36th Parliament, 1st Session

L185 - Mon 5 May 1997 / Lun 5 Mai 1997











































The House met at 1332.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This past Friday the Health Services Restructuring Commission bolted through Sudbury once again, this time to hand out the final directives on hospital governance. Although they haven't got it right yet, the community understands that it's as good as they're going to get. To that end, the Sisters of St Joseph have decided they're going to drop the lawsuit because they understand local health care is so important. The transition team will soon be set up, but they need the help of the minister. The Minister of Health finally has to take a stand. He finally has to come alive. He can't be dead silent on the issues any more.

Maybe we can ask a few questions of the minister while he ponders whether or not he's going to come alive. Where are the MRI services you promised last week? How much money will you remove from our community when you make your reinvestment announcements? Where is the province's commitment to the Sudbury YMCA Centre for Life project? Everybody else in the community -- the feds, the municipal representatives, private people, local citizens -- has bought into it. The only one who hasn't is the province. Where is your commitment? Will you ensure that you minimize the number of jobs that are lost in the health care industry in Sudbury?

If you follow the lead of Mike Harris and your fellow minister, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, I think the answer to that will be no.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): It's with a great deal of sadness that I report here in the House this week the passing of Joe Baranyk. Joe, an OPP officer who served the people of Ontario for quite a few years, was awarded numerous awards by the Ontario Provincial Police for the work he had done.

Unfortunately, Joe passed away suddenly last week from an aneurism at the young age of 51. At the funeral on Saturday, I've never seen a community touched as much as they were touched by the passing of Joe Baranyk.

Everybody knew Joe. Joe was involved in absolutely everything in the community from the air cadet leagues to various charitable organizations, working with kids, working with swimming teams. There was hardly a group in the community in the city of Timmins or the area that had not come in contact with Joe Baranyk over the years. I report to the House that it's with sadness I want to pass on to his widow, Irene, and to the three girls our condolences from the Legislature for his unfortunate passing.

I just would say in closing, seldom in my time here have I felt as deeply the passing of an individual in our community. Everybody is obviously a very important person in our community, but Joe I would consider not only a community-minded person, but also a good friend of mine. I was quite saddened to see that unfortunately Joe was not able to be with us any more. I would like to acknowledge that.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I recently received a letter from a constituent of mine, Erin Livingston, informing me of a special initiative in my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay. Erin is a grade 8 student at Spruce Glen public school in Huntsville who wrote me on behalf of her class and her teacher, Mrs Susan Hawkins.

I'm proud to inform the Legislature today of an effort launched by these students, their teacher and their school in an attempt to help restore the environment around the world. The grade 8 students at Spruce Glen were the first elementary school in Canada to join Rescue Mission, an international project developed by children to plan the environmental future of the planet.

Rescue Mission is directly affiliated with the United Nations, UNICEF and Peace Child International. One of the goals of this class is to raise public awareness about the environment in the community of Huntsville. They recently were involved in a Kids' Expo at Huntsville Place Mall, where they had the opportunity to speak to members of the community, sell buttons they had made, T-shirts and bookmarks.

Since February, the students have been developing environment projects which they presented at this month's home and school meeting. They are also active in corresponding via the Internet with other schools across Canada and around the world in an attempt to encourage other young people to take an interest in environmental issues.

With the recent celebration of Earth Day, an assembly was organized solely by the grade 8 students to continue their goal of educating others about the environment.

I want to say on behalf of the province how impressed I am by the dedication of these students, which will likely become a lifelong goal.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Anyone who listened to Mike Harris in the last provincial election campaign would remember that he promised that "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." That's the so-called Common Sense Revolution. Yet when in power, the Conservative government of Mike Harris has imposed $225 million in new user fees for seniors and lower-income people who purchase medication through the Ontario drug benefit plan.

This has worried the Ontario senior citizens' organizations in Ontario. They say seniors are being dealt a harsh blow as a result of these user fees on drugs. User fees on drugs will penalize the least healthy and often the poorest in society, for it often discourages people from seeking treatment they need. This will lead to a greater cost in the long run, with an increase in hospitalization rates.

Now he has insulted them even more, because he did not have the courtesy to adjust the $100 annual fee which they started collecting on July 15 of last year -- it's not annual, because this year it covered only nine and a half months -- for those who make over $16,000. So the government of Ontario owes seniors a refund.

It just goes to show you that you can't trust Conservatives when it comes to health care. They have broken their promises on health care. They've said there would be no user fees, and there are now user fees, and their new definition of a year is nine and a half months. Seniors of this province will remember.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): The site selection committee for the 2001 Canada Games is engaging in its process now of determining the site. It's going to be one of the three Ontario locations that have made the short list. One of those locations of course is Niagara region. The site selection committee was down in Niagara last Wednesday as they toured the facilities and the remarkable plethora of venues that are available for these games in Niagara.

They made note, I'm sure, of the strong francophone community in Niagara, which will enable Niagara to meet the minimum requirement of 250 francophone volunteers handily.

People from across the region were out in full force greeting this site selection committee. I was with folks from Welland at the Welland baseball stadium on Wednesday evening as thousands of Wellanders came out, accompanied by Guides and Scouts. Members of the community who are eager to participate in these games, eager to host them, should pay tribute to Rob Neill, who is the chair of the bid committee in Niagara and who showed exceptional energy and enthusiasm on behalf of Niagarans as he has prepared Niagara to undertake the responsibility for hosting these games.

I have every confidence that Niagara is undoubtedly the number one location, and I urge you, Speaker, and members of this assembly to join with me in encouraging the selection of regional Niagara, with all of its amenities, the vineyards and fruit lands, the historical sites and natural sites, as the location for these games.



Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Today is the beginning of Education Week in Ontario. Under the theme of "Better Education for a Brighter Future," parents, teachers and students in communities across this province will celebrate their achievements and aspirations for the future. I would like to invite the members of the House to join me in congratulating them for their accomplishments.

We firmly believe that a quality education is a passport to opportunity for the individual student growing up in a rapidly changing world. It is a vital factor in determining how well we as a society will succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive global economy.

We are moving ahead with reforms that will improve student performance and the accountability of the education system.

Ontario grade 3 students have just completed the first province-wide test in reading, writing and mathematics. It has been a learning experience for all of us in the education system. After all, it was the most ambitious test ever undertaken in this province.

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of the teachers, principals and students involved in the grade 3 testing. The tests are now being marked, and results will be sent home to students and parents in June. Teachers will also receive feedback to ensure the test results lead to program improvements.

Furthermore, as teachers get ready to administer grade 6 tests, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which is committed to providing the government with reliable data and parents with useful information on their children's performance.

In addition, we are also moving to provide our teachers with high-quality training --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): On Friday evening I had the opportunity to spend the evening in Ridgetown with 150 grade 10 students who were part of the Hugh O'Brien Youth Foundation Conference for Youth. This collection of 150 students are leaders and were selected as such to participate in a weekend-long conference that bolsters these young people of Ontario.

We participated in little sessions with groups of these grade 10 students. Here are some of the questions they posed to me:

"What about me?" They were so concerned about provincial cutbacks and specifically how they relate to young people.

They said: "What about the job market? Where do I fit in in the future? Is anyone looking out for me?" Unfortunately, there was very little information I could pass on that this government has its young people as any part of its priority at all.

They said: "What about curriculum reform? Who's looking out for us? What are we missing in terms of information? What happens in that one year when those two classes will be graduating from secondary school and they both hit the job market and/or post-secondary education in that same year? What about those kids? What's going to happen to them? Are the guidelines going to be more stringent? Will there be jobs for them?"

These are the kinds of questions that young people today need an answer to.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Last week I attended several meetings as the critic for housing and municipal affairs. I was at one meeting at Willowglen Co-op. I believe that's in the riding of York East. I attended another meeting at Greenbrae Residents Association; it was a public housing meeting. One of the things that came out of that discussion of course is that they're concerned. A common concern both of co-op members and people living in public housing is concern about what's going to happen to their homes.

There was concern in particular at the Greenbrae Residents Association, the riding which the Minister of Culture is in, Scarborough-Ellesmere. I know she was invited but couldn't make it, and I understand the federal Liberal member of that riding couldn't make it. The concern of those residents is that the federal Liberal government is about to abandon their $2-billion responsibility for co-ops and social housing and is about to give it to this government, which wants to download their whole housing responsibility down to the municipal sector. They have concerns and they want to plead with the federal Liberal government not to give up the responsibility for housing and give it away to a government that doesn't want any responsibility for housing. They're seriously concerned about what's going to happen to their future, but to their homes in particular, because we're talking about low-income people. I hope the government is going to listen to them, because I'm worried too.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to rise in the House today as the member for Scarborough Centre to recognize this week as Mental Health Week.

Mental health programs are a priority for our government, and that is why our government has allocated $23.5 million for the community investment fund. This fund is our government's commitment to ensuring that people with mental illness receive the care they need in their communities.

The community investment fund is an investment in community services and supports for people with serious mental illness. Priority services include case management, including supports for housing, crisis response and consumer/survivor and family initiatives.

The community investment fund represents $20 million in base funding and $3.5 million in one-time funding. Currently our government spends $1.2 billion annually on mental health services, including inpatient, community and physician services. Funding for mental health services in Ontario has been fully protected.

Our government has protected program funding for the community investment fund and all mental health services, and any administrative efficiencies that can be found within mental health services will be reinvested into other direct mental health services. This is part of our government's continuing commitment to put patients first. To date, 50 of the 104 programs allocated under the community investment fund are already up and running.

I want to ask each of the members to join me today in recognizing Mental Health Week and to commend the efforts of the numerous volunteers who will be out in the communities volunteering their time --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a question for the Premier. Over the next few days we're going to hear a few Tory myths come from the mouths of the Premier and the finance minister. We're going to hear stories about what a good job this government is doing and how well Ontarians are doing.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Mr Cordiano: It's a myth. Perhaps the backbenchers of this government would like to applaud the fact that this government has cut $145 million to junior kindergarten or that this government has cut another $150 million to adult education. Why don't you applaud that? Why don't you applaud those kinds of stories? Tell us about how you cut $400 million from colleges and universities and how our per-pupil funding levels are among the lowest -- and I repeat, the lowest -- in North America. Why don't you applaud that?

Premier, when will you admit that all you're concerned about is the bottom line and that you're prepared to sacrifice our children's education in order to meet your bottom line?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): In spite of the fact of the disastrous fiscal mess that we inherited after 10 years of Liberal and NDP government, in spite of the fact of $2 billion in cuts to social spending from your federal cousins, now somehow or other seeking re-election on those cuts, we have continued to provide virtually the highest per-capita funding in the world in almost every area, including children, including education, including health care.

If you want to get into some of the statistics, we spend on child care 10 times what your Liberal cousin does in New Brunswick; we spend three times what the NDP Premier does in Saskatchewan, per capita, per person, per child. Here is a government that in spite of the mess we inherited has probably shown more compassion and more desire to support children and the needy than any other government in the history of Canada.


Mr Cordiano: The Premier can throw around all the myths he wants and all the phoney figures he wants but you're not going to be able to hide from the reality, and people see that reality.

Let's talk about your record on jobs. In the last seven months Ontario lost 11,000 jobs, while the rest of Canada gained 88,000 jobs. You said you would create 145,000 jobs a year in your Common Sense Revolution. Almost two years into your mandate you're 147,000 jobs behind.

The people being hit the hardest are youth, with an unemployment rate of almost 20%. Shame on you. The people being hit over and over again are those people who are looking for jobs but can't find one. Why don't you tell young people what a great job you're doing in this province, Premier? They see right through you. They see that they are looking for jobs but they can't find one.

Premier, you have created a huge human deficit in our province. When are you personally going to take responsibility for that huge human deficit?

Hon Mr Harris: The job figures you quote are about as mythical and wrong as the member for Scarborough-Agincourt's. This province is leading Canada by any measure in private sector job creation: acknowledged by every other province, much to their chagrin, acknowledged by the federal government, acknowledged by StatsCan, acknowledged by every measure. Is it good enough? No, it is not good enough.

However, let me give you this as a statistic that is the fact: There are more people employed in Ontario today than in its entire history. Is that good enough? No. Why is the unemployment rate still so high? Because more people are coming to Ontario now. More people are entering the workforce. Instead of like the last 10 years when they came here for welfare, now they're coming for jobs. Let's celebrate that.


The Speaker: Heckling is out of order, I would remind the members for Dovercourt, Sudbury, Windsor-Sandwich and probably Lake Nipigon too.

Mr Cordiano: The sad reality is that there are literally thousands of people looking for jobs and they can't find one. How can you tell the one in five children in Ontario living in poverty that everything is okay in this province?

Ontarians are likely to believe that as much as they believe that your tax cut hasn't affected health care, Premier. I'm not just talking about the 22 hospitals you have slated for closure; I'm talking about the fact that people are dying unattended in hallways in our hospitals because your cuts are forcing the layoff of more than 15,000 nurses. I'm talking about the $225 million in user fees for drugs you have forced on seniors and the disabled.

Premier, this is your record, a record that leaves a huge human deficit. When will you admit that your entire approach to governing is wrong? When will you admit that you're willing to sacrifice thousands of people to get to the bottom line? When will you admit that?

Hon Mr Harris: I want to acknowledge one thing that we do believe is very important that your government didn't and the NDP didn't: The bottom line is important. If you are going to pass on to our children and their children and their grandchildren balanced books instead of spending today and asking them to pay for it tomorrow, as is your approach, then the bottom line is important to this government. I want you to know that.

Second, I want to tell you this: In spite of the deficits you passed on to us, in spite of your federal Liberal cousins in Ottawa, in spite of all those situations, here is a government spending more on health care than in this province's record, far more than we campaigned and committed to do, because we've taken this approach, that if there is a need for the disadvantaged, if there is a need for children, if there is a need for health care, if there is a need for the disabled and the elderly, we put that first, and those are the programs that we're funding first.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is for the Minister of Health. Following upon the Premier's last response, my question very much concerns putting the needs of patients first in Ontario.

Minister, 18 months ago you announced on behalf of your government that there would be a significant expansion of kidney dialysis programs in eastern Ontario, that programs would be expanded in Ottawa and Renfrew and Belleville and a new program would start in Cornwall. That was much applauded.

Eighteen months later there is no progress. The lineups are even longer than they were a year ago. The question that kidney dialysis patients from Renfrew county to west Hastings want me to ask you today is, when are you going to do something to make good on your 18-months-ago promise that kidney dialysis programs will be expanded in our part of eastern Ontario?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The question is a little unfair, given that 18 months ago the honourable member in this House brought into question the RFP, request for proposal, tendering process for eastern Ontario. As a result of his questions in the House we now have legal action before the government and I can't comment further on that.

However, I can say that about 22 new clinics are up and running around the province today and we're just waiting to expand. The money has already been announced, you're right, well over a year ago. It's sitting there, waiting to expand services in eastern Ontario, but we are before the courts with respect to that particular tender.

Mr Conway: The minister is right. A year ago I brought to this House New York Times articles about National Medical Care of Boston, a really wonderful bunch of bad actors who were in great controversy in the United States for what they were doing in the kidney dialysis business. You're bloody right that Lyn McLeod and Sean Conway brought that to the attention of the minister.

I understand that it's now at court, but the basic question remains. I represent people who have to, three times a week from the Upper Ottawa Valley, drive over six hours for a five-hour kidney dialysis treatment in Ottawa, winter and summer. You promised that the situation would change not just in Renfrew but in Cornwall, in Belleville, in Kingston and in Ottawa. You have not made good on that promise.

What I want to know is, quite apart from the court case that arose from your botched privatization scheme, Minister, what are you going to say to the kidney dialysis patients who are on ever-expanding waiting lists throughout eastern Ontario? When are they going to get off those waiting lists and get to the Renfrew, Cornwall and Belleville sites for the care you promised?

Hon Mr Wilson: There are times in government when you're not free perhaps to shed all the light on a particular issue. The honourable member knows that it was a request for a proposal that went out to the hospitals and to the private sector and that across the province, with the exception of eastern Ontario because of the court case, those tenders were awarded. Most of them went to hospitals, highest quality, best price, and it was considered a real success.

I understand this issue fully. I spent many years in opposition ensuring that the previous government would begin to move on this and they didn't. We have moved everywhere in the province but eastern Ontario because the matter is before the courts. As soon as the courts have dealt with that, we will move forward.

Mr Conway: Jim Wilson is now the Minister of Health. He has some responsibilities.

I might add that the Renfrew and Belleville proposals had nothing to do with Dr Posen and the National Medical scheme that got you into trouble and got you into court, and that the people at the Renfrew Victoria Hospital have made a specific proposal to you in recent weeks on how they might undertake some emergency measures to reduce their waiting lists so these good people who have to travel all this distance three times a week might be cared for. To date, they've got nothing but the back of your hand.

I repeat, Minister, what are you going to do to now relieve the pressure that has been building? These waiting lists in Cornwall and Renfrew and Belleville grow. You know and I know that the demand for kidney dialysis is growing at an annual rate of 10%. What measures are you going to take to provide the service you promised 18 months ago to the people of urban and rural eastern Ontario?

Hon Mr Wilson: We did announce fairly recently an expansion of current services, and some of those dollars went to eastern Ontario to look after patients there. I know there's tremendous demand. Again, I cannot comment on the court case, other than to say that when it's solved, we look forward to, as we announced, expanding so there'll be more sites available throughout eastern Ontario. We're doing our best right now, within the confines directed by the court, to expand the existing services.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'd like to direct my question to the Premier, and it continues on this theme of broken promises. In your answers earlier, we heard a lot of superlatives: the best in the history of the country, the best in the history of Ontario. I suspect that tomorrow we'll hear you say you're going to be spending more on health care than any other government in the history of Ontario has ever spent.

Let me quote these words back to you, from last year's budget, the finance minister: "This year we will spend $600 million on child care -- the highest...in...Ontario's history."

