fundamentally flawed, and that is the title of our document that was produced by our leader and Mr Phillips, who will be the next speaker on our side. He will be very qualified to talk about this subject, as we all know in this House. So why don't you do the right thing? Why don't you stop the downloading? Why don't you say, "Yes, we understand the people of Ontario don't want us to download social services, they don't want us to download social housing, they don't want us to download health care services on municipalities," and let's go to a system that is truly fair to the people of Ontario, a system that is truly revenue-neutral, as you like to say? Because what you're doing right now is adding $1 billion to the property tax rolls of this province.

The Deputy Speaker: Time has expired, thank you.

M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ce projet de loi, la Loi 106, est encore une autre indication où le gouvernement, petit à petit, pas à pas, est en train de s'organiser pour faire sûr que les communautés à travers la province ont de moins en moins le support nécessaire.

Un bon exemple, c'est l'hôpital Montfort. On regarde le gouvernement à l'autre bord aujourd'hui avec cette législation qu'ils veulent passer, et de quelle autre question ne traitent-ils pas ? C'est toute la question de ce qui se passe avec l'hôpital Montfort. Monsieur le Président, il est important que le gouvernement -- oui, c'est relié. Je veux dire que c'est important que le gouvernement reconnaisse qu'avec ses actions sous la Loi 106, ça veut dire que les municipalités vont avoir moins d'argent. C'est vrai, c'est ça dans la loi. Ce que ça veut dire aussi, c'est qu'à la fin de la journée, le gouvernement ne va pas avoir les dollars nécessaires afin de maintenir des services comme à l'hôpital Montfort. Ce n'est pas acceptable.


The government tries to make us believe that this is all necessary in order for them to be able to organize themselves in some kind of way to be able to put the municipalities in a situation to deal with their downloading. Well, the reality is, no matter which way you cut it, what you guys are doing quite simply is absolving your responsibilities as a government and passing those responsibilities back down to the municipalities.

The sad, sad part about all of this is that the municipalities, through this act or through any act, are not going to have the ability to pay for those services that you're passing on to them. In the cities of Timmins, Toronto or Ottawa, wherever it might be, where are they going to find the dollars to be able to absorb the kinds of services you're passing on to them? Who's going to pay for ambulance services? Where are they going to get the dollars? Who will pay for social housing? Where are they going to get the dollars?

I think the government needs to reflect and look back and to say: "What is our role as a government? What is it that we should be doing?" I would argue that they should be doing what they were elected to do, and that is govern for the people of this province and not for themselves.

Mr O'Toole: I was going to share my time with another member of the caucus; however, I want to commend the member for Durham Centre for bringing to our attention, and that of the people watching today, the important changes in the assessment system in Ontario. The whole focus of the plan is fairness. It's not more taxes; it's about fairness.

I think you have to look at three parts. First, for my riding of Durham East it's very important to look at the treatment of the farm tax rebate, long overdue; Mr Gerretsen would know that. The member for Durham Centre has done an able, capable job of explaining it to the people, how 0.25% of the assessment, they'll just pay the bill now; there won't be this whole transaction of paperwork.

Another section there which I think is very good is section 372. I particularly like this. It allows a phasing in over an eight-year period, starting in 1998. What could be more sensible than allowing an eight-year phasing-in period? People have known about these inequities for years.

Another important part is for those people who may be on a fixed income. They could be people with disabilities, they could be senior citizens; in fact, they could be people just on low income, where as a result of the last 10 years of travesty, the economy's almost been killed. Section 373 allows for the deferral of taxes. I think if you take someone on a fixed income -- and as we know, over the last two governments there have been 60-some tax increases, almost all precipitated as a result of their overspending. They got on this diet of constantly increasing taxes. Of course that's not our mandate. As the member for Durham Centre has explained, we've allowed a phasing-in process and we've also allowed a deferral process for those people on fixed incomes. I think it is sensitive, I think it's balanced, and I think it's workable.

Of course the other two parties will oppose it. The member for Durham Centre has clearly made the argument that this is a fair tax system, long overdue, and I think this government should stand and applaud the actions of the minister.

