36th Parliament, 1st Session

L204 - Thu 12 Jun 1997 / Jeu 12 Jun 1997























































The House met at 1000.




Mr Young moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 134, An Act to promote zero tolerance for substance abuse by children / Projet de loi 134, Loi encourageant une tolérance zéro concernant l'abus de substances par des enfants.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): The 1990s have been earmarked as the decade of the rebirth of the drug culture. More and more young people, some as young as 12 years old, are fearlessly joining the trend. Substance abuse by youth is at its highest level since 1980. Today, drugs are far more potent than they were in the 1960s and most are readily available to our youth. But young people just aren't getting the message that drugs and alcohol can be deadly and addictive toxins.

As a society, we haven't fully acknowledged this reality. The apathy we've allowed ourselves to cultivate over the last two years has created a blind spot that has rendered us unable or unwilling to accept the fact that substance abuse among our youth is skyrocketing. The costs to our society, both human and financial, are devastating, but we are a society in denial.

The reality is that almost 20% of grade 9 students and almost 41% of grade 11 students smoked cannabis in 1995. This is hydroponic marijuana or its derivatives, 20 to 30 times as strong as that which students experimented with in the 1970s -- mind-numbing dope. Almost one in five grade 11 students had tried LSD, which produces bizarre hallucinations for up to eight hours, flashbacks and sometimes screaming fits. The statistics related to alcohol use among students are even more staggering. Thirty per cent of grade 7 students aged 12 and almost 76% of grade 11 students aged 16 had consumed alcohol. Yet less than 2% of parents believe children use drugs too often.

The drug culture is flourishing in our backyards. Our children are gathering for bush parties where they drink and take drugs in neighbourhood parks and ravines. Forty-four per cent of our youth have witnessed drinking and driving. Thousands of our children are cramming themselves into overcrowded abandoned buildings for rave parties where dangerous herbal and chemical drugs like ecstasy and speed are pedalled to them at tables right out in the open. I have witnessed this myself. The marketing is insidious. They use names like "rush," "acceleration" and "giggle juice." Is life a little tough? Buy a new reality. The giggles were over for one US teenager last year who died after taking herbal ecstasy.

We are abandoning our children. We owe it to them to open our eyes to what's going on. My bill will help us achieve that. We can't rely on the media to do our parenting for us. Many youth already identify with the Kurt Cobains of the world. Open any American fashion magazine and you'll likely see images of stoned, stringy-haired addicts staring from the pages in a shameless attempt to sell our children clothing.

Nor should we place responsibility for our children solely on the shoulders of our educators or law enforcement officers. If passed, my bill will reduce their role by compelling the participation of a group which has sometimes been excluded in the past: the parents. I am told by the experts that the major roadblock to reducing substance abuse is in fact parental denial. We need parents to be part of the solution to substance abuse among our children. My bill will, by law, require parents to intervene at the first sign of suspected drug or alcohol use by their child when alerted by the school. With the help of a social worker or a guidance counsellor, both parent and child will get the information they need to get help in their community and develop a plan to deal with the problem.

If passed into law, my bill will also ensure zero tolerance for the possession of tobacco on school property, resulting in the immediate suspension of the offending students. In 1995, 10% of students in grade 7 were smokers. By grade 11, that number jumped to 42%. We know smoking is addictive, sometimes after only one cigarette, and usually lifetime smokers start in their teens. The tobacco companies certainly know that.

It is also a killer. In 1992 in Ontario, there were approximately 13,700 deaths attributable to smoking; 40,000 deaths a year in Canada are due to tobacco use. In Ontario, young people under 19 are prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and smoking on school property is illegal. Yet we still allow students to bring tobacco on to school property and offer it to their friends. My bill eliminates this inconsistency.

I mentioned that there are devastating social costs involved with substance abuse. Allow me to elaborate. There are terrible, terrible costs to health, including the threat of dependency, addiction and the long-term effects of drug and alcohol abuse. There are costs to our children's education as well. The performance of substance users declines, sometimes permanently.

Most tragically, there is the cost of human lives lost due to drug overdoses and drug- and alcohol-related accidents, including motor vehicle accidents. In 1992, there were approximately 6,840 deaths attributable to alcohol in Ontario.

And there are costs to the rest of society. Police tell us drugs and alcohol play a role in most crime. Many or most home break-ins are drug-related. Many or most physical assaults occur under the influence. Most gang activity centres around drug use and the drug culture. Most murders are committed by people under the influence.

Canadians spend billions of dollars each year treating addicts and cleaning up the mess many of them create through crime, car accidents, court and incarceration costs. In 1992 the federal government launched a five-year, multimillion-dollar commitment to deal with substance abuse, to cover related programs, including medical and corrections. However, no clear national strategy is in place to deal with the growing problem of substance abuse among our youth.

One day, our children's children will look back and ask us, "Why did you let that happen?" There is no good answer. In Ontario we must set the standard of public tolerance. We must send a message, loud and clear, to our youth and their parents that the use of narcotics and alcohol is a grave danger in our homes, in our schools, in our province and in our country. I am asking your support for this critical initiative.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I rise to speak against the bill. One may find that peculiar, since I've been a teacher and a principal for 30 years, but let me tell you why: The bill, as proposed, is not manageable. The bill, as proposed, has so many flaws that it will only hurt children or young adults in the long term, because the bill is punitive in nature.

Although the discipline strand in any exercise is important, it is far more important that we deal with the intervention and prevention components of any substance abuse policy, and this is where the bill is lacking. There is absolutely nowhere in this bill where you spend time or focus your energies on ensuring (1) that prevention takes place and (2) that meaningful intervention takes place. It is hardly meaningful to be fining teachers and principals and to be punishing parents. That is not productive; that is counterproductive to the process. It does nothing to help children or students in Ontario's school system.

I find it ironic that the former parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education would propose a bill like this without consulting the stakeholders -- without consulting students, without consulting teachers, without consulting boards -- because it is very important for him to realize that most boards in Ontario have very good substance abuse programs in place. Certainly this right-wing approach, this punitive approach of this government is beyond belief when it comes to trying to prevent a problem that exists in schools. This bill does not realize the importance that any good substance abuse program has when it comes to individually helping those students with problems.

Our pages -- they are in grades 7 and 8 -- will attest to the fact that children come to school with many different and diverse backgrounds and many different and diverse needs. This one-size-fits-all approach will absolutely not work but will cause bigger problems, bigger delays in what is and should be the most important part of any program, and that's prevention and intervention. This bill simply doesn't address those two very important components of any workable, manageable and sustainable substance abuse program. The big-stick approach just doesn't work with children. The big-stick approach gives you negative results and not positive results. When we're dealing with children, specific problems with students, we should always be looking to a positive resolution and a positive course of action as opposed to a negative course of action.

So I find it surprising, I find it almost unbelievable that the stakeholders weren't involved in the process, and I find it impossible that the gentleman doesn't realize that confidentiality between teacher and student to help a child is very important. It isn't addressed in the bill. Therefore, a student would not feel comfortable going to a teacher with a problem, because if the teacher doesn't then divulge the confidentiality that has been built between the teacher and the student, the teacher is fined, the principal is fined, the parents are fined and ultimately and finally the student is fined. I'm sorry, it just doesn't make any sense and I would ask the House not to support it.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I'm pleased to participate in this debate --


Mr Kormos: -- and I'm pleased to address the bill, if Mr Young will permit me. I'm going to tell you, recognizing that second reading is approval in principle, I have some great concerns about the bill, not about the principle.

All of us should endorse the proposition that schools should be healthy places. If schools are infiltrated by tobacco, which we all have to consider to be a highly addictive and very dangerous drug and, let's make no mistake about it, one from which great profits are made, with total disregard for the welfare of the users, the addicts, by an industry which has increasingly, recognizing that older persons are becoming increasingly sensitive to the health dangers of tobacco, older persons are increasingly inclined to make efforts to break the habit, seen, as I've read and understand from any number of studies, dramatic increases of tobacco use, smoking, on the part of youngsters, especially young women, I think that should be of considerable concern to all of us.

I'll be quite candid: I say this as a person who has quit smoking for considerable periods of time, who understands the addiction and who has returned to the habit, understanding how tenuous a period of abstinence is, even periods as long as three and four years. Like most other smokers, I concede readily that my introduction to tobacco was as a young person -- and there was nothing unique or special about my circumstances -- compelled to engage in the habit for all the same reasons that young people are in 1997.

I think it's important that the Legislature address this issue. I am proud of the legislation of the last government which made significant strides to control the access of young people to tobacco. Perhaps it's time for governments -- and provincial governments alone can't do it. We were sorely disappointed by the failure of the federal government prior to the last election to be as tough and firm in its anti-tobacco legislation as it stated it was going to be. They backed off under the pressure of a very powerful lobby, and that is very specifically the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry has a strong interest in creating new addicts, because there's a whole lot of money at stake. Let's be clear: The tobacco industry doesn't make money from people who smoke two, three or four cigarettes a day; the tobacco industry relies upon addicts in much the same way -- and I'll move on to spirits and alcohol -- that the alcohol beverage industry doesn't rely upon the family that keeps a bottle of Seagram's VO in their den closet for years at a time, perhaps serving it up at Christmastime or celebrations. The beer industry doesn't make profits from people who drink one beer a week. The alcohol industry requires that there be mass consumption on the part of significant numbers of people. Once again, just as the tobacco industry has targeted young people in a not very subtle way, in my view, it's my firm belief, based upon what we've experienced in this province for a considerable period of time, that the alcohol industry similarly targets young people.

Witness, for instance, the ongoing experiments with making what are referred to as soda pop beverages -- soda pop wines, coolers, those sorts of things. They're designed for the tyro consumer. They're sweetened, they're sugary and they're more akin to Kool-Aid than they are to the taste of hard liquor. Those are desperate efforts on the part of the industry to seduce young people into beginning alcohol consumption.

I endorse the principle of the bill to this extent: I'm eager to see this bill or any other of a similar ilk go to committee. What I would call upon is for there to be broad and extensive hearings on the part of the committee. This isn't the sort of bill that should be dealt with in a period of but a few weeks, because I'm convinced that this bill in itself is not the solution.


Quite frankly, I think it's nuts to suggest that a student who commits an infraction be suspended from school for a period of up to 20 days. That's the last thing in the world -- I concur with the principle of suspension, but my view is that a suspension should only be imposed to protect the health and safety of other students. It seems to me to be avoiding the issue to merely suspend the student.

The prospect of imposing fines -- in the case of the bill, fines of up to $200 -- against a student who fails to comply with the provisions of the bill, quite frankly, is nuts; it doesn't begin to address the issue. The reality is that most young people won't be able to find that type of money to pay a fine. We're not looking for a system which merely permits people to be licensed, to buy their way out of scenarios where they find themselves in difficulty.

I find the arguments of Mr Bartolucci persuasive. My own work prior to being elected here has involved a great deal of work with counselling and drug and alcohol and other substance abuse programs.

I question how effective the bill is going to be when we see the process that's being engaged in now, with larger and larger class sizes, with serious concerns about underfunding of school programs, with guidance counsellors who can't do guidance counselling but are forced into classroom teaching because of shortages of staff. It's imperative that any legislation that addresses this problem and that calls upon counsellors, professionals within the school system, to respond to these situations, it's imperative that the bill has to consider whether those personnel are going to be available, whether the school is going to be adequately staffed.

My impression, from speaking with people in the teaching profession, is that they already feel, and rightly so, beleaguered by the number of additional responsibilities put on them. They don't dispute the need for somebody to embrace these responsibilities, but they have great concerns about the capacity of teachers, in the position they're in now, to respond to these responsibilities in an appropriate and professional manner.

It's clearly important to acknowledge that young people experiment with any number of taboo items. That's probably the nature of the beast. I'm prepared to concur that when a young person or a child attends school under the influence, it has gone beyond mere experimentation, and that is probably some pretty strong indicia of there being a problem or at least the beginning of a problem. That's with respect to alcohol or other drugs like the ones mentioned by the sponsor of this bill or tobacco.

It would be interesting to have this bill go to committee. I reject the proposition of imposing fines. That doesn't address the issue. I reject the proposition of the automatic suspension, because that doesn't address the issue. If schools are going to be built into healthier and healthier places, it's important that young people who are experiencing difficulties with, among other things, substance abuse have more and more access to healthy places rather than being ousted, rather than being ejected and put into positions where they can't receive the advice and counsel of teachers or peers.

I want to remark on programs that I'm familiar with down in Niagara region. Recently I was honoured to be, for instance, the reviewing officer for the Thorold air cadet squadron. My familiarity with the Thorold air cadet squadron and the Welland air cadet squadron -- and I appreciate it's not a provincial government responsibility in terms of funding of those programs; it's one that falls to the federal government. But these programs are increasingly under threat because of the lack of funding. Programs like the air cadet program or sea cadet or army cadet programs -- and I just use these as illustrations, because they're not every young person's cup of tea. I understand that, the people who operate these programs understand that and the young people involved in these programs understand it.

When we see municipalities with withering recreation programs because of the inability to finance them, when we see municipalities, however trivial it may seem in the context of this broad issue of substance abuse by young people, not just shutting down recreation programs, sports programs, but shutting down, for instance, public swimming pools, as municipalities are doing across the province because of their inability to finance the repairs and maintenance of these swimming pools, quite frankly we're going to see more and more young people drifting to the margins and becoming increasingly lured by the prospect of the relief or release that at least they believe they can obtain by virtue of substance abuse.

I think it's important that we get tough with the tobacco and spirits industries. The spirits industry has been very clever in many respects, malicious and insidious, about how they weave their way around advertising guidelines which they insist be self-imposed. They are strong advocates of self-regulation. They insist they have the capacity to regulate themselves, but the advertising in some of the most powerful media, obviously, like television, like the big screen, like the sponsorship of youth-oriented events, rock concerts, the ilk of those, illustrates that they've targeted a market and have every intention of pettifogging their way through any regulations that might be imposed on them. I think it's time to get tough on the spirits industry, it's time to get tough on the tobacco industry and stop treating the attack on tobacco as something that somehow sits on the back burner.

The sponsor of the bill made reference to identification with Kurt Cobain, whose music I've never heard.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Oh, come on. You haven't heard it? Oh, you haven't lived.

Mr Kormos: Well, I haven't, but I'm well aware of the circumstances surrounding his career and the fascination that young people have with him. I regret to say to the author of the bill and to the other members here that I think I understand why increasing numbers of young people identify with Kurt Cobain. There's a great level of despair out there among young people. Sociologists call it anomie.

Young people are confronted by levels of unemployment that are well into the double digits, in the Niagara region approaching 19% and 20%. That's not unique to Niagara. Youth unemployment doubles that of their parents virtually across the province and across the country. Young people are increasingly concerned about what future will be there for them. Young people are feeling incredible pressure about whether they'll be able to afford post-secondary education and, even if they and their families make the incredible sacrifice necessary to achieve it, whether there will be jobs and careers for them at the end of the day.

Surely this has to be recognized as part of the process which draws people into substance abuse: families in poverty. I think we have to understand that families in poverty and young people suffering that poverty, certainly through no fault of their own, find themselves in states of despair and detachment. Again, I understand part of the Kurt Cobain phenomenon to be an expression of that despair and detachment and that identification of what is called generation X. When we see the numbers of young people who populate the streets, not just of Toronto but increasingly of communities across the province, as homeless people, kids who resort to squeegeeing to eke their way through a day and then a week and then months, surely we've got to understand that the response to substance abuse is more than just fines and suspensions from school.

I'm prepared to participate in committee hearings. I think there's a whole lot of people in the community across this province -- experts, laypeople, parents, teachers, young people -- who would be eager to participate as well. It's for that reason, and the eagerness to see this discussed and debated in the broadest possible way, that I will be supporting this bill this morning.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Today we are debating the private member's bill put forward by the honourable member for Halton Centre, the Zero Tolerance for Substance Abuse Act. I'd like to applaud the member on his efforts in trying to eradicate the use of drugs and alcohol and tobacco among our children and rid these substances from their presence in schools across Ontario. These are values I share as well. However, there are several areas of the bill that I feel require clarification and may prove to be unenforceable if passed in its present form.

The bill establishes several different offences but does not indicate that these offences are under the Provincial Offences Act. If it is the intention for these offences to be under that act, then this needs to be clearly set out in the bill. If, however, these are to be offences under the Education Act, there are no mechanisms in the act for procedures of enforcement, so that would need to be addressed.

There are several sections of the bill that amend portions of the Education Act which I believe may not be necessary, such as an amendment to require a principal of the school to hold informational meetings if there are grounds to believe that a student is impaired, in possession of a substance or supplies a substance to another person. This is already covered under the drug education policy framework issued by the Ministry of Education and Training. This has assisted school boards in the development and implementation of drug education policies throughout Ontario.

Drug education is an area of study in the physical and health education curriculum guidelines for grades 1 to 12. The focus is on education about tobacco in grades 4 to 10 and about alcohol, cannabis and cocaine in grades 7 to 10. I believe this is a very important point, that our government has ensured that drug education, remain part of the current curriculum, and when the new curriculum is developed for physical and health education I'm confident that drug education will remain a key element in this new document.

Another concern is that this bill may put our teachers and principals in a very difficult position. Under the proposed bill, the principal is required to hold a meeting with the pupil's guardian before there is a trial or a conviction of the student. This may actually require the principal to act in a quasi-judicial manner. The bill also creates offences for teachers who fail to attend the informational meeting. I believe this bill could expand the role of the educator to that of enforcer, an expanded role that many within the educational community will not be comfortable with.

One of the most important roles of the decision-maker, whether it be a president of a company, a judge or a principal, is the ability to exercise discretion when needed. I believe the bill limits the principal from exercising that discretion. The requirements made on the principal to suspend a student in possession of tobacco, whether lighted or not, eliminates the ability for the principal to exercise discretion. A key function of a principal is the ability to exercise that discretion and make appropriate decisions based on circumstances. Exceptional situations occur in many facets of life, and I believe our public policies must reflect that.

I believe the spirit of the bill introduced by my colleague is well intentioned in helping to eradicate the use of drugs among our young people. If the bill is passed and goes to committee, I would strongly recommend that teachers, principals, parents and community members have the chance to give their input to ensure that the bill accomplishes its objectives.

Mr Gerretsen: I concur with what the member opposite has just stated. He stated many of the reasons I'm against this bill at this stage. When you send this kind of bill to committee, it's highly unlikely that enough changes will be made to accomplish the kind of thing and to deal with the kinds of issues he's talking about.