Premier, we know that's another broken promise. We know that you raised expectations and didn't come through. This morning, your finance minister was quoted as saying that broken promise is one of his "biggest disappointments." I can tell you, there are a lot of parents and children out there who are pretty disappointed as well: children and families who are on waiting lists, who face their centres being closed, where subsidies have been done away with because of your downloading to municipalities. Your finance minister said he was sorry. Premier, what do you say to the parents and children of Ontario who are waiting for child care services?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Sorry.

Ms Lankin: I'm glad to hear that's a "sorry" to those people. What I want to know is, when is there going to be some action? That promise of $40 million for last year's budget and for every year for the next five years was the largest single commitment you made for spending on children. You haven't come through. In fact, you not only didn't come through on that, but over 9,000 spaces have disappeared; the subsidies at the municipal levels are gone, so the province isn't picking up their share; and you've cut over $50 million in capital funding for child care centres.

You're going to be a government that has spent less than other governments in the history of Ontario. Would you at least admit to that? When we see the actual figures, we will see that your government has spent less on child care than previous governments in the history of Ontario. Please admit that.

Hon Mr Harris: That is totally false and incorrect, along with most of the allegations you make. Nobody regrets more than the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Minister of Finance and I that we had not been able to get uptake on the child care money that was there and was there right up until the end of the year.

I want to say that with in-fighting from all those who have been involved in the child care group, we have not been able to get that money out -- not for bureaucracy, not for the failed programs that you were on, not for wasting the money in how many of these companies you can put out of business, but to actually help children. Nobody regrets that more than we do. I can tell you, if you're in the House tomorrow, we'll have it fixed.

Ms Lankin: I have never seen a Premier of this province who stands up and states anything that comes into his mind, even when there's no factual basis to it. Premier, you are dead wrong. That $40 million didn't remain unspent because there was no takeup. People are crying in communities across this province for additional spaces. You put a freeze on those dollars; your government never released those dollars. Please correct your own statements in this House.

Time and time again I have raised the example of four child care centres in Toronto schools that are about to go out of business altogether because your government won't fund the capital reconstruction as those schools are being redesigned, renovated or rebuilt.

They've made some progress. From the city of Toronto and Metro, which would not normally ever have funded this, they've got a commitment of $800,000-plus. All they need now is $390,000 and you can save 214 child care spaces in this city. Would you tell me, with $40 million left unspent -- tomorrow it'll be $80 million left unspent -- are you going to lose those 214 spaces in four centres for the want of $400,000? Will you commit to that today?

Hon Mr Harris: What we are committed to doing is addressing the failed, disastrous, money-wasting policies your government brought into place that spent more and more money and did not help one single child find new child care. That has been the problem. We are committed to correct that, and if you're here in the House tomorrow when the budget is read, you will see that in fact we have come up with a solution to carry on spending 50 times more than Quebec in child care, three times more than Saskatchewan in child care, 1000% more than Liberal New Brunswick, all on a per capita basis. But I can tell you this: If you're waiting for us to throw the money away the way you did, you don't want to be here tomorrow.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Members for Beaches-Woodbine, Welland-Thorold and Fort York, please come to order. Heckling is out of order. The member for Lake Nipigon also.

New question; the leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Premier. It's the first time I've heard investing money in children described as throwing it away, the first time I've ever heard it put that way.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Premier, about health care, it's clear your policy towards our hospitals is one of cutting them, not one of better health care. You've taken $800 million out of hospital budgets so far, and that has meant that hospitals have had to lay off thousands of nurses and other health care workers and they've had to reduce patient care.

Even one of your advisers, Dr David Naylor, in a recent speech to the Canadian Club, sent you a message. He said, "Don't cut hospital budgets a further $500 million, because patient care will really have to be sacrificed." Premier, will you commit today that next year, in the coming year, you will not cut a further $500 million out of hospital budgets and make even further cuts to patient care across this province?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think all members are aware that there will be a budget, a document for the year, and it will be read tomorrow. The Minister of Finance will read it, and we will have to await that to get the details of spending and funding commitments. But let me assure you of this: At no time in our first budget, in our first year in office, in our second year in office or as long as we are in office will we cut one cent out of any budget if we think it will affect patient care.

Mr Hampton: We have the Premier's words and then we have the reality out there. We have the reality of young children who can't get cancer care because the hospital where they're supposed to receive it doesn't have enough nurses on duty that day to provide it. We have elderly patients dying in hallways because hospitals don't have enough nurses and other health care workers to provide the staffing they need.

Premier, you need to see the reality. The fact of the matter is that your government has severely cut patient care. Virtually every one across this province knows it. You can announce and reannounce different programs, but the fact of the matter is that patient care has been affected, is being affected.

What people want to know is, what is your government going to do? The Minister of Finance was able to organize a press conference at the top of the CN Tower. What are you going to do about the $800 million you've taken out of hospital budgets so far, the $500 million you're going to take next year, and all the negative effects that has had on patient care? What are you going to do to fix that?

Hon Mr Harris: The Minister of Health, I'm sure, can answer.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member is in error once again. We have seen, in savings from hospitals to date, about $325 million, and I have personally announced $950 million worth of reinvestments in the health care system, over two and a half times more than we've seen in savings to date. We have never said that restructuring would save money. What we said it would do is get rid of the waste, the duplication, the excessive administrative costs. Every dollar and more has gone back into the health care system.

The honourable member again is wrong, and David Naylor said this in his speech: "We've seen no evidence at all of cuts in patient services or the quality of care that hospitals and other delivery agencies are delivering to the people of Ontario." I'd ask the honourable member to keep to the facts. The facts are not as he has espoused.

Mr Hampton: I'll read from Dr Naylor's speech, because Dr Naylor is very specific. He says: "I would like to take this chance to call publicly on the minister and the Premier to take two key steps that will help stabilize our hospital sector in this period of unprecedented restructuring. First, cancel the across-the-board cut planned for 1998. With a growing aging population, with pressures of new technologies, it won't work. Second, make a public announcement confirming that contingency funds are available for this year." In other words, he says the problem is so urgent, that patient care is being affected so badly, that not only should you not make a $500-million cut next year, but you should provide contingency funds for this year.

Minister, I suspect you need to learn the facts and I suggest you do that. Dr Naylor is saying patient care is already being affected. A further $500-million cut to hospital budgets will affect it even worse. What are you going to do about it?


Hon Mr Wilson: Again, because I know Dr Naylor would not want this to stand on the record of this Parliament, he did not say that patient care is being adversely affected. What he did say, and it's very consistent with what the Ontario Hospital Association has said and what I have said and government members have said for the past months, is: We're looking very carefully at the third year of the savings that we've asked of hospitals, because, as the Premier said, the policy is not a drive to save money; the policy is to get rid of the waste, duplication and inefficiency in the system.

Restructuring costs money up front, but at the end of the day we'll have more services for more patients. We are motivated by the huge number of seniors that will come on stream in the next two years, requiring ever-increasing health care in this province, and the growing population. That is our motivation for restructuring, to get the system fixed so we can serve more patients at modern hospitals with the newest technologies and the newest drug therapies.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Mr Speaker, the Premier earlier in the House -- this is on personal privilege -- indicated that I used erroneous figures. This is not the first time he has tried this: he did it on February 24, and the next day I sent the Premier a letter demanding that he produce the evidence. I find that I'm not going to stand for his bully tactics. He may be able to get away with it in caucus. He may be able to use his power somewhere else --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I don't see that as a point of privilege, to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

New question. Official opposition, member for York South.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I also have a question for the Premier. Mr Premier, I'd like to talk to you about Scott Charland. I'd like to talk to you about Mr Charland because you received a letter from his parish priest, and in it the parish priest tells you that Mr Charland, 38 years old, was diagnosed as suffering from angina. He was referred to hospital for an angiogram. On the day of the test, he and his family were called and the test was cancelled. It was cancelled due to the lack of beds at the Ottawa Heart Institute. They rescheduled the angiogram and when they did that, the day of the test he was cancelled again. It was scheduled for April 17, and Mr Charland died on April 13. He was pronounced dead on his arrival at hospital.

Mr Premier, you have said in this House already today that not one cent that would cut into patient care would go. In fact you have cut hospitals $800 million. Will you do the right thing? Will you respect what happened to Mr Charland and unfortunately to others across the province? Will you cancel the second year of cuts in your budget tomorrow?

Hon Mr Harris: First, nobody is suggesting that the health care system is perfect, that this government is perfect or that the science of medicine at any time, given any amount of money, is ever perfect. Second, this government, as all members would, as all of those involved in the community would, obviously regret any situation, for whatever reason, that caused problems to any individual in the health care system. Let me state that on behalf of any who may have been involved in that. Third, the budget will be delivered tomorrow.

Mr Kennedy: Mr Premier, tomorrow people will be looking for the sincerity in your statement. What this Anglican priest says to you is that the treatment required was not available due to your cuts in health services. What this concerned family and their parish priest say to you is that you and your ministers show a cavalier disregard in what you propose and in how what you propose affects the lives of ordinary people.

Mr Premier, you are moving people out of beds in hospitals quicker and sicker to empty them, to save money, and you've saved $800 million. Your minister travels the province making empty promises he doesn't live up to in terms of reinvestments. Tomorrow, Premier, we're looking for you to live up to this.

I want to ask you the question that this parish priest is asking you, and these are his words: "To please explain to Scott Charland's wife, Elvalea, and their two children what your concern for the bottom line is doing to make their lives more livable without a husband and a father."

Hon Mr Harris: Let me assure you and the minister and the family that we have not cut a cent from health care. We have dramatically increased funding to health care. We have increased funding to cardiac care.

Let me also say that we are accepting the very best advice we can get from the best health care professionals and the best managers of health care that we can find anywhere in Canada as to how those dollars that we are increasing should be allocated, the best medical and the best managerial advice in health care as to how our increasing commitment to health care can be managed. That, I think, is the prudent and the best thing we can do as a government.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Health and member for York South, come to order.

Mr Marchese: Minister, your son of mega-week announcement is but a slight improvement on the original. You are still dumping $666 million in costs on to the municipalities by taking away their unconditional grants, and the costs of social housing and family benefits mean that property taxpayers can expect taxes to go up. Even your friends at the Toronto board of trade call the impact of your new announcement on Metro a time bomb. Will you deny that you are dumping $347 million on to the homeowners and tenants in Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): What this government did was listen to the concerns of municipalities. We have met with AMO. We had negotiations with AMO on what was the best way to separate the delivery of services between the municipalities and the province. AMO came back with a proposal a few weeks ago that indicated a means and way of separating those services and splitting the costs that was acceptable to them. That was a proposal put forward by the municipalities. The municipalities are convinced that this is the best approach. We concurred with that and changed our proposal to accept theirs.

Mr Marchese: I asked a question on whether or not the minister will deny that he is dumping $347 million on to the homeowner and the tenant of Metropolitan Toronto, and he talks to me about AMO. I didn't ask him anything about AMO and what they said. It's a different question. Ministers have to begin to answer our questions.

Minister, you are reducing income taxes and increasing property taxes to the tune of $666 million. You are reducing the tax that is based on ability to pay and increasing the tax that hits the poor and the middle class the hardest. That is so consistent with your government's record of whacking homeowners and tenants who can least afford it. Think of the elderly couples, not just in my riding but in Metro and beyond, who own their homes but because of your download will have to pay more in property taxes with the miserly pensions that they get.

Why should that elderly couple pay for your tax cut for the wealthiest citizens of Ontario who will benefit from that tax cut? Why?

Hon Mr Leach: They always neglect to mention the amount of money that's coming off as a result of 50% of the cost of education coming off the property tax. I also point out to the member that in the bill that's being put forward, Bill 106, there was language in that bill that allowed for the municipalities to provide relief to seniors and low-income families that are affected as a result of tax shifts from the assessment standpoint. I can assure this House that this government is quite aware and quite knowledgeable about what effect our legislation is going to have on seniors and low-income families, and I can assure you that there is language in that legislation to make sure they're protected.



Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Minister, the annual hunt for summer jobs for students is well under way in Halton and province-wide. Thousands of students are looking for opportunities to gain some experience and earn some income. What is your ministry doing to help these students find summer work?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the member for Halton Centre, I'm very pleased to tell him that this government is indeed very concerned about jobs for students in the summer. There is good news for students this summer, and I would like to elaborate on that if I could.

There will be nearly 3,000 summer jobs available through my ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. The Niagara Parks Commission will be offering 500 positions.


Hon Mr Saunderson: Obviously, they don't like to hear the good news.

Ontario Place Corp is offering 490 jobs and some other locations where new jobs will available are in Huronia historical parks, Old Fort William and the St Lawrence Parks Commission.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would caution the member for Sault Ste Marie to come to order.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Three more warnings.

The Speaker: Member for Sault Ste Marie, come to order. I warn the member for Sault Ste Marie to come to order. I'll also take this great opportunity to ask the member for Ottawa-Rideau to come to order as well. Supplementary.

Mr Young: Minister, will there be opportunities for students who wish to start their own small business?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm very happy to report that there will be up to $3,000 available for those students --


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): The scary part, Speaker, is that he used to work on Bay Street.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, I can stand here and everyone can heckle and I'll wait, but you're not even in your seat and that's way out of order. I would ask either that you go back to your seat or stop heckling, or better yet, both. Minister.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Before I was interrupted, may I say that I would not be surprised that the students in Ontario would be very upset to hear the opposition laughing about the good news about summer jobs for them.

I'm happy to say that the Royal Bank, in partnership with my ministry, is to arrange key funding for student venture programs. Up to $3,000 will be available for enterprising students who wish to run their own businesses as independents this summer. Students from 15 to 29 years of age who will be returning full-time to university or school --


The Speaker: We'll just keep waiting until we get this question in. Minister.

Hon Mr Saunderson: As I was saying, those students between 15 and 29 years of age who will be returning to university or school on a full-time basis in the fall will be eligible for these assistance programs by the Royal Bank and our ministry. I think what all of this shows is that this government is determined to boost summer jobs and to help the job market for students. All Ontario students who are willing to work will certainly get this assistance, and we're very pleased to make this announcement.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Premier. All property taxpayers listened with great interest to the announcement that was made last week with respect to the downloading and also with respect to the news release that you put out entitled Who Does What: A New Partnership for Taxpayers.

As we have stated and as municipalities have been telling you throughout the last two or three months, your last plan called for a downloading of an extra $1 billion to the local taxpayers. The overriding principle that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario put in its proposal to you -- and I'll quote it -- is that "The proposal is to be fiscally neutral between the provincial and local governments."

Premier, will you guarantee to the taxpayers of this province that a new proposal will not result in any increase in local property taxes?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me assure you of a couple of things. Given that the uploading the province took on is $3 million more than we've asked municipalities to take on, there's absolutely no reason, given that we have uploaded $3 million to ourselves, save and except the possibility that they elect Liberal and NDP spenders, why any of them as a result of that need to increase taxes.

Second, given that we accepted the proposal put forward by municipalities with a couple of very minor exceptions, I would think the municipalities would be saying, and I think a number of them are: "Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity for the dialogue, something we never had with previous governments to this extent."

Mr Gerretsen: The municipalities certainly aren't thanking you for anything in this regard. If anything, they're trying to make a good deal out of a very bad situation.

The initial figures are coming in. In the city of Kingston, $28 million would have been added on in the last proposal; $15 million will be added on to the local property taxpayers as a result of the latest proposal. The city of Hamilton: $88 million. According to the calculations out there, we expect somewhere between $500 million and $600 million will be downloaded by your government to the local property taxpayers.

Will you guarantee the local property taxpayers that they will not be paying any more as a result of these new funding arrangements?

Hon Mr Harris: I can assure you, as a result of Who Does What, that the figures show an uploading of $3 million on to the province as part of those discussions.

Let me tell you something else that they're not talking about very much, which I would hope you would want to take back to them. There was one proposal they asked us to do that we did not accept. That proposal was for the province of Ontario to take another $250 million, or 5%, for education. We said, "No. Thank you very much, but we think you need it more than we do," and we left $250 million more in tax capacity for the local municipal governments than they even asked us to do.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services. I would like to return to the question of Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. As you know, last year I raised a number of questions with you and asked you to release reports so that the public and parents could have a sense of what was going on in your ministry and that their children who are incarcerated are safe.

It's my understanding that nine managers at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre were fired last Friday for not cooperating with the ministry's internal investigation. This disciplinary action is related to the allegations that young offenders were beaten and mistreated while in the care of your ministry. It's also our understanding, but we've been unable at this point in time to get confirmation, that your internal investigation was finished about a month ago.

It's been over a year since this disturbing incident took place, and people have been kept in the dark. I've asked you before for a commitment for those reports to be released. You gave me a commitment that the ministry investigation report would be released. We understand it's completed. Would you please give me a commitment today that you will release that report?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I can confirm that the report is complete. I received it about two and a half weeks ago, I think, roughly. I've received a legal opinion from the Ministry of the Attorney General that the release might prejudice ongoing court cases or police investigations and I have accepted that advice.

Ms Lankin: Minister, every time we ask you to be open with the public of Ontario, you come up with another excuse about why you're going to continue to keep them in the dark. These were really serious allegations, very serious events that took place at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. Would you confirm for us what action has been taken? Would you confirm for us the disciplinary actions that have been taken? Have nine managers been fired? Would you tell us what steps have been taken inside the institution to ensure the safety of children?

There was another report we asked for, the report of the child advocate, and you never made that public either. At this point in time it's not good enough to keep putting it off and saying: "There are other processes. It will jeopardize this," or "It will jeopardize that." What about the kids who have been in jeopardy in your ministry? We have a right to be assured that those kids are being taken care of. Will you release the child advocate's report to us? Will you confirm what actions have been taken in reaction to your internal ministry investigation?

Hon Mr Runciman: I've said from the outset with respect to this situation that I would release what I can when I can. I have to rely on the advice I'm receiving with respect to release dates and the amount of material and information that can be released.

With respect to disciplinary action, yes, some disciplinary action has been taken. I do not get involved in the details of those disciplinary moves. They are taken by the deputy minister's office, and that's the correct way in which they should be dealt with.