Mr Bradley: I'm surprised by the member's speech, that it didn't mention a lot of the downloading, because one of the reasons we're into this particular piece of legislation is because of the downloading that's taking place. This was mentioned, of course, in the report that was put out by Gerry Phillips, who is the member for Scarborough-Agincourt and the critic in the field of economics and finance for the Ontario Liberal caucus. You will know that this report is one which is in great demand now, particularly by those who are elected at the local level. It's called The Mike Harris Plan..."Fundamentally Flawed": Report of the Liberal Community Impact Review Committee.

Of course, a lot of the people who spoke to us when we were out there -- and Gerry was at many of the hearings, as was Dalton McGuinty -- were people of all political backgrounds. I know the member, when he gets up, and he perhaps will be kind enough to mention some of the contents of this document -- you're going to find out that people of all political affiliations are critical now of the downloading taking place.

Some of them thought, "Well, these people will be our friends," and they were initially pretty quiet, you see, because they were intimidated. Or they thought: "Well, maybe if we're quiet, we'll get a special favour out of the government. Maybe Mike Harris will be nice to us." And then what happens? They find out they get dumped upon; responsibilities they never believed they were going to get: long-term care, welfare, mother's allowance, ambulance service, a variety of responsibilities which have not been in the municipal domain as long as I can remember. Now they're confronted with these costs, and when they complain, the Premier of the province calls them whiners. I don't call them whiners. I think they're being very realistic.

Mr Flaherty: I listened with interest to the comments of the member for Kingston and The Islands and also his colleague in the benches opposite, in the official opposition, the member for St Catharines. They talked about downloading, they talked about other things, but they didn't talk about this Bill 106 and the reforms it addresses for property owners in Ontario. I don't know why they didn't address the bill. It may be that they're embarrassed because they had the reigns of government here for five years, from 1985 to 1990, and did not address this serious problem in Ontario, for whatever reasons. They must be embarrassed now that there's finally a government that's addressing the problem.

I listened also to the member from Cochrane. Similarly, he talked about hospitals and ambulance services, which aren't mentioned in Bill 106, which is the reform of the property tax assessment system in Ontario. I don't know whether he agrees with the bill or not. He must agree with the bill because he didn't speak out against it when he had the opportunity to do so in reply. It may be also that he's embarrassed because he was here during those years, from 1990 to 1995, when his government had the opportunity to address this problem, which has existed in this province for many years and which is unfair to many homeowners in Ontario; not only unfair to many homeowners in Ontario of single-family residences but unfair to people who live in rental units, townhouses and apartments, and to people who live in condominiums and who rent units in condominium buildings in Ontario.

These are issues I would have thought the Liberal government, from 1985 to 1990, and the NDP government, from 1990 to 1995, would have addressed, because they constantly tell us how much they care about fair and equitable systems in the province. But it is left for our government once again to take care of the difficulty, face the problem, don't sweep it under the rug, address it and make sure that major reform is made. We keep our commitments.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'd like to debate Bill 106, which I guess the public are aware is called An Act respecting the financing of local government.

I would say that it is impossible to disassociate ourselves on this bill from the downloading. I will absolutely guarantee for the people of Ontario what they're going to face when they see their new property tax bill in 1998. I will say to the government members, you'd better get yourselves ready for a firestorm. Why? Let me start with the fact that you are going to force the municipalities to introduce this property tax reform at the very moment that you are downloading $1 billion of extra costs on to property tax. I might add that $1 billion is going to mean just that: a 10% increase in property tax. As you want to bring in fairness and equity in property tax, you are adding $1 billion of costs.

Who said that? The title of this is The Mike Harris Plan..."Fundamentally Flawed."

Mr Bradley: Who said that?

Mr Phillips: It was the regional chair of Hamilton-Wentworth, Mr Terry Cooke.

Mr Bradley: I thought it was a Tory.

Mr Phillips: I don't know his political background, but I do know Mr Cooke is well regarded in the province. He is regarded as one of the best municipal leaders in the province. Mike Harris personally picked him to be on the Who Does What committee. It was Mr Cooke, Mr Crombie and I guess 12 or 13 other people who looked at all of the disentanglement, where we should go in the province. Mike Harris hired him to do that or asked him to do that. I don't know whether he got money or not. I don't think they did; they did it out of community goodwill. But they took on the responsibility of trying to advise the government on what services should be put on the province and what services should be put on the municipality, and the government has chosen to totally disregard that. You are adding, at the time this property tax reform comes in, $1 billion of extra costs.


