36th Parliament, 1st Session

L191 - Wed 14 May 1997 / Mer 14 Mai 1997









































The House met at 1333.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Speaker, I have a message from the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor signed by her own hand.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The Lieutenant Governor transmits estimates of certain sums required for the service of the province for the year ending 31 March 1998 and recommends them to the Legislative Assembly.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): When the people in northern Ontario talk about last week's provincial budget, I can assure you that the major topic of discussion is not the tax-cutting policies of the Harris government. The reason is that the people in the north were actually hit with a massive tax increase instead.

The government would like the imposition of a new $37 vehicle registration fee to be treated as a minor item that should draw little attention, but our research on what this tax grab will cost northerners is nothing less than shocking. For the district of Thunder Bay, this new tax will cost residents from Thunder Bay to Marathon and Thunder Bay to Longlac $4.5 million every year. In Kenora-Rainy River, the tax grab takes $2 million from our pockets.

The Minister of Northern Development would like to see this new tax as a way for us to pay our fair share for the cost of road improvements in the north. The minister should be ashamed of those comments. He knows full well that we pay our fair share every day at the pump when we fill up our tanks. The cost of gasoline is often 10 cents a litre, or more, more expensive in the north, and when you calculate that 25% of that fill-up goes directly to the provincial treasury down here at Queen's Park, it's clear that our contribution to road improvements and maintenance in the province is higher than anywhere else.

The fact is that the only way we would ever accept such a fee would be if the government equalized gas prices across the province. Until that happens, let me tell the Premier one thing: The people of northern Ontario will not forget this totally unjustified tax grab on northerners.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I'm proud today to bring to the attention of the House the accomplishments of the Seekers Girls Volleyball Club of the Hamilton area. They are not only the Ontario champions of 1997, but they are the gold medal winners for the eastern Canadian championships and we're very, very proud of their accomplishments.

The midget team roster for 1996-97 is Stephanie Car, Sarah Collins, Lauren Cosentino, Lisa Cosentino, Maria DiLivio, Katherine Dymkowski, Agnes Jankowski, Beth Lawlor, Lori Maloney, Laura Miller, Sarah Prior, Sarah Vinall and Melissa Whaley. The coaches are Frank Lilliman, Mike Campanella, Stu McCarthy, Rob Luciani, George Vinall, Norm Adie, Andy Burns and Jerry Crapsi.

I know all members of the House would want to pay tribute to these young people and their accomplishments.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I know sometimes I allow some leeway on those, particularly when they're non-political statements.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): It's my pleasure to rise in the House today and address an issue which is of tremendous importance to the people of my riding of Scarborough Centre. That issue is high taxes.

High taxes, overspending and deficit financing do not create lasting jobs. In fact, they are all barriers to job creation. They are all trademarks of the previous Liberal and NDP governments. I'm glad to say that our government is following through on its pledge to bring real change to Ontario, change that will bring jobs, smaller yet smarter government and less spending.

The plan of the Mike Harris government to revitalize Ontario is working. The 1997 Ontario budget continues the implementation of that plan. The new budget features 20 job-creating tax cuts, along with major reinvestments in several priority areas. The province needs tax relief to stimulate the economy, to be competitive with other jurisdictions and to create new jobs.

Our government is turning the economy around. Ontario is responding with jobs, growth and a renewed confidence and optimism. Focusing on priorities and controlling government spending have also allowed us to reinvest in areas like health care, where we are putting the patient first, education and community safety.

Our plan is working. It lays the foundation for a better tomorrow by investing in the future today. It also allows Ontarians to keep more of their hard-earned dollars.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): What does it say about education in Ontario when a group of parents in Oakville launches a $150,000 fund-raising drive to buy computers for the two elementary schools their children attend?

To me, it says that we are well on our way to two-tiered education where the children of parents who can afford to raise this kind of money will get the best, while the children of parents who could never raise $150,000 for anything will have to be satisfied with what the government provides.

With a government that has already cut $533 million from support for our classrooms, what this government provides to students is less and less; $533 million dollars in cuts means fewer supplies, fewer programs and larger class sizes. As the quality of education deteriorates, more and more parents who can afford something better for their children will step in to fill the gaps, and more and more schools will become for second-class students. Where does this end? We're well past the point of having a bake sale or a chocolate bar drive to raise a few dollars for a school field trip.

Last year, the government granted charitable foundation to the institutions that have been hardest hit by their cuts. Is this what's ahead for schools? Are they going to turn them into charities and let people get a tax break for contributing to their favourites? This is what education in Ontario is coming to. John Snobelen has created a crisis that can only be resolved by well-to-do parents stepping in, while the kids from less affluent families --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Statements? Member for Welland-Thorold.



Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): People in Pelham, down in Niagara region, very much wanted to believe Mike Harris and his Tory candidates back in 1995 when Mike Harris promised no new taxes and no municipal tax hikes. The people in Pelham know now that they can't believe Mike Harris because, let me tell you, for the tax year of 1997 the average property tax increase for Pelham homeowners is going to be just shy of $100, and that's before the catastrophic impact of Harris' megadump of spring of this year.

That means that these same hardworking people are going to see taxes increase in 1998 and 1999 by yet hundreds more in addition to the new $100 tax increase, a direct result of this government's downloading in 1997. These are hardworking people. These are young families with children. These are a whole lot of retirees who simply can't afford higher property taxes.

This government is responsible for the property tax increases and will be held accountable for these property tax increases by people in Pelham as this government will be held accountable across Niagara region, indeed across this province. These people were misled during the campaign of 1995. They won't be deceived again, I can tell you that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Welland-Thorold, you can't accuse a member of this House of misleading the public, and although you may suggest you didn't, I think you did and I'm going to ask you to withdraw.

Mr Kormos: I withdraw, but these people won't be misled again.

The Speaker: I appreciate the difficulty for you in standing up and using just those two words but it's your choice and I'll give you one last opportunity.

Mr Kormos: I withdraw, Speaker. But these people won't be misled again.


Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): I rise to remind members that this is Police Week 1997. It was decided many years ago that Police Week would always be held in May, starting on the Sunday in the week that contains the 15th day and ending on the following Saturday. May 15 is recognized internationally as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Tomorrow we should reflect and pay honour to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, the loss of their lives in the line of duty.

Police Week has focused on a variety of social and crime-related topics since its inception. Over the last several years, the main purpose of Police Week has been to forge stronger partnerships between police services and the communities they serve and of which they are a part.

Policing today is being given back to the community. By working together everyone benefits. Through the interaction of individuals, organizations and institutions which all share a responsibility for the wellbeing of the community, we are all better protected. As a former police officer and chair of the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board, I am proud to say that this government is strongly committed to front-line policing and is playing a leading role --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): For over six months I have been trying to get Bill 78 discussed in committee. The government has done nothing but stall. Innocent children have lost their lives. Only vehicle liability will give the law teeth to prevent future deaths. Drivers are passing school buses with their hands shielding their faces because they know they can't be charged if they can't be identified.

My bill has the support of the Ontario School Bus Association, Citizens for Responsible Driving, the Canada Safety Council, many school boards and municipalities, to name just a few. Groups supporting my bill want to come before the committee to tell Mr Palladini why vehicle liability is essential to save children's lives.

I have worked closely with Larry and Colleen Marcuzzi on this bill. They have spoken out publicly to explain why vehicle liability is essential. Colleen is looking down from the members' gallery today. Perhaps Mr Palladini would explain to her why he won't pass vehicle liability.

Quit stalling and quit playing politics, Minister. Implement your own vehicle liability legislation or let Bill 78 receive immediate public hearings. By the rules of this House and democratic government, it is entitled to that. The children of Ontario deserve no less.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The mace is a very important part of the heritage of this House and it is the significant instrument with which the Sergeant at Arms exerts his authority within this place. I don't think its access should be blocked for the sergeant by piles of papers or boxes.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On the point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand what the member for Perth is trying to say, but it also has to be pointed out that petitions have a long tradition within the British parliamentary system. In fact, that probably predates the actual utilization of the mace. We understand that we've been given direction for those particular petitions to be there, quite a number of them.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I thank the member for Perth for his submission. I think you make a valid point of order. There needs to be some accommodation, obviously, for members to bring in petitions and occasionally those petitions come from large numbers of people in this province. I have to allow a certain leeway to bring those petitions into this place because that is, in the greatest parliamentary tradition, what we are allowed to do and what we have been allowed to do.

I suggested they put them there and a whole bunch more are behind me in the back that they've agreed to put there. It seemed to me that for the limited amount of space they're going to take up, it made a lot more sense to allow them to be piled there than to be piled on their desks, which I would have classified as a demonstration.

It appears to me that we're getting close to a demonstration stage now by piling them all on everyone's desks. I would ask that you could put one at the front. Whoever wants to carry forward this petition may have one on their desk. That's acceptable, and I'll put the rest up front here. But once you start putting them on every member's desk, I think we're getting close to a demonstration, and I accept to some degree that point of order. Clearly, it's well received by the third party because I can see the member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Speaker, if I may, further to your ruling: There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of signatures on this anti-Bill 84 petition. I have 4,000 from Niagara Falls. I wanted to refer to them during my comments today. May I keep the 4,000 from Niagara Falls, or at least the 750 from Thorold?

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, I appreciate what you've put on the record now. I'd just like to say to you, if you'd like to keep those there you're more than welcome to take them out of the box and put them on your desk.

Mr Kormos: Thank you.

The Speaker: You're welcome. Statements.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): A few years ago, under the NDP government, Parent Finders and the Adoption Council of Ontario received a grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to update their services and improve their accessibility. Since that time these two voluntary organizations have published a new search manual, a new facilitators manual and services directory.

This Saturday the two organizations are sponsoring for the first time ever an outreach program called the Adoption Community Outreach Project's Provincial Registration Day, on Saturday, May 17, right across the province. The goal of the event is to provide public awareness around rights and services available to members of the adoption community. Volunteer representatives will be available at over 40 locations such as malls, farmers markets and libraries to provide free information and assistance to those interested in disclosure and reunion.

I would like to say on a personal level that my own experience with those organizations has been very positive. It was through a member of Parent Finders, Holly Kramer, that I was able to locate my birth son. The members are made up of adopted children, birth parents and adoptive parents, and between them they have a wealth of experience, compassion and advice to offer.

In Riverdale volunteers will be at the St Barnabas' Church at 361 Danforth Avenue. If you are interested in finding out where they will be in your area, you can call 416-465-8434.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): The opposition parties in the Legislature today are floundering. Since the introduction of our budget on May 6 by our Minister of Finance, the Honourable Ernie Eves, the opposition is totally at a loss.

How can they criticize a government which is doing so much for so many, a government which has found significant savings and continues to do so yet also makes needed reinvestments in various areas of our life together in this wonderful province, a government which demonstrates every day that it can both cut taxes and deliver better government services at less cost?

It's plain to me that some opposition members have implied or suggested that this government has cut health care spending. Nothing could be further from the truth. Total spending on health care this year will be $18.5 billion. Spending on ongoing programs alone will be $17.5 billion, up from $17.4 billion, to which we are all firmly committed.

What is truly new in the budget for health care, what has rendered our critics speechless and silenced the federal Liberals who have cut $2.1 billion in transfer payments to Ontario, is that we are investing both in capital and projects and in the restructuring process itself. We cannot expect hospitals to shoulder the entire burden of restructuring and we recognize that over the next five years there will be $2.7 billion reinvested in health care in our communities.

We have put the people and the patient first in finding ways to change spending priorities so that Ontario continues to enjoy a state-of-the-art health care system.



Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Yesterday I attended the truck safety blitz on Highway 400. I understand today you attended the same. More than half the vehicles yesterday were stopped or detained for a reason. One of your inspectors described one as a rolling Molotov cocktail. Another vehicle was described as a real horror show on wheels.

You have done absolutely nothing on truck safety except hold a few press conferences and blow a lot of hot air that with each passing day seems more and more meaningless. Will you call Bill 125 so that we can debate it and pass it in this House today?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I totally disagree with the honourable member saying that MTO enforcement staff and OPP officers have done absolutely nothing when it comes to truck safety. It's certainly something that needs to be readdressed, and taken a look at by the member.

I want to say to the member that I believe we have done a much greater job than your government ever did when you were in power, with the ingredients we have introduced, with the regulations we have implemented, and when it comes to taking vehicles off the road. I want to congratulate MTO staff and OPP staff for picking out the bad trucks because that's the art, in picking out. It's not the numbers that come out of it. It's making sure we pick the right ones and take those plates off the road. Their dedication -- I want to commend them for what they've done towards truck safety.

Mr Duncan: We'd like to commend them as well. In fact, Minister, we've been told by the OPP that they can't access your data, that your ministry and the OPP aren't even communicating. We've been told today that the OPP has invested in computer hardware to enable them to access your ministry's CVOR data -- that's the basic data you have on trucks and safety -- but your ministry won't give them a password.

Further, we've met with your MTO inspectors, who say there's nothing but confusion coming from the top. Your inspectors don't know who's in charge of this -- them or the OPP. The OPP and the inspectors can't agree. The only thing they agree on is that they are getting no support from you, no support from the leadership of your ministry. Will you act today to address their concerns, bring in Bill 125 and then bring in more comprehensive legislation to deal with these extremely important matters?

Hon Mr Palladini: As usual, the honourable member is wrong: I believe that OPP and MTO staff have a good working relationship and they are working in conjunction and making sure that safety on our highways is not compromised. Again I want to say that the member is wrong: The OPP have access through their dispatcher if they want to get a copy of the carrier's CVOR, so I do believe that elements are in place.

I want to say to the member that whatever we have done, I am not satisfied. I believe more has to be done. I have even asked the honourable member -- if you have input that you would like to give me, I'd be very willing to listen to you. We're going to continue to make sure that safety on our highways is not compromised.

Mr Duncan: We do have input. We'll be doing an opposition day in two weeks, and I will be introducing a private member's bill -- it's being drafted right now -- and will respond. In fact, there are a lot of people who want input.

In the members' gallery today are Robina Campbell's daughters. You'll remember Ms Campbell. She was one of the women killed on December 28. When you came out this morning they wanted to talk to you. Their family has sent you 15 letters and they have called your office repeatedly because they wanted input. They told me that when they spoke with you briefly today you blew them off, that you weren't interested in talking to them.

Will you meet with them today? Will you hear what they have to say? Will you call your bill and will you introduce comprehensive safety legislation, stop the press conference and start acting on a very crucial matter that you've been sitting on for two years?

Hon Mr Palladini: I want to say to the honourable member that he is dead wrong. I did not blow anybody off, and after question period I'd be very pleased to meet the two young ladies you are making reference to and I would like them to tell me if I did blow them off. As a matter of fact, I talked to them. I even told them that as far as what is going to happen with our overall safety bill, wheel separation will be a major part of that bill. I personally gave them that commitment this morning. The allegations you're making are totally wrong.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): My question today is to the Solicitor General. Firefighters, many fire chiefs across this province and many municipal councillors are opposed to your Bill 84, the so-called Fire Protection and Prevention Act. Some 225,000 Ontarians have signed petitions in opposition to this bill, many of which already have been presented in this House, and more are coming today.

We all believe that if you proceed with this bill you will be putting Ontarians' lives in jeopardy. Will you finally listen to the opposition to this bill, to our professional firefighters and the people of this province and withdraw Bill 84?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The reality is that the government has listened. The justice committee listened to a number of delegations right across this province. There has been significant change to the legislation based on the input received both by the committee and certainly through discussions and deliberations that I participated in both with chiefs' organizations and the firefighters' unions on a number of occasions. We addressed a significant number of the concerns that were brought forward. I can go through those amendments, and I will in a supplementary, but I think there's no question that we've addressed those concerns. Many of the petitions the member is talking about were signed and tabled prior to the amendments being brought forward, and we have addressed in a very significant way the major concerns of virtually everyone who expressed a concern about the legislation as tabled.

Mr Ramsay: That's wrong. The minor changes you've made have ignored the most dangerous parts of this bill, and the most dangerous parts of this bill are the potential for privatization, replacing full-time firefighters with part-timers and allowing municipalities to underservice their fire stations in using a call-back system. Those dangerous aspects are still in Bill 84.

Ontario's firefighting system is world-renowned. It is also one of the most effective government agencies we have. Any Ontarian at any time of the day can place a call to a fire station, a real person answers and help is instantly on the way. Why do you continue to push through a bill that encourages our municipalities to cut fire safety?


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You can't applaud in the gallery. Thank you.


Hon Mr Runciman: One of the ironies of the press conference that took place this morning was that there was an indication that some municipal officials were not going to support the legislation. The concerns that have been expressed by some firefighters and others with respect to the legislation is the question of privatization. The bill in no way encourages privatization. There's no change from the past. To indicate that's the case is not accurate. To suggest that municipal officials have some concerns -- ultimately, if any decision is made in that respect, it would be municipal officials who make it.

We have addressed all the major concerns. We've bent over backwards to accommodate the people expressing concerns about the legislation, have met with them on numerous occasions. We've made every effort possible to address what we believed in the end were legitimate concerns.

I must say that I am disappointed the attitude continues to prevail that this is bad legislation. In fact, this is very good legislation that improves public safety in this province.

Mr Ramsay: If you were seriously against the privatization of fire services in Ontario, you would change the definition of "employer" in the act to take out "a person or organization" and just restrict it to "municipality." But you haven't done that.

American companies are waiting at the Peace Bridge and they're already here in Ontario. They've bought up six emergency services in Ontario and they're waiting to privatize those fire stations. We're very concerned that with the manning of these fire stations with part-time workers, we're not going to have the responsiveness that Ontario firefighters are renowned for.

As you know, a fire doubles in size every minute. It's Ontario's record to have firefighters at the job in three to four to five minutes that saves people's lives in Ontario. This bill is going to destroy that. I ask you again: Withdraw this bill today.

Hon Mr Runciman: I don't believe it's responsible to make those kinds of allegations or accusations that the member opposite is making. In fact, this bill is going to provide increased fire protection for Ontarians right across this province. We have significant agreement on that. Certainly if you talk to chiefs, if you talk to volunteers across this province, and if you talk to most rank-and-file firefighters when they are made aware of the amendments we've brought forward to this legislation through the committee process --


The Speaker: Member for Sudbury, member for Essex South, member for Kenora, come to order.


The Speaker: Member for Essex South, I'm not debating you. Please come to order. I have to hear the answer from the Solicitor General.

Hon Mr Runciman: This bill in many ways, in many respects, strengthens fire protection in this province. One element is the fact that we now have the authority, through the Ontario fire marshal's office -- if he or she in the future believes a municipality is not providing an adequate level of public safety through their fire service, he or she has the option and the power to step in and make changes to ensure that that level of protection is provided.

That sort of thing is not in the current legislation. We're talking about legislation that is half a century old. We've moved it into the next century, the century coming.

New question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is to the Solicitor General as well. There are about a quarter of a million people across this province who don't believe a word you say. They've read your legislation. They understand that it's about privatizing fire services, they understand that it's about taking full-time fire services and making them into part-time fire services, and they understand it's about reduced fire services.