With respect to the young offenders' system, there has been a host of initiatives that we have understaken, which we've made public, with respect to the system: the CO-Start training program; I hope to make an announcement within the next few weeks with respect to a dedicated facility for young offenders for the first time in this province, a dedicated institution to house young offenders; the Inkster report, which took a look at management within the corrections system. We're now conducting a review of the culture within the corrections system. I think we've moved on a wide range of fronts to deal with systemic problems within the corrections system.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Minister, Ontario's heritage is important to all Ontarians in this great province, but perhaps nowhere more so than in agriculture and food.

My riding of Halton North is home to the Ontario Agricultural Museum. I understand an agreement has been signed with a not-for-profit corporation to operate and manage the Ontario Agricultural Museum. Can you tell the members of the Legislature more about this good-news story?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank my colleague from Halton North for his question. Yes, the Country Heritage Experience Inc group has formed a not-for-profit corporation. They will be operating the agricultural museum. The board of directors consists of representatives of all sectors of the agrifood industry, and I understand the corporation has developed a five-year plan that will keep the museum open and will indeed allow the visitors, the students who regularly visit the museum, to continue to learn about our agricultural heritage and its roots. So I'm very pleased that we have a private sector non-profit corporation running our agricultural museum.

Mr Chudleigh: That's indeed good news for the residents and constituents of Halton North. The Ontario Agricultural Museum is set to open its doors on May 17 and will continue to be open five days a week right through to Thanksgiving. Can you describe how this showcase of Ontario's agricultural heritage will benefit from private sector involvement?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I'd be pleased just to remind my colleagues that the agricultural museum is situated at Milton just off the 401, well indicated. We anticipate some 70,000 visitors, including students and city people who know very little about agriculture and the roots of agriculture in this province and the importance of agriculture in this province, the second most important industry in the province. The museum is revitalized, not just privatized. It's anticipated by the board that they will not only break even but indeed will show a profit, and that is good news for all of Ontario agriculture.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Bill 106 amends the Assessment Act by adding the following definition: "`Current value' means, in relation to land, the amount of money the fee simple, if unencumbered, would realize if sold at arm's length by a willing seller to a willing buyer."

Minister, I have been a real estate professional, I have taught the course, and I can tell you that this definition is verbatim what the definition is for market value. Yet at our committee hearings, an official from the Ministry of Finance said there is a difference. I would ask you if you could explain to the House the difference between this definition of current value and that accepted by lawyers and by real estate professionals of what market value is.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Obviously both systems are value-based, and we've always stated that. It's a matter of how the systems are implemented. The 1992 version of market value assessment that was introduced by Metro and rejected by the NDP government had certain features which made it completely unpalatable to the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto, including myself. It called for assessments every four years; there are opportunities for lots of spikes -- a totally volatile situation.

The assessment system we're proposing calls for the assessment to be done on an annual basis with a three-year rolling average, which takes all the volatility out of the system. This is a system that will work well for Metropolitan Toronto. We've also put in aspects to protect seniors and the disabled and also to phase it in over eight years. There are tremendous differences between --

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

Mr Kwinter: We are talking about legislation; we are talking about the law. I have in my hand the Assessment Act of 1980, and it provides under section 14, "Market value of the parcel of land." This was in 1980, when market value assessment was not an issue, yet in the committee those particular definitions were changed without reference to anything else. Everywhere where it said "market value" there was put in "current value," which indicates that all you're doing is playing with words. If you're going to change the description of "market value" in the act to "current value" without any definition other than the one that is exactly the same as market value, you are really deceiving the public and the professionals who are in the field.

During the campaign of 1995, you issued and you said to homeowners in Cabbagetown, Moore Park and Rosedale, "My party and I will never" -- underlined -- "support the imposition of MVA," market value assessment, "in Metro Toronto," signed by Al Leach. Your colleague Isabel Bassett, underlined: "The policy of the PC Party has always been that we will never impose market value assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position." Yet this 106 substitutes the words "market value" for "current value." It is exactly the same. Again, I challenge you as I challenge --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Wilson Heights. Minister?

Interjection: It gets him off the hook, that's all it does.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): We want to hear his answer.

The Speaker: Well, there's something you can do to facilitate that. Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: I'm glad the member pointed that out, because I did oppose the proposed market value assessment that was introduced by Metro in 1992. It was a terrible system. It would have had devastating effects on properties in Metropolitan Toronto.

As a result, we developed a new system, the Ontario fair assessment system, which takes all the volatility out of the system that was proposed before. It's going to be reassessed every year, not every four years. It's going to have a three-year rolling average. There is going to be a phase-in period, not just rammed down their throats in one year, as was proposed before. There is legislated protection for seniors; there is legislated protection for low-income families. There is absolutely no comparison to the system that was proposed before. The system we're introducing is fair.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the minister for privatization. We know that when the minister's plans for privatization appeared to be floundering, he went to the firm of Coopers and Lybrand and hired, at almost a quarter of a million dollars a year, Mr Paul Currie from that company to get privatization moving again.

Apparently Mr Currie, before he was hired and still under the employ of Coopers and Lybrand, shared information he had with his superiors at Coopers and Lybrand. His superior, Mr Bolton, then went and had a meeting with the minister and asked to be reassured -- this comes from a memo written by Mr Bolton himself -- that Coopers and Lybrand would not be kicked off the gravy train just because Mr Currie was going to work for the minister at a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Would the minister tell us if he thinks that's appropriate behaviour for him to engage in when there was inside information given to one firm as to what was going to be privatized?

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): I am not exactly sure what the member opposite is talking about. I suspect he's referring to a memo that was referred to this House in a question last week that would seem to have indicated that I had discussion with Mr Bolton. In fact, I spoke to Mr Bolton only once, and that was what I thought appropriate, to confirm the qualifications and expertise of Mr Currie, something that somebody would have done in any circumstance. I wanted to make sure that Mr Currie represented his qualifications, his expertise and his skill level appropriately. In fact, Mr Bolton confirmed that was the case.

Mr Laughren: That's very interesting. Is the minister denying that Mr Currie, when he was still working for Coopers and Lybrand, was shown a very long list of privatization candidates which he then shared with his superiors at Coopers and Lybrand? If that's the case, since the minister chose not to share any list like that with the Legislature -- we've only seen a very short list, which included a few trees in a tree nursery -- I'd ask the minister, do you think it's appropriate that this firm, which has seen a long list that we haven't seen, then has access to the minister to talk about that, not just about Mr Currie's qualifications? Do you think that's appropriate? I'll tell you, that's in clear violation of Management Board guidelines. I'd ask the minister if he has looked into that and whether he thinks it's appropriate behaviour for him as minister.

Hon Mr Sampson: I think the member opposite is indicating that I referred or showed some list to Mr Bolton. In fact, that's not the case. I never showed Mr Bolton a list, because one didn't exist. The only information we've disclosed that we have on companies that are considered for privatization are the ones I disclosed on Monday of last week, four companies.

The member may be referring to -- and maybe he has now had a chance to look in his in basket -- a report by the agencies, boards and commissions that was orchestrated by Mr Wood some time ago. There is a list of some companies where he suggested we might take a look at privatization. That perhaps is the list he's referring to. If he's suggesting that I referred some list to Mr Bolton in advance of the disclosure of the names that were released on Monday, the answer is no.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Minister, my constituents have been urging me to tell you to get Highway 407 open. They want and need this highway for their business. What's the status as a result of the report that's come in?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I appreciate the question. Yes, we must get 407 open, because I believe Halton, Peel and York regions are certainly going to benefit in an economic sense with 407 open.

I was very pleased to find that the PEOs have found the highway very safe, but they did recommend that we consider doing some safety enhancements. We have begun the process of doing those enhancements, and we're somehow looking to open up this highway sometime towards the end of May or the early part of June.

Mr Spina: That's good news to hear. I also understand that some of these safety concerns you're addressing now are being done directly from the taxpayers' pocket. I didn't know whether this was something that was anticipated, or is this just something that's come up as a surprise to the ministry?

Hon Mr Palladini: Certainly the enhancements that we are taking on and doing were not part of the original project, of the $930 million. These funds, which appear to be somewhere in the vicinity of between $13 million and $15 million, are going to be coming out of a contingency fund. Yes, the money is going to be spent, but we will recoup those dollars through tolling over the 25-year period.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. You'll be aware that Management Board intends to privatize the mail and the printing services in 15 ministries. The total operation involves some 120 individuals, about 30 of whom have developmental handicaps, hearing, visual and others, and some of whom have worked for the government for over 20 years. Many of these individuals came into the public service under governments that believed in fairness and equity, especially for the developmentally handicapped.

Minister, my question for you -- and you're responsible for employment equity, although I know the name has now been changed to 1-800 the equal opportunity program -- can you tell me what assurances you've won on behalf of these workers so that when their jobs are privatized the principles of fairness and equity will be guaranteed in any contracts awarded to outside companies?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you for the question. I'll pass it over to the Chair of Management Board.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Yes, we are looking at the mail services, the courier services, printing services, photocopying services, quite an array of services that in total cost the taxpayers about $12 million a year. Management Board has looked into this, and there's a great possibility that the taxpayers could be saved a tremendous amount of money by contracting this out with the private sector.

But I will say that Management Board is concerned about the disabled people, challenged employees who are working in various positions, and extra points will be awarded to those potential employers, to those bidding, who guarantee to take on the existing staff. Through this process, we are attempting to ensure that as many of the existing staff are hired as possible.




Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a very important petition to the government of Ontario, very timely. It says:

"To the government of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

"Whereas recent reports estimate that Windsor-Essex hospital expenditure is underfunded by approximately $122 per person; and

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

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

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

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

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Minister of Health to provide appropriate levels of health care funding to hospitals in Windsor-Essex which would allow Windsor Regional Hospital to provide urgent care services for the west end community and to restore equitable health care funding across Windsor and Essex county."

I expect a line in the budget specifically about Windsor hospital services.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions, hundreds in fact, signed by auto workers in Windsor, Oshawa and Brampton, forwarded to me by Buzz Hargrove, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers. The petition reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We urge the provincial government to pass legislation," and I think they're referring to the Marland bill, "that will strengthen measures against impaired drivers in Ontario."

In the week we hope to pass the Wettlaufer resolution, I will affix my own signature thereto.


M. Gilles E. Morin (Carleton-Est) : Une pétition à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

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

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

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

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

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

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

«Nous demandons que le premier ministre de la province intervienne 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.»

C'est avec plaisir et honneur, Monsieur le député, que j'y appose ma signature.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here a petition signed by literally hundreds of people from the community of Timmins in regard to cuts at the Extendicare nursing home in Schumacher, and also at the Golden Manor in regard to nursing care. It's entitled Fighting for Our Rights. It reads as follows:

"Please help us send a message to our government by signing our petition to stop cuts to nursing staff in nursing homes. Hopefully this petition will make a better life for the sick and the elderly people.

"Sick people are not asking to be sick. People at nursing homes are in need of special care.

"There are many disadvantages with the cuts in nursing staff that are to be made in the future. Disabled people will end up suffering more because they will not be getting the care they should have. Lack of proper care could lead to depression in some patients.

"At this moment, nurses have difficulty to keep up with their duties because there are so many sick patients in nursing homes. With the proposed cuts, the nurses who will be left working will get exhausted from rushing too much, which could lead to accidents. Furthermore, nurses will end up on sick leave because of stress and pressure.

"Just think of how these cuts would affect your family in need of special care."

It's signed by some 400 or 500 people within the communities of Timmins and Schumacher, and I sign the petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

"Whereas the Ontario Tory government has decided to replace our current child care system with one that lacks compassion and common sense and is fraught with many dangerous consequences; and

"Whereas the concept of affordability, accessibility and quality child care is a basic, important and fundamental right for many members of our community who are either unemployed and enrolled into a training program or are working single parents or where both parents are working; and

"Whereas if our present provincial government is sincere in getting people back to work, they should recognize the value of the child care component of the Jobs Ontario program and acknowledge the validity of the wage subsidy to child care workers,

"We, therefore, the undersigned residents, business owners and child care workers of our Parkdale and High Park communities urge the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario to immediately suspend their plans to implement cuts to our present child care programs across our province and restore funding to their previous levels."

I've affixed my signature to this document.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions signed by delegates to the weekend conference of the Ontario provincial council of the United Food and Commercial Workers, where Hamiltonian Maureen McCarthy was elected president of that provincial body. The petition reads as follows:

"To Premier Harris:

"We, the undersigned, oppose any attempts to erode the structure, services or funding of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.

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

On behalf of my colleagues, I add my name to theirs.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition to the Legislative Assembly concerning drinking and driving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We urge the provincial government to pass legislation that will strengthen measures against impaired drivers in Ontario."

I affix my signature to this.


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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature to it.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here a petition signed by quite a few hundred people from the communities of Timmins, Iroquois Falls and Cochrane. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and critical social services; and

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

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

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

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

I sign this petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the provincial government is planning to make significant changes to the delivery and governance of education in this province; and

"Whereas we as parents believe that school councils should play an important role in education, with clearly defined responsibilities limited to their particular school communities; and

"Whereas we as ratepayers are extremely disturbed that consideration is being given to abolish school boards and eliminate decision-making by locally elected representatives;

We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the present structure of school boards within the province of Ontario continue to have a major role in governance of the schools to deal with broad policies as advocates for the students in their community, to provide cost-efficient educational services and to be directly accountable to the parents and local ratepayers."

I sign this petition.



Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on finance and economic affairs and move its adoption.

Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government.

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

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? It's agreed.



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.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm most delighted to join in the so-called debate we've had arising out of the fundamental principles of Bill 99.


Mr Hastings: I know the member for Cochrane South doesn't want to hear too much of what would take him off the leftist cant he's usually got his mind trapped in.

Both critics and speakers of both opposition parties have started out on the fundamental premise that there really isn't a financial crisis involving the Workers' Compensation Board. That's like trying to imagine that there isn't a provincial deficit or debt.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): You have it exaggerated, though.

Mr Hastings: Exaggerated or just a little bit, the reality is that there is a fiscal crisis involving the Workers' Compensation Board. How can we say that? When you have more funds going out than you have coming in, I would assume that is out of financial kilter, that things aren't in balance. I know to the members opposite it wouldn't mean much in terms of money, but it's a little over $10.7 billion. To members on this side, in the government, that is an enormous amount of money in terms of what is owing if at midnight tonight all outstanding debts of the WCB had to be paid off. That would be all the pensions outstanding that had to be capitalized, that would be all the benefits that would be owing as of midnight tonight to injured workers who, unfortunately, got hurt on the job, and any other costs related to health care costs, particularly in the area of back problems.

The members of the opposition say, "You're again attacking injured workers." If that were true, it would seem to me they have failed to really appreciate the special significance of the cost of what is, in terms of the people at the board and people in the insurance industry, the rehabilitation industry and the medical community, an unfunded liability.

I don't think the members of the opposition have really taken into account that if you fail to deal with the problem of the unfunded liability, you are in effect making your own agency, that is there to deal with getting people back to work who unfortunately had a problem in the workplace -- you are not dealing with the financials of the agency to protect people in the future who may unfortunately get hurt in the workplace, either through the traditional definition of a workplace injury or through the more prolonged and accumulated problems related to occupational health and safety. We might as well face reality and deal with the fundamental fact that we must approach and try to reduce the unfunded liability.


Usually, people who want to downplay the significance of this have accepted, in the past, the assumptions of the WCB financial people that the outstanding liability would be completely eliminated by 2014. But I think that particular outcome is rather optimistic and perhaps pretty rosy, because it would depend on economic growth between 1997 and 2014 that would have to be a terribly robust economy. It seems to me rather unrealistic, in my estimation, to expect that you're going to have an economic growth rate of about 4% to 5% for the next 17 years. You may get some types of that rate of growth in some of those years, but it is extremely unrealistic to expect you're going to get it every year. If we don't look at the economics of business cycles, accept that there are such things, then you're going to have a problem ever getting this unfunded liability down.

The next problem I would like to focus on is why this government believes we must get some balance into a new Workers' Compensation Board, an insurance agency that will deal with the fundamentals of workplace accidents and occupational health and safety. This is something that is traditionally denied by the two opposition parties. I haven't seen them comment to any great extent on the proposed reforms that are going to come into place in terms of customer service in the new Workplace Health and Safety Agency and in the new insurance agency, formerly the board.

As most members in this House know, and members who aren't here who were here years ago, the history of the old WCB in terms of performing its obligations to injured workers is not the most satisfactory or one of those agencies on which you would place an excellent, five-star hotel type of rating for its service in dealing with injured or rehabilitated workers.

Most MPPs in this House recognize, whatever party they belong to, that the old WCB does not have a good record in dealing promptly with injured workers' injuries, whether it be the back type of problem, back recurrence, or total disability by somebody having a tragic accident in the workplace, who may even bleed to death. There does not appear to be, except in the rare instance, a great promptness, a great urgency to deal with each and every claim as it comes in. When we as MPPs have to intervene, when injured workers or rehabilitated workers who haven't been able to get a job in the workplace come back to us, they are absolutely frustrated with the existing system in terms of how they get response.

That is one of the issues in the new reorganization that I'm hopeful will lead to better service, particularly when you link up a claims adjudicator, a nurse case manager and a customer service person at the start of the filing of a claim. That customer service rep, as I understand, will interface not only with the injured worker whose claim has been reported and has to be investigated if there are outstanding problems of circumstances, but will also interface with that injured worker's employer.

In that regard, I believe we need to have that kind of interface in place to get some better customer service, excellence and values into the new organization. If we do not, we're going to continue to have the same type of prolonged slowness or even non-response to injured workers' claims, whether they be simple or complex claims. I have certainly had more than my share of WCB claims in terms of trying to get resolution of the problems.