Here is what Mr Cooke said: "In its present form" -- the one that you are proceeding with -- "the disentanglement process is fundamentally flawed. It will destabilize the financial viability especially of bigger urban areas and over the long haul my fear is, again, we will divide the province into a series of communities, some of which have and some of which have not."

He's but one of the voices that is saying you've made a huge mistake on this downloading. What did Mr Crombie say on it and the entire panel, who, I might add, were handpicked by Mr Harris, the Premier, to advise the government on the future of the province? As a matter of fact, government members have been walking around with binders called Who Does What. We have a series of bills that the government calls the Who Does What bills, and this is part of it. But what does Mr Crombie say about this and what does the panel say about it? Recognize, it was Crombie and his panel that the government charged with the responsibility to say what to do, and he says this about your downloading and about the moves to put social assistance and child care and long-term care -- every senior in the province watching should be phoning their MPP and saying, "Don't do it." Here's what Mr Crombie said --

Mr Bradley: A former Tory cabinet minister.

Mr Phillips: A former Conservative cabinet minister of the federal government, a well-regarded individual. He says: "The panel strongly opposes such a move. We are unanimous" -- it isn't just a number of the panelists, but the entire panel; I think there were 14 plus Mr Crombie -- in the view that welfare and health should not be put on the property tax.

The reason I raise that is the government has chosen to head down a road that the Globe and Mail says editorially is a disaster. That's strong language, particularly for an editorial board. The Globe and Mail says it's a disaster. Virtually every paper in the province editorially says, "Don't do it." The board of trade says, "Don't do it."

As my colleagues have said, we were in 10 communities. We talked with over 200 individuals and unanimously, without exception -- and these were people from every political stripe, community leaders -- they said, "This is a huge mistake."

In the news today, Mr Crombie was begging the government to reconsider it. The United Way is begging the government to reconsider it. The municipalities are begging the government to reconsider it.

The reason I raise all of this is that at a time when you're trying to reform property tax, you've set a firestorm around the province. Surely we do not want to have the future wellbeing of our seniors dependent on property tax. You've chosen now to put 100% of social housing on property tax, and I might add that a majority of social housing in this province is seniors. That's who are in social housing, and you're putting 100% of that on property tax.

Long-term care: What could be more important to our future than long-term care? You're putting that on property tax.

Our young people: There are half a million young people in this province who rely on social assistance for their food and their clothing and their shelter, and that's going on property tax.

You cannot find one study, one group, one person who thinks this is the right move. It's a mistake. I know it's difficult to acknowledge a mistake, and I would find it understandable and acceptable if the government would say, "Listen, we were rushed. We realize that in our haste to get our agenda done we made a mistake and we are going to back up and change it." But it's got to change. It has to change.

I'm sorry, Mr Speaker, I should have indicated at the outset of my remarks that I believe there was all-party agreement that I would have 90 minutes for my remarks.

The Deputy Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

Mr Bisson: Remember who supported you.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that. I think all sides did and I appreciate the Conservative members doing that as well. I understand that I will finish by 6 o'clock, as the agreement is with the House.

The reason I raise this is that there are inequities in property tax around the province. Everybody knows that. There are, within communities, gross inequities between what people are paying on property taxes, and it has to be changed. But if you want to bring in change that the community can accept, you couldn't make a worse move than loading on to the property tax these services. As I say, I don't where the decision came from, I don't know how it was reached, but the very panel that was providing the expert advice fundamentally disagrees with it, and you will not find --

Mr O'Toole: Mr Speaker --

The Deputy Speaker: Is it a point of order?

Mr O'Toole: Yes, a point of order.

The Deputy Speaker: Please say so. Yes, a point of order.

Mr O'Toole: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to draw to the attention of viewers that Mr Phillips, a well-respected financial commentator, is perhaps misleading -- that's the wrong word; perhaps not being clear to those persons watching that the bill in discussion here is Bill 106, which is the fair assessment system and that has absolutely nothing --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Please take your seat.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member has accused the member who was speaking, Mr Phillips, of misleading this House. I believe that's unparliamentary language and I would ask you to ask him to withdraw that remark, Mr Speaker. He said that the speaker was misleading, which of course he was not.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. I was just about to make a point of the comment of the member for Durham East. I don't see anything really offensive in what he has said. I think he corrected himself immediately.


