36th Parliament, 1st Session

L198 - Tue 3 Jun 1997 / Mar 3 Jun 1997
























































The House met at 1331.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Last night at 12:01 pickets went up at Inco in Sudbury for the first time in 15 years. I want to take this opportunity to urge and indeed to plead with Inco management and union representatives to return to the bargaining table and to bargain in good faith to bring a quick resolution to this unfortunate situation as soon as possible.

I know the people of Sudbury are very concerned for the families of those affected by this strike and wish for an early settlement to the current contract impasse with Inco. I cannot stress enough the importance of all parties working together, quickly, diligently and faithfully working with each other, to bring an end to this. The community of Sudbury, the region of Sudbury, its economy and its people cannot sustain a loss of a $5-million payroll per week. Our economy just isn't that strong.

I plead with both parties: Please return to the bargaining table. Please work with each other. The region of Sudbury needs your involvement and cooperation to return Sudbury and Inco to a normal operation.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): At noon today in Hamilton the Hike to End Hunger and Homelessness was kicked off as walkers commenced their two-week protest walk, protesting the growing levels of poverty among children, among families, among retirees and other seniors in Mike Harris's Ontario; growing numbers of homeless representing a complete cross-section of our communities.

Leaving Hamilton at noon, they proceeded to Ancaster. They're going to proceed on to Brantford, Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Acton, Georgetown, Brampton and Etobicoke.

I especially appreciate what Mandy Hiscocks from Guelph had to say, and that is, "Poverty has a human face and it's not some schemer trying to rip off the system, it's someone next door who struggles to get by because they can't find a decent job, because they don't have affordable day care, because the bank presidents who take home $75,000 a week feels it's not in their best interest to share the resources of this province."

The walk is specifically focussing on the cutbacks of this Harris government along with their policies, these same Harris policies that have led to massive corporate profits -- richer and richer than ever, in the face of ongoing increases in poverty, higher and higher levels of unemployment in Harris's Ontario and lower and lower wages.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House of an outstanding accomplishment by Pat O'Connell, a constituent of mine. As you know, the month of June has been dedicated to the celebration of seniors and their contributions to this province. In recognition of the important role of seniors interacting with younger Ontarians, the first week of Seniors' Month will focus on intergenerational activities.

Pat O'Connell is one of 15 individuals from across the province who have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to intergenerational activities.

Pat is an intergenerational program coordinator for Community Care Belleville, an agency providing community-based services to seniors. Over the past 15 years Pat has helped to build a strong relationship between her agency and the separate and public school boards in the Belleville and Trenton area. Through this relationship, Pat has developed intergenerational programs in both elementary and secondary schools.

This government recognizes and appreciates the sacrifice and contributions made by seniors to build a better province for us all. Again, I want to congratulate Ms O'Connell on her achievement and ask all members to join me in welcoming her to the Legislature.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Yesterday I asked the Minister of Health if he would step in to save the Montfort Hospital in my riding if he believed it would be in the public interest to do so. In response to my question he stated that "the Minister of Health cannot contravene or override a directive from the Health Services Restructuring Commission."

However much the minister may wish to divorce himself from the decisions of the commission, he remains ultimately responsible for those decisions. As the Public Hospitals Act clearly states, "The minister may amend or revoke a direction...where the minister considers it in the public interest."

It may be that someone in his own cabinet let the cat out of the bag on this issue recently. Just a few days ago, the minister responsible for francophone affairs said, "If the commission does not reverse its decision, Mr Harris and Jim Wilson, the Minister of Health, may intervene." It is time for the minister to admit to his responsibility.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Ontarians are becoming increasingly concerned about this government's plans to shut down community hospitals across this province. Today I'm going to speak up for the Wellesley Hospital, on behalf of the many constituents in my riding of Riverdale who use the many services provided by the Wellesley.

Wellesley Hospital provides health care for some very specific communities whose health would be endangered by losing it. It's the major health care provider for Toronto's inner-city neighbourhoods, for many homeless people, and for the lesbian and gay community. Wellesley was an early leader in working with those groups to come up with a community-oriented treatment approach for people living with AIDS and HIV.

Since Mike Harris announced his plan to close Wellesley, the communities served by Wellesley have organized to protect their services. Their Staying Alive campaign is drawing very broad support, and I would urge all people who care about keeping the special and unique community services that are provided by the hospital to get involved and make your views known.

Next Tuesday, June 10, at l:30 at University College, the Wellesley is holding an urban health policy forum that I encourage all members to attend, and in particular the member for St George-St David in whose riding this hospital is.



Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I rise today on behalf of my colleague the member for Durham Centre to bring to the attention of my colleagues a tremendous contribution made by a constituent of his, Shana Pankratz. A teacher with the Durham Board of Education, Ms Pankratz, along with many others, is being recognized by the Honourable Cam Jackson, Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for seniors issues, for her outstanding contribution to intergenerational activities.

As you know, as part of Seniors' Month, June 2 to June 8 is the Intergenerational Week in Ontario. This is a time to recognize the efforts of many in our communities who help bring seniors and younger people together, fostering a more active, integrated community.

One of the greatest problems facing today's seniors is isolation or loneliness. Bringing the generations together benefits all. I am sure my colleagues will join me in saluting the efforts of Shana Pankratz and the many like her across this province who are making a difference.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): As Mike Harris's hand-picked wrecking crew, otherwise known as the Health Services Restructuring Commission, is going to be steamrolling into Hamilton tomorrow morning, I want to remind the Minister of Health and this government of some shocking statistics that were provided by Hamilton-area hospitals.

Over the past 12 months, on 75 occasions all four emergency departments in all four Hamilton hospitals were on critical bypass. That means that once every five days all four emergency departments were closed, inaccessible to the public. Over the past 12 months, on 132 occasions three out of the four Hamilton hospitals were on critical bypass. When you add that to the fact that on 153 occasions two or more were closed, that means that over the past 12 months there were 360 times that at least two of the Hamilton emergency departments were at full capacity, unable to take people in. This is before Mike Harris's wrecking crew comes into Hamilton; this is before your destruction commission comes in and recommends greater crisis and greatest chaos for the city of Hamilton.

I urge this government, this minister, to take a look at these sobering numbers, take a look at what is really a shocking, unacceptable situation where people cannot access emergency departments, and call off the dogs, call off this crew before they come into Hamilton tomorrow and create greater crisis for us.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): June is Seniors' Month and it is a good time for all of us to reflect on the contribution that seniors have made to our society. Seniors are an important and integral part of our lives, and because they are important it is essential that this month and every month we think about ensuring their quality of life.

In the London area over 700 organizations assist seniors in one way or another. Despite this, as I walked around the ridings of London during the recent weeks, I found that many seniors in my riding continue to live in poverty. The Thames Valley District Health Council report, which was based on the 1991 census, indicates that at least 3,800 seniors live in poverty in the city of London. That number would be much higher now as the ongoing effects of the very severe recession of the early 1990s and the cutbacks of service dollars by this government affect seniors every day.

It is important when we have a time like Seniors' Month that we not get carried away with rhetoric, that we understand the reality of what is going on for seniors in our own communities. All of us as members have in our communities seniors who need assistance and need it now, and it is our job as representatives of those seniors to speak out on their behalf in this place.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I rise this afternoon to honour Judy Morrow, a public health nurse with the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound health unit, who was recognized earlier today by Minister Jackson as an individual who has made a significant contribution to intergenerational activities in Ontario.

According to Judy, her appreciation for all that seniors have to offer began at the early age of four, by which time she had adopted four additional grandmothers with whom to spend her time.

Judy received her registered nurse designation at St Boniface General Hospital school of nursing in Manitoba and completed her bachelor of nursing at the University of Manitoba. Through her employment as a public health nurse with the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound health unit, Judy became involved with the seniors' program at the same time that the Knitting Generations Together project was launched.

Together with several of her colleagues, Judy has implemented one of the most successful Knitting Generations Together programs in the province. Sixty seniors, 575 students from 14 schools and 202 volunteers have become involved in an exciting partnership called HUGS, which stands for Helping Unites Great and Small.

Judy and her colleagues believe that HUGS helps to abolish stereotypes between young people and seniors, encourages cross-generational friendships and helps both groups learn to understand each other.

I ask you to join me in congratulating Judy, who is in the gallery today with her husband, John, for her hard work and for the joy that she has brought to the lives of so many others.



Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): On behalf of all members of the Ontario Legislature and the citizens of our province, it is a great honour to acknowledge Ontario's 1.4 million senior citizens as June is Seniors' Month.

It's a time to celebrate and recognize the abundant contributions that seniors have made and continue to make to life in Ontario; it's a time to reflect on the policies and priorities which are implemented on behalf of seniors and the challenges we face as a province as our society ages; and it's a time to bring greater awareness to the issues that affect seniors in their daily lives.

This year we have partnered with United Generations Ontario and have designated week 1 of Seniors' Month as Intergenerational Week. Today we welcome 15 outstanding Ontario citizens who received awards for the intergenerational program this morning. They are seated in the east gallery this afternoon.

Earlier today, a choir made up of 60 seniors and school children treated us to a wonderful performance at the official launch of Seniors' Month. It's just one example of how every generation learns from those who came before them, which happens to be the theme for Seniors' Month this year: Following in their Footsteps.

In week 2, Caregivers Week, we have worked closely with the Caregivers' Association of Ontario to help bring greater understanding to the many challenges facing the family caregiver.

In week 3 of Seniors' Month, we have partnered with the Elder Abuse Network to bring greater awareness to the issue of the physical, emotional and financial abuse of some of our seniors.

In week 4, we will recognize 20 outstanding seniors from every corner of our province at the annual Senior Achievement Awards.

It's through a lifetime of the hard work and sacrifice of Ontario's 1.4 million seniors that we have such a strong and vibrant province today. Their contributions are enormous. They built our roads, they taught in our schools, they produced the food on our tables, and during the Depression they showed us thrift, sharing and priority-setting, and many served in two world wars to save our freedom. Seniors continue to this day to make significant contributions as members of boards and commissions, as volunteers and as community leaders. To each and every senior in our province, we say a collective thank you.

In Ontario we have a Premier and a government who understand the challenges that come with a growing aging society and are planning not just for the next few years but for the next 30 years and beyond.

We have added 460 new drugs to the Ontario drug benefit plan and continue to maintain the lowest-cost publicly funded drug program for seniors in all of North America. We introduced free pneumonia immunization for every senior in this province, the most comprehensive vaccination program on the continent. We have reinvested an additional $170 million into community-based health care for seniors and persons with disabilities. After more than a decade of studies, this government has been the one to deliver one-window access to long-term care for seniors with the introduction this spring of community care access centres.

I pledge on behalf of our government that we will continue to modernize and strengthen the health care system, continue to build safer, more tolerant communities and continue to involve seniors in the decisions that affect their lives.

I want to thank the corporate partners for Seniors' Month: Bell Telephone, Today's Seniors, the Canadian Snowbird Association, the Ontario Residential Care Association and Shoppers Drug Mart. With their support, the Seniors' Month poster and all the information kits across the province were produced at no cost to Ontario taxpayers.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the presence today in the gallery of representatives of many organizations for seniors across the province who have participated in the planning for Seniors' Month. Please join me in saluting the seniors of Ontario and celebrating the beginning of Seniors' Month. Especially, I want to recognize in the Speaker's gallery Gordie Tapp, who is this year's honorary chairman for Seniors' Month in Ontario, and his lovely wife, Helen.



Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): This afternoon I will be introducing the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, an act to facilitate a fair and orderly transition to improved public services in hospitals, schools and municipalities across Ontario.

Over the coming months, public sector organizations will be restructuring in order to deliver more efficient, effective and affordable services to Ontarians. We want to ensure that as these changes take place, employees are treated fairly and outstanding labour relations issues are resolved in an expeditious and timely manner.

Our government believes that employers, employees and unions are in the best position to find solutions to their unique labour relations issues. Therefore, the workplace parties will continue to have the opportunity to negotiate collective agreements that are most appropriate to their particular circumstances. However, if they are not able to resolve some of the complex issues, we realize that a legal and institutional framework is needed to ensure that during this time of public sector restructuring, everyone is treated fairly and services continue to be provided to the taxpayers.

To establish this framework, we are introducing this bill, which contains two new acts for the consideration of the Legislature. The first, the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, will establish a temporary Labour Relations Transition Commission to deal with the high volume of complex labour relations issues that will emerge as the result of school boards, hospitals and municipalities amalgamating and merging.

For example, if employers and unions cannot negotiate a solution to determine the appropriate bargaining unit, the transition commission will be able to do so. If one union does not represent a substantial majority of employees, or if no agreement is reached by the unions to determine which union will represent employees when two or more unionized workforces come together, the transition commission will be able to do so. In most cases, the determination will be by secret ballot to ensure that the wishes of the affected employees are respected. The transition commission will also ensure that for seniority purposes, equal recognition is given to the years of service of unionized and non-unionized employees.

I would like to point out that our legislation will not eliminate successor rights. As well, contracting out will continue to be an issue for negotiations between the parties.

We have paid careful attention to the needs and concerns of the workplace parties and we have endeavoured to ensure that they continue to work cooperatively to resolve their own unique issues through collective bargaining. I will be asking the parties in the construction industry to provide advice on the application of this act to construction trade unions with construction bargaining rights in the broader public sector.

The second act we are introducing, the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, will permanently reform arbitration in the fire, police and hospital sectors, where strikes and lockouts are not permitted.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Clear the galleries.

Minister of Labour.

Hon Mrs Witmer: A permanent dispute resolution commission will be created to promote negotiated settlements and resolve disputes, should negotiations between the parties fail in these sectors. This new process will address concerns that have been expressed for many years and will ensure that the system is more directly accountable to the taxpayer.

This dispute resolution commission will also be used temporarily to administer a binding dispute resolution process during a first contract negotiation following an amalgamation or merger in the broader public sector. This is a temporary power and it can only be exercised at the request of either party. I wish to emphasize that this option will only be available for the negotiation of the first post-amalgamation collective agreement.

By creating greater incentives for the parties to settle disputes themselves, this new process will protect taxpayers against unnecessary disruptions of public services through strikes or lockouts arising out of the negotiations of first contracts after an amalgamation or merger in the broader public sector during this transitional period.

At this time I would like to mention two other aspects of this legislation. In order to facilitate restructuring and to address some other concerns, we are introducing amendments to the Pay Equity Act which will apply to the broader public sector. We are also taking steps to wind down the employee wage protection program, the last program in Canada that uses taxpayer money to cover employers' financial obligations to their employees.

Every level of government in Ontario is attempting to efficiently restructure the way public services are delivered. Upon its passage, this legislation will promote a timely, fair and orderly transition to improve public services in hospitals, schools and municipalities. A key objective will be to ensure that during this time of transition employees are treated fairly and labour relations issues are resolved by the workplace parties whenever possible in a timely and expeditious manner.

I want to re-emphasize that our goal is, above all else, to encourage and provide the workplace parties with the first opportunity to cooperatively resolve their issues through collective bargaining, but if they are not able to do so, to ensure that there is a process that will enable these issues to be resolved in a fair, timely and expeditious manner. This legislation will help us accomplish that goal.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I want to respond briefly to the Minister of Labour's statement. Minister, you sing a sweet, sweet song. You talked about the timely, fair and orderly transition you're attempting to put in place that's going to arise from public sector restructuring. You tell us that employees are going to be treated fairly.

Do you know how many employees we're talking about? Over 700,000 are going to be affected by this legislation. Do you know how many were consulted in the drafting of this legislation? Zero. Not a single one. That's a hell of a foot to set off on. If you're really committed to ensuring that employees are treated fairly, you would think that at a minimum you would have involved them from the outset in drafting this legislation to ensure that their views are heard.

I can recall when the Premier went apoplectic at the time that Bill 40 was introduced in this province. He said the signal that would be sent far and wide would cause foreign investors in particular to shy away from this.

Does he believe and does this minister believe that labour unrest in this province is in the greater public interest? Do you think that's going to draw to us international investors? Do you think that's a good signal to send to the business community? Hardly.

We're talking here about setting up another supposedly arm's-length, objective commission. We know all about those. We've seen them and we've come to know them only too well. We're talking about another fiction. That commission will be made up of choices handpicked by the Premier and the minister to do the minister's and the Premier's work and to make it abundantly clear that they are there to serve the government and to fulfil marching orders.

Minister, it's never too late in these things. Here's my request: Put this legislation aside for the time being. Meet with those who are going to be affected by this legislation. Prove to them that you are honestly and sincerely committed to their welfare. Otherwise, what is about to be unleashed in this province is something the likes of which you simply do not understand and which cannot be in the public interest.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Madam Minister, this piece of legislation called the Public Sector Transition Stability Act really should read Transition Instability Act. You got a taste of it right here today.

How many times does this government have to go through experiences where it tries to pre-empt the existing structures? The Ontario Labour Relations Board, as you well know, is highly regarded and is considered to be highly effective. It has expertise, it has sensitivity, it has competence and experience. In the briefing today, though, and I want to thank you for that, it became quite obvious that one of the reasons for this particular commission was because the labour relations board does not have the resources to deal with such things. Why not? It got its budget cut by over 40% this year, so it has fewer resources to deal with things.

I'd be interested to see how much this is all going to cost, controlled by people you're going to appoint who are going to affect librarians, social workers, nurses, police officers, firefighters -- as my leader has said, over 700,000 people throughout the province. Do you really think this is going to build trust and is going to build confidence in your government? It's going to be divisive and you're going to be at war for the next couple of years on some of this.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): We in the opposition party wish to add our thanks to the seniors of this province for their contribution and to the volunteer organizations for helping to recognize it during Seniors' Month.

But we also understand that this will be a month of reckoning for this minister supposedly in charge of seniors' issues and for this Premier, a month of reckoning for having taxed seniors for drugs to the tune of $220 million; for having taken $50 million off the OHIP schedule, which we'll hear about momentarily, making them pay for basic medical services; for cuts to hospital operating budgets, pushing seniors who are using those services out of hospitals quicker and sicker and seeing the tragedies, where we've heard unfortunately of too many seniors tied up sometimes in their hospital rooms or waiting in hospital emergency corridors for up to a week for services, some of them dying there.

Minister, there will be no thanks to your government for your treatment of seniors when we look at long-term-care charges of $40 a day, at downloading of ambulances and other medical services, at rent control that threatens them in the very security of their home or at property taxes where you refuse to take control. We will be holding you to account on behalf of this province's seniors throughout this Seniors' Month.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): There goes that minister again, who has to get up and apologize.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton East, you're out of order.

Minister, that's out of order. You'll have to withdraw.

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): I withdraw.

The Speaker: Response, third party.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The minister responsible for seniors knows that all of us in this House share with him the kind of pride he has expressed in the contributions of seniors in this province. But I must tell you, Minister, that seniors all over this province are experiencing poverty, they're experiencing health care deficits, they are experiencing loneliness and isolation, and those are factors that cannot be forgotten while we are celebrating these other things.

