36th Parliament, 1st Session

L183 - Wed 30 Apr 1997 / Mer 30 Avr 1997




















































The House met at 1330.




Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): On December 6, 1996, the Minister of Labour, Elizabeth Witmer, signed a new agreement with the province of Quebec to allow better access to the Quebec market for construction workers and contractors. Earlier this year, Premier Mike Harris endorsed this agreement with Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard.

Unfortunately, another construction season is upon us and still the Ontario construction workers and contractors are in the dark. They have not been well informed of the different dispositions of this new agreement.

The Ministry of Labour was to produce a booklet called the Guide to the Ontario-Quebec Agreement on Labour Mobility and Recognition of Qualifications, Skills and Work Experience in the Construction Industry. This booklet was supposed to be released January 31 of this year. We were told it would be ready February 15. It is now early May and we have yet to see this very important piece of information, and our construction people are not taking advantage of the December 6 agreement because they are still waiting for this user-friendly guide.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Just a couple of weeks ago I was out on the road across Ontario hearing from people about Bill 109, the act to change irrevocably forever the way we deliver library service in this province. We heard some wonderful presentations by all kinds of folks who love libraries.

One of them in particular I wanted to put on the record here today because I think it's interesting. It's a list of books that Moses Sheppard, a representative for the United Steelworkers, said Mike Harris should have to read. It's a top 10 list and it goes like this:

"(10) How to Listen; (9) How to Win Friends and Influence People; (8) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; (7) To Kill a Mockingbird; (6) Inherit the Wind; (5) Foxfire -- I understand some of you want to ban Foxfire; shades of Peterborough. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

"(4) Fiscal Crisis of the State; (3) Fair Taxation in a Changing World; (2) The Moral Basis of a Backward -- or a bankrupt -- Society, and finally, Robin Hood, and we've combined Robin Hood with the King James version of the Bible because, in many ways, they say the same things. They talk about taking from the rich and giving to the poor. The Bible supports that. And while some of you may not have heard of Robin Hood, we thought you might have at least heard of the Holy Bible."


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to rise in the House today to recognize that April is Cancer Awareness Month and to commend the thousands of volunteers who have been out in each of our communities knocking on doors and organizing special events to raise money and raise awareness in the fight against this horrible disease.

Cancer affects tens of thousands of Ontarians every year and one in three Canadians will develop some form of cancer during his or her lifetime.

Yesterday Premier Harris and Health Minister Jim Wilson announced a $16.5-million reinvestment for cancer care in this province and announced the creation of Cancer Care Ontario. This reinvestment will provide more services for 24,000 patients in Ontario, including those who need expensive new anti-cancer drugs, children with cancer and women at risk for cervical cancer. In addition, the creation of Cancer Care Ontario will ensure that cancer patient services across Ontario are integrated and coordinated so that patients receive the best possible service.

Our government is making significant reinvestments in cancer care and in direct patient services so patients can get the care they need, where they need it and when they need it. Our government is putting the patient first.

This announcement is part of our government's continuing commitment to reinvest and to drive health care dollars to front-line services that most benefit Ontarians. Restructuring our health care system means that more money currently tied up in administration, duplication and overlap will be reinvested in hospitals and front-line services for patients.

I would ask the members of the House to join me today in commending the thousands of Ontarians who have volunteered their time and energy this month to help in the fight against cancer.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My statement is to the Minister of Health. I would like to bring to your attention a situation that occurred with a constituent named Edward Stan. On March 20, Mr Stan suffered a heart attack while vacationing in Florida. He was admitted to Orange Park Hospital and was later transferred to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida on March 26. Among other procedures, Mr Stan, a retired senior, has had open heart surgery, a tracheotomy and has received dialysis for a failed kidney while in Florida.

Now stabilized, Mr Stan could be transferred Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor. Dr Craig R. Pearce, a cardiovascular specialist, is prepared to care for Mr Stan. The problem is Hotel-Dieu Grace cannot receive him because there's not an available bed in the ICU. Although the hospital has confirmed with me they are working on the problem and they are hopeful Mr Stan may be transported and admitted within the next day or two, the fact is Mr Stan's medical costs have now far exceeded any amount he will be able to pay, primarily because there were no available beds.

Minister, it's inexcusable and intolerable that Mr Stan cannot be admitted to an Ontario hospital because there are no beds. It's clear that your cuts have directly affected patient care. I ask the minister to intervene in order that Mr Stan's medical costs will be covered by the province, since it's abundantly clear that your cuts to our health care system have precipitated this situation.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): On Monday, April 28, the minister of privatization, Rob Sampson, rose in this place to present his government's long-delayed privatization framework. Bay Street entrepreneurs and indeed corporations around the world watched in eager anticipation. This was their kind of guy, representing their kind of government. Finally the private sector would get their hands on assets already paid for by Ontario's long-suffering taxpayers. Visions of public sector institutions danced in their heads: Ontario Hydro, the LCBO, TVOntario.

Can you imagine the gnashing of teeth, the roars of outrage, the sense of betrayal among those people who thought the Tories were going to hand them, at bargain basement prices, some of our finest public institutions?

I and my colleagues are pleased that Mr Sampson and his $245,000-a-year executive assistant have collapsed. They are in full retreat. They have blinked.

This is what Mr Sampson has offered his ideological brothers on Bay Street and elsewhere: Ortech, a research agency; a few tree nurseries; the convention centre; and the Province of Ontario Savings Office. That's right; not LCBO, not Ontario Hydro, not TVO.

Oh, Mr Speaker, the shame of it all. Mr Sampson, you must either demand a return to the back bench or a promotion to cabinet. Don't demean yourself any further.



Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I rise to inform all members of this assembly about a manufacturer in my riding that recently launched another product packaging innovation. In Canada the Minute Maid company is based in Willowdale and employs 150 people with a frozen juice manufacturing operation in Peterborough. The plant recently launched the new easy-peel ring on its line of frozen juices and drinks, making it easier for consumers to use the product. This new product line is the result of two years of research and development by Mississauga-based Sonoco Containers.

The facility in Peterborough is a model operation. Since it opened in 1985, production has quadrupled, employment tripled, and the variety of products manufactured has increased tenfold, all positive signs of growth. The plant is unionized under the United Food and Commercial Workers and enjoys excellent labour relations. The Peterborough operation is recognized within the Minute Maid company among the top plants for safety, environmental compliance, productivity, product quality and innovation.

Let me congratulate the Minute Maid company and the local workers for their innovation and hard work. Their contribution to the community of Peterborough has been positive, rewarding and beneficial for everyone involved.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): For well over a year I have witnessed the government's heavy-handed and dictatorial approach to the restructuring process in Ontario. I'm deeply opposed to the government's unilateral decisions to force amalgamations on municipalities, school boards and hospitals. The Premier's plan to dump the whole gamut of social service costs on to property taxpayers is nothing short of a disaster.

Now Kent county has fallen under the axe. The government's process for restructuring in Kent is no better than the disastrous process used in Metro Toronto. The Mike Harris plan is fundamentally flawed. The Harris government has forced restructuring on to municipalities without adequate information, based on one-sided arguments and unproven speculations. In Kent the process has been driven at breakneck speed, forcing a wedge into local government and creating incredible stress and divisions within our communities. It is feared that 500 jobs will be lost and with them the responsiveness to local needs.

Both rural and urban centres feel they have lost their democratic voice. The die is cast. There is no choice left for the 23 municipalities of Kent. But rest assured the people of Chatham-Kent will have a voice about Mike Harris when the next provincial election is called.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): In 1996 this Conservative government removed the requirement that 2.25 hours of hands-on care per day be provided to residents in long-term-care facilities. Residents, families and health care providers in homes for the aged and nursing homes know that removing this guaranteed level of care has resulted in a deterioration of the quality of care and life for those living in long-term-care facilities.

In Sudbury health care workers have brought attention to this serious problem in a special way. CUPE Locals 3607, 1182, 2219 and 148 organized A Penny for Your Thoughts campaign -- 2,889 workers, residents, families and friends each donated one penny to send a message to Mike Harris: Rethink your thoughts around long-term-care funding and levels of care in our institutions.

Each person who donated a penny believes this is a shameful situation and wants the 2.25 hours of care reinstituted immediately. They also believe Mike Harris should spend 24 hours at a long-term-care facility to witness at first hand how his cuts are affecting seniors and those who are developmentally challenged.

On behalf of CUPE workers at our area institutions, the member for Nickel Belt and I present these 2,889 pennies to the Premier. We believe he must rethink his thoughts on mandated levels of care. Mike Harris must spend a day at a nursing home or home for the aged so he can know about the impact of his cuts. He might then understand that our seniors deserve better.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): It's my pleasure to stand in the House today and announce that once again the riding of Perth is to be the focus for change in Ontario.

Today is the first day of the 44th annual meeting of the Ontario small urban municipalities section of AMO. The conference is being held at the Victorian Inn on the Park in Stratford from April 30 to May 3 and is being hosted by His Worship Mayor David Hunt of the city of Stratford.

During these times of change, it's important for everyone to work together to ensure a prosperous future for Ontario. This conference gives small urban municipal leaders from across Ontario the opportunity to have input into the issues which concern them most.

This year's conference will include discussions on urban-rural restructuring, economic impact of hospital restructuring in rural Ontario, changes to the provision of services within municipalities and the new Municipal Act.

There is no doubt that there is need for change in Ontario and that municipal governments are a big part of the solution. Municipalities provide strong and effective leadership and are a vital and essential component of government.

It's a great honour for the city of Stratford to be hosting this conference where so much of the future of Ontario municipalities will be discussed. As a matter of fact, this is the second year in a row that Stratford has received this distinction. In itself, this is quite an achievement, and it shows that whether it's in municipal governance, manufacturing or agriculture, the riding of Perth is number one when it comes to setting an example for the rest of Ontario.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You know, I think I have a point of privilege; I also have a ruling. Can I do it after ministry statements and before question period? Thank you.



Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I rise to announce that today our government intends to introduce nurse practitioner legislation to remove the red tape, making it easier for nurse practitioners to deliver services to patients.

The Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act will improve access to primary care services across the province and means that, if the legislation is passed by this House, more patients in Ontario will soon be able to receive more health care services from nurse practitioners.

We know that these are difficult times for nurses and other health care providers. The goal of restructuring, however, is not to save dollars; it is to redirect resources to front-line patient care. For example, we are making reinvestments to create opportunities for nurses to provide care to people in various settings. Our recent announcements of funding for the healthy babies program will create new jobs for public health nurses, and reinvestments in long-term care and hospital-based priority programs will create hundreds of new nursing positions.

We know from experience in other jurisdictions such as Britain and Australia that once restructuring is complete there will be even more opportunities for nurses.

Today's initiative is just one example and just one part of our vision for health care reform. Once passed, the Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act will legally recognize nurse practitioners and will enable them to practise to their full potential within a multidisciplinary health team. Nurses play a valuable role in our health care system, and this legislation recognizes their contribution in providing care to patients.

This legislation amends the Nursing Act and other related acts and sets out regulations that allow nurse practitioners to communicate a diagnosis of common disorders or diseases, prescribe and administer certain treatments and certain medications, order certain ultrasounds and basic X-rays and order basic lab tests.

There are already more than 200 nurse practitioners working throughout the province in communities such as Ottawa, Hamilton, West Lorne, Cambridge and Lanark, to name just a few. Until now, they have had to get a physician's written approval before proceeding with treatment decisions. Today's announcement and the passage of the legislation will help remove the red tape and end the paper-chase. It will promote physicians and nurses working together to deliver quality care to patients.

For example, Linda Jones, a nurse practitioner working in a multidisciplinary team in the southeast Ottawa community health centre, told us that she has a 300-page protocol manual to legally support her current practice. We want to take the time that doctors and nurses put into this kind of paperwork and put it into providing services to patients. The ministry has received more than 900 letters of support for this initiative from nurses and physicians over the past two years alone.

Prior to introducing this legislation, the ministry, under the previous government, conducted numerous consultations, and those consultations continued over the last two years. Health experts and analysts agree that nurse practitioners will complement and enhance our health care system and will mean better all-round care for patients. Research done in Canada and in the US supports those views as well.


Today's initiative will help create jobs for the 30 nurse practitioners who graduated from Ontario's post-degree university certificate program last year and the 96 more nurses expected to graduate next September. It also means that primary health care centres, clinics and emergency departments of hospitals will be able to take advantage of the skills of nurse practitioners. Patients will benefit from more comprehensive health care.

Our legislation also addresses the need for additional health care providers in northern and rural underserviced communities. Physicians have told us that they need professional support in these communities. Nurse practitioners will be able to provide that support.

We believe our actions will lead to better collaboration between nurse practitioners, family physicians and other health providers, which means better all-round care and enhanced services for more patients. This will support our government's vision for quality health care in Ontario, providing the right care in the right place at the right time.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly recognize some of the many nurses who have supported the introduction of this legislation. Present in the members' gallery today are Dr Charlotte Noesgaard, president of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario; Ms Carol Sargo, president of the Nurse Practitioners Association of Ontario; Ms Barb Wahl, president of the Ontario Nurses' Association; Ms Lynne Purvis, nursing practice adviser from the College of Nurses of Ontario; and Dr Alan Hudson, CEO of the Toronto Hospital.

I would be remiss if I did not also recognize Dr Dorothy Hall, the distinguished nurse who began this initiative, and Ms Cheri Vigar, the president of the College of Nurses.

Nurses provide top-quality care to tens of thousands of people each and every day in this province. This new legislation will make it easier for them to provide more services to patients.

The previous government referred this matter to the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council. This government has moved beyond that to introducing the legislation, and I look forward to all-party support on this important initiative on behalf of nurses, a crucial part of our health care system in Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Sudbury East, please come to order.

I have a point of order for the member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, I think we should at this time recognize Ruth Grier, the former Minister of Health, who is in the members' gallery and originally made this announcement in this House, with the support of the Liberal Party, of course.

The Speaker: As a matter of fact, I had a note to do this at the appropriate time, and clearly the member has usurped me. I welcome the ex-member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ms Ruth Grier.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I'm certainly pleased to rise today on an unusual occasion, an occasion on which we can actually say to the government, "You did something good."

We support the recognition of the work of nurse practitioners as important primary health providers in this province and we look forward to the full development of this in a manner that will make this an important development for nurses in this province. We look forward to the funding that will allow nurses to be able to train and to practise in this newer profession that is finally, after a very long period of time, being brought forward by this government. We cannot continue in the vein of supporting the government, however, in the sense of its overall approach to nurses.

This day is most appropriate to celebrate with nurses who are, with good reason, coming to get what is a small piece of good news for them -- small in the sense of the number of nurses it affects; important and significant in the sense of what it could augur for the future, but small given the context that you, Minister, have put nurses in this province into. The kind of work conditions that you have created for the vast majority of nurses is reprehensible. The kind of future, the long finger of apprehension and fear that you have put into nurses' lives in no way reflects the respect and the positive feelings that most Ontarians feel towards nurses and indeed towards other health practitioners.

I attended a press conference with you on some of your rehashed reannouncements of funding that you promised many times before, just as you promised this legislation many times before, and in that I heard you make a comment which I think is unfortunately more indicative than the good news you bring today of the approach of your government towards practising nurses in this province. You said you had yet to receive one phone call from one unemployed nurse in this province and therefore you assumed everything was fine for nurses. There have been thousands of nurses -- and the other day in this House -- who have lost their jobs, not because of happenstance, not because of technology, but because of your decision and your disdain for that profession as expressed in your actions.

Minister, you also expressed the other day that some 15,000 nurses had been through a program of being able to fit back into the economy. Instead, less than 4,000 have travelled through that program. Again, what nurses need is indeed a minister sensitive enough to understand the value of nurse practitioners, believing enough in the future of public health care to see different ways and different points of entry for practice, but also a minister who is capable of defending the key ingredients to any changes to health care in the future, which are the human resources that exist in it today.

What we would have liked to hear from you is some form of commitment to nurses in general. We would have liked for you to say that we recognize that the true value of the excellence we have in our health care system today lies, because of their numbers, largely with the nurses we have; indeed with doctors and other practitioners, but it is the 120,000 nurses we have in this province, or that we have had, who really bring us the quality and the value that we have in our health care system.

I talked to nurses recently in hospitals. I talked, for example, to obstetrics nurses who are now compelled by your cutbacks to the hospitals in which they work to do things like exit mothers after one day's worth of care. They're doing this with all the skill that their profession enables them, with all the care that you allow them, but they know their patients are not happy; they know their patients are not pleased to be moved out of hospital that quickly. They know, most of all, that the community services which should be there for those patients, which should allow those nurses to discharge their responsibilities with a sense of care and concern, aren't there. They're not there because you're not showing the due regard that nurses require from you.

What we need to see, for those nurses, for the nurses across the province, is some form of plan. We need not just this long overdue legislation for nurse practitioners, we need a human resource plan that makes a commitment to the people who've invested their time and their energy and their care in caring for sick Ontarians. Minister, you don't show enough regard for that in this House. You don't show that in your actions, you don't show that in your hospital restructuring commission that is closing hospitals with abandon, with not one human resource plan yet being tabled, yet 24 hospitals are being closed. Minister, that's wrong.

We say to you, thank you for doing a little bit of what's right today, but we look forward to much improvement on behalf of the nurses in the province.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's indeed pleasurable to have some good news in the health field from this minister, and I want him to know very clearly that our party supports this move. He knows that. He knows that the member for Beaches-Woodbine, when she was in his office, and that the former member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore worked very hard on this material for a long time. Frankly, it was not very becoming of the minister not to have recognized the work that went on by these two members, and also not to recognize the work of the Ministry of Health employees who are here to celebrate today, because they have done a lot of this work.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): This is long overdue.


Mrs Boyd: We all know, those of us who have been in government, that we simply cannot do this kind of work without many, many years of research, of negotiation and of work around the policy issues, and that is what has happened in this case.

The member for High Park-Swansea was heard to say loudly a few moments ago, "This is long overdue," and he's right. It's at least two years overdue, because this legislation was drafted and ready when our government left office and it has taken a long time for you to bring this forward.

It is very, very delightful to see the coalition of groups that support and represent registered nurses and registered practical nurses in the province, and I congratulate all of you who are here today and all your members for the kind of work you've done to ensure that this day arrives.

What the minister has announced is very important indeed, and I am delighted that he is very clear that he does not see this as a cost-saving measure. What I am concerned about is that he provides us with no information as to how nurse practitioners are going to be paid under this legislation. We will be waiting very eagerly to find that out, because it is extremely important for us to understand that this piece of legislation is coming forward without the full primary care plan that has been promised and promised and still has not come forward.

Is the money to pay nurse practitioners going to come out of the already very, very stressed budgets of community health centres? Community health centres are for the most part the primary employers of nurse practitioners. Or are we going to ask physicians, who are some of the other primary care specialists in the province, to share some of the resources that have been allocated their way? We don't know. We don't know whether nurse practitioners are expecting to be paid differently and we are not sure until the minister makes it clear that the legislation will see these well-paid, very highly trained professionals able to work within our communities. I think he owes it to us to answer that question.

