36th Parliament, 1st Session

L184 - Thu 1 May 1997 / Jeu 1er Mai 1997




















































The House met at 1004.




Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I move private member's notice of motion number 52:

That in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should produce a concrete plan for the development of better health care in this province. Such a plan must:

Ensure a high standard of health services are available to all Ontarians;

Include appropriate policies to reflect regional and demographic needs, including small and rural communities, northern communities, large urban communities, medium-sized urban communities, high-growth communities, women's health, francophone health issues, seniors' health;

Recognize that local communities must be allowed to determine their particular needs;

Link improvements in primary care, community health, home care, long-term care, mental health, drug benefits, public health and emergency services such as ambulance to decisions concerning hospitals and other elements in an integrated health plan;

Identify and ensure equivalent community-based services are set up and funded in advance of any changes to hospital services;

Include a human resources plan which reflects the high value Ontarians place on their nurses, doctors and other health professionals;

Guarantee any tally of government reinvestment includes money which has actually been spent rather than simply announced, so as not to confuse the public.

Further, that until this plan is produced, subject to public input and approved by a committee of this House, the Ontario government should:

Restore cuts made to hospitals which are causing a reduction in the quality of patient care across the province;

Stop the experimental use of formulas for patient care which are sending sick Ontarians out of hospital quicker and sicker;

Stop its misguided closure of hospitals in the province through the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Pursuant to standing order 96, the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Kennedy: I have brought forward this resolution in the spirit of recognizing one of the key responsibilities of this Legislature when it comes to provision of public services in this province, and that is, no matter which party sits in government, no matter what measures it deems are necessary for the wellbeing of the public, it is important not only to provide those services but to sustain public confidence that those services will exist currently in a way that is important to the people who are affected, and into the future.

What we have seen in recent months is that the public has been stricken with a real sense of crisis around their health care system. The public has seen what used to be a system that was predictable and reliable at the times of urgency, of sickness, of illness for themselves and their family members, turned into one racked by crisis: by the crisis of a hospital closing that is important to them; the crisis of cutbacks which affect the very basic care that they receive, which sends esteemed health professionals like nurses, and now even doctors, into previously unknown unemployment, and disconnects people on whom we have not only spent money but invested a substantial amount of trust to carry out important duties in our community away from those duties.

That public confidence is extremely fragile at the present moment. We have had surveys by various polling groups, but we don't need those surveys. We have talked to people in our constituencies. We know that the level of care being offered by the system has been diminished in recent months. It would be easy to pinpoint the various contributing factors to that. We could talk largely around political choices between tax cuts and cash flow for that tax cut from the system, but I think if we want to find some resolution from this House that addresses the public confidence, then we have to look for those areas in which we could agree.

Hopefully, one area where we could agree is the need for a plan. The public has a right to expect from this government and from this House as a whole some regard for that concern that they're feeling, to see that there is a plan which pulls together what the state is of one of the most important public services that touches their lives, and to see that ahead of time. What we have seen in recent years are cuts to hospitals across the board, in effect arbitrary cuts in every community in the province. So 210 public hospitals have had to decide in 210 different ways how to cope with historic cuts to their services, cuts which have ranged between 11% and 14% or 15% of their grants from the province. This has caused all manner of strange adaptations.


In Brampton it means they now have the lowest number of hours -- it's no longer in days -- that women stay in hospital after giving birth. In that hospital they're proud of having achieved that kind of accomplishment, but when you ask the very simple question: "Are the mothers happy? Are they satisfied? Does this work?" the answer is no. The response is a sad shrug, saying, "What else can we do?"

Similar things are found all across this province. Of course we stand here today not looking for an arbitrary plan. We're not looking for something on paper that simply sits there as a potential to cover up and paper over cracks which have now emerged in the system. What we're looking for is the kind of plan that is going to bring some assurance, for example, to the family of Ed Whitehill, who in Peterborough ended his life in circumstances that none of us should have to face. Ed Whitehill, at the age of 82, saw a hospital for the first time in 40 years, spent an overnight in the emergency ward. The family was told to go home, that there was no room for him, and 20 to 30 stretchers in the hallway were testament to that. Those people on those stretchers heard the next day, of course unfortunately a well-known statement, the daughter saying, "How long has my father been lying here dead?" That lack of rooms meant that Ed Whitehill died in the ignominy of the bright lights of an emergency room hallway. That family wants this province to not let that happen again.

So does the family of Leie Rykene. Leie Rykene spent five days waiting in York region for a hospital bed, a cardiac bed, to be able to get an angiogram -- five days waiting -- to the tremendous upset of all those who were caring for her: her family, the physicians, the specialists. The system did not respond. It didn't respond because we've enacted arbitrary cuts ahead of time. We are looking at hospital restructuring, but we're doing that in isolation; we're not doing that as part of an overall plan on how to make the system better.

If there's any commitment that this House needs to make clear today, it's that whatever changes are made and whatever disagreements we might have about that, we're going to stand up to make this system better by some objective standard.

In this province we don't have the checks and balances against making huge mistakes. We have a system that looks after the behaviour of doctors. We have none to assure standards in either our community care services or in what's existing in hospitals. So we know there's been some recognition already on the part of the government that there are holes in their approach. Like any government, they have the opportunity to admit those mistakes and to rectify them. So they have said of late that small and rural communities will have a policy that's appropriate for small and rural communities. If that's so -- and we applaud the idea that this sensitivity might exist in the government benches, particularly in the Ministry of Health -- then why don't we have the same sensitivity for northern communities, which have seen themselves devastated in terms of what's happened to hospital services in Sudbury and Thunder Bay, with cuts of 25% and 35% of the services available there?

Why not for large urban communities? If we pause long enough, not for a great deal of time but long enough, to look at what's happening, for example, for Women's College and for Wellesley, for Doctors Hospital, even for Northwestern, we would look at the impact of community hospitals, which have already paved the way of how we can do health care in the future, reaching out to some of the poorest people in the province, in the instance of Wellesley, involving them in their health services, already starting them down the road of preventive health. That can't be recreated once it's gone.

In terms of women's health, we have an arm's-length list of firsts and advantages for women which have been gained from having a locus of practical, hands-on activity taking place under one roof. Those things would be readily apparent if we had a standard for women's health.

If we looked at the needs as well, for senior's health, we would recognize that the plans so far, such as they are in this province, take us only to 2001, and yet it's 2005 and 2010 when we're going to see a huge growth in demand for seniors.

We would recognize some of the area needs, for example the number of seniors served by Branson Hospital, who have nowhere to go. They literally have no place in the community that they can go in terms of Metropolitan Toronto.

We would recognize places like the Grace in Ottawa, and Riverside. The Grace was the cheapest way of delivering birth services anywhere in the province, yet it's being shut down; Riverside, with some of the greatest efficiencies, and yet being shut down; and in other areas, the Hotel Dieu in St Catharines, with some of the greatest efficiencies in the Niagara region, also being threatened with the idea of being shut down; and all for the lack of a plan, all for the lack of a government willing to take the time to really preserve health care.

So part of what we look at today -- and we are particularly mindful of the Montfort. When we look at the Montfort Hospital, we recognize that we no longer have any soul in terms of our health care plan, any connection between the real needs of people when we think we can antiseptically remove from the francophone community what they've fought for for 20 and 30 and 40 years: a place to train, a place to achieve medical excellence, a place to get services in times of emergency, a place for francophones to belong in this province, and proof of it. If that can't be accommodated by a health care system, then we really have no plan at all.

If we're not prepared to give assurances ahead of time that community-based services will be there, funded and in place when anything is removed from hospitals, then we don't mean it. And if we don't mean it, if we're not serious about making sure the human resources plans are there so that -- our doctors are leaving now in greater numbers, even though they haven't been hard done by in some respects by this government, but there was a one-year war this government had with those doctors before reaching a deal with them that may cost the province a lot of money. But it's not the money. It's the feeling, because there's no human resources plan, that this province doesn't want them.

It comes down to whether this House wants to preserve public health care, because if we're not going to preserve the confidence in that system, if we're not going to have regard for the people who've seen tragedies because of the mistakes we've made so far, then what we really mean is we're headed for an American-style system, through the back door, by taking away people's belief in the system.

Members of this House, we can't allow that to happen. You have an opportunity today to make sure it does not.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to congratulate my friend from York South for bringing forward this resolution for debate in this House this morning. I want to speak just briefly about the two first items on his list, appropriate policy to reflect the regional demographic needs of small and rural communities and northern communities.

I want to congratulate the government and the minister for bringing in legislation yesterday for nurse practitioners, the recognition of their right to practice in this province, because that's of particular importance to small, rural communities and to northern communities. It is one way of trying to deal with the doctor shortage as well as ensuring that we provide good quality, economic services to people in small communities right across the province of Ontario.

I am concerned, though, that this government is not prepared to move beyond that to properly serve small communities. I'm going to talk specifically about two communities in my riding, Richards Landing on St Joseph Island and Thessalon on the North Shore.

Both of these communities have small hospitals. Richards Landing has the Matthews Memorial Hospital, based on a foundation established by a summer resident of that community many years ago and the community has worked very hard to maintain that hospital and to provide services, to raise funds for that hospital for many, many years.

This government, the Minister of Health, approved an operating plan for the Sault area hospitals for 1996-97 which approved the closure of the in-patient beds at Matthews Memorial Hospital in Richards Landing and most of the in-patient beds at Thessalon Hospital in Thessalon. There are provisions for moving Thessalon Hospital to another location if funding was available, and funding has not yet been made available.

The government said they were going to guarantee 24-hour emergency services in both of these locations, but with only one nurse on duty per shift. Everyone in the community understands that this is not adequate. It is not going to be possible to provide emergency services in the case of a traumatic accident, an automobile accident or a heart attack, in this kind of circumstance.

I want to emphasize that Thessalon is a community that has an industrial base. There are two sawmills and a veneer mill located in that community, and we all know, unfortunately, that very serious industrial accidents can occur in those kinds of operations, and they have occurred.


Thessalon is an hour's drive on Highway 17 from Sault Ste Marie. If we have a serious automobile accident, heart attack or industrial accident, in the wintertime particularly, it will be impossible for a resident of that area to reach hospital in time in the Sault. It's just impossible.

Both Thessalon and Richards Landing are retirement communities. People made decisions, life decisions, on the basis that there were hospitals available. Elderly people sold their homes in Sault Ste Marie, or in some cases in parts of the United States, and moved to St Joseph Island and to the North Shore because they were assured there were hospitals located locally. If they had a heart condition, they knew they were within five minutes by ambulance of a hospital with emergency care. We have no assurance of that now under the 1996-97 operating plan for the Sault area hospitals that was approved by this minister.

In response to pressure in southern Ontario, in the Bruce Peninsula and elsewhere, the minister said he was going to set up a policy review for access to quality hospital care for residents of small rural communities, and I welcome that. But what's happened with it? It seems to have gone into a black hole in the ministry. We haven't heard anything about it.

On top of that, when the decision was made to bring forward this kind of review and to assure rural residents of access to quality care, the minister made no commitment that it would also affect Richards Landing and Thessalon. I wrote to him and said: "If this applies to small rural communities in southern Ontario, will it also apply in the north? Specifically, can you assure us it will be applied at Matthews Memorial Hospital in Richards Landing and in Thessalon at Thessalon Hospital?"

The minister wrote back and said, "We've already approved the operating plan for the Sault area hospitals, which includes the closure of inpatient beds in those communities." This gives no assurance to the people of those communities. It's completely inadequate. I asked the minister to put a hold on the closure of those inpatient beds until the new policy was established and could be applied in Thessalon and Richards Landing, as it is apparently going to be applied in rural communities right across Ontario.

I call on the government now not to abandon the elderly, the residents, all the people of St Joseph Island and the North Shore, and respond to their needs. Assure them that they will have access to quality health care, quality hospital care, at the Thessalon Hospital, and the Matthews Memorial Hospital in Richards Landing.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'm pleased to rise in the House today to express my very strong opposition to this resolution that I think would be harmful to health care in Ontario, not only this year, not only in what's going on across Ontario and across Canada this year, but in preparing for the future. I oppose this resolution because it has no plan to deal with the future of health care in Niagara and expresses no leadership.

What the government is doing is preparing for the future of health care in Ontario, to express some leadership as to how to deal with the new miracles of medicine, the new surgeries, the new procedures, that get people out of the hospital quicker and in better shape. Procedures that took weeks or months before, now can be done in a day.

How do we prepare for the aging senior population that will require more health care in the future and this bubble of baby-boomers entering into their fifties? How do we prepare the health care system to adjust to those needs, to prepare for that 21st century of health care? I would contend that it would be a negligent lack of political will not to make changes, not to proceed and to make our health care system better, to put money into priority areas, into community care to adjust for these seniors, to take advantage of the medical miracles.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): And long-term care.

Mr Hudak: Long-term care, as my friend from Durham East says, is another good example.

The previous governments employed a method that was basically across-the-board cuts without any planning, without any coordination of where these cuts should come from, which resulted in bed closures in almost every hospital across Ontario, but left in its place the same administration, the same $100,000 salaried administrator, the same kingdoms.

But where were the cuts? The cuts were in the front-line care, in services to patients, and left an inability to adapt to the medical advances to prepare our way for the 21st century. That was no plan and in fact showed a distinct lack of political will.

What I would say this resolution is asking us to today is to go back to square one, go back to the old NDP and Liberal methods, to not coordinate this -- the mess they would have had health care in if they were on this side of the House. Instead, we have a plan. Mr Kennedy's resolution names a number of things that he wants to see, which the government is doing.

It's a transition. Transitions are always difficult in a number of areas, pulling into the 21st century, but necessary. I think Margaret Thatcher once said that if you have no direction, it's easy to go whichever way the winds are blowing. We certainly see this here. A transition is difficult to move into the future, but they want to take advantage, to exploit this and move us back to square one instead of advancing us and taking advantage of things that are out there.

The plan is already under way: reinvestments in priority areas in Niagara, like the Rehabilitation Foundation for the Disabled, $535,000 in Niagara to help physically disabled adults; $98,000 for the Alzheimer Society in the Niagara region, to adjust to those needs, those priority areas; Anagram, an excellent institution in Niagara to provide long-term living activities and supervision for adults with brain injuries.

Also, rural health care in Niagara region, where I am from -- a very difficult transition period -- rural health care to attend to those needs in the small communities: The government understands and believes that small communities are different, that the small community hospitals play an important role, and in developing rural health care policy we will adapt to those needs to ensure that access to emergency services -- a priority in Port Colborne, a priority in Fort Erie and a priority in Grimsby -- is met.

I oppose this resolution very strongly because it would take us back to square one. This government has a plan, an excellent plan, to bring Ontario's health care system into the 21st century. If we accept this resolution, we would do no better than previous governments that would not make the tough decisions to modernize our health care system. We are prepared to make the tough decisions to move into the 21st century, with sensitivity to the small communities and priority areas, but we will make the tough decisions to provide better health care for young people, for seniors, for women, for everyone across Ontario.

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I appreciate having the opportunity to speak to my colleague's resolution this morning. I think it describes the elements of a deep and widespread concern that many people have about these issues. As health care is evolving, the health care system must change as well, but the changes that are brought about must also be allowed to evolve at a natural pace, to guarantee that no one's interests are trampled in a drive to impose change for its own sake.

As a result of the government's agenda, the Health Services Restructuring Commission is poised to wreak havoc on communities and the services on which they have come to depend. The release of the commission's report in Ottawa-Carleton raised the red flag in this regard for the francophone community. Their experience can be taken as a lesson and an example to all communities which are defending their own hospitals in their own communities.

The commission's report makes it glaringly obvious that its fact-finding was extremely circumscribed and limited. It missed entirely a crucial segment of the whole picture of the life of this province, a reflection of the problem with top-down management, where what you get is the illusion of control and the reality of chaos.


It is so disturbing to me that with the stroke of a pen the government can destroy what has taken years to build, like the Montfort. Other hospitals have grown up in their own communities over many, many years and become integral parts of their unique cultures. Surveys have shown that people are extremely attached to what they consider "their" hospitals, and for good reason. Like the Montfort, which has survived and flourished for 44 years, these institutions have developed through the vision, effort, courage, determination, and financial and volunteer contributions of their communities. These are not just bricks and mortar. They represent the work of individuals who have come together to build a community resource that is a source of pride and a symbol of continuity. To take that away is to do real damage to foundations we have built upon.

Our health care system is a highly prized part of our national identity, something we are extremely proud of. But health care is not just a concept; it is a reality. That reality can be secured in the quality of our institutions. These institutions are not negotiable; they are where we work, come together and grow as a people. They bind us together. Dismantle these institutions and you profoundly affect the nature of our society.

For a culture like that of Franco-Ontarians, which is our historic minority, the effect is much more profound. If you take away our institutions, you take away our culture, our history, our hope and aspirations, and drive them underground.

Ontario has never been a homogeneous province. Even before the influx of nations that followed the French and English here, this province offered unique circumstances and challenges to the people who settled over this broad and varied landscape. Every corner of this province, every town and settlement, has its own needs that defy scientific analysis, that have a human face.

If we would only trust that communities are naturally driven to finding creative solutions to their problems, we could return government to its proper role: supporting the decisions of those who live with their circumstances every day, who instinctively know the answer to the question of what should be done. Communities know. Make them full partners in the process of change. They are our best chance to make sure everyone wins throughout this ongoing process of change.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I also appreciate the opportunity to rise today and speak on this important issue. I also, with my colleague from Algoma who spoke before me, want to go on the record in thanking the member for York South for bringing this timely issue before the House so that we could all address it in some meaningful way, because I don't think there's one of us who serves here on behalf of our constituents who isn't in some way concerned about the implications to our communities flowing out of the very negative impact of the cuts to health care imposed by the government of the day. I would suggest that even the members of the government, if they were being honest and representing the view of their constituents, would be standing up today and saying the very same thing we are.

Lest it be thought that this is simply a political exercise, a chance for us in opposition to get up and do our opposition thing in being critical of the government, I today want to share with the House and with those listening some thoughts from some of the people out there who also share the same concern. I have some letters with me from some constituents that I want to read into the record so that you know what it is that the people in my community are saying. I carry their message to this House and I try to present it as sincerely and as honestly as I can.

I also want to quote, or put into the record, some comment from the report that was made to the standing committee on finance in the pre-budget consultation by the Ontario Hospital Association, a group that I think came before us with some great courage in being critical at this particular point in time of the government and the direction it's taking and the way it's going about the restructuring of health care in our province.

This is from the OHA: "The government's current policy towards the restructuring of hospitals and the health system as a whole is seriously flawed and must be fundamentally changed before irreparable damage is done." I suggest to you that in some instances irreparable damage has already been done and it's going to take a tremendous effort by everybody involved to recover from that damage in some communities. "Unless changes are made, the people of this province will face reduced access to care and the quality of that care may decline significantly. This must not be allowed to happen."

When the OHA came before the committee, I was representing the New Democratic Party there. I asked them why they weren't willing to go the extra step and actually accuse the government of having done irreparable damage and accuse the government of having already reduced access to care and quality of care in the province, because we know, those of us who are in direct contact with people who have had to access hospitals or health care in our communities, that in fact is what has happened. They said they felt the presentation they were making was already somewhat over the top and a break from the tradition of the OHA as it came before standing committees of the government and it wanted to have all of its partners on board when it made this statement. In making this statement, they were confident and comfortable that it represented the view of all the people in their organization representing hospitals across this province.

They also went on to say:

"A group of experts on hospital funding have carefully modelled and analysed the impact of the further cuts that are proposed for 1998-99. They have concluded that, even with aggressive utilization management, savings from clinical efficiency and significant organizational consolidation, the hospital industry will not be able to achieve the $1.3 billion within the three-year time frame without affecting access to, and quality of, health care services."

They are very critical of what's already been done and they're suggesting that if it continues the damage will be further and more serious and will negatively impact the already reduced ability of people to access and quality of care.

I have a couple of letters here that were written to the Minister of Health from constituents in my community that I think other people should be aware of, and perhaps themselves take up the task and put pen to paper and write the minister as well. Here's one that was written to the Minister of Health and the Premier.

"I am writing this letter to plead to you, our Minister of Health and Premier of Ontario, to help solve the problems with our health care system.

"We must push for better health care. Our hospitals are deplorable, not through the fault of our hardworking nurses, doctors, staff etc, but through the gross, stubborn negligence of the Ontario government. As for Jim Wilson and Mike Harris, how can you even think of having the term `Honourable' in front of your name, when no honest, true efforts are being made to protect this service?

"I have watched Parliament on local TV and have also personally attended. In my opinion Mr Wilson has no concept as to what the health care system is all about. His stumbling and bypass comments are not worth listening to. You have heard how some people hold their jobs because of their mouth muscle only. Well, in my opinion Mr Wilson should be ousted immediately, as he serves no earthly good as Minister of Health. He is truly bluffing his way, which is quite evident watching him.

"I, as well as all senior citizens, am becoming very, very upset with the system and if something is not done soon only God knows what will happen. Because of your `prominent title' I am sure your family will not suffer as much as the `ordinary citizen.'

"Election time is not far away, and I for one can hardly wait."

This is signed by Zita Moynan from Sault Ste Marie, a constituent of mine.

Just one further letter before I wrap up here this morning, because I think it's important that people get a sense, get a flavour of what people are feeling and saying out there. This is to myself about the health care system and it goes like this:

"I am on a letter writing campaign to protest the severe cuts to our health care system in the north.

"I have written to the Premier and Mr Wilson with specific complaints.

"We cannot afford less care; we need more.

"Closing hospitals, cutting services, laying off nurses, training kitchen staff to do nurse work does not mean an improved health care system, in my view. I am a retired RN.

"The present government campaigned on a policy of not destroying our health care or education system.

"Do what you can to make them keep these promises."

This is signed by a Mrs Bertolo out of my community.

I really don't have to say a whole lot more. I will certainly be supporting this resolution when it comes time to vote.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I wish to address this resolution because the government of Ontario is creating a concrete plan for better health care, one that puts the patient first, puts people first. This is a new vision that takes us into the 21st century and beyond.

It will be an integrated system, as proposed in this resolution. This vision is one in which all professionals, doctors, nurses, nurse-practitioners, technicians, pharmacists, rehabilitation and long-care services will work together to provide services for all.

Our vision for Ontario's health care system of the future is one in which patients are provided with the right care, at the right time, at the right place, a health system that will be there for everyone in Ontario when they need it.

In my riding of Norfolk, people are talking about the future of health care, and I wish to offer quotes from an in-depth series written by journalist Margaret Land in our local Simcoe Reformer.

Dr John Thorpe, chief of staff in Norfolk General Hospital: "I have faith the restructuring committee is going to do the right thing. Further, the restructuring exercise will show people don't need to be as dependent on hospitals as they currently are."

Dr Gerry Rowland, president of the OMA, is also from my riding, a constituent: "The current state of Ontario's health care system is the end result of 10 years of decline," and we all know who was in power during those 10 years.

Mr Paul Mailloux, chief administrative officer of both the West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville and Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in Dunnville, is also quoted in our daily newspaper. Yes, they did combine administration of these two relatively small hospitals. Mr Mailloux says: "The region's hospitals have been downsizing and restructuring for years. Downsizing actually came about due to advances in medical technology," technology which includes laser techniques and laparoscopic surgery, to name just two.

Ms Cathy Chisholm is director of our local VON services and is quoted in the Simcoe Reformer: "We can't afford to see hospital spending increase the way it did about four years ago. Community care is less expensive and it is every bit as good, if not better, as care in a hospital. People get better quicker at home. Unfortunately, people get very attached to bricks and mortar, but bricks and mortar do not heal people."

These are some of the things that experts are saying in my riding.

A further point: Mr Harold Schantz, administrator of Norfolk General Hospital, says, "Budget reductions started during the days of the social contract under the New Democratic Party." I see there are no NDP members in the Legislature at this point. I might add that there were no reinvestments during that time; that was a straight cut to health care.

Currently, Ontario spends more dollars per person on health care than almost any other place in the world. However, people have told me that their health care dollars aren't being spent as wisely as they could be.

All this has been compounded over the past two years as the federal Liberal government has cut $2 billion in health care transfers to Ontario. Since taking office, the Liberal government in Ottawa has cut health care and education transfers by 40% -- $6 billion cut so far nationally, but government program spending by only 2%.

Bob Huard, our seniors' representative from Norview Lodge, has said, "People are scared." There's no need to be scared, but with resolutions like this one and with the way the opposition parties are playing politics with this issue, I wouldn't expect anything else. The opposition parties are trying to cover their tracks. They can cover the visual sign all they like, but we can see the bad management that went on in the 10 years previous to this government. They can't cover that.

The vision and the changes we are implementing include the creation of some 4,000 new jobs at the community-health-care level, new jobs and opportunities for nurses as announced yesterday, for example, nurse-practitioners and others in the health care system. This is our vision for Ontario's health system for the future, and together we can make this vision a reality.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I wanted to take the opportunity, first of all, obviously, to offer my support for the resolution, but also to address some of the comments that were made by the government members, because I have participated in a reconfiguration plan; I have been part of a very difficult process in our community, where we tried to show leadership, where we tried to reinvest, where we tried to get into a new era in health care.

I was amused by the statement, obviously the new government slogan, "The right care, the right time, the right place," when they forget the last: "the right price." That's what's driving this government.

The member for Niagara South spoke eloquently about the future of health care and has a shared vision that none of us can disagree with, but let me tell you, the actions of the government betray the rhetoric. He spoke of leadership. There's been no leadership. I say to the people in Thunder Bay and to the people in Ottawa and the people in Toronto and every community where the restructuring commission goes: They are not reinvesting.

They have not kept their word to Windsor. In Windsor, we made a tough choice: We closed two hospitals in exchange for reinvestments in a range of community-based services and new health care services, and one of the first acts of this government was to throw out the recommendations and not act on them.

Yes, the rhetoric about reinvesting in the new health care is good. But I say to the members of the government: Don't buy in to everything you hear from the Ministry of Health. I say that no woman in hospital who gives birth to a baby should be released in less that 24 hours. That's crazy. If you think there's not a problem in our hospitals today, just go to an emergency room, be it in Windsor or Niagara or Toronto.

These are difficult questions. If you take the time to participate in the discussions around reconfiguration and new services, you will find that the leading experts in the world differ on what appropriate bed levels are, what appropriate care is. The decisions become very, very qualitative and very subjective.

I submit to you, when you go back to your communities, understand that the decisions to close hospitals being made today will have a long and lasting impact. When you talk to the experts, they will tell you, be very careful and leave yourself flexibility, because we can't accurately project future needs.

I finally would like to say that if you're true to your word about reinvesting, throw away the rhetoric and start doing more than talking about it. Don't close hospitals before you open those new services, because you've done that in Windsor.