Concomitant to trying to get better customer service to injured workers, rehabilitated workers, is the whole issue, in my estimation, of language. Most members of this House, if they read communications from the WCB, the correspondence they get, I'm sure are sometimes as baffled as I am about the type of language that is used in complex cases of injured workers that the old WCB --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): The letters start with "Dear John." Which part don't you understand?

Mr Hastings: I know the member for Cochrane South wants to perpetuate the old system where you line up and you can say, as I've heard most of the members of the third party say, "What do you do as an MPP? We have a backlog of hundreds and hundreds of cases of WCB and we really work on them but we never really resolve them." There's a sort of comfortable status quo to their approach to trying to resolve workers' claims dealing with workers' compensation issues, rehabilitation issues. They'd prefer to have correspondence going back and forth. I have seen this from a rather intimate perspective. It's a pattern that has been going on for many years.

We've heard not only about problems of delay in payments, in non-response to other issues, whether they be of a health care nature related concern or of a rehabilitation concern, but I think it's also the language. In this country, Canada, we now have members from many diverse communities, newcomers to this country, some of whom have excellent language facility, others who have to get English as a second language, some of them in between.

Regardless, when you look at the actual type of correspondence and language coming from the old agency, there is a certain degree of assumption that you need a grade 13 or OAC completion of language to immediately grasp some of the more complex medical-rehabilitation language that you will find in these particular letters. The level of the language is in some instances, I believe, a deterrent to injured workers who have a legitimate appeal, prompting them not to appeal their particular concern immediately if they had their claim denied.

The language level in a survey 25 years ago certainly ascertained that you needed a grade 13 education to understand the level of communication you would find in letters of those days. I'm sure that today you will find that sort of problem, and that's one of the things I'm hoping the customer service people of the WCB will consciously set about trying to resolve.

Another thing we need to focus upon that the members of the opposition seem either to have ignored deliberately or accidentally is when they argue that there is no fiscal crisis. The previous government said that if we'd only left the measures in place that we had -- a tripartite-type board, the usual approaches to dealing with vocational rehabilitation, slow response -- in time the fiscal crisis would end and everything would be okay. In point of fact, that's not going to be the situation. If we do not get our costs under control, there will not be a viable, self-sustaining WCB or the newer name of the agency to deal with future injured workers.


There is, I think, a sense of fundamental difference in philosophy that we hear from the other two parties. We usually hear today the word "right," the right of the injured worker to compensation. If a person has an accident in the workplace, and the medical evidence, witnesses or employer data and medical data all join together to confirm that an accident occurred, then naturally that injured worker ought to get paid promptly and fairly and quickly. But what we find in the members of both opposition parties is a sense of that right being extended to an entitlement.

We have heard from previous speakers to date on Bill 99, particularly with respect to the inflation adjustments that were made in the mid-1980s by the previous Davis administration and carried on by the Liberal Party when they were the government between 1985 and 1990 and by the NDP in 1990 to 1995. That is again a confusion of language on what used to be called at that point in time disability awards.

You will hear from people opposite and you have heard from injured workers, through no fault of their own, that they have picked up on this lingo: "How do you expect us, as injured workers, to live on a pension, a disability award?" at that time possibly awarded in 1982 or earlier, or even up to 1993 or 1994, where they were making perhaps $30,000 gross. When you reduced all the benefits out, they were netting down to about $300 or $400 a week. The degree of disability of the injury was possibly 10% or 15%. So they ended up perhaps getting $80 to $120 to $150, depending on the type of injury the worker had unfortunately incurred. They were given the encouragement that once a vocational rehabilitation supplement had been eliminated, for whatever set of reasons, they were supposed to live on $150 or $200.

Obviously anybody in their right mind would know that the pension, the disability award, the non-economic loss or the future economic loss, the new terms that have come into vogue since changes to the act in 1993, really were never there to provide a level of living. They were simply there as a bridge. You can't live on $180 or $200 or $80 a month. Anybody knows that when they look at the cost of living, whether it's in rural Ontario or in an urban area.

But usually the politicals of the day want to go about using this terminology, that a disability award is in fact a pension for life that you can live on, and that to me is where we have so much confusion and misunderstanding about what the role of workers' compensation and the new agency is about. It is not about entitlement. It is not about entitlement in terms of a continuing income security program, which members opposite usually want to put into the public dialogue about this issue.

If you're talking about a particular injured worker who is totally disabled, paralysed from an industrial accident, then naturally that entitlement is correct and natural and they ought to have sufficient amounts of money to live on for the rest of their born life if they can't work. But for a large proportion of injured workers today who are partially disabled, they were always given the lingo that you could get a pension and somehow you could live off it. I don't understand why this particular intrusion of language has been brought into the public policy debate, because it completely confuses people, completely misleads them.

We will, I'm sure, hear from the critics that somehow or other my remarks are to be construed as another attack on injured workers, which is absolute nonsense. What we're dealing with here is using real language, as we ought to find in the act, as to what the requirements are of somebody who unfortunately incurs an industrial accident; what they can expect in the new regime; how they will be paid; what their obligations are in terms of the role of the injured worker to respond in a cooperative, factual manner on supplying health data in trying to inject the philosophy of a rapid response return to work. That's the real objective of this legislation, in addition to the prevention of workplace health and safety problems in the first place.

In the old system, adjudication of the claim was the top priority. We now have an opportunity, through this legislation, I believe, to turn that philosophy around so that we get it right at the start: workplace prevention of injuries on the job. If unfortunately you get hurt on the job, the person who incurs that misfortune gets dealt with in a fair and just way and also has vocational rehabilitation as a means of getting them back to work, either in their old job through workplace modification, through training or through some bridging, but to get them back to work and not keep them on the compensation system for years and years and years.

That has been the philosophy of all three parties in the past. I think at a minimal level of agreement, they would agree that we need to change the priorities of the old WCB, the new agency, to get the top priorities in place: Don't have an accident to start with, so you need all the types of backup to prevent that, to create that environment; then you require fast adjudication, as Sir William Meredith allowed in the original establishment of the old WCB in 1914; and finally, a fast, rapid response to work, to get them back, to get them active, not to have them sit at home and become, as we see in so many instances today, particularly with respect to back accidents, depressives, manic-depressives, all kinds of psychoses that the studies clearly show of a psychological, psychiatric or medical nature. The longer you have an injured worker out of the workplace, out of their employment, the greater the problems in getting them back to work, either in their old workplace or in a new work environment.

For these reasons and many others, I am very glad to see this government come forward with a strong, solid bill that changes the philosophy we've had for so many years in so many of these areas and gets us on to the right track in dealing with injured workers.

Finally, let me say with respect to the attack on injured workers and the $6 billion we constantly hear as a refrain, if we look at the Liberal red book or their program of the 1995 election, they said the WCB was a mess. It needed major corrective changes. We are making those changes. Above all, it seems to me they have to agree that we are on the right track, because in that context they said that under the old WCB and its premium rates the climate for new jobs to be created in this economic environment was completely uncompetitive, not only for people who had never been injured but for those who were already injured.

That's one of the major challenges we face in balancing the cost of compensation with providing fair and just compensation for injured workers and those who are being rehabilitated in the new system. Therefore, I think this is a significant new beginning for changing the orientation, for changing the philosophy we've had for the last 40 to 50 years of seeing the WCB and its successor agencies as purely a supplier of income security. They are not that. They are a bridge from what happened before to where that person will end up in the future. We have failed many injured workers with the existing status quo. That's why I believe this new, challenging Bill 99 will bring us many of the changes that will produce a better environment for workers' compensation in Ontario.


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

Mr Patten: I'm pleased to respond to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale and his analysis; I found it very interesting. He began his discussion, I suppose, criticizing the opposition's critique addressing the unfunded liability. It seems to me that every party had said they were concerned about the unfunded liability. What we were concerned about was the manner in which it is being addressed. We believe the bill shows a strong bias towards the employers, because in addressing the unfunded liability, what they're doing is doing it on the backs of the injured employees. That's where the money is coming from.

He goes on to say that it was in deep debt for many years. I notice he didn't mention that in 1995-96 there was I think a $500-million surplus. That showed that no, we on this side of the House don't believe that the crisis the government talks about is as severe as they state.

Yes, it should be addressed. Yes, there are refinements to make. Even if the government had come in with some kind of a sharing between the employers and the workers or the people on pension and the people on benefits, you might have had a little bit of sympathy. But all of it, $6 billion worth, is coming from the injured employees. That's what we find totally unfair, because the whole program is to help them to get back to work, to help them be treated, and if they are not and if they are totally disabled, that they get the kind of support from which they can live with justice and with some degree of dignity as they face their future.

He also said we didn't address some of the areas of reform of the bill. I would point out to him that indeed we did. We have some concerns about the Occupational Disease Panel and we worry about its independence. We also worry about the appeal tribunal having to live under and not being able to question the policies of the board overall but only being able to comment on what has already been said.

Mr Bisson: After that speech, all I have to ask is, where's Ed Philip when we need him, when we had somebody in that riding who actually understood this issue?

Let's set a couple of things straight. The member across the way is trying to argue that somehow the government is right in saying there is a fiscal crisis within the Workers' Compensation Board. Let me just put it this way, to just cut to the point; I've got two minutes to make an argument that's about a five-minute speech. If an insurance company in the province of Ontario today had all its insured people come up and want their money all at once -- in other words, everybody who had purchased life insurance died on the same day, 12 o'clock tonight, everybody who had disability insurance either for a mortgage payment, truck payment or income replacement, if all of that was to come to an end tonight, 12 o'clock -- that insurance company would have an unfunded liability. It's no different with the Workers' Compensation Board.

We as a government, under the Bob Rae government, 1990-95, accepted that yes, the board was going in the wrong direction, that their unfunded liability was increasing. We as a government in 1993 -- and recognized long before that -- passed legislation that turned that trend around. Since then, the Workers' Compensation Board has been posting a surplus every year. The unfunded liability is coming down, not going up.

So when the member tries to argue this whole thing about a crisis, it really is like the Minister of Education trying to create a crisis in education in order to prop up their argument that they've got to make the changes they want to within the workers' compensation system.

I don't have enough time to respond in detail; I will later on during my speech. But I wish the member would do his homework before starting his speech.

The other thing he talked about was the language of the board and how the FEL and NEL awards in 1993 got everything wrong. FELs and NELs came under Bill 162 in 1989 under the Liberal government. So I wish you'd do your research before you get up and start talking about something you clearly don't know a lot about.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): My compliments to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for his words and his contribution to the debate. He spoke quite eloquently at the beginning about the day-to-day problems with service at the WCB. It's something that all of us as members have come to know as certainly a problem at the WCB. I know that under the new management it is getting better. I think this bill, Bill 99, will help speed up some of those processes to help that along.

The member also talked about the problem with the unfunded liability. The members opposite seemed to indicate that it wasn't that big a problem. He talked about comparing it to an insurance company. If the WCB was an insurance company regulated under the Insurance Act, the federal superintendent of insurance would have appointed a liquidator to seize its assets as soon as the unfunded liability had been incurred.

If the WCB was a pension benefit plan regulated under the Pension Benefits Act, the superintendent of pensions would already have ordered the implementation of a strategy to retire the unfunded liability; failure to do so would result in the winding down of the plan.

By all measures -- the several others which I've mentioned before in the House, for instance, Ontario's 42% funding ratio being the second-worst in Canada -- the unfunded liability is a problem, it is a reality and does need to be dealt with. I think the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale should be complimented for noticing that as well as complimented for talking about the very human side of service at the WCB for injured workers.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I want to acknowledge the members' statements about the situation and say that I think all parties agree there have been problems, and parties have responded in different ways. There has been ample debate about the way to solve those problems.

Where we part company is that in our view the problem of the unfunded liability can be dealt with in a reasonable amount of time without necessarily affecting injured workers the way the government's proposals do, particularly pensioners, whose income is extremely limited.

The previous government had a number of ideas around this that they began to implement. We presented a set of ideas that we believed would deal with the unfunded liability without cutting benefits to injured workers.

The question isn't whether or not we deal with the problem of the unfunded liability, the problem of the management of the board itself, the problem of the claims system, the adjudication system; the issue is how you go about it.

Indeed the member took some mirth in saying, well, you know, we said something different in the House than we did in the last campaign, which, number one, we don't agree with, but I'd point out to the member that what was in the final bill, Bill 99, didn't reflect even a percentage of what was in Mr Jackson's report. Indeed, the minister who began the process was removed from the file and the Minister of Labour took over. There was a perception, I think, in the government that perhaps Mr Jackson had gone soft. Having travelled the province, having heard injured workers, the government thought he wasn't going to be tough enough.

Well, you've got your bill. We think there's a better way.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has two minutes to respond.

Mr Hastings: I appreciate the remarks from the member for Ottawa Centre and the member for Windsor-Walkerville. At least these two members seem to have some basic understanding of the problems facing us in the new workplace environment.

I read over and looked at and listened to the member for Ottawa Centre's remarks, and I thought he made some fairly balanced and realistic proposals from the perspective of being a constructive critic. However, I don't find that with the member for Cochrane South, who seems to want to perpetually deny that there's any problem on the financial side; things as they were going were pretty good. They had a royal commission which ate up about $2 million but didn't come to any specific conclusions except to extend generally in its mid-term report what was already going on.


The final thing I'd like to say is that the member for Cochrane South seems to think that if you just keep going the way things are, you'll eventually work out everything. The people who are involved and mired in such an intractable existing system just have to have tremendous patience and if they just have tremendous patience -- or maybe if they go away even, that would be better. It seems to me that if he really understood the injured workers from Etobicoke-Rexdale -- a good number of them came to me after the last election with the problems that had supposedly been already resolved, and I was absolutely shocked that we would have these because, as he portrays reality, everything's okay the way it is and there are no problems with this system.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Duncan: I'm pleased to stand today and speak on Bill 99, the new Workers' Compensation Act, the Workers' Compensation Reform Act as it's known, and it is in fact a new act. It's a complete rewrite of the Workers' Compensation Act and workers' compensation law in this province as we've known it.

The bill attempts to do a number of things. The bill attempts to deal with a perceived crisis in the unfunded liability. It attempts to deal with a number of issues that are viewed by the government -- and I think many injured workers as well as employers -- that the compensation system itself has not served anyone's interest, that there have been problems. Repeated governments over time, since 1914, have had to address the issues of compensation, fairness of compensation, the proper management of compensation in this province, and repeated governments have had some success, some failures. So this particular bill represents a great departure in the evolution of workers' compensation law in this province and a great departure from the principles of fairness of compensation.

I want to begin my statement today by putting the bill in a context of both the government's overall agenda and the government's labour agenda. There is no doubt and no question that the government is fulfilling its commitments on WCB. The government in opposition had a 21-point plan around reform and what we see in this bill largely reflects those realities.

We said at the time and still believe that the so-called crisis in WCB could be dealt with in an effective fashion, the unfunded liability eliminated and the administration and management of the compensation system in Ontario could be reformed without serious harm to the benefits enjoyed by injured workers. "Enjoyed" is probably too strong a word, because indeed if one speaks to a pensioner, somebody speaks to somebody on temporary disability, temporary benefits, one knows that the life of an injured worker, the livelihood of an injured worker is not one that we would want.

The compensation act that we see today, that we've had in Ontario till now, was amended by the last Tory government in this province through Bill 101. That bill was introduced by the Davis government and it was implemented to a large extent by the Peterson Liberal government. Bill 101 was a response to a situation that was occurring in Ontario in the 1970s and early 1980s. Professor Paul Weiler was appointed by the Davis government to review the compensation system and its shortcomings in this province. Professor Weiler did extensive work over a four- or five-year period of time and reported back to the Davis government in what has become known as the Weiler report.

That report, among other things, recommended that we go to a system where we pay injured workers based on net income, it created a recommendation around the Occupational Disease Panel and it recommended a number of other reforms which were implemented and passed into law by Bill 101.

This bill effectively undoes those reforms, reforms that were brought in by a previous Conservative administration, reforms that were brought in to recognize a system that at the time had serious shortcomings. It also attempts to change a number of other issues that were dealt with post-Weiler. But with reference to the government's overall labour agenda, it is apparent in this bill, as it was apparent in Bill 49, apparent in Bill 7, that this government does not respect working people or their representatives.

The government's agenda is one-sided. We said during the debate on Bill 7 that the government's labour agenda would create a climate of labour instability in this province the like of which we had never seen. We said during that debate that labour law in this province has evolved over time, it has evolved in a number of ways, and I must say, it has never evolved to the complete satisfaction of either labour or management. We have evolved our labour law. Over time, we have had a climate of relative labour stability in this province that has contributed to a climate that, despite ups and downs over time, historically has been conducive to investment.

Indeed, one could argue that until the advent of the Common Sense Revolution and this government, Ontario had evolved a very mature system of collective bargaining, a system that saw fewer days lost to strikes and other job actions than most other comparable jurisdictions. It was a system that recognized the partners in our economy. It recognized that it takes the application of labour and capital to make our economy grow. Throughout time, with varying degrees of success, we have evolved those laws.

Then along came this government that was intent on upsetting the apple cart, on destabilizing labour markets, and most important, a government that wasn't prepared to acknowledge the contribution that working people make in our communities, in our neighbourhoods and in our overall economy. So we tipped the scales and we created a climate that I submit is less conducive to investment, particularly when the economy goes into a cyclical downturn, and we know that will happen.

Bill 99, put in the context of the Common Sense Revolution and the government's overall agenda, is an attack on working people, an attack on the principles of collective bargaining and an attack on the kinds of economic institutions that in our view, if not kept in proper balance, will lead to slower economic growth or indeed no economic growth.

What has happened since Bill 7? We have seen what has happened since Bill 7: more days lost to strikes and work actions, more grievances being filed, more job actions. People don't take that seriously on the other side. They think they're winning the war, and they see it as a war unfortunately, instead of seeing the labour market and a climate for job creation that recognizes that labour harmony is an important component of economic growth. So the government has created a situation not just through this bill but through all of its actions to date that says: "We don't care about working people. We don't believe they have a place at the table and we don't believe their interests should be treated fairly." Successive governments historically have attempted to deal with that balance, and successive governments have to a large extent been successful.