The Deputy Speaker: No, he made a mistake and corrected himself. That's the way I saw it. To continue on the debate --

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know it's hard for some of the political neophytes in the Conservative Party, but when they do get up in the House, they're not supposed to refer to the member by name but by riding. I believe he did refer to the member by name.

The Deputy Speaker: Yes, we heard that from the member here a minute ago, so I'm sure everybody will abide by the rules and the Speaker won't have to get up too often so that I have to interrupt the speaker. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: Just to continue on what I think the public wants to know, there is no doubt that the government, as it's introducing this bill and as property taxpayers are going to be trying to deal with the changes, let's recognize that the government has chosen to put the most vulnerable services -- our seniors' services, our children's services -- on to property taxes. You can imagine the battle. You can imagine, as property taxpayers are faced with the implications of this bill, how they are now going to recognize that they are going to be in a battle with seniors who need services, with children who need services. I think it's absolutely essential that we put that in the context of this bill.

I will talk a little bit about the bill. Let's recognize this: The government has said, "We are eliminating the business occupancy tax." That's part of this bill. For municipalities around this province, that is $1.6 billion -- it's gone. The government very nicely said, "We are eliminating that tax." Of course, what it means is the government doesn't lose one cent of revenue. It is our hard-pressed municipalities that lose $1.6-billion worth of revenue, at the same time, by the way, as the government is downloading, dumping seniors, children, child care, social housing, ambulance care, health care, all on the property tax. What's the municipality going to do? How is the municipality going to make up the $1.6 billion of lost revenue? The government just says: "You do whatever you want to do. Add it back on to the other property taxpayers."


I would say the first question that people listening and watching this should ask themselves on Bill 106 is: "Wait a minute. The business occupancy tax, $1.6 billion of revenue, is gone. Who is going to pick it up?" The government says the municipalities will simply have to add it on to the remaining taxpayers. Who is going to get it? Is it going to be the business community? If it is, there are going to be some who will be looking at tax hikes. If it all goes back on the commercial and industrial, the tax hike is around 40%. So for those people out in the business community listening to this, you'd better start looking at the bill. Some of you will be looking at tax increases of 40%, because the business occupancy tax will be put on you, or is it going to go on to the residential property taxpayer?

I listened very carefully to the government members talking about this bill and talking about the good aspects of it, relieving taxes on business, relieving taxes on apartments, relieving taxes on people who have been paying too much. Yes, all of those things are part of the bill. But recognize this: This is, as they say out there, a zero sum game. The municipalities to survive, to pay the bills, are going to need to raise the same amount of money.

Everybody who's listening to this, the government is saying the business community will pay less, the business occupancy tax gone -- $1.6 billion, 11% of the revenue, and in some municipalities it's like 15% of the revenue -- apartments paying less, according to the government, it doesn't take very long before you recognize that the single-family, residential property taxpayer in the province is going to pay substantially more, and this is coming like a freight train, because this happens all next year, 1998.

I might add that we've met with the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers, who have advised us of their real concerns about the actual implementation of this. They're the ones who will be charged with the responsibility of getting the tax bills out and they're saying to us, and I assume they're saying to the government, they've got real concerns about getting this thing done in time. As I say, if I were a government member I would be saying to the cabinet, "Give me some idea of what this is going to mean to my residential property taxpayers."

I might add, Mr Speaker, that, as you know, we have asked under freedom of information for the government to release its impact studies on this. The government refused to do it. We then, as you recall, moved a resolution in the House, supported by the NDP, to have the government release the impact studies. The government has got studies. The government knows what this is going to mean to residential property taxpayers. But for whatever reason, the Conservative back bench voted it down.

I would say to them, you should find out what this is going to mean to residential property taxpayers because there is no doubt the elements of the bill are there: Move more property taxes on to the single-family, residential property taxpayers. You add that on top of the very serious downloading, dumping -- what Mr Cooke, the regional chair of Hamilton-Wentworth, called a fundamentally flawed process of dumping the costs on to them -- and you've got the ingredients, as I say, of a firestorm. Make no mistake about that.

