36th Parliament, 1st Session

L202 - Tue 10 Jun 1997 / Mar 10 Jun 1997





















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Today I would like to inform the House and the people of Ontario about another Tory ripoff. This time the ripoff is on teachers because now they have to pay a $90 annual fee to the College of Teachers: a College of Teachers, by the way, that they don't control, a College of Teachers, by the way, that they don't want.

But what makes this even worse is that this $90 fee is being charged to those people who will benefit the least from the College of Teachers. I want to speak about retiring teachers, for they too last week were charged the $90, even though they will receive no benefit from the College of Teachers. Occasional teachers, part-time teachers, what we used to call "supply teachers" are being charged the $90, even though most of them haven't received one day's work over the course of the last year. They also have to pay the $90. A ripoff? I think so.

But the most vulnerable group of teachers are the new teachers, the teachers without jobs, the teachers graduating from colleges of education. Those people have to pay the $90 as well. Already mired in debt because of increased tuition fees because of this government, they too have to pay the new $90 tax.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Last week in this House I rose and asked a question to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines about the status of the Ontario Northland Railway, namely, the Northlander train. I've been doing some work over the last week talking to different people across northern Ontario and what is coming back is quite alarming.

It appears at this point that this government is not prepared to give in future months the kind of support financially that is needed to the ONTC to keep that train in place. The government needs to know -- and they've got to understand this clearly -- for many communities along the ONTC right of way, from North Bay all the way up to Cochrane and further on to Moosonee, it is the only way that people have to be able to get out of their communities to do anything from doing business to keeping a doctor's appointment. The ONTC is there to serve a purpose and it seems that this government is forgetting what it's all about.

There is another aspect about all of this that the government also needs to recognize, and that is the tourism industry in northern Ontario in and along the ONTC right of way and going on to Moosonee. If you shut the Northlander down, you will not have anything to feed the Polar Bear Express when it comes to the trip going from Cochrane up to Moosonee. That community relies on the revenue that they're able to generate over the short summer months, to give employment to people within the community of Moosonee.

If this government shuts down the Northlander it's going to mean that the Polar Bear Express, one of the major attractions in northeastern Ontario when it comes to tourism, is going to be put at risk. I am asking this government to put on --

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


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): The mindless government spending and burdening taxes for the people of Ontario is clearly over. This government has given a VIP invitation to business in this province to create partnerships promoting growth and increasing employment.

When this government stepped back from funding the seventh-inning stretch of Blue Jays games, it opened the gate for dairy farmers of Ontario to pour through. A program which cost the people of Ontario $15,000 in 1995, before being withdrawn, is now giving the dairy farmers of this province an opportunity to be recognized. This program at all the ballparks fits well with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario's message, which promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario continue to provide resource material to Ontario teachers and ensure milk is available for all Ontario elementary and high school students. They also participate in promoting penalty-free playing in Ontario amateur hockey. This outlines only a few of the many programs dairy farmers in this province support. As a dairy farmer myself, I feel great pride in the recognition Ontario dairy farmers are getting through these programs.

The milk energy message at Blue Jays games fits well with the concept of the physical activity of the seventh-inning stretch. Last Sunday was designated as Dairy Farmers of Ontario Day at the ballpark. This is just one example of how business can expand, increase employment and support other businesses when government spends dollars wisely and concentrates on governing.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): It was with great irony that I received this letter, dated June 1, in light of this current government's attempts to change the rules of the House to prevent appropriate debate on issues.

"Dear Mrs Pupatello,

"In 1986 when we received our cable, my father would watch the federal and Queen's Park channels before he went to work or after he got home, depending on what shift he was on at Ford. In 1992, I quit school to help my mother take care of him after he fell at work. Somewhere in 1993, I started to watch also. Other families have football or baseball to watch; we had this. Every day we would watch from 1:30 to 3 for question period or, as he called it, the comedy hour. We would watch as the members would yell things and get thrown out and he would yell things at the TV like, "Order" or "Quorum."

"This past March 9 he passed away. His name was Robert L. Wood. I am writing to ask you to give my thanks to the past and current members for hours and hours of excitement and chaos for us to watch. Also, give thanks to the current Speaker, because he was his favourite member.

"I also thank you for the above and for taking the time to read this letter. Once again, thank you.

"James Wood,

"Windsor, Ontario

"PS This was the only way I could think of to honour his memory, because I didn't have the heart to go see him one last time at IODE hospital."

I think it's indeed ironic to have received this today. We hope the government won't change the rules of the House.



Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I rise today to recognize June 10 as Portugal Day, a day where we're able to join together and celebrate the history, culture and vibrancy of Portugal and its people.

My riding of Fort York is home to a large and vibrant Portuguese-Canadian community. There are currently more than 500,000 people of Portuguese origin living in Canada; 72% live in Ontario, the sixth-largest ethnic community in this province. The future of this community is its youth, with more than 40,000 Portuguese Canadian young people under the age of 24.

I would like to tell you about an event which was held in my riding over the weekend of May 23-25 at Harbord Collegiate. It was the Portuguese Canadian National Youth Conference sponsored by the Portuguese Canadian National Congress, entitled It's Time to Inherit the Future. It was the most dynamic and exciting exchange of ideas, as youth, parents and community members discussed the issues facing young people today. This conference is a prime example of the rich culture that is being created as Portuguese and Canadian legacies become intertwined. My sincerest congratulations go to the conference director Helen Filipe; the conference coordinator, João Rolo; and the entire coordinating committee for a truly exemplary effort.

Together we must all work to foster, strengthen and encourage these young people so they may follow the dreams of their ancestors. I would like to thank the Portuguese Canadian community for its many contributions to our society and hope the voices for these young people continue as they inherit the future.

Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): It is my privilege to rise today to speak on the occasion of the celebrations of Portugal Day. I'd like to remind the House that I rise today not only as the member for Mississauga East but also as a member who today speaks on behalf of over half a million people of Portuguese heritage living in Ontario, people who have made their homes and live in the ridings represented by each and every member of this House. Statistics Canada ranks Portuguese as the fourth most predominant non-official language spoken in Canada.

This year the community is celebrating another successful year. Its political and economic strength has been recognized by the Prime Minister of Canada who, a few days prior to the election call, took significant measures to strengthen economic and trade ties between Canada and Portugal, thereby increasing tourism.

This year Canadians of Portuguese heritage are also celebrating their commitment to Canada. While others may be contemplating a way out of Canada, this community feels blessed for being part of this great country.

Please join me in welcoming all the guests in the gallery. Vive le Canada uni et libre ; vive le Portugal.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): My statement is directed to the Minister of Labour. The latest Ontario-Quebec agreement on construction labour mobility is not working out. When the agreement was signed, I said: "Let's give the agreement a chance. Let's wait and see."

We waited, and now we have the results. Last week in Montreal a construction work site was completely shut down by Quebec workers because of the 50 workers, four were from Ontario.

It is also apparent that this agreement does nothing for Ontario workers when you visit the Perley Bridge construction site in Hawkesbury. On this bridge that will link Ontario and Quebec, there are Quebec workers working on both sides of the border, but you can't find an Ontarian on either side. Actually, the only place where you will find Ontario workers is on the unemployment line. The Manpower office in Hawkesbury has a list of more than 1,500 workers who signed up to work on this major construction site but are sitting at home.

Minister, it is obvious that the new agreement is a failure. Ontario construction workers want to know what you will do to protect their livelihood against such discrimination.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): My statement today is on the hospital cutbacks and health care cuts. This government is adding to the welfare roll several more people, and the cost of providing social programs to assist the laid-off people will far exceed any savings realized by the cuts to the James Bay General Hospital, which has been hit again by this government.

As it is right now, the communities on the coast of James Bay are so underserviced that even a 4% cut, as recommended by your government, will have far-reaching and devastating effects on the delivery of health services to the coast.

The last round of cuts affected once more the support staff who are aboriginal people. These communities are already burdened with high unemployment rates. Their welfare rolls are full and the cost saving anticipated by the cuts will only be borne by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. This government has to realize that it is not possible for the people affected by the cuts in this remote area to find other employment as it would be in a larger, more economically dynamic community.

The first nations are more than willing to cooperate to find a way to deliver an effective and efficient health care model on the coast. I urge this government, and specifically the Minister of Health, to visit these communities and see for themselves the current service delivery model and discuss all the options open to a more effective and efficient system, to deliver quality services to communities like Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Kashechewan and all the other communities along the coast.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): This past weekend was a special one for my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay and for the province of Ontario.

On February 27, 1996, after 125 seasons, Windermere House, a major Muskoka resort, was destroyed by fire. A wake was held in a local church as the community grieved its loss, but the dream to restore this beautiful tradition never died. Shortly after the fire it was amazing to see a petition circulating through the village of Windermere and beyond. The petition was an open letter of support for the owners as they prepared to rebuild. In just 10 months the resort was rebuilt, with an identical appearance to the original structure, making use of pictures gathered in the surrounding community and the recollections of past owners and tradesmen.

As we celebrated this reopening with a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony on Saturday, it was a special pleasure to have the Premier and Mrs Harris there to participate and help promote the reincarnation of this symbol of Ontario's natural beauty. The Premier's presence underscored the great importance our government places on tourism and the need to continue developing our attractions.

This past weekend's events in my riding were a fitting start to this, Tourism Awareness Week, in Ontario.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Later today I will be introducing the Financial Services Commission of Ontario Act, 1997. This bill will merge the Ontario Insurance Commission, the Pension Commission of Ontario and the deposit institutions division of the Ministry of Finance.

We are delivering on a commitment made in last month's budget. It is the latest in a series of steps taken by this government to streamline its own operation, making it more efficient and more accountable.

Our goal in creating this newly integrated commission is to provide more cost-effective and better coordinated regulation of financial services, thereby enabling the industry to better serve consumers and business. By reducing overhead and duplication and by sharing resources and knowledge, we expect to save $3.8 million over the first two fiscal years. The new regulatory structure will provide flexibility to deal with the increasing trend towards integration of financial services.

We have consulted with stakeholders and have received broad acceptance of the proposed agency structure. In response to their concerns about the importance of an independent appeal process, the new commission's tribunal will provide expert, prompt and effective review of regulatory decisions on pension, insurance and other matters. Establishing this commission also lays the groundwork to further streamline regulation, reduce the regulatory burden and eliminate overlap with the federal government.

Ontario is not the first jurisdiction to create an integrated financial services regulator. Similar consolidation has already taken place in Quebec's Inspector General of Financial Institutions, British Columbia's Financial Institutions Commission and the federal government's Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

This bill is one of a number of important steps we are taking to make Ontario's regulation of financial services more efficient. As promised last November, we are also strengthening the Ontario Securities Commission. Last month I introduced budget legislation to make the OSC a self-funding organization. This will ensure that the Ontario Securities Commission has the resources it needs to maintain its position as the leading capital market in Canada and one of the best in the entire world.

We are streamlining licensing requirements for insurance companies and enhancing the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario's ability to regulate insurance brokers and protect consumers. Co-ops that do not issue shares or other securities will no longer have to file annual financial statements, reducing unnecessary paperwork and expense.

Creating the Financial Services Commission is another step towards providing smaller, more efficient and cost-effective government, better regulation of Ontario's financial services, improved consumer protection and maximizing the contribution of financial services to Ontario's economic growth.



Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I am pleased to rise today with yet another example of how this government has consulted with the people of Ontario, listened to their concerns and then acted to put the needs of seniors first. On behalf of my colleague the Honourable Jim Wilson, Minister of Health, I am announcing that Ontario's seniors will benefit from an extended period of coverage under the Ontario drug benefit program.


Hon Mr Jackson: I want to thank the members opposite for their support for this addition.

This means that the benefit year beginning on April 1, 1997, will be extended to July 31, 1998, giving seniors an additional four full months of ODB coverage.

The government recognizes the contributions seniors have made in assisting us to ensure that this province's drug program remains the lowest-cost, most comprehensive plan in all of Canada. That is why today I am announcing that for seniors entering the program for the first time, the deductible they pay will be adjusted to reflect only the number of months for which they are enrolled in the program. Ontario can be proud of the fact that its drug plan is the lowest-cost, quality-assured plan of its kind.

Since June 1995 our government has added 465 new drug products to the ODB Formulary. This is in sharp contrast to the previous government, which chose to delist over 260 products from the formulary. As well, this government has streamlined the approvals process so that the latest and best drugs are added to the plan quickly. These improvements ensure that Ontario drug benefit recipients have access to the drug products they need.

This government has also lowered the deductible for the Trillium drug program. This has made 140,000 additional low-income Ontarians eligible for this benefit. In addition, seniors' groups, including United Senior Citizens of Ontario, met with Finance Minister Ernie Eves in pre-budget consultations on April 8 and urged the government not to increase the ODB copayment, and this government listened.

With today's announcement, we have listened again to concerns recently raised by seniors' groups about fairness in the implementation of the deductible. Today's announcement is in keeping with the changes we have made to the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary as it has been phased in. We also made refunds last summer to people incorrectly assigned to higher copayment categories based on federal government information.

To quote Mr Len Harrison, president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, to whom I spoke earlier today, "When you look at the whole package, it's a good result for seniors. This government has listened and it has acted quickly." We will continue to consult seniors and to act decisively to make improvements to our health programs to ensure that at all times Ontario receives the highest-quality services and programs. They deserve nothing less.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'll briefly respond to the Minister of Finance. You can tell by the retreat the government just made with the previous announcement that we'll be looking closely at this legislation. We are supportive of things that legitimately do reduce costs, but we are suspicious of big bureaucracies, and this government seems to like big bureaucracies. The megacity is an example. If this is simply a big bureaucracy we will have some concerns about it.

He's mentioned the Ontario Securities Commission. I think Ontario should recognize that we have before us a bill to establish an independent securities commission but that bill has not had one minute of debate in the Legislature. It has to be passed by July 1 or all of the Ontario trust companies go out of business. It is a strange way to run a government. If we do not pass a bill in three weeks, all the Ontario trust companies are out of business.

The reason I raise that is because you can imagine us in the opposition trying to deal with a government that should be responsible, and yet we find that three weeks from now all of our trust companies will go out of business. We had exactly the same thing on giving the government authority to spend money. Literally hours before they had to write the cheques, they were here in the Legislature looking for authority to spend money when they could have had it months before.

We will be looking forward to the specifics of the legislation. If it meets the rhetoric of the minister's statement, of course we'll be supportive, but until we get into the detail I think Ontario has a right to be suspicious of any legislation this government brings forward.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I am delighted to have had the opportunity to listen to the minister today make a complete retreat from what they have done to the seniors in Ontario. This is a day for seniors in Ontario to be proud. This is a day they have shown the government that it was wrong, and the government has admitted today, shamefully, that it was wrong to pick the pockets of seniors in Ontario. We have to agree that this is a day of shame for the government of Ontario.

This is not a time when they consulted with and listened to the seniors. This is a day when they recognized that they had put the seniors at the bottom of the barrel. If it wasn't for the seniors who came to Queen's Park, if it wasn't for us, who told you told constantly that what you're doing is wrong, you wouldn't have done anything.

So when I hear that they listened to the people and they acted, if it wasn't for the seniors, they wouldn't have done anything. This is a time when they have to recognize what the seniors have been saying, and it's not to recognize seniors in such a way. If they had been polite and nice to the seniors of Ontario, they wouldn't have said, "Pay us for 12 months and we'll compensate you for eight and a half months."

This is a win for the seniors of Ontario and I'm delighted that the government had to make a full retreat, knowing full well that it made a mistake, that it wanted to cheat the seniors in Ontario. Today I'm pleased on behalf of the seniors.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is with pleasure that I rise to acknowledge the remarks of the sometime minister for seniors affairs today. Was this a retraction on the part of a heartfelt rethinking by the government? After 71 days of being requested by seniors' organizations, by the members of this House, over and over again, no one -- the minister for seniors issues, the Minister of Health, the Premier -- would act for seniors. Finally, as things must be, the lesson from this and the retraction, taking away the drug ripoff of seniors -- and each member on the other side of the House sat silent for 71 days until seniors, to add insult to injury, had to organize themselves, bring themselves down to Queen's Park and bring this government to account.

I want to let you know, Minister, that the $170 million you've cut from the drug program is not what seniors are going to sit still for. The seniors aren't going to sit still for the copayment. If you want to add some dignity to your retreat today, you'll agree to meet with seniors and take away the unfair charges you're putting on them for drugs. Congratulations to seniors; nothing due to this government yet.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I am very pleased that this government has gone into full retreat on this issue around the charges for the Ontario drug plan for seniors. This really is, as the opposition has suggested, a victory for those who have been trying to explain to this government how incompetently they have put together this program from the beginning. We all remember the chaos last summer when people were classified in the wrong way and couldn't get through to get reclassified. The minister says proudly today that they have refunded the money to those incorrectly assigned last year.

They have had to jiggle and wiggle around to try and show that they know what they're doing, and the reality is that no one is clear they do. We know that the seniors know what is best for them. The seniors took political action. They came out and this minister has taken this action today to try and forestall what was going to be a very big public relations problem for him and his government around the unfair charging of those months of ODB coverage.

This minister, again and again, talks about how wonderful this government has been with regard to the drug program because they put 465 new products on, and they constantly talk about the fact that we did delist a number of products. The minister knows very well we delisted those on the advice of a joint committee and that many of the products that were delisted were completely out of time in terms of value to the patient. Many of those products were laxatives which were found to be damaging to those patients. Many of those products should never have been covered by the insurance plan at all. It was the joint committee that looked at the effect of overdrugging of patients, the interaction of drugs for patients, that recommended those materials be delisted.

Let us be very clear: Yes, it is good that new materials, new drugs, new products that are coming available and that are useful, that the committee does feel are therapeutically useful to people, should be added to the plan and should be added quickly, but let us stop trying to make hay out of the delisting of products that are not useful and that may be therapeutically harmful to people, which are the products that were delisted by the previous government.

Let us be very clear that this minister ought to be very wise to understand that the only way he is going to make the targets that are in his estimates around the ODB program for next year will be by looking very hard at what this program pays for and what it doesn't pay for, and I expect we will see some more delisting of products that are not therapeutically sound for patients as well.

This minister has again and again tried to make hay about his close friendship with seniors. He departed from his prepared speech today -- which, I remind you, Mr Speaker, ministers are not supposed to do in statements -- to try and make political hay around a quotation from one of the advocates for senior citizens. I say to him very clearly: You may have praise today, but it doesn't cover up the incompetence that you have shown.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): We too agree in principle with the announcement from the Minister of Finance. We agree with $3.8 million of taxpayers' money being saved. We also agree with the streamlining; better late than never.

We suspect that these kinds of negotiations, however tedious, were held under the veil of secrecy. We will be asking for an explanation vis-à-vis co-ops not being required to file financial statements. I guess accountants get in the way, accountants slow things down, so under the guise of streamlining we can get rid of that.