I'd like to talk about something else, though, very briefly, because we have two other caucus members who want to speak on this as well. The member for Halton Centre talked about a national strategy. Surely, if we're talking about a national strategy of making sure our youngsters don't have access to these substances, it's a matter for the provincial and federal governments to start working together better. They should go after the alcohol industry, the spirits and tobacco industries, to a much greater extent than they have.

I know why governments haven't done it. Quite frankly, there's an awful lot of tax revenue riding on the sale of these items. If our federal government and our provincial government really and truly made this a priority, I think we could handle these kinds of problems and situations. But to start blaming the youngsters for these problems when at the same time advertising is placed on a day-to-day basis in all the media glorifying the use of alcohol and tobacco, how can we possibly expect the youngsters in our society to get the right kind of attitude towards the use of these products?

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): The Liberal government, Allan Rock.

Mr Gerretsen: Just a minute now, folks. How can we possibly expect them to do that if --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): They're hopeless over there.

Mr Gerretsen: They sure are. I agree. They're hopeless.

The governments could deal with these issues by at least making darned sure that laws are in effect so that the youngsters will have as little access to these products as possible. That's where it has to start. We can't glorify this kind of situation.

Mr Hastings: I'm glad to join in this debate regarding the submission of the member for Halton Centre on his private member's bill dealing with substance abuse.

I want to concentrate on the consequences of the rampant substance abuse we see in our society. One of those consequences, the demoralizing of our children, must be stopped. Substance abuse not only hurts the individual, it rips apart the lives of friends and families. More often, the physical and emotional short-term effects of substance abuse lead these young offenders to a life of long-term pain for which our society is paying enormously. Their habits result in a compromised education, perhaps leading to crime and in some instances even to death. We need to get into the minds of our youth and somehow play an integral role in determining how to deter substance abuse.

The citizens of Ontario have ended up paying enormous amounts of money caring for these offenders. When they're sitting in a hospital with brain haemorrhaging, lung cancer, kidney and liver cancer or malnutrition, who pays for it? All of us. Most important, as a society we can never re-create their potential.

We have to ensure that our youth realize they are not invincible, and we must hit them where it hurts. If a youth is convicted of substance abuse, we must step up to the plate and intervene, holding them back from the things they like to do most. Let's make them wait another year before they can obtain a driver's licence or enter a club. I believe these are creative and effective deterrents for our young people. We must make it clear to our youth that they can lose the privileges that come with growing up and becoming mature in today's society. Substance abuse starts in the schools, where kids are learning how to cope with today's pressures. They're using it as a tool to deal with that kind of pressure. But I think it's important that our children understand that taking drugs or drinking alcohol, even moderately, is against the law. Alcohol is a poison that hurts the heart and irreparably destroys young minds. Tobacco is one of the cheapest forms of addictive substances available for adults over age 19 years.


Children must realize that if they are found smoking in our schools, they must be punished -- imagine. We need to bring back some enforcement along with complementary drug awareness and prevention programs. Children must realize that if they are found in possession of an illegal substance, no matter what the age, they will be severely punished and, foremost, young people must realize they will now be stripped of the privileges they value most if they are found abusing a substance of any form.

Finally, I'd like to say that these children who spend their parents' money to skip school, poison their bodies with alcohol, destroy their brains with drugs and damage the integrity and love of their families must be punished. Kids' responsibility results in an ongoing process of wasting resources to treat our young people, who understand that punishment exists but fail to respect today's judicial laws.

This categorically could not be any worse than seeing a loved one in the hospital suffering from an incurable but avoidable ailing disease or sickness. Kids have the conscious choice of patiently waiting until the age of individual consent, or they can choose to break the law and face the consequences. That's a reality we ought to be dealing with today. As a society, we must draw the line and state that there are certain things this society will no longer tolerate.

Today I'm pleased to join in supporting the member for Halton Centre's bill on substance abuse and I clearly disagree with the parliamentary assistant's position. It seems to me that we have had for the last 25 to 30 years a large dose of drug awareness education. In fact I'm supportive of a program called DARE, Drug Awareness Reduced Everywhere, in my own riding that originates in California and Edmonton, taught by police officers. It's found to have the most sticking, bonding consequences in terms of having our young people understand what happens when they engage in drug and substance abuse.

It seems to me that you have to have the combination of strict enforcement and drug awareness education and counselling, whereas our members opposite seem to want to emphasize the continuing ironic status quo and forget the enforcement concept completely, just continue with drug awareness education.

If it were working so effectively, then the question the member for Halton Centre posed has still not been answered by members of either of the opposition parties. If those two approaches are the most effective, then why do we have a mounting problem? That's the raison d'être for his bill, and I congratulate him for bringing it forward and showing that we need to combine drug awareness education and prevention with strong enforcement. I'd like to congratulate the member for Halton Centre for introducing this bill today.

Mr Bradley: I want to first of all say that I understand the problem that exists and that I believe the member is very sincere in wanting to address what is a problem that troubles so many of us in our society. I'm sure it is a problem that makes many parents lose a lot of sleep. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale pointed out the impact on our society of drug abuse that takes place. All of us are frustrated when we see in our society a problem which is sometimes growing, sometimes abating only a little bit with young people in our society. We have to finds ways to address the problem.

The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Education indicated that he felt the bill would be difficult to enforce, and that is my problem with it. I spoke to the member for Halton Centre about his bill and thought initially that it would have some positive impact. I think we want to see restrictions on the ability to use substances within the school system, for instance, and in other places. I looked at the bill and said I don't think it's an enforceable bill, even though the goal is good.

I think drug education is absolutely essential -- it's not the only component you can use -- and I believe you have to get at the people who are purveying the drugs, except that here we're in a case where we have legal drugs for older people, that is, alcohol and tobacco, being referred to. If you're talking about cocaine, heroin or whatever other drugs there are out there, and there is a variety of drugs that are illegal, I think you look at that in a different way.

What you're doing is placing a tremendous onus on people within the education system, people who are already occupied with an awful lot of other things that they have to do within education. Also, you're putting greater onus on the enforcement system. This government has made a decision, rightly or wrongly, that it is going to attack things by severely reducing expenditures within the government, and there are some people who agree with that. I don't agree with it, but I'm not being critical of that aspect today. I'm simply saying that with all these problems, if you're not prepared to commit the resources to them, then you're not going to be able to enforce laws, no matter how tough they are.

I think the problem is appropriately brought to the attention of this House and I want to find ways, along with other members, of dealing particularly with those substances which are considered to be illegal within our society and those substances which are illegal for young people to have.

I don't know if this will solve it, looking at the details of the bill. I really think you're going to place principals and teachers in an extremely difficult situation. You're assuming that in all families we have somewhat of the old-fashioned and what a lot of people would consider to be normal families, a nuclear family where you have a husband, a wife and other children and there is some enforcement at home. There are many more dysfunctional families out there and I don't know, if you applied these rules to the more dysfunctional families, that they would be able to cope with it, whether it's realistic.

I think the member gets full marks for bringing the matter to our attention, for raising this issue. I simply believe, as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education believes, that the details of this bill are such that it may not be enforceable. That would be unfortunate because I think the problem should be addressed by members of this assembly.

Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I support my colleague's bill for zero tolerance for substance abuse in schools. Zero tolerance for substance possession and abuse on school property ought to be pre-eminent in the minds of all teachers and principals.

This bill will mandate that the teachers and principals all have to report substance abuse or drug possession in much the same fashion as they do for physical abuse of children. Under the Child and Family Services Act a number of professionals, including teachers, are required to report to a children's aid society any case where they have reasonable grounds to suspect past or present abuse of a child under 18. Child abuse is defined as physical harm, sexual molestation, lack of medical treatment or an untreated emotional disorder. Drug or alcohol problems could come under this broad definition of child abuse, but the operative word is "could." Zero Tolerance for Substance Abuse Act replaces "could" with "will." Teachers and principals will report to parents suspicions or knowledge of substance possession or abuse.

Our problems with youth have accelerated. Youth drug-related offences rose 83% between 1992 and 1995, and violent youth crime has risen 124% since 1986, more than double in less than a decade.

This problem with a small segment of the youth population is affecting other kids and it's happening in the schools: kids in elementary school who chew blotters laced with LSD, kids who mix hash with tobacco for a tobacco high, and then there is the illicit sale of prescription drugs like Ritalin and Talwin. Ritalin and Talwin are amphetamines. They are forms of speed. They are prescription drugs. If a kid is hyperactive, Ritalin gets prescribed to have a calming effect. However, to a normal kid Ritalin or Talwin gives a high, kids get jazzed up. They are really taking speed and they know it.

Metropolitan Toronto Police told me that Ritalin and Talwin in combination give a tremendous high. On the street these drugs are called kids' cocaine and the kids know how to feign hyperactivity to get a prescription. They forge prescriptions, they photocopy prescriptions. They do double-doctoring, going to different doctors for the same prescription.


Each year, illegal prescription drugs make for a multimillion-dollar industry. In Metro Toronto two years ago, police estimated at least $1 million to $2 million in sales per month, almost always with kids.

Some Addiction Research Foundation statistics on student substance use are frightening: 30% of grade 7 students had consumed alcohol; 19% of grade 9 students and 41% of grade 11 students had smoked cannabis; 20% of grade 11 students have tried LSD; 3% have inhaled solvents, sniffed glue, taken cocaine, heroin, crack; 31% of students said someone tried to sell them drugs at school; 64% said drug use had increased in their schools.

The biggest problem is parental denial, and it continues. The Zero Tolerance for Substance Abuse Act brings the problem out in the open. Teachers and principals will know their responsibility and will know that they have a protocol or plan of action to deal with the problem. The parents will be told; the problem will be discussed. The problem is so insidious that the solution must be all-pervasive.

This bill, which I support, will help. Zero tolerance at school: It's about time, and it should be for all the kids in Ontario. They deserve a fair break when starting out in life. I urge all members of this Legislature to support this bill.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Although the intent of the bill is commendable and the intent of the member to try to deal with an obviously serious problem is there, the bill itself and the details of the bill are the problem. I really believe the devil in this thing is in the details, because very clearly you have what is going to become a very unenforceable situation. You're going to put teachers, principals and parents in a very difficult position that frankly is going to drive the problem more underground than deal with it.

The reality is that every school board in this province has a zero tolerance policy in place right now. The way this bill was brought forward as well -- my understanding is that there has been with very little consultation with school boards, very little consultation with principals, with teachers, with parents. It is a bill that is simply going to create a mess of a situation that is already difficult.

When you already have a situation where schools deal very strictly and very aggressively with drugs and alcohol and tobacco abuse on school property, you already have a situation that in many ways in unenforceable now. We have the policy where school boards, for the right reasons, have banned smoking on school property, so what happens now is that smoking occurs across the street from school property, in the mall next door. What does that do? It makes it more accessible for the drug dealer to work the mall across the street where the kids are smoking than to work the school property, where it would be harder to be and spend time. In some ways the legislation we introduced to try to help has made the situation even worse.

But what is bothering me about this bill the most is the details, where it takes a very punitive approach to everything, that the answer to everything is to punish, to hit, to nail, to slam the kids. Somehow we think we're going to be able to stop them from driving for a further year if they're convicted of an offence, which I guess would be smoking underage, that somehow we're going to stop them from getting into a club. I don't know if we're going to put an ankle bracelet on these kids or a stamp on their head to somehow say, "You can't purchase a lottery ticket because you were caught smoking on school property." It sounds wonderful, and it's a tough Reform line here. Maybe we'll cane kids next. The reality is that's not how you deal with those problems.

It puts teachers in a difficult situation. I have coached high school football and I have been a school trustee. I understand the situation in the schools. As a coach, often -- or teachers in the school -- I have had kids who have come to me to deal with issues or problems they were facing in regard to drugs or alcohol. They wouldn't go to their parents because they were afraid. They do this with teachers all the time.

What kind of situation does that put a teacher in now? That confidence, that ability of a student to go to a teacher or a coach they trust in the school and say, "I've got a problem with drugs" or "I've got a problem with alcohol and I need some help, and I want you to help me," they know that this teacher now must go to the principal, must immediately involve the parents, even if it's not a good situation to involve the parents in, rather than try to get some help for the young person.

You're creating a very difficult situation here. You're going to drive this problem further underground. We all agree that drugs and alcohol abuse are a problem in the school, outside the school and in society as a whole. But this bill would go as far as suspending; that's the whole thing. So you've got a child who has a problem and the answer to our problem is to suspend them so they spend more time away from school and can continue doing the activities they're doing, probably more easily and with less responsibility outside the school.

You can stretch this to say, "Anybody caught with a cigarette on school property will be automatically suspended." I'm picturing the grade 2 or grade 3 child who brings his mom or dad's cigarette to school as a joke or to show their friends or to show off, "Look, I've got a cigarette here." You would suspend that grade 2 or grade 3 child, according to this policy. It is unrealistic; it is unenforceable.

The intent is good. I think we should find some reasonable solutions for this problem, but to go to such a regressive, punitive approach to dealing with a serious problem is wrong, and at the end of the day it's going to make the situation worse than it is today.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Richard Patten): Member for Halton Centre.

Mr Young: I'll respond briefly to some of the comments made by my colleagues. I thank those who spoke in favour of the bill.

The member for Hamilton East said there's a penalty: You can't buy a lottery ticket for bringing tobacco on school property. I say to him: Read the bill. The penalty for possession of tobacco is related to suspension only.

He talks about driving the problem underground. The entire purpose of this bill is to get the parents involved and bring the problem above ground, to bring it out into the open.

He talks about punishing and nailing the kids. That's not what the bill is about at all. It's about getting their attention, because the message is not getting through.

I appreciate the member for St Catharines's comments about the bill being unenforceable. I disagree, with respect. We can make this work; we have to make it work, for our children.

The member for Sudbury said it's a big-stick approach. How on earth can bringing parents together with their children with a social worker be a big stick? How is that a big stick? If he reads the Child and Family Services Act, he'll see that parents and teachers are required to report child abuse. Is that a big stick as well? Isn't substance abuse as dangerous as child abuse? I think the member for Sudbury should be aware that he's representing parents and children in Sudbury, not the OSSTF, of which he tells me he's still a member.

He says there's no intervention in the bill. This entire bill is about intervention.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Young: Stop the clock, please, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Young: This bill is all about intervention. I say to the member for Sudbury, before you come in here with all your hot air, read the bill next time.

The member says I haven't consulted with stakeholders. I have consulted with many, many parents and many, many children. Those are the real stakeholders in this issue. Those people have their lives at stake. I have consulted with them. I've also consulted with medical personnel and with social workers and others who support the bill and the concept.



Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I move that in the opinion of this House, given the importance of the agriculture and food industry to rural communities and the provincial economy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs be encouraged to work with farmers, farm organizations, the research and investment communities to identify and promote new agricultural products and uses, both food and non-food, and to work with industry and rural communities to promote these new products and new product uses, and to identify and remove barriers which might hold back Ontario agriculture from realizing the benefits which these new products and product uses can bring to the provincial economy.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: From all the statements that have been made by the Minister of Agriculture over the last two years, this is already happening, so why are we discussing a redundant resolution this morning? This is already happening, according to the minister. I would move that you rule this motion out of order, since according to the minister this is already happening.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Richard Patten): It's not a point of order. You'll have an opportunity to respond to the resolution. The member for Huron.

Mrs Johns: I'd like to first of all thank the members for being here today and I'd like to explain something about why I brought this resolution forward today. As a member of a rural community, it's very important for us to have a strong agricultural environment for our children to survive and flourish. One of the things I think members forget when they talk about agriculture, and I think it needs to be recognized today, is just how important agriculture is to our community and to our province.

I would like to say that from the urban perspective of some of the members within this group, agriculture brings to them safe food, a reliable product, but from the standpoint of a provincial economy, the Ontario agrifood industry generates $25 billion in economic activity annually. It is also the second-largest industry in Ontario. The dairy industry is valued at $1 billion annually, corn at $970 million, the cattle industry at $800 million and pork at $500 million. So this industry is important to the province, but especially to me, because I represent Huron county.

Huron county has a population of 60,000 people and they are very dependent on the agricultural business. Private members' hour is supposed to be where you come together as a representative of your area and speak about an issue that concerns your community and the people you represent. The future of agriculture and our ability to move into the 21st century really is the most important issue to the people of my riding. That's how they make their living, that's how they keep their children on the farm, that's how they allow generation after generation to have a family farm and to proceed.

Today, as I thought about things that were important to my community, I felt it was important to explore opportunities about what we can do for agriculture, to make my community strong, to make it grow, to make it a community that will keep my children there for their lifetime.

I believe Huron county is the largest area that produces agriculture in all of the province. We have more census farms, more acres of farm land and more gross farm receipts than any other county in Ontario. We have a little battle on this side of the House with many of the rural members, trying to decide who represents the largest area, but I always, always say it's I.

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of Huron county and of Ontario, and I have to do my best in my role here to ensure that we're creative enough to ensure that in the long run we will have opportunities in agriculture.

The challenge that we have in agriculture on all sides of the House, not just government members but members of the official opposition and the third party, is to ensure that we create an environment to allow businesses to proceed and to keep many of the agricultural byproducts being developed within our community. I need to have jobs that result from the product that I grow in my community being developed right in the community so that my kids can decide whether they wish to farm or not, and if they don't wish to farm, that they have the ability to live in our community and to have jobs that relate to the only products we have, which are agricultural products.

Over the past two years here I have noted some of the things we need to concentrate on when we're looking at agriculture. We have to find ways to continue to look at adding value to products within my community and within other communities in Ontario. I've been most pleased recently about some of the products that have been presented to us through the Grow Ontario project. One of the things that happened in my riding is that they're starting to look at differentiating products within specific areas. For example, in the Jersey industry they're talking about differentiating cheeses that will allow us (a) to pursue a value added product and (b) look at exporting that product throughout the world.

I need that to happen, because as my community works harder and harder to increase their yields, to increase the viability of their land, they need to find markets for these products. It is my belief that we need to continue to look for creative solutions to allow farmers and the agricultural community, the agricultural organizations, to find some way to look at developing new and interesting products that we can export, that we can look at taking to other areas, that we can differentiate.

I hope that as a government -- and I know I have some ability to talk to the minister; he listens to all of us in the rural community -- we can entice this government to think about more Grow Ontario projects which allow us to enhance the development of new products and new markets so that my community will grow and flourish.

One of the other things I wanted to talk about today, and I hope the opposition members will give creative solutions, is that we have just announced a rural jobs strategy which will allow us to keep money in our communities in rural Ontario. That's very important for me. I export young people from my community. They go to university, they go to college, and what happens is, lots of them can't come back to my community because there aren't jobs available or there aren't opportunities there. A rural jobs strategy needs to find a way to find opportunities for our young people in rural Ontario.