When we look at the bill we say that yes, property tax reform is essential. But if you wanted to devise a plan where you create chaos around introduction of property tax reform, you do what the government's doing. First off you download substantially on to the municipalities. You then get an environment where there is massive restructuring going on around the province, and much of it unwanted.

I found it mildly amusing when the last government member spoke and said, "We're just doing what we said we would do." I wish that were true. I don't remember any time during the campaign Mike Harris saying, "I'm going to put seniors' services, social housing, long-term care on to property tax." I guarantee you that if he had said that in my riding, there would have been intense anger.

Mr Gerretsen: That's putting it nicely.

Mr Phillips: It's putting it nicely, as my colleague said. Can't we all agree that as we look ahead in this province, as our senior community is aging and having spent a lifetime contributing to the province -- surely we're not going to cut them adrift and say, "Your services are now completely dependent on the property tax."

You can absolutely guarantee in the year ahead, as council after council have their backs to the wall, the inevitable battles that will take place. When you say you're keeping your promise, have you ever hinted that Mike Harris had that plan?

Even in Metro Toronto, I must say, in my community there's intense anger at Mr Harris because before the election there was something called the Mike Harris Metro task force. It was chaired by a former mayor of Scarborough, but there were Al Leach, Derwyn Shea and Mr Kells as vice-chairs. I remember very clearly, because if anybody had proposed getting rid of Scarborough or the city of Toronto or Etobicoke or North York and amalgamating, I don't think there would have been a Conservative member elected.

In fact what this report said was the opposite. It said that the Metro level of government will be eliminated. That was the major recommendation of the Mike Harris task force. It goes on to say, "The present number of six local governments will be retained."

It goes on to say in this report, "Beware of so-called false economies of scale in which smaller operations are subsumed into larger ones for the sake of efficiency but soon bogged by the growth of bureaucracy."

The reason I raise that is if the government members wonder why there is so much anger out there around the megacity, it is because fundamentally the people of Metropolitan Toronto disagree with it, but also because before the election it was very clear where Mike Harris stood on it, "We're going to keep those six municipalities," and I assure you it helped in the election. Had he said then what he's doing now, there would not have been one Conservative member elected in Metropolitan Toronto.

I raise that because this bill without doubt -- and the government is fond of saying it -- is all part of the package. It's all part of the Who Does What package. It's all part of our total plan for Ontario. We're now finding out that the plan has many flaws and that's why people now -- I urge you to begin to take a look at Bill 106 and get involved in it. I might add that there are a few organizations around the province that are now beginning to get involved.

I suspect I'm like most members; I've had relatively little comment so far on the bill. The clerks and treasurers did meet with us. They of course are aware of it.


I might say that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is one of the first business groups to look at the bill, and I'm not surprised at that, because it tends to be an organization that has its finger on the pulse of things. Certainly here in Ontario my experience with them has been that they are a very professional organization, very non-partisan, very matter of fact and very factual. They've begun to look at the bill, as I say, early on and they're doing their usual good work, but they're starting to raise concerns.

I'm urging the public to begin to take a look at this bill. The timing on it is that today we will finish with what's called second reading. The bill will pass this Legislature on second reading, approval in principle. We then will go to public hearings, I gather, in two weeks, in April; four days probably here at Queen's Park and four days in the province. Then it will come back for final approval in late April or early May. The clock is running on this, and I can assure you that this is going to have a profound impact on every community in Ontario and a huge impact on some communities.

To review the important elements of the bill, I'd say, firstly, the business occupancy tax is generally regarded as an inappropriate tax. I don't think there are many who would defend that staying around. The problem, though, is the government has washed its hands of any responsibility for helping to get rid of it. It has simply said: "It's gone. Now, as usual, mayors and reeves, regional chairs, councillors, you do the dirty work. We're going to take the pat on the back for telling the business community we're taking $1.6 billion off. Now you add it back on to your existing property taxpayers."

Similarly on the farm tax rebate for our farm community, farm land now will be assessed at 25% of its value, and that's fine. The problem is, who pays for that? The government gets the pats on the back from the farm community, but 100% of the cost of this is picked up by the local municipalities and the property taxpayers there. The cost just of that move alone -- the province, as I say, has washed its hands of it -- is $165 million of new cost on to municipalities. In our travels the communities were saying: "This is a huge cost to us. I'm not sure how we're going to handle it."