I am delighted that you have partnered on abuse of the elderly and I sincerely hope that as we look at abuse of the elderly in this province during this month, we will recognize that poverty is an abuse, lack of medical services is an abuse, isolation and loneliness is an abuse and it is something that all our communities need to join together with the government to resolve.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): To the Minister of Labour in response to her, by and large, declaration of war against the labour movement in terms of the rights of workers, a continuing attack: Let me say to you that the outburst you saw here a little while ago is the first act. You cannot continue to treat working people and their families and their standard of living in the way you have and expect that you can continue to sit there as you have today, smirking and grinning and laughing with your Premier, thinking you can get away with this.

You constantly talk about fairness. That's a word you bandy around this place consistently. Where was the fairness in Bill 7, when you took out the word "fair"? Where was the fairness in Bill 99, when you took out the word "fair"? Where was the fairness in the process?

You heard an outburst earlier from people who were here to watch your attack because they can't believe the media reports, so they came here to see it. You heard them say, "What about the doctors?" You sure took a lot of time and care to make sure the doctors had all the input they needed. That looked like a reasonably fair process. Gord Wilson and the Ontario Federation of Labour and other labour leaders in this province had no input into this legislation. I'll bet you talked to all your corporate pals, the very same people who are going to gain billions of dollars from your tax cuts. I'll bet you had lots of consultation with them. I'll bet they think you've got a really fair process.

What you're doing today in announcing this legislation is taking away 50 years of tradition of fairness in terms of making sure we can resolve disputes in the public sector in a way that's in the interests of the public sector. Minister, you're a disgrace to that ministry. All you care about is watering down the rights of workers, watering down the standard of living of working people in this province so you can find the money to pay for your tax cut.

The bungled health care cuts, the bungled education cuts and the bungled municipal restructuring are being paid on the backs of the workers in the public sector. I believe sincerely that you're hoping there is a war in our society, because your hope is that people will focus away from the attack on the public services that matter to this province. You're hoping there will be headlines of picket line clashes and work stoppages and work disputes. I believe you're hoping that will happen, to provide you with a cover for the ongoing attack on the quality of life in this province.

If anybody questions whether that's rhetoric, they only need look at the fact that the 30% tax cut is bogus. No working people are benefiting from that; only your corporate pals are benefiting. Inside this legislation, not only do we have taking away the rights of working people in the public sector and allowing the continuing attack on public services; just as if it were a drive-by shooting you're eliminating the last rights in the employee wage protection plan and further cutting pay equity rights that women in this province have fought for, for years, and deserve. They have no relation to this bill. You put it in here because you're hoping it'll get lost in the fray.

Minister, you will go down in history as the most infamous minister against labour that we've ever seen, and you're going to see one hell of a fight taking you on while you do it.



Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Mr Speaker, I understand we have unanimous consent for a statement regarding the death of OPP officer Thomas Coffin.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Unanimous consent for a statement about OPP officer Coffin? Agreed.

Hon Mr Runciman: As members of the House know, on May 31, 1997, a 32-year-old Ontario Provincial Police officer, Thomas Patrick Coffin, was shot and killed while off duty, just after finishing his shift. He was the eldest of four children.

The job of police officer is fraught with challenges, both off duty and on duty. We owe each and every police officer in this province and their families a debt of gratitude for living and coping with those challenges every day of their lives. Tom Coffin was a fine police officer, who paid the ultimate price in meeting those challenges.

Tom was known among colleagues and friends as a family man. He was strongly devoted to his wife, Kim, and his children, Laura, seven; Jordyn, three; and Matt, 22 months.

Tom was an avid sportsman and athlete. He played football and junior hockey in high school and coached midget league hockey. Over the past two seasons he was assistant coach and head coach of the Penetang Kings junior C hockey team.

Recently Tom travelled to Scotland, where he played the original golf course, St Andrews. He considered this the fulfilment of a dream.

Tom's career as a policeman began at the early age of 18, when he was accepted as an auxiliary police officer for the town of Alliston. At the age of 21 he joined the Kirkland Lake Police Service. In June 1991 he was hired by the Penetanguishene Police Service. In March 1996 he became an OPP officer when that service was amalgamated with the OPP.

His friends and colleagues say that the words that best described Tom Coffin are the same words associated with the important qualities of a police officer: honesty, integrity and compassion. I'm told Tom had the rare ability to remain calm and in control regardless of the situation.

On behalf, I'm sure, of all members of the Legislature, I wish to extend sincere condolences to Tom's family, friends, co-workers and the people of the town of Penetanguishene. He will be sorely missed.

I would like to request that members of the Legislature join me in a moment of silence to honour the memory of OPP officer Thomas Coffin.

The House observed a moment's silence.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): Police officers stare trouble in the eye every day, but most of their encounters end in peace and not in violence. It didn't end that way for Tom Coffin, though. The well-respected former Kirkland Lake police officer was gunned down with a bullet to the head in a bar in Penetanguishene Saturday. He was 32 and the father of three.

I think it's fitting that we as politicians in the Ontario Legislature are the first to rise in our place to pay tribute to the life of a slain police officer, for we are the very first ones who are standing in our place when things go wrong in policing and criticizing the men and women who on a daily basis put their lives on the line for us.

Senior constable Thomas Patrick Coffin, as the Solicitor General mentioned, was formerly with the Kirkland Lake Police Service from 1986 to 1991. I know Mayor Mavrinac, as he expressed in the Northern Daily News, was very shocked and saddened by the death, as Sean O'Connor and others who had worked with him on the police services commission in Kirkland Lake over the years are also very shocked and saddened by this news.

As the Solicitor General mentioned, senior officer Coffin was also involved in his community, as most police officers are, in their various benefit organizations.

Constable Coffin loved hockey, and he coached minor hockey in Kirkland Lake, as he was also a coach in the Penetang junior C hockey league, coaching that team.

We confer extraordinary powers on our police officers, and we place extraordinary demands on them. With all of that, we put them and they put themselves in very extraordinary, dangerous situations. We are all saddened in this House, and on behalf of the Liberal caucus and all the members of the Legislature I wish to send our condolences to the constable's family and all the people he touched in his life.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On behalf of my leader and all of the members of the New Democratic Party, we want to express our very sincere condolences to Tom Coffin's family, to his colleagues and indeed to the citizens he served. This kind of circumstance is one which does make us reflect about how much we owe the men and women in this province who do the task of policing, a task that grows harder every day, a task that exposes them to danger in many ways.

When you have a police officer like Thomas Coffin who obviously, having joined as an auxiliary police officer for the town of Alliston when he was only 18 years old, had a lifelong dream of being a police officer, we know that this was a committed person, a person who throughout his work life had really displayed the commitment to the task of policing that we take for granted in so many of the officers who serve us.

While Officer Coffin's death did not occur directly in the line of duty, there is certainly some suggestion that the positions he took, which he obviously regarded as principled positions around some of the changes happening in policing, may have been one of the background factors to this terrible tragedy. It reminds us all that even when we are in our private capacity there are those who may find it difficult to accept some of the decisions we make, and that is particularly true of police officers.

We hear every year of police officers who find their private lives disturbed and upset by those who blame them personally for carrying out their duties. Sometimes I think as a community we do not offer the kind of support to those officers and their families that we ought to be providing. We expect them somehow to be above the kinds of problems that they indeed face as a result of the work we require them to do.

We are very saddened when something like this happens. We join our colleagues in the House in that sadness and want to make this an occasion for us all to honour the men and women who serve us as police officers in this province and in this country.

The Speaker: I thank the Solicitor General, the member for Timiskaming and the member for London Centre. I will give you my undertaking to send these comments to the officer's family.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. Yesterday, as you will recognize, the people of this province together with the rest of the people in Canada exercised their democratic rights and voted. I believe that they sent us here in this province, and you in particular, a very distinct message. They're saying no to your Tory-Reform agenda. They said no to the divisive us-against-them politics that have characterized Ontario for the past two years. In particular, they have said no to a tax cut.

I know the election has been difficult for you and your caucus. There has been some divisiveness between those who supported the Tories and those who supported Reform. There has been some name-calling; some insults have been traded. I am going to ask a very simple question: Will you listen to what the people are saying and will you drop the tax cut?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I too watched the election results last night with a great deal of interest, and I always listen to the people. I listened to you when you said on February 22, "Taxes are too high." I think that was a reflection of the people of Ontario.

There were three parties who got somewhere between 85% and 90% of the vote who said we need tax cuts. Some said right away, some said a little later. All three of those parties who got close to 90% of the vote said government is too big. It needs to be smaller, more efficient. We need to reform the health care system. We need to balance the books and we need to cut taxes. I'm with those 90% of the people.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The members for Nepean and Ottawa-Rideau, come to order, please.

Mr McGuinty: I believe the people of this province are with Standard and Poor's when it comes to this issue of the tax cut. This is two failed tests in a row. Yesterday you failed the test when the people of this province voted against Tory-Reform polices. Last week Standard and Poor's gave your tax cut and your policies a failing grade. They refused to upgrade the province's credit rating. They gave you a rating of AA-. They gave you the same rating they gave Bob Rae. I can recall, at the time he was assigned that rating, how you were busting out of your chair and telling him there was simply no way we could withstand those kinds of economic policies for much longer, and now you have managed to replicate that grade.

Premier, once again, I think the people are with Standard and Poor's and I think they're with me on this issue. They don't want a tax cut at this time because we can't afford it. It's causing too much pain. Will you back away from it?

Hon Mr Harris: The Dominion Bond Rating Service said of Ontario's balanced budget plan: "Ontario's fiscal approach is a positive for the future credit outlook of the province. They have come through with what they said they would do." I want to tell you that I agree with the 90% of voters who said yesterday: "We need to balance the books. We need to downsize government. We need to encourage the private sector." And all three parties said we need to cut taxes.

I might tell you that I also agree with the member from Pembroke, Sean Conway, who in reaction to our budget said, "The good news is, there's going to be another cut in the provincial income tax rate."

Mr McGuinty: Premier, I engaged in an activity you shied away from during the past election. I went and knocked on doors and I supported Liberal members. I spoke with people on the doorstep and I can tell you what they told me. I don't derive my information from polls and editorials and columnists.

Let me tell you what they said. They said that we in Ontario are hurting, that our patients are hurting because of cuts that have been done to the funding of our hospitals. They said our kids are getting hurt because you're doing away with junior kindergarten and you've cut funding to children's aid societies. They said our seniors are getting hurt because you've implemented new user fees. They said our future is jeopardized because you've cut funding to post-secondary education. They understand that all of this has been driven by your obsession with a tax cut to be delivered in an immediate sense. Once again, based on all that, and understanding now what I picked up at the doors, will you back away from the tax cut?

Hon Mr Harris: You mention reductions in health care funding. The public yesterday returned 101 out of 103 members of a party, the only party in Canada which has cut health care in Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, so clearly that was not the issue that was on their minds.

Quite frankly, I say to you that as a result of our tax rate reductions, revenues to the province are booming. They are up, just as when you and the NDP hiked tax rates, revenues went down. I agree with you, I might say to the leader of the Liberal Party, when on Focus Ontario, February 1, 1997, you said, "I see a very bright future ahead for Ontario." So do I.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): The second question for the Premier: Yesterday, while people right across the country were exercising their democratic right to vote, you were busy taking away another of their basic democratic rights in this Legislature, and that is the right to be heard by way of their elected representatives. Yesterday, while no one was looking, under cover of a federal election, you brought forward some rule changes that are going to severely limit the right of the opposition to thoroughly and adequately debate legislation, and that's going to greatly interfere with our ability to hold you accountable to the people we enjoy the privilege of serving.

Yesterday your minister attempted to say that your government wasn't really involved in drafting those anti-democratic rules, so I want to ask you very clearly: Do you support those changes? Do you support taking away the democratic right to debate from members of this Legislative Assembly?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): If there are specific details, I'll refer them to the House leader later on, but let me tell you some things that I support. I support the process this government followed, contrary to the Liberals when they made changes. They brought the hammer down and put them right in the House and said, "Here, take it or leave it." No discussion, no debate, nothing among the House leaders. Then the NDP, when they brought in rule changes, bang, they were introduced: "Here they are. Here's the hammer. Like 'em or lump 'em."

We brought forward a proposal by Mr Baird, the member for Nepean -- in a full-blown press conference, not under any hidden mechanism -- for consultation. Most of the changes are a reflection of what is already practised in Ottawa or what we found in the House leader's books when Ms Martel was planning the same changes.

We invite your input and your discussion on those rule changes. One thing I can tell you -- the public agrees with this -- is that the rules were not working to the benefit of the people of Ontario and they want to see some reasonable changes.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would warn the members for Essex South, St Catharines, Windsor-Sandwich, Hamilton East, London Centre, Lake Nipigon. I would ask that you all come to order; I'm not warning you again. As well as the member for Algoma; I briefly forgot your riding.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, you may not like it, but with the right to govern comes the corresponding obligation to listen. Your own backbenchers have criticized you for failing to listen to them. They say you've got no respect for democracy, you've got no respect for the right of the people and their representatives to be heard, and with these rules changes you've proven that once again. At a time when most Ontarians would agree that you're moving too quickly on too many fronts, these rule changes are going to permit you to move at double time while seriously diminishing our ability to hold you to account.

Premier, what makes you think that you somehow are above listening to the elected members of all three parties in this Legislature?

Hon Mr Harris: No government has listened more, had more public hearings on more pieces of legislation, travelled the province more than has this government. Clearly, if you want to refer to the record, you will find one of the most consultative cabinets, one of the most consultative Premiers and one of the most consultative governments, certainly in the last 12 years, in this province.


Mr McGuinty: Never have Ontarians ever been led by a Premier so willing to ignore the democratic rights of people and their duly elected representatives.

This is the Premier who ignored the people of Metropolitan Toronto when it came to the issue of the megacity referendum. This is the Premier who shoved Bill 26 down our collective throats. This is the Premier who silenced his backbenchers by firing his parliamentary assistants, and today he's decided to set his sights on the members of the opposition alone.

Listening, Premier, is a good thing. It's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. When Bill 26 was dealt with, to some extent properly, you were forced to introduce 150 amendments in an effort to improve it. That would not have come about had we not had at least some semblance of debate in this Legislature.

Premier, about these rules you've introduced, will you instead take them away from us and allow us to proceed with real debate on your initiatives?

Hon Mr Harris: In my recent memory of rule changes to deal with, as I think one reporter said, the tomfoolery as opposed to the business of the House, never, I believe, since I've been here, have we had a non-cabinet minister develop, in consultation with backbenchers, a proposal for discussion before anything has been tabled.

Once again I say to you that we are pleased to listen. We will prepare to meet with you. I think the member for Nepean has offered to meet with both House leaders. I am taking from your reaction that you're not 100% in favour of all the changes, but perhaps when you read through them and reflect on them, if there are some that you feel need to be changed or if you have some of your own, we'd be pleased to listen to those. I can tell you that the member for Elgin has already brought forward some proposals just today to the member. We're happy to listen to backbench members as well if the leadership isn't interested in participating.


The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, I realize you're in your seat now, but it's still out of order to heckle.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Today you've launched your latest attack against workers and their democratic rights in Ontario. Your new legislation will effectively take away the right to strike from hundreds of thousands of workers in the municipal sector, the school board sector and ultimately in the entire broader public sector.

Minister, I want to ask you a very straightforward question, and for once, I would appreciate a straightforward answer: Why did you negotiate this bill in secret, refusing to meet with the representatives of the workers who are being attacked by this very legislation?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I would like to correct the record and indicate that we have not taken away anybody's right to strike. In fact, what we have done today is that we have ensured that employees and employers sit down and make decisions regarding that first collective agreement, and then, if they are not able to do so, we have set in place a process that would enable them to resolve any outstanding issues. But we have not taken away the right to strike or the right to a lockout.

I would also indicate to you that we have been carefully monitoring the broader public sector and we have determined that there are going to be a huge number of mergers and amalgamations. In order to make sure that each employee is treated fairly as these amalgamations and mergers take place, in order that we don't disrupt services, we have, as I indicated to you, put in place a process that will encourage collective bargaining, but if it fails, there is a process.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, if the public did nothing more than listen to your words, we would think there's such a fair, gentle process in place that really is meant to have concern for the concerns of everyone. That's not the reality. You've put so much fiscal pressure on municipalities and school boards and hospital boards that they are going to be left with choices no one wants to make. They're going to table agreements that gut collective agreements and rights that workers have and they're going to send it to your hand-picked commission, which will have the power to say: "No strike. Here's your collective agreement, gutted and all."

Why did you treat well-paid doctors so fairly in terms of process, but you won't treat ordinary workers and their families and their income fairly? Why did you treat the two groups differently?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would simply remind you that this legislation is intended to facilitate the collective bargaining that is going to take place as restructuring takes place.

Mr Christopherson: What a load of crap.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton Centre, you have to withdraw that comment. That's out of order.

Mr Christopherson: I probably should have said it's a crock, Speaker. In that case, I withdraw.

Hon Mrs Witmer: The process is intended to ensure that all the parties are encouraged to resolve their own issues together and that each employee is treated fairly when the amalgamations take place. We want to make sure each member within a bargaining unit has the opportunity to make choices, and also if we're bringing together those employees who are not unionized, that they also have the opportunity to be treated fairly.

Mr Christopherson: That's not what's going on here. Anybody who works in the public sector watching here is furious at you trying to hand out that kind of pap and say that's what's going on here.

Let me ask you this: Inside this devastating declaration of war against public sector workers in our province, you're also taking away more rights from some of the most vulnerable workers in the province. For instance, low-paid women workers are losing rights under the Pay Equity Act, and workers who are facing bankruptcy are losing all their rights in terms of wage protection that we brought in so that not just the banks get their money, but workers get their money when there's a bankruptcy.

What's the connection between the attack on the pay equity legislation, the employee wage protection plan and this piece of legislation in terms of the public sector? Defend the connection. Tell us how those are connected in some way, because as far as we're concerned, it's just a drive-by shooting to grab a couple more rights away from workers under this attack.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would again emphasize that we have introduced this legislation in order to encourage the workplace parties to negotiate solutions. I would also just remind you, who was the government that forced employees to join OPSEU, who was the government that introduced the social contract?

Mr Christopherson: Answer my question.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, come to order, please.

Hon Mrs Witmer: In fact it was Bob Rae who said, "We want to give as much" --

Mr Christopherson: Answer my question.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I won't warn you again. You must come to order.


The Speaker: Order. Members for Windsor-Sandwich and Kingston and The Islands, I appreciate your help but at this time I think I can handle it.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Former Premier Bob Rae said on March 30, 1993: "We want to give as much scope as possible to the negotiators so they can come up with solutions that make sense for their particular workplace. We have to restructure government to make it more responsive, more efficient, more cost-effective." I remember there was the suspension of the right to strike and lockout under your legislation. Instead, we are ensuring that our legislation enables each employee to make choices.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. Last year, according to your own estimates, you cut over $300 million from hospital operating budgets, and you did that before your hospital restructuring even begins to take place and, I would remind you again, at the cost of health care in this province, as we've shown you again and again in this House.