I see we have mostly rural members sitting in the caucus at this particular point, a few urban members. I hope that today we can come up with different options to be able to look at this $30 million the government has allocated to the project but has not yet set a strategy for, to come up with creative ways to enhance job creation, boost the rural economy and turn the economy of the province as whole into a better place to be.

It's very important for me as a rural member to also look at how we can move our products into the international marketplace. I need to find ways that the government can help my agricultural community increase the quality assurance standards so that we can move product into all of North America and the European common market. In the long run I know that the people in my riding are going to be able to produce product, and I have to find a market that will allow that to happen. I have to be able to have a market; I have to be able to expand export; I have to be able to find investment so that people can come in and produce better product within our areas. The future of my community depends on what we do with agriculture in the province and with the money we have in agriculture.

Today, as I talk about what's important to my community, I'd like to say that it's important for my community that we work very hard with all agricultural groups to make a difference in how we're going to compete in the 21st century. My community has to be a viable community, which means we can keep youth in that community, that we have jobs for those youth, that we have opportunities to spread our products throughout the whole world. My community has to be able to know that they can sell their product to Toronto and to other places and everyone will be assured that we produce the healthiest, the best product and that it has a reputation for that, so we can demand the proper price for our food.

The people in my community work very, very hard to be a world leader. Huron county is ranked seventh in all of Canada in its ability to produce agricultural product, and I'm very proud of them for that. As a result of their wonderful ability to produce gross farm receipts, gross gate receipts, as a result of their ability to generate economic activity, I have chosen as a discussion today the biggest issue for Huron county residents, and that is, what we can do to make agriculture the most important backbone industry in Ontario.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I'm pleased to speak on this resolution put forth by the member for Huron. We indeed agree that agriculture plays a major role in Ontario. I guess what the member is saying by bringing a resolution of this type to the House is that the Minister of Agriculture is not listening to the important role and the voices that come from rural Ontario and she's reminding the minister to get out there and do his work. The government needs a constant reminder about the role of agriculture.

Let's look at the government record. They promised no cuts to agriculture and brought in cuts in excess of $80 million. Now they say in this last budget they'll replace some of that money to about $5 million. We have a net loss of $75 million for the agricultural community.

The major effort put forth by 36 farm organizations which travelled here to Toronto, unprecedented that they would unite in such a manner, was to seek from the government a solemn oath that they would keep their promise, which they had previously broken, of no cuts to agriculture. Those farm organizations had better things to do than to come here to Toronto at a busy time of the year and seek the government's solemn oath that it would not cut agriculture. Other provinces invest almost 50% more money into the agricultural food sector than does Ontario.

Talking about new agricultural products and the value added aspect, this government originally cut funding to the ethanol plants here in Ontario. It was good for farmers, it was good for the environment and it was good for jobs. They originally cut their funding to ethanol and it took the agricultural community to get them to reverse that decision.

We have forced amalgamations in Ontario of rural and urban communities. The rural community used to meet their representative at the hardware store, on the streets of downtown rural Ontario, in other social places, and they could go to that representative and say, "I have a problem with my agricultural drainage." Now, through amalgamation, particularly in Kent county, we are going from 131 representatives to 18. The rural community believes those jobs may become full-time and they wonder how the farmers who sat on those councils and made as little as $4,000 to $5,000 a year for their labours are going to have time to seek office in the new megacity. The outstanding powers taken through Bill 26 bring in an outsider to tell the communities that rural and urban centres will now be one.

Downloading: The province has downloaded provincial highways and the cost of those highways and their maintenance. It's a slap in the face of rural Ontario for the government to say these highways no longer have a provincial interest. They link the communities in rural Ontario one to the other, and this government says they have no provincial interest.

The loss of the money from the farm property tax rebate has many municipalities scrambling and wondering how they are going to cope with the withdrawal of $170 million from that program. Even in the government's campaign they said, "We make a commitment to end the practice of downloading responsibilities on municipalities and regions, forcing them to raise property taxes or cut services." I say that those were shallow words.

The resolution talks about barriers. User fees to the tune of $1 million for publications such as Forage Production, Ontario Ginseng Pest Control Recommendations, Integrated Pest Management, and the list goes on and on. They are charging the farmers of Ontario user fees for these publications that help them to do good business.

The Internet is a fast-moving part of our society. They are charging user fees for the written word and videotapes, but they have to realize that many rural Ontarians cannot access the Internet. This is particularly true in the north; their only access is to the written word.

AgriCorp is in place now and there's a report to the minister that says it might investigate full cost-recovery. We have to look at the competitive nature of Ontario in a worldwide scope. I say to the minister, do not go down this path. Farming has its risks. In Essex and Kent they have barely started to plant and the farmers know full well that spring is quickly turning into summer. They have the weather to contend with; they need not have a government that is an obstacle in their way. Farm output is $7.6 billion here in Ontario, with a value added of $22 billion.

Of course we will support this resolution. It's obvious that this government needs constant reminders about the role of agriculture in Ontario. I am pleased that the member has stood up. I hope she does the same in caucus and tells this minister to reverse what he has done to farmers in this great province of Ontario.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I as well am in support of this resolution that is brought forward by the member from Huron county. Having been born and raised in Perth county, I am well aware of the importance of farming in the rural and agricultural communities in southern Ontario. Having lived in northern Ontario for the last 37 years, I am also aware that there are a lot of farming communities up there that depend on the government not passing on the added costs to them and trying to run them out of business.

I am looking at some comments that were made during the last election campaign that there would be no cuts to agricultural programs and the policy plan in the Common Sense Revolution. This was circulated all around to people in the election. But then when we look back, shortly after the government was elected in July 1995, the Minister of Agriculture cut $13 million; in November 1995, another $13.1 million; in April 1996, $56.7 million. As I heard the member add all those up, we're talking between $55 million and $75 million.

I can see why the member for Huron is trying to get a message out to the Minister of Agriculture: Don't continue to cut the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and lay off hundreds of people. The information I have is that we used to have a total of 1,850 employees with the Ministry of Agriculture, and now 954 have been given their layoff notices. As a result, the farming communities are having to pick up the costs.

Some of the headline stories coming out of various papers are saying exactly what the member for Huron is bringing forward, that the Ministry of Agriculture is cutting seriously and adding to what farmers will have to pay. Even the OFA president at that time said it may save the government money but is not likely to be as kind to farmers. Talking about, "Will farmers pay for AgriCorp?" he says here: "Producers are going to be asked to pay more for the services they now expect. If user fees are not another form of taxation, I am not sure what you'd call it."

There is a lot of unhappiness out there with the massive cuts that have taken place, not only in the Ministry of Agriculture but the dumping or downloading on to municipalities, which seriously affects the amount of taxes rural communities are going to pay. You say a lot of the provincial roads are no longer provincial roads; they should be local roads and the local communities should pay for them. The costs of education have been reduced. We had a debate on June 10, with my leader, Howard Hampton, criticizing the amount of downloading in agriculture and to rural hospitals, rural health care, increasing the pressure on all the rural communities by what the government is doing in order to fulfil one of their other promises, which was to give a tax cut of 30% to the wealthiest people in this province. It seems the cutbacks that are happening are as a result of it.

I can see it would be unfortunate if the Minister of Agriculture is not listening to some of the members in the Conservative caucus. I know if it were our caucus and the Minister of Agriculture was letting people down and wasn't doing his job, there would be a demand from the backbenchers that the Premier replace that particular minister. Maybe this is what Helen Johns, the member for Huron, is talking about, trying to have him replaced.

We know he has let down the francophone communities in Ontario. He also looks after francophone affairs. We know he hasn't stood up and spoken out on behalf of the francophone population, which in some of my communities is 90% or 95%, when it comes to Montfort Hospital, and Bill 108, the offences act. We're not going to be able to get parking tickets and speeding tickets in both languages. He has let them down on that. We know that nothing has come forward other than cuts in the last two years, going now into the third year. No wonder people are upset with what the Minister of Agriculture has brought forward.


The resolution speaks quite clearly. The intention of this resolution is to get the Minister of Agriculture to put some of the money back into the rural communities, the agricultural communities, and promote and create employment, as the member for Huron has mentioned.

Once again I point out that in the book that was circulated around, the report of the Mike Harris task force on agriculture, it says there will be no cuts to agricultural programs and that it's not the policy of the Conservative government in the Common Sense Revolution. Yet we've seen $75 million in cuts and it's hurting the rural communities. A lot of my family are still working in the agriculture industry, and they are being affected as a result of the dumping and the cuts to all the programs that are out there.

I know there are other people who want to make comments on this resolution, but I would like to point out that I support the member for Huron in her decision to put a little bit of fire under the Minister of Agriculture and maybe put a little bit of fire under Mike Harris to say: "You have broken your promise, what you promised in the election in 1995. Let's put that money back into the programs instead of just taking it all out and giving it to the wealthiest people through a tax break." Farmers are important, agricultural communities are important, and the surrounding areas that thrive off the wellbeing of these communities are important, rather than just cutting and slashing and giving a tax break to the wealthy.

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): It's certainly a pleasure for me to rise today in support of the resolution put forth by my colleague the member for Huron. I think everyone realizes how important it is to recognize the contribution the agrifood sector makes to rural Ontario and indeed to the provincial economy.

I'd like to offer some statistics at the beginning that reflect the degree of this contribution. First of all, the food and farming industry in Ontario is the second largest industry -- and it generates over $25 billion in economic activity annually. Some $5.3 billion worth of agricultural and food products are exported annually, an increase of 160% in the last decade.

Ontario also leads the nation in food processing, shipping more than $21 billion worth of goods in 1995 alone. That accounted for a full 48% of Canada's gross domestic product from the food industry. Our dairy industry alone is valued at over $1 billion annually, corn and soy at $970 million, the cattle industry at $800 million, and $500 million is derived from the pork industry. Investment in the food and beverage industry has increased by 57% since 1995, and it has risen to $860 million.

We provide 640,000 jobs and produce an additional 31 jobs for every $1 million that is invested in agriculture and related services. Finally, for every $1 billion in agricultural exports, we create 15,000 jobs. So we can see the importance agriculture has to Ontario and indeed to our country.

Ontario's agrifood sector is Canada's most diverse, accounting for 90% of Canada's soybean production and 100% of the dried bean production. I share with you that 23% of Ontario's dried beans come from Perth county alone. In Ontario, we're the top producer of corn, vegetables, floriculture and nursery crops, worth more than $479 million, and Ontario farmers produce two thirds of the ginseng grown in Canada.

This government and this Minister of Agriculture believe in the importance of consulting with stakeholders of the industry when it comes to moving forward with our commonsense plan. I can tell you that since this government was elected, we have seen a new spirit of cooperation between OMAFRA and the stakeholders, whether it be the Ontario Cattlemen's Association or any of the other industry associations, and ROMA as well. This minister is committed to working with them and consulting with them.

To give you a few examples of the consultations that have gone on since our election in 1995, at the beginning of our government being formed, Minister Villeneuve held a round of table talks with the stakeholders to determine what should be the ministry's priorities for the next few years. We have held public consultations on a variety of topics.

Most recently we had open discussions chaired by Marcel Beaubien and myself with the farmers, the farm groups and the rural municipalities on proposed amendments to the Farm Practices Protection Act. Our stakeholders know that we made commitments to them during the election campaign. Delivering a Farm Practices Protection Act with teeth was a campaign commitment that we are going to fulfil. The need for changes to the act was underscored by Charlotte Clay-Ireland, the immediate past-president of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, when she said: "Without farmers, you wouldn't have food on the table. We have to protect them."

During our consultations we heard strong support from our stakeholders for an act that will establish agriculture as a provincial interest and give farmers and food processors the protection needed to get the job done, allowing this sector to continue to prosper and grow, and most important, to remain competitively functional in the global atmosphere.

A guiding principle of the new act has to be that we establish agriculture as a provincial interest, but that we do it in harmony with the environment, health and safety. Our stakeholders realize this. As the Ontario Federation of Agriculture president said at one of our meetings, "We state in the strongest possible terms, the Farm Practices Protection Act is not a licence to pollute in any way." As a matter of fact, farmers are well known for their stewardship of the land and the environment. They know it is in their best interests to do the right thing with their environment.

In keeping with our practice of consulting, we are setting up a panel to consult on the rural jobs strategy announced in the last budget, and my colleague Barb Fisher is heading that up. The three-year, $30-million rural jobs strategy aims to enhance job creation, boost the rural economy and in turn the economy of the province as a whole.

Prior to our election we committed ourselves to working with those in the agricultural community in helping promote innovation through investment. We introduced the Grow Ontario investment program, which by matching funds from the private sector enhanced the development of new products and new markets and created new partnerships.

The government invested $5 million in the commercial alcohol ethanol plan. Between 140 and 185 permanent jobs will result from this venture. It is calculated there will be 640 to 700 indirect jobs, and 45 to 60 spinoff companies are predicted as well. We've been supportive of this program in both southern Ontario and eastern Ontario.

Over the last two years this government has delivered on a number of other commitments: We increased market revenue insurance coverage to 85%; we supported and promoted the whole farm support program through NISA; we introduced reform to the farm tax rebate program.


In last year's budget, the finance minister introduced the retail sales tax rebate for farm building materials. This program was recently extended for another year. In Haldimand county alone this program has resulted in one new hog barn being built a week. Just in case the members opposite were not listening, that's one hog barn being built per week in just one county in the province of Ontario. Our agriculture policies are working, and that means people are working.

I believe this government is living up to a commitment to help farmers to identify and promote those new agricultural products and their uses, and has been successful in identifying and removing the barriers that are currently and have been holding back Ontario agriculture from realizing new benefits.

However, the job is not finished. By passing this resolution, we will send a signal to our farmers that we are committed to working with them on these continued new challenges. We will continue to work with all the farmers, farm organizations and rural municipalities to identify and remove those harmful barriers that have been part of our system. We've already repealed Bill 91, the NDP law that would have unionized the family farm. We have also introduced Bill 116, a red tape reduction bill. This Legislature passed Bill 46, which created AgriCorp, a service delivery agency created for farmers that is run and operated by farmers.

We have heard from the opposition this morning about a number of concerns and cutbacks. If we look at the history of the agricultural industry in this province, the farmers well recognize the cuts that occurred since 1990 and how they decimated the agricultural community, and how things finally, in the last two years, have slowed and come to a halt and started to return to that industry that needs to be supported in the very best way.

This resolution put forth this morning will certainly enhance that and we are in support of the resolution. We congratulate the member for bringing it forth.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I'm pleased to rise this morning to speak to this resolution as well. The message we're getting from the government is confusing. I can understand that this member wanted to bring this resolution forward because she felt the government wasn't doing enough, yet they stand and say they are doing enough. I'm a bit confused with their message, but I understand what the member for Huron is saying to us.

In the few minutes I have, I find it necessary to be a bit parochial in that I'm going to speak more directly to exploring the bounty of the sun parlour county, that being Essex county's agrifood industry.

In Essex county the agrifood industry creates over 6,000 jobs. They invest over $40 million in wages and gross over $200 million worth of field, vegetable, greenhouse and fruit crops. An interesting statistic is that Essex county has a greater agricultural output than any one of the Atlantic provinces. That's only as a comparison because we realize that Essex county is the most southerly part of Canada, so it would be understandable that we have the climate in which agricultural production can be carried on at great length.

For example, the economic value I speak of: field crops, $92.7 million a year; processing vegetables, $18.7 million; fresh vegetables, $16.6 million a year; fruit crops, $7.8 million; livestock, milk and poultry amount to $16.9 million a year; and greenhouse crops, $85 million a year. That says a lot about what agriculture means not only to Essex county but to the province.

Field crops, for example: The major field crops in Essex county are soybeans, winter wheat and grain corn. About 93% of the acreage in the county is planted in those crops.

I spoke of the value of greenhouse crops to the economy of Essex county in Ontario. Essex county is the largest and most intensive greenhouse vegetable growing area in Canada, and we're very proud of that statistic. There are also 10 acres of mushroom houses under production in Essex county.

When we speak of processing vegetables, we know the engine in processing in Essex county is the processing of tomatoes by the H.J. Heinz Co. By the way, this is a booming industry in the town of Leamington and the surrounding area, because the H.J. Heinz Co has become a leader in the industry in both Canada and the United States. Much of the production of the Heinz Co in Leamington has been production that has been moved in from the United States.

In field vegetables, Essex county is the province's earliest source of fresh vegetables. As I mentioned, you can understand that because of our temperate climate.

It's also, when it comes to fruit crops, a very productive economic engine in the county. Nearly 200 growers are involved in the production of Essex county's diverse fruit crops.

We have a tendency in large urban Ontario not to think of the things that come to our local grocery store, to the market, that come from the fields of the province, particularly of Essex county. We think of sweet corn, potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, asparagus, always in great demand in early spring; we have melons and Spanish onions, and fresh tomatoes obviously.

Not to forget the livestock and poultry industry, why, of course it's an important sector of our economy in Essex county, although it has been diminishing in the last few years. That has given us some concern, but it still is an important part of that economic machine.

Other commodities we have in Essex county in the way of the agribusiness: honey, Christmas trees, popping corn -- Essex county is a great area for popping corn -- maple syrup --

Mr Hoy: Flowers.

Mr Crozier: My friend the member for Essex-Kent mentions flowers. A great deal of the greenhouse industry is involved in the growing of flowers. As a matter of fact, in the Ontario flower- and plant-producing industry, bedding plants are the mainstay of the economy, with nearly 400 million plants being sold annually, while potted plants, nursery stock and cut flowers are also part of that.

We in rural Ontario understand today, and I think this resolution goes to emphasizing to those friends of ours in large urban Ontario, that we have a great manufacturing business industry in Ontario but were it not for the food that is put on our table, we wouldn't be able to keep those plants going at the pace they are.

Having said all that, there are still, as my colleague has mentioned, some barriers to the growth of agriculture in the province. We have yet to see what's going to happen as the result of downloading. The farm tax rebate, for example, that is an incentive to the farming community, is now a responsibility of the municipality. As to where the municipalities are going to get those tax revenues they previously received in the way of funds from the provincial government, we have yet to see how that will come about.

When my colleague from Essex-Kent mentioned the downloading of roads, I thought in particular that there are a number of them throughout Essex county that for some reason or another the minister has said, "Well, these really shouldn't be under provincial jurisdiction because they don't have that much influence on the economy of Ontario."