Another issue I'd like to point out to the minister is that in the expanded scope of practice that he outlines here there is nothing about the ability of a nurse practitioner to refer to a specialist. We know in terms of the midwives legislation that they are unable to refer to specialists because there is no mechanism for the specialists then to get paid in this province. We anticipate that as this goes forward, those are very serious questions that we will have to be raising, because the kind of vision the minister presents, with which we agree, around nurse practitioners having that primary care function means that without the gatekeeping function of physicians and without their ability to get to the next stage of specialty, in some cases, it is going to be very difficult for them to practise as they were meant to practise and to deliver the kinds of services you envision.

While we are supportive of the legislation -- not that we've seen it of course; we assume that we will be supportive of it; we will be looking at it very carefully -- we will have some areas of question and possibly, depending on how the legislation is worded, some amendments that need to be offered. This is a very important piece of legislation. It is not the kind of legislation we would be prepared to pass without thorough scrutiny and consultation with the experts in the field, who are the nurse practitioners themselves.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Yesterday the member for Dovercourt, Mr Silipo, raised a point of order with respect to standing order 106(g) concerning the referral of intended appointments to the standing committee on government agencies. The member suggested that certificates of intended appointments to the transition team and the financial advisory board provided for in the City of Toronto Act, 1997, should have been referred to the government agencies committee.

The member for Dovercourt may in fact be correct. It may be that these two bodies are defined as agencies, boards or commissions, and that intended appointments to them are subject to committee review. However, there is no way that I as Speaker can make that determination.

As the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the government House leader stated yesterday, there are numerous examples on the record of appointments made without referral to the government agencies committee. The fact is that the government defines what is an agency, board or commission, and it is the government that knows of its own intent to make an appointment. The starting place for the government agencies committee is the certificate it receives from the public appointments secretariat. It does not ferret out appointments that should have been referred but weren't. Likewise, there is no way that a Speaker could possibly be in a position to determine which intended appointments should or should not be referred to the committee. Therefore, I don't find your particular point of order in order.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I have a point of privilege from the member for Sudbury East. The members for Brampton North and Chatham-Kent, if you have any more interest in proceeding with that discussion, do so in the lobby. Thank you.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Mr Speaker, I would like to raise a point of privilege under section 21(a) of our standing orders, which reads as follows: "Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act and other statutes, or by practice, precedent, usage and custom."

I believe that my privilege as a member has been breached, and I'm going to ask for your indulgence to explain the situation, and I ask for your intervention to make sure that my rights are restored.

Briefly, the matter is this: You will know that beginning last September, members of this caucus have been very vocal in their criticism of the cuts to the family support plan and we have raised many, many cases in this House on behalf of our constituents who have suffered serious financial consequences as a result of the cuts. In November my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold and I went to the Downsview office to see how it was functioning and discovered, of course, that the place was in an absolute shambles, and for our efforts we were rewarded with a police investigation of break-and-enter and trespassing.

Given all of our efforts to get at the root of the problem of the plan and of the problems at the Downsview office, you would no doubt be as surprised as we were to learn late last evening that members of the Conservative caucus this morning began tours of the Downsview office to see the office and to meet the staff, and in fact these tours for the caucus of the Conservative Party are going to continue over the next eight weeks. The executive assistant to the Attorney General told our staff that an invitation for opposition members to tour the building had not been extended. When a staff person for my colleague the member for London Centre called and said that she wanted to participate this morning in a tour of the building, Mr Moran, the executive assistant to Charles Harnick, said that he would allow her to participate, but he did not have the details of the tour this morning. This is the executive assistant. In fact, he never returned our call until after the tour started this morning.

I am very angry about this situation. I find it unacceptable. I find it a complete display of contempt for the opposition members, who have raised serious concerns about the operation of this office, that the Attorney General would extend an invitation to tour this facility and to talk to staff of only the government caucus. I remind you, Mr Speaker, that this is a government facility, paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario, the staff employed are paid by the taxpayers of Ontario, and it is not acceptable that this privilege be allowed only to the government caucus.

You will know that the practice and indeed the protocol around here are that if government employees are going to be used in any exercise of information sharing, that has to happen with members of all three caucuses. I remind you that next week for the budget lockup, for example, that is indeed what is going to happen.

I believe that my rights and my privileges as a member have been breached. The Attorney General has shown contempt for members of the opposition, particularly those who have raised concerns, and I would like you to intervene to ensure that all members of this House will be treated equally.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): It has always been the intention of the ministry to allow anyone who wants to go through the family support plan to tour the facility, Mr Speaker, and we have --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Oh, especially now.

Ms Martel: After we found out.

Mr Laughren: What a class act.


The Speaker: Order. Just a minute, Attorney General. Members opposite, it's very difficult for you to stand on a point of order and have the response made and for me to hear it if you're heckling and barracking back and forth. I give the opportunity to the Attorney General because it's within his rights to say it. I ask you to allow him to state his case. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: It's certainly our intention to have small tours arranged. We will be going caucus to caucus. In fact, we offered a tour to the member for London Centre and she indicated that she would get back to us. So it's not the intention that this be something just for government caucus members. We intend to allow small groups to tour the facility and it's our intention to go around to each caucus.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Further to that point of order, on a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: Since my name has been mentioned by both of the other parties, I want to make it clear that it was after we found out that the caucus of the Tory party had been offered this that my office called. What is extraordinarily offensive to me as a singled-out member is that the executive assistant to the Attorney General -- on hearing that the Attorney General himself last December, when we were talking about the bill that he was bringing through on family responsibility -- offered a tour to me and not to the rest of my caucus. So it is a double breach. It is not appropriate to offer it to only one person in the way that he did, when he found out that his superior had already offered that tour.

The Speaker: Let me say quickly that, as Speaker, I cannot compel nor direct any minister or any member to offer tours, of any place for that matter, to people within the chamber. I appreciate the fact that the member for Sudbury East brought the point of order forward, but it is completely up to and at the discretion of the ministers, and they must have the ability to offer tours --


The Speaker: Member for Fort York -- to whom they --

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): No way.

The Speaker: Leader of the third party -- to whom they would like to offer them. With the greatest respect, I cannot direct ministry staff to give tours to opposition members. It isn't within my power. If the minister is suggesting here today that he is prepared to offer up that opportunity, that's completely up to the minister. It is not something that I can direct ministries, ministers or premiers to do.

Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, I do not wish to engage in a debate with you on this, but I can recall that when we were in government it was made very clear to us by people who are steeped in the traditions of this place that if we were, for example, as a ministry or minister to give a briefing to any caucus, that had to be extended to all three caucuses. That was a tradition in this place. You could not use the public sector to single out particular treatment to one caucus and not the other two. I think my colleague from Sudbury East has a good point and that the Attorney General has goofed.

The Speaker: With respect to the member for Nickel Belt, that is a debating point, and I'm not suggesting the last comment isn't. Let me say, from a point of being accessible and reasonable, that point you make is acceptable. From a point of compelling a minister to give a briefing or to give a tour to the opposition, I don't have that power.

Mr Laughren: It's a privilege.

The Speaker: No. I don't have that power to direct. I say to the member for Nickel Belt, if you would like to come back tomorrow on a point of order and cite me examples where a Speaker has directed a minister to provide a briefing or provide a tour, I'd be happy to see them. But having looked at this, not just at this time but in the past, I cannot compel a minister to give a tour or briefing to any specific member of this Legislature.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Is this the same point of order? Because I have ruled.

Mr Silipo: No, I'm not going to quibble with your ruling. I would say to you that if your ruling is that you cannot compel a minister, I think that is one thing, and I think that if we find precedent to the contrary, we'll obviously raise that with you. But I think there's a distinction between whether you can do that, whether you can compel a minister to take certain actions or not, and whether you find that in fact a member's privileges have been breached.

I think that you need to rule, sir, on the point of whether a member of the opposition who was denied the same opportunities that are offered to a member of the government, rising on a point of privilege -- I think there's an issue of privilege that has been breached, and I think that on that point you can and should rule, and obviously I would urge you to rule in favour of finding that there has been a breach. Then, what the remedy is is another matter.

The Speaker: If you would like to cite me the head of privilege where I could even begin to hang my hat on that type of ruling, I'll examine it, but I don't know where that is, and I can't see where I could possibly begin to accept that argument. With the greatest respect, there's lots of informations within caucuses that are not shared amongst all members, all kinds of informations, and I --

Ms Martel: He's a government employee. Government employees --

The Speaker: Member for Sudbury East, I did hear your point of order at great length. I don't know the head of privilege where I would find an argument that would make me force a minister, compel a minister to offer tours to opposition members. I understand where you're saying privilege has been usurped or breached. If you cite me a heading, I'll be happy to look at it.

Point of order, member for St Catharines.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): It is on a point of privilege, Mr Speaker, that I rise. Perhaps "Intimidation of the Legislature" might be the category it's under and I'll ask you to look into it. I'll be quite brief. It is an edict that comes from the office of the Secretary of the Management Board of Cabinet, and it says, "There has been a regrettable delay in the passage in the Legislature of the motion for interim supply to authorize government spending for six months beginning May 1, 1997."

First of all, I wasn't aware that the office of the Secretary of the Management Board of Cabinet was to tell this Legislature how it should deal with specific motions that are before the Legislature, and it seems to me that the office of the Secretary of the Management Board of Cabinet is trying to intimidate the Legislature or place pressure on the Legislature to deal with a specific motion in a specific period of time.

As you would be aware, Mr Speaker, and as all members of the Legislature would be aware, the government has the opportunity to bring forward a supply motion much earlier in the month, at any time earlier in the month, and to have it appropriately debated. Interim supply allows an opportunity for members of the Legislature to deal with matters that aren't always contained within the purview of a piece of legislation or another motion and is often a good opportunity for members to be able to canvass those issues, because they all deal with expenditures by the government.

My main concern, however, in this case is -- and I guess the Chair of the Management Board will help clarify this, but I think the office of the Secretary is a civil service position, and it seems to me when an edict of this kind is put out, that it could be judged as an effort to intimidate or direct the Legislature in the way it should deal with a particular motion.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Government House leader.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Well, I guess two words come to mind: total nonsense. There is a need if paycheques, for example --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon David Johnson: In the lives of many working people the paycheque is a very significant event, every week, or two weeks, or month or whenever it comes in. People normally get to plan their life around the arrival of the paycheque or the funds appearing in their account through electronic means. It only makes good sense to inform people if that particular paycheque could be delayed. In this case the government has allocated two full days to the interim supply, we're going into the third --


The Speaker: Order. I would ask the members to come to order. Member for Cochrane North, thank you. Member for Cochrane North, I'm not going to debate it. Government House leader, I'm not really interested in hearing about the length of time of your debate, etc. The point of order was about this letter. If you could address the letter, I'd really appreciate it. Thank you.

Hon David Johnson: To the best of my knowledge, the letter is simply an information piece. It in no way affects or intimidates this House. To read it in that light is utter nonsense. We all know that. There's a requirement to inform people if there's a possibility. I haven't got a copy of the letter, but from what has been read to me, I can only take it that it's simply an information letter to inform members -- probably gone out on a fairly broad basis, members of the civil service, perhaps elected representatives, I'm not sure -- of the possibility of a delay in their cheques. I think people would want to be informed of that fact and I suspect that there would be severe criticism if people were not informed and if indeed it did happen, which is quite a distinct possibility given the situation we're facing here today.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Mr Speaker, I rise on this point partly because I was the one who was speaking last yesterday evening when the House adjourned. But in speaking specifically to the letter that has been written and the words "regrettable delay" in it, I wonder if the Chair of Management Board would tell us how is it that he has suddenly become so concerned with people getting paycheques -- the ones he hasn't laid off, of course -- at this late date, when he had an opportunity to have this supply motion debated last Thursday and because he bungled it --

The Speaker: Member for Nickel Belt, I appreciate that input, but I'm trying to deal with the letter. His point of order really was out of order.

Hon David Johnson: Then rule him out of order.

The Speaker: Well, I did stand and rule them out of order, with the greatest respect, and I ruled you out of order as well.


The Speaker: This appears to be an eventful day we're having today, so I would ask the members to come to order.

Let me say to the members that, having read the beginning of this passage, I must admit that I think I should reserve on this particular letter. I think there may be an opportunity to review it. I heard only the first paragraph. I've had opportunity to read that. I haven't read the whole letter, but I will tell you that I will reserve and report back with respect to the propriety of the letter, the contents, and I will try to ascertain the dimensions of how far it was sent and to whom it was sent. I think that's the best I can do at this time.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On a separate point of order, Mr Speaker: Earlier today there were it looked to me like hundreds of adult learning students lined up to come into the House, many of whom are from my riding. Looking in the chamber, I would say that many of them have not been admitted. I realize there are tours, I understand that, but I would like to know what happened to those students who were lined up. Will they be able to get in, or have they been put in an overflow room or what?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): Mr Speaker, I can help you on that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Well, I always need help, so I will ask the member for Fort William.

Mrs McLeod: There are in fact several hundred adult education students who have come down to make their concerns known to the Minister of Education. Clearly it was impossible to accommodate them all in the gallery. The security has opened up an overflow. They can accommodate some 30 to 40 more. I am not sure that many more could be accommodated, but I hope as the tours leave, they will process more of the people outside.

The Speaker: To you, as those people leave and come and go, so many will be accommodated as well. I thank the member for Fort William for her assistance and we will do our very best.

Ms Churley: Thank you.

The Speaker: You're welcome. It's time for oral questions.


Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): On a point of order, Mr Speaker --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Oh, actually, I was just going to do that. I thank the Minister of Agriculture for reminding me. I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Her Excellency Susana Ruiz Cerutti, the ambassador of the republic of Argentina, and Mr George Stok-Capella, consul general of Argentina. Welcome.

Now it's time for oral questions. The leader of the official opposition.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. I want to raise with you a matter that I am sure you will recognize is of the utmost gravity. On September 4, 1995, 35 men, women and children, all members of the Stony Point band, formed a camp in Ipperwash Provincial Park. They were engaged in a peaceful, unarmed protest.

But on September 6 something went terribly wrong. An OPP officer shot and killed 38-year-old Dudley George. That officer was recently found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and it was found that he lied, both during the investigation leading up to the charge being laid and in court, together with two other officers. Of course that is not the end of the matter. There are a number of outstanding questions in this which lead to your government's involvement in this matter.

You maintain there is no such involvement, so I'm going to offer you now this opportunity, because I'm sure you're going to welcome this, to call a public inquiry into this affair.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the opportunity. As the member knows and as every expert opinion has been given, including the Liberals when they were in power, and the NDP, and everybody who's commented on this, it is not appropriate to call an inquiry while the matter is before the court. I understand from the papers there is to be an appeal. While I appreciate the opportunity, I think you would agree with me it is totally inappropriate (a) to comment and (b) to call an inquiry at this time.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, I'm not asking for your comment, I'm asking for you to make a commitment to calling an inquiry. If you want to call that inquiry some time down the road after all legal proceedings have come to a conclusion, that's one thing, but I'm asking for your commitment, Premier, to call an inquiry.

I'm asking for that commitment because what we're talking about here, and I'm not sure you understand the seriousness of this, is a terrible tragedy. For the first time in over 100 years in the province of Ontario a native land claims protester was shot and killed. We know the police lied about their actions. We know there was some communication between representatives of your government and the police. We know that concern about this is growing daily, and more and more people across the province are beginning to ask two very important questions which ought to be answered: First, how did this happen? Second, what can we do to ensure it does not happen again?

Premier, once again, can you not today commit to calling a public inquiry?

Hon Mr Harris: One of the problems you get into until you wait till legal proceedings are over is getting into language or things that aren't true. I think the member referred to a land claim. There has not been nor is there even to this day any land claim on the property in question, so I think it's important that in your rhetoric you actually get the facts correct. That's one of the reasons why you wait until all the cases before the courts are settled and then you take a look: Is there still information that would be helpful to prevent what we all acknowledge was a tragedy, a very serious situation, something we don't ever want to happen again?

The court case has been following it, has outlined some of the reasons why something happened that we all want avoided. But there are legal matters before there. There is a matter of justice, there is a matter of an appeal before the courts, and that's why every Premier, every Attorney General, every Solicitor General, every government has waited until those cases are completed. Then you assess: Is there still information we need to know and what are the parameters that are best to go about that? So we will do that in the logical way.

Mr McGuinty: I think you owe it to the family and friends of Dudley George, I think you owe it to all aboriginal groups throughout the province, I think you owe it to all Ontarians, I think you owe it to the members of your government and I think you owe it to yourself to begin to take steps today to remove the cloud that hangs over your head.

There is a very real question as to the involvement of your government in the affairs leading up to the death of Dudley George, an Ontario resident. You have done nothing to this point in time to show that you have any genuine interest in getting to the bottom of this, in removing that cloud that hangs over this very government and ensuring that Ontarians are answered with respect to two simple questions: First, how did this happen, how could this possibly happen in Ontario as it hasn't happened in over 100 years? Second, what can we do to ensure that it never, ever happens again? All I'm asking for is a commitment to hold an inquiry at some point in time.

Hon Mr Harris: There has not, certainly in my opinion or in the Attorney General's opinion or in the government's opinion, been anything come forward that offers any shred of any kind of a cloud other than ones you may want to allege or are trying to put there. I want to make that clear.

Second, we also owe it, as a good government does, and the Attorney General owes it to the justice system, to those who have been charged, to those who have been accused, due process under the law. As every government before us has had respect for that equal to the respect we have for the George family, that we have for the natives involved, we have to make sure that procedures in the future we hope would never have this happen again.

As a government, we have to be cognizant not only of doing all the right things, but doing the right things at the right time. So we take that extra onus on us, over and above what you seem to be prepared to accept. That is the price of government. We're prepared to accept that.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I want to follow up on that. It has to do with the same issue. I think there is total, ample, obvious evidence that demands this public inquiry right now. You have said publicly, Premier, that the OPP were acting all on their own, that they had sole responsibility, that whatever happened at Ipperwash was their responsibility only. We have a very different view of that. We hold you and your government primarily responsible for the handling at Ipperwash. I'll give you some evidence.

You and your government decided that the province would take steps to remove the occupiers ASAP. That took away the OPP's options for negotiations. You decided to treat this not as a land claim but as a trespass issue. That took away the OPP's options. Your Conservative member, with your full knowledge and consent and support, was a constant visitor at the command post. Your Conservative member, I assume with the knowledge of what you planned, had in the paper "Queen's Park To Take Hard Line Against Park Occupiers" the day of the shooting. Will you now agree, because the evidence is clear for the need for a public inquiry, to hold a public --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Hon Mr Harris: I think I've pretty well completely answered the question, other than to repeat that for some reason or other you seem to want to get some rhetoric into it that's never been in it. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has alleged there was a land claim, then, before 1995, and post, right up to and including today. You have accused us of not treating this as a land claim. Well, guilty. Nobody, including the natives, has said it was a land claim. So let's just get that on the record, because you keep seeming to want to slip little things in there that even the natives aren't claiming. Other than that, I've answered all your questions and at the appropriate time we will do the right thing.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): You said shoot to kill.

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Phillips: The first nations entered the park to --


The Speaker: Stand up and say it; I didn't hear it.

Mr Phillips: May I proceed, Speaker?