Then in last month's budget you add a mysterious $850 million to last year's health spending for so-called restructuring expenditures. So it's not too surprising that we learn of the Grey Bruce Regional Health Centre, which now has a deficit of over half a million dollars. Why? Because they had to pay out $742,000 in severance costs, the costs of cutting back caused by your government.

Minister, will you be paying the Grey Bruce Regional Health Centre the $742,000 out of that mysterious $850 million in restructuring costs?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Perhaps I could clarify for the honourable member that yes, we have asked hospitals to achieve savings, very doable savings, both the last fiscal year and this current fiscal year. But even prior to seeing any of those savings, the health care budget in the province of Ontario, in spite of federal cuts, went up significantly. All the money and more, almost two and a half times more than we've seen in hospital savings to date, has been reinvested into health care, including back into hospitals, so that we can have the shortest waiting lists in the history of the province for cardiac services, so that we could open up 23 new dialysis clinics in a community near to where dialysis patients live throughout the province.

The good news with respect to the reinvestments in health care could go on and on, all $960 million worth of money into health care reinvested into the system. With respect to Grey Bruce, we'd be happy to look at that.

Yes, there is $850 million booked there as a result of interim and final decisions put forward by the Health Services Restructuring Commission. That's to pay for restructuring --

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

Mrs Boyd: Minister, what you don't seem to understand is that hospitals have had to restructure by laying off staff before your famous commission even gives its recommendations. That's the point. Garth Pierce, who is the president of the Grey Bruce Regional Health Centre, said: "It was a one-time expense necessitated by government cutbacks. We paid out $742,000 in severance, notice and early retirement costs."

People all over this province have been telling you and your hospital restructuring committee that what you're doing is shifting the money around. You're stealing from Peter to pay Paul, and it's a false economy. The $850 million that you put into health care is the cost of paying off all the 10,000 workers who have been severed. It is not going into patient care; it is going into your efforts to downgrade our health care.

Hon Mr Wilson: I obviously don't agree with the premise of the question. I don't know where she gets 10,000 people laid off. The fact of the matter is, most hospitals in this province are doing very well in getting rid of the duplication, the excessive administration that your party and the Liberal Party left in there. When you closed 11,000 hospital beds over the last 10 years in this province, you left what? Buildings half-empty, all of the high-paid administration still there, and fewer and fewer services in those buildings, to the point where we as a government inherited waiting lists that are unethical and immoral in this province.

The nurses are bang on every time they tell politicians that there's no way we should have the waiting lists for services that we have in this province with the record amount of money we're spending on health care. No one in this country today spends more per person on health care than the province of Ontario. Our commitment is to make the system better for patients, get rid of the half-empty buildings and make sure we have modern hospitals with the newest technologies and more services for our growing and aging population.

Mrs Boyd: We don't classify health care workers, 10,000 health care workers who are registered nurses, nursing assistants, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiology technicians, respiratory technicians -- all of those people who support our health care. You say you don't know about 10,000 workers? Your Minister of Labour did, because we know that this bill she's introducing today is to save more money out of the system by ending the protections on severance for health care workers, among other public servants in this province. All of this restructuring costs you money if you have to pay out severance, if you have to give the proper protection to employees who are losing their jobs because of your cuts: not because of restructuring, but because of your cuts.

Minister, we know you think these people are hula hoop manufacturers. We know you think they are duplicates, that they're superfluous. Do you think they do nothing for the quality of health care? You're the one who said it's not about bricks and mortar, it's about the care they have. What are you doing to health care workers in this --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for London Centre.

Hon Mr Wilson: The finance minister did announce over $2 billion, unprecedented new money for the health care system, to ensure that we get through the restructuring, we pay the severances that are entitled and we provide the education and retraining that's required.

The honourable member is completely wrong. We have a shortage today of speech-language pathologists. I've announced $170 million for new community-based services and I cannot get speech-language pathology into seniors' homes because I don't have enough speech-language pathologists. There are not enough physiotherapists in Ontario today. I can't get the in-home services as fast as I'd like to. The money is certainly on the table and out on the streets.

We have a shortage of those professions, so stop scaring young people from going into those professions. Laurentian University put out a study four months ago showing that we're running into a shortage of baccalaureate-prepared nurses, so stop scaring young people from going into nursing.

There are more and more jobs being created as a result of the growing and aging population. Health care is a booming business in this province, and this government is putting more into health care than anybody else ever in the history of Ontario.


The Speaker: Member for Windsor-Sandwich, that was unparliamentary. I ask you to withdraw it.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I withdraw.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Education. I want to come back to the story of Gordie Kirwan. You will recall it was about three and a half months ago I raised that issue with you in the Legislature. You agreed to meet with the Kirwans and provided them with your personal assurance that you would do all that was necessary to ensure that Gordie, who is 21 years of age, shortly turning 22, and developmentally disabled, can continue with his schooling, which has been very productive for him and his parents.

Some 15 minutes ago I was on the phone with Mrs Kirwan, and to say the least, she is very, very upset and distraught. Minister, I am asking on her behalf why this matter has not been resolved.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm somewhat surprised by the question from the Leader of the Opposition today. My office, my direct office, was in communication with Mrs Kirwan yesterday.

The ministry has been working with other ministries, trying to resolve an issue for disabled people who are over 21 which has existed in this province for a very long period of time. I'm sure the member opposite must be familiar with the legislation.

I met the Kirwans. I told them we would find a resolution to this. We are working on it now in cooperation with the Minister of Community and Social Services. We are working on that now inside the ministries. We were able to give a progress report to the Kirwans yesterday and I will be in touch with them in the very near future when we have some briefings from the ministry about possible resolutions for this and possible legislation that might help us resolve these issues.

I'm surprised at the tone and tenor of the question. Let's be very clear: We've been working very hard on this issue over the last three months in attempting to resolve this issue for that family and for other families in the province. You ignored this issue when you were in power. For five years you ignored it and now you want action in three months.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, I'm somewhat taken aback at your response. I'm not trying to make political hay out of this. I would not have advanced this if Mrs Kirwan hadn't approached me. She doesn't want any more promises; she wants your assurance and she wants action, that come this September her son Gordie will be enrolled in school and that you will somehow find the necessary funding for that -- nothing short of that. On her behalf, that's what I'm asking for once again.


Hon Mr Snobelen: Then let me again say to you that I have given the assurance that we will take on this very difficult problem. We are taking that on with all our energy and all our good intentions and we will find a resolution to it for that family and for other families in Ontario. Let me say again, we've done much more in the last three months than you did in five years.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Ottawa Centre, I don't think that's appropriate language. I ask you to refrain. Thank you.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is for the Chair of Management Board. I have a copy of a letter that you sent to your member for Mississauga South regarding one of her constituents who lost their job as a result of your privatization of GO Temp services within the Ontario government. In this letter you assured her that her constituent would receive severance pay, as required by law. Minister, why did you change your mind?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I don't have the letter to the particular individual, but rest assured that this government will ensure that what is required by law, every entitlement, is given to this individual.

Mr Christopherson: Let me try to help a little. The letter says very clearly, "GO Temp employees who have been employed for five years and more would also receive severance pay." In a decision of the Ontario Crown Employees Grievance Settlement Board on May 26, as a result of a hearing on May 20, it says, "The employer" -- that's you, Minister -- "claimed in its broadest submission that no GO Temp employee was entitled to severance pay."

Minister, how do you justify saying one thing one day to one of your backbenchers and then presenting an opposite legal case in front of the grievance settlement board? How do you justify that?

Hon David Johnson: This is a somewhat complicated situation in terms of the benefits to those on GO Temp, because in many instances they don't have continued service. Some served a certain amount one year, a certain amount the next year etc. It's a situation that has to be determined. The matter has been before the proper authority to determine. Whatever decisions are made through the proper authorities will be implemented and the member can rest assured that at the end of the day, what is required by law will be given to this particular individual and to all the individuals involved with GO Temp.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): My question is for the minister responsible for seniors. I appreciated the statement you made in the House earlier today, but as you spoke you raised a question in my mind that has been raised at a series of meetings I've held across my riding during the past month with seniors and with seniors' organizations.

I wonder if you might respond to that question that's been raised by many, because it involves what I understand is a press release that was done by the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens' Organizations. It was done some time in the last month and it made comments on seniors and prescription drugs. Minister, have you discussed those concerns with that coalition?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I would like to thank the member for raising this concern on behalf of seniors. I have read the material that he has read, that was presented here and in several forums. The fact is that the coalition, along with a whole series of other senior organizations in the province, has expressed concern about the over-medication of seniors.

When I look at their press release, they suggest that previous governments have failed to look at a series of options. They include in their press release implementing the British Columbia model of reference-based pricing; pressuring the federal government to repeal Bill C-91, the drug patent legislation; demanding pharmacists lower their dispensing fees; educating seniors about misuse of drugs; looking at physician fees and so on.

Seniors, as consumers, have asked that they participate --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mr Shea: Those of us in this House who serve on the public accounts committee know that we've been giving some consideration of recent time to the Ontario drug benefit program. That was also referenced in the coalition's media release. Would the minister inform the House how the Ontario government's treatment of low-income seniors compares to that of other provinces?

Hon Mr Jackson: This coalition is part of a national organization of pensioners and senior citizens' federations, and they have acknowledged that in all of Canada and indeed North America the most inexpensive publicly funded drug program is here in this province, and yet it is the most expensive plan for taxpayers in North America at $1 billion a year on drugs.

They also acknowledge that low-income seniors in Nova Scotia pay a $215 premium and then 20%; in PEI they pay $400; in Saskatchewan, $540; and in Ontario only $50 a year for low-income seniors on --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): My question is to the minister of Health. Mr Minister, as you are well aware, your hospital closing commission recommended that the community hospital in my riding, Northwestern General Hospital, be closed. Supporters of Northwestern submitted a formal appeal, as other hospitals have done in Metro, and requested that the commission reconsider its decision based on the fact that in the case of Northwestern a major study was not taken into account by the restructuring commission.

However, even though the appeal is pending, Northwestern hospital is being dismantled, department by department, service by service. In fact, as we stand here today the microbiology department and the paediatrics department are being dismantled.

How is it fair, when the appeal is before the commission, that the hospital is being dismantled? Shouldn't they wait until the appeal at least is heard?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I am well aware that during a restructuring period -- because every other province has restructured. We're the last to do it. In fact, Britain, Australia and New Zealand have all restructured. Learning from those experiences, human beings being what they are, when they hear about a restructuring or a possible closing of a building, they are already tempted to start to move the services. There are a lot of informal agreements going on in the city right now among those hospitals which will receive the increased services or the amalgamating services from other hospitals.

We are monitoring that. Legally, the services are not to move at this point, but I encourage the partners to speak with each other. The operating plans of Northwestern hospital are approved by the Ministry of Health and those services aren't to go anywhere until there's a final determination of the Health Services Restructuring Commission. But, being quite frank with the honourable member, that doesn't mean that the doctors and nurses won't already be making informal arrangements with other hospitals to provide those services.

Mr Colle: Mr Minister, we were told by your closing commission that we could make an appeal. We launched the appeal and the citizens did that. While we're waiting for the appeal to be heard, they're carrying beds out of the hospital, they're carrying equipment out, they're closing departments. People are asking me, "Is this appeal a sham or a farce, or are they just playing games with us?" Will you ask them to stop and desist? Tell them to at least have the common courtesy to wait till they hear the appeal before they take beds out of the hospital.

Hon Mr Wilson: Approval would have to be sought before a major program changes at the hospital. Those approvals have not been granted in the case of any of the hospitals because of the appeal process that's going on and respect for the law that we must have as a government and that the commission must have. We don't own any of the 208 hospitals. If their board decides to do something without approval of the Ministry of Health, which does happen from time to time, then I will use moral suasion; I will do what I can. But your community owns that hospital and your community, along with its board, needs to make sure that the services are in place and that plans are in place before any of those services amalgamate on to the other hospital sites.

At the end of the day, we will have more services for people, for the growing and aging population, but I agree with the honourable member that we have a couple of years where it will be a challenge to make sure there are no gaps in services. Right now there is no approval to move services out of that hospital. That's the best answer I can give the honourable member.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. Virtually every time you stand up and tell us what a great job you're doing in providing restructured health care, you talk about cardiac care, so I'd like to talk about the requirements for heart surgery in Windsor, Ontario, because it affects all of us in the southwest region. The closest accessible facility to Windsor is London, a two-hour drive away. There are approximately 500 patients a year who require heart surgery or angioplasty in Windsor. Only 58% of those are able to get their surgery or their angioplasty within the recommended time period because there are not enough beds in London, there are not enough facilities to accommodate them.

The Windsor cardiologists, the hospitals and the district health council in Windsor have made a joint request to the Health Services Restructuring Commission to give them a cardiac surgery centre. The question is simple: If in fact the commission agrees, will you fund it?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): We have a number of requests, about nine, from across the province from hospitals which are currently not in the cardiac business for cath labs or surgery capacity. The honourable member will know that no politician, since the Liberals set up the Cardiac Care Network, would make the decision as to where the increasing cardiac services should be located in the province.

We rely on advice from the Cardiac Care Network. That is the group of experts that was set up. They also are the ones who operate and control the heart surgery waiting list in this province. Those very experts absolutely are thrilled by the government's $35-million announcement, and that money is flowing. For the last 10 or 11 weekends the nurses -- 80% of that money is going into overtime for nurses -- and the cardiac surgeons have been working very hard to ensure we have the shortest waiting lists in the history of the province.

With respect to proposals from Windsor and several other areas, those will all be reviewed by the ministry, but more importantly by the Cardiac Care Network, and we await their recommendations.

Mrs Boyd: In fact, Larry Leigh, who is the regional cardiac care coordinator in this network you talk about, has said very clearly that there is a shortage of beds to look after Windsor patients, that the waits are getting longer. He also says the $33 million for cardiac surgery the government recently announced is a stopgap measure. Windsor is a city of 250,000 people. There are another 150,000 in the surrounding counties. I ask you again, will you guarantee that if the restructuring commission agrees there should be a cardiac centre, you will see it is funded?

Hon Mr Wilson: The short answer is yes. If the Health Services Restructuring Commission recommends that, in fact if it directs the government to do that, we will fully fund it. That's what the $2 billion is for, that's what the record-level health care budget is for, to make sure patients receive services. But the commission I know won't do that without the expert advice from the Cardiac Care Network. Both bodies are reviewing that, and when we get those recommendations we will act as quickly as we can.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I was pleased to see the attention that agriculture and food received in the 1997 Ontario budget. It's nice to see the budget growing to $405 million. Agriculture and food has had some harrowing times in the past, and this government is plowing back some resources into this important segment of our economy.

This government has clearly shown its commitment to agriculture and food and the agrifood business, especially with the three-year $30-million commitment for a rural job strategy. Part of the strategy is to invest in job creation for youth in rural Ontario. Can you inform the House about this program?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I should thank my honourable colleague for that question. Yes, the agrifood sector in Ontario contributes $25 billion annually to the economy and employs more than 640,000 people. That's very important to our economy and that's the reason why the OMAFRA budget was not cut, indeed it was increased slightly, and that is why that is true --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Since 1995, Noble.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Absolutely. The agricultural budget was increased, unlike the former government that shut down two of our agricultural colleges. That's why $3 million will be invested to support a $2-per-hour rebate for rural employment. I really want to advise all rural businesses, including processors, that the organizations can take part in this rebate, $2 an hour for rural youth. This government recognizes the importance of the agrifood sector.

Mr Chudleigh: We're having a very late spring this year and all too often this means a long, hot summer. That puts added pressure on harvesting and handling and food processing. Many employers, especially in my riding of Halton North, will want to take advantage of this opportunity, of this program. Minister, could you tell us specifically how this program works?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Eligible employers in rural Ontario will receive a $2-per-hour rebate for students they employ. Ministry staff are processing applications and we look forward to processing considerably more because they can indeed employ more than one student. Everyone will benefit from the skills and the learning ability that these students will have when working, not only in agriculture but in food processing.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a question to the Minister of Health. Yesterday a psychiatric patient from the Whitby centre was charged with robbery, sexual assault with a weapon, attempt to choke, forcible confinement and threatening death. Last week another mental patient went AWOL at one of our medium-security institutions, the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.

As you know by now, Minister, there are literally hundreds of other cases where people go AWOL at these institutions. There is an obvious pattern emerging, and I'm asking you today whether you are ready to hold public inquiries, or at least one public inquiry, into these incidents so that public security is guaranteed.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I certainly am launching an investigation to cover both of the incidents that occurred in the last few days. I would also remind the honourable member that, in the past when this has happened, governments have launched investigations and they have been worthwhile endeavours in terms of making recommendations to correct the system to try and ensure as best as possible this doesn't happen.

In particular, the focus of the latter investigation has to be on what is meant by the review board when it says "indirect supervision." We have to look at that and what the interpretation has been of those institutions and what is meant by "indirect supervision."

I will say to the honourable member too that this government has taken decisive action to ensure that the review board has tremendous leadership. It does now have a former Supreme Court judge as the head of the review board, Justice Carruthers, and I know he will look at this matter very seriously, but an investigation is being launched.


Mr Ruprecht: I am not sure the minister understood my question. I am not asking you for an investigation. I am asking you for a public inquiry and all the bells and whistles that go along with it.

As you understand, Minister, both these institutions are medium-security institutions for insane killers. You know that, the whole world knows about that. In the case of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, you also are aware that from January 1, 1997, until today there have been over 100 calls of missing persons.

If you are aware of these statistics, which I think you are, would it not then make sense to call for a public inquiry, especially since you personally have talked to me about this and you are really personally responsible for instituting this policy, especially when it comes to the Queen Street Mental Health Centre?

We have had demonstration after demonstration in front of the centre. We've talked to this minister and he gave us his personal assurances that these incidents would not --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: That is extremely unfair. It is this member who keeps having protests because he doesn't want a more secure unit installed at Queen Street. Why don't you fess up and tell people here what you're telling me privately and what you're out front demonstrating? We need more secure facilities down there and you've been protesting against that ever since I've been Minister of Health. That is the public record.

The Speaker: New question.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question --


The Speaker: Just a moment. Member for Parkdale, you have a point of order?

Mr Ruprecht: I'm really very unhappy with the answer I've received to this question and consequently I'm asking you and the table for a late show.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Are you sure you want it?

Mr Ruprecht: Yes, I do. I am very sure, because I know what's going on around here. There's got to be a sense of responsibility, because this can't continue and we need some action.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Parkdale, you'll get your five minutes later on.


The Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Rideau, come to order. I don't know how you have a dog in this fight right here. Come to order.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Parkdale, if you file the appropriate papers, we will get it.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Minister of Health. I continue to be puzzled about what the relationship is between you as minister, your ministry and the Health Services Restructuring Commission when it comes to psychiatric hospitals. I'd like to get some clarification from you.

You first took the position that the commission had the right to order the government to close psychiatric hospitals. When they said no, that was not the case, that in fact you are the owner-operator of those hospitals, that they could not order you to do that, that Bill 26 did not give them that capacity, you then proceeded to enter a different relationship.