To the people in Thunder Bay and Ottawa and London and Toronto, don't believe them. They have not fulfilled their commitment in our community. They're going to close your hospitals. You'll be left with less service and you'll be left holding the bag with a health care system that can't meet your very basic needs.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): In the time left for me, I want to make a couple of comments. I hear the Minister of Health and the Premier talk about increasing health care spending next year to $18 billion, talking as though that's a huge increase in health care spending.

When you consider the demographics of this province, not only is the population growing, but you have more older people. If you add into that the increased cost of the high technology of health care today, you have a situation in which, if you were to keep the health care budget at a frozen level, you would be in effect decreasing spending on health care by, I would think, as much as 10% a year. The Minister of Health and the Premier seem to forget that.

That's why many of us support the restructuring of the health care system. In my own community the Health Services Restructuring Commission is reducing the number of hospitals from three to one. I, personally, do not have a problem with that as long as the money that's saved in closing those two hospitals and going to one -- you're not talking about one year's saving but over the years -- as long as those savings are put into community-based care, long-term care, reinvested in the local community from which the savings come. If that's done, then a lot of us would be quite happy to see the health care system restructured in a civilized way so that we can get on with providing good health care to the people of this province.

Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Health care is a serious issue for all residents in Ontario. Many of us are familiar with a heart or a cancer patient who must await treatment and patients requiring non-institutional and institutional long-term care. Meanwhile, as a result of the actions, and in some cases lack of action, on the part of the members opposite, we have hospitals with empty rooms which are not available for patient care but for which we continue to pay the cost of upkeep, heating and, in some cases, staff costs.

In fact, previous governments closed about 25% of acute care hospital beds without taking any steps to restructure hospitals. The need to reallocate funds currently tied up in administration, bureaucracy, duplication and waste is immediate and should be apparent to all of us. As you know, it was the Peterson Liberal government that began discussing such a plan, but it was also the Peterson Liberals who failed to act on that plan.

As we have stated from the beginning, Ontarians must have access to the highest-quality care in the right place at the right time. That has always been and will continue to be the goal of this government. We also recognize that some regional and demographic differences must be considered in making restructuring decisions. We know that appropriate care, access and economic considerations are of primary importance.

This government continues to address the needs of northern, rural and underserviced areas through such initiatives as the underserviced area program, the $70-an-hour fee for physicians in northern and rural communities and the pending rural health care policy.

It is also the responsibility of individual communities, in partnership with the local district health councils, to work together proactively to prepare a model for the Health Care Restructuring Commission's consideration. As I have stated before in this House, in order to have a prosperous future we must not only accept change but take a leadership role in implementing it. Locally created solutions are the best option for our communities.

I have worked diligently and extensively with the South Bruce-Grey Health Restructuring Alliance. As a team, we will continue to work within the framework of the process available to us to ensure that the excellent health care provided by our exceptional health care professionals in Bruce and Grey continues. We are also addressing the need for integrated service delivery and are working towards providing this as a part of our plan for the restructured health care in our community. My suggestion to all of you is to build your own solutions. Don't wait and hope that someone else will do it for you.

At the same time, the alliance and the people of Bruce and Grey recognize that the health care funds must be reallocated to those services that everybody needs. Obviously the members opposite do not understand. Additional new resources do not exist to allow us to stop finding savings in our hospitals before integrating services and implementing the reinvestment strategies that we all need. These changes must be undertaken concurrently and that is what this government is doing.

Community care access centres are an important aspect of health care restructuring and, as of today, there are 26 CCACs up and running in Ontario. CCACs will improve access to all long-term-care services, provide better coordination and assessment and ensure that clients have appropriate care. In addition, CCACs will purchase the highest-quality service at the best price.

We have also made an outstanding number of reinvestments in our health care service to date in cancer care, neurotrauma, cardiac care, dialysis and kidney transplants, mental health, long-term care, diabetes care, MRIs and breast cancer screening. These are just a few of the areas that this government has reinvested millions of dollars in.

In conclusion, what concerns me most about this resolution and others like it is that the motivation behind it is merely political and only serves to emphasize that the member for York South and his colleagues are not interested in participating in a process that was initiated by a Liberal government in the first place.

We cannot and will not stop the health care restructuring process in Ontario. It is a difficult and challenging undertaking which explains why previous governments were too weak to see it through. This government has the fortitude and the vision and we know that it is the right thing to do for all Ontarians. That is why I will not be supporting this motion today.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am especially pleased to follow the last speaker from the government party on this very important motion that we have before us today. I will be supporting it, as will be the Liberal caucus.

We recognize and have since the beginning what was just proved to us by the member for Bruce. The one thing she said that was absolutely true was that we do not have the resources to reinvest while not cutting existing services. That, friends, is exactly the point. This government has found the resources to give their instalments of the tax cut.

I am guessing we are going to have more of a tax cut announced in the following budget. At the same time, as you --

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Hear, hear. Hope so.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mrs Pupatello: -- not having the resources for health services, which you clearly admit to --

Mr Guzzo: David Peterson provided it. Why don't you like David Peterson?

The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa-Rideau will come to order, please.

Mrs Pupatello: -- you do have the resources to give up various tax cuts.

Where do you think the money is coming from? As I travelled along Lesperance Road last Saturday afternoon with Gary McNamara, the Liberal candidate in Windsor-Riverside, he clearly heard at door after door after door from seniors concerned about having to pay for drug costs. Where are our health services? Let me quote the member for Bruce: "We don't have the resources to ensure health services because we have to cut health services from everywhere else in order to give you any, maybe some time in the future." That is exactly what the member has admitted to today and that is exactly what we disagree with. I suggest that all those people in Windsor-Riverside told us on Saturday that we expect our taxes to be used for good health services. That is what the people of Ontario say.

When that woman in Newmarket met Mr Charest yesterday, she looked at him square in the eye and said, "After Mulroney and after Harris, me being a good Tory, I'll never vote Tory again." That woman in Newmarket said that because health services are failing in Ontario, thanks to the Mike Harris government. Why? Because they are admitting that there are no resources for health services --

Mr Guzzo: How about Chrétien's cuts? He's giving them back now.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Rideau, come to order.

Mrs Pupatello: -- that they also admit that they're prepared to borrow money to give the tax cut. I think that's just a terrible thing.

The Acting Speaker: Take your seat for a second. The member for Ottawa-Rideau, please come to order. Sorry, go ahead.

Mrs Pupatello: I had an interesting question that was put to us. Gary McNamara was quite surprised to hear it put in this way. An elderly person said to him, "How many months in a year?" Well, he said, "There are 12 months in a year, of course," and they said, "Will someone tell Mike Harris there are 12 months in the year and, if there are 12 months in the year, why have the seniors now been asked to pay again three months short of the time that their annual fee for that drug coverage was charged?" Why three months early have they been asked to pay again?

So may I tell you that as soon as you find a PC candidate in Windsor-Riverside, make sure that PC candidate has the answer to how many months in the year, because I'm telling you, they feel as though they have been ripped off for three months of coverage. It's bad enough that you instituted user fees to seniors. Why, when Mike Harris came to just the curb of the airport during the last campaign, didn't he say, "We're going to charge user fees to the seniors in Windsor-Essex county"? He should have said so and he should have said so in the rest of the province.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): It's quite obvious that the health care policy of the Harris government is dictated by the 20-something whiz kids from the Fraser Institute who worship at the idol of a tax cut for the rich and forget about those who require government services by means of hospital care.

Members of the Conservative caucus cannot extol the virtues of the Common Sense Revolution here in this House and then go back home to their ridings and tell people they're going to save their hospitals, because the Common Sense Revolution and its tax cut really dictate that there are going to be hospital closings.

We all remember, however, that Mike Harris, during the last provincial election campaign, said, "Certainly I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals." Indeed that's what Dr David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, said in his advice to the Premier for the Niagara region, "Don't close hospitals," because in the Niagara Peninsula we have the largest per capita group of people over the age of 55, meaning we're going to require hospital care in great numbers.

I can recall no Progressive Conservative candidate, including my friend Tim Hudak, who mentioned the closing of hospitals or gave any inclination there would be the closing of hospitals under a Harris administration, yet that's exactly what we're seeing across the province.

I will be standing up in this House and elsewhere to maintain Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby, Port Colborne hospital, Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital; not some trumped-up treatment centre with bells and whistles on it that they try to disguise as an emergency centre, but rather full hospital care which the people of all those communities deserve.

I implore the government to forget the rest of the income tax cut, which is going to benefit the richest people in our society the most, and instead to invest that money in our hospitals and our health care system in Ontario. I think you'd find a broad consensus for doing so and I would be among the first to applaud the government for initiating that particular action.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I believe there are 27 seconds left.

Mr Hudak: Speaking for this side of the House, this side of the House stands resolute to walk into the 21st century with a stronger system of health care, and while we're walking down that path, to take care of the sensitivities of the small communities, and access, especially to emergency care, in Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Grimsby and these communities.

We stand resolute for a better health care system. We believe in funding priority areas like kidney dialysis, MRI, breast cancer screening, and this resolution will take the money --

The Deputy Speaker: Time has expired. The member for York South, you have two minutes.

Mr Kennedy: I want to first of all thank my colleagues in the Liberal caucus and members of the New Democratic Party for speaking to this resolution.

We heard instead unfortunately from the government members -- we appreciate their presence here, but what we in Ontario have learned today is that a certain amount of brainwashing has taken place on the other side of the House.

What we heard were slogans. We heard, "Right place, right time, right price." What we didn't hear was, "Care for sick people in this province." We didn't hear recognition that there are problems this government has initiated: in Port Colborne where they're shutting hospitals; in Ottawa where they're shutting some of the most efficient hospitals going, with no explanation to the local community.

The only mechanism to examine this so-called plan is to talk to the same people, the same unelected commission that makes the decisions. It doesn't, as the members opposite have said, give us the future; it gives us the past. It gives us a past where people paid for their own care, where people died in their own homes, because now they're being kicked out of hospitals quicker and sicker.


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Rideau.

Mr Kennedy: It's being done nicely --

Mr Guzzo: Who closed it?

Mr Kennedy: -- it's being done with professors and it's being done with academics, but it's not being done --


The Deputy Speaker: Order. Stop the clock. Member for Ottawa-Rideau, this is the last time. If you don't want to behave, I'll have to name you. Member for York South.

Mr Kennedy: It is not being done with care, and that's what we're asking of the members of this House today: to bring back to this system a plan that puts care back into health care. Instead, we got slogans and rhetoric, no understanding of people like Mr Tymchyshyn who had to wait five hours in the emergency ward, and left and collapsed and has been in hospital for weeks since; of other people who have been waiting, like Bryan Broome, 12 to 15 months for joint surgery because it's not sexy, it doesn't have a photo op for the Premier to come up and announce money.

The Premier has taken $600 million out of the health system he hasn't put back. He can announce as much as he wants; he's not spending the money and people know that.

I say to members opposite, if you don't vote for this motion, we'll regret that. Your constituents will regret it, but the people of Ontario will be worse off because you have let their confidence erode for no good reason.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'm very pleased to rise today with respect to my private member's resolution, notice of motion number 48:

Whereas the province of Ontario's justice system is founded on the principles of fairness and equality; and

Whereas police have the right to take fingerprints and photo-images of persons accused of crime; and

Whereas there may be inconsistencies of policy among Ontario police services, where some will destroy an innocent person's information upon request while others wish to retain it; and

Whereas there is no legal requirement that a police service destroy the photo-image and fingerprints when a charge against a person is withdrawn or dismissed; and

Whereas the province of Ontario has an obligation to be fair to its citizens and does not intend to keep the fingerprints and photo-images of all Ontarians on file;

Therefore, in the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should ensure that the rights of innocent persons are protected by establishing guidelines for fair and consistent policies throughout the province for police services, regarding the fingerprints and photo-images of innocent persons.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Tascona: With respect to the resolution, the first paragraph deals with Ontario's justice system being founded on the principles of fairness and equality. I'd like to refer the members in the House to section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which involves life, liberty and security of the person and which reads: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

The police have the right to take fingerprints and photo-images of persons accused of crime. We're dealing with adult persons. The Identification of Criminals Act, which is a federal statute, gives the police service -- and we're dealing with municipal police services -- the authority to obtain fingerprints and photo-images when a person is charged with a criminal offence.

The taking of the fingerprints and photo-images of the accused adult person, as authorized under the Identification of Criminals Act, does not violate section 7 of the charter. That's a fundamental point. What we have here is a right to take the fingerprints and photo-images of the person who has been charged.

This resolution deals with once the person has been charged and has been acquitted or the charges withdrawn; we want to deal with the destruction of the photo-images and the fingerprints. What's important to know is that there are inconsistencies of policy among the Ontario police services.

In my riding of Simcoe Centre, there are two police services. You have the South Simcoe Police Services Board and the Barrie Police Services Board. Both of them have a policy to destroy the records, the fingerprints or photo-images, when the individual who has been accused has the charges withdrawn or the person is acquitted. That's not the same with respect to other police services across the province.

What's fundamental when you deal with the Identification of Criminals Act is that the act is silent with respect to the destruction of photo-images and fingerprints when a charge against a person is withdrawn or they are acquitted. Since it's silent, what we must deal with is the development of policies, because the provinces are given, under the Constitution, the administration of justice.

We have the Ontario Provincial Police, who have developed a policy with respect to the destruction of photo-images and fingerprints when an individual has the charges withdrawn or is acquitted. I'd like to state that policy of the Ontario Provincial Police, which is that the fingerprints and photo-images of adult persons would be destroyed upon request if the charge is withdrawn, stayed or dismissed. The person has the option of witnessing that destruction, in fact.


Because the Identification of Criminals Act, which is a federal statute, is silent, the Ontario Provincial Police have developed a policy with respect to the destruction of the photo-images and the fingerprints in the situations I've been discussing.

What I'm dealing with here are the municipal police services, and with respect to one part of the resolution, "Whereas the province of Ontario has an obligation to be fair to its citizens and does not intend to keep the fingerprints and photo-images of all Ontarians on file," it begs the question of whether, if that is done without a specific procedure or guideline, that would be in violation of section 7 of the charter. There is a need to address this issue with respect to establishing guidelines across the province.

When you look at the Young Offenders Act in comparison to how we deal with adult persons in the criminal forum, the Young Offenders Act specifically has the procedure, and this is a federal statute, to deal with the destruction of records. I quote from that act.

Section 45(1)(a) states, "Where the young person to whom the record relates is charged with the offence to which the record relates and is acquitted otherwise than by reason of a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, on the expiration of two months after the expiration of the time allowed for taking of an appeal or, where an appeal is taken, on the expiration of three months after all proceedings in respect to the appeal have been completed."

Section 45(1)(b) states, "Where the charge against the young person is dismissed for any reason other than acquittal or withdrawn, on the expiration of one year after the dismissal or the withdrawal."

So under the Young Offenders Act we have a specific procedure to deal with the destruction of records, whereas under the Identification of Criminals Act we do not.

We have a void, and that's what we're looking at here today in terms of police services at the municipal end. The Ontario Provincial Police have developed a policy for adults. What we're looking for is the municipal police services to develop guidelines consistent across the province to deal with such matters.

The goal of this resolution is to protect the rights of innocent persons who, having been charged with a criminal offence, have the charge dismissed or withdrawn. The resolution calls on the province to establish guidelines for municipal police services to follow with respect to maintaining fingerprints and photo-images, records that are on file, because of what's happened under the Identification of Criminals Act.

Currently, because the Identification of Criminals Act is silent with respect to the destruction of records, we have a discretion on the part of municipal police services to determine how long they will keep an innocent person's fingerprints or photographs on file. This has caused inconsistencies across the province, as I have stated. In my riding, there is an automatic destruction of the records when the charges are withdrawn or that person is acquitted.

The need for consistent guidelines is made even more obvious when you look at the Young Offenders Act, where they have specifically addressed this within the legislation, whereas the Identification of Criminals Act is silent on that. It has resulted in the province having to develop policies throughout their municipal police services, and also with respect to the Ontario Provincial Police, with respect to the destruction of records.

Also, there are parts of my riding where the police service is provided by the Ontario Provincial Police. To be fair, there is a consistent policy with respect to the Ontario Provincial Police, but not with respect to the municipal police services throughout the province.

Looking at the system, since it's supposed to be based on fairness and equality before the law, which is enshrined in the charter, section 7, I believe we owe it to our citizens to ensure the rights of innocent persons are protected. That's what's contained within the spirit of the resolution and in fact the exact words used in the resolution.

What we in the Legislature have in front of us today is a resolution that I believe addresses a concern not only with respect to developing consistency across the police services within this province, but also addresses the rights that are enshrined under section 7 of the charter to ensure, as the charter states, that the life, liberty and security of the person are protected.

Certainly the police have the right to identify the person who is being charged and the methods they use are photo images and fingerprints etc. But when you go to the reverse side, once that is taken and the individual is proven innocent through acquittal or the charges are withdrawn, the charter has to come in place also, and I think it has to be observed with respect to ensuring the life and liberty of the person. That's what we're dealing with here, to make sure that the guidelines that exist across the province, which are different for each police service across the province, are addressed and made consistent.

That is the thrust of the resolution. I believe it's not only proactive, it's consistent with our charter. I think it's consistent with the principles we stand for in this province. I thank you and I hope other members support this. I look forward to the debate on this issue.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Let me just say how glad I am to be here today to listen to the discourse that this member gave. Once again, I know that in this place every now and then we lose faith in the political process and we lose faith, maybe, in some of the actions the government has taken. But here's a backbencher of the government who has made a statement -- he could have made it in a minute and a half but he took 10 minutes to do it -- that actually made complete and total sense. I haven't said that too often in this House but I totally concur with him on this issue. It raises a number of interesting questions, though.

The first question I always have when we're debating these kinds of issues during private members' time, especially when they're raised by a government member, is: Why is this here? I assume the eminent member is a prominent member within his caucus. He surely could have raised this matter with the Solicitor General, who is in charge of all the police departments in the province or at least is the overseer of them. This matter could have been dealt with internally by the government or it could have been dealt with a lot more quickly. Why is this here?

I realize that maybe he didn't get anywhere with the Solicitor General or the Attorney General. Taking some of the actions these departments have taken lately over the last two years, I can well understand that. I would suggest to him that he would probably get a lot further if it was not only a motion of the House but if he also got some direct input and direct say with the Solicitor General into this issue. I think we'd get a lot further if he would get the endorsement of it so that the Solicitor General could pass this around to the various police departments throughout the province and get them to accept these kinds of guidelines.

The other thing I find rather unusual is for this kind of motion to be brought forward by one who is a member of, I think everyone would agree, an ultra-right-wing government, almost a Reform government in this province. This is not usually the type of issue that right-wingers are interested in, the whole notion of civil liberties and civil rights and that somebody's rights may actually be affected by police action etc. It's a very refreshing change to actually see that happen.

The third point I'd like to make deals with this whole notion of fairness. I believe that about four or five times during his 10-minute speech he talks about, "The province of Ontario has an obligation to be fair to its citizens." I can tell you that we in this party certainly agree totally with that. I don't think this government has been fair in how it has dealt with the most vulnerable in our society, whether we're talking about welfare cuts, whether we're talking about the tremendous disarray that the family support plan is in, whether we're talking about the lack of funding for adult education. We had a demonstration here in the House yesterday by people who want to change their ways of life by getting further education so they can get the jobs that are out there, and that's being denied to them currently because of the lack of funding in continuing education. I don't think that's fair, and there's a lack of fairness with respect to the non-funding of junior kindergarten programs, and you could just go on and on, or a lack of any kind of local input in the hospitals that currently are being closed throughout this province.

So when we're talking about fairness to citizens, it is certainly very important --



Mr Gerretsen: He talks about fairness, that the Ontario government has an obligation to be fair to its citizens. I'm saying that all the other actions this government has taken over the last two years certainly indicates, to my way of thinking and to a great number of people in this province, that they have not been fair.

Having said that, I will support the member's motion. I would suggest to him that in the future, rather than bringing these things here, other than for the publicity value, and I think there's a value to that, maybe if he spoke directly to the Solicitor General or the Attorney General, they could deal with these kinds of matters in a much more deliberate and more efficient and quicker fashion.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I want to commend the member for Simcoe Centre and the member for Kingston and The Islands for being able to speak three minutes on this resolution. When you read the resolution, and I think the member for Simcoe Centre was stretching it a bit when he was explaining it, what it says is in the "therefore," the implementation part of the resolution. It says that "the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should ensure that the rights of innocent persons are protected by establishing guidelines for fair and consistent policies throughout the province for police services, regarding fingerprints and photo images of innocent persons."

It doesn't say they should be destroyed if charges are dropped or they are acquitted. It doesn't say that in the "therefore," so I don't know what this resolution means.

In the "whereases" there are some concerns expressed, but when it comes down to the "therefore," all it's asking for is guidelines. Don't you want to change the legislation? And if you do, that's not a guideline. I don't understand why it's worded this way.

I must say that --

Mr Bob Wood (London South): It's a federal law.

Mr Laughren: Well, call for a change in the federal law. If it's a federal law that needs to be changed, call for that, but you're talking here about the province "establishing guidelines for fair and consistent policies." While it may sound fine for the member for Simcoe Centre to be calling for fair guidelines on policies on fingerprints and photo images, he's a member of a government that has completely botched, for example, the way in which we should be treating young offenders, completely botched the killing of a native at Ipperwash, completely botched that issue. Then to come into this House and pretend that you have concerns as a government for innocent people, we find it a bit hard to take. I, for one, am not going to spend any more time on this resolution.

Mr Bob Wood: I will attempt to be very brief as well. The position of the Ministry of the Solicitor General is that we're not going to take a position on this resolution because we want to hear the views of all members of this House and the views of the general public. We are confident that we will receive many good ideas from everyone.

I'd like to offer a couple of brief observations and I will then invite input. I would like to point out to the House that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, law enforcement and records (managers) network, LEARN, developed a guideline within its document, Guidelines with Respect to Pardons Conditional or Absolute Discharges and Withdrawals/Dismissals. So some work has been done in this area and members may wish to take a look at that document.

The Ontario Provincial Police policy states that "the fingerprints and photo-images of persons be destroyed upon request if the charge is withdrawn, stayed or dismissed." The person has the option of witnessing the destruction.

All members may not entirely follow the legal position. The identification is done pursuant to federal law. What is done with the records is a matter of provincial policy. What the member for Simcoe Centre is inviting the government to do is adopt a province-wide policy.

We've invited comment and I'd like to suggest a couple of issues that those interested may wish to address. If we are going to have a general policy, should there be exceptions to it? For example, if the police have data from a suspected serial sexual offender, should that be an exception to the general policy? If there are going to be exceptions, what control should there be over the exceptions?

Basically we are looking forward to the opinions of members of the House and the public. We know there are going to be good suggestions and we appreciate the input. Thank you.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I am very pleased to be able to rise in my place today, I think for the first time in a long time, to support a private member's resolution from a government backbencher. This is an incredible shift from the tenor of most of these private member resolutions we get that are sort of like, "Let's hang the kids if they're bad," and things like this that we dealt with a few months ago. I said some nasty remarks about that bill. This is very refreshing, to see something that actually respects people's civil liberties.

We have a criminal justice system, and like all mechanisms of humankind, none of them is perfect. We make mistakes from time to time and people get caught up in these systems. I think we must remember the incredible intrusive powers that we confer upon our police and our jailers on behalf of society to take care of the criminal justice system. Once somebody is either acquittal or the charge is dropped, then absolutely all the evidence gathered towards pursuing a conviction against that person should be destroyed. I think there should be no question about that.

To answer the parliamentary assistant's question about whether there should be any exceptions: No, there should be no exceptions at all. Regardless of whatever crime you were suspected of having committed, if you've been found innocent, you've been found innocent. It doesn't matter what the crime was, whether it was shoplifting or murder, if you were found innocent of the crime, therefore you're back to being a regular citizen with entitlements to all the freedoms that our government and organizations confer on people. So there should be no exemptions at all; those documents should be destroyed.

I'm just here to say this morning that I support this resolution.

Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I thank my colleague from Simcoe Centre for allowing me to address his resolution this morning on establishing guidelines for fair and consistent policies across this province in an effort to stave off the "Big Brother is watching" fears. The people of this province need to know the law enforcement process dealing with fingerprints and photos; legal advisers need to know the process; officers on the job need to know the process; our courts need to know the process. The difficult issue with respect to handling of this very personal information is there is not a clear right or wrong answer.

Obviously police agencies need to assist in preparing guidelines to establish a uniform province-wide procedure and policy in the collecting, recording and storing of fingerprints and photos. Records of information must be kept, whether in print form, on film or by electronic means. Photo-images, which are photographs, negatives or digital computer images, must be stored and protected. These records must also be readily available to investigating officers when needed. Often it is these records that assist a police investigation to apprehend a suspect and it is these same records that assist a crown attorney in dealing with charges against a suspect in court. The confusion enters into the situation when various police service boards have various policies.


This becomes evident when speaking with OPP officers on the job. In contacting OPP officers, the first officer I spoke with said that she understood that if a record needed to be destroyed, for whatever reason, her experience had been that the complainant's lawyer wrote a letter asking for the records to be destroyed. If acceptable, the OPP then replied to the request in writing, inviting the complainant to witness the destruction of their fingerprints and photos.

The second officer contacted was a duty sergeant, and he was a former officer with the city police department. His understanding of the process was from the perspective of the former police service mandate he had worked under before being absorbed by the OPP.

The third officer contacted explained all photos and fingerprints were sent to the RCMP, since this national police agency has the data bank. This officer explained that if the complainant wanted their records destroyed, they would have to contact the RCMP.

Three different officers, three different opinions on the process. It is for this reason the member for Simcoe Centre has put this resolution before us today.

I recognize that there are various reasons a police record should not be destroyed, even following what we think is the closing of a case. Despite what those reasons may be, a person found not guilty by the courts should be able to ask for their records to be destroyed. There should be a procedure in place clearly understood by all parties involved. The outcome of the procedure could be varied, depending on the circumstances.

There is a need for a clearly defined procedure process which recognizes possible needs to retain certain records for future investigations or court cases. A clearly defined procedure process could also protect the integrity of a police investigation.

For example, the Law Enforcement and Records Network produced a set of guidelines for pardons and conditional or absolute discharges. These kits are available through the clemency and pardons division of the National Parole Board. The pardons kits contain an application form and relevant information for distribution to the public. A similar kit could be made available to innocent persons. The rights of those individuals could then be protected through establishing guidelines for fair and consistent policies throughout Ontario.

I feel we need to develop the legal requirement to destroy the photo images and fingerprints of persons where a charge against that person has been withdrawn or dismissed. We as legislators have an obligation to be fair to our provincial citizens. Keeping fingerprints and photo images of innocent persons is totally unnecessary.

