36th Parliament, 1st Session

L192 - Thu 15 May 1997 / Jeu 15 Mai 1997
























































The House met at 1101.




Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I am pleased to move private member's notice of motion number 53:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should implement a permanent, equitable, patient-based health care funding formula, thereby ensuring that high-growth GTA/905 regions such as Peel, Halton, York and Durham, where demand for health care services is expected to increase by 26.5% from 1995 to 2003, receive a more equitable share of available health care dollars.

As is tradition in the Legislature, private members' business is a time to speak to an issue or a concern to the community that one represents. I've chosen to bring forward a resolution that's important not just to the high-growth areas like the city of Brampton and the region of Peel, but particularly across Ontario.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I wish I had noticed before we started. There is not a quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Mr Spina.

Mr Spina: Thank you, Speaker. Has the time returned to the clock? I think we lost about a minute there.

That important issue is, how do we as a government fund health care and other services so communities with substantial high growth are able to meet the unprecedented need and demand for services? The best way I feel this can be accomplished is through developing a permanent, patient-based funding formula.

What I'm not trying to do here is say that one area of the province is more important than another. My travels to northern and rural Ontarian municipalities prove that each region has different needs that must be met in the most effective and efficient way possible, and any area experiencing significant growth or not would be served by this type of funding formula. The city I represent has a big problem trying to match continued growth with services, and the best way to help alleviate this problem would be a patient-based funding formula.

I want to begin by providing members of the Legislature with some background on the issue and why it's important to my riding but also some of the other areas. This is not a new issue to Brampton or to the region of Peel, Durham and York, particularly because of the unprecedented growth that this area has experienced in the province and in fact anywhere in Canada.

During the 1995 campaign, I heard a lot about what we called a fair share of funding for services. In fact there's an organization called the Fair Share for Peel Task Force, chaired by Hal Brooks. There is also a GTA/905 Health Care Alliance, with Jim Armstrong, some of the members of which are here in the gallery today.

These people are very hardworking individuals who are striving to overcome the historical underfunding of these areas. The historical underfunding has finally reached its peak. We must now help finish the plan to help ease the burden on services in these communities.

For over a decade, growth in places like Brampton has continued beyond the provincial average while the proportional share of provincial dollars -- not just provincially but also federally -- the $2.1-billion cut we've got in health care from the federal government is something we have had a lot of difficulty trying to come to address.

From about 1990 to 1995 the growth in the 905 region, in Brampton in particular, has been at a rate of 16%. By 2003, it would be an additional 26.5%. Overall, the GTA/905 population is expected to reach about 4.5 million in about five years' time. One glaring example of the historical inequity is the amount of money spent per capita on hospital funding -- and I'm sure that other areas of Ontario will also have comparative figures -- but the per capita funding is about $400 in the GTA/905, while the provincial average is about $700 per capita. Cities like Toronto are about $1,000 per capita.

There are various reasons for them being higher or lower, but if we want to better integrate the health care system, a more equitable way of distributing funds has to be established. What I'm asking here today is that a continuation of the current program that the Ministry of Health has begun be completed and that the plan go all the way so that a proper, patient-based funding formula be developed, so that any high-growth area can receive its fair share of funding dollars.

There are jurisdictions in Canada with population-based funding, like Alberta and BC. For example, in Alberta 20% is added to the per-person funding for remote, rural communities to provide for a full range of basic services. It's not just a straightforward, simple, patient-based funding formula, but it also has to have flexibility to address the needs of rural and other communities across the province, where there is not growth but there are other specific needs. Recent trends show that this type of funding better supports the creation of an integrated health care system that our government is developing.

Our government has clearly shown leadership in restructuring this system to better meet the needs of patients. Despite the $2.1-billion cut from the federal government mentioned earlier, we've managed to make about $900 million in reinvestments to date. We've not only sealed the health care envelope at $17.4 billion from the 1994 level, but as a result of this past budget, increased it to $18.5 billion.


Further, Jim Wilson, our minister, has helped growth areas with revisions to the funding formula. He has instructed the joint policy and planning committee of the Ontario Hospital Association and the ministry to alter the formula so that growth funding is available for hospitals in our areas. The creation of the high-growth fund has reinvested over $6.6 million over the past two years in my own local hospital, Peel Memorial in Brampton, and made about $25 million available in each of the last two years to help some of the other 905 area hospitals.

In Burlington, Joseph Brant hospital faced a similar problem. Key reinvestments have been made there: $1.5 million from the high-growth fund this year, increased to $2.4 million. Overall the hospital only had to find efficiencies of $1.3 million, which isn't easy, we respect that, but we also look at the reinvestments made in the MRI machine, mental health programs, community-based care in Halton and Peel region. As a matter of fact, as we speak this morning, Minister Wilson and Minister Jackson are in Peel making an announcement for community health care integrated programs in the Peel region.

Two studies specifically allude to the problem. The Angus Reid study was the first one that said 68% said the Harris government was on track in reforming health care and 58% said the government should use available funding. The Fraser Institute study, which was the second one, said that people living outside of Toronto are waiting 20% longer to receive elective surgery; people in the GTA are waiting from 27% to 150% longer for access to diagnostic technology. The most important factor is that 80% of the people responding to the survey said that funding should be redistributed more equitably as a result of hospital restructuring. That's the focus of the conversation and the theme we would like to see achieved this morning.

The goals of the restructuring commission should be enhanced to address the real needs of patients, be it in a high-growth area like the GTA/905, or smaller rural and northern cities like Peterborough, Sault Ste Marie, Sarnia or other areas. The historic inequity can only be dealt with through a permanent, patient-based funding formula. Our government's efforts to create an integrated health care system would greatly benefit by coordinating health care resources better so that we can deliver the services closer to home.

I know Dr Sinclair of the Health Services Restructuring Commission is attempting to achieve this goal, and various groups, like the groups I mentioned earlier, the GTA/905 Health Care Alliance as well as the Fair Share for Peel Task Force and some of the other groups within the other communities across Ontario, are lobbying for a far more equitable method of funding so that we can do what we are attempting to do, what we promised in the Common Sense Revolution, and that was to deliver a patient-based budgeting system for the patients of this province, so that the dollar ends up at the street level where the patients need it.

That's what we are trying to achieve. We've begun that road. The purpose of this resolution is to encourage that further and to get it down to the very end of that road so that we can deliver the services to all of the patients in our province to the best of our ability and in a very cost-efficient manner. To that goal, I hope that the members of our government and members of the opposition will concur with that objective and support the resolution.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I will speak on this matter for just a few moments and then give the rest of my time to two of my colleagues in our caucus.

I must admit that I'm somewhat surprised that the member would talk about the goal of the restructuring commission. He's requesting that the goals of the restructuring committee be enhanced so that the real needs of the patients can be more properly taken into account. Quite frankly, I would have thought with the influence he has with his government caucus colleagues and with the Minister of Health, he certainly could have made sure that that was in actual fact one of the goals in the mandate of the restructuring commission. If it's not, it's too late to talk about that now, because we all know that the restructuring commission has caused an awful lot of uncertainty throughout the province.

I've always maintained that we should be looking at these things not so much from the structural viewpoint, not so much from a governance viewpoint -- I think people have a tendency to get totally hung up on this -- but rather from a patient's viewpoint: Is the potential patient better off in the community with the different health care services that are available to that patient, whether they be hospital services, whether they be community services, or whatever, as a result of the whole restructuring exercise?

I think the impression that has been left, particularly in many of the communities where the restructuring commission has already visited, is that their main goal and function is to close down hospitals. People are very concerned about that, especially if they don't see the community care facilities and services that everybody seems to be talking about as being available in their individual municipalities.

It has always been my view that not one hospital ought to be closed until the alternative care facilities, the community care services, are actually available. I would have thought that this member might have made his viewpoint better known to the Minister of Health so that when the restructuring commission and organization was set up, that would have been one of its mandates.

I also hope that this resolution doesn't just apply to the three or four growth municipalities that he's talking about in his resolution. I think this kind of funding formula ought to be made available throughout Ontario.

However, if there's one concern that I have about any of these funding formulas, we have to recognize that different parts of the province have different needs and different situations arise. In my own part of the province, for example, and the community I represent, we have a much larger component of senior citizens than in many other communities, and one of the reasons for that is that we have excellent health care services available which attracted a lot of people to retire to the Kingston area. We have to take demographics into account as well, because it's a well-known fact that the elderly will require more health care services than, let's say, rapidly growing areas where you've got many more younger families.

I certainly am going to vote in favour of this resolution. I think it's the right way to go. It will give the communities where people decide to live and reside and work some greater source of comfort that the health care dollars will be made available as the communities increase in size. But I hope at the same time that we do not limit ourselves by putting too many restrictions on any particular ministry by coming up with too many complicated formulas as to how the funding arrangements ought to be arrived at.

I will be voting in favour of this resolution but would encourage the member to take up this matter with his colleague within his own caucus, the Minister of Health, to make sure that there's still something that can be done with respect to the restructuring commission, to make sure that the need to recognize the real needs of the patients is taken into account to a much larger extent by the hospital restructuring commission than has so far been the case.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I want to rise and speak to this motion and, first of all, say I will be supporting it. I think the member is trying to do something which all members of this House try to do, which is advocate for the region they represent.

I only want to take two or three minutes because I want to leave the remainder of the time to our critic for health, the member for London Centre, who will speak on this later. But I couldn't help but get up for a couple of reasons, because I think the member did mention it. I've got to at least give him some credit for that. He said that you can't look at hospital funding or health care funding based only on population, that you also have to look at the demographics of the area.

Being a member from northern Ontario I want to speak to that, because I think members of the Legislature need to understand that in northern Ontario you may not have the population concentration that you would have in a Brampton or a Mississauga, but we have other challenges that challenge the amount of money that we need to spend in health care only to provide minimal services, not to provide the Cadillac of services that you would get living in Mississauga or that you might get living in downtown Toronto.


I talk about the region of northeastern Ontario, and I'll talk specifically from Temagami to Hearst up to Timmins. You have a number of communities there. You have small, rural municipal hospitals in communities like Cochrane, Matheson, Iroquois Falls and Smooth Rock Falls that don't have the number of patients to draw from to give them the cost-per-patient ratio to make it look as if they're extremely efficient.

The problem is that they must have emergency departments within those communities. You don't have the population base you have in Toronto. It makes it look like they're much more expensive to keep going. Of course you're going to spend money, because there's a fixed cost to having a hospital. I think members need to know that. If you're going to offer emergency care, if you're going to offer certain basic levels of service in communities like Matheson, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls or Hearst, it's going to cost the government some money. I think the government needs to understand that, so when we talk about increased funding I just want to say, "Yoo-hoo, remember us in northern Ontario."

We've been having all kinds of problems over the years in trying to get governments to make sure they put in place the dollars needed to offer even basic minimum care. I was glad and proud to be a member of a government that went a long way to addressing some of those issues. We did deal with hospital funding issues in communities, like Timmins and others, which have been able to increase services such as CAT scans and MRIs and other services.

The other thing I want, in about the last minute I have here, is just to put the end to one myth. One of the things that we're deathly afraid of is this hospital restructuring committee that the government has set up through Bill 26, because what it means to say is that this commission will come to our community and tell us what we need to do with our hospitals.

I have to say to you, I want to stand here and say, we are capable of dealing with it ourselves. We have done so in our community. In the city of Timmins we merged our own hospitals together into one corporate entity called the Timmins and District Hospital. It took time, it cost money, but in the end we've got a good model that everybody was able to buy into. If you come into communities and you start shoving this stuff down their throats, no wonder they get upset and no wonder they say they're mad at the Mike Harris government.

I say to you, trust the people in the communities to make the right decisions. Given the time, they will do so. They're responsible individuals. Second, please stop this myth that this government has nothing to do with hospital restructuring and it's that bad old commission, because we all know you're the government that put in place Bill 26. Bill 26 is the mechanism by which the Minister of Health appoints the hospital restructuring committee and goes out and closes hospitals in our communities. Stop hiding behind the veil of Bill 26 and that commission.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'm very pleased to rise and speak today to the resolution of Mr Spina, the member for Brampton North. Certainly the member has done some excellent work in this caucus to date, especially in terms of small business and getting some capital from the banks to help out small businesses. Also I know a very important issue to the member for Brampton North is the way that health services are funded in Ontario. He's right.

In the Common Sense Revolution, the government pledged to bring in a patient-based health care system, not just a straight per-capita model, not just based on historical funding but something that will take the needs of the individual patients into account in each particular area. The government, the Ministry of Health. has moved in that direction. The work of Mr Spina from Brampton North and Mr Clement from Brampton South has brought the concerns of the GTA to the minister's attention.

We've seen some follow-through on the Common Sense Revolution promises. For example, we've set up the joint policy and planning committee, the JPPC -- the committee is composed of members of the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ministry of Health and hospital administrators -- to come up with a funding formula that recognizes the needs of patients instead of some historical or block funding, something that's going to meet the demand and the needs of the patients.

In fact, I think four out of the 11 hospital administrators on the JPPC are from the 905 code; there's a 36% representation. The JPPC process has recognized the role that population growth plays in the needs of health care services. There are two funds that have been set up. One's an $18-million fund. That's for hospitals that have experienced higher-than-expected growth and demand for services last year due to an increase in population beyond the provincial average.

In addition to that, we've come up with a $25-million fund for the same reasons: for population growth and demand for the hospitals in the GTA region. You've seen the Ministry of Health making good on those promises of the Common Sense Revolution and responding to the concerns of Mr Spina and his colleagues from the 905 area.

As you know, it's not just population growth that counts. There are other criteria that would dictate how much money should go to a particular hospital or a particular area for health care: age and sex, definitely important criteria; I've said population growth of the entire catchment area; as well, the distances for our rural members; age for those in retirement communities. Finally, I think it depends a lot on the specific kinds of services offered in the community.

This type of recognition of all these variables -- growth, age, sex, distance and rural concerns -- is not unique to hospital funding; it's also important in terms of long-term-care funding and mental health services. In fact, the government has set up a $170-million fund for community-based long-term-care services that will equalize services across the province that respond to those criteria like age, sex and particular patient needs.

The ministry evaluates need based on the age and sex of the population it's serving, compared to what exists in the province as an average. Many areas of the province have benefited from this program, including my own in Niagara. Just this week the minister announced an $8.1-million program for the Durham region so that patients can receive more nursing and therapy right there in their homes, to recover quicker in the comfort of their own homes and with their families. It allows for more services in terms of rehab, Meals on Wheels, attendant outreach and other services for the people in Mr Spina's region.

The minister recently was in the Niagara Peninsula with some announcements for community care, because we have a growing senior population in Niagara. I think that was about an $8.7-million reinvestment made recently for Niagara, an area that has traditionally not benefited to the same extent based on the needs of its senior population.

Our long-term-care funding also responds to similar criteria, age and sex, so the facilities with residents in the greatest need now, those that have the highest demands for the greater quality of care, will receive additional funding. Instead of just across the board, we're going to recognize the patients' individual needs.

Finally, a $23.5-million community investment fund for mental health services: This formula is also based on the need to address the historical inequities in funding issues throughout the region, again based on population, per capita funding, as well as rural concerns, land mass, ethnicity, aboriginal and current bed ratios.

In conclusion, in the Common Sense Revolution our government made a solid commitment to fund health care services based on need, a patient-based health care funding formula, as Mr Spina's resolution calls for. We have begun the difficult process of health care restructuring so that we can focus those scarce dollars, putting more of our health care dollars into direct care for those communities in need. Every dollar we have saved from eliminating waste and duplication has been reinvested in health care services that put patients first, whether it's in the GTA, whether it's in Niagara, whether it's in the north, whether it's in downtown Toronto, putting patients first for a change. I congratulate the member for Brampton North for advocating on behalf of the citizens in Brampton North.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Today I'm very happy to speak to this resolution that Mr Spina brings forward that talks about equitable, patient-based health care and its funding. My question, I suppose, is where the members opposite were on February 27, when I brought a similar motion into this House to be discussed, which talked about appropriately funding health care. I find it very strange that on February 27 this particular member opposed my resolution which called for a formula to be used in its determination that takes into account various factors like geography and demography. I wonder how the member Mr Hudak, who just spoke today, voted on my resolution on February 27.

Moreover, last fall, when the Liberal member for Windsor-Walkerville, Dwight Duncan, brought in a private member's bill that would enshrine the Canada Health Act here in Ontario, every single government member voted opposed to that motion. I'm starting to wonder because if you put a candle right in the middle you wouldn't be able to blow it out, because you can't talk out of both sides of your mouth. The point is you cannot come in here today and be supportive of equitable treatment in health care for your own backyard and say to the rest of us in Ontario, "No, you can do without."

How many of the Conservative members today have met with your finance minister, who managed so wonderfully for his riding to reopen the Burk's Falls Hospital? In the face of massive hospital closures across Ontario, your finance minister was able to go to Burk's Falls and open a hospital; the only time a hospital has been opened in probably about two decades, your finance minister, in today's climate, has opened a hospital.


I say to the members opposite, if you are intent, if you are serious about what you say here today in this resolution, that the people in the high-growth GTA deserve good health care, that they ought to have it just like the people from Windsor and Essex county, just like the people who surround Burk's Falls, you must come to the table not just when it's good for your own backyard, but when it's good for every Ontario resident.

If you choose to vote today on this resolution, may I tell you that you are entering a fray the likes of which you won't forget because you will now be on the carpet as being supportive of appropriate health care service right across Ontario. That's your duty. You are government members, you set the policy in place here, and it is your responsibility not just for what happens in Simcoe or in Niagara Falls or indeed in Brampton, but for what happens in Windsor. That's your responsibility too.

You can't today come to the table and decide you want to see appropriate health care funding; you need to come to the table every day. It's just like your Solicitor General who tries to go to bat today for the psychiatric hospital in Brockville, but is part of the table that actually constructed the Health Services Restructuring Commission, the group that proposes to close that psychiatric hospital. That too is unconscionable. You can't have it both ways.

If this is supposed to be political, if this is supposed to be helpful to the people of the GTA, may I tell everyone in Ontario today that when this government sucks dry hospitals across Ontario, that money is not being reinvested in their community. That's the message the government wants you to believe, but having experienced this government for the last two years, the money does not go back in your community.

Windsor's emergency room on the west side: today closed. Has the reinvestment been made in Windsor? No. It is as simple as that. We have two bays where ambulances can drive in and we have five ambulances that have to drive in, with no reinvestment to have reconfigured it before they closed the emergency service. It is as simple as that; it is no more complicated than that. This government is not reinvesting where they are pulling the money from your health care.

Today I think it's laudable, I think it's honourable that the member should want to propose equitable funding, that each Ontarian should expect appropriate health care service, but this, my friends, is a very hypocritical resolution today. With what we have suffered in Ontario in various hot spots where health care service is terrible today, because the Conservative government is pulling money out, this today is shocking to read, frankly.

Last year, two years ago, when the hospital cuts began, there was a very interesting announcement that the Minister of Health made. He made a very special allocation of $25 million. To where? To the GTA hospitals. He made an extra $25-million reinvestment, so-called, to hospitals that were in high-growth areas, and most of that money went to hospitals in the very region that is being discussed today. What was so interesting about it was that when they cut $10 million from the hospital budget, they made a huge announcement and they reinvested an extra $1 million. Well, the hospital is still out $9 million, and it does not take the people who are on the front line very long to figure out that is still a massive cut.

Ladies and gentlemen, should you vote in favour of this resolution, I am thrilled. I am looking forward to having Mr Spina join me in the fight for excellent health care in Windsor and Essex county. I am looking forward to Mr Hudak joining me in the fight for excellence in health care in Windsor and Essex county. All of you must come on board, because every Ontarian, including those in the GTA, deserves that kind of health care.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: Before we start, I don't believe we have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this resolution today. As everyone in this country knows, New Democrats very much favour equitable, universal, accessible medicare. This motion is focused on the ability of citizens to be sure they will have equitable access to health care wherever they live, and that as the patterns of population change they will continue to have that access. In terms of the base underlying principles for this motion, we obviously are in favour of it.

I do have a number of concerns, however, that need to be mentioned. I wish the resolution did not focus just on the high-growth areas, as several other members have said, that if we are going to have an equitable patient-based health care funding formula, it needs to be a formula that takes into account not just high growth but the demographics, the geography and all that sort of thing. It is extremely important that as the government moves forward on this, those issues as well as growth are taken into account. I am comforted somewhat by the member from -- I'm not sure -- Mr Hudak's comments that this is indeed the purpose of the ministry's study.

What is unfortunate is that we are looking at this kind of situation at the same time we're faced with cuts in the health care system. I know this government insists there are not cuts, but when you actually sort out the dollars, in fact what we are seeing is at very best a zero-sum situation for health care funding in the province. What a plan like this does, and everybody has to understand this, is it shifts around the costs, and if it's based only on population, only on population growth, what it means is taking away from one community to give to another and that is why there is so much turmoil in terms of the changes in restructuring health care in this province.

I want to read from an article by John Barber in the Globe and Mail on May 14 entitled "Province Plays Giveth-and-Taketh-Away Game." He says in part:

"The right hand giveth and the left taketh away. It's an old game, but altogether too familiar in the painfully zero-sum 1990s.

"No one denies the need to supply new schools, hospitals, roads and sewers to serve expanding populations. That's the cost of growth, and growth is good. Well-intentioned bureaucrats dispensing health care dollars are naturally going to target need....

"But the straightforward arguments get fishy when disinvestment in slow-expanding areas becomes the necessary prelude for more investment in fast-expanding areas. How can it be economical to abandon perfectly good, accessible facilities in one location, only to rebuild them in another? Why should established communities pay so heavily to serve new ones -- not only in the loss of their own services but also in the steady tax drain created by subsidies for new hospitals, schools and roads?

"Such linkages are not always obvious in Canada, and the questions rarely put. But in the United States, where pro-sprawl subsidies are so deeply entrenched and urban abandonment is so pervasive, they are blatant. In many US cities, it has become almost impossible to distinguish between growth and decline....

"Every step of the way, well-intentioned bureaucrats and elected officials made rational decisions based on the requirements of efficiency and the sober assessment of need. But the overall result was insanely wasteful and discriminatory against the established communities.

"Ontario's hospital restructuring commission is engaged in the same good work. Can we expect a different result?"

It is not a mistake that people, when they talk about the restructuring commission, talk about it as a hospital restructuring commission rather than a Health Services Restructuring Commission because that is what it has become. What we see is this commission going around looking at the hospital sector, having power only in the hospital sector, and all of the other components of the health care system they may look at, they may give recommendations on, but they in fact have no power to change.


The resolution talks about health care funding, and that's very important. It's one of the reasons we'll support the resolution even though we have some concerns about its focus just on growth areas, because it's talking about health care overall. It's probably blasphemy to those areas that know they need an investment in hospital services to suggest to them that it is important not to make the mistake of putting all of the health care funding into hospitals in those areas just at the very time we are learning to invest elsewhere in things other than bricks and mortar.

It's important when we talk about health care funding that we look at the discrepancies in the availability of long-term care, that we look at the discrepancies in the availability of other forms of health care services in growth areas, in rural areas, in northern areas and that we realize that part of our task is shifting dollars from the hospital sector into other forms of health care.

It's also probably blasphemy to suggest that those areas that are not heavily hospital oriented in terms of their health care have a better opportunity to make that shift into an overall health care system than those that have focused all their resources just in the hospital sector. I believe very much, however, that as we look at this whole situation, it is going to be important to look at that, not to try and build hospitals, which we all did for many years, as the measure of health care rather than take the opportunity to look at that reinvestment in a new way. In the growth areas of the GTA, that probably is one of our best benefits.

There is no question that if you have zero growth or very small growth in the health care system, we are going to see services taken away from one community to provide them in another. Particularly now, with the announcement of the OMA agreement with the government, we know that the dollars are going to be even more focused in one sector of the health care system and that the task of reallocating dollars means more will be taken away from established communities.

When you look at 10 hospitals slated for closure in the Metropolitan Toronto area and you look at the demand for new hospitals or growth in hospitals in the GTA area, it doesn't take much imagination to see that what is being taken away from the established communities is going to be reinvested in those other communities.

Is there another way? Obviously there's another way. There's a transitional formula that ought to be used that prevents some of the we-and-them kind of attitude that's beginning to develop. This government has made that attitude worse by taking draconian measures to force an amalgamation in Metropolitan Toronto, to force a change of assessment to market value assessment in the Metropolitan Toronto area, and now appears to be taking away the very services the people in this community paid their dollars to build. This is particularly true in terms of education, where the Metropolitan Toronto area has funded its own education, without provincial grants for the most part, for many years, yet the whole prospect of losing that funding they have worked so hard to build and the choices they have made is very much there.

If we look at this resolution, particularly because it focuses just on the GTA and it isn't talking about an equitable, patient-based formula that takes into account all these other things, it gives rise to concern. I repeat that we believe very much that as populations change we need to look at the shift of services, that services are always, always evolving.

In a municipality like East York, which includes Leaside, where I grew up and went to school, when I went to school in the 1950s there weren't enough schools. We all had to double up; we had 42 people in a room. The schools were built to accommodate that kind of population. Now the population has changed and those schools do not need as much space as they have now. That's certainly happened in my town of London. I think it's happened all over the province. What we have to be aware of is that we have to build in the flexibility for changing population patterns over many years when we're talking about capital investments, when we're talking about service investments.

This resolution speaks to a permanent, patient-based health care funding formula. I must tell you that permanency is not a goal. We should be accepting and recognizing that there needs to be an evolutionary funding formula, a formula that can be altered to meet needs that we can't even imagine at this stage of our lives if health care services change as rapidly as they have in the last 10 to 15 years.