These are petitions signed by a quarter-million people across this province, people from Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Scarborough, North York, Brockville, Sault Ste Marie, Elliot Lake, Niagara Falls, Chatham, Nepean, Richmond Hill, Sarnia, you name it, from all across this province. They represent a tidal wave of opposition against your legislation.

They've read it, they've listened to people, they know what's in it. They know this involves the downgrading of fire services and this involves the downgrading of public safety in this province. Minister, why won't you listen to the quarter-million people who know you're wrong and have the courage to come out and petition you and tell you you're wrong?

Hon Mr Runciman: I guess there's a political justification for raising this issue today. I'm not sure there's any other justification, certainly not a public safety justification.

I recognize the importance of petitions and concerns being expressed by Ontarians relative to any piece of legislation this government may bring forward, but I pointed out in an earlier question that those petitions, to my knowledge, were all signed prior to the amendments coming forward through clause-by-clause in legislation.

The justice committee carried out extensive consultations across this province in a number of municipalities. My office and myself personally met with officials, both the chiefs and other stakeholders, including the unions, on numerous occasions to address their concerns. We put forward very substantive amendments recognizing those concerns and legitimate suggestions and ways we could improve the legislation, including amendments proposed by members of the opposition parties. To suggest that those --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister.

Mr Hampton: What this answer amounts to is that a quarter of a million people don't know anything, that 9,000 firefighters don't know anything, that volunteer firefighters, who agree that this legislation is not anything like what you say it is, don't know anything either, according to you. According to you, even your former parliamentary assistant doesn't know anything, because he saw how flawed this legislation was so you had to replace him.

What it comes down to is this: Fire chiefs, such as Dave Field from Windsor, say that this legislation is going to do harm. Peter Ferguson, fire chief here in Toronto, said this is going to do harm and he's urged you to withdraw this legislation. Insurance agents, fire survivors, seniors, police, doctors, nurses across this province have come forward and said that what you're really doing is that in order to take money out of fire services, you're prepared to downgrade the whole system.

What does it take to get you to listen to people who honestly care about the quality of fire protection and public safety? What does it take?

Hon Mr Runciman: I think we have listened and we've consulted and have made a very extensive effort to listen to concerns and to try to address them through the amendments and through the committee hearing process.

I must say I regret that at this stage of the game there are still those who are not supportive of the legislation, contrary to indications that were given to me when the amendments were finalized. That's unfortunate. Certainly we want to have the support of everyone involved in providing fire protection across this province, and we've tried to achieve that. Hopefully, upon finalization and completion of passage of this bill, we can work with all the stakeholders to ensure that's the case in the future.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Solicitor General, you haven't listened to the concerned citizens, hundreds of thousands of them, 9,000 thousand professional firefighters, thousands of volunteer firefighters who are partners in blended services. You haven't responded to their concerns.

You know that Bill 84 is going to put public safety at risk. It opens the door and facilitates the introduction of part-time firefighters and, more dramatically, of privatized firefighting services, American corporate for-profit style, and we know from the US experience that those private corporate firefighting services put profits before public safety.

This isn't just about dollars and cents. You're talking about people's lives and public safety. We know that speed, experience and teamwork save lives. You don't get a second chance when you're fighting a fire. How many people are going to have to die in fires in this province before you'll listen and make the meaningful and appropriate changes to Bill 84?

Hon Mr Runciman: That kind of rhetoric is offensive, to say the least. This is the same party that brought in employment equity in the fire services.


The Speaker: Order. Minister.

Hon Mr Runciman: I just want to briefly go over some of the concerns we've recognized during this process. Management exclusions: We're now red-circling to protect individuals who do not want to go into the management. Hours of work, a very major concern of firefighters when we talked to them across this province: We're going back to the original act. Emergency recall: We're going to allow that to be part of the collective bargaining process. Existing collective agreements will remain in place during a transition period to protect firefighters.

We've added definitions of "lockout" and "strike" as used under the Labour Relations Act, as asked for by the unions. We removed the certification and decertification provisions to allow fire associations to continue to represent firefighters. We've added the definition of "collective agreement." We've ensured that OMERS pensions are not affected by this legislation. We've clarified with respect to conciliation. We've deemed the existing associations to be the sole bargaining agents for the firefighters.

We have gone that extra mile to recognize those concerns and I'm very proud of this piece of legislation.

The Speaker: New question, third party.

Mr Hampton: I say to the Solicitor General that there aren't many people here today who agree with you.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. About a month ago you amputated the regulations section from Bill 103 so you wouldn't have to have Cafon Court public hearings on your megacity scheme and you told reporters that there would be a son of megacity bill to follow. You said it would deal with "how you deal with labour relations issues; for example, how do you amalgamate the various union contracts and that kind of stuff." We understand that legislation is being drafted now. We understand you're going to give the Association of Municipalities of Ontario the hammer to now go after their employees.

Take firefighters, for example. Will you confirm today that firefighters, police and other public sector employees will no longer have access to the roster --

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

Mr Hampton: -- of respected independent arbitrators on labour contracts, that in fact your government is going to appoint these people on a patronage basis?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): What happens with labour contracts when the new city is formed after January 1, 1998, will be the responsibility of the new council. The new council will have all the authority to negotiate with its various bargaining units, various unions, to determine not only what is in the best interests of the municipality, but in the best interests of the employees as well. What we're doing at the present time is drafting legislation that will enable the new council to take whatever actions it deems appropriate to deal with labour relations matters.

Mr Hampton: The legislation you're drafting deals with virtually every city, town and municipality in this province. It's legislation that will allow your government to go after those bargaining units. You didn't say a word of that in Bill 84. You didn't say a word of that in any of your other downloading legislation. But now it's coming out.

We understand the new dispute resolution commission will have all its members chosen by the Premier's office for order-in-council appointments. They will be given powers of binding arbitration over all workers in the broader public sector. The municipal employers, through AMO, have been given every opportunity to influence the drafting of this legislation. It amounts to a secret appendix to the agreement you drafted with AMO, something like hush money.

My question is this, Minister: Don't you think it's unfair that the only people you've talked to in the drafting of this legislation --

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Hampton: -- are the employers? Don't you think you should have talked to the workers, the firefighters and their unions before you drafted this legislation?

Hon Mr Leach: Obviously, as the member opposite knows, when the legislation is introduced it will go to committee where everybody will have an opportunity to have input.

I can tell the member opposite that the municipalities have consulted with their labour forces. What we want to ensure is that the duly elected council of the new city, for example, has every right and every means to deal fairly with its employees, and that the employees have every right to negotiate in a fair and reasonable way with their employer.

Mr Hampton: The minister doesn't understand why people would be upset when this legislation is drafted in the back room, and then is brought out and workers across the province who work in the broader public sector, who provide fire services, police services and other public services are told, "Here it is." You don't understand why people would be upset about that? Let me tell you why they'd be upset about that.

These changes are going to affect people's lives. We suspect it's not going to be done in a fair way at all, the same as Bill 84 was drafted and then hatched as a surprise on firefighters. This is going to be another nasty surprise by your government. If you're going to get rid of independent arbitrators, and you're giving all the power over public sector workers to a board of Conservative patronage hacks who are going to do your bidding through their concept of binding arbitration, there's no wonder that firefighters are here today and no wonder that all kinds of public sector workers are worried and concerned.

Minister, don't you think you should at least talk to them before you draft this legislation --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: What I have faith in is the ability of the employer and the ability of the union to be able to negotiate a contract --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Why don't you sit down with the union?

Hon Mr Leach: Because it's the responsibility of their employer to do that.


The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I warn you to come to order.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): You talk to the --

The Speaker: Member for Sudbury East.


The Speaker: Order in the galleries. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: It's rather disappointing that the head of the labour party would not have faith in the unions to be able to sit down and negotiate a contract with their employer. That's what we're doing with our legislation, to ensure that both labour and management have the tools they need to be able to negotiate a contract and to resolve any disputes they may have, whether that's by arbitration or by any other means. But it should be between the unions and the employers to work that out.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Attorney General. Ontario was quite surprised to learn in the past day that Premier Harris is considering fingerprinting all Ontario residents. For many in Ontario this is a very chilling thought. It smacks of a totalitarian government, the state watching our every move. I think it's unacceptable to the people of Ontario. It is the ultimate bully tactic. Will you tell the people of Ontario today that the government has no intention of pursuing this dangerous intrusion into private lives?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I will refer this question to the Chair of Management Board.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): This matter is being actively debated at the Metropolitan Toronto council, which is apparently concerned about abuse in the welfare system, about fraud and overpayment in the welfare system. I understand the item will go to Metro council on June 4, I believe it is. I can only say on behalf of the province of Ontario, and I would hope this view would be shared by all members of the House, that this government is concerned about fraud, about overpayments, about moneys that are not being used effectively and efficiently in whatever system, whether it's the health care system, the welfare system, the WCB.

This government feels that any method to ensure taxpayers' dollars are used most effectively to the people who need the services should be explored and investigated.


Mr Phillips: The reason we asked the question of the Attorney General is, this is not about tidiness and neatness and money; it's about fundamental rights for people of Ontario. That's why we went to the Attorney General, and to refer it, as if this were simply another little budget matter, is irresponsible.

We're talking about Mike Harris here, not Metro council. Mike Harris: "Harris mulls idea of fingerprint ID for all Ontarians."

Attorney General, I'll return to you for this question. This is a fundamental issue for the people of Ontario. I don't mean to be overly dramatic --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Quinte, that's out of order. I would ask that you withdraw that.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I withdraw it.

Mr Phillips: Wars, Attorney General, have literally been fought over this. This is a matter of fundamental rights, and I return to you. Will you, on behalf of Mike Harris and the government, rule out this draconian, major invasion of fundamental privacy of people?

Hon David Johnson: The Provincial Auditor has indicated that in the family benefits program there's some $100 million in fraud.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): This has nothing to do with fraud.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East and Essex South, I warn you to come to order. I won't warn you again. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: I think there are a number of issues that need to be respected in this. Certainly there are privacy issues that need to be respected, no question about it. There is also a need of the people of Ontario to have access to the best possible services -- health services, social services, workers' compensation -- that they can get from the government given the amount of money that's available to provide those services.

This government feels that, in light of those criteria, every possibility should be explored to ensure that, yes, privacy is respected, to ensure that systems are affordable and to ensure that the people of Ontario get the best possible services for the taxes that they pay.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Attorney General: Is your government saying that there is a problem that is so pressing, so urgent that you have to muse out loud about interfering with the democratic rights, the civil liberties of all 11 million people in Ontario? You have an obligation under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the charter is fulfilled and respected, to ensure that people's civil liberties and democratic rights are respected. Are you honestly saying as a government that there is such an urgent and pressing problem that you have to muse out loud about interfering with the civil liberties and the democratic rights of 11 million people by means of fingerprinting them all?

Hon Mr Harnick: I don't believe that anyone for an instant is saying or musing out loud that we don't have to respect the charter, that we don't have to respect --


The Speaker: Order. I can't hear the response. The question was allowed to be put. I think it's a responsible House that allows the answer to be put.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Mike will check Hansard.

The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, I ask that the answer be allowed to be put. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: I don't think anyone for one instant is suggesting that the charter doesn't have to be respected or that we don't have privacy laws against which legislation must be judged. That is taking liberties with what is happening at Metro council, a council that, I might add, has been considering this issue for six years, that is looking at the issue in terms of controlling a process they are concerned with, but that is also trying to do it in a way that's balanced and fair. No one for an instant is suggesting --


The Speaker: Order. Minister.

Hon Mr Harnick: -- and to make that categorization is absolutely false. To try and impute that kind of motive and to assume that laws don't have to be obeyed or that we wouldn't be respecting the charter as we watch what Metro council is doing is purely ludicrous.

Mr Hampton: Let's get right down to it. I'll tell you, Mr Attorney General, videotapes and audiotapes don't lie. They heard the Premier musing out loud about the benefits of having 11 million people in this province fingerprinted. You may not remember this, but in that very anti-democratic state of South Africa they used to have pass cards. If you wanted to go somewhere, you had to have a pass card. It is complete interference with people's civil liberties.

But let's take it even a step further. Let's get down to the real problem. The problem you have is this: Your government, despite all of its bragging, is not producing any jobs, so 1.5 million people in this province who are unemployed are becoming more desperate. You can kick people on social assistance all you want and then you can fingerprint them, but that isn't going to make their life in Mike Harris's economy any less desperate. Why don't you deal with the real problem? Instead of talking about fingerprinting 11 million people, why don't you get down to creating some jobs --

The Speaker: Thank you. Answer.

Hon Mr Harnick: If there was anyone who created desperation in this province, it was the former government who, after five years, lost 10,000 net jobs in the province. The fact of the matter is that in the last two months alone we have created, I think in the month of March, 46,000 net new jobs. If you want to talk about people creating desperation, it was the former government who put people in desperate straits.

We, as a government, are putting people back to work. We're creating new investment. We're bringing investment to Ontario. We're creating a climate that makes Ontario competitive again and is creating new jobs. Quite simply, we want to put people back to work to undo the damage they did as a government.


Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. Even though this government has improved the economic climate such that thousands of jobs are being created in Ontario on a monthly basis, the reality is that many people in the province still have difficulty affording a post-secondary education.

In last year's budget the government established the Ontario student opportunity trust fund, setting a goal of $100 million, which the province pledged to match dollar for dollar to support post-secondary education. I understand there has been considerable interest in the trust fund, that both colleges and universities have supported the government's initiative. How successful has the student opportunity trust fund been?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I note from the press today, perhaps it's Dr Stockwell and Mr Speaker, but I'll leave that to your observation.

The Speaker: It is Mr Speaker, and maybe the evil one, I don't know, but you're pushing to find out. I'm not sure.

Hon Mr Snobelen: It seems like the good Speaker, Mr Speaker, today.

I want to thank the member for Niagara Falls for the question. It's a question that we have been asked on several occasions around the province. In fact last year when we announced the Ontario student opportunity trust fund, we set a goal of $100 million for this fund that would be matched by the Ontario government and that would allow assistance for those students who are in most financial need. I have to say that I believe the university and college community was overwhelmed with the support from the private sector, individuals right across this province, who contributed $250 million, matched by the provincial government, a $500-million fund which will help 166,000 students in need over the next decade.

I think this speaks volumes about the support of individuals in Ontario to programs that make sense and speaks very well for the Challenge fund, which will help the research in our universities over the course of the next decade as well.

Mr Maves: Minister, it's heartening to hear that news. In light of the success of the fund to date, will the minister extend the program?

Hon Mr Snobelen: In fact we have, as I was just saying, announced the Challenge fund, a 10-year program, $3 billion, in cooperation with the federal government, with the private sector, with individuals, with universities and the provincial government to create research centres of excellence in Ontario.

In addition to that, because colleges were restricted by previous governments from getting help from individuals in the private sector, and they only recently have got permission from this government to go out and have that kind of support, we are going to extend the student opportunity trust fund for our colleges so they can take advantage for another full year. I am very proud of the support our colleges and universities have got from individuals in the private sector right across Ontario.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question today is for the Minister of Health. Two days ago Women's College Hospital presented a report concerning the final submission to what many Ontarians now know as the health services destruction commission. The report found that your commission has overestimated the kinds of savings it can deliver not by a few dollars, not even by $10 million, but by $51 million, and then underestimated the one-time cost by $31 million. That's an $89-million error. Today we heard from representatives from the Montfort Hospital, from Riverside, from Ottawa General, a hospital not even closing, and they have presented an analysis confirmed by Deloitte and Touche and by KPMG in which they say $89 million worth of savings and costs are wrong.

Who is going to protect the public interest here? Who is going to make sure, when these multimillion-dollar errors happen, that the public is going to be protected? Will it be you, and will you stand and tell us how you'll do that today?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member is very much aware of the process that's set out in law, that the hospitals have every right to do what they are doing: to present their own data, new data, revised data, including cost projections or cost-saving projections, to the Health Services Restructuring Commission. I trust in the case of Women's College they've done that. I know in the case of Montfort and the hospitals involved in the press conference today that during their press conference they said they had submitted those data to the commission. The commission will make the final determination.

Mr Kennedy: I think the people of Ontario, the patients served by those hospitals you're proposing to close -- you're proposing to close these hospitals just as you've cut all the hospitals in this province -- want to know who is looking after the interests of patients. You keep claiming you can't do anything, that you've put this hospital destruction commission out there to do things, that there is a process. I want to send over to you part of your own Bill 26. It says, "The minister may amend or revoke a direction made under this section where the minister considers it to be in the public interest...."

Minister, $171 million worth of errors by your commission have been identified in the past two days. Who is going to protect Ontarians when your commission makes mistakes? Will you use the powers you have and will you protect the interests of people who need good health care in this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: I could read back to the honourable member all the quotes from his leader, from past health critics on that side calling for restructuring in this province and the need to get rid of the waste, duplication and inefficiencies of the system and invest every dollar found in savings back into front-line services for patients, more services for patients as we prepare for our growing and aging population.

I'll say to the honourable member and repeat my last answer: The commission will make the final determination. I have heard Dr Duncan Sinclair, the head of that commission, through the media, on TV and the radio, saying many, many times that he welcomes this sort of input, that they want to get it right. It's premature to say it's a "mistake" at this point, given that what this process is about is to present up-to-date data to make sure the commission receives all the facts it needs to make a final determination.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ma question est au ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones, et je demande qu'il réponde à la question. Vous savez que présentement vous avez une loi, votre gouvernement, le projet de loi 108, qui traite des poursuites concernant certaines infractions provinciales devant la Chambre. Moi, je vous dis que ce que vous êtes en train de faire, c'est de mettre en danger les services en français pour beaucoup de francophones en l'Ontario.

Tout, si cette loi passe, quoi qu'il va arriver, quoi qu'il se passe avec les infractions provinciales, jusqu'à aller aux tribunaux, ne va pas être couvert sous la Loi 8. Je vais vous lire une décision que j'ai eue des avocats de cette Assemblée. Je vais la lire en anglais car la réponse est en anglais. Je veux que vous écoutiez. Ça dit:

"Bill 108 will not preserve the right to receive court administration and support services, ie, services provided outside the courtroom, when those services are provided by municipalities -- "

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

Mr Bisson: Speaker, please, this is serious. "This is because the French Language Services Act does not apply to municipalities and because the courts of justice -- "

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, come to order, please. Minister.

L'hon Noble A. Villeneuve (ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : Nous avons répondu à la question. Mon collègue le ministre de la Justice a répondu à votre question il y a déjà deux jours. Nous avons écouté très attentivement les juristes d'expression française qui ont fait leur présentation au comité, et puis je peux vous assurer que le projet de loi 108 n'enlèvera rien à nos Ontariens d'expression française.

Mr Bisson: Monsieur le Ministre, la décision est bien claire. Les avocats de cette Assemblée nous disent, «Oui les francophones vont perdre les services en français pour tous les services hors de la cour.» Justement, quand j'ai fait cette enquête-là ils me disent, puis je le dis encore, dans le document que j'ai encore -- c'est écrit en anglais, "The Office of Francophone Affairs is hoping that Bill 108 will be amended."