All this $200 million in agricultural products doesn't just jump out of the field and fall into Montreal and Toronto markets. They have to travel over roads. The trucking industry in the county is strong because of the agricultural industry. But we have to have good roads over which to move them. The Minister of Transportation is doing a disservice to rural Ontario by saying they now have to take responsibility for these roads. I think it's a responsibility of all Ontarians to see that we have a good road system over which to move our products.


User fees are another thing. The Common Sense Revolution said there would be no cuts to agriculture. Not only did they make specific cuts to programs and funding, but they've also then turned around and said, "We're going to start charging you for the services we provide." Because of the importance of agriculture in Ontario, this is something on which the Minister of Agriculture is abdicating his authority. He should be doing everything he can to help the farm community in Ontario, not hinder it.

With that, I will repeat what I said at the outset. I am pleased to support this resolution. It's unfortunate that the member for Huron felt she had to bring it forward and that the Minister of Agriculture has not been listening, I guess. I hope he does because we know that as goes Ontario, so goes the agricultural industry in our province. I thank you for this time to speak on this matter.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I stand today in support of this resolution put forward by my colleague from Huron because of the increasing importance of agriculture and food in the province of Ontario and the recognition of the attention we must all pay to the industry to help it flourish.

Ontario has the largest farm-gate value in Canada, with over $5.6 billion a year. Ontario has the largest food-processing, value-added industry in Canada at over $25 billion a year and growing at an extremely rapid rate. This makes agriculture and food an important part of Ontario's economy, placing second only behind the auto industry in importance.

The good news is that this government recognizes its importance. The Grow Ontario program is an example of the kind of support OMAFRA is giving to the industry. It encourages strategic partnerships in agriculture and industry in order to qualify for support. One very dramatic way the government has used to encourage the industry is changing tax structures and providing incentives for businesses around the world to have the opportunity to invest research and development dollars right here in Ontario.

Evidence that there is significant benefit for businesses to invest in Ontario was presented this week in Houston at an international convention and conference on biotechnology. The study compared Ontario, Massachusetts, California and Texas. Where Ontario's after-tax cost of R and D was $41.20, it was $48 in Massachusetts and California and a whopping $59.40 in Texas. All reports from the conference indicate that companies with research dollars to spend are taking a serious look at investing in Ontario solely because of this tax incentive. That's good news for agriculture and food and it's awfully good news for Ontario.

Even with this support, we must do more. There are indeed barriers to the industry in getting new products to market that affect our competitive advantage globally. No more prevalent will they be than with the emergence and acceptance of the new frontiers which agriculture and food are going through in the world today. This new frontier is actually an old frontier, with the development of knowledge and new technology which will revolutionize global food production and ensure a safe and abundant food supply for the future.

The biotechnology revolution is upon us and is one which needs the support of government in educating itself, the public and the media as to the benefits this new field provides for the public and the assurance of food supply in Ontario and throughout the world. Educating ourselves, the news media and the public is crucial in not only gaining acceptance of the products that will result from this new technology, but in ensuring that the farm community can continue to flourish with 21st century thinking and technology.

We are already recognized worldwide as a producer of high-quality, safe foodstuffs in Ontario and Canada.

It is important that government take a lead role in establishing processes to deal with these circumstances. History tells us that government is always slower than private industry when it comes to change. As we enter into the modern agriculture and food revolution, we must recognize the importance of our support, action and encouragement of the industry and its evolution.

The means of producing wealth are changing. They will change as we enter the 21st century. Our knowledge and the ability to commercialize it will be the new currency of the new century, and that's why I support this motion and encourage all members of the House to do the same.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm absolutely thrilled to join this particular debate and support the member for Huron's mentioning of the significance of agriculture to the provincial economy.

As an urban MPP, I find it absolutely essential that we emphasize and reinforce again and again the strategic linkages and interrelationships between the agricultural foundation of the provincial economy and our urban progress, our urban survival. People often ask me, why would you be interested in agriculture? The very simple answer: We all eat, regardless of where we come from.

I see agriculture and the new biotechnology revolution that the member for Halton North mentioned as absolute keys to job creation in this province. We have heard in recent days critics of the parties opposite claim there are few prospects for youth in our economy. To me, one of the key areas for job creation is to remind members of the linkages between what happens in rural Ontario and what happens in urban Ontario.

For example, if we do not have a vibrant, vital, strengthened provincial agricultural economy, we have fewer jobs in our communities, urban communities particularly, in such things as events management, in the travel industry, in the strengthening of our viticulture. That's the essential reason I support this motion today.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The time allocated for the Liberal Party is completed. However, there is some NDP time left. I'd like to speak in favour of the member's resolution if I could use the NDP time, with unanimous consent.

The Acting Speaker: Do we have consent? We'll split the time.

Mr Bradley: Okay, we are splitting the NDP time. I want to speak in favour of the member's resolution for some of the same reasons the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale did. I think a lot of people who represent urban ridings often don't take into consideration the importance of rural ridings. That's because we're not faced on a daily basis with the problems that are confronted by farmers in our province.

We have a need for agricultural land in viable use in this province. I look at my own area, the Niagara Peninsula, and see that we have a couple of things that are very valuable. One is we have temperatures or a climatic condition which is conducive to tender fruit growing. It's a pretty unique condition that exists just adjacent to Lake Ontario. The amount of time you have to grow products on top of the escarpment compared to below the escarpment, for instance, is about 28 days' difference, 28 frost-free days. We need to preserve that agricultural land in the Niagara Peninsula, particularly in the northern part of the Niagara Peninsula, for the purposes not just of today but well into the future.

The pressures, however, for development of that land are very significant. The farmers will say: "We would like to continue to farm this land. We like the job of farming, it's a nice occupation. We feel we're doing an important job. But we find it difficult economically from time to time, because in North America we are used to cheap food prices." I think all those who represent rural areas understand that. We like our cheap food prices. There are only two ways to maintain farmers on the land and keep them viable. One is through paying the appropriate price for the food, a price that reflects the cost plus some profit to be made. The second is any initiatives the government can undertake to assist farmers.


I know the member wants to see, as we all want to see, promotion of Ontario products. We do a pretty good job now, but we can always strive to do better in promoting our products. The tender fruit grown in the Niagara Peninsula is of outstanding quality, but the farmers believe they're not getting the kind of prices they should to reflect the input costs involved. It's a tragedy to watch a very good agricultural land, in special climatic conditions, disappearing. I see it along the Queen Elizabeth Way. We see subdivisions being built, though we need subdivisions around the province, on very good agricultural land.

The member, by having these kinds of discussions, by raising this issue today, is joining with so many of us in the House in wanting to preserve agricultural land but to preserve the farmer as well. You can't simply say you're going to preserve the land; you have to say you're going to preserve the farming operation itself. If we can do that, we can continue to have an extremely important and good agricultural industry in this province. We rush quickly, from time to time, to save other industries in towns or cities where there are 4,000 or 5,000 people directly affected. Farming affects far more people than that.

I appreciate the time I've had. I know another member may wish to join in this debate.

Mr Hastings: Mr Speaker, just to continue --

The Acting Speaker: You would need unanimous consent to do that. Agreed? Okay, member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Hastings: To continue with my emphasis on the theme of job creation that we need to focus on, I had the opportunity yesterday to visit the University of Guelph and to learn a tremendous amount about what is going on in that particular area with all the partnerships and strategic alliances being brought about through the grower associations, the universities, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and a lot of players from the private sector.

I learned from that situation yesterday that the application of biotechnology is one of the key tools that will ensure that the member for Huron's resolution will come to strong fruition in the very near future. The use of biotechnology in its widest applications will help to produce better products for our domestic and international markets.

That was particularly brought home with the viticulture situation. They're experimenting with strengthening the type of grape to withstand colder temperatures in this climate, even in the Niagara region the member for St Catharines speaks of, and the strength and variety of alfalfa, which is a key foundation, along with soybeans, for many new products and services that the Ontario urban citizen will acquire and appreciate.

The enhanced value of biotechnology, along with a lot of other stuff that's going on at the University of Guelph in terms of expanding our agricultural economy, the product base and the number of jobs that can be created -- not only directly in agriculture, but in all the other related industries, particularly the brewing, food processing, travel, wine and event management industries. That is one of the sectors where we're going to find a huge number of jobs in the coming years, through the new applications of technology and changes in the barriers the member for Huron mentioned.

I'm very happy, as an urban member of the rural caucus, to support her resolution today. I think it will take great stead in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Mrs Johns: I'd like to thank everyone for joining in the debate today. As you know, it is very important to my riding that we continue to think about the ability to make my riding viable, to allow it to continue to work with the community, to develop.

I'd like to say just before I go into my closing remarks that we have here today one of the most important, I want to say "assets," it might not be the right word, that we produce in Huron county. Today we have a page with us from Huron county. Her name is Meghan Martin, and I hope that in the long run I can keep her in Huron county with an ability to create jobs and an ability to find things for her to do, so that she wants to stay in Huron county and be part of what I consider a great rural community.

Working together, we must continue to increase exports, find and exploit new markets on a worldwide basis, produce more high-quality products, more value added products and develop new and different products that will meet international standards. We have to promote, promote, promote rural Ontario and the things we do in rural Ontario.

All of these initiatives are right for the time and right for the Ontario agrifood and rural sectors. I encourage the government and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to continue the tremendous work they have done with the agriculture and food sectors in the past and to ensure that in the future we're global leaders with respect to the agrifood industry for years and years to come.

I hope all the members of the House will continue to work with this industry, because it's imperative to the people of Huron county that we build a strong agrifood industry. It's important obviously to other areas; we heard about Essex today and we heard about some other areas. It's very important that we continue to build this industry.

I am proud to be the representative of a strong agrifood county, which translates into a strong economic county. Bringing value added products and job growth not only to my riding of Huron but to the province as a whole will be good for all of us. I hope that in the ensuing months you'll have an opportunity to thank a farmer for the food you eat. It's safe, it's reliable, it may be the healthiest in the world, and I'm very proud of the people who bring that food to your table.

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


The Acting Speaker (Mr Richard Patten): We will deal first with ballot item number 83 standing in the name of Mr Young. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot, would they please rise at this time.

Seeing none, the member for Halton Centre has moved second reading of Bill 134, An Act to promote zero tolerance for substance abuse by children. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

There will be a vote on this.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Richard Patten): The member for Huron has moved private member's resolution 55. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

We will now have the vote on the first item; there will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1159 to 1204.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Richard Patten): All those in favour of the motion, please rise until your name is called.


Brown, Jim

Hastings, John

Parker, John L.

Chudleigh, Ted

Hudak, Tim

Shea, Derwyn

Churley, Marilyn

Johns, Helen

Spina, Joseph

Clement, Tony

Kells, Morley

Stewart, R. Gary

Danford, Harry

Kormos, Peter

Tascona, Joseph N.

Fox, Gary

Leadston, Gary L.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Wood, Bob

Grimmett, Bill

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Young, Terence H.

The Acting Speaker: All those opposed, please rise until your name is called.


Agostino, Dominic

Carroll, Jack

Sergio, Mario

Bartolucci, Rick

Kwinter, Monte

Tilson, David

Bradley, James J.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 24; the nays are eight.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): Mr Speaker, I request that the bill go to the standing committee on social development.

The Acting Speaker: Everyone in favour that the bill go to the standing committee on social development? Agreed. The bill will be referred to the social development committee.

I now leave the Chair. The House will resume at 1:30 of the clock.

The House recessed from 1207 to 1330.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): As part of Seniors' Month, this week has been designated as Caregivers Week so that we may have a greater appreciation of those who assist seniors with activities of daily living or specific health problems.

Caregivers include family members who assist their elderly and disabled relatives with personal care and heavy household chores. In hospitals and long-term-care facilities, seniors rely on the high level of care they receive from staff committed to providing the best service possible. In the community, we are thankful to those who are part of care services, such as home support, home nursing services, homemaker services, as well as the myriad volunteers who give of their free time because they care about our seniors.

Although the demand continually grows, Mike Harris's cuts to hospitals have resulted in fewer health care workers and many fewer nurses. Doesn't this government recognize that lost nursing care will leave sick and frail seniors unable to fend for themselves, neglected and with improper care?

It is expected that our seniors will increase at least 50% in the next 20 years. As Caregivers Week comes to a close, I urge this government to take steps now to ensure that caregivers will be there in the future for the people of Ontario.

Let us all salute the caregivers among us for their dedication to our elderly. Our seniors enjoy --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Increasingly across this province people are expressing disgust with the manner in which this government, and in particular its Attorney General, has mishandled the family support plan and victimized thousands upon thousands of women and their kids.

A recent column in the Sault Ste Marie newspaper was headlined "Family Support Plan Gaffs Disgusting" and "Serve Harnick's Head on Platter." This is part of that growing outcry about an Attorney General who has betrayed women and children who relied upon him to protect them by ensuring that the support payments that were being made by absent parents were transmitted promptly to them. Charlie Harnick, the Attorney General, has gone beyond merely disappointing, has gone beyond the point where a mere apology will suffice; he has victimized women and kids.

"Serve Harnick's Head on Platter," this columnist writes. "The next story I hope to write is about Charlie Harnick's resignation. I hope to write it soon." The only way this government can reassure those women and kids who have been victims and who continue to be victims is by ensuring that this incompetent minister is no longer the Attorney General. Indeed, a new word, a neologism has been coined: To "Harnick" now means to lie.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): This Sunday, June 15, my riding of Oshawa will kick off its 36th annual cultural festival known as Fiesta Week with a parade of floats and marching bands, followed by awards, pavilion displays and the annual teddy bears' picnic.

As part of Oshawa's cultural heritage, Fiesta Week brings together the people of Oshawa for a week's celebration of our city's multicultural heritage. Fiesta provides the residents of Oshawa and our entire province with an opportunity to examine the diverse culinary, dancing and musical talents from a wide variety of multicultural backgrounds. Throughout next week various cultural communities in Oshawa will operate pavilions which will feature the food, dance and entertainment of their particular culture.

The numerous dedicated volunteers, along with the Oshawa Folk Art Council, have worked diligently throughout the year to make Fiesta Week the success it has been each year, and I'm sure this year will be no exception. I would personally like to congratulate all those for the thousands of hours they contribute in making Fiesta Week happen.

I would like to invite the members of the House as well as the people of Ontario to visit Oshawa during the week starting June 15 to join us in Oshawa's 36th annual multicultural festival, Fiesta Week.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): All of us in the Legislature have listened to the Minister of Health talk about the importance of restructuring the health care system in this province. Frankly, all of us would welcome any restructuring that would improve patient care. The fact is that restructuring in Thunder Bay means we're left with a system where seriously ill patients are being left in hospital hallways because there's nowhere else to put them.

There's no sense in setting totally unrealistic deadlines and closing hospitals when replacement care is not in place. In Thunder Bay, St Joseph's General Hospital had acute care services one day and the next day did not. Hogarth Westmount was forced to shut its doors the same day. Then the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital had its acute care beds severely cut back. The result is a system put under severe stress that has now led to seriously compromised patient care.

The fact is the Health Services Restructuring Commission got its numbers wrong, set unreasonable deadlines, and the people of Thunder Bay are paying the price. The commission hit Thunder Bay first, and it hit Thunder Bay with bad numbers that will not adequately serve the needs of all of us in northwestern Ontario.

The minister in this House yesterday indicated he expected to see the transitional beds in operation by December. What good does that do my constituents and those in the northwest who are faced with inadequate health care today? The minister needs to acknowledge that patient care is suffering as a result of these decisions, and he needs to get involved to fix it.

People in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario deserve quality health care. Unless the minister acts now to acknowledge this growing problem, he is simply abdicating his responsibility as health minister.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): On May 6 and 7, students from across the province attended the Skills Canada competition for Ontario and Kitchener. The mission of Skills Canada is "to champion and stimulate the development of excellent technological and leadership skills in Canadian youth and to strengthen our competitive edge in the global marketplace."

I'm very proud to report that 12 students from Central Technical School in my riding won medals at that event. Gold medals were won by Sandra Aloi, Carlos Simao, John Cutulle and Steven Ventura. Silver medals were won by Gints Bruveris, Michael Andras, Martin Spellerberg, Jose Faria, Deoram Bachan and Rajah Subramani. Bronze medals were won by Ken Rosa and Evan Markiewicz.

The national competitions were then held in Red Deer, Alberta, on May 29 and June 1 of this year. Central Tech won three medals: Martin Spellerberg won a gold medal, Sherri Pickett won a silver medal and John Cutulle won a bronze medal.

I want to congratulate all the students who took part in this competition. I know your school and your teachers are very proud of your accomplishments. From my colleagues and myself in the New Democratic Party, best wishes, and keep up the good work. You are an inspiration to students everywhere.


Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): I rise today to inform the House that this weekend will be the 29th celebration of Canada Flag Day in Stoney Creek. This has become an annual event in the city, honouring our country's flag and heritage. Only recently has the federal government decided to proclaim an official flag day, after citizens of my riding have been celebrating it for 30 years.

Flag week is filled with many different activities and events, culminating with a flag day parade throughout downtown Stoney Creek this coming Saturday.

The festivities began last weekend, with a re-enactment of the battle of Stoney Creek, a turning point in the War of 1812. This historic battle took place in the twilight hours of June 6, 1813. This battle would make a legend of 19-year-old Billy Green. After discovering an encampment of American invaders, Billy ran many miles to deliver the information to British troops stationed in Burlington Heights. In the ensuing hours, Billy Green led a tiny squad of 704 men in a silent ambush of the Americans, who numbered over 3,000. The Americans were taken by surprise, routed and forced to retreat to Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The evolution of our nation owes much to this historic battle and to those brave individuals who lost their lives for the nation that would become Canada.

Finally, on the subject of great efforts and victories, I would like to congratulate the Glanbrook Rangers junior C hockey team from my riding. The Rangers recently won the all-Ontario junior C hockey championship. I look forward to congratulating each of the members personally at their victory banquet this weekend. All in all, this is a great week of celebration in Wentworth East.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I wish to bring to the attention of the House an open letter to the Premier by Roy Rawluck, a senior constable in the Metro Toronto Police Service, who has served our community for 22 years. Mr Rawluk has come forward with no other motivation than that of advancing the public interest in sounding the alarm about the implications of Bill 105, the Police Services Amendment Act.

All members of this House know the pervasive effect of this government's downloading and how it will affect every element of service delivery in our province. We in the Liberal caucus have consistently pointed out that municipalities will face a severe shortage of funds as a result of the Tories' dumping of $180 million. As a meagre counterweight, the government has presented Bill 108, which would increase the fines from the Provincial Offences Act which accrue to municipalities. Under this bill, municipalities will obtain complete control of police financing and of the majority of appointments to local police service boards.