I want to remind the minister that page 42 of the budget document -- not the budget speech -- promised to address the dilemma that some Ontarians have faced under the life income fund. This is the mechanism, the key that generates the money coming in from locked-in retirement arrangements. You have made a commitment that you would address that, because some people, by virtue of the cap, don't have access to the money that they have spent a lifetime working for.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House I have today laid upon the table the 1996-97 annual report of the Ombudsman of Ontario, who has joined us here today. Welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a Portuguese delegation headed by the secretary of state for Portuguese communities overseas, Mr Jose Lello; the consul general of Portugal, Mr Antonio Montenegro; and Count Botelho. Welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): On Thursday, June 5, the member for Beaches-Woodbine raised a point of order with respect to the orderliness of 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. The government House leader and the member for Algoma also made submissions.

At the outset, I want to acknowledge that the issue of orderliness surrounding omnibus legislation has been raised in this House on a number of occasions. Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, and more recently Bill 47, the Tax Cut and Economic Growth Act, were the subject of Speaker's rulings in 1995 and 1996. These rulings enunciated certain principles relating to omnibus bills.

First, as with any ruling, in considering action with respect to an omnibus bill, the Speaker must first determine the bounds of his or her authority. To date, I know of no Speaker in any jurisdiction who has, on his or her own initiative, either caused a bill to be split or who has ruled a bill out of order because of its omnibus nature. That is not to say, as Speaker Lamoureux did, that a Speaker may not one day be faced with a piece of legislation that goes beyond what has been procedurally acceptable.

Second, the Speaker must determine whether or not the contents of a bill fall within the umbrella of a theme of relevancy. Beauchesne defines relevancy in this context, in part, as follows:

"Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of a bill, there should be a theme of relevancy among the contents of a bill. They must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill."

I agree with Beauchesne's definition to a point. However, as the member for Beaches-Woodbine and the member for Algoma argued, a bill cannot necessarily be saved by its title, no matter how long or all-encompassing it purports to be. For example, I would be hard-pressed to accept a bill that encompasses an entire legislative agenda simply because it was entitled "An Act to implement the provisions of the Speech from the Throne." A theme of relevancy is not achieved simply by virtue of what a bill's title says the bill does, or by the number of ministries a bill touches upon. A theme of relevancy is achieved when all the parts of the bill are linked in a tangible way.

While it is therefore possible to envisage a circumstance where a Speaker might be faced with no option but to break with tradition and rule an omnibus bill out of order, a Speaker would have to determine without doubt that a theme of relevancy does not exist.

Having reviewed Bill 136 carefully, and considering omnibus bills that in the past have been ruled in order, I do not find that the parts of this bill are so different as to have no connection to each other and therefore find the bill to be in order.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Environment. Minister, you will be aware that today a number of environmental groups have formally requested that an investigation be held into the dumping by Ontario Hydro over the past many years of over 2.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals, including copper, zinc and tin, into Lake Ontario. I want to tell you, Minister, that I support their request.

I understand full well that Ontario Hydro is conducting its own investigation into this matter, but I would submit to you that it is your responsibility as Minister of Environment to conduct or to ensure that a full and independent inquiry is conducted into this mess. Will you do that, Minister?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I first want to clarify to the Leader of the Opposition that copper and zinc are not considered toxic materials. As you know, we all have copper in our homes and therefore we are all subject to some traces of copper --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.


Hon Mr Sterling: I think it's important that we get the facts straight here because the Leader of the Opposition is perhaps putting out the spectre that there's a problem with drinking water in every home because they have copper tubing in their homes.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): You should resign, Norm.

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm sorry. The truth is the truth with regard to this matter.

This is a serious matter. There is a process to go through. We have been looking into this matter. Ontario Hydro is looking into this matter --

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Sterling: -- and when we have all the facts, we will take the appropriate action.

Mr McGuinty: You cannot shirk your responsibility in this matter. The fact of the matter is that zinc, copper and tin are toxic, persistent and they bioaccumulate. We're not talking about a few kilograms here; we're talking about two and a half million pounds which have been dumped into Lake Ontario. Hydro didn't report these emissions over the years, notwithstanding the fact that it was aware they were taking place. Hydro didn't initiate its own inquiry until this matter was made public.

What we're talking about here now, what you're saying, is that it's okay for the offender to conduct the investigation into the offence. That's what you're saying is acceptable, and I'm saying to you that is not acceptable.

You are charged with a special responsibility for protection of our natural environment. In that light, what I want you to do now is to stand up in this House and say you're going to assume that responsibility and you're going to ensure that you're going to conduct a full and independent inquiry into these emissions.

Hon Mr Sterling: Again, I wish the Leader of the Opposition would not put forward facts which are not borne out by science. Zinc and copper are not bioaccumulative. They are not, and that is a very serious allegation with regard to the character of the substances which he's talking about. Unfortunately, those facts are just not borne out by scientific evidence.

I am taking this matter seriously. There is a process which is under way with regard to whether an investigation should take place. We already have my science and standards branch looking into the matter. I understand as of today there's an application to the Environmental Commissioner to undertake an investigation. We have been phoning the Environmental Commissioner this morning to forward to us the application as soon as possible so that we can act upon it.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'm absolutely amazed that this Minister of the Environment would sit here in 1997 and believe that lead and zinc are not dangerous to the waters in Ontario, that they're not dangerous to people with the accumulation that has occurred. I find it amazing that he would suggest that.

Clearly what has happened over the years -- and there's plenty of evidence to suggest there's been a major coverup at Ontario Hydro -- there has been a coverup to the ongoing dumping that has occurred, Minister, and you have responsibility to get to the bottom of this. It is not good enough that Hydro is investigating itself. We have long abandoned the practice of police investigating police. We have long abandoned practices of ministries investigating themselves.

By you sitting here and trying to skate around this, Minister, you're agreeing with what has happened over the years. You have a responsibility. The request this morning was very clear. What organizations and environmental groups across Ontario are requesting is an independent investigation into what has happened at Ontario Hydro. Will you agree today to carry out an independent, third-party investigation into the ongoings at Ontario Hydro and this coverup that has occurred over the years?

Hon Mr Sterling: The role of the Minister of Environment is similar to the role of the Solicitor General or whatever with regard to investigations and charges which might be laid. The minister is not involved with those decisions. The investigation and enforcement branch of the Ministry of Environment has been lauded by the Environmental Commissioner for its procedures, its decisions and its independence, and I intend to protect that particular reputation which it has had in the past. They will have all the data to make the necessary decisions as per the EBR act.

The member opposite talks about lead. Lead is not even under consideration with regard to this particular problem. I wish the members opposite would talk about the scientific facts, the actual procedures, and not scare the people of Ontario beyond what is reasonable.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday in this House my colleague the member for Port Arthur raised an issue with you which I think is very important, and I want to return to that.

He told you about a young couple who live in his riding, who are the parents of two young children, a two-and-a-half-year-old and an eight-month-old, who suffer from a very rare skin disease. They suffer from this disease which doesn't allow them to go outside during the day. If they did go outside on a day like today, for instance, they would suffer third-degree burns.

In order to control their exposure, these parents are asking for a light meter and they're asking you to help them meet the cost of putting a special coating on the windows, because the kids suffer severe burns even while inside the house. They can't afford to incur that expense on their own, so they're asking for your help.

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

Mr McGuinty: Yesterday you put some nice comments on the record, but when the microphone wasn't on you said, "I think they should hold a fund-raiser." What I want you to do is to stand up now and apologize for saying that and commit --

The Speaker: Thank you, leader.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Yesterday the question was that I hadn't responded. In fact, the honourable member who asked the question had received a letter from me several days ago, dated May 29. I cannot comment on the case because it is an individual case. If at the end of the day the government is not able to fund the construction of the house and the renovations required, then yes, I would suggest that the community rally together, as we do thousands of times across the province, and try to help this family out. I will personally make a donation.

Mr McGuinty: This is very telling. This is a case of young parents who have two kids who are very, very sick. They have accepted their responsibility in life. They love those kids; they care for them; they nurture them, and they're asking for just a little bit of help from the government -- not a hell of a lot in the grand scheme of things. This minister is saying they're on their own. "They need money for their sick kids? Too damned bad about them. Go out there and fund-raise." You know something? In their community they have already raised over $28,000 for other expenses which they themselves have defrayed. They're looking for $20,000; that's all they're looking for.

Do you know how many other kids suffer from this in the province of Ontario? None. These parents are really on their own and they're just looking for a little bit of help from you. They don't give a damn about a tax cut. All they want is a bit of money to help their kids. Will you stand up and commit to that?

Hon Mr Wilson: So that the family in question doesn't get misled -- I have no idea what a tax cut has to do with this -- revenues are up in the province of Ontario, so there's more money coming in to pay for health care, in spite of your Liberal cousins in Ottawa cutting us by $2.1 billion.

I want to say to the honourable member, how do you get up every day, when your federal cousins have cut us by $2.1 billion, and honestly face your constituents and look the people of Ontario in the eyes? How do you do that, I ask the honourable member?


Mr McGuinty: Minister, just for a moment I want you to put the calculator aside. I want you to understand what these parents are feeling, I want you to understand their struggle and I want you to understand their lot in life.

The kids may reach the age of 18 because the numbers show that when you have kids who suffer from this they don't generally live beyond the age of 18. The parents have accepted their lot in life and all they want is just a little bit of help from their government. They need $20,000 to buy a light meter and to help put a special coating on the windows of the house so the kids don't get burned when they're inside the house. Now I want you to stand up in this House today and tell me that's something you're going to support because it's the right thing to do.

Hon Mr Wilson: First of all, the politicians will not make this decision. It is a medical case; it will be decided by the experts, so to keep making politics out of this -- I tell you I ran in this province, I ran in my constituency, we ran to take the politics out of health care and you keep putting it in.


The Speaker: Opposition members, I know this is a difficult issue but the government members allowed your leader to put the question without a peep. I would ask you to give the same consideration to the minister.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): In spite of what he says.

The Speaker: Member for Fort York, thank you.


The Speaker: Order. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: I can't share the details of the case with the honourable member but I assure you that if the experts who review the program and the application to the program -- and by the way, it was fully explained to him what's required in the May 29 letter and I hope he's given that to his constituents, and I can't even tell you whether we're waiting for the information back from his constituents or not --

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): There is no letter.

Hon Mr Wilson: I gave him another copy yesterday.


Hon Mr Wilson: Well, I did. I had it right here. It was sent over to you. I don't know what happened to it. Anyway, the end of the matter is that the experts will decide. If the doctors in the case and the experts who review the assistive devices program and other programs recommend it, we will fully pay for the renovations as we always do.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Attorney General: Today we received the Ombudsman's report into your bungling and destruction of the family support plan. It's a devastating report. The Ombudsman says your decision to lay off 85% of the staff last August caused hardship for the very children and women the plan was intended to serve, yet every time we raised the issues of how many children were going without support payments, you said these were isolated cases, that the plan was working better than ever.

Minister, your performance has been shameful. The punishment you have inflicted on the innocent children and women across this province is unforgivable. Will you now do the decent thing, finally, and resign because of your bungling and incompetence?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): No, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): That disdain reflects the total lack of concern this Attorney General has for the victims he's created by virtue of his gross mishandling. He's apologized for the inconvenience to family support plan clients, but look what the Ombudsman says:

"I hope they're not ignoring need but it's difficult to conclude otherwise right now, but I hope they'll listen as they put in place the restructuring initiatives they're talking about. I see ahead, if they don't listen, confusion; people who were previously not vulnerable becoming vulnerable. That's what you had in the family support plan: people who maybe by definition weren't poor going into the system became vulnerable because of government unfairness. We may have more of that."

The Attorney General just didn't inconvenience people, he victimized thousands of women and their kids. When is he going to accept responsibility and accept his responsibility as the Attorney General and go beyond merely apologizing for inconvenience, but before he hurts more women and their kids, resign?

Hon Mr Harnick: It bears noting that the Ombudsman has made certain recommendations. If the member cares to ask her, we've followed those recommendations, implemented those recommendations and that has been of great assistance in improving the family support plan.

The other thing that bears noting is that the family support plan has been racking up $100 million in debt, on average, for about the last 10 years, when the former Liberal government and the NDP government were running that plan.

We now have a bill that will permit us to begin to start, for the first time, to enforce support orders, to report to credit bureaus, this fall begin the suspension of drivers' licences, now be able to collect money in lump sums that were no longer able to be accessed. Certainly we've worked with the Ombudsman to implement her recommendations and improve the family support plan.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Minister, from day one you have tried to blame other governments, computer glitches, payors, employers, everyone else, for the mistake you made. It was you and you alone who decided it was more important to finance the tax cut on the backs of women and children than to ensure families got the support they were entitled to. You made the decision to close the eight regional offices of the family support plan. You laid off 290 staff in a single day. That's your legacy.

The Ombudsman has said in her report that the "family support plan was wrong in its failure to ensure an adequate level of service for its clients, retain sufficient trained personnel to ensure provision of essential services, monitor its enforcement actions, adequately notify its clients of the availability of, and eligibility criteria for, reimbursement of expenses incurred."

This report is damning, Minister, of your decisions and your conduct and how that impacted on thousands and thousands of families right across this province. Why don't you, for a change, accept responsibility for what you did and resign today?

Hon Mr Harnick: I have indicated that we had considerable difficulties during the transition, and we have worked with the Ombudsman to correct the problems to the point where we now are able to answer 50% of the callers who try to access the plan. The plan is now disbursing 12% more money to women and children than it did a year ago. Some 95% of the payments the plan is making are doing it within 24 to 48 hours. We're receiving letters thanking us that the plan is now able to do more than it's ever done before.

We are addressing the most fundamental problem and that's to change the family support plan from a cheque clearing house to a real enforcement agency that can collect the debt the previous two governments didn't care about. We are now going to try and collect money for women and children the other two parties have written off. We are going to do that. We are implementing that. We have $5 million in increased budget --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: I have a question to the government House leader, but I would say to the Attorney General, never have we seen someone refuse to accept responsibility like this.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): House leader, I asked the Premier about the conflict-of-interest situations being caused by your privatization policy. Both you and the Premier seem remarkably unconcerned, despite the case of Carl Vervoort, who was found by your own investigation to be in violation of the Public Service Act. With your policy of privatization, we are going to see more and more cases of conflict of interest, more and more cases where the taxpayer will wonder, "Who is protecting my interests?" Who is ensuring that your privatization process doesn't result in situations where private companies make a profit and taxpayers lose?

Minister, are you saying you're not going to bring in legal measures to protect the public interest? You said back on April 23 that it was important. Are you now saying you're not going to bring in a new law to protect the public interest in these privatization situations?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): We've made it abundantly clear that the procedures we inherited from the government represented by the leader of the third party were not adequate, were not sufficient.

On April 23 I stood in this in this House and announced that the government would introduce Management Board directives associated with new conflict-of-interest guidelines pertaining to employees of agencies, boards and commissions, senior staff of the various ministries and political staff. In addition, we indicated that we would introduce the lobby registration legislation. Those principles are in place today; those principles are being observed today and are there for the protection of the people of Ontario.

Mr Hampton: Minister, you're trying to steal your notes from the Attorney General about pushing off responsibility on someone else. It doesn't work. It's your privatization policy which is allowing people to get insider information and then go out there and join the private sector company they just negotiated a contract with. No one who looks at this objectively would let it pass. Everyone who has looked at this kind of privatization process that you've started says it won't protect taxpayers, won't protect the public interest.

What are you going to do? Carl Vervoort negotiated the contract, then went out to the private sector and is benefiting from the contract he negotiated while he was in the public service. You can't do a thing about him with your guidelines. You don't know how much he may stand to profit eventually. You don't know how much he may take advantage of the system eventually.

When are you going to bring in legislation? After the problem is out there everywhere in the province? Are you going to protect the public interest or are you going to worry about your private sector friends? Which is it?

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite has a habit of making wild allegations. We've already heard those with regard to the casino corporation. The Premier yesterday indicated that we have a letter that indicates that the member should check his facts in that particular case.

Again in this particular instance of an investigation that was taking place, the member is indicating that some particular individual has negotiated a contract -- completely false. He throws out wild allegations on the floor of this House and assumes they're facts when they're not.

This government has taken action, unlike the previous government, which had this same issue before it. Did it take any action? Absolutely none.

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

Hon David Johnson: This government has taken action. We introduced Management Board directives on the floor of this House on April 23 which are in effect today; the principles are in effect today. This government has taken action, announcing lobbyist legislation which will be in place later this year to protect the --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Minister, clearly you are trying to pass the blame to somebody else, just as the Attorney General has done over and over again when it comes to the family support plan. The fact is, it is your government that is moving to privatize these services and it is incumbent upon your government to make sure there are proper conflict-of-interest guidelines to protect the public from such abuses.

I have yet another case. In northeastern Ontario, where your government is now moving to privatize the Ministry of Transportation road maintenance services, your ministry went to the employees and tried to answer questions from the union. I want to respond by way of the document I got from the union about what your ministry, the Ministry of Transportation, had to say about privatization for contracts that haven't even been awarded yet.

"Will offers of employment come from the contractor or the ministry?" The answer from the ministry is that IMOS will contact the individual employees to make job offers. The contract hasn't even been awarded and your ministry is already saying the job offers will come from IMOS.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Bisson: The question is simply this: Clearly your government has to have in place conflict-of-interest guidelines --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?

Hon David Johnson: It's a bit curious that representatives of the previous government are up with such rage on something they clearly had the opportunity to deal with. They didn't. This government inherited this situation, found it to be wanting and brought in guidelines, guidelines under which a member of the civil service, for example, if they have had significant dealings with a particular firm, cannot switch from the civil service to that private sector firm within 12 months. If they have worked on a file in the government, they cannot shift to the private sector and work on that same file.

That is in force and effect today. That's what we've been working on. That's what we've introduced. That's what's going to protect the people of the province, along with the lobbyist legislation. The previous government had the choice, had the opportunity to do that and did not do it. We have done it.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In the response the Minister of Health gave to the Leader of the Opposition recently, he stated that a letter was delivered to me yesterday. This was not the case. I want to make it very clear. I have checked with my office. No letter was delivered to me.

The Speaker: Thank you. That's not a point of order.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Attorney General. I want to return to the issue of the family support plan. For 10 months now, we have been raising our concerns about the family support plan. We knew from the time you shut down the regional offices that there was going to be chaos, and week after week we've brought the stories of that chaos into this House, stories of women who literally could not pay the rent or buy groceries because their cheques were so late, stories of support-paying parents who were having deducted more than their court order, stories of money that's meant for children sitting in banks, all because you couldn't get your act together.