C'est vous, le ministre de ce secrétariat. Allez-vous supporter notre amendement pour amender le projet de loi 108 pour garantir que les services en français vont être respectés par les municipalités quand vous donnerez ces services-là aux municipalités ?

L'hon M. Villeneuve : Comme je vous ai dit, nous avons écouté toutes les représentations qui ont été faites au comité et je vous assure que le ministre de la Justice ainsi que moi-même n'enlèverons rien à nos Ontariens d'expression française.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is for the minster of Environment and Energy. In Kent county and indeed all of southwestern Ontario concern for the environment is primary. In Essex county because of the proximity to the United States, in Lambton because of the Chemical Valley, I understand today that you introduced a pilot program that encourages development and use of new environmental technologies. Could you explain for the House exactly what that new pilot project is?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I believe this is an important new effort on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Energy to encourage new innovation and new technologies. What will happen is that the Ministry of Environment and Energy will provide written evaluations on new technologies. This will give potential buyers and investors greater confidence in this new technology. It will speed up approvals in Ontario and it will help hurdle many of the barriers which new innovators have in the marketplace.

This new project will ensure that new innovators in Ontario with regard to the environment will not only have an opportunity in the domestic market but will also have an opportunity in the international market.

Mr Carroll: It sounds as though the project, the pilot you announced today, takes into account the required balance between industry and the environment. Could you explain for us -- obviously there's a process involved -- exactly what that process does involve?

Hon Mr Sterling: At the present time, if a person comes up with a new technology to solve an environmental problem, it is necessary for them to go out and sell this technology to a would-be buyer. It is often necessary for them to have the order for that project to go ahead, that is, they have to combine the new technology with the site and then get approval from the Ministry of Environment.

Under this process, the inventor or the innovator or the entrepreneur can come to the ministry before they actually have the order and the site location. They therefore can get pre-approval or pre-evaluation of their innovative technology and take that approval and use it as a sales tool to help them sell this new technology to a would-be buyer.

This is not a required thing that they do for the environment but it is an option. It is a tool which the environmental industry can use to their benefit, not only in our province --

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



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Environment. First of all, Minister, if you want to help the environment, maybe you can restore some of the $121 million that you've cut out since you have taken office.

In regard to the question: The west side of Hamilton Harbour has an area known as Randle Reef. It is one of the most contaminated hot spots in Canada. It is probably the second-worst spot. It is the worst spot in Hamilton Harbour. It is coal tar, a contamination that is causing a threat to the rest of Hamilton Harbour. It is spreading and it is in desperate need of cleanup.

The cost of this cleanup is estimated to be about $8.5 million. One third of that money has been committed by the federal government. There's an effort to get Stelco, the company responsible for part of it, to commit to one third. Can I ask you today if the provincial government is willing to do its share in the cleanup of Randle Reef in Hamilton Harbour and commit to one third of the $8.5 million necessary?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): About a month ago I announced that this government was going to give, and we did transfer, $1 million to clean up the Randle Reef problem, which has been brought to the attention of the House by the member opposite. We feel that contribution is a first step. The federal government has given forward $3.5 million.

We have to take this into context with the other things that the provincial ministry has been doing with regard to the cleanup of a number of projects in the Great Lakes. This government and previous governments have contributed about $300 million to that process, while the federal government has committed about $80 million. We feel that imbalance has to be made up and perhaps in this particular project there's a greater onus on the federal government to come forward with a little bit more money than the provincial government does in this case.

Mr Agostino: Simply, that is not good enough, Minister. That is not good enough for the people of Hamilton. That excuse is flawed. You have a responsibility to do your share to help clean up Hamilton Harbour. The federal government has committed money. Past history and histrionics mean nothing to this project. What is holding up this project is your lack of commitment towards the cleanup of this spot in Hamilton Harbour.

One million dollars is not enough. It is a one third cost-sharing. The price has gone down from $15 million to $8.5 million now as the result of technology, so your commitment for that project to go ahead must be $3.5 million. Anything short of that shows a lack of commitment and a lack of leadership. You sitting here passing the buck to the federal government simply is not good enough.

The work and the money that you talked about earlier that has gone into the cleanup of Hamilton Harbour is now in jeopardy as a result of the fact that this hot spot -- we're not talking about a feel-good thing here. We're talking about a toxic hot spot. We're talking about cancer-causing chemicals and agents in this. Again, I ask you, Minister, will you show leadership today and commit to --

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

Hon Mr Sterling: I believe a number of people are responsible for the cleanup. We've already mentioned the federal government, the provincial government. We also believe that the industries which created this particular problem should be coming to the table as well.

I indicated previously to the member that the government may consider granting more money to this particular project, but I must say that the mayor, the regional chair and the conservation authority were very pleased with this government, in a tight fiscal situation, being able to give to the community of Hamilton-Wentworth $1 million for this project last fiscal year. We are looking to continue working with them, but we are looking for other partners to come to the table, as I mentioned before, particularly those who caused this problem.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is for the Attorney General. You know this question is coming, Minister, as I raised it with you earlier and laid some documents before you. I am today in this House publicly raising the plight of Mrs Phyllis McAvoy, whose son, Mark McAvoy, died February 13, 1991, as a result of a shotgun blast at the home of a friend where only he and the friend were present. There were ultimately charges of criminal negligence laid against the friend, but that was reduced by plea bargaining that ultimately resulted in a suspended sentence with two years' probation.

Mrs McAvoy would not accept the fact that this result meant that the justice system decided her son had committed suicide. She could not accept that. With the help of Spectator reporter Jim Holt and regional police services board chair Terry Cooke, she spent two years fighting to get a coroner's inquest that ultimately was held and did show that there was not a suicide. Someone else caused the death, and the death scene had been altered before the police arrived. Minister, this citizen is not only lost in the justice system, she's out $50,000. I am asking you to review this outstanding legal bill.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Just before you start, Attorney General, can I ask that the private conversations taking place right now be taken out into the east lobby. I am having difficulty hearing the questions. Thank you. Attorney General.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The member did provide me with some material today, and I can assure the member that the material will be reviewed and certainly the question that he has asked will be considered.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the Attorney General's commitment and in a very non-partisan way I know that he will review this as carefully as possible.

I want to underline and underscore to him the fact that Mrs McAvoy is not a rich person by any stretch. She's an ordinary working person who fought to show that the justice system made a mistake and it's proven that they did. In fact, CBC's The 5th Estate in October 1996 did a major exposé on how the justice system failed Mrs McAvoy.

I suggest that she is entitled to this $50,000 that she is now in debt for, for two important reasons: One is that she personally had to fight our justice system to get natural justice for her and her son; second, the coroner's inquest brought out recommendations that have made the justice system better for all citizens of Ontario in the hope that there won't be any more tragedies like Mrs McAvoy's. I say to you, Attorney General, that there's every reason for this government to take this woman out of debt and give her back as much dignity and hope for the future as this tragedy might allow.

Hon Mr Harnick: Again, I've indicated that I will review the material that the member provided me with and will give it every consideration.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. As you are aware, Minister, this government is all about doing better for less, providing better services at lower cost to the taxpayer. One of the mechanisms for achieving that goal, as I know the opposition wants to hear, is through industry self-management of regulatory compliance. You have carried out some discussions on this matter with some industry groups. I wonder if you can update us on the status of these discussions.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I thank the member for his question. I was fortunate this morning to be addressing the Toronto Real Estate Board and we had a discussion on some of the self-management issues.

First, I'd like to clarify that we're talking about self-management, not self-regulation. The province will continue to set the policy and certainly provide the guidelines. We're talking about licensing functions and enforcement and educational programs as well.

I am happy to report the fact that the Real Estate Council of Ontario, RECO, and the technical standards and safety authority assumed responsibility for the appropriate statutes on May 5. An administrative agreement has been signed with the travel industry, TICO, paving the way for the delegation of functions in the near future.

Clearly these are initiatives that are welcomed by the industries, but certainly welcomed by consumers as well, and I think this will raise the bar in terms of the standards we were going to provide for the consumer in the province of Ontario.

Certainly we now have associations that will encompass all members of these industries and not just the ones which currently belong to private organizations.


Mr Parker: I agree. It's very important for the opposition to keep very clearly in mind that we are talking about self-management of compliance. The regulations will continue to be set by the province.

Minister, you've commented on your discussions with industry groups. Have you also been discussing these matters with consumer groups such as the Canadian Automobile Association or other consumer councils?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: A significant amount of consultation went on with consumer groups. I'm also pleased to advise that a number of the representatives of consumer groups are members of these particular councils. For example, on OMVIC, which is the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, we have Pauline Mitchell of Hamilton. Ms Mitchell is a long-time resident of Hamilton but currently is the manager of public and governmental affairs for the Canadian Automobile Association of south-central Ontario. In the Real Estate Council of Ontario, we have Alan Silverstein, who people recognize as quite an expert in the real estate field and who has a column in the Toronto Star and reports on consumer issues.

Dealing with the technical standards and safety authority, we have Joyce Feinberg, a previous deputy minister with the government who is also a board member of the Canadian Consumer Council, and Rosalie Daly Todd, who's the legal counsel of the Consumers' Association of Canada.

Clearly this is a commitment we have to ensure that the consumers are protected.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. In introducing your Bill 96, the so-called Tenant Protection Act -- not -- which of course takes away much of the protection from tenants, you received a letter from the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission expressing some grave concerns -- another human rights issue, the second today, that we asked this government about.

Minister, what do you plan to do? For the first time, what this suggests is that you will introduce regulations that are not in the code, undercut the Human Rights Code and allow violations against people by introducing an income test for people, which is discriminatory, systemic discrimination, in fact.

Will you listen to what the commissioner is saying and take sections 36 and 200 out of your particular amendment so human rights will prevail in Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I've corresponded with the chief commissioner and he has also commented that he does recognize that landlords have legitimate business reasons for requesting information such as credit checks and rental histories. He further stated that the commission does not challenge the landlords who request information concerning a person's rental history and credit ratings or who require first or last month's rent.

The commissioner indicated that he had some difficulty with income information, and we advised the commissioner that we would be pleased to review that with him, and when the bill gets through second reading and gets to committee, we would be pleased to talk about an amendment to deal with that issue.



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

"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 failure to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

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

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

That's signed by many constituents throughout my riding and I attach my name to that as well.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a petition that has been signed by 360 concerned citizens from the community of Fort Frances. What it says is as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

As I indicated, this has been signed by 360 citizens from the community of Fort Frances, and I affix my signature as well in support of them.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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


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

«Les pompiers doivent faire preuve de rapidité, d'expérience et d'esprit d'équipe pour sauver des vies. Je m'oppose à toute législation qui pourrait amoindrir le travail de mes pompiers locaux et compromettre la sécurité lors d'un incendie dans ma communauté. Veuillez écouter ce que disent les pompiers professionnels et amendez ce projet de loi 84 afin d'éliminer la menace à la sécurité lors des incendies.

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

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have here in my hand literally thousands of signatures from people, concerned citizens, about Bill 84, the so-called fire safety bill, who are very concerned about this bill, and these people are all from the Toronto area. It reads:

"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I agree with this petition wholeheartedly and will affix my name.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): First, I'd like to thank the member for Algoma for delivering my petitions to me from my riding. Thank you very much. These are from Owen Sound and around Grey county.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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


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

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

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

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

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


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a petition that's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

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

This is signed by hundreds of people from the municipality of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and other places in Niagara region, people like --

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): No, we don't need all the names.

Mr Kormos: I affix my signature to it as I'm in complete agreement with it, along with the thousands of other petitions having been tabled with the Clerk here today.


Mr Maves: I have a number of petitions from people concerned with Bill 84. As the minister has said, all of these came in before the amendments, and I think many of those amendments have addressed some concerns.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): My petition reads: "Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

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

I affix my signature in agreement with hundreds who have signed this petition.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I would just say that it doesn't bode well for the workers of this province when the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour insults firefighters the way the member for Niagara Falls did here just a few moments ago.

I have a petition -- in fact I have thousands of petitions signed by over 15,000 concerned citizens in the Hamilton-Wentworth area, my home town -- and this petition is in support of those firefighters who are here today, and good for them, putting up the good fight.

"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

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

I proudly add my name to the 15,000 citizens who are supportive of this petition today.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It's signed by some 50 members and attendants of the Knox Presbyterian Church in Elora, and they are opposed to the creation of 44 so-called charity casinos equipped with some 20,000 video lottery terminals.


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

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

I've also signed my name to that petition.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I too have a petition, that was signed by 5,550 residents of the regional municipality of Sudbury. These are people who know that the government amendments on Bill 84 were pathetic and do nothing to stop the privatization of fire services or protect --

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you present the petition? This is not debate.

Ms Martel: Absolutely, Mr Speaker. It reads as follows:

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

I agree with the petitioners and I have signed my name to these petitions.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have another petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas we, the principals and vice-principals of Grey county's elementary and secondary schools, believe that the membership of principals and vice-principals in their respective professional federations is an important factor in creating and maintaining a positive, collegial learning environment for students.

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

"That principals and vice-principals remain as members of the Ontario Teachers' Federation and its affiliates."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition signed by thousands of people from Thunder Bay, along the North Shore communities and Longlac, Geraldton, Beardmore and Nipigon who are very concerned about Bill 84 and very concerned that the government has not listened. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I'm proud to sign this on behalf of all the people who are concerned about this issue.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm pleased today to be submitting petitions from the communities of the city of Scarborough, 16,905 signatures, and from the borough of East York, 1,275. It reads as follows:

"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I am in complete agreement and have affixed my signature.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Having been the first member of the Legislative Assembly to present a petition in opposition to Bill 84 the day it was tabled, I continue to be expressly concerned about the dangers inherent in this legislation, so I continue to agree that:

"Speed, experience and teamwork save lives. Don't get burned by Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I affix my signature to it.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I too have a petition that talks about speed, experience and teamwork saving lives.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

I, together with thousands of Kingstonians, have signed a petition like this.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): My apologies to the member for Algoma. I was blocked out and I didn't see you. I recognize you now.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition, but with your indulgence, Speaker, I would like to announce to the members of the assembly that Canada has just defeated Sweden 2 to 1 and won the World Hockey Championship.

The Acting Speaker: I thought you had a petition.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by 65 residents of Malette Bay, a community in Ley township, north of Sault Ste Marie.

"Whereas we the residents or property owners in Ley township in the region of Algoma are without telephone service in our community;

"Whereas for several years we have attempted to rectify this situation through individual pleas and by group petitions directly to Bell Canada and at least on one occasion a petition to the CRTC;

"Whereas the situation is this: Bell Canada lines run to within one kilometre of some of the undersigned properties to a maximum of 10 kilometres to the furthest household. These telephone lines are carried on existing utility poles. Utility lines extend past the furthest household;

"Whereas the lack of telephone services endangers all of us due to the inability to contact emergency services such as fire services; the makeup of our community is diverse and includes senior citizens, home-based entrepreneurs and on-call professionals; the nature of our lifestyle requires the use of inherently dangerous equipment such as chainsaws and axes; both residents and visitors regularly operate potentially dangerous recreational vehicles; lack of speed of access to emergency services such as ambulance heightens our risk significantly;

"Whereas the lack of telephone service seriously impairs the ability of home-based businesses to conduct their business activities in a professional and timely manner;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to intercede on our behalf in our support to have telephone service provided to our community."

I support this. I can't believe that in the 1990s a community less than 25 miles from a major urban centre does not have telephone service.




Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On behalf of the member for Nickel Belt, I beg leave to present the 38th report of the standing committee on government agencies.

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

Mr Kormos: No, thank you.

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



Mr Runciman moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 84, An Act to promote Fire Prevention and Public Safety in Ontario and to amend and repeal certain other Acts relating to Fire Services / Projet de loi 84, Loi visant à promouvoir la prévention des incendies et la sécurité publique en Ontario et modifiant ou abrogeant certaines autres lois relatives aux services de lutte contre les incendies.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I want to indicate at the outset that there has been an all-party agreement for a five-minute bell on this bill at five to 6.

I'm pleased to have the opportunity to make a few brief remarks at third reading of Bill 84, the new Fire Protection and Prevention Act. As members are aware, the standing committee on administration of justice has recently completed public hearings and clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 84. The committee spent a total of seven days hearing from witnesses in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Kingston, Thunder Bay and Sudbury.

As always, these hearings provided an excellent opportunity for all interested parties to offer suggestions and comments on the bill. Since this is the first time in almost 50 years that the fire service legislation in Ontario has been substantially amended, I felt it was particularly important to hear from people and organizations on all sides of the issues before the bill was finalized.

I want to take just a few moments here to thank all of the people who participated in the hearings and who made submissions. In particular, I want to thank the fire chiefs, the fire associations and the front-line firefighters, both full-time and volunteer, who attended the hearings. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the justice committee for the time and effort they put into seeing Bill 84 through the committee process.

In addition to the formal committee process, I've also been involved in a number of, I think it's fair to categorize them as, productive meetings with fire service stakeholders. As a result of these meetings and the hearings, we've made a very significant number of important amendments to the bill. In fact, I understand that the committee passed a number of amendments which were put forward by opposition members as well. In my view, this process has been an excellent demonstration of the way the parliamentary process can and should work.

We also adopted a number of proposals put forward by the associations representing both Ontario's fire chiefs and firefighters, and their advice was very helpful. For example, the fact that we have defined a fire chief as "the person who is ultimately responsible to the council of a municipality...for the delivery of fire protection services" recognizes that fire chiefs are the experts, they are the key advisers to council on public fire safety matters.

The committee also passed a number of housekeeping matters that clarify the language of the bill and will resolve misunderstandings.

We changed the language on pensions -- this was a concern of many firefighters -- to make it clear that OMERS pension rights are not affected by this legislation. That was our intention from the beginning, but concerns arose and we moved to clarify that.

We also dealt with issues regarding costs of mandatory conciliation and arbitration procedures. With respect to conciliation, Bill 84, as amended, provides that each side will now pay its own legal costs, and we expect that the Ministry of Labour will provide conciliators. On arbitration, each side will pay its own legal costs and both sides share the costs of the arbitrator. That was another concern of the associations.

On a major concern of the associations dealing with management exclusions from the bargaining unit, we've attempted to balance the needs of municipalities for flexibility in their management structure so they can effectively manage fire services with the concerns of firefighters related to the exclusion process. The bill will now allow firefighters to refuse automatic exclusions. They will be able to remain in the bargaining unit and enjoy full salary protection. This is called "red-circling," another major concern of the associations that we moved to address.

For non-automatic exclusions, the employer will now be able to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a determination and the individual will remain in the bargaining unit until the board makes a decision regarding that individual's status. It was a concern of the associations that if an exclusion decision was made by management and while a decision was pending from the OLRB, that could jeopardize the status of that individual firefighter. Again, we've moved to address that concern.

We have also amended the sections of the bill dealing with hours of work and emergency recall, two very significant concerns of professional firefighters in this province. We've moved to address those so they can now be matters for negotiation between the parties, again recognizing those concerns of professional firefighters across this province.

