L182 - Tue 29 Apr 1997 / Mar 29 Avr 1997
The House met at 1330.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement is directed to the Minister of Northern Development and it is about his silence while he and his government download services to northern municipalities.
Minister, I have here an estimate of the cost of your downloading to the taxpayers of the township of Golden. The bottom line for Golden residents will be an increase of $1,115,557 because of this minister's dumping. This is in a small community with a population of 2,183 residents in 921 households.
A few more examples: The town of Fort Frances can expect a 58% increase in their mill rate thanks to the inaction of the minister; the township of Jaffray Melick, a 60% increase; Ignace, 102%. I can go on and on.
Minister, you stated in the document A Voice for the North, "No new mandates will be enacted upon municipalities unless appropriate funding is allocated." I say again to the minister that due to his lack of interest and his inaction, northern residents will be forced to pay higher taxes because of his dumping of services.
The results aren't good. I and my leader, Dalton McGuinty, will be taking the results of a survey done by our northern municipal critic, Rick Bartolucci. Again I tell you the results aren't good, and I'm sure you're about to hear from every northern municipality, should you be in attendance.
In closing, Minister, all I can say is that I hope this information that you bring back to the Premier doesn't lead to your firing as it did to your parliamentary assistant.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): As if it's not enough that we have a government with the worst environmental record in Ontario's history, now we're asked to endure the delirious ravings of the Minister of Environment. I refer to his op-ed piece in last Wednesday's Windsor Star. Oh, the minister sings a happy little song about how his government is not deregulating but reregulating. The minister asks if we need rules that make no sense and then goes on to offer up a couple of the most spurious examples, as if to suggest that all environmental regulation is just red tape, which seems to be a particular fetish of this government.
But that's not what this is about. That's a shameful smokescreen for the fact that this government has undertaken a radical, systematic dismantling of environmental protection and they've done it behind closed doors. If you won't listen to me, will you listen to the Environmental Commissioner, who warns that "ministries are...eliminating environmental safeguards behind closed doors" and who warns that the quality of our drinking water is being compromised by the actions of this government?
You haven't fooled the auditor, the Ombudsman, the Environmental Commissioner, health and environmental organizations, you haven't fooled the media, you haven't fooled the opposition and you most decidedly haven't fooled the people of Ontario.
We will continue to expose this government's environmental agenda for the shameful travesty that it is. They are loosening and eliminating environmental laws, closing down air and water quality monitoring stations, and on and on. It's shameful.
MCMASTER UNIVERSITY MEDICAL PROGRAM
Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): McMaster University, in my riding of Hamilton West, has once again been recognized at the international level. Newsweek magazine is the latest periodical to attest to the world-class standards and innovations of McMaster University's medical program. McMaster University is the only medical school listed by Newsweek in its list of six schools. The Newsweek article describes McMaster as "the granddaddy of alternative medical education," and indeed it is.
In 1965, when the university president, Dr Harry Thode, and founding dean, Dr John Evans, opened the program, they envisioned a teaching centre that would be at the forefront of research and medical service initiatives. Twenty-two years later, that is exactly what Hamilton enjoys in the McMaster medical program: a program that draws students from around the world for the highest standard of medical training available today.
It is an honour for me, as the member for Hamilton West, to salute McMaster for its recognition in a featured article in Newsweek, and I know members join me in applauding the staff and medical students who have made this program what it is today and for leading the way for other medical institutions to follow.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): How many deaths and injuries in the workplace does it take to get the Harris government to realize that worker health and safety is important?
Yesterday during the national day of mourning, the community gathered at civic square and at the Steelworkers hall in Sudbury to try and figure out how any government could think about doing away with the world-renowned Occupational Disease Panel when as many as 6,000 Ontario workers die each year because of occupational disease.
We wonder how any government can seriously consider doing away with mandatory inquests into mining and construction workplace fatalities when 204 workers were killed in 1996.
We also wonder how any government can downplay the importance of health and safety in the workplace when there were more than 2.35 million workdays lost to the Ontario economy in 1996 due to occupational injuries, illness and death.
The barrier tape I have is no ordinary barrier tape. It has on it the X-rays of those who have been injured and died in the workplace.
I would like a page to bring it over to the Minister of Labour. Let her look at the broken hands, the cracked ribs, the fractured legs, the crushed skulls, the diseased lungs, and then maybe, just maybe, she will ensure that mandatory inquests take place and that the Occupational Disease Panel remains.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Parents and educators and students across Niagara, indeed across this province, live in daily fear for the future of their children, for our communities, our society and for the quality public education generations of Ontarians have built over the past decades, as they witness the gutting of public education by this government as it defunds public schools in Niagara and across Ontario, and as with its Bill 104 it eliminates local governance of education, and as it embarks on its orgy of privatization of essential and traditionally public services.
People like Alice Garon point out that "support staff jobs are the links of the chain that hold the board of education together," that "our future depends upon a well-educated populace, but with oversized classes, our students are paying far too much for the cutbacks that just go on and on and on" -- this government's cuts, this government's attacks on quality public education.
Diane Trottier writes this: She thinks education is very important to our future in French as well as in English. These same people fear for the future of French-language education in this province and very much so in the Niagara region, where generations have worked, and worked hard, to build quality French-language education.
Andre Demers says this: "Each and every day I am constantly helping numerous students in a multitude of different chores." You see, he's a custodian, and his job is going to be privatized. This is a cruel and vicious and criminal attack on public education in the province of Ontario.
Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I rise today to call the attention of all members of this Legislature to a critical need in this province. There is danger of a critical blood shortage in Ontario.
It was reported over the Easter weekend that some hospitals could not have accommodated one more blood transfusion, their supply was so low.
Every 20 seconds in Canada, somebody needs blood. In central Ontario, 700 blood donors are needed each weekday to meet patient requirements in 61 area hospitals. Sixty per cent of Canadians will require blood or blood products in their lifetime, yet only 4% of us donate blood.
The Red Cross is providing the invaluable service of collecting blood donations. The Red Cross uses new, sterile equipment on each donor, so there's no risk of contracting disease through donating blood.
I'll be hosting a Red Cross donor clinic at the Eglinton Square Shopping Centre in Scarborough on May 13. I'd like to thank the merchants and the property manager of Eglinton Square.
Sadly, the need for blood increases on holiday weekends, and with the upcoming Victoria Day weekend, hospitals will again experience a strain on their blood supply. The Red Cross desperately needs donors to ensure that transfusions are available.
I am proud to support this excellent organization and urge all of my colleagues in the Legislature to get involved with their local chapter of the Canadian Red Cross. Few organizations better reflect the Canadian tradition of voluntarism and of helping others in need.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I rise today to raise an issue of concern, I hope to all members of the Legislature, and that has to do with race relations in the province of Ontario.
My view of Canada is that it's like a flower garden and Canada has been fortunate to attract the best flowers from around the world to come and join with our first flower. But like every flower garden, weeds creep into it, and there is a weed called racism that all of us have to step up and make sure we tackle.
I'm concerned because the government, in at least two instances, has decided to cut back on its support for this area. One is in the Ministry of Education, where the division that was handling that I gather is now essentially gone. The other is in the Ministry of Citizenship, where the Anti-Racism Secretariat is essentially gone. I was struck as I was out on the weekend by a paper that had a headline "Hate Goes to High School."
I say to all of us that if we do not focus on this area -- our high schools do a terrific job on this, but they can't do it alone. I'm just alerting all of us that the government is shortsighted in trying to find money in this area. I think the government should reconsider its priorities. This is one area where, in my opinion, we cannot allow it to begin to fester.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): The Honourable John Snobelen began his career as Minister of Education and Training in this province by speaking to ministry staff and saying, "We need to invent a crisis." Invent a crisis? Well, he has done that. With the cuts in funding to education, with the trial balloons, with all the upheaval around changing local governance, with all the pressures on the system that were already there and all the changes that are being speculated about, parents and educators and students are all concerned about the future of education.
On Friday I attended a meeting of several hundred elementary school teachers in the city of East York. They were very disappointed that their own elected representatives didn't show up. They had invited the Honourable Dave Johnson over a month ago and unfortunately his office didn't even respond. John Parker, the member for York East, said the day before that he would be there and then called and left a message 20 minutes before the meeting saying he wouldn't be there. No one was there from the government to explain, to defend, to talk to educators about their very real concerns about what is happening in the classroom and about the quality of education for our youngest kids in the classroom, the deterioration they see and what they fear.
It is incumbent upon the government that is making such change at such breakneck speed to get out there and talk to people, let them know what's happening, give them the answers, help them understand your changes.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I rise today to honour the life of a great man, Bill Warrender, who recently passed away in Hamilton at the age of 88. Mr Warrender was a long-time family friend of one of my constituency staff.
It seems Bill Warrender was always representing his fellow citizens in Hamilton and indeed this province. He served as a controller, alderman and mayor of Hamilton. After serving in the RCAF during the Second World War, he entered provincial politics as a Tory MPP for Hamilton Centre. Bill Warrender served with premiers Frost and Robarts, holding four cabinet portfolios, including Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Bill Warrender, a distinguished lawyer, was appointed to the bench in 1963 and worked in the small claims and district courts for 21 years. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of laws degree from his alma mater, McMaster University. Ontario Court of Justice Walter Stayshyn said, "He was a truly fine gentleman with a great love of people."
Bill Warrender, as the first chairman, was instrumental in the formation of Mohawk College. It was said he transformed Mohawk College from a single building on Wentworth Street into a modern miracle of education. Bill Warrender's son, William Robert, said although his dad was known as a great public figure, he was a great dad and a great person to emulate.
I ask all members of this assembly to pause and remember a true gentleman, friend and father, Bill Warrender, who gave a lifetime of service to his fellow citizens in Hamilton and the province.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise to bring to your attention on a point of order what I believe is a breach of the standing orders, particularly standing order 106(g), which deals with the power by the standing committee on government agencies to review the intended appointments of persons to agencies, boards and commissions and of directors to corporations in which the crown in the right of Ontario is a majority shareholder.
The specific breach I want to bring to your attention, Speaker, and ask you to rule on is that I believe the government, particularly I guess through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, is in breach of that standing order by virtue of not having submitted to that committee the review of the intended appointees to two bodies which are to come into effect as a result of the passage of Bill 103.
You will recall that under Bill 103 there were two bodies to be set up, one of them being the transition team and the other being the financial advisory board.
The specific reference in the bill sets out very clearly with respect to the transition team, under sections 16(1) and 16(2) of the legislation, and section 16(1) reads, "There shall be a transition team consisting of one or more members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council; the Lieutenant Governor in council may designate one of the members as chair"; and then in (2), "The transition team is a body corporate."
A similar provision in section 9, subsections (1) and (2), deals with the financial advisory board, "There shall be a financial advisory board consisting of one or more members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council; the Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate one of the members as chair," and (2) "The financial advisory board is a body corporate."
You have in the legislation, Speaker, two very clear designations of two bodies, the members of which are to be appointed by order in council, and two bodies which are made by the legislation to be bodies corporate; corporations therefore.
I want to bring to your attention that earlier this week, both yesterday with respect to the financial advisory board and on Friday with respect to the transition team, we had the release of the names of the people the government intends to appoint to those bodies. We also received late yesterday afternoon the certificate which was sent to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and then obviously from there to the clerk of the standing committee on government agencies, which sets out the intended appointees to the various agencies, boards and commissions, under the signature of the Premier of decisions made at the last cabinet meeting, where I understand these appointments were made, and that certificate does not include the names of these individuals.
I then want to bring your attention again, Speaker, to standing order 106(g), which as I read out earlier indicates that among the roles the standing committee on government agencies has is the role to review the intended appointments of persons to agencies, boards and commissions and of directors to corporations in which the crown in right of Ontario is a majority shareholder.
I would submit to you that one of these bodies is a board as set out under the standing order; the other is a corporation as set out under the standing order. In both cases there is an obligation, not a discretion as I believe the government will argue, but an obligation from the government to send the names of those intended appointees through the review process.
In this case that has not been done, although I find it interesting as a parallel, but it's only a parallel, that in a similar situation with respect to the body that's the equivalent of these two bodies under Bill 104, the Education Improvement Commission, the names of the chairs of that body were in fact sent through the process.
I would just submit to you, sir, that the government in not submitting these names is infringing on the standing orders as I understand them and would ask you to rule on that either today or at some point at your convenience.
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Mr Speaker, to respond to the members opposite, the NDP set up the process in the past in which short-term appointments of one year or less were not reviewed by the standing committee. There are numerous examples of key NDP appointments which followed the short-term system and were not reviewed by the standing committee.
Anne Golden and the members of her task force, for example, were not reviewed by the committee and they were appointed for a year and a half. John Sweeney was appointed by the NDP for the education task force that took several years; that was not reviewed by the panel. John Sewell was appointed to redo the Planning Act, which took three years, and he was not reviewed by the committee.
I could also say with respect to the panel for the education task force that they are more of a permanent appointment. Their appointments are for four years, not short-term; a four-year appointment, which is considered long-term. The transition team is being appointed for seven months, which we consider to be short-term and therefore not subject to review by the committee.
Mr Silipo: Just briefly, in reply to the point made by the minister, Speaker, I would say to you in considering this point that it may very well be that in the past certain appointments have not gone through the process. That's by virtue of the fact that nobody complained about that process being followed.
What I'm saying to you is that in my view the standing orders are clear: They require that those intended appointees in fact go through the process. There is no other standing order that supersedes the standing order. It comes down to what is in the standing order and how that is interpreted and then applied. I believe it can only be interpreted in a way that says intended appointees have to be made subject to that review process.
The minister may be correct that in some cases in the past they have not. There may indeed be ones in the life of this government that may have gone through and I or others have not seen them or not objected to them. But the point is that the standing order is what needs to be applied. I'm bringing that to your attention today and would ask you to take a look at that and rule on that.
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Just to reinforce the comments of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Mr Speaker, it's certainly our contention that the previous government under the NDP set up a process, and I think this is the key aspect here, in which short-term appointments of one year or less were not reviewed by the standing committee. The minister has given examples of that.
Further, I would say, strengthening that again, the previous government revised the standing orders to ensure that appointments were reviewed by the standing committee on government agencies. However, the practice under their government was not to review reappointments, appointments of civil servants and short-term appointments of one year or less. Certainly the transition team is being appointed for less than a year, at eight months.
Some of the examples the minister has alluded to that fit within that practice were Anne Golden, John Sweeney, also Gerry Caplan -- I'm not sure he mentioned Gerry Caplan -- and Monique Bégin on the Royal Commission on Learning, Lynn Williams on the Royal Commission on Workers' Compensation, Frank Clifford on the Ontario College of Teachers implementation committee, and John Sewell, I think he mentioned, on the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario. So there are any number of examples that allude to the practice that was put in place by the former government in this regard.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thanks, to the member for Dovercourt, the municipal affairs minister and the government House leader. I'll reserve; I think I'll be able to report back probably very shortly, tomorrow I would think.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): In the absence of the minister responsible for women's issues, I want to go to the Deputy Premier.
I want to raise with you the issue of violence against women in Ontario and what your government has done to women. You may be aware that this morning a new study was released confirming that the number of Ontario women who are being murdered by their husbands or boyfriends is on the rise. We are also already aware of the fact that the number of incidents of violence against women in Ontario is on the rise.
Minister, you will shortly be drafting a budget. In that budget, as you are well aware, you will not only be giving a statement of account, you'll be giving a very real expression to the values you hold dear as government. I want to ask you, in light of this new, fresh evidence of violence against women in Ontario, are you going to restore the millions of dollars in cuts that you've already made to women's programs?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the leader of the official opposition, he knows full well that I can't tell him what's going to be in the budget next Tuesday. He's going to have to wait to see what it is.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): You don't know.
Hon Mr Eves: That could be true too, I say to the member for Algoma, in some cases.
However, with respect to this specific study that he's talking about, he will know that the study was done covering the period of time from 1991 to 1994. We certainly take this issue very seriously. Governments now of all three political stripes in this province have struggled with this very important problem. There are several initiatives that this government is undertaking. We're spending about $100 million this year directed towards assisting women in our society here in Ontario.
Mr McGuinty: The minister says that on behalf of his government he takes the issue of violence against women very seriously. Let me tell you how seriously he takes it. He has scrapped the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues; he has cut $5 million from the women's issues portfolio; he has stolen $1.6 million from programs designed to help those women who find themselves in need of protection.
Minister, once again I'm going to ask you: In the grand scheme of things, where are your priorities when it comes to women's issues and violence against women? We know that you are extremely committed to a tax cut. We know that you are very much committed to reducing government costs in Ontario. I want to ask you -- just answer this directly, then -- when you compare those two things against violence against women, where do women factor into that? As you well know, they're not here today. They're silent victims. Where is it that you stand on violence against women?
Hon Mr Eves: The leader of the official opposition will know, of course, of the initiatives this government has undertaken in the past few months. They include passing a Victims' Bill of Rights; establishing and identifying protecting specific rights for victims of crime, many of whom are women; establishing the victim notification system, the automated information and referral service; establishing a $10.2-million victims' justice fund to provide services to victims of crime, unfortunately predominantly women in our society today; $11 million reinvested in nine shelters, facilities for women; and launching two new domestic court pilot projects in the city of Toronto and North York to deal solely with domestic assault cases. Those are some of the initiatives that our government has taken in the past few months.
Mr McGuinty: There is a massive human deficit that is mounting in this province. You have become fixated in an unhealthy way with the fiscal deficit at the expense of people in this province. When you cut 24-hour crisis intervention hotlines, human costs add up. When you cut community counselling services, human costs add up. When you cut programs to help women from returning to abusive situations, human costs add up.
I have raised with the Minister of Community and Social Services the fact that you have stolen $17 million from Ontario's children's aid societies. I'm now raising with you directly the fact that you have taken approximately $10 million, unreturned, from programs designed to help women who are victims of violence.
You've got the money for a tax cut that's going to total nearly $5 billion, but you can't come up with the paltry sums necessary to provide protection to children and women in Ontario who are the victims of violence. Minister, will you return that funding in your budget?
Hon Mr Eves: To the leader of the official opposition, first of all, he and other members in his party repeatedly say that the tax cut is costing the province $6 billion.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Well, it did, five billion.
Hon Mr Eves: Five billion, then. The reality is, as he knows, that revenue in the province is up this year -- not down $5 billion, up $1.2 billion, despite the fact that we reduced taxes.
I don't know what his definition of "upper-income Ontarians" is, but I can tell him that fully 61% of that tax cut goes to people making between $25,000 and $75,000 a year. If that's your definition of an upper-income Ontarian, then yours is very different than mine and, I must say, very different from the rest of society's.
I might also say that under the Who Does What exercise, we have assumed the entire responsibility for funding of women's services. We will make sure that they are protected. We are spending almost $100 million --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister.
The Speaker: Minister of Finance, please come to order.
IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Solicitor General. It has to do with the Ipperwash affair and the role the government played in it.
I want to be clear on what the government says its role was in it. The Premier has said, "At no time...was there any direction given by any political staff or any politicians as to what the OPP should do or how they should carry out their job." He went on to say, "There were no files, there were no records, because we had no involvement."
Can you confirm, Minister, that it's the government's position that there was no involvement and the OPP operated with no government input, direction or advice?
Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I can confirm that. Certainly that's been the position of the government and it continues to be the position that it is an accurate assessment of the situation. In fact, although I have not spoken to the commissioner, I noted in the press clippings today, which are circulated and made available to all members, that the commissioner is quoted in one of the print media today repeating his position that there was no "political pressure from Queen's Park to get tough with the demonstrators."