We think that over time this government's labour agenda will be proven to be foolhardy, that ultimately the climate that will result, that is resulting, that has resulted from its agenda will in fact harm job creation, harm our ability to find work for all the people of this province.

Indeed, if one looks at communities in this province where there is a history of strong, stable labour relations, one sees that there are fewer days lost to strikes, fewer days lost to job action. The government doesn't recognize that; the government wants to return to a completely confrontational system of labour-management relations. Bill 99, I submit, is yet another spoke in that wheel, a wheel that will come off the car because it fails to recognize the long-term significance and import of labour, both organized and unorganized, to the healthy functioning of our economy.

I want to deal with the current compensation climate in the province of Ontario today. We know that today over 200,000 Ontarians are on long-term WCB disability; 372,000 WCB claims were made last year, 372,000 claims in one year. The government in this bill suggests that somehow it has an agenda to improve the health and safety climate in this province. Nothing, I submit, could be further from the truth. Time and again, the government's rhetoric is betrayed by its actions. Time and again, the government has said one thing and done another. The spin doctors, the gurus, the whiz kids spin it like they care about health and safety, yet they set the health and safety clock back, I respectfully submit, generations.

Compensation in the absence of enforceable health and safety standards, an inspectorate, doesn't make any sense. So while it says it wants to save money on compensation, it refuses to invest in health and safety. But I guess we ought not to be surprised. This seems to be a consistent theme in what the government does.

Let's look at health care. The government says it's making the tough cuts and reinvesting. The reality is not the same; the reality is quite the opposite. While hospitals are being closed in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor, the reinvestments that have been contemplated have not been happening.

I take my own community by way of example, a community which in 1992 voluntarily set out on a path to consolidate its health care and reinvest the savings in what we hoped would be a better way. The fact is that we are in the process of closing two hospitals. Annual savings are estimated at approximately $22 million and our reconfiguration document, our Win-Win document, contemplated a capital investment in excess of $100 million in order to make our health care system state-of-the-art, in order to make our health care system responsive to the needs of the first part of the 21st century, in order to ensure that the people in my community have access to the finest services available.

That plan was on course until June 1995. Then this government came along and said, "We will not reinvest in capital." They cut it in half; they said $48 million. That's why we still don't have the promised MRI operating, and that's why we don't have the paediatric psychiatric beds that were contemplated, and that's why the two remaining emergency rooms in Windsor are overburdened by anyone's definition, and that's why we've closed a third of our acute care beds without one dollar being reinvested in community-based services of any sort.

I say to those people in Thunder Bay, in Sault Ste Marie, in Sudbury, in Ottawa and Toronto, when they tell you they're going to reinvest, don't believe them. They've had a chance; they've had two years to respond in my community, and they haven't.

I return to this notion of the government's actions betraying its rhetoric. The Minister of Labour and her acolytes have attempted to suggest to injured workers, the labour community and the province that this bill will make the compensation system work better, that this bill will cure what ails that system. I submit that what it does is penalize injured workers so the government can make an unrealistic premium cut.

We think the premium cut is wrong at this time. We advocated a freeze in premiums. But the government barrels ahead. We think it's as foolish as the tax cut, financing close to $20 billion over the life of the government in order to give a tax cut that every objective analysis says will not stimulate growth the way the government suggests. We think if the government had been serious about the unfunded liability, it would have set aside its rhetoric and recognized, as the KPMG study did, that our compensation rates weren't out of line. In fact, we were very competitive relative to a number of jurisdictions, and the first priority should have been to streamline the administration so that injured workers and employers could enjoy the benefits of a better compensation system. But the government barrelled ahead. Yes, it said it would do it, but it's wrong. It's bad public policy. The focus ought not to be on that premium reduction, but rather on making the system work better, making the system work in the interests of injured workers and employers.

How does the government fund this 5%? It starts by reducing the level of benefits to workers. When you want to save money in compensation, there's only so much you can get out of administration. Benefits to workers is where it is. So what do we see? We see a government that says, "We're prepared to reduce the income of injured workers in order to give a 5% premium reduction to employers." We see virtually full deindexation in this bill, indexation that was fought for long and hard and came about in the last Liberal government. The theme is consistent: Make the injured worker pay.

Travel this province as I have and meet with injured workers, and pensioners particularly, injured workers on pensions, a very restricted income, generally speaking a poor quality of life, resultant first from their injury and then from their income. This government ought to have thought about creative ways to respond to the range of problems that confront any compensation system, instead of simply cutting benefits and giving employers a break at the same time. But that's a consistent theme.

Tomorrow we'll see a budget that will barrel ahead with an income tax cut, even though the government will raise property taxes. This government, the Tory government, will be responsible, I submit, for the largest property tax increase in the history of this province. What does that say? It shifts the burden of taxation. It shifts the burden to a less fair form of taxation, from one which recognizes ability to pay to one which doesn't. It will cost the taxpayers of this province enormously. Instead of being closer to a balanced budget sooner, we're financing a tax cut. We say you ought to have focused on the deficit first and then dealt with the dividend that comes from that later.


That dividend could take a number of forms. That dividend could in fact be a tax cut, but perhaps it could be a tax cut to property taxes. Perhaps it could be the restoration of the property tax credit for seniors, which the previous government took away. Perhaps it could be an investment in our post-secondary institutions, investments in research and development that would lift us from 48th to first.

We have failed to recognize in this agenda that there are alternatives paths to an era of government responsibility, fiscal responsibility. No one disagrees with the need to deal with the province's financial circumstances. Where we part company is how you get there and what priorities you place on what issues.

We could have had a balanced budget much sooner. The next government will have less room to manoeuvre in terms of health care and education and jobs because of the narrow agenda being pursued by this government. Tax cuts should be part of any dividend related to getting our province's financial house in order, but the house ought to be in order before we contemplate that tax cut, and that tax cut ought to be contemplated in light of our needs as a community and as a society. And whatever benefits accrue to the difficult decisions that are being made today ought to be shared fairly among all people, among all income groups; not disproportionately by the wealthy, not disproportionately by employers over employees, but rather, equitably. Indeed, I would submit that an income tax cut to those in the lowest end of the spectrum makes much more sense than the tax cut that this government proposes. But, again, this government is a government of those of means.

We see in this bill a number of provisions that will enhance and protect the rights of employers, as I said earlier, at the expense of injured workers. We see in the tax cut that the wealthiest among us will benefit the most, while those at the bottom end of the scale will have less access to services, and we all will suffer in terms of our health care system and our education system.

We submit that proper compensation reform -- and I don't think there's a member in the House who would disagree that changes need to be made. I don't believe the old system was serving injured workers particularly well. I don't believe it was serving employers well. But I don't believe that the way to fix the system is to ignore the needs of either partner. Indeed, when one looks at our system of compensation, one can either say it's too expensive or one could argue it's progressive, and I believe it's progressive. I believe it's a system that has served injured workers better than others. I for one don't believe we ought to be penalizing injured workers and I don't think we should be apologizing for saying that we have a system that attempts to deal with injured workers fairly.

What we do know is that injured workers will not be treated as fairly under the new system, under the new regime, as they used to be, and the name change won't conceal that, it won't camouflage it. Government members, when they travel this summer to do hearings on this bill, will hear from injured workers in Windsor, they will hear from injured workers in Kenora, they will hear from injured workers in Sudbury, from every part of the province, that they are going to suffer even more as a result of this. People of good conscience have to stand up and say that the policy the government is pursuing is not only wrong from the perspective of an injured worker, not only is it inequitable, but it's bad public policy. It is the type of public policy that will create division. It is the type of public policy that will see haves and have-nots. The lines are being drawn in the sand.

I want to deal with three issues specifically in the bill that are of particular interest to me, and I have spoken to the Minister of Labour about these matters. First is the Occupational Disease Panel. That panel was created, as a result of Weiler, to give the board and the government independent advice with respect to compensation issues surrounding disease. Many of the government members in this House will not remember the days prior to this. They won't remember that every time there was an elevated incidence of mortality in a workplace, a commission was appointed that studied an issue and inevitably found that there was just reason for compensation.

In spite of this, the government moves ahead and gets rid of the disease panel, which we think is a mistake again; not only a mistake from the perspective of those workers who are paying the price but also from the employers' perspective. The disease panel, if properly administered, if properly staffed, has played and could continue to play a very useful role in helping the compensation board and indeed, because of the amendments the minister herself made to compensation earlier on, give good and useful advice with respect to what should and should not be compensated.

The Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal: Again, government members will not remember the days when the board acted as prosecutor and adjudicator and judge. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal was set up so that there could be an independent judge; so that every case, every claimant, at the last level of appeal, could be satisfied that he or she was getting a fair hearing. You are ignoring the pages and pages of testimony that are in our own Hansards from the period prior to the implementation of WCAT in 1986-87. You are ignoring the recommendations of Paul Weiler. You are ignoring the advice of compensation experts on both the employer and employee sides. You are cutting the office of the worker adviser and the office of the employer adviser.

Compensation claims, whether they be workers' or employers', are complicated and difficult. Every member of this House knows that, particularly those members who come from large urban industrial areas, and every member knows that the nature of claims today is far more sophisticated than it was. What you do is you take away perhaps a worker's only representative. Yes, unionized workers will be represented well. Yes, those workers we can handle in our offices will be represented well. But what about the tens of thousands, the vast majority of workers in this province, who aren't?

I would like to conclude by saying to the government, your agenda has been clear and you're following it. It's one that is designed to penalize injured workers, in our view. We proposed, and still believe, that the administration and finances of the board could be set well, indeed were on a course to be set well, without making the kinds of dramatic cuts that you have made to injured workers.


A government that's pursuing a balanced and fair policy recognizes that labour law in this province has evolved over time, with neither side getting everything it wanted. But what you have been intent on doing since you've come to office is not only to not give working people, particularly in this case injured workers, a fair shake; it has been your agenda to take away, to set labour law back.

I would submit, in conclusion, that the consequence of this policy will be a labour market climate that does not increase investment but rather hurts investment. The government can get away with it while the economy is strong, but it will catch up with you -- we're already seeing that -- in terms of strikes and lost workdays.

The government ought to withdraw this bill and treat injured workers with fairness and respect.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): In using my two minutes to respond to my colleague from Windsor-Walkerville's presentation, let me say first of all that he leaves his successor big shoes to fill in terms of the commitment he brought to the labour portfolio as the critic for his party. But when we listen to his speech, certainly we see him seeking to back away from things that were said in the red book. In that red book, of course, there was an attempt to appease the right-wing position on this issue. That was there. He wasn't a part of that caucus, but certainly that was where his party was.

Having worked with him for the first couple of years of this term, I certainly felt for him personally when the results of the leadership of his party didn't work out the way he had hoped. I feel that way even more so today when I hear the member for Windsor-Walkerville speaking out so strongly and fervently against Bill 99, because the new leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario says he likes Bill 99.

Much of what the member for Windsor-Walkerville has said I'm certainly in agreement with and can support, but the Liberals are quite comfortable with the 5% cut in premiums, and there we very much part company. That 5% cut in premiums means that $6 billion goes from the pockets of injured workers into the pockets of the corporate people who owe that bill in the first place. The unfunded liability of the WCB is not a debt of the taxpayers, of the people of Ontario; it is a debt of the employers in the province to current and future injured workers. When we look at Bill 99 from that perspective and see who the losers are and who the winners are, it's clear that this government is taking care of their corporate pals, and the vulnerable injured workers of today and tomorrow are paying the cost of this government taking care of their friends.

Mr Maves: I want to thank the member for Windsor-Walkerville for his contribution to the debate, and I want to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for reminding us of the red book. The member opposite complained that his government wouldn't bring in tax cuts until later on, until the budget was increased, but in the red book I have to remind him that they promised a 5% tax cut over five years, because "rising taxes also kill jobs," they say.

Some of the tax cuts they talked about: "reduce the...business corporate tax rate, $50 million; reduce the number of small businesses required to file for the corporate minimum tax; give business a 10% tax credit; offer favourable tax treatment to mining companies." So the member opposite, when he says he doesn't agree with our tax cut, ran on something quite different.

The member opposite also said that we didn't have a very good health and safety record and what we had done to date didn't show very well for health and safety. I must tell you that right now we are recruiting 20 new inspectors to fill vacancies that the NDP, the previous government, ignored. Our inspections of workplaces already are up 34%. We've had 18% more field visits, and it is projected that will increase to 31% more field visits than in previous years. We've also issued 32% more orders to employers, and that's going to go up to 46%.

One thing this minister did when she came into office was to say that she was not going to compromise health and safety. She has increased the amount of inspections and field visits that have occurred and she's increasing the amount of inspectors we have in the field.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): During the comments of the member for Windsor-Walkerville, he touched on the lack of respect this government has for the worker and the Minister of Labour's lack of respect for the worker out there. I pointed out a good number of times in this House -- you will know about the minister's inaction when it came to one of the longest-running strikes in this province, that of course being in Red Lake at Gold Corp. It just shows you the attitude that this minister has, that this government has, towards the worker. As that strike heads towards a year, I've requested a number of times for the minister -- she keeps telling me she's doing everything in her power and she tells me there's a possibility for two different commissions to be established, yet she hasn't moved on either one of them, a lack of commitment very clearly shown by this minister.

In respect to Bill 99, we know that this legislation will be taken on the road for committee hearings, with the committee travelling the province to listen. I hope they listen very carefully, because as some of the previous speakers have indicated, a good number of injured workers, probably more than there should be, are coming into our offices on a daily basis, continually, having problems. It will be those people that the committee will hear from. It is my sincere hope that once they listen to the injured workers, once they find out what the problems with Bill 99 are, they will come back and we will see action on this piece of legislation that will service the need out there for it, service the needs of those injured workers.

Interjection: Don't hold your breath.

Mr Miclash: As my colleague says, don't hold your breath, but in all sincerity I do hope they will be able to come back and make changes that will be in accordance with what is needed out there in the field.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to have the chance to respond briefly to the speech presented by the member for Windsor-Walkerville and to say to him that I obviously, as my colleague from Hamilton Centre has indicated, feel generally very comfortable with the position he has taken today and that I think he has generally taken on many labour issues, as well as on WCB matters in particular; and to say that I find the position he's taken today much closer to the position we have had as a New Democratic Party caucus, and interestingly enough, quite different from the position he and his Liberal colleagues ran on in the last election.

My friend across the way from Niagara Falls has on more than one occasion stood up and read from the red book whenever Liberal members have spoken on this issue. I think it's appropriate that we remind each other of the positions we've taken. I just have to say in passing that I would have found it really interesting to see how the member for Windsor-Walkerville would have reacted had he been the Minister of Labour, if his party had won the government in the last election, rather than the critic for that portfolio. I think he would have had a hard time reconciling the position he took today with the position his party took in the red book.

As I say, I find it heartening that he has come to the position he has, which is in defence of injured workers, in trying to find, yes, the right balance that needs to be found to protect the interests of employers as well through this legislation, but understanding that at the heart of the matter, at the heart of what exists in the legislation on workers' compensation, is that basic premise that goes back to 1914 when there was the clear understanding enshrined in legislation that said that injured workers, among other things, would get fair compensation for injuries sustained on the job. I'm glad to see that he is now very clearly supporting that notion.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Windsor-Walkerville has two minutes to respond.

Mr Duncan: In listening to the comments from my colleague on the government side, I'm reminded of the line in Rudyard Kipling's poem If: "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools." Perhaps it should be "twisted by Maves to make a trap for fools." It's yet another example of the way this government twists the facts.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Could you repeat that?

Mr Duncan: Read your Kipling.

To my colleagues in the NDP, I wasn't here. It's a new day. The position I've outlined today is consistent with what we said then and it stays the same. I enjoy watching the New Democrats defending legislation that a Liberal government implemented. I remind my colleagues in the third party that they took the first step to deindexing benefits. It was the Liberal Party that fully indexed WCB benefits in this province. What I have said today is entirely consistent with what we said in the campaign and with what we believe in today: fairness, equity and balance in the workplace; labour law and compensation law that attempts to recognize the needs of both partners in our labour markets.


I say to the government that whether it be in labour law or whether it be in economic policy, a position of balance is one that will work better. The tax cuts we propose are modest by comparison. Unlike the New Democrats, who got rid of property tax credits for seniors, we might restore them. Let's start to have a debate around the types of cuts, the kinds of program services we want in the 21st century, and let's debate them with fairness and openness, not with blinders from either the left or the right.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Silipo: I'm glad to join in this debate, although I want to say at the outset that if the member for Windsor-Walkerville wants to debate the issue of what happened to tax credits for seniors, we can do that gladly. But you'd rule me out of order, Mr Speaker, if I went on at length about that. What we did on that issue when we were in government was to make those tax credits more available to people, to seniors in the lower-income bracket, and that's very much in keeping with our notion that one of the roles of government is to ensure that we collectively have laws and regulations that look after and help to look after those who are most in need.

What we are seeing here in Bill 99, the workers' compensation being changed, is in fact the opposite. Having said that, I can also quickly say that that doesn't particularly surprise us, because this is legislation that is so clearly in line with the Mike Harris agenda, so clearly in line with the notion we have seen from the Mike Harris Conservative government of Ontario that what you do in government, in their view, is that you rejig the laws, rejig the regulations and re-establish the system in a way that it helps those more who are already reasonably well-off, and you do that even if you have to take away from those who are less well-off.

We see that here in spades. My colleague our critic for the labour portfolio and workers' compensation, the member for Hamilton Centre, has made this point repeatedly in his intervention in this debate and in questions he has put to the Minister of Labour, in pointing out that what we have here through this legislation and the surrounding actions the government has taken is taking away $15 billion from injured workers through the cuts being made through this legislation, through the changes to the unfunded liability in particular.