The Speaker: Order. Does someone over here want to stand on a point of order? I didn't hear the comment, if there was a comment.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Mr Speaker, I think the member for Cochrane North was completely out of order by indicating that the Premier gave the order to shoot to kill.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, I didn't hear the comment. If the comment was made or if you want to withdraw it, you have the opportunity at this point in time.


The Speaker: Order. Before we get into this, maybe you should see whether or not the member's going to withdraw.

Mr Len Wood: I had said nothing wrong, as far as I'm concerned. I asked the Premier a question. It was his response --

The Speaker: He's not withdrawing.


The Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, that's your decision. Supplementary, Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: I want to follow up on the land claim. The first nations occupied that park because they believed there was a sacred burial ground in that park. As a matter of fact, this same article the day of the shooting, only hours before the shooting, goes on to say, "A group of Stony Point natives believe that it holds a sacred burial ground." That is a land claim. That is why they went in there. The government months later laid charges. They were forced to drop those charges. Why? Because there was evidence that existed here with the government, within yards of where we're sitting here, that there was a sacred burial ground there. The government was forced to drop charges.

I say again, Premier, the evidence is crystal clear that it is you we want the inquiry about and that there's no need for you today to deny holding that inquiry. We will accept legal advice that says the inquiry cannot begin until there is an opportunity for fair trials to take place, but I repeat to you again, the evidence is there. Will you commit today to hold a public inquiry?

Hon Mr Harris: The last time I recall somebody or an Attorney General rushing into a public inquiry was Ian Scott on Patti Starr. We all know what happened when it was prematurely set up. We all know what happened when the criteria were set up prematurely. We all know it had to be stopped; the money wasted and withdrawn. We all know what a fiasco it was.

We're determined not to make the same mistake. We're determined to wait until the criminal matters before the court are finished with. When that is taken care of, we will make the appropriate decision in the interests of all concerned and we will also respect the justice system and the correct time frame.

Mr Phillips: I'll be as direct as I can, Premier: We think you personally are responsible for what took place at Ipperwash. The only way we will get that clarified is through a public inquiry. I want to be very clear: No one is suggesting the public inquiry start until there are assurances it will not jeopardize court cases. We accept that. What we want from you today is a commitment to hold those public inquiries.

I'll go further on the evidence. You said in the Legislature that your office -- because we requested the files, you said: "We have no files. There are no files, there are no records, because we had no involvement." But we know differently. We know that your executive assistant was at meetings on September 5 and September 6. Those meetings said and instructed, "The province will take steps to remove the occupiers ASAP." What we want from you today and what the public have a right to demand is a commitment. We don't want this thing hidden, swept under the rug, stonewalled. We want a commitment today to a full public inquiry so the public can get to the root of this sorry, sorry Ontario tale.

Hon Mr Harris: With respect to any allegations, you are wrong, and at the appropriate time we'll respond.

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

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Premier: The Premier continues to try to skate around this issue. In other situations like this where someone is killed, there may in fact be a criminal proceeding, but at the same time that criminal proceeding is occurring, the coroner's office will make a statement that there will be a coroner's inquiry. The coroner's office will make that statement that there will be a coroner's inquiry so that all those concerned with the death can be reassured that all the information will come out, not just the criminal issues, not just the narrow question of who is criminally responsible.

Premier, that's what people across Ontario are asking of you. Will you give a commitment at this time that there will be a public inquiry? The public inquiry can take place after the criminal matters are dealt with, but the commitment to a public inquiry must come now.

Hon Mr Harris: No, it mustn't.

Mr Hampton: The Premier does nothing but reinforce the growing impression that he has something to hide and that he is trying to hide something. This is not a difficult matter. It's not difficult. Coroners often give a commitment to hold a coroner's inquiry even as criminal issues are being dealt with in the court.

There is nothing stopping the Premier from standing in his place today and saying to people all across Ontario and indeed to first nations people all across Canada that a public inquiry will be held into this matter; that the involvement of the Conservative member, Mr Beaubien, in this will be dealt with; and that the police logs will be dealt with, the police logs which continue to dribble out day after day, which are not necessarily related to the criminal events but are certainly related to the death of Dudley George.

The Premier can give that commitment. We're asking the Premier: Give that commitment that you will hold a public inquiry, and give it now.


Hon Mr Harris: I think I've answered the question, and I'm not the coroner.

Mr Hampton: This is the information people want to know about. We know meetings were held with political staff, including a personal assistant to the Premier, just before the shooting. We know that Conservative MPP Mr Beaubien was at the OPP command post communicating with the Premier's office at the very time the OPP officers were deciding to force a confrontation with the native people. We know the government briefing notes state that the government wanted the occupiers out of the park ASAP. We know that the OPP changed their long-standing strategy of avoiding confrontation with aboriginal people just after this government took office and just before this event happened. We know that the police logs state, Inspector John Carson stated, "The Premier and the Solicitor General want to deal with this," and to deal with it right away.

Police logbooks don't mention the Premier specifically for no reason. Premier, you're in this up to your neck. Call a public inquiry so the truth --

The Speaker: Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: All the information that should be made public while the court case is on has been made public, I believe; if there is other information, certainly there are vehicles to do so. But I think when the case is there, all of the information that has been made public indicates that the government's involvement was solely to seek an injunction. Other than that, I haven't seen one shred of any evidence, innuendo, anything other than in your mind, that suggests anything else. That includes statements from the commissioner of the OPP. That includes any of the information that's there; it includes any of the notes that are there; it includes any of the evidence that to date has come out at the trial.

So I can say to you that there is absolutely nothing there, that you are trying to make things up. You're not doing a very good job of it. But I want to assure the people, the public, the George family, the natives, of this: We will ensure that all of the information, all of the facts, all of the answers, anything they need access to or information, will be made available through the appropriate mechanism, whether it's a coroner's inquiry that you seem to be calling for, whether it's a public inquiry --

The Speaker: Thank you, Premier. I appreciate it. New question, third party. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: If the Premier will sit down, we can get on with this. I want to call the Premier on the comments he just made.

Premier, your lawyer, acting for you, wrote a letter to lawyers acting for the George family in this matter in the civil case trying to intimidate them, suggesting to them that if they released information, your government was going to come after them.

I put it to you, Premier, that you have done everything possible to stop information coming out, to stop briefing notes from coming out and to silence the lawyers for the George family. I put it to you that you have tried to avoid accountability on this. When are you going to call a public inquiry so that people across this province can have some confidence that all of the information is in fact coming out? When are you going to do that?

Hon Mr Harris: At the appropriate time.

Mr Hampton: I'll go back at it again, because the Premier continues to want to try to weave and dodge. Just like a coroner's inquiry, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from indicating here today in this Legislature --


Mr Hampton: Speaker, the government members may think this is a laughing matter; people across this province don't.

Interjection: You are.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): -- then we'll see who's smiling and smirking.

The Speaker: Order. Minister of Culture, come to order. Member for Dovercourt, come to order. Member for Cochrane North, come to order. Thank you. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Just as the situation exists with a coroner's inquiry, just as a coroner can indicate on the public record while criminal proceedings are being held that a coroner's inquest is going to be held to inquire into all of the issues surrounding a death, not just the narrow, criminal issues, you can stand in this House today, Premier, and you can call for a public inquiry. You can commit that a public inquiry will be held so that people across this province will have confidence that all of the information will come out. As it is now, information comes out in dribs and drabs. Police logs are coming out in dribs and drabs. What it's creating is a cloud, a great cloud of uncertainty and doubt, first of all now with respect to the OPP, the judge found that they were not honest; secondly with respect to the involvement of one of your backbenchers, and thirdly with respect to yourself. Clear the air, Premier. Call a public inquiry. Do the decent and right thing.

Hon Mr Harris: I want to say this: When the member makes allegations about members of my caucus laughing, they are. They are laughing at you.


Mr Hampton: I think the Premier's arrogance says much more about him than anyone else here.

I want to say to the Premier again, it is not me who changed the OPP's approach to dealing with first nations conflicts. That OPP approach, which had stood for at least five years, and longer, was changed soon after you became the government. It was not me who wrote a police log which states, "Inspector John Carson stated Premier and Solicitor General want to deal with this."

Premier, doesn't it occur to you how unusual it is that you are referred to in a police log, in a police log which specifically relates to the death of an individual, for which an OPP officer has now been found criminally negligent? I have to tell you, Premier, the OPP do not put extraneous information in their police logs. They're careful about what they put in their police logs because they know they may be called to account for them. That in itself, the fact that your name and the Solicitor General is referred to in the police log dealing immediately with this issue, is cause enough for a public inquiry.

Hon Mr Harris: I have to say that the police officers are careful what they put in a log, far more careful than the allegations and the freedom with which you throw the truth around in this Legislature. Far more careful than that, I might add.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): That comes close to calling him a liar.

Hon Mr Harris: That is close, yes.

Mr Hampton: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: If I have said something untrue here, I want the Premier to indicate what it is. I have merely read from what is already on the public record.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): He said it was an untruth.

The Speaker: I don't think it's a point of privilege, with great respect, to the member of the third party.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Is he going to withdraw? He called my leader a liar.

The Speaker: With the greatest respect, to the member for Lake Nipigon, I didn't hear that. I heard everything he said. I didn't hear him call him that. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: The question today that I seem to be getting is one over timing. I suggest to all members of the Legislature, the George family, all those who have an interest in this matter, that the appropriate time is in fact when the court cases are completed. Then we can look at the most appropriate vehicle; then we can look at the parameters; then we can look at that information which still people are looking for.

The member has also referenced a lot about the chief coroner. He's right. The chief coroner could call an inquest into this. I don't know if you're calling for that now as well, but that is a possibility, I suppose. That's up to the chief coroner. Perhaps he will make that decision in the fullness of time, at the appropriate time, if he feels that's justified as well.

In the meantime, let me assure you that --

The Speaker: Thank you, Premier. New question, official opposition.


Mr Phillips: There is clear, detailed evidence of the need for a public inquiry. In our opinion, that's not in dispute.

You have avoided committing to a public inquiry. We can only surmise the reason is that you intend to not call one; that is the reason why you're delaying. Otherwise, today, Premier, you would get up in the House and say, "We are going to have a public inquiry as soon as we legally can begin it." The evidence is you did make the decision to get them out of the park ASAP. That's clear evidence. You did decide to ignore their claims there was a burial ground in there. That's clear evidence. You did decide that you have no records in your office. That's clear evidence.

Will you today commit to that public inquiry? Otherwise, there will be the suspicion very much in the public that you have no intention of ever calling a public inquiry.

Hon Mr Harris: With the greatest respect, unless somebody wishes to misrepresent my position to the public, they'll have great confidence that we will do the right thing at the right time.

Mr Phillips: It is you, Premier, who made the decision to get them out of the park as soon as possible. It is you, Premier, who said, "I have no records because we had no involvement." It's you, Premier, who decided to ignore the burial ground claims, which is a land claim. So when you say people will have confidence that you will make the right decision, I repeat to you: Will you today commit to holding a public inquiry so we can get at the heart of your involvement and your government's involvement in this affair?

Hon Mr Harris: I find it passing strange that the member is prepared to go on the public record, particularly here in the Legislature, with all the things that he knows, and then he says we need an inquiry to find out if that's in fact what he knows. I want to say that as a preface to the question that's there.

Second, I think, and I repeat, that unless some member of this Legislature or somebody else wishes to go out and misrepresent our position to the public, the public will have great confidence that (a) we will respect the law, we will respect the timing and the rule of the law with not wanting to interfere with any court cases. We respect the rights of any individuals who may have been charged in this. At the same time, in doing that, we will do exactly the right thing to satisfy that all information is made public in this. We have absolutely nothing to hide. There is absolutely nothing other than some kind of incongruous web of facts that you wish to throw together in some sort of way in your own twisted minds that you think mean something other than the truth. There is absolutely nothing --

The Speaker: Thank you, Premier.


The Speaker: Come to order, Premier, please. New question, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: It's clear that the Premier either doesn't understand the gravity of this or he wants to stay away from the gravity of this.

Premier, here's the problem: You yourself and the Solicitor General are mentioned in the very police logs that relate to the incidents surrounding the death of Dudley George. You are referred to as wanting this issue dealt with right away.

You may think it's okay for you to stand here and say, "Well, I, Mike Harris, believe everything is fine," but there is a way to get to the bottom of this. You see, a public inquiry has the right to subpoena people. A public inquiry has the right to take information under oath. A public inquiry has the capacity to get all the facts in and to get them in under oath. A public inquiry has the capacity to clear your name and to ask, "What's your name doing in the police log?"

Premier, I think you owe it to the people to get to the bottom of this, and the way you do that is to --

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

Hon Mr Harris: I do intend to get to the bottom of this and I also owe it to the people to get to the bottom of this, and then the government has an added responsibility to get to the bottom of this at the right time. We accept that responsibility, one that opposition members don't have. They don't have that unless they choose to accept being responsible, and neither one of the opposition parties appears to want to do that, on a whole series of matters, whether it's budgets or other areas of responsibility of governing.

As long as you don't accept it, that's fine, but we do accept that and we will do the right thing, and we'll also do it at the right time.

Mr Hampton: I would say to the Premier that the right time, as in a coroner's inquiry, is to give that commitment to people now. All the questions are out there now. Every day questions grow. You read an editorial in the Toronto Star: "Harris ducked calling an inquiry for a year by saying it would interfere with Deane's trial. His current excuses -- a possible appeal of the verdict and a civil suit -- are even thinner." Or I could read the London Free Press, which quotes the fact that you are in fact referred to in the police logs, the very police logs that deal with the incident directly related to the death.

Premier, the questions are out there now and the questions are growing every day, so why not commit to holding that public inquiry? Give that commitment today and that public inquiry can begin down the road, but the commitment to have the questions answered has to happen today. Will you give that commitment?

Hon Mr Harris: I give the commitment that in the right time, in the right way, the questions will be answered.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): My question is to the Attorney General. The people of this province remember all too well the frustration they felt when in 1990 some 50,000 cases were dismissed before coming to trial as a result of the Askov decision. On November 5 last year you announced that your ministry was launching a major attack on the backlog in the criminal justice system and that one of those locations would be the provincial court in Newmarket. Could you please inform the Legislature of the results of that blitz on the backlog?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the member for York-Mackenzie for the question. As I indicated last week, reducing court backlogs is the number one priority of the Ministry of the Attorney General. We have had, as you alluded to, a long-standing problem in this area, such that 50,000 cases were thrown out at one point in time.

We have set up a blitz, as you're aware, and we're now seeing some very positive results from this blitz of courts. I reported on the progress in Scarborough last week. In Newmarket we've opened two blitz courts. We've reduced the time it takes for an accused to have a case set for trial from 10 to three months and we've reduced the number of charges in progress before the courts by 10.6% since the beginning of the blitz in November 1996. These are very concrete results that prove that our blitz is working to prevent cases being thrown out because they take too long to come to trial.

Mr Klees: This government has made a very clear commitment to community safety. In fact, community safety was a cornerstone of the Common Sense Revolution and reform of the justice system was very much a part of that commitment. The people of this province want to ensure that our justice system would back up the good work the police are doing in our communities.

My constituents want to know that that commitment to community safety is being followed through by the government. Could you please tell me what specific initiatives and what resources you are bringing to ensure that our communities are safe?

Hon Mr Harnick: Again I thank the member for York-Mackenzie for the question. We've launched a major blitz on the backlog in the six most heavily burdened courts in the province. We've assigned 40 officials to the project, including 25 crown attorneys and 15 law clerks. We've committed $1 million to $2 million to this project. Since the beginning of January, the case management team has worked very closely with police on an integrated review of files to help speed up backlogged cases.

The blitz courts are a first step in addressing the systemic problems of long-standing court backlogs. We're working closely and cooperatively with the judiciary and the police to find viable long-term solutions to prevent a buildup of cases in the future. By clearing the backlog, we will make sure that our communities stay safe and that victims' rights are respected and strengthened. We're committed to this and we are seeing real, positive results so far in our blitz courts.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. There are a large number of adult education day school students who are in the galleries today and there were at least a couple of hundred more outside who were hoping to be able to get in. They are here today to ask you to protect their opportunity to get the education they need. They are here to tell you how important it is to them to get their secondary school diplomas and to earn them by learning, not by spending money to write a test.

These people are worried about what will happen to their chance for an education when you take over control of their educational future. Will you today guarantee full funding for adult day school education for the future?


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order in the galleries. You can't do that. I just caution the galleries that there are no demonstrations. That's definitely considered a demonstration.


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I am a little surprised that the member opposite would recycle a discussion that I believe we had fully a year ago. I was surprised at the time a year ago that the member opposite could not understand the distinction between a system designed to deliver adolescent education services and one designed for adult programs. I'm particularly surprised given that there has been a year from the time of that discussion and we now know that most school boards that offered full adult day school in Ontario have restructured their service to offer continuing education day school with focuses on literacy, numeracy and technology.

In addition we now know, a year later, that there is an increasing use of our independent learning centres, particularly by people in remote areas. We know that the colleges right across Ontario continue to offer programs for adults in Ontario basic skills programs. So Ontario continues to offer an abundance of training and education programs designed for and applied for adults in Ontario, and we continue to fund these way above the numbers that most provinces do.

Mrs McLeod: I ask the minister to listen to the concerns of the people who are here in the galleries today. These are not adolescents; these are adults. They know what they need. They know what this minister is offering is not what they need. They deserve an education. They need an education. They want to get a secondary school diploma.

The minister talks about last year. It was indeed a year ago when this minister started his search for the $1 billion that he promised his Premier he could deliver, and the places he started to find his $1 billion were in junior kindergarten at one end and adult education at the other end. This minister cut adult day school education funding by 50% and he has devastated adult day school education programs in all the communities outside Toronto that were dependent on his grants. Enrolment declined an average of 50%, and in some places the enrolment is down by as much as 80%.

This is what is going to happen in Toronto too if you do not change your funding policies. Your idea of equality is going to mean that many more adults will not get their education. I ask you: Will you in this next budget undo the damage you have already done? Will you restore full funding?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): What's the Mulroney staffer telling you to say?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): -- another $2 billion cut.

The Speaker: Thank you. Member for St Catharines. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: Don't blame the feds.

The Speaker: Minister of Education.


The Speaker: I don't want a conversation taking place when I've sat down either. Thanks.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to assure the member opposite that there is no one in this chamber who values adult education more than I. I don't think there's anyone in this chamber who has been involved in adult literacy and other programs. I also want to assure the member opposite that I have talked with a number of people involved in adult education right across this province, people who deliver adult education and people who have received that benefit, and I have been thanked in community after community for putting together the GED program in Ontario.

Your government could have done it. You could have helped any number of adult learners in Ontario move through the secondary school program into post-secondary programs, into post-secondary training programs, into jobs faster, which is what they needed.

I believe our development of the GED program in Ontario and our track record for designing programs specifically for the needs of adults are without parallel, and we will move forward in providing these programs and in making sure that we have the best literacy programs for adults in North America.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Premier. Earlier this week you announced the first candidates for your government's privatization: the Province of Ontario Savings Office, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Ortech research facilities and three tree nurseries. At the same time, you've appointed a privatization czar, Mr Paul Currie, from the Bay Street firm of Coopers and Lybrand, and you're going to pay him over $200,000 a year.