Now the Ombudsman has investigated this. She has agreed that this plan has been a mess. She has said that you should apologize to the clients for the hardship you've caused by your failure to provide an adequate level of service. More than that, she has recommended that you take steps to make sure that clients are reimbursed for the expenses that were incurred because of your delays. Exactly what will you do to make sure that every client is reimbursed for the expenses caused by your making such a mess of this?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): We have indicated to clients of the family support plan that if they have incurred expenses, they should submit those expenses and we will deal with the expense claims as sent in. Certainly that has been conveyed, and we have discussed that with the Ombudsman, who was satisfied with the solutions we implemented.

Mrs McLeod: The problem the Ombudsman did not deal with in her report today is that this program is still in a mess, despite all the words and all the assurances that the minister provides. Those of us who are working in constituency offices know we are still flooded by concerns from people who cannot get their family support. My own office has 21 cases outstanding as we speak. My constituency assistant sits on a phone for two afternoons a week just trying to get those cases dealt with. An individual client doesn't have a chance, and every member of this House knows that is a fact.

The Ombudsman says to evaluate the experience, but we know what happened. We know that you closed down the regional offices because you had to cut costs just for the sake of cutting costs. We know there was a problem with the family support plan. You didn't understand the problem, and your cuts made the problem worse. It's not enough to just evaluate the problem and know where you made your mistake; you've got to fix it. I ask you today, will you go back to square one? Will you fix the mess by reopening the regional offices and get this right now?

Hon Mr Harnick: It bears noting that over 80% of all cheques that the family support plan now handles go through electronic banking. The plan can now be in a position to deal with what the plan should be dealing with: the collection of arrears.


Anyone who thinks this plan has operated in a successful way at any time is very wrong, because this plan has created $100 million in debt annually for women and children. We are now dealing with creating an enforcement agency that can successfully --

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): So what's the point?

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Blame everyone else, eh, Charles? Blame everyone else.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. First, I want the members for Sudbury East and Welland-Thorold to come to order. Plus, member for Welland-Thorold, that comment is out of order. I would ask you to withdraw it.

Mr Kormos: I withdraw my appeal to Harnick to try telling the truth for once.

The Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, I'll give you one more opportunity; it's withdraw or don't withdraw. The option is yours, but I'd ask you to make the decision.

Mr Kormos: Withdraw.

The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Harnick: We are now disbursing more money at a faster rate than the plan has ever disbursed before. The very essence of what we're trying to do is collect money that has accumulated by way of debt at a rate of $100 million a year. If the parties opposite think that's a measure of success, I can tell you I totally disagree with them. They're absolutely wrong.

We're going to try to reverse that trend by running the family support plan --

The Speaker: Thank you. New question.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Minister, I recently asked you in this Legislature to take responsibility for the Ontario Hydro discharge of toxic metals from its nuclear plants and order an independent investigation.

First you tried to hide behind the fact that no citizen had asked you to investigate. Well, today they have, and what do we hear from you today? Now you are, incredibly, trying to hide behind the independent nature of the Environmental Bill of Rights. It is your job to protect the environment. Stop hiding and making excuses. Will you announce an independent investigation now, today?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): As I said before, there is a process. I think it's important for the Minister of Environment to follow that process with regard to any charge or any investigation or any look into an investigation that a citizen or an event might bring forward. I don't think I should be going down to my investigations branch and saying, "Undertake an investigation" or not. The Environmental Bill of Rights puts forward a process whereby the director and the assistant directors get together and make that kind of decision. That process, I was told this morning, has begun. I think we should follow that process through.

Ms Churley: Minister, you seem to forget that you are responsible for Hydro. Your answer today to previous questions and previously when you stated that copper and zinc are not toxic and indeed are good for fish remind me of a previous Tory environmental minister, Morley Kells, saying that a PCB spill on the highway was not a big deal but it might hurt rats if they wandered on to the highway. It's the same kind of response.

That huge a quantity of copper and zinc are persistent and bioaccumulate in fish. It can take up to 100 years to go away. There also appears to be a deliberate coverup by Hydro with the falsification of numbers. This is a very serious matter. This is not your routine little environmental problem; this is big. This is very serious, and you sit there and try to fob it off on somebody else.

I'm asking you again, because this is not going to go away, will you announce an independent investigation today? Take responsibility; it's your job.

Hon Mr Sterling: The member is incorrect. Copper and zinc at these levels are not toxic. The levels we're talking about are one hundredth of the drinking quality standards in Ontario set by her government, the previous government. I'm sorry, the member is wrong; copper and zinc are not bioaccumulative. There is not a drinking water problem.

However, as I said to the member in my first response, we are following a consistent process which I think it is important to do in terms of enforcement matters, to ensure that all citizens, be they government-controlled or not government-controlled, are treated consistently. I will do that as the minister, I will fulfil my responsibilities as a minister, and that is the correct way to act in this matter.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Minister of Finance, and it relates to the recent news reports of more jobs being created, which is an indication of the improving economy in Ontario. I'm hearing that Ontario is creating 1,000 jobs every day.

Like so many parents, I've been concerned with the current lack of job prospects for our youth. Over the past few days I've read several newspaper articles with encouraging job statistics. I have had optimistic quotes from young people like Rebecca Archibald after finding job prospects better than in previous years.

However, after all this good news, there are still those pessimists out there. Some continue to paint a bleak picture on employment and the economic forecast. Minister, could you give this House and my constituents of Durham East an update on Ontario's economy and jobs?


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Never have I received so much advice about how to answer a question.

As the member will know, the Ontario economy has created more than 100,000 net new jobs in the last three months alone. This is the equivalent of well over 1,000 jobs a day being created in the province. There are more people working in Ontario today than ever before in its history, some 5.403 million people working in the province, and 65% of those jobs in the last three months Canada-wide have been created right here in Ontario.

No less an authority than Paul Martin, the finance minister of Canada himself, projects that employment will increase by a minimum of 300,000 to 350,000 in Canada this year. The recent Nortel announcement --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister, we'll have to wait for the supplementary.

Mr O'Toole: Thank you for that very comprehensive response, Minister.

Our government's plan has been working hard to cut taxes, eliminate red tape and create opportunity, hope and jobs.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Durham East.

Mr O'Toole: It is evident in my riding of Durham East that there is new business growth. An article which appeared yesterday in the Toronto Star indicated that small business could be saved if only the federal government would examine the EI premiums and their reduction for this province.



Mr O'Toole: It's clear that good news isn't being widely received here today. Minister, could you comment on how the level of employment insurance actually affects the status of job creation in Ontario?

Hon Mr Eves: Payroll taxes obviously affect job creation numbers, not only in Ontario but indeed in any province. As members will know, by the end of this year there will be a surplus in the federal EI account of some $12 billion. While I can appreciate as much as anybody the need for prudence and fiscal planning, surely $12 billion is more than a sufficient surplus to account for any shortfall that may occur in future years.

There is room for the federal government to lower EI premiums to $2.20, where they started in the first place. This would create literally hundreds of thousands of jobs across Canada, especially here in Ontario. I would urge my colleagues opposite to encourage Mr Martin and their federal colleagues to do the same.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Health. As you have said in this House, a community hospital doesn't belong to the government; it doesn't belong to the restructuring commission; it belongs to the people in the community.

With the ordered closing of Northwestern hospital, it is beyond belief that my community received a letter wherein your hospital restructuring commission denied them a right to a hearing whereby they could plead their case for the hospital they built with their blood, sweat and tears, brick by brick, bed by bed. Your restructuring commission said, "We won't even give you an hour of time to hear you."

Do you agree with that position taken by your restructuring commission not to give the builders of the hospital, the owners of the hospital, even an hour to hear their case?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant. I cannot interfere in the proceedings of the commission.

Mr Colle: The scary thing is we're about to lose 10 community hospitals in Toronto. Hospitals, as you have said, belong to our communities. They belong to the volunteers, the people who had fund-raisers, the people who volunteered there on a daily basis. They're about to lose their hospitals.

You're in charge of this commission; you appointed them. The buck stops at your desk. How can you not stand up and say in this House to at least give the community an hour to be heard and plead their case? How can you say you won't even allow that hearing? As minister, please say something about giving the builders, the owners of the hospital, a hearing.

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member is extremely unfair in his question. I don't give them the hearing and I did not say I would not give them a hearing. I cannot interfere in the work of the commission, and the honourable member understands that.

What I would say to the party opposite is, how can you defend a system where a third of the hospitals in Metro Toronto are empty, yet our waiting lists for services are growing every day? Buildings don't cure people; people cure people.

In spite of the $2-billion cut from your federal Liberal cousins, we spend 20% more per person on health care in this province than any other jurisdiction in Canada, yet we have waiting lists. Why? Because we have money tied up in redundant bricks and mortar, in duplication, in excessive administration. We need less of that stuff and more services for people. That is what the commission is doing. That is what all of us should be doing to improve the health care system.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Citizenship. It concerns Caribana, North America's largest cultural festival, and the fact that it's celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

The minister will know that Caribana is a success story, culturally and economically. It's a generator of jobs and revenues. It has enormous potential to generate summer jobs for youth. It already provides significant revenues for small business. It is a magnet for tourism, with the parade drawing an attendance of over a million people from across North America.

But this year all of this is at risk all because of a logistical dispute over security with the Metro Toronto Police. We asked you about this last week. The situation still isn't resolved. It's absurd to cancel the biggest cultural event in North America because of a logistical problem. Will you step in now and show some leadership and bring the Metro Toronto Police back to the table so that the parade can go on?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): It is my understanding that the CCC and local officials are continuing to try to meet to resolve this particular issue. Certainly our government encourages the committee to continue working with Metro police, the Metro government and indeed the city of Toronto. But it would inappropriate of me personally to interfere with the workings of the local police because this matter falls within their jurisdiction. I can tell you, however, that the Premier has indicated that he is going to get his staff to contact Chairman Tonks and Caribana officials to see if this matter can be resolved.

Mr Hampton: Let me give you an example of what's at stake here. This is an ad that was in the New York Times. It's placed there by the Canadian Tourism Commission, of which your government is part, and it advertises the Caribana parade. It says, "This colourful Caribbean festival culminates in a huge parade through downtown Toronto." This is being advertised across the continent.

All we're asking is for you to show some leadership, to be a mediator, a conciliator. Bring the parties to the table and work out this logistical problem. Your government has no problem interfering with health care across the province, school boards across the province, forcing municipal amalgamation across the province. Here, with some productive intervention, you can do a good thing. That's all we're asking you to do. Show some leadership. Get involved, bring the parties to the table and let's get on with a very good parade.

Hon Ms Mushinski: As I already indicated in my first response, I believe the Premier is indeed showing leadership with respect to that component.

Having said that, let me also say this: Two years ago, I wrote to all our agencies and advised them this government would no longer be playing a very significant funding role in funding festivals. We advised Caribana of that two years ago, but to assist them with the transition we did approve $67,500 last year to assist them with long-term marketing initiatives. This was in keeping with the Metro chairman's task force on the future of Caribana, which I understand they're continuing to discuss at the table.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister knows I've been an advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities for very many years, including eight years as our party's spokesperson for disability issues when we were on the other side of the House.

I have long been disturbed by the unfairness of Ontario's social assistance rules which penalize disabled persons who receive assistance or gifts from their families. The amount of a family's assistance is deducted from the disabled person's benefit, even if it's for critical need, such as assistive devices, support services and housing. What steps are you taking to address this unfair situation?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you to the honourable member for an excellent question. She highlights certainly one of the reasons why we have to remove people with disabilities from the welfare system. It's not a program that's designed to meet their needs. We've received many recommendations, excellent suggestions from the disabled community and that is what we are following in this instance. We will be allowing families who can and are able to assist in terms of any other expenses, for example, education expenses, so that the person will not be penalized if they make that gift, that financial donation to help them. That's one improvement.

Second, we are also allowing additional contributions for any other expenses, that they can make those up to a maximum to assist their adult child. For example, many parents like to assist an adult child with disabilities in terms of setting them up in an independent living arrangement. This will allow them to indeed do that.


Mrs Marland: Many parents of disabled adult children have met with me to discuss their fears about how their adult children will survive when the parents are no longer living. These parents want their children to be able to continue living in the community rather than face a future in institutional care. They would like to establish adequate trust funds to help provide for their children, but under the current rules for family benefits that is impossible. Minister, I would like to know if you have addressed this serious concern in your proposal for a new Ontario disability support program.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Like the member for Mississauga South, I have met with many elderly parents who have adult children who have disabilities and their concern about how to make provision for their children when they pass on has certainly registered in terms of that needs to be changed and we need to make an improvement. So it is our intention that we will increase the amount of money that will be allowed in trusts up to $100,000. It's currently at $65,000. We're going to allow it to be at $100,000 and also we will allow the interest on that trust to grow within that trust up to $100,000. Before, the interest was calculated and deductions were made. In addition, any interest above that can also be used for expenses to improve the quality of life for the person with disabilities.

I think these are improvements that people representing the disabled community have been lobbying for and I understand they meet many of the needs they have identified.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. She just responded to the issue regarding the Ontario disability support program. Everything she announced that would be encouraging individuals with disabilities to get out, find and keep a job, are things that will cost the government money. Let's be clear. This ministry has been cut $177 million. The announcement last week with great fanfare sets out items that, yes, will cost the government money and, yes, are required to get these people jobs and keep them.

Next week or this week, this minister will introduce legislation that will change the definition and the criteria for disabled. I would like to ask the minister: With your new criteria, will there be more people or fewer people who have disabilities able to receive support they need?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Of course the cost of this program is going to increase because the number of people with disabilities in the population is increasing. We quite anticipate that there will be more people, unfortunately, who will have to rely on income support, those individuals with disabilities. That's why we think it's important to make the program work for their needs so it is there for those individuals when and if they need it.

Mrs Pupatello: There are a number of groups out there that really would like the minister to answer the question. The change in the criteria means only two things: It will change. You've acknowledged it's changing. The change will mean it's more inclusive or less inclusive. You're changing it. That means something changes, clearly. What does that mean? I want to know, will there be fewer people who are able to receive all the good benefits you announced, or have you in fact raised the bar and you're finding the money for those programs in one way: You are going to take people out of the system because they no longer meet the criteria? Minister, when you announce your legislation some time this month, we will be looking forward to that. I have no further supplementary.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Yes, the definition is changing because people from the disabled community told us the definition needed to change. So yes, we have been very clear about that, it is going to change. It needs to recognize that whether or not someone has a disability, what is important is the impact of that disability on their life, the impact of that disability in terms of how they can function in the community, in the home, in the workplace. Yes, the definition must remove labels like "permanently unemployable." That does not meet the needs of people with disabilities. Yes, the definition has to recognize that people with disabilities often have recurrent problems and, yes, that's what we are attempting to do in the new definition. We have listened. They've wanted us to make changes and that's why we're doing them.

I repeat, because obviously the honourable member didn't hear me the first time, of course there will be more people who need this program, as more people with disabilities unfortunately will be occurring in an aging population.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. Perhaps the minister could explain to the House and to the people of Algoma district why it is that the programs of the Sault College campuses in Wawa, serving north Algoma, and in Elliot Lake, serving Elliot Lake and the North Shore in the eastern part of Algoma, are being discontinued and the outreach to those parts of Algoma and the communities of Algoma will no longer continue.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm sure the member opposite knows and understands that the programs that are offered by a college are provided and offered after a review by the governors of the college, by people in the community looking at the services that are needed by that community, the programs that are needed by the students in that local area. Those decisions are not made by the Ministry of Education and Training; they are made by the college.

Mr Wildman: The minister will know that the Sault College budget has been slashed by almost $12 million since 1995 and that the governors are making decisions on the basis of not having enough money to carry out the programs. Besides the cut in access for students in north Algoma and east Algoma, the cuts at Elliot Lake have resulted in the loss of 21 jobs in that community, or a payroll of $1.5 million, and in north Algoma a loss of 17 jobs, or $892,000 in payroll. What effect does the minister think this is going to have on the economy -- the private sector, the retail sector, the real estate values in Wawa and Elliot Lake -- besides the lack of access for students?

Hon Mr Snobelen: First, I think the honourable member knows that the government asked colleges and universities to find savings that were in the Common Sense Revolution, part of the package that we put out a year before the last election, and that this year we have not asked colleges and universities to make further reductions. In fact with regard to the colleges, we have allowed them to participate for a longer period in the program of matching grants from the province and local community to help students most in need.

We have also been working with our colleges subsequent to the Smith committee report, and my colleague Tom Froese, the parliamentary assistant, who is responsible for this inside the ministry, has been working with the colleges now on how to make sure the programs they offer are consistent with the needs of students in the future. So yes, we have asked the colleges and universities for savings, but now we are looking at the investments that we need to make as a province and a college system to meet the needs that students will have in the future.

That means a very different college system in some ways. That means colleges that are built around excellent programs designed to provide the training for the jobs of the future, and I believe we are well along the path to do just that. I am quite proud of our college program in Ontario.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training as well. As you are aware, this government is focusing education resources into the classroom. Since technology is such an important aspect of everyone's lives these days, my constituents in the riding of Oshawa have expressed their concern to me about the importance of their children having access to technology in the classroom. Can you tell my constituents what the Ministry of Education is doing to ensure that their children have access to the technology needed to enhance their education?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for the question. In 1996-97, the government will spend about $68 million in grants for technologies for our schools. This includes a doubling of the TIPP grants and a particular focus of those grants on the early years of education of our very youngest students.

Also, I initiated last December a series of round table discussions with people from the technologies, educators, parents and some students to talk about not just technology for technology's sake but the role of technology in the schools of the future. We believe we need to move our students to that classroom of the future as quickly as we can so they can acquire the skills, the knowledge, the habits and the disciplines that will be relevant for our students who will be graduating in the year 2010 and beyond.

We are focusing on what technologies will support teachers and support students in the literacy that they will need to have in the year 2010, on developing the curiosity they'll need to be successful in their lives and on the sense of self-reliance that they'll also need. We have, I believe, made a commitment to having the top student achievement in Canada. We know that to do that we need the best-resourced classrooms in Canada and we are making those moves right now.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative of Assembly Ontario, and it concerns the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax.

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition, as I am in full agreement with it.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): For the record, the petition reads:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to do away with the topless law."

The petition I have from my riding of Simcoe East is a federal constitutional issue and a ruling on this question was reached in the Supreme Court, so that's a petition which is unconstitutional in this House.


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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature to it.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition qui me provient des Amis de la bibliothèque publique de Bourget.