Constable Rawluk, however, tells us the real impact of these bills. In his letter to the Premier he notes that cash-starved municipalities will have the capacity to set ticketing quotas for police officers to achieve. In addition, he states that police administrators are proposing to buy more radar sets to increase municipal revenues. Those police officers who do not achieve their quotas may face disciplinary actions.

Constable Rawluk has sounded the alarm about the disgraceful Tory traffic quotas on ordinary citizens. This government must reconsider Bills 105 and 108. Nothing else will do. The public interest and our police officers demand it.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Located on Queen Street East in my riding of Riverdale is a place called Willow. Willow is a resource centre which was established to assist women in Ontario who are living with breast cancer. Through compassionate, dedicated volunteers who have experienced breast cancer, Willow provides current, comprehensive information, support and referrals with understanding and sensitivity.

On May 9 I attended their third anniversary fund-raising dinner and was again moved and inspired by the women who talked about their struggles with and survival of breast cancer. The keynote speaker was Toben Anderson, a vibrant woman in her 30s who told a harrowing story of her battle with breast cancer and how her life changed as a result, for her, for the better. She then trained, and having never done it before, climbed the highest mountain in Antarctica to help raise awareness and money for breast cancer. I cannot do her story justice here. Then there was ll-year-old Arielle Goldberger, whose mother survived breast cancer, who came up with an idea, and together with her friends in school, raised $300 making jewellery and selling it in their neighbourhood. Arielle presented this cheque to the Willow at the dinner.

There are many worthy causes for us to support in Ontario, but I would urge all people out there, if they're trying to find another worthy cause to add to their list, to get in touch with Willow. There's no other place like it in Ontario. You can deal with women who have experienced breast cancer who can help.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I rise in the House today to speak about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Imagine not being able to walk, write, smile, talk, eat and sometimes not even breathe on your own, and yet your mind and senses remain unaffected. ALS is a rapidly progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease. Muscle by muscle, nerve by nerve your body shuts down, yet your mind and senses are alert as you watch yourself die. This is what life is like for the 6,000 Canadians who suffer from ALS.

It can strike anyone and eventually results in complete paralysis and death, generally within two to three years from diagnosis. Two to three Canadians die every year from ALS. Although promising research studies are conducted, there is still no known cure.

Across Ontario, and in fact Canada, June is ALS Awareness Month. Throughout the month, volunteers will be canvassing the public to raise funds to fight this devastating disease. All funds raised will be spent on ALS scientific research.

In my community Lynn Frenette, Adrian Maes and Dan Stone are leading a group of volunteers who will be selling live cornflowers grown by Parson's Florist for ALS, as well as holding a barbecue at the Orangeville Mall.

I urge all Ontarians to make a generous donation to the ALS Society so that the dream of finding a cure can soon become a reality.



Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I would like to bring the House up to date on the serious forest fire situation we are facing in northern Ontario right now.

Yesterday, I toured the forest fires around Timmins and the Kirkland Lake areas, along with the member for Cochrane South and the member for Timiskaming. We saw forest fires that caused us a great deal of concern, but we also saw the hard work of the Ontario fire rangers and of the Ministry of Natural Resources and others in those communities doing all they can to make sure that people remain safe.

The safety of people in communities is our first priority. That's why I've instituted an emergency area order for communities in the Timmins and Kirkland Lake areas. The emergency area order empowers us under the Forest Fires Prevention Act to take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard human life and private property. The emergency order is a precaution I've put in place to make sure we can move quickly if necessary.

The main fire in the Timmins area is Timmins 12, which has grown to more than 7,000 hectares. Fire crews have been working hard to protect the cottages and camps in the Watabeag Lake area. Many have been saved with the assistance of the OPP. We've evacuated more than 100 cottagers in the Watabeag Lake area west of Kirkland Lake.

I'm happy to report that there have been no casualties to date. The OPP has advised travellers in the Timmins-Foleyet area using Highways 11 and 101 to be very careful and to stay off secondary roads. In northwestern Ontario, Red Lake 9 is more than 1,800 hectares. People from five outpost camps have been evacuated, and the forest fire danger is extreme across almost all of northern Ontario.

I've put in place a restricted fire zone that bans open fires across the north, from the French and Mattawa rivers to the Manitoba border. We want to prohibit open fires because the forest are very dry and the danger of starting new fires is extreme.

Unfortunately, the fire danger doesn't look as though it will improve quickly. We hope to see some rain in the next couple of days which may improve the situation. However, the risk of thunderstorms continues and lightning from thunderstorms has caused most of the fires.

Right now, more than 60 forest fires are burning in Ontario. So far this season, we have had almost 490 forest fires that have burned more than 16,000 hectares of forest. We have more than 1,300 firefighters in the field right now. This year, we have increased the number of Ontarians working on fires over last year's number.

As Minister of Natural Resources, I've had the opportunity to speak to many front-line firefighters who are risking their lives every day to protect us and our provincial resources. This is MNR at its best. The front-line workers have agreed that our new firefighting system is working better than expected. Modern technologies such as lightning locator networks, long-range aircraft and computer-based analysis have brought us into a new era of forest fire operations. This new system has allowed to close in the last couple of years 17 of the 45 fire bases and ensure that the crews are travelling to the fires, not waiting at remote camps for the fires to come to them, as happened before our changes.

Again I want to commend the efforts of the Ontario fire rangers, our contract fire crews and our initial attack crews from western Canada in fighting these fires. I also commend the efforts of the OPP and others in the communities which have been affected. We will continue to work hard to make sure people and property are safe and we'll work hard to keep the threat of forest fires under control.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Before we go to the next ministry statement, I noticed that Ms Crljen's class from Sunnylea is here today and I just have to introduce them. I wouldn't have done that, except my daughter Victoria happens to be in that class.


The Speaker: That was perfectly in order.


Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Exactly one year ago, our government launched Ontario Works, our mandatory program to help people on welfare become self-sufficient.

I am pleased to announce that later today I will be introducing legislation to further reform Ontario's welfare system. With the support of the Legislature, the Social Assistance Reform Act would fulfil two key commitments in the Common Sense Revolution: It would fully implement mandatory work for welfare and it would create a separate income support program for people with disabilities.

The legislation would create two acts: the Ontario Works Act and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act. I would like to take a few minutes to talk about each.

The Ontario Works Act would overhaul a welfare system that is 30 years out of date. It would restore the welfare system to its original purpose: a transitional program of last resort that will provide people on welfare with a stepping stone back into the workforce.


The legislation I'm introducing today will ensure this objective remains paramount. As a government we owe it to the people on social assistance to provide them with the opportunities they need to become self-sufficient. Equally, we owe it to the taxpayers to ensure that the dollars they give us are going to help those truly in need.

Ontario Works, our mandatory work-for-welfare program, will meet this dual obligation. Today's proposed legislation will allow us to complete the implementation of Ontario Works by extending this requirement to sole support parents with children in school.

Individuals on general welfare who are currently participating in Ontario Works are telling us that the program is helping them develop skills, make contacts with potential employers and give something back to their communities.

There are now more than 20 municipalities across the province implementing Ontario Works. More than 20,000 people have participated in this mandatory program and we are hearing very positive reports. People are saying they appreciate the opportunity to improve their skills and to contribute to their communities.

The Ontario Works Act would also strengthen our ability to prevent fraud and abuse to protect the welfare system for those who really need it.

I would like to now address the Ontario Disability Support Program Act. Members of the Legislature will recall that last week I announced the government would create a new income support program to meet the unique needs of people with disabilities. The Ontario Disability Support Program Act would move people with disabilities off the welfare system and provide them with greater opportunities for independence.

It should be noted that Ontario currently provides the highest level of disability support among Canada's provinces. I would also like to note that people who are receiving disability benefits under the family benefits program would have these benefits protected under the proposed program.

We have been told by people with disabilities that the current system does not meet their needs. They want individuals to be treated individually. Many have told us that they can and do want to work. They don't like being labelled "permanently unemployable." We have developed eligibility criteria based on their experience and insights. They have asked for an employment system that focuses on employment and they want the practical help they need to get and hold a job.

The proposed system would help people take advantage of employment opportunities. It would allow people with disabilities to accept work without worrying about any delay in having their benefits reinstated if they could not continue with the job.

People with disabilities have told us they don't need more studies; they need a government to deliver a new program of income and employment supports to provide them with real opportunities for independence. With this legislation, we intend to meet their needs.

I believe the legislation I am introducing today would provide opportunities for real and positive change in the lives of people in need in Ontario. Previous governments failed to undertake the necessary overhaul of Ontario's welfare system, despite the fact that they knew the system was not working.

We have a responsibility to people in need and to the taxpayers of this province to fix the system. It's time to provide people with the opportunities they need to become self-sufficient.

In closing, I would like to convey thanks to our municipal partners and to my caucus colleagues for their advice and input, and I would also like to thank all my staff and the staff of the ministry for their hard work in getting this major piece of our government's agenda under way.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'm happy that the Minister of Natural Resources took the advice I gave him on Monday to visit the very serious forest fire situation. I'm also glad that it's of great concern to him, because for those of us who live in the north it's of immeasurable concern. I'm glad he has invoked the emergency area order and the restricted fire zone, because those are not only two things that should be invoked but also a way of controlling.

But the best control that government could have had was to ensure that the 17 of the 45 fire bases had remained open, because forest fires are burning right now in the areas where there were the fire stations, and no one should take responsibility for that except the minister. They still haven't got their act in order. They still don't know how to manage forest fires effectively. The downloading is taking place; it's in disarray. The front-line workers may be telling you that it's working better than they expected, but they also told you, and you know, that it's not working as well as it was last year and in previous years.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): We've been waiting for some time, in fact two years, for this legislation that's coming today, which affects everyone in Ontario who is in need of social assistance. We have some significant concerns with Ontario Works. The biggest questions are still out there. You will introduce legislation today, but the significant details are not known. You are downloading the administration of this service to the municipal level and they don't know what you want. You need a computer system that is so large, and the programs have not been written nor has the computer system been selected that is going to be used by every city and town that you will require to institute Ontario Works. And who pays for the program?

You say you're thanking municipal partners for helping you in this? Let me tell you today, Minister, the municipalities and towns across Ontario are not saying thank you; they're saying "Thanks for nothing." You haven't given them the tools. You are creating probably the biggest chaotic mess since your partner in crime at FSP. We're talking about the transition of hundreds of thousands of people, with a significant transition period. If this were a business and it were the Attorney General, we would have fired him a long time ago for the mess he made in family support.

We have significant concerns about how all this will be administered through some computer system that we still don't even know exists and that your own ministry officials are saying will not be available for a minimum of two years; those are your own people telling us not for two years.

We have some significant concerns around the definition for those who are disabled and who are in need of assistance. Even today, we still don't know how those criteria have changed. All we know is that the criteria are changing and we have no detail again. In fact, it will likely all be controlled by regulation, which will allow you to make the changes you want without the benefit of debate in this House, and this is very much par for the course.

You talk about fraud in the system. I suggest that you need people to root out that fraud. You are laying off hundreds of people in your own ministry. These are the same individuals who have been out there detecting fraud. You have spent millions of dollars detecting fraud, only to find that you have saved much less than you spent on trying to detect it. We have significant concerns about your new fraud squad that's going to go out there and detect it. You need your computer system in place to help you detect that fraud. Much of that is mismanagement by your ministry because you don't have the appropriate system in place to detect it, and the cost of that now will be borne by your transfer partners, all those delivery agents, the cities and towns across Ontario.

Your announcement today does nothing to allay any fears of those who are in need of assistance, who currently get it and who may not. You have some 158,000 people currently in your family benefits program who are disabled. How will those people be moved over? We have significant concerns.

You talked about the key promises you made in your Common Sense Revolution. A significant one was no cuts to the disabled, but we see that in your two years of government so far, you have not lived up to that promise.

We are looking forward to the details. We are waiting to see regulation. I will tell you this: You don't need new acts and new legislation to change names and change titles. We want to know what you're really doing to the people who need help in this province.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): The member for Beaches-Woodbine has already expressed on behalf of this caucus her cautious support and approval of the principles behind the Ontario disability support programmette.

However, it remains to see the act and then, more importantly, the regulations. We have great concerns about the extent to which the definition of "disability" might become increasingly restrictive and the punishment that may be meted out to people who don't meet an excessively high threshold to pass that standard.

Having said that, I tell you that this minister, like her predecessor, continues to ignore and deny the reality of growing poverty in this province. Over 400,000 recipients of social assistance are but children, and this minister chooses to punish them for the increasingly higher numbers of unemployed, for the increasing joblessness, the increasing poverty, the increasing homelessness this province is experiencing under the regime of Harris and his gang here at Queen's Park.

This minister speaks with grossly inflated figures about participation in workfare. Today she speaks of some 20,000; it's impossible that that number could be arrived at even with great generosity. Twenty thousand, and in Algoma there are only 60 or 90 people, less than 7% of all people receiving benefits, participating in their so-called workfare program; in Muskoka, a mere 35, about 3% of the welfare caseload, are participating in their so-called workfare program.

This minister has nothing but disdain for the poor in our province, for the unemployed. There is nothing in her program that will create job training, that will provide for re-education and upgrading of educational skills so that people can participate or even attempt to participate in the contemporary workforce. For her to talk about Ontario Works in the context of the current abolition of rent controls, in the context of the abandonment of adult education, in the context of the abandonment of women by way of underfunding and eliminating the funding for women's programs, is beyond jokeable. It's merely pathetic.

This minister with her Ontario Works program is merely going to continue to punish the poor for being unemployed. This government promised 725,000 jobs. Instead we get smoke and mirrors and a retitled general welfare assistance program. This government told us we were going to get jobs. Instead we got smoke and mirrors. Food bank use has continued to grow throughout the province. Last fall here in the city of Toronto, 13 households were evicted every day from their rental units because this government's cuts forced them to choose food over rent.

This government chooses to pay for its tax cut -- two thirds of which is going to go to the top 10% of income-earners and not a penny of which is going to create a single job, a single new job here in Ontario. This government prefers its phoney tax cut, its scam on the working and middle-class and poor of this province, two thirds of which is going to the top 10% of income-earners, over the welfare and wellbeing and futures of over 400,000 poor children in this province. Shame on them. This is a pathetic minister.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): What the Minister of Natural Resources tried to pass off today is simply incredible. What he doesn't mention is that if you look at the fire attack bases that were closed by his government, the bases at Temagami, Gogama, Elk Lake, Kapuskasing, Kirkland Lake, they are either right in the middle or surround the area of forests burning up right now.

What he doesn't mention is that the two fire attack bases he kept open were in his own riding and the Minister of Finance's riding, two places where we hardly ever have forest fires in the province. We've got a minister here who's more interested in putting fire attack bases in Conservative ridings than he is in putting them in places where they can fight forest fires. That's what's going on.

But it's worse than that. The reality is that the thousands of MNR staff who have been cut by this minister are in fact the MNR staff who are the backup forest firefighting crews. This minister didn't realize that. They are the people you immediately bring in when forest fires start to get out of control. So it's not just closing the attack bases; you've shredded the second-line capacity of MNR to fight fires.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): With us today is the Chancellor of the Republic of Lithuania, Jurgis Razma. Welcome.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism responsible for small business. I want to talk about your government's scheme to increase municipal property taxes and its effect on small business.

We know that many people across this province are going to see dramatic increases in their property taxes. In some cases taxes will more than double. It's small business that's going to pay the price. You're shifting the burden of business taxes from the bank towers to the corner stores. Reports say some businesses will face tax increases of over 200%. You say that won't happen, yet you have given small businesses no real assurances. This is just another example of your government downloading costs and responsibilities to pay for your income tax decrease. How do you expect small businesses to cope with this massive increase in property taxes?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): Let me just say that this government is doing a great deal for small business. You have to go back to what the last two budgets have done for small business. The small business community is delighted with the personal income tax reduction of 30%. That is a big, big saving for many small businesses and provides the cash flow for small businesses to put back into their businesses and hire more people. That creates jobs and economic development.

Also, the fact that the employer health tax has been eliminated on the first $400,000 of payroll has eliminated something like 80% of businesses from paying any employer health tax at all. That means there could be a saving of up to $10,000 for a small business. That kind of money can be used by small businesses to hire more people, to improve their equipment, to improve their facilities. In other words, we are doing a great deal for small business, particularly in the tax field.

Mr Cordiano: This minister is sitting on his hands doing precious little to protect small businesses against these huge increases, the burden that's going to be transferred from big businesses to small businesses.

You've isolated the municipalities and left them to figure out how they're going to cope with the $1.6-billion cut in the business occupancy tax, then you turn around and tell small businesses that if they don't like it they should complain to municipalities across this province. The Minister of Finance promised that he would introduce a companion piece of legislation to protect small business from these massive increases, but we haven't seen that yet. Where's the bill? We know you're committed to the deep pockets of your big business friends, but what are you doing to protect small businesses from these huge increases?

Hon Mr Saunderson: May I just point out to the people in the opposition benches that the previous two governments raised taxes 65 times, and of those 65 tax increases 11 were income tax increases. That's a very shocking thing.

This is Tourism Awareness Week, and the tourism industry is the quintessential small business. I've had the pleasure of travelling this province this week visiting our small business tourism establishments, not only hotels and resorts but also tourism activity centres. They are saying to us: "Don't you stop doing what you're doing. You keep right on doing it. You are helping small business. We want you to keep on doing what you're doing."

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

Hon Mr Saunderson: I don't care what those people over there say. They don't like to hear the good news, the jobs that are being created; 101,000 new jobs in the last three months says a lot about --

The Speaker: Thank you.


Mr Cordiano: It's obvious this minister hasn't got a clue. Does he sit at the same cabinet table as his Minister of Finance? He should be telling the Minister of Finance that he promised small businesses he would introduce a companion piece of legislation to protect them against the massive increases in property taxes we'll be seeing as a result of your downloading on to municipalities, and as a result of the revenue that's been lost by lifting the business occupancy tax.

Minister, it's a straightforward question: When are you going to stand up and protect small businesses? You are the minister responsible for small business. You are simply shirking your responsibility when you're not standing up in cabinet and defending small business owners. They're going to be hurt badly by these changes and you're doing nothing. When are you going to stand up and defend the interests of small business? When are you going to do that?

Hon Mr Saunderson: It always amazes me with these questions that never is there any solution offered by those people over there as to what they would do.

Interjection: Raise taxes.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Yes, that's what they would do, raise taxes.