Premier, many people suspect that there is a longer list of agencies, boards, commissions and corporations to be privatized, but you haven't shared that with the public. Can you tell me who outside the Ontario government has had an opportunity to see the full, long list of what your government plans to privatize? Can you tell us who may have seen a longer list?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I don't know that there is a longer list, but let me be very clear and upfront and public that there are many, many, many things that government does that we have suggested should be put to a test. These are taxpayers' dollars providing a service to the public. Is there a way or can somebody do it better and more efficiently? If you have a suggestion for any of the thousands of things we do, we'll put it to the test.

Mr Hampton: The Premier avoided answering my question. I asked you if there were a longer list and if anyone outside the government has seen this longer list.

I want to read to you a memo. It says: "I had lunch with Hugh Bolton on Monday, March 17, and learned on a confidential basis that Paul Currie," from the Toronto office of Coopers and Lybrand, "is leaving the firm to head the agency about to be established by the Ontario government to direct the privatization of a very long list of government departments, corporations and agencies." "A very long list" is referred to, Premier. The memo goes on to say that this gentleman Bolton, who works at Coopers and Lybrand, has seen the long list.

My question to you again, Premier, is this: Have you personally, or has any member of the Mike Harris cabinet, met with Hugh Bolton or anyone else at Coopers and Lybrand to discuss how long the list is and to discuss --

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

Hon Mr Harris: I haven't directly, specifically, with a list or not. I mean, I have met with all kinds of people and publicly acknowledged -- I don't know why anything would be private -- that we believe we should put to the test all kinds of things. In the Common Sense Revolution, we talked about LCBO, TVOntario. We talked about Hydro, which obviously is one of those that are going to be put to the test, various components of Hydro that are there, and so there are areas that are there.

I know that you actually quietly, without any process really, went ahead and outsourced a number of things; even the NDP did that. But I say this to you: Unless you are suggesting to us we shouldn't see if we can get better service, better quality, better price for the taxpayers, I would assume that you are encouraging us to put everything government does to this kind of test where it makes sense to do so. If you have a list you'd like to submit, I'll give it to the minister.



Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. Minister, as you're aware, this government is delivering on its pledge to create a positive environment for the private sector to grow and create jobs. Employment remains an important issue for my constituents in Oshawa, as it does throughout the province.

I understand that the Ministry of Education and Training is delivering a new program, called the career and employment preparation program, to Durham region, which will help participants from Oshawa and Durham overcome employment barriers. Could you give us the details on how this and other employment initiatives will help my constituents in the job market?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Oshawa for the question. In fact, unemployment, particularly unemployment among our youth, is a very high priority for this government. On April 1, we launched the career and employment preparation program, which will serve more than 90,000 people in Ontario. Most of those people are young people who desperately need this kind of service.

Unlike previous governments, our career and employment preparation program will operate in conjunction with employers in the private sector, who know how to develop and train young people for real long-term jobs. We're very proud of this program. We're also in the process of reforming our secondary school system and our apprenticeship programs to improve the opportunities for young people in Ontario. I was also proud to announce just a matter of a few weeks ago that we're investing $37.5 million in the Ontario summer jobs strategy, which will assist over 34,000 young people in the province.

Mr Ouellette: This government's summer job program for this year will create jobs for youth in my constituency of Oshawa as well as the entire province. These jobs will provide youth with valuable work experience. I understand this year's summer job program will assist about 34,000 youth in getting summer jobs. However, the recent NDP --

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): "Go get your own job." That's the kind of job program you have.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Windsor-Sandwich, I'm warning you to come to order, please.


The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, I'll warn you to come to order. I've kind of run out of patience today. I'm warning you to come to order.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): It has been a difficult day.

The Speaker: It's been a difficult day, you're right. Come to order. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, come to order too.


Mr Ouellette: As I was saying, a recent NDP release indicates that their program provided for 54,216 youth jobs, and my constituents are expressing concerns. Minister, could you clarify the record for us on this issue?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can understand some of the confusion on the part of your constituents. As you know, the leader of the third party seems to have a passion for numbers and I have in the past suggested that he might want to check those with his research staff from time to time. In this case again, he's got his numbers wrong.

The previous NDP government never created 54,216 summer jobs, as has been put out recently in a communiqué. In fact, I have with me today the communiqué from March 25, 1994, which states that the NDP created Jobs Ontario, which put together 24,000 jobs. Their program, which cost more money, assisted 10,000 less students in the province of Ontario. I'm glad the member for Oshawa gave us the opportunity to set the record straight today.


The Speaker: You know what? That was out of order and I ask the member for Lake Nipigon to withdraw.

Mr Pouliot: I will withdraw, sir.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Premier. I want to ask you about the comments that your Minister of Finance made to the Toronto Star yesterday to the effect that your government will force municipalities to shield low-income earners and seniors and disabled persons from sharp tax increases. He said, as a matter of fact, "We are sending them," meaning the municipalities, "a direct policy message that you have to help low-income seniors and disabled persons."

Premier, are you finally admitting that property taxes are going to soar in this province as a result of your new property tax assessment system and as a result of your downloading scheme which is going to increase the local property taxation by about $1 billion in this province? We've heard from municipalities like Kingston that it's going to increase $28 million; Sudbury, by over $100 million; Niagara, by $73 million. Are you finally admitting that, as a result of your downloading, property taxes in this province are going to increase?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No, we're not.

Mr Gerretsen: These figures put together by over 100 municipalities already throughout this province, put together by independent CAOs, treasurers of those municipalities, by mayors of all political parties, clearly indicate that the average property taxes will rise by about 10% in this province, but in some cases they may be as much as 40% or 50%. If you're saying that's not the case, why don't you release the studies or authorize your Minister of Finance to release the studies you're relying on that in effect there is no downloading on to the property tax system?

Hon Mr Harris: I think the member will want to know that the amendment that the minister was putting forward had to do only with Bill 106 that dealt with assessment. What we have clearly acknowledged with Bill 106 reassessing is that while there will not be as a result of that legislation one cent of total tax increase, there are inequities in the tax system. What the minister has said is that while the residents of Scarborough, for example, have been overpaying on their assessment, there are some people in Toronto, for example, who have been underpaying. In spite of that, the opposition members from Scarborough continue to oppose reforming the assessment system.

None the less, I want to be very clear about this: What the minister has suggested is that if municipalities have unfairly underassessed and undertaxed seniors for a period of time, they should take that into account --

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

Hon Mr Harris: -- when they go to a fair system: not one cent total increase, but there were inequities within the system, which I guess explains why neither one --

The Speaker: New question, third party.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. I understand you confirmed to the media today that you intend to open a public hospital under the Public Hospitals Act at the Amalguin community health centre in Burk's Falls, and what's more, you announced that you were going to be allocating an additional $450,000 to operate those six beds, even though your government has cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from hospitals all over the province: $400,000 from the hospital in Petrolia, $475,000 from Penetanguishene, $430,000 from Campbellford Memorial.

Minister, for weeks, for months, you've been hiding behind the hospital restructuring committee, saying you're not responsible for the closure of hospitals all over this province, and yet today we see you confirming that you're going to open a hospital and that you're doing that without any consultation with the restructuring commission, without any advice from them. Don't you think this is a double standard?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): This particular institution has always been a hospital. The designation as a hospital never changed from the previous government. What the previous government did, without any consultation it closed the 15-bed hospital that used to be in Burk's Falls. They left nothing behind --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): It wasn't without consultation. There was a DHC report. Why the heck won't you guys say things accurately?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Beaches-Woodbine, come to order, please.


The Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Rideau. Thank you.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Just trying to help.

The Speaker: I know you are, and I'll be very helpful for you in a moment. If you could come to order, I'd appreciate it. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: It was a 15-bed hospital serving the people of Burk's Falls. The NDP closed that and then they left no beds behind. After Mr Eves and I, in opposition, constantly hounded you about the fact that that community needed some beds, at least some observation beds and some overnight beds -- the doctors had consistently told you that -- you then decided to make it a community health centre.

It still was a mess when we came to office, so in December 1995 we set up the Amalguin task force that was made up of health care experts, not politicians, and they recommended six beds, and they did that some time ago. Because we have said health care restructuring is not about saving money overall, it's about putting every penny and more back in, it's time to open six beds in Burk's Falls which never should have been closed in the first place.


Mrs Boyd: There are several problems with the explanation you give. As you know, this was closed in 1992 as a result of a report by the district health council. The politicians who make up the reeves, not to mention the Deputy Premier of this province, have indeed exerted pressure on you.

Minister, do you not understand that you have set up a halt to the closure of rural hospitals on the grounds that you need a rural hospital policy? You have done that at the behest of other Tory members. We haven't seen that rural hospital policy, we haven't seen any report in that area from the restructuring commission to talk about what the need is, we haven't seen any of the rigour of the kinds of criteria that have been brought to bear in every other community.

We have seen $800 million come out of hospitals all over the province, and yet you think there isn't some problem with your deciding, at the pressure of your Deputy Premier, to put this hospital back into his riding? You can't get away with that. People understand there is a double standard going on here, and especially your Tory backbenchers who are facing cuts in their hospitals understand --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member should simply get up and admit that they shouldn't have closed the 15 beds in the first place. But she doesn't want to do that. She wants to play politics and force this into the political realm. The task force, which was at arm's length from all of us, made up of the experts, in consultation with the DHC, is recommending six beds. These aren't full acute care beds, they're transitional and respite beds.

Ms Lankin: Come on. During the filibuster Ernie Eves stormed into your office --

Mrs Boyd: We have all heard from the bureaucracy.

Hon Mr Wilson: We've been opening respite beds across the province, and Burk's Falls meets the --

The Speaker: Excuse me, Minister. I don't want to warn the members for London Centre and Beaches-Woodbine again. Come to order, please. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: This is the sort of political innuendo that frankly makes people sick in this province.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is directed to the minister responsible for seniors. Yesterday's Toronto Star quotes Dr David Naylor, the chief executive officer of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, saying that there is a wide disparity in the levels of home care services for patients in communities across Ontario. I know in my own community of Mississauga there are fewer home care resources than in many other communities. What I would like to know is, is this a concern for the government? It certainly is a very big concern for me as the representative of 98,000 people.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to thank the member for her question. It's on a very important issue involving seniors and home care access in this province. Dr Naylor was very clear and accurate in his description and accurately reflected the situation we found home care in when we became the government.

We have acted strategically and quickly to resolve this issue and have developed equity funding and, as part of our $170-million reinvestment into long-term care, we've been able to flow that money and expand the service. I think members of the House would be interested in knowing that where the Liberals spent $400 million on home care, this government is now spending over $882 million, including $1.1 billion in services.

Mrs Marland: My supplementary is on the same subject. Minister, a month ago you and I met with the new volunteer board of the Peel Community Care Access Centre to discuss their business plan and to learn how they would serve the people of my region. Could you tell the House how the new community care access centres will improve the coordination and consistency of care for seniors and people with disabilities across Ontario?

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Oh, come on, Margaret. You can be more creative than that. Blah, blah, blah.

Mrs Marland: I know the member for Nickel Belt is interested in this question also.

Hon Mr Jackson: As I indicated, our government moved strategically and quickly. It was one of the first pieces of health care legislation brought forward by this government to implement accountable, locally governed community care access centres. There are 43 of them. I was in Sudbury on Friday to examine eight of the business plans for all of northern Ontario, and I am pleased to report the progress and the number of seniors and disabled persons who are actually accountable in making these decisions.

I am pleased to report that this is the first government in Ontario's history to bring in a common assessment tool so that seniors in any part of this province will receive equal treatment, equal funding. They deserve to be able to have services that are coordinated in the right place at the right time when they need them. That is what this government is pleased to implement.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Motions.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that an humble address be presented to the Lieutenant Governor in Council as follows:

"To the Lieutenant Governor in Council:

"We, Her Majesty's --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You need unanimous consent for this.

Hon David Johnson: I will seek unanimous consent, although this was put on the order paper.

The Speaker: Well, yes. I had this discussion. This is not a routine motion, so we need unanimous consent.

Hon David Johnson: Is there consent that I be allowed to present this motion?

The Speaker: So that we know what you're talking about, the government House leader is seeking unanimous consent to put this motion on the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Agreed? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

That an humble address be presented to the Lieutenant Governor in Council as follows:

"To the Lieutenant Governor in Council:

"We, Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, now assembled, request the appointment of Thomas Wright, current interim Information and Privacy Commissioner, to act as interim Information and Privacy Commissioner until May 31, 1997,

"And that the address be engrossed and presented to the Lieutenant Governor in Council by the Speaker."

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

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Debate.

The Speaker: Oh, yes, there's always debate. Okay, debate then. Who's up to debate? The member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): While the discussion is going on, I will have a very brief comment. I don't want to panic the Government House Leader right now.

I simply want to say that the commissioner has done an outstanding job in many cases he has dealt with. Particularly, I want to mention Bill 26. The present commissioner has done an outstanding job on that. His opinion was very helpful to members of the Legislature as we endeavoured to deal with Bill 26 and the ramifications of some of the provisions, particularly the medical provisions that relate to Bill 26.

We, of course, would be happy to see Commissioner Wright carry on because of the manner in which he has dealt with his responsibilities as privacy commissioner. As all members know, this is an extremely important position in this province, a person who must be seen to be and actually be above any partisan considerations. Mr Wright has certainly lived up to that obligation. Sometimes we in the opposition have been pleased with his rulings and sometimes we have not been as pleased with his rulings. That usually means he is doing a good job.

It's similar to the job of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, where from time to time the opposition may not be in agreement with the ruling made by a Speaker, and at other times the opposition may be fully in agreement with the ruling of the Speaker. The privacy commissioner is a person who because of this important office should be permitted to carry on. We understand the government must legally have the commissioner carry on, and indeed it is our intention to see this happen. We will be in favour of this motion.


The Speaker: Questions or comments? None? Further debate.

Ms Lankin: I want to assure the government House leader that I will not prolong this. I appreciate the member for St Catharines and the contribution he made, the comments he made. It actually also allowed for discussion to take place about the rest of the business for the day, so that was helpful.

At this point in time I will say that we will be supporting this, although we think there are some significant problems in continued extensions of appointments. It is another case of mismanagement on the part of the government with respect to these appointments, but we will be supporting the motion that has been put forward today.

The Speaker: Further debate? No. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motions. A government motion?

Hon David Johnson: Mr Speaker, I'll give it a shot anyway. I seek unanimous consent to move a motion respecting the interim supply motion.

The Speaker: Agreed? No, I heard a no.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I would like to read the following petition:

"To the government of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirit sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products in its stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wines and thereby contributes immensely to the grape growing and the wine-producing industry;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its plan to turn over the sale of liquor and spirits to private liquor stores and retain the LCBO for this purpose."

I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement with this petition.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it reads:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the protections of the Rent Control Act; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to allow a landlord to charge a tenant who moves into an apartment whatever the landlord can get away with; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to raise the limit of how high rents can increase for all tenants; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to make it easier to demolish or convert existing affordable rental housing; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the rent freeze which has been successful in forcing some landlords to repair their buildings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent laws which provide true protection for tenants in place."

Most of these people come from the area of 565 Sherbourne, and I affix my name to the petition.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition to present on behalf of my colleague the honourable Noble Villeneuve, the member for S-D-G & East Grenville, which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. As per the standing orders, I will summarize its contents. It is with respect to the restructuring of the provincial-municipal relationship and on the critical areas of social services, welfare, long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill, and reads as follows in the final part:

"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 of the province of Ontario."


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition in regard to the current child care crisis in Ontario and 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 in 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,

"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'm signing my signature to this document.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'm pleased to present a petition regarding the termination of government funding to the Brock youth resource centre. There are approximately 60 pages of signatures, and this petition calls on the government to provide the youth of Barrie with the same community youth support services that are being provided to the youth of Hamilton. I affix my signature.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ontario government is proposing to completely change the structure of relations between the province and municipalities without any public consultation with Ontarians; and

"Whereas the restructuring proposes to download on to municipalities the cost of public transportation and essential social services like welfare and long-term care for seniors and people with chronic illness; and

"Whereas the restructuring takes away the power to levy tax on school boards and subsequently any real power over their schools and curricula; and

"Whereas the actions of the government are not respecting the promise to keep funding at an actual level and don't recognize that different communities don't have the same resources to absorb these new burdens and that it is creating some inequity in access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government does not show any interest in consultation of the population and it does not take into account the reaction of the population, it represents a threat to democracy; and

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, are hereby expressing non-confidence against the government of the province of Ontario because we are concerned with the inequities of the life of the province and the wellbeing of the children, neighbours and communities."

I have affixed my signature, and there are 42 signatures.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions forwarded to me by Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, and petitions signed by thousands of auto workers from the Windsor and Oshawa area. The petitions read as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas workers' health and safety must be protected in the province of Ontario, especially the right to refuse work which is likely to endanger a worker, the right to know about workplace hazards and the right to participate in joint health and safety committees; and

"Whereas the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations help protect workers' health and safety and workers' rights in this area; and

"Whereas the government's discussion paper Review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act threatens workers' health and safety by proposing to deregulate the existing act and regulations to reduce or eliminate workers' health and safety rights and to reduce enforcement of health and safety laws by the Ministry of Labour; and

"Whereas workers must have a full opportunity to be heard about this proposed drastic erosion in their present protections from injuries and occupational diseases;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the present provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. Further we, the undersigned, demand that public hearings on the discussion paper be held in at least 20 communities throughout Ontario."

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


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a petition pertaining to Bill 84, the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, signed by approximately 113 of my constituents from Jacksons Point, Pefferlaw, Cannington, Sunderland, Keswick, Sutton, Baldwin and East Gwillimbury. It appears to be in the standard form, and I am submitting it on their behalf today.



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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions forwarded to me by Teamsters Local 879 in my home town of Hamilton, Local 105 of IBEW from across the province, as well as other workers in St Catharines, Guelph and Windsor. The petitions read as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I proudly add my name to theirs.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition "Re Proposed Social Work Act in Ontario," signed by about 25 people, two of whom are constituents.

"We, the undersigned, are concerned about the exclusionary intentions of the Ontario College of Certified Social Workers to regulate the delivery of social work in Ontario. It is imperative that graduates of social service worker programs are included in the proposed Social Work Act. More than 50% of practising social workers in Ontario are graduates of community college SSW programs. Any legislation must include the regulation of social service workers and their clients in order to realistically reflect the services provided in our communities."

I'm submitting it on their behalf.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition sent to me by Claudio Monteleone, a student at Lakehead University, who is very concerned about the increased tuition fees and has started a petition campaign, and it reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas post-secondary educational costs have been increasing due to economic and technological changes;

"Whereas student tuition fees have increased greatly over the past few years;

"Whereas the cost of living for students continues to increase;

"Whereas students are unable to continue their education due to high costs;

"Whereas future economic growth depends on access to post-secondary education;

"Whereas the panel on the Future Directions for Postsecondary Education recognized the inadequacy in financial resources available to post-secondary education;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to renew its financial commitment for post-secondary education and to recognize that a multi-year commitment to the restoration of support must be guaranteed."