We will support this resolution, but we have a lot of concerns about what its impact will be on the rest of Ontario.

Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I'm pleased to rise today to speak on this resolution from my colleague from Brampton North. I thank him for putting this forward because Thursday morning gives us the opportunity to talk to the important issues across this province and there's no doubt in my mind that health is one of the most important.

While his resolution indicates strong support for his own region, I think we need strong support right across the whole province. If we look across this entire province we see growth of a magnitude we have not seen since the 1950s. The difference in this growth pattern is the age of Ontario's population. The 1950s population segment, tagged "baby-boomers," is moving into the middle-aged and senior levels. With this phenomena comes more demanding change in health care requirements.

Couple this with medical diagnostic and treatment advances, add technical advances to this formula and our whole concept of health care changes. We have high areas of greater demand for medical treatment such as kidney dialysis services, diabetes care, cancer treatment and cardiac surgery.

For many years, paramedic training was only offered in the 416 and some 905 areas of the province, leaving other regions, such as the 705 area, without crucial first medical treatment, which can and does save lives. Just recently, I attended a presentation of awards honouring paramedics who responded to a medical emergency at Casino Rama. Their quick reaction to the situation resulted in a life saved. Paramedics in my riding of Simcoe East are trained at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. This program is an example of wise government spending directed to an area that a need outside the GTA/905 represents.

All regions of this province -- 613, 519, 705, 905 and 416 -- should have the same medical assistance available. However, we must also recognize that each area of the province is unique, with different demands for health care services. The current health care funding formula takes into consideration the statistics of a region, basing health care funding on the need. The Ministry of Health considers age, gender and growth when developing funding criteria. I agree with this targeting in high-need areas. I feel this creates a better medical care system.

New technology makes our old ideas of health care standards obsolete. We no longer require the same number of patient rooms in our hospitals that we needed in the 1950s. We now need space for technical equipment departments which can be shared by several communities. As an example, the dialysis unit at the Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital is designated as a centre for dialysis treatment and includes patients from Barrie, Midland, Penetanguishene and the Muskokas. The dialysis unit at Soldiers' is serving the acute care needs of my riding and each community creates its own needs from its own variety.

We are considering the individual needs of each community in our province and we are providing our health care funding accordingly. The district health councils are the guiding force behind health care funding in each region. They have actually worked hard and long in their community and are best able to identify health care funding requirements to the Ministry of Health.

While I agree in principle with my colleague's resolution describing the premise of equitable funding, I feel our focus should remain on assisting the needs of every community. We must continue to provide health care funding to all of Ontario rather than specific areas named in this resolution, which I believe we're doing today.

We don't want to forget that some 9,000 beds were closed over the last two administrations. What hospitals were closed? Not one. We want to look at the heart operations that have taken place. We want to look at the new Peter Munk Cardiac Centre with 3,000 operations per year. I predict the day when we will see very few lineups to get heart surgery. We also look at the knee and hip operations that have taken place. The waiting lists are getting shorter in many areas.

When I look at the new technology that's taken place today, I look at the fact sheet that Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Orillia put out where they talked about the new mammograph lab, the new CT scanner, the new telemedicine whereby they can communicate with hospitals here in Toronto -- these were all done in the administration of this government -- the regional dialysis program, the new ultrasound. We have a sleep disorder lab in the Soldiers' hospital in Orillia, the first one in Simcoe county. These are the new technologies that are taking place. When I hear people saying we're moving too fast, I think they should look at the facts and see what's really happening across this province.

I say to the Minister of Health, drive on, because technology today is the key to all medical prescription, and that's what we need.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate? I'm trying to follow rotation here but nobody stood up, so I believe it's the member for St Catharines next.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Let them go ahead.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today in support of the member's resolution number 53. On first reading of that resolution I certainly respected the intent of the resolution. As I read through the resolution, I wouldn't like to think that any one area of Ontario should be treated differently than any other area of Ontario.

With that theme in mind, I just want to take time to recognize that in the members' gallery we have a number of volunteer board members from the hospitals in my area here in support of fair funding for health care throughout all Ontario, not just in Durham East or any part of the Durham region: Jim Armstrong, Bruce Smith, Virginia McLaughlan and Steve Wilson, just to name a few members, are from Oshawa General Hospital, Bowmanville Memorial Hospital and Port Perry hospital, as well as other hospitals throughout Durham. They've all been fighting for equitable funding.

As we well know throughout Ontario, we're underfunded from the federal government. The federal Liberal government has reduced transfer payments by over $2 billion, and it has been widely known that Ontario is funded to the tune of some $700 per patient as compared to the average of some $1,000 per patient. If you look across Ontario, it's widely understood as well that there is, under the current funding formula, a disparity ranging in the area of some $1,000 for some areas in the province down to perhaps as little as $400 per patient in areas like the 905.

Really all we're asking in this resolution is I believe the member is looking for equity, and in that regard I fully expect that Mr Gerretsen from Kingston and The Islands and others will be supporting it, because everyone wants to be fair and reasonable when dealing with health care, a very important priority for each and every one of us.

I want to conclude by suggesting that in the province just recently, the minister, Jim Wilson, was in Durham announcing the opening of the MRI unit at Oshawa General Hospital. He also announced $8.1 million to long-term care that's helping patients in their homes. These are initiatives the minister has taken. In fact, it was the efforts of the whole GTA alliance that I believe the minister recognized with the $25-million funding for those hospitals, a recognition that there were some existing inequities; also recognizing hospitals in underserviced areas by providing the $75-an-hour emergency room coverage, which was important to one of my hospitals that was included.

All in all, I hope all members will be supporting the member's resolution recognizing putting the patient first and giving every patient full access to hospital funding without preference for area or any other demographic reason. It's a fair and reasonable resolution and I believe all members should be supporting it.

Mr Bradley: I think what we have to demonstrate to people in this province is that you can't have it both ways when you're on the government side. You can't stand in this House and extol the virtues of the so-called Common Sense Revolution, which calls for drastic cuts in funding for services across the province and then go home and pull on the shirt that says you want to save your local hospital or you want to make sure your local hospital has all the funding. That's what the Common Sense Revolution is all about.

But then they like to point somewhere else. I'd like to say I agree with Premier Harris. Here's what Premier Harris said about people who do whining about other levels of government: "We suggest that the Premier and this Legislature should turn their energies to fix that which is broken here in the province of Ontario. I tell you this: If the Premier spent as much time working towards making Ontario great again as he spends at pointing fingers and running down other levels of government, then Ontario would be great again." That's Mike Harris talking about Bob Rae. Well, we should apply that to Mike Harris himself.

Now I remember in this House when Mike Harris used to say to the federal government, "You've got to cut." He said to the Mulroney government, when Jean Charest was a minister: "You know, you've got to be cutting your expenditures. The deficit's out of control." I think Jean Charest agreed with Mulroney then because he was part of the Mulroney government. He agreed with that.

Mike Harris wanted them to cut tremendously. The Mulroney government, with Jean Charest as a minister, started these cuts in transfers to the provinces, when Floyd Laughren was the Treasurer of this province. He will remember that well. So Mike Harris said, "Look, when I develop the Common Sense Revolution, I'm going to take into account any potential cuts that are coming." He took that into account and he still made the promise, during the last election campaign, "Certainly, I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals." That was Mike Harris who said that during the election campaign in May 1995. He had taken that into account already.

The provinces said to the federal government: "We don't want designated funding. What we want is block funding. Give us the money and we will decide how to spend it." So the federal government transfers money to the provincial government. What do Mike Harris and the revolutionaries do with that money? They give it away in a tax cut. They don't take that money from the federal government and put it into health care. Instead, they give it away in a tax cut which benefits the richest people in our society the most.

Boy, if I were making $300,000 a year, I would be delighted with that tax cut that's coming, because that's what the tax cut is all about. That's what they're doing with those federal transfer payments. They're taking that money and they're whisking it right through in a tax cut for the rich instead of spending it on health care as they should be spending it. That's deplorable, although in some ridings it's different, and I know some of the Conservative backbenchers must be beside themselves over this.

Ernie Eves, who's the Treasurer and the good buddy of Mike Harris, sits next to him, gets a special deal for Burk's Falls. Maybe my friend Mr Spina should go to speak to Ernie Eves and see how he got that special deal for Burk's Falls, and try to get that for his area.

I want to finally quote Mr Harris again -- I really liked him in opposition -- about this whining thing. Here's what he said, more about whining about other levels of government -- and he's talking about the Rae government in this case -- "So it actually is a disgrace when the Premier of the province...spends his time whining, pointing fingers, blaming others. That is not the legacy, that is not the history, of this province that I grew up in and that will not be the legacy and the history of this province when we bring common sense back to it."

You know something? Mike Harris was right when he said that. He's telling you people to quit whining and pointing fingers where they shouldn't be pointed and get after your cabinet colleagues, get after Tom Long and Guy Giorno; they're the ones who have all the power in this government.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Spina, you have two minutes to sum up.

Mr Spina: I want to thank all of the colleagues here in the House, the members for Kingston and The Islands, Cochrane South, Niagara South, Windsor-Riverside, London Centre, Simcoe East, Durham East and St Catharines. We thank you all for your comments, and particularly the parliamentary assistant, Tim Hudak, who reiterated the direction of the ministry. We know that the equitable funding is in the process of being delivered, and I'm very thankful for the direction that we are headed in.

I wanted to address the point that both the opposition parties brought up, which I think was a good point, but I take issue with one comment and that was about us speaking out of both sides of our mouth. You see, the reason that many of us, and me in particular, voted against the member for Windsor-Sandwich's resolution was because of one particular clause. What she said in her resolution was that any savings as a result of restructuring within that area would be reinvested in that region, and that was the fundamental problem I had.

The reason I had that problem I think is probably best articulated by the member for London Centre, who said that building hospitals is not the measure of health care, it's the delivery of services. If you reduce the amount of bricks and mortar in a place like Windsor, which has a catchment of 260,000 for hospitals, to an area like Brampton with a catchment of 320,000 and one hospital, that's the purpose of restructuring.

The Acting Speaker: The time provided for private members' public business has expired.

Mr Spina has moved private member's resolution number 53. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, please rise.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? The motion is carried.

All matters relating to private members' public business having been completed, I do now leave the chair. This House will resume at 1:30 pm.

The House recessed from 1203 to 1330.



Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I would like to remind the House of an important election promise made to persons with disabilities by the Premier in 1995, which he has since ignored. He promised that he would pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term, towards which he has done nothing. He has refused to meet with a broad-based community coalition called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, after having promised to work with them on this important and necessary legislation.

Instead of delivering new resources to overcome barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario, he has done just the opposite by cutting previous funding for this important social purpose.

One year ago today this House unanimously passed a resolution supporting the enactment of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This government has done nothing to date. The disabled community is calling on the Premier to fulfil his commitment. Representatives of the disabled community are here today. They deserve answers as to why the government has not acted on its promise to them. They have every right to expect that work will begin today.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I too wish to call on the government to pass a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act as soon as possible and to call on the Premier to meet with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

When the Premier wrote to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee during the last election promising this new legislation, he also promised new funds for accommodating the needs of persons with disabilities. But what is the record of this government? It's an appalling record which has made people with disabilities the first and worst victims of budget cuts.

Look at their record. They have cut funding to Wheel-Trans in Toronto and other paratransit services across Ontario. They've endeavoured to cut social assistance benefits for persons with disabilities when they promised they would not. They have tried to dump policy areas like long-term care on municipalities which could not afford to support them. They threatened to reduce the protection for building accessibility in the building code.

Their red tape task force demands a legislative reduction of the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities in the Human Rights Code. They've cut funding to the Human Rights Commission, which has led to disability discrimination cases being turned away in record numbers. They've cut funding to local school boards in a way that has led to the reduction in services for students with disabilities. They've abolished a fund within the Ontario public service dedicated to removing systemic barriers facing groups such as persons with disabilities.

The list goes on and on and every item is just another nail in the coffin of the government's dead promise to persons with disabilities.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): It is with deep regret that I must stand in the House today to inform the members of the recent passing of Metro Toronto councillor Brian Harrison. Last week Scarborough residents lost one of our city's most respected politicians following his long battle with cancer.

Brian Harrison served Scarborough well for 34 years. He was first elected in 1963 as school trustee of ward 7 in Scarborough. In 1965 Brian was elected to Scarborough council and in 1967 he was elected Scarborough controller, at which he served until 1982. In 1988 he was elected Metro Toronto councillor for Scarborough City Centre, at which he served until his recent passing.

During his years of public service, Brian served on numerous elected government committees. In addition to these, he was appointed to a number of public boards and commissions, including the Metro zoo management board, the Toronto Transit Commission and the Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Over the years Brian developed a reputation as a staunch supporter of Scarborough and Scarborough residents and was respected for always having a thorough and deep knowledge of the issues. He was widely viewed as one of the city's hardest-working politicians.

His partner, Adrianna, his children Scott, Cindy, Karen, Sean, Lynn and Cheryl, their mother, Georgina, his grandchildren Mark and Blake and his sister, Carol, survive Brian. Brian and his family have requested that donations be made to the chairman's fund of the Zoological Society of Metropolitan Toronto. Thank you.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): My statement today is directed at the Minister of Health. In a recent article in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Beth Chase talks about the inexcusable treatment her father, Charles William Clarkson, received as a result of funding cuts to our health care system.

I quote: "I am sure that my father's faith in our country was a comfort to him knowing that when he was elderly, sick and disabled, his needs would be cared for. Sadly, he was greatly disappointed."

During Mr Clarkson's last stay in hospital his doctors decided he was not well enough to return home. The problem was that there were no long-term-care beds available, so Mr Clarkson was required to start paying immediately $40.29 per day for a hospital bed, just about what his pension allowed, no money for his apartment.

Mr Clarkson was always employed. He fought in the Second World War for our freedom. Never once did he receive government assistance. Then in the months preceding his death he lost his vision, his wife and finally, thanks to the government cutbacks, he suffered the most severe blow of all: He was robbed of his dignity as he was forced to worry about financial pressures.

There's a list of 400 people waiting for long-term-care beds in Thunder Bay. Until this wait is eliminated, the $40.29 should be on hold. This government has cut hospital services in our community and there's not a single person who is convinced that this will not affect patient care, which our cash-strapped hospitals are doing their best to provide. We now know that the true cost of this government's restructuring is a loss of dignity, and that cost is too high.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I also wish to mark this one-year anniversary of my colleague from London Centre's resolution, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The resolution was passed unanimously. The Minister of Citizenship promised to pass this law within its first term. The first term is almost half over and there has been no public consultation, no draft legislation, no statement of principles, not even a commitment on a process to consult with the public to develop this law. Why the delay, Minister?

This government says it wants to get people working, yet every day that it delays on its pledge to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act just extends the extraordinary unemployment which persons with disabilities face and adds to the public debt. While the government drags its feet, more barriers are created, more opportunities to hire persons with disabilities are lost and more persons with disabilities are forced to remain on social assistance when they would rather be working.

It's time for the government to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Start now with a thorough public consultation across Ontario. Let it be open to the public and fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Let's agree that the new law will achieve a barrier-free society for persons with disabilities by the year 2000. Let's agree that the law will be strong and effective and contain strong enforcement provisions.

Premier, what are you waiting for? The Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee is here today waiting to speak with you, ready to help you fulfil your commitment.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): May is Multiple Sclerosis Month and I'm pleased to be able to stand to recognize this very important occasion. Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that affects more than 50,000 Canadians, and women are more frequently affected than men in a ratio of three to two.

Our government's reinvestment of $170 million has helped many people with MS to live independently through the development of flexible service arrangements in home care and attendant care, as well as greater ability for these services to reflect the individual needs and condition of the consumer. In fact, part of the minister's announcement of $8.7 million in Niagara last month will go to help people with MS in the Niagara region.

Each year the MS society hosts the carnation campaign, where people receive carnations in exchange for donations for the MS society. This year's campaign was held on May 8, 9 and 10. Premier Harris himself helped kick off the campaign by handing out carnations at the Yonge and Bloor subway station.

The goal for Metro Toronto was to raise $100,000 and I'm pleased to announce today that they have surpassed that goal. The campaign so far has raised $102,000 and there still are more donations to come. I'd like to offer my congratulations to the 1,200 volunteers who handed out carnations at shopping malls, retail locations and TTC stations. Thank you as well to the many people who have made donations and help the MS Society surpass its goal.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee just held a "face the disability community" session here at Queen's Park. Both opposition parties were represented and spoke to this group. There are hundreds of people today in this building -- none of them in here because of solidarity. Because this particular Legislature is not accessible, they are in different rooms throughout this building watching us on TV today.

What was disgraceful about today is that not one of the 81 members of the government side had the guts to face the community, not one of you. The Speaker had the courage to meet with them previously, but not one of you had the guts to come there and speak to the disabled community, look them in the eye and tell them why you have reneged on your commitment to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, why you and your members, your minister, your Premier, have not had the gumption to follow through on what was a pretty clear commitment two years ago when you were looking for votes in this province, when you said, "We're going to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act."

What we have seen is two years of refusals by the Premier to meet with them. What we've seen is two years of inaction. What we have seen is a bunch of gutless wimps who will not meet the community today.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. There's parliamentary language, and I don't think "gutless wimps" falls within that.

Mr Agostino: I will withdraw "wimps." Clearly, what they have done today, the betrayal -- there are over 200 people here today. I challenge you to go downstairs after this, meet them in the rooms, meet them in the lobby and tell them why you've betrayed them.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, I appreciate your tenor and I understand your emotional involvement in the issue, but you must maintain parliamentary language. Although you may have withdrawn -- I would you ask that you withdraw the "gutless wimps" charge, please.

Mr Agostino: If parliamentary tradition says I must, I will.

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I too want to deal with a broken promise, a promise M. Harris made in 1995 to introduce the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. What it clearly points out to me is that this government has unequal treatment for different sectors of the population: It treats the powerful with great respect; it gives developers respect by dealing with the development charges; it transfers to landlords a great deal of money from the poor to the wealthy; but when it comes to dealing with people with disabilities, this government is in contempt of their needs.

People with disabilities represent 15% to 16% of the population. They want and they need, and we argue for, a bill that deals with unfair barriers as they relate to people with disabilities and access to jobs, access to housing, access to public transit, access to schools and to this Legislature. M. Harris promised that in 1995.

The member for London Centre, in a resolution, attempted to remind the minister about his obligation and his promise and has failed in that as well. He has completely disregarded them in that regard. At some point, this minister, this government have got to deal with people with disabilities.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): The people of Wellington were very pleased to see several positive measures for rural Ontario in the provincial budget last week. First, the budget for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will be maintained for this year at $405 million, up from $400 million last year. I believe credit is due to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for his leadership and commitment in advocating on behalf of rural Ontario and the extent to which he underscored to the provincial government the importance of maintaining the OMAFRA budget.

Ontario's farm organizations also deserve credit for their united efforts in speaking forcefully on behalf of Ontario's farmers on this matter. It is very reassuring that the provincial government recognizes the importance of agriculture to our economy and went even further by increasing the ministry budget.

Other positive initiatives for agriculture in the budget included:

The creation of a three-year, $30 million rural job strategy. Three million dollars will be spent this summer to create 3,000 jobs for young people in rural Ontario. This rural job strategy has been designed to stimulate job creation, promote investment, develop export growth and increase business competitiveness in rural Ontario.

The extension of the retail sales tax rebate on building materials for farm buildings for yet another year.

These initiatives, taken together, show how the decisions we make in government can have a direct, positive impact on the lives of the people we serve and that there continues to be a role for a strong provincial government bringing forward innovative programs designed to meet the needs of the people in Ontario.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I rise on a point of privilege to indicate to the House that there are several hundred numbers of the public here today who have been invited by the member for London Centre, myself and the member for Hamilton East. I see the Minister of Municipal Affairs getting up and making much of looking around in the public galleries and not seeing those several hundred people that I'm referring to.

Interjections: What's the point?

Ms Lankin: That's the point. If I may indicate --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Your point of privilege is in order. It's not in order to comment on other members.

Ms Lankin: Fair enough. Thank you.

I point out that those several hundred members of the public, who are also members of the disability community, are not here present in the chamber in the public galleries because of the major problem of inaccessibility of the public galleries for the large number of members of the community who are here.

Mr Speaker, I know that you met with them and I know that you gave an undertaking if members of the three parties and the Board of Internal Economy would look at this issue and deal with this issue, we might be able to move to an expeditious resolution.

I just want to give notice, Mr Speaker, that at the end of question period I will be rising to seek unanimous consent for this Legislature to immediately move into an emergency debate on the issue of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act this afternoon, and I hope that will receive support from all three parties.

The Speaker: Unanimous consent is obviously in order, and at the proper time, of course, I will entertain that unanimous consent.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On the same point of order, Mr Speaker --

The Speaker: The same point of order? I just ruled on the point of order. This has to be different, a different point of privilege.

Mr Agostino: Mr Speaker, it's along the same lines, but the point of privilege or the point of order would be on the same issue of accessibility into this building. I know that you have met with members of the disabled community. The concern is that there are only four spaces in this building that would be available --

The Speaker: You seem to be entering into debate. We're going to seek unanimous consent to go to that debate, I think, later, but it's not a point of privilege. How many accessible spots there are in this building isn't a point of privilege. It's not a point of order. It's a point of interest, but it's not any of those first two.

Mr Agostino: I guess the concern I have is, how do we address the fact that hundreds of people are sitting in rooms today --

The Speaker: You're going to address it exactly the way the member for Beaches-Woodbine is proposing to address it. That's perfectly in order when she asks for unanimous consent for an emergency debate. Beyond that, nothing else is really in order.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to inform the House that this will be the last day the pages will be working with us and I think we'd all like to extend our personal thanks.


The Speaker: There you are. Thank you very much. Standing ovations are a rare thing in this House, so you should be duly honoured.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier. Ontario was surprised to hear that you're considering fingerprinting every single individual in the province of Ontario. For many in Ontario it's quite a frightening thought. It's a thought of the state watching their every move. It's not acceptable to many people in Ontario and is frankly the ultimate in the bully tactic.

The question to you is, will you put the people's minds at ease and simply say that you're not planning to pursue this dangerous move?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We've never considered fingerprinting anybody in the province, other than I gather the police do fingerprint criminals. I think that's the common practice in Canada and around the world.

I know that Toronto has been studying thumb-imaging or finger-imaging as a method of preventing fraud. There have been some concerns about that, although I understand 60% of welfare recipients in a survey said they supported it if it would stop fraud. There have been some concerns should it just be used for welfare as opposed to perhaps in generalities. As you know, the Minister of Health has been leading an interministerial team to look at ways that we can look at the various programs in preventing fraud and that type of imaging has been one of the things they've been looking at.

I appreciate your viewpoint. I guess your advice is, "Don't look at anything to solve fraud." We, however, think we should continue to look at the best available options, and of course, we've made no decisions.


Mr Phillips: My 94-year-old mother-in-law lives with us. She has lived her entire life as a law-abiding individual. She values her privacy. She values her dignity and her self-worth. The thought of your ordering her to go down to some office and have her fingerprint taken so she can qualify for health care is objectionable. It's objectionable to her; it's objectionable to me.

Will you put her mind at ease, my mind at ease and the minds of the people of Ontario at ease that you are not considering fingerprinting, finger imaging, for my 94-year-old mother-in-law?

Hon Mr Harris: There is a huge difference between what the Toronto welfare and social services department is looking at and fingerprinting. I would say to you that today we do insist that to get health care benefits in the province of Ontario, somebody submit to a card. We insist that for a driver's licence you actually get your picture taken. I suppose you might call that a mug shot; I call it a form of identification to ensure that this is exactly the person who should be driving.

There are a number of people who are looking at ways of identification to stop fraud, and I believe it is incumbent upon this government to continue to evaluate any new techniques or methods to prevent fraud that are not intrusive. This is not anything new. We've been looking at this for a year or so. You have heard from the minister, you have heard from the Chair of Management Board, and you understand what the social services department of Toronto is trying to do to prevent fraud.

Mr Phillips: My 94-year-old mother-in-law has never been involved in fraud. She's not someone who needs you watching over her. She's not someone who is abusing the government -- your government. She's a decent individual who simply wants her privacy. The question remains that it's you, not anyone else: "Harris Mulls Fingerprint ID for all Ontarians," "Harris Backs ID Scans." You have to live with your own words and deal with your own actions.

I ask you once again, will you put my mother-in-law's mind at ease, will you put the minds of the people of Ontario at ease, that you are not going to step over this very dangerous line? Will you assure the people of Ontario that you are not going to insist on all the people of Ontario having their fingerprints taken so you can watch over them?

Hon Mr Harris: I can assure the member that no measure would ever be taken by this government unless there was 100% complete assurance from the Information and Privacy Commissioner, not our government, that nobody's privacy is under any threat. Your mother-in-law can take assurance from that.

Secondly, your mother-in-law can take assurance from something else: that every dollar taken in fraud from the health care system, from the welfare system or from any of the other government entitlement programs, every dollar being taken in fraud comes from your mother-in-law, and she can rest assured that we're interested in stopping that too.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday the chairperson of the Ottawa General Hospital, Mr Pierre Richard -- no stranger and no enemy to this provincial government -- came to this place to tell members of the assembly and members of the press that your Health Services Restructuring Commission's estimated savings from the dramatic restructuring of hospitals in Ottawa are wildly overstated. Mr Richard said that in Ottawa the commission has overstated the potential savings by approximately 70%. He went on to indicate, and I quote the chairman of the Ottawa General Hospital, "The commission's numbers are wrong, and it will create a crisis in patient care." What do you have to say to the health care community in Ottawa-Carleton about this difference over numbers?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank the honourable member for the question. I'll answer it the same way I answered it when I was asked in this House yesterday the exact question. That is that the administrators of the hospitals that had the press conference yesterday indicated during that press conference that they had already submitted this data to the commission before the deadline. That's why there is this legislative process to ensure that the proper data is being used by the commission and submitted by the groups that hold that data.