We have now heard of two letters sent by your deputy minister, Margaret Mottershead, regarding psychiatric facilities, one in the London-St Thomas area and the other in the Brockville area, and they seem to be remarkably dissimilar in their content. Ms Mottershead talks about the need for outpatient services and forensic services at Brockville, but that was not the question in London-St Thomas where two hospitals are going to be closed.

Would you clarify for us exactly what the relationship is of the ministry and yourself to the commission?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Yes, I'd be very pleased to remind the honourable member that from day one of the establishment of the commission, including remarks in this House, we said we would treat both the legal directives as established with the power that the commission has under the law and the commission's advice. Both would be treated equally as a matter of policy by this government. That answers, I think, the honourable member's question.

With respect to the deputy minister's letters to the commission, those are public letters, as part of the Ministry of Health's response to interim decisions, advice and/or directions from the commission, so there's nothing clandestine about that. Those are public letters. There are two different sets of circumstances, which is very difficult to answer in 10 seconds, and that's why the letters are different. We're trying to respond to the unique needs of the southwestern area versus the northern area of the province, and that's why the letters have slightly different content in each.

Mrs Boyd: I am rather puzzled. I don't know about a northern area. We're talking about two southern areas. The big difference between Elgin and Middlesex is there's not a minister sitting in this House who happens to hold the seat. It's quite clear that that is the only difference and that you're playing politics with this issue of closure of hospitals. It is going to backfire on you in a very big way because it gives the lie to all the other statements you make about disinterestedness.

Why is the deputy minister only responding to suggestions that now have been made to you by the restructuring commission? Why did the same deputy minister refuse permission to the heads of those hospitals and those communities to have some input into the process in the first place?

Hon Mr Wilson: I apologize to the honourable member. I was referring -- also there's a letter in Thunder Bay with respect to the directives there.

What I want to know from the honourable member is, what don't you like about the direction? No beds closing unless all community services are in place: That's now guaranteed to the people of the province. It's a heck of a lot better than the policy statements your government or the Liberals made. Repatriation of patients to Ottawa, back to Kitchener-Waterloo from the southwest, back home: You have said for years, your party has said for years, and anyone who knows anything about mental health issues in this province has said for years, that patients should be as close to family as possible; yes, in institutional hospital beds, but close to family -- some 40 patients in the southwest going home so that their families can visit them.

I want to know specifically -- the honourable member has been putting up with this for months -- what don't you like? And what you don't like, you better get on paper and get it into the commission because it would like your advice. It wants to make sure it makes the proper decisions on behalf of patients and their loved ones in this province, so I --

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


The Speaker: Member for London Centre, come to order.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I seek unanimous consent to move a motion respecting opposition day.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The government House leader seeks unanimous consent for a motion on opposition day. Agreed? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: I move, notwithstanding standing order 42, the third party be authorized to give notice for an opposition day to be taken up tomorrow.

The Speaker: Mr Johnson moves, notwithstanding standing order 42, the third party be authorized to give notice for an opposition day to be taken up tomorrow.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Is that in his own hand?

The Speaker: That is in his own hand, that's right. Agreed? Agreed.



Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I've got a petition.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, has proposed the fingerprinting of all Ontario citizens; and

"Whereas fingerprinting of Ontarians was never promised in the Common Sense Revolution, or in his election campaign; and

"Whereas universal fingerprinting of Ontario citizens is a direct violation of basic civil rights and fundamental rights of privacy; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is intervening and intruding into all aspects of daily life, from megacities to user fees to rent controls and market value taxes, which he never promised in the election campaign;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to oppose Mike Harris's plan to fingerprint Ontario citizens, and to respect their privacy and to stop creating a mega-government that does not respect the basic freedom and individuality of the citizens of Ontario."

I affix my fingerprint to the petition and sign it.



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

"Whereas there is no dialysis treatment currently available in the Cornwall area; and

"Whereas this lack of medical treatment forces dialysis patients throughout Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and beyond to drive to Ottawa or Kingston several times each week, even during dangerous winter weather conditions, to receive the basic medical attention, incurring unnecessary stress, cost and inconvenience; and

"Whereas the Minister of Health promised on April 24, 1996, to rectify this medical shortfall by establishing a dialysis treatment facility in Cornwall; and

"Whereas the promise made by the Minister of Health has to date not been kept, resulting in local patients and their families and friends continuing to drive to Ottawa and Kingston for treatment several times per week during the above-noted conditions;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure that the Minister of Health follows through on the commitment made last April to set up the long-awaited and much-needed health services for Cornwall area residents."

I have also signed that petition.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It states:

"Whereas the private member's bill introduced by Rick Bartolucci, MPP for Sudbury, which promotes smaller class sizes passed second reading; and

"Whereas this bill, called Bill 110, was referred to the social development committee; and

"Whereas we, the stakeholders in education, want the government committee to hear what we have to say about smaller class sizes; and

"Whereas we want to hear what the government committee has to say regarding smaller class sizes; and

"Whereas all people in Ontario have a right to speak to the social development committee about smaller class sizes;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the recommendation that the social development committee travel across Ontario to find out what the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Ontario are saying about smaller class sizes and Bill 110, the smaller class sizes act."

Of course I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): "Whereas the Conservative Party has broken its promise that it would not close hospitals in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Conservative Party said it would not introduce user fees and proceeded to introduce $225 million in new user fees for seniors through the Ontario drug benefit plan; and

"Whereas the Conservative Party promised that aid for the disabled would not be cut and proceeded to level millions of dollars in new user fees on to the backs of the disabled; and

"Whereas the Conservative Party promised there would be no cuts to education and then proceeded to impose cuts which caused the cancellation of JK classes, the cancellation of special education programs and created larger classroom sizes; and

"Whereas the Conservative Party stated there would be no cuts to law enforcement and then cut the budget of Ontario police and courts by more than $100 million; and

"Whereas the Conservative Party promised that there would be no cuts to the environment and has broken this promise by firing environmental inspectors and cutting the budget that protects the environment by over $100 million;

"We, the undersigned, call upon the Conservative Party to cancel the last stage of its tax scheme, which benefits the wealthiest people in Ontario the most, and restore funding for programs which protect health care, education, seniors and the environment."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have more petitions that read:

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with this petition and will sign my name to it.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): This petition was sent to me by the good people of Windsor-Riverside and many in the apartments at 255 Riverside Drive East and is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On behalf of the residents of Windsor-Riverside, we would dearly love for the government to call a by-election.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition regarding long-term care and it says:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has proposed legislation which will set the stage for privatization of municipally funded homes for the aged or long-term care facilities;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the process of outsourcing or the privatization of essential support staff in St Lawrence Lodge. We are an essential service to the community."

I am proud to affix my signature to this petition, which has hundreds of signatures.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition «Sauvons Montfort». J'aimerais aussi mentionner que nous avons maintenant atteint plus de 130 000 signatures.

«À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

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

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

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

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

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

J'y ajoute ma signature avec fierté. Merci.



Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have yet more petitions from students who attend the Jones Avenue adult school in my riding. It reads:

"We, the undersigned students of Jones Avenue school, believe the government's proposal to cut the educational budget will jeopardize our future. If Jones Avenue school is closed or totally altered, we will have fewer opportunities to learn. If it results in larger classes, it means less individual attention for all the students. The learning effects will be diminished.

"If, as suggested, we are pushed to go to night school, that means we have fewer opportunities to learn as regular students. Also, night school is not secure for women. At night school the teachers and students may not have enough time to know each other.

"Most of the students are new immigrants. They should have opportunities to learn Canadian speaking and Canadian experiences; otherwise, it is painful for them. Many students have successfully completed their credit courses at Jones and they can find good jobs due to their high level of English. They are now contributing to Canadian society. Before, when they were less fluent, their job prospects were low. They had to collect welfare in order to survive in Toronto, an expensive city to live in."

I am proud to add my name to this petition on behalf of the students learning English in my riding.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep getting petitions against charging seniors the $2 user fee. This petition reads as follows:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has started to charge seniors a $2 user fee for each prescription filled since July 15, 1996; and

"Whereas seniors on a fixed income do not significantly benefit from the income tax savings created by this user fee copayment or from other non-health user fees; and

"Whereas the perceived savings to health care from the $2 copayment fee will not compensate for the suffering and misery caused by this user fee, or the painstaking task involved in filling out the application forms; and

"Whereas the current Ontario Minister of Health, Jim Wilson, promised as an opposition MPP in a July 5, 1993, letter to Ontario pharmacists that his party would not endorse legislation that will punish patients to the detriment of health care in Ontario;

"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the" Progressive Conservative "government to repeal this user fee plan because the tax-saving user fee concept is not fair, sensitive or accessible to low-income or fixed-income seniors; and lest we forget, our province's seniors have paid their dues by collectively contributing to the social, economic, moral and political fabric of Canada."

I am proud to affix my signature to this document.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): This petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:

"Whereas we, the registered voters of the province of Ontario, expect the government we elect to lead our Legislature in a responsible and competent manner; and

"Whereas we expect the government we elect to be the government of all the people and to consult with the opposition and to respect the mandate given the government by the electorate; and

"Whereas the present government, led by Premier Mike Harris, (1) has forced the passage of important legislation without adequate preparation, consultation and debate, and (2) has exceeded the mandate given the government by the electorate, and (3) has passed legislation, including Bill 26, and passed Bills 103, 104 and 107, that increase the power of the government to unduly intrude into the lives of the people and contradicts the values that define us as a compassionate, inclusive and just society, and (4) has caused us to become more divided at a time when we should be overlooking our differences and coming together to find new ways of protecting and nurturing those values to which we all aspire; and

"Whereas we, the registered voters of the province of Ontario, have lost all confidence in the leadership of Mike Harris;

"Then be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of the province of Ontario to remove Mike Harris from the position of Premier by whatever legal means, including his voluntary resignation, and to replace him at the earliest possible moment with a competent and responsive member of the provincial Parliament."

I will affix my name gladly to this petition.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition here signed by hundreds of residents of Geraldton, Longlac and Nakina in northern Ontario who are very concerned about the provincial downloading and the effects it will have on all residents. It reads:

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

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

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

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

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

I'm pleased to sign this petition.



Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on administration of justice and move its adoption.

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

Bill 105, An Act to renew the partnership between the province, municipalities and the police and to enhance community safety / Projet de loi 105, Loi visant à renouveler le partenariat entre la province, les municipalités et la police et visant à accroître la sécurité de la collectivité.

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

Shall Bill 105 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Parkdale has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Health concerning Queen Street Mental Health Centre. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.



Mrs Witmer moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 136, An Act to provide for the expeditious resolution of disputes during collective bargaining in certain sectors and to facilitate collective bargaining following restructuring in the public sector and to make certain amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Pay Equity Act / Projet de loi 136, Loi prévoyant le règlement rapide des différends lors des négociations collectives dans certains secteurs, facilitant les négociations collectives à la suite de la restructuration dans le secteur public et apportant certaines modifications à la Loi sur les normes d'emploi et à la Loi sur l'équité salariale.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mrs Witmer moves that leave be given to introduce a bill entitled An Act to provide for the expeditious -- dispense? No -- resolution of disputes during collective bargaining in certain sectors and to facilitate collective bargaining following restructuring in the public sector and to make certain amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Pay Equity Act and that it be now read the first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Guzzo, Garry J.

Ross, Lillian

Baird, John R.

Hardeman, Ernie

Runciman, Robert W.

Barrett, Toby

Hudak, Tim

Sampson, Rob

Beaubien, Marcel

Johnson, Bert

Shea, Derwyn

Brown, Jim

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Carroll, Jack

Jordan, W. Leo

Smith, Bruce

Chudleigh, Ted

Kells, Morley

Snobelen, John

Cunningham, Dianne

Klees, Frank

Spina, Joseph

Danford, Harry

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

DeFaria, Carl

Marland, Margaret

Turnbull, David

Doyle, Ed

McLean, Allan K.

Vankoughnet, Bill

Ecker, Janet

Munro, Julia

Villeneuve, Noble

Elliott, Brenda

Newman, Dan

Wilson, Jim

Fisher, Barbara

O'Toole, John

Witmer, Elizabeth

Fox, Gary

Palladini, Al

Wood, Bob

Froese, Tom

Parker, John L.

Young, Terence

Galt, Doug

Pettit, Trevor


Grimmett, Bill

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Curling, Alvin

Patten, Richard

Bartolucci, Rick

Gerretsen, John

Phillips, Gerry

Boyd, Marion

Gravelle, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Bradley, James J.

Kennedy, Gerard

Ramsay, David

Chiarelli, Robert

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ruprecht, Tony

Christopherson, David

Martel, Shelley

Silipo, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

McLeod, Lyn

Wildman, Bud

Cleary, John C.

Miclash, Frank

Wood, Len

Conway, Sean G.

North, Peter


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 52; the nays are 26.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Minister, do you wish to make any comments?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): No.



Mr Froese moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 137, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to school buses / Projet de loi 137, Loi modifiant le Code de la route en ce qui a trait aux autobus scolaires.

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 comments?

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. The bill makes two changes to the Highway Traffic Act. First, the driver of a school bus is required to stop at a railway crossing that is protected by gates or railway crossing signal lights even when the gates or lights are not giving warning of the approach of a railway train. Second, school bus drivers who stop on a highway in a line behind a school bus driver who has stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers are required to actuate the overhead red signal lights and stop arm on their buses while stopped.

These amendments will provide further protection to our most precious resources, our children, while travelling in Ontario's school buses. Each member will have received a package today with background information.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): This is Pat's bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Froese: If you have any questions, please give me a call. I look forward to the debate on Thursday, June 19.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order, when the order of the day is called for third reading of Bill 57, An Act to improve the Efficiency of the Environmental Approvals Process and Certain Other Matters, the Speaker shall put the question forthwith on the motion for third reading, which question shall be decided without debate or amendment. If a recorded vote is requested on the motion for third reading, the division bells shall be limited to five minutes and no deferral of any division pursuant to standing order 28(g) shall be permitted.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Johnson, do you have another motion?

Hon David Johnson: Yes, Mr Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to have the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy speak to the motion and that after his time is complete, the remaining time be split between the two opposition parties.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed? Agreed. The parliamentary assistant.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): The government House leader has put forward a time allocation motion with respect to Bill 57, An Act to improve the Efficiency of the Environmental Approvals Process and Certain Other Matters. That motion provides that when the bill is next called for third reading, there would be no further amendments or debate and the question would be immediately put.

In 1992, the NDP government moved a similar time allocation motion on Bill 150, the Labour Sponsored Venture Capital Corporations Act. Bill 150 received only two days' debate on second reading, five days at the standing committee and only one regular sessional day -- two hours and nine minutes -- at third reading before the bill was time allocated.

We have provided for greater consideration of Bill 57. Bill 57 was introduced on June 3, 1996. That's a full year ago today. It received three days' debate on second reading and four days in committee for public hearings and clause-by-clause consideration. At third reading, Bill 57 has already been debated for an extended sessional day for four hours and 35 minutes -- more than twice as long as third reading debate on the NDP government's Bill 150.

We did not want to time allocate Bill 57. Indeed, we have tried to deal with Bill 57 in the best way that we know how: at the negotiating table. For months, the House leaders have been trying to reach agreement with respect to Bill 57, and that obviously has been impossible to do. We have been patient with the opposition parties; however, in order to move forward with our legislative agenda we have no option but to use the rules of the House available to us.

Bill 57 has moved through the legislative process with few amendments that have been proposed, and it is time for us to move forward and debate this motion. Indeed, this is long overdue. I have been regularly asked, as the parliamentary assistant for environment, "When are we going to get on with the standardized approvals?" They have been nicknamed SARs, the acronym for standardized approvals regulations, and it has been rather embarrassing to admit that it's been a full year as of today since it's been introduced. We were in third reading last December and we still don't have it through, all due to resistance on the part of the opposition parties.

Our stated goal a year ago was exactly the same as it is today: to provide effective and responsible environmental protection to the people of Ontario. Bill 57 is, in part, a series of initiatives undertaken by the Honourable Norm Sterling, Minister of Environment and Energy. We are leading the Ministry of Environment and Energy's efforts to reform and to sharpen its regulatory tools.

The best example of these reforms may be our updated and improved environmental assessment systems. I should point out here that our predecessors also proposed reforms to environmental assessment, but they were of an administrative nature only. This government felt that real improvements to environmental assessment could only be made through legislative change. We made this change, and on New Year's Day of this year Minister Sterling announced the final proclamation of these reforms.

Today we have an environmental assessment system that is modern and workable. It maintains all of the classic features of environmental assessment while introducing a number of firsts that enable us to say a faster yes to environmentally responsible projects and also to say a faster no to those projects that are not environmentally responsible.

The reasoning behind environmental assessment reform and other changes being undertaken at the ministry is really quite simple: to enable the ministry to maintain and, wherever possible, to improve upon the high standard of environmental protection enjoyed in the province of Ontario. The Ontario government is not against regulation per se; in fact, as you will see in just a few minutes when I talk about Bill 57, we are proposing to create some new ones. But they will be new ones that work; they will be new ones that produce results.

This focus on results is, I believe, what has been lacking in much of Ontario's environmental protection system. Far too much emphasis has been placed on the process, on how we get to the goal, rather than on the goal itself. This gets to the core of this government's approach to environmental protection. We see our appropriate role as setting tough environmental standards and seeing that those tough standards are met. With its provision for standardized approvals, Bill 57 provides an excellent example of how the ministry is approaching its new role. This was certainly discussed at length during the review on regulatory reform headed up as Responsive Environmental Protection, and certainly has received a lot of support from the environmental community as well as from the industrial community.

Standardized approvals represent an updated approach to the certificate of approvals process. The Environmental Protection Act currently states that anyone proposing an activity that would result in discharges of contaminants to the environment requires a certificate of approval from the ministry. A similar provision exists in the Ontario Water Resources Act for water and sewage works.

As it now stands, you need formal approval from the ministry whether you are a big steel company or a street corner hot dog vendor. I sometimes have to wonder why the previous government didn't require a certificate of approval for people who smoke outdoors. Indeed, they are releasing some contaminants into our environment and I really don't know why they overlooked that particular area. This is what we referred to in the past as "in your face" government. The guiding philosophy is that government knows best.

That certainly is not the view of this government. We don't feel the need to get involved at every step of the process. We don't have the expertise or the resources. We don't believe in dictating to those who know their business better than we do. How they are to meet their requirements is indeed their business. Our business is setting standards and ensuring those standards are met.


With standardized approvals, and being nicknamed now -- you'll probably see it in the future -- the acronym SAR, standardized approvals regulation, we propose that certain classes of activities be able to proceed without the need to apply for the certificates of approval. These activities would instead be required to meet strict environmental standards prescribed by regulation. This will lead to consistency. The present system of developing the regulation for each application can lead to a very patchwork type of program across the province. Only activities with predictable and minimal environmental impacts will be considered for standardized approvals.