«Aux membres de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario:

«Étant donné que nous croyons fermement que la responsabilité provinciale dans les bibliothèques publiques en Ontario est un droit fondamental de tous les Ontariens et toutes les Ontariennes ;

«Nous, les soussignés, demandons aux membres de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario de sauvegarder la responsabilité provinciale dans les bibliothèques publiques en s'assurant de maintenir ce qui suit :

«(1)Les subventions provinciales qui permettent d'assurer à tous les Ontariens et à toutes les Ontariennes un accès équitable aux documents et aux services de bibliothèque publique ;

«(2)La coordination des programmes de partage des ressources tels que le système de prêt entre bibliothèques et l'accès au réseau Internet ;

«(3)Une politique permettant d'assurer l'existence du réseau des bibliothèques publiques de l'Ontario ;

«(4)L'aide directe de la part du gouvernement provincial au niveau du service, par exemple par l'entremise du Service des bibliothèques de l'Ontario-Sud et du Service des bibliothèques de l'Ontario du Nord ;

«(5)Une loi maintenant l'autonomie des conseils d'administration des bibliothèques publiques.»

Et j'y ajoute ma signature. Merci.


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 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 health minister follows through on the commitment made in April of last year to set up the long-awaited and much-needed facilities in the Cornwall area for Cornwall residents."

I have also signed the petition.


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

"Whereas bears are hunted in the spring after they have come out of hibernation; and

"Whereas about 30% of the bears killed in the spring are female, some with cubs; and

"Whereas 80% of the orphaned cubs do not survive the first year; and

"Whereas 95.3% of the cubs killed by non-resident hunters and 54% killed by resident hunters are killed over bait; and

"Whereas Ontario still allows the limited use of dogs in bear hunting; and

"Whereas bears are the only large mammals hunted in the spring; and

"Whereas bears are the only mammals that are hunted over bait; and

"Whereas there are only six states in the United States which still allow a spring hunt;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to amend the Game and Fish Act to prohibit the hunting of bears in the spring and to prohibit the use of baiting and dogs in all bear hunting activities."

This is a petition that contains a great many names from my area of the province and is brought forward by the Animal Alliance of Canada.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a petition from the good people on Westmount Avenue against prescription user fees, very appropriate today.

"Whereas the government of Mike Harris has broken its pre-election promise not to impose user fees on health care;

"Whereas the user fees imposed by the Harris government on prescription drugs are causing low-income seniors grave hardship;

"Whereas the vast majority of seniors have worked very hard and have paid taxes for decades;

"Whereas seniors are most concerned that this will be the beginning of more and more user fees on health care;

"We, the undersigned, totally oppose the Mike Harris prescription user fees for seniors and petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"That the Mike Harris government place a moratorium on all health care user fees for seniors."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition here signed by several hundred people concerned about rising student tuition fees.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas post-secondary educational costs have been increasing due to economic and technological changes;

"Whereas student tuition fees have increased greatly over the past few years;

"Whereas the cost of living for students continues to increase;

"Whereas students are unable to continue their education due to high costs;

"Whereas future economic growth depends on access to post-secondary education;

"Whereas the panel on the Future Directions for Postsecondary Education recognizes the inadequacy in financial resources available to post-secondary education;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to renew its financial commitment for post-secondary education and to recognize that a multi-year commitment to the restoration of support must be guaranteed."

This comes from Claudio Monteleone in Thunder Bay, and I'm very proud to sign my name to this petition.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition concerns worker safety.

"To the Honourable Solicitor General and Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to scrap mandatory inquests as a result of fatalities in the mining and construction industry; and

"Whereas this unprecedented and callous decision sets workplace safety back 20 years;

"We, the undersigned, request that Solicitor General Bob Runciman, on behalf of all workers in the mining and construction industry, reverse his decision to remove mandatory inquests from the Coroners Act of Ontario."

I affix my signature to this petition as I am in full agreement with it.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I'm pleased to present a petition from the people of Durham East today.

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness; and

"Whereas abortion is not therapeutic; and

"Whereas abortion is never medically necessary; and

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require elective procedures to be funded; and

"Whereas there is no right to publicly funded abortion; and

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the province exclusively to determine what services will be insured; and

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is hazardous to women's health; and

"Whereas the availability of abortion at public expense leads to the use of abortion as a means of birth control; and

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of over $25 million;

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

"That the Ontario provincial government remove abortion as a service or procedure covered under the provincial health insurance plan."

I am pleased to present this petition.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The petition campaign to save TVO continues remarkably across the province. Thousands and thousands of petitions are coming in. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario has served Ontarians of all ages for more than 25 years with quality non-commercial television that continues to focus 70% of its programming on education and children's programming; and

"Whereas TVO is available to 97.4% of Ontarians and for some uncabled communities is the only station available, making it a truly provincial asset; and

"Whereas TVO continues to work towards increasing self-generated revenues;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure that TVOntario continues to be a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster."

I am very pleased to sign my name to this petition.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): This petition is addressed to the Parliament of Ontario.

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness; and

"Whereas abortion is not therapeutic; and

"Whereas abortion is never medically necessary; and

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require elective procedures to be funded; and

"Whereas there is no right to publicly funded abortion; and

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the provinces exclusively to determine what services will be insured;

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is hazardous to women's health; and

"Whereas the availability of abortion at public expense leads to the use of abortion as a means of birth control; and

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of over $25 million;

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

"That the Ontario provincial government remove abortion as a service or procedure covered under the provincial health insurance plan."


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a petition from the good people on Davenport Road. It's "Save Northwestern Hospital":

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas during the 1995 provincial election campaign, Mike Harris promised he would not close hospitals; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris hospital closing commission has ordered the closing of 10 hospitals in Metro Toronto alone; and

"Whereas closing community hospitals like Northwestern General Hospital and creating more costly mega-hospitals will greatly diminish the quality of health care while increasing costs;

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

"That Mike Harris keep his campaign promise not to close hospitals and keep community hospitals open across Ontario as he promised."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as well on behalf of TVOntario.

"Whereas TVOntario has served Ontarians of all ages for more than 25 years with quality, commercial-free television that continues to focus 70% of its programming schedule on education and children's programming; and

"Whereas TVOntario is available to 97.4% of Ontarians and for some uncabled communities is the only station available, making it a truly provincial asset; and

"Whereas TVOntario continues to work towards increasing self-generated revenues;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure that TVOntario continue to be a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster."

In support, I put my signature to it.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): "Whereas the people of Ontario want rigorous discussion on legislation dealing with public policy issues like health care, education and care for seniors; and

"Whereas many people in Ontario believe that the Mike Harris government is moving too quickly and recklessly, creating havoc with the provision of quality health care, quality education, and adversely affecting seniors; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government now wishes to change the rules of the Ontario Legislature, which would allow the government to ram legislation through more quickly and have less accountability to the public and the media through exercises such as question period; and

"Whereas Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, when they were in opposition, defended the rights of the opposition and used the rules to their full advantage when they believed it was necessary to slow down the passage of controversial legislation; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government now wishes to reduce the amount of time that MPPs will have to debate the important issues of the day; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government, through its proposed rule changes, is attempting to diminish the role of elected members of the Legislative Assembly who are accountable to the people who elect them, and instead concentrate power in the Premier's office in the hands of people who are not elected officials;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Mike Harris to abandon these proposed draconian rule changes and restore rules which promote rigorous debate on contentious issues and hold the government accountable to the people of Ontario."

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



Mr Eves moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 140, An Act to establish the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to other statutes / Projet de loi 140, Loi créant la Commission des services financiers de l'Ontario et apportant des modifications complémentaires à d'autres lois.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary Leadston): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I really don't have any brief remarks; I made them earlier today. I think this bill will indeed improve how financial services are delivered to Ontarians and protect the consumer at the same time.


Mr Guzzo moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 141, An Act to amend the Municipal Act / Projet de loi 141, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les municipalités.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary Leadston): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm pleased to introduce this bill today. The bill makes provisions for the Municipal Act providing for the restructuring of municipalities applicable to the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and its constituent municipalities. It has been requested by the local municipalities in order to help them with their restructuring efforts.

If I might, Mr Speaker, at this time I'd like to pay tribute to Mayor Brian Coburn of Cumberland, the chair of the mayors' committee in Ottawa-Carleton, and his predecessor, Mayor Merle Nicholds of Kanata, for their collective leadership in what has been accomplished in Ottawa-Carleton to date.

I'm pleased to advise also that the three mayors of the municipalities, Ottawa, Gloucester and Nepean, portions of which I represent in the Ottawa-Rideau riding, have all embraced the procedure that has commenced and demonstrated a commitment to their community as a whole, laying aside all partisan feelings. I personally thank Mayor Jacquelin Holzman of Ottawa, Mayor Claudette Cain of Gloucester, and Mayor Ben Franklin of Nepean, in behalf of the citizens of Ottawa-Carleton.

I also, if I might, wish to acknowledge the work of Councillor Brian McGarry of the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, who has been a driving force behind the movement which brought our municipal leaders together. His leadership and his perseverance have kept the forces of division in check and --

The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa-Rideau, I beg your indulgence. It was merely a point to give a brief explanation of your bill and not an elaborate, elongated response.

Mr Guzzo: I appreciate that, but I'd be remiss if not mentioning Councillor McGarry's contribution. I apologize for overspeaking. The municipality has been very well served by the municipal leaders.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sure; thank you.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I move opposition day motion number 7:

Whereas Mike Harris promised Ontarians in the last election that there would be "no new user fees for health care"; and

Whereas the government broke this promise on July 15, 1996, by imposing $225 million per year in user fees on prescription drugs for seniors, people with disabilities and the poor; and

Whereas Mike Harris forced seniors earning over $16,075 to pay a $100 "annual" user fee and all subsequent dispensing fees while charging poorer seniors a $2 user fee for every prescription filled; and

Whereas Mike Harris added insult to injury when he forced seniors to pay another "annual" $100 fee on April 1, 1997, only eight and a half months after the last so-called "annual" fee; and

Whereas this double-charging amounts to a $30-million ripoff; and

Whereas these new user fees are causing undue hardship for Ontario seniors, many of whom must now choose between paying the rent, buying food or filling necessary prescriptions; and

Whereas we have a special responsibility to ensure seniors are treated with dignity and respect;

Therefore, this House calls on Mike Harris to admit that he broke a key election promise, to review the impact these new user fees have had on seniors' lives, to keep his election promise by scrapping these user fees and, at the very least, to correct his blatant ripoff by giving seniors a three-and-a-half-month credit on this unfair user fee.

I am delighted to lead the debate on my motion. I'm also pleased that there's some time to say today that the minister through his announcement, admitting of course the government's mistake in charging seniors for 12 months while allowing for an eight-and-a-half-month benefit period, has announced in the House that the government would extend the program to cover the full 12 months, crediting an extra four months.

With all respect, the seniors have already paid, as of April 1, another $100 which should have been July 15 of this year and not April 1. Indeed the government is not crediting anything to those seniors who have already paid.

Regardless, it's shameful that seniors had to come to Queen's Park begging to get what was rightfully theirs, what they had paid for. If it weren't for seniors, seniors' groups and for us, the opposition, if it weren't for the fact that day after day since April 1 we've been after the minister and the government, saying, "This is wrong; you cannot penalize seniors, you cannot take away what's just, what's fair," this wouldn't have happened today. I'm delighted that seniors have won this battle, that the government has retreated and has recognized it as such.

Since the government initiated the program last year, it has taken in some $225 million, and the three and a half months the government has recognized and has credited today was to bring in another $30 million.

Why do the seniors feel so strongly about the program and the $100? For a couple of reasons. It is not fair that the government keeps on picking on the most needy in our society, especially seniors. They felt that the government was cheating on the promise made to them prior to the election, when the Premier and of course those campaigning, now ministers, said "No new user fees."

When seniors saw they were paying $100, let alone the $2 plus prescription fees, and then three and a half months early they had to pay another $100, they were angry and felt cheated by their own government. I am pleased that they have shown the government they are picking on a particular interest group, if you will, that will not stand by, will not sit idle and be trampled upon by a very uncaring government.

Since July last year, the seniors have been paying and contributing to the system. But that's not what the government has been saying, especially in the last few days when we've been asking questions of the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health, the minister responsible for seniors' issues and the Premier himself. They said: "That's okay. The seniors have accepted our plan. We have met. We have consulted widely with seniors' groups and we have listened." This is ironic, because if indeed the government had met with and listened to those groups, they would never or should never have introduced such a plan, which would penalize seniors who can't afford an unnecessary and undue user fee or copayment.

When we have a Premier who keeps on saying, "That's okay, because we have met and have discussed this very widely with seniors' groups and they agree; they are very generous and they don't mind paying this $100 to help others," I wonder if the government has really met with some of these people, if the government has really listened to some of these people. Let me tell you, I represent perhaps one of the lowest-income and poorest working areas in Metro, if not in Ontario, and I have an extremely large senior population. I don't think you would find one of those seniors living so comfortably that they would be so generously willing to do away with money they need for their own prescriptions and give it to somebody else.

Do you know who that somebody else would be? I have wonderful people in my riding who are as generous as the rest of Ontarians, but it's not to help some others in need. It is to give that $30 million to those people who don't need it, because the government has created a monster, and it's called a 30% rebate. Seniors are angered because they should not be picked on to compensate for the promise the Premier made prior to the election, so he can accomplish the 30% rebate. The seniors are rebelling at that.


The minister continues saying, "They are generous people, and they want to help others." Let me tell you, we have seniors -- individuals and groups -- saying: "I have to buy a number of prescriptions and pay. I've got to go and ask my pharmacist which one is most important, because I can't afford to buy all three or four or five of them. I have to ask the pharmacist which is the most important, because that's all I can afford." For the benefit of the minister, I have one here just received fresh this afternoon; one prescription alone is $92.40, plus $7.56 for the patient's other charges. This already tops the $100, one prescription.

We have the minister saying, "Don't worry about it." They say, "Some of the people are willingly agreeing to pay $100 so we can give it to somebody else." But this doesn't go to some other needy people. If there are needy people, it's the responsibility of this government to look after those needy people and not to pick on them. But unfortunately the government is not doing what it's preaching, because if this was the case, seniors wouldn't come down to Queen's Park saying, "Mr Minister, we want to meet with you." This is in their press release of June 4. If the seniors are down here, it is because the government didn't genuinely sit with these groups and listen to them widely, as the minister has been quoted as saying.

But no, seniors had to come downtown and shame the government into correcting the injustice, the wrong that has been placed on the most needy in our society. The seniors came downtown, saying to the minister and the Premier, "Meet with us, because we have a problem with the plan." It's not only the $100, the yearly deductible; the seniors have a problem with the entire concept, with the entire plan, because as I have shown you, one prescription alone, $92, with all the other charges brings the whole thing already above the $100.

Today the government has realized that you just can't fool a very sensitive, particular group in our society: our seniors. The government has learned a tremendous lesson today; I hope they have. It's not only that the announcement that was made today will solve the problem; it will not. It will not solve the problem one bit. The problems associated with the Ontario drug benefit program go very far; they reach many, not only the seniors who have paid $100. It's very encompassing in many other areas with respect to health care for seniors and others.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I hate to interrupt my colleague, but there is no quorum in the House. Could you check for that, please?

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary Leadston): I would ask to check if there is a quorum present.

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Sergio.

Mr Sergio: Just to continue and take advantage of the extra few minutes left, the program so far has brought into the government coffers some $225 million, but it's not consenting seniors who have been saying, "Yes, we are willing to pay, voluntarily and generously."

It is important that the government learn the lesson of today and make whatever adjustments are necessary to the program itself. It is not the program, that is, the $2 or the $6; it is the problems associated with the entire system. For the benefit of the minister -- I'm pleased he's here today -- it is the wide range of problems associated with the system.

With the copayments and user fee payments, we are forcing many seniors to go without proper medication, and this has many other consequences. We are forcing many seniors to go without any proper medication whatsoever.

This user fee on drugs also penalizes others. It is not the $2 fee alone. It also prevents many non-seniors from obtaining the necessary drugs as prescribed by their doctors. We have many cases where customers go to a pharmacy and say: "I can only afford one drug. Which one is the most essential one for me?"

This will be an expense on the health care system as well, because what's going to happen now? The side-effects of not taking the proper and necessary drugs will cause other problems for many seniors.

Many other seniors are affected by user fees: people in long-term care, nursing homes and so forth. Those people are being forced to pay a copayment, again because of the government's desire --

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): Elinor Caplin brought in the biggest copayments in the province's history.

Mr Sergio: I can appreciate what the minister is saying. I can see that he's agreeing. He's recognizing that the government has made a mistake. I hope he has listened to the people who came here to Queen's Park. I hope he listens to what the opposition is saying. The way he has made adjustments today, I hope he will consider sitting down with those groups that are saying: "We have a concern about the system. We have a problem making the copayment and we want to sit with you." If the minister had really sat down with those groups and listened to them, he would have gone to his caucus, he would have gone to the Premier and said: "Premier, we have a problem with seniors. What we have done is totally unfair and we have to reconsider."

This is the message I'm leaving with the Premier and the minister today, to go back, meet with the seniors and make those necessary changes so the system will be fairer and acceptable, because indeed our seniors deserve nothing less.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: I'm pleased to support the resolution we're dealing with here today. I want to comment generally about the government and what they're doing to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

I would remind you that we dealt just a couple of days ago, last week in fact, with injured workers. You remember what this government is doing to injured workers. You remember that this government talks about an unfunded liability, and as a result of that unfunded liability they give money back to the employers by whacking injured workers, by taking away from the injured workers so they can deal with their unfunded liability, while at the same time giving the employer a hell of a big $6-billion break.

I try to think about the ethos of this government, trying to understand their value system. As I look at everything they're doing, I understand the values of this party. As I look at what they do to injured workers, I say obviously the values we have here in the social democratic party are not shared by the group across from me, because we would never dream of making the kinds of cuts, the kinds of assaults against injured workers that this government is about to do and is doing, to workers in general and to injured workers in particular.

Hon Mr Jackson: They're getting a raise.

Mr Marchese: The ethos of this government clearly is not on the side of the little guy. It's not on the side of those who are very vulnerable and most vulnerable.

I think I heard Minister Jackson say they're getting a raise. Injured workers are getting a raise, Cam?

Hon Mr Jackson: Yes.


Mr Marchese: I don't understand. You whack injured workers, because instead of 90% of net pay they get 85% of net pay. He calls that an increase. Do you understand that? I raise this issue because it's important for those viewing this to understand the mathematics of this government. They're about to get 85% of net instead of 90%. Cam Jackson, the minister, says that's a raise.

I don't get it, but when he has an opportunity to speak about this, he will be able to tell us how he finds that people out there, injured workers in particular, are going to benefit from what this government is doing to you -- not for you, because this government doesn't do anything for you; it does it to you. That's why you need to be able to place yourself vis-à-vis this government, because many people are, as I see it, victims of this government.

We move from injured workers, because we already dealt with this issue last week in the debates, into this piece of the resolution, so as to get a good sense of how these fine, honourable people on the other side consult as they bring about new policy changes.