I think the process has been accessed by the proper authorities and the commission will take that data into consideration as it makes its determinations.

Mr Conway: The process. Two or three weeks ago you, Minister, went to Owen Sound and you had some very interesting things to say about hospitals in Grey-Bruce when you weren't talking about gun control which, according to the Sun Times report, occupied a lot more of your address. You were dropping, according to this press report, heavy hints about what was not going to happen in Grey-Bruce to hospitals like Meaford, the same kind of hints that the Alliston press tells us you've been dropping at home in south Simcoe about what's not going to happen to the hospital in your own constituency, heavy hints; no talk about the district health council, no talk about the commission. "Trust me, I'm Jim Wilson. You people can trust that there's nothing terrible going to happen up in Meaford or down in Alliston."

And you have the nerve to tell the people in Ottawa, your friend Pierre Richard and our friend from Vanier, that they've got to play this by a different game, by a different set of rules? Whom do you think you are kidding?

Hon Mr Wilson: I've made it very clear that this government recognizes the difference between multiple-hospital cities and single-hospital towns, and we make no apology, after we were informed by the Health Services Restructuring Commission and numerous DHCs that the previous government sent DHCs out with no benchmarks at all for rural Ontario, no guidance at all for rural Ontario, single-hospital towns.

A panel of experts is putting together a policy framework for the commission and for district health councils. It's long overdue. I regret previous governments didn't do it. There are travel distances; there are weather conditions; there are greater difficulties in rural Ontario to access health care than there is in multiple-hospital large cities.

Mr Conway: In my home community of Pembroke the commission has already had to admit that its initial estimates about savings were off by at least 30%. Women's College Hospital in Toronto has advanced information to suggest that the commission's numbers about savings are off by $50 million, something in the order of 80%. Yesterday we had the group from Ottawa saying that in their estimate, based on independent analysis done by tier-one accounting groups like Deloitte and Touche, the commission's numbers about estimated savings are off by a factor of 70% in the national capital region.

My question to you is simply this: Should the people in places like Ottawa, Pembroke, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Toronto just tell their accountants and people like Deloitte and Touche to get lost and, rather, they should hire Ernie Eves to go and beat the stuffing out of you and pretend that all of these places that I've just mentioned are just like Burk's Falls and Alliston and, yes, Bill Murdoch Land in north Grey?

Hon Mr Wilson: It's an extremely unfair proposition. It's mixing apples and oranges. The commission itself, under the leadership of Dr Duncan Sinclair, has said many, many times -- and you are free to meet with him at any time you like, Mr Conway, to bring your points directly to the commission. You are free to do that.

I didn't see any submissions in Ottawa from the Liberal Party. I didn't see you avail yourselves of the process. I see a lot of puffery in here, but there is a very serious legislative process out there. You are free to avail yourselves of it, as those responsible hospitals in Ottawa have done, by providing the commission with up-to-date data.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Premier: One year ago today my colleague the member for London Centre moved a private member's motion. It was passed unanimously by this House, including 25 members of your own caucus. That motion had two points: first, that you keep your personal promise made on May 24, 1995, in a letter from you to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee that your government would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within your first term of office; second, that your government work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, among others, to develop this legislation.

Premier, members and supporters of that committee are here today because nothing has happened. Your minister met only once, almost a year ago, with the committee. That's the last they heard from your government until you wrote to say you would not meet with them again today. All you have done in a year is to study the US legislation. Premier, will you keep your word and honour your promise to introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): You bet I will.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): That's an interesting answer. We're pleased to hear that assurance yet again, but we'd like to see some action. Unfortunately, today we're celebrating two years of inaction, two years since your promise, another year of inaction since the resolution was passed.

Premier, I showed this to your minister in a question a few weeks ago in this House. This is a leaked document, a business plan from your Minister of Citizenship. Nowhere in there is there any reference to an Ontarians with Disabilities Act -- no plans; nothing being done on that. In fact, we have a quote in the paper from a ministry spokesperson saying the government's not sold on that kind of legislation.

Now that you've said you're going to introduce it, and we know you haven't consulted with the community, why don't you give us some time lines? When are you going to meet with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee and when will we see that bill introduced in this Legislature?

Hon Mr Harris: It is so obvious but I guess I'll have to repeat it for the members: For five years you and your party did nothing in this whole area and for legislation, which is one of the reasons we committed to do so, and to do so within our first term of office, and that commitment has not changed.

As you will be aware, the minister has met with a number of people on a number of occasions. As well, Mr Lepofsky and the ODA committee have known and have been told that the first priority of the ministry is the equal opportunity plan and the initiative for vulnerable adults, and those two initiatives have been launched. The policy work has begun on other aspects of our disability access strategy. I can tell you that during a meeting last summer, quite frankly, the minister invited Mr Lepofsky and the ODA committee to participate in the development of the equal opportunity plan and the vulnerable adults initiatives. Mr Lepofksy, very politely I might add, declined that invitation.

However, there are a number of initiatives that have been undertaken. We committed through consultation and reviewing other legislation that we felt --

The Speaker: Thank you, Premier. Final supplementary.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's no wonder to any of us that the disabled community is very disillusioned and finds it very difficult to believe this Premier when he says he will bring this act forward. They have seen occasion after occasion where this Premier and his minister have stated they have taken positions that they have not in fact taken. It's quite disgraceful for you to stand up and make those claims when you know those people are in this building. They will be furious with you for saying that.

You say we did nothing. Well, there's an area where we did one thing that appears to be eroding in front of our very eyes. We made a policy that any transportation system that got capital dollars from our government would go ahead with accessible buses. Your Minister of Transportation has given permission to Ottawa and Mississauga not to buy those, partly because the buses aren't available, but he hasn't required them to give lifts as the Metropolitan Toronto bus services have had to do when faced with that problem. There is example after example --

The Speaker: Member for London Centre, thank you very much. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I tell you that our record, compared to the five years of inaction of the NDP -- you have had, as a party, the absolute best rhetoric on the disabled and the least effective action record of any political party in Ontario's history. In fact it is disgraceful.

When I think of how this government, and the government of Ontario under different parties, including, I might add, in this case, even the Liberal Party, have done more than the New Democratic Party, the party of all rhetoric and no action on this issue, how you have enough nerve to stand in your place and ask these questions today I do not know.

This minister has taken a number of initiatives -- so has the government -- $30 million over the next five years, pilot projects, college and university level, help students with learning disabilities realize their full potential, additional $15 million annually in community and social services to help more families with care for their children who have developmental disabilities. Yes, we committed to bring forward an act and we committed to research and think it out and do it carefully --

The Speaker: Thank you, Premier.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Minister of Education: A few weeks ago, the Minister of Education and Training refused to answer our questions about who will pay the upfront costs of amalgamating school boards.

We know that to amalgamate literally dozens of school boards across the province there will be some fairly upfront costs. The budget estimates are now out and we see that there is no fund for the Ministry of Education and Training to pay the upfront costs of school board amalgamation. Despite your claim to have frozen grants to school boards, they have experienced, on average, a 5% cut this year. Now it seems they will also have to cover these upfront costs of your school board amalgamation scheme. Where will that money come from? From their operating budgets. What do their operating budgets cover? They cover classroom education.

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

Mr Hampton: Can you tell us now what the upfront costs of your school board amalgamations will be, and where will the money come if it's not going to come from classroom budgets?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Let me say to the leader of the third party that we announced some time before this year that we would have a stable funding system this year, that we would not ask school boards for further savings reductions, and we have not. We were able to announce a few weeks ago that we'd have a stable funding system for education in the 1997-98 school year so that school boards could provide all the programs and all the services they provide to students now to students during that time period. We have already announced that.

We have also said in our legislation and publicly since the introduction of Bill 104 that we specifically have put the Education Improvement Commission in place to help school boards during the transition. We know there will be some costs during that transition and the EIC is in place now, with the passage of Bill 104, to take care of those transition issues.

The member opposite has probably had a look at what those transitions might be. He realizes that going from three directors of education to one director of education, and from three departments taking care of capital to one department taking care of capital, these changes will --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Supplementary, third party leader.

Mr Hampton: This minister is trying to skate the same circle as the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has had to acknowledge in the last few weeks that it's going to cost about $450 million in severance pay to lay off nurses and throw them out in the street and money to close hospitals.

This minister refuses to acknowledge that it's going to cost severance money to lay people off, that it's going to cost money up front to amalgamate school boards. He hasn't answered the question: Where is that money coming from? Your ministry estimates don't show a fund to cover these amalgamation costs. The only conclusion we can then come to is that it will have to come out of school board operating budgets. School board operating budgets pay for classroom education. Some boards estimate $2 million in one year for the severance and other amalgamation costs. If the money isn't going to come from classrooms, where is it going to come from? You owe the children of this province an answer.

Hon Mr Snobelen: Once again it's disappointing that the leader of the third party would completely skip over one very obvious fact: School board operating budgets, collectively across the province, right now pay for $150 million worth of administration costs that will not be there post the amalgamation of these boards. We'll go in some cases from having three or four directors of education to having one director of education. We'll be reducing the cost of the bureaucracy, reducing the cost of the administration of our school system so we can focus resources in the classroom. The Education Improvement Commission is there, part of Bill 104, to help us go through this transition period.


I think the member opposite, if he looks at this, looks at the way we are going about this transition period, looks at the stable funding to make sure students aren't affected during this transition period, will see that this is a very reasoned, thought-through transition that will take us to a new and better system of education in Ontario.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): A thought-through transition which will only take eight months and which the $150 million in savings the minister refers to includes a cut of about $9 million in education supplies to classrooms, not administrative savings.

Earlier this week the Minister of Education and Training spoke to a group of parents at Miller's Grove public school in Mississauga. He told them they would be pleased with an announcement he would make shortly. We expect it will probably be tomorrow, since there won't be any question period next week. He said that along with announcing the new funding formula for education, he would be announcing a reimplementation of junior kindergarten for September 1998.

Obviously we would welcome the reintroduction of junior kindergarten, since it benefits all children and parents want it, but it costs money. You've cut boards' budgets, you're taking away their taxation rights, you're going to make them pay for the amalgamation plan. What else is going to have to be cut in order to pay for the reintroduction of junior kindergarten, which you cut before?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I wonder whose interests the member for Algoma thinks are served by putting things forward as he has today. We are not going to have to reintroduce junior kindergarten because this party, this government, has kept the promises we made in the Common Sense Revolution. We are funding junior kindergarten now at the same level as other programs in the education system. We will continue to do that. We have already said there will be a stable funding system for all the programs, including junior kindergarten, from 1997-98.

Yes, we will be bringing out a new allocation model. Yes, the province will be assuming its responsibility in funding education so every student in this province has an opportunity to a first-class education, something your government failed to do. Your government created second-class students in this province. Our government is going to clean that up and make sure that every student in this province has an opportunity to a first-class education. I for one am proud of that.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. We understand that the government is preparing to introduce massive changes to the current social assistance system. A widely rumoured change to eligibility requirements could have a terrible impact on the lives of people with disabilities. The disabled community is expecting that you will be changing your working definition of "disability" in order to limit the number of people eligible for social assistance.

Minister, will you guarantee that whatever policy you finally announce, no person with a disability who is presently receiving assistance will see his or her benefits either taken away or reduced, and will you please assure us that the future of people who acquire disabilities will not be an even greater struggle than it is now?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): As the honourable member will realize, one of the commitments we have made is to move people with disabilities off the welfare system. That program is not designed for their unique needs. We have been designing a new income support program for people with disabilities which will be much more generous and much more flexible than what they currently receive on welfare. Second, we're also designing a new supports to employment program so that those people with disabilities who can work and want to work will indeed be able to do so with the appropriate supports.

Mr Morin: Minister, let me remind you of your government's pre-election commitment that funding to seniors and the disabled will not be cut. That's what you said. We know so well your track record.

I have a document here produced by your own ministry and obtained through a freedom of information request dealing with your proposed welfare changes. It says: "It is discouraging and sad to see how the cost containment proposals reflect a certain naïveté and lack of compassion towards persons with disabilities. These individuals are struggling with a shrinking FBA allowance, `sucked' increasingly now by new medication costs, user fees" etc.

Your own bureaucrats are saddened and discouraged. The community is telling you that this is dangerous. Let me tell you what you are doing. You are depriving these people of human dignity.

I ask you again: Will you fulfil your election promise and guarantee that aid for persons with disabilities will not be cut?

Hon Mrs Ecker: We are not cutting the program for those with disabilities; what we are doing is enhancing it. We are taking them off --

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): You are taking them off the system.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Perhaps the honourable member across the way thinks that welfare is the place to have people with disabilities. I disagree. Individuals with disabilities have unique and special needs. We have spent the last year consulting with the disabled community because we want to have a program that --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton East, I'm warning you and I won't warn you again. Minister.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We've spent the last year consulting with the disabled community because we believe they need better service from social support, not what they currently have. They need a service that meets their needs. They need a service that will help them, those who can and those who wish to, to get back into the workforce with the appropriate supports. We are not cutting the program.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I want to ask the Minister of Health about one aspect of the tentative agreement he has reached with the doctors. That is this new committee, the new health care delivery systems committee, which is going to consist of three members of the Ontario Medical Association, three members appointed by the Ministry of Health, three members appointed by the Ontario Hospital Association and one member appointed by the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

As you know, the mandate of this new committee is to study and make recommendations with respect to models for new health care systems, including the delivery of physician services to insured persons within such systems, and then it goes on. Some would say this is a recipe for simply entrenching the fee-for-service system and the ability of doctors to control all the changes that are happening in the restructuring of the health sector.

The real tragedy is that you haven't added to this committee the other players in the field. Where are the rest of the integrated health care professionals, long-term care, those who are nurses, those who are working in the community part? You've entrenched --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, member for London Centre. Minister of Health.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I think it's a very good question by the honourable member, but I'd ask the honourable member to think about this as the physicians and government agreement, and that's why it talks about physicians and government in its committees.

We have a number of other committees dealing with integrated health systems, including the Joint Provincial Nursing Council, which is taking a lead; the Health Services Restructuring Commission; the JPPC, the joint policy and planning committee, which is hospitals and the Ministry of Health.

Integrated health systems and integrated delivery systems are on every association's agenda. Last week I met with the alliance which came together to fight your MSA proposal, which includes the nurses and the doctors and the hospitals. Twenty associations are on that alliance and they have a committee consulting also with the ministry on integrated health delivery systems, integrated health systems.

Right now the ministry is trying to take all that advice -- we've had a lot of meetings about it -- and put together a policy framework with input from everybody.

Mrs Boyd: Anyone hearing you would know that you and your ministry are still looking at health care in its various silos and not getting all the players at the table. You made a commitment. You announced last fall that your primary reform measure in this would be the reform of primary care. It got put off until the spring. Now we learn that this new committee is going to take the place of the work that was being done on primary health care, that you've extended Dr Wendy Graham's appointment for another year, even though she was supposed to have finished her work by now and even though everyone who talks to you about the integration of health care says that closures of hospitals, all the work that's being done, doesn't make sense unless we have the first step: primary health care, how it is going to be delivered and how that fit into restructuring.


Now you've created yet another committee that is going to take this function unto itself and we're going to have to wait again, and meanwhile hospitals are closing. Minister, you don't have a plan. This is a mess. Why don't you just admit it and go back to the drawing board?

Hon Mr Wilson: For the first time in the history of this province we have a plan and a vision for health care. If the honourable member would stop the puffery in here and actually went and visited the alliance or the nurses or toured a hospital rather than being caged up here at Queen's Park, she would know that our partners out there agree with the plan and are very much part of the development of implementation plans across the province.

It's an exciting time. People are working together. We were out making an announcement in Peel today, several million dollars, $11 million more for community-based care there, long-term care services, to recognize the growth and aging population in the 905 area, particularly Peel -- yesterday, Mississauga -- and all the providers in the room were very pleased with the approach the government is taking and the attitude out there is not the attitude of the honourable member. The attitude out there is, "Work together, pulling the oars in the same direction, and let's truly develop a patient-driven and patient-centred system." That is the vision of the Ministry of Health; that is the vision of our partners.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Under the previous government it was identified that the septic system most commonly used in Kent and Essex counties did not conform with the design requirements of regulation 358 of the Environmental Protection Act. Since this situation came to light, on behalf of my constituents in Chatham and Kent I've been following the process very closely. Has there been any progress made in resolving this issue of partially raised-bed septic tanks?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): While to many members of this Legislature this is not an important issue, it is to people in the southwest part of Ontario. I would like to thank the member because of his concern over this.

There are about 1,500 of these particular systems in operation at this time, but back in 1995 as a result of a review of the part VIII program -- that's the septic tanks program -- we found these particular systems were not meeting the requirements of regulation 358. As a result, a study of the performance in Essex county has been completed by two divisions in my ministry and the Essex Regional Conservation Authority on the system. The purpose of this study was to evaluate how these beds function in terms of ensuring that they are not a risk to public health or the environment.

Mr Carroll: Now that the study's been completed, Minister, could you tell us, have you made a decision about the future viability of these evapobed septic systems?

Hon Mr Sterling: As intended, this ministry initiated the research study into these systems. The ministry has found that the cumulative effects of these evapobed systems will harm the environment and risk surface water contamination. The ministry will not be approving the use of newly installed evapobeds. However, existing beds will be considered in compliance as long as they are functioning.

I am pleased to announce that we are modifying regulation 358 to allow the use of new technologies that are cost-competitive and will better protect the environment. These alternative technologies are intended to be used both on small and large lots. In the interim, before the passage of the regulation, which we are posting today, we will allow the alternative technologies to be used for smaller lots. The technical report --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question for the Minister of Health. I'd like to ask you about the deal that you have tentatively arrived at with the province's doctors. I just want to recap for you how you plunged this province into a year of anxiety and uncertainty. You went after the doctors, saying that they would have no liability coverage, that clawbacks would be larger, that caps would be smaller, that they couldn't have representation from the OMA. In this recent agreement, you've given up all those things. We went through a year of anxiety and hardship, of obstetricians not being available, of work actions, because you had to prove a point. That point today seems to be very minimal indeed, and the confidence of doctors you can't buy back.

You have put together a deal that apparently will cost us some $500 million per annum. We want to know from you today, in explicit terms, how are you going to pay for this $500 million per year? Is it going to come from additional closings of hospitals, from layoffs of nurses, or will you be delisting and making patients pay for the cost of your errors and the aggravation you've caused doctors over the past year?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): It will be no surprise to the honourable member that I disagree with the premise of his question. First of all, I don't know where he gets this huge figure for the cost of the agreement; I don't know on what basis you have been doing your research. But I will say that a number of things have been accomplished in both the interim agreement and this final agreement. I think we've brought stability to the profession in terms of income stability, and we've recognized something that the Ontario Medical Association on behalf of its members wanted recognized for many years, the growing and aging population, and that's what the 1.5% is.

We have a committee now to examine alternatives to the current malpractice insurance system. That's a huge, huge change in attitude and a huge step forward for both taxpayers and the Ontario Medical Association.

In the interim agreement, for the first time there's an agreement and a framework to deal with the underserviced area problem by making sure that there is a disincentive for new graduates to go into overserviced. That's historic and was well worth the blood, sweat and tears.

Mr Kennedy: I don't think there's an expectant mother in this province who had to go through the anxiety you artificially created, as you worked your way on to the dartboards of doctors across this province, who thinks it's worthwhile to come around again and provide to doctors virtually everything they were asking you to do over a year and a half ago. We're no further ahead, and people want to know how the quality of health care is going to be maintained.

In estimates for this year you have provided for $239 million to pay for a deal that just in this next year is going to cost you at least $400 million. Answer the question. You're the Minister of Health. You've decided to give more to doctors. You have to tell us where that is coming from. Table today what this deal in your estimation is really going to cost and how you're going to pay for it. Will you make patients pay for services that currently get paid for by the government, or will you hurt more hospitals and lay off more nurses to pay for this deal and your bumbling of the handling of doctors' affairs in this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: There is no money in this deal that would enhance the fees that doctors currently get. There is a possibility in the third year, if they find efficiencies in the schedule of benefits, to apply those savings, the same thing we're doing with hospitals and others.

Where there is money in this deal is 1.5% to recognize the growing and aging population. Is the honourable member suggesting that we should turn people away from doctors' offices and not deal with their health care needs? If the honourable member is suggesting that, then let him get up and put that on the table. I'd be happy to have that debate with you any time.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Your tenant ejection act beats up on the most vulnerable. People who live in care homes are the elderly, the sick and the disabled, yet section 93 of your bill gives landlords new ways to evict them. Tenants' advocates and many of their organizations that you have defunded say that by singling out people with illnesses or disabilities for special evictions you are violating section 15 of the Charter of Rights, which guarantees equal treatment under the law. I maintain that your bill goes out of its way to discriminate against the disabled and to throw them out on the street.

Will you amend your bill to ensure that people in care homes get the equal treatment they deserve?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I think that's rather a stretch of the act. What we've got in the act is something to ensure that people who are in care homes get the care they need. There comes a time, on occasion, where a resident of a care home may need additional care far beyond what is within the ability of the establishment to provide, so we have put legislation in place that says the care home must find other accommodation for that individual or go to community service groups to bring that service in. It's only when all of those alternatives have been exhausted that somebody could be moved out into a higher care facility.


Mr Marchese: The relationship between an individual and the caregiver is a contractual one, a contract for service. It means that if more service is needed, the solution is not an eviction but rather to have the tenant agree with the caregiver as to the service that is needed.

Your answer doesn't solve that. You are, through section 93, not furthering the rights of the disabled by making it easier to evict them. Your bill has the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal making decisions about the adequacy of the levels of medical care, assuming that a complaint even gets there. That means the tribunal that's been hired because they know much about the cost to fix a parking garage or replace a roof will be making decisions about the levels of care people need.

Minister, this scares a lot of people. Will you amend your bill so that tenants, not the landlord and not the tribunal, make the decisions about the medical care --

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

Hon Al Leach: What we're doing with this legislation is trying to ensure that the rights of individuals in care homes are protected, just the opposite from what the member is saying. The last thing anybody in our society wants would be to see somebody who's in a care home and in an establishment that doesn't have the ability to provide the level of care that's necessary to provide the service to that individual.

Rather than just have the establishment make the decision, we've said you have to have an organization come in and evaluate that to make sure that if it's possible to have the care brought in from an outside service agency, then they would be required to do that. It's only after all those avenues have been exhausted that the tribunal would make a decision to move somebody into a higher level of care.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. The official start to the tourist season is generally considered to be the Victoria Day weekend, which is this weekend.

In my riding of St Catharines-Brock, particularly in Niagara-on-the-Lake, it certainly is the highlight or the start of the tourism season, especially in Virgil. It starts off with the Virgil stampede, and we have a horse show and line dancing. My wife is involved in line dancing. On Monday night we have the giant fireworks display.

All those who are watching, be sure to come down to Niagara-on-the-Lake this weekend. We have 25,000 people coming this weekend. Certainly it starts off the tourism season. In addition, this time of year it's beautiful in Niagara-on-the-Lake with the blossoms.

Minister, could you --

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

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I would imagine that the member really wanted an answer to a question about how the tourism industry is doing in Ontario. I'm happy to respond to his question.

I have to say that because of our government's attention to the tourism industry and the very good facilities we have in this province, we've had very good statistics on tourism. Overseas travel to Ontario rose by 8.8% in 1996 over 1995. I'm also happy to say that it has increased by 26% in the first two months of this year. Japanese tourists alone have accounted for 49% of that increase.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm giving you the answer. I'm happy to say that these good statistics are very good for economic development and jobs in Ontario.


The Speaker: Order. It would be impossible to have a late show on that question.

Mr Froese: My question really was I wanted to know if the minister knew how to line dance.

As a result of all that activity that you just mentioned, Minister, could you tell us whether employment is on the rise?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm delighted to answer that question. I'm happy to report that Ontario's international tourism deficit in dollar terms actually decreased by 2.1% in 1996 over 1995. Employment in tourism-related industries grew by 1.5% in 1996 and by 2.2% in the first two months of 1997. This is very good news. Accommodation occupancy increased by about 1.5% in 1996 over 1995 and occupancy grew by 2.2% for the two-month period in 1997.

I would like to encourage all Ontarians, as we approach the holiday weekend, to take advantage of the many tourism facilities we have in this province. I'm sure you'll find that they're second to none in the world. I encourage everybody to participate in Ontario tourism.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): My question is to the Premier. Later on today we're going to be considering third and final reading of Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government. One of the perceived benefits of this bill is the removal of the business occupancy tax. That is supposed to be a great boon for business, when the actual fact is that the bank towers downtown will have a dramatic reduction of anywhere from $3 million to $5 million, whereas most small businesses will see an increase from about 30% to about 42%.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has raised this concern and says that most small businesses will see a price increase. Notwithstanding that, the Minister of Finance, in a quote of April 30, says, "This new system will allow cities to set different tax rates for small commercial properties." We have questioned officials at the ministry and they say there is no provision in this act to allow for a differentiation of taxes. Who is right, your minister or the officials in the ministry?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): You're into a technical area that I would defer to the minister when he comes back. But I would say this: The request to remove the business occupancy tax from business came first from CFIB. They felt it was unfair, and we agreed and have taken it off. My understanding is that there is within the act the flexibility that the tax could be identical tomorrow as it is today or after it's implemented as it is today. I think that's what the minister has indicated. However, I will say this: The flexibility will be left to the municipalities, since it is a municipal tax, and that's where I think the onus and responsibility will lie.