Bill 57 provides the necessary regulation-making authority, but it does not specify which classes of activity can use the standardized approvals process. This will be decided later through full consultation with both industrial and environmental groups. Broad public consultation will be conducted through the Environmental Bill of Rights registry.

While we haven't determined the activities to be covered, I'd like to offer the following example of how standardized approvals would work. Rather than going the certificate of approvals route, a person opening a small paint spraying operation would instead be required to meet rules established in a regulation for small paint spraying operations. Rather than creating in effect an individual regulation for every single instance, Bill 57 calls for one general regulation covering every instance of a particular type of activity. This does not in any way compromise the environmental safeguards enjoyed in this province. It does, however, deliver the product -- environmental protection -- more effectively and more efficiently.

It simply means that rather than using the certificate process, we impose similar or stronger conditions through regulation. This is also good news for industry as it eliminates the red tape that's associated with the certificate of approvals process and it very commonly comes up in discussions with industry: "Do you really need all of the red tape that's out there? We want to protect the environment but we don't have the time or the resources to go through the kind of red tape that's been introduced by previous governments." It's been a barrier to job creation in this province. It will also allow environmentally responsible projects to proceed without undue delay.

The public benefits because it does not affect the ministry's ability to ensure compliance or prosecute those who fail to comply with the rules set out in regulation. For the ministry, it will enable staff to use time spent on processing approvals in the more productive way set out in the ministry's business plan.

Before going on to the next section of the bill, I just want to emphasize that standardized approvals would not be used for all classes of activity. Rather, they will be used for activities where the environmental implications are well understood and are predictable and where environmental effects can be mitigated through the application of standardized rules or conditions.

I will take you quickly through the remaining features of Bill 57.

The next feature is environmental compensation. Through this bill, we are putting an end to the Environmental Compensation Corp, which has outlived its need. Those who are responsible for environmental spills are also responsible for cleanup and for compensating the affected parties. The law is clear and remains unchanged.

We've been spending far more dollars on administration than we have on compensation. Over 10 years, it has cost something in the neighbourhood of $3 million, spending on an average of $69,000 per year. The bill also includes regulation-making authority for new fees. The ministry proposes to recover the administrative costs of some of the ministry services such as registration and recordkeeping. This will help the ministry do a better job of protecting the environment at less cost to the taxpayer.

The final feature of this bill is the repeal of the Ontario Waste Management Corporation Act. This closes the book on a multimillion-dollar search for hazardous waste facilities. The Ontario Waste Management Corp didn't deliver its intended result. Getting results is exactly what Bill 57 is all about and it's a bottom line for the Ontario government. We want to see an environmental protection system that works.

I believe that Bill 57 is a big step in the right direction and will help the ministry provide better environmental protection and better service to the people of Ontario. It's time to move ahead. We started one year ago with this bill, it was introduced at that time by the Honourable Brenda Elliott, and we're now through third reading. We had third reading in December; this is some six months later and it is time it was passed. Sufficient time has been put into readings, into debate and committee hearings on this bill. Few amendments have been proposed. It is time to move forward. The time allocation motion will allow us to make better use of our time in the Legislature to deal with other issues.

Just reviewing here, the first reading was on June 3, a year ago now. Second reading was in September, and we spent three different days debating it for some eight hours and 17 minutes. We then went to committee and it was in committee for four days; it met here in Toronto. We then went to third reading in December. It was in one of the midnight sessions that we debated this bill. Well over four and a half hours went into third reading debate. I think we've really worked this bill very well and we're going to spend today on the closure motion.

I also extend a sincere thank you to everyone in the House for the time and effort they've put into the consideration of Bill 57. I believe that with this bill in place, Ontario's environment will be better protected for the benefit of generations to come.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate?

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I would like to ask unanimous consent to split my time with the member for St Catharines.

The Acting Speaker: I've been informed that there's already been consent to split the time equally between both opposition parties.

Mr Agostino: I rise to speak in opposition to this bill and in particular in opposition to the time allocation. It's typical of this government. I realize, to the members across the floor, that the Legislature, with this inconvenience of governing you have to put up with, is a nuisance to you, and you treat it with such contempt on a regular basis. You have treated with such contempt the Legislature with the rules that were introduced on behalf of the Premier by one of the backbenchers yesterday and you continue to treat this Legislature as something you have to put up with while you have, as you believe, some God-given right to do what you want, when you want, to the people of Ontario.

This time allocation is just another one of the many examples of this government believing it has a mandate not to govern but to dictate, to ram everything through when they want, how they want, regardless of any opposition. The opposition again is just an obstacle that you have to get over, in your view and in your way, to dictate and run this province as some medieval king with a castle would like to do or has done in previous ages. That's not the province of Ontario. That is not a democratic system.

Many of the things you're talking about today, many of the changes you're going to propose with your bill, are going to come back to haunt you. When you end up in the opposition two years from now you're going to have to deal with the bills and the changes you have proposed. That is the time you are going to sit back and realize the need for effective opposition and the need to ensure that there's proper opportunity for debate in the House, which you have not given to this bill or, frankly, many other bills that have been brought. I think it's a crock to suggest that you're doing this to get on with other important business of the province. Frankly, you're doing this because, as with every other bill, you don't like debate, you don't like opposition, you don't like people pointing out the flaws in this legislation, and this bill is flawed.


You're great with names. In every bill that you bring forward, you talk about efficiency, you talk about savings, you talk about getting rid of red tape. What you're doing here is getting rid of government involvement in protecting the environment. Bill 57 is another perfect example of that. You believe the role of government is to be out of the way of industry. You believe the role of government is to simply set some loose standards out there and hope that industry follows them.

It was that same role of government, that same philosophy of years ago, that allowed companies across this province to pollute our rivers, our lakes, to put chemicals directly into our harbours through their emissions. That was the type of approach that caused the environmental problems we have today and have had over the years. Successive governments, including real Conservative governments, real Tories like Bill Davis -- not the Reformers that are here today -- and the Peterson government and the Rae government, throughout the years have spent money, energy and effort trying to correct the mistakes that have been made by previous government philosophies that basically said the private sector should do what it wants and should be their own police and their own monitor of environmental laws and of pollution controls. This is why we had the problem we had, and you're moving in that direction.

You are moving in that direction with every single piece of environmental legislation. You are saying to the private sector: "You take care of it. Don't worry about it. If there's a problem, we'll just look away and pretend it didn't happen." That is not the way you protect the public. That is not the way you protect the environment of this province.

Bill 57 is a perfect example of what you're doing. What you're doing is getting out of the way of approvals. The certificates of approval were very valuable. Not only did it ensure that particular standards were complied with; it also allowed an educational component.

Look at small businesses. Paint shops are a perfect example of that: automobile-related industries, some of the small businesses which didn't have the ability or the tools to properly train and deal with their employees. The certificates of approval that you are now taking away would have given them that. You've abandoned all that.

There's a simple reason why you have done that. You don't have the staff or the resources to monitor or enforce the regulations in regard to environmental protection in Ontario. It is that simple. You won't even tell us what you're proposing to exempt from the environmental protection after the bill is passed. What you want is a blank cheque. You want us to trust you with the environment. It is ludicrous. Nobody trusts you with the environment in this province. You have been nothing but a wrecking crew since you've come to office when it comes to environmental protection, but you expect the Legislature to pass a bill that says: "Trust us. We'll decide which exemptions will occur. We'll decide where certificates of approval are needed or not needed."

If this were a well-thought-out bill, as the parliamentary assistant says it is, and had had the kind of debate and long-term discussions that he has talked about, I question why the specific exemptions that this government is willing to give are not listed in front of us. Are you looking for a blank approval from this Legislature? I don't think so. It is not going to happen. We don't trust you. Your record speaks for itself. Your record of environmental destruction since you came to office is unprecedented. You have done more to dismantle the Ministry of Environment since you came to office than any previous government in the history of this province, and you've accomplished that in two years. You should be proud of that accomplishment.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): What about your millions of dollars on the tire tax? You were going to solve --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Mississauga South, come to order, please.

Mr Agostino: You should be proud of the fact that you've cut the budget of the Ministry of Environment by $121 million. You should be proud of the fact that you have cut the budget by 39%. The Ministry of Environment budget has taken a deeper hit, a deeper cut and a deeper beating than any single ministry. I wonder why we still have a minister or a parliamentary assistant, frankly, because you have very little left to do. You've gotten rid of the rules; you've gotten rid of the staff; you've gotten rid of the budgets. But it feels good to state that you're doing something for environmental protection. The facts don't match that.

This is the government that talks about environmental protection. This is the government that talks about self-monitoring in ensuring the rules are enforced. This is the same government that has cut staff by 722; 31% of the ministry staff has been released, has been fired, has been laid off, since you took office.

It is unprecedented at a time when prosecutions have gone down dramatically, charges have gone down dramatically, and you know why? Because you have sent a clear message. The message doesn't impact the good corporate citizens, because they are responsible. Industries that over the years have taken the right steps, have put in the proper technology and have gone beyond government regulations are not the problem. But the message you have sent out to the polluters is that you are open for business; you are open to ensure that you will allow the destruction of environmental protection in Ontario at any cost to make your corporate friends happy. Why else would you cut 31% of your staff? Why else would you reduce staff by 722, the staff that enforces the regulations you talk about, the staff that monitors, the staff that deals with the companies?

You think somehow you're saving a lot of money here. You may be saving a few dollars in the short term by this, but you're missing the boat on environmental protection. You're missing the boat on health care costs that are being incurred by the taxpayers of this province as the result of water quality, as the result of emission standards that have been lowered, as the result of increased health problems and illness that will occur by the fact that you don't have the staff or the ability to enforce environmental standards across Ontario.

You talk about this bill as somehow being something that simply cuts a little bit of red tape. No. What you have done with this is you have left the door completely open to picking and choosing what areas you feel should not have to go through the certificate-of-approval process and should not have to receive the same scrutiny as before.

You want that blank cheque given to you based on your track record. You don't deserve that blank cheque, you don't deserve that trust to be able to pick and choose, because you have failed miserably so far and you have let the people in Ontario down. Every single time you have changed a piece of legislation as it impacts the environment, it has always been to the advantage of the corporate polluters and to the disadvantage of Ontario. The public interest takes a back seat to the private interest in every single case. Whether it's water, whether it's air, whether it's emissions, in every single case you have sold out the public interest on behalf of your corporate friends. That is your real agenda here.

It is your real agenda here again. If that is not the case, why didn't you bring forward the list? Why didn't the parliamentary assistant or the minister tell us which industries, which chemicals, are going to be exempt? The regulation creates a standardized approval which allows the minister, through regulation, to exempt persons, activities, things, "contaminant, substance, waste, material, spill, or other matter from requiring a certificate of approval under the Environmental Protection Act or the Ontario Water Resources Act."


Mr Agostino: So the minister and the parliamentary assistant, who is heckling across the floor, with their track record, want us to allow them to determine which exemptions will occur in regard to "contaminant, substance, waste, material, spill, or other matter." That's a pretty broad stroke. That's a pretty open-ended approval you're looking for here today. Again, you don't want to bother coming before this Legislature. You want to be able to sit there quietly in your back rooms, sign off on these things, and they become law for the province of Ontario. You have absolutely no interest in protecting the environment; you have interest only in protecting your friends in the corporate sector who want these changes because it makes it easier for them to do business cheaper in Ontario, at the same compromising environmental protection and health for Ontarians every single day. That is what this bill is all about.

Then you go further and you eliminate the opportunity for people to come after you if you've given an approval and there has been a problem. You have exempted yourselves from any liability from actions or proceedings being sought against the minister or the ministry arising out of an activity carried out under a standardized approval. Not only do you want this blank cheque to do whatever you want, but then, if you make a mistake, if you approve something under this that is harmful to the public or to the health of Ontarians, you also want protection for the public not to go after you.


Somehow, you're above the law. Somehow, what applies to the rest of Ontario does not apply to this minister or this ministry, because you want that special protection. If you're so confident that what you're doing is right and in the best interests of Ontarians and does not harm health and safety, why do you want that provision in the legislation? Why do you take away the right of the public to be able to come after you if you've made a mistake in this regulation? Because you're not sure where this is going. Because you're not sure of the impact of what you're doing, as you're not sure of what you're going to exempt, because you don't have the list here today.

That, to me, is really chickening out. If you're going to make these changes, have the courage to defend these changes in court if they harm people's health or the environment of this province. But you have no interest in doing that because you have this God-given right to govern this province in the way you want and be above the law and above what other Ontarians have to deal with every single day. This is clearly another intent of that.

In this bill you've eliminated the Environmental Compensation Corp. This allowed people whose property may have been contaminated, where environmental damage has been done but they were not able to sue the responsible party, to claim and get some assistance. You've taken that away.

There's a history across this province of gas stations whose underground storage tanks for years and years leaked and contaminated properties all around that. There may have been three or four owners since that time. That problem has come to light and there's no one you can go after. You may not know where those people are; you may not know which companies owned it; they may have gone bankrupt; they may have left the province, even left the country. Who are you going to sue? There's nobody left to sue there. This gave some protection.

If your insurance company doesn't cover it, that's too bad. If you have contaminated soil in your backyard, if you have oil or gas in the soil in the backyard where your kids are playing, that's tough luck according to this government, because we're going to take away what assistance was there, unless you want to go to court and maybe spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to chase down some company, which I'm sure most average taxpayers and homeowners in this province are not in a position to do. But you don't even care about that. You really do not care, because if you did you wouldn't bring in this kind of regressive legislation.

It is absolutely astonishing that you would pass this off as simply cutting red tape when it is cutting regulations, cutting controls and cutting an opportunity for the public to have some protection. But you don't even care about that. This is the same government that has cut 39% -- 92 air monitoring stations have been closed since you've come to office. Maybe you can tell me how that helps the environment. Maybe you can tell me how leaving 13 communities without air monitoring stations is beneficial, how that protects Ontarians' health.

Maybe the parliamentary assistant to the minister can tell us how that is in the best interests of people across this province. Maybe he can tell us why you have reduced odour and dust complaints to "nuisance" as far as a response, which means it's low priority, which means if you get around to it you will -- and we realize you can't, and it's not the staff's fault because the front-line staff are stretched to the limit. But you've reduced those to nuisance complaints.

Water monitoring stations: In 1991, there were 700 across this province. Today you have cut that down to 200. That's your work, no one else's; your commitment to environmental protection. We've seen it again and again.

You have cut regulations in regard to transportation of PCBs. You have opened the door to privatizing water across this province. Again the public interest has taken a back seat to the private interest. We just debated a bill in the Legislature last week, Bill 107, that now opens the door to the private sector coming in and owning water and sewer facilities across the province -- not operating; owning and setting the rates and holding people hostage. That's what you have done. That is part of your continuous commitment to environmental protection.

You've cut resources to the 16 remedial action plans for the Great Lakes. These were the folks and the plans and the strategies that were in place to undo the damage that years of government mentality such as yours way back allowed the Great Lakes, our harbours, our water in this province to be in the sad shape it has been in. So you cut the funding from the groups that were working to fix that up. That's what you've done.

You've made a 70% cut in funding to 38 conservation authorities. Again, it talks about your commitment to the environment.

You have cut regulations in almost every single area as it impacts the environment and now you're going to move to this, you're going to move to Bill 57. You want a blank cheque to waive regulations and certificate approvals for many industries, many factories. You won't even tell us what they are, except they're contaminants, substance waste, material spill. At the same time, your minister, Norm Sterling himself, has stated that 1,800 people a year in this province die prematurely as a result of air pollution, according to your own ministry figures. At the same time, you move to Bill 57, which opens up the door to further air pollution, to further contaminants, to further waste in this province.

It is ironic that you continue to talk about streamlining and efficiency when what we're really talking about here is cutting, cutting, cutting even further, and Bill 57 is a perfect example of that.

You should listen to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario or the Provincial Auditor, because they're saying the same thing. Let me remind you what the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has said. "We need to work toward...solutions with creativity and flexibility. We cannot afford to focus on short-term savings at the expense of long-term environmental health." That's exactly what you're doing.

Here's something else the Environmental Commissioner has said about your government's track record on the environment. "If we continue along this path, our right to a healthy environment will be jeopardized."

The Provincial Auditor said about your track record and about your work so far that you're so proud of -- you speak so proudly of what you've done in regard to the environment. Let me tell you what the Provincial Auditor has said: "To better meet its mandate for safeguarding the environment and human health, the ministry needs to update its standards for air pollutants. Additionally, it needs to improve its monitoring efforts in the areas of air, water and hazardous waste materials." What you are proposing in Bill 57 smacks totally in the opposite direction to what the Provincial Auditor has said you need to do.

The auditor said you need to update and increase your standards, you need to improve your monitoring efforts in air, water and hazardous waste material. What Bill 57 does is allow you to basically throw out the rules when it comes to controlling these items and these waste substances. It doesn't do anything to help; it simply allows you to allow your corporate friends to do what they want when they want.

The Provincial Auditor is independent of political parties. The Provincial Auditor has no special interests. But he has criticized what you're doing and what you continue to do. The Environmental Commissioner has no special interests, has no political party, is simply there to safeguard the environment of this province, and she has criticized severely what you're doing. What you're doing here contradicts totally what both those parties have said you should be doing.

Then you make token efforts. We've raised in this Legislature a number of times the fact that a toxin called PM10, a fine dust particle, causes at least 25 deaths a year across this province. After dragging his feet, this minister a month ago announced minimum standards for PM10. However, there was absolutely no money, no resources, no efforts made to bring in any type of monitoring equipment, facilities or resources for these standards. Now you've set standards for PM10, for the fine dust particles, but you have no way of knowing whether anybody is meeting those standards because you've shut down the monitoring station. You don't have the staff and you don't have the monitoring equipment. That's like putting a speed limit on a highway and saying, "We now have a speed limit," but then taking away the OPP officer, the radar guns and the monitoring equipment. You have your speed limit but you have no mechanism for enforcing it. You've done the exact same thing here.


The story goes on and on. I can go on for another half-hour. I'm going to wrap up to give my esteemed colleague from St Catharines, the former minister, a chance to talk about this bill.

I want to say to this government: Proceed very cautiously with what you're doing. You may see a few savings here, you may save a dollar here and there with the cuts you're making, but you are damaging the health of Ontarians, you are damaging the environment, you are damaging the future of this province. You've taken us back to environmental standards of 50 years ago.

We now look to our friends to the south, the United States. They put us to shame because they have continued to move in an upward manner in regard to higher standards and higher enforcement, and we've moved in the opposite direction. We can now probably compete with Kentucky and Mississippi. We should be proud of that. We have now lowered ourselves to the common denominator when it comes to environmental standards: the Mississippis of this world. Right now that's where we're taking lessons from. That's certainly where the minister went to tour, along to Kentucky and a few other fine states where standards don't even exist in many areas.

I urge this government to reconsider what you're doing, to move carefully, to ensure that you take the health of Ontarians as a top priority in environmental regulations, that you take the protection of the environment and, for a change, that you look after the public interest before the private interest.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you for the opportunity to make some comments on this time allocation motion and also on the bill and surrounding issues that might relate to this in some general way.