Minister Jackson, in the one-page statement he presented today, says on several occasions how proud he is and how they will continue to consult seniors. He makes it appear that when they imposed a $100 annual fee on those earning $16,000 and up, somehow they consulted with seniors, or that when they imposed a $2 user fee for anyone earning $16,000 and less, somehow they were consulted by M. Jackson or these other honorables across the way from me.

There is no consultation going on. There is never any consultation that I can see, because we would know. The government speaks the line about consulting, but they don't consult. If they did, the seniors would have been able to tell them: "Leave the present system in place. We don't want to be whacked by you fine Tories again. Why would you whack us, seniors who have gone through our lives working hard at many different jobs" -- in fact, many women carry two jobs, in the workplace and at home -- "and when we get to an age where our earning power is less than it used to be, all of a sudden you say we've got to pay a $2 prescription fee every time we go to the doctor and the doctor signs one of those prescriptions." You go to the pharmacist and he is very happy to fill it for you because he gets a dispensing fee, so he's okay, he's happy, but the senior is not happy.

If you had consulted them, they would have told you they are not happy. Many of them, I suspect, are telling you now. Those who have the time, the energy and the emotional strength to come and look you in the eye will tell you that this is something they don't accept and that this is a burden to them. And it is a burden. You can dismiss it all you want. You can say whatever it is you say to seniors, but it's a user fee, and a hefty one at that. This is contrary to the promise of M. Harris and the lot of you who went around prior to the election saying there would not be any user fees.

It's a funny thing, because you have the Minister of Health and M. Jackson and others saying this is not a user fee. Euphemistically, this is what they call a copayment, as if somehow to relieve people of that thing that is a burden to them. That's the user fee, the cost that is applied to the prescription whenever you go to the doctor. It's a user fee.

M. Wilson says, "No, under the Canada Health Act they say this is not a user fee." The Minister of Health can say all he wants, but every senior who goes to a pharmacy knows if they make $16,000 and over and they pay that $100, that's a charge; they've got to pay for that. Don't they say that, Len, in your part of the world? Isn't that a cost to the people you represent? Of course it's a cost to them. Isn't it a cost to the seniors in the ridings of those Tory individuals across from me? I would think it's a cost to them.

Whether they're seniors who are Tories or seniors who are Liberals or seniors who are NDPers or seniors who don't even vote, it's a cost to them. We can't escape it. No matter how M. Wilson tries to embellish or camouflage, calling it a copayment or saying that under the Canada Health Act it's not a charge or a user fee, it doesn't hide the fact that it's a cost.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): It's a tax.

Mr Marchese: It's a tax on those who have the least. That is why it's so pitiful what this government is doing. Being in politics often has to do with taking sides. This government is very unabashed about its support for certain sectors of society. Under the guise of job creation, under the guise of a tax cut they are assaulting a whole lot of people in society. They're taking sides all the time. No one should think that somehow this Conservative government is a friend of everybody in Ontario.

Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): Point of order, Mr Speaker: This is the Liberal opposition day in the Legislature. There's one Liberal in his seat in the House and I would have thought on their day they would be here. I would like to know if there's a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would the table check if there's a quorum present.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: The member across, my good friend for Nepean, wants me to remind the Tories across that what they do insults their constituents. He wants me to tell them and him that this insults seniors, in particular people with disabilities and the poor, and I agree with him. I want to thank the member for Nepean for reminding me about that because from time to time I forget to tell the public how some things are insulting.


To continue with the thread prior to the quorum call, this government is taking sides and loves to take sides. If you look at the issue of rent control, you will know that this government said, "We've taken sides and we've taken the side of landlords," and I proudly responded that we were taking the side of those who rent. There are 3.3 million people in this province who rent and, in my view, it is our duty, particularly as New Democrats, to defend the rights of the majority who are the least able to afford it versus what these Tory people do, and that is to defend the minority interests, the minority of people who have a great deal of wealth and don't need their help, don't need my help certainly.

The landlords who have done well over the years and continue to do well are getting a hand from these Tories so they can continue to transfer money from those who can least afford it to the landlords, because those poor individuals are not making enough. They're taking sides. They're taking sides when they side with the employer by giving them a cut, and they take sides when they attack injured workers, as they do that. They're taking sides with the most powerful people in this province.

When they say they care, I always tell them, "Prove that you care through your actions, not through your words; not because you say you care and that means you do." Caring is something that you need to show evidence for, and you show evidence of that through your policies and the bills you present in this House. When you attack injured workers, I argue you don't care about them. When you attack the people who rent in this province, 3.3 million of them, at their expense to the benefit of the landlord, I argue you don't care about those 3.3 million. You care about the few who make the money because they are your friends.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think my friend from Fort York would probably like to obey the standing orders and speak to the motion that is on the floor.

Mr Len Wood: That's not a point of order.

Mrs Marland: Yes, it is a point of order.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Richard Patten): Thank you for the advice from the member for Mississauga South. The member for Fort York, will you take that under advisement.

Mr Marchese: Thank you, Speaker. I appreciate the comment, of course, but she knows quite clearly that when we make comments in this House we need to establish links to what these people do. You need the general picture. You need the big picture, not the little picture. When Mme Marland speaks about somehow diverting from the issue, all of the issues interconnect, and the issue I was raising with you, Speaker, and with Mme Marland, is that they're taking sides. They're taking sides by supporting wealthy individuals in this province at the expense of those who are vulnerable: tenants here, injured workers there, and in this case, seniors and people with disabilities.

This fee that they have imposed on each and every one of those poor seniors is a big slap in their face for those who don't have the means any more to be able to carry on as they would like. They're saying even seniors have to pay their way. That's what they're saying through this.

We argue that is profoundly unfair. We have a growing population that is becoming more and more senior in the next 10, 15, 20 years. That means more of them will be paying for the problems we have in society as opposed to going to the types of people they serve, who serve them, to say, "You've got to pay your own way," because that's the just way in this society. That's the way it ought to be.

We reject the Reform position and the Conservative position of these people. We reject it because there is no caring in that particular philosophy and ideology. That is not the ethos that people in Ontario would want to be governed by because those are not values of community, of caring and of supporting those who can least afford it. That's not the ethos of this province. It has not been for a long time.

These people across the way are changing this ethos and it's up to you, you who are watching, because these are the only people we appeal to. We implore you to listen to what these people are saying and to what these people across the way from me are doing, and get a sense of whether or not you believe that what they're doing is something you can support. I tell you, that tax cut they're offering to those wealthiest individuals, the most privileged --


Mr Marchese: Mr Jordan likes the way I'm speaking and I'm glad because I never get to hear much in this House, so I like to hear from Mr Jordan from time to time and I know he likes what I'm saying.

The tax cut that M. Jordan and his host of friends there are giving supports his privileged friends. It's not supporting seniors and that's the insanity of these policies. They do not support seniors when they do the things they do. These policies are not for them.

I urge you who are watching, seniors in particular, you've got to go and meet your Tory MPPs and look them square in the eye, Mr Jordan included, look him square in the eye and say: "Mr Jordan, you defend for me your $100 fee and the $2 prescription fee every time I have to go and get a prescription. Defend it. Tell me in my eyes." M. Jordan, I'd love to hear you speak on this issue. Ask them to defend it eye to eye in front of you. Sometimes letters are insufficient. You've got to go to their office and you've got to attack them for what they're doing to you and to our province and to the ethos of this province.

I thank you for your attention.

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I thought maybe the member for Fort York would like to know that the word "ethos" refers to the fundamental, spiritual characteristic of a culture --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Mississauga South, we appreciate your comments, but that's not a point of order.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'm pleased to enter the debate --


The Acting Speaker: Could we have some order, please.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon; member for Nepean.

Mr Hudak: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It's a little raucous in the House because it is a very important issue.

In observing the debate so far and speaking on the government side, it is an interesting lesson in politics, whether this is truly a concern, a requirement for action in terms of extending the ODB to cover the full 16 months at a $100 deductible and to prorate seniors who enter into the system during a fiscal year, and those are concerns that we've addressed, or whether this is a debate about the ODB itself, whether there should be a copayment on the ODB.

Certainly you can see the difference in the approaches, whether the word "ethos" is proper or not, when you talk about the principles that bind us as Ontarians, and especially in this address today the principle that reflects those of the seniors, the hard-work generation, those who helped build this country and provide for people like me to enjoy this land of freedom and this land of prosperity, to celebrate democracy in a chamber like this, and how they react to the debate they may be watching this afternoon.

If you talk about ethos or you talk about principles, the NDP, the third party, acts as if they would not institute the copayment, would continue to run up the debt, in fact $100 billion of debt after their government's consecutive $10-billion deficits. That does not at all meet the ethos or the principles of the seniors we're speaking to today. That generation fundamentally rejects the idea of running up debts and passing on debts to their children and their grandchildren, an amazing feature, that they care when I go door to door and go to public meetings, that they care so much about the deficit and debt because they care about what happens to their children and their grandchildren and their children's grandchildren.

The Liberal government, in their discussions today, act like they have a blank cheque for health care. They wouldn't make any tough decisions whatsoever. They wouldn't institute a type of copay, promising everything, but when you look at the promises they made during the election -- I remember the debates in Port Colborne and Fort Erie and on the radio throughout Niagara South, promising only a $17-billion health care budget. We've increased program spending to $17.8 billion and in fact, with additional funds for capital and restructuring expenses, up to $18.5 billion -- a very generous allotment of funds to health care, compared especially to the Liberals' promise. I find it passing strange and I think it was all politics when they were preaching they would make all these generous decisions, or no decisions whatsoever, when they promised only a $17-billion budget.


As I said, I think the seniors understand that tough decisions have to be made in terms of funding a program that grows substantially, to bring new drugs on to the system. How do you do that when the drug costs go up every year? How do you finance that program without taking money out of the rest of the health care system? I think seniors understand that. They understand that tough decisions have to be made and they also have an understanding of fairness.

Through the activity of some of the members on this side of the House in speaking to me in my role as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health, and the minister for seniors, Cam Jackson, most recently in my riding this weekend we were listening at first hand to seniors and hearing their concerns.

You've seen a strong response today to those concerns that Cam and I heard last weekend, that I've brought to the Minister of Health and that other backbenchers on this side have spoken about, when you've seen the government react to the seniors' questions and express that fairness and say: "Yes, we will extend the ODB for the 16-month period. We will run it until the end of July. In fact, for those seniors who come on the program later on during the year, we will prorate it." I'll give you an example: If one senior were to come on the program two months before the year begins, their deductible would be $16.66 rather than $100. For a senior on the program for only 11 months it would be $91.66.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York. Can I ask the members please, if they have conversations, to carry them to the chambers outside or to take your seats.

Mr Hudak: I have some names of seniors who have called me on this issue and I'm pleased to say that we have responded to their concerns: Gary Bysterbosch from Ridgeway in my riding, Peggy Fraser in Fort Erie and Bob Potts from Ridgeway, who spoke with the minister this weekend. Bob was in attendance for our seniors seminar in Fort Erie. I'm pleased that we've reacted to their concerns.

The other issue, which is the essential argument of the other side -- I think they've recognized the government has moved and reacted to seniors in terms of extending the year for the ODB program and prorating the copayment and the deductible -- is the issue, should you use a copay? I think seniors from that hardworking generation, those who had to save to make payments and who spent only according to what they had instead of running up debts and deficits year after year, like governments have done for far too long, know what that $2 copay or $100 deductible has done for them.

Seniors like Bob Potts and Gary and Peggy know that the fairness of the plan has meant that for example we've added 465 new drugs to the ODB formulary. Not just added those drugs, but very quickly put them on to the formulary, instead of lining them up at the door, like what happened under the Liberal government, under Elinor Caplan, who's no longer in this chamber, but her legacy lives on.

They had drugs lined up at the door for months on end. Seniors had need for some of the drugs that we've added, like Zyprexa, which was introduced in record time, which helps out patients with schizophrenia, or Coreg, which helps people with heart failure, drugs that have been added on under this government from funds from the copay but that would have been lined up at the door for months or even years under previous governments that would fail to act to bring those drugs on.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member for Niagara South makes comments on the former government, but the students of St Anne school in Iroquois Falls remember well what the government had to say about user fees and that was that under the blue book, under the Common Sense Revolution there would be no user fees in Mike Harris's Ontario. That's what we're debating --

The Acting Speaker: Nice try, but it's not a point of order.

Mr Hudak: I know why the member wants to obfuscate, why he wants to hide it, because he's probably embarrassed by the record of the previous government, which delisted, took off the formulary 260 drugs; 260 drugs that had to be paid for by reaching into the purse or into the wallet and paying the full cost themselves. They could not make the tough decision. While they were putting us $100 billion in debt, they took 260 drugs that seniors were receiving and said to a Peggy Fraser or Bob Potts: "Too bad. You pay the whole shot yourself." We on this side disagree fundamentally with this approach.

Yes, there is a copayment to help sustain the program, a copayment to add 465 drugs to the program and, importantly, which seniors understand and feel good about, help people get on the Trillium program, low-income individuals or families with catastrophic drug costs. An example is a young man working at a gas station, a tough job, not making a lot of money, with a wife or a child with multiple sclerosis; couldn't pay the drug bills. In fact, under previous governments every incentive told him to quit his job and go on welfare and have welfare pay for it. Those incentives were mixed up.

We've increased the Trillium program. The copay has helped to pay for that, so that this man or this woman, supporting their family in a very difficult circumstance with very high drug bills, can continue to work. The generosity of the seniors across this province, the generosity of the hardworking generation that looks into the future as well as to the past has helped individuals like this person.

I fundamentally reject the petition before us today, this resolution, and stand with the government in saying that we are making improvements to the ODB plan for seniors and low-income individuals across Ontario.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Today is a great day to be an opposition member at Queen's Park, in particular one of the Liberal Party. I want to personally congratulate the member for Yorkview, Mario Sergio, who worked for months on this very specific issue.

People who come from Windsor-Sandwich, all of you who wrote to my office, all of you who asked me the one simple question they wanted us to ask the Minister of Health, "How many months in a year?" today we got our answer. In fact, you've restored 12 months in the calendar year for the seniors in Ontario.

All I can say to all of those people, and in particular Mr Manzone, who lives on Lesperance Road, and I know I've mentioned him several times in the House, is that we were canvassing --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): The camera is over here.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Durham East, member for Nepean, please.

Mrs Pupatello: I'd encourage you to just toss him right out, Speaker.

Mr Manzone on Lesperance Road, I know I've mentioned him several times in the House, put it to me very bluntly as we were canvassing for Gary McNamara in anticipation of the by-election in Windsor-Riverside. Gary McNamara said, "Keep mentioning Mr Manzone on Lesperance Road. He asked me one simple question: `How many months in the year?'"

Every time we've asked that question in this House, the minister has waffled all over the place in answer. Some excuse, some other story; every day it was a different story. The reality is that today they've had to renege on everything they've said over the last several months and in fact announce that there are 12 months in the year. If you are going to force a user fee on these seniors, to pay $100 for a calendar year of annual drug fees, at minimum you are going to make it a full 12 months. We saw that as a complete ripoff to the seniors of Ontario, and in fact so did the seniors. We're very pleased. Mario Sergio did some tremendous work, and we're very thrilled to have been of support to him.

We had a postcard we were submitting to all of our seniors in Ontario. It had an interesting picture on it of Mike Harris with his hand in the purse of the senior, taking out money, and it says, "How dare you, Mike Harris?" We ask that all the time. We said, "How dare you, Mike Harris, take money from seniors so blatantly and so obviously?" We said, "Seniors didn't expect Mike Harris to rip them off, but that's exactly what he's doing." We were pleased to allow that we were the most effective opposition to call you to the carpet for that kind of behaviour that we find unacceptable.

There are a number of areas the government is working on in terms of policy that have a very negative impact on seniors, ministries we would hardly expect making significant cuts that affect seniors in Ontario. The Ministry of Agriculture can be blamed for this as well. A very obscure little cut: You wonder how the Ministry of Agriculture could possibly -- they cut a $50,000 grant to the master gardener program. Here was $50,000, indeed taxpayers' money, going to support the horticultural community, the master gardener program, many of whom are seniors.

This is the kind of program that encourages volunteer activity, encourages seniors to stay active in their communities, encourages them to get outdoors and stay healthy and support a healthy lifestyle. A mere $50,000 Ontario-wide paid for one support person and a 1-800 line that allowed people to call in for information, gave local volunteer groups a $500 bursary on an annual basis that allowed them to send out newsletters and give good resource information to all the master gardeners and volunteer gardeners who do this sort of thing in their spare time.

We received lots of information from seniors saying, "We can't believe it was such a measly $50,000 in the face of the billions." Yet that $50,000 went so far in encouraging seniors to stay active in their communities. We can't imagine that in one breath Mike Harris says he wants to encourage volunteers to stay active, yet in another breath, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has this kind of negative impact on seniors. We're not pleased with that kind of behaviour, and frankly the Minister of Agriculture sent me a very poor letter in response to my enquiry.


We've talked about user fees, and the seniors' user fee really was just one example of the broken promises that are now legendary in the Mike Harris government. We've written to all the ministers asking for information about all the new fee increases, all the new user fees. Here are the answers I've got so far.

This is from the Solicitor General's ministry: "A final answer can't be made available in the normal time period." I would suspect that's because there are so many of them that they're taking a long time to count them. They did say, "A final answer will, however, be made on or about June 26." I asked the chair of our caucus, "What is the last day the House is in session in June?" It happens to be June 26. How very convenient that you'd make this information available to me as an opposition member on or about June 26.

The Ministry of Natural Resources, when we asked how many new user fees this ministry has implemented, again replies, "A final answer will be made on or about June 26." How very convenient for the minister.

The Chair of the Management Board: "A final answer on or about June 26." How very convenient.

The Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, again a ministry that is supposed to be dealing with the needs of seniors: "A final answer, however, will be available on or about June 26." How very convenient.

To the Ministry of the Attorney General: We found out yesterday about a new user fee for single moms who are trying to access custody support payments. Even though they don't have their income, they too are being asked to pay a $50 fee to access the system, the same moms who are desperately looking for assistance. What does he tell me about the new user fees in his ministry? "A final answer will be available on or about June 26." That is shameless.

Here we have the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: "On or about June 26." Absolutely no shame.

You are waiting for the House to recess so we don't have active answers from the ministers in time to bring them up in the House. Let me tell you, whether we're sitting here in the House or out there in our own ridings, most of the people of Ontario will be very aware of the significant number of user fees this government has brought to bear on the taxpayers, yes, the one set of taxpayers in the province of Ontario.

Mr Bisson: I get the opportunity today, as do other members of the NDP caucus, to speak on this. This motion is quite clear. This is an opposition motion calling on the government to back off the direction they've taken when it comes to user fees specific to health care.