Mr Kwinter: There's no question that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business would love to see the tax removed. It is not being removed. It's just being reallocated and municipalities are going to have to recoup their revenue shortfall by apportioning it against small businesses.

There are no provisions in the act for any kind of different tax rates. This afternoon we're going to be addressing this bill. We're going to be asked to approve a bill that is effectively going to increase the taxes for the majority of small businesses. Is this what you see as a goal of the Common Sense Revolution?

Hon Mr Harris: As I indicated, the change was one what small business had asked for and lobbied for because they felt the business occupancy tax was unfair. I think they, and you, have pointed out that under the unfair tax system we inherited from you and the NDP an amendment would have to be made to allow municipalities to adjust tax burdens to promote fairness and satisfy certain local needs. That's why the minister and the government have announced that legislation will be introduced to enable municipalities to set lower tax rates on lower-valued commercial properties. I believe that has been the commitment of the minister.

I might say as well that I have a two-page briefing note here that explains it all, and I'd be happy to share it with the member.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Premier. In northwestern Ontario the communities of Red Lake, Balmertown and Cochenour are suffering badly as a result of a labour dispute that has gone on now for 11 months at the Goldcorp mine. Your government has made it worse by allowing the company to use scabs; in this case, scabs from outside the province. In addition, what people in northwestern Ontario can't figure out is that this company continues to say they've got a rich gold deposit at the site but they seem to be in no hurry to reach a collective agreement with the workers and their union and bring the mine into full production.

Your government has helped the company here by allowing them to use scabs. Can you tell us what your government has done to safeguard the communities' interest, the public interest and the workers' interest in this situation?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): The Minister of Labour is not here today, but I can report that this government, as any government, as when you were in government, as when the Liberals were in government, is not about to interfere in labour relations. They are attempting to negotiate a contract. We have brought in the most fair and balanced labour relations program to allow that to take place, which is why we've had fewer strikes than when you were in office. Quite frankly, I think it would be inappropriate during those negotiations for the government to take a position on one side or the other.

Mr Hampton: There are two issues here. On one issue you've really helped this company, Goldcorp. By changing the law to allow scabs, you made it possible for this company to bring in scabs from outside the province. You're threatening the communities involved, the workers involved, in fact the whole region. Workers have tried to get a collective agreement now for 11 months.

The second issue is this: The company keeps saying they've got a good gold deposit, but they show no interest in reaching a collective agreement. They show no interest, it seems, in bringing this mine into full production.

I ask you again, can you tell us what your government has done over the last year to safeguard the public interest, the communities' interest and those workers who live in those communities? Can you tell us what you've done?

Hon Mr Harris: The first thing we did, on June 8, 1995, was replace the most threatening government to jobs and growth and investment this province has ever seen. Since that time we have brought in a program of tax cuts, we have brought in a program of regulation, we have brought in a program of fairness, we've brought in a program of balance, we've brought in a program to deal with all the red tape you put out there in front of the businesses. We've brought an attitude that says when a company -- a gold company, any company -- wants to invest in this province, we're going to roll out the red carpet, not the red tape that you put in their face.

Never in the history of this province have we seen a government as anti-investment, anti-jobs, anti-growth as the New Democratic government, and the contrast of when we've ever seen a government more pro-growth or pro-investment as when this government took office in June 1995. That's what we've been doing since we threw you out of office.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. One of the most important indicators for economic growth is the number of housing starts. Can you report to the House on the level of housing starts in the province of Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I would like to thank the honourable member for Scarborough Centre for his question. I'm pleased to tell the House today that there is only good news for the housing sector in the province. I'd like to point out that there were 55,900 housing starts in Ontario in the first quarter of 1997. That is a 53% increase from the same period of time over last year. Not only that, but private rental starts in urban areas increased by 29% compared to the first quarter of 1996. In addition, the Minister of Finance reported in last week's budget that Ontario home resales are up 17.3% for 1997 and new homes in the greater Toronto area are up a whopping --

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

Mr Newman: I want to thank the minister for that good news. My reason for asking the question was that, as I meet with constituents in my riding after the last budget and the budget of last week, so that's the last two years' budgets, many families, young families especially, are now buying homes for the first time. I think that's good news because many of them have said that they've been trapped in a cycle where they've not been able to purchase that first new home. I'd like to ask you, why are so many people buying homes for the first time and why are so many new homes being built in Ontario?

Hon Mr Leach: Again, I'd like to thank the member for Scarborough Centre the excellent question. There are a number of reasons to explain the flourishing home market. Taxpayers, for example, have been able to keep more money in their pockets to put towards a first home, thanks to the first instalments of this government's 30% income tax cut. That's number one.

Number two, the land transfer tax rebate for first-time buyers of new homes was extended another year in March by the Minister of Finance, and that means up to $1,750 off the price of a house.

We've also reformed the Planning Act to make the approvals process more efficient and more cost-effective. This means less bureaucracy and less red tape, which translates into more affordable housing.

Also, with our proposed changes to the Development Charges Act, development charges will finally be brought under control. Lower development charges mean even more affordable housing.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise under 34(a) of our standing orders to indicate my dissatisfaction with an answer provided earlier today by the Minister of Health. I will be petitioning for the late show, at your pleasure.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): File the appropriate paperwork. It will be accommodated.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to request unanimous consent of the House to have an emergency debate on the following motion:

That in the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation; and

Since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

Therefore, the government of Ontario should keep its promise as set out in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, dated May 24, 1995, to

(a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and

(b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, among others, in the development of such legislation.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I have to read it.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Did the members of the government say no to this?

The Speaker: I don't know because I haven't read it yet.

The member for Beaches-Woodbine is seeking unanimous consent to debate:

That in the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation; and

Since all Ontarians will benefit by the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

Therefore, the government of Ontario should keep its promise as set out in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995, to:

(a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and

(b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, among others, in the development of such legislation.

Agreed? I heard a no.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that Mr Ford and Mr Froese exchange places in order of precedence for private members' public business and that notwithstanding standing order 96(h) the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item number 82.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Agreed? Agreed.



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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Cochrane North.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Cochrane South, Mr Speaker.

I have a petition here signed by hundreds of people from the community of Timmins and area in regard to Bill 84, and it reads 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 the professional firefighters and amend Bill 84 to eliminate the threat to fire safety."

It's signed by a number of citizens including Robert Gerbasi and Claudette Giroux. I sign that petition.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I have a petition here from OPSEU Local 229 in Brampton and I submit it herewith to the Clerk.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax does not recognize the uniqueness of the north; and

"Whereas Mike Harris should know that gas prices are higher in northern Ontario; and

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax is blatantly unfair to the north; and

"Whereas we have no voice for the north, fighting for northerners around the cabinet table;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to revoke the new tax imposed on the north and convince the Tory government to understand that northern Ontario residents do not want the new Mike Harris vehicle registration tax."

Of course I agree with this petition and affix my signature to it.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Member for Cochrane North, I mean Cochrane South.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You're the second Speaker to do that today.

I can hear that petition, the former one, coming to the Legislature quickly from Cochrane South. But I do have another petition, namely, one dealing with the following.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

"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 poses 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 against the government" of Michael Harris.

I sign that petition.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I have a petition signed by many people in the Hamilton-Wentworth area and it reads:

"The provincial government has stated it will soon require municipalities to fund 100% of birth control and sexual health centres throughout the province.

"We, the undersigned, demand that the provincial government maintain 100% of its funding for birth control and sexual health centres."

I present it to the Clerk.


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

I've signed my signature to it.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which states:

"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'm proud to affix my signature.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have more petitions concerning gun control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a petition to support full funding for adult students in daytime secondary programs.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, draw the attention of the Legislature to the following:

"Whereas the Ontario government in November 1995 decreed that the funding for adult students in daytime full-credit high school programs would be cut by almost 70%; and

"Whereas since that decision has taken effect many of these adult programs have been completely cut or severely reduced, thus denying many residents the right to a full education and access to work-related courses;

"Therefore, we call upon the Legislative Assembly to restore full funding to these programs."

This is signed by hundreds of people affected and others wise enough to know the impact on society. I emphatically add my signature to theirs.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature.

"We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the plight confronting the 17% of Ontario's population who have physical or mental disabilities. People with disabilities face tremendous barriers which all too frequently exclude them from being able to fully participate in the mainstream of Ontario society. Existing barriers make things very bad. The new barriers now being unnecessarily created make things even worse.

"We know that during the 1995 election, Mike Harris promised in writing that if elected, his government would do three things to address this serious problem. First, he would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. Second, he would work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop this law. The committee is a broad-based Ontario-wide coalition of individuals and community organizations who support the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a barrier-free society for persons with disabilities by the year 2000. Third, he promised to devote new resources to accommodating the needs of persons with disabilities.

"We also know that Premier Harris has failed to keep any of these promises, and has made things worse by cutting funding to important areas for persons with disabilities such as paratransit services and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, despite election promises not to do this;

"We therefore petition the Legislature to take the following immediate steps:

"(1) Require that Premier Harris stop refusing to even meet with representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, with whom he gave a solemn election promise to work together;

"(2) Require Premier Harris to forthwith publicly announce the date by which the Ontarians with Disabilities Act will be introduced into the Legislature for debate and passage;

"(3) Require the Minister of Citizenship to forthwith undertake a full and fair process of public consultations on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, leading to its timely development, introduction and passage into law; and

"(4) Require the Premier and the government to reverse those budget cuts which have made it even harder for persons with disabilities to overcome the barriers which impede their full participation in Ontario society."

This is signed by a number of people who were here at the Legislature today attempting to meet with the government, and I am proud to add my signature.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have another set of petitions from legal owners and users of firearms who are concerned about ammunition regulations.

"Whereas the NDP government under former Premier Bob Rae passed legislation, Bill 181, the Ammunition Regulation Act, placing restrictions on the sale of ammunition in Ontario; and

"Whereas the provisions contained in Bill 181 are time-consuming, onerous and create unnecessary red tape; and

"Whereas the records for which these provisions have been produced do not track criminals; and

"Whereas Bill 181 was passed in only one day, without any discussion with law-abiding gun owners such as farmers, collectors, hunters and recreational shooters, who understand and have a deep respect for the power of firearms and ammunition and the need to maintain and use their equipment in the safest of conditions; and

"Whereas Bill 181 will do nothing to combat the use of illegal ammunition;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to repeal Bill 181, protect the rights of responsible firearms owners and work for tougher penalties against weapons offences."

I sign and support this petition.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It says:

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax does not recognize the uniqueness of the north; and

"Whereas Mike Harris should know that gas prices are higher in northern Ontario; and

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax is blatantly unfair to the north; and

"Whereas we have no voice for the north fighting for northerners around the cabinet table;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to revoke the new tax imposed on the north and convince the Tory government to understand that indeed northern Ontario residents do not want the new Mike Harris vehicle registration tax."

I've affixed my signature in support of this petition.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"Whereas the Conservative government has brought forward Bill 96, legislation which will effectively kill rent control in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas the Conservative campaign literature during the York South by-election stated that rent control will continue; and

"Whereas tenant groups, students and seniors have pointed out that this legislation will hurt those that can least afford it, as it will cause higher rents across most markets in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Conservative proposal will reduce the stock of affordable housing and encourage landlords to harass long-term residents, pushing them to move out so new tenants paying higher rents can be brought in; and

"Whereas this Conservative proposal will make it easier for residents to be evicted from retirement care homes; and

"Whereas the Liberal caucus continues to believe that all tenants, and particularly the vulnerable in our society who live on fixed incomes, deserve the assurance of a maximum rent cap;

"We, the undersigned, demand that the Conservative government scrap its proposal to abandon and eliminate rent control and to introduce legislation which will protect tenants in the province of Ontario."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): On the one-year anniversary of the unanimous passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act resolution and the two-year anniversary of the Premier promising to put this act into place, I'm very pleased on behalf of my constituents to read this petition, and on behalf of my colleague from Hamilton East, Mr Agostino, as well.

"We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the plight confronting 17% of Ontario's population who have physical or mental disabilities. People with disabilities face tremendous barriers which all too frequently exclude them from being able to fully participate in the mainstream of Ontario society. Existing barriers make things very bad. The new barriers now being unnecessarily created make things even worse.

"We know that during the 1995 election, Mike Harris promised in writing that if elected, his government would do three things to address this serious problem. First, he would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. Second, he would work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop this law. The committee is a broad-based Ontario-wide coalition of individuals and community organizations who support the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a barrier-free society for persons with disabilities by the year 2000. Third, he promised to devote new resources to accommodating the needs of persons with disabilities.

"We also know that Premier Harris has failed to keep any of these promises, and has made things worse by cutting funding to important areas for persons with disabilities such as paratransit services and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, despite elections promises not to do this.

"We therefore petition the Legislature to take the following immediate steps:

"(1) Require that Premier Harris stop refusing to even meet with representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, with whom he gave a solemn election promise to work together;

"(2) Require Premier Harris to forthwith publicly announce the date by which the Ontarians with Disabilities Act will be introduced into the Legislature for debate and passage;

"(3) Require the Minister of Citizenship to forthwith undertake a full and fair process of public consultations on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act leading to its timely development, introduction and passage into law; and

"(4) Require the Premier and the government to reverse those budget cuts which have made it even harder for persons with disabilities to overcome the barriers which impede their full participation in Ontario society."

I'm very proud to sign my name to that petition.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): Pursuant to standing order 60(a), I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on estimates, on the estimates selected and not selected by the standing committee for consideration.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): Pursuant to standing order 59, your committee has selected the estimates 1997-98 of the following ministries and offices for consideration:

Ministry of Health: 12 hours 30 minutes --

Interjection: Dispense.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Dispense? Dispense.

Pursuant to standing order 60(b), the report of the committee is deemed to be received and the estimates of the ministries and offices named therein as not being selected for consideration by the committee are deemed to be concurred in.



Mrs Ross moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 132, An Act to adopt an official tartan for Ontario / Projet de loi 132, Loi visant à adopter un tartan officiel pour l'Ontario.

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

Do you wish to make any statement?

Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I certainly hope the members of this Legislature will look at this bill positively. I look forward to the debate on June 5, where hopefully we'll have a tartan for this province.




Ms Bassett, on behalf of Mr Eves, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government / Projet de loi 106, Loi concernant le financement des administrations locales.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I believe we have unanimous consent at this point in terms of how to deal with the time this afternoon. I seek unanimous consent to divide the time remaining following the remarks of the member for St Andrew-St Patrick until 6 o'clock equally between the two opposition parties, and that the Speaker put the question on the third reading of Bill 106 at 6 o'clock today, and that a recorded division be deemed required and deferred until Monday, May 26, 1997, immediately following question period.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it agreed? Agreed.

Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Sudbury has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Northern Development and Mines concerning vehicle registration.

Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Attorney General concerning French-language services and provincial offences of some sort.

Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Renfrew North has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question by the Minister of Health concerning overstated savings out of closing hospitals.

These matters will be debated today at 6 pm.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill 106. I want to thank everyone who appeared before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs during the public consultations which were held right across the province. I would also like to thank everyone who submitted written proposals on this bill. Based on this input, we have made some important amendments to Bill 106.

Ontarians told us, for example, that they wanted a property tax system that is fair. They told us they want businesses to be able to compete on a level playing field. This government has taken up the challenge of fixing a system that is out of date, confusing and unfair.

Under Bill 106, residents and businesses who have been paying more than their fair share will see their taxes reduced. Bill 106 will establish the Ontario fair assessment system, which will be based on current value; it will ensure annual updates of properties' assessed values; it will make the property tax system fairer and easier for taxpayers to understand; it will cut property tax for farmers and for woodlot owners; it will exempt conservation lands from property tax; it will eliminate the outdated business occupancy tax; it will simplify the process for assessment appeals; it will cut red tape and reduce the administrative burden for municipalities; it will give municipalities a new range of powers, choices and options to collect tax revenue in ways that best fit their local priorities. This is something we've heard again and again.

During the hearings the finance committee heard presentations expressing concern that the existing protection for low-income seniors and low-income disabled homeowners from tax shifts was not adequate. Many presenters felt that if these provisions were not mandatory there would be inequities. We listened to their concerns and we responded.

The amendment we have introduced to Bill 106 requires that municipalities provide a deferral, cancellation or other relief regarding assessment-related tax increases for low-income seniors and low-income disabled homeowners and their spouses. We believe this amendment, and the option to allow municipalities up to eight years to phase in tax changes, strengthens the existing protection under Bill 106.

When the finance committee travelled to the Niagara region, the committee heard from a number of people that the wine industry, an asset in this province, would need special assessment protection. In its amended form Bill 106 introduces an amendment to ensure that our world-class wineries are treated fairly. Estate wineries will be recognized as an extension of farming operations, ensuring greater fairness in the tax treatment of small estate wineries in the Niagara region.

I want to thank MPPs Tim Hudak, the member for Niagara South; Tom Froese, the member for St Catharines-Brock; Frank Sheehan, the MPP for Lincoln; and Bart Maves, the MPP for Niagara Falls for their important input on this issue. It allowed us to better understand the concerns of the people in the area. Linda Franklin and the Wine Council of Ontario have also endorsed this amendment.

These are just two of the key amendments we have introduced for Bill 106. We feel they're extremely important. The government believes Bill 106 creates a fair and consistent property tax system in Ontario. We have listened to all Ontarians. We know the property tax and property assessment system proposed under Bill 106 will help create a more prosperous and equitable Ontario for future generations.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I was going to get up on a point of order earlier because I'm sure there has been some great mistake made about this whole matter. I'm sure the member doesn't realize that she is really talking about a bill that is going to impose market value assessment on Ontario.

I'm reading here from a pamphlet that was handed out during the election last year -- and it's by one Isabel Bassett, who ran as the candidate in St Andrew-St Patrick -- and she stated therein: "The policy of the PC Party has always been that we will never" -- and "never" is underlined -- "impose market value assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position."

There was also another piece of paper, which I guess went to all the residents in her riding, dated June 2, 1995, that says, "My party and I will never support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto."

We've already had an admission in this House that the actual value assessment, which they call this new system, is one and the same as market value assessment. I believe the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is in the House currently, admitted that one day, as did the Premier. I don't know what happened between June 2, 1995, when this information went out and was distributed to the people of her riding, to the effect that MVA would not be imposed, and now, when it's being imposed on everyone.

I wouldn't want to call this a lie, I would not want to do that, but certainly some people would. Certainly some people would get a totally different impression --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Take your seat. You were on the eve of making a mistake, but you made the mistake. I would ask you to withdraw that word "lie."

Mr Gerretsen: I withdraw the word "lie." Let's just put it this way: What she's saying today and what she said in her campaign literature are not one and the same.

The Deputy Speaker: That's it. Your time is over. Further questions and comments?

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, and I wish to voice appreciation to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick for having the courage, because this was a difficult task indeed. With respect, colleague, you stood well. You were at your post at every session. It was difficult by virtue of having dozens and dozens of presenters saying that the sky is about to fall under 106. This is the last straw. This is when people are to get it big time if they're at the residential level. Small business people will see their taxes skyrocket. They will be punished by virtue of the sanction of the government.


On the other side, there shall be winners. The bank towers will win big time, at the expense of the bakeshop. But when I follow the Minister of Finance's career, and I've been doing so for 12 years, and when I project it after he leaves here, am I more likely to find the Minister of Finance working in a bank tower or in a bakeshop? I think the answer is quite clear, and he won't mind me saying this: He is predestined to join the ranks of the most fortunate. I don't wish to impute motive.

I agree with my colleague. Although I am not one to use the word "lie," sometimes people will take advantage and shy away from the truth because it is more expedient. This is reflected throughout Bill 106, a simple case of deliberate, systematic downloading to the municipalities.

Make no mistake about it. We presented more than 20 amendments. They wouldn't accept one of them because we're New Democrats and that horde --

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

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a real pleasure to get up and speak in support of Bill 106 but, more importantly, the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. She brings such grace and such loyalty and such colour to this government. Also, to the always well-dressed member for Lake Nipigon, his comments couldn't be further from the truth. He's dressed more for the banker than the baker.

We know that the property tax and property assessment system proposed under Bill 106 will create a more prosperous and equitable Ontario for every generation, for generations to come. We know that this has been long debated in this House. Both parties on the opposite side of the House have talked about it but they failed to do anything.

Interjection: They're all for the status quo.

Mr O'Toole: They're status quo. It's all about fairness. It's about fairness of assessment and it's for paying your fair share. It's a fair and reasonable approach, as our ministers are famed to say. The current value system is exactly that: It's with the current use of the property.

More importantly in my riding of Durham East, the way we've dealt with the outdated method of taxing agricultural operations, the way we've treated it so sensitively in this bill with the whole wine industry in the Niagara region, shows that we are responsive to the people of Ontario by renewing the whole assessment system.

It's my understanding from listening to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and other experts in this area that we can expect the taxes to go down. Unlike the member for Lake Nipigon, elected people recognize that we've hit the tax wall in Ontario. There's no more tax money left. Our municipal leaders certainly won't be increasing taxes.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I was just reading the literature of the member, The PC Alternative on Taxation. It says: "The policy of the PC Party has always been that we will never impose market value assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position."

This is Isabel Bassett on here, who was a candidate. "For help, call 928-2300." I find it ironic that they're forcing the same person to stand up this afternoon and push through this bill that does exactly what the member said she wouldn't do during the election campaign. I'm shocked by that.

Second, I'm always interested in what the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has to say about these matters. Judith Andrew, director of provincial policy, says:

"Ironically, it is likely that the elimination of the business occupancy tax will harm our sector. Smaller firms are concentrated at the low end of the 25% to 75% range of this archaic tax. If municipalities opt to recoup the amount on the business tax base, an average 40% rate would see most small businesses paying more. At this juncture, we would urgently request an opportunity to amplify on these concerns."

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is concerned. They say you have these huge bank towers out there in downtown Toronto, the very wealthiest and richest and the companies making the most profit. They're going to get a decrease, and because of course the municipalities are going to be forced to raise municipal taxes because of the downloading of the Harris Conservative government, we're going to have small businesses worse off under this.

I thought this government was going to do something for small business. It's time they did.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for St Andrew-St Patrick.

Ms Bassett: I'd like to reply to the gracious members for Lake Nipigon, Kingston and the Islands and St Catharines and point out that you're trying to suck me in to arguing forever about MVA, AVA and CVA. I'm not going to be pulled down to talk about that. You're trying to get off the topic, which is that each one of your governments had a plan in place to bring in a new assessment system. Call it what you will, with variations that we've improved on, it's a form of assessment that is fairer, that is up to date and that is going to get rid of the inequities in a system that taxes mansions in Rosedale at a rate that is far less than smaller houses in Scarborough or elsewhere.

How my colleagues on the opposite side of the House could argue that this is a fairer system -- somebody like Mr Marchese would be screaming about it if he were in that small house, paying much more than somebody in Rosedale. From that point of view this system is going to be much fairer.

As for what my friend from St Catharines pointed out about the inequities regarding the business occupancy tax, again a tax that was brought in in 1904, surely he couldn't be advocating that it should remain. The minister has said again and again that in the subsequent legislation this summer he is going to allow municipalities to deal with that system by bringing in two tax rates for the commercial class, allowing municipalities to tax businesses that need it and that are wealthier more than the small bakeries that everybody seems to be standing up for.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I appreciate the chance to join the debate. I'm not trying to suck anybody into joining the debate. I know how you got elected, Ms Bassett, and I know how Mr Leach got elected.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Hard work.

Mr Phillips: Well, hard work. Here's Al Leach, just so you all know. The way he got elected was by saying, "My party and I will never support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto."

Hon Mr Leach: We never will.

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt has the floor.

Mr Phillips: Just so people watching understand, the minister, Mr Leach, is barking over here. It was he who promised you he would never introduce market value assessment. We've had the officials confirm this is market value assessment.

I don't want to get into a big debate about whether it's right or wrong. The fact is it's market value assessment. As they said, if you take a microscope and you do some DNA testing on it, there may be that much difference between this and market value assessment, but that's all. It's market value assessment.

I'm just saying to you, you got elected promising one thing and now you're doing something different. At the very least, you owe the people of your riding an apology. Just say: "Listen, I'm sorry. I misled you. I decided that we're going to do it anyway. I got elected on that basis, but we're going to impose it."


The Deputy Speaker: I don't think you can say that the minister said that. I would ask you to withdraw "misled."

Mr Phillips: I withdraw, then. I would just say that the brochure signed by Mr Leach said, "My party and I will never support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto," and I'll leave it to the public to make their own determination.

Let me talk a little about the concerns in the bill. There's nobody in the province who doesn't agree that there is a need for change, nobody; everybody agrees with that. That's not the issue. The issue very simply is, does this bill work?


Mr Phillips: Again the member from Etobicoke is barking. I will say to him and to the residents, who are probably wondering who he is, that every once in a while he wakes up and starts to bark. He's barking because I'm not sure he understands the bill.

I see my friends from the board of trade and the chamber of commerce are here, and I'm glad they're here. I would say this about the business occupancy tax. First, you are taking $1.6 billion off the business property tax -- the business occupancy tax is coming off -- and it is being added back on to the realty tax. When we went over the numbers, there is no question that there are going to be dramatic changes in property taxes. It is true.

The big bank towers are going to see a dramatic decrease. The banks are fine organizations; they're essential to the future of our country and they do a terrific job in Metro Toronto. I have a son who works in the banks. He says, "Be careful, Dad, that you don't bash the banks." I'm not. I'm just stating a fact. Banks, the big towers, are going to pay substantially less and small business substantially more. That is indisputable and every businessperson in Ontario recognizes that. Every municipality is going to recoup the lost business occupancy tax by putting it on the realty tax.