Mr Phillips: I will say we have a different opinion from the minister. The log at the Ipperwash police command post paints quite a different picture. I will read you a few quotes from that log. This is Mr Beaubien, your member, the Conservative member, who was at the command post: "The inspector questioned, `Is there anything from the Solicitor General?' Mr Beaubien advised, `Well, they're meeting today.'"
The commanding officer states -- and this, by the way, is the day of the shooting -- because the mayor raised some questions about the residents: "The Premier and the Solicitor General want to deal with this. There's an interministerial meeting this morning to deal with it." At another point -- this was the day before -- from the command police headquarters, "There is a conference call going on with your committee here at Queen's Park."
The question is this: How can you reconcile what the Premier has said with what these police logs show?
Hon Mr Runciman: I think the member is making a long reach, as he frequently does, with respect to this issue. I think it was clearly indicated, it's been made public on a number of occasions with respect to the committee established to deal with these kinds of situations formed by the former government, that they were meeting on a regular basis to monitor the situation. I think that's quite an appropriate role for them to play, so I cannot identify with the negative connotations the member opposite is trying to raise with respect to those meetings occurring. I think they were appropriate to take place and that the committee performed a function it was established to perform.
Mr Phillips: The reason I raise this is because the Premier has said that there was no involvement by the government, no advice to the OPP, and yet it shows during the two days before the shooting that the Conservative member was there regularly. He was referring to the Solicitor General; the inspector wanted to know what the Solicitor General thought.
We clearly believe that the government and the Premier played a key role in this affair. The only way we will find out is through a public inquiry. We now need a decision from the government. Will the government commit today to hold a public inquiry? We understand that there may be legal reasons why you need to wait until after the trial, but there is no reason why you cannot commit today to take the cloud over the government. Will you commit today to hold a public inquiry? I'll just be very clear on our request: Will you agree today to hold a public inquiry and start it at the earliest possible date that does not jeopardize the cases?
Hon Mr Runciman: I think it has been indicated on a number of occasions by the Attorney General, the Premier and myself that it would be imprudent for us to make a comment in respect to that particular request, given the fact that there are a number of civil actions under way, some criminal proceedings under way, an appeal, apparently, with respect to one criminal action that's been dealt with by the courts. Again, as we've indicated, when all these matters are behind us, I think the government will be prepared to make a decision.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, third party.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's interesting that the Solicitor General, the member for Leeds-Grenville, would never have taken that kind of response if he were on this side of the House.
The Speaker: Who is the question to, please?
Mr Wildman: I have a question to the Attorney General on the same matter, in light of the comments of his colleague. The Attorney General will know that the verdict yesterday in Sarnia does not deal with the role of the government in the decisions that led to the police buildup that led to the shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash. We know that the Premier's office was represented at the committee. We know that the committee initially talked about communication with the occupiers to try and negotiate an end to the occupation. We know that a quite unusual occurrence was the member for Lambton being at the police cordon and that he was in communication with the Premier's office.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr Wildman: Doesn't the Attorney General believe now, in light of the judge's decision yesterday, that the government should at least commit to a public inquiry into the government's role in this affair?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I certainly will adopt the answer that was given by the Solicitor General moments ago. There are further charges pending, there is a civil action, there is a sentencing that is pending, there is a possible appeal, and it would be imprudent to have those discussions and make those decisions at this time.
Mr Wildman: The Premier himself has said, "There are two issues" to be discovered here. "One is how the OPP carries out their duties. And two is government policy." The charges that the Attorney General refers to deal partially, at least, with the first one. Will the Attorney General make a commitment now to have an inquiry into the second one?
What exactly happened on September 6, between the time the OPP was prepared to negotiate an end to the occupation and the decision to build up police forces that night that led to the fracas and the death of Dudley George? We need to know. The public needs to know. Will you commit to inquiring into government policy and the role of the government in this affair?
Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly, if the member had gone on with the quote, it would have indicated that the Premier was quite satisfied with government policy, and it's quite clear that the government policy, in so far as this occupation was concerned, was to take steps to obtain a civil injunction. The record is very clear in terms of the material that was filed with the court, in terms of the efforts that were made to notify the court and the OPP and the occupiers, that the government's position was to obtain a civil injunction. The record is clear that that was in fact done.
Mr Wildman: We know that at 1:45 on September 6, the OPP issued a release saying they were going to attempt to negotiate an end to the occupation. We know that the committee met that day and a decision was made to seek an injunction to end the occupation. We know that injunction was going to be heard at 11 am the next day. We also know that that evening there was a police buildup of forces that led to the fracas that led to the death of Dudley George.
What happened between the time the OPP decided to negotiate, between the time the committee decided to seek an injunction and that evening? Who decided they should circumvent the injunction and use force to end the occupation that led to the death of Dudley George? That's what we need to know. That's why we need a public inquiry.
Hon Mr Harnick: The member leaves out one very important factual aspect of this: the fact that that evening the court received documents so the judge could be prepared and have an opportunity to read them the day before the civil injunction was to be brought. Those documents were also sent by fax transmission to the Ontario Provincial Police by the government lawyer, asking that, if possible, those documents be delivered to the occupiers so they would know that the intention of the government was very clear; it was to seek a civil injunction the next day.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): To the Solicitor General with respect to the same matter: We know that Dudley George is the first aboriginal person to be killed by police in Canada in this century with respect to a land dispute claim. We know that. We know that he was shot dead by gunfire from an OPP firearm and that an officer has been found guilty.
Judge Fraser, a learned and competent trial judge, found as a fact, and these are his words, "The story of the rifle and the muzzle flash were concocted" after the fact --
The Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, I can't hear you. I'm having difficulty. Could the meetings take place outside the chamber, please.
Mr Kormos: Thank you, Speaker. This is of the utmost importance to all Ontarians.
Judge Fraser found as a fact that: "The story of the rifle and the muzzle flash were concocted" after the fact "in an ill-fated attempt to disguise the fact that an unarmed man was shot." Dudley George was not armed, nor were any of the other occupiers. We do know that the OPP were given orders to "Get the" -- expletive -- "Indians out of the park."
Solicitor General, it's surely got to be in your interest as head of the OPP to have a full and public airing of the events that led up to the shooting of Dudley George. Once again, will you commit today to a public inquiry --
The Speaker: Thank you. Solicitor General?
Hon Mr Runciman: No one on this side of the House has ruled out an inquiry. I think it's been indicated by the members of the government who have spoken on this issue that we want the various matters that are before the courts to be resolved before a decision will be taken. Also, the member will appreciate the fact that there remains the possibility of an inquest, which will be the chief coroner's call with respect to that decision.
A number of matters have to be dealt with through the courts and possibly through a coroner's inquest. I understand the member's concerns and we respect them, but we also have to respect the various processes we have to go through with before we can make that decision.
Mr Kormos: Clearly, a coroner's inquest at this point is quite redundant. We know how Dudley George died. We know the cause of death. We know that it was OPP gunfire. There's no dispute about that from any quarter in the province.
You've heard reference to the Premier's comments: "[T]wo issues.... One is how the OPP carries out their duties. Two is government policy. Nothing I've seen or heard causes me concern with government policy." Solicitor General, the Premier is trying to make a scapegoat of the OPP and in particular Sergeant Deane. In fact, he's agreeing with the judge's verdict and confirming that there's something wrong with how the OPP carried out their duties.
I put the question to you whether or not you agree with the Premier and his analysis of the situation, that it's the OPP who are at fault and nothing that came from any government quarter.
Hon Mr Runciman: I am not going to comment on a court case which we now understand will be appealed. But I will say with respect to the possibility of a coroner's inquest that the member suggests it would be set on very narrow terms. I think we know from the history of coroners' inquests that the chief coroner has a great deal of latitude in terms of setting the terms of reference for an inquest and has looked at a variety of issues, including use of force, in other inquests. I think it's quite appropriate that if indeed there is an inquest following the resolution of the court proceedings, the chief coroner will have wide latitude to take a look at a variety of concerns that have been expressed by members of this Legislature and the public.
Mr Kormos: Judge Fraser's findings of fact, based on the evidence that was before him, are clearly that OPP officer Sergeant Deane's evidence was concocted, that it wasn't true. He rejected it entirely. He as much as said that it was perjury, it wasn't the case.
Clearly the OPP, since the shooting, developed a pattern of conduct that led to this fabrication of evidence. The only conclusion that Ontarians can reach is that there is a coverup that was participated in by the OPP, which led to the fabricated evidence and of which the fabricated evidence was part and parcel. The coverup, one has to infer, has to be of the government's role and their directions given to Ontario Provincial Police offers at Ipperwash Park.
You surely have to be as concerned about that as any other Ontarian and as interested in determining the truth and determining a process whereby these tragic consequences can be avoided in the future. If you're not going to call a public inquiry, what process are you going to embark on to ensure that this doesn't happen again?
Hon Mr Runciman: I think I've outlined, as have the Attorney General and the Premier on a number of occasions, the various processes that will be followed, and we've indicated and made a commitment to do that. With respect to the question of an inquiry, that decision will be taken when all the other matters are resolved, are behind us. There's also the continuing possibility that the chief coroner will see the need for an inquest. That remains a possibility. Those are the steps that will be followed and followed quite appropriately.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Health and it concerns land ambulances. Eight months from now, under your new division of responsibility, local government will assume 100% of the cost of land ambulances. My question today is specifically about a piece of geography in Ontario and how this ambulance policy is going to work. I want to talk about Algonquin Provincial Park, a piece of Ontario real estate owned by Her Majesty in right of the Ontario government, where annually one million people go to vacation.
How, effective January 1, 1998, is your ambulance policy going to work in Algonquin Park for those million people? How much are they going to pay and to whom are they going to pay whatever charge is required?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member knows that final decisions have not been taken with respect to the Who Does What exercise. With respect to the details, at the end of the day, a shift in where the tax dollars are coming from, whether they're coming out of the income tax or coming out of the property tax to replace the education tax that comes off, over $5 billion worth, won't change one iota the service coverage of land ambulances in this province.
Mr Conway: Let's be very clear. I think I know why the Minister of Health is squirming. He understands what bad policy this is. While he seeks to integrate and streamline the health care system, he's got real fragmentation and real fracturing in land ambulances. So accepting what the government has already announced and decided, on January 1, 1998, local government will pay the full cost of land ambulance services.
A million people annually visit Algonquin Park, which is owned by the provincial government and where there is no local government. My question remains, under the new policy to take effect in eight months' time, who is going to pay the ambulance service charges in Algonquin Provincial Park? How much, and to whom will those payments be made?
Hon Mr Wilson: The question is moot, given the fact that a number of our land ambulance services are owned and operated by municipalities or the private sector now. Only 10 of the 172 are actually run by the province.
The money, obviously, if final decisions are taken on Who Does What -- there are tremendous areas right now --
Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member obviously doesn't want an answer. The fact of the matter is, municipalities collectively will have the responsibility if the Who Does What final decisions are taken. The discussion now is, will municipalities collectively have the responsibility? I expect they will take that responsibility collectively to make sure that the province is covered, and the laws will be designed to ensure that responsibility covers all of the province. They will take that responsibility as seriously as I do and as seriously as I hope the honourable member does as an elected member at a different level of government. I know the local level --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. New question, third party.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services and it's with respect to the Child and Family Services Act.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): You want to be worried about that.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, member for Beaches-Woodbine. Members for Windsor-Sandwich and Sudbury, can you come to order, please? We're into a new question. Member for Beaches-Woodbine.
Ms Lankin: Minister, none of us on any side of this Legislative Assembly or any member of the public can read the horrific accounts of child abuse and child murder without feeling a sense of absolute rage and a weighty sense of a collective failure, that we've failed these precious children. I know you and all of our colleagues in this Legislature would share that.
You have indicated a number of steps you're taking. The one I want to talk to you about is with respect to a review of the legislation. You're quoted as saying that the balance of deciding when or whether to take a child from the home has to be examined, especially in the wake of the number of infant deaths due to abuse.
In the early 1980s there was an extensive review that led to the current Child and Family Services Act. There were green papers, there was a white paper, draft legislation; there were public consultations and hearings. All parties were involved in drafting a very delicate balance in this legislation. I hope that all parties can be involved now in the review. I have sent you a letter asking if you would refer the Child and Family Services Act review to the standing committee on social development. Minister, will you join with us in seeking a joint solution?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I certainly agree that there needs to be considerable debate and consultation in any review of the Child and Family Services Act. That legislation was written after very careful review, and if there are to be any changes, I think we need to have another very, very careful review.
I appreciate the member's suggestion about the standing committee. That's certainly one option. She's mentioned green papers or white papers or other kinds of public consultation. I think those are all excellent suggestions and I will consider them very seriously.
Ms Lankin: Minister, at this point I'm not asking you to create another green paper or white paper. We have had that. We have a piece of legislation. I believe that legislation could be referred to a committee. This is a way of expediting an all-party examination of it, and let's bring forward the people in the system to tell us how the system is failing our children, not just the legislation, but how the system is failing. Let's work together to find appropriate solutions that we can add to the list of initiatives you've already taken. Every day, as you have said, is a day too long in terms of finding the right protections to ensure that no more children die in these abusive situations.
Minister, I appreciate your reviewing that. Please get back to us quickly with an answer that says yes, you will send the legislation to the legislative committee. Let us work with you to find the appropriate solutions.
Hon Mrs Ecker: The first thing I want to be sure of is that any particular consultation process that we undertake is indeed going to be helpful. The task force that's occurring right now with the coroner's task force, which the children's aid society is part of and which the ministry is supporting, I think is a first step in that process. There are excellent recommendations that have been coming forward. I think they need to be seriously reviewed. The standing committee may well be another way to continue the review. I'm quite prepared to consider that seriously once we get those recommendations back.
I'm also quite prepared to invite the honourable member to participate in whatever review process we have, because I do take her at her word that she is interested in assisting and helping in a non-partisan way, as I'm sure all the members in the House would be.
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. As you know, Minister, my riding is referred to as the Chemical Valley of Canada. We have many, many industries and companies discharging waste water into the river. However, it has come to my attention that the Ontario Hydro station near Sarnia is improving the quality of waste water discharged in the St Clair River. I would ask you, Minister, to comment on the improvement and its direct environmental effects on my area and around Sarnia.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I understand the importance of the Ontario Hydro works in the Lambton area. It's a high employer and a good environmental citizen.
Currently, Ontario Hydro is constructing an effluent treatment facility in the Lambton generating station to ensure that boiler waste water discharged to the St Clair River more than meets the highest standards of my ministry. Air and water emissions from the Lambton generating station have always met the MOEE regulatory standards, but standards for discharges are being made stricter than previous governments had. Therefore, in order to meet these new standards, Ontario Hydro is putting forward a new clarifier system in order to treat its waste water from the boilers. The new facility at Lambton ensures that water discharges from the station will more than satisfy the new tougher regulations we're putting forward.
Mr Boushy: Mr Minister, you spoke of the environmental effects of the new water clarifying system. I would like you to mention something on the economic impacts of such initiatives taking place near my riding of Sarnia.
Hon Mr Sterling: I'm pleased to inform the honourable member that this is not only good for the environment, but it's good for the economy. On the one hand, Ontario Hydro is surpassing the environmental regulations. On the other hand, the $10-million project will create 40 new construction jobs through a local contractor. It is estimated that 60% of the estimated $10-million cost will be spent locally on materials and labour. Currently, the Lambton generating station employs 330 regular staff, and I know the member is really pleased about that because he's always fighting for jobs in his area.
I would also like to point out that a number of significant environmental improvements have been made at the plant in the last few years. For example, in 1994, Ontario Hydro brought into operation a scrubber system that reduces sulphur dioxide emissions by 90%. The scrubber process produces a gypsum byproduct that is sold to a drywall manufacturer. This is another example of a win-win situation.
FAMILY SUPPORT PLAN
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Attorney General. The Attorney General over the last few months has assured this House on repeated occasions that his plan for the family support plan office is working well and that he'll iron out the bugs. In spite of hundreds of cases that have been raised, in spite of repeated concerns, things don't seem to get any better.
In January of this year, one of my constituents approached your office about having their family withdrawn from the plan. After repeated requests, nothing happened. Finally, on January 27 we faxed the MPPs hotline. Instead of the normal seven-day wait, we had a 10-day wait. We had to refax and got specific instructions with respect to how to withdraw. Finally, on April 7 of this year, that family was withdrawn from the family support plan. How do you justify that and what do you say to that family in terms of the money that's still being tied up?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I appreciate the question from the member because we are attempting to provide greater access to the family support plan by clients who need the service than existed before. We are making some significant progress. The plan is not perfect. We still have a long way to go in that regard.
But the member raises a very important question, and the important question is the need for people to be in the plan when they can otherwise pay their money without having their support needs institutionalized. Certainly one of the goals we have is to ensure we can develop an opting out process so that those who don't wish to be in the plan, those who don't need the plan to institutionalize what they're doing, won't be forced to be within the plan. We were working to develop that process and I hope that will be ready very shortly.
Mr Duncan: Attorney General, as to the family I spoke of, it's a situation where the mother had custody of two children and she was diagnosed with cancer in December last year. By voluntary agreement she agreed to transfer responsibility and custody for the children back to the father of the children in January. The father of the children is on unemployment insurance. The woman passed away three days before your office responded to the family, and that family, that lives only on unemployment insurance, continues to pay into the family support plan without getting any money back.
It is an absolutely irresponsible response you've given this House today and in the past. Your trivial answers are too late for my constituent and they're too late for the hundreds of other families that have been so devastated by your lack of action and lack of willingness to face reality. Will you come to terms with a problem that's facing thousands of people in this province and deal with it immediately so no more tragedies of this nature can happen?
Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly, if the member would provide me with the details of that particular case, I will do everything I can to deal with it.
As I've indicated, we have put money into the plan. We have developed better technology to ensure we can transfer money more quickly. We're making every attempt to increase the number of callers who get through to the plan. We've gone from 6% to 50%. It's still not good enough. The family support plan is now disbursing 12% more money to women and children on a weekly basis than it did a year ago and we are endeavouring to provide that better service. If the member provides me with the details, if there is a problem, I will do my utmost to ensure it's resolved.
SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Question to the Solicitor General: Solicitor General, recently you were quoted in the news media as indicating you were considering consulting with respect to the police duty to cooperate and the SIU protocol. You don't have a very good track record when it comes to consultation. With respect to Bill 105, you totally disregarded community groups while you spent months consulting with the police stakeholders.
It's imperative that on a consultation with respect to police duty to cooperate, section 113, sub (9) of the Police Services Act, and a new SIU protocol, community groups get equal opportunity to provide input. All we're asking of you today, Solicitor General, is to commit yourself to a full, open and public consultation, not only with police stakeholders but also with various community groups, all of whom represent people of Ontario and have a strong interest in this consultation process.
Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): No final commitments have been made with respect to this issue. I did indicate on the weekend that we were considering it and taking a look at the whole question with respect to the protocol and the possibility of a consultation.
As the member knows, there has been an inability to reach a consensus in the past but I feel it's worth another try to see if we can indeed achieve a consensus. Certainly it would be my feeling that any consultation process would be open, would try to hear the input of anyone who had a view with respect to this issue, and that if we make a decision to establish a task force to review this issue, we would have representation on that task force from community groups.
Mr Kormos: Solicitor General, it's imperative that the matter of police duty to cooperate be addressed. The failure of police chiefs to enforce section 113, sub (9) and the various interpretations of it has hindered several recent SIU investigations into serious killings of citizenry.
You've got 105 before the committee. You should know that practically every community member who appeared before the justice committee expressed concern that Bill 105 totally disregarded the issue of police duty to cooperate. You know as well that even the police aren't enchanted by the contents of Bill 105. In light of the fact that you should and are considering this consultation process, why don't you defer Bill 105 until such time as the issue of duty to cooperate with police can be dealt with in a fair and open public process?