This resolution provides police services with provincial standards, giving individuals respect and peace of mind. I will be supporting this resolution today because I believe it will assist our police officers at each step of a police investigation, and it will give the courts a basis to safeguard evidence. Most of all, I support this resolution because I believe it will protect the rights of individuals in a fair and equitable manner.

Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): This resolution brought forward by the member for Simcoe Centre calls for the province to establish guidelines for the police services to follow a consistent process in maintaining and dealing with fingerprints and photographs in the records of people whose charges against them are either withdrawn or dismissed.

There is an obvious need for consistency in the system. Currently, the decision to keep or destroy an innocent person's personal information is made by each police services board or by each police station, resulting in an unfair and unequal treatment of innocent people in Ontario. The member for Simcoe Centre referred to a possible violation of section 7 of the charter, which protects the rights of individuals, and those rights can only be interfered with in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

I'd also like to call your attention, Mr Speaker, and the attention of the members to section 11 of the Charter of Rights, which reads as follows: "Any person charged with an offence has the right...to be presumed innocent until proven guilty."

That charter right gives innocent people the right to be treated equally to other people in the province, and one of the rights of people in Ontario and in Canada is to not have their photographs and fingerprints available in the police stations unless they are either charged with a criminal offence or have been convicted of a criminal offence.

I support the arguments of the member for Simcoe Centre. As a member who practised criminal law for 20 years, I would like to point out that people charged with an offence have no choice but to submit to the process of the Criminal Identification Act, by either section 502 of the Criminal Code or section 510 of the Criminal Code: Whether a person is charged and required to appear through a summons or an appearance notice, or a promise to appear, that person must attend for the purpose of identification, for fingerprinting and photographs, and if he is ordered to attend and fails to attend, he will be charged with a criminal offence and a warrant will be issued for his arrest. It's a very serious process that people have to endure.

The motion before us is that if that person is found not guilty or the charge is withdrawn, those records of photographs and fingerprints should be processed in a manner that complies with the Charter of Rights, in a manner that is consistent across the province.

The dangers of not having a procedure for either destroying such records or proceeding in a consistent manner in dealing with such records are great, in the sense that we have no idea of what happens to those records when the charge is withdrawn or the charge is dismissed. Some police services boards may have a policy that the records are kept, others may have a process that the records will be destroyed only if the person makes a request, and yet others may destroy such records.

The dangers in a criminal process -- and I have encountered such dangers in my practice -- is that such records can be used for a photo lineup. A photo lineup is a procedure where a composite, usually of eight to 12 pictures of individuals, is used to have witnesses identify a possible offender. What if a police station takes some of these photographs from individuals whose charges have been withdrawn or dismissed and use them in the collage that makes up a photo lineup for witnesses to choose a possible offender? The danger is that an innocent person may be fingered, may be accused of a crime he didn't commit, just by mistake.

Others will say that the danger is not that great, that the courts will ensure that the identification process is a fair one, but I can tell you, from my practice, it has been established that such dangers are great. Lots of people are convicted on wrong identification. I recall a case, the Beck case, around the turn of the century in England -- and that case has been studied by lawyers -- where someone who was innocent was found guilty on a misidentification. There were so many cases in the 1970s in England that resulted in the miscarriage of justice that a commission was put together. Lord Devlin led a commission to deal with the identification process.

Those are the dangers that arise from such a process, when the police office may have those pictures and they may somehow end up in a photo lineup and innocent people may be found guilty.

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

Mr Tascona: I'd like to thank the members who are in support of this resolution, in particular the members for London South, Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings and Mississauga East, for speaking on this.

Certainly there seems to be a general, broad-based support for this resolution. Obviously, the government of the day is interested in protecting innocent persons and ensuring that their rights are protected.

I'd just like to reply to the member for Kingston and The Islands, who seems to suggest that the members from the government don't really have a role in private members' business. Obviously, this is what private members' business is: bringing matters to the attention of other parties and all the members of the Legislature to ensure that things are not only known but action suggested. Action is being suggested with respect to municipal services across the province to develop consistent guidelines.

We're dealing here with a federal statute, the criminal identification act, which this government obviously doesn't have the direct power to change, but we are responsible for the administration of justice throughout the province. That's something we should take seriously, that this government does take seriously: protecting the civil liberties and the rights of innocent persons.

The member for Nickel Belt didn't take a position on this particular resolution; I don't know whether he supports it or is against it. But I can honestly say that the NDP doesn't have a monopoly on compassion. The concern that has been demonstrated by this government for fairness and equality throughout the province with respect to its citizens I believe should be respected; our record certainly demonstrates that we have done that.

In closing, I'd like to say that this resolution speaks for itself, and I look for support of the House.

The Deputy Speaker: Section 96(f) of the standing orders says, "When the time allotted for the consideration of private members' public business has expired or at 12:00 noon, whichever is later, the Speaker shall put the question to the House." Therefore, I have to wait until 12 and will suspend the debate until then. The bells will be rung at 5 to 12, and then the question will be asked.

The House recessed from 1143 to 1201.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Will the members please take their seats. We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr Kennedy. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise? Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. No? Do you want to deal with it now? Afterwards? We'll deal with it afterwards.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 74, standing in the name of Mr Tascona. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

We will now vote on the first ballot item. Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1203 to 1208.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Kennedy has moved private member's notice of motion number 52. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing until your names are called.


Bartolucci, Rick

Duncan, Dwight

Martin, Tony

Bradley, James J.

Gerretsen, John

McLeod, Lyn

Brown, Michael A.

Grandmaître, Bernard

Patten, Richard

Castrilli, Annamarie

Kennedy, Gerard

Phillips, Gerry

Colle, Mike

Kwinter, Monte

Pupatello, Sandra

Cordiano, Joseph

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ruprecht, Tony

Curling, Alvin

Laughren, Floyd


The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing until your names are called.


Baird, John R.

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Barrett, Toby

Grimmett, Bill

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Beaubien, Marcel

Guzzo, Garry J.

Pettit, Trevor

Brown, Jim

Hastings, John

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Chudleigh, Ted

Hudak, Tim

Sheehan, Frank

Danford, Harry

Johns, Helen

Skarica, Toni

DeFaria, Carl

Jordan, W. Leo

Smith, Bruce

Doyle, Ed

Klees, Frank

Tascona, Joseph N.

Elliott, Brenda

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Wood, Bob

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Young, Terence H.

Fox, Gary

Munro, Julia


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 20; the nays are 35.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

All matters related to private members' business having been debated, I will now leave the chair, and the House will resume at 1:30.

The House recessed from 1210 to 1330.



Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It was 79 Fridays ago that the Sisters of Providence of St Vincent de Paul began holding vigils at Kingston's city hall. They have since been joined by other citizens from the community such as the Kingston Action Network.

The vigils are silent but send a powerful message of solidarity with the most vulnerable in our society, especially women and children, who are bearing the brunt of relentless government cuts to social, health and education spending.

Normally these vigils take place at noon. Sometimes protesters draw even more attention to their cause, as they have, through forming a candlelight circle around city hall and by displaying a six-foot cross on Good Friday. The occasional evening vigil aims at allowing more people to participate.

On behalf of the sisters, I would like to invite members of the public to join them at city hall in Kingston tomorrow, May 2, at 5:30 pm.

In the words of Sister Pauline Lally, "Your peaceful presence at this demonstration will help urge governments to consider the causes of poverty and unemployment, for more things are wrought by non-violent solidarity than the world dreams of."

Governments, stop attacking the weak, the vulnerable, the unemployed, the old and the young in our society, and instead build a society of harmony, goodwill and compassion, especially to the less fortunate in our society.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise again on an issue that is close to the heart of every citizen of my community of Sault Ste Marie, and should be close to the heart of every citizen in this province, as this government moves forward in lockstep to privatize anything that moves or creates a little bit of revenue for the government in their wont to turn it over to their private sector friends.

I'm talking today particularly about the lottery corporation. I have in my hand the annual report for 1995-96 and it's an excellent testimony to the people of that corporation and the work they do -- the effectiveness and the efficiency of the operation.

Let me just flip through the book and highlight some of the things that are said: "We develop and operate lottery schemes on behalf of the provincial government. Our vision is to be the recognized leader in the gaming industry in Ontario." In fact they are the recognized leader across North America. "Almost 97% of our revenue is returned to the people of Ontario." What else do you want? "New standards in performance, efficiency and profitability," "Setting standards for success," it's all here, a blueprint for a corporation that is beyond reproach and speaks very clearly and directly to the integrity of the product they deliver.

Can this government guarantee for one second that when they turn this over to the private sector that integrity will still be there and the kind of money that is now flowing will continue to flow?


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Mr Speaker, May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month in Ontario. Sexual assault is a pervasive form of violence in our society that devastates the lives of too many women. While we can measure related hospital costs, treatment costs, lost wages and missed work hours, we will never be able to measure the pain that forever changes a survivor's life.

As I speak, Dianne Cunningham, minister responsible for women's issues, is launching Sexual Assault Prevention Month in St Catharines and is announcing a community victims initiatives program grant of $13,750 to the Women's Place. This grant will fund an anti-stalking initiative.

As well, this month Minister Cunningham will announce a number of new initiatives aimed specifically at preventing sexual assault and the Ontario women's directorate will launch its website, an information and linkage station to resources and educational materials.

It is important that government educators and community organizations work together to ensure that Ontario's youth are made aware of the effects of violence. Thanks to a lot of hard work from Partners for Change, a multisector partnership initiative, our government will participate in the launch of a multimedia education campaign on violence prevention specifically targeted at youth.

The contribution of women to this province is invaluable. Together we look forward to celebrating the day when violence against women is stopped and when we need not designate a month in the name of sexual assault prevention.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): "Certainly, I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals." With those comforting words, Conservative leader Mike Harris lulled Ontario residents into a false sense of security, as Mr Harris and his Conservative candidates made no mention of closing hospitals in the Niagara region or elsewhere in Ontario.

A large delegation of Port Colborne residents is present today at the Legislature to deliver 12,000 postcards to the Ontario government demanding that their hospital, the Port Colborne hospital, not be closed, in keeping with the solemn promise of Mike Harris on television in May 1995.

I support this worried delegation and the people they represent. Port Colborne hospital should not be closed and should not be radically changed and simply disguised as a hospital. Those Conservative MPPs who stand in the House and extol the virtues of the so-called Common Sense Revolution cannot go back to their home constituencies and play the role of the local hero who will defend the community hospital. The Harris plan, calling for generous income tax cuts for the rich, means hospitals will close, regardless of the Premier's promise.

The Niagara region has the largest percentage of seniors of any area in Canada and will need all its hospitals, including the Port Colborne hospital, to serve the needs of its aging population. Mike Harris should abandon his plan to make the rich richer with a large tax cut and should restore adequate funding to our hospitals for years to come. Our people deserve no less.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I just came from a rally outside the Attorney General's office which was attended by my colleagues Peter Kormos and Shelley Martel. There were representatives from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Employment Standards Work Group, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Ontario Health Coalition, the Ontario Federation of Labour, Bad Boss Hotline, OPSEU.

All of these representatives were there to talk today about Women and Children Last! in terms of this government's agenda. I know I'm not allowed to show it, so I will describe it to you. It's a start-to-finish spiral of what has happened to women and children in this government. It's only a few pieces of this government's agenda.

It starts, "Tories destroy the family support plan; Tories cut the social assistance payments by 22%, reduce the shelter allowance portion and restrict eligibility; Tories attack co-op and social housing, remove rent controls and reduce tenant protections;... Tories smash workers' rights, undo workplace protections and disband the Workplace Health and Safety Agency" -- I'm skipping a few now -- "Tories soften pay equity, scrap employment equity and reduce harassment protections, calling them `red tape';... Tories reduce subsidies, deregulate child care and cancel junior kindergarten" -- it goes on and on.

It's time for this government to wake up and listen.


Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I rise to call to the attention of all members that this Sunday, May 4, is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day.

It is a day on which all Ontarians reflect on the horror of the Holocaust, during which more than six million Jews perished in the Nazi death camps in Europe.

Yom Hashoah is a time to consider the depths of human cruelty and savagery that were unleashed on an innocent people whose only crime was their religion, their adherence to the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. It is also a time for us to renew our common resolve and commitment to ensure that no further Holocaust will ever occur again.

As is done at Yad Vashem in Israel, Yom Hashoah also reminds us of those who risked their lives in trying to protect their Jewish brothers and sisters. As Jewish tradition states, they are the righteous of the nations for their heroism.

On Sunday, May 4, may we all take a moment to remember the martyrs of the Holocaust and to pray for the survivors of that terror and to join in the struggle against the evil of anti-Semitism and racism. Shalom.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I wonder what the Minister of Natural Resources has against the Boy Scouts. Last year he made the Boy Scouts pay rent for the land they camp on. This year he seems to be in a more generous mood and he agreed to contribute $40,000 towards the Canadian Scout Jamboree that will be held in Thunder Bay this summer.

According to the minister, it was decided that the money would go towards the purchase of a unique commemorative T-shirt that would foster a positive image for northern Ontario. It sounds great, but here's the shirt. It seems the minister's idea of fostering a positive image for northern Ontario is to have his own name across the chest of 12,000 Boy Scouts.

It is scout policy not to advertise for anything or anybody, not even a minister who wants to buy $40,000 worth of personal publicity. So the minister has apologized, sort of, and is now paying for his name to be covered over by a crest. At least, I hope --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. You're out of order. Please keep the shirt down. It's a demonstration. Member.

Mrs McLeod: I continue by saying that the minister has sort of apologized. He is now paying for the cost of having his name covered with a crest. At least, I hope he is paying, because he actually only paid for a --


The Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich, I warn you to put that down and take --


The Speaker: Your time's up. Can you take that down from that chair, please.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): In the past several days I've been receiving copies of letters sent to the Premier by arts administrators and artists urging this government to maintain the funding for the Ontario Arts Council at its 1996-97 level for the 1997-98 fiscal year.

We all recognize that the arts are a vital expression of the soul of the people. The existence of Ontario arts industries is critically threatened by cuts instituted by the government. The Ontario Arts Council is the key institution for supporting the production and dissemination of artistic endeavours in Ontario and a key source of support for individual artists and arts organizations.

The accomplishments and investments in the last 30 years in the arts stand to be reversed by the fatal funding cuts, as we have seen in the last 20 months. The cut of 30% to the OAC along with the cuts to other programs by the Ministry of Citizenship have impacted severely on the province's arts and cultural sector. We all know that a strong and healthy artistic community is essential to the social and economic health of Ontario.

I'd like to quote from an article written by Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables and parliamentary deputy, written in 1848. It's as timely today as it was then:

"It is my view...that the proposed budget reductions in letters, sciences and the arts are bad for two reasons. They are insignificant from a financial standpoint and harmful from every other point of view. Ignorance, ignorance is the danger far more than poverty. Lighting is provided in cities, where street lamps are lit up every evening at crossroads and in public squares. When will people understand that darkness can also overcome us in the moral sense and that we must light up torches for the human spirit?"


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to rise in the House today as the member for Scarborough Centre in order to recognize the outstanding achievement of two Scarborough firefighters. Recently the Scarborough Optimist Club recognized two Scarborough firefighters, Geoffrey Reeves and Douglas Arsenault, as the firefighters of the year for 1996. Geoffrey and Douglas were recognized for their quick response and actions in reviving a Scarborough resident who had suffered a heart attack on November 23, 1996, with the use of a defibrillator.

On November 23, 1996, Scarborough pumper crew number 5 responded to a medical emergency in Scarborough. Upon arrival, they found a 69-year-old male absent of any vital signs. Firefighters Reeves and Arsenault immediately attached the defibrillator machine to the patient and administered the first shock. The procedure was successful and the patient's vital signs were restored.

This is the first documented incident of a patient being revived as a result of the firefighter defibrillation program first introduced by Metro-area fire departments in September 1996.

The program, which is directed by Sunnybrook hospital, will see that every pumper in the Metro area will have a defibrillator machine on board and that the firefighters are trained in the use and maintenance of the machine.

Results in other cities using firefighter defibrillators indicate that up to 25% of cardiac arrest victims can be saved with this technique.

I ask the members of this House to join me today in commending the actions of First Class Firefighter Geoffrey Reeves and First Class Firefighter Douglas Arsenault.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm going to read to you standing order 32(a): "A minister of the crown may make a short factual statement relating to government policy, ministry action or other similar matters of which the House should be informed."

Standing order 32(c) says, "Two copies of each ministerial statement shall be delivered to opposition party leaders, or their representatives, at or before the time the statement is made in the House."

Standing order 32(e) says, "Following ministerial statements a representative or representatives of each of the recognized opposition parties in the House may comment for up to a total of five minutes for each party commencing with the official opposition."

Earlier today I received a press release put out by the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, the minister responsible for women's issues. Paragraph 2 of that news release says this: "Isabel Bassett, MPP, St Andrew-St Patrick, is today detailing the wide range of government initiatives that will support victims of sexual assault on behalf of Minister Cunningham, Isabel Bassett will deliver a statement to the House to raise community awareness of Sexual Assault Prevention Month."

I normally don't do this, because I understand the rules do not permit us to comment on absent members, but in this case it's relevant because the member for St Andrew-St Patrick is not here. However, the member for Bruce made that statement, it appears to me, on behalf of the minister. She referred to the fact that it was Sexual Assault Prevention Month.

Normally on this day the minister responsible for the government and opposition parties make statements in the House to talk about this extremely important issue. The minister is not here today. I was expecting some kind of unanimous consent so that we can, each of the opposition parties as well, comment and make statements about Sexual Assault Prevention Month.

What I would request of you now, Speaker, because the member for Bruce made a statement on behalf of the minister, albeit during members' statements, is that the opposition parties have the opportunity to respond to that statement.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Let me be clear: I don't have any authority to grant opposition parties time for responses to statements. That's not within the realm of the Speaker.

The point of order you're raising, I take it, is that the member for Bruce was reading what you deem to be a ministry statement.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): She made an announcement.

The Speaker: Okay. You are seeking unanimous consent of this House --

Ms Churley: No.

The Speaker: Clarification, the member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Lankin: Further to the point of order: I'm not sure I understand the point you made with respect to not being able to grant the five minutes. The point we are raising is that the member for Bruce, as was set out and anticipated in the minister's press release, made a statement on behalf of the minister. You will note in the statement she made it was not just generalities; she referred to and announced a specific grant to Women's Place, a women's centre. We believe that is in the nature of a ministerial statement and, by the rules, either should not be allowed or the parties should have an opportunity to respond.

Given that a minister of the crown has actually put out a press release stating that this statement would be made in the House on behalf of the minister, it does take on the nature of a ministerial statement. I would hope you would actually be able to rule that or that the government at this point would agree that it was a ministerial statement.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): The statement that was made by the member for Bruce is a member's statement, pure and simple. The member for Bruce has concern with regard to this matter --

Ms Lankin: The press release says that on behalf of the minister --

Hon David Johnson: What the press release says is immaterial. The fact that's before you today is that the member for Bruce has concern with regard to this particular topic. The member for St Andrew-St Patrick has not made any statement today. Members are within their full rights to make statements during members' statements. The member for Bruce has availed herself. The members from the NDP could have made a member's statement today if they chose to. Indeed --

Ms Lankin: We did.

Hon David Johnson: Well, there you are, so they've had their opportunity already, and members of the Liberal Party could make a statement during members' statements. That's, pure and simple, the situation, that the member is entitled to make a member's statement.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): There is absolutely no question that the press release that is done by the Ontario women's directorate, with the minister's name heading up the press release, is virtually identical to the statement that was made by the member here in the House today. It is a pretence to suggest this is anything other than the government making a ministerial statement and using a member to do that, and in doing that, denying the opposition members their five minutes' opportunity to respond on the subject.

I really do feel, if it's not a violation of points of order, it is certainly a violation of the privileges of the members of the opposition.

The Speaker: Thank you. Let me just read to you from Journals of the Legislative Assembly 1987-88-89, 34th Parliament, first session. Speaker Edighoffer said:

"I think it's appropriate that in future parliamentary assistants should not make statements using this procedure if the proposed statement is one that could just as well be made by the minister. In other words, parliamentary assistants can still make statements dealing with special matters for which they have special responsibilities, but that statement should not constitute an announcement or a series of facts that should be more properly situated in the statements by the ministry section of our proceedings."

I read this statement from the member for Bruce and I honestly can't read it any other way than back to you.

"Mr Speaker, May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month in Ontario. Sexual assault is a pervasive form of violence in our society" etc. It goes on to say on page 2: "As I speak, Dianne Cunningham, minister responsible for women's issues, is launching Sexual Assault Prevention Month in St Catharines and is announcing a community victims initiative program grant of $13,750 to the Women's Place. This grant will fund an anti-stalking initiative."

Then you go on the say, to the member for Bruce, "As well, this month, Minister Cunningham will announce a number of new initiatives aimed specifically at preventing sexual assault, and the Ontario women's directorate will launch its Web site, an information and linkage station to resources and educational materials."

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Breaking the rules.

The Speaker: Order. This would appear to me to be a minister's statement. If the minister is out making this statement in St Catharines, it is inappropriate for a member for stand in this place using the minister's name to make the same statement. I can't see how in any way, shape or form this can be considered a member's statement when the minister herself is in fact out there in the province making the same statement as a ministry statement.

I would suggest to the members of the government that if there are going to be statements made, they must be ministry statements. If they're going to announce initiatives, you have to announce those initiatives during the proper process, which is ministry statements, and allow opposition the opportunity to respond in the five-minute process.

Having said that, I have no power to authorize a five-minute response for the opposition, or a minute-and-a-half response, or any such thing. All I can do is caution the government members, when making their statements, to be careful they're not making ministry statements. With the greatest respect, to the members of the government side, to the member for Bruce, this seems fairly clear to me to be a ministry statement.

Ms Churley: Mr Speaker, I respect your ruling. I would, therefore, given that you feel you cannot compel the government members to allow the opposition --

The Speaker: Are you seeking unanimous consent?

Ms Churley: Yes, I'm seeking unanimous consent.

The Speaker: The member for Riverdale is seeking unanimous consent for a five-minute response for the opposition. Is there unanimous consent? No, there is not.

Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am wondering if something that I have here --


Mr Bradley: No, this is something I have to show the Speaker -- whether this violates the rules of this assembly. As you can see, there is a shirt that has the minister's name on it.

The Speaker: Order. With respect to the House leader, I assume the member is standing on a point of order that this somehow violates the orders of the House because the minister's name is on it. I honestly can't even begin to understand where in the standing orders that could possibly be a point of order.

Mr Bradley: I would rise on a point of privilege, then, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Well, then, a point of privilege.

Mr Bradley: The point of privilege is this -- and the only reason I held this up was I didn't want you just to take my word for it, I wanted you to know that the name of the Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Chris Hodgson, is actually on this shirt -- that the government apparently paid a one-third amount of the money to produce these shirts. What I'm worried about as a matter of privilege is whether government funds were used to promote a particular minister; in other words, that government funds that were provided, and I think appropriately, for the production of this shirt were on some kind of condition with somebody in the government that the minister's name be on it. I don't know whether that's true or not.

The Speaker: Let me say to the member for St Catharines, it's not that long ago when construction projects were being built in this province where the minister's name would be put on the billboards. It was stopped recently. I don't think there's anything I can go to, any rule that says the minister can't have his name on a T-shirt. If you want to take this up as a question during question period, that's probably a really good question, but it isn't a point of order and it's probably not a point of privilege.


The Speaker: No, it's not a point of privilege. I appreciate your input.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, I think there's a very simple way to resolve this. The Minister of Natural Resources can simply pay back the money --

The Speaker: Order.


The Speaker: Yes, and they're both out of order. Member for St Catharines, I heard your point of order; it didn't qualify. I heard your point of privilege; it didn't qualify.

Mr Bradley: I think you misinterpreted --

The Speaker: I will accept written submissions from you on behalf of that particular point of privilege.



Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think we on all sides of this House have been watching with a mix of concern, sympathy and indeed helplessness as the worst flood in more than 150 years spreads havoc through the southern part of our sister province of Manitoba.

The strength and community spirit of Manitobans during this very difficult time is an inspiration, I believe, to all in our country. Over the last few days the hardworking people in towns like Emerson, Morris and Ste Agathe have been struggling to cope with unpredictable waters. Now the overflowing Red River threatens to affect the city of Winnipeg with the same kind of indiscriminate destruction.

I know many Ontarians -- individuals, businesses, institutions -- have lent their support to the people of Manitoba through hard work, money and other donations.

I personally communicated with Premier Filmon offering the assistance of our government and our resources. Officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources are also in close contact with their counterparts in our sister province of Manitoba.

I believe as all 130 of us in this Legislature return to our ridings this weekend, we all in a non-partisan way can lend a hand in Ontario's collective efforts to encourage family, friends and constituents to do the same. Donations can be made at any Royal Bank branch. I know that here in the greater Toronto area food and clothing can be dropped off at any fire station in Metro Toronto, Mississauga or Brampton, and in your towns and your communities other arrangements may be being made.

I know that the thoughts of all members in this House, and indeed all Ontarians, are with the good people of southern Manitoba as we extend to them our support, our encouragement and our prayers.



Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): This afternoon the Premier, several of my cabinet colleagues and I met with the negotiating team from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to inform them that we are accepting most of their proposed amendments to the Who Does What legislation.

Before discussing the changes I would like to remind the honourable members of our goals in the entire Who Does What exercise.

The first was to reduce taxes by ending the spiralling cost of education in this province. That was the first priority. The second goal was to reduce taxes by disentangling the duplication and delivery of services between the provincial and municipal governments. The third goal was to bring tax fairness to the people of this province, regardless of the municipality in which they live.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, the member for Windsor-Walkerville.

Hon Mr Leach: Since announcing the Who Does What package, several municipalities, organizations and individuals have expressed legitimate concerns about the impact of two decisions: changing the funding formula for welfare and requiring municipalities to be responsible for funding long-term care.

When our original package was announced, I challenged AMO and other organizations to come up with alternative solutions and ideas. Our only condition was that any new package meet our three goals.

These proposed amendments will address many of the concerns raised by the groups and individuals about this government's intention to end waste and duplication between the two levels of government. They met that challenge and provided us with new ideas that, I am happy to say, our government is prepared to adopt. In fact, we are accepting almost all of the proposals put forward by AMO.


The Speaker: Members for Sudbury, Windsor-Walkerville, Yorkview and Fort William, please come to order. I'd like to be able to hear this statement. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

It became clear during our consultations that AMO had a proposal that met our objectives without the province assuming the total cost of education. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario proposed that the province assume half the current education costs paid by residential property taxes, not all of them. Furthermore, AMO proposed that the province, not individual school boards, set a province-wide residential property tax rate for education.