Another major concern of firefighters' associations that we addressed through our amendments was certification and decertification procedures. They have been deleted from the bill, and the associations are deemed to be the bargaining agents for firefighters, a very significant move, a very significant amendment, a very clear recognition of the concerns of professional firefighters in this province.

Finally, we've clarified procedures during the transition period so that existing collective agreements continue to be recognized after the proposed bill comes into effect. This is in effect protection during amalgamations, municipal restructuring, protecting firefighters during that process.

As in every issue involving labour and management, no one got everything they wanted, but I must say there was significant movement, significant change in recognition of concerns and suggestions and proposals that we heard during the committee process and during discussions I and my staff had with members of various stakeholder organizations, with individual firefighters and with members of this Legislature.

There's no doubt in my mind that the legislation as amended will make it easier for fire departments to concentrate on their responsibilities for public fire safety. That really is the key to an effective fire service or any life-and-death emergency service: a cooperative work environment that strikes a balance and allows firefighters to get the job done, a balance and an environment that will improve public safety and save lives.

These amendments address many of the concerns raised by the various stakeholders, and I believe the final result is a piece of legislation we can all be proud of. I believe that as members of this Legislature we all share a common interest in developing legislation that helps municipalities provide all Ontarians with the best possible fire protection in the most efficient way.

I want to make this next point very clear: We have heard concerns raised that part-time firefighters or some other service delivery model, if adopted by a municipality, could compromise public safety.


I want to indicate very strongly that that certainly will not happen. I would not allow it to happen; I would not allow public safety to be compromised, and I don't believe any Solicitor General who holds this office in the future would allow that to occur.

I want every member for this Legislature to know that Bill 84 will require -- require -- every municipality to provide an appropriate level of fire protection that meets the needs and circumstances of its residents, whether they employ full-time, part-time, volunteers or a combination of these to deliver the service. This is a new initiative: a guarantee of protection to municipalities across this province.

This requirement will be backed by important new powers that will rest with the fire marshal of Ontario. If the fire marshal believes there is a serious threat to public safety, under Bill 84 he will have the authority to review municipal fire services and make recommendations to the municipal council, and if that serious threat is not corrected the government will now have the authority to directly regulate a solution. These are very, very important improvements in the legislative framework for fire safety in Ontario.

The bill also formally establishes the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council as a vehicle to develop partnerships with the private sector to promote fire safety. The fire service in Ontario, both professionals and volunteers, has made remarkable strides in reducing fire losses in the past 25 years. Those improvements are reflected in fire loss statistics: In the past 25 years, fire fatalities in Ontario have fallen by 60%, a dramatic improvement. In order to achieve further improvements in fire safety, we need to develop better methods of preventing fires rather than fighting them, and that's precisely the approach Bill 84 takes. It doesn't neglect fire suppression, but for the first time, it gives a special focus and equal weight to fire prevention and to public education as the best method of improving our fire prevention programs.

Fire prevention and public education are not new ideas. Fire departments across the province have been doing this for years. However, Bill 84 makes these activities mandatory -- mandatory -- and it obliges municipalities to provide these programs as part of their fire protection service. It also authorizes the fire marshal to assume a leadership role in helping municipalities develop these programs and in providing the necessary support materials. Personally, I am very optimistic about this approach. I believe it offers the best hope for further dramatic improvements in fire safety.

Prior to Bill 84, the legislation in the area of fire protection and prevention had not been substantially changed for decades. Change was clearly long overdue. In fact, all three parties in this Legislature have been involved in the fire services review, which dates back to 1983. I think there was significant frustration among many stakeholders about an inability to achieve a consensus, and I think the lack of ability to achieve a consensus was reflected here today. It's a very difficult challenge, and politics always enters into these kinds of equations. I think there was a responsibility, certainly a responsibility recognized by this government, that it was time to get on with the job and get it finished so that the fire chiefs and the front-line firefighters could get on with their job, the most important job of all: protecting the public from fire.

Taken together, I believe the changes made to the fire services legislation under Bill 84 will allow Ontario's communities to be better protected from fire for decades to come.

I know this has been a difficult process for many of us involved, but I hope that following completion of this and following passage of the bill we can all work together in what I know is a shared interest of members of this House and members of fire services, no matter what role they play, for improved public safety in this province. That's certainly my commitment, and I know that behind all this, behind all the discussion, all the debate, all the disagreements, all of us have the best interests of Ontarians at heart.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Let me just say that I was involved in the hearings to some extent in my own municipality, and certainly the firefighters don't put as nice a shine on the whole situation as the Solicitor General has just done. As he has been requested to do a number of times, why doesn't he just withdraw part IX, that part of the bill that deals with the labour relations provisions, and I think I can say that pretty well everybody will be quite satisfied with the bill.

What you're doing in the labour relations provisions of this bill, in part IX, is taking away from the professional firefighters provisions and agreements that have been negotiated between themselves and the municipalities over the years. You are unilaterally taking those rights away. That is the essence of what this is really all about.

Second, of course, is this whole area of whether or not the fire services in a municipality can or cannot be privatized. Repeatedly you've stated that it's not the case. If it's not the case, why don't you specifically state so in the bill, that fire departments will remain municipal fire services or will be operated through the government? Why don't you just specifically put in the bill, if that is really your intent, the fact that a municipality cannot privatize its fire services?

That's what this bill is all about. You can put all sorts of beautiful lines on it and all sorts of beautiful images on how wonderfully everybody will get along afterwards. The fact still is that that's what the fire associations are concerned about: They are concerned about privatization of the fire services in their municipalities and they're concerned about you, the government, unilaterally withdrawing labour relations provisions that the associations in the individual municipalities throughout this province have fought for and have been able to obtain as a result of open and free collective bargaining and negotiations.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I listened carefully to what the member for Leeds-Grenville, the Solicitor General, had to say, and I must say that he attempts to put a gloss on the situation by saying, "It's been difficult -- there's been disagreement, there's been controversy -- but now we're going to make it work and everybody is going to get on." I'm sure the firefighters in this province will do everything they can to ensure that people are protected and properties are protected so we don't lose lives and we don't have property losses as a result of fire. They'll do everything to prevent those emergencies, and when they face them, they'll do their best to serve the public and to protect the public and public safety.

What's disturbing about this process is that the government did not listen to what those firefighters had to say. The central issues that they brought before the committee the government did not deal with. To have members of the government party get up and say, "The petitions that were presented were all signed before the committee did its work and the amendments were passed, so therefore everything is fine," does not deal with the fact that there are firefighters in this province who are genuinely concerned about their collective bargaining rights and who are concerned about the future of municipal firefighting in this province if it is privatized, as has been suggested may in fact happen.

The fact is that this bill was designed through consultation with the fire chiefs. It did not respond to the concerns of the firefighters and it still doesn't. It's most unfortunate that through this whole process the government has basically said: "We're prepared to make minor changes, but the central issues that are raised by the firefighters we will not change. We will not respond to their concerns."


The Acting Speaker: The Solicitor General has two minutes to respond.

Hon Mr Runciman: I appreciate the comments. I don't agree with any of them, but I appreciate the members' right to express their views and the views of their party.

The member for Kingston and The Islands talked about part IX. I think we have moved to address a number of the concerns that firefighters have posed related to part IX. But there are other concerns related to that section in terms of allowing other partners in the provision of fire services in this province to have some degree of flexibility in terms of the management of that service, and I think that's a needed balance that we've tried to achieve. Certainly it hasn't been without some challenge, but I think at the end of the day, we've done a pretty good job in achieving that balance.

Both the member from Kingston and the member for Algoma talked about privatization. This bill does not promote privatization. That's an option that already exists or existed under the Municipal Act. I found it quite ironic to see the press conference this morning where a number of municipal officials were talking about not agreeing to this. Well, municipal councils have had the option of consideration of privatization in the past under the Municipal Act and they're the folks who will have this option in the future. I think they tend to act in the best interests of their own citizens in terms of public safety questions. For them to now say that this is a new issue, that this is some new concern that's been placed on their plate is totally inaccurate. The opposition's attempts to continue to put forward the suggestion that we are in some way and some how promoting privatization is completely inaccurate.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we should seek unanimous consent to the agreement we reached that this would be a five-minute bell at five minutes to 6.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? It is agreed. Further debate?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm going to seek the unanimous consent of the House to split the remainder of the time between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party.

The Acting Speaker: Is that agreed? It is agreed.

Mr Bradley: I am going to be relatively brief this afternoon in speaking to Bill 84 because I had an opportunity to deal with the issues related to Bill 84 rather extensively during second reading when I indicated my very strong disapproval of many of the provisions of this piece of legislation.

The background to it, which I think is significant to members of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters and the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, is in fact the commitment of the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, during the election campaign that no significant changes would be made to the act until such time as there had been meaningful and extensive consultation with representatives of firefighters in the province. That commitment was not fulfilled, any more than the commitment was fulfilled when the Premier said, "Certainly, Robert, I can guarantee you I have no plans to close hospitals." Well, he had no plans, I guess, to make significant changes to fire safety and the provisions of acts related to fire safety in this province, but he did so without extensive and meaningful consultation.

It was only through the efforts of the opposition parties that we were able to extract from the government hearings which would be held not only for more than simply a week, but would be held for a longer period of time and in a number of different municipalities in Ontario so that representatives of firefighters and others interested in the bill could make representations to the committee as to changes which should be made to the legislation before it was brought to the House for third and final reading.

I heard the Solicitor General say that he would not allow fire safety and fire services in the province to deteriorate or not be as good as they could possibly be. It's very difficult to keep these commitments when the remainder of the cabinet, and particularly those who advise the Premier, are not necessarily going to be supportive of that in terms of the resources that are going to be provided to the Solicitor General.

The Solicitor General, for instance -- and this is something we all face in each one of our communities -- would like to see the psychiatric hospital in his community remain open, and I'm sure he will be a person who will fight for that to happen, but there's no guarantee when the rest of the cabinet don't agree that that's going to happen, and that's my concern.

I'm not doubting at all the commitment of the Solicitor General. I know him too well and have known him too long not to know that he has a sincere commitment to maintain adequate and good fire services in this province. My concern is that he will not be able to fulfil that commitment because of the advisers. Guy Giorno is probably the most powerful person, along with Tom Long, in terms of advising this government. They have more power than even the cabinet ministers have. I'm concerned that they'll be advising the Premier to continue to cut taxes even further and further and therefore allow services to deteriorate, because we know that when the government cuts taxes, it has to get its money somewhere else. It has to get its money by cutting services or by borrowing money to pay for the tax cut. Neither option is sensible, and I'm sure people concerned about fire safety in this province would agree with me in saying that.

The firefighters have already had to deal with the provisions of the social contract in Ontario. They were concerned about that in years gone by. They've had to live with those cuts, with the money they were receiving, the compensation they were receiving, but they have lived through that and they weren't looking for a further assault on their pocketbooks or on the provisions of their collective agreements. Yet that's what this bill is doing, even though certain modifications have been made.

The professional firefighters represented in our galleries today by their leadership are people who are well-trained, competent, experienced, committed and prepared to deal with emergencies that relate to fires in this province. Any chance that that would change through the provisions of this legislation is not acceptable to them as individuals who are concerned about fire safety in the province, nor is it acceptable to anyone else in the province who relies upon the services of professional firefighters to maintain fire safety within their homes, their businesses, their industries and various institutions in the province.

We have people who are well trained. More and more now, when a young person wants to join a fire department, to be considered for employment in a fire department, that person is out taking courses. Some of the firefighters themselves are taking additional courses to upgrade and update themselves on new dangers that present themselves because of new chemicals or new substances or new emergencies that might arise. Again, I worry, with the provisions of this bill, particularly part IX, that we're going to see some significant and adverse changes in that regard.

Something that may not be of great significance to some people in the province, because we've not had a strike of firefighters in the province, is the fact that the government has removed the right to strike for firefighters through the provisions of this legislation. Let me tell you, firefighters have never exercised that right and many have said that under no circumstances they foresee would they ever exercise that particular right. It was a source of pride, and has been for many years, for members of our fire departments across this province to say of their own volition that they will not be out on strike, because they recognize they're an essential emergency service.

I consider the provision in this bill that prohibits that as, yes, appealing to management types, appealing perhaps to business, but certainly not appealing to fairminded Ontarians who believe that when people give a commitment on their own not to exercise the right to strike, they should not receive a slap in the face by writing that into legislation. I'm prepared to accept the firefighters' undertaking in this province that they are not going to strike. I don't need it written in legislation, because I know the people who are involved with fire departments across this province in each of our communities. They are individuals who are competent, talented, very, very professional people on the job. Off the job they're often people who are involved in community service in a variety of ways. I know in our own community hospitals have been the recipients of some of the largess, some of the volunteer work of firefighters in St Catharines and the surrounding area.


No matter where you go, when an emergency exists -- I think even with the Manitoba flood I heard in some municipalities that you could bring certain items to help out the people in Manitoba to the fire department, to fire stations. That's not the exception; that's the norm in dealing with firefighters in this province. That's why I find it astounding that the government would bring forward legislation of this kind, which represents an insult to firefighters right across the province.

One of the insidious provisions is the provision that allows for privatization. Let's be serious about this. This is a matter that in the past people might have said was not to be considered in a serious manner. Today it is, since so many in this government, particularly those who advise the Premier, the brain trust who are not elected but advise the Premier, adhere to the policies and pronouncements of those south of the border, the Republican guard, the right wing of the Republican Party, who worship at the idol of privatization of every possible service. Because I know this government believes, at least many of its members, that privatization in as many fields as possible is desirable, it seems to me that firefighters and people in our communities have reason to be concerned about the potential for privatization.

There's a company called Rural/Metro that is in the ambulance service south of the border. Members may recall one day in the House I asked the Minister of Health, who was then Mr Johnson -- he was acting Minister of Health at the time -- about Rural/Metro moving in and taking over ambulance services because the province is bailing out of that. The province, which has had responsibility, appropriately so, for ambulance services in this province has bailed out, has detached itself, has totally detached itself from the provision of those services.

So what happens? My friend the member for Welland-Thorold has described in this House on a number of occasions the lineup at the Peace Bridge of people waiting on the other side of the bridge, on the other side of the border, to --


Mr Bradley: I should say to the whip that I'm not offended by the member's interjection, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Anyway, the member has described how they are lined up on the other side of the border, waiting to move in, and in some cases they're already here providing a service.

What you find out is that when they first cross the border, that service is relatively cheap, and they try to stay within the confines of the regulations in this province, though heaven forbid, this province is getting rid of as many regulations as possible. My friend the member for Lincoln, Frank Sheehan, is in charge of getting rid of all this regulatory regime that we have.

I worry when I see these companies coming into this province because I don't think many municipalities want to take over the service. Some don't have the wherewithal to do it, the financial resources, some simply don't want to be involved with it because they think it's the responsibility of the provincial government, so we may see some considerable privatization of that service.

You should know that south of the border Rural/Metro will do some fire services as well. They say, "Give us the ambulance services and we'll give you the fire services free." That happens; the member knows, my friend the parliamentary assistant. I don't mind her interjecting. I know the whip was kind enough to suppress some of the interjections. I want to tell her, however, that I'm prepared to listen to her interjections in my usual jocular fashion, even though I'm not in a very jocular frame of mind this afternoon, I might add. However --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): We heard that; your caucus was telling us.

Mr Bradley: The NDP has heard that "however."

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Another hangover.

Mr Bradley: That is a comment, I should tell the member back there, you should never make in this House. Never make that in this House, because I can tell you it would not be the case.

I want to say that privatization, then, is a genuine concern we have in this province. I think if we saw the privatization of fire services, we would see a deterioration in that service. I know you think there are companies south of the border that can do this. I think the people in the rural areas have more to worry about immediately than those of us in the urban areas. I hope, even though in this House they may not agree with me, they'll go back to the caucus and say: "Was Bradley right? When he's saying this about Rural/Metro, should we be concerned?"

I know you should be concerned, because the cost of ambulance service just across the border in Buffalo is way higher than it is across the border in Fort Erie. That's Rural/Metro providing that service. They'll want that. When they get into fire services, if they're allowed to, they'll start off by providing the service at a lower cost. Maybe the cost will be lower and sustained at a lower level, but the degree of service, the kind of service, the quality of service will not be nearly as good as it is at the present time.

The use of volunteers around the province is accepted. There are many communities that have volunteer fire departments. They work in conjunction with our professional firefighters in many communities. I don't think you should try to portray a situation where you want to mix up part-time firefighters with volunteer firefighters. When we talk about part-time firefighters, they are part of a regular fire department in a community in a city such as St Catharines. You're going to allow now some part-time people in under the provisions -- that's the concern, some part-time people -- so that you don't have full-time firemen and firewomen in the fire department fighting the fires. There's a great deal of concern about that.

You're talking about the call-back system. That is, a municipality, presumably, would be allowed to understaff a firehall and, let us say, not have the regular number of firefighters in that firehall ready for an emergency. Anyone who understands anything about fire services in a community, however, understands that the initial response of the fire department is exceedingly important. A fire doubles in size very quickly, every minute. For instance, if you were four minutes into a fire, you have 16 times the size of the fire normally that you would when you started out, so you want the fire department to get there as quickly as possible, not have to phone somebody else who is on part-time to show up at the firehall but rather to be able to go out and suppress that fire immediately. You'll save money in the long run, particularly in insurance rates and in insurance payouts.

I invite members of the assembly to look at the US experience. We now have the Internet. You can get all kinds of information on the Internet about some of the dire experiences south of the border. It's just a matter of time until that comes here if the advisers to the Premier are to have their way, as opposed to perhaps some of the government members who might be able to persuade the Premier otherwise in the caucus, although I know the consequences of doing that. My friend Gary Carr is no longer a parliamentary assistant; he was to the Solicitor General, I believe.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Why?

Mr Bradley: He dared to speak out, I think, on some issues. Of course in this government one is not supposed to speak out. The ones who move up most quickly are those who are, shall I say, closest to the Premier -- I'll leave it at that -- in terms of their agreement with the Premier; I'll even clarify that further.

We lost the parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General. Maybe he had a different view on this particular item; I don't know. I kind of think he did. He's a more practical person than many of the people I see who are unelected.

This bill is clearly on the side of management. I think what you have to have when you bring in legislation is a balance; you have to have something that will satisfy both, that will draw consensus from both. I think you've altered this bill substantially on the side of management as opposed to the front-line employees and ultimately the people of the communities they serve.


I want to emphasize the importance of the hearings. We have, as I say, representatives of firefighters in the gallery today, and have had for some time, and I want to tell you, I haven't seen a group that has been more dedicated in putting their case before the committee. Every day, they were there. Every day in every community, they were there, so that they could monitor the hearings, so that they could monitor the representations which were made and come up with corrections and responses appropriately. If it weren't for these individuals and the work of the opposition parties, my guess is we would have seen even fewer changes than the modest changes that we've seen on the part of the government to the original legislation. So those hearings that we in the opposition fought for were exceedingly important.