Hon Mr Runciman: I think during the consultation process we respected concerns related to the continuation of the SIU under the Ministry of the Attorney General. It was originally established under the Ministry of the Solicitor General. We recognized that that perception, and more than perception, that reality of independence had to be retained. We've also recognized the concerns of not only community groups but a range of other people across this province with respect to the whole question of duty to cooperate. That's why I've indicated we're taking a look at the establishment of a task force to consult with the public and make recommendations, and hopefully achieve a consensus with respect to a protocol which will direct the operations of the SIU in its relationships with police and their responsibilities in the future.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Solicitor General. Many people in my riding of Durham East are very supportive of our Solicitor General's approach to the young Offenders Act, and at the same time they're very critical of federal Justice Minister Allan Rock. Recently I understand that the federal government has proposed a new funding arrangement with respect to the Young Offenders Act and that these proposals reduce the federal spending and treat Ontario unfairly. Minister, give the public some support or your understanding of these cutbacks and particularly in their dealing with this serious public safety concern.
Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The reaction of the Liberal members opposite is typical with respect to their concerns or with the public's concerns related to the Young Offenders Act and young offenders in this province.
The reality is that the federal government's participation in funding for young offenders has fallen over the years from originally 50% of costs incurred by the province to about 30% now. Under the new proposal proposed by Mr Rock and the federal Liberal government, Ontario will see another $3-million cut from the federal transfers to fund our young offenders programs in this province. Ontario will be the only province in Canada cut back by the federal Liberal government with respect to young offenders.
In my capacity as Solicitor General, with the Attorney General -- we pressured the federal government and the federal justice committee to make substantive changes to the Young Offenders Act to realize the concerns of people right across this country. They have ignored us. What have they done instead? They've cut back funding to Ontario.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you, Minister, for a very, very thorough response. It's once again the federal Liberal government downloading unfairly on to the people of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I don't think the member should go there. It's unparliamentary, yes, and there are names they may come back with that you may not like. Member for Durham East.
Mr O'Toole: It's apparent I certainly touched a nerve. Our minister in his response was very, very clear that this is an issue where the federal Liberal government is lacking responsibility and once again giving Ontario the short end of the stick. The federal justice minister, Allan Rock, certainly owes you and the people of Ontario an explanation. Could you tell the members here today any other proposed funding changes that may negatively affect the people of Ontario.
Hon Mr Runciman: The federal government is not only cutting their funding for young offenders in Ontario, they also want to now set our priorities. As an example, Ontario is embarking on an innovative program called strict discipline for repeat young offenders. We have very significant recidivism rates in this province, over 60% of young offenders coming back into the system. We feel it's critically important that we try new measures, and strict discipline is one of those new initiatives, which the federal government is now saying they will not fund. It will be a low priority, when we're trying to do something innovative to try to reduce recidivism with young offenders.
What they're saying is, "We're going to give you less money; we're going to ignore your concerns and the concerns of Ontario citizens about the Young Offenders Act; and we're going to determine the priorities for your citizens." I want to tell the people of this province and the federal government that that is not acceptable. We simply will not accept it; we will fight it.
TRANSFER OF PROVINCIAL HIGHWAYS
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is for the Minister of Transportation and it concerns a statement he made yesterday about the scheme of offloading highways on to municipalities. I've spoken to the minister on many occasions. The minister stated that he was downloading, and this is his quote: "only highways that no longer serve a purpose as a provincial highway." He went on to say, "We have transferred highways that are in good condition, and for the ones we are transferring that need the work, we're supplying monetary funds."
Come on, Minister. A nice answer, but neither of those statements is a reality for many municipalities across Ontario, particularly in SD&G. The road needs $15 million of work and at least $8.5 million to make it reasonable; instead you've provided $5 million. Where do you think the municipality is suddenly going to get an extra $3 million to pay for the construction?
Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the honourable member for clarifying what I said. That is exactly what I said, and I will stand behind what I said, because this government is transferring highways that are no longer provincial highways; they serve mainly the purpose of local roads. Highways that we are transferring, we are transferring in good condition, and the ones that are not, we are making funds available to them so those highways will be in good condition.
Mr Cleary: We are talking about 72 kilometres of old Highway 2 across my riding in east Grenville, a road that the counties didn't even want but they had to take. It's a minimum of $8.5 million to repair it, and you're offering $5 million. Even your cabinet colleague whose riding has a portion of this highway running through it admits that the road needs extra money.
On April 2 in a news article, you already personally reviewed this with the member for SD&G, so could you please confirm here today that you will indeed give additional dollars to the united counties -- and I mean additional dollars, not infrastructure money, because of the tri-level funding badly needed to rebuild other areas of basic infrastructure. You didn't answer my first question.
Hon Mr Palladini: I'd just like to remind the honourable member that he answered his own question, but I did meet with the eastern wardens and certainly the conversations were very explicit and understanding. We understood each other. Also, as far as the funds that we have allocated on the highways that we are transferring, I think it's a fair process and we are treating municipalities fairly.
I just want to reiterate what I said yesterday, that we are taking $5.4 billion out of the residential taxes because of education and I believe there's going to be money available for these municipalities to do the repairs if they are going to be needing repairs later on.
I also want to say this: We have put aside $800 million that municipalities will be able to draw from in case the transfers and the funds are not available. Plus, on top of that, we have $1 billion as an ongoing fund that municipalities can draw from.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, a report funded by your government and released today reveals the shocking statistic that over the last four years 62 women per year were killed by a spouse or boyfriend. The chilling statistic found in the research shows that the women who are most at risk are those estranged from a spouse and those who have a history of violence in the relationship.
With this evidence in front of you today, we wonder why your government would embark on a direction of cutting and so-called rationalizing the shelter services that provide protection for these women. Will you reinstate the funding for shelters and second-stage housing, the services that those women need to stay alive? Will you reinstate the funding to at least the 1995 level?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you to the honourable member for the question. If she's referring to the study I'm familiar with, it releases statistics between 1991 and 1994 and statistics between 1974 and 1990, which do show some very alarming facts.
We take the issue very seriously and, unlike other governments, we are prepared to ask very difficult questions about how can we do a better job with the services and the programs we have. That's one of the reasons why we have asked the questions of the community, why my colleague the minister responsible for women's issues has gone out and done the consulting she has done, so we can improve the services we are offering to women. That is also one of the reasons that the government, under the Who Does What initiative, was prepared to assume the full cost of the funding for shelters, because we do believe it's a very important support network for those women who are abused.
Ms Churley: Is there one woman over there in that Tory caucus standing up for women in this province? I am surprised that not one of you is indicating that you are standing and speaking up for women, the most vulnerable in the province, at that cabinet table.
Minister, today on CBC Radio one of the authors of the research, Rosemary Gartner, stated that overwhelmingly the women who are at risk are women who are separated from their spouse. What they need is support for that period. Those are the very services your government is cutting. The evidence is in front of you now. Court proceedings do not save lives. Your ministry cut all operating support for second-stage shelters. Those are what save women's lives. Will you commit to doing something to turning around the situation? Will you reinstate, at the very least, the funding for second-stage housing?
Hon Mrs Ecker: With all due respect to the honourable member, I shall ignore the what I found rather offensive comments she made about the commitment of women --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Minister?
Hon Mrs Ecker: This government, as has been said earlier today, has undertaken many actions to support women who are the victims of violence. We are spending $100 million on these programs. This is more spending than other provinces per capita are putting forward. I believe we have a track record which indicates that we do care and that we are putting forward programs that will work, programs that will actually help support women who are in abusive situations.
LAKE ERIE YELLOW PERCH
Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Sunday morning my children and I were on the pier in Port Dover, along with many weekend fishermen. People were catching sunfish, bowhead, the odd mud puppy, but the vast majority caught were Lake Erie yellow perch.
Minister, I understand you originally contacted officials in Ohio expressing concerns about that state overharvesting yellow perch in Lake Erie. I know in Ontario both recreational and commercial fishermen are concerned about this. Can you give us more details, please?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I want to thank the member for Norfolk for the question. The member is correct. I recently wrote Ohio officials to let them know that Ontario is very upset over the overfishing in Lake Erie.
Hon Mr Hodgson: I know that to members of the opposition this may not be a big issue, but commercial fishing and recreational fishing are an important issue for the province of Ontario. This is the third year in a row that Ohio has exceeded its share of the total allowable catch of Lake Erie yellow perch and this situation cannot continue. I know the opposition doesn't care about this issue, but I can tell you there are a lot of people in Ontario who do.
Ontario has worked very hard in recent years to manage the yellow perch stocks so that they will recover from the serious decline that began in 1990. We have every right to expect similar results from Ohio, that it will be changed and corrected for the future.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. It was about mud puppies, I think.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): We have a unanimous consent on this. Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Premier concerning the Environmental Commissioner's report. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I ask for unanimous consent that the member for Northumberland be permitted to respond.
The Speaker: Unanimous consent? Agreed.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the private member's bill introduced by Rick Bartolucci which promotes smaller class sizes passed second reading; and
"Whereas this bill, called Bill 110, was referred to the social development committee; and
"Whereas we, the stakeholders in education, want the government committee to hear what we have to say about smaller class sizes; and
"Whereas we want to hear what the government committee has to say regarding smaller class sizes; and
"Whereas all people in Ontario have a right to speak to the social development committee about smaller class sizes;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the recommendation that the social development committee travel across Ontario to find out what the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Ontario are saying about smaller class sizes and Bill 110, the smaller class sizes act."
I affix my signature to the petition.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, minister responsible for women's issues; Premier Mike Harris; and all members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative government.
"We, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, urge you to reject the recommendations of the Framework for Action on the Prevention of Violence Against Women in Ontario report.
"We are supportive of the work currently being done by community-based sexual assault and rape crisis centres and women's shelters. We strongly oppose any cutbacks in funding for these vital services.
"We find recommendations such as those to limit a woman's stay in a shelter to 24 to 48 hours and to eliminate community-based rape crisis and sexual assault centres to be outrageous and unacceptable."
This is signed by 4,755 women and men in southwestern Ontario and I am proud to affix my signature.
Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): This is a petition with respect to the preservation of a publicly owned TVOntario and the funding of this educational centre.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My petition that I have before me was organized by Marjorie Archambault. It concerns health care cutbacks and reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we wish this petition to be signed in favour of two hospitals kept open with one board for the city of Cornwall, Ont."
There are 914 signatures and I've also signed the petition.
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I have a petition signed by over 1,000 people, and it states as follows:
"Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas Ontarians are gravely concerned with the historic $1.3-billion cut to base funding of hospitals; and
"Whereas Ontarians feel that health services are suffering; and
"Whereas the government is reducing hospital funding and not reinvesting millions of dollars into the communities that they are being taken away from;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to call on the Conservative government to stop the cuts to base funding for hospitals across Ontario and to ensure that community services are in place before the removal of hospital services. The Conservative government must fund hospitals with a funding formula that reflects demographic and regional needs. The Conservative government must ensure that health services are available, including emergency and urgent care, to all Ontarians."
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.
"Firefighters need speed, experience and teamwork to save lives. I oppose any legislation that could undermine the work of my local firefighters and jeopardize fire safety in my community. Please listen to professional firefighters and amend Bill 84 to eliminate the threat to fire safety."
I affix my signature with thousands of others.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGER
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario:
"Whereas Peterborough has the professionals to qualify as a health leader of the province;
"Whereas we especially have a large number of radiologists and the costs for patients needing MRIs to go to Toronto are escalating;
"Whereas delays in testing are detrimental to the health of patients;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Peterborough, with a base hospital serving 300,000 people, should have the next MRI unit in Ontario."
I agree and affix my signature.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and
"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and
"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control over schools and school programs; and
"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and
"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;
"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence in the government in the province of Ontario."
This is signed by hundreds of my constituents and was presented to me when I was visiting the schools of Manitoulin.
SCHOOL BOARD RESTRUCTURING
Mr Bob Wood (London South): I wish to present a petition with respect to Bill 104 to the Legislature.
NON-INSTRUCTIONAL SCHOOL EMPLOYEES
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have one which I will read to the members of the assembly.
"To the government of Ontario:
"Whereas non-instructional staff of boards of education provide an important and essential service to schools in Ontario;
"Whereas the school system functions best, in the interest of its students, when all of its employees work in harmony and coordination and with the kind of expertise that comes with continuity, coordination and experience;
"Whereas Bill 104 encourages the privatization and outsourcing of non-instructional positions and the resulting loss of jobs, cutting of wages and salaries, and removal of employment benefits for people with comparatively moderate incomes;
"Whereas dedicated educational employees are having their lives severely disrupted so that the Harris government can finance an income tax cut that benefits the wealthiest people the most;
"We, the undersigned, request that Bill 104 be withdrawn and any future legislation not call for the outsourcing and privatization of educational jobs."
I affix my signature, as I'm in total agreement with this petition.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I have a petition that was presented to me today from Tim Calhoun of 71 Centrefield Drive in Courtice, 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 my pleasure to present this petition.
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition in regard to the current child care crisis in Ontario. It reads as follows:
"Whereas the Ontario Tory government has decided to replace our current child care system with one that lacks compassion and common sense and is fraught with many dangerous consequences; and
"Whereas the concept of affordable, accessible and quality child care is a basic, important, fundamental right for many members of our community who are either unemployed and enrolled into a training program or are working single parents or where both parents are working; and
"Whereas if our present provincial government is sincere in getting people back to work, they should recognize the value of the child care component of the Jobs Ontario program and acknowledge the validity of the wage subsidy to the child care workers,
"Therefore we, the undersigned residents, business owners and child care workers of our Parkdale and High Park communities, urge the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario to immediately suspend their plans to implement cuts to our present child care programs across our province, and restore funding to their previous levels."
I have affixed my signature to this document because I'm in total agreement with it.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'd like to present a petition on behalf of some of the residents and constituents of the riding of Bruce. It is addressed to the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, minister responsible for women's issues, Premier Mike Harris and all members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative government.
"We, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, urge you to reject the recommendations of the Framework for Action on the Prevention of Violence Against Women in Ontario report.
"We are supportive of the work currently being done by community-based sexual assault and rape crisis centres, women's shelters and women's advocacy centres. We strongly oppose any cutbacks in funding for these vital services.
"We find recommendations such as those to limit a woman's stay in a shelter to 24 to 48 hours and to eliminate community-based rape crisis and sexual assault centres to be outrageous and unacceptable. We are especially concerned that women-focused services will be eliminated."
I will affix my name to the petition.
CLOSURE OF GOVERNMENT OFFICES
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): "To the Honourable Chris Hodgson, Minister of Northern Development and Mines:
"We, the people of northern Ontario, say no to the closure of the resident geologist office in Cobalt and the mining recorders offices in Kirkland Lake and Timmins."
I affix my name to this petition.
CORONER'S INQUEST RECOMMENDATIONS
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas there was a serious accident on Highway 401 near Waterloo regional road 20 on June 16, 1994; and
"Whereas one life probably would have been saved had there been an emergency entrance to 401 for the air volunteer fire department;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to implement the recommendations of the coroner's inquest."
I'll sign this, and it's been signed by 165 of my constituents.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here which is addressed to the Legislature of Ontario and to the Honourable Michael Harris, Premier of Ontario. It's signed by Karima Lutzak of Downing Street, Terry Robinson of Aragon Road, C.A. Peters of Rideau Street in Kingston, among others of these 200 or so people. It reads as follows:
"The citizens of Ontario and your Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation agree that this province has one of the great library systems in the world. This system has been built by citizens like me in every Ontario community serving on local library boards, with the decision-making power to promote, protect and create libraries that respond to our own communities;
"I request that you guarantee in your new legislation citizen-majority library boards and free access to all library information resources, the foundation of lifelong education."
I've affixed my signature to the petition and I am in total agreement with it.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition from George Lawrence, signed by hundreds of property owners in Tiny township concerning the continued preservation of public beaches through the Land Titles Act.
"We, the undersigned, register our objections to a private developer's application for title of Georgian Bay beachfront property, which has been used widely by the public for hundreds of years. Restricted use of this beach would be an infringement on the long-standing and implied rights of the public to have access to this beach."
I've signed my name to that.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): "To the government of Ontario:
"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris has changed the designation of estate wineries in Niagara from agricultural land to industrial land; and
"Whereas the primary use of winery property is not industrial but farm and commercial; and
"Whereas most of the properties involved are zoned agricultural and therefore have no access to normal services provided to industrial properties; and
"Whereas the grape and wine industry produces millions of dollars in economic activity and employs thousands of people throughout Ontario; and
"Whereas this added tax burden presents undue hardships to estate wineries and may result in job losses and a halt to the development in this important sector; and
"Whereas this change may have broader implications for all value added farming in the Niagara region and in southwestern Ontario;
"We, the undersigned, support the wineries of the Niagara region and southwestern Ontario and call upon Mike Harris and the Conservative government of Ontario to show their support for farm-based wineries on agricultural lands and the economic benefit it provides all of Ontario by removing the industrial assessment factor that the Mike Harris government has now burdened this industry with and reinstate an assessment which more fairly reflects the nature of value added farming."
I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement with the contents of this petition.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for interim supply for the period commencing May 1, 1997, and ending October 31, 1997.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): You may recall, Madam Speaker, that yesterday we sought and obtained unanimous consent to share our time with the member for London Centre and we'll do that. I note that we have approximately an hour and 10 minutes out of the one-and-a-half-hour allocation to our party, and I can assure you that we intend to use every second of that time.
We find it to say the least shocking, appalling, that the government would choose to wait until the very last hour to get the House to say, "Yes, you shall pay the bills of the province." But they need the money, and make no mistake, they need it quickly, because this is a government that is spending more money this fiscal year than the last one. This is a government that has underestimated the budget by more than $500 million, in fact by some $660 million, yet at the same time those ministries who don't speak as loud as some, those cabinet ministers who don't have much clout at cabinet, are being asked to carry the agenda of the government.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Name names.
Mr Pouliot: The Ministry of the Attorney General: actual spending, 1995-96, $1.085 billion. That ministry has been gutted almost by half. The current outlook for 1996-97, they're going from $1.1 billion to $654 million.
Mr Bradley: I thought they cared about crime.
Mr Pouliot: I guess the Tories are soft on crime. They talk a tough line, but when it comes time to protect society, the budget speaks for itself. The ministry is being gutted.
The Ministry of Environment and Energy, clean water, the air that we breathe, goes from -- I can't believe this -- $239 million in 1995-96 to $172 million. This is a government that wishes to -- well, they haven't said no to exporting another one of our resources: water. I guess they'll sell it to the highest bidder. They'll just call it "Perrio" and put the government stamp on it and out it goes. They might do this; they're gutting the ministry.
The Ministry of Education and Training: $8.39 billion goes to $7.608 billion, and they have the audacity, the gall to say that money hasn't been taken out of the classroom. You're an educated person, Madam Speaker. You have been in this House for some time. Surely by now you know who's telling the truth. Is it the government, which says, "We haven't cut anything out of the classroom," or is it over $1 billion missing? Where has the money gone?
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): It went to the northern heritage fund.
Mr Pouliot: It certainly did not.
Before time closed in on us yesterday, I was in the process of citing some campaign material that I have with me, and I want to share it with you, Madam Speaker. It's from Mr Al Leach, who is now the Minister of Municipal Affairs. He's the minister responsible for downloading, for passing the buck on the services to municipalities, for shortchanging the representatives, the reeves, the mayors, the councils, the citizens at the most relevant level of politics. From morning till night Mr Leach and his cohorts will make the municipalities pay big time.