After consulting with my cabinet colleagues, we concluded that this was an acceptable compromise because it will permit the province to cut education property taxes in half and to limit future increases in education taxes. It is the province's intention to set a rate that collects half the current $5 billion in residential education property taxes. Once set, that rate will be frozen.


The Speaker: Order. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

While accepting most of AMO's proposals, the one we did not accept was the proposal to permit boards of education to increase residential property taxes annually by up to 5%. That is contrary to this government's policy of reducing unwarranted tax increases.

The shift in responsibility for education costs now allows the province to address two other concerns. This government heard concerns expressed by many municipalities and individuals about the impact of funding changes to welfare and long-term care. I am pleased to report to this House that, based on the recommendations of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the government will not proceed with its proposal to share welfare costs on a 50-50 basis.

Furthermore, to end the confusing system of differing cost-sharing arrangements, the province will fund 80% of all general welfare benefits and child care, with municipalities responsible for 20%. Welfare administration costs will be split equally between the province and municipalities. The province will retain full responsibility for long-term care, and to assist in the transfer of social housing to municipalities, the province will provide significant capital investment upgrades, which will be confirmed in next week's budget. On critical issues of social services, it's only right and proper that there be a shared responsibility among the different levels of government.

This decision does not in any way change decisions to disentangle other duplicated services between the province and its municipal partners.


The Speaker: Order. The members for Lake Nipigon and Sudbury -- members, please come to order.

Hon Mr Leach: I fail to understand why the opposition would be laughing at AMO's proposal.

AMO and the government agreed on the proposed system of dividing responsibilities for policing, roads, public health and other services. This minister and this government said we would listen to anyone who came forward with a better idea. We didn't hear any from the opposition, but AMO did have some. We listened to the advice of our municipal partners and to the people of Ontario.

I would specifically like to express my appreciation to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for their thoughtful and carefully considered recommendations. This was, I believe, a good example of a government that, working with its partners, is willing to listen and to respond to positive, well-considered solutions.

I believe we have reached a compromise that allows the province to meet its goals, provides greater flexibility for municipalities and will benefit the people of Ontario by ensuring more efficient services, less duplication and waste and lower taxes.


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Leach: Mr Speaker, I'd just like to point out to the members that the president of AMO, Mr Terry Mundell, has just come into the public gallery.

The Speaker: Responses.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I don't like to say that we told you so, but we told you so. If ever there was a screwup in the introduction of public policy in Ontario, this would be a case study.

The minister makes much of the fact that this is a new partnership struck between himself and AMO, but the fact of the matter is, had he properly consulted AMO and other groups throughout the province at the outset and had he listened to his own adviser, David Crombie, they never would have constructed this mess in the first place.

As soon as mega-week announcements were made we hit the ground running. We set out across the province and we met with various communities and we quickly concluded that what we had been saying in this Legislature was absolutely correct and, in particular, we were looking at an additional $1 billion that was being downloaded on to Ontario property taxpayers.

Here are some of our findings, in case the minister didn't get them. We found that the Harris government made a serious mistake in putting long-term care, child care, social assistance, social housing, public health and ambulance services on property tax and you had to correct the mistake.

Second, we found that there's no doubt that most municipalities across Ontario will face dramatic increases in their property tax bill with at least an average 10% increase across the province. We told you so, Minister.

Third, we found that the Harris government's plan to provide funds for municipalities is only $335 million to cover a likely $1.3 billion in additional costs. We told you all of that, Minister.

Finally, we told you that the Harris government has been unacceptably secretive, and it continues to do that to this very day, with information that the municipalities need to provide a detailed assessment of the impact on their property taxpayers.

The minister tells us that his overriding concern here is that this be a revenue-neutral exercise, where our calculations today show us that we're looking at still somewhere between $650 million and $700 million which are going to be downloaded on to property taxpayers right across the province. This is not revenue-neutral. I've said it before and I'll say it again.


The Speaker: Order. I want to ask the government members, I'll stand while you're heckling too. I want to be able to hear the statements of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the members for the opposition as well. The leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: When we raised these kinds of concerns before, I was told on countless occasions that I was wrong, that we didn't know what we were talking about. The fact of the matter is, we knew perfectly well what we were talking about because we were relying on municipalities across the province. We didn't invent this stuff. They're not some kind of an obstacle to be overcome. They're a resource to be tapped and that's something that you should have done from the outset.

Now we're supposed to take some comfort from the fact that municipalities will retain the privilege of collecting 50% of the tax that is going to be attributed to education in this province. But the problem remains, of course, that the province has now assumed complete control over education in the province. There is going to be no local accountability. We still don't know if those moneys collected are going to be put into education and, if they are, how they are going to be distributed. There is no guarantee of that whatsoever to date.

We hear that, out of the goodness of their hearts, they're going to contribute $200 million to upgrade our housing stock in Ontario, which they are kindly transferring to municipalities. Estimates that we have had in the past put those costs somewhere in the range of $1 billion, not the paltry $200 million that they intend to contribute.

If I could sum up, I would say this: The government through this exercise has only confirmed what we have suspected all along. They are driven by ideology. There is an effort being made here to assume control over education. There was no genuine effort made whatsoever to consult people who were going to be affected by this.

We had public policy thrown into our faces, which was rejected by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, business organizations, the Financial Post, the Toronto Sun and the like throughout the province, telling this government that what they were about to do was to cause serious financial and social harm to our province. Let us hope they have learned a lesson.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): There are many pieces to this announcement that has been made today, and to fully understand it we need to move back about five months to get the full historical perspective. People will remember this government standing up in January and saying that the downloading of long-term care, the downloading of social assistance, the downloading of seniors' housing, the downloading of a host of other health care services was all going to be revenue-neutral. The government said it was going to be a wash. The only kind of wash it was, and is, is hogwash, and people across this province have started to understand that in spades.

What the government was trying to do is this: Virtually every democracy in the western world is wrestling with two problems. One is what to do with chronically high unemployment rates, 10% and 15%, which result eventually in people having to resort to social assistance. This government's solution to that problem was simply to say, "Throw it on the municipalities."

The second problem governments in the western world are confronting is what to do about the baby-boomers as they become older and need more health care. Every government in the western world is wrestling with that problem. What was the Harris government's solution? "Throw it on the municipalities." But they got caught, they got found out, and I say to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario: Good for you. Congratulations for work well done.

There is another piece to this. Do you remember the $8 million in government advertising showing the fuse box and the wires going off? The government said this was about disentanglement. Well, let's look at it. As I look at what's going on here, there's probably more entanglement than ever. Social assistance is 80-20 on the benefits side but 50-50 on administration. That sounds like more mixup than ever. Then we go down to social housing and, get this, it says, "Delay, but put in some capital upgrades." That doesn't sound to me to be disentanglement.

Let's go to residential education taxes, because I suggest there's probably a minefield here. It's going to be 50% municipal, 50% education, and then if you read the fine print, it says municipalities are going to pick up some things that are better done at the local level. I wonder how much this government's going to try to push into that down the road.

There's no disentanglement here. There's more entangling here, and if anything, there's a lesson for the people of Ontario: Don't let Al Leach anywhere near your fuse box -- nowhere near it.

I want to go on, because as I said initially, the real effort on the part of this government was to download a whole bunch of costs on to property taxes so the government would be able to stand back and say: "We gave you an income tax cut. The fact that your property taxes are going up is someone else's fault." That was the real political goal here.

People should not take too much solace in this announcement, because as I read the fine print, the province is still abandoning over 3,400 kilometres of Ontario's highways, still abandoning 3,400 kilometres on to municipal taxpayers.

It's interesting if you look at the province's balance sheet. It's as if the municipal support grant never existed. The municipal support grant is worth over $666 million. The government simply omits even to mention it here. Some $666 million is still being withdrawn, in addition to the 3,400 kilometres of highways that are being downloaded.

As well, the delay on seniors' apartments, the delay on housing for the disabled, the delay on other types of supportive housing is just that: It's a delay. It's still coming and it's still going to result in municipalities having to pick up a huge property tax issue.

I am pleased for the Association of Municipalities, but this is still going to result in higher property taxes for property taxpayers at the municipal level. I say to the government, for that part, shame on you.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): The government's handling of the minister's announcement on this, the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is one of the most partisan and crass moves I believe ever seen in this place. This is a day when normally the minister stands up and everybody, all parties, gets to speak about this very important issue. Shame on them --

The Speaker: Order.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I guess they weren't whiners after all, the municipalities.

The Speaker: Order.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Yesterday the member for St Catharines raised a point of privilege with respect to a memorandum issued by the Secretary to the Management Board of Cabinet relating to a motion for interim supply which was in fact passed by this House yesterday.

I wish to thank the member for St Catharines for raising this matter and the government House leader for submissions.

I've carefully reviewed the memorandum and observed that it is addressed to deputy ministers and would therefore appear to have a very limited intended audience. Whatever distribution it might have had beyond that would be impossible to determine.

It does appear to me, however, that its contents would be primarily of interest to senior managers in the civil service, because most of it deals with issues that would appropriately have to be addressed by them in the event that interim supply were not approved by the end of the month of April.

The issue that has arisen surrounds the choice of wording in certain portions of the memo that is subject to variable interpretations. This is the essential element that I believe gave rise to the point of privilege and it is what I wish to address here today.

Those whose vocation is the impartial service of the people of Ontario through the government or the Legislature of the province must always bear in mind their professional responsibility and obligation to reflect upon the proceedings of the Legislature in a manner which conveys no judgements either on the proceedings themselves or on the possible outcome of those proceedings. Such reflections must be temperate and balanced.

I would like to say that it is the subjective, equivocal nature of terms such as "regrettable," used in the memo with reference to a controversial political situation in this House and which has provoked this statement, that makes my point on the need for such communications to be worded in a way that carefully and pointedly obviates such possible misunderstanding. The unfortunate wording leaves the author open to the accusation of being critical of the legislative process which, especially given her position, would not be acceptable to me.

However, my interpretation of the memorandum in question is that it represents a prudent effort on the part of a responsible manager to ensure that appropriate arrangements are put in place to respond to and deal with a possible and imminent legislative outcome. While the use of certain words or phrases may reflect a judgement that might be questioned, and has been, it is because of my interpretation of the good-faith nature of the memo that I accord the benefit of doubt to the author.

While a reputation for impartiality and neutrality in the civil service is assumed, it must also be earned every day. As a result, again I want to caution the civil service to be aware of the foregoing and to exercise care in such written communications as the one before us. Because in my view the memorandum before us did not have among its purposes the attempt to persuade members to or dissuade members from a particular course of action in the House relating to the interim supply motion, I find the member for St Catharines has not made out a prima facie case of privilege.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Premier. I want to return to the matter of Ipperwash, a matter of the utmost gravity to all members in this House, but especially of course to you and your government.

A number of key decisions were made by you and your government which we believe involve you and members of your government directly with the Ipperwash affair. We have obtained a copy of minutes of a meeting which had been attended by your executive assistant on September 5. At that time the minutes indicate that you considered a variety of options. A number of the options on those minutes have been blacked out. We understand that the option you chose was to ensure that the protesters were removed from the park as soon as possible.

That is just one of a series of questions which deserve to be answered, Premier. For that reason, once again, I'm asking you today to commit to holding a public inquiry at the earliest possible opportunity.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think I answered all those questions yesterday.

Mr McGuinty: I can understand the Premier's reluctance to get himself any deeper in this, but I think that answer is unacceptable to the people of this province. Again, I want to be perfectly clear. I'm not asking for an inquiry to begin immediately. I'm asking that you commit today to a full public inquiry that would begin at the earliest possible time, a time that would not in any way jeopardize any legal proceedings that have commenced today or might commence at some time in the near future.

Here's another question that remains unanswered. The first nations claim that there was an ancient burial ground at Ipperwash. At the outset the position taken by your government was that there was no such valid claim to be made. Subsequently there was a change of heart in that regard. We want to know why that decision wasn't reached in the first place. If you're not prepared to tell us that today, Premier, again, commit to a full public inquiry at the earliest possible opportunity.

Hon Mr Harris: We accept the same question from yesterday, and the same answer applies.

Mr McGuinty: One of the things the Premier said yesterday was that we would have some kind of answers made available to the Ontario public at the appropriate time. My concern is that the appropriate time may be after the next election. I am questioning the Premier's commitment to get to the bottom of this very important issue that goes to the heart of his integrity and the integrity of his government.

Here's another question that deserves a response, Premier. The member for Lambton, a member of your government, was closely involved at the command post at Ipperwash. We know there were conversations between him and the police officials at the command post and your government. We need to know what was said, what directives, if any, were issued by you to him and from him to whoever else may have been there. Those are just some of the questions that deserve an answer.

Once more, given the nature of the questions that are before the public today, given the number of people who have a growing concern about this issue, will you not merely commit -- that's all I'm asking you for -- to a public inquiry.

Hon Mr Harris: The same answer as yesterday.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I want to continue with the Premier on the same issue, because so far you have said the OPP acted entirely on their own. We believe the government made fundamental decisions that fundamentally impacted on the outcome of this event. I will go on with the line of questioning of my leader.

You made another key decision, and that was that you would treat this not as a native affairs issue but as a Ministry of Natural Resources issue. That influenced the direction of the OPP. Why did you make the decision to not treat this as a native affairs issue? If you're not prepared to answer that today, will you ensure that you commit today to a public inquiry so we can get that answer out of you?

Hon Mr Harris: All the information will be public at the appropriate time.

Mr Phillips: I want to continue, because I think the public have a right to answers to these questions. The OPP are out to dry on this. I want to ask another question of you, Premier. You said in this House, in response to a freedom of information request -- we said we would like the files from your office on September 4, 5, 6 and 7. Here's your exact response: "There were no files" -- in my office -- "there were no records, because we had no involvement."

Frankly, there isn't anyone in the province who can accept that answer, that the day after a native person was shot and killed the Premier had no records in his office. His executive assistant was at meetings and was instructed to get back to the Premier with information on those meetings.

Premier, why did your office have no files on Ipperwash? And if you're not prepared to answer that question today, do you not agree that should be something that is answered in your public inquiry?

Hon Mr Harris: My office did not convene any meetings. Other offices did, and one person from my staff attended, and all minutes were kept by them.


Mr Phillips: So there were no files in your office. I will continue to ask the questions that the public will demand answers on. Once again, you have said, and here is the direct quote: "The OPP operated with no government input, direction or advice," yet the morning of the shooting incident, September 6, the senior officer at the command post said, "The Premier and Solicitor General want to deal with this." Later on that same day, the commanding officer is asking your Conservative member, "Is there anything from the Solicitor General?" The implication is clear that this wasn't something the OPP were simply doing completely on their own with no government input, direction or advice.

Again, are you prepared to answer that question, why would the commanding officer say those things, and would you not therefore agree that you have to --

The Speaker: Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: Following on court matters, I suppose somebody can determine who said what and why and when, and I know you don't want to jeopardize those cases.

I am prepared to repeat for you not only what I have said, that we gave no direction to the OPP as to how they would carry out their job, but furthermore, the commissioner of the OPP, appointed as I recall when the NDP were in power, one of the most respected law officers in all of North America, has confirmed to you on two separate occasions that there was no direction from this government to the OPP as to how they would carry out their duties.

Mr Phillips: The OPP commissioner has not confirmed what the Premier just said.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Speaker, because this is such a serious issue and because someone died --

The Speaker: Your question is to?

Mr Hampton: My question is to the Premier as well -- we're going to continue to ask these questions.

Premier, you personally have said that the province wanted the occupiers out of the park. A government briefing note states, "The province will take steps to remove the occupiers ASAP." There is no mention of the government trying to negotiate with the occupiers to come to a peaceful resolution. Your government made an application to the courts to obtain a simple injunction, but in doing so, your government chose the hard line over peaceful negotiations. Your government brought the full power of the courts as your first option rather than trying to negotiate peacefully, and once your government decided to apply for an injunction, a message was sent to the police that you wanted the occupiers removed from the park, with force if need be.

Who made the decision to move forward with an injunction rather than to try to negotiate peacefully with the occupiers at Ipperwash?

Hon Mr Harris: I honestly have to say I think you're making up some of this stuff, and when the court cases are finished, we'll be happy to supply all the information so we don't jeopardize another family and another life.

Mr Hampton: The information that I've read here all comes from the minutes and it's all on the public record, and I'll continue. According to court transcripts, on September 6, 1995, lawyers for the Attorney General advised the court that a motion for an injunction against native protesters at Ipperwash park would be heard the next day, September 7. The Attorney General confirmed that in this Legislature. He said, "There was an attempt made to ensure that there was notice given about the intention to obtain an injunction." That's in April 28 Hansard of this year.

What the Attorney General neglected to add was that at some point on September 6, 1995, the day of the shooting, the government changed its tactics. The government's original decision to give the natives notice of the injunction proceeding was stopped. You switched to an ex parte process, in other words, a process without notice. Why did you choose to go the hardball way, not to give notice to native people --

The Speaker: Thank you very much, leader. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: We switched nothing. You know not of what you speak. All the facts we're happy to have, once we don't jeopardize another family.

Mr Hampton: It's clear it's the Premier who doesn't know what he's speaking about; either that or he doesn't want to know, because in fact Mr McCabe, the government's legal counsel, admits -- and this too is in the transcript, Premier -- that the decision to bring a motion without notice, in other words to use the hardball process, was made on September 6, 1995, many hours before trouble started at the park. Many hours before anything happened at the park, the government had made its decision to go the hardball route.

I want to put it to you again, Premier: Who made all these hardball decisions? Who made all these decisions to really put it to the native occupiers instead of talking with them and discussing the situation and trying to negotiate a resolution?

Hon Mr Harris: All those matters we'll be happy to -- you have most of the information. I'm just a little surprised that you say going to the courts and using the legal process is hardball. I thought that's the way you deal with these things.

Mr Hampton: I'll have to remind the Premier: Going straight to court, first of all, and not trying to discuss or negotiate is legal hardball. Going to court in a manner where you don't even give the other side notice, where you don't even give them a chance to be heard, is probably the nastiest tactic of all. That's the question here, Premier. Your government took a hard-line approach here from the beginning. As we read through the transcripts and as we read through the minutes that come from your meetings, it becomes more and more obvious: Your government took a hard line from the beginning, and if anything, you accelerated that hard line. Why, Premier? Why didn't you try to negotiate or discuss? These are all the questions that are unanswered. Who gave the orders to take a hard line?

Hon Mr Harris: I know the Attorney General has indicated the government direction was to seek an injunction in the courts. I hardly call that a hard line.

Mr Hampton: I'll read again from the Hansard transcripts. The Attorney General came here and he indicated that the original decision was to go and to seek an injunction, with notice, which would have given the native people at Ipperwash a chance to appear in court and a chance to be heard. Who knows, Premier? Perhaps a settlement could even have come of it.

But then Mr McCabe -- Mr McCabe is a lawyer who works for the Ministry of Natural Resources, well respected -- says in the transcripts that even before any trouble started, your government made the decision to take the hardest line possible, not to give notice to the native people, to go into the court without notice and ask for that injunction.

Why did you choose to take such a hard line? That's the question. Who gave the order? Why did you switch, Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: I don't recall switching anything.

Mr Hampton: I gather that the Hansard transcripts are all wrong. I gather that the court transcripts are all wrong. It seems we're into a quasi-reality here where only the Premier knows the reality and all the other transcripts and all the other statements by these people taken under oath are wrong. I say to the Premier, it's not that way.

Premier, this is why you need to commit today to holding a public inquiry, because your answers are completely at variance with the answers of other people who gave their evidence under oath. Will you make that commitment? Will you call the inquiry today? The inquiry can take place after criminal proceedings are finished, but there are too many unanswered questions. People need to know the answers to these questions. Will you call that inquiry today?

Hon Mr Harris: You asked that question yesterday. I know everybody will get the answers, not only the right answers or whatever the answers you want. You will find there is no inconsistency between anything I've said and the actual facts, and when the time is right we'll do that.


The Speaker: New question; the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: To the Premier, also on Ipperwash. The Premier will know that on October 21, 1996, the government went to court. I'm reading from the Ipperwash prosecutions.

"There are 23 people charged with the offence of forcible detainment." Those were the people who occupied the park. "The crown is withdrawing all of the charges" -- the forcible detainment -- "for the reason that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction."

In other words, you declared them innocent. Six months later, on April 1 -- the day, I might add, that the OPP trial started -- you were saying the Ipperwash group was breaking the law. In other words, you declared them innocent, you dropped the charges because there was no expectation they could be convicted in October, and then six months later you publicly declared them guilty. Why would you do that?

Hon Mr Harris: I haven't declared anyone guilty or innocent.

Mr Phillips: "Ipperwash Group Was Breaking the Law, Premier Says. `We felt there was an illegal occupation of the park.'" You then found out subsequently, Premier, that you were wrong. You had to drop the charges. You declared them guilty when they were innocent. Why would you do that? Why would you say on April 1 -- I might add, the day the trial started for the OPP officer -- when you had already dropped the charges in court, that they are now guilty?

Hon Mr Harris: I think the member would know that neither I nor any politician was involved in either the laying or dropping of any charges.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the Premier. In the absence of the minister responsible for women's issues, I am asking you, because you are the one who is ultimately responsible for the decisions of cabinet. I want you today to answer to the thousands of women who have asked your government repeatedly to stop sacrificing women. Today, as we noted earlier, marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Prevention Month. Your minister responsible is not even here and there is no announcement that will give comfort to the victims of violence and no real action on the prevention of violence and sexual assault.

Earlier this week, a coalition of rape crisis centres asked that in respect of Sexual Assault Prevention Month your government announce stable funding for rape crisis centres. They asked you to announce that you formally reject the McGuire report -- remember that one? -- and that you announce additional funding for anti-violence measures. We have not heard any of those today. Premier, when is your government going to make those announcements?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): As a matter of fact, the minister is today making some of those announcements and several important initiatives are planned to be announced over this month: a community victims initiative program grant in St Catharines, being announced, I believe, today; a community victims initiatives program grant in Kingston, for the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres to create an Internet link for 34 sexual assault centres; a launching, through our Partners for Change public-private sector work group, of a multimedia campaign of violence prevention specifically targeted at youth.

You're right. The minister isn't in the House today. The minister is actually out in the communities making these announcements.

Ms Churley: When I hear your response and other ministers' responses to these questions, I have to wonder whether you or your government have any sense of morality or values whatsoever. You stand and reannounce things over and over again. We had a good look at the press release from your minister today. She didn't have the courtesy to even come in the House and give the opposition a chance to respond.

You should know that this press release today is not fooling anyone. It contains the announcement of a ministry Web site. I'm sure another 1-800 number gives a lot of comfort to the victims of sexual assault.

The other part of the announcement is merely the allocation of grants that have been previously announced, something for which your government is becoming very well known. You haven't announced one new thing today.

We know you intend to "rationalize" services, and we know that means cuts. But your government doesn't even have the decency to let people know where the cuts are going to be. How much does your government intend to cut in the budget that's coming up in the next few days? Tell us now. At least let us know what's happening.

Hon Mr Harris: I know the member will be aware that I do not plan to announce budget details today in the Legislature. Those will be announced by the minister next Tuesday. I think you will find in the whole area of women's shelters, sexual assault education, prevention, assistance and counselling that the budget will be one that will be very well received by all those, including the member, who are interested in that issue.

I might also add in addition to all of that the other initiatives the government is taking that your government had opportunities to and refused to: a Victims' Bill of Rights identifying and protecting specific rights for victims of violent crime, the majority of whom are women; establishing automated information referral services; providing round-the-clock person-to-person referral to local victim services; maintaining full funding to 34 sexual assault centres; 24-hour crisis services.

I wish that maybe somebody else will ask me a question so I can enlist --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. As the minister knows, a few months ago I brought to this House a resolution asking for part of the federal gas tax to be put into the national highway system and I appreciate the minister's support in that area. I know the Canadian Automobile Association is developing a strategy to make the deterioration of Canada's highways an issue in the upcoming federal election. Minister, what is your response to the CAA's most recent effort to seek federal funding for national highway policy?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I certainly would like to thank the member for Niagara South for the question. I know this is an issue he has been very much involved with.

I am pleased that CAA is continuing to pursue federal funding for a national highway program. The federal government receives approximately $2 billion a year from Ontario motorists in federal gasoline and related fuel taxes. Unfortunately, the people of this province do not receive any reinvestment of their tax dollars back into our provincial highway infrastructure.

This government is spending more on highway rehabilitation than the previous governments did in the past eight years. In Ontario we are addressing the need to protect our highway system. It's about time the federal government did the same. That is why I have been encouraging the federal government to provide the equivalent of at least two cents a litre from the 10 cents it collects from Ontario motorists to reinvest back into Ontario highways.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): What about the Port Colbourne hospital?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Is that right?

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): What about the hospital?

Mr Hudak: I say to the members opposite, actually you had a very good discussion on health care in Port Colborne earlier today. I want to ask about the highways through my riding.

The Minister of Transportation has been very good to the riding of Niagara South: about $12 million in funding for the QEW. I've written to the minister also for funding for Highway 3 through Gasline. It is a very important highway, I tell the members opposite. In addition to the hospital, I have a very important question on the funding for Highway 3 through Gasline. I hope the minister will have good news for us soon.

Minister, what people in Port Colborne also want to know about the highway through Gasline and the QEW is, what does the national highway policy mean for the people of Port Colborne?

Hon Mr Palladini: I've had a chance to travel some sections of the national highway system these recent months with both the member for Niagara South and the member for Middlesex. There are 5,000 kilometres of the national highway system right here in Ontario. These routes are vital to economic links. These highways are an indispensable resource to Ottawa that Ottawa cannot afford to ignore any longer.

Under the national highway program, funding for the system would be shared between federal and provincial governments. The federal government has negotiated with other provinces to provide funding for their national highways. New Brunswick, for example, has a three-year project, $340 million in cost-sharing with the federal government. I am disappointed that the federal government has not responded to my presentation to the federal standing committee, nor to a resolution of the member for Niagara South.

I will keep trying. I also encourage their federal cousins across the road --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Something happened in this province yesterday that I believe is without precedent. We had a coroner presiding over a coroner's inquest into the death of a 22-month-old little girl, a death caused by her mother, who beat her to death. That coroner said there was nobody in your ministry who was acting as an advocate for children. He said, "There is something missing at the top of this system...there's no driver." He then urged the jury to call on you to have someone in government who will be responsible for ensuring children's aid societies are fulfilling their duties and getting enough money to do their job.