The thing that really surprised me is that the Minister of Finance said, in the paper, "Well, this new system will allow cities to set different tax rates for small commercial properties" -- in other words, that the bill permits a different tax rate for small businesses. The bill doesn't; it does not do that. I can only draw one of two conclusions: Either the minister does not know what is in the bill, or he was confused or something else.

The point is this: The bill that we are going to be approving, voting on -- the debate is over at the end of the day, in a matter of three hours -- will dramatically increase property tax on small business. Now, we've heard today that the government plans to bring in more legislation, we don't know when. It needs, demands more legislation to fix the bill, but you're going to ask us to approve the bill without ever seeing that legislation?

I would say this: I am anxious to see your definition of "small business." Every business group -- the chamber, the board of trade, the CFIB, all the business groups -- said to us that they don't like the idea of two different levels of taxation on business, because how will you define it? Will it be square footage? Will it be dollar sales? What will it be? You want us to approve this bill when a key part of the bill, an absolutely essential part of the bill, is not even in the bill. We have not even seen the legislation on it. When people ask me, "Why is the Liberal Party voting against the bill?" I say, "Listen, we want property tax change, but if you rely on this government to put together a bill that works, you have unfounded faith."

This bill, I guarantee you, will create chaos in the province of Ontario a year from now. I'm anxious to get that on the record. We've said that all along, and I will tell you a year from now when it does create chaos, first because of the business occupancy tax.

The second chaos it will create is with our rural municipalities. We proposed an amendment, and I will add that the NDP proposed a very similar amendment as well, saying that the province has an obligation to reimburse the municipalities for the $170 million of revenue they are going to lose. For the people of Ontario, what's happened here is that the province has said: "We are eliminating our program of the farm tax rebate. We are going to make the municipalities now pay for that." The province simply said: "We're going to cancel a program where we're spending $170 million. It's gone."

The province pockets $170 million for its tax cut for the wealthy, but who's going to pay for it? It will be the rural municipalities. As a matter of fact, AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, argues strenuously that this bill shouldn't permit lower taxes for our farm communities. We think there is a different solution, and we propose that the province reimburse the rural municipalities for the $170 million of lost tax revenue. The government, for whatever reason, voted it down. I would say to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, we listened to you and we tried to get this bill changed so it would take away the pain that rural municipalities are going to feel. That's the second reason this bill is faulty and will create chaos.

The third reason is that we now have perhaps the most confusing plan for property taxes you can imagine, and I'll go through it. The province has decided that 100% of the cost of education that is currently borne by the commercial and industrial sector will continue to be borne by the commercial and industrial sector. Over half the property taxes our business community pays go to education, and I think they were expecting that this bill would somehow provide relief; it doesn't. The province is going to insist that 100% of the current spending on education continue for the business community.

For all my business friends out there and all the business community, be aware that this bill leaves education 100% on the commercial-industrial taxpayer. The unanswered question is, is it going to be a uniform mill rate, or are they simply going to say, "Provide the same pot of money"? We've now got the confusion of that.

For the first time ever, the province has moved in and will be setting property tax rates for our business sector. Over half of the business property taxes are now being set by the province. That's an extraordinary intrusion on the property tax base, one I'm surprised the business community -- many of whom I can recall saying that they like dealing with their local council because they're close to them and feel they have some opportunity to influence policy. The business community should recognize that you can no longer influence the education cost on your property tax; over half your property tax is education, and the province will tell you how much you pay for that.

On the residential side it's equally confusing. Again, right now over half the property tax that residences pay is paid to education. The local school board sets the mill rate and it goes to fund the local school costs. Now the province, in a convoluted manoeuvre -- and I will say it was to try to bail Minister Leach out of his mess that he got the government into on the downloading.

Originally Minister Leach said, "We're going to take education off property tax." In fact, the government was all around the province saying: "This is the central idea. We're going to take education off the residential property tax. It doesn't belong there" -- all of those things. But then they found that Minister Leach had made a huge error, a mistake, and they had to back off from it. But now what we've got is that the province is going to set property tax mill rates on residential property for the education portion.

People in Ontario have been told -- I remember that Mike Harris spent tax dollars, and it was all tax dollars, your hard-earned tax dollars, on running those ads. Do you remember? He was in the basement and he had the wires going every which way, with the sparking? He was going to straighten the wires out. Well, we've now found the wires -- he was down there. They blew a fuse and he's putting the wires back together, but it is the most tangled mess.


I'll go through it again on education. The province is now setting the mill rate for residential property taxes on education. The province is setting the mill rate for businesses on education, for the first time ever. It's like a vacuum cleaner sucking up property tax dollars. A third of the property taxes in Ontario now will be controlled by the province. So the third thing to be aware of in this bill is this massive intrusion by the province against property tax. There is a long history of property taxes being used for local activities. Now -- can you imagine? -- a third of your property tax will be set by the province. That's the third part of this bill that causes concern.

The fourth is the assessment process itself. Right now, going around the province, the government has outsourced or gone to the private sector for a bunch of the assessments to be done. We are told by professional assessors that it is a mess. We were told by virtually all the municipalities. They were saying: "Listen, this thing is out of control. We are heading for a mess." The government, for whatever reason, has started late on this, doesn't know exactly what it's doing on this, and the assessment process is in chaos. We've met with the financial officials of the municipalities who have been sending up real signals of concern about the process and about the fact that they will not be getting the assessment rolls on time. They will be sending out interim tax bills, and when the final tax bill comes out, it will be dramatically different.

It is important that we alert the people of Ontario to the fourth concern, and that is that the process is in chaos. Not surprising. It's a government that creates chaos. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Education said it's a healthy thing. "Create a crisis." Well, this is a crisis created by the government. For our municipalities trying to cope with this -- because it will be them that will face the phone calls come next spring. Mark my words, there will be dramatic changes in property taxes beyond what anyone could contemplate. I've gone through what's going to happen in the business sector. So our fourth concern is your asking us to approve a bill that we've been told by the professionals, people who know the assessment process, is headed for chaos. I don't want my name on that. I want change and I want it orderly, but I don't want my name on that.

Mr Pouliot: We told them so.

Mr Phillips: And we told them so.

The fifth concern we have about the bill, and it cannot be ignored in this process, is that the government has decided to fund a big part of the tax cut by offloading, by dumping huge costs on to the municipalities.

We saw today one of the most interesting things I've seen. The city of North York is now planning to have a tax on liquor, a North York tax when you go in and buy liquor. Believe me, that's only the start. My municipality has had to add a whole bunch of new taxes on services it never taxed before.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): They've got to find the money somewhere.

Mr Phillips: They've got to find the money somewhere, as my colleague says.

Why are the municipalities doing this? This is what we've been saying for some time. We understand the tax cut. It benefits the best off. I keep saying this. People making a quarter of a million dollars in this province are going to get a $500-million tax break. They're going to get $500 million of tax break.

Mr Gerretsen: That's a lot of money.

Mr Phillips: "It's a lot of money," my colleagues say. What is happening as a result of that? You can see what North York is having to do: put taxes on things. My municipality is putting new taxes on all sorts of things to try and maintain some level of services. Then what we found was that Mike Harris announced a deal with some members of the municipalities.

I really worry about this because it is clear that the government is dumping $660 million of brand-new costs on to municipalities, including, I might add, 100% of social housing. I remind us that a majority of social housing is for seniors in this province, for the people who have built this province and have a right to expect that in their senior years they can live in some form of dignity.

They have supported the community that went ahead of them and now they expect the rest of us to provide some decent support for them. The province has decided to put 100% of that cost on to property tax. I guarantee you, the first economic downturn, our municipalities are going to face the most awful moral decisions, trying to decide: "Do we cut back on our police force, our fire force? Do we cut back on housing for our seniors?"

Why is it all being done? It's being done to fund this tax cut; $660 million added, dumped on to municipalities. That alone is a 5% increase in property tax. The ultimate insult in my opinion -- by the way, I understand that 14 or 15 handpicked municipal politicians, I gather, agreed to this, but I don't know where the rest of the municipal politicians are. They have to speak out on this on behalf of their residents. They can't allow $660 million of provincial responsibility to be dumped on to property taxpayers and expect that is something they should endorse. They should be loudly speaking out against that. I think in the weeks and months ahead we'll hear increasingly from the municipalities and our municipal leaders how irresponsible this is.

I congratulate organizations like the board of trade that have led the way in showing the government that it was dead wrong on this. The public may be aware that when the government announced this nonsense, we said, "It's wrong; $1 billion you're putting on to property tax." Mike Harris said: "No, no. You're all wet." Finally the municipalities, the board of trade, the United Way and the Who Does What, David Crombie's group, beat them up so badly they had to admit they made a big mistake. They backed off, but they only backed off partially; $660 million put on to property tax.

Some of our most sensitive services are going on to the property tax: housing, seniors' housing, 100% of our ambulance service paid for from property tax, 100% of our public health paid for from property tax, almost $1 billion of social assistance put on to property tax.

You can see why North York is putting a new tax on liquor. You want to see the tax increases from Mike Harris, the Taxfighter? Mike Harris simply pushed the taxes off to some other place. The North York council is imposing new taxes. I will say once again, for our students, that they're going to pay the price. The tuition fee of the MBA program at Western, my old Alma Mater, has gone from $3,000 a year to $18,000 a year.

Hon Mr Leach: That's in 40 years.

Mr Phillips: He says it's in four years.

Mr Gerretsen: No, he said 40 years.


Mr Phillips: There again we have a cabinet minister who doesn't know that out there right now students are facing tuition fees going from $3,000 a year to $18,000 a year; $3,000 this year, and in four years it will be the $18,000, and going higher. That's not the end of it.

The point of that is, who is paying the price for the tax cut? It clearly is the students. It clearly is our seniors who now will find that their future is dependent on the property tax. It clearly is our seniors, who were promised that there would be no user fees on drugs, and again found that they've all faced dramatic user fees on drugs.

The fifth area of concern for us in this property tax bill is that there is, at the same time as this is happening, a dramatic downloading going on. I will just tell you one of the most poignant was the day after the budget came out, May 7. Here was the advertisement in one of our local Toronto papers: "Concerned Seniors Pay Property Tax the Easy Way: With the threat of megacity comes the possibility of increased property taxes. This will affect everyone, but hardest hit will be seniors."

It goes on to say they've got a solution and it's the one proposed by Mr Ford, one of the Conservative members. He no sooner had proposed this than about two weeks later we saw the ad. It's a business now. It's the old reverse mortgage. Seniors out there, all you do is you pay your property tax with a reverse mortgage and then -- this is frankly the cruellest of it perhaps -- this leaves "the homeowner to enjoy the full benefits during their lifetime, knowing that it does not require repayment until they die."

My point is this: You can now see that the combination of the downloading and the business occupancy tax is going to result in some significant tax increases.

The sixth point of concern in the bill is that there are significant payments in lieu of. They are payments made by the federal government and the provincial government, Mr Speaker. You will know that from your Ottawa experience, where there are significant moneys paid by the federal government to the local municipalities. I think it's also true in Kingston, if I'm not mistaken, and some other jurisdictions.

Municipalities were, and are, extremely worried that this bill makes no mention of that. They're worried that the province now is going to move in, scoop that up and they will not have access to it. Again, we moved an amendment that said, "Listen, surely the appropriate thing to do here is to assure municipalities that it isn't the plan of the province to scoop that money up," and we moved an amendment that said current payments in lieu of will stay in place. The government members, for whatever reason, simply voted it down. My colleague from the NDP said we had 20 amendments between the two of us, every one of them summarily voted down. Each of them I think would have strengthened the bill. So that's our seventh concern on the bill.

The eighth concern is -- I don't want to get into a semantics argument here, but let's be honest with the people -- that this is market value assessment. In fact, when the officials went around the province, they said: "Listen, there's no change. If you've been on market value assessment, you're still on market value assessment. You'll see no change. There's nothing here that's going to change." One of my colleagues is very familiar with the definition of "market value." My colleague Mr Kwinter taught the course in real estate before he came here, and he said: "Listen, I can guarantee you the definition in this bill is exactly the same as the definition that's been used on market value assessment. This is market value assessment."

Let's not play games with people. That's why I say to my colleagues Mr Leach from St George-St David and Ms Bassett from St Andrew-St Patrick they should just say: "We were wrong. We are going to impose market value assessment, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry that my literature said I would never support it and I am supporting it now, and I'm sorry the policy has been that we will never impose market value assessment."

I might add another thing. "Mike Harris will relieve pressure on property tax by stopping the downloading on municipalities." The downloading has turned into a steady stream of major-sized trucks dumping on municipalities.

Mr Marchese: It's a waterfall of horrors.

Mr Phillips: That's appropriate; a waterfall of dumping.

All this is by way of saying that everybody in the province is in favour of property tax change. Historically, the policy of previous governments was, "We'll let the municipality make the decision on whether to bring in market value assessment." That was a legitimate policy if you believe in local autonomy; if you think that municipalities are responsible, as we certainly do; if you think that locally elected people are every bit as competent as provincially elected people, and I certainly do. There's no difference. We just happened to have run for a different office.

The policy of previous governments, of the Bill Davis government, was, "We'll let municipalities make the decision whether they want to impose market value assessment," but I gather the new government has said: "No, no. This is going to be mandated by the government. Mike Harris knows best, and we're going to impose the same system right across the province, and we don't care what municipalities say." I can accept that, but that doesn't mean we have to accept an incompetent bill.

I just comment on the points I've gone through. One, the business occupancy tax: You owe it to Ontario to have proposed and shown us how you are going to deal with the problems of small business, and you won't show us that, you won't show the business community that. You just simply say, "We'll bring in another bill." Flags should go up around the province. You've mishandled the farm rebate program. You've pocketed $170 million, and now the cost has gone on to the municipalities, and you are inviting conflict between our rural municipalities and our farm communities that we could have avoided with one little amendment if you had voted for it.

You are downloading at the same time as this. For the first time ever the province now is setting the mill rate on residential education and on commercial education; a third of property tax now is set by the province. It's unheard of. We are telling you that the professionals are saying the assessment process is flawed. You are going to have significant problems a year from now.

The reverse mortgage that you seem to want is, frankly, for many of our seniors an insult. They have spent their lives paying off their homes, trying to live without debt, and this is just another form of debt. You're essentially forcing them to put a reverse mortgage on, and by the way they will be paying a far higher interest rate on this than they would on any normal loan, and you have failed to agree with us on our payment in lieu. So change, yes; this bill, no.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order: I hope all members of the House will indulge me as I introduce to you a delegation from St Basil elementary school in White River, who are on their way back home from Great Britain. They went as a delegation to Great Britain, particularly to London, England, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Winnie the Pooh. As we all know, Winnie the Pooh is from White River. He was born in White River and was transported to Great Britain by the Canadian Forces on their way during the First World War.

They actually saw the Queen travel to Westminster to open the House of Commons with the new government in England. Welcome to the delegation from White River.

The Deputy Speaker: It's not a point of order, but it's a very interesting story.

Further debate?

Mr Pouliot: Nickel Belt?

The Deputy Speaker: Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: My apologies. With respect, I thought that you had mentioned Nickel Belt. It's quite confusing nowadays since, courtesy of the Premier, what is now the largest riding in the province of Ontario, Lake Nipigon, they've made the riding disappear. Only 26% of the land mass, so how do we represent Lake Nipigon until the next provincial election? I now reside in the riding of Algoma, a mere 65 miles, 110 kilometres, away, in Manitouwadge, from my good friends and colleagues in White River, who have chosen after a very long journey, while coming back, to pay us the compliment of their visit. I too would like to echo the friendly sentiment of my colleague, not on a point of order but using the time we have.

Je prends plaisir aujourd'hui de commencer le débat sur le projet de loi 106, un projet de loi qui aura des ramifications négatives, un projet de loi qui simplement fera mal aux gens, surtout ceux et celles, propriétaires, locataires qui sont parmi les moins bien nantis.

Les pauvres, les esseulés, les plus âgés, les infirmes, les gens à petits salaires, avec ce gouvernement, avec leur intention, seront les plus impactés.

What a mess, because Bill 106 does not work in isolation. You see, Bill 106 is part of a package. Bill 106 is part of a scheme, very much the centrepiece of a design which has for its purpose to find $5.4 billion that would have been there but is disappearing over a matter of a few months by virtue of the tax break. Winners and losers. The ledger: for a dollar gone, you must find a dollar in revenue -- not a secret. The obligations and the affairs of the state must be addressed. How do you reconcile the loss of $5.4 billion and pretend that it's business as usual, that you're still doing your job of representing all Ontarians, of providing those essential services: health, education, transfers to municipalities?

It's quite difficult and you must hide the facts. If it's necessary, when you're embarked on a so-called Common Sense Revolution, to hide the facts, to veil them, to confuse -- some would say to mislead, some would go as far as to say to plainly lie -- do it. I wouldn't go as far as to say this. Some might find it offensive.

But suffice it that what is about to happen is of unprecedented and extraordinary proportions. During the last campaign the man there, Premier Harris, went around the province and said, "If you vote for us, you will find a government that will do what it says," inviting people to, "Put your X in the right place. You can trust me, Mike Harris, and if I don't deliver, if I don't do what the book says, I will resign."

During the campaign the government of today, the third party then, went around the city of Toronto and said, "We will not impose market value assessment." The government du jour, the people across, said they would never download on municipalities. They would never pass the buck. They would never abdicate their responsibilities. "Others would do this but not us. We're a fresh start. We're not like the others. You can trust us. We mean what we say."

A couple of their members were on the hook after the election. They lucked in. They woke up the next day and they had 82 members. The Premier dispenses favour, grants the pleasure of an audience to this member or that member, and people tip-toe, cap in hand, into the office of the Premier and say: "Mike, get me off the hook. During the campaign I said that we will not download. During the campaign I said" -- like the Minister of Municipal Affairs said. The irony of it is now he's the minister responsible for the chaos, for the mess we're in, for the fear, for the downloading. He has to carry the can now. He used to kick the can. Now he carries the can. Now he hurts people. It's as simple as that, because he must satisfy the agenda.

Get off the track. Only one train leaving the station, that of the Common Sense Revolution. If you see some light at the end of the tunnel, this is no salvation. It's that train coming down the track and it will spare no one, except that if you're rich you will benefit. If you make $250,000 in one year -- imagine, a quarter of a million dollars; a lot of money -- you would pay your taxes but now you will save $15,000. Does it make any sense to you that if you're fortunate, if you're well placed, if you're a success and you make all that money, all that money coming in, this government will give you a tax break of $15,000 per year?

If you're at minimum wage you don't make the $15,000, but when you work for the minimum wage, sadly, you don't say much. When you work for the minimum wage you say so little, if anything, and when you work for that same wage, that pittance, you pay, because with those people you always pay. But if you're rich, if you're able to run away from the field, leave the field behind, then you shall be the benefactor of the magic of compounding and those around you will benefit also. Then you will be given an opportunity to perpetuate the injustices, not because you're mean, not because you're a bad person, not well intended -- when you see the poor with their hands out, you will pray for them, you want to wish them well, but that's where it will stop because you're busy. There is a manner of humanity you must court, and you court what you are. You must take in presentations, you must be entertained, you must travel. There is no restriction, for you have that opportunity, and you have $15,000 more in your pocket per year.


If you're at the other end of the spectrum and you wish to be treated humanely when you go to a hospital, you will see that the staff are doing their best, but there's a reduction, there aren't as many of them. There are more of us, because there are more people and also we're getting older. You find yourself on a waiting list of sorts, fortunate not to see the padlock at the institution, the grand finale, the closing of health care institutions.

If the little ones are in the classroom so they can acquire the tools to defend themselves, to be like the others, to integrate economically, in grade 1 a few years back you might have had 25 people in the classroom. This year it's 32. What will it be, 34, 35? To find the $5.4 billion you must cut someplace. There is no free lunch here. So you hit those who don't make noise, because they're disorganized, quite often not as well educated, but certainly not as wealthy.

Why do I mention these? These are the consequences behind the façade, the mask of Bill 106. Those fancy definitions; there is a human dimension. There is a tragedy which is about to unfold. Let's look at it this way, and I have an example which emanates from the Ministry of Finance. I did not prepare this -- I speak candidly -- it was given to me by some well-intentioned people in the Ministry of Finance. They weren't too secure when they did it and I promised them their names would not be mentioned.

The business occupancy tax is reallocating -- it's like a shell game; money is shifting here; the lights are getting dim; the hands are getting fat and long, because they're about to perpetrate a larceny, an act of thievery seldom seen before, and it's all legal. Presently the bank towers in Toronto -- you saw them -- the chartered banks, those big, shiny buildings here.


Ms Bassett: Can I make a point of order?

Mr Pouliot: We agreed that we would not call quorum.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Yes, there is a deal.

Mr Pouliot: I'm not the one saying those words. I will tone down the language; words to be taken to order on.

Bank towers currently pay $15 million realty tax; that's the tax on the building, those cement and glass towers. Add to it what they call the BOT, that's the business occupancy tax, and you get $11,250,000. They pay 75% of the realty tax, which is $15 million. Total: $26,250,000.

This is what is being proposed. Keep in mind -- no free lunch -- what is given on the one hand has to be taken on the other end. The realty tax stays the same: $15 million. The reallocation of the business occupancy tax goes from 75% to 42%. Total: $21 million. The saving is $4,950,000 for the banks. I know they have been much maligned, they're an easy target, it's an easy shot.

Mr Wildman: Where is the government going to get that money?

Mr Pouliot: My distinguished and valued colleague from Algoma, who has been here for 22 years, asks, and rightly so, "Where is the government going to get that money?" We're not talking about a small sum here. This is not petty cash; this is big time.

The bakeshop, that's where they'll get it. The small bakeshop now pays a total, under the same formula, of $52,000. They will pay $56,800. The banks get a big break. The bakeshop only pays 30% of the business occupancy tax, but now they will go to 42%. The banks pay 75% and they go to 42% also. They save $4.9 million. The bakeshop -- the little shop; not Weston -- the small doughnut shop pays $4,800 more. Does that make sense to you? It doesn't make much sense to me. It's supposed to be progressive. It's supposed to be with a social conscience, that those who can afford to pay should pay a little more. There's no quarrel with that, or there shouldn't be. But that's the reality of what Bill 106 does.

Also, if you live in White River, if you live in Manitouwadge -- and I know you have fewer than 5,000 people; you're remote, distant from the major centres -- you will pay for the OPP now, community policing.

Mr Wildman: One of the gentlemen up there is a member of the OPP.

Mr Pouliot: That's right. Thank you very kindly. You have to deal with the council members now. I want to wish you well. It's going to cost $180 million across the province. It's called downloading. "It's no longer my responsibility. You do it at the local level. You've got no money? Well, why don't you raise taxes at the doughnut shop, residential, all your houses, your mothers and fathers?" La payola in reverse.

Farm tax rebate: They get a rebate, but now the municipality is going to have to pick that up. The money must come from somewhere, $165 million.

The assessment service to find out what the value of the property is: $120 million.

Social housing operating costs -- that's big time here -- $890 million.

Municipal transit -- the bus -- $395 million.

They show no mercy. When the axe strikes, it doesn't discriminate, it's across; all members of the family get it. Talk about downloading genocide. Talk about economic cleansing: $20 million from the libraries. Where does it stop? No words are too strong, none. The tragedy is unfolding. That's what the downloading is.

Public health: $225 million.

Ambulance services -- officer, get used to carrying people in the back of the cruiser, because this is $200 million.

I want to take you on the Trans-Canada Highway, not on a day like today but on February 4, when you look across the highway as you near White River and the winds are howling from Lake Superior and you --

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. I ask that you address the Chair, please.


Mr Pouliot: Yes, Mr Speaker. No one is immune. You are very much part of the people of White River, the people of Manitouwadge. They're getting it in the neck.

Special care homes, Mr Speaker, you can relate to that: $25 million.

Ferries, those little tubs, those little boats that go back and forth across: They're a form of public transportation. People in Amherst, people on Pelee Island, people on Wolfe Island, where do they go? Well, $25 million: You have 800 people in a small farming community. Now, they have their own navy. They can't afford it, to go back and forth to work, to seek medical services, to go on holidays, to do some shopping. Take the baseball bat, take the axe to them. The revolution goes on.

Fire, sewer and water: 10 million bucks. It doesn't appear to be much, but now the municipality is responsible, so in some cases it means start boiling your water if you don't have the money to pay for inspectors. It adds up.

Social assistance: Although there has been a change, it is still well over $1 billion. Social assistance means the welfare recipients. If one of those less fortunate -- that is, on welfare, on social assistance, and we all know of some -- needs drugs because they are sick, because they have a condition, if they go to see the doctor and she or he says, "Here's a prescription; you need to take this every four hours" -- we're here to help one another; that's what society is all about -- now 50% of the cost of that prescription is going to be borne by the municipality. Pretty good, huh? Someone went in there with a magnifying glass to find a way to extract as much money -- like a taxpayer's nightmare. Maybe for the government, with their intentions, it was a taxpayer's dream.

Long-term care: I mention that we're all on a waiting list, that we get frail as youth begins to leave us, as we get older. Someone might slip in the bathtub and tragedy strike. You need a hip replacement and you need some convalescing. You are not as spry; your bones are more brittle. You had better hope that your municipality has some money, because the provincial government is turning its back on you. You are no longer part of the team, you see.

One billion, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars: That's what Bill 106 does. Once you tear away the veil and look, scrutinize line by line, when you stop being fanciful with words to confuse people, that's what you end up with. Unbelievable. There's a difference of more than a billion dollars, but the government says to you: "If there's a difference of a billion dollars, we'll put some money aside, because times are good, revenues are coming in. We'll establish a pool."