Earlier on in the debate one of the government members said it was sort of like: "Here's a gift for you. You can now do your own assessment." That's $120 million of new cost for municipalities. The farm land provision in the bill I completely understand, but as part of this downloading on to municipalities -- and believe me, it is $1 billion of extra cost -- the province has simply wiped its hands of it and said, "It's over to you now, municipalities," and you're going to find municipalities now behind the eight ball in terms of property taxes or trying to cut services.

There is no doubt that we are going to see huge shifts in what individuals pay on property taxes, particularly in those areas that have not been reassessed for some time. Again, the problem here is there is no help for the municipalities in transition funds. A move of this magnitude has to be done sensitively, carefully and with some help from the province. But the province has wiped its hands of this thing, said, "It's all up to you, municipalities, now." They've burdened municipalities with those two things -- I keep reminding us of it -- $1 billion of extra costs, well documented from community leaders around the province, and $1.6 billion because of the business occupancy tax.

It's a bit like saying to some of our mayors and reeves, "All right, you go out and do battle," and then tying both their hands behind their back in terms of how they can effectively deal with this by burdening them with enormous extra costs. I can guarantee -- and one of the advantages of Hansard is that what we say is recorded, and we can use it again a year from now. It will be about a year from now when those tax bills start going out. There will be some whose taxes will go down as a result of the bill; there's no question of that. But our mayors and municipal leaders won't be thanked because of that; it will be all of those who face suddenly a huge new tax burden.

Recognize what the government members have said to us: "We are shifting taxes, business to residential, apartments to single-family residential. We're adding $1 billion of new cost and the business occupancy tax." If you want to put together a recipe for tension and conflict out there, this is it.

Mr Gerretsen: This is the way to do it.

Mr Phillips: This is the way to do it, as my colleague said.

A little-known fact in the property tax reform as well is that education, the government tells us, is coming off the residential property taxpayer but it's staying on all of the business property taxpayers. The business community must be saying to themselves: "Wait a minute. You're leaving education on the business property taxpayer, you are encouraging the municipalities to put the bulk of the business occupancy tax back on the commercial-industrial property taxpayer, you are adding all of these extra costs on to the residential property taxpayer. I thought this was about finding a way that our businesses paid less taxes, not more taxes." But no, all of those things are going on.

My background is business, as probably is that of many in the Legislature. I ran three companies. I had 300 employees. I worked with a lot of very large companies. I've never seen major organizations that ever attempted to implement this broad a program, as the government is attempting to do. I think the public are beginning to appreciate, and certainly the government members are appreciating, we are dealing with 12 or 13 major bills in the House right now. There are all the Who Does What bills, then there's a series of red tape bills, there is the fire services bill, there is the development charges bill.

Increasingly it's clear to us in the opposition -- I don't know how the back bench feel about it -- this thing has not been very well thought through. There's a growing sense that the government simply hasn't had time to put it together properly. The proof of that was I guess in Bill 103, on the municipalities, the amalgamation, where the government was found by the courts to have acted illegally in its appointment of the trustees, where the Speaker ruled, in a difficult ruling for him, that there was, to use his language, a prima facie case of contempt of the Legislature because the government was proceeding as if the bill were passed. It is 100% clear that the decision to download these social services was a mistake. It could only have happened by a mistake being made somewhere in some ministry and not being caught by whoever should catch these things.


The reason I raise all of this is that the bill on property tax reform in and of itself is a crucial issue that needs to be managed extremely well. It's one where there should be broad consultation, where there should be broad hearings on it and where there should be ample opportunity for input and ample opportunity for effective implementation.

My understanding is that right now around the province there are I guess hundreds of people with virtually no training -- a one-day training course, I understand -- doing the assessments. The people who have responsibility for implementing it are saying to the government: "We don't think it can be done. We think that you have not got a proper timetable here." The debate will all be over, this thing will be finished, complete, law, some time in early May, if not late April.