Minister, isn't that your job? Isn't that why you're there? Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing? If you're not standing up for abused children in the province of Ontario, who is?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you very much to the honourable member for the question. I respect that the coroner feels quite strongly about this issue, but with all due respect to him, I don't think creating another bureaucratic position is really going to help solve the very real problems the coroner's inquest is flagging for us about the system, the problems in the system.

We know there are difficulties in the system. That's one of the reasons why we've been cooperating with the task force, why we've been meeting and will continue to meet with the children's aid society, and that's why we've undertaken so many of the steps we have to date to try and make sure the system does not fail children again.

Mr McGuinty: This minister misses the entire point. The point is, we wouldn't need a coroner presiding over the death of a little girl in Ontario recommending that somebody do something on behalf of children who are being abused if you were doing your job. We wouldn't have to have a special person with special authority to perform those kinds of duties if you were doing your job.

You know what you've done to date? You've stolen $17 million from Ontario's children's aid societies. That has led to the layoff of 340 case workers in Ontario. The case workers who remain behind are overworked and they can't keep up with the workload. There are too many kids in abusive situations today throughout the province whose needs aren't being met because you're not doing your job. It's as simple as that.

Minister, $17 million at minimum; all I'm asking of you today is to restore the $17 million you stole from Ontario's children's aid societies.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I appreciate the honourable member's concern about this issue, although I do have concerns about his attempts to turn this into a political issue. Throwing more money at a system that isn't working is not going help the workers out there who need support and it's certainly not going to help the children who need support from the system.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Sudbury East, come to order. Member for Lake Nipigon, come to order, please. I don't want to debate it. Come to order. The minister has to be heard when she's answering the questions. I can't hear the minister. Minister.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. What the workers in the system are telling me, what the children's aid societies are telling me is that what we need are things like a risk assessment model, an information system, a better definition of neglect, protocols with the coroner, public education, professional education, better paediatric screening. All of those things this government is committed to, we have under way, and we look forward to working with the children's aid societies in future to improve this system.

The Speaker: New question.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): To the same minister, if I could have your attention for a moment, all those things you listed, you're quite right that people out in the field have said that those are necessary steps, but the list doesn't stop there. If you read the transcripts from the coroner's inquest, if you read the coroner's directions to the panel, you will see that much of the focus was also on the fact that the cutbacks you have put in place, with the increase in demand, have left CASs right now struggling to meet the caseload.

Minister, I agree with you, simply throwing money at problems doesn't solve problems, but in this case you've got, on the record, a plea from the children's aid societies that their staff cannot meet the needs that are out there, the demands that are out there, with the size of the caseload that they have and the cuts that have happened to their staffing levels.

While we are waiting for task force reports and others, you must take some initial steps. Restoring the $17 million now, as an interim measure, would help ease the situation.

Hon Mrs Ecker: As I mentioned, there are many things that need to be done to improve the system so that deaths that have shocked everyone do not continue to occur. These deaths that the coroner is looking at go back several years, and what we want to make sure is that they don't continue in the future. That's why we are working so hard with all the partners in the community to make sure we can improve the system. There are a number of things that the coroner's recommendations have said to date. We expect there will be many more. We started action last year; that action continues because we believe that the system must be improved.

Ms Lankin: Minister, if you believe the system must be improved, I accept that at face value from you. You must take two additional steps beyond what you have listed out for us here today. You cannot wait, of course, as you've alluded to yourself, for the end of all the inquests, the tragedies and the stories that we're going to continue to hear, and the whole list of recommendations. You can't simply wait for the task force report. The task force themselves say they're just scratching the surface. You must do two things.

You must immediately restore the $17 million so we can get some more staff to deal with the problems that are there right now, and you must refer the Child and Family Services Act to a legislative committee so that we can all work together to help you solve these problems. Will you commit to those two things today, please, Minister?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I believe that continued and further public consultation, all partisan involvement, is very much part of the steps that we want to take to look at and review the legislation, to review the system, to review the recommendations that come from the coroner. There are many things that we want to do.

There is contingency funding for children's aid societies if they need additional financial support. Many of them have accessed that. We also put out almost $45 million two weeks ago to try and prevent children from needing children's aid society services.

I would like to remind the honourable member that some of the problems we are trying to fix in cooperation with the coroner and the child welfare agencies are problems that existed under their government. If she is so concerned about the money for the children's aid societies, perhaps they should have thought about playing Russian roulette with the estimates bill where $135 million of children's society money was put at risk because they were playing politics with supply bills.



Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph) : My question today is directed to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. My riding of Guelph is delighted to now be the home of OMAFRA's head office. Naturally the city is very pleased with the new relationship that's going to be developed between the ministry and the University of Guelph, and this week you formally recognized and celebrated that new partnership. The benefits to the city are obvious and, make no mistake, we're pretty excited in Guelph about the local opportunities that will be there for us and for the university. My question for the minister is: I'm wondering how this new partnership is going to affect agriculture and is going to affect agribusiness all across Ontario.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I wish to thank my honourable colleague from Guelph for that question. It's a very important one. The University of Guelph and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs have been working together for well over 100 years. The partnership has stood the test of time and now it is being formalized.

The students at our regional agricultural colleges of Kemptville, Alfred and Ridgetown will benefit from better access to the University of Guelph. The core courses will be common across the province to prevent duplication and the agrifood business will also benefit because they will have better access to the university research findings. Finally, the enhanced partnership will mean a more knowledgeable, more self-reliant and more competitive agricultural industry at the best university in North America: the University of Guelph in the city of Guelph.

Mrs Elliott: I'm interested in the students you mention from the agricultural colleges. This is a big change for some of the colleges as well as a big change for the university. Now that the colleges are affiliated with the University of Guelph, I'm wondering what kind of changes they are going to undertake and whether the ministry is seeing any effects on those colleges from the participation they've had with the university so far.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Thank you for the supplementary. Yes, there are some extremely positive aspects that are occurring at the satellite campuses. Alfred, Ridgetown and Kemptville have had increases in enrolment of 13%, 18% and 21% respectively. The applications at the University of Guelph are up by 30%. I believe that tells you the message of what's happening in agriculture and in rural Ontario. There's a very positive attitude there, and this government is very supportive of that industry.

We were faced with tough budgetary questions. We amalgamated to prevent the duplication, as opposed to the previous government shutting down two of our agricultural colleges. We are supporting them and we support that industry without any question.


Mr Peter North (Elgin): My question is to the Minister of Health. Over the last couple of years we've been dealing with the issue of closure of psychiatric hospitals, specifically the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital. Recently we made a number of submissions and other people made a number of submissions to the Health Services Restructuring Commission. One of the submissions was made by the Ministry of Health, and I found it interesting that the Ministry of Health would suggest that the forensic patients in the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital should be submitted to the St Thomas Elgin General Hospital. Minister, do you think that's a good idea?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I obviously support the ministry's response to the Health Services Restructuring Commission's London restructuring report.

A couple of things: With respect to bed numbers on the psychiatric side in our health care system, we've made it very clear that the government policy is that beds are not to be cut, contrary to the time when the NDP and Liberals were in office, without the community services being in place, and we expect the commission to follow those guidelines.

With respect to forensic services, which are currently located on the St Thomas site, the commission is recommending that a cluster of forensic beds be retained in St Thomas. Our comment, as a government, through the deputy minister, was that we don't need to set up another board of governance in that area. I welcome any suggestions, but I'm not setting up more bureaucracy. We need all the money for patient care, both in your area and across the province, so our suggestion was that perhaps the local hospital board, the acute care hospital, could also become the board of governance for the psychiatric beds that are to be rebuilt in St Thomas.

Mr North: In other words, you're not suggesting necessarily that beds have to go in the hospital, that perhaps they could come under the same governance.

We're quite concerned. It has become more apparent that perhaps the commission doesn't really have the authority to close psychiatric hospitals throughout the province. In fact, the authority for closing psychiatric hospitals throughout the province is actually with you, as minister. The people of Elgin county and I know the people of London-Middlesex and perhaps the people who live in Leeds-Brockville and areas like that would want to know, Minister: Is it your plan to close the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital?

Hon Mr Wilson: No, but the honourable member will know that it's quite immoral to keep going the way we're going on that site. Only 38% of that building has been used over the last few years. Most of the site is vacant, money is tied up in administration and overhead costs are in excess of anything that's acceptable across this country. Frankly, every dollar is needed for psychiatric patient services.

With respect to the government's suggestion on governance for the new psychiatric beds that are to be rebuilt in St Thomas, we have said siting could perhaps be appropriate on the acute care site because then you don't have to build another kitchen and you don't have to build another set of administrative offices and you don't have to build all kinds of things, if you could have an agreement to share the site that's there at the acute.

I want to quote Betty Couture, who's the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Elgin branch. She says she likes the transfer of the remaining psychiatric hospital beds to general hospitals because it removes the stigma of people needing psychiatric treatment. So there are a lot of benefits and I'd ask the honourable member to keep an open mind with respect to the proposal.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Health. On February 22 last year, with much fanfare you announced MRI services for Sudbury. You announced that the site would be the Sudbury General Hospital, so on March 11 last year the General hospital wrote General Electric of Canada a cheque for $449,951 for the machine. In September the commission came to Sudbury, closed two hospitals, including the General, slashed beds, removed valuable hospital funding and killed countless health care jobs.

Last Friday I attended a press conference. Because of the community's dire need for MRI services, the Laurentian Hospital announced it will install and provide the services on the Laurentian site. Minister, we have two sites. My question is simple: Where should General Electric deliver the machine?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member knows very well that the discussions are continuing to take place in this community with respect to the siting. The directives from the Health Services Restructuring Commission make it clear that we have to make sure the MRI is sited at the proper place. We've made that clear all the way along. Frankly, you wouldn't have MRI services if it weren't for restructuring, because you're saving money, and every dollar more is going back into new services like an MRI for Sudbury, which the previous government didn't put in place, which your government didn't put in place but we're proud to put in place.

Mr Bartolucci: Let me quote from your press release. You said this on February 22: "I am delighted that MRI services will now be accessible to the people of Sudbury. Patients in need of health care should not be forced to shoulder the burden of travelling long, often hazardous distances to receive these services."

We have no MRI. Your commission member, George Lund, said, "The commission does not have the jurisdiction to say either yes or no to the Laurentian proposal. Only the Ministry of Health and the minister have." Minister, stop playing politics; stop waffling. Tell the people of Sudbury and northeastern Ontario: Will you approve the MRI siting at Laurentian?

Hon Mr Wilson: The moment that the local community tells us where it wants the MRI -- we've already booked the money in the Treasurer's budget of last year, contrary to promises you people made. It's all ready to go. The moment you guys decide locally where it's to go, you can put it in. I don't have much more to say about this.

The local community, based on the Health Services Restructuring Commission's directives, has to figure out exactly what site is appropriate because it's a very expensive endeavour, building a radioactive bunker for an MRI machine, if someone comes along a few months later and says, "You put it in the wrong spot." You figure out with your community where it should go and get the thing up and running.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the minister of industry, trade and technology. I have in my hand a copy of the annual report of the Ontario Lottery Corp. In this report --

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Never mind. Have the guts to take a stand. Your commission doesn't have the guts to take a stand and you don't: Chicken and Chicken Little.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I announced in February --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Minister of Health and the member for Sudbury, come to order.


The Speaker: Member for Durham East, there's no reason for you to get into this fight. Order, member for Durham East.

Mr Martin: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. I have in my hands the annual report of the lottery corporation. Let me just read to you some of the highlights.

"Annual sales surpassed $2 billion for the first time in the corporation's 21-year history.... Cash payments to the province of Ontario during 1995-96 fiscal were $674.6 million, which exceeded 1994-95 by $73 million.... The new $3 instant product, Instant Keno, returned sales of $112.6 million, which was 50.1% over budget.... OLC's new online system project was completed, providing increased capacity and improved delivery times for new products."

Minister, with this record and the lottery corporation's record of increased productivity over its years of life, why are you seriously considering the privatization of any part, if not all of this, considering the impact this will have on my community, on northern Ontario and on this province?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the member for Sault Ste Marie, I've been out of the country doing some trade mission work for the province and I didn't realize that the name of my ministry had changed. It is the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, not industry, trade and technology or some other fabrication of the member for Sault Ste Marie.

I'm glad the member has been reading the annual report. It makes very good reading. It is very helpful for this province to have the revenue from the Ontario Lottery Corp. Lord knows it needs it, after what the people over there had been doing over the past five years. I would also like to point out to the member that it creates a lot of jobs; it has 11,000 retailers selling its products across Ontario; it employs 789 staff, many up in his riding of Sault Ste Marie and some in Toronto; and it has done exactly what we thought it would do: It has contributed a large amount of money, in the neighbourhood of $700 million.

Mr Martin: If the minister is so convinced that what the lottery corporation is doing now is working so well for the province, the question continues to be the same. But I would like to ask him if GTECH means anything to him, a corporation out of the United States that runs most of the lottery operations in that country and indeed around the world, a corporation whose reputation is at best questionable, which has been before the courts for its methods of operation. It already owns the software the lottery corporation in Sault Ste Marie uses to run its games.

Are you willing, Minister, in your attempt to privatize everything that moves in this province, to set up the reputation for integrity of the lottery corporation so that you can turn this over to your friends and the corporate sector? What guarantees can you give us here today that the integrity of the lottery corporation will be kept intact when in fact you turn it over to operations like GTECH?

Hon Mr Saunderson: The member for Sault Ste Marie knows full well what this government is doing. It is trying to make sure we do the best possible job in all of our agencies, boards and commissions. We are determined to bring fiscal responsibility to the government, and with all our agencies, boards and commissions, we are applying the same principle. We already have found, over the years, last year, that this agency, the Ontario Lottery Corp, was able to find savings of $37 million, and we're going to continue to do that so that the taxpayers of Ontario are better served.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Last week, Minister, I had an opportunity to ask you a question about Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act, and the answer that you gave seems to have caused some concern for the member for Port Arthur, who continues to go around saying that that act will have a negative impact on small and northern communities.

Minister, could you reiterate your answer and tell us what impact the act will have or whether or not in fact the member for Port Arthur is engaging in the customary Liberal fearmongering?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you to the honourable member for Chatham-Kent for his question. First, I think I should say that our friends on the opposite benches seem to want it both ways, but I don't believe they can have it both ways. In this House they told us during discussions on Bill 103 to trust municipalities; only they knew what was in the best interests of their citizens. Now, as we turn full funding over to municipalities who fund the lion's share of libraries, they don't trust those same municipalities. I guess the question that has to be asked is, what position do they want to take? You either trust municipalities or you don't.

Mr Carroll: The member for Port Arthur, in his attack last week, talked specifically about Geraldton, Atikokan and Ignace and the impact Bill 109 would have on those three particular small northern communities. Could you comment for us specifically on what you believe the impact will be for those three communities?

Hon Ms Mushinski: In each of the three communities the provincial grant is about 6% of total library revenues. This is even before we've undertaken to fully implement the Who Does What initiatives. During the hearings a number of communities actually applauded the legislation for its flexibility in the areas of fees and revenue generation.

The member for Port Arthur says that this is insufficient, even though he admitted during the hearings that these fees can generate 6% of total revenue through revenue generation. I should remind him and the opposite benches that that's the exact total of our funding level for Ignace, Atikokan and Geraldton.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Can you give any answer without reading it, Marilyn? You have got time to practise.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Just quickly on that point, and I let the question and the answer go. I just want to caution the members when asking a question. If they want to review the question asked by the member from Chatham, although I don't particularly think it's out of order, it may be intemperate to offer that kind of question, the original one, and I would caution the members opposite.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question for the Premier. Here today in the gallery are people from Port Colborne. They are wondering about their hospital. Every community is wondering, how does the hospital restructuring commission operate? Does it operate at arm's length from cabinet, or does cabinet have the right to interfere any time it wants in any way it wants?

Last week, Premier, we had two of your ministers offering contradictory answers. We had the Minister of Municipal Affairs saying, "I've written to the commission and they've done what I said, they've changed the dates." The Minister of Health says that's fine, that everybody including the cabinet can talk to this commission. Then we've got the minister responsible for francophone affairs saying it's inappropriate at all times for him to interfere because he's a minister and he understands he should not be talking directly with commissions.

Premier, this is important for you to clarify, for the sake of your government, for this commission and other government commissions, what will you do in this instance?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'll refer this to the Minister of Health.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member Mr Hudak brought in the delegation from Port Colborne today and we had an opportunity to discuss the government's vision for health care. I think they're very interested in the fact that for the first time in Ontario we're going to have a rural health care policy.

I would remind the honourable members from the opposition parties that you launched 60 district health council studies out there using a dataset for beds that was made in Toronto for urban areas. As a result, those district health councils, without any say from our government, brought in about 60 studies that were launched by two previous governments. What we found, lo and behold, in those small rural areas, using those urban benchmarks, using those made in Toronto that were made for areas with lots of hospitals, was that they didn't apply to the one-hospital towns like Port Colborne.

What the people of Port Colborne want is guaranteed access to 24-hour care, they want a rural health care policy that responds to their needs --

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

Mr Kennedy: Mr Speaker, I want to note for the record that the Premier refuses to answer on why he doesn't have conflict-of-interest guidelines for his ministers. He has none, and the last two Premiers did.

The Office of the Integrity Commissioner has said that parliamentary convention prohibits ministers from talking to commissions, and despite what the Minister of Health tried to tell us the other day, it says ministers always wear the cloak of ministerial responsibility. You can't pretend to be an MPP one minute and a minister the next.

Now we have a clear-cut case of interference taking place, and we want to know from you, Premier -- or, Minister, if the Premier won't answer -- what other ministers have communicated with the commission, what correspondence has taken place, and what have you done, Minister, on behalf of Alliston or other hospitals, directly with the commission, what has the cabinet of this province done interfering with this commission? We want those answers today.

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member should be ashamed that he's a member of a party where his federal cousins cut health care $2 billion, and that they launched district health council studies that are now resulting in fear throughout rural Ontario, without any proper policy in place.


The Speaker: Order. Minister.


The Speaker: You keep going and I'll keep getting up. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: The fact of the matter is that the Ontario Hospital Association -- and I want to quote -- is giving this government credit for our actions. I've already answered the fact many times that we are at arm's length from the commission, but it doesn't prohibit government from making policies. On April 23, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association wrote to me as Minister of Health. David MacKinnon said:

"I would like to express the Ontario Hospital Association's appreciation for your recognition of the fact that there is a need to take a different approach to restructuring small hospitals in rural and remote areas. We are strongly supportive of your alternative strategy to continue the commission's restructuring efforts for urban areas and develop a separate rural health policy to ensure that people living in smaller communities can continue to have access to high-quality hospital services."

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a question to the Minister of Health. Let me tell you something: The hospitals in Niagara, including Port Colborne, don't belong --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): That is not a question when he starts with "Let me tell you."

The Speaker: Order, Minister of Agriculture. "Let me tell you something" isn't out of order. It's not out of order.


The Speaker: Member for Durham East, I once again thank you for your helpful advice, but it's out of order as well.

Mr Kormos: The hospitals of Niagara, including that of Port Colborne, are not yours to shut down. People from Port Colborne, like Joe Olsiak and thousands of others, built that hospital brick by brick, donation by donation, volunteer-hour by volunteer-hour. Thousands of people across Niagara have stood firmly, shoulder to shoulder, saying no to hospital shutdowns.

Why do you and this government ignore the people of Niagara and prefer your bean counters and your interest in a tax break for the very wealthy instead of the quality health care system that those folks have built over generations and want to maintain?

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member is part of the government that launched the almost 60 district health council studies at $26 million. Those studies are coming in, including Port Colborne's, and the honourable member did it without a rural health care policy in place. We're putting one in place, in consultation with experts.

The expert panel is Robert Muir, the Ontario Hospital Association; Dr Ray Dawes, president of the rural physicians' group of the Ontario Medical Association; Dr Michael Murray, head of emergency services, Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie; Dr Jim Rourke, family physician from Goderich; Willis Rudy, former executive director, Wilson Memorial Hospital in Marathon; Charlotte Clay-Ireland, past chairperson of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association; J.P. Hube, district health council representative from Cochrane DHC and past chair of the Timmins District Health Council; Louise LeBlanc, president of the Emergency Nurses Association of Ontario; and Susan Shaw, who is an emergency room staff nurse at North Hastings District Hospital.

The experts for the first time in many decades in Ontario are being asked to develop a rural health care policy, and it will be good news for rural Ontario and something long overdue.

Mr Kormos: Good news? Not for Niagara. Not for Hotel Dieu. Not for Port Colborne.

The Speaker: I know full well the member for Welland-Thorold wants to stay, because I know he has House duty.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): How did you know that?

The Speaker: I know everybody who has House duty.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): My House duty, Mr Speaker, is to move that the following substitutions be made to the membership of the following standing committees:

On the standing committee on the Ombudsman: Mr Crozier for Mr Patten; on the standing committee on social development: Mr Patten for Ms Caplan.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Johnson moves the following substitutions be made to the membership of the following standing committees.

Interjection: Dispense.

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



M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition pour la préservation de l'hôpital Montfort. Je peux vous dire que nous avons maintenant 128 000 signatures:

«À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

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

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

«Attendu que Montfort est le seul hôpital d'enseignement et de formation des professionnels de la santé en français en Ontario et que la fermeture du seul hôpital spécialisé -- »

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Un instant. When I can't hear the member who has the floor speaking, there's something wrong. There's too much noise. Monsieur le député.

M. Lalonde : Je vais recommencer ce paragraphe:

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

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

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


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition which reads:

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas sexual assault is a crime and the effects of abuse last a lifetime for the survivors of these crimes;

"Whereas sexual assault crisis centres provide community-based, women-positive, cost-effective services which recognize and respond to both recent, historical and childhood sexual assault, offering short-term crisis intervention, longer-term therapy, public education, prevention, court and police support;

"Whereas hospital-based treatment centres are mandated primarily to work with survivors of recent sexual assault with a medical forensic approach, offering only short-term counselling and referrals, while adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse or historical assault need longer-term services to recover from the horrendous crimes they have suffered;

"Whereas if Parliament decides to close sexual assault crisis centres and redistribute drastically reduced funds to treatment centres, most adult survivors of sexual assault will not have the services they need to heal and will be further victimized;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to maintain community-based sexual assault crisis centres."

I affix my signature to this petition.



Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): These petitions concern gun control:

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has passed Bill C-68, An Act respecting firearms and other weapons; and

"Whereas we welcome real gun control and support those portions of Bill C-68 which provide tougher penalties for the criminal use of firearms, new offences related to firearms smuggling and trafficking and the ban on paramilitary weapons; and

"Whereas existing laws requiring the registration of handguns have done little to reduce the number of crimes committed with handguns or lower the volume of handguns smuggled into Canada; and

"Whereas the national gun registration provisions of Bill C-68 will result in a massive misallocation of the limited resources available to law enforcement agencies, with no practical effect on the traffic of illegal firearms or the use of guns by violent criminals; and

"Whereas the gun registration provisions of Bill C-68 will take police officers off the streets and involve them in bureaucracy other than fighting crime and will make the task of real gun control more difficult and dangerous for police officers;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the province of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to repeal from Bill C-68 those provisions for a compulsory registration of all firearms."

I support this petition and affix my signature to it.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition that I know the people in the gallery will be interested in. It's to the government of Ontario about the Port Colborne Hospital.

"Whereas Mike Harris told the people of Ontario during the 1995 provincial election campaign, `Certainly, I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals;'

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has proceeded to cut over one billion much-needed dollars from community hospitals; and

"Whereas the people of Port Colborne have come to rely upon the caring professional service provided by health care givers at the Port Colborne hospital and view this betrayal by the Mike Harris government as an attack on quality health care services in the Niagara region; and

"Whereas the residents of Port Colborne do not accept the notion that their hospital should be closed, because it's essential in order to maintain a caring and humane community;

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

"That the Ontario government keep their election promise and restore health care spending to the level at which they promised during the last election campaign so the Port Colborne hospital will be able to continue to provide its much-needed valuable services."

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


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition that has been signed by 905 residents of the regional municipality of Sudbury. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has introduced Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; and

"Whereas Bill 104 seriously undermines the job security of caring, professional support staff of the educational systems of Sudbury district and Manitoulin regions;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the process of `outsourcing' or the `privatization' of essential support staff, namely custodians, maintenance, office, clerical, technical, secretarial and educational assistant staff. They are an essential service to the Sudbury and Manitoulin separate and public school boards and to the students of our region."

I agree with the petitioners. I would like to thank David Chezzi, who is a CUPE member, for putting this together, and I am pleased to present it today.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly:

"Whereas Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, is a threat to our education system;

"Whereas the Education Improvement Commission has far-reaching and unprecedented powers;

"Whereas outsourcing non-instructional jobs such as school administrative secretaries, custodians, library technicians and educational assistants will result in chaos and poor service and limited savings, if any;

"We, the residents of Ontario, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly to repeal Bill 104, to limit the powers of the Education Improvement Commission and to guarantee successor rights for non-instructional jobs.

"We support our local secretarial and clerical staff of the Oxford County Board of Education, members of CUPE Local 3581."


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): "To the Minister of Health for Ontario and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the fully accredited Port Colborne General Hospital is a facility originally built with the personal donations of the good citizens of Port Colborne for the citizens of Port Colborne, and these same citizens continue to donate towards the purchase of special equipment for their hospital; and

"Whereas the emergency ward of this hospital treated 17,942 cases in the past year, and the absorption of this caseload by a neighbouring municipality's facility is sure to lead to delays in treatment; and

"Whereas the facility sits on land adjacent to a major marina, three city blocks from the shipping industry on the Welland Canal and a few kilometres from Sherkston Shores resort, which has approximately 200,000 visitors a year, all being facilities which rely on Port Colborne General Hospital, along with other commercial and industrial facilities in Port Colborne; and

"Whereas Port Colborne has a significantly higher percentage of senior citizens, relative to the provincial average, with no access to public transportation, resulting in severe hardship upon having loved ones placed in an out-of-town facility; and

"Whereas the loss of the only hospital in a municipality will lead to severe economic loss to the city through the decline in residential and commercial development; and

"Whereas the cuts to health care in Ontario have already reduced the funding of the Niagara region to below provincial averages;

"The residents of Port Colborne do hereby petition the Minister of Health and the government of Ontario, notwithstanding any recommendations by the local district health council, to ensure the continued existence of Port Colborne General Hospital as it operates at this time."