Speaker, you weren't here at the time, but I was a member of the last Parliament and I remember well the words of the then leader of the third party Mr Michael Harris when he stood in this House and railed no end when it came to health care. He was going to be the defender of health care. He stood himself up and said, "I and my caucus are going to do absolutely everything to protect health care," and in fact they made solemn promises in their Common Sense Revolution.

I remember back then talking to people in my constituency from Matheson to Iroquois Falls to Timmins, saying, "Can you believe that? Tories trying to make believe for some reason that they are now the defenders of health care?" I couldn't believe it. In fact they put in the Common Sense Revolution what? They made a solemn promise. The Common Sense Revolution, for people to remember, is what? It's the bible of the Conservative Party. That is the document by which this party ran and got elected in Ontario in the election of 1995.

What does it say? It says on page 6 of the Common Sense Revolution when it comes to health care, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." What has this government done? They've done a flip-flop. They said one thing during the election, and when they got elected they did quite the opposite. One of the first things they did in the health care system was to introduce user fees when it comes to prescription drugs for seniors and people needing medication for all kinds of ailments here in Ontario, something that didn't exist until this government came.

Then they stand in this House and they say: "They are not user fees. We call them copayments." I'm sorry, I want to use the words of Michael Harris, then third-party leader, in 1994 in a debate in this very assembly, when Mike Harris said, "A user fee is a user fee is a user fee is a user fee." Don't try to hide it for what it isn't. What you've done is you've broken your promise. You ran saying you would not introduce user fees in this province. You got elected. You came to power. You broke your promise. You're taxing the people of Ontario and you're putting in place user fees for the people of Ontario.

Further to health care, there were other comments made inside the Common Sense Revolution, and I think they're fairly topical. One of the things they said within the health care area was that the health care system was too important for us and that we needed to make sure we didn't cut any funding in our health care system.

Across northern Ontario people are trying to get access to health care services in communities like Sudbury and communities like Timmins, Iroquois Falls or wherever it might be, and they're finding that more and more, as time goes by, this government is making it difficult for people to access not only emergency care services but, more important, surgery services in the province.

I in the last week alone have dealt with two constituents, one from Monteith -- for people who don't know where Monteith is, it's between the communities of Iroquois Falls and Matheson -- who needs to get orthopaedic surgery. The surgery is a specialized type of surgery that cannot be done at the Timmins and District Hospital and he has just got word about when he can expect to get his surgery down here in Toronto at the Wellesley Hospital. Do you know when he has been told? June of 1999 is when he's going to get his surgery.

What's the reason, I find out, when I start checking out the situation for the gentleman from Monteith? It's that the cutbacks we have had in the health care system have made it that the surgeries are stacking up, and they're stacking up to the point that people can't even get in. What does this gentleman do? He is getting to the point where he's not able to move around and lead any kind of a life that is useful as far as being able to enjoy himself and enjoy his life in retirement. He's looking at the possibility of being in a wheelchair. Why? Because this government has cut the funding of health care to the point that people are having to wait upwards of two years to get surgery that is necessary for a person's lifestyle.

I have another case in my constituency office that we did manage to resolve about two weeks ago. A young gentleman, aged 30, in the community of Timmins had been waiting for valve replacement surgery at the Sudbury hospital. For how long? He had been waiting eight months, and he was at the point where quite frankly his wife was fearing for his life. The only way we got him into the Sudbury hospital was a lot of work on the part of myself, the local doctors in the city of Timmins and the Timmins and District Hospital putting the pressure on the Sudbury hospital to get him in there and get him a bed for that surgery, something that never happened under the previous governments of either Bob Rae or David Peterson, and yes, even Mr Davis himself.

Why? Because this government has broken the most holy of holy promises they have made to the people of this province, and that is that they would not cut our health care system. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot run in an election and say, "I will not cut health care and I will not charge user fees," and then have the hypocrisy to come into this House and try to pretend that you have done nothing to harm our health care system. Quite frankly, you're putting our system of health care into risk. Why? Because you want it to fail, you want it to break down so you can then introduce private health care in this province. That's where you people are going and it's as simple as that. If you can get people waiting long enough on waiting lists, if you can get people used to paying user fees, it will be easier down the road for this government to turn around and say, "You can get better services if you agree to go to a private clinic somewhere and pay out of your own pocket." This is where the Mike Harris Reform-Conservative government is bringing the people of this province, and to that I say shame. The people not only of Cochrane South but from across this province will remember that in the next election.

In the final seconds I have, within order, I would like to point out to members of the assembly that we have with us today students from St Anne's school in Iroquois Falls, who are here visiting our fine assembly and visiting the city of Toronto as a way to look at what our great province has to offer everybody else. I would like the members to applaud to welcome the students of St Anne to this assembly.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you for the introduction.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It's a pleasure to enter this debate. It gives me great pleasure to speak to the motion today because it examines records, records on issues and on promises governments have made to the electorate. Let's not mince words here. This government of Mike Harris is committed to improving the quality of life enjoyed by seniors, so much so that in the smallest cabinet in Ontario since the Second World War, the Premier has appointed the only full-time minister dedicated solely to seniors in the entire country of Canada.

Those on the opposite benches may scoff and call this move merely window dressing, but seniors in my riding know the score and they told me so this morning in Acton. Seniors in Halton North know the difference between real change and window dressing. After more than 10 years of studies and inaction, the members opposite have a lot of nerve.

How many long-term-care beds did they create when they were in government? Where were the negotiated discounts on auto insurance rates for seniors? How many preventive vaccination programs for seniors did they initiate when they were government? What happened to the out-of-country medical coverage for seniors when they were in government? How many prescription drugs did they list to expand the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary? What kind of long-term commitments did your governments make to home care?

All very good questions, ones that opposition members are red-faced when answering, because the fact is that their record on seniors is shameful. They created no long-term-care beds over the 10 years collectively that the opposition parties were in government. They eliminated out-of-country medical coverage for seniors. To address the fiscal pressures on the Ontario drug benefit program, they irresponsibly delisted hundreds of drugs available to seniors, 260 drugs in all.

Let's compare our records and approaches to seniors in Ontario. In order to deal with the fiscal pressures which would result from a $2-billion reduction in federal social and health care dollars through transfer payments, we chose to introduce a $2 copayment, not delist drugs. This responsible action allowed us to take a minimalist approach to increasing costs in the system and improve and expand the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary by adding 465 new products, helping more seniors than ever. Compare: 260 delisted, for which seniors then have to pay, compared to the 465 we added to the list. In fact, last year the government incurred an overall increase in expenses of $114 million for drug benefits.

In addition to this measure, we have taken the following steps to improve the lives of all seniors living in Ontario: We have increased the home care budget by $170 million, enabling an extra 80,000 people to live independently; we are providing free pneumonia-preventing vaccines for 1.4 million seniors at a cost of $20 million; we are delivering one-window access to long-term care through community care access centres; we announced $135 million in the last budget committed to build and renovate long-term-care facilities. These are but a few of the measures we have taken.

Closer to home, in Halton North, seniors understand and appreciate the changes that have happened over the last few years and recognize the differences between the governments that have delivered lip-service and those who have actually delivered. I'm pleased to say that they recognize that this government is the one that has delivered.

For over a decade our community was recognized as having the highest need for long-term-care beds in Ontario. The situation deteriorated to the point where the need became critical in our community. Government after government assured the people of Halton North their needs would be addressed and the situation remedied. Residents in Georgetown ran fund-raising campaigns in the hope their request to the province would some day be granted.

This government finally acted on the commitments of other governments and delivered the $2 million to Georgetown and District Memorial Hospital to expand the Bennett Health Care Centre and provide the long-awaited, long-term-care beds our community so desperately needed. Residents in my community can now realize a greater possibility of caring for their loved ones closer to home when they retire.

If the members opposite want to talk about a government's blatant disrespect for seniors, then they should look no further than their own shameful records. They won't have to take my word for it, they can ask the people of Georgetown and Halton North about who actually kept their word and which government they felt, in the words of the members opposite, ripped them off. The true disrespect was in making commitments that past governments had no intention of keeping.

The opposition resolution is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by those proposing it to fabricate the image or façade that they actually care about seniors' issues. If they really cared, then they would have done more for seniors when they were in government.

In closing, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all seniors in my riding and indeed in all ridings in Ontario a very happy Seniors' Month this June. I encourage all Ontarians to join with me and recognize the contributions seniors have made in our individual ridings and in our communities, both today and in the past.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I think the record is clear. In the Common Sense revolutionary comic book, on page 6, they said, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." What did the Mike Harris gang do? The first thing they did to seniors when they got into power was to slap user fees on seniors for their drug care. They made them pay a $100 deductible and then $2 per prescription under a certain limit and $6 over that. They broke that campaign pledge directly. It's right in your Common Sense comic book where you said "no new user fees." How plain can you be? You broke the faith with the seniors.

Luckily, through the opposition Liberals, we're able to hold your feet to the fire that you tried to pick the pockets of seniors across Ontario to the tune of $30 million. Shame on you. You thought you could get away with it. You didn't get away with it, and today, total surrender. You put up the white flag because the seniors caught you. They caught you trying to take $30 million from their pockets.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Got you.

Mr Colle: We got you right in the act and you had to sound the bugle of retreat. You got caught red-handed with that $30-million ripoff of seniors. That's why you had to retract that. That's what the people of Ontario should know about. You tried to sneak that money out of seniors' pockets. That's a disgusting, shameful thing, to try and tell them that the calendar year only has eight and a half months. That's how blatant it was, to say the year only had eight and a half months. They didn't think seniors or the opposition would notice, that they could change the calendar. That's the kind of revolutionaries we have. We know Robespierre tried to change the calendar. We know Julius Caesar tried to change the calendar. Here these revolutionaries thought they could change the calendar so they could rip off seniors for $30 million.

I'll tell you, seniors in my riding have had to make choices because of this blatant ripoff of seniors and their drug charges, their user fees. They are choosing whether to buy food or buy medicines or take those prescriptions to the drug store, because some of them cannot afford the $6.11. Some of them can't afford the $100. Perhaps in some of the wealthier areas of this province where these members come from, they don't see that. I see seniors making choices every day; 75-year-old seniors with part-time jobs. It's getting to be like the United States where you see 70- and 80-year-old seniors out in parking lots with the shopping carts or bagging at grocery stores because they can't afford the health care in the United States. That's what it's coming to here. I've got 75-year-old seniors looking for part-time jobs because they're getting squeezed at both ends: This government has punished them with user fees, and at the other end, their children who have lost their jobs or may be reduced in their social assistance have to come back home or have to beg for a bit of money from mother and dad to pay for their kids' basic needs. So the seniors in this province are being squeezed at both ends by the Mike Harris gang.


You really wonder at the schizophrenia here. Is it the Reform Preston Manning or is it the Charest Conservative directing this government? At the beginning, obviously, it was all Reform, Reform, Reform, but I think the Harris gang got quite a scare in the last week, because they knew that the people of Ontario did not buy the Reform message that the Reform Party is going to expand health care spending. They didn't buy the Jean Charest line that you can trust Tories with health care. In every riding across this province, people rejected that.


The Acting Speaker: Can we have some order, please.

Mr Colle: The people of Ontario rejected the Reform-a-Tory approach. They don't trust Mike Harris with health care. They don't trust them, because the only thing they do is when they get caught, they retreat. We caught them here today big time.

The other thing in terms of health care is this whole package. Look at the downloading of seniors' housing. They're going to put that on to the municipalities. What is that going to do to seniors in housing? They're going to get rid of rent control. How many vulnerable seniors in our cities are going to be damaged by the Mike Harris agenda to get rid of rent control? How many seniors are going to be forced to put a mortgage on their houses because of the market value assessment this government is imposing on the seniors of Ontario?

They're going to ask them to put a deferral, which is a mortgage, on their homes. They have worked their whole life trying to get rid of that mortgage. Mike Harris comes along, and with market value now, he's going to force a lot of seniors to put a mortgage on their homes. This is what the Mike Harris gang is all about. They're about sneaking things through on the most vulnerable, hoping the most vulnerable won't notice.

What I'll tell the Mike Harris gang is people have caught on to your act. They know what you're about. You're not keeping your promises. The only promise you're keeping is the one to give a tax cut to your rich friends. Everything else is all smoke and mirrors, and on the opposition side, we'll catch you again. We caught you at this $30-million bit of thievery, and we'll catch you again. We're not going to go away. The seniors aren't going to go away. We'll be there watching you, because you can't get away with it.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I too wish to participate briefly in this motion sponsored by the official opposition on a subject matter which is very current. To put it simply, let me begin by offering my congratulations to people in the Ministry of Health, who I suspect are giving their evenings, their weekends, are working overtime. Why? Because the government made a mistake. Oh, they will tell us that the seniors actually saved three and a half months, that the program was to be introduced last April, but because the fundamentals weren't in place the program was not to run, it was delayed until July. Since the intent did not reflect the carry-through to the implementation stage, the seniors benefited by three and a half months of free drugs.

The government screwed up big time, and today they're retreating because grey power got to them and said, "This is what you told me," and I'm quoting from the Toronto Star, a non-partisan daily, widely read and circulated: "Dart...No Laurels."

Jim Wilson, the man, the Minister of Health, who's responsible for the mess the government has created -- one would say mugging was the order of the day, because people were told one year, and then you wait until the next year. July to April does not constitute a year. It's not your understanding of what a year is, it's not mine, it's not anyone else's. Let me quote:

"The government says it gave seniors a three-month free ride last year. But seniors say they were promised in July that their $100 deductible would last for a full 12 months" -- a very simple presentation, very factual. "The government should be honest and keep its word."

Then it goes on to say: "If an insurance company tried to charge customers for an annual deductible after only eight and a half months, it rightly would be accused of cheating. There is no difference here." So they say the parallel is filled with validity. They conclude by saying that they're cheats, they're thieves. That's what the Toronto Star says in its analogy, its parallel. If an insurance company was to do the same thing, ie, pick the pockets of people, let them pay the premiums for 12 months and after eight and a half months you dim the light, you mug them and you run away -- the government admits that. At least that's a step in the right direction, and I say this candidly, in all honesty.

It's going to cost them. We know that anywhere between 6,000 and 7,000 new clients enter the drug program each and every month. The province is constituted of 11 million citizens and residents, and you know first hand what the demographics are telling us: The population is aging. We also know that this is an open-ended program, that the government is literally under a state of siege. I suspect that the drug program must be oversubscribed by some $80 million, $85 million, $90 million, perhaps a figure surpassing $100 million. They got caught. Let it be a lesson.

They pride themselves in saying that this is a government that does what they said they would do. There is a cohort out there, a group of citizens who looked at the agenda line by line and gave them kudos and congratulated the present government by saying: "You said you would do this; you've accomplished it. You've said you would do that, and you came through." There's another majority of citizens of course in our democracy who are saying you have failed to deliver on what you said you would. But there is a malaise, and that's throughout, that while some people might say to the government you are attempting to deliver on your program, on your Common Sense Revolution, we disagree with the fashion, the style, when we have a growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots, when we see the galloping revenues of those who can run away from the field.

This government has reinforced the sentiment of the survival of the fittest. It didn't say that in the Common Sense Revolution. It didn't say that last year when it said to seniors, to people under the drug program, "We will be charging you because of the tax cut" -- there again, its mesh, its web doesn't work in isolation -- "because we need the revenue."

Notice that the provincial income tax, the PIT, which represents fully one third of government revenue -- and as the instalments, as the cut starts to take place, the cuts that benefit the rich, you have to find the money someplace because you have to keep away the wolves. Those bond rating agencies can make your life very difficult. We have a growing economy, but we don't have corresponding growing revenues. We're beginning to see it every month now. The deficit is still the deficit, but the government will not cancel the remaining instalment on the tax cut and put it straight against the revenue. That's what you would do conducting your personal affairs and that's what I would do: reconcile the debt, not go and indulge in celebration and spend more money. But it becomes them.


Who pays? There's no secret, no free lunch here. Who pays for this? The seniors. They made a touch on the people who can least defend themselves, those who are the most vulnerable. They got together, this cohort of powerful people, with friends of influence, friends of power, friends with money. I wouldn't put it past them -- and I choose my words carefully -- that there will be a time when reciprocity, when rewards will be the order of the day, la payola, by way of an insidious appointment someplace, a promotion, a bursary for daughters or sons of good families perhaps. But there will be some rewards. People will come calling.

In this case there is honour. Give your word and keep your word. "We shall charge you because we have to honour our commitment for the tax break" -- to those who need it the least -- "so we're going to start squeezing on services. We shall charge you, if you belong to the drug program, if you're an Ontarian 65 years of age or older, $100 per annum."

You need not emanate from U of T or from Harvard or MIT to understand $100 per annum. That's what you said. There is no denying this. But eight and a half months after, they come calling again. Knock, knock, knock, "We need another $100." "Excuse me, you're premature. It's only been eight and a half months." "Well, you see, we run a fiscal year. This is a matter of fiscality, Miss Jones. Fork over another $100 on your meagre budget."

If you can't do it, what do you do, go without? You're 74. Heaven knows you've built and served the country well. Unexpectedly, out of the blue, the government, the big guy, the thug, comes calling and says: "Miss Jones, the fact that you're frail and elderly is brushed aside. We want $100 here." The collector comes calling. You say: "Mr Collector, you will have to wait another three and a half months because I already gave $100 last year, and you said -- I have the paper. Where is it? I have it right here." The government says: "No, no, no. The squeeze is on. This is a matter of fiscality. We run a fiscal year."

Common sense? Integrity? Is it honesty? No, I don't think so. Let me go back to the Star. It starts by saying: "Dart...no Laurels." "Health Minister Jim Wilson. For squeezing seniors. Last July, Wilson slapped new fees on the Ontario drug plan, which provides prescription drugs to seniors and welfare recipients." Seniors and those who are marginalized, who can't afford it, are on general assistance, on welfare. "Low-income seniors were forced to pay up to $2 per prescription; most other seniors were forced to pay up to $6.11 for each prescription after an annual $100 deductible." That was last July. That's what the Star said. Eight and a half months later, seniors who use the plan were told that their deductible had expired and that they had to pay the $100 again.

I don't see any valuable argument, in fact I'm surprised that time and time again both opposition parties responded to the many calls that people are -- there's some panic out there. Imagine, if you can't trust them on a basic premise, on a fundamental, on the drug plan, next time they come will you believe them? But it comes out in the wash. It's been exposed. I don't believe the government really intended to do that.

The government sincerely believes that had the plan been implemented three and a half months earlier, they would have been right on track. I believe the government when they say this. Let's give them justice; it's due there. Perception is very important. You have to deliver. In this case they messed up. The ministry did not mess up. The opposition did not filibuster. It is the government that screwed up and today they have to backtrack.