I'm pleased to sign my name along with this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions forwarded to me from the Service Employees International Union, Locals 183 and 663 in Belleville, as well as petitions sent to me by Margaret Nelson, who is a steward with OPSEU Local 479 in Ottawa. These petitions are signed by workers in the Kingston area as well.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have another petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas drinking and driving is the largest criminal cause of death and injury in Canada;

"Whereas every 45 minutes in Ontario a driver is involved in an alcohol-related crash;

"Whereas most alcohol-related accidents are caused by repeat offenders" --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Is that twice in the same day?

Mr Baird: I have not presented this petition in some weeks. You should listen to the previous petitions I've read.

"Whereas most alcohol-related accidents are caused by repeat offenders;

"Whereas lengthy licence suspensions for impaired driving have been shown to greatly reduce repeat offences;

"Whereas the victims of impaired drivers often pay with their lives while only 22% of convicted impaired drivers go to jail and even then only for an average of 21 days;

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

"We urge the provincial government to pass legislation," the Marland bill, "that will strengthen measures against impaired drivers in the province of Ontario."

It's signed by 17 constituents from Nepean, North Gower and Rideau township and I have affixed my signature too.


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

"Whereas Ontarians are gravely concerned with the historic $1.3-billion cuts 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."

In light of the Windsor situation, I affix my signature.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I beg leave to present the 37th report of the standing committee on government agencies.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Blah, blah.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Does the Chair of the committee wish to make a brief statement?

Mr Laughren: I wasn't going to until I was provoked by the member for High Park-Swansea.

Mr Shea: I want rebuttal time.

Mr Laughren: This is simply a report of the meeting that was held this morning.

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



Mr Wilson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 127, An Act to amend the Nursing Act, 1991 and to make consequential amendments to the Healing Arts Radiation Protection Act, the Medical Laboratory Technology Act, 1991, the Respiratory Therapy Act, 1991 and the Vital Statistics Act / Projet de loi 127, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1991 sur les infirmières et infirmiers et apportant des modifications corrélatives à la Loi sur la protection contre les rayons X, à la technologistes de laboratoire médical, à la Loi de 1991 sur les inhalothérapeutes et à la Loi sur les statistiques de l'état civil.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The short title of this act is the Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act. The bill provides the legislative framework required to allow nurse practitioners to provide an expanded range of front-line patient services to the people of Ontario. As members of a multidisciplinary health team, nurse practitioners will work closely with family physicians and other health professionals to improve access to primary care services across the province with particular benefit to patients in rural and northern Ontario.

Research has shown that nurse practitioners provide improved access to safe and effective health care that results in fewer hospitalizations, and as such, they represent a key element of the future of health care in our province.

For these reasons I hope this legislation receives all-party support through each stage of its process in this House.




Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for interim supply for the period commencing May 1, 1997, and ending October 31, 1997.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I see by the clock that I have a little over five minutes left to debate interim supply, which is not a lot of time, given the importance of this particular motion.

Yesterday we had a scintillating debate on interim supply, not just because I was involved in it; others were as well. I must say that I was somewhat taken aback to read in here some of the comments of the government House leader and the Chair of Management Board, who expressed some dismay at the undue length of the debate on interim supply. That really did surprise me because my memory flashed back -- every now and again I still have my memory -- and I remembered that back in 1994, guess who held up interim supply for three days of debate?

At that point the government of the day, namely the New Democrats, was warning the Tories that they'd better get on with the debate because we had to pay the salaries of the public sector in the province. Here we have, yesterday and today, the government House leader predicting all sorts of catastrophes because of the NDP debating two days on interim supply.

I must say that if we were able to get the cheques out in 1994, what's so incompetent about this government that they can't get the cheques out in 1997? I haven't come to a conclusion on that, but perhaps the Chair of Management Board could explain that to us. Perhaps the Chair of Management Board as well, when he's responding to the civil servants in this province who are worried about getting their cheques on time, could explain to them in a most forthright manner how a week ago today he bungled his assignment when he didn't get the notice of motion tabled by 5 o'clock that afternoon, which he was supposed to do in order to have the debate occur on Thursday. He didn't do that. He bungled it. The opposition then said to him last Thursday: "Look, we know you're concerned about this. Why don't we start the debate tomorrow with unanimous consent?" "Oh no," said the Chair of Management Board, "I'm not going to do that unless you guarantee me there'll only be one day's debate." The opposition said: "Take a hike. What kind of deal is that?"

So what did the Chair of Management Board do? The Chair of Management Board, listening to the pointy heads around the Premier's office, I guess, said: "Well, no, we won't make that deal. We'll call the bill on Monday and then we'll have two or three days of debate." The logic that lay behind that decision by the Chair of Management Board escapes me, and I find it passing strange that he would do that. I'm simply saying that I hope the Chair of Management Board and the government House leader, when he's responding to concerns of civil servants in this province, will tell them that he's the reason there's a delay, not the opposition. It's his problem. He's the one who bungled his assignment to call it last Thursday.

I would simply say that the civil servants in this province will be paid, and unless the government is inefficient, they'll get paid on time. I don't think that the House leader should get his britches in a knot simply because the opposition is doing to him what he did to us when he was in opposition. I think that simply needs to be said from time to time.

I have no intention of prolonging the debate. I have no idea how many official opposition members still want to speak on this, or my colleagues, for that matter. They may want to engage in this important debate, because as I said yesterday, when you polarize a province, you can expect to polarize debate on interim supply. That's the way it should be.

This caucus makes no apology for having a good debate on interim supply. It's important that we do that. As you know, there are no restrictions on what goes into the debate on supply motions. There's a long tradition of that. I would simply say to the members of the government that we want to get on with the business of this province and every now and again I get a little tired of the filibustering tactics of the government.

I would simply say to the government members that before they get angry at us, they should go and have a talk with their House leader and their Chair of Management Board because therein lies the problem, not in the opposition.

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

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I just wanted to say that the former finance minister, as always, speaks eloquently and passionately about the polarization of this province. Even here in the House today the government doesn't know if it's going to call WCB or rent control, can't figure it out. It's now 4 o'clock in the afternoon. We haven't figured that out. Whom are we going to go after today? Are we going to give a chance for there to be full debate? No, we're not, we're just going to barrel ahead. When you barrel ahead like that, you get a reaction. The reaction you're going to get is going to be a strong reaction. It's going to come from the opposition benches of the House, but more important, it's going to come from every corner of this province, and the reaction is going to be enough.

When we debate public issues, we should debate them properly and fully. We may differ in our opinions, but when it comes to matters as essential to the operation of the government as supply, they should be dealt with properly. You can't have it both ways. You can't just debate what you want to debate and not the important issues the rest of us want to debate. The back bench on the government side knows that. They understand that. My friend from Nepean is hearing all the time about the polarization. He doesn't get it.

When the member for Nickel Belt, the esteemed former finance minister, speaks about polarization -- he knows about polarization; he was pretty good at it himself -- the words should be taken seriously because ultimately the polarization will be resolved at the next election and it won't be resolved in favour of the government.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks of the member for Nickel Belt. Members of this House will know that not only is the member for Nickel Belt a well-respected and regarded parliamentarian, but he also happens to be the dean of this House. He has been here longer than anyone else in this Legislature. So when he talks about understanding how this place works and what the traditions are and what happens when there's a polarization, the government backbenchers should pay heed because the member knows of what he speaks.

He talked about the last Parliament and talked about what the Tories, who were then the third party, were doing in the House during our term in government. I was there also and I can recall the reading of the lakes and the streams and the rivers, and the refusal of their government House leader to enter into any kind of agreement around legislation so that this place could work effectively. So yes, we get very incensed when this government suggests that somehow we're being unfair or being undemocratic or not following the traditions of this place. The member for Nickel Belt points out that we have lived under the way the Tories think this place should work when they were opposition, but when they're government suddenly they want it all different. That's not the way this place operates.

Interim supply is an opportunity for all of us to talk about the large picture, the overall agenda of the government, and that is indeed what we do. This government I suspect wanted to play games and wanted to shorten that time, and that's why they waited so long. This is their problem, their fault, and it's also their history coming back to haunt them. The member for Nickel Belt was pointing that out, and rightly he should.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I want to comment on the speech from the member across the way. I just want to talk about polarization for a minute. I think we all agree that we see things in very different lights. When I came to this House, I saw that the province was $100 billion in debt and the debt was continuing to grow and no one was taking management of the system. What has happened along the line is that previous governments, probably because of economic changes, have mortgaged the children of today and the children of tomorrow.

We need to bring management to the system in Ontario. We need to bring management to the government of Ontario. This government has done that. Certainly we bring change about quickly, but I have to say that change has to come quickly in the province because our financial situation is in disarray. We have to bring change quickly to the situation in Ontario because health care is growing so quickly, demographics are changing so fast that we have to make changes to get dollars focused on the areas we need to have them focused on. We need to have a different health care system that meets our needs.

Yes, I am a polar opposite from the previous government. I believe the things they did, spending their way out of what they believed was a recession at the time, continuing to spend at the expense of my children and the children of tomorrow, was the wrong way to go. I am proud to say that I think we're doing the right things. I think we're moving to a financially responsible government, I believe we're allocating moneys to the areas they need to be allocated to, and I think in the long run, at the next election, the people of Ontario will say thank you to us because we've made some important changes in the direction of the province to ensure that it's financially sound and equitable to all people.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): There are a couple of comments I want to make. First of all, the member for Huron has put her finger right on it: This province is getting into a worse and worse financial mess because of the actions your government has taken. She's quite correct that when they started we were in debt to the tune of $100 billion; today we are closer to about $120 billion.

What makes it even worse, Mr Speaker -- you and I know this -- is the fact that next week they're going to implement the last part of the big tax cut, which is going to cost the taxpayers of this province $5 billion. If you want to be consistent and get rid of the debt and the annual deficit as quickly as possible, why don't you forget about your tax cut? Go and have a conversation with the Minister of Finance and say: "It doesn't make any sense. We cannot possibly give a tax cut to the people of Ontario before we have our budget balanced in a particular year." That's the first point.

The second point is this interim supply motion. I'm somewhat aghast that the government House leader would stand in the House here today and accuse the opposition of not allowing the government to pay its bills because we are somehow holding up the process. Surely to goodness he should have brought the interim supply motion forward about a week or two ago. There could have been ample debate on it; we've only had two days of debate on this motion.

For him now to suggest that the opposition is holding up the government from paying its actual debts, its employees, its suppliers etc is absolute nonsense. The government should get its act together, should bring in a plan whereby we know what the legislative schedule is going to be. The member for Windsor-Walkerville is quite correct: We don't know what is going to be called next. That is the disarray we find ourselves in, and it's all the government's fault.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt has two minutes to respond.

Mr Laughren: I thought this supply debate would be over by now, but the government members seem to want to prolong it with their interjections.

The member for Huron talks about the previous government and what it did to her children. I want to tell you that what her government is doing will do more harm to children in five years than any other government has done in the history of this province. The member for Huron can stand up and say all she likes about the previous government; that's fine. I notice she didn't bother dealing with what her government is doing to the educational system, which is going to have a serious impact on the children of this province.

I would say as well that the member for Huron says they're putting the money into where the priorities should be. I'm glad to know that the member for Huron has decided that $3 million on the Premier's new office is an important priority for her government, more important than the education of our children, more important than the preservation of the health care system. If that's the kind of debate the member for Huron wants to get into, that's fine; we're happy to engage in that kind of debate.

But for her to stand in her place and say that the previous government did things that were harmful to children in this province when I think of what you've done to women and children in this province, such as cancelling the second-stage housing, when I think of what you've done to the educational system, to child care, you have got more nerve than a canal horse when you say that we did damage to children. Your government is the one that's done the damage to children.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Eves moved that the Minister of Finance be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing May 1, 1997, and ending October 31, 1997, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.

Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 99, An Act to secure the financial stability of the compensation system for injured workers, to promote the prevention of injury and disease in Ontario workplaces and to revise the Workers' Compensation Act and make related amendments to other acts / Projet de loi 99, Loi assurant la stabilité financière du régime d'indemnisation des travailleurs blessés, favorisant la prévention des lésions et des maladies dans les lieux de travail en Ontario et révisant la Loi sur les accidents du travail et apportant des modifications connexes à d'autres lois.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to continue my remarks on the second reading of Bill 99. I believe I ended my comments last week speaking to the issue of the unfunded liability and the fact that this government, à la the education minister's style, continues to say that there is a crisis in the unfunded liability and therefore that somehow justifies taking $15 billion out of the pockets of injured workers and giving $6 billion of that money taken from the pockets of injured workers to their corporate friends, the very people who owe that unfunded liability.

As I mentioned last time, that fund is not taxpayer-funded; it's paid by employers. It's their part of the historic compromise that was made in 1914 whereby workers gave up the right to sue employers for injuries on the job through the justice system, in the courts of our province. Workers gave up that right. They gave it up because the other half of the deal was that employers would pay the premiums necessary to fund the WCB so that workers would have money available, without having to sue, to pay their lost wages and benefits when they're injured on the job through no fault of their own. That's the reality of what the unfunded liability is.


Further, the government says it's in such a crisis that it's necessary to take this money from injured workers, again totally ignoring the fact that there is almost $9 billion in assets in the WCB. They have almost $9 billion invested, generating money, making money for that fund. But this government chooses to ignore that and says to its corporate friends: "Hey, if we get elected, we're going to create this phoney crisis around the unfunded liability, and that will let us take money from injured workers, and guess what? We're going to give you a 5% reduction in the premiums you pay."

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): That's not true.

Mr Christopherson: One of the ministers says that's not true. It does happen to be true. You've already done it. You've already passed the regulation. As of January 1 of this year, you've already implemented the 5% cut in the premiums paid by employers. That's the truth. That's why I was so incensed the other day when the minister was blathering on about what they're doing to WCB. The fact is that they are hurting injured workers and giving the people who have an obligation to pay the WCB a gift of $6 billion that belongs to those injured workers. The premiums that those corporations pay as part of the deal has now been reduced.

I think it's fair for any worker, injured or healthy, in the province of Ontario to ask, if the unfunded liability is such a crisis that somehow that justifies what I would call stealing, but anyway, taking money from injured workers, why would they cut the premiums that employers pay into the unfunded liability, into the WCB? Why would they do that? It doesn't make sense. If you've got this huge crisis of money that's owed, why would you turn to the people who had the obligation to pay the premiums on that fund and give them a 5% reduction? Why would you do that?

You do it because you're paying off your political pals. What is so disgusting is that you're paying off your political pals at the expense of injured workers. You're cutting the money that injured workers get. You've cut by 5% the premiums being paid and you're cutting the amount of money that injured workers get by 5%. A 5% gift to your corporate friends, your political pals, and the injured workers have the amount of money they collect reduced by 5%.

And you have the audacity to stand here in this place and say you're making it better. It makes as much sense as cutting $1 billion from the education system because you want to make it better, and you think that's such a great idea you want to take another billion dollars. You made it so good, you want to make it even better. You really insult the intelligence.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): You think the only way you can make something better is by throwing all kinds of money at it, right?

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Member for Kitchener, you're out of order. You're not in your seat. Heckling is out of order and I'd ask you to please come to order.

Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Speaker. They tend to get a little riled when you point out what is truly going on, when you talk very clearly about what this government is doing, without the spin doctoring, without the media releases, without the nice, hollow, wish-washy words of the minister. When you pull all that away and take a look at the stark reality of what's happening, they get upset.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): You touched a nerve.

Mr Christopherson: My colleague from Sault Ste Marie says to me as I speak that we touch a nerve when we do that, and he's right. That's why they get so upset.

So, Speaker, it's quite all right; let them go on cackling and hollering. It just reflects the nervousness they all have about this issue, because they've got to go back to their ridings and explain to injured workers why it's okay to give a 5% cut to their political pals, a gift of $6 billion, and take away from injured workers their net income when they're injured on the job. They know they can't defend that, so it's natural they would react the way they're reacting here.

When we talk about the unfunded liability and point this out, we need to remind people that this is not a taxpayer debt; this is not a taxpayer-funded account. It's all paid and owed by the corporations who benefit from the fact that none of their employees can take them to court, not a one. No matter what, workers can't take those employers to court. Wouldn't it really be fair if we set about to improve the WCB in a serious way, rather than attacking injured workers, which is exactly what they're doing?

When we talk about the changes they're making, the $15 billion this government is taking from injured workers, when we talk about that, this government likes to say, "We're just following the course the previous government, those NDPers, already started." They like to talk about that. Well, we like to talk about that too. I want to talk about what we did with our reform of the WCB.

First of all, on the broader picture, we had a royal commission looking into those things that required an in-depth analysis, because there are problems with the WCB. No one has suggested that there aren't. But the fact is that we said, "Here are some changes we're making in our legislation, and for those things that are not looked at or which require more time, we're going to strike up a royal commission." That's what we did. This government killed the royal commission, handed the whole thing over to junior minister Jackson, who took the whole thing and went underground. That's the process they followed.

What exactly did we do in our legislation? One of the things we did was put in place funding that allowed that unfunded liability to be dealt with in a proper, orderly fashion. In fact, in the three years since we brought in our WCB reform, the unfunded liability has dropped every one of those years, for a total of $1.1 billion. That's how much lower the unfunded liability is as a result of our changes. Last year it was $500 million. We hear reports it's going to be close to that this year, and it was over $100 million in the first year after the WCB reform. That's what we did.

What else did we do? One thing we didn't do was give any money back to the people who owe that unfunded liability. We increased the amount of money that went to the most vulnerable of those injured workers to the tune of almost $200 a month -- increased almost $200 a month. You're taking money away; we gave more money to injured workers. We were taking care of injured workers; you're just taking care of your corporate pals.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Tell the truth.

Mr Christopherson: Some 45,000 injured workers who are so severely disabled that they either aren't for sure or aren't likely to ever be gainfully employed again for the rest of their lives because of an injury on the job, through no fault of their own, are now, all of those 45,000, receiving up to $200 a month more.

Tell me one thing you've done in Bill 99 that makes it better for injured workers. You've taken money out of their pockets. You've denied them the future they're entitled to in terms of the money that's being put into their pensions. You've cut that by 50%.


Who does benefit? Your political pals are doing okay. They got that 5% cut in premiums, and let's remember, that's already in place. That was done by regulation, already done. On January 1 of this year they started to get their benefit, they started to get their political payback for helping get this government elected, and injured workers are paying the price.

As to the process, this government didn't consult with anyone. They like to say there was an election two years ago and that ends all consultation, that everything after that is just a matter of formula, that it's just public relations. The fact of the matter is you didn't discuss with anyone except your corporate pals what's going to happen in Bill 99. We had a lengthy negotiation, an actual negotiation. Everybody got their say. At the end of it, was everybody happy? No. That's governing. You're never going to please everyone all the time, that's understood. But at the end of the day the Ontario Federation of Labour felt the improvements we were offering were important enough for them to endorse.

I don't know of a single labour leader in this province who says that Bill 99 is anything other than an attack on injured workers and a denial of their rights -- every labour leader in the province. Those same labour leaders said at the time that the reforms we made, although not perfect and didn't give them everything they wanted, were definitely an improvement for injured workers. That's a far cry from what this government is doing and who they're taking care of.