I'm happy to affix my signature to this petition, which I understand, in various forms, will be presented with 12,000 different signatures.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is attacking workers' compensation benefits and the rights of injured workers;

"Whereas Tory plans include taking $15 billion from injured workers and giving $6 billion to employers, including the government's rich corporate friends;

"Whereas Cam Jackson, the former minister without portfolio with responsibility for gutting the WCB, refused to hold public hearings, choosing to meet secretly with business and insurance industry representatives;

"Whereas the WCB has about $7.6 billion in assets and its unfunded liability has been steadily shrinking;

"Whereas the Jackson report and WCB legislation are just part of a coordinated attack on occupational health and safety protections for working families in Ontario;

"Whereas Tory plans also include abolition of the internationally respected Occupational Disease Panel;

"Whereas the government needs to hear the message that taking money from injured workers and lowering incentives for employers to make workplaces safer is not the way to make Ontario a better place to live;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full, province-wide public hearings on WCB reform; to listen to the voice of the people calling for improved occupational health and safety protection; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."

I've affixed my signature to this wonderful petition.



Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'm very proud to welcome the people of Port Colborne here to the gallery and I'm very proud to commend the work of Larry Olm and his committee in bringing this petition to my attention and to the House: 10,005 signatures. Mr Kennedy, 10,006. I'd say to him, if he wants to move to Port Colborne, it's a great place to live, a lot better than York South. so we'd welcome him to Niagara South.

The petition reads:

To the Minister of Health of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the fully accredited Port Colborne General Hospital is a facility originally built with the personal donations of the good citizens of Port Colborne for the citizens of Port Colborne, and these same citizens continue to donate towards the purchase of specialty equipment for their local hospital; and

"Whereas the emergency ward of this system treated 17,942 cases in the past year and the absorption of this caseload by a neighbouring municipality's facility is sure to lead to delays in treatment; and

"Whereas the facility sits on land adjacent to a major marina, three city blocks from the shipping industry on the Welland canal and a few kilometres from Sherkston Shores resort, which has approximately 200,000 visitors a year, all being facilities which rely on Port Colborne General Hospital, along with all other commercial and industrial facilities in Port Colborne; and

"Whereas Port Colborne has a significantly higher percentage of senior citizens, relative to the provincial average, with no access to public transportation, resulting in severe hardship upon having loved ones placed in an out-of-town facility; and

"Whereas the loss of the only hospital in the municipality will lead to a severe economic loss for the city, through the decline in residential and commercial development; and

"Whereas the cuts to health care in Ontario have already reduced the funding levels of the Niagara region to below provincial averages:

"The residents who rely on the facilities of the Port Colborne General Hospital do hereby petition the Minister of Health and the government of Ontario notwithstanding any recommendations by the local district health council to ensure the continued existence of the Port Colborne General Hospital as it operates at this time."

Excellent work by Mr Olm and his crew; they should be saluted for bringing it here today.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It states:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has introduced Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; and

"Whereas Bill 104 seriously undermines the job security of caring professional support staff of the educational systems of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington counties;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the process of outsourcing or the privatization of essential services to the Frontenac County Board of Education, the Lennox and Addington board of education, and the Frontenac, Lennox and Addington separate school board and to the students of our region."

I am very proud to have signed this, and I yield the balance of my time to the member for Windsor-Sandwich for her petition at this time.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): No, it doesn't work that way.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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



Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph) : I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on resources development and move its adoption.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

Bill 98, An Act to promote job creation and increased municipal accountability while providing for the recovery of development costs related to new growth.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

Shall Bill 98 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.



Mrs Ecker, on behalf of Mr Harnick, moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 128, An Act to amend the Family Law Act to provide for child support guidelines and to promote uniformity between orders for the support of children under the Divorce Act (Canada) and orders for the support of children under the Family Law Act / Projet de loi 128, Loi modifiant la Loi sur le droit de la famille pour prévoir des lignes directrices sur les aliments pour les enfants et pour promouvoir l'harmonisation entre les ordonnances alimentaires au profit des enfants rendues en vertu de la Loi sur le divorce (Canada) et celles rendues en vertu de la Loi sur le droit de la famille.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): The purpose of this bill is to bring Ontario's law into line with the federal child support guidelines so that all children in the province will be treated in a consistent way. At the same time, we are ready to implement and help Ontario's families learn about the new federal child support guidelines.



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 Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I believe Mr Ramsay had the floor. He's not here, therefore we'll go to the third party.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Bill 99 fills over 100 pages of changes to the Workers' Compensation Act. In fact, it's not changes to the act, it's a complete rewriting of the Workers' Compensation Act.

As an aside, the act is also being renamed the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. It's like the way this government employs Orwellian doublespeak. The destruction of local governance of education is called the education improvement act, the lowering of employment standards is called the Employment Standards Improvement Act, and this is now the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. You'll notice there's no longer any reference to workers in the title of the bill. There's no longer any reference to compensation. The system of compensation as we have known it in this system is certainly under attack by our current government and by the bill they've brought forward, Bill 99.

Just a moment of history: The current compensation scheme came about as a result of a historic tradeoff more than 80 years ago. I believe the legislation was passed in this Ontario Legislature to create the Workmen's Compensation Act back in April 1914. The date was April 28. I know that date because workers, injured workers, trade unionists and others across this province celebrate and come together on April 28 to remember workers and the contribution of workers, and we mourn, when we come together, the death of workers and the injury of workers in the workplace.

More than 80 years ago a historic tradeoff was made. It used to be that if a worker was injured on the work site, or had an accident during the course of duties of work, or contracted a disease that was related to occupational circumstances -- for example, many people will have heard over the years of the problems that miners have had with black coal lung, it's called, the dust they breathe in and what that has meant to their respiratory system. Many miners have died of that. That's an example of an occupational disease. You can have an occupational disease, you can have an injury, you can have an accident in the workplace.

Historically what used to happen was that the worker would have the right to sue the employer. They would have a claim, a right of action that they could take into the courts, and they could sue for the circumstances that led perhaps to the accident. They could sue for damages as a result of the injury they sustained. They could sue for loss of income. They could sue for loss of future income in order to protect their families, to provide for their families.

A little over 80 years ago a historic tradeoff was made: Workers gave up that right to sue, because for many employers that was a very unsure world. They wouldn't know from one year to the next what they might face in the way of liabilities. But as a tradeoff for workers giving up the right to sue, no longer having access to the courts to sue employers under these circumstances, employers set up and committed to contribute to a fund that would provide a pool of resources out of which compensation would be provided to workers who found themselves injured on the job through an accident or having contracted an occupational disease and not being able to work.

That tradeoff, in a sense, created a different balance, a new balance in the province, in the world of compensating workers for workplace injuries. That balance, although over the years it has had fine-tuning, although over the years there has been a much more sophisticated regime put in place to assess, first of all, whether an accident happened or not, or an injury, the nature of the injury, the nature of the disability resulting from that, the level of compensation that should be awarded in that circumstance, and with a very appropriate and growing focus on vocational rehabilitation to help injured workers return to work, to help them rehabilitate, be able to learn new skills if that is necessary or go through the physical rehabilitation to be able to return to work -- much more of a focus on that, quite appropriately so -- and even more appropriate, a growing focus on injury prevention, a focus on safety in the workplace.


So the system has evolved, but the very premise on which the workers' compensation system was enacted in this province, that tradeoff between workers and employers, workers giving up the right to sue and employers contributing to the pool of money that would provide for compensation in these circumstances, that balance has remained undisturbed for over 80 years -- until Bill 99 has come forward.

We touch briefly on some of the changes that are contained within Bill 99. First and foremost, Bill 99 seeks to address what the government is calling a crisis in terms of the unfunded liability by cutting benefits to injured workers. I have a real problem, first of all, with the premise that the unfunded liability is in a crisis state. Many people, when they hear the government talk about this -- I think it's natural and I think the government actually plays on this in the words they use -- relate it to the government's fiscal situation in terms of debt and deficit. But in the case of the Workers' Compensation Board, this is an insurance system. What we're talking about is not a debt. The Workers' Compensation Board is not in debt to anyone currently. In fact, they've got hundreds of millions of dollars of assets in their building, in investment, assets that are earning money. What the government's talking about is a projected gap in the future from what the revenues of the Workers' Compensation Board will be, let's say, in 10 years and what actuaries think their liabilities will be in 10 years.

What they do is they say, "Okay, if we continue to have occurrences of workplace injuries with the resulting disabilities at the same rate that we have been having them and this is how much we think we have to pay out every year in new claims, in 10 years' time we'll have this amount that we'll need to pay out and the board's revenues will be this amount." The actuaries have projected, and a few years ago their projections were quite serious, that there would be a gap between those two. That's referred to as the unfunded liability.

There is no doubt that steps need to be taken to address that concern. The first and foremost and most significant step to be taken is the focus on prevention of injury in the first place, to stop the growth of the unfunded liability, stop the growth of the board's liability by stopping accidents and injuries in the workplace to the best of our ability. We should all be dedicating ourselves to that as our primary goal.

Of course, the second way to address the unfunded liability is to look at the level of revenues that are coming in and to ascertain whether or not that is appropriate. You could, quite frankly, look at increasing the revenues by increasing the -- I'm not sure what the member has just handed me here, but --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's for later.

Ms Lankin: For later, okay. It didn't seem to apply to what I was talking about and I thought, "Am I speaking to the wrong bill?" Thank you.

The second way would be to increase the pool of revenues that are coming in to the board. The revenues that are provided to the board come from premiums that employers pay, and here I think it's really important that we take a look at employers not as one large group, because there's a very different experience in different types of industries. Some industries, as you can imagine, have a much higher risk of workplace accidents and injuries and they're rated at a higher level, because this is an insurance system. It's just like, for example, if you are a driver who is prone to having a lot of accidents, you pay a higher rate of insurance. There's a risk rating, an incident rating that goes on, but employers are also treated as classes of employers, groups of industries where there is some common relationship in terms of the workplace experience with accidents and with injuries.

Some employers, I think it's quite true, find themselves working very hard to reduce workplace accidents and yet over the years have still seen their premiums go up. I think they felt, and probably quite rightly, a sense of injustice around that. But I have to tell you that there are many other employers, employers who had extraordinary levels of accidents and injuries, who didn't take those preventive steps who in fact should be paying significantly more in premiums than they are now.

To simply ignore the premium side of it and say we're not going to look at that, in fact to go further -- I think the thing that is so insane about how the government has approached this, but it really belies the true motives of the government, is that they not only have not looked at increasing revenues in any particular class or area of employer, they've gone a step further. They have reduced employers' premiums to the tune of $6 billion before this legislation has even passed. Before the reforms of the Workers' Compensation Board and the restructuring itself is through, they took a decision to simply slash employers' benefits by 5%, which hands $6 billion back into employers' profits.

I guess if you weren't worried about the unfunded liability you could understanding taking some steps. Maybe we would see it would be more appropriate to raise workers' benefits, or maybe raise workers' benefits a bit and lower employers' premiums a bit. But to hand off $6 billion in premiums when you say you've got an unfunded liability and you purport it to be a crisis -- although I disagree with that representation. I think it's under control. I think we can see that it has been coming down over the last few years. There's a way to go, I will agree with people on that, but it makes no sense to me, it's sort of like giving a tax cut when you've got to go and borrow it and the bond rating agencies are still hovering over your shoulder. There's a bit of an analogy here. The other analogy is in terms of who the money primarily benefits within our society.

Anyway, I guess in order to keep their eye on that unfunded liability target that the government has set and having given away $6 billion, they find themselves in more of a predicament. So the first place they go is to the well of workers' benefits by cutting the benefits to injured workers.

I'd like to understand what's behind the philosophy of that. The government doesn't say it, but the only thing I can think is that there must be a mindset in the government benches that people who are collecting workers' compensation are somehow malingerers. Therefore you've got to cut those benefits, you've got to be tough with those people and you've got to force them back into the workplace, and the way to do it is to starve them. I can't think of any other rationale for cutting workers' benefits, taking it down to 85% of net average earnings. The current is at 90%, and the difference, by the way, is that when you're on workers' compensation you don't pay certain payments like unemployment insurance and things like that. So that's why it's 90%. Why would you cut it down to 85%?

I don't understand why a worker who has been injured in the workplace and is unable to work shouldn't be made whole in terms of their salary, particularly during the acute period of the disability and while they're seeking treatment and perhaps trying to get back into the workplace. I don't understand this at all. To take benefits down to 85% is an economic penalty.

If you're hurt in the workplace through no fault of your own -- something happens, it's an accident, accidents do happen, as they say -- why should there be an economic penalty that you face? Yet that's what this government is bringing in. The only answer is a disdain for people who are injured in the workplace and who are collecting compensation, some sense that they must be malingerers -- and, quite frankly, to pay for the $6 billion handoff to the employers with the 5% cut in benefits. There is an incredible distortion to that historical balance with the steps that the government is taking here.

Some of the other things that are contained in the bill: They're going to be reducing the cost-of-living protection for almost all injured workers. If at the end of the treatment and the attempts at physical rehabilitation and vocational rehabilitation you're unable to return to work, or perhaps you've returned to work but you have an ongoing disability, in the system there is a payment for that. That's a disability pension. The amount can vary, determined by the degree of severity of the disability.

Those pensions have an indexing formula. For most workers it's currently at 75%. That's a change that our government made, which the government currently points to a number of times and says, "Why are you critical of what we're doing, when you made changes and you brought in" -- it's called the Friedland formula, the indexation formula -- "and you brought it down to 75%?"


When we did that, I would point out to them, first of all, we did it to reinvest that money in protecting some of the most vulnerable of workers, those who are referred to as the older injured worker, who were injured before a certain time when legislation changed and benefits changed, who were literally being starved, who were living on a pension that was so low and didn't have the protection, and this provided most of those workers with another $200 a month, literally lifting many of them out of poverty.

I would also point out that the Friedland formula was arrived at through an extensive set of discussions and negotiations -- and I know, because I was at the table for many of them -- between employer representatives and injured worker and union representatives. It wasn't easy for anyone around that table, but we worked it through and we came to a consensus. That was endorsed by the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Workers have been cut completely out of the discussions that have been going on with respect to the changes that we see here in Bill 99. This government has only consulted the employer community. You know, this insurance system isn't a protection just for employers, that old trade-off, the protection against the workers who would otherwise have had a right of action, a right to sue; it's also protection for workers who are injured on the job for their basic incomes, to support families out there in our communities. It seems like the government has forgotten that, because workers have not been part of the consultation for this.

If you raise the Friedland formula as some sort of criticism, then I fail to understand why you're taking the cost-of-living protection down to 50%. You're further reducing it. By the way, for the older injured workers, for whom we took that money and reinvested it and brought them up out of poverty, we also provided -- because their pensions are very small; they come from before changes in benefits and legislation -- 100% inflation protection on those pensions. You're taking that away.

Those are the older workers who are beyond the age of returning to the workplace, who are living on a pittance, who were literally in poverty, who have been lifted just barely above the poverty line. Now you're going to allow those pensions to be whittled away by inflation. I'm glad there's not high inflation right now, but when it returns, those workers and their families are going to be significantly at risk. I hope that's something that through the course of this bill the government will look at again.

A couple of interesting things I've found, changes in the bill where you're looking to take away the right to compensation for occupational chronic stress and to cut off compensation for chronic pain after "the usual healing time." I don't know what that means, and I'll tell you, the medical experts don't know what that means. You're going to end up having an administrative decision, I think, trying to judge what "the usual healing time" means.

I find this interesting because this area of compensation precedents -- compensation law, I guess -- really evolved once there was an independent appeals tribunal that was established. For many years the system policed itself. Inside the compensation board, if someone who was first looking at the claim rejected it, it would go to an adjudicator internally and then there was another appeal level internally. But it was all inside the board; they were all board employees examining decisions of other board employees.

There was a great deal of feeling in the province that this was really inappropriate and that you did need to have an independent, outside review, and as a result there were changes to the compensation act back in the mid-1980s that created the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal as an independent tripartite appeals tribunal -- tripartite meaning you have an independent chair on the panel, someone who doesn't come from a named constituency of interests with respect to the workers' compensation system, and then you have two other people on the panel, one who comes from the employers' community and one who comes from the workers' community.

I know a little bit about the tribunal because I was honoured to have been appointed as a member of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal and I served there for a couple of years full-time in the capacity as a representative from the workers' community on this tripartite appeals body. I would have been one of the three people on a panel who would hear appeals brought forward either by employers or by workers of decisions of the Workers' Compensation Board.

With the new independent appeals tribunal began a day of development of new case law with respect to compensation. The whole area of chronic pain and chronic stress and repetitive stress injuries were areas that were being talked about, but the board policy was very restrictive. In fact, essentially what board policy said was, "We're not going to compensate for those things," and never did any of the work to look at, were there real injuries here, was there a substantial case that could be made, a legitimate case that could be made?

Some of the first and most significant cases that came before the new Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal -- which is commonly referred to as WCAT; that's the short name for the appeals tribunal -- were cases of this nature. I didn't sit on the particular panel, but the overall chair of the tribunal, Ron Ellis, chaired a panel which dealt with a ground-breaking case dealing with chronic pain, understanding the roots of it, understanding what in the workplace can trigger the onset of chronic pain. There's much that we don't know, and I think it's really unfortunate when I see certain members of the Conservative caucus who just dismiss these things. The only thing I can assume is that in their minds they think that someone who presents with this kind of condition or is diagnosed with this condition is malingering.

That's not the case. If you look at the medical evidence, you will find that there is a growing understanding of some of these conditions which for many years we didn't really understand. It's like environmental sensitivities. I sat on a panel on an appeal of a case, with a woman who had come forward. I'll tell you, her life was absolutely shattered by the medical conditions she was suffering. With all the research work that was done and all the delving into her background and history, it turned out that she was exposed to a certain combination of substances in the workplace which triggered something in her immune system and the balance of the systems in the body. I don't understand all the medical nature behind this, but it triggered something which set off a chain reaction within her body.

I'll tell you, within a matter of months she was a shell of her former self. She had barely the strength and capacity to stand, she had lost incredible muscle tone, she had respiratory problems, she had skin problems, she was having chronic severe headaches, visual blurring. No one could easily name what this problem was, so it becomes one of these new-age diseases and people looked at her very sceptically: "What is this environmental hypersensitivity? How could this be related to the workplace?" In fact, there were medical opinions that had been sought and brought forward and presented on behalf of the employer in trying to dismiss this claim, suggesting that this was all in this woman's head.

It took some time, but with the persistence of trying to get good medical advice, and with the tribunal, being an independent tribunal, referring this person for more tests so we could get some of the information we felt we needed, the legitimacy of her case was borne out.

That work won't get done on behalf of individuals if there isn't that independent appeal. When I see the government actually taking steps in legislation to take away the right to compensation for things like occupational chronic stress or putting limits on compensation for chronic pain, using words like after "the usual healing time," I have to wonder who's going to make that decision. What is the usual healing time for chronic pain? It's an area that's so poorly understood. I don't believe there is a usual healing time.


Therefore, I think that decision will be made as an administrative decision, and I think that means that workers who are legitimately claiming compensation for a disability that arises out of the workplace are going to be denied access to compensation.

One of the other changes I can't fathom at all -- and this one I really have a hard time understanding -- is that the government intends to abolish the Occupational Disease Panel and hand its responsibilities back to the board. The Occupational Disease Panel was created in the first place because the board never looked independently or sought independent research about the nature of occupational diseases.

I don't know if you remember back to the days of Johns-Manville and the link between asbestos and occupational disease. Do you remember when people used to laugh that off and used to say there was no connection, used to argue that it wasn't a legitimate claim to say that the problems these workers were having were related to the workplace? The same with asbestos miners.

Now you know what happens when they come in to remove asbestos in the building, the way in which all the protections have to be in place. We've learned something. It shouldn't take a body count in order to learn the scientific connections. That's the way we were operating back then. When enough of the Johns-Manville workers had died, then we said, "There's a connection." It's like when enough babies were born with deformities and they noticed that all the mothers had taken thalidomide, then they said, "Oh, there's a connection." It shouldn't take a body count.

The Occupational Disease Panel has done incredible research, has overseen and commissioned -- they're not scientists themselves, they don't do the research themselves; they commission it and bring together reports from around the world. Their work is incredibly important. I had the opportunity to see some of the work from that panel presented to us as members of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, incredibly important work delving into the link between certain manufacturing processes or substances in use in workplaces and diseases that may or may not result from them. That's the nature of the research work that's done, ground-breaking work, internationally renowned work.

What possible reason could the government have to want to eliminate the Occupational Disease Panel? Why wouldn't it make sense to continue a group which is internationally renowned and respected, which is understanding the relationship between work processes and substances and diseases, and setting standards to ensure that workers' exposure to these are in a way that is safe and that won't lead to the development of occupational disease?

Do you know what you're going back to by putting it back on the board? You're going back to a body count method. I implore you to rethink this. I'm very distressed by changes I've mentioned around chronic stress and chronic pain, I truly am, but I'm more distressed that you would do away with the Occupational Disease Panel and return to reliance on a body count; that we can only prove that workers have been exposed to harmful substances which have caused fatal diseases when there are enough bodies stacked up and enough families destroyed that the count is statistically significant.

People and families and workers, injured workers and workers who die on the job, are not statistics; they are members of our community, they are contributors to our society, they are people we should have a system in place to protect. Instead we see a government that is dismantling the system, that is introducing mean-spirited changes that take benefits away from workers at the same time as they're reducing employer premiums to the tune of $6 billion.

Workers' compensation has a proud history in Ontario. We need to study the legislation that's before us today very carefully. I hope the government will send this out for extensive public hearings. I hope you will listen to the people in the field who have experienced the existing system, who have experience before bodies like the Occupational Disease Panel and the independent Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal existed, people who can tell you the damage this bill will bring to the system of compensation.

The thing that worries me most is that perhaps the government doesn't care. When you change the purpose clause of the legislation to take out the word "fair" from the purpose of "fair compensation," I have to wonder, will you really listen?

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments.

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I am pleased to stand for a couple of minutes and reply to the presentation the member for Beaches-Woodbine made this afternoon. While I would never question her sincere interest and concern for injured workers, I would certainly disagree with her final statement that this government does not care about injured workers; clearly we do, and clearly this bill demonstrates that we have a new focus and that's what we're trying to emphasize, trying to find every way possible to discourage accidents from happening in the workplace and to make sure our workplaces are as safe as they possibly can be.

I recall while I was sitting in opposition and the member for Beaches-Woodbine was, I believe, at that time the Minister of Economic Development when Bill 165 went through. Of all the ministers in the NDP government, I would say she was among the most responsible of the ministers, as was, I would say, the member for Nickel Belt, who is also in the chamber at the present time.

I recall how Bob Rae, the Premier of Ontario at the time, took a responsible approach to Workers' Compensation Board issues. In fact, I believe it was when he was presented with an actuarial report which indicated that the unfunded liability was well on its way to approaching $30 billion in the year 2014 if changes weren't made that the chairman at the time, Odoardo Di Santo, who was formerly a member of the Ontario Legislature sitting with the NDP, was sacked by the government and a new management team was brought in. Then we received Bill 165, which had the effect of reducing the unfunded liability in a substantial way. I know it was difficult for the NDP members at the time to take this step, but certainly it was the responsible course of action.

I look forward to speaking at greater length on some of these issues when I get the chance. But I would thank the member for Beaches-Woodbine for her interpretation of what happened during those years.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You'll be surprised to know that I am not going to be talking about hospitals in St Catharines except to say the following: that those who have had injuries -- this is how I relate that -- under the auspices of the Workers' Compensation Board have from time to time required the use of hospital services in the Niagara region. It's directly tied in. I express the hope that we will have all of the hospitals in the Niagara region existing five years from now, as I hope Montfort is existing in the Ottawa area, so that those who have accidents in the workplace will have somewhere to go.

This is a very difficult question to deal with, without a doubt, the issue of workers' compensation, because everybody -- and this includes workers, representatives of workers and those who are involved in the management end of things -- is looking for efficient management of the operation. They want to have those kinds of efficiencies in the management and operation of the WCB. Where the differences come are when we're dealing with the individual implications for workers in the province. There's nothing that's more devastating to someone than to be injured in the workplace and not be able to return to that workplace; an injury which often recurs, in terms of its implications, years down the line, and then a person tries to go back to deal with that recurrence and finds it difficult to obtain appropriate compensation.

This government is moving very much in a direction which I believe is detrimental to many in the workforce. Even though I don't subscribe to evil intentions by the government, I look and see that some of the provisions of this bill are going to be damaging to workers in this province.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wish to commend the member for Beaches-Woodbine for her comments and say to the government members that while this is obviously a very partisan forum, you should listen to the member for Beaches-Woodbine when she talks about workers' compensation. She has a long history of involvement and knows a great deal about it.

I feel that I've seen this movie before because I can recall when injured workers' problems were on the front steps of this assembly frequently. I know that there has been relative -- and I use the word "relative" in quotation marks -- peace with injured workers for the last few years because of some changes that were made.

If you roll back the changes that have been helpful to injured workers -- not by being silly and not by simply raising benefits; that's not what I'm talking about -- guess what? We're going to have injured workers on the front steps of this Legislature again.

I can remember one of my first political acts as an MPP when I was elected: I went on TV one night in Sudbury and invited every injured worker who felt aggrieved to come down to the local WCB office the next morning at 9 o'clock. They had a hell of a time getting several hundred injured workers out of that office the next day, and I advised them to continue to engage in their act of civil disobedience because of the way they were being treated by the Workers' Compensation Board.

Since then, there have been a lot of changes, but if you roll the clock back, many of us will be out there again, once again encouraging injured workers to come down here and raise proper hell at the Legislature, and so they should. It's their livelihoods, not yours, and they have a right to fight for it.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I thank the member for Beaches-Woodbine for her contribution as well as the member for St Catharines.

The member for St Catharines talked about the importance of getting people back to work and I agree with him on that, and everyone I've ever spoken to on Bill 99, on WCB, agrees with the need for us to get people back to work. Bill 99 addresses that by putting a very concrete obligation on to employers and employees and it also provides a new system with nurse practitioners to make sure that back-to-work process is not abused. I think that's a vital part of the bill and the member touched on it, but I think he should be encouraged by it, not discouraged.

I also find the member for Beaches-Woodbine saying that the unfunded liability is not a problem a little hard to take. As the member for Wellington said, when the third party was in office they were told the unfunded liability was going to be $30 billion by the year 2014 if something wasn't done, so they took steps with Bill 165 to address that, to reduce the size of the unfunded liability. Their steps -- the Friedland formula -- were brought in to do just that and to get the unfunded liability to under $18 billion by 2014. It's not a good enough funding ratio, though.

Right now, Ontario's 42% funding ratio is the second worst in Canada. British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have ratios ranging from 96% to as high as 130%; ours is at 42%. Part of the problem that this has had before is that between 1991 and 1995 the third party had to dip into the investment funds. Those are there to create revenue and they're there to be used for the workers long into the future. We can't allow that to happen again.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Beaches-Woodbine, you have two minutes.