I can assure you that Ontario has not yet woken up to what this is all about. When they do -- I'll tell you what makes people very angry about governments. There two things: one, if you lie to them; the second, if you treat them with arrogance. If you think that they are simply going to accept, "This bill went through very quickly; you must have been asleep," Ontario is not asleep. But what has happened is what I call planned confusion. I've said for months 1997 will be a year of what I call planned confusion. The government is going to try and get introduced and implemented a huge range of things before anybody can catch their breath.

I must say that Metropolitan Toronto caught their breath with Bill 103 on amalgamation, which was introduced on December 17. The community mobilized itself, and it was a grass-roots community activity, and spoke loud and clear to the government. By the way, I think the downloading, as my leader said earlier today, has that same potential when seniors realize that their services, their home services, their housing, their nursing homes are going to be on the backs of property taxes. They have spent a lifetime contributing to Ontario and now at a time when they should be feeling comfortable about life, what could be more uncertain than community after community being dependent on property taxes to provide services for seniors. We are only beginning to see the community beginning to let its voice be heard.

Certainly, when we went around the province, there's anger building. If you read the comments of Mr Crombie, who was supposed to have been the architect of all these things we're dealing with, saying today that -- I forget the words he used; I could find them perhaps, if I try and flip through this quickly. I hadn't planned to raise this -- but Mr Crombie today raising his voice about the downloading and trying to get the government to rethink it and to spend some time going back over his recommendations because he spent, along with his group, a considerable period of time. I may not be able to lay my hands on it right now, but I can assure you Mr Crombie in today's paper was raising major concerns about the downloading.

On top of that now, we've got this bill, Bill 106, that will change property taxes for everybody. We don't even know, as we're asked to deal with this, how the government is going to handle education tax on businesses. That should be part of what we're involved in here because many businesses in Ontario -- actually when I talked to business people they thought education had come off property taxes. I said, "Whoa, it's still on your business." Then they ask me, "How's that going to be handled?" and I say, "The government hasn't told us yet," and this bill does not spell it out.

But I can tell you the government is going to demand from the business community the same amount of money -- maybe more, but certainly the same amount of money and I suspect with some escalator -- they're going to demand from the business community that they pay the same amount of money for education as they paid in the past on property taxes and the municipalities are going to have to add substantial costs on to make up for the business occupancy tax.

I raise those things because there is a growing sense out there that the government is out of control. Even people who previously have been supporting them are saying to me, "They're going too far, too fast." I have stronger language around that, but that's what many are saying. Furthermore, this stuff is not very well put together. Somebody over there isn't thinking. Somebody is letting this stuff get out and it's wrong. The biggest example is just who there ever said we should put long-term care on the property taxes. If I were the government, I would want that person at caucus and I would let them know exactly what I thought of that. That is the most retrogressive move imaginable.

If all of this were working, if this Harris plan were working, perhaps people might feel less angry about what's happening. But I keep saying to us and to the government that all of this Who Does What work and all of the work you've been doing was supposed to mean that we ended up with more jobs. It was supposed to mean that Ontario was going to be seeing jobs created at an enormous clip.

I have here the latest government report on jobs. You can see in this document 7,000 jobs lost in January. I think what we've seen in the last five months is 37,000 fewer jobs in Ontario, and I might say that job performance is a disaster. The government had said we would see jobs created at the rate of 12,000 a month. We should have seen 60,000 new jobs over the last five months. We've lost 37,000 jobs. Something has gone wrong with the Common Sense Revolution. The rest of Canada has gained 72,000 jobs.

Mr Gerretsen: It's not making common sense.

Mr Phillips: As my colleague says, it's not making common sense. I personally believe that the job situation is perhaps one of our most tragic situations in Ontario, one of the most serious problems, and the biggest problem is that the government will not even acknowledge there is a problem. I raised the issue the other day in the House and the Premier essentially dismissed it, like there is no problem.

Well, there is a problem. There's a problem with 37,000 fewer jobs. There are more people out of work in Ontario right now than when Mike Harris became Premier. The day Mike Harris became Premier, there were 499,000 people out of work, just under 500,000. At the end of January there were 529,000 out of work, another 30,000 people out of work. These are government figures: 30,000 more people out of work in Ontario now than when Mike Harris became Premier. I think that's important for the public and for all of us to understand. It's like: "Those people on social assistance have got to get out and get a job. That's the problem. They just have to go out and work." Well, it's not that easy when there are 30,000 more people out of work now than when Mike Harris became Premier.