This is what Mr Leach said on June 2, 1995. Recall that the election was held six days after, June 8, 1995, so this is the week before. It was addressed to homeowners in Cabbagetown, Moore Park and Rosedale. "Unlike Tim Murphy" -- and he was pointing at the Liberal candidate -- "I own a home and live in the riding of St George-St David. My party and I will never" -- underline "never" -- "support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto." That's market value assessment.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Who said that?
Mr Pouliot: This was said by Mr Leach.
Ms Martel: No. Must have been just before an election.
Mr Pouliot: Oh, yes. Then he goes: "The Liberals milked Metro dry. When the Liberals were in power, they treated all taxpayers, but particularly Metro's, like cash cows. They increased taxes 33 times in five years." This is what Leach says about the Liberals.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please. Order, member for Lake Nipigon. I'd like to remind the member to refer to the members of the House by their ridings.
Mr Pouliot: I thank you, Madam Speaker. I want to refer to the members by riding. You will kindly accept my apologies, because I was reading and it doesn't say the riding, it says "Al Leach." I'm reading what the letter says. I'm not about to change the written word here. I wouldn't do that. My word is my bond; I would not do that.
"When Lyn McLeod was in cabinet, the Liberals implemented the commercial concentration tax, a $1-per-square-foot tax on commercial property in the greater Toronto area. By the time this tax was finally repealed in 1994, Metro had lost 200,000 jobs."
This is tainted, really. There are many factors. There's the recession etc, but to tie it directly and completely would be, how would you say, hypocritical or dishonest? Would it not be dishonest and hypocritical when you know better?
The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, to quote the Speaker earlier, "I wouldn't go down that road" if I were you. You're getting very close to unparliamentary language here and I advise you to withdraw those comments.
Mr Pouliot: Thank you, Madam. Of course I will. I have made it a habit in the past 12 years to adhere to the protocol, to the good manners in this chamber and I will certainly try not to depart, even when faced with provocation, nothing short of that.
But there is one thing I dislike, Madam: It is someone who will do anything to get elected, to get the vote. With the new soliciting laws in Ottawa, I would be careful if I had my name on this. I would risk being arrested.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: You're talking about the Agenda for People.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Ms Martel: What did Isabel Bassett say?
Mr Pouliot: Well, it says, "A Mike Harris government will review all alternatives to market value assessment, including unit value assessment, to determine whether an alternative method would offer a more equitable and efficient means of assessing. The policy of the Progressive Conservative party," the people there, "has always been that we will never impose market assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position."
Ms Martel: What did she call Bill 106?
Mr Pouliot: We have Bill 106 -- I wish to thank my colleague from Sudbury East -- An Act respecting the financing of local government. They said they would never impose market value assessment. Now they call it actual value assessment. Two weeks from now they will call it current value assessment. Everything I buy is market value. It's what the market will bear, the law of supply and demand. The consumers, the producers, the merchants -- that's our daily lives. This is our system, with its competition, the marketplace, the essence of the system.
If you ask someone, "`Market value assessment': Does it mean the value of the market?" people will say yes.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It's the current value.
Mr Pouliot: It's the current value; there is no difference. In fact, if we were to send "current value," "actual value" and "market value" assessment to a lab, under the closest of DNA and forensic studies no one could decipher the difference.
But here's the trick. You said, "We shall never do this," so you change one or two small things. Not the intent and spirit; it's the same. Now you can call it -- this is the new product, but it's the same stuff. The difference between truth and untruth is not a nuance. Those people knew, the minister knew; they were just waiting for that ballot box to go upside down -- look at the dividends, look at those votes -- and then they were to come and, bang. That's what they're doing now.
Some 3.8 million units are in the process of being assessed and reassessed. It's never been done in North America. This is the largest assessment exercise ever undertaken in North America. They need a small army to do it. The government is spending $62 million to do that, to assess, and they're training people. Many of them are one-day trainees, like instant coffee: "Here's your little book, here's your certificate. Down the street you go. You are now an assessor."
Then this invasion of well-intended people at 12 bucks an hour -- because it's gone to the private sector. The vulture, I mean the company, takes $18; the assessor, a high school student, pockets $12 per unit.
Knock, knock, knock. Ding dong. Your house: "Get the heck out of here. I don't want to see you."
"I'm an assessor. I'm a provincial assessor."
You must let them in. Many people will mistake them for bad news, so some of them will go to the local establishment and assess from the phone book. Get a phone book with them and the assessment will do.
Experts in the field -- independent sources -- are saying: "Three point eight million? You will have upwards of 900,000 appeals" -- chaos, a real zoo -- "and you will also have some discrepancies." You will have a horror show.
I want to walk you through a process which is about to take place, because Bill 106 doesn't work in isolation. It is a web, it is a mesh, it is a connection directly related to the advance of the Common Sense Revolution. Many things will happen starting January 1 when over 800 municipalities will be asked to partake in a tradeoff. But make no mistake: This is not revenue-neutral. The taxpayers at the municipal level, as you well know, are comprised of three different sectors. You have people who own a home or rent an apartment and through their rent -- people who are homeowners pay directly. You have the commercial, mostly made up of small business, and then you have small and large industrial. At the present time all of those, all three sectors, pay an education tax.
At the residential level starting next January the education tax will be removed -- it will remain at the industrial level; it will also remain at the commercial level -- and in lieu of paying residential taxes, let me offer you the menu; not all of it, the list is too painful.
Land ambulance: Drive carefully. If you live in Manitouwadge and you have to go to Thunder Bay -- a small municipality. We don't have the amenities, the services, of larger centres and we understand that. Nevertheless, it's 400 kilometres one way. The municipality will now have to pay.
Policing, protection, service, those women and men in blue: Municipalities will have to pay. Library, sewer and water: Very expensive. Social assistance: If you know someone who's less fortunate and they happen to need prescribed drugs, the municipality will now be asked to pay 50% of that. People will have to become familiar with the formulary, an additional cost, and I can assure you the contingency fund will not take all of that. This is not revenue-neutral.
Seniors homes, long-term care: Some believe that demographics are two thirds of everything. While the cost of education is fairly easily determined, that of seniors is not. We have this bulge, we have people graduating en masse. In fact, each and every month in Ontario you have upwards of 7,000 people who go from being 64 to 65; 95% of those people, those Ontarians, latch on, go on to the drug plan. So those programs are open-ended. As you get older, you're more likely to see the doctor more often. You're more likely to -- well, we all find ourselves on a waiting list, simply put. But now that cost will be passed along to the municipalities.
They will have to find the resources at the municipal, residential, commercial and industrial levels for the cost of assessment, some costs related to transportation, maintenance and building of highways. If this is not downloading, I don't know what is and yet they said, "Stopping the downloading of mandates on municipalities."
The spin doctors, some of the whiz kids you see in the corridors here, some of the merchants of fear, the merchants of gloom and doom, who have to go outside and put the policies of the government to the public, paint a different picture. It was the Premier of the province not too long ago who, when referring to downloading, said that residential taxpayers should expect a 10% decrease on their houses by the year 2000. He's the person who said that if you're at the commercial level, expect a decrease as well, and if you're at the industrial level, your taxes will go down.
They're telling the municipalities, "You can do it by being efficient, by cutting surplus services, by being leaner," and yet this government is spending $662 million more than the previous year. They can't do it themselves, but you tighten up your belt. They're blaming Ottawa. They're saying, "The feds, the Liberals in Ottawa, are cutting our transfer payments by close to $3 billion, so now what we'll do is we will cut transfer payments and dump all kinds of services on the shoulders of municipalities."
They will repeal what they refer to as the BOT, the business occupancy tax. People are saying that this is perhaps not a bad idea. You know who will benefit? The bank towers are first in line. They will be the winners, the benefactors. The large apartment owners will come second. The large hotels come third. The commercial and the residential sectors will have to pick up the slack.
By way of example, I'll share a true story with you. Oakville is a rich community, no denying it. It has done very well. It's blessed with assembly lines second to none. The business occupancy tax will give the two largest employers an $18-million break per year. That's $18 million. Who is going to pick up the slack? The council will be forced to come up with new classes of taxes to recoup the money or they will pass it along to the consumer, to the commercial and residential sectors.
Some of the farming community get a farm rebate. In some cases it's 60%, 65%, 75% of their revenue. The minister says: "Don't worry, be happy. Trust us. You can cut down on services." They have one clerk, administrator, treasurer, whatever, and they have two grader operators. What they gain on the farm, they'll lose on the house.
The whole province is impacted here. Southeastern Ontario, many farms, southwestern Ontario: They feed the province, they feed us. Toronto milks it and I don't have to tell you what they do up north; what they do in the north I'll leave to you. But this is a recipe for disaster. It need not happen.
They're saying to people: "There will be a phase-in period. You'll have up to eight years." In the real world nothing could be further from the truth. On January 1, 1998, the municipal world is about to change. The new councils elected two months prior, next November, will be at a meeting and they will address the first item on the agenda, which is the interim tax levy. They will look at the roll and they will fully impose what the law says they can: 50% of the previous year's taxes.
The assessment will come in April; the new services will start in January. The provincial fiscal year starts in April; theirs starts in January, and they will have all those services, all the dislocation, to deal with. Where are they to get the money? Where will the money come from? It will come in the form of one, final, massive levy. We know some communities where the rate of taxes will double; some others will go up by 40%. There hasn't been one reeve, one mayor, one council member, one council person who has said, "My taxes will go down or remain the same."
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Halton North, I think, Halton region.
Mr Pouliot: Oh, there's been one? Halton North. God bless you, there is one out of 800 municipalities. Thank you very kindly.
The taxes are going to go up. The government doesn't even know how much it will cost. They don't have a clue as to the final bill. But they want those services out the door, dumped on the municipalities and then they will keep writing the standards, the programs. "Do as we wish, do as you're told," but the cheque is not in the mail.
We're not opposed to change. We have noticed and lived with changes, most of them welcome, through the ages. We're not opposed; in fact, we encourage changes. But let's not overestimate the ability of a society to digest, to assimilate. It's coming so fast, all at once.
I don't have the assurance that this government knows what it's doing. It's on the hook to deliver $5.4 billion in tax cuts to those who need it the least. We went through this scenario yesterday. Suffice it to say that if you take anyone of the middle class and look at their pay stub, their net pay, they will be hard-pressed to find any difference. But if you're rich, if you have that position of influence in life because you have many dollars, then you benefit. If you were to mention that maybe a sales tax cut would have been more effective, that maybe when you go to the marketplace rather than pay 8% you should pay 5%, that there's 3% back in your pocket out of every dollar you spend, that would make a lot more sense. The rich would not benefit as much. That's the difference here.
Roy Romanow in Saskatchewan thought it was fair. He reduced the sales tax by 200 basis points, 2%, and people are saying: "Thank you, Premier. Good times, good luck to you. You've done well," and the marketplace gets treated fairly, or certainly equally.
Madam Speaker, it was one of those sessions where you had to be there to really appreciate the attitude of some of the government members. Right here in room 151, one of our committee rooms, one citizen made a presentation. She was representing herself, a most respectable person of venerable age. She talked about the impact of reassessment, with no cushion, happening all at once: Madame Katherine Packer.
When she mentioned that it would negatively impact her ability to pay -- she's not rich, Madame Packer -- one member of the government said, "If you can't afford it, sell it." Directly. I was devastated. Only the rules of the assembly prevented me from -- well, if not assaulting, from saying a thing that I would live to regret. But that wasn't it. Another member of the Conservatives said, "Get a reverse mortgage," to Madame Packer, right there: "Get a reverse mortgage," because her taxes were to more than double. What an attitude. "You just finished your mortgage. Get back into a mortgage. Get into debt."
What they didn't say was that a reverse mortgage costs anywhere between 1.5% and 2% more than a conventional mortgage. Of course they didn't say this. But the arrogance, imagine. A direct confrontation with one of our senior citizens, a proud homeowner, widow: "Get a reverse mortgage. If you can't afford to live there, sell it." I'm still reeling over those comments, but some of my colleagues are saying not to be too surprised, that from time to time it will bring out the worst in them and it will serve; it's never too far from service.
There isn't one organization -- Mr Pagnuelo, certainly not a New Democrat, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said: "Put the brakes on. This is not workable." The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which represents 95% of municipalities in the province, do you know what they're saying? That municipalities cannot accept what you're trying to sell. In fact, Terry Mundell, the president of that great organization, is presently undergoing a massage of unprecedented penetration. They'll stop at nothing. They're into, I'm sure, whatever it takes: imported, scented, heated oil, whatever it takes to get to Mr Mundell. So far, soldier Mundell has stood up and said, "No, I cannot buy what you're trying to download on the municipalities." He's still standing proud, but for how long? They either want him to sell out or they want him to buy in. Either way, that'll do.
What we're saying is that we welcome changes, but give it a break. You're scaring people. You're antagonizing people en masse. If there are five organizations that you haven't antagonized, you'll go home tonight, Mike, and you'll look at the phone book and make sure that you sock it to them the next day. Stability is what people wish. People want the ability to stand on their own two feet. They want to be like the others. They're more than willing to pay their share, but their share must not be to the benefit of those who are not; namely, the people who have a lot. I want to wish them well. I don't begrudge anybody who has some money, because many of us don't have much. There is an almost endless list of applicants, of people who are saying to the government, "Slow down."
I will share the remaining time with my distinguished colleague.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs Boyd: I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this motion, because I think it is very important for us to be very clear why our party believes it is essential that we talk about the government's methods when we're talking about this supply bill. We understand, as does everyone else in this room, the importance to the government of passing the supply motion prior to April 30. We understand that when we vote supply, we give the government the permission to spend dollars according to its budget and that in fact that right has with it some responsibility on the part of the government to be very transparent with the population as to how those dollars are flowing and what the implication of its budget decisions may be.
It is extremely important with this government that we take every possible opportunity to try and make more transparent to the public what is happening, because I would suggest to you, Madam Speaker, that this government is making every effort to make it difficult for even the most diligent of citizens to follow the flow of money within this government.
We have a saying that you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. I think that is exactly what this government is going to find out. The way in which it is rapidly changing things around, moving money from one pot to another, moving the tax base from one pot to another, adding obligations to the regressive property tax in one area and to income tax in another area, eventually they are going to be exposed and they are going to be exposed as carrying on a shell game which is very dangerous for the people of Ontario. That's why, although the whip of the government and the House leader of the government are annoyed --
The Acting Speaker: Could I ask the members on the government side, if you need to meet, to meet outside to try to keep the noise level down a bit. Thank you. Member for London Centre, go ahead.
Mrs Boyd: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I'm not sure why there's so much hilarity around the efforts of this government to try and hide from the general public the spending habits that it has developed. That is exactly why we need to talk about what is happening in connection with interim supply, because once the money is paid out, it's very hard sometimes to get people to pay attention.
The whip of the government party and the House leader of the government party have been expressing extreme irritation that we're still talking about interim supply today. They want to go on to their agenda of rapid change. They want to go on downloading responsibilities on to the regressive tax base. They want to go on with their very draconian measures. Because they don't really believe in the democratic process, they are doing everything they can to try and make sure the opposition parties do not have an opportunity to expose the way in which they are trying to hide what is really happening with their spending. It isn't going to work, because it's our obligation to our constituents, it's our obligation as elected legislators, to expose that very problem that we all face.
We see a government that has engaged in very rapid change and is trying very hard to convince the people of Ontario that in the long run it's going to cost them less. My colleague from Lake Nipigon talked about the efforts of this government to try and hide the cost of the changes that are happening through the proposed municipal download, and he pointed out quite clearly that the plans of the government are opposed by virtually everyone who understands that that kind of shifting around of resources is eventually going to have very negative impacts on our ability to provide services within this province.
But that doesn't really trouble this government, because this government has an ideological position around the provision of services. This government ideologically believes that what is offered as a public service is not appropriate, that what we do through our taxes ought to be minimal and that those who are fortunate enough to have enough dollars to pay for services should pay for those services and those who do not are not worth thinking about in the first place. That's being a little crude, but the reality is that's what it comes down to.
The examples my colleague pointed out, the kinds of comments to an elderly, fixed-income taxpayer that she should sell her house if she couldn't afford her taxes or that she should get a reverse mortgage, are exactly typical of the cavalier attitude the members of this government have to people who are not as fortunate as they are.
It is very simple, when you see the kind of right-wing attitudes this government has, to understand the policies they are bringing forward. Do they care if those who live in a community that is not theirs are going to lose services as a result of decisions they make here? Not likely. Do they even care if those services are going to get lost in their own communities? In many cases they won't, because they believe those services should not have been offered through government in the first place.
All their ideological rhetoric tells us they have a very low opinion of publicly offered services and those who deliver those services. Again and again, their suggestion is that those services ought not to be paid for out of the public purse, that people who can afford them can purchase them themselves and the rest will just have to suffer, because who are the rest? The rest, according to their social Darwinism, are people who don't deserve to have those services because they either haven't worked hard enough or they're not smart enough or they haven't really joined the game.
The reality is that this is a reversal of public policy in this province from its beginning. This province, from its beginning, has had a public policy that has concentrated on ensuring that we are looking after those who are most vulnerable even while we are improving the lot of everyone, and this is a government that doesn't believe that. So when we talk about how they spend money, when we are talking about a motion that gives them permission to spend money, it is appropriate for us to be questioning the very ground rules they use when they are spending that money and it's appropriate for us to be identifying the fact that this government, through each of its ministers, has done everything it can to try and hide from the public the changes occurring in public spending. Many of their claims, meant to reassure the public about whether their services are going to be available to everyone, whether their services are going to be affordable for everyone, are in fact statements that try to confuse that public and try to hide what is actually happening.
Because I'm health critic, one of the areas I'm most familiar with is the whole area of health spending. In the Common Sense Revolution, the Conservative Party promised that they would not take one cent out of health care. We found out, barely weeks into their new government, that what they meant -- I recall for people that both the finance minister and the Premier stated this in this place -- was that by the end of the five-year period, spending in health care would be the same as it was the day the government took power.
Of course people attacked them from all over, because they said, "That's not what we understood you to mean," so then it became that they would each year put the same amount of dollars in. In fact there was great fanfare, great hooha, that they would in fact increase those dollars. Then, when they began to cut services, we heard them say: "Well, you've got to read the Common Sense Revolution a little bit more closely. We only promised to maintain those services that are covered by the Canada Health Act, so it's fine for us to charge the elderly and the disabled and those who are forced to live on social assistance a fee for their drugs, because drugs don't come under the Canada Health Act. Therefore, we haven't broken any promises."
Then we start to hear about the millions and millions of dollars that are going to come out of hospital funding. We see up to this point at least $800 million come out of hospital funding, and we see this government put extraordinary powers in its Minister of Health's hands to close hospitals, to create a commission that supposedly is at arm's length, until members like the member for Lambton complain about what it means to have his hospital closed. We see exactly what this means, because under Bill 26, the hospital restructuring commission can order the closure of hospitals, can order the transfer of assets to other hospitals, can use absolutely draconian methods to change the structure of hospital care in this province.
When the Premier is reminded of what he said in Fergus during the election, that he had no plan to close hospitals, what are people to think? What are people to think? The Premier has no plan to close hospitals, but the health minister is responsible to him and the government is responsible to him, the government that passed Bill 26 and gave the power to the hospital restructuring commission to close hospitals, and the Premier says he has no plan? You must think that the people of Ontario are very foolish to believe that, and you will find that they do not. The responsibility is the government's responsibility, however they try to pass it off to others.
The Minister of Health stands in his place every day and says, "We are reinvesting everything we've taken out of hospitals into health care." Well, I have the list of what he says he's putting back into health care; we have all the press releases. We've looked at all of this, and the reality is that very little of this is new investment into health care. The vast majority of what has been announced was already announced in the 1996 and 1997 budgets. They were there in those budgets as they roll out over the years. In fact, the Minister of Health was touting himself, saying he had reinvested $862,000,112 into health care and that it was almost a wash with what had come out of hospitals.