They've put themselves under a state of siege. Thank heaven for the help of grey power, of the seniors who gathered by the hundreds and said to the minister: "We trusted you. If you want us to believe you next time, you are our minister, you are going to have to go in cabinet and kick what." They'll tell them they've made a mistake.

That goes to the very heart of the problem. It's very simple. It's a relationship, the trust between a citizen and the state and its government. If you're allowed to breach this, you do so at your own peril because you are entrusted, the people believed that you would.

You penalize them for 100 bucks. If they make more than $16,000, they're rich, they pay an additional $6.11 on drugs. Your physician tells you, he or she, that you need help in the form of medication, so you go into your purse, into your pocket, and you pay $6.11 because it has been decreed that $16,000 gives you that power to pay.

What do you sacrifice? Is it the cable television? Is it the call on a Sunday going from seven to five minutes, or no call, to a granddaughter or grandson who resides in another part of our vast and magnificent land or perhaps overseas? Those are the tradeoffs you have to make. Those are the choices and governments are supposed to -- they're elected to help everyone from the very rich, the very powerful to those who are trying to hang on.

With the help of the sponsors of the revolution, we will be watching closely. They've made a mistake, at least they've acquiesced to that and they're rectifying it. Not a proud moment but let it be a lesson that in the future this kind of endeavour, this kind of timetable will be given a second and third scrutiny before it reaches the marketplace.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to congratulate the member for Yorkview for bringing this topic forward. All topics involving seniors are of great interest to all sides of the House. Yes, I know the opposition has taken great delight today in talking about how they've caught us and they're watching us, and how they've caught us and we're in retreat, all of these wonderful words, and the announcement by the minister today does in fact make the motion we're debating today rather redundant. However, I think it's useful to talk about this issue and a number of other issues involving seniors.

I quite frankly can say that, yes, I've had the same comments the member for Yorkview has had from seniors in my riding where they've expressed the same concerns he has been putting forward. I've spoken to the minister, Mr Jackson, and contrary to you, and I know you have your job as a member of the opposition to say, "We caught you and you're in retreat," I have more respect for the minister and I believe the minister has responded to a number of concerns not only from members of the opposition but from seniors around this province who have raised this issue with all members of this House. However, we all have our message that we have to put forward. I congratulate the minister for responding to the concerns that have come from all corners of this province.


Notwithstanding all these comments back and forth between the opposition and the government members today, the fact is that Ontario continues to have the most generous drug plan in Canada. No matter what you say, you have to acknowledge that. Look at some of the things that go on in some of the other provinces. For example, the New Democratic government in Saskatchewan charges seniors a $200 deductible and then, on top of that, 35% of all costs above that. The average low-income senior in Ontario pays $4 a month for ODB-listed medications worth a total of $753. In Saskatchewan, for the same quality of medication, a low-income senior living in a care centre would pay $540.

Then you look to some of the other provinces, where these things are much higher than they are in Ontario. For example, in Nova Scotia, each senior must pay the government $215 just to get on the plan, and then they've got to pay 20% of the cost of medications after that. In the case of our average senior, that would work out to $350. In Manitoba, the average senior would pay $355; that's $130 plus 30%. The cost in Alberta would be $625; that's 30%, up to $25 per prescription.

I could go on, but clearly the reason I list those facts is that Ontario continues to have the most generous drug plan in Canada. I congratulate both Minister Wilson and Minister Jackson for maintaining that and for responding to the concerns that have come from the seniors of this province.

And yes, I congratulate people like the member for Yorkview in his resolution today. There's no doubt that the opposition has expressed the concerns that have come from their constituents. I have expressed the concerns that have come from our constituents. The minister has responded to that, and I congratulate him for that.

The minister is going to conclude the comments today with respect to this debate. I'd just like to say a few other things, which may be slightly off topic, although I can tell you that many members around the province hold seniors' seminars in which the topic raised today by the member for Yorkview is discussed. I'll hold two seminars. I held one about two weeks ago in Bolton, at the Caledon seniors' centre at Rotary Place, at which we discussed a number of topics. The minister appeared at that seminar, and he was asked a number of questions. This was one of them. He has responded to that. The topics of naturopathic medicine, pharmacology and nutrition were discussed. The new Headwaters Health Care Centre was discussed. These topics that affected seniors were put forward.

Just to give a bit of publicity to a seminar that is coming forward in my riding, and then I will conclude, I wish to advise members that I'm holding a further seminar on Thursday, June 19, from 7:30 to 9:30 pm, at the Orangeville and district seniors' centre. This is organized by me and by seniors and by the seniors centre, and the topics at that session will be nutrition, diabetes, naturopathic medicine, community care and access. I would encourage members to hold these types of seminars, in which this type of debate that the member for Yorkview has brought forward can come forward.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure for me today to speak on behalf of the seniors I represent in Essex county. It's refreshing to hear the member for Dufferin-Peel and to follow him, quite frankly, because he has pointed out that he hears the same things I do in my riding, and I'm sure every member of the House hears these concerns that seniors bring to us.

I'm pleased to congratulate my colleague from Yorkview, Mario Sergio, for his persistence on this particular issue and the fact that the minister, as has been suggested, has listened not only to the opposition in this Legislature but also to seniors across the province. That's good to see and good to hear, that the system can work this way.

The fact, as was mentioned, that we have the best drug plan for seniors in the Dominion of Canada is not only surprising, but it is the way it should be. We often tout ourselves as the richest province in the Dominion of Canada, and therefore it would seem only reasonable that the richest province in the Dominion of Canada would be able to provide the best services to its constituents.

Today we've talked about the broader issue as well of user fees. This is one part of it, the fact that initially the government was only going to allow the $100 deductible, which was supposed to be an annual fee, for eight and a half months. As some would say, perhaps the government got caught with its hand in the cookie jar. When this was pointed out to them, they listened, and I'm glad they did.

The Common Sense Revolution did say on page 6, as was pointed out earlier by another colleague, under the "Health Care" heading, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." This goes to a more deep-rooted part of the problem. If the Premier and the government members had campaigned across this province with their Common Sense Revolution and said, "When we are elected, we are going to collect a $100 user fee on the senior drug plan for those making in excess of $16,000 and some odd," and if you had been elected on that, we wouldn't even be here debating this today. But you weren't elected on that. You said very clearly, "No new user fees."

The government uses the term that this isn't a user fee, it's a copayment. Mike Harris said at one time that a user fee by any other name is a user fee. I suggest that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Therefore, whether you call it a copayment or whether you call it a deductible or whether you call it a user fee, it's all one and the same.

That's part of the problem we want to point out today, that governments should mean what they say and say what they mean. If you had meant at that time that you were going to charge a user fee on the senior drug plan and you were elected on that basis, I would say, "More power to you," but frankly, I don't think that was the case. That's part of what we're debating here today.

I'm afraid that what has happened with many of the charges that have been put upon the citizens of Ontario is they have resulted from the fact that the richest in this province are receiving a tax cut. The fact that the government is going to go out and borrow $20 billion and increase our debt from $100 billion to $120 billion to do this may not matter much, only to those of us who try and keep track of how those things go on in the Legislature. But you campaigned on a tax cut in the Common Sense Revolution and you're giving a tax cut. So I just say the fair thing would have been that if you campaigned on no user fees, you don't charge any user fees.


I'm glad to see that we're debating this resolution after the fact that the minister got up in the House today and said he had listened and was willing to change. As a matter of fact, I wish that would happen on more of the issues that come before us and that have been discussed by many of my colleagues today.

In the few moments I have left I'd like to as well point out correspondence I've received from seniors in Essex county that I don't doubt has been received in another form by many members on both sides of the House from seniors in their particular riding. This happens to involve long-term care. How does that involve user fees on the drug plan? It's all in one. It's all concern for our senior citizens. I want to point out that these issues, like the concern for long-term care from the committee of the Sun Parlour Home, are as important to us today as are user fees that are being placed upon our seniors in many other areas.

I've received this correspondence, as I said, from the seniors at the Sun Parlour Home for Senior Citizens. Mary Unrau, an individual, took the time to tell me that it angers her that the government has cut funds for health care, that the government will spend more per day on persons in correctional facilities who have taken away from families and communities than the people who no longer can care for themselves. These are the continuing concerns that we have to bring before this Legislature and that I hope the Minister of Finance, the Premier and the minister for seniors issues will listen to as well.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons, in writing to Mr Wilson, the Minister of Health, not only pointed out the discrepancy in the deductible that was being attempted at the time, but went on to say, "It is obvious to us that your ministry has compounded the ill will created among seniors by your ill-advised policy of charging them for prescription drugs despite your government's promise not to levy a user fee for health care."

When the Minister of Health stands in his place and says, "We've consulted with seniors and they agree with this $100 user fee," it would appear as though the Canadian Association of Retired Persons disagrees with that. United Senior Citizens of Ontario Inc has said, "What we are currently in the midst of is an argument about the size of user fees. The USCO wants injected into the debate the `use' of user fees. We have said before and we will say again, the USCO is adamantly opposed to user fees in our health care system. Evidence gathered to date proves that user fees do not work and place an unfair burden on the poor."

We've listened today. Let's listen to our seniors tomorrow.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I'm pleased to participate in the debate and I'm pleased to see that the minister responsible is here today. I want to ask him if he has his white flag and if he's here to beat a hasty retreat, as was clearly evident earlier in the remarks that the minister made.

The government got caught. That's what happened here today. The government can give us the rhetoric about how they listen to seniors and on and on. The government got caught. They introduced a scheme that was supposed to be a year long, where seniors who had to make a payment thought they were going to get a full year's coverage for their drugs, and then they found out that eight and a half months into that scheme the government came knocking again and wanted another 100 bucks up front for those seniors who are living by themselves and make over $16,000 or for those seniors who are a couple who make over $24,000. The government said: "Pay up again. We haven't taken enough from you in the first round."

The government has got so much bad publicity about the way in which it has ripped off seniors with respect to this user fee system that the government has had no choice but to back down, and that's what's happened today. It has nothing to do with the government listening and caring about seniors and being compassionate and worried about how they're going to pay; the government got caught and it was shown again how incompetent this government is, not only with respect to this plan but with many others that it's trying to implement.

In order to save face here this afternoon, the minister had to come in and had to make the announcement he did. I feel sorry for him because really it should have been the Minister of Health, who has been trying to tell us for the last couple of days how wonderful this copayment plan is, who should have had to do the dirty work in here today and explain why the government was backing down.

The point has been made here this afternoon but I'll reinforce it again: This party, before the last election, in the Common Sense Revolution and again during the election campaign, made a very specific promise to the people of Ontario. This government said there would be no new user fees under a Mike Harris government. Well, what have we got? Across any number of ministries, we have a whole host, a whole range of new user fees being imposed upon the public of Ontario. In the health field, we have a government that after one year in office decided it was going to go after seniors and make the seniors of this province, many of whom are the most vulnerable, many of whom live in poverty in this province, pay a user fee for the medication they need. So much for the government promise. So much for the promise in the Common Sense Revolution and the promise made by this government during the election campaign.

You know what? I think a lot of seniors out there who are worried about the high cost of medication, who are worried about the amount of medication they have to take and who don't have the wherewithal financially to pay probably voted for the Conservatives, because they believed this group when they went out on the road and said, "There will be no new user fees." Very specifically under the health portion of the manifesto it says, on page 6, and I'll just refresh your memory with this, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." That's what this group promised. Well, this group didn't deliver. Why? Because this government is far more interested in living up to its tax cut promise than it is in ensuring that seniors who need medication, who have medication prescribed to them by their physicians, have the financial wherewithal to pay for that. This government is committed to one thing: to make sure that it can give a big tax break to the people who need it the least in this province, to the people who have the most in this province, at the expense of seniors, at the expense of clients of the family support plan, at the expense of single moms, at the expense of many, many groups who do not have the financial resources to pay for this new user fee or many others.

Right from day one, the way the government handled this new user fee medication scheme just showed its incompetence again and again. There we were in July last year with this government trying to implement a scheme whereby every senior in the province was automatically put into the higher income category, and then those seniors had to make all the efforts, go to all the work and all the expense of trying to prove that they should be in the lower-income category for the purpose of this plan. I can't tell you how many seniors we had who came into our office, seniors who can't read, seniors whose first language is French, seniors whose first language is Italian, who didn't know the first thing about what kind of documentation they were supposed to try and put together and send to the Ministry of Health so they could prove that they should be in the lower-income category. We spent weeks filling out forms for people, trying to help them, trying to tell them what information they would need, all because the government thought it was more important to automatically put all the seniors in the high-income category rather than to try and sort out who would be in the lower-income category as soon as this started.

We put a proposal to the government from a pharmacist in our riding which would have had pharmacists taking income information from seniors who were coming in and automatically overriding the government computers so that those people could get medication without having to pay the $100 up front and then be reimbursed months and months later by this government. The Minister of Health refused to look at that scheme. I can tell you that in our riding there were numbers and numbers of seniors who went without the medication they needed because they could not pay the $100 up front, nor should they have been paying the $100 up front because they were in the lower-income category.

This scheme is nothing more than another effort on the part of this government to raise the funds necessary to try and finance the phoney tax scheme because, for this government, the payoff to their corporate friends who supported the campaign is far more important than it is to ensure that the most vulnerable in this province, the people who have the less amount of income, get the kinds of services they need and deserve to have in the province of Ontario. That's the shame of it.


Hon Mr Jackson: First of all, at the outset I'd like to thank all members of the House who participated in the debate this afternoon. It's a great honour for me as the minister responsible for Ontario's 1.4 million seniors to have made the announcement earlier today as it relates to management of the Ontario drug benefit plan for seniors. It is also an honour for me to have been travelling the province during the course of my 13 years as a member in this House with a specific keen interest in and support for seniors in this province.

I've learned a lot from the seniors of this province and I've had occasion in this House to bring their concerns to the floor of this Legislature, both in my role for 11 years on the opposition benches and, more recently, as a member of our government's cabinet. There are many things that I learned both from the seniors in my riding and from my own family experience growing up. Coming from a family of eight children, growing up in a period of time like today's seniors, during the 1950s, they were raising families like mine, with a lot of children, before there was OHIP, before there were drug plans, before there were dental plans, before there were all these safety nets that society offered and governments promised.

The truth is that our parents spent difficult times making sure that they could balance their books. They burned a lot of midnight oil worrying about whether they could afford certain things while we, our baby boomers, were nicely tucked away upstairs in our bedrooms oblivious to the problems our parents were going through balancing their books and tightening their belts. That generation of seniors has taught a lot of us about the importance and the values associated with setting priorities.

Just as our parents had to sit down at the kitchen table and look at the difficult challenges facing them, they made difficult decisions and priorities because they knew they had to make a mortgage payment, they had to put food on our table, they had to have enough money in the bank for a catastrophic illness that might affect us. They did all that planning, and many had to put away additional dollars and scrimp and save so that their daughters could go to university, an experience their mothers would never have the opportunity for in their lifetime.

What did we learn, as a generation, from our seniors? That in difficult times they learned how to set priorities. The province of Ontario was no different because we, as a government, when we opened our books as a household in this province, realized we had over $100 billion accumulated debt and the largest single program in our household budget was paying debt service to the tune of $10 billion a year.

What did seniors teach us? Seniors taught us that you set priorities and this government reacted the exact same way. What did it do? It set as its number one priority health care support for the citizens of Ontario. Our number one priority, of all the programs that this government was going to protect, enhance and invest, would be health care. It has been stated many times that $17.4 billion was the amount of money. The former Premier, the leader of the government of the day, Bob Rae, indicated that $17.4 billion was sufficient to manage health care. The official opposition, when they were campaigning, indicated that $17.4 billion was sufficient to manage the health care portfolio.

Here we are, two years later, having faced a $2.1-billion cut in transfers from the federal government, harshly affecting our province, our government stepped up to that challenge and injected additional dollars into that -- $1 billion that we've invested -- so that we're now spending $18.5 billion in health care.

If you analyse where we've spent those moneys, the seniors of this province know where we have invested those moneys: $170 million for long-term care. I stood on that side of the House 10 years ago Saturday and that date was the anniversary of when Ron Van Horne stood up in this Legislature and promised one-window access to long-term care for this province. The seniors of this province waited through five years of a Liberal government and five years of an NDP government and they still didn't have long-term care supports.

The number one priority for the Mike Harris government was to deliver the promise to expand funding and services, to bring in an equity model so that underserviced regions would get additional dollars to have a common assessment tool so that a senior citizen in Windsor, Ontario, was assessed the same way as a senior in Hamilton, Ontario, and that fairness principle would apply for the first time in this province, to acknowledge growth in high-growth areas for hospitals, to be the first government to acknowledge that with a growth fund.

These are the kinds of priorities. We went further for seniors: the most comprehensive, pneumococcal vaccination program on the face of the earth. Do you know that in the second-last year the NDP were in power, 3,894 seniors in this province paid for the pneumonia vaccine -- 3,900-and-some seniors? Last year our government made a commitment to 1.2 million seniors, beginning with the most frail elderly, at a cost of $20 million, to reduce the morbidity rate, the death rate of seniors who are afflicted with pneumonia, and we're very proud of that program. We're very proud of the program of investing $35 million to literally eradicate cardiac care waiting lists, to inject $15 million into dialysis support.

The members opposite have parents and grandparents like I do. They know these investments are primarily going to be used by senior citizens in the province, and so this government has strategically invested more dollars to senior support services. I mention as I did earlier, and I quote from the Hamilton Spectator of May 30 when they talk about the recent federal election -- I'm not talking about the Ontario Liberal Party when I'm talking about this; I'm talking about our federal government -- "The Liberals have been downright dishonest on the issue and are not the guardians of health care as they claim to be."

The only province in Canada that has increased its funding to health care this year over last, in spite of all provinces getting the federal cuts, was the Mike Harris government, that has increased funding to health care in this province.

Now I come to the issue of the drug plan. Many members in this House, and I see members opposite who were here when I was elected in 1985, are familiar with the development of the drug plan. I share with the members of the House that the fastest-growing program, the fastest-growing costs in health care today are in drug utilization in Ontario. We are the most overmedicated society on the face of the earth by every single benchmark. Physicians will tell us that. Clinical evaluators will tell us that. Our seniors are taking more drugs than any other seniors in the world and there are health consequences to that and there are taxpayer consequences.

It has been alluded to in this House that our Ontario drug benefit plan is the lowest cost in North America and in many respects in the world when you consider that one million social assistance recipients in this province are paying $2 per prescription; one million social assistance recipients, nearly one million senior citizens whose incomes are greater than $16,000, are paying the $100 deductible premium on their insurance plan, and there are a half a million low-income seniors who are only paying the $2 per script, the lowest in Canada. Other provinces, it's been alluded to, have been charging considerably more.