Ms Lankin: I appreciate the comments from all of my colleagues. Let me primarily respond to the member for Niagara Falls who just got up and put words in my mouth. I say to you, sir, please don't do that. I would like you to check the record and see where I said that the unfunded liability is not a problem. What I said is that it is not a crisis. What I said is that the steps that were taken by the Friedland formula changes and others are bringing it under control and that perhaps more needs to be done. But if you believe that more needs to be done and if you believe that it's a crisis, I don't.

Why the heck are you giving away $6 billion to employers? Why are you giving away $6 billion of revenues and why are you making that up by cutting benefits to injured workers? Check the record. That's what I said and I think it's a very valid question.

I want to say I hope as we go through this process that in two or three areas the government members will remain open to change. I know you're going to proceed. I know the way this government operates; you've seen it. They will not be swayed from your course of action. But there are certain things that are really extremely disturbing. I ask you, please, first and foremost, to review the attack on the older injured worker, on those people whose pensions were so small and they have the 100% inflation protection. You will put those people back in poverty. Please examine that. They're a small group. Unfortunately, as they're older citizens, the group is getting smaller all the time. Please look at that. Please look at the Occupational Disease Panel and the incredibly important work that's done there. Please look at the independence of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. I ask you, implore you, to look at restoring the balance that was created in the historic deal of 1914.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Arnott: I'm pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the second reading debate of Bill 99, the workplace safety and insurance legislation.

With this bill, the Minister of Labour is proposing changes that are needed if we truly care about keeping people safe and preventing injuries and deaths in workplaces across Ontario. The essence of these new proposed changes can be best described as safety first. Safety and prevention of injury are the primary goals of this bill: safety and prevention foremost. If we can prevent injuries and deaths in the workplace, we are making an extremely valuable contribution to the health and wellbeing of workers.

In my capacity as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, responsible for small business, I know that these changes will not only enhance the working conditions of people in Ontario and Wellington, but also significantly improve our competitiveness, our productivity and create a positive climate for new jobs.

With the adoption of the minister's proposal, safety in the workplace and prevention of injuries will become the most important of priorities. Bill 99 changes the role of workers' compensation so that the prevention of injury is the most important priority for the Workers' Compensation Board. The board's primary emphasis has historically been simply on compensation. Now I need not say that compensation is and continues to be very important, but injured people need more than that. The weakness of the old system has been that its central role is compensation and not the prevention of injury. The old system put the cart before the horse. This new system will put the horse squarely in front of the cart.

If we can prevent more accidents from occurring in the workplace, we can make an extremely valuable contribution to the quality of life for workers in Ontario and keep the system affordable so that assistance will be available for injured workers today and in the future.

Consider these accidents that have taken place in Ontario and the toll it takes on workers and workers' families:

In a manufacturing plant in Cambridge a punch press operator accidentally causes a press to come down on another worker's hand that rests momentarily on one of the machine's guideposts. The injured worker had three fingers of his hand cut off and a two-and-a-half-inch-diameter hole was cut out of the palm of his hand. Although doctors did their very best to reconstruct his hand, he is permanently handicapped.

Take the case of a 21-year-old forklift driver from Kitchener who had not received operator safety training in driving the forklift. He died at the retail store where he worked when the forklift he was driving with a load of topsoil toppled over during a turn that he was making and crushed him while he was trying to leap out of the forklift to safety.

We in Ontario must make every possible effort to prevent these tragedies from happening. With the proper training and the proper safety precautions many accidents in the workplace are avoidable. Deaths and injuries leave victims in their wake, and injury not only disrupts a person's ability to work but can also have a devastating personal impact.

The loss of a limb, for instance, is a physical and emotional tragedy. Normal activities like driving a car, going for a walk, participating in recreational and sporting activities and doing simple household chores can be seriously compromised or impossible to continue. It takes some people many years to come to terms with the emotional scars and the physical limitations caused by a serious injury, and some never do.

We must also realize that the person's injury affects his family and anyone who is close to him or her, and if we can reduce the number of accidents in workplaces, then we will prevent a great deal of human suffering.


Bill 99 takes several steps in this direction. After the passage of Bill 99, should it be passed, the board will become the centre of a network dedicated to educating employers, employees and the public about occupational health and safety. It will increase the financial incentive for employers and employees to invest in prevention and early return-to-work programs. Safe workplace associations will provide education and training in the prevention of workplace injury and illness. The Minister of Labour and the new board will create partnerships with research organizations, universities and other bodies in prevention, return to work, compensation and occupational disease issues.

Getting people back to work after recovering from an injury is another important component of Bill 99. The bill requires employers and employees to remain in constant contact with one another during the recovery period. Employers will also be required to identify and arrange suitable employment for workers, and workers will be required to assist employers in their requests for information. The board can also provide financial incentives to employers to help defer the cost of modification in the workplace to accommodate injured workers.

These requirements have several benefits. By keeping in close touch with employers, injured workers overcome the sense of isolation and disruption that can occur after an accident. The legislation encourages employers and workers to form a partnership that can lead to a better understanding of the workers' injuries and the type of work they can realistically undertake after they return to work, and if needed, workplace modifications for workers with permanent injuries will enable workers to return to the workplace.

Bill 99's requirements encourage as a goal continued participation in the workplace. Most people, if given a choice and if they're physically capable, would much prefer to continue working. Work contributes to a person's self-esteem, sense of fulfilment and wellbeing, and it enables people to develop their full potential and be active, contributing members in their communities.

In recognition of the serious financial difficulties that the Workers' Compensation Board faces today, Bill 99 will return the board to its original responsibility of providing workplace accident insurance. Benefits will be paid only for work-related injuries. The Workers' Compensation Board's unfunded liability today stands at about $10.4 billion. That's the net difference between what the Workers' Compensation Board owes in benefits to injured workers compared to its assets and what it can expect to take in through the premiums it collects in the future. Without needed reforms to the system, that amount would grow to some $18 billion by the year 2014. We need to get back on track to reducing the unfunded liability to zero by the year 2014, and that's what this bill does.

As a government, I believe we have an obligation to reduce and eliminate this unfunded liability so that injured workers who need our help in the future will receive the assistance they require. It would be irresponsible to ignore the huge financial problem that the Workers' Compensation Board faces today.

No one is happy that workers will receive less in accident insurance and inflation protection in the future, and I know that the government takes no pleasure in having to reduce workers' benefits. However, we know that this action is required; otherwise, the unfunded liability would grow to over $18 billion, again by the year 2014, and would seriously jeopardize the integrity of the system for future injured workers, as well as creating an upwards spiral of increasing assessment rates for employers. This would, in turn, discourage business investment and job creation in Ontario. Ontario employers now pay the second-highest assessment rates in Canada, and we need to have competitive assessment rates in order to encourage new job creation.

Even Bob Rae, while Premier of Ontario, recognized that this was a problem, and in an effort to reduce the unfunded liability, his government passed Bill 165. We know that Bill 165 took some $18 billion out of the system by reducing the amount of inflation protection in Workers' Compensation Board pensions.

I am very pleased that the Minister of Labour has indicated that she is supportive of sending this bill to a standing committee of the Legislature for public hearings, and I know that she will be very interested in hearing the comments that come back. Everyone who has an idea, a suggestion or a concern will have an opportunity to provide that advice to the government during the course of the public hearings. I certainly look forward to hearing what other members of this House have to say with regard to Bill 99.

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

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I always listen with great interest to what the member opposite has to say about the various issues. The thing that should be underlined and that the people of Ontario should be familiar with is the fact that over the next 17 years or so, if this is implemented, there will be about $15 billion less paid to injured workers than is currently the situation. We can sugarcoat it all we want, but that's really what it's all about: paying less to workers, paying a lower percentage of what their wages are, going from 90% to 85%. During that same period of time, employers will be saving about $6 billion in premium costs as well.

So there is a shift here, a definite shift that I think everyone ought to be aware of: that employers are going to be paying less and the injured workers are also going to be getting less. It's all well and nice to talk about unfunded liability, but if you didn't make these two shifts, perhaps you wouldn't have to worry about the unfunded liability to the same extent that this member is talking about.

He talks about the fact that we have to do whatever we can to make sure that workers don't get injured on the job. Everyone agrees with that, but that's not really what this bill is about. This bill is about taking rights away from injured workers and, at the same time, lowering the premiums required from employers. As we have these hearings after second reading, as we travel through the province, undoubtedly we will hear from many of these individuals about how it will affect their lives in the future. I look forward to that debate that will be taking place not only in this House but also throughout the province as the committee travels.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): In response to the member for Wellington's comments, like him, I too look forward to this bill going to committee. I wish it wasn't before us and I wish we didn't have to take it to committee, because I did hope that the government would not have proceeded with this bill. But since they are proceeding with it, I hope that in the committee stage the government members will actually listen to what undoubtedly we will hear from many injured workers and their organizations and others about some of the problems, yes, that still need to be addressed at the Workers' Compensation Board, but not the particular kinds of problems that this bill addresses and the way in which this bill addresses them.

At the end of the day, if this bill stays essentially as it is -- and given this government's track record so far, I have no reason to believe otherwise -- what we will see is injured workers getting less in the way of help and assistance and compensation for their injuries, employers in some cases getting a break, and the system that was set up at the beginning of the century to assist injured workers will be in a shambles because it will not continue to do what it is supposed to do: It will not continue to provide fair compensation for people who are injured on the job. I would think that at the end of the day, whatever our partisan stripe, that has to remain a fundamental part of what we do in this area of legislation.

Yes, we took actions as a government under Bill 165, as the member mentioned, to deal with the unfunded liability and also to increase, as a result of that same piece of legislation, benefits for some of the lowest-paid workers in the province. Those were the older injured workers, who received up to $200 a month increase in their benefits. That I know is going to be put in jeopardy. Although it's being maintained, it's going to be put in jeopardy as the continuing pressures grow with the way in which this government is tackling this problem.

Mr Maves: I want to thank the member for Wellington for his contribution to the debate. He brings some history himself to the debate, having been through the debate on Bill 165 in the early 1990s, and I appreciate that.

One of the things he mentioned was the board's new focus on prevention, and that is a key to changing the workers' compensation system. I was pleased to hear recently that the new chair of the Workers' Compensation Board committed to a 33% reduction in workplace injuries by the year 2000. I'm pleased to see that someone in his position is setting goals, positive goals like that, because I think it's that type of goal-setting which will get people in the workplace and get people who work in the compensation board system to take it to heart and to strive for those goals. Lord knows, a 33% reduction, a 20% reduction, any reduction whatsoever in lost-time injuries and workers getting injured is helpful. So I was pleased that the member mentioned that and I'm also pleased at the direction the Workers' Compensation Board is heading.


The member opposite mentioned the government's track record of listening. I think we listen quite intently, and that's evident in today's announcement on Who Does What. We asked for a better scenario, if someone could come up with it. AMO may not be better, but AMO came up with one, and we listened and we're moving on that.

Also, during Minister Jackson's consultations, we listened to workers. They said, "Make sure you maintain the office of the worker adviser," and we've done that. They said, "Maintain compensation for repetitive strain injuries," and we've done that.

I look forward to the hearings. I look forward to hearing what the members opposite have to say, and members on this side of the House, because this will be an evolving system. We owe that to workers, we owe that to employers.

I thank the member for Wellington for his comments.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? The member for Wellington can sum up.

Mr Arnott: I'm pleased to have the chance to respond to those who responded to my speech.

First, to the member for Kingston and The Islands: Thank you very much for your compliments. I would say to you in response, we need to have competitive assessment rates in Ontario in order to encourage job creation. I think the member is quite well aware of that. I think he's also probably aware that the reduction in benefits that is included in Bill 99 brings us in line in terms of compensation to what some of the provinces in Canada that are headed by Liberal administrations are currently offering their injured workers, most notably, I believe, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

He also, I think, recognizes that the unfunded liability is a very serious problem that has to be dealt with. I think he would be one who would also agree that we need to employ sound financial management at the Workers' Compensation Board in order to ensure that the benefits are there over the long run.

Thanks to the member for Dovercourt for his comments. I know he knows that the Minister of Labour will listen very closely to whatever constructive suggestions come forward during the course of this debate and certainly during the hearings. I'm sure there will be a response that most care-minded individuals will certainly agree that she has done a good job in that regard.

He and I would agree that we need to have fair compensation for injured workers, but I would also add we need to have affordable compensation for injured workers. I think he also knows, and he did indicate, that the $200-a-month special provision that was brought forward by the New Democratic government is maintained during the future with this Bill 99.

Thanks also to the member for Niagara Falls for his comments. I would like to congratulate him on his new appointment as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour. I know he'll do an excellent job in that capacity. He pointed out the good job that the new chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board is doing. That's a very valid point in that the measurable goals that chairman has set for a reduction of incidence of accidents in the workplace we'll be held accountable for in the future.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I am also pleased to join the debate and hopefully make my contribution on this important piece of legislation.

Last year, on November 26, 1996, the minister introduced Bill 99, as we call it. The major points of the bill I would say were two: (1) to reduce the rights of injured workers and (2), and I think most important, was to reduce the benefits of injured workers.

What could have been the rationale for that? What could it have been that brought the minister and the government to make these changes to such important legislation, legislation that affects workers throughout Ontario, in the workplace, whatever they may be, as the member for Wellington mentioned, be they a truck driver or someone working at a punch press? As the member himself mentioned, they are all workers making their contribution to our Ontario economy and they are all workers who, no matter what they do, where they work, indoors or outdoors, should be given and afforded every measure of protection.

The other was to fund the 5% cut which the government has allocated to the employers' premium. I believe it would have been much better to freeze the funding or freeze the employers' premium and keep the benefits to the employees as they were allocated in the old legislation. I'm sure there is no government member and no worker who would like to see workers hurt in the workplace, so I wonder why the government would be introducing a piece of legislation which clearly penalizes workers in the workplace.

When the bill was introduced by the minister, it was introduced with the auspices or under the pretence, if you will, that it would accomplish a number of things, but mainly it was introduced because the government felt the system was broken and needed fixing. It was introduced to a system that has become a bureaucratic mess, time-consuming and that continues to fail to adequately meet the needs of both employers and employees.

That is a good prefix to the bill, but what is the first thing the bill does and the minister in her statement says? First, "Our reform will restore the financial stability of the Workers' Compensation Board." It is not to the workers' rights, it is not to the workers' benefits; their first attention is aimed at "the financial viability of the Workers' Compensation Board." I would say that the first and most important reform would have been not only to maintain or improve the working conditions in the workplace but also to maintain and improve the benefits of injured workers.

As we know, the government has implemented a number of cuts, cuts that affect everybody, especially workers and more so the injured workers. How can the government and the minister say that their first responsibility would be towards "the financial viability of the Workers' Compensation Board" instead of making sure that this viability should address the workers themselves, working conditions and workers' benefits?

Also, it goes further. It says "to ensure that the system remains fair and compassionate." I wonder, how can we call this a fair and compassionate system when it does not address the most important points of injured workers and of workers in the workplace?

The minister says that to ensure all of that, all employees have to pay their fair share. Does it mean that the employees have to have reduced benefits or reduced working conditions to pay their fair share? I don't call that paying their fair share, I really don't.

Second, she says the reforms will "refocus the system as an insurance plan for workplace illness and injury that pays benefits for injuries and illness caused by work." What else would it pay and what else should it pay for?

The network of agencies serving workers and employers will be restructured. Isn't that nice. I think it should be readdressed. Instead of saying "restructured," we should be saying it has been either reduced --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Point of order, Madam Chair: I believe there's no quorum. Would you check for that, please.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum, clerk?

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Chair.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.


Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Yorkview, continue.

Mr Sergio: As I was saying, the second reform that Bill 99 proposes is to restructure not only the board itself but the various agencies. I have to say that instead of restructuring those very same agencies, they should protect the workers in the workplace. I think this has been totally reduced and in many cases that protection of agencies has been totally eliminated. What is left is that the balance that used to be there is no longer there, and now it has been shifted totally in favour of the employer, leaving employees in workplaces everywhere to fend mostly for themselves. I don't think that's fair.

I'm not saying that the bill as it is presented should not address some of the concerns that, yes, belong to address the concerns of the employers, but having done so, having eliminated many of those protections imposed by government, now we feel and workers feel that they are left on their own, to fend for themselves against the attacks of the new legislation and some unscrupulous employers.

Thirdly, it says that the bill would firmly entrench "the goal of prevention of workplace illness and injury in the workers' compensation system," which the minister claims would be her top priority. I don't dispute that; I'm sure she means well when she says that. But again, the content of the bill does not address that as the top priority, and it's very disappointing to many injured workers.

Fourthly, "the bill will improve the return to work in a safe and timely manner by requiring workers, employers and the board to work cooperatively together." That's easy to say; that's hard to do. The government is saying, "I'll leave it up you, workers and employers, to sort it out." I believe this is an area where we just can't leave the wellbeing of the workers, especially the injured workers, solely to the discretion of the employers. We've got to have legislation in place where the injured workers have recourse. The last recourse would be to a government body where they can get the necessary attention that they deserve when they are in trouble with particular employers.

Fifthly, "the changes will enhance self-reliance by obliging workers and employers to cooperate in preventing injuries and in managing the consequences of injuries when they do happen." As I just mentioned, this leaves the government totally out of the picture in assisting, with regulations, the workplace and the employees. Now we are saying, "Employer, we'll leave it up to you to self-regulate and make sure you provide a clean, safe environment, a safe workplace." I'm not suggesting that employers are not reliable, don't try and do their best to make sure that the workplace is kept safe. I'm saying that too many injured workers and too many deaths are caused in our workplaces because of lack of safety measures, security, proper attention from both untrained employees and employers at the same time.

I believe this is not an area where we can say to the employer: "We'll leave it up to you. You look after your own place of employment. Just make sure you do a good job and keep it safe, keep it clean." We just cannot do that. As we will see -- and I hope I have the time to mention some of that -- the bill proposes to eliminate some of those very agencies that have been providing assistance and service. They had been provided as a refuge for injured workers to go and seek assistance against the system that many, many times fails the injured worker.

I don't know if it would have been proper perhaps to rename Bill 99 not as the Workers' Compensation Board reform; perhaps it would have made more sense to rename it the Reduction of Workers' Rights and Benefits Act, because this is exactly what it does.

What does Bill 99 exactly do? To injured workers it means the reduction, the elimination over time of some $15 billion, as the minister said, by the year 2014, while at the same time it will save employers some $6 billion during the same period. Let me say that this will not lower the cost of doing business in the workplace, it will not lower the cost of doing business in Ontario, and it will not help any company or industry to be more competitive. I think there is a lot more to it if we have to make our products, our workplaces, our industries more competitive. I don't think we should be looking at the injured workers especially, to accomplish some of that on the backs of those very less fortunate workers.

It is cutting the insurance premium by 5% to employers. Yes, it helps, but again, that is done at the sole expense of the injured workers, and injured workers find that most unfair. As of July 1, 1997, all previous injuries fall under the old system, including the benefits, but what about aggravating circumstances? I don't have to tell you that I get injured workers on a weekly basis, if not on a daily basis, who come back with aggravated situations caused over the years, either age or whatever have you, or because they were forced to continue to work under certain situations or circumstances, and the situation has indeed been aggravated.


I think we have to recognize that. There is nowhere else. I think the system must be fair to employees, but most especially to those injured workers where they are forced -- while we say we want to make sure that we put them back into the workforce in the best possible conditions at the most expeditious time, yes indeed, but we have to assist those people to go back into the workforce and try to earn what they were earning before. In many cases not only is that not possible, getting a job is totally impossible, especially nowadays.

Compensation to the injured workers has been cut from 90% to 85% of their net pay. I don't think that is fair when everything is going up, when so many other cuts are being imposed on the workers as well. Oh yes, the inflation index is capped. What does this mean? Does this mean another 4% cut? In the long term this will see a big chunk cut off from the pensions of the injured workers. Over a period of some 18 to 20 years this will be cut, to the tune of some 60%. The legislation does not spell that out totally, but indeed this is what the legislation, as it is proposed, will accomplish. Can we call that being fair and compassionate to our injured workers? Certainly not.

The cuts to pensions: For example, after 12 months off a job, the board normally sets aside 10% towards workers' payments for their retirement at age 65 if they survive. This has been cut to 5%. A cut of 5% may not mean much, but it represents a 50% cut to the contribution to the injured worker's pension.

We go further than that with the proposed legislation, and it is not the benefits or the rights, but now it is the powers that also are being taken away or given to the new board. To the average injured worker it is very difficult to get to know the real workings, the real inside of the legislation, but what will this do, what does this mean to the injured workers?

Yes, the board will have the power to collect from new employers, and that's fine. I think that's fine, but it causes a problem because the new employer can be a small businessman, can be a small manufacturing company that may have inherited the bungling of a former employer, and this will cause some strain on a new company that is trying to move up and grow.

For example, the mandatory release of personal information, confidential information. What does this do? This creates serious anxiety among the workforce, especially among injured workers. The reduced power, for example, of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. I don't have to tell you how much this is being used by injured workers, and when I say "injured workers," this is a continuous coming and going by injured workers during a number of years. It's not only that they have settled their case now or five years ago, 10 years ago and it's over and done. They keep coming back every few months because of a number of complaints and problems and appeals and so forth. So this WCB appeals tribunal was a good place where injured workers would go and seek that assistance. The tribunal is no longer independent.

How do all these changes affect the injured workers? The power, if you will, has shifted. We don't have the balance any more. The worker is being penalized. The employer has indeed acquired more power, and now with the lack of legislation and the self-regulated workplace, the injured worker finds himself or herself having to fight with whatever means he or she may have at his or her disposal, to fight an army, teams of well-trained, well-paid consultants on behalf of employers. On the one hand we have eliminated those agencies that offer assistance and protections for the injured worker; on the other hand we have created another circle where now they have to fend off with whatever means they have those agents, consultants on behalf of small and large companies, and fight for their claims and their rights.

I don't think that our government, that your government should impose that on our injured workers, let alone that they have to reassess their own particular individual and family situation because of the circumstances that have been created due to the injury, and in many instances it's either very traumatic or long-lasting. But no government should be imposing on their workers, especially injured workers, that they will have to fend for themselves and face those armies of well-trained consultants and be left on their own. We have eliminated those agencies where at least the injured worker had an independent body where he or she could go and get much-needed assistance.

What do we have here now? The injured worker is faced with: "Well, you have to fill in your own application now. You're on your own, and we want to make sure that your injury is work-related. It must be readdressed to exactly the place, the location, the time of the accident and you have to do it on your own. Also, we're going to cut the time you will have during which to file that particular application."

I find it unfair, as do most workers, period, let alone injured workers. As you know, we have a very multi-ethnic population and workforce out there. Many of them just can't on their own, without some assistance, provide the necessary information, proper information, correct information to the Workers' Compensation Board, the employer and the government as well. I think that's unfair. I think it's a responsibility that the government has failed to assume and provide the injured workers with that necessary protection.

Your government, the Harris government, says Ontario assessment rates are too high. Is that a reason to cut the rights and benefits of employees or injured workers? It goes on to say that injured workers are overcompensated. I would be ashamed if my government were to say to a poor injured worker, "We're going to do this to you, we're going to cut your benefits, we're going to cut your rights because you are overcompensated."

It says that illness and injuries are seldom caused by work. I don't know, but from the information I have, the figures that I have, and they are provided by the minister in her own report, there are thousands upon thousands of workers who not only die, and we have many, many thousands who die each year here in Ontario, but thousands of injured workers in the workforce, work-related, and we are saying this is not related to the workplace?


The Harris government keeps on saying they're giving employers the money to improve health and safety and we know it's not the case. This government has introduced and has approved legislation to reduce and eliminate those very protections that provide a safe environment in the workplace for our employees. The truth is that injured workers with permanent disabilities are suffering from loss of income and, more often than not, are forced to find a very menial job, if they can find any job at all.

Speed-ups, new technology and reduced health and safety enforcement are causing a rise in workplace injuries, and hazardous substances at work are causing some 8,000 deaths a year in Ontario. Do we take it that the government has come to accept that, when we have a government that says, "Injured workers are overcompensated for illness and injury" -- and I will add death -- "that are seldom caused by work," when we have some 8,000 Ontario workers who die each year? Are we sending out a message that we find that acceptable, that it's okay to have 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 workers dying each year? I don't think so. I don't think this is the message the government should be sending out to employers or employees anywhere in our province.

Let me say that when we are saying, especially to the workers who do the most menial, heavy jobs, working long hours, that we're cutting those benefits, those workers are being affected like any other person in Ontario with the cuts that this government is imposing upon them. Let me say that those injured workers are not immune to increases, for example, in their food bills, or monthly rental bills, or taxes if they have a house, or education costs if they still have young children.

I had prepared myself with material here to go for a couple of hours, but I can see I only have a few seconds. Let me say in concluding my remarks that the bill as proposed does not do what it professes to do on behalf of the injured workers, and indeed, those particular groups would look to the government to provide that assistance so they have rights at the workplace and they continue to enjoy some reasonable status within our social fabric, and I hope that the benefits can be restored.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House currently.

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? The member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I just wanted to comment on the speech made by the member for Yorkview and agree with him in his comments in reminding members of this House that in fact what this bill is all about is cutting the benefits paid to injured workers. We estimate some $15 billion will be taken out of the pockets of injured workers as a result of this bill being enacted. Some $6 billion of that, we understand, by changes that the government has already brought about by regulation changes, will be turned back to employers in terms of premium cuts, and this under the guise of the government wanting to deal with the unfunded liability. They will know that this was an issue that we dealt with when we were the government, to some criticism that we received at the time, but the issue of addressing the unfunded liability has been dealt with. It has been addressed. The unfunded liability is well on its way to being looked after.

The actions taken in this legislation go far beyond what is necessary to deal with the unfunded liability, and this bill is simply a smokescreen to allow for the reduction of benefits of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, people who have been injured on the job, people who in some cases have lost their lives, and obviously their families are continuing to bear that loss. But what we are seeing here is not an interest in refocusing the legislation on health and safety. If that was the concern, you wouldn't have done away with the workplace health and safety structure that we had put in place. This is about taking money out of the pockets of injured workers. There's no two ways about it.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's interesting to join the so-called debate on this subject and to hear the member for Dovercourt in a state of perpetual denial about the unfunded liability. To say that the issue of the unfunded liability has been dealt with is clearly -- I don't know -- some sort of a fantasy thought. I presume he is relying on the statistical accuracy and projections of the revenue people of the WCB from the old days, that if they kept it at the rate and everything assumed was going to become reality, the assumptions would become reality, the unfunded liability would be cleared up by 2014. It is completely ridiculous to accept the premise of those assumptions, because it was assuming back in those days that you would have economic growth going on for the next 15 to 18 years of about 3.5%. It's completely absurd to expect that that kind of an economic cycle would continue, regardless of who the government was.