The first problem is that the minister forgets he's confusing operating funds with capital funds. The reality is that the $17.7 billion in hospitals is operating funds. Capital is separate. Those are operating funds. The minister so far has announced $239.35 million in capital spending. He has announced the capital spending for the Thunder Bay restructuring, for example, at $59.4 million; the Windsor restructuring at $48.2 million; the Windsor cancer care centre at $18.9 million. He has talked about the expenditures he is making in terms of MRIs. That's capital expenditure on equipment, very clear, big investments. He has talked about $15.05 million in long-term care capital dollars in the rest of the province and $29.1 million in Metro. He has talked about hospital capital of 67.7% for Guelph.
He's made these announcements and people think: "Well, $800 million has come out of hospitals and now he's put back $239.35 million. Surely that means he's reinvesting." He is reinvesting, but it has nothing to do with that $17.7 billion, because that $17.7 billion was the operating cost of these hospitals.
When we look at what is already in the current budget, $340.4 million of the so-called $862 million that the minister has "reinvested" is already in the budget. Much of it was in the budget last year and has been announced at least twice and in some cases three and four times. This government insists on getting a public relations hit again and again for the same dollars, and we can show that again and again.
The whole issue of dribbling out the hospital growth dollars, mostly to the 905 area, certainly mostly in areas that are particularly of interest to Conservative members, was already announced in the 1996 budget, but we saw almost a year pass before any of that money was allocated.
If we look at the dollars in terms of some of the programs in cardiac surgery, for example, those dollars were already announced. Those dollars were announced and not spent previously. They are only just being allocated. This is typical of this government. This government said "great" and "wonderful" and congratulated itself again and again about child care. "We are putting 40 million extra dollars into child care." What did the Minister of Community and Social Services finally admit in February? "No, we haven't spent any of those dollars. No, we haven't allocated any of those dollars. It wasn't possible."
Mr Bradley: But have they announced them?
Mrs Boyd: They've announced them again and again, to the member for St Catharines. They have gone to their ridings and they have tried to reassure people that they are not destroying the child care situation because there are these $40 million hanging around there somewhere, never allocated.
My friend from Lake Nipigon talked a great deal about the download on to municipalities, about this so-called even trade between the cost of education and the cost of other services.
Mr Pouliot: It's a ripoff.
Mrs Boyd: It is, as the member suggests, a ripoff, because the reality is that we see exactly the same kind of hidden methodology there. There is a gap of at least $1 million between what is being uploaded in terms of education and what is being downloaded in terms of services to municipalities.
What does the government say? "Don't worry, we've allocated all this money to emergency funds: We've got one for social assistance, we've got one for extraordinary circumstances." Ah, it's hard to take into account all the special circumstances. What they forget to tell people is: "But we have absolutely no guidelines under which this money would be released. We cannot guarantee one municipality in this province that they actually would be able to access that." In fact, I'd like to make it very clear that some members of the back bench in my area have been very frank with the city of London that it will never qualify for any of that money. They said it directly to the council in a public meeting with all members present.
That is exactly what we fear and what we believe will be true, that the circumstances under which municipalities can access this money will be so extraordinary that at the end of the year it won't be spent. It will cushion the fact that this government is not as fiscally responsible as it likes to pretend, that it does have a very serious revenue problem -- not a spending problem, a revenue problem -- because it is determined to give a tax cut at a time when that will only add to our public debt.
When the people of Ontario really understand that all the pain of cut services, all the pain they are experiencing in terms of job loss, in terms of effects to their community, all that is not going to result in any improvement to the debt of this province but is only going to add yet another $5 billion a year -- more than $5 billion, we predict, but at least $5 billion -- over the whole term of their office to the debt -- you cannot fool all the people all the time. They're going to find out and they're going to punish a government that has tried to trick them.
That is exactly what this government is doing. It is not a mistake that they are embarking on so many different projects all at once. It's part of the shell game. "If we confuse people enough, if we confuse them with so many changes that they don't know where the dollars are going and they don't know where the lack of services is actually going to lead them, they won't bring it home to us. They won't make us accountable."
I would say to this government that they are underestimating the voters of this province. The voters of this province are not nearly as naïve as you assume. They are beginning to ask very tough questions about where the money is going.
Where is the money going when so much has come out of education? They don't believe that the people they judged and elected to school boards are being as foolish as this government would like them to believe. They know those people. Those people are members of their community. They have elected those people. Every time the Minister of Education or the Premier talk about how profligate those boards are and call down all sorts of scorn upon the decisions of those boards, they are insulting the voters who elected those public officials, and sooner or later people are going to figure that out.
Sooner or later people are going to figure out that many of the so-called wonderful moves to lower spending by this government are false economies. I suggest to you that the cuts in health care, the cuts in social services, the cuts in education, which are of course the most popular cuts with this Tory government because they deal with those who are least fortunate and deal with services that are delivered with some level of universality, whether or not people can afford to pay, will come back to haunt this government.
They are fond of saying that they have to make these cuts because otherwise their children will have to pay the price. We say that your children, my children, all of our children and grandchildren are going to pay the price of the false economies this government is doing. With the cuts in education, particularly the cuts to such things as junior kindergarten, to such things as programs that help those for whom English is a second language, programs that provide supports to those who have special needs within the schools, help them to integrate and become part of our community, those services that help those who are most disadvantaged because they come from backgrounds where education has not been part of a way of life, where they do not have mentors and supporters who are encouraging them to go on in education, those are the people who are going to suffer.
The suffering of those people will not be confined within a year or two; it will go on for their lifetimes. We know the predictors of what happens to people who do not get that help at the level of their community in their early years. They become unable to be independent. They become unable to be contributing in the way they could have, had they had those supports. They become a drag on all our other systems.
I get very tired of hearing members of this government, as the Solicitor General did today, ranting on about the problems of youth crime, ranting on about how we should be tough on youthful criminals, ranting on about how the more we punish these people, the better off we will be in our society, when absolutely every study shows exactly the opposite. Every study shows that at the root of youth crime is poverty, ill health, lack of supports, alienation from feeling at all that that youthful person is connected to society. All the research shows that.
At the same time that the Minister of Education is withdrawing exactly the kinds of supportive services that help young people to feel supported, to feel connected, to feel part of their community, to learn different ways of behaving, the Solicitor General is blaming them for their own misfortune and this government is agreeing to policies that will lay up for us in the future a huge problem.
We believe very strongly on this side of the House that you spend your money on the services that will help people to be self-sufficient, law-abiding members of their community. We believe that those supports we have supported in this province consistently from one government to the next over more than 100 years are exactly the policies that give us healthy and strong communities. We do not believe that punitive policies, punishing those who are poor for being poor, punishing those who are alienated for being alienated, are the way that you ultimately save costs. You end up spending those costs in the criminal justice system; you end up spending those costs in lost productivity; you end up spending those costs anyway. We are saying very clearly that this government, through its spending policies, is laying up a huge social deficit for us in the future, a social deficit that will, I maintain, cost us more dollars in the long run, and more unproductive dollars in the long run.
The shell game that we talk about frequently on this side of the House is very real. The shell game of the download is very real. The propensity of the government to try to convince the people of this province that their view of things is right and everyone else is wrong reminds me of the old story of the people watching the soldiers go by and the mothers saying proudly: "Look at my Johnny. Everyone else is out of step." Well, Johnny Snobelen is out of step and most of the people in this province know it. The reality is that when the criticisms are coming to this government the way they are from every aspect, not just from people who are politically opposed to much of what you do, but even from people who are very committed to your political principles, doesn't it give you pause to think that you're making a mistake?
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): No.
Mrs Boyd: You know better than everybody, do you? The member for Oxford is saying no. He has no question in his own mind, despite criticism from the board of trade, from the chambers of commerce, from Hazel McCallion, from the Ontario Hospital Association, from all of the power structures on which you depend very heavily for your support, as well as all of those who are being disadvantaged by your spending policies, that you're right and they're wrong. Time will tell. That kind of arrogance has been seen before in this country. It was seen in the Mulroney government and we know that many of those who supported Mulroney for eight years simply moved over to Toronto and are behind the scenes here making many of the same policies -- that is, the ones who aren't in the seats over there -- because it's the same crew.
What we're seeing is an arrogance and a level of real, barefaced contempt for the people of Ontario. With absolutely everything you do in your spending policies, you are assuming that you will not be caught out. You are assuming that people will not see you as the flim-flam men you are, hiding the money, moving it around, trying to convince them the money is still there and trying to show us that you're spending money that in fact you're not spending in the areas that we expect.
You have a revenue problem. You have promised the people of this province a tax cut for which you are prepared to raise our deficit. We know you didn't make a statement in November because you had a $3-billion problem you couldn't solve. So what did you come up with? The huge download of mega-week. People are not fooled. Those of you who bother to go to your constituencies and bother to speak to people know that the people are not fooled and they will not accept that black is white simply because you tell them it is. They will not accept that everybody's out of step except your Johnny. They're not going to accept that, because they know that's not the case.
They are beginning to understand that they are the victims of a very serious plot, a plot to try to fool them into believing that all is well, even while all about them they see their schools struggling to educate children, they see their hospitals struggling to provide health care, they see their municipalities struggling to maintain basic services like water and roads and they know that the costs of that over the long term are huge.
They know that you have perfected a way of handing down your responsibilities to others, that you're not prepared to be accountable for the decisions that you're making. You have to pass those decisions off to a hospital restructuring commission, to an Education Improvement Commission, to municipalities, to hospitals, to the OMA, to whoever you can shuffle off your responsibilities and you can say, "They made the decision; we didn't make the decision." The reality is no one is fooled. You are creating a situation in which others elected in other areas are having to make decisions that they do not wish to make, that they do not think are wise, and their experience is that when they go to talk to you as the next level of government, you pay no attention.
I wouldn't like to pretend that you're all alone in this. You learned this very well. You learned this very well from the Mulroney Tories, who began the process of downloading service costs on to the provinces from the federal level. The tragedy is that the Liberals now in office have been better at it -- because they are good at implementation -- than Mulroney ever thought he would be. So you learned that lesson well and you're simply doing it to the next level of government: download, download, download.
Who suffers at the end of the game? Every single citizen in this province suffers at the end of the game. So if you expect, as your whip expects, that we will not take every opportunity democratically available to us to expose what you are trying to do, he's wrong; it's our job. We accept our responsibility, and part of our responsibility as the third party is to name the duplicity that is going on in terms of the spending patterns of your government. It is our job to stop the shell game and to help people to understand that this elaborate series of uploads, downloads, crossloads and cuts is designed to confuse them, designed to divert their attention from your accountability as a government, designed to make them believe your claims that you are not in fact creating the kind of havoc that you are in our communities.
People are not as foolish as you think. You will not continue to fool all the people. In fact, I suggest to you that you are at the point now where you're not even fooling all the people some of the time. I suggest to you that there are many, many people who are not fooled at all and who are going to call you on your game.
Everything we can do to assist them to ask the tough questions of you and to ask you to be accountable, we will do, because we understand that their lives are being affected immediately and seriously by the spending powers you have in this province. We understand that they need to hold you accountable for the decisions you are making that are causing misery to so many people in this province. We understand, because we've been in your seats, that it is not possible to avoid accountability in the long run. We know that people are not going to believe that black is white for much longer and that they are going to notice that it's Johnny who is out of step and not them. So it is very, very important for us to continue this process of naming what is happening with your spending at this time with the supply motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired. Questions and comments?
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's certainly a pleasure to rise and speak on this particular motion. Today we're discussing a housekeeping bill of sorts. I'd like to take this opportunity to take care of some actual housekeeping of my own.
Over the last couple of years, I've noticed that a lot of members are quite unabashed about drawing attention to their own riding and about singing the praises of their respective home towns. I've talked about the riding of Northumberland on occasion, but I've never really had the opportunity to discuss it in the kind of detail that it really deserves. I believe such a discussion would be of interest to other members of this House, particularly the members on the opposite side.
Mr Gerretsen: What's this got to do with interim supply?
The Acting Speaker: Are you on a question or comment or are you in debate?
Mr Gerretsen: He's out of order.
The Acting Speaker: This is for the two-minute questions and comments.
Mr Galt: I'm out of order, then. Go ahead.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Gerretsen: I always listen with great interest to the members for Lake Nipigon and London Centre and their discourse on issues that are before the House currently.
The people of Ontario should once again understand what this is really all about. This is about downloading on to our local municipalities an extra $1 billion of service costs that are currently being paid for by the provincial government. It's in areas which are most likely to grow over the next number of years, such as, for example, health care spending, social housing, social welfare spending. These are the areas where there will be an increased demand for services in the years to come, as we are an aging population.
It's interesting that the government has done whatever it can over the last four to five weeks and months to indicate to the people of Ontario that there's absolutely nothing to worry about, that this is not really happening to them, in the hope that the local councils, which will be saddled with dealing with these budgetary requirements, will somehow not allow a 20% or 30% tax increase to take place. We know, from all the figures we've obtained from the various municipalities, that they anticipate their local budgets will go up anywhere from 20% to 30% as a result of this downloading.
What's going to happen? Taxes on real estate are not going to go up by 20% or 30%. The local councils, under the pressures they're under, will in effect be forced to reduce standards, to reduce services, particularly in those areas which have traditionally been serviced by the provincial government. That's really what this is all about. I think the people of Ontario should say no to this attempt.
Ms Martel: I want to commend my colleagues the members for Lake Nipigon and London Centre, and I want to focus very particularly on some of the comments made regarding the downloading.
I was really interested yesterday as I watched the news to see Prime Minister Chrétien now promising that some of the money the federal government has not transferred to the provinces over the last number of years is now, surprisingly, going to be returned to the provinces. I thought, "My, my, we must be in an election period." What was also interesting is that not anywhere near the amount of money that the federal government has cut from Ontario, in this case some $3 billion in health care alone by Jean Chrétien, is of course going to be returned to the province of Ontario.
As I watched Chrétien, I see what Chrétien has done being repeated here in the province of Ontario, because now we have Mike Harris and this Conservative government who like to whine and cry and bellyache about the federal offloading, as they did today, doing exactly the same thing to the people in the province of Ontario, exactly the same thing.
During mega-week, this government had the audacity to offload any number of public and social services on to the property taxpayers in Ontario, and they try to fool the people and tell them that in fact the tradeoff is going to be equal. Everyone across this province knows that property taxpayers are going to be about $1 billion short. No one believes that any of the special funds the government purports to put in place are actually going to receive those moneys. People in my community are going to be charged $105 million more directly as a result of the offload of this Tory government. No one is fooled by what you are doing.
The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Questions and comments?
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Indeed it's my pleasure to stand and just take a couple of minutes to respond to some of what we've heard opposite here today. The bottom line is, they just don't get it. They just don't get that the doom-and-gloom scenario is wearing awfully thin among the working people in this province. They know better. They're smarter than you give them credit for.
As the Toronto Sun correctly observed, "To all those that would suggest," in their Chicken Little routine opposite, "that the sky is falling, the sky is falling," the truth about what's happening in the province of Ontario, something you don't want to deal with, is that 46,000 new, full-time jobs were created just last month alone.
We're still spending. We're spending 50% more on health care per person than Quebec, three times more than Saskatchewan and 100% more than New Brunswick. We're spending 70% more per person on programs to fight violence against women. We're spending $1 billion more on education than if we spent the per-capita average of the other provinces. We're spending more on health care. As you know full well, last year's budget went up $300 million; this year it's going up again.
We've kept all of our promises. The province's economy is on fire. We've seen new investments. We've seen job creation. We've seen prosperity and optimism return to the province of Ontario. In fact, I think the article also commented that consumer confidence is up 22% since we were elected. Housing starts, even in Toronto, are up 45%. In total, the Ontario economy is on fire. This province is headed in absolutely the right direction: back to prosperity, back to hope, away from doom and gloom.
The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. I just want to remind the members that this is just Tuesday afternoon. Let's just keep it down a little bit.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I know it was touched on briefly here a few moments ago, the sewage and water treatment plants in the province of Ontario, where many of the studies have been completed and now --
Mr Gilchrist: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We've already had four two-minute --
The Acting Speaker: Order. Would you please continue, the member for Cornwall.
Mr Cleary: -- and are starting to worry right now that provincial government may not be there to upgrade the plants. Also in health care, with all the savings that I understood were supposed to be poured back into the health care system, in our part of eastern Ontario, where over a year ago the minister had announced a dialysis machine for Cornwall and many of our residents are travelling back and forth to Kingston and Ottawa three times a week, there are no facilities available yet.
Last winter the Kidney Foundation of Canada contacted the minister to say: "We are writing to support Mr Cleary's concern for his constituents and to share the concerns. The situation has gone on far too long. We are requesting that this be rectified immediately." But that's not much help to the people in my community and their families who are spending three hours or four hours or six hours a week travelling back and forth.
The Acting Speaker: I just wanted to explain that I had actually ruled the member for Northumberland out of order, so it was one, two, three, four. If that isn't satisfactory and I did allow one too many, I can't think of anybody more entitled than the member for Cornwall.
Member for London Centre, two minutes to respond.
Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, certainly we all would agree with you that it's always a pleasure when the member for Cornwall gets up to speak, and I'd like to thank the member for Kingston and The Islands and the member for Sudbury East as well.
I'd like to mention to the member for Scarborough East that he epitomized in his response exactly what I was talking about. I could not have hoped for a better example about the diffusion of reality than he provided. It is exactly the methodology that I am talking about that is employed again and again by the members of this government, to try and not answer the questions that are asked about spending but instead to pile on defensive after defensive comment about how they have spent on this and they have spent on that; to make partisan claims about what is real and what is not real; to make every effort to try and discredit the kinds of concerns that members of the opposition parties bring forward on behalf of their constituents. I could not have hoped that a member of the government party would demonstrate to the extent that the member for Scarborough East did exactly the kind of arrogance, the kind of effort to obscure the truth, that he did.
I almost feel as though the complimentary comments of my colleagues and the supplementary comments of my colleagues pale before this demonstration of exactly the problem I was identifying in my speech. It absolutely proved every point I made and it will not be lost on the people of Ontario who are watching this debate on the interim supply motion.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Northumberland.
Mr Galt: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and maybe we'll get rolling in the proper sequence this time. It was a little surprise for me to find that we're into two-minute hits in that particular debate, but I certainly appreciate the opportunity my fellow member for Scarborough East had to rebut in that two minutes. It was certainly great information that he brought forth at that particular time.
I started out to make reference to Northumberland. Northumberland, as a riding, is much like a microcosm of the whole province of Ontario, and what's happening in my riding is very similar to what's going on in the rest of the province. The people in Northumberland are really no different than the people across Ontario. They work hard, they play hard and they want the things that we all cherish: good jobs, a clean environment, hope for the future and for their children. Our government is providing a new business climate and is committed to making all of those things once again possible.
We've been through a bleak political drought for the last 10 years, 10 years where the debt has tripled, 10 years where the spending has doubled. I appreciated some of the comments being made by the members for Lake Nipigon and London Centre, like the sky is falling and all of the terrible things, but let me tell you the kind of future we've left for our children they'll be paying for for the rest of their lives. Somebody who is 25 years old, according to the Fraser Institute, will pay $290,000 just for the debt that has been created in this province by governments such as yours.
Almost two years ago, this province embarked in a new direction, and I can tell you that new direction was none too soon. It was really high time that a new direction did come. It was a direction much different from the path formerly travelled, and thank heavens. While the road to change has not been easy and, of course, it never is easy with change, there can be no doubt that Ontarians are better off today than they were some 22 months ago. In fact last month, as was mentioned a few minutes ago, some 46,000 new jobs were created in Ontario and real disposable income is up.