What is happening? Is that going towards the unfunded liability? Is that all going towards reducing this debt, as the members opposite like to call it? Of course not. At least $6 billion of that is being put back into the pockets of employers across the province. That is just so clearly consistent with what the Mike Harris government has been doing in any of the important areas. You take away from those who are less well-off and you give the money back to those who are already reasonably well-off. That's what is going on. It's as simple as that.

There are, of course, a lot of details, a lot of other changes, a lot of significant changes being made through this bill, but what it comes right down to at the end of the day is exactly that basic notion: lowering the standard of living for those who are already less well-off, those in this case who have also suffered injury on the job, and taking that money, a good chunk of it, and putting it back into the hands of employers.

I guess it's fair to ask, is there a problem here that needs to be addressed? With every piece of legislation that comes forward, it should be our first task as legislators to ask, what is the problem that's being fixed? Why is there a need for this particular piece of legislation? Is it because there are still problems at the Workers' Compensation Board under the system? Of course there are. We would be the first to agree that there are still problems. We should point out that all of us would recognize that from the time the workers' compensation system was set up back in 1914, government after government after government realized that there continued to be problems.

From that historic compromise reached back in 1914, when employees gave up the right to sue their employers in exchange for gaining the right to adequate compensation for injuries sustained on the job, there continued to be various attempts to try and keep those two interests in balance: the need for compensation to injured workers, with obviously a sense that the responsibility carried on by the employers, in paying for the system, needed to be done in a way that ensured they would not be driven out of business.

We have to keep remembering that what employers collectively gained through that basic compromise of 1914 was the right to be free of legal action against them by people injured on the job. If there had not been that big step taken in 1914, we would have a situation where employees injured on the job would have to go to the courts to seek redress for their injuries; they would have to establish that the injury was something that happened on the job and, as a result of that, seek whatever the appropriate compensation under the circumstances might be. I think it's important that we put that on the table as well.

When we talk about the question of premiums employers have to pay, when we talk about the unfunded liability, or debt, to use the jargon, it's also important to underline that there's another basic protection that the present system gives employers: the protection to be free from legal action against them by their employees for injuries sustained on the job. In fact, that is something employees continue to give up in exchange for having the right to fair compensation. Why do I stress that notion? Because while it's that kind of balance that governments have tried, as I've said, over the years to maintain and perfect and improve upon, it's that kind of balance that Bill 99 throws completely out the window.

What we are seeing now through this legislation is, overall, the balance being tilted certainly more towards employers in a number of changes that come about through this legislation, and as a result of that you're going to have injured workers who already have suffered an injury to themselves. In some cases we're talking about people who have died on the job. But for the thousands who, year after year, are injured on the job, it means that when they look to the system for help to get fair compensation while they are injured and, second, to get assistance to be able, hopefully, to eventually return to work, I would argue that on both those fronts the help is not going to be there to the extent it needs to be.

We know there continue to be problems in the system. We've talked here already about the changes we brought about as a government to deal with the unfunded liability and the concomitant issues around that. I want to say, as a member of the government of that time, that we made those changes. It was with some regret that I supported, but none the less I supported and remain responsible and take my responsibility for, the package we brought forward. I say with some regret, because one of the things that happened was that it introduced the deindexation of benefits for workers.


But what it also did -- and this is what led me to be supportive of what we did at the time -- was it also recognized that there were some 45,000 injured workers across the province, older injured workers, whose benefits were certainly nowhere near the kind of support they needed to be able to continue to sustain themselves and their families. These were largely people for whom there was no likely prospect of returning to work, because of the seriousness of injury, the degree of injury; quite frankly that and a combination of age. So we increased by up to $200 a month the benefits for those injured workers.

That, I certainly felt and feel today, was a step in the right direction. It was ensuring that there was a reason beyond just the simple ledger reason, as important as that may be, for making the changes we did.

In putting together the changes, we also set forth a way to begin to deal with the unfunded liability, which we recognized was a problem and would continue to be a problem if it was allowed to continue to grow. These steps we took began to bring down the unfunded liability. We know, just as a comparison between 1996 and 1995, it has gone down by half a billion dollars. It has gone down, I gather, by over $1 billion since the time those changes were put in place. It will continue to go down even if no action were taken by this government. That is the point I want to stress: The unfunded liability is an issue, it is a concern; it is not a crisis; it is not a crisis in the least.

What we have here, in terms of the government's actions and justifying their actions with respect to the unfunded liability, making that the number one reason they are bringing this piece of legislation in front of us, is the same kind of motion we have seen from minister after minister in this government, saying, "We've got a massive problem, indeed we have a crisis." Who among us can forget the master of all crises, the Minister of Education, but he may have simply voiced what minister after minister, and certainly what the Minister of Labour is doing in this area of public policy, which is to pretend to believe, to set out to tell people there is a crisis so that they can justify the actions they are taking.

If you create a sense that there is a crisis in the unfunded liability, that the workers' compensation system is on the verge of bankruptcy, then you can go around and say, "We have to take dramatic steps, drastic steps to cut down the debt."

Let's take a look at what this unfunded liability is all about. The unfunded liability is what the Workers' Compensation Board would have to pay out to all injured workers if you had to pay out today every claim or every entitlement that every injured worker has the right to receive in full for the lifetime of all those injured workers. It is just a preposterous way to get at the notion that there is a crisis here. It is exaggeration in the extreme, because that kind of situation is not going to happen.

Does that mean you take that and you say, "Well, then, you don't have to worry about the unfunded liability"? Of course not. I'm not suggesting that for a second. But I am suggesting that when government ministers take that notion of the unfunded liability to such a ridiculous extreme as they have done, to say that it has to be the driving force behind these changes, then they too, quite frankly, are not just exaggerating, but they are really asking us to believe something which is completely out of the realm of reality, because while the unfunded liability remains a concern, there is a process under way, there are steps under way, there is legislation on the books now that will deal with that unfunded liability in the kind of time frame that's reasonable. The numbers we had set out and the changes we had brought about would have seen the unfunded liability brought down significantly over the next number of years. I think that was and still remains a reasonable way to go.

What is not reasonable is to see the government, under the pretence of wanting to deal with the unfunded liability, strip the workers' compensation system down to its bare bones. This is not just a bill that deals with the unfunded liability; this is a bill that, based on that premise the government wants to argue, that there is a crisis that has to be dealt with -- and they make the link, of course, between that and the debt that exists across the province, even though they know the unfunded liability is not a public debt; it is something that exists there that continues to be the responsibility of all the employers in the province collectively that are covered under the workers' compensation system, again, I remind people, for the basic protection they have of never having to worry about a lawsuit coming on behalf of a worker, present or past, who has been injured on the job. That is the basic protection they have.

The government can continue to pretend it's this question of the unfunded liability that is driving its actions and needs to drive its actions to the extreme they are, but they know and we know that is not the case. They know that and we know that, because if the unfunded liability was such a major crisis as they would like us to believe, then there would be no justification for them to take $6 billion out of that $15 billion they are taking out of the pockets of injured workers and return it to employers; they would take that $6 billion and say, "We're putting it towards the unfunded liability because it's such a major crisis."

Why is it a crisis one minute and then not a crisis the next? It's a little bit like the tax cut. The government says, "We need to have a tax cut to put money in the pockets of people so they can go out and invest that, create jobs." But then of course they're cutting money, transfers to the municipalities, to others, that will result in tax increases, and the jobs aren't being created. We're losing our services in health care and education, in our social services, the jobs aren't being created, the debt is going up as a result of the government having to borrow money to pay for the tax cut, and all of us are coming out losers, except of course those who are most well-off. We're seeing the same pattern again here under Bill 99 with workers' compensation.

The government talks a lot about how what they are doing in this bill, beyond dealing with the issue of the unfunded liability, is putting a real emphasis on rehabilitation. Again I would say, in fairness, that all of us would be more than supportive of the need to ensure that a couple of basic things happen: first, that workers who are injured on the job are helped to return to work as quickly as possible; and second, that the employers retain a responsibility to rehire workers injured on the job. But we all would want to be honest with each other and admit it takes more than just writing those things into legislation for them to happen. It takes enforcement and it takes the process of working with the injured worker and the employer to make sure that happens.

I find it passing strange that here's a government -- we heard it from the Minister of Labour; we've heard it from the parliamentary assistant -- time after time saying, "We want to put an emphasis, through this legislation, on returning to work, on rehabilitation," and yet we know that as we speak the rehabilitation system within the board is basically being stripped away, that vocational rehabilitation is going to become a thing of the past as they continue to get rid of people in the system who do that job now.

I think it's fair to ask the question, how is this going to happen? Magically? How is that going to happen? Do you think that just by simply writing something into legislation it's going to work? I'm not surprised that's the attitude this government takes, because when I look at a number of other areas of policy, when I look, for example, at the issue of equity, there they've taken away structures we had put in place, whether it's the employment equity legislation or the whole advocacy system in legislation and protection, and there they are just pretending that by simply saying, "We all need to be fair," by having in place laws that already exist on the books, that somehow that's going to be sufficient.


It isn't, because you need in place the laws, yes, to provide people the basic protection, but then you also need in place the systems, the supports that will make sure that people who are entitled to those protections are able to exercise their rights. What are we seeing in this legislation? We are seeing more and more examples of the rights of injured workers being stripped away.

We have had for some time now WCAT, the appeals tribunal, which has been separate and distinct from the Workers' Compensation Board. Why? Because finally the laws of this province have accepted, or did accept back in the early 1980s, the mid-1980s, that it was important to ensure there was an appeals system, yes, inside the workers' compensation system first, but ultimately outside the workers' compensation system, so that injured workers who felt unfairly treated by the system -- and there are lots of those; we all know about them -- would have at the end of the day an appeals system that wasn't the courts, that was a tribunal that could give decisions in a faster, more expedient way, but still was clearly removed from the workers' compensation system.

What do we see in Bill 99? We see that basic division being done away with. We see provisions in this bill that will ensure that when it comes to policy areas, the Workers' Compensation Board, or whatever they're going to call it under this new system, whenever it sets out policy directions, the tribunal cannot change that, cannot in individual circumstances decide to set aside those policy directions, even though they may believe and they may find on the facts as they have before them that the injured worker is entitled to a benefit or compensation that the Workers' Compensation Board has denied. So that distinction that has become so significant in allowing injured workers to feel some sense of justice, that they would have a way to get decisions rendered outside and aside from the policy directions of the Workers' Compensation Board, is disappearing.

Where is the balance? The balance certainly is not going to be there. Not only is it not going to be there in favour of injured workers, but it is clearly being shifted all the way over in favour of employers.

Do I not have any sympathy for the kind of situation that employer are in? Of course I do. I talk every day with small business owners in my riding and whenever you start talking with any of them about what is one of the problems of doing business, they inevitably will talk about the costs, among other things, of workers' compensation. I want to be very clear that that's something I acknowledge is there.

You fix that problem not by this kind of patchwork system that this government seems to be so intent on continuing, which is taking money away from the injured workers and putting it into the pockets of the employers, as if then you've created some kind of a balance. You haven't. You have simply created another problem that's going to be there for years to come and you again solve the problem for those who on the relative scale are better off in their favour by taking money away from those who are less well off.

I say that as somebody who from the time I first was elected to this chamber and from years even before that was well aware of the plight of many injured workers across this province, and certainly in my own area of Metropolitan Toronto. As I continue to talk today with my constituents, I know that through my office and through many of our offices, we deal on a day-to-day basis with many injured workers who still today feel, even though they may have been injured a number of years ago in some cases, or others who have been injured just recently, that they are not yet receiving the kind of attention they need.

One member I know earlier talked about entitlement, that we have created a situation in which people feel entitled to this kind of compensation. I would say to him, yes, they should be entitled to fair compensation. They should be entitled to know that if they are injured on the job, yes, they have to establish that the injury was on the job and the degree of injury, and there's a whole process to deal with that. But injured workers should never be in a position where in addition to the injury they have sustained to their body, or in some cases not just to their body, they have to continue to fight the system, now aided and abetted even more by this government, to establish their right to fair compensation.

My colleagues have pointed this out already: Why in heaven's name would this government take out the word "fair" in the preamble of the bill that talks about the purposes, where it talks now about injured workers having the right to "fair compensation." What is it that we are supposed to read into the removal of that word, if not that the concept of fair compensation has gone out the window?

When you put that together with the fact that benefits are being cut now to 85% rather than 90% of the pre-employment earnings, when you put that together with the fact that the appeal rights that injured workers will have will now be less than what they had before, when you put that together with the fact that $15 billion is being taken out of the pockets of injured workers and put into the pockets of employers, when you put that together with the fact that the premise upon which this whole legislation has come in front of us is that there is a major funding crisis in the unfunded liability that the government believes needs to be addressed and yet the money they are recouping from the system is not going entirely towards the unfunded liability, what are we left to believe? More important, what are injured workers left to believe?

It's what we've heard so far and, quite frankly, I say to the government members, it's what you're going to hear in spades when you take this bill out to committee over the summer months. It is that what you are doing here is fundamentally wrong, that what you are doing here is attacking a group of people who should get the utmost of our respect and our support. It is that you are attacking once again a group of people that is among the most vulnerable in our society. It is again that what you are doing is fundamentally wrong and fundamentally contrary to the basic tenets of good government. It is that you are continuing here again to shift the balance of power and the balance of economic might from the hands of the average citizen into the hands of those who are already well off.

It is, in short, that what this government is doing is continuing an agenda which hurts people, continuing an agenda which we have seen through piece of legislation after piece of legislation is going to dismantle every major area of public policy that we have built up in this province through past governments of all political stripes, and it is leading to a situation in which we will have a leaner and certainly much meaner society.

When I look outside of the particular pieces of what this bill does, that is what I find the most frightening and the most offensive. Here what we are seeing is just another example. It's another group of people who are being attacked by this government, and this one they can't even say is related to the tax cut, because while the other ones they can connect back to the public coffers, this one they cannot.

That is what I find, again, the most frightening in this one. Philosophically, we know how it's connected. Philosophically, it's because, as I've said, this government is more intent on pleasing its friends, on putting more power and more resources and more money into the hands of fewer and fewer Ontarians, taking that away from the rest of us. But in the process they are going to make all of us poorer, because when we lose those basic protections that we have today for injured workers, when we lose good services that we have built up in our education system, when we lose good services in our health care system, when we lose piece after piece, those things that together make up the good society that makes us the envy of the world, then we will certainly know who we can look to to blame for that. But beyond the blame, when we lose all of those things, then I believe that as a society we are all the poorer for it. What that means at the end of the day is that it's going to take years to be able to recoup the damage that this government will have done.


One of the things that I do know and that I do see is that while they will get away with making some of these changes today, they are not managing to get away with putting them through without people noticing. In fact we are seeing, whether it's on workers' compensation, on education, on health care, on social services, more and more people understanding more and more clearly what this government's agenda is all about, what the Mike Harris revolution is all about. What we are seeing, slowly but surely, is the counterrevolution beginning in a way that says that people want to protect the basic services that make Ontario still a good place to live in and that people are prepared to fight to ensure that this government, if it doesn't come to its senses, is certainly defeated and not allowed to continue on this course of action.

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

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I appreciate the opportunity to say a couple of words in response to our colleague opposite who spent about the first 12 minutes of his 30 minutes saying that in fact he agreed that there was a problem and taking the next 18 to suggest that we didn't. That's somewhat remarkable to do that in the same speech. He commented near the end that he thought people were starting to notice. I would say to him, they did notice and they acted appropriately on June 8, 1995.

Let's deal with some of the specifics: The NDP record on occupational health and safety. They reduced the number of health and safety inspector positions by almost 8%. They cut the Ministry of Labour by $63 million, more than one third in their five-year term. They eliminated 351 positions in total. Just in the last three years of their mandate, they cut Ministry of Labour inspections by 25%. The number of field visits declined by 20%. Ministry of Labour orders in response to what they saw out there in the workplace declined also by 20%, from 51,000 down to 39,000. That's what their commitment to health and safety was. That's the facts, not the rhetoric.

It's easy to stand in this chamber and any one of us can simply try and rewrite history, but the hard facts, the numbers from your term, sir, speak a very different story. They tell the tale and the tale is that under your five-year term you had a chance to improve health and safety in this province and you chose not to do that. You chose to be parsimonious, you chose to save every penny you could and instead put it into other woolly ideas that also didn't do much good for this economy.

The fact of the matter is, we have refocused the ministry, we have refocused the vision of our commitment to health and safety. We're acting on that challenge and we're acting on our promises before the election.

Mr Patten: I'm pleased to respond to the member for Dovercourt. There are several points he made that I thought were worthy of response. One in particular was that he confirmed that we all acknowledge that there need to be some changes at WCB, as has happened over the years where the evolution of labour support and labour benefits to injured employees and workers has continued to take place.

He also addressed some of the first principles of WCB, the one of fairness in particular and the issue of no-fault, and I'd like to elaborate on that. I think that's a very important issue because what he alluded to was that in fact that may be in jeopardy, that this may have an adverse effect on the employers, not the employees. He related this to the appeals process, which I concur with, in that if you do not allow an effective appeals process that is perceived to be fair, then what you do is you drive injured workers back into litigation, you drive workers who will go to court. It places that whole area in jeopardy. I hope during the hearings when testimony takes place to demonstrate this particular point that the government will seriously listen.

Of course, his final address is, who benefits overall? Where is the balance? A term that I like to use is that the approach is like one of an anti-Robin Hood, another example of taking from the poor and making sure that the rich benefit, because you're taking $6 billion from the injured employees and giving that to the employers. His point of saying where is that money to go -- why didn't it go to the unfunded liability as it should have?

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to respond to my colleague from Dovercourt's speech this afternoon. In his always effective way he has carefully laid out the fact that this government's Bill 99 hurts workers, helps their friends. That's why the response from the Tory back benches is to try to fudge the issue.

I think it's important to say that part of what my colleague from Dovercourt was stating was that any day of the week we will ask injured workers whether they believe Elizabeth Witmer and the Tories care more about health and safety or care more about WCB than Bob Mackenzie and the New Democrats. We'll have that debate with injured workers publicly any time anyone in the government back benches is foolish enough to attempt to do so.