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Saunderson: On the new assessment system, which has been raised today, we know the bill is in process and we're very committed to it. What it provides is for the municipalities to have a special mill rate for small business, and that is going to be a very important thing for small businesses. They will have consideration of the fact that they are small businesses and that they cannot stand big changes to the tax system. In the new assessment system, the municipalities will have a chance to grant a special mill rate to small businesses. That says a lot about what this government is doing for small business and I'm pleased with that.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question today for the Minister of Health. On February 5 of this year Ed Whitehill died in an emergency room hallway in Peterborough. This week I asked you about Ed Whitehill, who died as one of 25 people who were forced to be on stretchers in the hallway. You related to us a story from when you were apparently minister in exile, where you saw the account of Mr Whitehill's death on television and you called the deputy minister and said to her, "Margaret, they must have lined those patients up in the hallway" -- "they" being the hospital staff -- "and called in the media." You're alleging that the staff at Peterborough Civic Hospital did this as a media stunt. You're wrong. That was a condition that existed there for weeks and it's a condition that exists there today.

I want to know if you're going to stick with this bully attitude of your government, with this see-no-evil pretence that there's nothing wrong with the health care system. Will you apologize to the people of --

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

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The incident of the gentleman dying is quite separate from the CBC report I referred to in the Hansard that the honourable member has. At the time, it was apparent to me and subsequently apparent to others who have looked at the situation that more could have been done at the hospital with respect to the patients who, for about three nights, were all out in the hallway when there were empty rooms behind them. To note that something could be done, once the phone call was made, all the patients were put back in the rooms within a very few hours. So I make no apology for that and I make no apology for the phone call.

Subsequently the hospital realized it had some problems. It is a very cooperative atmosphere in Peterborough this day, so the honourable member shouldn't be trying to add dynamite to something where there is no fuse. There is an investigator in there working with the hospital, with very good cooperation on both sides.

Mr Kennedy: I've spoken to the staff in Peterborough today and I can assure you that following your comments there is much less than a spirit of cooperation. They have hospital records to show, that demonstrate conclusively, there has been an average of 15 people in the hallway of the emergency room. Minister, you're completely wrong. They can prove it to you. The head of nursing can prove it to you. The head of emergency can prove it to you.

You cut $3.4 million from Peterborough Civic Hospital. Your ministry staff counselled them to close 30 beds last December. The staff told you in October this would hurt patients. They have been there day after day in that emergency room hallway. You cut their care. You took the money away to fund those beds.

Minister, we see how tired you are in your position. We see how you cannot bring yourself to deal with your responsibility, but for the sake of the Whitehill family, for the people of Peterborough, the people of Ontario, if you had the gumption, you should be resigning, but at least apologize --

The Speaker: Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: There are two sides to the story which I and the honourable member could not disclose -- the other side of the patient's story in the hallway. While you're making calls, you may want to talk to the nurses who attended to that patient.

Second, ministry staff are at the civic hospital as we speak doing two reviews, one operational review and one clinical review. To give the hospital the benefit of the doubt, we're there. It's a cooperative atmosphere. The investigator has already concluded the report and I think the board recently made that report public. There are a number of steps the hospital has to take and the ministry will take to ensure care improves at that hospital. To simplify this situation, as you are, does injustice to the hospital and to the ministry staff who are trying to make things better for the patients in Peterborough.

Mr Kennedy: Minister, how dare you? How dare you stand in your place and try to draw attention away from the fact that you accused front-line nurses and doctors of placing Mr Whitehill in a situation that led to his death in a condition of ignominy in a hospital emergency room hallway, that they did that for a media stunt simply to direct blame away from where it belongs, Minister, from you -- you cut $3.4 million.

There are dozens of hospitals, three of them in Hamilton, St Joseph's right here in Toronto, St Mike's, all over the province, that are having to put their patients for three, four or eight days in emergency room hallways because you won't fund them. You should at least apologize. You cannot continue to scapegoat the front-line staff. You cannot ignore the families of people whom you have hurt through your rampant cuts in this province. The facts will out in this instance.

The Speaker: The question, please.

Mr Kennedy: Minister, we'll give you one last opportunity. Will you apologize to the staff of Peterborough Civic, to the people of Peterborough and to the Whitehill family?

Hon Mr Wilson: If there's any indication -- some of the administration that was there at the time of this incident aren't there any more. The hospital board and the people who are there now are trying very hard and working in a cooperative atmosphere. I will say for the record, as I've said in this House before and I've said in committee, the 20 beds they closed were closed without my permission or Mr Johnson's permission and the hospital admitted at the time that they prematurely closed some beds and left --


Hon Mr Wilson: No, I don't think I'm blaming them. It's just they prematurely closed some beds and some other pieces weren't in place and we had the unfortunate incident of people in the hallway. This is not related to the patient's death. I won't say more than that. It's not related to that death and to mix the two up does an injustice to the patient's family, it puts fearmongering in that community when people are working very hard to give the best patient care possible at the Peterborough Civic Hospital.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Today you begin public hearings on your tenant ejection legislation. Your bill will bring rent control to an end and lead to higher rents.

We know you must have a strategy to bring some developers together to have them announce that they are willing to build more affordable housing. We're sure you must have a strategy where you'll have a group of developers on stage with you, who will say, "We will build more affordable housing if the government will only pass Bill 96 and gut rent control.

I'm waiting for my invitation. I'm waiting for this happy announcement that developers are about to build more affordable housing. Could you give us the date of your announcement, name the developers involved and state how many affordable rental units will be guaranteed by the gutting of rent control and the passage of Bill 96?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I can absolutely guarantee the member of the third party that I will ensure he gets an invitation when that happens. It will happen, because the changes we're making to the Rent Control Act are among the issues that developers and people who are in the apartment-building business have said is a restriction to their getting back into the business.

It's not the only issue; there are a number of other issues. Property tax is probably the number one culprit, because as all members know, tenants pay up to four times the amount of property tax people in single-family dwellings do. We're going to address that issue as well. We're going to give municipalities the opportunity to address that problem, with a number of other issues. We have commitments from the building industry that if we resolve all of the issues that have been planted in their face by previous governments, they will get out there and build. I'm confident they will.

Mr Hampton: I'm glad to hear the minister say that such an announcement is going to be held, because we're going to ask day in and day out for our invitation. When this possibility happens, we're going to go and ask those same developers about their concern over the GST and about their property taxes, which we know are going to increase.

The fact of the matter is, you don't have any guarantees. Even the people who are appearing at the hearings right now continue to raise the issues of property taxes and the application of the GST. Those are the real obstacles to more affordable housing.

If you can't guarantee everything, if you can't guarantee new housing because the GST and higher property taxes stand in the way, why are you gutting rent control, why are you attacking tenants, why are you going to force them into a situation where their rents are going to go up and up? You can't guarantee any new housing. Why don't you deal with the real issues instead of attacking tenants?

Hon Mr Leach: What we can guarantee is that nobody is going to build under the flawed system that's in place at the present time, the system that was put in place to ensure that tenants never have an option. Nobody would ever build a rental building under the silly system your government put in place. We have at least 6,000 people coming into the rental housing market every year. Last year in Metropolitan Toronto, 37 units were constructed. That is shameful. The reason they won't build is because of the very flawed, dumb system that government put in in 1992.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): No one is building, not even under this so-called government that is supposed to be creating a climate for building. Even under these people, they're not building and neither is the private sector.

But I have another question of this minister. This morning you said, "We're going to get tough with property owners who don't maintain their buildings." Your so-called tenant protection package, however, gets rid of rent freezes on buildings where there has been a municipal work order. Under the current NDP law, if a bad landlord doesn't maintain that building, he doesn't get a rent increase. Under Bill 96, your tenant protection bill, if you don't maintain your building, you get rewarded.

Minister, if you care for tenants, as you say you do, then are you willing to amend Bill 96 to keep automatic rent freezes on buildings that have a municipal work order? Are you willing to make that amendment, yes or no?

Hon Mr Leach: Tenants want the units repaired. Under the current, flawed system, they can go in and get a rent freeze. That doesn't get the thing repaired. We want to give municipal bylaw enforcement officers the opportunity to come in and set a work order and ensure that work order is carried out. If the work order isn't carried out, the municipalities will have the authority under this legislation to go in and do the work, complete the work, get the building back in good shape and then charge the landlord back on his property tax. What we're trying to do is make sure the disgraceful situation that exists at the present time is corrected and tenants finally have some rights to make sure their buildings are kept in good repair. This legislation does that.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Community and Social Services: We listened today as you talked about your Ontario Works program. You seem to want to slide over the fact that your Ontario Works program, the essential of which is your workfare program, hasn't exactly worked so far. It raises a number of issues.

For example, the participation rates for Ontario Works are minimal so far. The fact of the matter is there is very little in the way of job training. The fact of the matter is we haven't seen the jobs. The fact of the matter is that despite the fact you've been out there harassing municipalities and community organizations, they're simply saying: "This is inadequate. This doesn't work."

How are you going to guarantee to people who desperately want to work that the transition to Ontario Works isn't going to be the same bungling that has marked your handling of social assistance to date and the same kind of bungling that we've seen with the family support plan, where you essentially victimized the poorest --

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

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): If the honourable member thinks Ontario Works is bungling, he certainly hasn't been out there in the communities where it's up, running and working. I have been out there; I've talked to the people on welfare who have been participating, who are pleased to have the opportunities. I've talked to the administrators. There are all kinds of stacks of clippings out there about what's happening in those 23 communities where they're getting it up and running.

At the same time as the honourable member would sit there and make complaints -- first they say we're not moving fast enough, then they're saying we're moving too fast -- last year when we announced Ontario Works we clearly said it would be phased-in implementation across the province, community by community. That is exactly what's happening.

People on welfare want the opportunities to get off welfare. They don't want to be there. Ontario Works is the program that is going to help them get off welfare.

Mr Hampton: People on social assistance want jobs. They want to work. That's not what they're finding right now. They aren't finding the jobs and they aren't finding anything in your Ontario Works that gives them any assistance, that gives them any help whatsoever.

It's even more serious than that. Your change to the new system is part and parcel of the download of services to municipalities. What you're going to try to do here is download about 200,000 social assistance cases on to municipalities. But your download talks are in chaos. In fact, your download talks, the more we hear about them, are going worse and worse. Can you tell us, have you worked out with the municipalities how they're going to take on 200,000 more social assistance cases, how you're going to force down on to them 200,000 more?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I hate to disillusion the honourable member across the way, but there are indeed jobs out there. As he heard the Treasurer mention the other day, we've had a net new job increase in this province of over 1,000 jobs per day. That is a good testament to the strength of the economy and the fact there are jobs out there. The problem is that for many people on social assistance they lack the skills or other supports they need to get off the system. That's what Ontario Works will provide for them.

The other thing is that if they weren't finding the jobs, we would not have had an almost 22% reduction in the number of people on general welfare, an unprecedented drop in the number of people having to rely on social assistance.

The other thing I would like to remind the honourable member of is that, with all due respect, many communities are already administering the family benefits component, are already administering sole support parents. We are moving to single-tier delivery at the municipal level because it works the best and they have the proven track record to do that.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): More and more, this minister stands and responds like her colleague the Attorney General. The fact is that unemployment in Niagara region is up to 10.9%, and for young people it's double that; the fact is that jobs aren't there for large and increasing numbers of women and men, young women and men and their parents who want to work.

One of the downloading issues that municipalities have to contend with is with respect to children. We already know that services are inadequate, in largest part due to the cuts you've already imposed. Now you're going to force single parents to participate in your workfare program, but you haven't said what's going to happen to their kids.

Just how are child care costs going to be covered? Are we going to see something in legislation? Are we going to see programs for parents who are involved in workfare that extend beyond 3 and 3:30 in the afternoon? Are you going to allow municipalities perhaps to issue vouchers for unregulated care?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Sole-support parents, I don't believe, should be denied the opportunity to get back into the workforce. Most of those parents want jobs. Most of those parents recognize, and the research will back this up, that they and their children, their families, are better off if they are in the workforce. They want those opportunities and I don't believe we should deny them.

Yes, sole-support parents will be expected to participate in Ontario Works. For those with school-age children, those who require day care assistance, that assistance will indeed be there for them as it is currently, because we want to make sure those individuals have the opportunity.

I would like to remind the honourable member that the third party has said that most people want jobs. I agree, but the welfare system they left us with trapped one in 10 Ontarians in welfare -- not where they wanted to be. Even my predecessor Tony Silipo, a member of the previous government, admitted the welfare system isn't working.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. On March 27 I wrote to you with concerns about the apparent disrepair and disarray and decay of our provincial highways. I asked you at that time: "Would you comment if the number of potholes and the state of disrepair has increased? If so, has that manifested itself in the number of lawsuits being increased as well?"

I thank you for your reply on June 3. In it you stated very clearly, "There has been no noticeable increase in complaints or lawsuits for the highway system in general." That's a direct quote, Minister. Do you still stand by those words?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly the letter we wrote back to him was accurate as far as the information the ministry had at its disposal at the time.

We are working towards rehabilitating our highway system and we have a substantial investment of over $30 billion, and we're trying to utilize the limited dollars we have in making sure our highways are maintained in a safe manner. We could use more influx of funds, absolutely. I think there is still a lot more to do. But we're going to continue to make sure we put those dollars, the limited dollars we have, into highway infrastructure repairs.

Mr Bartolucci: I think we have a case here of Palladini versus Palladini. Minister, I have a document from your office, signed by you, indicating that claims against your ministry for negligent highway repair have gone up over 600% in two years. You said that with the information you had you wrote that letter. I asked for and was given this information as of February 18, so you had the information.

Can you please explain to this House how you as minister could sign off this letter, which said there hadn't been an increase, when you signed this letter which indicated that between 1994 and 1997 there had been an increase, from 365 cases to 2,281 cases, of 624%? Which Palladini should we believe?

Hon Mr Palladini: In spite of the things the member across the way is saying, I just want him to know that he is still a pal of mine in some ways.

First of all, I don't know whether you're comparing apples with oranges, but as far as the information the member is making reference to, I'd certainly be delighted to take a look and spend some time with him and my staff to show him that the letter I wrote was correct as far as additional increases in 1997, based on the letter he sent to me in January. But the message is very clear.

I would like to say to the honourable member that we have a highway infrastructure repair problem. The auditor said that 60% of all roads are badly in need of repairs and we have invested the limited dollars we have in making sure that work is done.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a question to the Minister of Labour. I have another question about your labour transition instability legislation.

Most people are now aware that your bill picks a fight with public sector workers and their unions in a clear attempt to distract attention away from your government's bungled cuts and downloading. But under the cover of your war with labour, your bill also makes an unrelated sneak attack on the rights and paycheques of low-paid women workers. In fact, you're making several cowardly changes to the pay equity law, the very law that is supposed to guarantee fair pay for women in this province.

One of these changes was today highlighted at a news conference by Mary Cornish of the Equal Pay Coalition. She pointed out that "bad bosses will be rewarded" if they have disregarded the law in the past. Under your changes, bad bosses will no longer be responsible for back pay when they get caught. This is not fair to good employers who have made the adjustments. Why are you rewarding bad bosses?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): First of all, I think it's important to recognize that the changes we introduced and made last week really are an attempt to ensure that as the restructuring takes place, all of the labour issues --

Mr Christopherson: Answer the question.

Hon Mrs Witmer: -- are dealt with in an expeditious manner and that each and every employee can be treated fairly.

Mr Christopherson: Pay equity.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Now I'd like to focus on pay equity. I would just remind you that this government has committed up to $500 million to the broader public sector. In fact, that was the largest payment that was made by any government in the past, so we certainly have demonstrated our commitment.

I would also remind you that we have had a review done of pay equity, that we have been told we have moved beyond the initial phase of pay equity and we are now into a maintenance mode. What we are endeavouring to do here is to make sure that as we restructure, again, we can facilitate a smooth restructuring in the broader public sector --

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

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): The reality is, you're cutting the pay for some of the lowest-paid women workers in Ontario. You've already cut out 1,000 of them. Furthermore, you cancelled the comprehensive study the NDP had planned on and just got a short study done to give you the information you wanted.

Your government is setting back the clock on fairness to women in this province in every single way. You keep standing there and saying you're committed to pay equity, but at every opportunity you are rolling back the rights to fair pay for women who fought so long and so hard to achieve it.

The current law protects women's pay equity in the case of an amalgamation or sale of a business. This is just simple fairness. Don't you see that? When a woman has gained fair pay under the law, she shouldn't lose it as a result of amalgamations and downloading, cuts to hospitals and classrooms and other things you're doing.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Ms Churley: This is a shocking betrayal of the working women in Ontario. Will you reverse this odious piece of legislation? Will you announce that today?

Hon Mrs Witmer: It's obvious that the members opposite have not looked at Bill 136 as it was written. There is no attempt by the government to determine any outcomes, and for them to presume that there are going to be these changes in pay equity -- it's simply not written in any of the acts. Unlike the social contract which was introduced by the NDP, which did determine outcomes, did roll back wages and did determine there were to be days taken off, our act does not in any way, shape or form indicate there are going to be decreases.



Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Earlier today I had the opportunity to have my first private member's hour since being elected in 1995, and I chose to look at the importance of the agrifood industry since I represent what I believe to be the largest agricultural region in Ontario -- we have a little battle about that lots of times in this caucus.

The thing I think is important is that all the parties unanimously agreed with me that the agrifood industry is very important to our rural communities and also to the provincial economy. I was wondering if you could take this opportunity today to discuss the new agricultural products, their uses and how we're promoting them within the Ministry of Agriculture.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank my colleague from Huron, and I want to congratulate her for having her resolution adopted unanimously by this House this morning.

The Grow Ontario program, which brought $10 million of public funds to the agrifood industry, matched by more than $10 million from the private sector, is a very important step. We have invested $8 million in the ethanol industry, a brand-new industry in Chatham and in Cornwall, and it will be providing new markets for corn and other grains.

The three-year, $30-million rural job creation project is a most important project to rural Ontario and will be creating jobs in the agrifood sector along with other sectors in rural Ontario. Through the enhanced partnership between the ministry, the University of Guelph and our three agricultural colleges, we have seen the numbers of students registering for next year's program increase by double-digit numbers. Our young people have confidence in the agrifood sector, and this government is supporting the agrifood sector as much as anyone can ever hope for.