Has anyone ever wondered why the Prime Minister called an election on Sunday? I'll tell you why. It's because of what's happening in the province of Ontario. He wants to ride in on the back of the success of what this government is bringing to the Ontario and he's taking no chance on missing it, even three and a half years into a four-year mandate, and he could go for five years. How often has that ever happened in this country?
Let me tell you what happened a little while ago to the provincial Liberal Party. When they were in government they took a chance on going early, and look at the kind of devastation that happened to that particular government and the kind of drain that they went down because they went out too early. You would have thought their federal cousins would have understood this and would have had a look at what happened to the Peterson government.
We are seeing certainly a resurgence in home building in the riding of Northumberland. According to the Cobourg Economic Development Commission, we have now regained all of those jobs lost during the recession. In my area most of the industries are quite small, and they don't really create the kind of headlines that you might see in some of the national press, but it's the kind of solid growth that's needed in the province and it's certainly moving ahead. There is indeed good reason for renewed optimism. Today companies in my area are hiring and expanding their operations, and that's even better news.
The story is the same across the province. Investments by businesses are up and on the rise. Consumer confidence is up some 22% over last year, auto production reached a record high in 1996, and economic forecasts call for Ontario's economy to grow by more than 4% this year. That's real and substantial growth, good reasons why Ontarians are feeling good about the future, good reasons why Ontarians are feeling optimistic about the future. In Northumberland home sales are picking up, as they are across the province, and in Toronto, after years of a depressed market, strong home sales are starting to push prices even higher. This is a definite indication that we are on the mend.
Retail sales in the province also jumped some 1.1% in February over January, and they were up some 7.7% from the same period last year. I think as we looked around at Christmastime and saw the shopping sprees that were going on and the kind of spending that was happening in Ontario, it was pretty exceptional. I went around apologizing to my Liberal friends -- I was looking for some NDP, but I did apologize to my Liberal friends for all the traffic jams that were occurring in the parking lots at the shopping centres. That was the kind of shopping that was going on, the kind of spending that was going on in this province at that time. It took me as long as 15 to 20 minutes just to get out of a shopping centre. Maybe the Liberals didn't happen to notice that, but an apology to some of them did kind of bring it to their attention.
All of these indicators point to the same conclusion: Things are getting better all the time.
Other reforms undertaken by our government have found a willing champion in Northumberland. Just recently a new city was formed on the eastern boundary, the city of Quinte West. It was Murray and Sidney townships joining with the city of Trenton and the village of Frankford. My hat is off to the local politicians who had the vision to see the benefits of amalgamation. Change, of course, is not easy when it comes to things like amalgamation. Elsewhere in the riding, the town of Campbellford and the township of Seymour have also come together in a united municipality and a new council starting January 1, 1998.
There have been literally very few complaints from the area of Quinte West and I've had absolutely no complaints about the amalgamation in Campbellford-Seymour. I think this points out the success we've had with some of the things we introduced in Bill 26, which was so controversial. Bill 26 and some other legislation set the stage for this kind of restructuring that local councils could meet, follow the rules, and then, as it's laid out, the minister "shall" approve their decision and their desire to amalgamate. Never before have we been able to get municipalities to restructure in this harmonious sort of way. Yes, some of them are a bit controversial, but nothing to what they were in the past. Councils in each municipality know there is strength in numbers. The new combined municipality will have a greater ability to attract economic development and tourism dollars.
In fact, tourism is a $60-million-a-year activity in Northumberland. It employs more than 5,000 people; that is about 14% of the workforce. It provides summer employment for students, the children of our residents, and it benefits the people in Northumberland through recreational and cultural facilities developed to serve the tourist trade.
I would urge the members of this House to holiday our way this summer and to come and explore the sights and sounds we have to offer, sights like Presqu'île Park, which receives a quarter of a million visitors a year, or the Cobourg Waterfront Festival that attracts some 75,000 to 100,000 people for the July 1 weekend. I'd encourage you to travel the Apple Route, which winds through some of the most picturesque countryside in all Ontario, to join us for the annual Brighton Applefest in September and for Colborne's Apple Blossom Tyme, for the many fairs that occur in our riding: in Campbellford, Roseneath and Port Hope, as well as in Warkworth.
Mr Gerretsen: Are you talking about the penitentiary there?
Mr Galt: We have great ones.
Mr Speaker, I wish I had more time to tell you about Northumberland and all of the great things we're doing there to attract new economic development and improve our quality of life. But suffice it to say that what we're experiencing in Northumberland is being duplicated across this province: more jobs, more investment, a revitalized economy and the return of consumer confidence. All of these indicators are good news for Ontario.
I'm looking forward to Finance Minister Ernie Eves's second budget on May 6, because I believe there will be more good news for Ontarians, news that the deficit is being tamed, that provincial revenues are up because of our 15% tax cut to date, and that Ontarians can once again look forward to a brighter, more prosperous future. That is what is important to Ontarians in towns and cities across this province and that is what is important to people in my home riding of Northumberland. I'm proud to be part of a government that is delivering what the people of Ontario want and need: hope and opportunity for today and for our children's futures.
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mrs Boyd: It's always a great pleasure to hear about the constituents of our colleagues, and I think we all know a little bit more about Northumberland from its member's point of view.
I'm surprised the member didn't talk about some of the concerns of the municipalities in his region which are staggering to try and imagine how they are going to cope with the kind of download that this government has brought forward. I am surprised he didn't talk about the concerns of a largely rural area with the downloading of the rural tax credit, and I'm surprised he didn't mention the concerns that I'm sure he hears all the time from people who share the concerns that we spoke about on this side of the House.
I think it is important for us to talk about our ridings and it is very appropriate for us in a debate like this to talk about how the issue at hand affects our constituents, but I must say I find it hard to believe that the county of Northumberland is a little slice of heaven that doesn't face some of the same problems that the rest of the province has and that the people who run the municipalities of Northumberland, the people who live on the farms and in the villages and in the towns in Northumberland, do not share the same concerns of others that we have heard.
I would say to the member that he is quite astute when he talks about the kinds of interlocking issues between federal politics and provincial politics, but he forgets that the same is true around the interlocking issues of all three levels of politics, and he underestimates his constituents if he thinks they don't understand the real concerns that they will continue to have as a result of the downloading that his government is perpetrating against them.
Mr Gilchrist: I find it interesting that the member for London Centre couldn't relate how my colleague from Northumberland's comments in fact apply to the matter before us here today. It's unfortunate that the myopia opposite blinds her to the obvious connection that in Northumberland, as in most ridings, if not all ridings in this province, there are good-news stories. They abound. The province is excited, it's optimistic, it's happening again.
I happen to have a farm in that riding. I know that what Dr Galt has been recounting here today is but the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's happening in his home riding, in terms of the economic development, in terms of the investment our government is making in the infrastructure in that riding, issues such as transportation safety, a new barrier going up in the middle of the 401, creating all sorts of new investment and all sorts of new jobs. Port Hope and Cobourg have cooperated in forming a joint hospital commission to be able to put their stamp on how health care best can be delivered in that county.
We've seen all sorts of new businesses open. I happen to have a friend who started a new restaurant, immediately hiring 20 staff. At the other end of the spectrum, there's a gentleman who has proposed a housing development of 1,600 homes. Its passage by Cobourg council is imminent. Imagine that: 1,600 new homes, a staggering investment in a community that's only 13,500 people strong. That's what's happening in Northumberland.
I'm sure the members opposite have exactly the same experiences in their home ridings. That isn't to suggest, and nobody on this side would ever suggest, that there aren't problems, that there aren't challenges that still face us all. I've never said and I never will say that we're perfect, but what I will not accept is that the way to motivate this province is to spout doom and gloom. It's about being optimistic, it's about leading by example, and that's what this government is proud to do.
Mr Gerretsen: It's always with great interest that I listen to the member for Northumberland. It's a riding that I have an opportunity to travel through on at least two occasions a week as I make my way from Kingston to Toronto and it's certainly a very beautiful part of this province.
From his speech, however, I wasn't quite sure, with his comments and with the tremendous things that are happening there and are happening in some other places in Ontario as well, whether or not he was actually endorsing the federal government and the actions it has taken over the last three or four years and all of the jobs that it's created. I'm sure he would like all of the local candidates in his riding in this federal election to know that and I'm very pleased that he's actually endorsing the federal government and all of the actions that it took, because he couldn't possibly have talked about what the provincial government is doing to our municipalities.
The provincial government is downloading an extra $1 billion worth of costs that had formerly been paid by the province, and they are once again in the areas of social services, health care, ambulance care, in the elimination of ferry fees, as they have done in my riding, and in so many other areas, the area of social housing, the area of farm tax rebates. Farm tax rebates will now have to be paid for out of the local real estate property tax level in each municipality, which is going to bankrupt the smaller, more rural municipalities.
If he'd been talking about that, then he would surely be talking about the horrible things this government is doing to local government and to the local municipalities by causing the property taxes to increase. We haven't seen that yet, but we'll see it next year and we'll see it the year after. That's obviously not what he was talking about. He was talking about the great record of the federal Liberals.
Ms Martel: As I listened to the member for Northumberland talk about what the government had done and how things are improving in his riding, I wondered why it was he was remiss in reminding the public out there of the very specific promises his government made in the Common Sense Revolution and during the last election which have been broken by his very same government.
Let me start with the no cuts to health care promise that was made to the people of the province, and the very specific promise this Premier made that there would be no hospital closures. The fact of the matter is that over $800 million has come out of hospital budgets in this province alone, with another $500 million to come out next year, and nowhere near half of that money has been reinvested back into the health care system in this province.
In my community alone there are two hospitals that are going to close despite the promise the Premier made in the televised debate during the election campaign. There are another three that are going to close in Thunder Bay. There are another 10 that are going to close in this community alone. What happened to that very important promise?
Then the Tories promised there would be no cuts to classroom education. Well, in my community, because of the cuts this government has made in transfers, in the GLGs to the two boards, both boards have had to cut special education, have had to cut speech therapists, have had to cut back on libraries, on teaching staff, on custodial staff, and a number of boards have had to cut their junior kindergarten programs, directly as a result of the reduced funding from this Conservative government.
This government promised there would be no new user fees. That's why seniors are now paying a copayment right across this province, and there have been a myriad of user fees at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.
You're also going to download over $1 billion of new costs on to property taxpayers despite the promise you made not to do that to them.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Northumberland has two minutes to respond.
Mr Galt: It's a pleasure to respond to the various members who have made the two-minute hits, particularly the member for Scarborough East, who supported all the positive things that are happening and the development that's going on in the riding of Northumberland. He's pretty close to it, having property in the riding, and certainly there are an awful lot of good things that are happening there.
The member for London Centre made reference to downloading. I don't know where they get this idea the intent is revenue-neutral at various --
Mr Galt: Uploading, sure. We're uploading on education some $5.4 billion that we're going to take over, that has been on residential tax since the beginning of time. They're getting tired of it and they've been asking for a long time that the province take it over. We're doing it. We're responding to what the public have been asking.
Further to some of her comments, I can tell you we now have more jobs in Ontario than there have ever been in this province. Just go out and have a look.
Interjection: Ever, ever.
Mr Galt: Ever in time.
The member for Kingston and The Islands made reference to travelling through the riding and something about support of the federal Liberals. Obviously he is supporting what they've been doing, things like taking $2.1 billion out of our health care budget. Where have the cuts come from in health care? As the member for Sudbury East mentioned, they've come from the federal government. There have been no cuts in health care by the province. We promised and guaranteed $17.4 billion. We have kept that promise and we have increased that. We're up to $17.7 billion now and I wouldn't be surprised but we'll be at $18 billion before this calendar year is out.
Where the cuts have come from is the federal government and the federal Liberals. If you want to have a look, just go and check out what they're transferring to this province. The weak promise we got from the Prime Minister while he's on the campaign trail that he's going to give a little pittance back: not very much.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'm pleased to have an opportunity to join the debate on interim supply. We're almost as busy in this chamber this afternoon as finance departments are across Her Majesty's Ontario government. I have in my hand a memo from one of the finance branches of one of several departments of Her Majesty's government, and it appears there are scores of hardworking public servants who have been directed by their superiors to tell all the public servants that because of this debate the May 1 payroll may be impaired. According to my information, which comes from an internal memo, the finance departments and scores of payroll clerks are beavering away, calling tens of thousands of public servants, telling them that the May 1 payroll may be a few days late.
I just make the observation that it's too bad the government House leader, who is also Chair of Management Board, didn't think about this as he prepared his scheduling of what is always an important debate.
Perhaps more important, when I understand that on this beautiful spring day scores of finance clerks are working diligently under the capable direction of Messrs Harris, Eves, Johnson, Runciman et al, making sure that thousands of public servants know a democratic dialogue in this assembly may interfere with the payroll deadline at the end of the month, I just wish and pray most sincerely that Charlie Harnick's family support plan and all its panoply of public servants were as efficient. I just wish the family support plan under the leadership of the Attorney General was as concerned and as efficient about meeting their deadlines and the concerns of the tens of thousands of single moms and single dads and thousands of dependent children as the directors of finance and senior officials in the Ontario government are today about the efficacy of this debate and any impact the debate might have on the end-of-the-month payroll.
I was delighted to be here to hear the previous submissions from the member for Northumberland and the former Attorney General, the member for London Centre. They always make good speeches.
Like the member from Kingston, I have the pleasure of driving through Northumberland county twice a week; almost every week but not quite. I know the area well. I know the Big Apple. I read the Cobourg paper. I read the Port Hope Evening Guide. I see where the local member is out at the Goodwill. He was a very obvious participant in Volunteer Day.
It's hard to imagine that Gord Gilchrist, the father of that incredibly capable and retiring member for Scarborough East -- I saw in the Cobourg paper the other day that Stevie Gilchrist's daddy, formerly the MP for Scarborough East, somehow didn't quite manage to win the Tory nomination. I just wonder, how could a daddy with a son so confident, so clever, so resourceful as the redoubtable member from Scarborough Canadian Tire ever lose a nomination, particularly in so blessed a domain as Northumberland county?
Listening to the member for Northumberland talk about the economic performance of the Ontario government, I am reminded of Jack Horner. Jack Horner, you will well recall, was a very prominent member of the western Conservative caucus. Jack fell out with Joe Clark, changed spots and joined the Liberal Party of Pierre Trudeau. As he prepared for the 1984 election as a turncoat Liberal, Jack was just getting tired of the Don Mazankowskis and the Harvie Andres beating him up about the unemployment data, which in the recession of the early 1980s were higher than anyone wanted. Finally in exasperation Jack Horner said, "I just wish those naysayers in the opposition would stop talking about 13%, 14% unemployment and start talking about the joy and the opportunity of 86%, 87% employment." It was an interesting argument. Regrettably, in Crowfoot a few years later it was not persuasive and Jack Horner was consigned to retirement and all that that brings.
Yes, there is good news. I don't think there is anyone, not even the most negative nabob, the most caterwauling oppositionist around, who would deny that whether in Doug Ford country or in Rusty Baird country or perhaps even in Marion Boyd country there is not good news. Of course there is good news, lots of good news. People of Ontario are resourceful, optimistic, hardworking people. But there is also other news.
Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): We had some aliens here last week.
Mr Conway: Well, the member from Humber says we had some aliens last week.
Mr Ford: John Sewell.
Mr Conway: The member from Etobicoke said, "John Sewell."
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Etobicoke-Humber, there is no exchange. He has the floor.
Mr Conway: I've called John Sewell many things; I don't think I've ever called him an alien, and I would caution anyone from Metropolitan Toronto to engage Mr Sewell in that kind of a debate, because --
Mr Pouliot: How well do you know Mr Sewell?
Mr Conway: Thanks to the government of which you were a part, Mr Pouliot, I got to know Mr Sewell very well, and his appreciation for the rhythms and realities of rural Ontario was positively breathtaking. But I certainly will defer to Mr Sewell when it comes to the urban quality and the urban character of the city in which we now find ourselves.
But there is a concern abroad in the land, not just in Renfrew but, I believe, in Northumberland and in Toronto and in Lake Nipigon about continuing high levels of unemployment. No one is happy. In my area the current reported unemployment rate is about 12.5%. That is higher than anyone locally, provincially or nationally would like.
Youth unemployment rates are pretty well everywhere in the province in the 17% to 20% range, and that's too high, much too high. There is all kinds of evidence that a lot of young people have withdrawn from the marketplace because they feel there is just no place for them, and we all have to be concerned about that.
About health care -- and before I even get to health care I must make the point that the Economist magazine -- I listened, again, to the member for Northumberland talking about the joyful wonders of the Harris revolution and all of the wonder and magic and results that it is producing. I was struck a few months ago by the noted Economist magazine.
In its January 25, 1997 edition, the Economist, which is not, I don't think, by any objective standard a lunatic or raving socialist oracle, said the following, talking about Ontario -- in fact the opening line of the article, under a picture of Bomber Harris is, "Ontario is Tory territory." It's hard to quarrel with that if one looks at the history of 20th-century Ontario. But talking about the Harris revolution, the article concludes:
"There are optimistic forecasts for Ontario's economy, which is climbing out of a recession. So the Conservatives may manage to cut taxes and the deficit as well. Yet as one commentator has remarked, the changes on the way are less of a revolution than a whirligig. Whirligigs," the Economist concludes, "have a way of spinning out of control, and even of savaging the man in charge."
That's the London-based Economist just a couple of months ago. In fact the article was a response to the so-called megaweek announcements about a new scheme of things between local governments and the province, and Who Does What and who pays for what. It is quite obvious that independent observers like the Economist are not as confident as the government bench about the intermediate and long-term success of the current revolution.
I was also noting in the New York Times of February 10, 1997, an editorial article which appeared under the title, "How California Betrayed Its Schools," and knowing as I do of the interest of members like the member for Durham East in the education question, I was struck by what the New York Times of February 10, 1997, was saying about education in California.
To summarize the article, it is basically this. Ten or 15 years ago, California, which had for much of the postwar period been a leader not just in public schooling but in some very good results in public schools, embraced what the article would claim were some right-wing fads very popular at the time. Regrettably, a decade or two later even Republicans like Pete Wilson now admit that those fads were very damaging to the long-term health of education and all of the benefits that public education provides.
It is very interesting, quite frankly, to see Governor Wilson in California now reversing a lot of the policy initiatives that the current Minister of Education for Ontario seems to think are magical cures for Ontario. In fact, if you want to find out what the Republican governor in California is doing, you just simply have to look at much of what Harris and Snobelen are intending for Ontario in the last years of this decade and reverse it.
Governor Wilson and the California Republicans are substantially increasing investments in the public schools of California. They are particularly concerned about increasing the investment and reducing class sizes in elementary and primary education. They are undertaking significant new initiatives in the area of teacher education and professional development for elementary and secondary teachers.
Again, it is interesting that we seem to be embracing now, under the leadership of Mike Harris and John Snobelen, much of the failed policies of a state like California, and I don't know, on the basis of the New York Times analysis, that we want to replicate the California failure, as this editorial would have you believe, of much of the last 10 to 15 years.
I want to talk a little bit this afternoon about health care, because without a doubt, as is obvious from the current national campaign and is obvious from the daily question period and other debates, no more important issue faces Ontarians and Canadians elsewhere than the state of our health care.
I want to be a little even-tempered and hopefully fairminded about this. On the hospital question, I was struck the other day by an article which appeared in all of the metropolitan papers looking at a study that has been concluded by Statistics Canada. Now I'm reading from the Toronto Globe and Mail of April 22, 1997, the headline of which is "Cutbacks Not the Only Cause of Vanishing Hospital Beds." The article goes on to talk about what has happened across Canada, province by province, in the seven-year period between 1988 and 1995.