Let's look carefully at what the member for Dovercourt said. He talked about the fact that this a phoney, manufactured crisis in WCB, as this government has done in education. That is the fact. The unfunded liability, the member for Dovercourt said it's preposterous to talk about this in terms of money that's owed immediately, and it is. It's no different than saying that every family out there owes the following amount: take all the mortgage or rent that you'll pay from now till you die, take all of the heat and hydro that you'll pay for that facility from now until you die, all of the insurance, all of the maintenance, add it all up, and if you don't have enough money to cut a cheque for that total amount, then you're in crisis. Using that kind of formula, I would think that there's not a working person or a middle-class family in the entire province that isn't broke and in crisis by that funding formula. It makes no sense.

Mr Maves: I appreciate the member for Dovercourt's contribution to the debate; I always do. I find him one of the most reasonable members of the opposition benches. On a personal note, I was hopeful for him in the leadership race. I was sorry that it didn't turn out in his favour.

One thing he did mention, though, he talked about vocational rehabilitation and that the services were being reduced at WCB, but I should remind him, if he doesn't know or if he doesn't remember, that over 70% of voc rehab services at the WCB are already performed by external providers to the WCB. They do a very good job, and I believe they'll continue to do a good job.

He also questioned the WCB and the bill's commitment to return to work by saying it's nothing more than words. But he should know that it's the intention, I believe, of the WCB to hire about 300 nurse-practitioners to eventually help implement the return-to-work program. That's a serious commitment by WCB to workers to getting them back to work.

He also said that the unfunded liability problem, which he admitted initially that we had, when he was in office came down and is coming down still due to Bill 165. But in actuality, the unfunded liability was about $30 billion when his government was in office and the one-time reduction in the unfunded liability occurred under his government and it went, as they say, from $18 billion to $12 billion.

But that's it. Anything that has happened since then to reduce the unfunded liability has come because of two things: a growing economy, more jobs and therefore more premiums are coming in; lower injuries, so less money is going out. That's number one. The other thing is that the Workers' Compensation Board investment portfolio, as a result of better management, is bringing in more money and that's what's been causing -- after the 1994 one-time reduction in the unfunded liability from Bill 165 was realized. Since then, it's all because of better management of the investment portfolio and growth in the economy.


The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Time has expired. The member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I appreciate the comments from all sides. If nothing else, it shows that some people were listening to some of the things I said, and that's always a bit of a compliment in some ways.


Mr Silipo: I really do, because I think this exchange is one of the few places we have left here to at least understand how we each think and how we approach particular problems, and obviously, there are significant differences in how we look at this problem.

As my colleague from Hamilton Centre said, I would say to the government members opposite in particular that I would be just quite happy to put our own record as a government on health and safety issues against that of any other government in this province, and certainly that of this government. I could say to the members opposite that if they were so concerned about the cuts, as they put it, to the inspectors, why did they not reinstitute some of those positions? I didn't see them doing any of that.

Beyond that, because there is lots I could give in reply if I had more time, I just say to him that some of those woolly ideas that he mentioned were in fact trying to find money to sustain things like such woolly ideas as our health care system, our social assistance system, our school system and our workers' compensation system. I would say that none of us is, quite frankly, perfect on the question of workers' compensation. I'm not claiming we resolved the problem; we knew we didn't resolve all the problems. That's why we set up the royal commission, which the government then shut down two thirds of the way through, before they finished their work. Then they have the audacity, as one member did earlier, to stand up and say, "The commission didn't come up with anything." Of course not. They shut it down.

I think the question is: At the end of the day, where is the balance? We believe the balance needs to be to ensure that there is fair compensation to injured workers for the injuries they sustain on the job, and yes, reasonable efforts to help them get back to work. That's how we would cut it.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I am pleased to support this bill today. Everyone knows that reforms to the workers' compensation system are long overdue. The system is dysfunctional, that we know. It's not working the way it was intended, and the unfunded liability of $10.9 billion, nearly $11 billion, is totally unacceptable. It's an unfunded liability that if left unchecked would grow to $18 billion by the year 2014.

In my riding of Kitchener, owners of small and medium-sized businesses have told me their WCB assessments are much too high. Given the enormous unfunded liability that must be addressed, they are concerned that this will affect their ability to hire new workers and maintain existing jobs. That's what our government is trying to do, help small and medium-sized and large-sized businesses create jobs.

In many cases, we know that the unfunded liability has affected business's abilities to create jobs. I have met with one business in my constituency, a very large business, and this is a file of the correspondence. It's a business that has been a long-time Kitchener business. It provided over 1,000 jobs until recently. They have recently laid off 400 people.

The meetings I've had with that business indicate that over the last five years of operation they have paid in premiums or assessments an amount in excess of their profit. Their lifetime assessments are $79 million, their lifetime WCB costs or claims are $29 million. They received rebates of $10 million, meaning that they have contributed a surplus of $40 million to WCB. In 1995, this company only had claims of $800,000, while they had assessments of $6.5 million. This company is laying off employees in order to reduce its costs, costs which are going to the unfunded liability of the WCB. One third of their WCB assessments is going to this unfunded liability.

The member for Hamilton Centre a week ago said: "When we talk about the unfunded liability and point this out, we need to remind people that this is not a taxpayer debt; this is not a taxpayer-funded account. It's all paid and owed by the corporations...." That's right. That's my point. It's all paid for by the corporations, at the expense of jobs.

The member for Dovercourt says the unfunded liability is not a crisis. When in the devil does the liability become a crisis? Is $10.9 billion not a crisis? It's time to face reality. If the WCB had no unfunded liability, employers would pay on average about 30% less than they do now. The unfunded liability has led to a situation where currently for each new employee, an employer must assume a share of the unfunded liability equal to about $4,000. That's not exactly conducive to creating new employment in the province of Ontario.

Both the Liberals and the NDP have been only too eager to point out the failings of the present system, and yet in typical fashion, when they had the opportunity, they did nothing. We intend to address those failings with innovative solutions and with compassion for workers. I know that the members of the third party are going to say, "What compassion?" so let me point it out.

There will be new return-to-work obligations. Employers will be required to take steps to ensure the early and safe return of their injured workers to work, including obligations to contact the worker as soon as possible after an injury and to maintain contact. The employers must attempt to identify and arrange suitable employment that is consistent with the worker's functional abilities and restores the worker's pre-injury earnings, and the employers must cooperate in return-to-work measures required by the board.

As I've said earlier, the problems with WCB are far-ranging and very serious for workers and employers alike. An unfunded liability of $10.9 billion, the largest in Canada, and assessment rates that are 32% to 40% higher than any other province or bordering state, with which we compete for businesses and jobs, obviously have a detrimental effect on business and employment.

What concerns me even more, however, is the irresponsible lack of focus we have had on effective health and safety and return-to-work plans for workers. This is the legacy we've been given from the Liberals and the NDP. I am proud to say that our government will continue to deliver on the critical need for reform.

There are many positive aspects to Bill 99. Addressing the funding challenges is among the most important, but today I would like to focus on what I see as the core of this proposal: making workplaces safer so that injuries are avoided in the first place.

Study after study in the health care field has shown that if you can reduce the factors that cause poor health, it is there that you will find the greatest gains in improvement. It is no less true of workplace health and safety.

This legislation will give the WCB the mandate to prevent workplace injury and illness, and to promote workplace health and safety. It will encourage employers and employees to work together to make health and safety a top priority. I'd like to repeat that. It will encourage employers and employees to work together to make health and safety a top priority, and it will initiate a system to measure and monitor health and safety initiatives and their performance. That is in keeping with what we know about improving public health.


These ambitious goals will be accomplished through a coordinated strategy designed to integrate Ontario's complex health and safety system. Under the new legislation, the WCB will be responsible for educating employees, educating employers and the public, developing standards for occupational health and safety certification, funding, overseeing and setting standards for the network of health and safety agencies, and increasing the financial incentive for employers and employees to invest in research into prevention and early return-to-work programs. These new measures will ensure everyone has the tools they need to eliminate workplace hazards and to achieve optimum health and safety performance.

I must say this comprehensive concern for worker health and safety is typical of legislation we have seen coming out of the Ministry of Labour. It is well-thought-out, it is thorough and focused on specific actions to improve our working environment. As I've often heard it said, knowledge is power, but action is real power, and this bill is action. The minister is to be commended for what is yet another excellent piece of legislation.

Mr Christopherson: Oh, God. Did they tell you to say that, Wayne?

Mr Wettlaufer: It's interesting, is it not, that I woke up the members of the opposition parties. But it's also interesting that many of these reforms are recommended by the 1996 annual report of the Provincial Auditor. In fact, in some cases these go beyond what the auditor has recommended. That underlines the commitment of this government to not only address the very serious unfunded liability issues now facing the WCB, but to focus on workplace health and safety concerns. It shows real leadership in making Ontario workplaces among the safest in the world.

I'd like to read parts of a couple of editorials here, one from the Windsor Star in December 9, 1996. It says:

"As expected, opposition members and labour groups have come out swinging against proposed changes to the Workers' Compensation Board. Yet they have no real reason to challenge Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer, who has undertaken the first real reforms of the WCB in more than 80 years.

"Clearly the time has come for change, and clearly the system is dysfunctional."

The Hamilton Spectator, December 4, 1996, said:

"Some difficult but necessary surgery to Ontario's debt-riddled workers' compensation system is being undertaken by Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer. When the critically ill patient emerges from the recovery room, Ontario should have an entity that's in better financial health and a positive factor in attracting investment in jobs."

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Hamilton, you say?

Mr Wettlaufer: From the Hamilton Spectator.

"At a time when there is a desperate need for more jobs and investment, Ms Witmer's reforms are a step along the road to recovery."

I am very pleased to support the bill today. Public opinion is in support of this bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Miclash: What the member did not touch on is the fact that we have a restructuring and reduction in the powers of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, or WCAT, as it's well known. As I indicated in my comments earlier, this is an area where injured workers truly need help. In essence, what's happening here is they're taking away the very last resort of the injured workers, the last place the injured worker would go to get help in terms of his claim and the problems he would be having with the bureaucracy.

As well, in this legislation we're seeing cuts to the office of the worker adviser and the office of the employer adviser. I spoke earlier about the number of injured workers we all, in all three parties, have in our offices on a regular basis for many cases. The cuts in both these areas will be of no assistance to those in most need.

The worker adviser office is being cut by 30%. I go back to that injured worker who was always looking for help. As we've indicated earlier, the committee is going to be travelling with Bill 99 throughout this province. They will listen to some of the injured workers, to some of the people who have had these problems. Hopefully, they will come back and report back to the minister, who seems to be so intent on working against the wishes of the workers, whether they be the worker in the province or the injured worker. As I've said in the past, it's my hope that after that committee goes throughout the province and listens carefully, it will report back on changes that will be needed to this piece of legislation.

Mr Christopherson: I didn't think any member of the government back benches could possibly pucker up enough to say the things he did in that speech about previous labour legislation in terms of how wonderful it is for workers and how grateful they are to see this wonderful labour minister bring out her agenda. I'd like to see that speech being reread in front of his constituents, particularly injured workers in the city of Kitchener, because that would be a moment to behold as he tries to pawn that off as anything working people would believe.

There's so much. It's a shame there's only two minutes to respond. First of all, the editorials being read, let's make it clear in this case editors are managers. They're part of the management team. They reflect the views of the publisher, and more and more, unfortunately, we think they reflect the views of the owners. Of course they love this. It cuts their costs by 5%. Does anyone believe it would be bad news for a management team to hear its labour costs have been cut by 5%? Because that's the only, as the member for Kitchener talks about, "many positive aspects of this bill that exist." They're all for the employer, so of course they're happy with it. I suggest their objectivity in this case leaves much to be desired.

He talks about the unfunded liability and the fact we did nothing. Not the case. We brought in reform that lowered the unfunded liability every year over the last three years, cut it back by over $1 billion. We gave $200 a month more to almost 45,000 injured workers. This government has not done one thing that helps injured workers in Bill 99.

Mr Maves: This government is maintaining that $200 payment to those over 40,000 workers, it should be noted. I want to thank the member for Kitchener for his contribution to this debate. He speaks with great passion. I think bringing in some third-party support, when he talked about the Windsor Star and he talked about the Provincial Auditor, is a very important element that's been left out of this debate so far. I thank him for that contribution.

If I could go further with some third-party endorsement of Bill 99, the Hamilton paper said: "The necessity of making workers' compensation more affordable and efficient could not be ignored by the Conservatives. The unfunded liability of the board...stands at $10.7 billion. Exceeding the combined unfunded liabilities of all provinces, the shortfall must be addressed if the system is to have a sustainable future."

They also went on to say, "There will be some loss of benefits for injured workers, although the size of the reductions is not as brutal as made out by opposition critics."

Mr Christopherson: Why did you cut premiums 5%, then?

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Maves: "Benefit levels would be cut from 90% to 85% of a worker's net pay, consistent with trends in other provinces such as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

"The Conservatives, in tune with the example of none other than the previous New Democratic government, will further reduce indexing of benefits to inflation. Full inflation protection, however, will be retained for workers who are 100% disabled and the survivors of deceased workers."

I think it's important, and I appreciate the member for Kitchener bringing in third-party endorsement. I thought it was pertinent that we continue to add to that, and I thank him for his contribution today.


Mr Patten: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the member for Kitchener. It seems that the overwhelming issue the government is concerned about is the unfunded liability issue as they perceive it. I think the information, the analysis that has been presented time and time again by the opposition continues to show that it is not the kind of crisis the government pretends to make it out to be. As the member for Dovercourt suggested, and I thought it was a good suggestion, if they were so concerned with the unfunded liability as they perceive it, why did they not take the $6 billion they've taken away from pensions and benefits from the workers who are injured, and place it, and they would not have to worry about it?

Not only that, but the strategy; they've done this many, many times and had to backtrack on many pieces of legislation, by starting with a dollar figure and then trying to make adjustments to be in line with that dollar figure.

We talk about, "Well, this is going to help employers." I agree: We should help employers, we should support employment, we should support a very active economy. But when we look at the job situation the government is so worried about, by giving much money to the rich, the people in the poorer, lower-income levels are suffering and having to carry most of the burden of these changes. When we look at jobs created, this government is behind in their schedule, right now, 147,000 jobs. How many jobs is this going to create, the kind of money you're talking about taking off of injured workers? We know it's not only in the interests of the workers, it's in the interests of the employers, it's in the interests of everybody to see that justice is done and fairness is done and that we have people who are able to live with a high degree of dignity.

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

Mr Wettlaufer: I'd like to thank all the members, from Kenora, Hamilton Centre, Ottawa Centre and Niagara Falls. The member for Kenora talked about the workers' advisory office being cut by 30%. It's not a matter of who we cut; it's a matter of ensuring that the maximum benefits go to the injured workers.

Injured workers come to my office as well. They aren't as concerned about their benefits as they are about getting back to work. That is what part of this legislation is all about: labour-market re-entry, to ensure they get back to work.

The member for Hamilton Centre said the newspapers reflect the opinions of their owners. Let me tell the member for Hamilton Centre that newspapers reflect the opinions of their readers as well.

The unfunded liability was addressed, he says, in their administration. It was addressed, all right: on the backs of the companies that could no longer afford to hire workers. How is that addressing it?

I think this legislation speaks for itself. It is good legislation. It will ensure that we are back in a competitive marketplace with the bordering states and provinces of this province.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'd like to join the debate this afternoon on Bill 99 to just raise a couple of concerns that have been brought to my attention in eastern Ontario. In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of injured workers, a number of employers and, interestingly, the other day a group of administrators of long-term-care institutions who were raising, actually, a concern that surprised me about their workers' compensation rates. These are people who are struggling to meet important community needs in the area of long-term care at the institutional level.

I was surprised to hear this group of administrators from Renfrew county telling me, when I asked the question, "Is there anything I should know about your current situation beyond what we've discussed in previous meetings about funding levels etc?" they said, "Yes, if you get an opportunity at the Legislature, please tell your colleagues that we are concerned about sharply increasing workers' compensation rates."

They made the point that in the current environment, with funding that is not increasing -- in some cases, some of these institutions are facing very real downward pressure, real cuts, I guess I should say, in terms of their provincial government funding. I was surprised and concerned to have those administrators tell me that workers' compensation costs were rising significantly and there was no obvious place where those additional premium costs could be funded.

I thought I would use the opportunity today to simply say to the government, on behalf of long-term-care administrators in my part of eastern Ontario and Renfrew county specifically, there is a very real issue in 1997 about the fact that in that part of the public sector, institutional long-term care, one of the real cost pressures these institutions are facing in communities like Renfrew, Arnprior, Barry's Bay and Deep River is WCB premium rate increases that are sharply upward. This is not something that has been done by the previous NDP government or the previous Conservative or Liberal government; this is something that has been done in just the very last little while under the current provincial government led by Mr Harris from North Bay.

As I say, I was surprised to find out that the increases were as sharp as they were and just simply wanted to say to the government that the administrators are struggling and were very concerned about where they were going to find the resources to pay for the premium increases they were facing.

In recent weeks -- and I want to be fair about this -- a number of employers across the region are pleased to see some of their costs moderating. The Conservative Party, as I recall, in the electoral campaign of two years ago, said that if elected they were going to reduce the premium costs to employers generally. Obviously part of that commitment is at the core of Bill 99.

I haven't had a chance to look at the data specifically, but it's obvious from the previous example I cited that not all employers are experiencing the same reductions. I would have thought, I say to the member for Perth, that if anybody was going to get a break these days it would be long-term-care institutions.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): It's experience rating.

Mr Conway: Well, it's experience rating, that may be, but the offering was a 5% reduction. Of course, like most things in life, the devil is in the details, and I guess the devil has been busy in these details.

Mr Bert Johnson: The devil is in Renfrew, not in Perth.

Mr Conway: Oh, the devil, he says, is in Renfrew, not in Perth. We once had a leader from Perth who had a wonderful name.