This is a bill which of course is designed to make it easier for potential polluters to be able to get their way, and brings about a situation where those who are in business and industry will not have to exercise the same cautions they did previously before getting approval to do something that might have some detrimental effect on the environment.

Not only is the public at large going to be alarmed by this bill, if they know about it, but good corporate citizens are as well. There's this idea out there that the entire business and industrial community wants the government to retreat on environmental regulation, legislation and policy. That is not true. There are many good corporate citizens who have invested already in the training and education of their employees, in the development of policies and policy statements which are designed to make them at the very least environmentally benign and at best environmentally proactive corporations or businesses. They have also spent money on equipment and perhaps have hired consultants or consulting firms to assist them in developing their corporate policies as they relate to the environment.

Those good corporate citizens, the ones who have made the investment in the environment, the ones who care about the environment, do not want to see this government relent for those who are not prepared to make that kind of investment in their employees, in their equipment, in their policies and in their general attitudes. They want a so-called level playing field out there.

What used to happen so often was that some companies, of their own volition, would take action which would make them environmentally benign or, as I say, perhaps even environmentally desirable corporate entities, and they would look down the street at another company that could make a quick and dirty profit by not living up to the environmental obligations that a company, of its own volition, would be living up to.

Those companies, those corporate citizens, would say to the Ministry of Environment: "Why don't you have some laws which apply to everybody? Please consult us first. Please give us some lead time so we can implement your new rules and regulations. Please listen to some of the practical suggestions we have on how you can achieve your goals best, because we have some expertise in the field." These people were very helpful in developing public policy. They had no use for the environmentally bad actors.

This legislation may not be entirely bad legislation. I find when you go through bills that come before the House, you can always find something that is commendable within the legislation. There's nothing wrong with governments looking at existing laws, existing legislation, existing regulations, existing policy to see whether they're applicable in 1997, to see whether they make sense. There's nothing wrong with that and the government should not ever be criticized for doing that. But when the goal seems to be to relent on matters affecting the environment simply to please some people who have been annoyed with the Ministry of Environment over the years, I don't think we achieve anything positive for the good corporations or for the public at large and for the natural environment that we are here to protect.

When you make the approvals too easy, when you make the changes so that all the special precautions don't have to be put into place at the beginning, you invite problems later on. It should always be the goal of the Ministry of Environment to limit the risk of problems. You cannot realistically eliminate all the challenges and problems; what you can do is reduce substantially the risk of those problems arising. That's what should be done in legislation in this House. Instead, it is not.

We're going to drive this through with yet another time allocation motion. That means a motion, a resolution that the Harris government -- the Reform-Conservative Party, as we call it, on the other side -- is passing in this House this afternoon, because they have 82 seats and they can certainly do so, and there will be a vote at the end of the day, and there's no problem with that, because the government ensures that through the legislation that already exists, the framework that exists within our rules. The government will get its way, but what it will have done is further restrict debate on an important subject that I suspect most people are not aware of.

Speaker, before you entered the Legislature, you were involved in a number of environmental activities in your riding in the east end of Toronto. Now you're the critic for the party. I believe you still are the critic -- because you've raised a number of issues in the House, I know you are -- and you understand the environmental issues that are out there. I know you must share my concern, as the Minister of Transportation must share my concern, when the government begins to tamper with the approval process to make it easier for people to get approvals without going through the necessary steps.

I know they're annoying. They must be annoying to the Minister of Transportation from time to time. I can recall that when I was the Minister of the Environment I wasn't always on the best speaking terms with the Minister of Transportation or some other ministers, because by its very nature the Ministry of Environment is regulatory. It's there to protect the environment. I use the Ministry of Transportation just because my friend the minister is here this afternoon. His job is to try to get his projects and policies through as quickly as possible to serve the transportation needs of the province. The Minister of Environment on the other hand is there to ensure that all the cautions are put in place so there is a lessening of the risk of any environmental problems.

This bill moves in the opposite direction and it does so because there have always been people out there who don't like the Ministry of Environment, particularly some people in business, some people in industry; not everybody, as I've mentioned, but some of them. They go to the Tory fund-raiser and whisper in the members' ears and say, "Isn't it awful, that Ministry of Environment?"

You'll be interested to know this: They used to call the investigations and enforcement branch the Gestapo. I used to just about fall over when they would say that. I would visit a company and they would always have a vice-president -- environment. You'd show up at the company and if the investigations and enforcement branch had been there recently, he would say the Gestapo had been there that week. So I thought they must be doing their job if somebody was unhappy with them.


The problem is that the cuts the member for Hamilton East made reference to, the Liberal environment critic, mean the ministry cannot carry out its obligations as it might have. My friend the member for Dufferin-Peel, who was the critic at one time for the Conservative Party in the field of the environment, used to justifiably want to call governments to account if they didn't have the proper resources and the proper staff to carry out appropriate policies in the environment. I thought his criticism was constructive and helpful, and I know that today he must be beside himself over the fact that this government is retreating so much from the environmental stance previous governments have taken. I know he shares my view, for instance, that the Minister of Environment should be in charge of the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

I disagree with a lot of what my friend Norm Sterling does in the environment. Norm and I, by the way, were elected the very same date. That's coming up pretty soon too. I think it was June 9, 1977. I hear a chorus of "Too long" on the other side. Norm and I were elected on that occasion. The one thing you can always say about Norm, and I know we're supposed to use the names, the member for Carleton, was that --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): He's a good golfer.

Mr Bradley: Not only that he's a good golfer, much better than I would ever be; I don't even play golf. Even when I go on a golf course, it's alleged I don't play golf. My friend Norm Sterling always had a passion for the Niagara Escarpment and wanted to see it protected. Within the Conservative caucus, there were some members who couldn't be called Friends of the Escarpment; if you put a coalition together, you couldn't call them Friends of the Niagara Escarpment. But my friend Norm Sterling, the member for Carleton, the Minister of Environment and Energy, was indeed that person.

Mr Baird: I wonder where this is going.

Mr Bradley: It's going to the last minute; that's where it's going.

When he was Provincial Secretary for Resources Development -- it sounds odd that he'd have that position and still be a protectionist of the environment -- he had a lot to do with the first plan that came forward. When the Bruce Trail Association calls people together and eulogizes them -- before they're dead, of course. What's the word when you eulogize and you're not dead? There's another word. When they pay tribute to these people, Norm Sterling is always one of the people they pay tribute to, and with justification.

One thing he wanted to do, even if he's prepared to let the environment go in the wrong direction, he's prepared to protect the Niagara Escarpment. What happened? They took it away from him. They took away responsibility. The Premier's office, the people who know better than everybody else, all those unelected people who are much smarter than the government backbenchers or frontbenchers or anybody else, said: "Well, you know, some people don't like this. Let's take it away from Norm and give it to" -- who else? -- "the Minister of Natural Resources."

Anybody who has been in government -- and I had a small segment of time there, some people would say in purgatory, but it's not; it's really quite revealing when you are in government -- you'd find out that the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment don't always get along. In fact I always thought, in my mind, that the Ministry of Natural Resources was more inclined to look after its clients, those who would exploit the natural resources -- I don't say that in as negative a fashion as you might think -- those who want to use for business and industrial purposes the resources we have.

The Minister of Natural Resources is now in charge of the Niagara Escarpment. It's going to be interesting to see who gets appointed to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, because in the past the Tories, the Liberals and the NDP have appointed people who, generally speaking, were there to protect the environment, were there to protect the escarpment. Now I would like to see who is going to be appointed, because I can think of some names that would send chills up my spine. We would see, as I've warned on many occasions, the Escarpment Hilton and the Escarpment Howard Johnson and the Escarpment Holiday Inn -- I'm not supposed to be giving commercials here, but whatever the companies happened to be -- and the huge tennis courts and so on, and of course the luxury homes for those who will be able to afford them now that they have the tax cut, that is, the richest people in our society, I worry about that.

Here we have a time allocation motion, the government sending the tanks in. I don't mean that literally, naturally, but figuratively sending the tanks in to squash the opposition and to push this bill through so they will have to build even bigger halls to hold the fund-raisers with all those people who will be happy with this legislation. That indeed is going to happen, in my view.

This time allocation motion is all part of the impatience of this government, or at least some members of the government, with the legislative process. Yesterday, under the shield of the federal election, with everyone's attention diverted to the federal election, we had a press conference held in the morning where we had some proposed rule changes brought forward by the member for Nepean. I have the suspicion, borne out I think by fact, that these rule changes were hatched in the Premier's office and in the office of the government House leader and nowhere else and that the -- "stooge" is not the word I want -- front person for this was the member for Nepean, who was told to go to a press conference and propose these things on the day when the media were out of here and when the public was not paying attention.

The media are paying attention today. They may not be in the Legislature, but I know they're all watching the monitors in their office now and will be cognizant of the fact that a government which has established a reputation as being a bullying government now wants to change the rules even further to push through the Revolution much faster than might otherwise be the case.

In fact I was complimenting, if that's the word you want, in terms of a legislative agenda, some government members yesterday, saying: "You know, you've already passed a lot of bills, probably more bills than other governments, in your first couple of years. I don't agree with a lot of them, but you really haven't been held up in what you're doing."

Under the present rules -- I know they're inconvenient some days of the week -- at times, and they are rare times, the opposition employs extraordinary procedures in order to slow down the progress of the government in implementing its policies. That's healthy for the system. That's not unhealthy.

Bill 26, the massive budget bill, set up the hospital restructuring commission, which is now coming to all our communities and closing hospitals without recourse to this Legislature, without recourse to elected people, is just shutting hospitals down. That was established under Bill 26. You'll recall that the opposition took extraordinary action, very annoying to some, troublesome to many in the opposition, who don't like having to employ extraordinary action. But it was employed, and as a result we had hearings across the province on Bill 26, all kinds of input, and the government itself brought over 150 amendments to its own legislation as a result of the process that was aided and abetted by the opposition through the action it took.

I've read the proposals, and they're all designed to thwart the efforts of the opposition to slow down the government. I'd put on the table that that is often the role of the opposition. When I go out there and talk to people, not everybody disagrees with what you're doing -- many people do, but not everybody -- but almost everybody says: "You know, I wish they'd just slow down. I wish they'd take a little more time. I wish they would explain what they're doing and maybe make some changes when they hear from the public or from people who are expert in the field. Make those modifications, and make it better legislation instead of faster legislation."

If you employ these rules, then the people in the Premier's office, the whiz kids, will write up the legislation and you'll have it in the House, and the only role of the other government members outside the cabinet will be to applaud as the minister puts the legislation through and of course to laugh at the Premier's jokes, which is always a requirement if one wants to move up in the cabinet or even get into the cabinet. I'm worried that we're dealing with a time allocation motion again, especially with this bill.

If the government were making some changes and still maintaining the Ministry of Environment, that would be different. I hear the Minister of Environment and Energy say, "We're going to increase the standards," but there is nobody there to enforce those standards. When you fire one third of the staff of the Ministry of Environment, when you're out privatizing the water system, 25% of it, when you're cutting the budget by at least one third, you can't possibly do the job properly. The Ministry of Environment, by its very nature, requires staff and requires resources.


There was a time not long ago when Ontario was considered to be an environmental leader. Indeed, people came from all over Canada, the United States and even some countries in Europe and other parts of the world to Ontario to see what we were doing. Did it cost money? It did, but it was an investment not only in the present but in the future; an investment in the protection of something sacred to all of us, regardless of our political affiliation, that being the environment itself.

I become concerned when I see this kind of action taking place. I become concerned because I know that the provincial government gets some transfer payments from the federal government. Nowadays those funds can be used for anything. There are no strings attached. They used to have to go to health and education and a couple of other things. Now it's a block transfer, a blank cheque the federal government signs and sends to the provincial government. Do they spend it on the environment? No. Do they spend it on health care? No.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): The tax break.

Mr Bradley: The member for Cochrane North says they give it away in a tax break that benefits the richest people in our society the most, and that is certainly the most important thing to remember. This government gets its transfer payments from the federal government and then squanders it, sends a cheque out to the richest people. Those people making their $400,000 a year get a huge tax cut. That is not a proper use of the funding.

I'd rather see it go into the environment and the health care fields and have the Premier say: "Look, we've implemented half of our tax cut. We now feel that the price we pay in terms of the cuts to services to people is too great. We don't like having to borrow the money for the tax cut and we don't like taking those federal transfer payments and giving them away, so we're going to postpone that tax cut to well into the future when our budget is balanced. Everybody can then look at something in terms of a tax cut with more validity than at the present time."

I worry about that tax cut because I remember the Dominion Bond Rating Service. My friend from Mississauga South, who sits in the chair now and looks so appropriate in that particular location, will remember the Dominion Bond Rating Service, not a bastion of liberalism -- certainly no socialists in that group -- saying that it would cost the provincial government $4.8 billion a year in order to finance this tax cut. I know she must be worried.

She is at a disadvantage now because she is unable to respond from the chair, but were she in her seat I know she would be rising to provide her clarification of this issue.

I know she would be interested to look at the context of this bill and some of the things that are happening in the environment, because people in this House should remember that Margaret Marland, as we know her affectionately in this House, the member for Mississauga South, as she is appropriately called, and I think still the chair of the Conservative caucus -- is that correct?


Mr Bradley: "Government caucus," as she would refer to it. It sounds more benign and more ecumenical to say "the government caucus."

I will list for her what's happening in the environment, because she too was a good environment critic. She certainly kept me on my toes. When I was the environment minister she had some penetrating questions. She was tough in opposition, as she should be, and she shared some good ideas. She helped out with some things. I appreciated it. I would tell my cabinet colleagues, who were sometimes not as zealous as I in pursuing environmental matters, "I'm going to tell Margaret Marland and she's going to give us all a hard time in the House." So she was very helpful in ways that she didn't even know at the time and I want to pay tribute to her on the work that she did as the Conservative environment critic. I'll share with her some of the things that are happening now that she will be concerned about, I know.

First of all, this government has disbanded the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee, a good committee. Everybody said, "That just gets in the way of everything." No, it didn't. That was a committee that went out and investigated in some detail whether a full environmental assessment would be needed on something. They would come back and report to the minister, and then sometimes the minister would not have to proceed with a full environmental assessment if this committee said it wasn't necessary. They were all good environmentalists on it, but they were practical people. Disbanded.

They've disbanded the Municipal-Industrial Strategy for Abatement Advisory Committee. I can't believe that. A good group again of people from industry, scientists, people in the technical field, environmentalists who sat on this committee to talk about the implementation of the very comprehensive water pollution regulation that was developed in the mid and late 1980s.

They have disbanded the advisory committee on environmental standards, again a blue ribbon committee -- I use the words "blue ribbon" because it will strike a good response on the government side -- which advised on what we should do with certain environmental standards. That's gone out the door. Goodbye.

They have terminated the funding for the blue box recycling program, an excellent program which I believe received the support of all parties in this House. I want to pay tribute: Mississauga was one of the leaders in this area. My very good friend Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, was a strong proponent of blue box recycling and I think probably remains that way, but all of them are concerned that the provincial government has now completely withdrawn from funding in this field.

They have cut the green communities program, which boosted Ontario's green industry and saved homeowners and businesses money. They have terminated environmental research grants which were so useful to our universities and made us a scientific leader in the province. They have terminated public environmental education grants, again to set a pattern out there, to provide information to the general public on environmental issues so that all of us, individually and as groups, can play a better role in protecting our environment.

They've terminated the urban and rural beaches cleanup and restoration programs, which speak for themselves, that were there to provide us with good recreational waters. They have terminated the household hazardous waste program, so that's now only the local municipality. They're happy to do it, but they would like some government funding. That kept a lot of hazardous wastes out of the environment, many of which were found in the homes across the province.

They have reduced funding to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Ontario Energy Board and the Environmental Appeal Board, all of which need appropriate resources to carry out their responsibilities. They have cut conservation authority funding by 70%, and all of us who have been in government or served at the local level remember that conservation authorities have played an extremely important role in our various communities in preserving the natural environment that we have in those communities.

They have terminated the program aimed at preserving the province's fruit lands. Now I lament the fact that as I go back to St Catharines in the evening down the Queen Elizabeth Highway, I see, instead of the luscious fruit land out there, in so many cases warehouses along the highway and development taking place where frankly, in my personal view, it doesn't make any sense at all to be taking place. I think many people would agree with that.

They revoked Bill 163, which had measures to protect the environment in the planning process, and they have therefore speeded the development of agricultural land. They have permitted contaminated soil to be used as cover at landfills. I well remember dealing with contaminated soil in Mississauga, with the help of the member for Mississauga South, who gave some helpful advice on how we could reclaim lands which were industrial previously, where there would be some contaminating oils, and how those lands could be converted for other uses.

They are considering eliminating 80 regulations protecting the environment. They have refused to permit the city of Toronto's clean air bylaw, whereas Toronto is prepared to take that initiative. I commend Toronto for that.

They have fired environmentalists from the Hydro board of directors. With the recent revelations we have had about what has been going from Pickering over the past several years into Lake Ontario and Lake Erie under the jurisdiction of Ontario Hydro, this is where we need environmentalists -- not the whole group but some environmentalists -- on the Hydro board. The member for Oxford agrees with me on that.


They have exempted the Ministry of Finance from the Environmental Bill of Rights. My former colleague Bob Nixon would probably be applauding that. Bob and I from time to time didn't agree on environmental policies -- like every time. No, I didn't say that; from time to time, I meant to say, we did not agree on some of those matters.

They have proposed reducing wetlands areas to which strict development restrictions apply. They're reducing, in other words, those wetlands areas. They're permitting the sale of environmentally sensitive lands protected by conservation authorities. They're reducing environmental regulations in the mining industry and they've removed legislative restrictions on the development of public lands.

You can see that this government is in full retreat. I could hear the "beep, beep, beep" sound as the truck moves backwards. I could hear the bugles of retreat out there being sounded as the government heads in full retreat on environmental issues, much to the chagrin, I'm sure, of my good friend the member for Mississauga South, who so appropriately called previous governments to task when they were not pursuing environmental initiatives as she felt they should be. I know I can count on her to share with the members of the Conservative caucus, the government caucus, many of the thoughts that I have shared with members of the House this afternoon.

I urge you to terminate this action this afternoon, to go back to the drawing board and to protect the environment. I suspect, however, that you'll be moving full bulldozer ahead in the very near future.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Here we are at 5 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon and the government is using its majority once again to get its way with respect to legislation in this House and cutting off legitimate debate which should occur on an important piece of environmental legislation.

I listened with some interest to the parliamentary assistant as he talked about the debate which occurred on second reading and the four short days of public hearings which occurred in Toronto and the fact that we debated this bill again during one of the night sittings in December and that now it was time to get an end to this because people were calling his office, they were wanting to know what was happening with the regulations etc.

I say to the government, the government has a majority, the government determines the business, the government calls the business. If it has taken the government a year to get this legislation through, then whose fault is that? It is the government's fault. It is not anyone else's fault.