It is interesting. When you look at the reduction in hospital beds, whether it was -- and we're talking now a period of seven years so in Ontario, for example, these data include the Peterson Liberals and the Rae New Democrats. In Saskatchewan we would have, for example, the Devine Conservatives and the Romanow New Democrats. In British Columbia, for example, we would have the Social Credit of Vander Zalm and some years of the Harcourt New Democrats. If you look at all provinces, hospital beds have been reduced, and reduced substantially, in that period of time.
In Newfoundland it's a 19% reduction in hospital beds from 1988 to 1995; in Saskatchewan, a 35% reduction; in Ontario it's 27%; in New Brunswick it's 34%. The obvious conclusion from the article is that between 1988 and 1995 governments of all stripes in all provinces cut hospital beds, and cut them substantially.
I think oppositionists have to be fairminded about that reality, and I'd dare to say that if any of us, the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty or Lyn McLeod or the New Democrats under Bob Rae or Howard Hampton, were in office in Ontario today, there would be continuing pressure on the hospital sector, simply because, as the Statscan study makes plain, there are new surgical techniques, new attitudes that are clearly providing alternatives to institutional care.
Having said that, we look to Ontario and we see a cut post-1995. In Ontario from 1988 to 1995, governments under the Liberals and the New Democrats cut hospital beds by 27%. We've now got a plan in Ontario, under the leadership of Jim Wilson and Professor Sinclair at the health ministry and at the commission, to substantially reduce hospital beds and the number of hospitals much further than those cuts of 1988 to 1995.
We have in my community, for example, a decision from the Ontario government and its agent, the commission, to reduce the number of hospitals from two to one. We are losing the century-old Pembroke Civic Hospital. It has been ordered to close its doors by the end of this year. On the weekend, we had a report out of Cornwall from the district health council that the long-standing Cornwall General Hospital is to close its doors. A few weeks ago we saw Jim Wilson and Duncan Sinclair order the closure of the Montfort Hospital, order the closure of the Riverside Hospital in Ottawa, order the closure of the Grace Hospital in Ottawa. Jim Wilson and Duncan Sinclair have been doing that and they will continue to do that here in Metro and in London and in Hamilton.
What concerns me is the depth and the severity of these cuts. I accept that there have to be changes and I'm not here to argue that the status quo is an option. I just want to tell you that in my community of Pembroke, through the cuts that have been ordered by the Minister of Health and his agent, Duncan Sinclair, we are going to lose 39% of our acute care beds. We are going to lose 27% of our hospital budget in the Pembroke area. Let me repeat those numbers. We're not only losing one hospital, the Pembroke Civic Hospital, but we're losing 39% of our acute care beds and we're losing 27% of our overall budget, and the doors of the Pembroke Civic Hospital have been ordered closed by Minister Wilson and Duncan Sinclair at the end of this calendar year, which is almost eight months away -- not very much time.
When I look at the cuts that Minister Wilson and Duncan Sinclair have ordered for some other places, in Thunder Bay and in Sudbury the cuts are deep and severe. In Thunder Bay they're losing 50% of their acute care beds, 37% of their chronic beds and approximately 30% of their hospital budget. In Sudbury, again deep cuts.
At the risk of causing you some discomfort, Mr Speaker, I notice that the cuts in Ottawa, Toronto and London are substantially less and substantially lighter than they are in places like Pembroke, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and that gives myself, the local member, and all my constituents in the rural, small-town, upper Ottawa Valley a deep level of concern -- all the more so because before the cuts that were ordered by Minister Wilson and the commission, before any of those cuts, we are told by the Ontario Ministry of Health that in Renfrew county we are well below provincial health expenditure average, well below the provincial per capita average for OHIP expenditures, well below the provincial average for hospital and related facilities expenditure. On many of the key indicators, in Renfrew county, including the city of Pembroke, before any of these cuts even take effect, we are told by the Ministry of Health that we are well below provincial averages. I'll cite just one.
Quoting from the Health Services Restructuring Commission report on Pembroke, tabled on December 3, 1996, we are told that when we look at per capita health expenditures in Ontario the provincial average is $1,595 and in Renfrew county our average is $1,273, so before any cuts take place, we're told by the commission that in Renfrew county we're at only 80% of the per capita average for overall health expenditures. My constituents are told they have to now live with the loss of their century-old civic hospital, that they're going to have to lose 39% of their acute care beds, they're going to have to lose 27% of their hospital budget in Pembroke, and we're told by Minister Wilson and Premier Harris that this is not going to have any impact on services.
I want to take a moment to read to you a letter that appeared in the Renfrew county press the other week from a constituent of mine. I spoke to her family just the other day, and I'm sure they won't mind my reading her letter. I ask members to listen carefully to what this 74-year-old woman who is suffering with cancer had to say in a letter to the editor which was published in all of the north Renfrew press, a letter to the editor from Mrs Alice Dufresne of 551 Highway 17 West, Pembroke:
"To the editor;
"On February 27, 1997 we travelled" -- her husband and herself -- "from Pembroke to Ottawa" -- a distance of 150 kilometres, in winter weather -- "to attend an appointment of 45 minutes at the Ottawa Civic Hospital cancer clinic" for a particular procedure.
"We left Pembroke" in the early afternoon and we were "on our way back" home along Highway 417 near the Almonte turnoff when "we had an accident." The car in which they were driving rolled over, in presumably winter conditions, three or four times. The ambulance took this 74-year-old woman and her 78-year-old husband back into the Ottawa Civic Hospital, where they were placed under care.
"We were not given," at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, so much as "a drink of water." We were left, writes this 74-year-old cancer patient, "in soaking wet clothes and lying on stretchers with very little care" for hours.
"Thank the Lord," Mrs Dufresne writes, "for my daughter-in-law who was also involved in the accident. Without her help I would not have even made it to the washroom."
At a quarter to midnight on that day, they were asked to leave the Ottawa Civic Hospital with no place to go, this 74-year-old cancer patient and her 79-year-old husband.
"What were they thinking?" Mrs Dufresne writes. "My husband is 78 and in no shape to get around.
"I am 74" years of age "and in very poor health.
"If it was not for" the fact that my son was "in the area, we would have been out on the street" at midnight on this winter day. My son asked the staff at the hospital "to keep us until morning. Their answer was, `No!'
"Is this the way senior citizens are going to be treated" in Mike Harris's Ontario?
"Mike Harris, do you not have a mother or do you not think" you too will get old some day?
"I was highly insulted by the treatment we experienced. Are old people now going to be left to die without care?"
So writes a 74-year-old woman with cancer from Pembroke, Ontario, about her experience just a few weeks ago.
I'm not here to suggest that these examples are happening every day or everywhere, but we saw at the Peterborough Civic Hospital a few months ago another example of a family who went to visit an elderly relative, a parent, only to find that 82-year-old parent dead on a hospital bed in the corridor. Yes, Minister Wilson then reacted very quickly with additional resources to, I think it was, the Peterborough Civic Hospital. There is no doubt that there is a growing concern about what these cuts are doing to quality care across Ontario and across Canada, as Mr Chrétien is finding out this week.
Mr Ford: There's a senior citizens' attachment to that hospital and senior citizens --
The Deputy Speaker: There will be a questions and comments period afterwards.
Mr Conway: I don't think, Mr Ford, you want to be quoted as saying that about this woman who, with her husband -- you see, the reality of my rural constituents is, if you live on Highway 17 West in Pembroke, you have to drive 150 or 160 kilometres, one way, to the cancer clinic in Ottawa. If you are in Palmer Rapids or Barry's Bay or Whitney, you are driving 200, 250, 275 kilometres to the cancer clinic in Ottawa, and five months of the year it's winter. We have to be very sensitive to the concerns that Mrs Dufresne and her family have identified.
I raised, this past day and yesterday, issues around ambulance service in my part of rural Ontario. I want to reiterate that point this afternoon. I see the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay is here. He'll know what I'm talking about; certainly the members from Muskoka and Nipissing and Renfrew and Haliburton and Parry Sound will know very well. Let me just again repeat the story of earlier today.
I understand what the government is doing. They have decided that in the new division of responsibility the full cost for land ambulance is going to transfer down to local government as part of the Who Does What trade. I understand that's the policy. It has been decided, and I'm told it's unamendable.
All right, let's go one step further. Algonquin Provincial Park, a premier-destination tourist attraction, attracts nearly one million people each and every year. There is no local government. There is no municipality of Algonquin Park. The park is owned by Her Majesty in right of the people of Ontario. The local government is the province of Ontario. My question remains: Who is going to pay for the ambulance services in Algonquin Park?
I'll tell you, as it stands now, Algonquin Park -- and on a busy weekend in the summer, there are 50,000 people in that park. I know from talking to the ambulance people at St Francis Memorial Hospital in Barry's Bay that they make several calls on a weekly basis up into the park. The average trip is 150 to 200 kilometres, round trip. The member from Muskoka will know well that the service on the other side comes in from Huntsville, and for them it will be a similar distance.
The question is: A father and a mother and kids are in at Opeongo Lake or Smoke Lake or Lake of Two Rivers and there is a serious accident. Last year a young student from -- I think it was Carleton University --
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Manotick.
Mr Conway: From Manotick, a very fine young man, was in a tragic accident. Lightning struck and I believe killed this very bright young man in the southeastern area, west of Madawaska. An incredible effort was made to save that young man's life. But that accident occurred, I think, on a Friday afternoon in June or July in the southeastern part of Algonquin. Who pays for that?
We're not talking just a few cases: tens of thousands of people on a weekend and nearly one million people on an annual basis. I think people have a right to know what the new scheme is going to be. There is no local government. Who is going to pay the bill? If, for example, there is going to be a mileage charge, as it appears there is going to be, if I look at Rural/Metro and Laidlaw and the way they operate, certainly Rural/Metro in places like New York state, can you imagine the mileage charge that would attach to a trip from the Barry's Bay hospital up to Opeongo Lake and back, 175 kilometres? If you start piling other user charges on to that, you're going to have a bill that could be potentially $1,000 without much effort.
My question remains, quite apart from the price -- I say to my friend the member for Durham East, who looks a bit sceptical, if I'm wrong, well, then, you can correct me -- but where does the bill go? If that person is from Bowmanville, does the municipality of Durham, do the people in Bowmanville get the bill? That's important information.
There are a lot of these cases, and there is no local government. The deep and abiding concern of my communities -- Beachburg, Cobden, Foresters Falls, Barry's Bay, Whitney, Rolphton, Deux-Rivières, all of these rural places which have a very, very fragile local tax base -- is, if the expectation is that the local property taxpayers in rural, small-town Ontario are expected to shoulder that burden, there is no doubt that it's going to have an impact on the quality of service and the availability of service. I say that since ambulance services are front-line health services, no government, whether it's led by Mike Harris or anybody else, is going to be able to get away with not responding to that concern and that pressure.
The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired. Questions or comments? The member for Sudbury.
Ms Martel: Sudbury East, Mr Speaker.
I want to commend the member for his comments and I want to follow up on some of the concerns he has raised with respect to health care and hospital care, because in the community I come from this is a very serious issue and people just don't buy the Tory line that in fact they are reinvesting the money that is coming out of hospitals back into health care in our community.
The fact of the matter is, in our community the report that was done by a local group for two and a half years with respect to hospital restructuring was thrown out the window when this government came to power. Then the Health Services Restructuring Commission came in, they held one-day, private meetings behind closed doors with a number of stakeholders and came to the conclusion that they would close two of the three hospitals in our community; they would reduce the number of acute care beds by about 195; they would close seven operating rooms. But they conveniently forgot to mention how many hospital workers might be laid off as a consequence, how many front-line staff. They neglected to mention that.
At this point in time we are in the situation where this minister has still refused to come to our community and meet with a number of local groups which are very concerned that of the $40 million that's going to come out of our community annually, only $13.4 million has been recommended by the commission to be returned to our community. Less than a third of the money that's going to go out of our community for health care might come back, and that's only if this Minister of Health agrees with the commission's recommendations.
There is no one in my community who thinks we are better served with respect to health care in my community now under this Conservative government, and they are very concerned that with the huge amount of money that's going to come out, our health care is going to decline dramatically.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to respond to the member for Renfrew North. He did mention my riding on a couple of occasions in his comments, and I'd like to clarify the record.
Just in some sequence here, he mentioned an article in the Economist, I believe it was in March 1997.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): That's in your riding?
Mr O'Toole: No, in the Economist. I'm going to cover a couple of things here, if you care to listen.
The article was really an important article. It had pretty much an American flavour to it, but it analysed education across the world and it did dwell on a couple of things. He's correct in saying that in the elementary section of education class size is important. But the article did, without really mentioning Canada directly, go on to say that the highest-scoring countries in the world have higher class sizes, so that in the secondary level perhaps it could be examined. I'm not saying our system is completely wrong, but to clarify the record.
Also, currently there's been a lot of discussion about health care costs in not only Canada and Ontario but indeed other provinces. We're late in the game on restructuring health care; that's widely understood. I will quote an article from the Toronto Sun, dated April 20. It's the editorial. I think it states very clearly in those two areas --
Mr Pouliot: Save me the business section.
Mr O'Toole: I didn't write it, so if you want to listen, I'll give it to you. It says that Ontario "spends $1 billion more on education than if it was spending at the same level as the national average." There's an editor of a paper making a statement and says that we spend more than the national average. Furthermore, on health care, it says that we spend "more on health care per person than every other province save for BC."
I think the opposition should listen, and they should certainly respond with some degree of accuracy for the people watching at home.
Our region of Durham spends less per capita than many parts of the province, and my constituents want their fair share.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): It's a pleasure and quite an honour to comment on the excellent presentation my colleague the member for Renfrew North made. It's not surprising at all. This eloquence comes from knowledge and understanding of Ontario and of the policy itself.
I recall months ago that the same member warned us in caucus that the issue that is going to affect us most, by the way this government has acted, is health care, and the way he spoke today tells me that if the government for a short moment would just listen carefully -- it's such a good idea that we have Hansard today, that not only can we read it but can have a replay of the legislative procedures and see and hear his speech again, because if there is anybody within this Legislature who understands this province well and understands the people and the communities, it is this member for Renfrew North.
One of the main issues I hear from this member is about those who are vulnerable in our society, and our seniors and the way they have been treated through our health care. You should stand up and take some notice of what's happening. It's not only happening in Brantford or Prescott or wherever we are in Ontario, but it's all over. In Scarborough itself many of the seniors are calling and are expressing the same concerns I am hearing this honourable member mention today. While we may stand up and try to correct certain things in the Economist or in the Sun, listen to what's happening in Ontario. Listen and watch what you're doing with regard to your policies to some of the most vulnerable in our society, our seniors. I warn those members to take heed.
Mrs Boyd: I would like to congratulate the member for Renfrew North on his usual very eloquent presentation of concerns. He has shown us, through the kinds of examples he brought, exactly how the kinds of concerns others have raised more generally come home to individuals and to families in this province.
I must admit I was shocked to see yet again another demonstration of the cavalier attitude of the Tory members, when he described the very serious and tragic circumstances of a senior in a hospital in the eastern Ontario area, for the member for Etobicoke-Humber to comment, "Well, seniors die every week." Seniors do die every week, premature babies die every week, accident victims die every week and injured workers die every week. That does not mean it is not the responsibility of the government in charge at any given moment to do everything it can, through its policies and its funding, to try and prevent that kind of unnecessary waste and tragedy.
It is exactly that issue we are trying to bring to the fore. Every time one of the members of the opposition parties brings up an example, it is dismissed by the members of the government. The reality is there are hundreds of examples of how people are suffering in this province from the kinds of cuts this government has made to health care, and those people who have suffered that kind of tragedy are offended by the attitude of the government when they try to dismiss those concerns as not being very valid. It will eventually come home to roost when this government cavalierly dismisses the kinds of tragic examples opposition members bring forward.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Renfrew North, you have two minutes.
Mr Conway: I want to thank my colleagues for their several observations. Just two quick points in response: The member for Sudbury East made a comment about reinvestment and I want to make a quick response to that. I think it has to be understood that what we're seeing in Ontario is a commitment by the Rae government and now the Harris government, over about a nine-year period, to spend about $17.5 billion on health care. I won't get into the debate today as to what qualifies as a health expenditure, because that's changing somewhat. But if you spend $17.5 billion annually for nine years, with no allowance for inflation and demographic change, there's no doubt about what is the purchasing power of that $17.5 billion or $17.7 billion. That's, in real terms, a cut because of inflation and demographic change.
The other aspect of reinvestment becomes important, and let me say it very bluntly: In Pembroke, we're losing at least $10 million of our hospital budget. The bulk of that is going to be reinvested in 905. It's not going to be reinvested in Pembroke. It's going to be reinvested in Whitby and in North Halton and in Newmarket and Aurora, and I dare say so will the bulk of the savings from Cornwall and Sudbury and the Niagara Peninsula and southwestern Ontario. The bulk of the savings is going to be reinvested in the 905 belt. So if you notice something is happening in your neighbourhood -- the minister is right when he says we're reinvesting, but we're not necessarily reinvesting what we take out of Sudbury or Pembroke or Cornwall or Grimsby in your community.
Finally, with the presence of my friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Energy, I beg you on behalf of my colleagues Cleary and Gerretsen about the eastern Ontario kidney situation. The legal action around the Posen case is causing real hardship to kidney dialysis patients from Renfrew to Cornwall to Kingston to Bancroft. Please do something to alleviate that real human need.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. Further debate?
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I would have been very disappointed if I wasn't able to take part in this supply debate today.
I think the member for Durham Centre was expressing some concern about the civil servants of the province not getting paid as this debate goes on today and tomorrow and whenever. I would just remind members opposite who may not know what happened that in order for this motion to have been debated last Thursday, which I gather was the original intent of the government, the government had to get the notice in by Wednesday at 5 pm, I believe. The government failed to do that. The opposition did not prevent them from doing that.
Then the opposition said to the government: "Look, we understand. We'll give you unanimous consent to do it on Thursday anyway, even though you goofed." And the government said, "Oh, no, not unless you will guarantee only one day's debate." What kind of deal is that? You had the opportunity to have the debate start on Thursday and continue this week. "Oh, no," the government says, "We will not do it that way. We will debate it on Monday and Tuesday."
Hon Mr Sterling: It would have been a good deal for us.
Mr Laughren: Yes, it would have been a good deal for you, but you blew it. Let's understand that.
My memory doesn't always serve me well any more, but I can recall -- I believe it was that party that held up supply right to the end of the month; not a couple of days before but to the end of the month and the beginning of the next month.
I would just remind members that you could have avoided this whole scene if you had simply done your homework, had done your job in the first place, and second, had agreed to a deal for unanimous consent for last Thursday. But you chose not to.
I'm not encouraging civil servants to spend their time watching the legislative channel, but if any of them are, I would just remind you out there that it was the Tories who blew this, not the opposition. That's who did it.
I do think there has to be an understanding of how this place works. I wasn't going to clarify it until I heard the member for Durham Centre running around babbling that the opposition was going to stop people from getting paid. Nothing could be further from the truth, if I could put it so delicately.
I want to talk about three or four issues. You have to understand that we live in times that are quite polarized in Ontario. I'm not really complaining about that. It keeps the political adrenalin moving when you have a polarized political situation. I think most of you would agree. I think when we were in office it was somewhat polarized as well, so I'm not complaining about it being polarized. I'm simply saying that it is polarized, and when that's the case, you must expect prolonged and spirited debate on supply motions. You've simply got to expect that. You must understand it. If you're going to call supply, which you have to do, then do it in time to get the debate finished before the end of the month. You cannot fall back on incompetence forever. At some point, you've got to be held accountable for getting the business of this House through. You were incompetent on the filibuster debate as well. You are incompetent on this debate too.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I wasn't.