Mr Beaubien: What was his name?

Mr Conway: Wellington Hay.

Mr Beaubien: It's a nice name.

Mr Conway: Well, Howard Ferguson, the then leader of the Conservative Party, said, "Nice man, but it was a case of too much Hay and not enough Wellington."

But as I look at Bill 99 I'm asked to contemplate change. There is certainly some change in this bill, but the government's compensation policy is not changed totally. One of the interesting things about the Workers' Compensation Board -- and the Harris crowd, I'm sure, said: "Well, elect us. With those New Democrats and even the Liberals, there'd be politics at the WCB."

What did I see a few weeks or a few months after the new government was sworn in by Her Majesty's local representative in the summer of 1995 but one of the most familiar patterns in 20th century Ontario politics and government. In this case, "What's the pattern?" you might ask, my friend from Perth. Well, if you win government, you find a good friend of the government, usually a close friend of the leader of the government, and you put him or her in charge of the Workers' Compensation Board.

The revolutionaries that took office in Ontario in June 1995 carried on a good and honourable tradition. Those incompetent Peterson Liberals, they were so confused that when they had the opportunity, they appointed a former Tory labour minister, Bob Elgie, MD, to be their chairperson at Ontario Hydro -- I mean the Workers' Compensation Board. Not Mike Harris: No, no, Mike was too smart for that. He wasn't going to be putting any friend of Bob Rae's or any Peterson cabinet person in that --

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): You were looking for the job?

Mr Conway: I certainly was not looking for the job. I want to say to the top cop from Brockville that it would be a scandal of monumental proportions to assign someone like me to a job that important and that managerial.


But what do we find? Some fellow named Glen Wright from Waterloo, described in the public press as "a fishing buddy" of Premier Harris, is newly appointed to the six-digit figure as chairman of the Ontario Hydro -- of the Workers' Compensation Board. I keep mixing up Wright and Farlinger. That was another appointment. You see, unlike some of these oppositionists, I'm not going to complain.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): They're competent people.

Mr Conway: I tell you, one thing about Mr Wright at the Workers' Compensation Board is that he is very interested in and concerned about the interior design of his new office. The government may bring to the assembly Bill 99 to reduce the pensions of injured workers and to shut down certain offices that my friend from Hamilton Centre was talking about, I thought with some eloquence and passion, the other day. But I'll tell you, Glen Wright knows what comes first, and $70,000 worth of office renovations come first for the new chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board. I just thought I'd use the debate this afternoon to remind people.

I heard the previous speaker from Kitchener getting very exercised, as he ought to, about: "We've got to get this economy going again. We've got to do something about costs. We've got to lead by example." Well, what does Mr Wright do over at the chairman's office? Spends 70,000 bucks that, according to my friend Wettlaufer, we don't have, to decorate his office. What do they think about that up in Wellington county, I say to young Arnott. I suspect they'd agree with me and anybody else here.

I can imagine Mike Harris and Turnbull, that wonderful Thatcherite -- I guess there's still one left. A few years ago, Bob Rae or Peterson or Davis, if they'd even -- the bloody paint would have peeled off the ceiling. Bad enough that you appoint a fishing buddy to the chairmanship of the WCB -- revolutions don't change everything, I see -- but then the first thing he does is he goes and spends 70,000 bucks Wettlaufer tells us we don't have to redecorate his office. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Mr Gilchrist: Or something like that.

Mr Conway: Or something like that. The member from Canadian Tire is here, and I'm happy he's here. I read in the weekend press that the member from Canadian Tire --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. You know you can't say that.

Mr Conway: I can't say that. Well, I say it again. He was reminding us, was our friend from Scarborough East, the other day, that he owned property in Northumberland. I was going to say at the time, all you have to do is read the front page of the Cobourg Daily Star to know that. I watch with some interest the activities of our friend from Scarborough in the public press. On the weekend I see that of course he and the reverend member for High Park-Swansea have embraced the federal Tory campaign in a significant way.


Mr Conway: I may be wrong, actually. I can't believe that Gilchrist would be mixed up with that pinko Charest from Canada east. We've got real red meat there in Scarborough East. He's in Medicine Hat and Taber and Cardston, Alberta. That's where his true home is. Shea probably does understand something about the moderate conservatism of the member of Parliament from Sherbrooke. But I'm off track, Mr Speaker.

Oh, I know. I was simply saying that I thought the previous speaker from Kitchener made a compelling argument about the need for tough decisions and prudence and economy in public expenditures, including those of the Workers' Compensation Board.

I want to say rhetorically to Mr Wright, wherever you are, on behalf of my constituents, I noticed the measure of your prudence when it came to allocating scarce resources for the internal appointments of your office.

Mr Bert Johnson: My wife thinks I'm Mr Right.

Mr Conway: The member for Perth says that his wife thinks he's Mr Right. Who am I to say that your wife, Bert, is anything but an astute observer of humankind?

But I say in all seriousness to my revolutionary friends on the treasury bench that we get the Premier's fishing buddy appointed to a very important job, and the first job, apparently, of Mr Wright of Waterloo is to get the right kind of new office with the right appointments. Having done all that, we're called here to the Legislative Assembly and told by Mr Wettlaufer and others that we have to pass Bill 99, we have to reduce the benefits to injured workers and we have to make other refinements, because without it, Ontario's economic future is going to be compromised.

Let me say that I recognize, as I hope all members do, that the workers' compensation system continues to be a troubled one. I've been a member of this Legislature for 22 years, through administrations of all stripes. I've got to tell you, there are days when I really wonder whether J.P. Whitney did us a favour a long time ago in the early years of Progressive Conservatism in giving us the Workers' Compensation Board. Like most members, I spend a considerable amount of my time listening to tragic stories of injured workers and their families, about their being caught in the impenetrable net, the mesh that is the WCB. We're all responsible for that, and the costs are quite high; I recognize that. The administration costs at the Workers' Compensation Board have been too high for too long, and I understand not just the view of injured workers but of employers, small and medium-sized, in my constituency who feel that they are shouldering an unfair burden.

I've been in the United States a couple of times in recent years and I've been struck by some of the advertisements that I've seen from fast-talking lawyers and certain kinds of private insurance entrepreneurs who are talking about various schemes available in certain parts of the US where I gather they don't have our kind of workers' compensation. I know there are many, myself included on occasion, as I said a moment ago, who come to the conclusion that maybe we should just scrap the whole deal and give injured workers the right to sue.

A lot of people who think this compensation system is an undue burden on our mixed economy would perhaps do well to go to some other parts of the developed world and listen to business people particularly complain. I was in Texas where I was listening in recent times to a number of small business operators who would do anything to escape the clutches of certain of the legal talents in Texas who are driving them into bankruptcy. For those in the Legislature and elsewhere who say, "Maybe we should try a different system," I simply want to refer to certain American jurisdictions where the right to sue appears to be more available than it is here in Canada. Listening to small business groups and their representatives, I certainly don't get any sense that that's a panacea either.

I want to say as well that injured workers have relatively few advocates. I see cases in my constituency of genuine hardship. One of the worst I have ever seen, quite frankly, was a middle-aged man who was battling terminal cancer at his workplace, which happens to have been the national research laboratory at Atomic Energy of Canada, where the employer stated for months and years that there could be no connection between the illness that eventually killed this constituent and the workplace. The fight that worker had, that his family had, that some of the rest of us had trying to get some redress, was a fight I will not ever forget.

You know, there is a sense in the land today that insurance schemes like workers' compensation are just somehow abused endlessly, and let's be frank, largely abused by the workers. That's the attitude of altogether too many people, in my view, people who forget what we require under our workers' compensation legislation, that is, the forfeiture of the right to sue and in its place an elaborate and sometimes, oftentimes, a very complicated system of adjudicating disabilities, permanent and partial.


It concerns me, in Ontario in the 1990s, that there is a rhetoric around, much of it advanced by right-wing think tanks, that we have all these shirkers out there who are just ripping off insurance systems of one kind or another. I remember certainly the last election campaign; you know, that hot button of welfare. It was essentially, "Get the bums off the public rolls." I remember it well, and who can quarrel with its success?

I was just thinking about that today as I read the American financial pages: "Canadians -- The Bre-X Scam. World-Class Scam, Pretty Sharp Operators."

Mr Gilchrist: And where were the federal Liberals in all of that?

Mr Conway: The redoubtable member from Scarborough Canadian Tire says, "And where were the federal Liberals in all of that?" Does Mr Martin have the responsibility for the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Ontario Securities Commission? I don't think so.

My only point in raising this issue today is, will I hear before this session is over one syllable of concern and complaint from that highly individualistic right wing about the ripoff that went on at Bre-X? I suspect not. I won't hear a peep about the scam the Wall Street Journal and Barron's and other American-based financial media are reporting to the world today. If you haven't seen it, go and read it.

Certainly the current government is very rightly concerned about creating a good environment for business and investor confidence. Read the Wall Street Journal today. Boy, I haven't checked what kind of day the TSE has had. I am sure it has not been a very regular day and I can just imagine the calls the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Ontario Securities Commission are getting and are going to get.

You want to talk about ripoff artists and scam artists? I guess tens of thousands of investors, who ought to have been aware, I suppose, and more prudent than many were certainly, have been taken to the cleaners big time. But I don't think I'm going to hear very much in this place about that scam because we're too busy trying to track down some injured worker. We're too busy trying to deal with some welfare fraud. Let me be very frank: If there is fraud or abuse, whether consumer or provider, let it be dealt with vigorously but let it be dealt with fairly.

My concern about issues like Bill 99 is that there is too much focus on cutting back the benefits of some of the least well-off people in our community today. I'd like to say to the government that yes, we have to be vigilant about our costs, but on the other hand, we also have to be vigilant about the deal we made with workers' compensation almost a century ago. We promised the working men and women of this province that if they gave up their right to sue employers, who were responsible for workplaces that may have caused serious injury, the deal we made was that there would be fair and adequate compensation for those men and women who were injured in the workplace, and I'm not at all sure that in 1997 very many people in this place remember what that deal required us to provide.

I say, in conclusion, that there are a number of people in Renfrew county, injured workers, young, middle-aged, and unfortunately, a number of older workers, who look at this policy and worry that the deal they thought they were part of is increasingly skewed to their disadvantage. I hope that's not the case, and I'm going to be very interested to pursue this debate, particularly through the public hearings stage, to satisfy myself that this workers' compensation arrangement, the new deal, the fair deal that was offered a long time ago, can honestly be said to be at least a fair deal for working men and women at the end of the century as it was throughout much of the 20th century.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Christopherson: Always, regardless of the issue and regardless of whether I even agree with the speaker, to listen to the member for Renfrew North is to enjoy this place at its finest. The willingness to put a great deal of effort into historical significance, I think we all learn from that, the witticisms, the barbs back and forth. It's a very impressive presentation from a very effective speaker, and I always enjoy listening to the member for Renfrew North.

I'd like to underscore his comments. I thought he made a number of excellent points that have not yet been raised, at least not during this second reading debate, and one is the fact that the government is very much focused on going after the most vulnerable, because they know what the public hot buttons are. He talks about the fact that the Bre-X scam is not going to get near the attention by this government or by any member of the government in any public way as would any isolated case of fraud that they could find in any government system. I think that's fascinating. It's an excellent point to make, because it's the truth. I'll fall off this chair if the Minister of Finance announces a public inquiry into what happened in Bre-X, how we could have prevented it and who is to blame. It's not going to happen, because that's not where their focus is.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that the member pointed out, and I think he spoke for all of us when he said, if there's fraud anywhere, it ought to be dealt with properly, effectively but fairly. He emphasized the word "fairly," and I want to end my comments by pointing out once again that "fair" is a word that this government is taking out of workers' comp legislation. Compensation will no longer be fair.

Mr Bert Johnson: I would like to reply to the debate entered into by the member for Renfrew North. Indeed it's a pleasure listening to an orator, something that may have been lost away back in the days of Gladstone and Disraeli and people who spoke with that kind of passion and that kind of ability.

I would like to point out, though, that when he speaks of wanting to be fair in his comments, I get a little bit of feeling similar to the patient when the doctor says, "This isn't going to hurt." But he does bring his comments into the workers' compensation line, he did speak towards the bill, and indeed it is a pleasure listening to someone with his ability speak.

I have absolutely no idea of the political background of Mr Wright, but I do know that in the fourth-quarter report, and I would like to quote: "Administrative and other expenses decreased by $18 million in 1996. This decrease was the direct result of management initiatives to control salary and other administrative costs." I think we shouldn't overlook this opportunity to compliment the head of the Workers' Compensation Board on the good work he's doing. I just wanted to add those comments about the debate to those from the member for Renfrew North.


Mr Patten: It's always a pleasure to hear my colleague from Renfrew North speak. He brings a certain flair, a certain nimbleness and a sense of enjoyment in the very language he uses, and I'm always pleased to hear him.

I thought he made two points. One was already mentioned by the member for Hamilton Centre, which I think is a good one, and that is, if we're going to go after abusers, let's make sure we go after the abusers that are in all systems. The people who abuse any particular system should be routed out, should be corrected, and there should be systems in there in order to deal with it fairly.

On that particular score, it would seem to me that when we look at -- I know we have 1-800 numbers for people to deal with welfare cases and I know we have ways to tell on people who abuse systems. It would perhaps be interesting to have a 1-800 number for those who don't follow through with their WCB premiums -- well, we probably know that -- or for those businesses that are involved in not having paid their provincial taxes.

The member for Renfrew North identified something I think is really important, and it has been addressed obliquely in a variety of areas, that is, the alternatives to the system we have right now, which of course has always been in evolution and hopefully is heading for continual improvement, but there are things to worry about. The alternative to not having a no-fault system -- we've identified a number of times in the opposition that we believe the no-fault system has some leaks in it and it may be susceptible to pushing people into litigation, which would undercut one of the very important foundations of this whole compensation program for injured workers in the first place.

Mr Bisson: It's always a pleasure to listen to the comments from the member for Renfrew North. He asked the question somewhere at the beginning of his speech which is the question that always has to be asked whenever we're debating legislation in this House, and that is, what is this legislation all about? What drives the agenda of the government or what drives the government to introduce such a piece of legislation as Bill 99?

I think we can come to a fairly simple conclusion: This is about the government saying: "We think that workers are getting too good a deal in the workers' compensation system today and we think employers are paying too high a premium. We will penalize the workers and lessen their benefits and we will reward the employers and lower their premiums."

Let's talk about what this is really all about. It's about reducing the amount of assessment to employers that results in about a $5-billion saving to employers across this province, and then consequently, on the other side, reducing the benefits of injured workers, which will equal about $15 billion. That's what this is all about. The government has picked sides once again. The government has said, "We are on the side of big business and we are not necessarily on the side of workers and individuals."

I think the comment that the member from Renfrew makes about Bre-X is an excellent comment, and the member for Hamilton Centre said it yet again: Where is the government? Where is the voice of the government? Where is the power of the government? Where is the initiative by this government to try to do something about the thousands of investors who have lost billions of dollars on the Bre-X scam?

I come from the community of Timmins, a mining community. I could list you names -- I wouldn't do it in this Legislature -- of people who have literally lost their life's savings because of a scam on the part of a mining operator who was trying to operate a scam in Indonesia in which people invested. Where is the government on that one? They have picked to penalize workers --

The Speaker: Thank you. Response, the member for Renfrew North.

Mr Conway: I want to say a couple of things. I can't believe that the distinguished member for Perth wouldn't know that Mr Glen Wright is a fishing pal of his illustrious chef, the member for Nipissing.

Mr Gilchrist: He did give away fridges.

Mr Conway: The member from Scarborough Canadian Tire talks about giving away fridges. Oh boy, I'm amazed that even you would be that reckless, but I will be careful. Oh, Stevie, some ice is a lot thinner than others, and even I will resist the temptation to push you through the thinnest ice of all.

To get a lecture about public morality from Harry Danford I will take, I deserve, but to get a lecture on public morality from the member for Scarborough East is stretching credibility and credulity to the breaking point. But I will resist the temptation. Trust me.


Mr Conway: Glass houses. I'll say.

The point has to be that we've got problems at the Workers' Compensation Board. They've got to be fixed. Part of the problems is clearly with the cost structure and a bureaucratic tangle that continue to be a problem. But let us go forward in a spirit of fairness and generosity. There is at least one religious tradition that says, "What you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me." I just worry that there is too much of an instinct in our society today to scapegoat and to single out and to marginalize and attack the most vulnerable people, and that's an instinct we've got to resist.

The Speaker: Further debate? The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: I'm going to start my speech tonight and conclude tomorrow, because I've only got about two or three minutes to get into it tonight. Let me start off by making this very simple point: The government at the beginning of this -- I've been listening to government members in debate here and I listened to the minister when she introduced this legislation way back when to reform the workers' compensation system -- says we need to do this primarily because there is a financial crisis at the Workers' Compensation Board.

There might be a problem, but there is far from a crisis at the Workers' Compensation Board in dealing with the unfunded liability. The government members stand in this House and say that the unfunded liability is terrible, that it's a mess. I listened to the member for Etobicoke-Humber get up a little bit earlier and say, if all the claims of the Workers' Compensation Board had to be paid as of 12 o'clock tonight, there would be an unfunded liability. That's true. Nobody argues that. That's how insurance systems work.

But if you're saying it's a crisis to have to pay all the workers' compensation claims by 12 o'clock tonight, I wonder what would happen if London Life or Mutual Life of Canada or any of the private insurance companies in this country had to pay out on every individual life claim and every individual disability claim at 12:01 tonight. Do you think there might be an unfunded liability with one of those private insurance companies? Of course there is. Insurance companies work under the premise that they collect fees over a longer period of time to be able to insure their customers. That's basically how insurance works.

I'm going to get into that debate a little further on tomorrow, when we get back into debate. It being almost 6 of the clock, I would ask that we carry on this debate at another time.

The Speaker: It now being just about 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1759.