I'm sure that firefighters would prefer not to see a vote today. I agree with them on that, because that's what third reading is about. Why should the government not proceed with third reading? I think I have given many of those reasons.

It is not mandatory for municipalities to provide fire suppression services. We expect they're going to, but there's no mandatory provision, and I'll tell you why that is. That's because the Ontario government is now downloading on municipalities, so those who are involved in fire services are going to be worried. They're saying, "If the provincial government is downloading more and new responsibility, with new costs tied to that new responsibility, on the backs of the municipalities, then those involved in providing firefighting services are going to have to be in a position of fighting for every dollar they can get," because we know that the provincial government would like to go to the people of this province and say, "See, we cut your income tax by 30%." But of course your property tax, which does not take into account a person's ability to pay, the most regressive tax we have, or user fees, which are regressive taxes as well, will have increased substantially. My worry is that fire departments are now going to have to fight even harder to get the smaller share of the budget that's going to be available to municipalities in Ontario, and that does not bode well for fire services or other services.

I think the best thing the government could do today is agree with the opposition that they should not proceed with third reading of this bill, that they should withdraw the bill, go back to the drawing board, genuinely consult with people in the province, particularly the front-line people in the delivery of firefighting services, and that ultimately they should come up with a bill which is more acceptable and more of a consensus-builder than this one is.

This bill is not satisfactory. Our party will be voting against this legislation. I, unfortunately, will not be able to join them this afternoon. I voted against it on second reading, and were I able to be here at 6 o'clock, I'd be voting against it again on third. However, my demands are in my municipality, where I'm the guest speaker at the Excellence in Education banquet in St Catharines where we'll be paying tribute to many young people and not-so-young people who have excelled in the field of education. I want to pay tribute to them through the auspices of this debate this afternoon.

I am not a malicious person. I wish the Solicitor General well in trying to manage under this new legislation. It will be a major challenge, and I think we would be better off if the government House leader would say, "Look, we're going to withdraw this bill this afternoon, and we're not going to proceed with this bill," or, "We're going to take it back and modify it even further." But I don't expect that's going to happen, because the die has been cast. The decision has been made by the unelected people in the Premier's office that you're moving forward, and the only responsibility others will have is to stand up when the whip tells you to stand up. That's most unfortunate, but, as Walter Cronkite always ended off his newscasts, "That's the way it is."

Mr Kormos: At the onset, I introduce my comments with this observation, only because I think they're incredibly important and I wouldn't want to omit them by oversight. I tell you, I am extremely grateful, and I believe the people of this province are and certainly should be extremely grateful, as are the memberships of these two organizations, to Jim Lee, the president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, and to Bruce Carpenter, who is the president of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters. I say that because they have, with great courage and tenacity and yes, insight, struggled over the course of the last several months, confronting Bill 84 and exposing it as an incredibly dangerous, malicious and very foolhardy piece of legislation.

At the end of the day, and notwithstanding the spin that the government has tried to and is going to persist in putting on this legislation, Bill 84 is going to mean some very definite and specific things in the community where I live down in Welland-Thorold, communities across the region, communities across this province, be they in northern Ontario, southern Ontario, the east or the west, and I'll tell you what's going to happen if Tories here today support Bill 84: There are going to be fewer firefighters available for emergencies. That's the long and short of it. There is going to be the utilization, and increased utilization, of part-time firefighters. That's going to mean that part-timers, whose first commitment isn't to firefighting, are going to be used, part-timers with less training and less experience.

The bill, at the end of the day, is all about the privatization of firefighting services in each and every community in this province. We have heard about it over the course of several weeks of public hearings, and we're going to be observing it once this bill is passed and receives royal assent. American corporate, for-profit, private firefighting services are going to be invading this province, at the behest, at the invitation of Harris and his Tories, to take over firefighting services; for-profit firefighting services whose sole motive is to generate more profits and not to protect the communities that our professional firefighters now serve or the safety of individuals within those communities.

Bill 84 is going to expand the bureaucracies. It's going to increase levels of management in firefighting services in each and every municipality in this province. In some cases it will go so far as to triple the management ranks. The question, simply put, is this: Why would this government want to turn firefighters into bureaucrats, mere minions, when in fact firefighting is done by women and men out there in the field working together, with experience and as a team?

Teamwork: We know, and if people don't, they'd better well learn darned soon, that speed, experience and teamwork in firefighting is what saves lives. Bill 84 jeopardizes teamwork, the teamwork that protects property and saves lives, in both fire emergencies and medical emergencies, on a daily basis in this province. Teamwork indeed is vital to saving lives, and Bill 84 and this government, by reducing the number of firefighters in the province, by using part-timers and turning more and more firefighters into bureaucrats, into managers, is going to not just erode but directly attack the teamwork that has been so effective historically here in Ontario.

I don't think the government should be particularly proud of this legislation. I think Ontarians should be frightened, extremely frightened, as I am, about the potential this legislation has for jeopardizing lives and property on a daily basis across the province. You know today that over 200,000 petitioners, almost a quarter of a million, had their petitions filed with this government, indicating clearly to the Tories here at Queen's Park that Bill 84 and those aspects of it which will not just accommodate but encourage privatization, those aspects of it which are going to impact and affect and erode teamwork, those aspects of it that are going to introduce part-time firefighters into our communities, are a cause for great fear among a large number, a vast number of Ontarians.


It's been put to us that communities would be disinclined to contract with private firefighting services, and we've heard the stories. We've heard about Rural/Metro down in Arizona. We've had them put to this House during the course of question period, during the course of members' statements, during the course of debate on second reading. Rural/Metro -- some track record. Rural/Metro: American corporate, for-profit, privatized firefighting services. Read some of the news clippings from down in Arizona. Rural/Metro charges outrageous tariffs and fees to households that want to avail themselves of its so-called firefighting services.

Rural/Metro is plagued by stories of pumper trucks breaking down within metres, but sufficient distance away, of the house on fire that the truck is ineffective, and then the homeowner gets charged for the tow bill to boot. Rural/Metro has pumpers show up at residential, domestic firefighting scenes with not enough water in their pumper truck to last but a few minutes and Rural/Metro sits there idle while hardworking homeowners stand and watch their house go down in flames with the inherent risk of danger to persons that occurs in any fire.

This government is engaged in a veritable orgy of privatization. It is attacking every single public service it can identify and exposing it to its passion for privatization. It's a great tradeoff for Harris's rich corporate buddies. It's the payola, it's the grease, it's the payback.

Privatization -- we've already witnessed Rural/Metro and Laidlaw, two corporate endeavours that carry with them a whole lot of baggage. You know exactly what I mean. They have come in here, and in the case of Rural/Metro already purchased -- an American corporate, for-profit company purchasing six of our municipal ambulance services; Laidlaw in here purchasing other ambulance services. Their motive isn't to save lives, it isn't to protect people in the event of medical emergencies; it's to make profits. They're going to do it by using the least experienced staff possible, by paying them the lowest possible wages and by investing as little as possible in their services while reaping as much revenue as they possibly can. That's where profits are generated.

Rural/Metro and Laidlaw, in the course of buying up municipal ambulance services -- we've got companies that have set up shop right now here in Toronto that are going to be out there in short order, some of them already are, ready to purchase municipal water and sewer systems so that they will no longer belong to the public, so that there will no longer be any public control or governance over them and so that they will be operated on a for-profit basis.

The experience in Great Britain, when it came to privatized water and sewer systems, was water rates that doubled and tripled, the infrastructure -- the piping, the water filtration systems that people rely on for clean water and healthy water -- falling into decay because again, you've got companies whose sole motive is to make more and more profits and who don't give a tinker's dam about the welfare of the communities they're supposed to be serving.

This orgy of privatization has now extended into firefighting. You see, communities like Pelham -- and folks in Pelham, I mentioned it earlier today, believed the Conservatives back in 1995 when those folks were promised that there would be no tax increases and no property tax increases. They read it, they saw it in black and white. It was in the blue book. Folks in Pelham just learned that for the year 1997 -- and that's before the impact of the mega-dump of a couple of months ago, revised as it was but a couple of weeks ago -- they are going to be paying on average just shy of 100 bucks a year in new property taxes for the 1997 budget.

They're going to be paying even more in new taxes once the mega-dump on Pelham and Welland and Thorold and St Catharines and Niagara Falls and Port Colborne and Lincoln, every municipality in Niagara, every municipality across this province, has more and more downloaded on it by this government that is intent and hell-bent on seeing property taxes go up, impacting on seniors and young families. I'm convinced it will force some people out of their homes -- hardworking, decent people.

It will also force municipalities into considering and indeed falling for the lure of contracting out and privatization, so they can be relieved of the fiscal burden of maintaining properly trained, professional, publicly employed firefighting services and firefighters. It's going to be at great expense at the end of the day to each and every one of those communities. This government is not only opening the door, this government has laid out the red carpet to for-profit, American, corporate, contracting-out firefighting services.

I mentioned to you the outstanding work done by Bruce Carpenter from the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters and by Jim Lee from the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. I want to tell you they have volunteer firefighters across this province. The government in a very cynical and quite frankly malicious way tried very much at the onset of this exercise over Bill 84 to pit volunteer firefighters against professional firefighters. You were here when it happened. You heard the Solicitor General try to generate a schism between those two groups of committed people: the volunteers and the career firefighters, the professionals. I'm telling you, Speaker, it didn't work, because volunteers from Welland-Thorold, among volunteers from every other community in this province that utilizes volunteer firefighters, joined their professional colleagues in saying no to Bill 84, no to part-time firefighters, no to privatization of firefighters, no to the attack on teamwork that Bill 84 imposes on firefighting services across the province.

Thousands upon thousands upon thousands -- almost a quarter of a million -- names were on petitions presented today, and hundreds of people appeared before the committee on Bill 84 to say no to this government and this government simply preferred not to listen. It was oblivious to the pleas, to the cries of people from across this province.

We heard from victims of fires who understood how important professional firefighters were to their rescue or to their children's rescue and how the creation of contracted-out, privatized, for-profit, corporate, US-based firefighting services is going to cost lives and it's going to cost big bucks when it comes to property. We heard from them very directly, very dramatically, very tragically, but I tell you this government didn't listen.

I've got to tell you as well that were some people on the committee who did listen: the parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, Gary Carr. I'm convinced the parliamentary assistant was beginning to understand how valid the criticisms of Bill 84 were. He had listened. He was responding to members of communities and to firefighters and to expertise that came from across Canada and internationally as well telling us as Ontarians to reject Bill 84 in no uncertain terms because Bill 84 is going to endanger property, and tragically it's going to end up costing lives.

What happened to Gary Carr? The parliamentary assistant had been doing an exemplary job. He and I aren't of the same party and quite frankly our political views are more often opposed than not, but I have no hesitation in telling you that I had great confidence in and great praise for the work Gary Carr, the parliamentary assistant, was doing with respect to Bill 84. He was listening on behalf of the government. He was asking questions of firefighters that indicated he understood that this bill was all about privatization, that this bill was all about using part-time, less experienced, less well-trained firefighters than the professional, full-time, extremely skilled firefighters -- 9,000 of them -- who protect lives and communities across Ontario today.

I'll tell you what his reward was. On the last day of the public hearings Gary Carr got dumped. He got fired. He got dismissed. He got sent home. He was told he was no longer a part of the process.


There were a couple of other PAs who went the same route. They had some interesting insights into the operation of this government and indeed spoke about them publicly. They spoke about the dictatorship that exists within the upper echelons of the government, the inability of this Premier to tolerate criticism or dissent from within the Tories' own ranks.

Why, Bill Murdoch -- he's the member from up Owen Sound way; you know Bill Murdoch -- said that if you're going to get anywhere in this government you have to pucker up. He didn't share with us the anatomical relationships that had to be developed subsequent to puckering up, but our imaginations served us reasonably well. Murdoch said you had to pucker up.

It's clear that Gary Carr wasn't going to pucker up. Gary Carr was going to call it the way it was, and he knew that Bill 84 was all about privatization. You know what? The government had a chance. During the course of clause-by-clause, I've got to tell you, it was and remains hard to take government members in any way, shape or form seriously. Government members who were sitting on that committee would take a look at the fabric of this chair and insist that it was green. They figured that if you kept saying it's green, people are going to believe it's green rather than the blue that it obviously is.

Ontarians aren't going to fall for that, the opposition members of the committee aren't going to fall for it, firefighters and volunteers and people concerned about the safety of their communities aren't going to fall for it, and Gary Carr didn't fall for it, but he ended up being cut off at the knees.

There was a glimpse of democracy, there was the most modest hope for a little bit of meaningful committee work, when at the last minute, at the 11th hour, Carr got cut loose, sent home. Why? Because he listened, and this government has no tolerance for any of its members who listen. This government, in its quest to privatize public services in this province, will even cannibalize its own, chew 'em up and spit 'em out, if they dare to start to understand how dangerous the agenda of this government has been and continues to be.

I've got some real concerns. I've got concerns for the folks over at 211 King Street in Welland, the seniors. Welland, until a few years ago, didn't have a whole lot of high-rises, but 211 is a seniors residence. It's all elderly people, some older than others, some more mobile than others, many who because of their age are starting to lose a little bit of their hearing, some of their sight, many who can't get around as quickly or as agilely as they used to.

I've got fear for them and they've got fear for themselves, because they know that without the fully trained professional firefighters the Welland fire department has now, aided as it is by very skilled volunteers, but without those professional firefighters, full-time, working, as committed and well trained as they are as public servants, in the event of the tragedy of a fire at 211 King Street there may well be some significant, tragic loss of life. I'm afraid for them and, I tell you, they're afraid for themselves.

That's why when it came time for them to sign the petition over at the Seaway Mall up on Niagara Street in Welland -- that's where firefighters went out asking people if they wanted a chance to express their views on Bill 84 -- seniors in Welland signed by the hundreds, saying no to Bill 84, understanding full well that Bill 84 endangers the professional, full-time firefighting services that are provided by our brave women and men in the firefighting services now and will replace them with part-timers, poorly trained, far less motivated, and by corporate, for-profit, American-style, privatized firefighting services which bring with them incredible baggage and a track record one would be generous to describe even as deplorable. We've got some real damage, some real mischief being done here and now.

I want to say this to the government members: I know there are going to be more than a few government members who simply aren't going to show up for the vote today. Mark my words. There are going to be some who are sufficiently repelled by this legislation that they're going to take what's called colloquially at Queen's Park a walk. They're simply not going to be around for the vote. I know there are going to be more than a few; they've told me. They've asked me not to name them because they don't want to be singled out for the punishment and retribution that their House leader and whip and leader's office can mete out to less-than-docile backbenchers. But mark my words, there are going to be more than a few not present.

If I had my druthers -- I spoke with them, I said: "It's time to stand up and be counted. Show a little spine. Show a little backbone, a little bit of courage." That's what voters in this province expect of their MPPs. There are Tory backbenchers who know that Bill 84 is all about privatization; there are a lot of them. It's all about privatization, it's all about the replacement of professional full-time firefighters with part-timers and it's all about eroding the teamwork that professional firefighters have developed over years of training and commitment, the teamwork that saves lives. You see, people are going to die as a result of Bill 84. There's simply no question about it. It's tragic, but those are the inevitable consequences of this abandonment of professional firefighters in Ontario.

As often as not the argument was put forward by any number of government committee members as they puckered up that no municipality would want to provide less than the optimum level of firefighting services. Give me a break, please. We know better than that. There was evidence put to the committee in that regard, that municipalities, under pressure for a number of years now and increased pressure now because of the incredible downloading of this government, the one that promised no new taxes, no increases in property taxes -- they promised that, it is in their blue book.

Now we see in the case of Pelham a property tax hike of almost $100 for the year 1997 alone and more next year and more the year after, and fewer and fewer services, mind you. We've seen municipalities chipping away at firefighting services, quite frankly, over a number of years. We learned a whole lot of interesting things, and I'm extremely grateful to the participants in the hearings who educated the committee members, and indeed the members of the public who were present at each and every location of these committee hearings, inevitably to the tune of a full hall, to standing room only. We learned that speed is essential, literally seconds are essential, that response time is the single most important factor when it comes time to save property and, more important, when it comes time to save lives.

We're talking about the lives of kids, we're talking about the lives of hardworking, decent, honest people, we're talking about the lives of seniors, none of whom deserve to die in the flames and in the painful agony of death by fire. We learned that people can be saved, lives can be saved, kids and their parents and their grandparents can be saved, when response time is reduced to the lowest possible time.

We also learned, though, that part-time firefighters are -- and the experience is there. We read the report done in Durham, USA, where they had experimented with part-time firefighters for a period of a decade-plus and where the experience with part-time firefighters was that part-time firefighters extended the response time, and when you lengthen the response time, people get seriously injured and people die. There's simply no question about it. The point isn't debatable. When you extend response time like Bill 84 is going to extend response time, people die the most painful and agonizing of deaths engulfed by flames. That's what Bill 84 is going to do to response time. The studies available from the United States, where there have been experiments with this proposition, illustrate that in a most dramatic and irrefutable way.


We also learned -- an interesting observation -- that on a pumper truck, when it's staffed by but three firefighters as compared to the appropriate number, four, notwithstanding that its response time is appropriate, when it's staffed by only three people it's impossible to effect rescues inside a burning structure. With three firefighters it's impossible to effect rescues inside a fire structure and it's also impossible to effect fire suppression from inside the structure, both of which are essential, crucial to saving property and, far more significantly, quite frankly, to saving lives.

In response to the proposition by these guys -- who sat on that committee oh so smugly spouting the government line like little Mattel dolls, where you pull the string, like little Chatty Cathys, wind them up and they pucker up and spout the spin doctors' line -- notwithstanding that they're confronted day after day after day by the realities of the need for adequate staffing and prompt response time, we learned that community after community, notwithstanding the Ontario fire marshal's own requirement and own directive, based on experiences from Rhode Island, across the United States and across Canada that you need a minimum of four staff people on a pumper truck if you're going to effect rescues or you're going to do internal fire suppression, among other things, we learned that municipality after municipality has reduced their staffing of pumper trucks to but three firefighters, sometimes only two.

So I'm afraid we can't rely upon the mere goodwill of municipal councils; less so as they become increasingly cash-strapped by a government that insists on download after download after download of new taxation on to those municipalities. We quite frankly can't rely upon municipalities to necessarily aspire to the highest standard, and this Bill 84 drastically, dramatically and tragically reduces the standards for firefighting in Ontario.

What was most troubling, I've got to tell you, was the dismissal of Gary Carr as the parliamentary assistant, because he's the liaison, he's the right-hand person to the Solicitor General. Gary Carr as the PA is the one who reports back to the Sol Gen and tells the Sol Gen what he and the other committee members have been hearing throughout the course of these public hearings. Why hold them if there's not going to be that reporting back? Why bother, unless it's but a scam, a little bit of show trial to impress the citizenry, to try to contradict the allegations, quite sound ones, I must say, from the Skaricas and the Murdochs and the Carrs of the world that this government is but a dictatorship run out of the back rooms of Mike Harris's office?