Mrs Johns: Along with promoting product and allowing the organizations and industries within my community to be able to compete, they also have to be able to compete in new areas as a result of changing technology and their ability to increase the yields within their land areas. I was wondering if you could tell us what barriers to agriculture have been removed as a result of your tenure as the Minister of Agriculture.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I'm proud to say on behalf of this government that we've cut red tape. We're cutting income taxes, something the two previous governments have gone against completely. They increased taxes considerably. We repealed Bill 91 and Bill 40, which would have allowed the unionization of the family farm, which we feel would have been a very negative move. We reformed the taxation system. The opposition, when they were in government, told us that the taxation system needed to be reformed, that the farm tax rebate was out of kilter, and we have fixed it and I am proud to say we have fixed it.

We have extended the sales tax rebate on capital improvements, which is promoting capital construction, because remember, and I want all my colleagues to know this, for every $1 billion of agrifood production, there are 15,000 additional, new jobs in this province. That's the importance of the agrifood sector.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. In the city of Hamilton, we today face a crisis with regard to waiting lists in emergency hip surgery, in hip replacement surgery. Waiting lists of over a year are very common with a number of physicians we checked with, a number of specialists. Last week an 87-year-old woman had to wait four days for emergency hip surgery after a fall, because of a lack of space and a lack of ability in operating rooms.

Dr Frank Smith, a leading orthopaedic surgeon in the city of Hamilton says: "There are no beds in the hospital. There are no beds in the emergency department. It's just an absolute crisis."

What did you do, Minister? You came in in March with your dog-and-pony show, bells and whistles on, and you announced $750,000. Four months later, not one Hamilton hospital has seen one cent of this supposed new money you keep talking about. It's real money, you keep telling us. All you do is keep announcing it while people are waiting over a year, while people are waiting days for surgery.

Minister, will you give me today at the end of question period the cheque that you promised in March to bring to the Hamilton hospitals tonight?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The hospital has been contacted in regard to the $3-million announcement I made in March and they were made aware of their allocation just after that time. We hope they're able to go ahead with the surgeries. We're working with them right now to make sure people don't have to wait as long as indicated in the media articles, which I agree with the honourable member is a ridiculous amount of time.

When a province like this, that spends 20% more per person on health care than anyone else in Canada, has the waiting lists we have, that tells me that we couldn't restructure the health care system fast enough. The rest of Canada has restructured. Their waiting lists in Winnipeg and in BC today are significantly lower than ours. Their surgery numbers are up because they've restructured. We'll be encouraging even more rapid restructuring in the Hamilton area. As a result of the stories we've been getting in the past few weeks from that area, restructuring is clearly long overdue.

Mr Agostino: Minister, you don't seem to get it. The reason this is happening is because you have cut over $56 million out of Hamilton hospitals. It's that simple. It has nothing to do with restructuring. It has nothing to do with your destruction task force that's going through Ontario. You cut $56 million. That is why there are waiting lists. That is why people are waiting in emergency departments for days and days.

Most surgeons have waiting lists of over a year. Dr Smith has 280 people on a waiting list. Dr David Wismer has over 100 people. Seniors are being forced into maternity wards and paediatric departments after surgery because there are no beds, because you took the money away from the Hamilton hospitals.

What I don't understand, Minister, is why you came in in March and made this great, grand announcement and, at the same time, shut them out for the last four months. There are stories in the Hamilton Spectator: "Some People `Too Old for Hip Surgery.' Elderly Pay Price for Budget Cuts." Minister, you don't understand. It is your cuts. It is your decision to basically shaft hospitals across Ontario. Again, will you, tomorrow morning, if you won't give me the cheque today, send the money you committed --

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

Hon Mr Wilson: The hospital is free to go ahead and do the surgeries and they'll be reimbursed as part of the regular budgetary process that every government has followed for decades in this province.

Mr Agostino: The money you promised a few months ago.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East, come to order.

Hon Mr Wilson: The money is promised and the money is flowing. Mr Speaker, I will also remind him that we put unprecedented amounts of money that we've taken from savings we've seen in the system and reinvested every penny.

Mr Agostino: Where's the money? We haven't seen any of it yet.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East, I'm warning you to come to order. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: From savings we've seen in administration in waste and duplication --

Mr Agostino: Where's the money? Show me the money.

Hon Mr Wilson: -- we put $4.8 million for replacement joints into the system in 1995 --

Mr Agostino: Where is it, Jim?

The Speaker: I've warned you three times. I name the member for Hamilton East.

Mr Agostino was escorted from the chamber.

The Speaker: Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: In addition, we put $3 million in in March, which is new money that Dr Smith didn't have last year, and the money we put in last year is money he didn't have the year before. Also, the finance minister announced $2.1 million for this area in the recent budget, which will give us a network. Hamilton has very long waiting lists but they are shorter in other parts of the province. Like our cardiac network, we're going to establish a computer system so that the surgeons can put everybody into that system and they can get faster services in areas where there is more capacity. For the short term, it will mean that some patients have to travel. We will look after that, but it is one way to use the capacity we have in the rest of the system so that all the pressure isn't on the Hamilton hospitals.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have another question to the Minister of Labour. Today there were leaders from five major public sector unions who came here to Queen's Park to accept the offer your Premier made to extend to public sector workers the same agreement that your government made with Ontario's doctors. Until now, your government has refused to give public sector workers the same respect and treatment, in terms of process and in terms of dollars, that you have now given to Ontario doctors. It's interesting: All that process and money flowed after the doctors threatened to withdraw services.

Minister, my question is this: When your Premier made that offer, was he being sincere or was he just being Mr Silly?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I'm sure that when the statement was made the Premier certainly was quite sincere in his comments and --

Mr Christopherson: I would have liked to hear the "and" part. Let's give you an opportunity to clarify this a bit. The Premier is away today, and that's understandable; these things happen. The labour leaders left their cards at the Premier's office. They're prepared to meet. What I would like from you, Minister, since we're talking about labour negotiations, is, will you today on behalf of your government commit to ensuring that there's a meeting between these labour leaders and your Premier? It looks to me like we're close to a deal. The labour leaders believe that the offer the doctors got would be better for their members than anything else they've heard from you, and if your Premier is offering that package, I think we might have something here. Will you commit today to ensure that your Premier meets with these labour leaders so we can get close to ratifying the agreement he's offered?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I'll just complete what I was going to say. The point I wanted to make and that maybe you're not aware of is the fact that the doctors got absolutely no increase in wages. I think it's extremely important that you have that information.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, about Tourism Awareness Week in Ontario. As you're aware from my statement earlier this week, Tourism Awareness Week was kicked off in my riding by the Premier last Saturday. I am sure you're aware of the economic importance of tourism in my riding. I can tell you that the people in Muskoka-Georgian Bay are all gearing up for this year's tourism season. But in other parts of the province there may not be an awareness of the economic importance of this particular industry. Can you advise the House how the tourism industry impacts in Ontario economically?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'd like to respond to the very good question from the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay. I'd preface my response by saying that this is Tourism Awareness Week. It's the first time any attempt has been made, over the last five years at least, to feature tourism at all during the course of a year, so it's a very special week.

There are six key messages I'd like to give to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay and for his constituents and other people in Ontario. First of all, there are 413,000 people who have jobs in tourism. That's a large number. The wages and salaries of the tourism industry total $9.4 billion. Overall it's a $13.6-billion industry for this province. Fourth, it generates $2 billion in tax revenues for the province. Item 5 I'd like to mention is that there are 66,000 businesses in tourism; and number 6, often tourism is the first job many people have as they start their careers.

Mr Grimmett: My supplementary relates to the impact of tourism in northern Ontario. This Saturday I have the opportunity to welcome Santa Claus back to his summer home in Bracebridge. But during the winter no doubt he spends part of his time in northern Ontario, and I'm sure there are people in northern Ontario who are interested in how our government is dealing with tourism issues in the north. Does northern Ontario get the benefits from tourism that our government can get for it?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm very happy to know that Santa Claus has arrived again and has been properly received.


Hon Mr Saunderson: I can see the humour over there.

But there is a very serious answer to this question. There are 26,000 tourism jobs in northern Ontario. It is a $1-billion industry to the north. Tourism provides 7.3% of the total employment in the north. When we look at the north's natural wonders, they are the major draws for tourists in northern Ontario. The major activities tourists participate in are visiting the magnificent parks, camping, hunting and fishing. It really is a wilderness experience in the north. Part of our government's new resource-based tourism policy that we have just announced perfectly reflects what is available in the north.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Today you announced Ontario Works, which will extend workfare to sole-support parents with children in school. As you know, children are in school about eight months of the year and, as you also know, there will be other requirements for child care.

Your own Minister of Finance was on national television admitting that last year's budget for child care was indeed not spent; that it was changed this time around to tax credits, which will allow unregulated, unlicensed child care paid for by government.

In Metro Toronto alone there is a waiting list of 8,500 individuals on social assistance who need child care; in fact, that has been what is preventing them from getting into the workforce. Your announcement today concerns adding these individuals to workfare. Tell me how these spaces are suddenly going to be created when your own government has admitted to being a complete failure in the area of child care.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): This government admitted no such thing. What the finance minister was talking about was the additional, new money we have put into child care in this province. That's what is going to low-income parents who have great difficulty affording any kind of child care, regulated or unregulated. That's why they need extra support.

I'd also like to remind the honourable member that the reason the full child care budget was not spent was not because the province was not committed to it but because our 80 cents was on the table. As you know, we cost-share with municipalities. We pay 80%, they pay 20%. Unfortunately, our 80 cents for those fee subsidies were there on the table but the municipalities, for many reasons, were not able to pick up the 20 cents and therefore people on the waiting lists were still there.

That's one reason we are changing how we're delivering child care in this province, so we can stop that problem. That's one reason we're making it a mandatory service for municipalities, so we can actually meet the needs of more parents who need child care to get jobs and to stay in the workforce.

Mrs Pupatello: The minister raises a very interesting example about what ultimately will ruin a program, and that is that the municipalities are not prepared to enforce this mandated program by the province. You don't have a computer system in place, and won't for two years, to even track this. You will have more fraud and abuse than you have currently because you don't have a system in place.

We saw the dismal failure of your family support program, which only involved 150,000, which is a huge number of families out there. We would have fired that man if this indeed were run as a business, as you say. In this instance you're talking about some 500,000 families. I'd like to see exactly how you expect to have this. You cannot operate in isolation.

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

Mrs Pupatello: My question is this: The Ministry of Ed is cutting adult education. The very things that are the criteria for Ontario Works are things your own --

The Speaker: Thank you.


Hon Mrs Ecker: To the honourable member, with all due respect, I'm having difficulty getting the focus of her question. First of all, the Ontario Works legislation does indeed have resources to help people on the system who need supports like training. There will be programs for people who need training so they can get off welfare. That's what they want to do. That's certainly what the program is planned to do.

Second, the new legislation we are bringing in is to fully implement what is already happening out there. Municipalities currently deliver half the welfare system. They're currently the level that's delivering Ontario Works. Many of those municipalities are also handling the caseload of sole-support parents. There is nothing new about that. Ontario is the only province that has this very wasteful and duplicative two-level delivery system, where you've got two levels of government in it. No other province does it that way, because they recognize it wastes a lot of money.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Municipalities are quite capable of delivering welfare. They've been involved in the system for about 100 years. We're quite prepared to work with them as we make this program fight fraud --

The Speaker: Thank you.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Minister of Economic Development. The minister knows, and I advised his office on March 20 when the news broke, about the bankruptcy of Sammi, a Korean-based company and the owner of Atlas Specialty Steels in Welland, that the future of Atlas Specialty Steels and its almost 1,000 jobs is very much at risk. I'd like to ask the minister what he and his government have been doing to ensure a future for Atlas Specialty Steels in Ontario in view of the major employment component they provide and the important part they are of the Ontario economy.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): In response to the question from the member for Welland-Thorold, I'd like to say that first of all we are concerned about the uncertainty this whole situation has created. Any time jobs are threatened, of course this government is concerned, just as the member is.

The Canadian company has filed for protection against its creditors. It has until July 15, 1997, to complete its negotiations and to file a plan which might allow it to carry on.

Both Canadian operations of this company have been profitable for the last three years, both in Welland and the branch in Quebec. I can tell the member that our ministry has been keeping in close contact on a regular basis with the company to monitor just what their progress is in finding a solution to this rather difficult problem. I can only say to him that we are keeping in close contact and will continue to do that. I feel that's what should be done.

Mr Kormos: I've got a petition here signed by thousands and thousands and thousands of Niagarans that appeals to this government to make a commitment to assist in support of Atlas Specialty Steels in Welland to ensure that this important facility remains open.

The minister knows the Quebec government promptly came forward and initiated assistance to the Tracy, Quebec, plant of Atlas Steels. I'm asking this minister why this government won't become as actively involved as the government of Quebec. July 15 is about a month away. If it is going to become actively involved, can we be assured of that active participation in ensuring the future of Atlas Steels? Can we be assured of that today?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm happy to respond to the supplementary question. First of all, back in early April, April 7 to be exact, my ministry did have a meeting with Sammi Atlas to discuss the situation. We did set up a meeting with the member, but that meeting didn't come off because the member did not show. He probably had reasons for that. All I can say to the member is that it's important for me to tell him that I will undertake to arrange a meeting with him and the company and my ministry. I also would like to tell him that we will continue to investigate --

Mr Kormos: You're full of it, Saunderson. That's a bloody lie. You son of a bitch. You pathetic piece.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Welland-Thorold, I'll ask you to withdraw that right now, please.

Mr Kormos: That's a bloody lie, Speaker.

The Speaker: I name the member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Kormos: This minister was given notice of this question today, and he knows full well that he acknowledged to me earlier that no meeting had been set up.

The Speaker: You are named.

Mr Kormos: You're a pathetic, miserable, lying son of a bitch.

The Speaker: I ask the member for Welland-Thorold to leave the chamber.

Mr Kormos: You are a real case, Saunderson. You told me right here when you sat with me --

The Speaker: Order. Member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Kormos: -- that there hadn't been arrangements for a meeting, that you would agree to one, and one hadn't been set up yet. You told me that right here, as you sat beside me 10 minutes ago, and then you try to play a game like that.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Mr Speaker, he should be removed.

The Speaker: I appreciate your help, member for Halton North.

Member for Welland-Thorold, if you won't leave now, force will be necessary.

Mr Kormos: You're a lying bastard.

Mr Kormos was escorted from the chamber.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege: After that outburst, I would just like to clarify something for the House. I had been informed that a meeting had been arranged with the member and my ministry --

The Speaker: With the greatest respect, Minister, you still have time left in your answer. I suggest that if you'd like to, you can raise it at that time, simply because that's not a point of privilege.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I will finish my answer. I said to the member I would undertake to arrange a meeting with him and the company and my ministry. That is not a difficult thing to arrange. Also, we will continue to monitor the situation and find where the matter stands at the present time. I would certainly get back to the member if anything is learned that he is not aware of. That is my answer.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask that the minister be given the opportunity to correct the record.

The Speaker: You're asking for unanimous consent?

Mr Wildman: I seek unanimous consent to give the minister the opportunity to correct the record.

The Speaker: The member for Algoma has requested unanimous consent for the minister to correct the record. Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I would like to clarify something. I was concerned about this situation, and still am. I was told by my ministry that a meeting had been arranged between officials in the ministry and the member. I was told that for some reason, as I said in the House, the meeting did not occur, for various reasons.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): That's not what you said.

Mr Wildman: That's not what you said. You said he didn't show.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Let him finish.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I think it was possible that perhaps the member could not attend. I did not say anything that I thought was detrimental; I was only stating a fact. I reiterate what I am offering, and that is to meet with the member and the company and ministry officials. If the member takes offence at what I said, it's unfortunate, but I meant exactly what I said.



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.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition from hundreds of women across Ontario about the family support plan and the harm which has been caused them as a result of the AG's bungling of this situation. It reads:

"Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Mike Harris and Charles Harnick promised to improve the family support program; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that `government should concentrate its efforts on tracking down deadbeat parents and enforcing payment orders'; and

"Whereas the closure of the family support plan's regional offices has caused a decrease of quality service and lengthened delays; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to provide for better enforcement of support orders;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris reopen the regional offices and guarantee adequate staffing numbers to provide accessible, quality services to recipients and their children."

It reads, "Please return to CWAG, Community Women's Advisory Group" from Simcoe, Ontario. I affix my signature to this petition because I fully support it.



Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a petition here from seniors in my community against the Mike Harris prescription user fees.

"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. I totally agree with the seniors in opposing user fees.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by hundreds of members of OPSEU and forwarded to me by Leah Casselman, the president of OPSEU. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I proudly add my name to theirs.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition to the government of Ontario which reads as follows:

"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 provisions on quality health care, quality education, and adversely affecting seniors; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government now wishes to change the rules for 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 retain 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 total agreement with the sentiments expressed in this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by citizens from across the province: Sault Ste Marie, Kingston, Fort Frances, Nepean, Ottawa and other communities.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) provide high-quality professional medical, hygiene and ergonomic services to employers, workers, joint health and safety committees and their communities; and

"Whereas the professional services that the Ministry of Labour once provided are being offloaded to organizations such as the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, increasing the demand for the services provided by OHCOW; and

"Whereas the professional and technical expertise and advice provided by OHCOW have made a significant contribution to improvements to workplace health and safety as well as the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call upon the government to maintain the funding of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and oppose any attempt to alter the governance structure or erode the professional and technical services of OHCOW; and

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that OHCOW be provided with the necessary funds to allow expansion into other Ontario communities in order to provide the professional and technical services needed to reduce occupational injuries, illnesses and deaths."

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


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the chemical substance chlorine was added to the people of Milton's pure water well water supply in 1995; and

"Whereas the Halton region water delivery system in the town of Milton has received the regular maintenance and standard upgrade requirements outlined by the province and is supported by a standby chlorination unit sufficient enough to prevent the spread of a serious bacterial threat; and

"Whereas recent studies on the use of chlorine additives in drinking water have raised the spectre of chlorine as a possible cancer agent; and

"Whereas the people of the town of Milton overwhelmingly supported the belief that a standby chlorination requirement is sufficient enough to prevent the spread of a serious bacterial threat;

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

"Be it resolved that the Ontario government grant the people of Milton's request for a variance allowing only standby chlorination to be used in treating the pure water wells supplying Milton's water delivery system."

I'm pleased to add my name to this list.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have hundreds and hundreds of petitions that I'd like to read into the record. They are entitled "Stop Megacity Madness: Citizens Have Democratic Right to Be Heard."