This is an important piece of legislation. As far as I'm concerned, this legislation allows corporate polluters to write their own rules. It allows them to self-monitor, self-police and basically do whatever the heck they want in the province of Ontario without the public even having the benefit of input on the environmental registry with respect to what they want to do. This is a major change in direction with respect to what has been current practice in Ontario with respect to companies having to have certificates of approval for undertakings. It's a significant departure.

The reason that we find ourselves in this position, having this Conservative government move forward this kind of deregulation bill, is quite simple. The government has decided that the most important thing in its mandate is to deliver on its phoney tax cut. So the government has spent an inordinate amount of time cutting programs, cutting people, cutting public services so that the government can find the funds that it needs in order to finance the tax cut, the funds over and above the $22 billion that this same government is also going to borrow to make the phoney tax cut a reality.

The impact on a number of government ministries and a number of government services has been tremendous. As the parliamentary assistant sits here this afternoon, I wish he would defend the fact that some 700 Ministry of Environment and Energy employees have got a pink slip, have got the boot out the door under this Conservative government in the last two years. And maybe he would like to defend the fact that over $200 million has also been cut from the budget of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, a budget that should be used to protect the environment, to protect the public interest in the environment for our children and for their children.

But the reason that we are dealing with Bill 57 here today is that this government has so slashed and burned the staff and the programming at the Ministry of Environment and Energy that this government can no longer protect the environment. This government can no longer live up to the responsibility it has to ensure that environmental legislation is kept in place. This government can no longer ensure that it has enough staff to monitor the legislation that should be in place and to monitor work sites and workplaces in this province to ensure that the environment is being protected and to ensure that companies are living up to their environmental obligations. That is what is at the heart of Bill 57.

It has nothing to do with cutting red tape, it has nothing to do with getting rid of administrative structures, it has nothing to do with ending duplication. This bill has everything to do with the fact that because of the cuts to the Ministry of Environment and Energy, this Conservative government can no longer guarantee protection of the environment, can no longer ensure that there will be enough staff on the ground, out in workplaces across this province ensuring that corporations and smaller companies live up to their environmental obligations.

That's what this bill is all about: How, in the face of having not enough staff to do the job they're supposed to be doing, can we offload any number of responsibilities on to our corporate friends so that they can self-monitor and self-police and do whatever they want with respect to the environment, wherever they want across the province?

The bill itself does allow corporate polluters to write their own rules. That's the bottom line. The bill allows for whole categories of businesses who operate in the province or who want to operate in the province to do whatever they want without public scrutiny, without inspection, without monitoring, without even having to advise the public of what the undertaking is and what their operation is all about. Therefore, the ministry and the public will have no idea whatsoever of what the classes of businesses are doing in their neighbourhoods and what's happening to the environment as a result.

Mr Galt: Start a hot dog stand.

Ms Martel: The parliamentary assistant has on one other occasion and today here again talked about establishing hot dog stands, as if what is at the heart of the bill is how we're going to let people who operate hot dog stands be out from under the government red tape.

I wish the parliamentary assistant would tell the House that the government has yet to talk about any of the classes in the industrial sector, for example, that the government intends to be exempt, or perhaps the government would talk about anyone who is trying to establish paint shops or dry cleaners or any of the other businesses in the province that use chemicals, that use any number of solvents, that use any number of other toxic substances that can and do have an effect on the environment, especially if they're not handled properly. But the government chooses to say this legislation is to make life easier for people opening up hot dog stands. We want to get them out from under the government red tape.

Let's get serious. We're talking about any number of classes of business in the industrial sector as well, major companies that use solvents, chemicals, all numbers of things that can be hazardous substances, that can be pollutants. The government doesn't want to tell the public that these same classes and categories of business are also going to be exempt from having to get a certificate of approval, are also going to be exempt from having to undergo public scrutiny and public input and public advice with respect to the public's concerns around those operations in their neighbourhoods and their communities.

This bill is far more serious and the government really is dishonest in its wording in trying to say to people that all we're here to do is to make sure some of those small mom-and-pop stores, some of those hot dog operations, don't have to be --

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): I would ask the member for Sudbury East to withdraw the accusation that the government is dishonest.

Ms Martel: I will withdraw that, Madam Speaker.

It's a crock for the government to assume that all we are dealing with here is small operations that are going to have no environmental impact whatsoever.


The government, in terms of the particulars, wants to use this legislation to get out of the business of environmental protection because it doesn't have the staff to protect the environment. So the government is going to determine what kinds of classes of businesses it's going to exempt from environmental approvals.

The government will say that if you are this particular business and you follow these particular rules set out by the Ministry of Environment and Energy, then you no longer have to have any kind of approval for a specific undertaking from the ministry, that in essence if you follow some of these guidelines, if you follow some form of framework set out by the ministry, set out in regulation -- of course we haven't seen that yet -- then you don't have to worry about getting any kind of specific ministry approval for some of those undertakings.

It's worth repeating that none of the members in this House have seen what the government has in mind with respect to the classes or categories of businesses it wants to exempt. The government has refused to bring that forward. It refused to bring that forward in second reading debate, in the public hearings, and here we are today and we still haven't seen it. The public has no idea what the government has in mind when it's trying to exempt businesses, and the public has no idea what the government has in mind when it says it wants to exempt industrial sectors from approvals as well.

The government refused to bring that forward in second reading, refused to bring that forward in committee, and here we are today, as the government uses its majority to move this time allocation motion, still not knowing what it is the minister has in mind when he says he wants to exempt whole industrial sectors from having to get approvals.

We are also worried that not only do all these different classes not have to worry now about getting specific approvals, those same classes of businesses, classes of industrial sectors also don't have to advise the public any more about their intentions, about their operation, about their undertaking. Under the bill, members of the public, members of a community, have no guarantee that they will have any opportunity at all to provide input, to provide arguments, to put forward their concerns as to whether or not a company, a business, an industrial company should be allowed to proceed with the undertaking in their community, in their neighbourhood.

It flies absolutely in the face of the bill of rights our government established, which allowed people to have that kind of input. We know that in 1997 in Ontario many people are concerned about the state of the environment, that many people believe they are entitled to proper information with respect to what companies are doing and the impact that's going to have on the environment in their community. People have a legitimate right to that information, which is why our government spent some long time and some good portion of money to make sure the bill of rights would be in place, to make sure the public had access to that information through their public libraries.

Under Bill 57 what this government is doing is saying: "Classes of businesses, classes of industrial sectors can set up shop in your community and there will be no guarantee whatsoever that you as a member of the public, you as a member of that community are going to have any access to any information with respect to the intentions of that company and with respect to the consequences that operation might have with respect to the environment."

It flies absolutely in the face of everything we tried to do to guarantee the public would have more, not less information; more, not less say about what was happening to the environment in this province.

What will happen is that the public will view startups of companies, will view the approvals process that will be done by regulation, the framework, as something that has been done behind closed doors, in secret; something they have had no attachment to, no input into. All you will get is more and more people who have graver and graver concerns about what's happening in their neighbourhoods, about the impact that businesses and industrial sectors are having on the environment.

We also know that not only will the public not have any guaranteed access with respect to what's happening, as they do now with certificates of approval, but that the public itself is going to be given a mere 30 days under the requirements of this bill to have some input into those classes of businesses that are going to be exempt and those industrial sectors that are going to be exempt; 30 days in which to provide some major input, to write some advice or to share concerns about what the government is doing in this regard.

This represents a major departure from the practice in place at the Ministry of Environment and Energy today, where any number of these companies, small, large, industrial or otherwise, would have to come to the ministry, would have to request a certificate of approval, would have to undergo public scrutiny to be established or expanded. That is changing. It's a major departure, and the government is allowing the public a sum total of 30 days to provide some input with respect to what classes of businesses are going to be exempt.

The public would feel right in assuming that the government more and more wants to make decisions which impact on the environment behind closed doors, in secret, in partnership with their corporate friends. The people who are going to end up losing are members of the public, who will have no way to express their concerns, no forum in which to argue and raise those concerns with respect to what is happening. Not only is there no guarantee there will be public input when a company starts; now you have a 30-day time limit in which to make comments to the government with respect to what classes will be exempt. The public should feel that they are being shut out more and more with respect to major decisions that are being made with respect to the environment.

If the public weren't worried enough about the fact that they have no access to information and very little access to raise concerns with respect to the classes of businesses which will be exempt under the law, then the public should be very concerned that in this same bill the government also absolves itself of any responsibility, any liability which might arise as a result of the deregulation occurring in this bill. The government says in this bill, "We will protect ourselves from any type of action which might be taken against the government as a result of the deregulation which is going to happen with this bill."

How can the government possibly convince the public that there's no problem with this legislation, that there should be no concerns with respect to what will happen with deregulation, when the government itself, in this bill, says it will not assume any responsibility for what happens, nor can the government be sued or charged with any liability as a result of deregulation?

We saw the government do that in Bill 26, specifically with the health provisions of Bill 26, where the Minister of Health and the restructuring commission were absolved of any responsibility, any liability if anything went wrong with the bill. We saw that again in Bill 15, the workers' compensation legislation, when the Minister of Labour did the same thing. Here we are again, shutting the public out of getting information and making sure the public has no way in which to try and sue the government if they have to, or have the government claim responsibility for whatever happens with respect to the environment as a result of the deregulation which is part and parcel of this whole bill.

We also have grave concerns that the government is getting rid of the Environmental Compensation Corp through the bill. I heard the parliamentary assistant say, "There weren't many claims that were being made from it, so it was too expensive to run and we're going to get rid of it." So what? At the end of the day, when you have a company that pollutes and that company goes bankrupt, takes off out of the province, out of the country, who ends up paying for the environmental mess? The public does. Who ends up paying if an individual suffers personal damage as a result of that spill? That individual does.

What the government does by taking away the Environmental Compensation Corp is to make sure that if any member of the public who suffers as a result of a spill or other environmental disaster, where you cannot find a company or sue the company responsible, that member of the public, that community are going to be stuck with the tab, are going to be stuck with the cost of the damage.

There should be a mechanism in place. If it's not the Environmental Compensation Corp, there should still be a mechanism retained whereby members of the public can claim for damages that happen as a result of a spill, where the perpetrator of that spill, the corporate polluter, has gone out of business and can't be found, can't be traced, so that those individuals and that community don't get stuck with the cost themselves.


The bill also expands the ability of the minister to require fees for any number of things: for approval applications, for record registration, for information requests, a whole number of other matters. Frankly, what I find worrisome about that is that I expect the minister will introduce any number of new fees that will form a barrier for people who are trying to get legitimate information with respect to what a company or a class of companies is doing in their neighbourhood. I am really worried that the government will use the fee schedule, a fee mechanism, to try to bar people from having access to information they have a right to.

We know this government has already been criticized by the information commissioner for the imposition of high fees for requests which have been made under the freedom of information and privacy act. From the same government that promised, "No new user fees," we have seen a whole host of new user fees, not only to raise revenue but, frankly, to bar access for people who are trying to gain legitimate information about what the government is doing. We see again another effort by the government in this bill to make sure that people can't get access to, can't afford access to information they should have with respect to what is happening to the environment, what is happening in their communities.

The government has failed to give us any specific details about this bill, as I said earlier. The government has failed to provide the categories of businesses which will be exempt. The government has failed to provide the list of industrial sectors which are going to be exempt from approvals. I listened to the parliamentary assistant today say that the standardized process for approval will be done later, after the bill is passed, that it will be done through regulation and it will be done with consultation.

If the government's view of consultation for this bill is anything like what we saw in Bill 7, anything like what we saw with the bill the Minister of Labour introduced today to hammer workers in the public sector, you can be guaranteed that the environmental groups will have no input, no way to give advice, no way to participate in a public consultation process. Just like the drafting of this whole bill, it will be the corporate buddies of this government who get to draft the regs, who get to draft the standardized process for approval. People who have major concerns about what is happening to the environment in this province will be shut out of that process.

In conclusion, we're here today as the government uses its majority to move forward yet another time allocation motion to get yet another bill passed. But we're dealing with a bill as well that at its heart has nothing to do with ending duplication but has everything to do with the fact that this Conservative government is completely incapable any more of protecting the environment, of upholding environmental legislation, because it has so gutted the Ministry of Environment and Energy that the staff is completely incapable of upholding their responsibilities any more. That's what's at the heart of this bill, and people who care about the environment are the ones who are going to end up paying.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I listened very carefully to the previous speakers on this time allocation motion today. As you know, Speaker, I was sitting in the chair at that time and was compelled to listen very carefully, because while in the chair we have to listen to make sure that no unparliamentary things are said. I listened quite carefully, and it was interesting to see that the parliamentary assistant, the member for Northumberland, gave the same old tired speech again today.

I've heard it before, again and again. Who writes those speeches for you? He read the same old stuff today in the same old way and made this bill sound so innocuous, as my colleague from Sudbury East said. He talks about -- what was it? -- hot dog vendors. I remember that when I was first briefed on Bill 57 by the ministry staff, there were some very innocuous examples given. When I and the policy person who came with me from my caucus asked, "What else is going to be included in this? What other businesses and industrial sectors are going to be exempted?" they said: "We don't know. We'll figure that one out later."

I am alarmed that today they're complaining over there, "It has taken a whole year to get this bill through," somehow implying that it was the opposition who prevented them from doing so and that's why they had to bring forward this time allocation today. They make themselves sound so pathetic, like they have no power over there at all to get important bills through. We all know they sat on that bill for a while.

They haven't learned a thing, in the year since they introduced it, about the concern and the alarm out there in the communities about this government's environmental deregulation and cutting and slashing, clear-cutting of environmental laws that have happened throughout this province over the past two years. They haven't learned a thing.

I think this government is in deep doo-doo -- is that okay, Speaker? -- because when they got elected they promised a 30% tax cut and on top of that they promised deregulation. We know that was part of the agenda: "Regulation is bad."


Ms Churley: I know they're discussing whether "doo-doo" is unparliamentary. I don't think it is, but we might need a dictionary to have a look at it and see what it means.

They have not changed a thing. The parliamentary assistant got up today and said that not many amendments were proposed for Bill 57. Well, as usual, the government didn't listen to any of the environmental experts' concerns about this bill and how dangerous it is. It just ignored them completely and, once again, during the process continued to imply that these environmental groups somehow had something personal to gain and weren't really there to protect the environment.

They didn't listen to a word they said, made no amendments that were put forward and just forged ahead, as usual, in the vein that "We know what's best. All these other environmental experts out there don't understand, don't know what they're talking about, they have vested interests," and just proceeded down the road they started on.

The committee process was a farce. People came with very good presentations, the same environmental groups that have been watchdogging all governments in this province for over 20 years, who have experts in all environmental matters, who come forward with suggestions, and they're completely ignored.

What do we have today? We have a time allocation motion and we have the parliamentary assistant, as usual, get up and make a tired old speech, the same old words about, "This is really innocuous." I don't think he mentioned it today, but the word that's been used by the minister and I think by the parliamentary assistant is that this is not "deregulation"; nothing this government is doing is deregulation. It's --

Mr Baird: It's reregulation.

Ms Churley: That's right. The member for Nepean knows the language. It's reregulation, they say. Isn't that something? Talk about doublespeak. You should be embarrassed. They're not embarrassed, though. They really believe it, I guess, when the minister stands up and says this is reregulation. It isn't; it is deregulation.

When I hear the parliamentary assistant get up and say, "Trust us. We'll work out later some of these details, and by the way, nobody can sue us" -- and these points have been made quite adequately by the member for Sudbury East, the member for St Catharines and the member for Hamilton East earlier today; time and time again these points have been made. If they do make a mistake, the public can't sue them; they're on their own. That is de facto suggesting that they themselves believe there are some really big problems with this new legislation and that they probably will get sued and therefore they are raising themselves above the law.

Somebody just wrote me a note. It says, "Marilyn, leave Doug alone." I don't know; they didn't sign it, but I'm sure it's one of his colleagues over there who cares very much about the parliamentary assistant, who continually has to take the rap for the minister, who disappears during all these debates. I must say as a compliment to the parliamentary assistant, the member for Northumberland, that he does his duty well. He shows up at all the committee meetings. He toes the government line time and time again. No matter what questions are asked that member, he's got the government line and he trots it out. He does a very good job defending his minister's policies, I must give him that, and he shows up for every committee meeting. I will give him that. He's dutiful. He does his job well. He shows up here in the House and continues to give the government line on reregulating and not cutting and actually improving environmental protection in this province. He says that time and time again.

I don't know if he really believes that; it's hard to know. But that's what he does, and he does it well, so I congratulate the member for Northumberland for touting the government's line really well. Maybe he wants to get into cabinet or maybe he's just a good guy; maybe he's just a good Reformer.


Ms Martel: He is a good trained seal.

Ms Churley: I'm not going to say anything like that. But when the parliamentary assistant gets up and says, "Trust us. We want to protect the environment and everything we are doing is actually going to protect the environment better than it's ever been before," I have to come back to what happened in this House a couple of weeks ago when I asked a question of the Minister of Environment and Energy, Norm Sterling, about the thousands of pounds of copper and zinc that Hydro has been dumping into Lake Ontario for about 25 years.

I must at this point say that I have to hand it to the workers who have been trying over the years to get management at Hydro to let the government know what it was doing.

Mrs Marland: So did you do anything when you were the government?

Ms Churley: The member for Mississauga South asks if our government did anything about it. I can tell you categorically that our government knew nothing about this. If the members over there had read the report, they would know everything we have heard about this, that certain people at Ontario Hydro betrayed the public trust and kept this under cover, under wraps, and deliberately falsified numbers and covered up what they were doing. There needs to be a thorough, independent investigation of what happened there when we have a public entity covering up the amount of toxic substances. Whether they believe it's legal or not, covering it up is a very serious problem.

According to documents I read, his ministry was told of this about a year ago. Nothing happened until it hit the newspaper. Officially it became known to this government about a year ago. They did nothing. Then, when questioned in the House, what did the minister say? He didn't need an independent investigation; he was just waiting until Ontario Hydro conducted their own internal investigation and then he'd see. But when pushed on the thousands of pounds of copper and zinc going into the lake, the minister said: "First of all, I want to make it clear to the people of Ontario that copper is not deemed a toxic pollutant in water. In fact, in terms of the commercial fishery, for instance, they add copper and zinc to supplement their diet. It's needed by those particular habitats."

Ms Martel: Did he really say that?

Ms Churley: He really said that. You know what it reminded me of? Years ago, Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States, said he thought that trees created pollution. I guess he was implying that if trees created pollution, the industrial polluters out there weren't a problem. He said that and it got international headlines.

Then there was Morley Kells, who was once the Minister of the Environment for that party over there, the Tories, mostly different faces at the time. He was the minister, and if you will recall, Speaker, at that time there was a major PCB spill on a highway up north. Where was it? Do you remember? It was a highway up north and there were grave concerns. It was close to election time when this happened as well, if I recall correctly, and there was a spill from a truck on to the highway. The residents, quite rightly, were extremely concerned about the impact this might have on their health and their kids' health. Mr Morley Kells suggested that if you were a rat eating PCBs on the highway, you might have some problems. I expect the member for St Catharines would remember this, because I believe that line contributed to the defeat of the Tory party at the time. It was an outrageous thing to say about PCBs on their highway.