But on the eve of implementation, when you ask the Premier -- I'm delighted that the Premier has taken time from his busy schedule to be here today; the bill is of some importance, and I for one appreciate it -- you don't have access to it because it's being formulated. "We're putting it together now. It won't take long." Where is the money going to come from? "Call us in about three or four months' time. We should have it on paper then and you can come knocking on our door for the difference."

But then there's a shortage; there's not enough money in the pool. We've asked for impact studies, gone to people and said, "You the government, you the Ministry of Finance" -- and you're well staffed -- "give us what it means to a municipality like Oakville, for instance." They're very wealthy. People know. They drive the product coming off the line. It's, "We don't have such an impact study," so we have to call the clerk-administrator and say, "May we talk to you, listen to what you have to say on Bill 106?" Candidly, it's $18 million.

Those huge plants in Oakville are getting a break under the business occupancy tax, which everyone agrees had to be amended. It was not workable; it was a deterrent. There isn't any quarrel there. But the methodology, the bottom line, means they have to find $18 million. Are they going to shell out, fork over the difference? Of course not. Oakville will apply for a sideshow. They'll try to get the $18 million back, the council will. They can't get it from the big ones, so they will go at the commercial. I don't wish to impute motive; they're in a box. The options they will have is that they go to the small business people or they hit the residential level: the homeowners. Well, there are more homeowners than there are businesses. I'm not imputing motive. They'll try their best. They'll try to reach and seek an equilibrium. But some can count votes. I wouldn't put it past them.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Why don't they just cut costs?

Mr Pouliot: The distinguished member opposite mentioned, and rightly so, "Why don't they just cut costs?" Words of wisdom indeed, except that people have been cutting costs for quite a while, which brings me to the farm rebate. In some small communities, the removal of the farm levy will mean in excess of 50%. It wouldn't be realistic, because you cannot cut costs -- in one case it was 85%. You can't say they're 85% fat. They have one grader operator. Heck, if I may be so bold, they have two people who work in the office. What are they going to do? Amalgamate? This is like sending a Turk to Denmark. They'll travel 200 miles and shake hands with the other community at a bingo game and say, "We're going to share services"? It doesn't quite work like that. We only wish it would.

They make a big fuss. Maybe you saw them in your community, Speaker, this army of assessors descending, some people in my village said, "like vultures." I said, "No, no, they make 12 bucks an hour." The government is spending 60 million bucks to assess 3.8 million homes and properties. That is one heck of a lot of money. I retrieve my papers: 3.8 million properties must be reassessed at current value for taxation in 1998. That has never been undertaken in North America, and experts, people who do assessing -- well, the government itself says it expects about 900,000 appeals. They'll never get out of this bag of snakes. The toxicity of this exercise has reached unprecedented levels. It's a mess out there: 3.3. million residential properties, 43,000 multiresidential properties, 200,000 commercial and industrial properties.

They are spending $60 million. They are hiring hordes of assessors and they train them -- well, it's like instant coffee. Some of them get as little as a day's training and then they're sent out with a list to assess -- no feel for it, but out to assess. So when you see them opening their little notebook, beware, because they might become merchants of fear when you see the bottom line. If someone says, "You're not welcome," you must let them in. You wouldn't wish them to assess properties from the local watering hole. It wouldn't be fair.


Then the government says: "Here's what we have. We don't have market value assessment because during the election we said we wouldn't have market value assessment." They got a couple of those whiz kids after the election and they said, "Change market value assessment." They both carry a dictionary. My friend Mr Conway from Renfrew, the best orator in this House, would say, "Market value, current value, actual value." One is Oxford and the other is Webster but it says the same thing. You could go to a forensic expert, you could go to a PhD and to DNA, and under the closest scrutiny they couldn't tell you the difference.

This is what value is. If I were to call my broker or a real estate broker and say, "What is the current value of this property?" -- a certain amount. If I were to call the same person 15 minutes after and say, "Tell me what is the actual value of this property" -- the same amount. Then I would say, "What is it currently worth?" and they'd probably hang up on me, "I've already given you the amount."

To satisfy what has been said during the election, the sins that were committed, the government had to get in a little deeper and say: "We must save face for some of our beloved colleagues. This is the amount of money, the fee simple, if unencumbered, that would be realized if sold at arm's length by a willing seller to a willing buyer."

Mr Gerretsen: That's the market value.

Mr Pouliot: That's the market value, it's the current value, it's the actual value, amen. The rest of it is just an attempt to veil, to confuse. It won't work.

Dozens of presenters, dozens of amendments by both the Liberals and the NDP at committee to make this workable. When the rubber hits the road, we all represent all Ontarians. We want the bill to work. Well, it's not going to work. The election is in November. They have all those new responsibilities, all this downloading. It doesn't matter who governs you now, it matters more where you live. Keep in mind, we go back to the $5.4 billion to satisfy those who run the fastest. Those eminents, they get richer. We want to wish them well, of course.

Then, on January 1, you take on all those new responsibilities. You have no money. The only money you can raise -- this is costing you more because this is not revenue-neutral -- is based on your interim tax levy, which is 50% of the past performance. The fiscal year here starts three months after. "What am I going to do? I'm paying since January for new ambulance service, I'm paying for long-term care, I'm paying for half the drugs, I'm paying more for welfare, for general assistance." Oh, but then the final levy comes in and then you begin to understand the downloading. Then at the residential level and at the small commercial level, you begin to understand the scheme, the trickery. Some will be so angered. They will see the dishonesty of it all. The winners again are the banks. The second-biggest winners are the large hotels. The losers are the commercially assessed, the small business people and the residential homeowners.

The audacity of the government to say to municipal councils, "By the year 2000 you can expect a 10% decrease in your municipal taxes." Well, thank you for your presents. Do any of your parents believe in their wildest dreams that the mayor or the reeve will be able to pass on a 10% decrease in municipal taxes? Do you, Speaker? Do you, Madame? Do you, critic, believe anything but the dozens of presenters who said to you, and members of the opposition who mentioned to you, with the highest of respect, that you didn't have to do it this way, that there was a human dimension attached to the bill? No. The revolution had to go on. The train had already left the station. There was so little time and yet so much to be done.

I'm not going to wish them well. We will be back to say, "We told you so." I only wish we didn't have to do this, with all the sincerity at our command. I want everybody to succeed, to be well, but there is such confusion, so much uncertainty, that even the smallest of rumours leads to fear. It takes on extraordinary proportions because you did not think this one out. If you had done this, you wouldn't present this quarter-pounder of amendments. There would have been no need. Oh, no, you went through with the revolution without thinking it over, and then you're caught piecemealing.

I have taken pride in having the opportunity on behalf of our party to lead on Bill 106, and I thank you.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to join the debate on third reading of Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government, and I do so this afternoon to bring a perspective from rural southeastern Ontario where the impact of Bill 106 and related government policies in my view is going to be very significant, and in some real ways much more severe than I think even so committed and conscientious a government member as our friend from Rosedale, Ms Bassett, might imagine. I don't expect someone of her elegance and sophistication to appreciate all the rhythms of local property taxation out on the Shield and the near-Shield territory of areas like south Renfrew, north Hastings, north Addington and Haliburton counties.

I want to say as I join my colleagues from Scarborough-Agincourt and Nipigon how very concerned I am about the impacts of this policy in Bill 106 upon property taxes in my part of southeastern Ontario. I want to take a few moments this afternoon on behalf of the taxpaying public not just in Renfrew but in some of those other areas: I repeat, north Addington, north Hastings and Haliburton, to name three others outside of my own electoral district.

I look at a number of these initiatives contained in Bill 106, and as a fairly senior member of this assembly, I am struck by how much of this stuff has been around since the days of Darcy McKeough. I look at the contents of Bill 106 and I see a number of important initiatives that finance ministers from Darcy McKeough through Frank Miller and Larry Grossman, and yes, Bob Nixon and Floyd Laughren, had presented to them on a number of occasions. Would that Frank Miller could be here today. I can hear the chuckle, because Frank would look at this and say: "Aha, there it is again. There's very little new in this."

On behalf of my old friend Frank S. Miller, PEng, I have a couple of clippings from the Muskoka press this week. Poor Grimmett is going to be going home to some rather difficult moments. I just noticed this week's Muskoka Advance and Bracebridge Examiner. The editorial from the May 11, 1997, Bracebridge Examiner is headed "Harris Conservatives Devastate Muskoka." Reading from the editorial in the Bracebridge Examiner of this week, just a couple of days ago:

"A deal between the Harris Conservatives and the southern Ontario controlled Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is going to devastate Muskoka." The new deal around who does what and who pays for what will add an additional $22.6 million in property taxes in Muskoka.

"Talk about dishonest campaign promises," the editorial goes on. This new who does what/who pays for what deal "makes Brian Mulroney look like a piker! Is this the Common Sense Revolution in action? Harris gives us a $10-per-week personal tax cut in one hand and then combines it with a $500 property tax grab."


I'm not going to read the whole editorial. That's just two of them, the Muskoka Advance and the Bracebridge Examiner. That's not even in my area. I do know that they've been talking to people like the former CAO of Muskoka region, Bill Calvert, a very fine public servant who knows Muskoka a lot better than I do, and people like Bill Calvert and others are saying: "Hold the phone. This is big, serious trouble for property taxpayers in Muskoka."

I just have to ask myself, if Ms Bassett were the Minister of Finance -- we all know her to be not only elegant but hardworking and I agree with all that was said about her before, though I'm not going to repeat what my friend from Agincourt said about some of those election manifesto documents put out by our pal Al in Rosedale and, yes, the benighted member for St Andrew-St Patrick. Boy, it is galling to see Brother Leach saying, "Unlike Murphy, I own property in Rosedale, and unlike the Liberals, I would never impose MVA or AVA."

This is a government that likes to come in here and talk about accountability and honesty. Well, it hurts, because if I were a voter in Moore Park and I saw this bill, I would want Al Leach on a rack someplace because what he said couldn't be clearer. I'm not going to embarrass my friend from St A and P. She falls into a different category than the former generalissimo of the TTC.

But I want to talk about the impact of this policy, 106, and related matters on the property taxpayers of my constituency in areas like Renfrew county.


Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, I seem to be exciting the honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale to a paroxysm of intervention. I don't understand why the member from Bedrock doesn't want to get into this debate. He's quite happy to go back to his department and call some of my correspondents and come in here in a less than honourable way and throw it into a debate. I don't know why he doesn't want to get up on his two legs today and engage in the debate. I happen to have the floor.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I might do that.

Mr Conway: Well, good for you. Good for you in the best Ed Philip tradition.

Mr Hastings: In your 22 years, haven't you?

Mr Conway: Yes.

The Acting Speaker: Order. I'd like the order of the House and I'd like the member to address his comments through the Chair, please.

Mr Conway: I make the point that I didn't go into Moore Park and into the Annex and make the promises, so clear and so literal as the two promises that were referred to today by my colleague from Agincourt around the question of assessment. It's one thing to give the little homily about accountability, but those chickens have a way of coming home to roost, and if you make a promise as direct and as bald and as explicit as that, you bloody well better expect to be held to account for it.

I look at this policy, and I was looking at the impacts out in the area of midnorthern Ontario and my part of southeastern Ontario. If we had a finance minister whose name was on this who came from downtown Toronto or London or perhaps Kingston, I might say, "All right, I guess he/she doesn't understand." Ernie Eves is the member for Parry Sound. He's a neighbour to Muskoka. He, better than many in this government caucus, understands, or ought to understand, what it is people like Bill Calvert and the Bracebridge Examiner are talking about this week. He's a senior member of this assembly; he's a smart guy; he's our treasurer. He has lived for many years up in Parry Sound. He knows, or ought to know, the particular problems out in that territory.

I ask myself, "Where did this bill come from?" The Globe and Mail reported last December that the Minister of Finance wasn't showing up at meetings. The Ministry of Finance officials were quoted as saying, "We can't get him to briefings." I don't know whether it's true or not, but I look at a bill like this and I say, "Did the finance officials develop this and get it by their political masters when the minister in charge wasn't around?"

Because I've got too much respect for my colleague from Parry Sound and, yes, the first lord of the treasury, the member for Nipissing, who ought to understand as well what it is the Bracebridge Examiner and the Muskoka Advance are talking about. Harris and Eves come from that part of Ontario, and this policy is going to be a very serious problem in that part of the province, as in my part, particularly that part of Renfrew county that is in and around the Shield. You might say, "Why?" All right, let me explain why.

We're talking about assessment and financing local government. Our friend the Speaker is from Perth; wonderful county. I haven't looked, but I know one thing about the land tenure and the land ownership in Perth as compared to Renfrew. In Renfrew county Her Majesty, in right of the province of Ontario, owns about 35% to 40% of the land. You get away from the Highway 17-Ottawa River corridor, you move inland into communities around Eganville and Barry's Bay and up through Bancroft and up around Denby, and you've got municipalities where the provincial crown owns 60% and 70% of the property.

I don't care how big you want to make the municipality, if you want to take the hamlet of Denby and amalgamate and make it 10 times the size that it is now or do the same in the village of Palmer Rapids or Eganville, you haven't changed anything. Her Majesty, in right of the provincial government, still owns a vast amount of the real estate. That's a very different kind of land tenure than you'll find down in Perth county or certainly in the Annex or in many parts actually of northern Ontario. It's that part of the so-called Frontenac axis in southeastern Ontario. It's the area north of Highway 7, east of Lakefield, Apsley, west of a place like Eganville and south of Algonquin Park. There's a big piece of real estate there, and we, as a provincial government, are the biggest land owner.

My question about Bill 106 -- I don't have a problem accepting the argument that property should pay a greater share of the hard services. It's hard to argue with that. You reassess for equity and fairness; that's fine too.

What do you do, I say to my friend from Durham East, when the largest property owner in your municipality, no matter how big and no matter how amalgamated, is Her Majesty in right of the provincial government? If I'm a locally elected reeve or mayor, I have a good, a big bill for services like fire, policing and ambulance. Who do I give that bill to? I want to give the bill to my friend Hodgson, the commissioner of crown lands, the provincial delegate responsible for that imperial power and that big chunk of real estate. I have a feeling that my friend Hodgson would be very surprised to get the bill, and it's a big bill, occasioned by the very unusual kind of land tenure, different, quite frankly, from other parts of Renfrew county in the Arnprior-Renfrew-Pembroke-Deep River corridor, where we've got more of a Perth county kind of land tenure.

My question remains: What are we going to do? When people say to me, "Make it big; just make 10 municipalities one," you can do that and change nothing. Her Majesty is still the biggest game in town. Nobody seems to have an answer for that part of this equation. So that's point number one.

Now let's get on to the other matters of the farm tax rebate, because I'm trying to look at this policy and say to myself, "How can I be fair?" I've got to say again, quoting one of my favourite colleagues from a former day, Stephen Henry Lewis, Stephen used to roll that word "chutzpah" out of his mouth on rare occasions with great effect. I watched last week after the budget and there's my friend from Moose Creek, the squire from Glengarry, the Minister of Agriculture, and he's going around just clasping his hands and saying: "Have I got good news for you. The Harris government has a major new initiative. It's a $30-million rural job strategy for all of Ontario."

I look at the fine print. Now I see that it's $30 million over three years. That's $10 million a year. Now I have to take $3 million of that out annually for summer job creation in the agricultural community. Now I've got $7 million for all of Ontario, from Chatham through north Perth, out to the rural reaches of Renfrew. Big deal, $7 million. At the same time, the government has announced a cancellation of the annual $170-million provincial grant that's been payable for years to fund the farm tax rebate program. The farmers in Renfrew want to do their duty but they are not as dumb as some people in the current government think they are. "We're going to give you $7 million annually and take $170 million away from you annually." That's point number one.


Now let's look at the deal that's being offered thanks to Bill 106 and related policies. I'm in a rural township. A couple of weeks ago, Noble, who is a nice guy and a good guy and well-meaning, came to my county council along with our friend from Lanark to talk, and more importantly listen, to the people of Renfrew county at their county council about their particular problems. It was a very interesting discussion.

The dean of our Renfrew county council is the reeve of Bromley township; a wonderful community, almost entirely farm, centred around the great hamlet of Douglas, a great place to be on March 17. Reeve Clarence McBride presented to the Minister of Agriculture that day their analysis in Bromley township of the farm tax rebate policy change. It's very simple: You're asking the township to come up with $167,524. That's got to be apportioned across 454 households, almost all of them rural. These people have crunched the numbers and when they asked the questions of the minister, the answers were: "I don't know. I hear what you're saying. We've got some funds that may help out."

I'm telling you, good people at the local level, many of them loyal supporters of the current government, are looking at this with absolute and utter incredulity and saying, "How is it that a government elected with such a strong and clear mandate to lower taxes is going to do this to us in Bromley township?" and much of the rest of rural Renfrew county. They're just incredulous that --

Mr Pouliot: They won't vote Tory again.

Mr Conway: I'm not saying what their voting intentions are going to be; and these are good people.

The brief is here and I heard the answer. I ask my friends, including the Speaker, to think about the new dynamic around these local councils. I'm speaking now just from the perspective of rural Ontario. Can you imagine, I say to my friend from Bowmanville, being in that council and saying, "What the province is going to do is cancel the grant and provincially we're going to set the farm rate at 25% of the residential rate, but now you elected officials," in the case of Bromley township, "are going to have to come up locally with that $167,000 out of the hides of those local taxpayers." You don't have to be Albert Einstein to figure out what's going to happen in that environment.

Those Grits in their day in government in Ontario did a number of bad things but I don't think, inadvertently or otherwise, we ever thought about pulling a scam like this. If I did, I would not be going home, I can tell you, whether home was in Dereham township in Oxford county or in Bromley township in Renfrew county. I say to my friend from Oxford, if he wants to read the brief, he's welcome to read it. I'm sure he's read it.

People want answers because they believe the Taxfighter when he says through his finance minister or the parliamentary secretary from the Annex or Rosedale or wherever, "We're about lowering taxes." I'll tell you, in Muskoka or in Renfrew it is clearly and manifestly not the case. So that's the farm tax rebate.

I'm on the council; let's say I'm in an amalgamated rural township, a much bigger unit out there in southwest Renfrew county. What have I got? My farm tax rebate's gone and I've been told I've got to make it up internally. My managed forest rebate program is gone too and I've got to do the same thing there, out of the local taxpayers' hides. But it gets a lot more interesting. It's not clear to me whether I can send a bill to the biggest property owner in my township, whether it's Raglan or Sebastopol or Griffith and Matawatchan or Rolph, Buchanan, Wylie and McKay or Brougham or wherever in south Renfrew, north Addington, north Frontenac, north Hastings and a good slice of Haliburton. It's not at all clear to me I'm going to be able to send a property tax bill to the biggest land owner in my area: the provincial government.

You see, under the old scheme, as long as we paid grants, conditional or unconditional, we at least had some moral authority. We are apparently not going to be paying conditional or unconditional grants to those municipalities, so we have no moral authority at all. The question remains: What are we going to do by way of sending tax bills to the largest property owner in those areas of south Renfrew and elsewhere that I have described and that are my special concern? Nobody seems to know and few seem to care, other than a kind of blithe, blissful hope and prayer that there will be some contingency fund someplace that will get us through the night.

But it's more interesting than that, because you see, now out in this area of south Renfrew and north Addington and north Hastings not only does Her Majesty in right of the provincial government own most of the land but she's very active. The vehicles that are out there are MNR vehicles. They're all over the place, directly or otherwise sponsoring activity on that crown land. If I'm looking at activity-based services, boy, I know who's causing a lot of the activity -- not all of it, but a lot of it.

What am I supposed to do as the local reeve? I'm Bert Johnson and I'm the reeve of Griffith and Matawatchan and now I'm told, in addition to all the rest of this, I've got to start tithing my ratepayers for policing services. I've got to take out of the hides of the local property taxpayers moneys to police and maintain the roads so the MNR vehicles and Chris Hodgson's revenue base can be sustained. I'm really going to like that. When our friend Robbie Sampson comes up to visit the in-laws in Kingston and Renfrew and they go out to Hurds Lake or down to Centennial Lake, the cottagers are going to be ecstatic at paying a big new bill for rural policing so that Chris Hodgson's MNR vehicles are safe from the predations of vandals, and the local roads and the secondary highways are in good shape. Poor old Sampson, he has an accident down at Centennial Lake, or worse still, he has an accident up in Algonquin Park, and now I've got a big, fat ambulance bill for it. I wasn't kidding when I asked the Minister of Health that question last week.

I'm Bert Johnson and I'm a local reeve and I'm trying to understand what this government is doing. I say to myself: "All right, I've got to pay for land ambulances. How do I do this?" I'm getting angrier and angrier because my big taxpayer is that provincial government. Very unusual set of circumstances, and that's why it generally is missed by the smart people over at treasury and the even smarter people at economic development and trade, because they don't understand that idiosyncratic land tenure in that part of southeastern Ontario, but I can tell you, it is going to add up, all things taken into account.

My county council in Renfrew did an initial estimate of the first deal and concluded that the net effect to the average property tax bill in Renfrew county would be $902 of additional annual property tax. That was their estimate. I see up in Muskoka they are estimating an increase of something in the order of $500 a year with the new deal. I'm prepared to make allowances for some padding, let us say, but it is very clear to me, whether I go and listen to people in Renfrew or Hastings or Muskoka, they're all saying the same thing: Bill 106 and related policies are going to drive property taxes up and drive them up substantially. I simply want to put that on the record today.

I can't believe that members of this assembly from areas like Nipissing and Parry Sound would knowingly foist this kind of policy with this kind of tax impact on people in our part of midnorthern and, in my case, southeastern Ontario. I don't believe they are that wilful or that malevolent. I can only conclude that something happened when Ernie wasn't around or paying attention, because he wouldn't do this. I haven't gone up to Parry Sound, but I can imagine that there are going to be some very delicious impacts that will certainly seize the attention of the Minister of Finance.


When I was in Burk's Falls the other day, and you've heard me in the last few days about that, I got a very good indication of what the pain tolerance of the current Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ontario is, and it's not as high as I thought it might have been. Over the years, the expectation -- and I say this to young Sampson, who looks like an upwardly mobile fellow -- being the chancellor is the apogee now of a political cabinet career. But to get there and to stay there, generally, you've got to have a good pain tolerance. When I see what's going on with this hospital policy, I get the feeling that some of the leading revolutionaries over there are all right until the fires of the revolution start licking around the exposed skin of delicate parts of their anatomy.

In concluding my remarks about Bill 106, this is, without a doubt, big, bad news for people who live in communities like Mount St Patrick, Matawatchan, Madawaska, Golden Lake, Killaloe and Round Lake and Mayo township and Maynooth, Herschel, Cross Lake, Whitney and a lot of other places that most of you have never heard of.

My job is to be here, along with a very few other people, thanks to Bill 81. You see, you passed an electoral redistribution bill that for the moment is going to make it a lot easier, because the representation from that part of the world is going to decline. But I'm telling you very seriously on the third reading debate of Bill 106 that you as a government are pursuing a policy that is going to be very damaging to property taxes in my part of southeastern Ontario for some of the particular and, yes, peculiar reasons I've tried to advance.

I don't want to and I can't bring myself to believe that a government led by members from Nipissing and Parry Sound wants to do this. But I'll vote against Bill 106 on third reading because at this point in time I see little or nothing that makes me understand, makes me believe that the current government understands what it is that the reeve of Bromley township and the warden of Renfrew county have been saying eloquently and consistently for the last number of months. They, like I, understand that there have to be changes. I myself a few years ago went through county-wide reassessment. It wasn't much fun. In fact that's where I met the now member for Lincoln.

The now member for Lincoln, in his charming, dispassionate way, came to the hamlet of Combermere, and, boy, did he make a speech. I'll never, ever forget the member for Lincoln that summer night on the shores of the Madawaska River. Parliamentary rules and decorum prevent me from telling you what I saw that night.

But I'm going to tell you, it wasn't easy for any of us, Liberal, Tory or New Democrat. If you've ever been through -- and the member for Oxford has, and certainly the member from Kingston has, and so has the member for Yorkview -- it's tough, because there are winners and there are losers, and the winners say they should have gotten the break years ago and the losers are mad as you know what. It's not easy. There are problems with assessment.

I might say, by the way, that I hear from people who are closer to the assessment branch of the Ministry of Finance than I am that there is this mad rush now, the government is out hiring people, students and anybody they can get their hands on, giving them 24 or 48 hours' worth of training and saying, "Go out and do Al Leach's and Isabel Bassett's and Ernie Eves's work."

Somebody said a while ago, I think it was the member for Lake Nipigon, something like, "How many appeals do they expect?" Just from what I'm hearing out in the Ottawa Valley, there are going to be lots of appeals, because you can't take a guy like me, who knows nothing about the practical aspect of administration, and say, "Here, take a six-hour course and go out and tell Rob Sampson what that cottage of his at Hertz Lake is worth." But that's happening. I'll tell you, it's happening in spades, and it's not going to make it any easier.

I never, ever thought I'd see the day when the greatest self-proclaimed taxfighter this Legislature has probably seen in the postwar period, the Honourable Michael D. Harris, and his trusted ally Ernie Eves would occasion a policy like Bill 106 with the kind of devastating property tax increases that the Bracebridge examiner and Renfrew county council and a lot of other people are quite properly and quite loudly and, unfortunately, quite painfully talking about, warning about and asking, understandably, for some real redress from this government and this Legislature.

Mr Marchese: It's a pleasure once again to have the opportunity to speak to this bill on third reading. I want to begin by tackling the title of this bill, because as I have pointed out on a number of occasions, this government is very good in its propagandist approach to titles. What I want to tell the public is, if you look at the title, and I'm going to spell it out again, you'll have a sense of why you should mistrust the government, because they call this bill the Fair Municipal Finance Act.