I think the issue is about the unfunded liability and the failure of both opposition parties to deal with the issue. Even the previous Davis government is part of being responsible for this situation. What the folks across the way did was aid and abet through the inflation protection that the Conservative government of those days initiated, and that's why we're in the pickle today with the problem. To deny that there's an unfunded liability, to deny that there's a crisis, is completely unacceptable to injured workers who do realize that if you're going to have a system available, you've got to have one that has fiscal responsibility, and we don't have that today.

Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree with the member opposite when he said in his very last statement that we do not have fiscal responsibility today. I agree with that.

Mr Hastings: In this system.

Mr Gerretsen: No. You said we don't have fiscal responsibility today.

Madam Speaker, you and I well know that it is totally irresponsible to give people a $5-billion tax cut when at the same time this province still has a deficit annually of some $7 billion or $8 billion and when the public debt of this province is going to rise from $100 billion when that government took over to $120 billion by the time they're through. That is fiscally irresponsible.


I agree with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, and it is finally nice to hear a Tory actually say in this House not only that it's fiscally irresponsible but that maybe some of the problems that have occurred in this world actually started with Bill Davis. Everything has always been blamed on the last 10 years. He admitted that some of it actually started with his government. Because let's remember that of the $100-billion debt that was here when they took over, $35 billion of that was acquired prior to 1985 when there were 17 years of Conservative deficits in this province. The last balanced budget that we had, by the way, was in 1989.


The Acting Speaker: Order, member for Hamilton Mountain.

Mr Gerretsen: But we had 17 years of deficit-related problems that contributed to the first $35 billion of the public debt that we have currently.

I would just simply like to congratulate my colleague from Yorkview. He puts everything in a very succinct way. He knows what this bill is really all about: It's an attack on the workers. What's going to happen is that this government is taking $15 billion out of the workers' pockets and giving $6 billion of that back to the employers.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to rise today and participate in the comments on the member for Yorkview. I want to thank the member for Fort York for allowing me to speak in his time, because I know that he, like myself, remembers the Ontario Liberal Plan of 1995, and the public has not forgotten. This is the provincial red book, volume 1. It says about the workers' compensation system, Madam Speaker, and you might be interested in hearing this:

"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. Workers receive a deplorable level of service from a system that doesn't focus enough attention on getting them back to work. The WCB is failing both the employers who pay for it and the injured workers it's supposed to serve."

It goes on to say:

"A Liberal government will:

"Freeze WCB rates paid by employers.

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

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

"Speed up the time it takes to process claims by better training adjudicators...and streamlining the appeals process.

"Create a WCB return-to-work department that will help clients develop individual return-to-work programs.

"Cut down the fraud by creating an investigative and internal audit department that will signal zero tolerance for fraud and investigate all allegations.

"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...."

So I say to the member for Yorkview and the member from Kingston and The Islands, why did you not vote for Bill 15 and why are you opposing Bill 99 if you want to bring about those changes?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Yorkview, you may sum up.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Let's hear those answers. Good questions.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Scarborough East, come to order. Member for Kingston and The Islands, come to order. Member for Yorkview.

Mr Sergio: I really enjoyed the various exchanges and input from the member for Dovercourt and my neighbour in Etobicoke-Rexdale and my colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands, as well as the member for Scarborough Centre. But while you keep on dwelling on this unfunded liability, let me say that what's really missing in this particular piece of legislation --

Mr Hastings: They're wealthy in the WCB.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, come to order.

Mr Sergio: -- is the mental and psychological effect of this legislation which causes concern among our workers and the injured workers. There is none of that in the proposed legislation.

Let me tell you what's missing in this legislation, my colleagues, especially on the government side over there. There is absolutely nothing with respect to increasing funding for education and prevention of injuries in the workplace. That should be a concern and not the unfunded liability. Let me say this: that the fear of reprisal, of losing either a job or being demoted in the workplace, is a major concern of many workers out in our many workplaces.

With respect to lack of education -- these are not my words but let me read this briefly -- "In this environment of intimidation and shrinking enforcement, some 800 Canadians give their lives at work each year because of accidents caused by poor work training and faulty, ill-maintained equipment, and another 5,400" --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired.

Further debate? The member for Fort York.


Mr Marchese: I appreciate the applause from the government members as I'm about to speak.

Mr Bradley: I'm going to watch it on TV.

Mr Marchese: I know you will. Mr Bradley's going to monitor the whole thing on TV. I know he's going to do that; he always does.


Mr Marchese: No, he's going to be watching it from his office.

I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill and add to some of the comments that my colleagues have made -- the member for Hamilton Centre, who has covered this bill thoroughly, and the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who I listened to from my office for 20 minutes of her half-hour speech. I tell you, they covered the field thoroughly. But I have a few things to add to this bill. It is for that reason that I'm here. I want to give the members who were clapping for me a reason as to why I'm so keen on this and want to give some background.

I worked at the Workers' Compensation Board for a year and a half from the year 1977 to the middle of 1979. It is because of that experience that I have a keen interest in injured workers and the Workers' Compensation Board. I learned a great deal while I was there, learned about the painful experiences of injured workers, learned about the psychological pain of workers who have relied on their backs to do their work all of a sudden losing their ability to be able to use their backs, if they were manual workers in construction, and not knowing what to do next because they didn't have the skills or the fortune to have had the ability to have gone to school in places where they came from, and as a result one of the few skills they had was to work hard to build this country.

After an injury that disabled those workers, they found themselves in a very painful situation, both physical and psychological, because they now had lost their earning ability and the strong desire to work. Not only did they lose that self-esteem which gave them meaning, but they also lost in the eyes of their family the earning power to be able to provide. That was a powerful loss for injured workers. The feeling of being unable to provide, being disabled and therefore unable to provide, is a powerful feeling.

I was an adjudicator, called a claims adjudicator. We adjudicated on injured worker claims. We had many opportunities to face injured workers. I tell you, those were not pleasant experiences, because when you have to see face to face the pain of the injured worker who has lost the earning power, it isn't easy to deal with it. It is easier to have a claim in front of you, a form 7, as I believe it's still called, and it is easy to say that the man fell off the roof, lost a leg, lost an eye, injured his head, injured the brain in serious ways. They say, "Ah, that's an easy claim." They move it on, pass it on. It's easy on paper to be able to adjudicate that, but when you have to face that individual eye to eye, it isn't easy at all.


It was painful for people like me to work in a place like that for long, because you just can't handle their pain. I know what it's about. I know because I worked for two summers on construction both for carpenters and for masons, those who build houses, in construction, putting the brick to the house. They were painful summers, I have to tell you, getting up in the morning, particularly my work with the bricklayers as a manual worker, a painful experience to go through.

Mr Gerretsen: That's real work.

Mr Marchese: And I loved the work. Real work, indeed. I enjoyed it, I have to tell you. But waking up at 6 o'clock in the morning with my wrists in pain every morning, I thought to myself, "How do these workers do it day in and day out?"


Mr Marchese: Frank, I'm sorry, I missed your comment. I want to hear from you, though, because I'm interested.

The Acting Speaker: Please address the Chair, member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: Through you, Madam Chair -- I'm interested in the members of government and their feelings around injured workers. I want to know what they're feeling around that.

But getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning every day, thinking, "How am I going to lift those 10-inch blocks on top of that scaffold?" was painful, just the thought of how to do that was painful to me. There were workers doing that day in and day out for 20, 30 years. All I had to do it for was one summer. It was easy for me to leave it. I tell you, having had that experience, it wasn't something I wanted to go back to for a lifetime. I knew how tough it was, and how easy it was for those workers to get injured.

I saw a lot of workers who were teased by the employer when they claimed they had an injury, as if to suggest that they're not real men should they scream in pain because they twisted wrongly and all of a sudden they have a back pain. Some of those construction workers are pretty tough, and their employers are tougher still. They demand a great deal of toughness from their men on the job. You're not allowed to have an injury. You go back the same day, even in your pain.

In the early years, some of those men weren't compensated because they didn't know they could go to workers' compensation and some of those employers did not inform the injured workers they were entitled to it. These are the friends, these employers, that some of these people here on the other side, these honourable members, want to help.

I've had painful experiences as a manual worker in carpentry and with bricklayers and painful experiences having to face, as an adjudicator, those injured workers, men and women. I do that now, as a member in opposition, when I have to sit and deal with an injured worker who comes to my office crying about the pain he's experiencing and about the adjudicator who doesn't believe he's suffering that pain, and the poor wife and the children who came with him complaining how their lives have been destroyed by that injury.

It's painful stuff. It's painful for people like me to have to sit through that and have to deal with this pain. I can't help them, other than my ability to write a letter for that injured worker, as I see the tears of that man and the withheld tears of the wife having to suffer through that injury.

Some of the staffers of the Conservative Party are running away at the back, I see, perhaps thinking I might be exaggerating as I tell this story. This is not an exaggeration. All of us in opposition have had to deal with injured workers, and even the honourable members, if they're doing constituency work, have probably seen it too, because injured workers go to them as well. They will have seen the suffering of those families. They will know what it means for the injured worker to come in, in pain, and not be believed by the people who work at the Workers' Compensation Board. I tell you, it's hard to deal with. This is one of the most difficult parts of my job, workers' compensation.

I come with that experience, and I tell you that injured workers sometimes have no one to represent them. In many cases, if they have unions, they have the unions representing the workers and their appeals with the compensation board. But in many cases, for the 65% of the population not represented by a union, they have no one to represent them. Where they had the worker adviser to represent some of these people, if they knew about the existence of the worker adviser, that person's office has been limited, cut back. So they have no union to represent them, and the worker adviser, who used to help out to the best of their ability, that person's office has been reduced significantly.

But you know something? The employers hire expensive representatives. Places like Inco, General Motors and Ford hire expensive representatives; some of them are lawyers.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): High-priced.

Mr Marchese: High-priced indeed. They don't come cheap, you see. The employer wants to save money, and how do they do that? They have on staff full-time people representing the employer against the best interests of the injured worker, who, through no fault of his own, gets injured at his workplace. So you have these hired guns, hired by employers who have a lot of money, who are there to undermine the injured worker. Rather than helping the injured worker out, they're trying to undermine and get the claim disallowed. That's their job.

Most people don't know that. How would they know that? How would they know that, except someone like me, who has had the fortune, or misfortune, of having worked at the Workers' Compensation Board. As a result of that, I learned that they've got the best hired guns to help them out. But the poor injured worker, who does he or she have? They're on their own. The injured workers, woman or man, are on their own to defend themselves against a system that is complex and difficult to access.

I have to tell you, when you go to the Workers' Compensation Board, you are not treated very kindly at times. There are a lot of people who come with anger, and they leave with greater anger, because they're trying to seek justice for themselves and their family.

What does the Minister of Labour, Madame Witmer, do? Madame Witmer wants to help them out, she says. I look at her here every day as she answers questions from the member for Hamilton Centre, and she is an example of quietness, an example of serenity, clothed in antiseptic to the core. She tranquilizes the hell out of me every time she speaks, tranquilizes the hell out of me every time she speaks. She stands up and she says, "Through you, Mr Speaker, to the member opposite," every time she answers the question, but ever so delicately and ever so quietly that she makes me feel she is looking after me and looking after the interests of every injured worker out there. How could you disbelieve the Minister of Labour when she speaks in those wonderful, soft, tranquilizing tones, making everybody believe that this poor woman could not cause harm to an ant, let alone a human being? That woman there is the perfect minister, perfect.


I saw Mr Johnson the other day on television. There's another fine example of a man who is fully composed all the time; a tranquilizing effect on the world. He talked about how well this government is doing and how they are helping to keep the funds for health care and social services. They do this very softly so that at the end of the day you believe them, because how could these quiet young men and women --

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Young?

Mr Marchese: They're fairly young -- cause any harm to anybody, especially humans? They wouldn't do that. So they choose these fine fellows and women, Witmer and Johnson, as their spokespeople, to tranquilize everybody.

They do an effective job, I have to tell you, but I have to say they frustrate me to no end. It is so frustrating to have Liz Witmer stand every day and not answer the question. Every time she answers, she says: "We're doing it to prevent accidents. We're doing it to help injured workers."

Mr Kormos: Is that true?

Mr Marchese: That's what she says. People believe that because she's so calming.

Mr Kormos: But should they believe her?

Mr Marchese: Can they believe her? How could they? Under there, cold blood runs in her veins. Every now and then you've got to see the blood flow, and if you don't see the blood flow, you've got to think there are amphibians somewhere in this House. You've got to think that. The blood has to flow, otherwise you will think reptilians have taken over this place: cold-blooded, without red blood running through their veins. I want Liz Witmer from time to time to show me that there is red blood that runs through those veins. I need to see that.

I can understand the frustration of the member for Hamilton Centre. The poor guy is so frustrated by the answers from Madame Witmer that he goes crazy each time. I understand that. Who wouldn't go crazy with the answers? The poor guy from Hamilton Centre says, "My God, how do I deal with this minister?" because she's always tranquilizing him, and me too.

So our member for Hamilton Centre, correctly, is vociferous in his style. The member for Niagara Falls, I heard him the other day.

Mr Kormos: Who is that?

Mr Marchese: Bart Maves. He stood up and said he didn't like the tone from the member for Hamilton Centre. He said that. He felt he was too loud and offensive. He did. He was offended for Madame Witmer, because as we all know, she is the perfect example of propriety in the House. So Bart Maves had to come to her defence against this screaming man who passionately spoke against the evil contained in this bill towards injured workers. But no, Bart wouldn't have it. Bart Maves from Niagara Falls said, "We should discuss this bill reasonably, quietly." They cause great injury to injured workers and he says: "No, no, it's not right for you to scream. It is improper. You should be dealing with the issue intelligently, rationally, quietly."

Imagine that. Imagine if I were an injured worker, having to witness the assault on me by this government, and Bart Maves and Witmer are asking me to be polite as they assault my earning power, as they assault my ability to make a living after having been injured on the job. They want me to be quiet. They want us on this side to be nice, to be quiet, to be gentle, to respect the decorum of the House.

I can't do that. We can't do that on this side. We cannot sit here as these people, these honourable Reform members talk about the unfunded liability, as Mr Hastings from Etobicoke-Rexdale did -- I'm glad you're alert.

Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Madam Chair: I've risen on this point of order before. I hate doing it. The member across the way from Fort York has been a member of this House for at least a decade. He ought to know that you deal with the members' riding names, not the surname of the member, except in committee. I believe that's usual. Could you remind him of that?

The Acting Speaker: Thank you for that point of order. It is a point of order. I would remind the member for Fort York to refer to members by their riding. I would remind all members, because we all forget from time to time.

Mr Marchese: Speaker, I appreciate the ruling you've made. I also appreciate that you were speaking to the member for Welland-Thorold at the time and would indicate to you that I referred to the member by name and by riding. I will desist --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, take your seat. I heard you repeatedly during your speech and was hoping you would remember; you were referring to members in the House by their first names. I would ask you to keep that in mind.

Mr Marchese: I did refer to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. I said it. If you look in the record, I said it. Anyway, he interrupted my flow; he really did. That was his intention. He was talking to another member then. He just heard his name and he turned around.

The honourable member -- and I refer to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale -- one of the finest Reform-minded members of that particular caucus, said --

Mr Silipo: At least he gets more excited than the Minister of Labour.

Mr Marchese: He gets excited. That's true. He gets highly excited. He was talking about the unfunded liability and said that we don't care and they care. You heard him, Speaker. You were in the chair. And you heard other members from our caucus saying, "Well, member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, if you're so interested in the unfunded liability, why do you give the employer a 5% tax assessment cut, which amounts to $6 billion, and say this does not affect the unfunded liability?"

How does he do that? How does he explain it? Of course it affects the unfunded liability. It's okay when you give employers assistance of this kind, but it's not okay if you help the workers. He's saying there's a crisis in the unfunded liability and in the same breath they gave a 5% cut to the employers, causing a $6-billion deficit. How does he do that? I'll tell you how they do that: They cut the benefits of injured workers to make up for that cut to their employer friends.

Mr Kormos: Tories don't like workers.

Mr Marchese: Tories like employers; Tories don't like injured workers. It's a simple equation. If I give a $6-billion cut to the employers, as I say there is an unfunded liability, and then I give a cut to injured workers in terms of what they earn after they get injured, you've got to say, those of you who are watching, that employers are in cahoots with this government and they are against the interests of injured workers. That's my deduction. That's what I conclude. Injured workers will conclude the same, except these fine, honourable members. They help their employer friends.

Look at the title. I want to talk about the title. Pete, look, it's called An Act to secure the financial stability of the compensation system.

Mr Kormos: It's a lie.

Mr Marchese: Well, they gave a $6-billion cut to the employers. How do they deal with that? Yet it's in the name of the bill.

Mr Kormos: The title lies.


Mr Marchese: Does the title speak to the truth?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, I would ask you to withdraw that comment, please.

Mr Kormos: Chair, I said the title lied. I didn't make reference to any member.

The Acting Speaker: Perhaps I misheard you. In that case I would ask you -- you're going down a very dangerous road there -- to be careful.

Mr Kormos: It's slippery, Speaker, but I'm holding on.

The Acting Speaker: That will do. Go ahead.

Mr Marchese: "An act to secure the financial stability of the compensation system" -- they're destabilizing it by giving employers a $6-billion cut. How can they on the one hand title it this way, then do the opposite? But it continues. Look, it says, "to secure the financial stability of the compensation system for injured workers." How? They're cutting the benefits from 90% of net earnings to 85%. How does that stabilize their condition? But that's what this bill pretends to say.

It goes on. It says, "to promote the prevention of injury and disease." How do they do that? They got rid of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre. They cut that off, I believe. They cut much of what was the Workers' Health and Safety Centre. They gutted the training to health and safety in the province, and there's so much more in this bill that is designed to hurt injured workers, yet it's titled "to promote the prevention of injury."

Mr Kormos: Is that true?

Mr Marchese: Well, as I look at the bill, I read through some of the stuff where they're abolishing the Occupational Disease Panel, which used to be an independent board, and they're transferring some of those functions back to the WCB, titled differently now. How does that help injured workers?

Mr Kormos: But if the title isn't true, then it must be a --

Mr Marchese: The Speaker will warn us about issues of mendacity in the House. We cannot speak about issues of mendacity or veracity here, because they get nervous.

Mr Kormos: A little prevarication, I suppose.

Mr Marchese: "Prevarication" is another word. Here the government talks about creating an insurance fund, which used to be called an accident fund. Isn't an injury an accident? How does an accident become an insurance fund? It's an accident fund, because workers got injured on the job.

Mr Silipo: Is that like turning unemployment insurance into employment insurance?

Mr Marchese: That's it, like the Liberals federally turning unemployment insurance into employment insurance. It's the same idea.

But it goes on. What else have they done here? The Workers' Compensation Board is no longer going to be called the Workers' Compensation Board; it's going to be called the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. It boggles the mind. I look at the injury that's caused to injured workers each time I raise an issue, and the member for Hamilton Centre covered this thoroughly, and then they talk about a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Why would you call the Workers' Compensation Board a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board? These are issues of mendacity that need to be dealt with.

It was a legitimate Workers' Compensation Board, because we're dealing with workers -- not workmen, because we're dealing with workers who are men and women -- and we're dealing with compensation because we're paying injured workers for injuries sustained on the job. We pay compensation for that injury. It's not a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board; it's a Workers' Compensation Board. That's what we're dealing with.

It's hard to be gentle with these honourable members. It's hard to be silent and quiet and decent with these honourable members as they assault injured workers who through no fault of their own get injured in the workplace. It is hard to conduct oneself with the decorum of Madame Witmer when they assault injured workers. It's too difficult to do.

They're going to abolish occupational chronic stress. We all know what that's about. Speaker, you must have had a lot of injured workers come to your office who have suffered chronic stress as a result of serious injuries. These honourable men and women of the Reform government want to get rid of it so they can help their employer friends. Because as you know, each time an injury happens in the workplace, the assessment of the employer goes up, so they don't want to pay injured workers occupational chronic stress. They're getting rid of it.

Speaker, I have to tell you, I am sick and tired of Madame Witmer's style of presentation --

The Acting Speaker: It's the Minister of Labour.

Mr Marchese: -- which makes us all believe that everything is okay and that the injured worker is going to be protected and that she's going to be dealing with prevention and everybody should go home feeling good.

As I read the bill, it is the worst assault on injured workers, the worst assault on human beings. It isn't just injured workers, it is an assault on human beings who become disabled on the job through no fault of their own, and these people, all of them honourable men and women, have assaulted them in ways that I hope injured workers will fight this government back.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): What we have just witnessed in this chamber is something that is very typical of the New Democratic Party. I realize that philosophically your approach to issues is very different than our approach, I say through the Speaker. But we also have witnessed a tremendous dramatic act. I know that the member for Fort York enjoys drama and theatre and I can see why, because you also enjoy practising it, and that's what we've just experienced.

I can go along with that and I can go along with your viewpoint. I can go along with all the 12 years tomorrow that the member for Lake Nipigon and I have been members in this place. All of those years we've travelled on committees and had the theatrics of people representing the interests of injured workers as though they were the only people who cared about injured workers in this province. I've always felt that it was wrong to exploit people for political purposes. I feel what we have just experienced is that kind of exploitation.

Mr Kormos: Oh, Margaret. I remember when you were over here in tears.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Member for Welland-Thorold, come to order.

Mrs Marland: The final thing I will say to the member for Fort York is you can say whatever you like that is different from us philosophically and politically, but I do take exception to your demeaning the Minister of Labour by your mimicking her poise, her dignity and her class. She is one of the classiest ministers we have ever had in this province, and I think for you to stand in your place and talk about how she speaks and her personal style does not become you and it is not true about her.

The Acting Speaker: Your time has expired. Thank you.

Mr Gerretsen: It was certainly very interesting to watch the theatrics of both the member for Mississauga South and the member for Fort York. I admit that the member for Fort York does have a certain way in which he expresses himself that is very vivid. One can certainly identify with it immediately. But I think the point ought not be lost that he's not the only member in the House who's doing that. Let's face it. We see on a daily basis from the 19 cabinet ministers we have there exactly the same thing. Some of them are good actors and some of them are bad actors. I would think if we took a vote, at least on this side of the House, we would say that most of them are pretty bad actors. Some of them don't even remember their lines all that well, quite frankly.

What we really should be talking about are the injured workers of this province. Let's not forget that the injured workers of this province over the next 17 and 18 years are going to lose $15 billion worth of benefits. You can laugh about it, you can dismiss it, but that's money that's being taken away from these people. They are going to be downgraded from receiving 90% of what they were earning to getting 85% of what they were earning. Yet at the same time as that's happening, the employers in this province are going to pay $6 billion less into the fund.

We all have different ways in which we express this -- some of us do it in a very theatrical manner, others do it in a more conventional manner -- but that's the bottom line. I think that's what the people of Ontario should understand, that the workers of this province are going to lose as a result of this bill passing.

Mr Kormos: I listened carefully to the comments of the member for Fort York, and I tell you I'm proud of him as a colleague and also as a New Democrat, who, like other New Democrats in this caucus, in this community, across this province, across this country, has marched shoulder to shoulder with injured workers as injured workers have been forced to struggle, decade in and decade out, to protect the modest gains they've acquired for themselves with the assistance of their sisters and brothers in the trade union movement and other women and men in the workforce.

New Democrats stood with injured workers on Monday past, April 28, in front of monuments in communities across this province, as we commemorated the sacrifice paid by workers, the ultimate sacrifice: the loss of life suffered by workers in this province in the past and, sadly, regrettably, tragically, through to the present, along with the plethora of injuries and illnesses that still attack workers in Ontario and across this country on a daily basis.

The member for Fort York has put this eloquently and passionately, and who can fault him for passion when it comes to addressing legislation that puts working women and men and the injured workers of this province under direct attack and mugs them, picks their pockets, snatches their purses, so that this government can grease, can pay off the payola to their corporate boss friends. I say to you, the member for Fort York, Mr Marchese, speaks for all of this caucus and all New Democrats when he addresses the sham of Bill 99 and points out the dishonesty inherent even in its title and the fact that it constitutes a major attack on injured workers, to the shame of this government. I'll tell you, it will attract a challenge that this government has not seen the likes of.

Mr Hastings: I would never agree with the member for Kingston and The Islands in his depiction of the member for Fort York as being an actor. I think he is an extremely capable, passionate, concerned individual for injured workers. But I profoundly and fundamentally disagree with how he approaches this bill and how he depicts the intent and the purpose and a lot of the other stuff that's contained within this bill.

The problem for the opposition parties has always been that they are in a state of self-perpetual denial about the fiscal crisis. There is no fiscal crisis, in their minds. The WCB has a ton of money sitting there that you could just dole out; you could just keep writing cheques. Even the former Premier of this province, in his eloquent book From Protest to Power, acknowledged that his own New Democrats, particularly in the cabinet, would not face the reality of the fiscal problem, whether it's in the WCB or whether it's on a province-wide basis when you deal with the budget.

While the member for Fort York has a rightful concern and a passion about injured workers, he needs to be reminded that the members on the government side here also have compassion and concern for injured workers. To disagree with that at all, even to acknowledge that you can't discern compassion on all sides, questions and imputes motives, and I'm trying to stay away from that. I think we all need to acknowledge that we need to make some major changes in getting an organization fixed up, which has not been dealing with injured workers in a forthright way, and you know that.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Fort York has two minutes.

Mr Marchese: I want to thank the member for Welland-Thorold in particular for talking about the history that we New Democrats have had with injured workers, working side by side with them and trying to address their life concerns after an injury. We have a record of that over long, long years. I don't see any Tories in line with us when we are walking with injured workers. I'm afraid I don't see too many Liberals either, for that matter. But we have had a long history of that.

When the member for Mississauga South talks about my presentation as a dramatic act, you have to put that in the context of our history around injured workers. This is not a drama class. I am not teaching English today, although I've taught English in the past. That's not what I'm doing. Today I was talking about injured workers and my relationship to them and the relationship of injured workers to this bill.

When the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says that they too have compassion and concern, for me it needs to be demonstrable. You need to demonstrate it. When you cut 5% of employers' premiums, equivalent to $6 billion, does that demonstrate a concern for injured workers? When you cut the net benefits of injured workers from 90% to 85%, are you demonstrating your compassion and concern for injured workers? That, to me, is the test. That's the evidence I use to say that this government is not on the side of injured workers but is on the side of the employers. They make it demonstrable through the actions of this bill; that's what we spoke to. New Democrats will continue to fight this government, and we hope injured workers will continue to fight this government as well.

The Acting Speaker: It being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday.

The House adjourned at 1802.