When the government talks to us about what we did, we'll gladly, any day of the week, compare what we did with workers' compensation and what you are doing in terms of how it affects injured workers. Any day of the week we'll compare that.

What exactly are they doing? As I mentioned, in addition to giving their friends a 5% gift of $6 billion that the injured workers are paying for, they're taking 5% away from injured workers. Currently under WCB injured workers receive 90% of their net pay. This government is reducing that to 85%. They're taking 5% away from injured workers.

Bill 99 is here in this House just two days after the national day of mourning, where all the parties got up and said how important health and safety is and how much we owe to workers who have died on the job, and that we need to commit ourselves to making workplaces as safe as we can and to taking care of injured workers. Just two days after that we're here resuming debate on a piece of legislation that takes 5% of the income of injured workers right out of their pockets and puts it right into the pockets of their corporate pals. That's what's going on. Unbelievable.

In terms of pensions, what is this government doing for pensions for injured workers? We know that 45,000 of those most vulnerable, most severely injured workers received almost $200 a month more, with inflation guaranteed for life by our government. What's this government doing? They are reducing by 50% the amount of money the WCB sets aside for pensions of injured workers, workers who reach 65, having been on WCB for years and years, entitled to a pension just like everyone else in this province, and this government in Bill 99 is taking away by 50% the amount of money set aside for those long-term injured workers. How disgraceful.

What else are they doing? They talk about trying to improve WCB and that they care about the workplace, and the minister consistently stands in her place and says, "We want the safest workplaces in the world." What's the reality? The reality is that in Bill 99 this government is abolishing the Occupational Disease Panel. Gone. Killing it.

What does the Occupational Disease Panel do? I see the member for Hamilton Mountain is here. He should ask the steelworkers in Hamilton what that panel does, because steelworkers can tell you and auto workers can tell you very directly that this panel provides independent, arm's-length, non-political evaluation of workplace illness and disease. They study it from a medical and scientific perspective. They look at it, analyse it and determine if there's a causal link between what's happening in the workplace, exposure of workers to substances, and diseases that workers are getting.

As I mentioned in the House the other day, there was a study not long ago that said up to 6,000 workers a year die as a result of workplace illness and disease. This panel allows us, as a society, to make an objective determination whether or not there's a causal link between what's happening in a workplace and the fact that workers are dying of diseases.

That's valuable information. That's a powerful tool if we're serious about making workplaces safe, really safe, the safest they can be, as the minister likes to say. This is a powerful tool to do that because it allows us to identify workers who are entitled to prove their entitlement to WCB claims so they can receive the income they're entitled to as a result of the deal made in 1914. Remember that? It not only allows us, as a society, to determine eligibility and entitlement to that WCB because we've been able to prove that their illness and their disease is directly related to what's happening in the workplace, but the second thing it does is that it allows us, as a society, to say: "Okay, we've now proven there's a direct causal link here. How do we prevent other workers from becoming diseased and dying of illness?"

There are employers who do care; not enough, and a lot of them don't care enough, but those who do find this information valuable because it allows them to go in with the union, with the workers to determine: "How do we prevent this from happening again? We now know there is a cause, we now know there's a direct link, we know what the exposure is. How do we prevent other innocent workers from being exposed and also dying? How do we prevent that?" That's what this panel does.

They're killing it. At the same time that they're taking money out of the pockets of injured workers, that they're cutting the amount of money available for the pensions of injured workers, they're killing a panel that plays a vital role in preventing workplace accidents, illness and disease. That's the hypocrisy we have so much difficulty accepting in this place around Bill 99.

It's not just us in the NDP saying that, and it's not just labour leaders; when word got out that this government wanted to kill the Occupational Disease Panel, we started to hear from people all over the world.

I have a letter from the department of work environment, the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. In part, this letter, which is signed by a dozen professors and associate professors -- no link to politics. These are academics. What they care about is workplace health and safety from a medical perspective. This is what they do. What do they say? Well, on October 9 of last year when word got out that killing the panel was part of Bill 99, they wrote a letter to the Minister of Labour and they said to her, in part:

"We recently heard that the province of Ontario is planning to eliminate the Occupational Disease Panel in the near future. We urge you to reconsider this decision. Several of us have worked with the panel over the years and have always been impressed at the extremely thorough and rigorous way they have approached the difficult and often contentious task of determining the work-relatedness of disease.... Indeed, the Ontario workers' compensation system has been described as a model for how scientific research can be successfully used in the development of occupational health policy."


They close their letter to the minister by saying, "We hope you will reconsider your decision and maintain this highly regarded and valuable institution." That's what they said.

They're not the only ones. I have another copy of a letter from the University of Maryland, the school of medicine, an occupational health project. They say, in part, in a letter sent September 23 of last year:

"I am well acquainted with and have been impressed by the work of the Occupational Disease Panel. Its tripartite approach to occupational health problem-solving, which includes employers, labour and government, is demonstrated to be effective and is one that is modelled throughout the world." That's the panel they want to kill.

This associate professor, Melissa McDiarmid, closes the letter by saying: "I therefore urge you to rethink and in fact rescind plans to eliminate the Occupational Disease Panel. Failure to keep the Occupational Disease Panel's doors open will be seen as a clear and deliberate step backwards in the eyes of the public health community worldwide."

Worldwide. No politics. No friends. No payback. This is strictly an objective analysis by people outside this country, not just outside the province, as to the importance of the Occupational Disease Panel, and you're killing it. You're killing it, and you somehow expect workers to believe this is in their best interests.

I'll tell you whose interest it's in. I have another letter, July 4, 1995. That would be, what, a month after you got elected? A month after you got elected you received a letter from the Ontario Mining Association. They asked you to do six things.

They wanted you to repeal Bill 40 Labour Relations Act amendments. You did that. That's one for one.

Dismantling of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency: You did that. They got two of the things they wanted.

Amending the Workers' Compensation Act: Getting that today.

Cancelling the WCB royal commission: You did that.

Restructuring all bipartite processes; for example, the Joint Steering Committee on Hazardous Substances in the Workplace. Done.

Lastly, what do they want, the Ontario Mining Association in their letter of July 1995, one month after you took power? What's the last thing on their list that they want? Dismantling of the Occupational Disease Panel.

There you go: Six for six. Workers: Zero, zero, zero. Every time you touch labour legislation, workers lose, your friends win. You cannot justify dismantling the Occupational Disease Panel. It can't be done. The only reason you're doing it is to take care of your corporate pals.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): If you wouldn't talk so loud --

Mr Christopherson: I'll talk louder than this if you continue to do what you're doing to workers.

Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'm not sure whether the sound system is working or functioning properly in the House, because I can hear the member screaming. I'm just wondering if this --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Kitchener-Wilmot, that is not a point of order. The sound system is working, and you know that is not a point of order.

Mr Leadston: I thought perhaps it wasn't because --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Kitchener-Wilmot, take your seat. That is not a point of order. Could you continue, member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: That member is obviously serving the injured workers in his community really well, because he doesn't want us to speak out; he wants things nice and easy. It was like when I was talking about scabs the other day. One of them popped up and said: "I don't like that word. You should use `replacement workers.'" That's what you want: You want everything nice and civil. It's not very civil for injured workers.

If you think I'm screaming loud, come on out to some meetings of injured workers; I'll show you screaming. I invite you and every other member of the Tory caucus to come on out to a meeting of injured workers. They'll tell you what they think about Bill 99. For those of you lucky enough to win the draw, who are going to be on the committee when we take this out in the province this summer, you'll know what I'm talking about and you'll know screaming. But unfortunately you'll also know tears and you'll know about pain and you'll know about hurt, and you'll get a real lesson in fairness, because it's not fair that your political friends can write you a letter a month after you're elected and ask for six things and they get all six and workers and injured workers get the dirty end of the stick every time.

Every time you've touched labour legislation, workers lose more rights. That has been your agenda from the beginning, and it will continue. This isn't the end of it, I'm sorry to say, because you're still looking at the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Do you honestly believe that there's an injured worker out there, or a healthy worker, who believes you're going to suddenly see the light and make things better by improving the Occupational Health and Safety Act? No. They know what you did to the Ontario Labour Relations Act in terms of the rights you took away. They know the rights you took away when you attacked the employment standards legislation in this province. They saw what you did. They've seen what you've shut down, money that you've cut back, training staff in health and safety that had to be laid off. They've seen that, and that's not the end of it either.

You're also going for a second whack at the Employment Standards Act. You'll take more rights away then, because that's all you plan to do. You've attacked our environmental protection to take care of your friends at the expense of all. You talk about kids; you talk about grandchildren. What you've done to the environmental protection in this province is a disgrace. It is our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will pay the price. You've done that in the education system. That's a crisis. It's the kids who are going to pay. The health system is under the knife.

Under this, more injured workers will be hurt on the job and more injured workers will die on the job because of the actions you're taking. You cannot defend eliminating the Occupational Disease Panel as part of Bill 99 and say that somehow you're making things better for workers; it can't be done. Each of you in the House today is going to have to go back to your riding -- you can hide for a while, but they'll find you eventually -- and you're going to have to explain to those injured workers, and those healthy workers who are worried about being victims of accidents and disease on the job, why Bill 99 was something you stood up and voted for.

If any of you have any brains at all, you'll find a way to be away that day, because you're going to have to defend the fact that you stood up in this place and gave the power to the Minister of Labour and the Premier to put Bill 99 into the law books, a law that takes away from injured workers and hurts injured workers and gives your friends -- maybe not your personal friends, but sure enough the friends of some of your cabinet ministers -- a $6-billion gift. That's what you're doing. You're going to have to defend that. Good luck. You're going to need it.

What else are they doing? They're not done. That's not it; there's more. Let's remember, this is not just a few amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act; this is a whole new act, just like you did with the Ontario Labour Relations Act, a whole new act.


One of the things you're going to do is limit the independence of WCAT, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. What is that? Very simply, that is a panel that allows injured workers to say: "The board has made a mistake in denying me my claim. I wish to appeal it. I have more information. I am now able to refute legally and properly the arguments made by the company or point out where the board was in error." They can take this case to WCAT, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

What has worked so well for injured workers -- because part of the WCB does work: An awful lot of workers are hurt on the job, they receive their money, they get better and they go back to work; there are far too many where it doesn't work that way, but there are an awful lot where it does. One of the strengths of the system has been the ability of this tribunal to overrule the board. They can even set aside the policy that the board used in making its decision if it can be shown that the specific circumstances around a particular worker's injury justify their receiving money they're owed from the WCB. That's a key function of the WCB.

If you talk to any worker who represents other workers in WCB cases and mention WCAT, many times that's the lifeline, that's the one chance a worker has to receive natural justice, not to be denied by red tape and bureaucracy, all the things that you purport to hate. Those things can be set aside and you can look at the individual circumstances, and that tribunal can say, "We will allow this claim and overrule the board."

That in fact is how we received the first recognition for chronic stress, something you're adding to by the minute, I might add, but that first claim was possible because there was a WCAT case and there was a recognition that the chronic stress claim of this worker was legitimate, that it was clear enough that that was the cause of the illness, and it was granted. You, of course, in addition to everything else I've mentioned, have now outlawed any claims for chronic stress. You got a jump on that one real quick, eh? Can't let that cat get out of the bag. You specifically shut that down.

But with the WCAT itself, you're now denying them the right to go beyond policy, the very thing that made it work for workers. It will be there, and you'll be able to go out in the communities and the minister can stand up and make speeches and say: "WCAT is there. We didn't dismantle it. It's there." But you've neutralized it in terms of one of its most important functions. They can no longer go beyond policy of the board.

The board, let's remember, the people who make the policy -- you changed that law too. It used to be, under the NDP legislation, that workers and their representatives had 50% of the seats on WCB. That does make sense; that does seem fair. Part of our reform was to give workers their equal say. WCB is not there for employers, it's there for injured workers; therefore, it makes sense, we thought when we were in power, that workers ought to have a 50% say in the board that's managing those funds and setting the policies. You killed that too -- gone. Bill 15 was rushed through here, and it took away the right of workers to have a 50% say in how the WCB is run.

If we go back to that starting point -- because that was your first bill, that was the tee-up, and we said so at the time -- what you were planning to do was to get control through your friends, an overwhelming majority say on the board. "Get rid of those nuisance workers. Get them back in their place. Get them out of those board chairs. They don't belong there." That's for your friends, not for workers' friends. We start there, and you overwhelmingly stack it up with people who think and want the same things you do. I think any fairminded person would appreciate that's not necessarily in the workers' best interests, just as the workers' best interests may not be in the corporate best interests, so why not have a 50-50 deal? That does make sense. No, no, you killed that.

So now we've got a board that sets the policy and makes the decisions overwhelmingly represented by one side of the equation, your friends. Then we deny claims that we don't want people getting paid for, like chronic stress. And just to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen again, you limit the ability of WCAT to overrule board policy. Isn't that a sweet little deal?

Well, it's a sweet little deal if you're one of the ones getting a 5% cut in your premiums, it's a sweet little deal if you're getting $6 billion, but let me tell you, it ain't so sweet if you're an injured worker. They don't think it's such a sweet deal. They're the ones who have had their paycheques cut. They're the ones who have had their pension cheques cut. They're the ones who have seen the Occupational Disease Panel killed. That's what you're doing, and that's why injured workers and healthy workers and labour leaders and we in the NDP are so incensed. There's no attempt to be fair here. There's no attempt to help workers. You can't justify it.

When people really understand what the unfunded liability is and what it isn't, you've got no excuse -- none. Your phoney argument, your phoney crisis, is gone, and it's all laid bare. The only thing that's there is take-away from injured workers and a nice $6-billion gift for your friends. That's what Bill 99 is. It's an attack on those injured workers, and you'll know that soon enough when you get out into the ridings that you all represent and begin to talk to injured workers about why your government is doing this.

It's sometimes easier to ignore a large crowd of 10,000 or 20,000, because it's so big, it's so impersonal, and you can either cower away in your office or hide in your home or hide in your riding office. I can't imagine that any of you would be so callous as to be that way, but if you were, that's how you could handle a large crowd.

I would think, speaking to you now, members of the government, as another parliamentarian, as another Ontarian, that where you're going to have the greatest difficulty is when you're dealing with an injured worker or the family members of someone who has died on the job as a result of an injury or an illness in the workplace. When they aren't hollering and fighting but when they're talking to you face to face and some of them begin to cry as they talk about their plight or what life is like without their family member, you're going to have a hell of a difficult time finding in your conscience the fact that voting for Bill 99 was the right thing to do.


And that will happen: You will have to face those people. Let me say to you, if you try to hand them something about unfunded liability, it's not going to work. They're not going to buy it. They'll want to know why you killed that panel. They may not know the name, but they'll say: "That panel was a good thing. Why did you kill that?" Why did you take away 5% of the income of injured workers? Why'd you do that? Why did you cut by 50% the amount of money that goes to an injured worker's pension? Why did you do that? Why did you limit the ability of WCAT to recognize the legitimacy of an injured worker who, through no fault of their own, is now permanently disabled?

If you start talking to them about money, they're very likely to say to you, because working people are an awful lot smarter than you give them credit for, "By not getting WCB, we had to go on welfare." Who pays for welfare? Taxpayers. Who pays for WCB? Employers. All those medical bills are paid by those premiums. If WCB is denied, everybody else has to pay that price. They shouldn't have to.

If you want to talk about unfairness in taxes, if you want to make this strictly an economic issue, if we can't get through to you through your heart and through your conscience, maybe we can through your pocketbook. Every time you deny an injured worker a legitimate WCB claim, you push them on to welfare and all the medical bills are paid by OHIP, which we all pay for. That's not fair. That's not the way it's supposed to be. It means that somebody else had an obligation and they don't have to honour it. You're big on personal responsibility and internal responsibility and all kinds of responsibilities. What about the responsibility of that employer to pay, through the WCB, those medical bills? That worker didn't do anything wrong. They went to work and they got hurt or they got a disease. That's not their fault.

The best we can offer them in that case, in addition to finding out why it happened, which is what the Occupational Disease Panel does, is to do everything we can to make things better for that injured worker, because they didn't do anything wrong.

If one of the members of the government fell, rushing over to kiss the feet of a cabinet minister, they would be covered, and we would all say, "We've got to make sure they're okay," because it's a fellow citizen, it's a fellow worker. That's all we're talking about here. When you deny that injured worker their legitimate claim, everybody else has to pay the medical bill, everybody else has to pay.

Suddenly, someone who had a great deal of pride in their work and pride in themselves, who did a good job, somebody maybe in the prime of their life, taking care of family, a good citizen, a good neighbour, went to work one morning and got injured on the job through no fault of their own, or maybe, after years and years and years of exposure to a particular substance, now they've got cancer. The Occupational Disease Panel was able to say: "Yes, there's a direct link. That's why you have the cancer."

The system is supposed to be that those workers are taken care of in a respectful, dignified way. The actions you're taking are going to have some of those workers end up on welfare. They didn't do anything wrong. Why did you push them into poverty? Why did you make all their neighbours and everybody else pay their medical bills? They didn't do anything wrong.

If they did anything wrong, I would suggest to you it was in being conned into your spin-doctor, bumper-sticker slogans and giving you enough members that you had the ability to ram through a bill as awful and as hurtful as Bill 99. If they did anything wrong, it was being sucked in by your stories and your words and your slogans that everybody else is to blame: "Don't worry, we'll only go after those bad people, the wrong people. You'll be okay."

If that injured worker voted for you -- and unfortunately, an awful lot of working people did, much to their chagrin, much to their horror when they see what you're doing -- they're now saying to themselves, "Why did you do this to me?" I suspect that question will turn very quickly to anger when they realize and when they're told, "Not only do you not qualify for a legitimate claim," because if you have chronic stress it doesn't count any more, and "If you don't fit exactly into the policy, WCAT's not there to help you any more either." They're going to come to realize that somebody else got $6 billion more -- a gift. Bill 99 puts in place the measures necessary to take that $6 billion out of an injured worker's pocket and give it to the corporate entities that owed those premiums.

Can you imagine how angry that injured worker is going to be? Can you imagine how angry you would be if the system did that to a family member of yours? For some of you, maybe none of this matters. Maybe it's so far unrelated to what your life is like or your life experience is that none of this matters. But for an awful lot of workers, this matters a great deal.

You cannot justify in any way what you're doing. That unfunded liability is not owed by taxpayers. They've never borrowed a dime. They've got almost $9 billion in assets. The unfunded liability has dropped the last three years in a row under our NDP reform. It's $1 billion less than it was. There's no need to do this. The only reason you're doing this is to give your corporate pals that $6-billion gift.

Where have we heard that before? Where have we heard the idea that this government takes away from the most vulnerable and gives to those who already have? Let us think. What else do we know that sounds like that? Gee, that sounds an awful lot like your 30% tax cut. You know, the one where you had to attack our education system, where you had to take 22% of the income out of the pockets of the poorest of the poor, a 22% cut. You know what would happen if Harris walked into your caucus room and said, "I'm going to cut your MPP pay by 22%?" They'd have to peel you off the ceiling. But it's okay to do it to poor people. That's okay, you can do that to poor people. You put a label on them that they're special interests and they're bad people -- it's their fault their poor -- so it's okay to cut their income by 22%.