Mr Laughren: During the filibuster debate, the member for Perth, Mr Johnson, was not incompetent. I thought Mr Johnson did a good job during the filibuster debate. I'm not being unfair to members opposite.
I wanted to talk about a couple of issues. One of them is the whole issue of privatization. I must say that when I was watching -- I wasn't able to be here yesterday for the minister for privatization's framework, his long-delayed framework. I wasn't able to be here for that, and perhaps it's just as well, because I'm not sure my heart could have stood it. I'm not sure I could have handled the drama of Mr Sampson getting to his feet and announcing this sweeping privatization framework which says they're going to privatize a couple of tree nurseries and Ortech. Was there anything else on that list?
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the Province of Ontario Savings Office.
Mr Laughren: And the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the Province of Ontario Savings Office.
You talk about the pillars of public institution this province that are now going to be in the private sector. That's them, isn't it? Is that them? Is that what your friends on Bay Street have been salivating over? I understand that not just Bay Street but other business streets around the world have been sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for this privatization announcement so they could get their hands on those public institutions long ago paid for by the public in this province. That's what they've been waiting for.
When Mr Sampson stood, I must say, I was trembling all over in anticipation, and it isn't often any more than I tremble in anticipation. But I was trembling in anticipation as to what Mr Sampson was going to say, and what he said was: "Don't worry, folks, we're backing down. All you Bay Street folks, back off. We're not going to do it."
I was very happy, because maybe there's some common sense settling in for the first time since you formed the government. You can't do it. You're not going to do it. Go back and tell your friends that you're not going to privatize, that it's off the agenda: Forget about TVO, forget about the LCBO, forget about Ontario Hydro. Those are the pillars of public institution in this province that people wanted to get their hands on, but it's not going to happen, is it? It's not going to happen.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: And you're disappointed.
Mr Laughren: I don't know why the Minister of Agriculture keeps saying I'm disappointed. I've said clearly that the whole idea --
Ms Martel: It's takes a while.
Mr Laughren: Yes, I'll try and get through to the member. He's so preoccupied with the possibility of the ending of public funding for separate schools that he can't concentrate on other issues, I guess. But I can tell the member that it's not that I'm disappointed, it's that I'm relieved that the privatization minister has come to this conclusion.
What I worry about is what in the world is Mr Currie, who is Mr Sampson's EA -- he earns three times as much Mr Sampson, $245,000 a year, but he's his EA -- going to do now? If I was Mr Currie, I'd be either outraged or laughing all the way to the bank, but for sure I'd be shopping around my résumé, because there's nothing for Mr Currie to do now. What's he going to do? Count trees in those few nurseries remaining? I have no idea. I think there has to be a reckoning here. I hope Mr Currie's got a severance package built into his contract with Mr Sampson because he's got nothing to do. Why did you go out and pay this man -- I think he's a competent fellow, a virtual whiz kid. He's even younger than I am. Why would you pay Mr Currie 245,000 big ones to worry about privatizing a few remaining tree nurseries in the province and Ortech and the Province of Ontario Savings Office?
Mr Gilchrist: He could study the nationalizing of Inco.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Scarborough East.
Mr Laughren: I think it's a weird thing you've done. What does Mr Currie have on you folks? I hope it's not on Mr Sampson he's got anything.
I would simply say that I am pleased they're not proceeding, although I have a nagging concern about the water and sewage systems in this province because of Bill 107. It's a bill that's going into clause-by-clause debate tomorrow afternoon -- that's unless the Tories screw up the scheduling again. Tomorrow afternoon there's going to be a clause-by-clause debate on Bill 107, and that bill transfers the remaining 25% of sewer and water systems to municipalities. Whether they want them or not, quite frankly, they're going to get them.
Then, of course, in tandem with that transfer is the downloading -- and I'll speak about that in a little while -- that's going to occur and put enormous pressure on the municipalities to find new revenues, such as the sale of their sewer and water facilities. I'm very unhappy about that. It would not be the government privatizing per se; it would be the municipalities privatizing because of the enormous fiscal pressures put on them by this government in its downloading. There's no doubt about that.
I found the Minister of the Environment's comments -- and I'll use this word advisedly, Mr Speaker, and I hope you won't rule it out of order -- disingenuous. What he more or less said was he would be disappointed -- I'll paraphrase, and if I'm wrong, I hope the Minister of Environment will rise to his feet and correct me. What he more or less said was he would be disappointed if municipalities sold the sewer and water facilities when they took over ownership. He more or less said that. This is in London, Ontario.
I thought, boy, that is disingenuous when you transfer it to the municipalities, really, really tighten the screws financially on those municipalities, and then throw up your hands and say, "Gee, I hope they don't privatize those services." That really is less than forthright, and it's not like this Minister of Environment to be less than forthright. It's not like him to do that, and that's why I was disappointed in his comments.
I am not pleased with the philosophy and the attitude towards -- I'm sorry, I can't read what the member across the way is trying to show me -- I'm not pleased with any aspects of privatization, but at the same time it really was --
Hon Mr Sterling: How about nationalization?
Mr Laughren: That's different. Now you've got my adrenalin going again. Talk about nationalization, and I want to be at the table. If it's privatization, I don't want to be.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it's a well-known fact that for years and years and years, I wanted to nationalize Inco and call it the People's International Nickel Co, or Pinco for short. That's right.
Mr Conway: Like Tony Blair, you had a conversion.
Mr Laughren: I hope it's not as complete a conversion as Tony Blair has had.
I'd like to speak a few minutes on the whole issue of transfers from the federal government to the province. I can recall when we were in government and we were getting hammered in transfers from the federal government to the province, started by Mulroney, continued by the Chrétien government. When I would complain about it and we were fighting for what we called a fair share for Ontario, guess what Mike Harris, who was then the leader of the third party and the member for Nipissing, said, and he said it over and over again: "Stop whining. You don't have a revenue problem. You've got an expenditure problem." That's what Mr Harris said in opposition.
What did Mr Harris say yesterday? He said that the federal government was not treating Ontario fairly, because they owed us more in transfer payments. Wait a minute. There's something wrong with that picture. Surely Mr Harris isn't saying something different now than he said when he was leader of the third party. That's what he said. He said there was no revenue problem: "Stop whining about what the feds are doing to you. You've only got an expenditure problem." Does he still feel that way?
Hon Mr Villeneuve: He does.
Mr Laughren: He does? Well, I guess Mr Harris must not feel that he's got a revenue problem -- I suppose you could put it that way -- since he's borrowing money to pay for the tax cut, about $5 billion a year.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Come on.
Mr Laughren: The cut will come to $5 billion when it's fully matured.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: You just said a year.
Mr Laughren: That will be the cost to the treasury of this province, about $5 billion.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Not a year.
Mr Laughren: What's 30% of $13 billion? Go and figure it out. Between $4 billion and $5 billion.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Your math is not very good, Floyd. You have been out of school.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for S-D-G & East Grenville.
Mr Laughren: There's a long history here of this government's comments in opposition and what they now have decided is important to them.
I want to spend a couple of minutes on the whole issue of downloading to the municipalities. A lot of people have talked about it and I'll try not to repeat a lot of the comments, but I think at the end of the day that is going to be this government's Achilles's heel, because you cannot do what you said you're going to do. I'll tell you why.
You look at the regional municipality of Sudbury. It's a working-class community. The average property taxes are I think somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 a year. I myself live rurally so I have my own septic system and my own water system. It's a very good system; I've become quite attached to my septic bed, as a matter of fact. I must say I've been very happy with it. But if the average property taxes -- I'll even take the low figure, $1,500 a year, which is low; the average is probably higher than that. But if the downloading occurs --
Hon Mr Villeneuve: How much is education there?
The Deputy Speaker: The member for S-D-G & East Grenville.
Mr Laughren: I'll get to that. I'm going to give you the numbers. Don't worry. I know the Minister of Agriculture is worried about separate school funding; that's why he raises education again. Let me tell you that if the average property tax is $1,500, with the downloading that's already been announced by this government, including eliminating education from property taxes, this is what would happen: The following health and social services will be downloaded to the regional municipality of Sudbury, totalling $115.2 million. If you want, I can give you a breakdown of all of those numbers, how you arrive at that number. Other services, such as highways being transferred and library grants ending and loss of transit grants and so forth, come to another $6.8 million. The municipal support grants, gone; that comes to $36.9 million. If you add up all the combination of downloading and end of grants, it comes to $158.9 million. These are yearly figures.
I'm pleased the Minister of Agriculture said, "What is the cost of education?" I know he worried about this. The educational levy -- we're talking about the residential -- is $53.5 million. The amount of downloading is $158.9 million. The educational levy, which will be removed from the property taxes, comes to $53.5 million. That leaves a net figure of $105.4 million being downloaded to the regional municipality of Sudbury.
These are numbers from the regional municipality of Sudbury; they are not my numbers, because I know some of you would suspect my numbers. What that means is you spread the net impact of $105 million over the residential levy across the regional municipality of Sudbury and guess what it comes to for each property taxpayer in the regional municipality of Sudbury? It comes to $1,500, basically doubling the property taxes in the regional municipality of Sudbury.
Is there anyone, of the backbenchers over there, who is prepared to get up on their hind legs and say today that they would allow property taxes to double in any municipality? I don't think you would tolerate your property taxes in your municipalities, in your ridings, doubling as a result of your downloading. I don't believe you'd tolerate that for a minute. Yet if the government does what it says it's going to do, that will be the impact in the regional municipality of Sudbury. I don't think you can tolerate that; I don't think the system can handle it. You're going to have to back down on this one too. Maybe you'd better put Rob Sampson in charge of downloading -- he'll find a way to back down on it -- because you can't do this.
Mr Laughren: You can talk about anything else you want, any other policies, you can make fun of everything our government did when we were in office. That's fine. What I'm telling you is that you cannot double property taxes in a municipality. You cannot do it.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): But you tried, eh?
Mr Laughren: No, we didn't try, and you will not do it, so you'd better start talking to those people in the front benches, say, "What are you doing?" You're going to double property taxes in Sudbury. Don't take my word for it. Phone up the treasurer of the regional municipality of Sudbury and say, "Is the member for Nickel Belt talking facts from your region when he raises these numbers?" Phone them up and ask them. Ask the treasurer in your own municipalities what's going to be the result of the downloading. See what they tell you. See how long you sit there and just take it.
There may be some municipalities that are high in assessment that will not have this same impact, but I'll tell you, these are real numbers from a real municipality, the regional municipality of Sudbury.
You may not like to hear it, but that's exactly what's going to happen. I can't imagine what the result would be if you decided you were going to brazen it out and simply go ahead and proceed with the downloading. I can't imagine the social unrest, and quite frankly I think there would be civil disobedience, if that was to occur. I really believe that. There would be civil disobedience.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Put John Sewell in charge.
Mr Laughren: It doesn't matter who's in charge. If you double people's property taxes, you're not going to be able to handle it.
You're going to have to talk to your people. You're going to have to talk to those whiz kids around the Premier and say: "You know, you guys are wrong. You can't pull this off." That's why negotiations with AMO are so difficult. AMO knows what's going on. They're not going to put up with this. I think they've given you a lot of slack. They've cut you more slack than I would have cut you on this issue if I'd been a member of AMO. They've been quite generous to you. They're letting you try and work it out, to work out another arrangement. But that will only go on so long.
Mr Baird: Just like you, they're trying to help.
Mr Laughren: They're trying to be helpful, that's correct. I can tell you, we in government talked about disentanglement. We were going to rationalize the system as well. We tried very hard to make that happen. At the end of the day, it didn't happen. There's a very good reason why it didn't happen, but it didn't happen. But we were not engaged in a downloading exercise. We were engaged in rationalizing and disentangling the delivery of services and there was no downloading --
Hon Mr Villeneuve: You did a hell of a job.
Mr Laughren: Go and talk to AMO. They'll tell you there was no downloading as part of our disentanglement exercise -- none. We simply wanted to rationalize the delivery of services. There was none.
Mr Baird: It didn't work.
Mr Laughren: It didn't work, and I'll be quite honest with you about why it didn't work: On the eve of concluding it, we brought in the social contract and that threw everything into a cocked hat and it didn't work. That's exactly what happened. It had nothing to do with downloading. Don't take my word for it; go and talk to the people at AMO and they'll tell you that's what happened. It had nothing to do with disentanglement.
You people couldn't be satisfied. You had to engage not just in disentanglement but massive downloading. I really find it strange that the people who have fallen out of favour with the Premier's office are those people who are smart enough to see that the tax cut didn't make sense if you're going to continue to -- I support the deficit reduction exercise, but if you are going to do that as well as cut income taxes by 30%, you can't pull it off without massive downloading. There's no other way to do it. How else can you do it? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see through that.
The people who spoke out opposed to that -- as a matter of fact, I'm not sure if any of them are in the assembly today, but I can tell you they were right. But you folks and the people around the Premier were just too smart. You thought you could do it all. You thought you could reduce income taxes by that amount, you thought you could reduce the deficit, and the money would pour in because of the income tax reduction.
Mr Baird: It is.
Mr Laughren: Well, the world isn't quite that simple. Then why are you doing the downloading? If the money is pouring in like you say it is, why are you engaged in this massive downloading? Why are you doubling the property taxes for the people in the regional municipality of Sudbury? You say you're not? Fine. You call the regional municipality --
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr Laughren: I'm being interrupted.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made. Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Premier concerning a report from the Environmental Commissioner. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the member for Northumberland has up to five minutes to reply.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I appreciate this opportunity to finish some sentences for the Premier in response to questions asked by my leader, Howard Hampton, and myself on April 22 about this devastating report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. The Premier was so desperately looking for compliments in the report that he kept reading half sentences, which I would say most respectfully was an attempt to give people listening a wrong and distorted view of the contents of this report.
For instance, the Premier quotes from page 14 of the report, and if you have the report you can follow me on this. It says: "The Environmental Registry has been tested...and proven as a cost-effective way to open the door to the government's...decision-making," but what he left out is this, "if the ministries use it properly." That's the part of the sentence he left out.
Then if you turn to pages 30 and 31 of the report, guess what you find? A big heading "Decision-Making Issues Across Ministries," then "Decisions Not Posted On The Registry," and it says, "Too many decisions were not posted on the Environmental Registry, closing the door to environmental decision-making," and on it goes. That's one sentence, but a very important and telling part was left out.
Then later he quotes from page 6, and this is the quote: "The Ministry of Environment and Energy was the most consistently proactive in opening the door to its environmental decision-making processes." He stops there but the sentence goes on. This is what he leaves out: "However, Responsive Environmental Protection, the ministry's public consultation paper on regulatory reform, showed that a sweeping review of every ministry environmental regulation is happening too quickly and is too narrowly focused." That's the part of the sentence that Mr Harris, our Premier, left out, and this did indeed leave a different impression of this report -- really a devastating report.
If I were the government, if I were the Premier -- I hope the parliamentary assistant today finally does this, will stand up and say, "There's a lot of criticism in this report and we intend to fix it." They have heard now several times from this commissioner but never have they received a report this devastating. I believe it's unprecedented.
They received two special reports from this commissioner to this Legislature over the last two years expressing deep concern about the way this government was going in terms of deregulation and cutting. The International Joint Commission, the auditor and CELA even made comments. There has been a whole series of reports by experts from various levels in the environmental field or from other fields who understand that what the government is doing with the environmental deregulation and cutting is indeed very, very serious.
I'm sure the parliamentary assistant, who is going to respond, is going to come out with the same drivel we hear day after day in this House from the minister and others about: "We're not deregulating, we're reregulating. We're doing more with less." When you have the Environmental Commissioner of this province coming out with a report like this, and the news release that came with it which says, "Hasty cutbacks, many of which were made behind closed doors, and a lack of environmental vision marked ministries' agenda in 1996, says Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Eva Ligeti, in her 1996 annual report.
"Throughout 1996, the ministries demonstrated an alarming lack of environmental vision.... Instead, says her report, their activities were characterized by omnibus-style legislation, cuts to environmental programs and the shift of environmental responsibilities to municipalities and the private sector.
"`Perhaps the most significant decisions made in 1996 were those that reduced the ministries' responsibility to protect the environment,' said Commissioner Ligeti. `The extent and pace of change were daunting. Given the enormous implications of these decisions, it is disturbing that many were made with the absolute minimum amount of public consultation and in some cases, not at all.'"
I would submit to this government that they should finally start paying attention to the Environmental Commissioner and start making amends immediately.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I'd like to relate to the member for Riverdale that this government has done more for environmental protection in the first year and a half than the previous two governments did in their 10-year term in government.
The ministry continues to operate in full compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights. In many instances, the ministry provides services beyond those required by the act.
This ministry believes in results. That is why we're focusing more on the end product rather than on the process, as was previously happening. We are looking beyond traditional methods to achieve improvements on our environmental activities. By working smarter and more efficiently, we will accomplish more at less cost.
This ministry may be moving fast, but at least we are moving forward, moving forward to enhance environmental protection and promoting conservation for Ontarians. The people of this province continue to demand the highest standard of environmental protection, and we will continue to provide these services.
One of the ministry's top priorities is to set and enforce strong, clear standards, which include those set for drinking water. The member has made statements regarding ensuring the quality of drinking water for the citizens of Ontario. She has also been critical of what she calls offloading of testing of drinking water to municipalities. As the member knows, it has always been the responsibility of municipalities to establish a monitoring program which will ensure the provision of safe drinking water.
As a former minister, the member is also well aware that the decision was made in 1993 by her government to charge municipalities commercially competitive rates for test services. In fact, many municipalities have been using their own labs for many years. Lab testing services for about half the water and sewage treatment plants in the province were already being provided by private sector or municipal labs before the ministry announced its intention to discontinue test services. The ministry provides a comprehensive audit of drinking water quality through tests performed on routine samples for the drinking water surveillance program. This government remains committed to ensuring that the citizens of Ontario have safe, clean drinking water.
The member opposite also asserted that cuts to the ministry's budget are having an impact on our ability to enforce regulations. We are focusing on environmentally significant activities that enhance protection and produce real benefits. Unlike previous governments, we do not have the option to disregard fiscal accountability to the taxpayer, so we have to ensure that we get optimal environmental return for each dollar that is being spent at the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
We have many accomplishments. The ministry has embarked on a comprehensive regulatory review, one that has been open and extensive right from the start. The commissioner herself complimented the ministry on its consultation, saying, "The ministry's regulatory reform initiative is an example of how to use the environmental registry effectively." The ministry is committed to ongoing consultation. We will continue to seek broad public input on changes to regulations. It has been very extensive -- you'll have to admit that -- over the past year and a half.
Let me clarify for the member: We are not deregulating. We are examining ways of improving our regulatory system to ensure continued and enhanced environmental protection, and there are many, many examples that could be used.
The minister has also developed a three-year plan for updating some 200 out-of-date standards which, I'd to point out, the member for Riverdale did nothing to address.
The minister is also tackling the issue of cross-boundary pollution, which again your previous government failed to address. Last week the Minister of Environment and Energy met with representatives of 11 US states to establish a firm working connection to ensure cleaner air and water for the people of Ontario. I'd ask, what ministers went to visit US states in the previous government?
In addition, the ministry is developing a comprehensive smog plan aimed at reducing emissions of pollutants which cause smog. We're examining options for a vehicle emission testing program. In fact, the minister has been to Georgia to see at first hand how the system works in that jurisdiction, operated by a Canadian. We hope to be coming forward very soon with a program. Where was your government on this important initiative?
This government welcomes the scrutiny of both the public auditor and the Environmental Commissioner. We seek the feedback they provide as means of always striving to improve the way the environment and energy ministry works.
The Deputy Speaker: There being no further matter to be debated, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 1811.