Governments in the past have reacted to this plan. I remember in 1986 being on a committee during minority government when we dealt with Bills 54 and 55, two drug bills. I remember being on that committee, one of two Tories, along with Mel Swart, a gentleman whom I to this day credit with being one of Ontario's and Canada's outstanding consumer advocates. At the time, the Liberal government of the day under Murray Elston was proposing to shuffle the deck on the drug plans and cause a reduction in the prescribing fee for ODB and increase the costs for the cash-paying customer. When I brought this to Mel Swart's attention he was upset and he spoke out immediately against it. But if you know the times we lived in, you couldn't pass a bill in this Legislature unless you had two political parties agree to it.

Mel had declared himself. This was an offence to consumers. It was a wrong strategy. You know, the hook came down as soon as Mel was seen on TV. Dave Cooke came down, pulled him off the committee and that was the last that we saw of Mel on the issue of Bills 54 and 55.

Mr Pouliot: This is most unfair.

Hon Mr Jackson: Well, it is fair because still to this day Mel and I talk about that incident. The truth of the matter is that the strategies involved by governments -- when dealing with this mushrooming cost of health care as it relates to drug plans,every single province in Canada has done one of two things, or sometimes both: They have increased the copayment or they have reduced and withdrawn drugs.

In fact today in the response from the member for London Centre -- I quote roughly from her Hansard -- she said: "The Minister" -- meaning me -- "is going to have to look long and hard at de-listing more drugs" -- if I want to balance the account when in estimates. I'm not taking the advice of the member for London Centre.


We were underbudgeted. In other words, we overspent in the drug plan in this province -- which costs us $1.1 billion now -- we overspent that budget by $127 million. Did we remove drugs when we were faced with this financial cost we didn't anticipate? No. Did we increase the copayment from $2 like every other government in Canada has done? No, we did not. We found those savings in other programs of government and moved it into the health care budget and paid the bill for the drugs for the seniors and the low-income families in this province.

We know that the costs are still going to escalate because we've added 460 new drugs to that plan. So we will not take the advice of the NDP and we will not do what the Liberals did in 1988, which brings me to the former member for Oriole, Elinor Caplan, who was this province's health care minister. I'll tell you what Elinor Caplan did. Elinor Caplan decided that, if these drugs keep costing us more money and more money, let's put a fence up and let's not allow these drugs into our province. As a result, Elinor Caplan decided to hold up the Ontario drug formulary for an entire year, and drugs backed up and backed up. I know within 24 hours we're going to find out if she's our new national health minister, and I pray to God she's not, based on her performance in this province.

I want to share one other point about what's been going on in terms of the drug plan in this province. The previous government was aware of these escalating costs. In some years they were going up 24%. To be fair, I have listened in this debate to three former members of the cabinet of Bob Rae, and I would have hoped when they were lecturing us on this subject that they would have been candid and forthright enough to have shared with this Assembly that in fact when their government was assessing this problem, they had a meeting, a round table, a consultation process -- and I have it from the individuals who sat at that table -- and the NDP government with the support of the NDP Minister of Health was planning to bring in the copayment and the user fee, as they have so articulately referred to it.

What I find fascinating is that the political party with its grass-roots leanings was setting its copayment at $6 per script; three times greater than the one this party brought in. Some of the seniors' organizations I've talked to said they referred to it as "six dollar Rae." The truth of the matter is that I also recall a Minister of Health in the NDP government who, to her credit, had expressed concern about the drug-pricing policies --

Mr Pouliot: Somebody is lying. You'd better straighten this out for the record. This is very unfair.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): Minister, excuse me. I ask the member for Lake Nipigon to withdraw his comment.

Mr Pouliot: Madam, with respect, I am forced to withdraw the truth. The member said we did, and we did not. I plead with you, Madam.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry. Are you withdrawing your comment?

Mr Pouliot: You know who is telling the truth, Madam.

The Acting Speaker: The member, I will give you one more opportunity to withdraw.

Mr Pouliot: Out of respect for you and your high office, I shall withdraw, Madam.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Jackson: The member opposite, having been in the Rae cabinet, is quite familiar with these concerns I'm raising. He'll also be familiar with the concern expressed by his health minister at the time, who's still a member of this assembly, who expressed concern about drug pricing. This was very well discussed in the media, that all was well in terms of making adjustments to reduce the costs of drugs, when she got sandbagged by her Premier, who indicated that there would be no adjustment to the protections which the drug manufacturers enjoy in terms of pricing.

Pricing is different from patent protection, and I haven't raised the whole issue that senior citizens have given me as a concern with the broken promise of the federal Liberal government to modify C-91, to modify drug patent legislation in this province. This is drug pricing which is in the control of the current government. Four hundred and sixty-five new drugs have been put on to the Ontario drug benefit formulary. Seniors have indicated no increase in copayments and we have honoured both those commitments because we are improving the health quality of seniors by providing them the access to the drugs they need.

The members opposite should be aware that the drug plan is suffering under tremendous pressures. I'll give you a couple of examples. We have to be able to ensure that seniors get access to these drugs. When Losec, one drug that's on the market, came in for approval, they said it would cost us $2 million. Losec is for people with gastroenteritis problems and with ulcers. After a full year on the ODB, the cost to taxpayers for that one drug was over $50 million.

We spend $13 million in this province every year on Tylenol. The taxpayers pay for that to make it available. The most expensive drug we have in our drug benefit formulary is one that's used for Gaucher's disease and it's called Ceredase. It costs $200,000 a year for this one drug. We've got 20 citizens in our province being kept alive by this drug.

I've talked to families, because I have two in my riding, whose children are being kept alive. Their costs are about $150,000 a year. They understand the importance of making sure we have a drug plan that is comprehensive enough that it reaches out to everyone. When the senior who sits at the end of her granddaughter's bed says to me, "Cam, my granddaughter wouldn't be alive if this drug wasn't in the plan," she's not about to complain about her $2 copayment or user fee or whatever you want to call it. She is grateful that she lives in Ontario.

There are other drugs -- Aricept. I'm sure members opposite are aware that there is a drug in the United States that will deal with Alzheimer's. There are about 12,000 to 14,000 Ontario citizens currently affected with that level of dementia. We need that drug in this province. As soon as the federal government approves that drug, we want to bring it in in Ontario. What do we think the costs are going to be? Maybe $12 million, $20 million, $50 million a year, and nobody has budgeted for it. But one declaration that we have made clearly to the seniors of this province through our actions of the last two years is that we are not going to queue up any of these drugs. There is not one single drug available that we have held up and is queued up. We're very proud of that record.

The challenge for us in this Parliament on all sides of the House is to participate in that debate to ensure that we strengthen the Ontario drug benefit plan.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): But you promised no user fees.


Hon Mr Jackson: The member opposite who talks about user fees should be realizing how important it is to strengthen the Ontario drug benefit plan.

I talked with Dr David Naylor yesterday, who is the head of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario. He has been studying the impact of our copayment. He immediately advised me that ours are the lowest in the entire country. He confirmed that he was pleasantly surprised that there were no adverse conditions associated with the $2 copayment. This is not to be said about jurisdictions which have created financial barriers and have removed drugs from their formulary. That, he said, was bad health policy, but what's happening in Ontario is not.

What I am concerned about is the quality and the level of the debate we've had in the House today. If, as they say, members opposite have been listening to seniors, I wonder why they haven't articulated some of the concerns they've been expressing to me for the last decade.

Seniors have indicated to me, for example, their concern -- we don't even have to look further than a press conference on May 14 of this year, when the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens' Organizations said the issues that are of concern to them include the federal government's refusal to deal with C-91. They expressed concern about the copayment, but they went on to ask why governments in the past have failed to implement the British Columbia model of reference-based pricing; why governments have failed to pressure the federal government to repeal C-91; why they don't demand that pharmacists lower their dispensing fees -- I'm quoting directly from what the seniors' groups' own policy resolutions have said; why we aren't educating seniors about economic and physical costs of overmedication and overuse of drugs; and why we're not looking at a different system of payment to physicians in Ontario.

If you listened to the concerns of seniors articulated by the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, they will confirm that being the most overmedicated society on the face of the earth, as we are here, has certain health consequences. We know, for example -- and I'm quoting directly from the seniors themselves; I'll quote directly from one of the seniors' organizations -- that prescription drugs account for 15% along with doctors' fees. We're spending the same amount of money on doctors' fees in this province as we're spending for drugs. They go on and indicate that seniors use proportionately far larger amounts of prescription drugs than any other group of Canadians.

"We take the legislative review process seriously. We are deeply concerned that provincial drug plans will crack under the strain of the costs of prescription drugs and that seniors will have limited access to the drugs they need to maintain their health and independence." This was a statement made to the federal government in a recent review. They failed to deal with the critical issues of drug pricing, how drugs are dispensed and why we have no prescribing guidelines in this province.

Mr Pouliot: It's a big lobby, eh, Cam?

Hon Mr Jackson: Certainly it's a big lobby, but the bigger lobby is the one that should be focused on the health needs of seniors in this province. Given the fact that the former NDP government did all the workup on this and the report was never released -- it was never released.

Mr Pouliot: Are you a doctor, sir?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, the minister has the floor, and interjections are out of order.

Hon Mr Jackson: Ontario has taken a proactive approach to fortifying in its budget more dollars to preserve the Ontario drug benefit plan. We have done that in spite of the federal cuts and we have done it in spite of the assertions made by the federal government. They put about $40 some-odd million into the federal budget to undertake a series of studies about a national pharmacare program.

Just so members of the House understand what this is all about, a pharmacare program is about everybody in society getting on one drug plan. The current lowest price in Canada, which is here in Ontario, will be driven up. The proof is in the actual federal government's final report on the national forum on health, where it says, "To finance pharmacare, we are proposing a shift over time from private spending by individuals directly through their private insurance companies to public spending either through more tax increases or higher premiums or both." That's in a federal government report.

I have yet to find a senior who doesn't already understand that the federal government's pharmacare proposals would be disastrous for the Ontario drug benefit plan in this province.

We have indicated that our government clearly, when it developed this program on the Ontario drug benefit plan, let the pharmacists, the politicians and the media know that the anniversary date for this program was going to be April 1. We did a very poor job, and we're the first to admit it, communicating that to our seniors. We listened when they told us how surprised many of them were, but I must remind members that when Mae Harman was here in the Legislature last week representing her organization, from the Ontario seniors' coalition, she indicated right in the Hansard of that press conference that the plan was to start on April 1. She acknowledged that.

This government has reacted on a principle of fairness and today announced the adjustment so that seniors will get a full 16 months under this plan. We went further. We extended by a further two weeks. More important, we are prorating it for seniors who are entering the plan.

I must caution members in this House that there is more to the issue of the Ontario drug benefit plan than a $2 copayment, the lowest in Canada. There are issues that seniors themselves have expressed. Why has no government to date, at the federal or provincial level, been listening to them about why they are so overmedicated, why prescribing guidelines aren't here, why we're not reviewing drug pricing mechanisms? The Ontario Pharmacists' Association has put forward several proposals and previous governments have not listened to them. In fact, this government is very proud of its fortifying and supporting financially the Ontario drug benefit plan. Unlike the Liberals, whose debate today had more to do with winning votes, the Ontario government is more interested in winning over the health needs of seniors in this province.

Mr Crozier: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: According to the rules, a member cannot impute the motive of another member, and I'd ask the minister to withdraw that.

The Acting Speaker: I did not hear any honourable member's motives being imputed.

Mr Crozier: He said I did it for votes. I did it on behalf of my seniors. That's what I did it for.

The Acting Speaker: Minister, do you wish to withdraw?


The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Further debate?

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): It is my pleasure and privilege to join this debate and to support the good work of my colleagues who have spent considerable time in gaining a much better understanding of the issues of concern to Ontario's seniors and doing their very best to advance those concerns both in and outside this Legislature.

I think the best place to begin in all these kinds of discussions is with the Conservative political equivalent of the Book of Genesis, and that's the Common Sense Revolution. If you turn to page 6 of this document, the Common Sense Revolution, it says here under the health care section, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." Also, it's of interest to find that on page 10, under a section entitled Seniors and the Disabled, it reads as follows: "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut."

Those were serious and very important promises made within the context of the last provincial election. They were made for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that of course was to encourage people, seniors in particular, to vote for Mike Harris and to help him form a government. Many people acted on that promise.

Clearly I am disappointed now to inform the people who are watching, if they do not already understand this, that the Premier broke his promise. He broke his promise to seniors and to the disabled in this province of Ontario. What he did was introduce a $225-million new drug user fee for seniors, the disabled and the poor.


What we're talking about here, so people understand this, is that if there is somebody living in this province who is a senior, who is earning just a little over $16,000, hardly what you'd call living in the lap of luxury, they have been called upon now by this government to reach into their wallets and to remove from there $100 on an annual basis. In addition to that, they're going to have to fork over $6.11 each time they have a prescription filled and that's to pay for the dispensing fee.

We're not talking here about something that is a matter of desire or want on the part of our seniors in particular. We understand that as people get older they place a greater demand on our health care system through no fault of their own whatsoever. Experts tell us that seniors on average receive 27 prescriptions every year. That really adds up. Not only are they looking at $100 for an annual deductible but they're looking at roughly $163, $164 for dispensing fees on top of that if you find yourself within the average. This from the Premier who promised there would be no new user fees and this from the Premier who promised that aid would not be cut to seniors and the disabled.

I think it's also important to understand that we heard in this House today -- of course now we're supposed to be on bended knee and exceptionally grateful for an announcement made by the minister responsible for seniors' issues in this province. What he did at the very last minute, under intense pressure from seniors' groups and members of my party, was to decide to issue a "Reverse engines" order. At some point along the way, I guess fairness somehow enters into what it is that government does and somehow keeping a promise becomes somewhat of a factor in governing.

The unfortunate thing is that this minister only responded to public pressure. What he should have said the very first time this issue was raised at the cabinet table was: "Hang on a second. I am the one who is duly charged as having the responsibility in government to protect the interests of seniors and the disabled. Not only did we make a promise during the course of the campaign not to charge user fees and not to cut assistance to seniors and the disabled, but I, as the protector of seniors' interests in this province, feel that wouldn't be a right thing to do. I feel that would be a dishonourable thing to do." But no, apparently that argument was never made.

We had the scenario where seniors in this province were not only faced with user fees they were promised they would never have to face, but in addition to that they were faced with an annual fee which suddenly they were being double-charged for. It was supposed to last for 12 months, but suddenly the Minister of Health, obviously in collusion with the minister responsible for seniors' affairs, said, "No, no, what we'll do is hit them twice and we'll double-charge them for a period of some four months' time." All I can say to that is, shame on the Minister of Health, shame on the minister responsible for seniors' issues and shame on the government.

At some point in time, I think it's important to remember why the heck we're here. Surely one of the reasons we are here is to look out for the interests of the people who happen to populate this province. I think one of the special reasons we are here is to help defend the interests of those who are particularly vulnerable, whether those be our very young, whether those be our seniors or whether those happen to be our disabled.

What you have here is a government that in one fell swoop has managed to attack two of our most vulnerable groups who find themselves in need of our protection. They are not groups out there to be preyed upon by government; they are groups that need our protection. In these particular circumstances this government failed to recognize that obligation, failed to recognize that why we are here is to make sure above all else that those who cannot survive the market forces, those who cannot survive the battle of the various strong interests in this province receive our care and our protection.

The other thing that I think the minister responsible for seniors issues and the Minister of Health ought to keep in mind is that according to a report recently issued by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, there has been a change in the number of prescriptions and a change in the quantity of drugs dispensed since the new user fees were introduced by this government. In fact, the number of prescriptions has fallen by 14.2% and the quantity of drugs dispensed has fallen by 6%. We've got to ask ourselves, is this for the greater good?

I don't think it's too hard to surmise, and this isn't pure conjecture, that there are seniors in this province today who are saying: "Because I've got to pay for that dispensing fee and because I'm faced with a $100 deductible and I'm being called upon to make choices between perhaps food for the day, making a rent payment" -- God knows what else you've got to pay for in order to live out some kind of a meagre existence -- "I'm not going to the drugstore today. I'm not going to have that prescription filled." That represents the height of unfairness.

We're talking about a group of people who through no fault of their own have no choice in this matter whatsoever, the only sin they happen to have committed is that they have gotten old, and suddenly they find that they're in need of greater assistance in terms of health care and that they need drugs, medication. They need to have prescriptions filled. What we ought to be doing in those kinds of circumstances is not driving seniors away from seeking the kind of health care they need. We ought to be saying: "We understand your struggle. We're there for you. It's important to us that you seek health care, that you have your prescriptions filled, and we're going to ensure that happens by not putting any kind of impediment, obstacle between you and quality health care."

In the long run, we should understand that actually there are savings involved. If we have to look at everything through the economic prism, if that becomes an obsession, then let's understand that there are actually cost savings to be had when our seniors have the health care to which they are properly entitled.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Sergio has moved opposition day number 7. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1758 to 1803.

The Acting Speaker: Would all those in favour of the motion please rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Curling, Alvin

Martel, Shelley

Bartolucci, Rick

Duncan, Dwight

Martin, Tony

Boyd, Marion

Gerretsen, John

McGuinty, Dalton

Bradley, James J.

Grandmaître, Bernard

McLeod, Lyn

Brown, Michael A.

Gravelle, Michael

Patten, Richard

Christopherson, David

Hoy, Pat

Phillips, Gerry

Churley, Marilyn

Kennedy, Gerard

Pouliot, Gilles

Cleary, John C.

Kormos, Peter

Ramsay, David

Colle, Mike

Kwinter, Monte

Sergio, Mario

Conway, Sean G.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Wildman, Bud

Crozier, Bruce

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

The Acting Speaker: Would all those opposed to the motion please rise.


Arnott, Ted

Guzzo, Garry J.

Ross, Lillian

Baird, John R.

Harnick, Charles

Runciman, Robert W.

Barrett, Toby

Hodgson, Chris

Sampson, Rob

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Jackson, Cameron

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, David

Smith, Bruce

Clement, Tony

Jordan, W. Leo

Spina, Joseph

Danford, Harry

Kells, Morley

Sterling, Norman W.

DeFaria, Carl

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

Doyle, Ed

Leach, Al

Tascona, Joseph N.

Ecker, Janet

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Fisher, Barbara

McLean, Allan K.

Vankoughnet, Bill

Flaherty, Jim

Newman, Dan

Villeneuve, Noble

Fox, Gary

O'Toole, John

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Galt, Doug

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wilson, Jim

Gilchrist, Steve

Pettit, Trevor

Wood, Bob

Grimmett, Bill

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 33; the nays are 53.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

It being close to 6 o'clock, I declare that the House is adjourned until tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.

The House adjourned at 1807.