Now we have another Tory government where the Minister of Environment, when asked about thousands of pounds of copper and zinc going into the lake water, somehow implies that Ontario Hydro is doing the fish in Lake Ontario a favour. This is outrageous.

I believe the only reason this government is getting away with its deregulation and slashing-and-cutting agenda is because unfortunately the media are not paying much attention to this issue. We know why. It's because there are huge problems in our society right now, which this government has exacerbated. People are concerned, as we saw throughout the federal election, about unity issues. They're concerned about unemployment and their kids being able to get jobs and where to get money to feed their kids. They're concerned about day-to-day existence. They're concerned about losing their quality of life. There are a lot of issues out there right now.

A few years ago, had it been the member for St Catharines when he was Minister of the Environment -- and God forbid that he would ever say anything like that; I know he wouldn't -- or a minister from the NDP government, if any of those ministers had said that thousands of pounds of copper and zinc going into the lake was good for the fish maybe and was not too concerned about a coverup and was not even admitting it when it was there in black and white, in writing, there would have been headlines about that. It is outrageous for a Minister of Environment to get up in this House and treat such a serious problem in such a fashion.

When the parliamentary assistant gets up and implies -- although I don't think he used the words. I will not put words in the parliamentary assistant's mouth, but the implication was: "Trust us. We will consult. Don't worry; be happy." If there was any doubt whatsoever, that has now been put to rest by the Minister of Environment when he says that thousands of pounds of copper and zinc going into Lake Ontario, covered up for all those years, is not such a big problem. We have serious concerns about trusting this government with anything.

I want to come back for a minute to what I said about the press because, as the member for St Catharines said, even though they're not here we know they're back in their offices watching this debate. I'm sure they're all busy typing up their stories about it for the paper tomorrow. I'm sure right now they realize that this is an important --

Mr Baird: Leave the media alone, Marilyn.

Ms Churley: The member for Nepean says to leave the media alone. I think the media are sooner or later going to start paying attention to this problem. The problem is that I've had certain media people say: "We need some concrete examples right now. It's hard to write this stuff." I understand that; it is sometimes hard to write about environmental matters. We use words like "deregulation;" they use "reregulation." They hear a lot about cuts and all of this stuff and changes to the Environmental Assessment Act, and the Tories give these great titles for their acts, like "Responsive Environmental Protection" and all of this stuff. Then they get up and talk about the bill, and it's like they read something else. It's like we're talking about two different bills. They're not being up front with people about what they're really up to. This is a problem.

It is the duty and the responsibility of the opposition and other people out there who are involved in environmental issues to let people know what is really happening. That is what the opposition is doing.


I know, of course, that this bill has time allocation on it today and it will go through. I'm quite sure that the environmental groups, which I've often mentioned in this House in connection with other bills, will get involved if this government will finally sit down and listen to them and talk to them. I advise them to do so on this, because that's where we're at; we have to accept reality. They do have a majority, and this time allocation motion will pass today and then we'll go on and pass Bill 57. There you have it: That's where we'll be at.

The parliamentary assistant says they're going to consult in determining who's going to be exempted. I urge people who have concerns about this to get involved: to find out from the government and to make sure they're part of the consultation -- and to make a very loud noise if they're not heard once again, not listened to once again.

The member for St Catharines said something that I think is extremely important when talking about deregulating environmental laws, that is, that the good corporate citizens out there do need an even playing field. The last thing they need is uneven regulation. As soon as you start opening it up and playing around with it and leaving it open to interpretation, with no inspectors out there, no enforcement officers, none of that stuff, when that all disappears, it's going to be very difficult for the good corporate citizens to keep spending the money they spend to improve environmental technology, to keep up with the times. It's going to be very hard when they're competing with bad corporate citizens who are there simply out to make a buck and will do it any way they can, and when they're not regulated in a fair, evenhanded way, they will take advantage of those holes in the law. And what will we have? We will have the standards that we had so many years ago that caused the environment and environmental protection to be such a growing concern in Canadian society.

There was a time several years ago, over the last 20 years, when the environment minister was considered to be one of the key and top ministers in the government. That has now changed. Again, if people, the public, who have so many other concerns on their minds, are not alerted to how badly and directly environmental protection has already, within two years, been hurt in this province, if people aren't aware of it, the government, sadly, will get away with it. To date, on the whole they have been getting away with it, and I find that extremely disturbing.

When a bill like Bill 57, which we're debating today, does pass, as will all the other deregulation bills in the hopper, with the ones that have already been passed, which my colleagues today outlined some of -- there is so much that has already happened that will have, is starting to have a negative impact on environmental protection and, yes indeed, our health. But we're not going to see the results tomorrow. There will be no dead bodies on the lawn tomorrow. Over time there is a greater incidence of cancer. We're seeing that with breast cancer and other cancers.

In fact, I got an all-party agreement in a private member's bill to put together a stakeholders' committee to start dealing with phasing out carcinogens, the chemicals -- like copper, in fact -- which build up in our food chain, if they're suspected to be contributing to the alarming rising incidence of cancer. We have to do something about it.

Those are the kinds of things that don't just jump out at you: higher rates of cancer, higher rates of illnesses. These kinds of things affect people's health, and the more you deregulate and let the corporate industrial polluters off the hook, the more health problems we'll have down the road, the more species will become extinct. We know that is a major problem; global warming, the greenhouse effect.

There are all kinds of -- acid rain. They fired one of the most renowned acid rain experts in the world and said they didn't need him any more. We know that acid rain is still a very big problem and the insurance companies are getting very concerned about it. I hope perhaps the government will listen to them -- they won't listen to me, they won't listen to the environmentalists -- because they're very concerned about the costs and they're concerned in terms of weather change. These things have got to be looked at.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): How much did you spend on --

Ms Churley: What was that? I remember the member for Dufferin-Peel when he was the critic for the environment, and he was a good critic. He asked some very pointed and some very good questions to our government. He has completely changed. We don't hear him asking those questions any more. We don't hear him expressing concern to his own government about the kinds of cuts and deregulation they're engaged in. What he does now is sit in the House and heckle the environmental critics on this side of the House. You know, I just think that is not helpful. There are some really serious problems that are going to be a result of this bill, and some of them have been pointed out today.

The Environmental Compensation Corp: That one is just strange. That's just a straightforward saving of a few million bucks. That is an example of a little government agency that worked, and I find it very ironic that the reason they say they're getting rid of it is because they only paid out -- what was it? -- $3 million a year or something and it costs a lot more to run it. Well, okay, if it costs too much to run it, find another way. Fold it into the existing ministry or something.

But it was successful. The fact that they kept the compensation payments so low meant that they were doing their job. It was a last resort. It was for private citizens who through no fault of their own lost financially because of some kind of spill or environmental problem on their land, perhaps poisoning their drinking water. We know some people came into the committee hearings and it was a very sad story. Their entire livelihood was wiped out. They invested in I think it was a hog farm and the well water was poisoned.

They were in the environmental compensation process when this government decided to kill it. They came in and they were worried to death: "What's going to happen to us now?" They were here as a last resort and they said in committee that they started the process when our government was in power, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, I believe, and that they were made to go through all the hoops in trying to find out other ways to get compensated for their livelihood and their life savings being ruined. They were at a stage where all of that had been taken care of. It really was the last resort. What's going to happen to them?

That's what this compensation fund is all about. Is this what the government means when it says it wants to get government out of people's faces? I don't think that's what the people of Ontario thought when you used that phrase and the previous minister used it. I don't think they meant that you should let people, through no fault of their own, be left high and dry and be completely wiped out, their lives ruined. I don't think the fair people of Ontario think that's right either.

Why are you getting rid of a compensation fund that worked? It actually kept costs down. Now what are people going to do? Nothing. If they have that problem, and they will, after all, with the kind of deregulation that's going on -- and I suspect I'm going to answer my own question here. Not only does it save a few million bucks a year, but they know there are going to be more and more of these cases because of the deregulation and the cuts to staff. There are going to be more spills, there are going to be more environmental problems, and they're not going to want to be in a position where they have to pay the money out, just like they've put forward in Bill 57 that people will not be able to sue the government. It's the same kind of thing. You're leaving these people high and dry.


The OWMC is an interesting aspect of Bill 57 that often gets omitted in the critique. We all agree that it finished its work in terms of looking at going through the long EA process, trying to figure out what to do with industrial hazardous waste, but what the government continues to omit when they're talking about and bragging about getting rid of this useless government agency is that this agency was also mandated to look at ways of reducing industrial hazardous waste. That got thrown out. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater. Now there is no government policy whatsoever in that government to look at how to deal with hazardous waste. We all know that prevention should come first. That was the whole idea of the MISA program, which by the way they've also watered down, so to speak, so there are more pollutants going into our waterways again.

Those are two aspects of the bill which are not talked about a whole lot but are really problematic. When you combine what's going on with this bill, the kind of deregulation that's going to happen, with the cuts that have happened over the past two years, that take up pages and pages -- of course, I'm just updating it. There's more to come. It just never stops.

I'm going to give you a few more recent cases. I talked about the Hydro coverup and the spills into Lake Ontario over 25 years, but some other things have happened recently. They overrode the authority of the Temagami local planning authority to give forest companies free rein. They've done that. They have, not once but twice, failed to show up in court to proceed with charges against Inco. Why was that? Was it because they didn't want to be there to prosecute Inco or was it because they didn't have the staff any more to send somebody to court? Not once but twice.

Then there was the Niagara Escarpment. My colleague from St Catharines, who has a keen interest in this subject, said that was just quietly transferred over to the Minister of Natural Resources because we accept that the Minister of Environment cared about the Niagara Escarpment, and we couldn't have that, could we? We couldn't have an environment minister who actually cared about some aspect of environmental protection stay there, because he might try to protect it against the government's wishes and against promises which were made to certain people in the election campaign.

One of the areas of great concern to me -- when the previous minister, Brenda Elliott, the member for Guelph, was there we had quite a few questions in this House from me about bringing in a mandatory vehicle emissions testing program. It was put off and put off. Then the new minister came in and actually said to the public -- let's see, I have the quote here -- "We lose 1,800 Ontarians a year prematurely due to poor-quality air in the province." Don't you think that's a bit of a crisis? We have a minister admitting that, and he continues to say he's going to try to do something about it. There's nothing yet. There are more voluntary programs, which our government started. We have the answers now. We know it's only a tiny part of the smog problem, but in cities like Toronto and in the Windsor corridor it's a huge, huge problem. Nothing has been done.

I know it's problematic. How do you deal with the lower-income people who may have to get their cars updated or whatever? These are problems that have to be dealt with, but of course this government doesn't want to deal with that aspect of it because they don't have the money to help people who may not be able to afford the upkeep of a car. But it's something that's got to be done. When you have a minister saying that 1,800 people die a year, this I think is a crisis.

This government, almost from the day it took office, started to attack environmental protection. They continue to get away with it because the public on the whole really doesn't know that much about what's going on. We talk about it time and time again in the House. I ask numerous questions, as does my leader. We get almost no responses that mean anything and nothing is happening, nothing is changing. They march ahead and continue to cut and deregulate and destroy over 30 years of environmental protection improvements by all governments. They have done more harm to the environment over two years than any other government, including the previous Tory government, the Bill Davis government, and any other since. It is shameful and it's going to hurt future generations down the road. That is the legacy this government will leave.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The time for debate has ended. Mr Johnson has moved government notice of motion 22. Is it the wish of the House that this motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 15-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1757 to 1812.

The Acting Speaker: All those in favour, please rise one at a time until recognized.


Baird, John R.

Grimmett, Bill

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Barrett, Toby

Guzzo, Garry J.

Ross, Lillian

Beaubien, Marcel

Hardeman, Ernie

Runciman, Robert W.

Boushy, Dave

Hodgson, Chris

Sampson, Rob

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Jordan, W. Leo

Smith, Bruce

Cunningham, Dianne

Kells, Morley

Spina, Joseph

Danford, Harry

Marland, Margaret

Tilson, David

DeFaria, Carl

Maves, Bart

Tsubouchi, David H.

Doyle, Ed

McLean, Allan K.

Turnbull, David

Elliott, Brenda

Munro, Julia

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fisher, Barbara

Newman, Dan

Villeneuve, Noble

Fox, Gary

O'Toole, John

Wilson, Jim

Froese, Tom

Parker, John L.

Witmer, Elizabeth

Galt, Doug

Pettit, Trevor

Wood, Bob

The Acting Speaker: Those opposed, please rise one at a time.


Bartolucci, Rick

Duncan, Dwight

Miclash, Frank

Boyd, Marion

Gerretsen, John

Morin, Gilles E.

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Patten, Richard

Chiarelli, Robert

Hoy, Pat

Ruprecht, Tony

Christopherson, David

Kennedy, Gerard

Silipo, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Wildman, Bud

Cleary, John C.

Martel, Shelley

Wood, Len

Conway, Sean G.

McGuinty, Dalton


Crozier, Bruce

McLeod, Lyn


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 48; the nays are 25.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made. The member for Parkdale has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to the question given today on the Queen Street Mental Health Centre by the Minister of Health. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter. The minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes. Please proceed.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I am delighted the Minister of Health is here to listen to the request.

The Minister of Health was being quoted not too long ago that he wants to shut down 253 psychiatric beds in the Metro area. We also know the hospital restructuring commission has recommended that four Ontario psychiatric hospitals should be shut. That of course puts extreme pressure on patients.

The first question I have for the minister is the following: Who will treat these patients when you have 253 beds being shut down and hospitals being closed? The pressure will be great. We know that right now there are a number of patients outside these hospitals. We are reminded that Mr Yu, who a few months ago was shot by Metro police, too was a patient. There are many more Mr Yu's out there who right now need help but are unable to get it because these psychiatric beds are not available at present, and when 253 psychiatric beds are being closed or shut down by this minister, the pressure will be there not to treat them. Who will treat these patients?

As it stands right now, patients are being pushed out and shut out. Two very recent cases come to mind, last week and the week before, where at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre a killer left on an open day pass, and just two days ago at the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital we had another person leave and he was charged with a number of very serious and grievous offences. We know what these offences are: robbery, sexual assault with a weapon, attempt to choke, forcible confinement, threatening death, and so on.

I am asking this minister, consequently, to institute what we term a public inquiry. That is different than what this minister has said he is going to do, namely, call for an investigation. An investigation could be private. It doesn't have to be public. An investigation could put the problem under the carpet and we would never know the truth of these charges.

In addition to the public inquiry, we will want to know how many patients at our psychiatric centres go AWOL every year. In the case of the psychiatric centre at 1001 Queen Street, the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, we know that last year the police were called over 300 times to find patients who had gone AWOL. Where do these patients go? Our police have to spend a lot of resources to find these patients, and are confined and are not looking after crime in the Metropolitan Toronto area. They become social workers.

These questions are of paramount importance. Consequently, I am asking the minister two questions today. First, is he going to institute a public inquiry, and when is he going to do it? Second, I invite him to come to the Queen Street Mental Health Centre with some other members of his government to see what takes place. We'd like to show the minister what in fact does take place. This area is close to Parkdale. The businesses are no longer viable. To me, it looks like a bombed-out area near that hospital.

We have to stand up today and say to this minister, "Is our present psychiatric model working?" If anyone from as far away as Halton has a mental health problem, where does that person end up? That person ends up at Queen Street Mental Health Centre, from as far away as Halton. Then, because these psychiatric beds are now being restricted, they will be churned out and pushed into our community, where there are no significant aftercare services. Who will look after them? Our police department? Our ambulance workers? Our health care providers in hospitals? Those are the questions of relevance, and today I'm asking this minister to provide some answers.

The Acting Speaker: The parliamentary assistant has five minutes to respond.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'm pleased to respond to the question this evening. Certainly, in the minister's response earlier today in question period, he indicated that he has already asked for an investigation into these matters for these two patients and, more important, to have a review of the indirect supervision policy, exactly what that means.

In general, the Ontario review board will have a look at psychiatric patients and determine the proper treatment for them: What's the proper level of care to help a recovery, or if that's not possible, what kind of security facility to have them in.

The minister and this government have already taken some very strong steps in terms of making the Ontario review board more accountable and stronger. Certainly the appointment of Justice Douglas Carruthers, a very highly respected and esteemed former justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario, with a reputation for toughness, I might add --

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Good choice.

Mr Hudak: An excellent choice, and I think very much recognized across the justice and the psychiatric care communities.

Second, we've restored the policy to make sure that a judge heads up each one of these review boards. The NDP in their approach decided to take the judge out of it. The government's view is that that was a mistake, and with Justice Carruthers -- we've appointed others: Justices McCombs, Labrosse and Watt -- is restoring that tradition of having a judge as the chair of the ORB.

Finally, I'd say on the issue of security, it strikes me as somewhat strange that I have seen with my own eyes the member for Parkdale rise in this House on a relatively regular basis with a petition opposing the medium security, the double-locked ward at the Queen Street facility. If there is a patient with high risk who could go into that double-locked ward -- let's get the issue straight here -- if the member for Parkdale wants tougher security, why is he opposing the double-locked ward, the tougher security, the medium security there at Queen Street?

You can't be on both sides of the issue. He rises up to say he doesn't want the security at Queen Street in his riding, but today in the House he's on the other side of the fence and now he's saying: "We need tougher security. Look what has happened in my riding. We have to have facilities to make sure that these patients are locked up when the care comes."

I have a petition I think from May where the member himself says he's 100% behind this petition to make sure that we won't have this medium security, this double-locked security ward.

Mr Ruprecht: It's not working.

The Acting Speaker: Order. Please take your seat.

Mr Ruprecht: Don't you get it? You've got the locked cell now and it's not working.

The Acting Speaker: Would the member for Parkdale come to order.

Mr Ruprecht: Sorry, Mr Speaker, but I can't sit here and listen to this when it's not working.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, those are the rules. You have to. Either that or I'll eject you. Please bring yourself to order.

Mr Ruprecht: I wouldn't want to be ejected.

The Acting Speaker: Please get hold of yourself. The Chair recognizes the member for Niagara South.

Mr Hudak: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm pleased that you were able to restore order. But the member could expect this sort of debate because if you're on two sides of an issue, you have to be called up to it at some time. I would say to the member for Parkdale, make up your mind. If you want tougher security, then why don't you back the double-locked, medium-security facility in the riding? If you don't want the higher security, then how can you bring questions into the House demanding higher security?

As the expression goes, you can't suck and blow at the same time. That's what the member is attempting to do and that's why he's raising a lot of ruckus here in the House today. The fact of the matter is, I'd ask him to make up his mind. Do you want the tougher security there? If so, we're pleased for your support. If you don't, then don't go up on both sides. You have a petition one day saying you don't want it, and then you stand up and ask the minister a question in the House saying you do. Which one is it? We on this side are confused. We know we want that tougher security there at the Queen Street facility.

The Acting Speaker: There being no further subject to debate, I deem that the motion to adjourn has been made and carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1825.