Gary Carr, having heard the evidence from firefighters, from experts within the province and beyond the province, even beyond our national boundaries, having heard from citizenry -- parents, seniors and children -- about how important full-time professional firefighters are to our safety, was dumped. And I'll tell you he was fired within a matter of mere minutes when the message went out. He was yanked, he was gone, he was out of there, then replaced by a parliamentary assistant who had no experience with the bill, who had no background in the days and weeks of hearings that had taken place prior and who, when he showed up in Windsor, was more intent on reading the damn newspaper than he was on listening to people who were making submissions. People in the audience were outraged and brought it to my attention. They were. This so-called parliamentary assistant was sitting there reading Ann Landers or Dear Abby, whatever the heck it was, as if advice for his problems is going to end up in either of those columns, instead of listening to the submissions that were being made.

I'll tell you what we did. In what I thought was a generous gesture we proposed and indeed moved, especially as we were about one day away from the crucial clause-by-clause consideration, that the hearings process be deferred for I believe it was a mere three weeks to give the parliamentary assistant a chance at least to read the Hansard transcripts so he could be brought up to date, up to speed, if you will, on what had transpired.

I tell you there was a lot of puckering up done from the government benches that morning, because after some hasty huddles and some pretty obvious body language coming from the parliamentary assistant, that proposition was rejected.

You've got to wonder why this government has been so eager to ignore the incredible and wide-based criticism of this bill and literally ram it through. Bill 84, I tell you, is a recipe for disaster. Bill 84 has lethal consequences for people of this province. Bill 84 has been criticized not just by professional firefighters but by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. In a letter dated April 4 the International Association of Fire Chiefs pointed out, among other things, that several communities over the recent past have experimented with privatization and that in many of those cases the efforts to privatize have resulted in failure and a return to public fire protection. They also rejected the proposition of cost-saving, because as was pointed out earlier by the member for St Catharines, the private sector will move in with low-ball offers, but once they've got control, once they've got ownership of that particular service, the bills start pouring in.

We heard from Michael Prue, the mayor of East York, who told the committee that three areas of privatization by that municipality have resulted in outright disaster, a diminished level of services and increased costs to the municipality, and as soon as current contracts have expired they're going to restore those three sectors back to public service and public supervision.

Ontarians do not buy into privatized firefighting services, and Bill 84 is all about privatization, Americanization, corporatization of firefighting to the detriment of members of each and every community in this province.

This is an opportunity for Tory backbenchers to stand up and speak on behalf of their communities. This is a chance for Tory backbenchers to earn back the respect of their constituencies, to read through and see through the drivel that's come out of the spin doctors around Bill 84.

It was an embarrassment, I tell you, during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill when the parliamentary assistant at first would not respond to queries about section after section after section of the bill, and then when he attempted to respond, when he was cajoled, forced, prodded into responding, indicated that he could not. He knew zip about the legislation and was prepared and content to do nothing more than read the little scripted blurbs that had been provided to him by his masters, yanking his chain, yanking his leash at their whim from the back rooms of the Premier's office, masters who no doubt included some of the rich buddies of this government who have a strong interest in privatization because they are some of the same corporate actors who stand to make a great deal of money on the backs of Ontarians, with great pain and great risk to the welfare of Ontarians.


Over the course of a whole lot of time, I have got to know the firefighters down in Niagara pretty well and have got to meet and know firefighters from across this province -- not all 9,000 of them but a darn good chunk of them -- pretty well, and I tell you, we couldn't ask for a more dedicated, a more professional, a more courageous group of women and men.

These are people who put their lives on the line every single day and who at a moment's notice are not only called upon but are prepared to barge into buildings in flames, searching on their hands and knees, because sight is of no use -- the smoke creates a blackness that can't be penetrated -- searching hopefully for still-alive bodies of children and other victims in closets, under beds and on the floors of burning buildings. Bill 84 is an insult to each and every one of them.

Just last Monday over in Kenmore, New York -- and the reason I feel comfortable talking about firefighters over in Kenmore, New York, is that there has been a strong rapport, a strong relationship between the Welland fire department and their sisters and brothers in Kenmore. They have twinned, effectively. They make exchanges of training programs and of social events as well; they've developed a strong bond, a strong camaraderie between the two groups of firefighters. But just last Monday, nine firefighters, perhaps 10, were seriously injured when they fell victim to a wall of a commercial building that had caught fire, a fire to which they were attending. One of them suffered a broken back; others had serious injuries, ranging to more modest injuries that permitted a few to remain mobile after the fire.

I spoke with some of the people from the Kenmore fire department over at the Royal Canadian Legion in Welland, where Volunteer Fire Company Number 1 was having its annual dinner. They're about to celebrate their 100th anniversary in a couple of years. The people from Kenmore, their chief and some of their other executives, were over with their spouses, and I got a chance to speak with them. When I spoke -- as I had a chance to speak to this group of firefighters, volunteers and professionals mixed -- I told them that all of us pray for a full and speedy recovery for our sisters and brothers from Kenmore, but that the tragic injuries suffered by those firefighters a week ago last Monday serve to remind us that firefighters on a daily basis are confronted by the prospect of serious physical injury and, yes indeed, death.

This government has abandoned those committed professionals. This government has dismissed them with disdain and disregard with Bill 84. On behalf of the folks in Welland-Thorold and of Niagara and all those people who have cried out against Bill 84, I tell you that we in the New Democratic Party are going to be voting solidly against this legislation. This is an attack, indeed an insult, to professional firefighters.

It's an open door and an invitation and an accommodation and facilitation of privatization, an embrace of those American for-profit corporations that want to raid this province, with the red carpet laid out by Harris and his gang, and replace long-traditional, quality public services with American-style privatized services, which I tell you Ontarians didn't vote for in 1995 and won't tolerate in 1997.

I'm proud to be standing, as are my colleagues, with firefighters in this province. We'll continue to stand with them. We'll continue to stand with them and other public servants in this province, shoulder to shoulder, as we will fight and struggle against the privatization agenda of this corporate buddy, Harris and his gang, as they put our public services on the auction block to make great profits, new profits, for their corporate buddies at the expense of all Ontarians

Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I'm glad to have this opportunity to speak on Bill 84, An Act to promote Fire Prevention and Public Safety in Ontario and to amend and repeal certain other Acts relating to Fire Services. This legislation, introduced last fall by the minister, consolidates nine different acts: the Accidental Fires Act; the Egress from Public Buildings Act; the Fire Accidents Act; the Fire Departments Act; the Firefighters Exemption Act; the Firefighters Protection Act; the Fire Marshals Act; the Hotel Fire Safety Act; and the Lightning Rods Act.

One thing we should remember is that our firefighters, whether they be paid or volunteer, work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They don't have the luxury that many of our other constituents have.

The Solicitor General's decision to bring the bill forward has caused concern among firefighters in my riding as well as many public citizens. They feel that Bill 84 strips firefighters of their right to strike even though the firefighters have never struck, to my knowledge, in Ontario, and I've known many of them for many years.

Bill 84 also increases the number of hours that firefighters may work each week and Bill 84 allows municipalities to privatize the firefighting service.

Many people have responded to the provisions of Bill 84 by calling it disrespectful to our volunteer fire departments and paid fire departments. In my opinion, firefighters have a strong code of ethics about their work; they know the service they provide may mean life or death. In respect of their hard work and their moral code, firefighters have never walked off the job over wages or for any other reason. To my knowledge, there has never been an injury in Ontario because firefighters refused to do their job. For the Solicitor General and his cabinet colleagues to play petty politics on paper by stripping their right to strike is a real insult to the people of Ontario.

Some people in my riding have also said that besides being disrespectful, Bill 84 could actually put the public at risk. I know it's not what the firefighters want, because they're there to protect the public, and I know many of them personally. As Mr Luc Richer, a spokesman for the Cornwall firefighters, told the public last month, this bill compromises safety.

Mr Richer stated, and I quote from an article in the Cornwall media, "By implementing Bill 84, not only our safety as firefighters will be affected, but your safety as a taxpayer as well." The Cornwall firefighters tried to participate in hearings on Bill 84 but were not granted a spot.

I know the other side is that many rural communities in my area benefit from very fine volunteer firemen. I don't want to take anything away from them, because they are hardworking and work with our paid fire departments. Our volunteers are just as good as a service club. They collect toys, they raise money for projects and do an extremely good job in the community.

I promised to keep my comments short because I know many in our caucus would like to say a few words, but I want to say loud and clear for the many people in my riding that they have many reservations about Bill 84 as it stands. To our firefighters and volunteers firefighters, I wish them well. Keep up the good work.

I just want to say that I know they will pass this bill, probably today, and I wish the minister luck, but I don't think it's too late yet to reconsider and listen to some of the firefighters who protect all our interests. They're just like medical doctors: We never know when we'll need them next.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): This is, unfortunately, a sad day for firefighting in Ontario. Today marks the day the government of Ontario decides they're going to bring, finally, third reading to this particular bill and a vote some time before five to 6 of the clock tonight.

I say it's a sad day because there has been a long and proud tradition of firefighting in Ontario. We have seen over the past number of years an evolution of the fire services in this province. Why? Mainly because of a couple of things; first of all, because the firefighters in the province have been people who have come to this thing as professionals, they have been innovative from the beginning, they have made sure to be as professional as they can when it comes to dealing with not only their job of fighting fires but the whole approach to what needs to be done to make sure the supports are there for good fire services in municipalities.

The second reason we've had fairly good fire services in the province is because, more importantly even, to a certain extent, the government of Ontario has assumed its responsibility when it comes to making sure that fire services are delivered in a professional manner within communities and that those fire service departments are supported adequately at the local level by making sure there's legislation in place that sets up what should and shouldn't happen when it comes to fire services.

What we're about to see with the passage of Bill 84 is a devolution of responsibilities on the part of the province of Ontario. The province is saying, "We wash our hands of this responsibility we have." Namely the Solicitor General, the Honourable Bob Runciman, washes their hands of the responsibility they have of making sure certain key aspects are followed when it comes to fire services in the province. That's sad, because up till now we have had fairly good fire services in the province.

I was happy to be a member of the committee that travelled the province over a period of two to three weeks, where we heard submission after submission from people from communities like Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and various communities in Ontario. Every time they came forward, almost with no exception, we heard people saying a couple of very important things; one was, "My life was saved because the fire department was able to get to the accident" or able to get to the fire within a very short period of time, two to three to five minutes, what is known in the fire services as response time. Because of that, those people were able to come before the committee and say, "Here's how I feel about what this government is doing."

What the government is putting in danger and what the government is doing in setting up this legislation is that they're going to give municipal governments, which are cash strapped because of provincial government downloads, the ability to do a whole bunch of things with fire departments that, in my view, may save them some money but certainly are going to put in jeopardy the quality of services we have in fire departments across the province.

One of the key things they're going to do by way of this legislation is allow the introduction of the use of part-time firefighters. Let's not confuse that with volunteers. Volunteer firefighters and part-time firefighters are totally different issues. The government tries to mix the two of them up by saying, "What do you have against part-time, because we've been using volunteers for years?"

The difference is that in communities like Timmins, Sudbury, Windsor and Toronto, some of the larger communities in the province, we have full-time fire departments where, if the bell rings, you have full-time fire service people there who are able to respond to the fire or the accident within a very short period of time, like I say, three to five minutes.

What the government is proposing is going to allow municipalities, after today, to start laying off over a period of time or not rehiring as people retire full-time firefighters and replacing them with part-timers. In the community of Timmins, as an example, where you have a fire brigade of six to seven people with the captain, you will, over a period of time, start to lose the full-timers, and you will end up with a fire department that may have a full-time captain and maybe one or two full-time firefighters. If that bell rings, the two of them are going to run to the truck, jump on it and try to race away to the fire, hoping they can call the part-timers in to be able to assist them when they get to the fire.

What happens if they get to the fire with the two firemen and the fire truck and they don't have the part-timers there because the part-timer happens -- he or she -- to be at their job or maybe they've gone to a baseball game or maybe they went out of town on holidays? They're not going to be able to enter the fire. They will not be able to do their jobs.

One of the reasons we have a high degree of ability to be able to save lives with our fire services in this province is because we've got full-time firefighters who are able to be there in a short period of time and together, as a team, rush into the fire, using all the experience they have and all the training and knowhow they have to be able to get to us, the citizens who are in peril of our lives because of the fire. That's what this government is putting in jeopardy.

The other thing we were told about by people who appeared before our committee was the whole concept of team. This comes back to the issue of bringing in part-time firefighters. You have to understand that not just anybody can run in and try to fight a fire. Firefighting is a very technical, very difficult business to learn. It's not a job you can learn tomorrow, put on a fireman's coat and put on a fireman's hat and all of a sudden you're a firefighter; that's not the way it works. It takes years of training.

These six or seven full-time firefighters who make up the team of the captain down to the person who drives the truck or the person who does the various jobs on the fire truck, when they get to the fire, they work as a team. When they enter a burning building, the person at the front of the line, who may be holding on to the hose and trying to suppress the fire, knows the person behind them is going to be there and do what needs to be done to make sure that the person in the front is able to do his or her job.

One of the things we heard in the committee hearings is that with the introduction of part-timers, you may have a team that comprises two or maybe three full-time firefighters, who know their every move, who know when they get a certain tap on the back or a certain exclamation of the voice it means something, knowing they can rely on the person behind them, to having part-timers around, who may be very well intentioned, who might even be well trained to a certain degree but don't understand how the team concept works and how people get the job done. So the firefighter in there trying to do his or her job may never be sure that the person behind them is able to be relied on for the firefighter's safety. That will cause hesitation, and hesitation will cost lives. We heard that time and time again when it came to the public hearings.

The other thing Bill 84 is going to do is allow the government of Ontario to devolve its responsibilities through the existing legislation to let municipalities privatize fire service departments in this province. I say to the government, shame on you. I say to the people of Ontario, beware, because this experiment in trying to save dollars by introducing the private sector into fire services has been tried in other jurisdictions, and it doesn't work.

We have to get clear in our minds that yes, the private sector has a responsibility and has a place and does things well, but when it comes to fire services and other services, the government also has a responsibility. The key word is that it is fire "services," and that does not talk about making money; that talks about making sure you have adequate equipment and adequate staff, who are there to be able to answer the call when a fire or accident happens.

This government is introducing the concept of privatization, which I will not get into a lot of detail on because I know Floyd Laughren, the member for Nickel Belt, will talk on that issue as the critic for privatization. On that point, I only want to say this: The government is going down a road that, in my view, is very dangerous. I don't want to have to rely on a privatized fire department to come and fight the fire in my house if it's burning, because I don't want to have to worry about, "Excuse me, sir, will that be cash or Chargex?" when the fire starts. That's not what this is all about.

I want to know that in the end they will come and they will fight the fire and they will do what they have to do. I want to make sure that the men and women who are the firefighters are professionals who have been adequately trained, who have been properly supported and have sufficient resources to arrive at the scene of the fire or the accident and make sure the job is done. With privatization, don't believe me; look at the reports, look at what happened in other jurisdictions where this has been attempted and it has failed.

In the few minutes I have left, I want to say one other thing, because I would be remiss in not saying it. We thought as committee members -- my colleague Mr Kormos, the member for Welland-Thorold, and myself, and firefighters across this province -- that we were finally starting to get some of the government members to listen to what was being said, not by me, not by Gilles Bisson, the New Democratic member for Cochrane South, or Peter Kormos, the member for Welland-Thorold, but we thought they were finally starting to listen to the firefighters who were presenting to the committee, to the average citizens who came before us, the apartment building owners, the small business owners, all of whom came to us -- it was quite interesting -- from different walks of life, from different political stripes, who said privatization and a whole bunch of other initiatives were bad, but especially privatization.


We were finally starting to believe there were at least two government members on the committee who were prepared to listen and maybe even take some action. One was the parliamentary assistant, Mr Carr, and the other one was the member, Mr Ron Johnson. I forget his riding. I wish I didn't, because I shouldn't refer to him only by name.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): Brantford.

Mr Bisson: Brantford. We finally thought there were two members who were listening, who were hearing the arguments. I wasn't convinced that they were going to vote on any every amendment that we put forward, but I thought there was some progress being made. I thought finally, after being beat up on Bill 103, after being beat up on Bill 26 and a whole bunch of other issues, these two particular members were starting to say: "Hey, Mike, maybe not. Maybe this is a problem, Mike." "Excuse me, Mike. Maybe we're doing the wrong thing." "Mike, can we amend this legislation, Mr Premier?" I remember the night we got into Windsor talking to my colleague Mr Kormos and saying, "I think we've got some movement from Mr Johnson and Mr Carr on a couple of issues."

We come to committee the next morning and do you know what we find out? The Premier, Mike Harris, the member for Nipissing, fired both the committee members. Fired the committee members for what? For having done their jobs, for listening to the people of Ontario, for standing up for firefighters and other citizens and actually saying on committee that the government, when it came to certain aspects of this bill, had it wrong. I finally thought we were getting somewhere until that Thursday morning when I found out that the Premier said: "No, I don't want any of my caucus members to listen to the public. I don't want any of my Conservative members to listen to what people are saying. I only want them to listen to what I have to say," and the unpaid minions in the Office of the Premier who make all the decisions in this place and basically are above the responsibility of having to listen to anybody. But the point I'm making is the government, the Premier, fired those two particular members off the committee.

I say, in closing, shame on the Premier, shame on him and the Solicitor General, Mr Runciman, for having introduced such legislation, shame on them for putting in jeopardy the lives of the citizens of Ontario on the basis of what this legislation will do to fire services in the long run, and especially, shame on the Premier of Ontario who in opposition said, "I will make sure that I give my members the freedom to respect their constituents and act according to their wishes," to where if you disagree with Mike Harris and you're a member of his caucus, he not only won't put you in cabinet, he'll fire you out of your position in order to keep you quiet and not criticizing the government. To that I say shame.

I end on that point, only to say I urge all members of the House to vote against this legislation and stand up for the people of this province, the people they were elected to come here and represent.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I want to take this opportunity first to commend the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, especially Bruce Carpenter, the president. What he has done is educated us, informed us very well. I presume that when they started this Bill 84 -- and today we are much more informed, especially the politicians. The parliamentarians somehow were not as informed to know the kind of tremendous work that these folks were doing saving lives all the time. I found that the hearings were extremely useful for us and for the public to hear. I know there is another group too. I think I did mention the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. There was another one.

Hon Mr Jackson: Jim Lee and Bruce Carpenter, both really terrific guys.

Mr Curling: Yes. I want to take a few minutes just to say this. These individuals I have come to respect tremendously. We have seen that this government, when we saw 200,000 petitions put before them, guiding them in the sense that they are going in the wrong direction somehow, did not listen at all. My feeling is that democracy is being hijacked again by this government. Of course, members have mentioned those in their caucus who tried somehow to come to some reasoning thoughts of what the professional firefighters were saying. What happened? They were thrown out of caucus. That's awful.