If I were an elector or someone out there listening to this debate and hearing that the title of this bill is the Fair Municipal Finance Act, I would be wary, because I would ask myself the questions as an elector: "Why does this government call it `fair'? Is it necessary?" I argue it isn't necessary. The reason it's there is to give you an illusion of fairness, because underneath a whole lot of people are going to be whacked by fairness, because that's what this bill is all about.

I'm reminded that the expression I used yesterday in terms of appearances and reality is a constant theme in life and in literature, and it reappears here. It's the theme of: Foul is fair, and fair is foul. In this particular title of this bill, the Fair Municipal Finance Act, fair is foul. That's why they've included "fair" in the title.

I understand that those who are listening will also understand, not because we are politicians and we're faced with a Tory government that's doing a whole lot of whacking to a whole lot of sectors in society, not because they're politicians but because they automatically, as a natural inclination, understand that if somebody tells you it's fair, you'd better watch it, because it's likely not to be fair. That's the first warning, I indicate to the audience watching, about what to look for in this particular bill.

The second point has to do with the issue of market value assessment versus actual value assessment. A number of other speakers have spoken to this already, and they have indicated that there's virtually no difference between the two. But, you see, the government cannot afford to say that this is market value assessment; it can't, because if it did, it catches itself in a bind with itself, with some of its members, with M. Harris and others who said before the 1995 election that they would never support a market value assessment scheme. They would be damned should they call a scheme "market value assessment," because it would belie, contradict, much of what they said before the election.

But there is very little difference between the two. In fact, as I have noted from the reading I have done in this area, the only difference this government can claim or perhaps make reference to is the fact that the definition of current value based on annually updated, rolling three-year averages tempers the market value impacts of the previous legislation, some say. However, Bill 106 merely mandates the practice of rolling averages.

Current legislation calls for assessment updates every four years, but in practice assessors currently calculate on the basis of rolling averages because of the fact that market value data is dependent on the amount of activity in the marketplace. Further, actual value assessment uses weighting factors on market assessment which advocates say temper the market anomalies and introduce an element of fairness, but the opponents of AVA argue that such property characteristics are captured in the market value calculations.


I say to my friend from St Andrew-St Patrick, there is no difference except that it's important for you as a government to say there is, and so we have a difference of opinion. You are the government and you have the levers of power, and propaganda to boot. You say to the public, "This is actual value assessment," and we lowly opposition members do our best to indicate through factual information, as factual as we can get it, to you and to the public, that it isn't so. All we can hope for in the absence of the media is that those people watching today will understand that there is no difference between the two, that we are dealing in fact with market value assessment, because that's what it's all about. That's point number two.

Point number three is with respect to the business occupancy tax that has been touched on by my colleague and others. This business occupancy tax is presented by the member for St Andrew-St Patrick as something that needs to be updated, brought up to date in the 21st century, because what we had was archaic. Some of us say: "That's fine. It is an archaic thing we have in place. It does raise $1.6 billion in municipal revenues. But how do we deal with the fact that we are about to lose $1.6 billion?"

My friend from St Andrew-St Patrick says: "Don't worry. We will pass through regulation the ability, the enabling legislation or regulation, that will allow municipalities to find ways to recover it if they want." We haven't seen that. We don't know what it is. That's what they tell us they would do.

I want first of all to say that the government looks good in saying: "We are upgrading ourselves. We are bringing ourselves up to scratch, to the 21st century." They look good in eliminating something they argue is archaic, but they leave the responsibility of solving that $1.6-billion shortage to the municipalities.

We think that's wrong. We think they look good in doing it. They know they look good when they argue about why it should be eliminated, but the poor municipalities are going to be stuck with a $1.6-billion problem. How do you recover it? "The tools," they say, "are there, or will be there, don't worry." But municipalities will still have a problem of understanding how to tax and who to tax and whether or not that new tax to recover the $1.6 billion can or would be fair to those who would be taxed. It's a serious problem that has not been addressed fairly in this fair tax bill.

The old act that permits the business occupancy tax was in its own way progressive. It was. I never heard any one of the members from that side of the House talk about the fact that there was some measure of progressivity attached to the business occupancy tax.

Some of the percentages date back to the inception of the tax in 1904, and it's difficult to explain why an abattoir is assessed at 60% while an animal hospital is assessed at 50%, they argue. But the original intent of the business occupancy tax was clearly to create a business property tax that was roughly progressive. The business occupancy tax assesses the barber at 30%, the banker at 75%, the delicatessen at 30% and the distiller at 75%.

Through those examples you get a good sense of the progressive nature of that tax, but once you eliminate it, that no longer is the case. In fact, banks under this approach would see a 40% decrease of their taxes, and if a municipality tries to get the lost revenue from the commercial and industrial class of property taxpayers, that will mean small retail outlets would see a possible 50% increase in the tax they pay.

The point I'm making in making reference to these two approaches is that the existing system is somewhat fair; the new one will not be. With great fanfare they introduce something that they say needs to be dealt with because it's too old, and they bring something new, and we don't even know what's going to happen except that we know there will be a $1.6-billion shortfall. That's a lot of money that the municipality has got to find. As I say, they can look good in doing so, but the municipalities are stuck with the problem.

Remember, municipalities have had cuts of 40% to their budgets in the last two years. Remember too the shellacking the municipalities are getting, but particularly Metro -- Speaker, you would understand this, because you are in the same vicinity as I am -- the shellacking we have taken here in Metropolitan Toronto not just on the cuts, but on the issue of amalgamation where we have been bruised seriously by a government that doesn't listen to our needs and doesn't listen to our wishes expressed through the referendum.

We are now hit by AVA-market value assessment -- the same thing -- which will bring about, we argue, for single-family homes in the city, an increase averaging about 20%. We have the whacking of the metropolitan city here through the so-called Tenant Protection Act -- here is another propagandist title that "Foul is fair, and fair is foul" -- which does nothing but transfer wealth, imagine, the little wealth that poor individuals have, and transfers that wealth to the rich landlord, who already makes a very healthy return every year.

Who is going to be hit by the so-called tenant protection package? It's the tenants, who are by and large very poor. Over three million people are affected, a third of whom earn less than $22,000 a year. The majority of housing is in Metropolitan Toronto, the majority of tenants are in Metropolitan Toronto, and the majority of tenants are going to be whacked by the landlord protection package. We further have attached to this the downloading of so many new services, such as the property assessment services, social housing, municipal transit and GO Transit, community libraries, community public health, community ambulance services, community ferries, municipal airport services, fire services, sewer and water inspections, and social assistance program costs.

Metropolitan Toronto has been whacked by this government in a very serious way. It's important to point it out because a lot of people just don't see it and a lot of people outside Metro don't give a damn. But those of us living in Metro who are seriously bruised by the measures this government is inflicting on us worry about its impact, worry about our standard of living out here, worry about our quality of living, worry about the effects it will have on the ability of some people to be able to stay in downtown Toronto, not just Metropolitan Toronto, particularly in downtown Toronto.

We need to point these things out. We need to say there are no defenders in this Conservative caucus of Metropolitan Toronto and its needs. The examples I gave are to indicate to the public who are watching, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto, that you are having a great deal of serious pain inflicted around these issues.


Why have we asked this government to give us impact studies? We asked for impact studies because we know that many people in Metropolitan Toronto, and not just in Metro but elsewhere -- other speakers have touched on their own areas -- are going to be affected by these changes. We argued as well that it's important for people to know what impact a particular bill will have on their area, on their communities and on themselves as individuals. We argue that they have a right to know.

We did that when we were in government; we did this in 1993 when asked. But the government does have not the courage to give the public what it has in its hands. They have done impact studies but they refuse to share those studies because they know there are problems connected to their revelation. Therefore, they are keeping it secret and in their own back rooms and in their own caucus rooms so as not to alert the public to the serious impacts of this particular bill.

We said, "We need to know, seniors need to know, people on low income need to know, people who are disabled and own homes on the meagre sums they make need to know the impact of market value on their home." They should know. They have a right to know. But the only time they will know is when this government has inflicted on them Bill 106; that's the only time they will know. Then they'll ask, "What evil has befallen us and who is the evildoer?" and wonder whether it's too late to seek redress from a government that is constantly hammering them. I hope it's never too late for the public to find out in time, to be able to remove from office those who are constantly attacking them in every which way.

One of the worst aspects of this bill, which I have spoken to before and want to speak about again, has to do with the tremendous haste with which this government has acted on this particular bill. We have been very worried about the haste. I particularly am worried about the efficacy of their assessors and the efficacy in general of the work that is being done in this particular area. I have raised this concern as a question to M. Leach, without getting, in my view, any appropriate assurances that we have nothing to worry about.

I tell you, municipal revenues depend on a tax assessment system that is fair, efficient and stable. Any change to the current system should be approached with caution as mistakes could disrupt municipal income and the delivery of the services to Ontario communities. It's a serious problem. The proposed changes are being rushed through without due consideration of their impacts on municipal taxpayers and of the integrity and quality of the property assessment system.

I believe that strongly, and I am not the only one. Taken together, the rapid and simultaneous implementation of Bill 106, the downloading of all the new services, the Tenant Protection Act and the amalgamation which has been inflicted upon us -- taken together, all these things, including the possible privatization of assessments, in my view will result in mistakes that could easily take a decade to correct. That is why I have raised with the minister on a number of occasions that we should not be rushing through this assessment system, where they want to assess approximately four million properties by April 1998. I predict chaos in the system.

There aren't enough property assessment people in the country. I desperately wanted to recall the number of appraisers we've got in the whole of the country, but I tell you, there aren't too many. I recall a figure of about 1,500 maximum -- it's not 3,000 -- in the whole country. I'm not talking about just here in the province but in the whole country. That should alert the member for St Andrew-St Patrick and others who are interested to know that we've got a serious problem on our hands. It means that as we try to contract out the work, there aren't enough people with the expertise to do the job.

The minister, Mr Eves, and all these people on the other side are saying: "Don't worry. We've got them. We know the system. We know how it works. You don't have to worry." But people who have been involved in this field know there is a lot to be worried about, a great deal to be worried about. Someone who is an expert on British Columbia's actual value property tax system has some advice for the Ontario government poised to introduce it here. They say, "Go slow and do it right, or maybe don't do it at all." These are people who have done actual value assessment, which is market value assessment. They've done it for years; they know what they're talking about. They said: "Go slow or don't do it at all. If you cannot do it right" -- and I believe you're not doing it right -- "don't do it."

You have given one day of training to individuals to do this. Isn't that a laughable thing? Does it speak to issues of competency in general that such a government can say, "In one day you're trained; now, boys, go out and do it"? The incompetence here is so pervasive that I don't know where to begin to deal with these matters -- one day of training.

This is what the ad said as they were looking for these poor suckers out there to do this job: "We require a highly organized, self-motivated individual to complete residential inspections in the Halton-Peel region. The successful candidate must have excellent communication skills, a neat appearance and a reliable car. General knowledge of residential home construction required.... Contract position.... Send résumé immediately to the Hamilton Spectator." That's basically the ad. It says that all you need is to be able to speak well, have a nice car, reliable so you can drive wherever you need to go, have some residential home construction, and that's it. That's the training, and you're sending these people to do assessments upon which these municipalities rely a great deal to get their money. You're sending a butcher to do heart surgery on some individual. That's what we're doing.

I'm worried, the province should be worried, about the impact of all these things. I'm worried about rural communities, which have lost $175 million as a result of this government eliminating the farm tax rebate. "That's okay for the farmer because the farmer is not affected and we want it that way." We agree. But those municipalities are going to lose $175 million, and this government hasn't said how it is going to replace that money. Remember the 40% of municipal tax cuts. Remember the dumping of new services on municipalities. Now they have inflicted on them a $175-million shortage in rural communities.

The government says, "Don't worry," but municipal politicians from those rural communities are very worried about this. They told us as much.


Mr Marchese: They are. They told us as much.

The arts community -- Speaker, you would be interested in this too -- is very worried. As you move to a market value system, these poor arts organizations which this government has whacked to death are worried that some of these buildings are going to go up in property tax by as much as, in some cases, possibly 50%. They're already starved for cash because this government just a couple of days ago announced further cuts, so all these cultural organizations, these theatre organizations that make Toronto livable and beautiful, are about to be whacked by this "fair" bill. There are no provisions in this bill for them, none whatsoever.


All I want to say as I speak to those who are watching this program is that we need to get into the detail because that's where you find the substance of the abuse. As you unfold, as you exfoliate this malodorous bill, you will find that many of us are going to be affected by it, that many of us are going to face a tax increase that in some cases we won't be able to cope with. The seniors will not be happy to say, "We'll defer our taxes" as opposed to staying at the same level, because they have reduced levels of ability to pay.

The cultural sector that will be affected will not know how to deal with some of these violations in this new fair tax bill. As you see, as you hear, as you sometimes read these bills, all I can say to you is that I urge you to fight back against this government. I urge you to continue to write your letters, private and confidential, to the ministers and to other members so they see with their own eyes that you are going to be affected, and that in being affected you're going to send a message to this government. I urge you to send a message to this government not just about this bill but about so many other bills that are hurting all of us.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a few minutes and I wish I had a few hours to debate this particular bill. This tax reform is something we have been waiting for for a long time. Unfortunately, it is not coming out the way we would have liked to see it, especially in Metropolitan Toronto. My colleague from Renfrew North gave a wonderful speech on how this is going to affect rural areas across Ontario, especially when he mentioned the farm taxes and stuff like that. In Metropolitan Toronto I think we are going to receive the same whack as the rural areas, farm country, are going to get with the approval of this particular bill.

In July last year the government accepted in principle, if you will, the recommendations of the Who Does What commission, the Crombie report. We were wondering what happened along the way, because the Crombie report did not recommend what we are about to have approved by this insensitive Conservative government. This is not what we expected would be presented by the governing body.

People in Metropolitan Toronto, taxpayers, homeowners, have been waiting for years, 40 or 50 years, to have some equity and fairness brought to the tax system we have at present. The people in my area, including perhaps 90% of the city of North York and Scarborough and Etobicoke and York and East York, with the exception of some areas in what is now the city of Toronto, were looking at some very hefty reductions, much-deserved relief from their property taxes. But I'm afraid that when they get their tax bills once this is approved, they're going to be screaming.

You know what? It's most unfortunate, because we have been telling this government: "Don't surprise the poor taxpayers any more. Give us the information, give us the facts, give us the data, give us the statistics so that people know in advance what to expect." But there is a big surprise and the government knows that. That is why they don't want to provide that information to the public.

They will not make tax reform a fairer system than what we have now. Mr Crombie said, "If this is what you're going to do, then don't do it, period." Under market value assessment -- and it's the same darn thing under any other name we may call it -- 80% of the homeowners in my area would have received a nice reduction, but not in the present proposal here. They won't.

People who appeared during the various hearings said, "You cannot bring a fairer system within Metro Toronto unless you deal with the GTA: the 905 versus the 416. We don't see that." Metro Toronto is subsidizing the other regions. Why should we continue to do that? I think it's unfair. It has been unfair for many years, and this, I'm afraid, is going to continue. How can the minister, the Premier here, say they are going to bring some relief to those people who have been overpaying for the last 50 years when what they're doing is bringing some good relief to the big banks and the big skyscrapers and downloading that amount on the poor homeowner and the small business person, the small business community, when that homeowner and that business community should be the ones who should be receiving the bulk of the reduction from the tax reform?

Mr Leach said, "Oh, no, this is going to be a wash. We're going to even it out." Why did Mr Crombie say, "Don't do it"? Because it is not, as Mr Leach keeps on saying, going to be a wash. We know that and people know that. There is a huge difference. And who is going to receive the short end of the stick? It's the homeowners, the seniors, the ones who can afford the least; those who have no recourse, those who have no power with this particular government, those who are not being listened to by this particular government. That is why we and even Mr Crombie have been saying to the government: "Don't do this downloading on to the local municipalities. Don't remove the education portion if you're going to download all the other services on to the local municipalities." All along we've known, and Mr Harris did say, that there's only one taxpayer. Let's not pass the buck. This is exactly what they are doing.

Is this the tax reform we were hoping to see from this government? I think not. There are those who can still manage and stuff like that, but what about those people who can't afford it? The seniors, for example? "Ah, we have a solution," the Premier says. "Don't worry, we are going to tell the local municipality," which now will have to look after the assessment and what they're going to do with taxes and so forth, "to allow seniors to put a reverse mortgage, to put a lien on their house." Isn't that nice? Isn't it nice that we can be so sympathetic to those poor people who have been working through the years to pay for a little house, maybe a semidetached, maybe a very small bungalow? Now they are being told: "That's too bad. If you can't afford it, either sell it or you can put a reverse mortgage on it, and so you go." Is this the fairness the government is giving to us through this particular system?

We've been speaking here in the last few days of human feeling, human consequences. What the government does not understand -- and if they understand, they don't say it, they don't want to put it in practice -- is that there are people out there who are really hurting and really suffering. Those people need help. Who should they be getting the help from? From their government. When the government doesn't listen and doesn't help, what is going to happen to those people? Who is going to help? They are going to be left to fend for themselves. That is the way I see it: Instead of getting better, things are going to get worse.


The very sad thing is that the government keeps aiding those people who need the least. The big corporations, the big banks don't need the assistance that poor people, the unemployed, injured workers, seniors, the sick, the single wage earner needs, and that's where the government should concentrate. We've been talking so much about creating jobs and stuff like that and we've been saying that the bulk of the jobs will be created by the small business community. You're going to kill the small business industries in the community with taxes like this. They won't be able to afford it.

Just one single homeowner is going to be receiving a $500 or $600 increase in one year only, in the first year, on a house assessed at $5,000. A semidetached in my area is assessed at over $7,000. I'm asking the government side, the minister and the Premier, how is a poor senior who can barely manage to pay the bills going to be able to afford to pay a lump sum of an extra $700 or $800 a year? It's totally unfair. I think it's totally unnecessary for the government to proceed with this legislation when they have heard from everyone that it's regressive, not progressive, is not fair, does not improve the system and is going to clobber everyone.

I want to leave a few minutes for one of my colleagues, who I'm sure is going to have a few more things to say about the proposal. I hope by the time we come back to the House for the government to give this final approval, they will really rethink it, especially you, Mr Minister, from Metro, and bring some changes that will really make the difference for the people in Ontario and especially in Metropolitan Toronto.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): It's with a certain amount of sadness that I stand today to speak on Bill 106, because I really don't think the government members quite get it when it comes to this legislation. They don't get it for a couple of reasons: first of all, from the perspective of basic fairness, what it means to the average citizen and communities across Ontario, specifically on the business occupancy tax and also what they're doing with the farm tax rebate; but also from the perspective of what this means to the Conservative government's political capital.

Madam Speaker, you ran in the 1995 election, which I and all other members of this assembly were part of, and you would remember specifically, as you're a Metro member, reading the pamphlets of the members who are now in this chamber, who got elected. What those election pamphlets said was that they would never, never -- a solemn oath -- introduce market value assessment in Ontario for the city of Toronto. That's what they said. It was on Al Leach's campaign literature, it was on Isabel Bassett's, Bill Saunderson's, it was on a whole bunch of other members who ran in the election of 1995. They said they would never, never, never introduce market value assessment for the city of Toronto.

Why did they say that? That's the thing you've got to really keep in mind. Why did the Conservatives in the election of 1995 say they would not introduce MVA? For two basic reasons: I think they recognized then that if you introduced MVA in the city of Toronto, sure, there were going to be some winners, especially those people on the outside of what is basically the downtown core, but also there would be a lot of losers. There would be a lot of residential ratepayers and also a number of small businesses that would be losers. I think that's one of the reasons they took the position they did leading to the 1995 election. I think it was also for political reasons, because they understood that no political party would really do well in the Toronto area taking a position of being in favour of MVA.

I was a member of the government of which you also were, Madam Speaker, and you would remember the debates we had within our caucus and you would remember specifically the ones in cabinet, where that whole issue of market value assessment came before our government, I believe in 1992-93. I remember those debates at the time as a member of that caucus, as Bob Rae and the Minister of Municipal Affairs -- I think it was Ed Philip at the time -- and others said: "No, we can't do this. If we do it, there are clearly going to be more losers than winners." That's really what this all comes down to.

The now government, which used to be the third party at the time, which was in opposition to MVA and actually applauded us when we cancelled moving forward with MVA, took the position opposed to it. Now all of a sudden they've flip-flopped. That's an interesting thing. I can't understand why they've done this, because they were so clear in opposition. They were so clear in 1992-93 in the position they took on that whole issue. All of a sudden now they take the position that this is fair, this is reasonable, this is equitable to the people of Toronto.

I've got to say, in this one there are winners and there are losers. There are some winners, there's no question about that. There are some property taxpayers who will see a reduction in municipal taxes. But I remember those conversations of 1992 and 1993 within our government when we looked at the numbers, and we were privy to the same information that Isabel Bassett, Al Leach, Bill Saunderson and a whole bunch of other people are privy to, that there were more losers than there were winners. I remember we talked about if we put that system in place, the province would have to put forward extra dollars to cushion the change, to cushion the impact on the losers so that over a period of five or 10 years the adjustment would be made, and at the end of the 10 years they'd still be losers.

So why, all of a sudden, the Tories have decided to go here and take this direction is really beyond me, because I thought they were the party of common sense. They ran in 1995 and they said, "We are the party of common sense and we will do things from a common sense approach." Where is the common sense of doing what they're doing with Bill 106? There is none. That's the first part of this. They ran in 1995 saying they were opposed to doing it, and what do they do when they become government? They do it. I call that a major flip-flop.

I also remember the Tories said in the election in 1995, "If we break any of our solemn promises, we will resign." I'm waiting. Nobody is running out the chamber. Where are you? How come you're not resigning? This is a broken promise. I guess they're going to stick around. They're going to break more promises, I think. That's what's happening.

The other thing that's interesting in this bill is that they're attacking another constituency. They first of all attacked the constituency of a number of downtown ridings and they're now going to be attacking the constituencies in rural and northern Ontario. I had thought one thing with the Tory party: I always thought they understood that to form government in Ontario, you have to do well in rural Ontario. If you don't, you really have a hard time trying to form government.

The Tories have been successful over the years. They've been extremely successful over the years. They've been extremely successful in hanging on to the base vote that they have in rural Ontario. I think one of the reasons they do that is, they've always tried to a certain extent to cater -- I don't want to use the word "cater" because I don't think that would be fair -- but they've always tried to give rural Ontario a fair shake. But on this one, rural Ontario is getting a pretty bad shake, I would say. If any shake at all, it is a bad one, because they're doing two things, one through this bill and another part that's related, which I'll explain. That is, they decided they're going to get rid of the farm tax rebate program.

Again, I remember prior to 1995, from 1990 to 1995, the leader of the third party, then Mike Harris -- boy oh boy, there was nothing more sacred than the farm tax rebate program. The NDP better not muck about with that one because that was the heart and soul of rural Ontario. I remember the debates and the speeches by the now Minister of Agriculture, Noble Villeneuve, who stood in this House and said, "Don't you muck around with the farm tax rebate program."

What did they do on getting elected? They cancelled the farm tax rebate program in Ontario. Again, I don't understand why. First of all, they said they weren't going to do it. That's number one. So they broke another promise. That's a flip-flop, as it's called. The second thing is, there's no common sense to any of this. Why would a party whose political basis is within central Ontario, rural Ontario, and that has such a large following in that part of the province all of a sudden decide to do something that's against that constituency?

They say, "Don't worry, we're going to fix that with Bill 106. We're going to get rid of the farm tax rebate program and through Bill 106 we're going to allow municipalities -- or tell municipalities, not allow them -- that on your residence, if you own a farm, where you're living on that farm will be taxed at 25% of whatever the basis is for the rest of the municipality." That will offset, in the view of the government, the loss of the farm tax rebate program when it comes to that individual farmer. The government gets up with great fanfare and announces that they're going to do that.

What they fail to say is the repercussions, first of all, of doing away with the farm tax rebate program and, second of all, of moving to the new system of taxation for residences on farms. The long and the short of it is, who ends up paying for that reduction in municipal taxes that is being given in Bill 106? It is the ratepayers of the municipalities of Ontario, point number one.


If you offset, if you reduce the taxes -- because the way it worked is that the province recognized, through the farm tax rebate program, that farmers had a pretty tough go trying to make a living on the farm. Some years ago they put in place the farm tax rebate program so that the municipality charged what the fair assessment should be on the value of a house that the farmer owned and then the farmer was compensated by the province through the farm tax rebate program. So the government gets rid of the farm tax rebate program and says: "Never mind. Instead, we're going to tell the municipality only to charge 25% of the value of the tax that should have been charged in the first place."

The government gets up and they think that's a good thing. The problem is, the cost of that is going to be offset by every other municipal ratepayer in the province, including the farmers. What that means is we are all going to get a tax increase on the basis of what Bill 106 does, especially in communities where you have a high concentration of rural assessment. In a community like mine, a community like Black River-Matheson, the effect of this is fairly serious. This means a very large portion of their tax base will disappear and then the municipality of Black River-Matheson, as an example, is going to have to go out and raise taxes on other people such as businesses, such as companies or mines that might be in the area and/or the residents within the municipality.

The third broken promise, and this is where I'm going with this whole section, is that they are the government that said, "There is only one taxpayer, and whatever we do, we will make sure that we don't pass on our responsibilities as a provincial government to the municipal taxpayers or their governments." What are they doing in this case? They're breaking that promise yet again: third promise broken in one bill. If you were playing baseball, you would have struck out a long time ago. They wouldn't let you come back to the plate. Unfortunately for Ontario, this is not baseball, this is the Legislature and you get a lot more ups at bat than I would be willing to give you.