It's okay to cut our education system by $1 billion and plan to take another $1 billion, because most of the people you're worried about have got enough money to send their kids to private school, so we don't need to worry about the public education system. The same applies to the health care system. While you're doing all that, the 30% tax cut is between $5 billion and $6 billion, again going to those who have the most.

I ask people when I'm speaking out across the province, I ask them publicly at meetings: "How much has the tax cut helped your life? How much has the part of that 30% tax cut that they've already implemented helped you spend money to create jobs?" -- that whole mythical economic BS story you use to try to justify. I'll tell you, if you're making $1 million or half a million dollars, that's a lot of coin. Now we're talking serious money. That's a new car, at least. That's another piece of the portfolio. That's another world vacation. That's serious money.

That's exactly the same as what you're doing to injured workers. You're taking from those who are the most vulnerable, who have the least -- in this case it's injured workers, for God's sake; you're taking the money out of their pockets and giving it to those who already have, just like you're doing with the 30% tax cut.



Mr Christopherson: Let me tell you very directly, for those of you who don't like to be yelled at about Bill 99, for those of you who don't want the truth told about Bill 99, you'd better stay away from the public hearings this summer, because there's going to be a lot of yelling going on.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order, the member for Lambton, the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Christopherson: There's going to be a lot of yelling, there's going to be a lot of screaming, there's going to be a lot of hurt people. Those of you who are on that committee are going to have to sit through that, and if you remember what we went through with the Employment Standards Act -- remember that bill that was supposed to be just a little housekeeping bill, minor amendments, and then when we forced you to take it out publicly across the province, you got savaged in every community because you were taking away rights?

Let me tell you, that was a picnic compared to what's going to happen when Bill 99, assuming the minister honours her commitment to have province-wide public hearings; that was a picnic compared to what you're going to face on Bill 99. It won't be political rhetoric; it will be about the most vulnerable people in our society being hurt by you again. That's what it will be about. Every time you say "unfunded liability," they're going to say "workers' rights"; every time you say "unfunded liability," they're going to say "$6 billion for your corporate friends"; and every time you try to justify why it's okay to kill the Occupational Disease Panel, they're going to say, "That's not true."

There's no justification for what you're doing, there's no justification for any of the changes and the attacks that exist within Bill 99. Let me say to you that, although you have a majority and you will probably at the end of the day have your way, it won't be without one hell of a fight in every corner of this province, as injured workers take the one opportunity they have to get at you in public meetings and tell you what they think of your attack on their lives and your attack on their loved ones and your attack on their neighbours, because that's what this is, and you're going to be held accountable. You'll be held accountable at re-election time, because you cannot justify the continual attack on vulnerable people in this province in every area. You can't continue to do that without hearing the kind of fight you're going to hear on Bill 99.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments? Minister.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I think it's important that we put some facts on the record and it's important that if we take a look at Bill 165, which was introduced by the NDP, Premier Bob Rae indicated that there was a need for reform and renewal of workers' comp. Then he proceeded to indicate that he was taking $18 billion in benefits away from injured workers through the reforms he was introducing. He also recognized the need to retire the unfunded liability over time, and that's why they introduced the Royal Commission on Workers' Compensation.

But I think what is most revealing is the fact that labour organizations did not like what the NDP did to the Friedland formula. I mention that because that's the $18 billion that was taken away. In fact, Gord Wilson said, "The 4% cap imposed by Bill 165 becomes a punitive measure in a sense for injured workers if inflation rises rapidly." The Canadian Labour Congress said it was "a regressive proposal of deindexing which could take billions of dollars away from the incomes of injured workers."

OPSEU Local 595 said, on August 25, 1994, "It is clear that the government is reforming the WCB mainly on the backs of injured workers." The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters, August 25: "In our view, this is simply a method of saving money on the backs of injured workers."

Grey-Bruce Injured Workers Union, August 29: "In essence, the $200 increase in the pension is merely a salesman's ploy to sell to a few of those injured workers who are in dire straits. The balance of the package will diminish any of the future increases in the injured workers' pensions.... Suffice it to say it is a magic show of the lowest degree." That is what injured workers say.

Finally, we go up to Sault Ste Marie, Injured Workers' Advocates, August 31, 1994, at the committee hearings on Bill 165: "I feel with all my heart that if this bill is passed as is, it's a slap in the face to injured workers."

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I would like to acknowledge the passionate speech of the member for Hamilton Centre. Because I have only a short period of time, I want to address one aspect that he identified when he was talking about the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, and I think he was absolutely correct. I tried to address that likewise in my speech last Thursday when this piece of legislation was introduced so quickly, at two hours' notice.

The part that I think the government may appreciate is that I don't know anywhere where you do not provide an appeal or you do not provide for the opportunity for that tribunal to be able to challenge a policy that has been put in place, because it is a living organization. That appeals board deals with live situations of people with difficulties, people who are injured, people who are maimed, people who have perhaps lost limbs. They are responding to live situations.

They can't say to their board: "Listen. In our experience this doesn't make sense. This policy is too limiting, it's too restrictive, it's unfair, it's not just." That doesn't make sense to me; it doesn't make common sense at all, because anybody who has run an organization knows that unless you apply your experience to the policies that you have -- you have an evolution of policies and you have experiences that tell you you change policies as you go along in order to address the primary needs. We know that the primary needs of the compensation board are to be of help and to be of support to injured individuals, families that are affected, offspring that are affected and individuals who are struggling with trying to survive.

Mr Martin: I want to take this opportunity to compliment the member from Hamilton for the speech he made, consistent with speeches that he always makes in this House, which are very well researched and very factual and to the point and delivered with some high degree of compassion as he feels so strongly that this government continues down a road of taking away from and hammering those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

I was somewhat disappointed, member from Hamilton, as you were speaking, to hear the minister across the floor talk to the member from Renfrew about you being deceitful. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black or whatever, and I'm not for a minute suggesting that you're deceitful. If you want to talk about deceit, let's look at what this government is doing, which is consistent across the board.

They're taking 22% away from the poorest people in our communities, and you mentioned that in your speech, and then they turn around and tell them that they're doing this because it's going to be in their best interests, it's somehow good for them and it's good for the communities they live in. They're taking money out of the take-home pay of people who have worked in this province and, through no fault of their own, have found themselves injured and no longer able to work.

They're going to take money out of their pay packet and then they're turning around and suggesting that somehow this is in their best interests, this is somehow good for them, this is somehow going to be an improvement in some way to the system, and their families and the communities in which they live are going to be better off because of this. They take money away from senior citizens. They now make seniors pay for a portion of their drugs and they tell them this also is going to be good for them and in their best interests. This is consistently the story we hear from this government, and ultimately it will come back and bite you.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a few comments with respect to the remarks made by the member for Hamilton Centre. I will say one thing about him: We can always hear him. He's certainly outspoken with his comments.

I will say that for any member in this House who has sat in their constituency office through the last number of years, and certainly since I've been elected, since 1990, workers' compensation, whether complaints from employees or complaints from employers, has been one of the major issues. Anyone who says that's not the case simply isn't telling the truth. It has been a major problem and clearly the system hasn't worked. Employees would complain that they're not being served well, that they're not getting sufficient benefits, that too many things are being challenged. The employers in turn would say: "We can't afford these terrible premiums. They're killing us. We can't expand our business to provide jobs." So when we ran for office in 1995, we undertook to do this.


The member for Hamilton Centre is talking as if this has just suddenly popped out of the hat. It hasn't. This is something the Minister of Labour deliberately put forward from the time we ran for office. In fact, if you read the book you like to refer to all the time, the Common Sense Revolution, we talked about this.

There's a section on page 14 which talks about "Removing Barriers to Growth." One of those was cutting Workers' Compensation Board premiums. The purpose of that is to enable growth, to allow more people to work. "WCB premiums will be cut by 5%. This will save Ontario employers an estimated $98.5 million. We will also implement our previously published six-point program for reforming the WCB, which will eliminate the unfunded liability by 2014, as demanded by the Employers' Council of Ontario. The WCB will have to be revamped altogether to restore business confidence, protect workers and bring fiscal sanity to the board's operations." She's doing that today.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, you have two minutes.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the comments of my colleague from Ottawa Centre and my seatmate from Sault Ste Marie.

Very briefly, to the member for Dufferin-Peel, this is just the old trickle-down theory with a different spin. Workers know what happened to them in England and the United States under trickle-down and what happened to the deficit, which went through the roof, at the same time. You're not fooling anybody with that.

The fact of the matter is, this is strictly an employers' agenda. You talked about one of the complaints from workers being the fact that the premiums aren't high enough; you're cutting the premiums. You talked about the fact that the system doesn't always serve injured workers. Well, you killed the royal commission that was there to do just that, to fix the system.

Nobody's going to buy your argument, and if that's the best you guys have got, you're in a lot of trouble come time to go out across the province and talk about this with the public and look them in the eye rather than being sheltered in this place. If that's the best you've got, you're in a lot of trouble, because what you talk about and what's happening to workers are two different things. Workers are being hurt.

To the minister, I want to say very directly that the quotes she read out -- I would also suggest to her that she look at the fact that our reform did not give one penny back to corporations. Every penny of the changes in the formula stayed in the system, either to deal with the unfunded liability, which worked -- it's down three years in a row, over $1 billion in total -- or it went to give injured workers more money. That's what we did. So the quotes you raise -- ask those same workers, do they want our Bill 165 or your Bill 99? I'll bet heavy money on what the outcome is.

There's one last thing I want to say while I'm on my feet, to anybody who is watching this. Do two things: Phone your local backbench Tory MPP and ask him how they can do this, and be at the public hearings. It's crucial. Be there.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I'm pleased to rise today to take part in the second reading debate on Bill 99, the Workers' Compensation Reform Act.

It's important at the outset to say that this bill is really about repairing a system that needs repair. My colleague Mr Tilson just mentioned that this is something that everybody -- employers and workers, especially injured workers -- has said doesn't work and needs to be repaired. It's a system that isn't financially secure right now, and some of these changes are needed to make sure that the system is there long into the future for injured workers. That's what this bill is about, and I think we should keep that uppermost in our minds.

I also appreciate the member from Hamilton's loud speech and debate, his input on this bill. I expect that when we go out on the road -- and as the new parliamentary assistant for labour, I expect to be at all those hearings -- I do expect to hear some loud voices. I will say that loud for the sake of loud isn't nearly as effective as a logical, rational discourse, which will always carry more weight anywhere in the province, on any issue, in any debate. I would encourage the member for Hamilton East to have that kind of input and to give us his input in that manner on this bill and any other bills that come forward with regard to the WCB.

A third thing I'd like to mention, since I didn't get up on a two-minute interjection, is Bill 15. The bipartite board has now been changed because it was ineffective and it was locked into inaction. It was an inefficient board. Now we've got a new multipartite board of six members, with a labour representative, an employer representative and people with years of experience in the insurance system who are there now operating the board.

What's happened since that occurred? From the fourth- quarter report from the Workers' Compensation Board, I can tell you about the changes already in a more efficient and effective Workers' Compensation Board because of that change to a multipartite board.

"WCB investment revenue increased by $118 million in 1996 to $711 million, compared to $593 million in 1995. Administrative and other expenses decreased by $18 million in 1996. This decrease was the direct result of management initiatives to control salary and other administrative costs. Legislative expenses also decreased by $15 million. These results clearly indicate that the WCB continues to strive towards financial sustainability and that the WCB is fully aware of the financial challenges that remain ahead, given an unfunded liability which now stands at $10.4 billion compared to $10.9 billion in 1995."

Just by a small change to the board of directors, making a multipartite board, bringing in people who have had years of actuarial experience and management experience in the insurance industry, there are huge savings already. I think that's something of note.

Also, the member across decries any changes we bring in to the WCB. He said before that injuries would increase radically, but if we look at lost-time injuries reported in 1996, we see that the number actually decreased from 1995 by 17,400, or 12.1%, compared to the previous year. The minister talked about mining. That's an area where there has always been a high incidence rate, but the number of lost-time injuries reported in 1996 compared to 1995 was a decrease of 12.5%; in transportation a decrease of 5.7%; in construction a decrease of 7.2%; in the retail-wholesale trade a decrease of 8.6%; and in manufacturing a decrease in lost-time injuries of 16.4%. Although the member opposite in the past has decried that any changes we have made would cause great harm and cause injuries to go up, that has not been the case in 1996 compared to 1995.

Before I leave that, I might add that this government believes, and every other party and every Ontarian believes, that any injury in the workplace is too many injuries. That of course is the goal of all legislation we undertake in labour reform: to reduce the number of injuries, because any injury is too many.

We believe that reforms outlined in Bill 99 will achieve our government's goal of a fully funded system that is sensitive and accountable to the needs of injured workers and affordable to employers who fund the system and provide jobs. It will also be a system that has as its top priority the prevention of workplace injury and illness, along with the timely and safe return to work of those who are injured.

I'm sure that all the honourable members of this House agree that the present workers' compensation system is in trouble, is a system that needs a complete overhaul. The member opposite's party tried to make some changes. I might quote again from the Liberal red book in the last election: "Cleaning up Workers' Compensation." I quote from their book: "Ontario's workers' compensation system is a mess. High premiums are chasing away investment and jobs. The unfunded liability is out of control, soaring by $2 million a day.... The WCB is failing both the employers who pay for it and the injured workers it is supposed to serve."

Between the two parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, I think 80% of the population were in support of the two parties in the last election, and both parties, as Mr Tilson has pointed out, ran on reforming the WCB system, a system that hasn't been substantially rewritten since it was first written in 1914. So it's time for change.

I might also point out that in my own riding, George Schrivjer wrote a report on the Niagara region. It was a survey of 100 manufacturing firms. They asked those manufacturing firms at the time what the biggest detriments to locating in Niagara and locating in Ontario were. The number one concern among those manufacturing firms was the cost of the WCB premiums and the red tape and the incredibly difficult time they had dealing with the WCB as it has evolved over the past 80 years.


I've also had many workers in my own office coming in to tell me the problems they've had with the system. I had Minister Jackson down to talk to several injured workers early on, probably a year ago now, when he was doing his consultation on workers' compensation. Those injured workers talked about the years' worth of problems they've had with the system. So it is indeed a system that needs a complete overhaul.

I must also point out, before I get to more of my prepared speech, that the member opposite believes that the Ontario Mining Association was listened to by the government. But so were a lot of other people. I mentioned the 80% before who voted for both the Conservatives and the Liberals. I can go back to the Liberal red book and talk about some of the things they called for:

"The Ontario government has appointed a royal commission to look at workers' compensation. This will delay reform for at least a year, while using up $2 million in taxpayers' money. It's time for action, not another study. A Liberal government will scrap the Royal Commission on Workers' Compensation and get on with real reform." Well, we've done that.

What else did the Liberals call for? They called for a "freeze on WCB rates paid by employers." We've done that and one better.

They said, "Change the makeup of the WCB board of directors to make it less partisan and more accountable to a wider range of stakeholders and the people of Ontario." Done.

"Improve the administration of the WCB by hiring a chief executive officer with a strong background in accounting and the administration of insurance." Done.

Create better return-to-work programs: It's being done in Bill 99.

"Cut down on fraud." Done in Bill 15.

"Put the WCB on a sound financial footing by eliminating overpayments to injured workers, cutting administrative costs, and improving the rate of return on the investment portfolio by hiring private sector money managers." Done. All done.

"Disband the Workplace Health and Safety Agency and put it under the WCB." Done with Bill 99.

Nine for nine, we are with the Liberal red book. I expect to see a lot of support from them in public hearings and as this bill goes forward.

Previous governments recognized that there are problems with the system. The NDP knew that there were problems when they introduced the Friedland formula to deal with some of the financial problems with the WCB system. However, previous governments' efforts to fix it were patchwork at best, grafting so many changes on to the original legislation that the act has become cumbersome and difficult to understand, use and enforce. These changes, taken together, have created a fragmented system that fails to meet its obligation to injured workers, employers and the people of Ontario.

As the Minister of Labour informed the House last week, the reforms in Bill 99 are based on five principles:

(1) Restoring the financial viability of the system by retiring the unfunded liability by the year 2014. A system in financial distress serves no one well.

(2) Refocusing the system as an insurance plan that compensates for work-related injury and illness.

(3) Prevention of injury and illness in the workplace.

(4) Self-reliance of employers and employees, particularly with regard to illness and injury prevention and return to work.

(5) Return to work in a more safe and timely manner when injury or illness occurs.

These are all equally important elements of the bill, but for the purposes of my participation in the debate today, I would like to focus more closely on one, the whole issue of early and safe return to work. Early return to suitable employment must be a primary objective of the new workers' compensation system.

Our consultations showed that the system is not doing nearly as well as it can in getting workers back to meaningful employment as soon as possible. WCB statistics also bear this out. For instance, WCB data indicate that roughly half the workers referred to vocational rehabilitation services remain unemployed.

A recent Ontario survey of workers with permanent partial disabilities indicated that 60% of those who did return to work suffered subsequent injuries and periods of unemployment. As a result, a significant percentage of the WCB's voc rehab caseload is made up of repeat clients. There are also indications that VR programs may actually delay return to work. The broad availability of voc rehab services and voc rehab supplements encourages many workers to use and stay in voc rehab. This is consistent with WCB data that indicate that the average duration of temporary compensation claims in the year of injury increased from 28 to 33 days between 1985 and 1994.

This trend continues. In 1995 the WCB spent almost half a billion dollars on vocational rehabilitation, yet the system failed to get workers back on the job in anywhere near the numbers we need and many workers who did return to work were subsequently reinjured.

While previous reforms have tried to encourage return to work and re-employment, they have not gone far enough and in fact may have discouraged effective return-to-work efforts. For example, there has been insufficient cooperation at the very early stages following an injury on the part of the injured worker, the accident employer and health care provider in the return-to-work process.

The emphasis on vocational rehabilitation, often unfocused and open-ended and which only starts months following an injury, has resulted in increased costs and increased duration of benefits without a noticeable improvement in return to work. The level of benefits has tended to encourage injured workers to stay on vocational rehabilitation rather than focus on an early return to work. Finally, incentives to promote return to work are either inadequate or are being misused.

The evidence is clear that the current focus on vocational rehabilitation has failed to meet the needs of workers and employers. This has had a devastating long-term effect on many workers and has imposed a future financial burden on the generation of workers to come. Yet there is no disagreement on the value of a safe and timely return to work among the three parties most directly involved in the process: employers, workers and health care professionals. Time and again during our consultations we heard about the importance of getting workers back on the job as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.

The Ontario Federation of Labour itself in its submission during the review conducted by Minister Jackson said: "Cooperative return-to-work programs create a classic win-win situation.... Statistics tell us that the longer an injured worker is off work, the less likely he or she is to return and the more likely they are to live a life of poverty.... Employers save big money with timely return-to-work programs."

As for the role of employers, the Employers' Advocacy Council, a group with a long-time interest in WCB issues, says: "Shifting responsibilities of vocational rehabilitation to the workplace parties would provide an opportunity for flexibility and creativity of the workplace parties. To facilitate this, a cooperative team approach is required. Workers, accident employers, unions, doctors and the WCB must work together."