One of the things that concerned me very much is how this government decided now to strip them of the right to strike. That doesn't bother me too much, but why is it we have to try to be picking fights with these individuals? Firefighters never strike. I have never heard of a strike at all in which firefighters are out there striking. They have gone out in a professional way, they have done their job, they have saved lives each day, and sometimes we take it for granted. But somehow this government has some sort of vendetta for any kind of unions or so on to say they cannot strike. I think they're picking a fight. It's unfortunate. The bullying strategy of this government is becoming annoying, and I tell you that the people can't wait to put some sense into them.

The other area I want to touch on very quickly is about the privatization. I heard the minister say that's not going to happen, but we know that's the road on which they're going to go. As soon as they pass it on to the municipalities, the municipalities may say, "We have no other way to go but to privatize that." I think that's very, very sad.

One of the members showed me his Visa card and said: "That's what's going to happen these days. In order to get a fire put out, you have to have money." So those who are going to be protected, those whose lives are going to be saved -- it depends on a Visa card, it depends on money. Privatization is leading to that end. I have seen that everything this government is doing somehow leads to that, that the private sector can do it better -- bottom line, profit, nothing about human beings at all, because to them it costs too much money. As far as this government is concerned, this province could have run much better without people, much better. As a matter of fact, it would run much more efficiently with money. Forget the people. I am perturbed that the direction in which they are going is going to be very harmful. Worse than that, I think it's going to cost lives. The warning of thousands of people across the province is saying: "It's the wrong way to go. Why are we rushing this?"

One of the best lines, which I would have given the Premier an Academy Award for, is when he got up the other day and said, "We are not in the process of ramming things through." Can you imagine that? "We don't ram things through." I presume we'll just be a dictatorship and just do it.

These things have to have sober thought, how we change legislation and how we go about making the laws represent the people in the way that reflects their needs and that somehow they feel a part of the process.

I would like very much to appeal to those members on the government side who I know want so much to think on their own without getting words from the back room of cabinet on what to say, to know in their hearts that they can vote specifically the way they think is right. Again, they are restricted and they may not be able to do so. But the people you represent would understand that representation is about what they want, not what the spin doctors and the bunch of cabinet inner-circle people tell you to do. They would like to see a policy of legislation that reflects them, not a private sector group who are going to dictate it on the bottom line of money. Somehow we will then be able to say we live in a province that will give to the people the laws they deserve and not what the government itself thinks the people deserve.

I just want to make those comments and to say to the firefighters that the fight is not over yet, and we will continue to fight this government to make sure that we are not in any way ignoring their plea.


Mr Laughren: I appreciate the opportunity to get involved in this debate on Bill 84, which is going to have such a profound impact on firefighters and firefighting services in this province.

I was leafing through the firefighters magazine called Intrepid, which is put out by the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, and on the cover are pictures of some firepersons talking to one another. One says to another, as they are at a fire: "You'd better do this rescue yourself! I'm a Premier Harris part-time firefighter. My other job means more to me and is not as dangerous." Another firefighter says, "The Premier Harris privatization concept will drastically reduce our staff to the point where we will not be able to do the job efficiently and safely." Another firefighter says, "I thought Premier Harris promised consultations and costings on the fire department act before the elections?" His buddy says: "We never had them. He broke his promise. That's why we'll have these problems and many others!"

These are the firefighters themselves speaking. This is not the opposition speaking in a partisan way; these are the firefighters. This is what they think about this bill. Who better knows the dangers than the people on the front lines? In this case, the people on the front lines are the firefighters themselves.

There is a disturbing pattern developing in legislation that this government brings forward. I served on a committee that dealt with the whole issue of the transfer of water and sewer systems to the municipalities, and deputation after deputation came before the committee and said, "We don't like this bill because it opens the door and accommodates privatization of the water system." The parliamentary assistant and the Minister of Environment said: "Oh no, don't be silly. All it does is transfer the services to the municipality." But no one is fooled by that, absolutely no one. Everyone knows that with the downloading that's going to be going on, the municipalities will be looking under every stone, in every nook and cranny, to find where they can save a buck.

If they can do that through selling their sewer and water services or through part-time firefighters or privatizing the firefighting system, they will do it and they will feel they have no choice. It's not because they're unhappy with the quality of firefighting service that occurs now in the local municipality and it's not because they're unhappy with the firefighters themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you were to take a poll out there in the province and list the professions, including politicians, lawyers, teachers, policemen, I ask you, would you find anyone who would be higher on the list than our firefighters in this province? I don't think you'd find anyone higher on the list of public esteem than our firefighters, because people know what they go through, know the risks they take.

For the government to be moving in this direction, which is clearly going to accommodate the privatization, and not, quite frankly, in a very honest and courageous way -- I would have more respect for this government if they said, "We are going to do this in order to accommodate privatization." No, they don't have the courage to do that. They simply transfer the authority to the municipality and then tighten the screws on the municipality to the point where they'll have no choice as to what the solution is. That's the problem and that's why there's an anger settling in out there at the way the government is doing this. They're not being honest with the people of this province, either on the previous bill I mentioned dealing with sewer and water or on this bill dealing with firefighting services.

I say to the government members, you can go back to your riding today and tomorrow and next week and say how this bill has got nothing to do with privatization, but when it occurs in a municipality you represent, when it is privatized in your municipality, what are you going to say to your constituents? What are you going to say then? That you were only kidding when you said it wouldn't happen? Is that what you're going to tell them?

Are you going to tell them: "Don't blame me. It's the municipality that has decided to privatize. It's the municipality that has decided to go to part-time firefighters"? You can say that if you like, but do you really think your constituents are going to swallow that? They will know. They know who has made this not only possible but at the end of the day inevitable, and that is what bothers so many of us so much.

I say to the government members I would encourage you to read this magazine called Intrepid. There's a very nice summary which gives the reasons they are opposed to this bill.

"Provide fewer firefighters for emergencies.

"Use part-time firefighters with less experience.

"Privatize all, or parts of, the fire service.

"Expand fire bureaucracy.

"Jeopardize teamwork in an emergency."

That really does sum up the concerns of the firefighters and those of us in opposition.

Who would have thought that this bill would become a big issue in this Legislature? When I first saw the bill, I didn't think it would. It wasn't until people started looking behind the scenes of this bill and seeing what it could lead to that people started getting upset. That's why when the committee held hearings the parliamentary assistant and the other members on the committee were very concerned about what was happening. They saw that everything wasn't the way it appeared to be and that at the end of the day there could be a lot of unhappy people as the result of this bill.

It's very unfortunate. I don't believe for a minute that the Solicitor General fired his parliamentary assistant. That's not the prerogative of the minister; that's the prerogative of the Premier. I'm not even convinced, and I would never expect him to say anything like this, that the Solicitor General is very supportive of this bill, because if anybody fancied himself as a friend of policemen and firemen, it was the Solicitor General, Mr Runciman.

Suddenly a great divide has been created between him and the firefighters of this province. I don't think that must make him very comfortable; it must make him very uncomfortable. I suspect that if he could turn back the clock or make the changes that could and should be made, he would do it. But I think the orders have come down from on high: "This is the way this bill is written and this is the way this bill is going to be passed."

I go back to the sewer and water bill: same thing there. Deputation after deputation said, "Make these changes." All that was required was an amendment that said, "No municipality may privatize its sewer and water services." There could be an amendment in this bill that says, "No municipality can privatize its firefighting services." As I say that, in walks the minister for privatization, Mr Sampson, who so far has got nothing to do except privatize three trees; I mean, three tree nurseries.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): More than three trees.

Mr Laughren: More than three trees. I know he may have a longer list that he has shared with some but not with me.

In order to allow more time for other members, I shall conclude my remarks.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm very happy to address this bill. I'll be very happy to not be voting in favour of Bill 84.

A little bit of history: When we became aware of some of the negative aspects of Bill 84, what I did find was that the people in Windsor and LaSalle, where I come from, had very strong opinions about what was wrong with Bill 84. In the length of time I've known some of the firefighters in the riding I come from I can tell you this is one group that you simply cannot put down as just another special interest group. In fact the government has a responsibility to listen to them carefully, and so far the government has done everything but.

Today in question period the minister said, "We have listened." Every firefighter who was in the gallery today and who may be watching today anywhere in Ontario knows that in fact is not the case. The presidents of the firefighting associations who have been working and trying to work with the Solicitor General know that is simply not the case. It's quite one thing to hear what the firefighters have to say and it's quite another to listen to what they say and then take action accordingly.


In this brief time I have I'd like to speak to the issue of privatization. I think it is one of the more serious elements of the bill. The Solicitor General believes that it will now be left to municipalities to determine appropriate levels of firefighting. I'd like to mention briefly the Knoxville model, which we have done our part to make sure Ontarians are aware of. I'd also like to mention the California experience, insurance rates, who does support Bill 84 and why, some of the comments from the submissions we heard in Windsor when the hearings travelled there and finish by telling you a little bit about what the Windsor and LaSalle firefighters are known for where I come from.

The government has put the bill over as just one little bill, like it's no big deal. What we have found is that for the first time in history firefighters, masses of them, found themselves congregating at Queen's Park. I won't forget the day that Premier Harris went out on the steps of the Legislature to announce for the third time a breakfast program, and as those big transport trucks pulled away, there was a sea of black coats, firefighters from across Ontario who came at that point to try to stop the Solicitor General. That was after the bill had simply been introduced and we hadn't gone to hearings. Today they are more frustrated with the government than ever because they insist on standing up in the House as though they have actually done something. In fact, they have not.

It was a particularly frustrating experience to listen to committee members when they were in Windsor, government members who just didn't have the nerve to stand up and say: "Yes, this is what we're doing. Yes, Bill 84 is a tool that municipalities need because we are cutting transfer payments to cities and towns across Ontario. Because we're making such dramatic cuts, we need to give cities and towns the tools to privatize because that is the only way they'll be able to have some kind of level of fire protection in Ontario."

Say it like it is. If there's anything that has been more frustrating for us on this side of the House, it's that government members cannot simply stand up and say that is what they're doing. They find every manner of getting around that argument by putting up some element of Bill 84 which in fact has full agreement, that is a long time coming in terms of change; no one would argue. It's much like the Red Tape Review Commission. In every example given, you'll find some arcane law that should be amended. With Bill 84 there are elements that could and should be changed. Everyone would agree with those. But the government has to stop and say, "What have we got in the bill that's bad?" and there are several items.

In the area of privatization there was the discussion of whether the bill allows for privatization. A memo that was put forward by the counsel of the Ministry of the Solicitor General said, "It is well established that a municipality has an implied power to enter into agreements as a body corporate in order to carry out its business," and it does so in various areas like garbage collection. I would submit to the Solicitor General that garbage collection can hardly be compared to firefighting services in terms of its being an emergency service available to all residents in Ontario.

It is hardly an argument, however, that you would say, "Well, they've had the power to privatize, so it's no big deal." The minister has yet to stand up in the House and say, "I don't believe in privatizing firefighting services." He has waffled and said any manner of things but has not said, "I don't agree that firefighting should be privatized." Moreover, the fire chiefs' association and its president have not been on record to say, "I don't believe we should be privatizing firefighting service." That is the kind of thing that I expect to hear from the president of the fire chiefs' association for Ontario.

The Knoxville model: We showed our local community the Knoxville model of privatization. May I tell you that the mouths were agape when they saw what Rural/Metro has done in the state of Tennessee. There were errors in judgement and simply a lack of service provision for one reason: They didn't have the resources. The president of Rural/Metro is on record in that state as saying, "We are doing the best we can with the resources that we are being provided," and that is the case. Such dramatic cuts to municipalities will make cities and towns in Ontario look at that as well. That has happened in Port Colborne already. Rural/Metro already went to the council of Port Colborne and said, "Let us come in and provide your firefighting service." They've already asked for it. With quite good judgement it was tossed out of the room immediately. Regardless, the request is there. The more the municipalities are squeezed and the more you cut transfer payments to cities and towns, they will look for any method at all to find savings in services their public expects them to provide.

I called the fire chief in Knoxville. I had him on the phone personally and I said, "Tell me what you think of privatizing." He summarized this with one clear statement: "When you privatize, you lose quality of service." That is a direct quote from an individual with years and years of experience in fire service delivery and certainly with nothing to gain in Ontario. That is a direct quote from people who have been used to this.

May I tell you that in 1976 in California Proposition 13 was passed? What that did in the state of California was limit the allowability of the state to increase taxes unless they call for a referendum and allow the people to raise taxes. Of course the people always say no. The direct result of the passage of Proposition 13 through referenda in the state of California was that cities and towns started pulling funding away from their firefighting services. As a result of that, within a mere two years the state of California had to pass yet another bill and that bill was to protect the funding to firefighters.

Why would you not look to examples in North America, where clearly errors have been made in their past, yet you insist on walking down the same path? I might remind this House that we are still very worried that you are about to bring in legislation for referenda. We will fight you on that one as well because we know what it means. It is a tool for you to get your hands on more and more power and make excuses for the cutting of services and the cutting of transfer payments that don't allow other levels of government to provide the services well.

We have looked at a number of areas of privatization and found several of them that simply have been ignored. We cannot deny that we now in this province do allow for the privatization of the fire departments across cities and towns. Why would the Solicitor General allow that? Why would he not say straight out in the bill, "You cannot privatize"? He hasn't done so.

Various areas: The powers of entry. When firefighters go to homes to fight fires, they have automatic powers to enter. That then would have to be granted to private companies, and personally I have some trouble with that. Private corporations would have a conflict of interest, a serious one, in the branch of private fire service in the areas of construction, development or supply of materials while at the same time trying to enforce codes related to buildings. If private companies, for example, are also in the business of furnishing fire departments with supplies, there's an automatic conflict of interest.

Private fire agencies have a significantly higher insurance rating. In every area that has private fire delivery, those homes and property taxpayers pay more in insurance rates than anywhere else. In fact, where it's been privatized, they've also introduced user fees. Regardless of whether or not the home burns to the ground, those user fees are charged. Rural/Metro has been taken to court more than once because people have refused to pay because Rural/Metro, the private company, didn't show up with enough water; they showed up with equipment that didn't work; they showed up with not enough firefighters to service the fire. As we heard in the House today from our critic, Mr Ramsay from Timiskaming, we know what's critical is the first few moments of fire and that within minutes it doubles and doubles in size, so you would think we would want some kind of protection for that. In fact, there's none here.

The minister said today in the House that he really can trust that municipalities will take seriously their role in providing adequate levels. Let me tell you that this morning on the radio station in Windsor Mayor Mike Hurst is on record as saying, "As long as I'm the mayor, we will never privatize fire service in Windsor." That's fabulous. We're also heading into a municipal election. Whether he will be re-elected is not the issue. The point is, what they happen to think will depend on whether the fire service is protected, not because there's legislation in Ontario that wouldn't allow it.


Let's look at the Sarnia model. Let's look at the paper that appeared, front page, in Sarnia: "Flip-flop on Fire Protection." What they did there, after agreeing to hire 24 firefighters two weeks ago -- that was two weeks ago as of April 15 -- the councillors changed their minds. By keeping five fire stations open, they recognized that they would have to hire more firefighters, so what they decided to do, a gross embarrassment -- "City Council's Actions an Embarrassment," is how the editorial ran in Sarnia -- is to wait until after the passage of Bill 84, because inherent in Bill 84 is that it allows the towns and municipalities to bring in part-time firefighters. They figure in Sarnia, "We'll be able to keep all five fire stations open and we'll put part-timers in there."

Is that such a bad thing? Well, people who have had years of experience in fighting fires say, "Bill 84 goes even further to make changes that allow fire chiefs to maintain a skeleton crew of firefighters on duty and give them the power to order in firefighters who are off-duty." This was prepared for us by Jack Fenton, the president of the firefighters in Windsor. Having one firefighter responding with the engine and being able to do nothing at a fire until others arrive actually would be allowable under Ontario law. I cannot imagine that the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs would allow something like this to stand as good law for Ontario and that they wouldn't have taken a further stand on that issue.

I come to who supports Bill 84. Certainly the fire chiefs' association is on record as saying they do that. In fact, they are not representative of all the fire chiefs in Ontario. The fire chief in Windsor, Dave Fields, is on record as saying no. He said, "Yes, there are parts of Bill 84 that are good and we have to support that, but it is the role of the Ontario fire chiefs association to look at the whole bill and not simply be sold off" -- for what, we know not yet, but they have actually stood and allowed things.

This president in particular, Mr Tulk, has written to Dave Fields, the chief in Windsor, and said, "I personally, and on a professional level, share many of your views on part IX," which is the labour clause; "however, the board of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs made a conscious decision to follow the mandate set out by its members in public safety and let the firefighter associations represent the labour-related concerns." That is a sellout.

May I be quite clear: It is the responsibility of anyone who is involved in firefighting to stand up for what they know is right. I expect associations to come out and say that if you're truly concerned with fire safety in Ontario, you would not allow for the privatization in any municipality. Even when the powers were given to all the cities and towns through Bill 26, that wasn't the point, but when this government put the screws to the transfer payments to cities and towns across Ontario, now they're in the position to have to look to cut firefighting services.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. I would just like to remind the people in the gallery that you're not allowed to demonstrate in any form.

Mrs Pupatello: I expect to get a rise out of that, and I'm certainly not necessarily here to make friends with fire chiefs across Ontario. But we have an obligation to tell the truth. I need an explanation about why firefighting chiefs would not be on record as saying, "I am opposed to privatization." Given the record in the American states, given the litany of insurance claims, given the litigation that has followed in states, how can we not wholeheartedly stand up and say "I oppose privatization"? So push that aside.

I am interested in what the residents of Windsor and Essex county have to say about privatization. They don't agree. We met several individuals who came, people who personally experienced the firefighting services in Ontario. One was a gentleman named Joe Egan. "I am a retired electrical contractor from Sarnia, and I am frightened." Here is a gentleman who lost his 25-year-old daughter in a house fire and went on to do several things to promote smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are not in Bill 84. Apparently, it's coming in the fire code, but I don't believe you. I don't trust that that is the case.

His concerns, though, have caused him to become very involved in firefighting services and what is appropriate as a level. This is not a special interest group; this is a man who lost a child to fire and has taken much time and energy since then to see that it's being put right in Ontario. He says: "The passage of Bill 84 won't permit them to properly man the stations by the use of part-time people. This can only put the firemen and the public at grave risk for the sake of a few dollars."

We talk about the safety of the public. Who is talking about the safety of the firefighters? When the firefighters go in to fight a fire, it is well known that they have a team attitude, that everything firefighters do they do as a team. Are the firefighters as safe going to fight fires when they are operating some as full-time and some as part-time? This has been researched to death. This is not new. But to have the government come in today and wholeheartedly upset the applecart, needlessly I might say, and then have the gall not to stand up and say they're doing it is unconscionable and not acceptable to most people in the province.

Might I tell you that the people of Windsor and LaSalle have come to know firefighters in other than their role. They have done more for community service in Windsor and Essex county than, thankfully, having to fight fires. That's because they do their volunteer work in our community and they do it voluntarily. They do it voluntarily because they truly have an attitude that is public-spirited.