In this particular case you're breaking that particular promise that you wouldn't offload your responsibilities on to the municipalities. Clearly what you've done, you've cancelled the farm tax rebate program which the province will no longer pay for and you've transferred the responsibility for paying for lower municipal assessments on farms to the municipalities. That is downloading pure and simple. Don't sugarcoat it, don't gloss it, don't do anything else. That is downloading pure and simple.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): That's not downloading.

Mr Bisson: The member for Perth says that's not downloading. Excuse me, I've been around here for a while and you've been in municipal politics for a while. That's downloading.

I can guarantee you that if the member for Perth was still in municipal politics in his municipality and the NDP government was to do what the Tory government is doing in Bill 106, the member for Perth would be banging down the doors to the Legislature, and so would the citizens within his community. I find it quite interesting that the member for Perth all of a sudden forgets that on getting elected to the Legislature, you're supposed to be here to speak on behalf of your constituents, not the boss in the office called Mike Harris or his minions within the Premier's office, the highly paid, unelected political staff who decide everything. It seems to me we should be advocating for our communities.

But the point is, they've broken another promise. They said they wouldn't download. They recognize that there's only one taxpayer. What are they doing? They're downloading their responsibilities on to the municipalities and it means the municipal taxpayer, in another example through Bill 106, is going to get it in the ear.

I say on this particular one the government doesn't have a lot to be proud of. On this, they've clearly broken at least three promises. Like I said, normally, three strikes and you're out, but in this ball game they get a lot more balls thrown at them.

The other thing that's quite interesting is the comment that Premier Mike Harris made himself, and I believe it was today in a question in the House. We in the New Democratic Party had been arguing that the other part of the problem in this legislation is that you're eliminating the business occupancy tax. To put that succinctly, the business occupancy tax is a tax that's charged by the municipality to businesses that are within various buildings throughout the municipality.

That tax was based on, if you were a bank and you got lots of money, you paid a higher rate of tax than, let's say, mom and dad who own the corner store or the bait and tackle shop or whatever it was. It was a rate by which the taxes were charged. The more prosperous the business, the higher the class of the business, the more they paid in the business occupancy tax and the lower down you went, the less you paid.

The government has done two things. It's gotten rid of the business occupancy tax. What does that mean? That every municipality in the province will lose the revenue of the business occupancy tax. How are we going to pay for that? Yet again, the residents of the municipalities across this great province are going to see their municipal assessments go up in order to offset the gift they're giving to especially the larger corporations and banks within the province. That's another really interesting thing they're doing.

To get to the point, all of a sudden the Premier today started to realize: "Oops, hang on a second here. We just caught on to what this means. If we get rid of the business occupancy tax, there's going to be an offset on to other businesses, especially smaller businesses, within communities, and that may not necessarily be a good thing." So what does he do? He says, "We'll introduce another bill some time in the future to fix the problem with Bill 106."

My Lord, with every piece of legislation they bring into this House, they're mucking it up. They can't get it right. Then they say the way to fix it is not to amend the bill, no: "Don't listen to the people on the committee, don't listen to the NDP, don't listen to the Liberals, don't listen to the Ontario Association of Municipalities. We only listen to the minions, the highly paid, unelected staff in the Premier's office." Instead, they're going to ram this bill through at the end of my speech, and they're going to end up having to come back with another bill to fix the mess.

If they're incompetent, they should step aside and let somebody else take over.

Mr Gerretsen: I see I've got less than six minutes left to end this debate. I'm sure that by now the people who are watching out there are wondering: "Who is right about this whole market value, current value difference of opinion? Is it the same thing or is it not the same thing? Were the members who are now the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance incorrect when they on their campaign literature said that they would never impose MVA on the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto?"

I just happen to have the definitions here, and let's just read them, of market value as contained in the current Assessment Act. I'm sure the members of the government will listen to this. It's section 19(2) and it states as follows: "the market value of land assessed is the amount that the land might be expected to realize if sold in the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer." It's land that is sold in an open market between a willing buyer and a willing seller. That is in the existing law. That is what market value assessment is.

Now let's take a look at current value assessment as contained in this proposed act that we're talking about now. Current value is the amount of money that is realized if land is sold at arm's length between a willing seller to a willing buyer.

The only difference is that in the current value definition it talks about arm's length between a willing seller and a willing buyer, and in the market value assessment it talks about being in an open market between a willing buyer and a willing seller. I think anyone will tell you that is exactly the same thing. Let's get that clear.

Those individuals who ran on a platform that said the PC Party would never introduce market value assessment are dead wrong. I don't want to use any unparliamentary language here, Madam Speaker, because I know you'll be watching for that, but they were dead wrong, and you would think that they would at least have the decency to do the honourable thing at this point and say to their own ratepayers, their own residents: "We made a mistake. We said we weren't going to implement it and we did."

There's nothing wrong, by the way, in a politician every now and then admitting they have made a mistake. As a matter of fact, there are some members of the public who would even appreciate that, because they would say, "There is an honest politician." There's still a possibility for the parliamentary assistant, who is in the House, to get on her feet now, and I will yield some time to her if she so desires, to say: "I made a mistake. Whatever I said in my campaign literature is wrong." That's the first point I want to make.


The second point is quite simply this: I went through a market value reassessment program or a current value reassessment program in my own municipality about 15 years ago. I can tell you one thing and one thing only that everyone who went through the process will totally agree upon: that whatever you are told the impact will be on that municipality, the actual impact, once it's implemented, will be much, much worse, much more pronounced; there will be much greater disparity between the properties whose values will go up and whose values will go down, and the actual percentage differences in tax increases and decreases will be much, much greater than the ministry will tell you about.

I know the ministry has its studies. They do these studies beforehand. They know what the impact in a particular municipality will be. They know that. We have asked repeatedly over the last six to eight weeks for them to release the studies so that the people in the local municipalities across this province can make up their own minds as to whether they think it's a good thing for their own municipality or for their own particular circumstance. We have been repeatedly rebuffed in our efforts to get those studies.

They've got the studies. I say to the parliamentary assistant, why don't you release them? Surely the public has the right to know. Whether it's in your riding or in the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing's riding or any riding in Ontario, they have the right to know what the impact is going to be of implementing this particular bill. I'll predict right here and now that the actual impact in each and every municipality will be much, much larger than the government lets on right now.

This isn't something new. This is something that has gone on for the last 20 or 30 years in every municipality that has implemented voluntarily -- up until now -- a market value reassessment system. I say to the ministry, if you have nothing to hide, release the studies so people can make up their own mind.

Finally, as we close this debate, let me just say once again that this is simply another part of the government's downloading efforts. We have studies now that concur that even with the new downloading arrangements that were announced a week or so ago, there is still a $663-million difference that municipalities and the local taxpayers will have to pick up. That means that on the average throughout Ontario you will still see a property tax increase of somewhere from 5% to 10%.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Mr Eves has moved third reading of Bill 106. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

Pursuant to a prior agreement of this House, a recorded division is required and will be deferred until immediately following question period on Monday, May 26, 1997.

Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Pursuant to standing order 34, the member for Sudbury has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Northern Development and Mines concerning vehicle registration. The member for Sudbury has five minutes.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I appreciate the opportunity to clarify the record with regard to this new Mike Harris vehicle registration tax because during the campaign of 1995 Mike Harris put out a document called A Voice for the North in which he said that he would ensure that there would be "private-public partnerships to build and maintain roads and highways in northern Ontario."

The people at the time didn't realize, but the private partnership they were going to enter into was going to be a new tax imposed on northerners, a new tax which would generate money to do the road construction and the road repairs that Mike Harris thought were necessary in northern Ontario.

But Mike Harris forgot one thing. He forgot that previous governments, starting with the Peterson government in 1985, understood that there was a difference between northern and southern Ontario when it came to running and maintaining a vehicle, that gas prices were higher in northern Ontario. There's no question, they were higher in 1985 and they're higher now in 1997.

But the Peterson government recognized that, and from 1985 until their mandate was over they acted in a variety of ways. They created a ministry to ensure that the northern perspective would always be a part of this Legislative Assembly; they created the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. They introduced the Northern Ontario heritage fund. The government that followed, the New Democratic government, understood that too and removed the vehicle registration fee from northerners. They ensured that northerners would understand that there is some fairness attached to government, regardless of the stripe, regardless of a government being a Liberal government, a New Democratic government.

But how does this government recognize the difference between northern and southern Ontario gas prices? It's quite simple. Mike Harris reviews the situation and he finds: "Listen, I don't have any seats. I'm from the north, but really, I'm living in Toronto now. My votes are really in Toronto. Forget the north. Let's tax the north."

So in his second budget he imposes a tax on northerners. The only tax to be imposed on any residents in Ontario was a tax on northern Ontario residents. Is it a Mickey Mouse tax? Is it a small tax? The government members might say, "Well, it's only $37." I tell you, it's a lot more than that. It's a denial that there is a difference between northern and southern Ontario when it comes to operating a vehicle. It's a denial that living in the north and operating out of the north is more expensive than in the south. It's a denial that this government understands there is a fundamental difference between being a resident of northern Ontario and of southern Ontario.

Is it a minuscule amount? I think not, because if you look at the numbers -- the minister said I wasn't using accurate numbers. I should tell you, I'm using the government's numbers. I don't know if they're accurate or not, but they're the government's numbers. It's the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report and it clearly identifies the number of motor vehicle registrations there are throughout the different sections of Ontario.

Let's look at the impact of the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax. If we look at the area of Algoma -- I know the parliamentary assistant to the minister would be interested in that because he grew up in Sault Ste Marie -- you find out that the impact for one year is $3.3 million. If you look at Nipissing, where the Premier is from, you find it has an impact annually of $2.1 million. In total, over one year it's over $23 million; over five years it's over $115 million. I suggest that is a major impact.

In the 19 seconds I have left, I would just like to refer to an editorial which appeared in Northern Life. I guess it summed it up the best. It says "Northerners Frozen Out in Budget 1997." How true it is with the new Mike Harris tax.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): The parliamentary assistant, the member for Brampton North.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I am very pleased to address this issue, particularly since I was born and brought up in northern Ontario. I have heard the argument since I was a child -- for some 40-odd years now, and I am 50 -- that northern Ontario was always hard done by, that any money that was generated as a result of fees, gasoline taxes, all went to southern Ontario to really help pay for the 400 series highways. That was the argument that was always traditionally given.

The reality is that the first minister, I might remind the member for Sudbury, who addressed the problem in northern Ontario was the late John Rhodes, the Conservative Minister of Transportation, from Sault Ste Marie, who acknowledged the fact that there was a difference and the uniqueness of northern Ontario.


This budget and this fee is really about fairness. I want to quote. Since the member quoted from Northern Life, I'd like to quote a couple of others. In the North Bay Nugget:

"North Bay Councillor Jay Aspin said `most' of his colleagues in the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) `agree wholeheartedly' with the province's method of freeing up $200 million for highway upgrading."

I go to the Geraldton Times, May 14, yesterday:

"Frank Miclash, Liberal MPP for the Kenora riding, says residents of northern Ontario shouldn't have to pay the annual licence fee...just because we have to pay more for gas...." I'm quoting from the editorial here. These are not my words.

"He and his northern colleagues have blown the numbers way out of proportion, suggesting that all 550,000 vehicles registered in northern Ontario will be paying the $37.

"Trouble is, he and his Liberal buddies forgot to subtract the many thousands of commercial vehicles (trucks, pickups, vans and cars, including rentals) before multiplying by 37. Commercial vehicles have paid all along, and a lot more than 37 bucks a year.

"It boils me when politicians misuse statistics this way to attract attention. It doesn't bother me that we'll pay $37 a year for licence plates, particularly if this money goes towards fixing up and maintaining the northern highways. We've all paid them before...and the roads need fixing."

I want to remind the member that improving northern highways is crucial to the northern economy. We understand that and we appreciate that. Industry, tourism, the mining industry, the forestry industry, these are critical elements to northern highways and to the northern economy.

It's true the NDP removed the fee in 1991, but let's look at the exact actual costs that took place. The 1989-90 budget for highways in northern Ontario under MNDM was $108 million; in 1990-91 it was increased to $136 million; in 1991-92, after the fee was dropped to zero, the expenses dropped to $115 million; then they dropped in 1995-96 to $95 million.

This year the commitment in the budget was for $200 million over three years, not $115 million over five. I just want to make that point, sir. But in addition to that, the budget was increased in 1996-97 to $136 million and in 1997-98 it'll go to $141.5 million.

The $15 million coming in from the $37 fee that comes from northern Ontario is the small portion. The reality is that the rest of that money is in fact coming from the gas taxes and other provincial revenues from all over the province, and the commitment is there to northern Ontario, to the highways. The highways have been allowed to become dilapidated. They've been allowed to crumble over the past few years.

We realize the critical importance of the highway infrastructure in northern Ontario, as I said earlier, for the mining industry, the forestry industry and the tourism industry -- critical components of northern Ontario. That is the reason why this province and this government are committed to putting the money into that infrastructure for the development of those northern highways. That is our position and why we feel it is a fair and reasonable commitment on the part of the drivers and on the part of the government.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Attorney General concerning French-language services with respect to the Provincial Offences Act.

M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : On peut se rassurer que vous, comme procureure générale, n'avez jamais fait ce qui se passe aujourd'hui avec le projet de loi 108.

On va passer à travers très lentement pour que le procureur puisse comprendre. Ce que vous êtes en train de faire, Monsieur le procureur général, c'est simplement ceci : avec le projet de loi 108, vous transférez aux municipalités l'habilité de faire la collecte des contraventions qui sont habituellement collectées partout en l'Ontario.

En d'autres mots, si la police de Timmins, de Toronto ou de North Bay arrête une auto aujourd'hui et lui donne une contravention de vitesse, la police municipale écrit le billet et l'argent va directement à la province. La collecte et tous les travaux pour administrer cette contravention sont faits par la province. Vous êtes en train de transférer certaines responsabilités aux municipalités qui choisissent d'offrir ces services-là elles-mêmes et elles garderaient une partie de cet argent. Sur ce bord-là on ne s'obstine pas ; ça fait un peu de bon sens.

Où on a un problème c'est que présentement tous ces services-là sont protégés sous deux législations. Premièrement tous les services hors de la cour, en d'autres mots le billet que je reçois, les services que j'ai en cour etc, sont soit couverts sous la Loi 8, la Loi sur les services en français, soit sous l'autre loi qui gouverne les cours elles-mêmes.

Ce que vous êtes en train de faire, en faisant le transfert des services aux municipalités, c'est que les municipalités ne sont pas couvertes par la Loi 8. En d'autres mots, tous les services offerts hors de la cour ne seront pas couverts par la Loi 8. On vous demande, Monsieur le procureur général, d'accepter avec nous l'amendement que j'ai mis de l'avant en Chambre cette semaine pour nous rassurer que lorsque vous transférerez ces services, tous les droits que nous, les francophones de l'Ontario, avons acquis sont respectés, y compris tous les services hors de la cour. Alors on vous demande d'appuyer l'amendement qu'on a mis de l'avant pour qu'on puisse se rassurer que nos droits comme francophones seront respectés.

L'autre affaire que je veux signaler, c'est que le procureur général va nous dire : «Ne vous inquiétez pas. On va mettre en place des ententes, et avec les ententes qu'on signe avec les municipalités, tout va être réglé. Il n'y a pas de problème.» Moi, je serai rassuré, avec mon gouvernement, qu'on signe ces ententes-là avec les municipalités pour que les services en français soient donnés.

Possiblement au commencement vous allez essayer de signer ces ententes-là et vous allez essayer de faire la bonne affaire. Le problème que j'ai en tant que francophone, c'est que je n'ai pas le droit d'appel à la cour. Si la municipalité décide de ne pas offrir les services en français, j'ai besoin de me fier au procureur général. Moi je dis que, comme francophone, je ne veux pas que mes droits d'utiliser ma langue en Ontario soient seulement sous votre protection en tant que ministre.

Je veux savoir que si les villes de Timmins, Toronto, Ottawa, n'importe lesquelles, décident pour n'importe quelle raison dans les années à venir qu'elles vont arrêter d'offrir ces services-là en français, moi je pourrai faire appel à la cour. Quand vous signez une entente, Monsieur le Ministre, ce n'est pas la même affaire que moi ayant le droit sous la loi. C'est ça, la grosse différence, et c'est une des grosses préoccupations non seulement à moi, Gilles Bisson, député néo-démocrate de Cochrane-Sud, mais aussi de beaucoup de Canadiens français ici en Ontario. Vous devez comprendre la différence.

On vous demande d'appuyer notre amendement pour garantir que les services que les municipalités vont offrir hors de la cour sont garantis sous la Loi 8. On n'est pas satisfaits que les ententes que vous allez signer vont nous donner, à long terme, la protection dont on a besoin.

L'autre point à signaler, c'est la question des protections sous la Loi 8. Présentement votre collègue M. Villeneuve a, comme vous dans votre ministère, du personnel pour s'assurer que si les services ne sont pas bien donnés en français dans tous les ministères, où ils sont désignés, ou s'ils ne sont pas donnés du tout, on a le personnel qui est capable de voir à ce que ces services-là sont donnés.

Sous la loi que vous proposez vous dites, «On peut, si on veut, nommer une commission pour s'assurer non seulement que les services sont offerts en français, mais que les autres acquis que vous avez négociés dans vos ententes seront respectés.» Mais ça ne dit pas que ce sera obligatoire.

Ma crainte est encore, comme francophone, que c'est peut-être aujourd'hui -- on va essayer de faire un bon show, comme on dit dans l'affaire, pour faire sûr que nos droits sont garantis. Mais avec le temps moi, francophone, je serai encore à la merci du procureur général qui n'aura possiblement pas à coeur les questions de tous -- possiblement pas vous -- les francophones de la province.

Alors, on vous demande d'appuyer notre amendement et faire savoir aux francophones de l'Ontario que nos droits seront respectés dans la loi.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I'd just like to say initially that there's nothing in this legislation that would lessen the provision of French-language services. The Courts of Justice Act protects trials in French and will continue to apply in all areas of the province. Trials will still be offered and available in the French language.

An MOU is the best way to work out the roles and responsibilities for services. Every municipality is different. We will make our best efforts to work with municipalities to ensure that the transfer agreements reflect their communities' needs. Currently many municipalities provide services in the French language where there is a local demand.

This government believes that municipal governments are capable of responding to the needs of the citizens in their communities. We are confident that they will ensure the orderly transfer of the administration and prosecution of provincial offences.



The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Renfrew North has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Health concerning overstated savings out of the closing of hospitals. The member will have up to five minutes, and the parliamentary assistant has up to five minutes to respond.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'm delighted to welcome my friend the Minister of Health, sitting phantom-like in his empty chair. I think that's a perfect representation, because he's like a vapour. He's responsible for everything and nothing; he sandbags the minister of corrections down in Brockville, but he has nothing to do with it. He's quietly going up to Meaford and out to Burk's Falls and making sweetheart side deals with his ministerial friends. Well, that's not the process that this is all about.

I'm here tonight, I say to my phantom friend the Minister of Health, because in a few weeks' time you're going to be closing the Pembroke Civic Hospital, which has served the North Renfrew community for almost 100 years. Your padlock is going on that hospital in a few weeks' time, starting with the shutdown of the emergency department.

I raise the question today, as my colleague from York South did yesterday, about the overstated savings in this whole process of restructuring hospitals; that is, closing hospitals, like the Pembroke Civic Hospital, like the Riverside in Ottawa, like hospitals in Thunder Bay, the Sudbury General, to name but four of about 15 that have already been sent to the guillotine.

Yesterday we heard from the Ottawa folks that the savings calculated from the shutdown of the Riverside, the Montfort and the Grace in Ottawa, the so-called savings that the Health Services Restructuring Commission have estimated to be annualized at $125 million -- $126 million, actually -- are overstated, according to the best calculations of outstanding independent authorities like Deloitte and Touche, by a factor of about 70%. In fact the chairperson of the Ottawa General Hospital, who is, as I said earlier today, no enemy of this government -- I mean, Pierre Richard is a very good fellow who is warmly inclined to the current provincial government -- says, and I repeat what I said earlier, that the savings are wildly exaggerated in Ottawa and that the commission's numbers, he says, are wrong, and this miscalculation will create a very serious situation for patient care.

My friend Kennedy yesterday talked about the wildly exaggerated savings at the Women's College Hospital here in Toronto. I sometimes think that Women's College or the Riverside or the Pembroke Civic ought to try to amalgamate with the Burk's Falls Ernie Eves testimonial hospital up in east Parry Sound. That's probably their best bet.

In Pembroke, the commission itself, between December of last year and February of this year, admitted that it overstated the savings with the closure of the Pembroke Civic Hospital by over 30%. The preliminary report in Pembroke estimated that they would save, with the closure of the Pembroke Civic Hospital, $14.6 million. Two or three months later, when they did the final calculations, the commission said: "No, we're wrong. It wasn't really $14.6 million; it's actually $9.7 million." They are admitting themselves that they got it wrong in Pembroke by -- what does that amount to? -- about $5 million, or roughly 33%.

The interesting thing about Pembroke is that not only were they wrong about their savings, but it's very interesting -- and this is a point that the public has not fully understood. In Pembroke, the commission having overstated the savings very considerably, now Jim Wilson and Mike Harris are coming into Pembroke and saying: "We're going to save, we think, $9.7 million annually from the hospital budget in Pembroke alone. We are going to reinvest, yes, $1.37 million of that saving annually in Pembroke and area."

Well, the arithmetic that the product of the John Robarts and Bill Davis school system can figure out is simply this: Your savings -- you're going to take out $9.7 million annually and put back $1.3 million. We're net losers annually of $8.4 million.

Wilson and Harris and company like to have people in Renfrew county and elsewhere believe, "Oh, not to worry; we'll reinvest the savings." Let it be clear: The savings in Pembroke with the closure of the Pembroke Civic Hospital, in Ottawa with the closure of the three hospitals there, in Toronto, are clearly overestimated, in some cases wildly so. Even more importantly, using Pembroke as an example, the Harris government is going to take $9.7 million annually out of our hospital budget and put back $1.3 million. We're net losers annually of over $8 million. Tory arithmetic; Tory logic.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): Just in the couple of weeks I've had the opportunity to play the role as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health and in the two years or so I've had the pleasure of working with Minister of Health Jim Wilson in this government, I've come to know him as a man with a commensurate knowledge of the health care industry and of that portfolio and with a very strong dedication to improving health care systems, not just for Niagara, my area of particular interest, but for all Ontarians, whether they're young, whether they're old, whatever stage of life they may be in.

To follow up on the analogy of spirits, Jim Wilson was one who had haunted the previous government when he saw 10,000 beds closed in the last few years without one significant change in terms of administration: All would stay in place, empty beds in empty wards, but still with the heating bills, hydro bills and light bills.

I understand that it is human nature to try to defend that piece of the health care pie you have. But without some leadership on this issue -- the previous governments had left all administration in place. Really, when you think about it, I would guess that one administrator equals about three nurses. Where would you put the money?

Jim Wilson has been given a very challenging task but a task I think he is up to, and I would support him in organizing health care services to make sure the patient comes first, not the administration, not the existing organization, but in terms of organizing better for the patient at the top of the ladder instead of the existing administration.

Ottawa plays an example in that. The member opposite brings up the study by Deloitte and Touche sponsored by three of the hospitals in the Ottawa region that have disputed some of the findings of the Health Services Restructuring Commission in terms of total savings from their recommended changes in the Ottawa area. I would think the province-wide restructuring commission would welcome this report from Deloitte and Touche to make sure the numbers do add up. This group has been invited, I would imagine, to put that paper forward to make sure that the best decisions are being made by the Sinclair commission there in Ottawa.

The Ministry of Health put forward its position on April 8 to the commission during that response period. As the response period continues I know they will consider all the viewpoints submitted, including this paper from Deloitte and Touche, to make sure the best decision is made for those patients in Ottawa to get the best quality of services at the right place at the right time.

Another issue brought up, of importance to me as a member of Niagara and to a lot of other members of this House, deals with the effect on the rural communities. Early on in the process the current PDST, the planning decision support tool -- that was, I understand, a 1992 tool -- gave various guidelines and benchmarks in terms of what your achievements should be, how efficient a hospital should be, how long the stay should be, how long people should be in their beds and how long an operation should take, whether it's a day surgery or an overnight occasion.

When you looked at the areas like Grey-Bruce or Niagara, a very strict application of the tool resulted in hospitals being closed in those communities. Where I come from, in Port Colborne, we had 2,000 or more people, in Fort Erie about 3,000, and I know the Grimsby area, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, had an even larger number, 5,000 or 6,000 people out saying that when you close down the single hospital in a community that was going far too far; that you need to preserve services like access to emergency care.

I brought this forward as the representative of Niagara South, saying what I've heard in my community, and many other members on both sides of the House have done the same. We've seen some action in the ministry, then, to say, "Well, perhaps the PDST does not adequately address the needs of the rural communities." It's an urban centre tool and there will have to be some refinements, some adjustments, to make sure that those in the rural communities, like Fort Erie and Port Colborne, like those in Beamsville and Vineland, up in West Lincoln, will have that guaranteed access to emergency care.

I look forward to working with the minister so that people in Ottawa, Fort Erie, Burk's Falls, Willowdale and Brampton, which we dealt with earlier today -- to ensure that those patients, again whether they're young, old, men or women, whatever their needs, will get the types of services they need at the right place, at the right time, as we bring health care in Ontario into the 21st century.

The Acting Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday, May 26.

The House adjourned at 1831.