I will say to all of us that the most tragic unemployment situation is our young people. The unemployment rate in January in Ontario was 18.6% for our young people. As this document, the government's document, says: "In January 1997 the Ontario youth unemployment rate was 18.6%, up 2.3 percentage points from January of last year." In one year, up 2.3%.

The reason I raise this issue is that we will not even begin to solve the problem as long as Mike Harris says there is no problem. That's the biggest mistake. In government, I suppose it's convenient to say: "That's a problem that's going away. We're solving it." But I will say to the Premier and to the government that we won't let this go. We think this is an issue that isn't being solved: 30,000 more people out of work now than when the government came into office.

We saw 35,000 full-time jobs created in 1996. That's the worst full-time job performance in four years. There is a problem with employment out there and the problem is not being solved.

The employment numbers for February come out this Friday. I happen to think we should see a substantial increase in the number of jobs. You cannot go on losing jobs. The economy has to begin to produce some jobs, and I fully expect that to be the case on Friday, but it will not begin to make up for the lost jobs over the last five months.

We are about to head into a period of what I call a chill in the economy. I was very sorry to see the situation at Eaton's. They're an institution in Canada. I suspect they will be fine. They will restructure themselves and be fine. But over the next few months as the government proceeds with its plan to close a third of the hospitals in this province, as school boards lay off people, as municipalities lay off people, the climate that is out there right now is one of fear and concern. In an environment like that, you don't spend your money, you worry about your future, and that's the climate that is being created out there.

As we put all of these bills into perspective -- and I think we do have to look at it as a package; certainly the government members talk about it as a package. We are putting at risk a job that has to be done: property tax reform. We might as well have thrown some gasoline on this thing and thrown a match on it.

Many of my colleagues here are former municipal politicians. They've dealt with this issue. My colleague from Kingston, in addition to being the mayor of Kingston was also the president of AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. He dealt with property tax reform in his community, a very difficult issue at the best of times. He talks to me about the election held shortly after it took place, and a very angry community. That is part and parcel of property tax reform, but the last thing you want to do when you are trying to help municipalities to implement that is to throw additional problems at them such as the business occupancy tax, the downloading and the direction to move taxes off certain groups and on to other groups. That's why I raise these other issues, because all of us want property tax reform.

I'm looking for direction. My colleague has just indicated about two minutes before we wrap up -- not you, Mr Speaker, but one of my colleagues. I'll respect that and look for a signal from my colleague.

On this bill, for Ontario I would urge the community to get involved in it and look at its implications. We are on a very short time frame on this. In a matter of quite literally minutes we will be finished debate on it here in the Legislature. It will then go out to committee for eight days in mid-April and then come back for final approval. It'll be gone. Then Ontario will have to live with the implications of all these changes, and they are dramatic. In our opinion there are things the government should be doing to assist the municipalities in implementing property tax reform. That's completely absent from this bill, and it shouldn't be, because you are leaving them out on a limb from which they will be cut off because of the emotion involved in property tax reform.

That concludes my remarks on Bill 106. I look forward to the public hearings on it,

Mr Gerretsen: You can keep talking.

Mr Phillips: I'm told that I'm not quite concluded. I was, but I gather I should perhaps speak for another couple of minutes about the bill.

Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): Time.

Mr Phillips: Yes, I know it's time, but my colleague says to keep talking.

In all seriousness, I know the government wants to proceed with property tax reform and I understand that. I just think the mistake you are making here is that you have put this into an environment that's polluted. You've put it into an environment where the mayors will be unable to effectively implement it. You're putting it in an environment where you have decided you're going to cut $1.6 billion of revenue out and tell them to redistribute it. You have handcuffed them in terms of effective implementation. Even within the bill I will say there are some significant questions that Ontario wants to participate in the debate on. There are some unanswered questions around what is going to happen to education property taxes for businesses, and that's going to have to be answered at committee.

With that, we look forward to a participation by the public in our committee hearings on the bill. I would just say to Ontario, get ready because increased property taxes for many of you will be a way of life in 1998.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments? Further debate?

Mr Eves has moved second reading of Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): Mr Speaker, I understand that we have unanimous consent for a vote deferral until after question period tomorrow.

The Deputy Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

It being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1800.