For its part, the Ontario Medical Association also says, about return to work: "Any new return-to-work model must recognize the therapeutic importance of the patient being as active as possible, as early as possible, in the course of the illness or injury. Physicians are thus encouraged to help patients focus on their capabilities, rather than disabilities, and to keep active."

Bill 99 will take this unanimous desire for a more effective return-to-work process and will make it a reality. Bill 99 creates reciprocal obligations for employers and workers to cooperate in getting workers back to work in a safe and timely manner. The changes will ensure that employers who invest in return-to-work initiatives are rewarded for their investment not only through lower assessment rates but also through reduced absenteeism, greater productivity and higher morale.

In recent discussions I've had with many different workplaces, what's interesting is that there's a certain corporate culture different employers have. This corporate culture has gone down to their workforce and they have an agreement, they have a clear understanding, that good health and safety is in the best interests of both the employer and employee, both from a moral view and from an economic view. That's an important thing to remember, that that corporate culture being spread throughout the entire corporation, among employers and workers, needs to occur in Ontario, and I think Bill 99 can help that.

Too many employers in the past have turned their backs on injured workers. Now, under Bill 99, employers and workers will be required to take steps to ensure the early and safe return of their injured workers to work, including obligations to contact each other as soon as possible after an injury and maintain contact; attempt to identify and arrange suitable employment that is consistent with the worker's functional abilities and restores the worker's pre-injury earnings; and cooperate in return-to-work measures required by the board. This requirement for employers and workers to remain in contact with one another throughout the important early stages of the disability will serve to reinforce the workplace connection, a connection we know right now is not maintained. This is vital if return-to-work outcomes are to improve across the system.


In recognition of the special characteristics of the construction industry, construction workers and employers will be required to cooperate with the board's return-to-work measures, as set out in a regulation to be developed in consultation with the construction industry.

To improve our return-to-work success rate, it is absolutely vital that both the worker and the employer have access to relevant information about the worker's abilities and functional limitations at different points after an injury. That is why workers will be required to consent to the release of functional abilities information to the employer as part of their application for benefits.

Functional abilities information -- and we should be clear about this -- is non-medical information that describes what a worker is capable of doing and is limited to information about the impact of the injury. It will help the employer understand the worker's physical abilities and limitations and will speed up the process for reentry into the workplace. It should be noted that the functional abilities information is not confidential health information. A one-page form is presently being developed by the WCB, in consultation with health professionals and other stakeholders. It will soon be released for public comment and it will be available before public hearings.

In light of the new responsibilities of the workplace parties, the board will be positioned to assume more of a guiding and facilitative role, to monitor, mediate and resolve disputes in the return-to-work process. The board will have broad authority to provide mediation services to help workplace parties resolve disagreements themselves rather than relying on board and appeals tribunal hearings. The board will also be permitted to establish a list of service providers that employers can draw on for the purposes of putting in place return-to-work and labour market re-entry strategies. The board will have the authority to provide employers with financial incentives to invest in health and safety and return to work.

In cases where a worker has been unable to return to work with the pre-injury employer and has cooperated in all return-to-work and medical recovery measures, the board will conduct an assessment to determine whether a labour market re-entry plan is required. A labour market re-entry plan is a program designed to enable the worker to re-enter the labour market and to reduce or eliminate the worker's loss of earnings resulting from the injury. The plan will be developed by the board in consultation with the worker and, where appropriate, with the employer and with the worker's attending health professional.

Bill 99 will reinforce greater employer and employee self-reliance by specifying that a failure to cooperate in return-to-work and labour market re-entry will result in a reduction or suspension of benefits for workers or in stiff penalties for employers. The board will be responsible for developing and administering clear and reasonable policies with respect to the application of worker and employer penalties.

Our goal in the return-to-work provisions of Bill 99 is not only to provide injured workers with the support they need to secure employment, but also to ensure that the resources invested in labour market re-entry programs will result in re-employment and consequently in a lower long-term cost to the system. As the minister said in her opening remarks on second reading debate, Bill 99 represents a profound change in direction for the WCB. Under its new leadership, the board is preparing for a smooth and successful implementation of Bill 99, including the return-to-work changes I have been talking about.

The WCB is moving towards a return-to-work model built on the nurse practitioner as case manager. The nurse case manager will provide support and information in a non-adversarial manner to assist injured workers in obtaining the medical care they need. The nurse will also provide support for both the injured worker and employer to facilitate early and safe return to work. It's important that workers don't go back too soon and in things they can't handle and get reinjured. Our reinjury stats, as I've said before, are too high.

The nurse case manager is in the best position to negotiate with physicians to ensure prompt and proper treatment and to ensure the focus is on a safe and timely return to work. Unlike previous reform efforts which were never implemented by the board, real change will now take root. But I must emphasize that along with the changes taking place at the WCB, employers and workers will play a key role in seeing that the return-to-work proposals in Bill 99 are realized.

We are counting on the workplace parties to recognize that it is in their interests to make the new system work. Both parties must realizes the advantages that flow from getting workers back on the job in a safe and timely manner.

Improving Ontario's return-to-work record is just one element of Bill 99, but it is a very important element. It will give workers the dignity of re-employment while involving employers in meaningful and safe return to work very early in the process, and of course it will reduce costs significantly. That's a winning combination.

I look forward to hearing more about this important change and other aspects of Bill 99 in public hearings during the summer.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Christopherson: I would just caution the new parliamentary assistant that like his colleague from Dufferin-Peel, if that's what he's going to tell injured workers this summer when we're out on the road, he's going to have a very, very uncomfortable summer.

I think it's particularly revealing that the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour talked about the fact that the board is now better, implying, of course, better because the riff-raff working people were turfed out, fired, which is what your government did.

You fired the worker representatives who were on the WCB and now you've got insurance representatives. Isn't that special? The reason you've got insurance representatives there is that the KPMG report that studied the WCB for you said that 75% of the claim processing can be privatized. If it's privatized, who gets that work? The insurance industry. It's very revealing that you think that somehow the board is magically better because worker reps were fired and insurance reps hired. The reality is you didn't talk much, Mr Parliamentary Assistant, about workers' needs. You talked about employers' needs; you didn't talk about workers. What about their needs? What about injured workers' needs? What about the fact that the voc rehab process you're so proud to talk about also means firing 350 voc rehab staff people? What about those workers?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I appreciate the comments from the member for Niagara Falls. I, as have all people who have been around here for a while, have had the opportunity or the occasion more often than one would like to have people dealing with the Workers' Compensation Board in my office, and I can tell you that the Workers' Compensation Board has at times just plain destroyed people's lives. Sometimes it's not the injury that destroyed the lives. I've seen the Workers' Compensation Board, through its processes and its procedures and its bureaucracy, just absolutely destroy the human soul. I don't think there's any other way to describe it, and it is not good.

What I would have expected from this government when dealing with this was to recognize that not only doesn't the workers' compensation system always work well for workers, but sometimes it does destroy people's lives, and perhaps they would have taken a broader view.

Perhaps it is not as important whether the injury took place at work or at home or in an automobile or wherever, and maybe, just maybe, we should be looking at something in this province in terms of universal disability, which might take some of the kind of class warfare I hear in here today out of a system and make sure that those people who are disabled, unable to work, are compensated and can live reasonable lives.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I listened with interest to the parliamentary assistant trying to tell this House that this bill is somehow going to make the situation for injured workers better. I'm reminded of what his colleague the Minister of Education tried to do with Bill 104 when he pretended that somehow this was going to help kids in the classroom, when all it did was set in place the opportunity for this Conservative government to take another $1 billion out of education.

The fact of the matter is, I say to the parliamentary assistant, there's not a single thing in Bill 99 that's going to improve the lot of injured workers coming into your office or mine. This bill, the title of which doesn't even refer to injured workers any more, is merely an attempt to transfer money that is owed to injured workers to your employer friends. That's the bottom line of this legislation.

In the purpose clause, gone is the reference to fair compensation and rehab services which used to appear. The government is now only interested in providing rehab if it's accountable and if it's fiscally available to do so. Gone is the disease panel which used to work in some ways to try and ensure that those who suffered from industrial disease would get some compensation.

Gone is any entitlement to compensation for occupational chronic stress. Gone are the benefits for chronic pain if the disability goes beyond normal healing times, and I'd love to know who's going to have the discretion to determine that at the WCB. Gone is the automatic filing of a WCB claim by a family physician when a worker goes and seeks treatment for an accident at work.

Reduced are the benefits injured workers now receive, from 90% of net to 85%. Reduced are the pension benefits, which are going to be cut in half. Reduced is the cost of living protection for almost all injured workers. There's nothing in here for injured workers. It's all about how to pay back your rich corporate friends.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I'd like to congratulate the parliamentary assistant, the member for Niagara Falls. He certainly has indicated that the legislation that's being introduced, Bill 99, attempts to provide a balance. It tries to ensure that future benefits are available for injured workers and that the system is able to continue to provide for those benefits.

I think what's been missing from this debate is the fact that we're trying to shift the focus away from compensation to the prevention of illness and injury. Again, I think that has been pointed out quite well. We don't want injured workers in this province. We want to make sure that we work with people in this province to focus on the prevention of illness and injury and that's why our act has been totally rewritten.


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate that the member for Hamilton Centre pointed out that KPMG had recommended -- or one of the members opposite did -- privatizing claims processing. I want to emphatically state that WCB did not accept that KPMG recommendation to privatize claims processing.

Mr Christopherson: You fired the voc rehab staff.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate that at the end of the time that is being provided we're going to have a system in this province that is making changes similar to all the other WCBs in Canada and we're going to have a system here that continues to be among the most generous. In fact, other provinces, some of them, have reduced benefits to 75% and 80%. Our benefits are only being reduced to 85% and we will be continuing to build on the reductions that were --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. Member for Niagara Falls, you have two minutes.

Mr Maves: Just some quick replies to the member for Hamilton Centre: I know we'll spend lots of time together over the next while. His comments about labour representatives on the previous board as being riff-raff were his alone. No one over here ever referred to them in such a manner. The member opposite --

Mr Christopherson: You fired them.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Stop the clock for a minute. The member for Hamilton Centre, you had ample time to express your opinion. You did so. Everybody listened. Now it's your turn to listen.

Mr Maves: Furthermore, there is still labour representation on the board. That labour representation is just as responsible for the new successes of the board as anybody else is, and they should be congratulated for their recent successes.

My whole speech was mostly about return to work and the new obligations on employers to help injured workers get back to work, get back into the workplace, and they talk about it like that is a negative thing. Everyone I have talked to about WCB, everyone I have talked to about Bill 99, agrees that an injured worker getting back to work in the appropriate time, getting safety back to his old job, is a key to reforming the WCB system. I cited statistics at the beginning that showed that the number of people who did get back to work with their old employers was way too low, so I'm rather astonished and disappointed that the member opposite would think so lightly about the importance of getting back to work.

He talks about workers' needs, and workers need jobs. Between 1990 and 1995 in this province we lost 10,000 jobs. We have created over 140,000 jobs since we have been in office and we'll continue to do that so workers have jobs, and injured workers, with this new bill, will return to work in the place of employment that they were in before. That's the type of change that needs to occur for the benefit of everybody in the WCB system in Ontario.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm pleased to be able to rise today on Bill 99, the government's attempt to fix workers' compensation. At the beginning of my remarks I'd like to take maybe a different slant and not directly address the bill as I will in a few minutes, but talk about why I'm concerned about injured workers.

By the end of this week I will have been in this place 12 years, and I've had a lot of experience over those years working in my two constituency offices in the riding of Timiskaming with injured workers. In fact, probably up till about three or four years ago, Workers' Compensation Board cases were the largest percentage of the caseload of work we had in those offices. The reason would be that a majority of the people who work for a living in our riding of Timiskaming in northern Ontario, a riding at this moment about 100 miles long and 80 miles wide, I would say earn their living through the sweat of their brow.

We are a resource-dependent area. Resource extraction is basically the base of our economy; that is mining specifically. We have gold mines primarily now, though we used to have some silver mines in Cobalt, and we have quite a thriving lumber industry, which means we have not only woodwork happening out in the bush but also in various processing plants, such as particle board and oriented strandboard. These are all heavy, labour-intensive industries. They're hard jobs, they're very physically demanding, and unfortunately mining and forestry and the other main industry in our area, agriculture, are very prone to accidents.

With all the best will between employers and employees, unions and management to try to make the workplace as safe as possible, we still to this day find ourselves with tragedies, people being killed and people being hurt and maimed. We try as hard as we can to prevent that but we still have these accidents. Therefore, we have a system that we've developed since the early 1900s, the Workers' Compensation Act, and subsequent governments have tried to make improvements to it to make it better.

Over time, I think what we have with this government is a government that is trying to somehow fix this unfunded liability problem, which they see as a major problem, really on the backs of the workers. It's unfortunate that the member for Niagara Falls isn't here now, because I wanted to speak to his remarks more fully than I could have in the minute and a half allowed after his speech, when he said he thought it was a fair tradeoff that employers received a 5% reduction in their premiums in order to try to cut the costs to employers of workers' compensation. I would say to him that what they're doing is not fair to injured workers, because while, yes, the unfunded liability is a problem, I think this government exaggerates how big a problem it is and wants to basically try to solve that problem on the backs of the workers. Under this bill, starting January 1, 1998, workers now will have a reduction in their compensation by 5%, while at the same time employers are being told, and this happened a year ago, that they have a 5% reduction in the premiums they pay. If you apply common sense to that equation, that's not fair to the workers.


What we said in our campaign platform going into the last campaign was that, yes, we were very concerned about the high cost of premiums and the cost of premiums escalating over the years. What we were going to do to try to get control of that, to get a handle on that, would be to freeze those premiums for employers so at least employers could be assured that their costs would no longer go up, and that as we worked through the system, possibly some day, just like a tax cut some day, we maybe could work on this.

But first you've got to fix these problems. You've got to fix the unfunded liability in the Workers' Compensation Board just like you have to solve the debt problem of the Ontario government. You have to work at it first in a responsible manner, and then maybe if you've got that solved you can give cuts in premiums or tax cuts later on. This is far too early to do this. Yes, we have over a $12-billion unfunded liability in the Workers' Compensation Board and at that very same time we're giving the employers a 5% premium break. That's wrong, if we're going to be punitive to the workers.

The minister I suppose was right when she said this is now a shift in focus. It's a shift away from the compensation aspects of workers' compensation to rehabilitation and other aspects of the board. The problem is that we still have injured workers. I think it's very important that with injured workers no longer having the ability to earn an income for themselves and their families, they have the support of the workers' compensation system in this province.

Employers have to remember that the deal that was struck, back in the early 1900s, with employers and the government of the day was that by entering into a workers' compensation system they no longer had the fear of litigation from an injured worker, they no longer had the fear of being sued by an injured worker or the family of a deceased worker. That's a pretty good protection for employers, that they agreed to and still agree to today. I think they have to realize that while, yes, workers' compensation premiums are very high, it is a worthwhile premium to pay because they save themselves court costs and possibly very large settlements in civil court because of that protection.

Because we've had this system for so long, employers, especially in major industries where there is still dangerous work occurring in those workplaces forget what the high cost of civil litigation protection might be if it was to go to the private sector. That's an important matter for employers to realize. They should be happy with a government that would just freeze their rates, not necessarily reduce those rates.

I think the government members are going to be very surprised when this committee goes across the province this summer, to have public hearings for this bill, about how angry injured workers are going to be when they realize they're going to have to cough up 5% of their compensation and employers are getting a break, as of a year ago, of 5%. We've got to remind people that when we're talking about injured workers, there are a large percentage of injured workers who are on 100% compensation, who no longer have the ability to earn an income.

Going back to my area and much of northern Ontario, many of the men who found themselves in mines and mills across the north were boys who left high school, who realized that by leaving school early in those days they could go into these high-paying jobs -- at that time there were a lot of those around -- and they didn't finish their high school, and for sure they didn't go on to any sort of post-secondary education. Now many of them find themselves in their 50s, find it very difficult to retool themselves, to re-educate themselves, and find it very difficult to get into other sorts of employment that don't rely upon the sweat of their brow.

What we have to realize is that these are people who no longer have the ability to earn an income for themselves or their families. Why should we be punitive to them and deny them the opportunity to have the income they would have had at work? The workplace owes them that income because they were injured in that workplace, and we must never forget that.

The other area that is of concern that we want to focus in on, and we imagine the public will too when we come to committee, is the lesser entitlement for chronic occupational stress and pain. It is important that an employer should note that if this now is being given less importance by the Workers' Compensation Board, this possibly leaves open opportunities for employees to civil litigation for stress. I think employers better think twice about letting that go and thinking, "This might further reduce my premiums as an employer," because it could just open the door for a lot of further costs for employers if this gets to the courts. Employers would be well advised to be talking to the Workers' Compensation Board to keep occupational stress and pain in workers' compensation so they would have that protection, and of course workers would benefit from that too.

The other point we're concerned about is the elimination of the Occupational Disease Panel as an independent body, because now, with this bill, it's going to be folded into the WCB. The concern of this is, of course, that they will no longer have that independent view to basically make recommendations to the Workers' Compensation Board as to what occupational diseases should be covered. We may have a problem there in trying to prove new diseases that come along.

Mr Michael Brown: It sounds like a conflict of interest.

Mr Ramsay: My colleague from Algoma-Manitoulin said it probably sounds like a conflict of interest. I agree with him; that's right. That's why when we established this in the late 1980s, it was established as an independent body from the Workers' Compensation Board.

The other concern workers have is the confidentiality of medical information. It is very important, with all the reports that flow back and forth between the case workers, the board and in some cases the employer, that we keep very strict confidentiality of the medical information of the injured worker. This bill talks about a medical form, but the bill doesn't spell out what the contents of medical information on this form will be. So we're very concerned what information through regulation might be on this form.

The issue of disclosure of medical records is and always has been a highly sensitive matter. While disclosure is for the sole purpose of facilitating the worker's return to work, who can be certain that privacy concerning medical records will be protected? This is a concern we obviously want to talk about.

The other concern I have: Dealing with cases in my constituency office over the years, we have quite a sound appeals process, the last avenue being where we have called WCAT, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. Through Bill 99 the Harris government is basically going to be eroding the power of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. It will no longer be an independent entity. It's been functioning as a last resort right now for workers, to protect ordinary workers, but after Bill 99 they will only be allowed to question WCB policy, not whether the WCB is fulfilling its obligations under the act.

I think this is a very serious erosion of the powers of this appeals tribunal, one that's going to be a detriment to injured workers across this province. I would ask the government to reconsider that when they go to public hearings this summer and hear from the workers across this province.

One of the issues not addressed in Bill 99, but of concern to injured workers, is the possible privatization of rehabilitation services. It has been hinted by this government that it may be looking at the privatization of vocational rehabilitation services. Having this in the WCB I think keeps it strong and keeps it related directly to the needs of the workers who are there.

Mr Speaker, I see by the clock that you may wish to adjourn for the day, so I will take my place and allow you to do that.

The Deputy Speaker: It being close to 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 of the clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1800.