They know that the chief is on their side, they know that city hall is on their side, so after their shifts are over they spend hours and hours carting out the safety village so they can run kids through the safety house and teach them about a home that's burning. They do it of their own free will and time. When Tim from the fire department called me, while I was still at Rotary, and said, "We're looking for sponsorships to bring this house to Windsor," he had no problem. People couldn't rush fast enough to give him donations because we knew the good work the department was doing.

It's that kind of public spirit that, in my view, this government has deliberately set out to ruin, and we don't understand why. We think it's needless. They went out of their way to put a strike clause in Bill 84, which was completely unnecessary. If you knew that every association of firefighters, since the beginning of time, has had within their own mandate that they will never strike, why would you put that in the bill other than to irritate them, other than to cause dissension among the ranks and set one against the other? It's completely unnecessary, and you've done it particularly to poke the bear. Why? To show you can poke the bear? So you can just show the power you have in being government? Let me tell you, you need to be far more responsible than that.

We know that today in the House Bill 84 is probably going to pass. May I tell you that there are individuals in Ontario in whom I am very disappointed, who should have stood up against Bill 84 and did not. But I am more disappointed with the Solicitor General, the Premier's office, who was begged to make certain amendments to this bill and didn't, who was begged probably by his own caucus members at some point, and they still didn't listen.

The Solicitor General standing up in the House today and saying, "We listened to the people," galls me and anyone else who has been following this debate, because we know you haven't listened. You are also prepared to put people's lives at stake for the sake of power, and that, government, is not acceptable.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I'm going to be brief in my comments because many members of my caucus have already had a chance to put on the record what we find so offensive and so objectionable about this piece of legislation. But I couldn't allow this to pass without getting in some comments of my own.

I'm going to start with three comments that came from government backbenchers. The first comment is from Toni Skarica, MPP, and it says --

The Deputy Speaker: Which riding is he from?

Mr Hampton: Mr Skarica, I believe, is from Wentworth. His comment is, "There is something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province." Then he says, "It's a dictatorship."

The second comment was from the person who used to be the parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General until this bill came along, and in the middle of this bill he was removed. That is of course Gary Carr, the member for Oakville South. Mr Carr's comments are, "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship."

At the outset someone might wonder, what do these comments have to do with this legislation? They have a lot to do with it, an awful lot. We know that while these hearings were being conducted, people like Mr Carr and some of the Conservative backbenchers were persuaded by the case that was made day in and day out in communities across this province; were persuaded by the case that was made by firefighters; persuaded by the case that was made by people who had been victims of fires and whose property and lives had been saved by firefighters. They were persuaded by insurance agents who came in and talked about the need for rapid response, who talked about the need for having very well-trained firefighters, firefighters who worked as a team, who understood each other almost intuitively and therefore would make the right reaction in very stressful circumstances. Members of the government's own committee, government members of the committee, were being persuaded.

We know, for example, that they raised very eloquent arguments within their caucus as to why and how the government ought to pay attention to this, but they were simply told: "Shut up, and if you're not prepared to shut up, you'll be shuffled out of your position as Mr Carr was. Do whatever the Premier's office says."

You see, what happened during those hearings was this: Members of the government, MPP backbenchers in the government started to understand that this bill, Bill 84, as it is presently put together, is not so much about firefighting, it's not about that, it's about trying to find ways to take money, to take financial resources out of firefighting. They started to understand that. Yes, there's some window dressing around the side that the government tries to spin every day, "Oh, this will result in more education and this will result in better fire prevention," there are some spin words around the edges about that, but the guts of this legislation are about how you take money, how you take financial resources out of fire services, out of fire protection services, out of public safety; how you take that out and put it in a pot to deal with the Premier's real agenda.

We know from sitting in here day after day what the Premier's real agenda is. There's no money for children, but there's money to finance a $5-billion tax scheme for the government's wealthy friends. There's less money for firefighting and for fire protection but there's going to be more money to finance a $5-billion tax scheme for this government's wealthy friends. There's money being taken out of health care. You have to shut down 30 hospitals and cut the budgets of other hospitals by $1.3 billion over three years so you can put the money in a pot to finance this $5-billion tax scheme for the government's wealthy friends.

Government members who went out and heard what's happening out there in terms of fire services and got the lowdown on what the privatization of fire services means, got the lowdown on what part-time firefighting services mean, started to understand the picture. They started to come back and say, "We shouldn't do this."

Good fire protection services should continue to be a priority in Ontario communities. We should not pass legislation which facilitates the downgrading of fire protection services. We should not try to force through legislation which takes money and financial resources and training and emphasis out of fire protection services.

We know they went back to their caucus and we know the message they got was this kind of message: "Get in line, shut up, obey the Premier's office or get the boot." So they responded. They responded, as I think good MPPs would, by saying: "This is not a dictatorship. This should not be a dictatorship. There's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province and can give marching orders to the entire province." That's what that has to do with this legislation.

What's going to happen here today, very shortly, when a vote on this is forced by the government? The government will march in their trained seals, their clones, and everyone will be told: "Stand and vote for this legislation. Ignore the potential destructiveness of this legislation. Ignore the fact that it is going to take away from public safety. Ignore the fact that it's going to undermine some aspects of health and safety and the proper operation that firefighters have built up over 40 or 50 years in this province. Just ignore that. We've got to get the money for this tax scheme and some of it's got to come out of here; some of it's got to come out of firefighting."

It's true municipalities will be handed the dirty work. They'll be handed the dirty work of saying to firefighting departments, "We're going to take this amount of money out of your budget," and the response will come back, "Well, if you're going to take this, we've got to find some way of stringing things together." They will then use combinations of privatization, part-timers, whatever, to string together something that's supposed to look like adequate fire protection but in reality will be a lot less than communities have been accustomed to in the past.

That's the scheme here, so let's make it plain so that everyone can know it. This government has money to give to their wealthy friends on Bay Street. They are the people who are going to benefit the most from this government's tax scheme. People whose incomes are over $100,000 or $200,000 a year will get a sizeable gift each and every year from this government. Communities are going to pay for it through the loss of quality fire protection services, the loss of quality health care, the loss of quality education services, the loss of community supports for children and other people who are vulnerable. That's what this is all about. This government doesn't have an agenda for fire protection; it has an agenda for giving to its wealthy friends more and more of Ontario's resources and taking those resources from services like this: fire protection.

We heard over and over again from people who came before the committee that they're opposed to this. A quarter of a million people went to work and took the time to sign petitions that were presented here today. A quarter of a million people are absolutely opposed to what this government is doing to fire protection and to the public's health and safety. They're opposed to it.

It doesn't matter. This government has its narrow agenda for its wealthy friends and what a quarter of a million people say doesn't matter. Nine thousand firefighters across the province came together to oppose this legislation. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all. This government has its narrow agenda: "Get out of the way or we're rolling over you." That's what's happening here.

We also heard when we were out there people who are very knowledgeable about fire protection, people who are very knowledgeable about fire services point out all the inadequacies of what's happened in the United States --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Mr Hampton: Speaker, we're going to oppose this now and we're going to continue to oppose it.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very pleased to be able to wrap up the debate on Bill 84 this afternoon and very pleased with the number of members in the House who have been able to speak on this bill. I appreciate the support of all the Liberal members in the House.

I think I'd like to start off by saying how much I've enjoyed working with firefighters right across this province in trying to stop the government from implementing Bill 84. Jim Lee, the president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, and Bruce Carpenter, the president of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Firefighters, are dedicated men to their profession and to the firefighters they represent. They can certainly hold their heads proudly today with the fight they've made against Bill 84 and some accomplishments they also extracted from this government. I think they should be very proud, and I acknowledge their presence today in the House.

Firefighters are a great bunch of people. It's a wonderful honour and pleasure one has working in this business. With the different assignments one is given over time, we learn so much and we get to meet people in all walks of life. I've really enjoyed working with firefighters and look forward to a continued relationship with the two associations.


It's very important that we be clear about exactly what Bill 84 is. What it is is another bully bill of the Harris government. It's another bully bill that comes from Bill 26, which was, as I call it, the mother of all bully bills, passed by this government last year. While Bill 84 is maybe the son of that bully bill, it is very closely related, because what it does is grant powers to municipalities that, unfortunately, are going to be required because of the extreme financial pressures the Harris government is downloading on our municipalities. That's what a lot of Bill 84 is about.

It's unfortunate that that whole component is in there, because there are some good aspects to Bill 84. All of us in this chamber, including the firefighters here and the present associations, would agree that there are some very positive aspects of this bill, but there are also some areas that are quite dangerous, which I feel, as they do, will put some Ontarians in jeopardy because of the shortcuts that are going to happen in fire safety in this province.

It's very clear that we heard this across the province, as we were able to extract from the government the time we and the firefighters wanted to go across the province and show the government that people in every corner of Ontario were against this bill and support their local firefighters. We started off in Toronto. We went to Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Kingston, Hamilton, Windsor and back to Toronto again. We heard a very good cross-section of Ontarians' views on Bill 84.

Earlier in question period, I talked to the Solicitor General about this bill and basically tried to persuade him one more time to pull this bill. Of course, in his answers he said, "I've made some great changes." Yes, he has made some changes, but there are still three very important parts of this bill that remain that are going to put Ontarians lives in jeopardy. Those three are: the privatization of fire departments, which is, I would say, not just allowed in this enabling legislation but encouraged if you look at the totality of the downloading that is going to occur to the municipalities; the enabling legislation that allows part-time firefighters now, and I'm going to get back to that; and also the callback system that up till now has not been allowed in Ontario.

I think we'd better be clear about privatization. I, like all my colleagues, want to do a better job for government. We understand that it's important that we try to reinvent ourselves. We should try to do a better job in re-engineering government. But that doesn't mean that holus-bolus you've got to privatize everything. In fact, there are certain key parts of government that absolutely should never, ever be privatized. Those areas are those core functions that involve public safety and security. Therefore, police, corrections and firefighting should never be privatized.

You might ask the reason for that. The reason is that a private company's mandate is to do well for itself and its shareholders, as a private company should. That should be part of the private sector and not part of the public sector. A publicly run, municipally run, fire department is there to do the public good. The firefighters, the chiefs and the whole staff there are dedicated to the public good. That's the prime difference.

When you talk about firefighting, there are many examples of how privatization has gone completely off the rails. We've heard many references to those in the House today. Those are in the United States, primarily in Arizona, where we had those examples.

But it's interesting, as this bill now is starting to become known in Ontario, the reaction of many of the Ontario fire chiefs, firefighters and other organizations. John Dietrich, a firefighter in Waterloo, said that the only way a private fire company could make a profit in Ontario would be to reduce the level of fire service which our communities expect. I certainly agree with that and hope that doesn't happen.

We even have the fire chief of Toronto against Bill 84, saying that there are some real inherent dangers in this bill. He goes on to say, "Considering that the proposed legislation opens the door to part-time firefighters and contemplates the contracting out of full-time municipal fire departments, clearly defined standards for fire protection, training and certification should be included in the legislation to guarantee the safety of professional firefighters and to ensure that a serious threat to public safety will never exist." That has not been done and is not included in Bill 84.

The fire chief of Windsor shares the very same view. I know the member for Windsor-Sandwich had quoted great parts of the presentation he made along with the deputy chief when were down in Windsor, in the justice committee hearings down there. He is very much opposed to the privatization of firefighting and understands that in order to make a profit, privatized fire departments are going to have to cut corners, and cutting corners in that type of service is going to put lives in jeopardy.

This privatization is interesting. One of the chiefs who came before us from Phoenix, Arizona, has experience in that state with the Rural/Metro privatization. He said: "In all our zeal to reinvent government, what department or agency of government really works in a responsive way for people? Why, it's the fire department. What other government office can you call and a real person picks up the phone? And before they serve you, all they ask you is two questions: Where are you and what's the trouble? And they are immediately on the way."

Within three and four and five and six minutes in most municipalities in Ontario they're on the spot rendering service to all Ontarians. That's what they do and that's a service we shouldn't be tinkering with. There isn't a problem there; it isn't broken and we shouldn't be tinkering with it. I don't know of any other more responsive government office than that, and yet, because of the severe downloading constraints on municipalities by the Harris government, that is why see Bill 84. A system that works perfectly well is going to be disrupted. We're going to break it, we're going to wreck it because of the Harris tax cut to give the fat cats a lot more money, and that's wrong.

The other area that is of big concern is the use of part-time firefighters. Again, people have to understand how a fire department works and the teamwork that is created among the men and women who work in that fire department. It's very important to understand that when you send men and women into a dangerous situation, they have to know each other, they have to be trained with each other and they have to have faith and trust in the others work.

You know what's very interesting when you send a fire crew into a building? Everybody else is leaving, but the firefighters are going in. They're going in to save people, maybe somebody who couldn't get out, and unfortunately sometimes that happens. So we send people in. They risk their lives on a daily basis for us, to save our lives. I think these people deserve better from us in government.

You don't send in part-time firefighters in a team of firefighters in a dangerous situation. You've got to keep a team intact. Municipalities are going to be scratching their heads now with all this downloading and they're going to say: "We've got this crew sitting there in the firehall and they don't get a call every minute. Maybe we could somehow cut down. We'll just send two firefighters on the initial response. If it's an emergency, maybe we'll bring in a few more people."

That's not good enough. I want to make sure that firehall is fully staffed with people ready to go, and I don't care how long it was before their last fire. I want to make sure that when my family calls, when my colleague's family calls, when you call out there, that fire crew is there, they're rested, trained and ready to go to save those lives. That's the type of fire service we have here in Ontario and this government is trying to wreck it just to save a few cents. That's wrong, that's tragic and it's not the way to go.

The other system they're looking at is called the callback system. This would allow municipalities to understaff firehalls and again this is a big mistake, because when you send an undercrewed team out there and they find they're into something a little larger than they can handle, on this system they're going to have to call back to the fire department to call back to their homes, "We'd better get some more people who are not on duty and bring them to the situation."

If there's anything I've learned in the debate of Bill 84, it's that immediate responsiveness is the primary criterion when it comes to firefighting. As many of the members have mentioned here today, a fire doubles in size every minute, so it is important to get out there at least before four minutes because a fire now is 16 times as large as it was when it started -- in four minutes. You've got to get out there with sufficient crew and sufficient equipment, and if you're not there by eight minutes your chances of now putting that fire out greatly diminish, and they greatly diminish every minute after that. So it's very important that you have a well-rested, trained and coordinated crew ready to respond at a minute's notice and to get out there to save those lives.

It's interesting, when you looked at last night's incident with the French debate in Ottawa, and it's like this in every emergency situation. When you punch in 911 for an emergency and maybe what you really want is an ambulance, who gets there first? It's the fire department, and they've got all the emergency training to handle those medical emergencies on the spot before an ambulance gets there. It's always the fire department that gets there first. So why are we wrecking this service? Why are we doing this to the people of Ontario and jeopardizing people's lives? That's wrong. To save a few bucks? People's lives are worth a lot more than a few bucks and it's wrong to be jeopardizing this. This government should be ashamed of itself for doing this.

The most interesting thing I learned going around in committee hearings was the person-to-person accounts of acts of heroism that we heard in committee. We heard those in Windsor, we heard them in Hamilton, in Kingston, in Sudbury and Thunder Bay, the human stories that sometimes we read about in the newspapers and sometimes we don't, where people got themselves in trouble in whatever different circumstances and the first people to arrive at the scene were firefighters. As I said before, while all of us are leaving the scene of a fire or an accident, it's the firefighters who go into that scene at great risk to their lives to save people. We should be supporting them for that. We should be making sure they've got the very best equipment, the very best of training, that we pay them well and make sure their shifts are appropriate to do the jobs they are required to do.

We've got a very good professional full-time firefighting component in Ontario and we have a very good volunteer component in Ontario. In many small municipalities, that's all they can afford. I want to make it clear that when we differentiate between volunteers and part-timers, what we're talking about is full-time professional fire departments starting to use part-time people.

What is wrong with that is that in a big urban centre you've got to have people who are basically in the zone, who are up to speed every second to be able to get into those emergency situations and react -- not somebody who does this while they've got other work going on and they just come in a couple of times a week. That call can come in to the fire department any time, any day or night, and we've got to have full-time people there who are trained and rested, who work as a team and are effective in responding to those situations.

That's the type of team we've built in Ontario and now the Harris government is going to destroy that. I think that's wrong. Those municipalities, when you talk to them, say, "We'd never do this to our fire departments," but I'll tell you, the municipalities are starting to understand the tremendous pressure that's coming down to them from the downloading exercise of the Harris government. I'm afraid, and all my colleagues are afraid, that with the very best of intentions of many of our municipal councillors, what they're going to start to look at in the next couple of years are our firefighting and emergency services. That's where they're going to start to cut.

Yes, they are expensive services, but they're well worth it. That's money well spent. That's why I pay my taxes. I know that money is well spent. It's reinvested in preserving life and property in Ontario. That's a service I'm proud of. We're world-renowned in Ontario for that service. We should be proud of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day for us. This government should be ashamed of what they're doing.

The minister is here today and I would say, as I start to sum up, that he has one more opportunity to say, "I stand this bill down." Let's stand this bill down and rethink this thing before we go ahead. I think that's the right thing to do to make sure that the fire protection we have today in Ontario is preserved and the very best in the world.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Runciman has moved third reading of Bill 84. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1755 to 1800.

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


Arnott, Ted

Hodgson, Chris

Runciman, Robert W.

Baird, John R.

Jackson, Cameron

Sampson, Rob

Barrett, Toby

Johns, Helen

Saunderson, William

Beaubien, Marcel

Johnson, David

Shea, Derwyn

Boushy, Dave

Kells, Morley

Sheehan, Frank

Brown, Jim

Leach, Al

Smith, Bruce

Carroll, Jack

Leadston, Gary L.

Spina, Joseph

Chudleigh, Ted

Martiniuk, Gerry

Sterling, Norman W.

Clement, Tony

Maves, Bart

Tascona, Joseph N.

Cunningham, Dianne

McLean, Allan K.

Tilson, David

DeFaria, Carl

Munro, Julia

Tsubouchi, David H.

Doyle, Ed

Newman, Dan

Turnbull, David

Fisher, Barbara

O'Toole, John

Vankoughnet, Bill

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Villeneuve, Noble

Harnick, Charles

Pettit, Trevor

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Hastings, John

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Wood, Bob

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


Agostino, Dominic

Gravelle, Michael

Morin, Gilles E.

Bartolucci, Rick

Hampton, Howard

Patten, Richard

Bisson, Gilles

Hoy, Pat

Pouliot, Gilles

Brown, Michael A.

Kormos, Peter

Pupatello, Sandra

Christopherson, David

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ramsay, David

Churley, Marilyn

Lankin, Frances

Ruprecht, Tony

Cleary, John C.

Laughren, Floyd

Sergio, Mario

Conway, Sean G.

Marchese, Rosario

Silipo, Tony

Crozier, Bruce

Martel, Shelley

Wildman, Bud

Duncan, Dwight

McLeod, Lyn

Wood, Len

Gerretsen, John

Miclash, Frank


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 48; the nays are 32.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried. Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

It now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 11 of the clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1803.