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas `bigger government is not better' and the Mike Harris government has no right to dictate a megacity upon the citizens of Metro Toronto;

"Whereas the megacity is being imposed on 2.3 million citizens in Metro Toronto without giving people a voice in the future of their cities and neighbourhoods;

"Whereas a megacity could lead to mega property tax increases, mega user fees and mega cuts in services;

"Whereas the Tories never proposed abolishing local government in favour of bigger government during the election campaign;

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

"To give the 2.3 million people in Metro Toronto a say in the future of their cities and stop the imposition of a megacity."

I affix my name to this petition, and I fully agree with their intention.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by hundreds of members of CEP. The petition reads as follows:

"Whereas the Harris government will introduce legislation to amend the Workers' Compensation Act and distribute a discussion paper about changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the expected changes include erosion of the right to refuse unsafe work; that workers will be forced to apply to their employer for WCB benefits; that employers will decide if the claim is valid; reduction in power of the joint health and safety committees; and the elimination of compensation for certain injuries and diseases; and

"Whereas the Workers' Compensation Act is a vital protection for all workers in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Occupational Health and Safety Act has prevented untold numbers of accidents and saved thousands from illness and diseases;

"Therefore, we the undersigned demand full public hearings throughout the province of Ontario on the Workers' Compensation Act proposed changes" -- which the government is not doing to the full extent of their commitment -- "no changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers' right to refuse and joint health and safety committees."

I add my name to theirs with a great deal of pride.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature as I am in complete agreement with this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions regarding occupational health and safety signed by CAW members across the province and forwarded to me by their national president, Buzz Hargrove.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition to the government of Ontario:

"Since the Hotel Dieu Hospital has played and continues to play a vital role in the delivery of health care services in St Catharines and the Niagara region; and

"Since Hotel Dieu has modified its role over the years as part of a rationalization of medical services in St Catharines and has assumed the position of a regional health care facility in such areas as kidney dialysis and oncology; and

"Since the Niagara region is experiencing underfunding in the health care field and requires more medical services and not fewer services; and

"Since Niagara residents are required at present to travel outside of the Niagara region to receive many specialized services that could be provided in city hospitals and thereby not require local patients to make difficult and inconvenient trips down our highways to other centres; and

"Since the Niagara hospital restructuring committee used a Toronto consulting firm to develop its recommendations and was forced to take into account a cut of over $40 million in funding for Niagara hospitals when carrying out its study; and

"Since the population of the Niagara region is older than that in most areas of the province and more elderly people tend to require more hospital services;

"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario keep the election commitment of Premier Mike Harris not to close hospitals in our province, and we call upon the Premier to reject any recommendation to close Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines."

I affix my signature because I am in complete agreement with this petition.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I won't prolong this. All of us in this House understand that this place can only operate effectively if there is a spirit of cooperation among the parties. I know that members on the front bench on the other side understand that, so I raise with you a problem that must be occurring with regard to the government mail service that serves this place.

I did not receive an invitation from the Solicitor General to the opening of the Anishinabek police headquarters in Garden River First Nation in my riding, where he is this afternoon. I'm sure he would not have wanted to leave out the local member, considering the fact that I am the former minister responsible for native affairs who helped to fund this service. I'm certain the mistake must be in the mail service, that it didn't arrive at my office in time to notify me.

I hope that you as Speaker would deal with the government members and ensure that the mail service is operating correctly, and if the minister has some problem with the telephones in his office, that he will check that out as well.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary L. Leadston): Member for Algoma, even though you have concluded, it's really not a point of personal privilege. The purview of the mail service is not the direct responsibility of the Speaker.



Mrs Ecker moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 142, An Act to revise the law related to Social Assistance by enacting the Ontario Works Act and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, by repealing the Family Benefits Act, the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act and the General Welfare Assistance Act and by amending several other Statutes / Projet de loi 142, Loi révisant la loi relative à l'aide sociale en édictant la Loi sur le programme Ontario au travail et la Loi sur le Programme ontarien de soutien aux personnes handicapées, en abrogeant la Loi sur les prestations familiales, la Loi sur les services de réadaptation professionnelle et la Loi sur l'aide sociale générale et en modifiant plusieurs autres lois.

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

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): No, that's fine, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Orders of the day.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Just before I give the orders of the day, on behalf of everybody here I congratulate you on your fine efforts last night.

Interjection: Do you want to explain that?

Hon David Johnson: Do I want to explain that any more or not?

The Acting Speaker: It was a group effort.

Hon David Johnson: We deal with the 30th order.




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

Bill 129, An Act to stimulate job growth, to reduce taxes and to implement other measures contained in the 1997 Budget / Projet de loi 129, Loi visant à stimuler la croissance de l'emploi, à réduire les impôts et à mettre en oeuvre d'autres mesures mentionnées dans le budget de 1997.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I'm happy to speak on Bill 129 this afternoon. This bill implements several important measures of our plan to put Ontario back on the road to prosperity and to make this province one of the best places in the world to live, to work and to invest.

On May 6, the Minister of Finance introduced a budget that invests in Ontario's future while at the same time investing in today by creating a climate in which people can build their own lives and the private sector can get on with the business of creating jobs.

Bill 129 delivers on the commitments reiterated in the 1997 budget to cut taxes to stimulate the economy and to create a climate for job growth. It delivers on our government's commitments to invest in research and development, to eliminate costly overlap and duplication, and to make Ontario communities safer for our children.

The best job creation program is a tax cut. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business calls a tax cut "the only way you are going to get consumers spending again." We too have always said that if Ontarians are allowed to keep more of the money they earn, they will spend it. This stimulates economic activity and creates jobs.

Bill 129 implements the next steps of our personal income tax cut. It reduces Ontario's personal income tax rate from 49% to 48% of basic federal tax for 1997 and to 45% of basic federal tax for 1998. It also adjusts the fair share health care levy to reflect the change in income tax rates. As promised to the people of Ontario, we are delivering on the 30% tax cut that we promised earlier on.

This government is creating an environment which is attracting new investment to our province and creating value-added jobs. Taxes should not discourage research and development and job creation. Why not, you say? In the last 10 years, two out of every three jobs created in this province were in the information and technology sector, but Ontario invests only 2% of its GDP in research. Our government will do better.

To encourage research and development, Bill 129 implements the sales tax exemption for machinery, equipment and processing materials used in both manufacturing and research and development.

To encourage medical research in Ontario, Bill 129 extends the sales tax exemption to include equipment used for research and investigation purchased by non-profit medical research institutions.

We will ensure that important sectors of our economy receive the support they deserve.

In order to help Ontario farmers and stimulate the rural economy, Bill 129 extends to March 31, 1998, the sales tax rebate to farmers for materials used in farm structures. This reduces their costs when building or improving their farming facilities. As the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has said, "What better place to grow Ontario's economy than on our farms?"

In order to continue to support the construction industry and assist families, Bill 129 also extends the land transfer tax rebate to March 1998. As of May 30, 1997, there have been 13,466 applications for this program, and over $16 million in land transfer tax has been refunded.

We are ensuring safer communities and a better future for our children as well. In addition to many other initiatives to protect children, this bill doubles fines for selling or supplying liquor to a minor and allowing a minor to consume liquor on licensed premises. It also doubles fines for selling or supplying tobacco to a minor.

The members of this House know full well that our government has been active for more than a year in strengthening the securities regulatory system. In last year's budget, the Minister of Finance announced that we were pursuing the creation of a national securities commission. We have devoted significant resources over the last 12 months to achieving an agreement which has laid the foundation for the creation of the Canadian Securities Commission.

In November of last year the minister also made a commitment to provide the Ontario Securities Commission with the tools it needs to ensure that we maintain our position as the leading capital market in Canada and one of the very best in the world. We are keeping that commitment. Bill 129 will ensure that the OSC has the resources necessary to carry out its mandate. It changes the OSC into a self-funding crown agency and frees it from civil service hiring and pay restraints. It also reduces regulatory fees that undermine the competitiveness of our capital market.

We are building a better, stronger, better-funded regulatory system to enhance consumer protection and in order to make it easier for business to raise capital and to create jobs. This government is on track for a balanced budget by the year 2000-01. That is not just our view -- the Dominion Bond Rating Service has confirmed that the province of Ontario is on track to meet our deficit elimination target.

With Bill 129, we are keeping our promises, following our plan and making changes that will result in a better tomorrow for all Ontarians.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary Leadston): Questions and comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I am particularly intrigued by the last comment of the government speaker because I look at the information and the news releases from the Dominion Bond Rating Service and Standard and Poor's, and they're giving the same rating to this government that they gave to the government of Bob Rae and the NDP. I can well remember, as my friend from Hamilton Centre will, the outrage which was expressed on the other side of the House by Mike Harris and other Conservatives at the fact that this rating was as it is. We don't see any higher rating. I see AA-, A- or A-1+ and so on. This is the same rating the Bob Rae government got.

I suspect it's because Standard and Poor's and the Dominion Bond Rating Service are worried that you are borrowing money to finance a tax cut. A lot of people don't know that. Not only are you drastically cutting services, which must really worry the member for Huron, who is here today smiling -- it must really worry her. That's the progressive people, like the Conservatives. What about the Reformers out there who worry about the debt going up? Because the debt is increasing, and the reason it's increasing is you're borrowing more money to give a tax cut.

Who benefits from that the most? The richest people in our society, the people who go to the Albany Club, the people who go away on expensive vacations, who have money to put away in different things. I am worried about that, because I think this deficit could be eliminated earlier if you wouldn't squander the money on tax breaks for the richest people in our society. I know you'll want to change your mind on that.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to take the two minutes I have to respond to the comments of the parliamentary assistant, particularly when she mentioned in the very closing of her remarks -- and I wrote this down when she said it -- that they're doing all these things so there'll be "a better tomorrow for all Ontarians." I don't know who the parliamentary assistant believes is "all Ontarians," but it sure isn't the poor, because you went after the poor in your first months in office and cut their take-home pay, the mere amount they get to survive on, by 22%.

It's not the poor you speak of when you say "all Ontarians," and it's sure not public sector OPSEU workers who as a result of your anti-worker Bill 7 will see their jobs eliminated through privatization because you took away all their collective agreement protection.

It sure isn't injured workers, because you're cutting the income of injured workers from 90% to 85% at the same time you're cutting the premiums your corporate pals pay by the same 5%. It's sure not the hospital workers, the municipal workers and the school board employees, who are now affected by your announced legislation this week, Bill 136, through which you're basically going to eliminate the ability of those workers and their unions to negotiate a fair collective agreement. When we talk about the private sector workers, by the time they're finished paying copayments, user fees and increased property taxes, they aren't included either.

Parliamentary Assistant, when you say you're making a better tomorrow for all Ontarians, why don't you tell it like it is? Why don't you say you're making a better Ontario for all your pals?


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I want to commend the member for St Andrew-St Patrick on her support of this bill. I too am very happy to support this bill. I guess there will never be any support from the two opposition parties, who are just ideologically totally opposed to the position of our government. I respect their right to be different and to have their opinions, but at the moment the opinions of the people of this province support our government. What we are doing with this legislation today is implementing the promises we made when we campaigned two years ago and won 82 seats of 130. That is an endorsement from the people of this province that they agree with the direction our government is going.

Frankly, I'm really happy that we have 130,000 people today who are no longer on welfare and support assistance in this province. I know some of those people, constituents of mine, who are happy they no longer have to depend on the income tax that other people who are working pay to support them. They want to be contributors to their own income and the support of their families.

The sad thing is that we have this role in Parliament where we have government and opposition -- that's how our democracy is established -- so that even when we have good legislation and the results of good policies which our government has been implementing for the past two years, where we're now able to say we are creating a tremendously healthy uplift in the economy and all the jobs that come with it, in spite of all that good news the role of the opposition is to criticize and disagree. That's purely what we will hear for the rest of this afternoon's debate.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to say I do disagree with the government. I fundamentally disagree with you. I again refer to the independent credit rating agencies, the very respected organizations that say to you, "You're putting Ontario's fiscal health and fiscal future at risk." They looked at the numbers, they looked at all your projections, and they said: "We're not going to upgrade the province's credit rating. We think the tax cut is putting the fiscal house at risk."

I disagree with what you're doing. Every penny of this tax cut is borrowed money. We're going to give $500 million of a tax cut to people in this province making $250,000 a year. We're going to go and borrow every penny of that and we're going to pay 8% interest on that so they can get a tax cut worth $500 million.

Interjection: Wrong.

Mr Phillips: The member says "Wrong." I am quoting. I checked the other day. These are the government numbers: $500 million to people making more than $250,000 a year.

I go on to say on this tax bill that the member for Mississauga South may be very proud that for four consecutive years you have cut the tax deduction for people with disabilities. They're the ones you're going after in this budget. This budget implements the fourth consecutive year of cuts for deductions for people with disabilities. The members are looking incredulous here, but that is the fact. You are going to vote on that bill later today. For the fourth consecutive time you have cut the tax deduction for persons with disabilities. If you don't understand that, check the bill.

The government has determined to implement this tax cut that benefits the richest and penalizes the most vulnerable.

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

Ms Bassett: I'd like to first of all thank the participation of the members on the opposite side of the House and the member for Mississauga South.

Of course I will reply to the member for St Catharines. I'm not surprised that he would be against the tax cut; that has been his stand consistently and, as the member for Mississauga South pointed out, we expect that.

We feel that our tax cut is going to benefit everybody in turn. The member for Hamilton Centre said I was talking about all Ontarians. Well, I am referring to all Ontarians, because I feel you can't exclude one portion of Ontarians who may be less fortunate economically speaking, because with the wealth and the job creation we bring in, the general level in society will help everybody. There's no question about that.

As to the reference to the Dominion Bond Rating Service, I want to point out that in the last Liberal government, in 1988, Ontario's credit rating was put on a rating alert by DBRS, as I'm sure you remember, and during the NDP era, Ontario's rating was downgraded three times. Following their review of Ontario's 1997 budget, S&P and other rating agencies expressed their confidence in Ontario's management of Ontario's finances. They believe that Ontario's economic and fiscal assumptions are prudent and conservative and they expect that the province will meet its 1997-98 fiscal targets.

Ontario is indeed open for business and, as Bill 129 makes clear, we are bringing in measures to ensure that this happens.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Phillips: I'm pleased to join the debate on the budget bill, Bill 129. I would like unanimous consent to split my time between myself, Mr Colle and Mr Bradley.

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.

Mr Phillips: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you to the House.

This is an interesting bill and it gives us a chance to have further debate on the budget. I would just say, as the member for Mississauga South said earlier, there is a fundamental disagreement. You have your views, strongly held, and frankly you won an election on them, so you do have the authority to implement your agenda. You don't have the authority to implement it without debate or without the opposition speaking on behalf of the people out there who may not agree with you or certainly would want other views represented. We do have fundamental disagreements.

I will start with perhaps the major part of the bill, and that is the tax cut. I understand that it's very popular to say to people, "We'll give you a tax cut." I would just remind us, as the government member said in opening the debate, that the government doesn't plan to balance the budget until the year 2000-01. On March 31, 2001, the budget will be balanced. Over that period of time, we are obviously going to run significant deficits.

As a matter of fact, in the budget you'll see that from 1995 when you got elected until you balance the budget, the debt of the province is going to go up $30 billion. It took the first 110 years of the province to accumulate a $30-billion debt, and Mike Harris is going to, in his first mandate, increase the debt by $30 billion.


I acknowledge that you inherited a significant deficit, but the question is this: If this is such a serious problem that we have to close hospitals, that we have to cut funding for education, that you have to put on user fees for seniors, if it's such a serious problem that everybody in Ontario must struggle and suffer to reduce the deficit, tell me again how we can afford a tax cut.

I asked just the other day, "Are these still the right figures?" because these are the government figures: People making more than $250,000 are going to be getting $500 million of the tax break. This budget cuts the benefits of people with disabilities, for four consecutive years cuts their benefits. Why? Presumably to help fund that tax cut for people making more than a quarter of a million dollars.

I say to my business friends, "The government has to go and borrow every penny of this." In the budget they spell out very clearly the cost of the tax cut. How much is it? In 1996-97 dollars it's $4.8 billion; when you annualize that it's $5.5 billion. That's the cost of the tax cut. The government members say: "Yes, but it's funding itself. It's like a perpetual money machine." Well, what about the personal income tax revenue? This is straight out of the budget: In 1995-96 the personal income tax revenue in the province was $16.3 billion; in 1996-97 it's $15.6 billion; and in 1997-98 it's $14.5 billion. Over two years, personal income tax revenue drops by roughly $2 billion. This is in a growing economy when one would have expected it to be growing substantially, but the tax cuts, using the government's own numbers straight out of the budget, mean we have lost roughly $2 billion in revenue from personal income tax. The government itself, in putting forward its estimates, said: "What is the revenue impact of the tax cut? Five and a half billion dollars."

That's point one. If this deficit is such a dragon that it has to be slain -- all of us agree we have to get our fiscal house in order, but everybody out there is saying: "I don't understand. If I'm on social assistance and my payments are cut by 20% because the province can't afford it, okay. If I'm a student in a classroom, my classes are larger." In every single school board in this province, classes are larger now than they were two years ago. Why? Because the government is saying we have to cut spending there. So if the deficit is such a big problem, how in the world can we afford this $5.5-billion tax cut? And does it make sense to go out and borrow all that money?

That's what Standard and Poor's and Dominion Bond Rating Service have said. By the way, in 1990, every single rating agency rated Ontario at the highest possible level, and now, both the rating agencies that have commented on the government's fiscal plans have said: "No, we're not prepared to upgrade Ontario's credit rating. We are going to leave it exactly the same as Bob Rae had, because we've got some significant concerns about the future."

The second thing the budget does and this bill implements is the downloading, the dumping on to municipalities. I have been mildly surprised at the response by the organization called AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, because there is no question that what the government has done is dump roughly $660 million of brand-new costs on to property taxes. That $660 million alone is about a 5% increase in property taxes. That's part of the budget. That is how the government is funding its tax cut, to dump huge costs -- we saw today where the government has dumped another $850 million of social assistance on to property tax; $905 million, approaching $1 billion, of social housing. Incredible. Seniors' housing -- well over half of social housing is seniors -- was dumped on to property taxes. I think it will cause untold problems in the future in Ontario.

As I say, I'm just amazed that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario isn't up in arms. They will be, because I guarantee you a year from now when the property tax implementation hits -- and today we heard, astonishingly, the minister responsible for small business doesn't understand the property tax bill. He thinks the bill allows municipalities to offer a different tax rate on small business versus large business. The bill doesn't do that.

The minister responsible for small business, I couldn't believe it, said today the bill permitted lower taxes on small business. The property tax bill doesn't. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has indicated their grave concerns about this. I was surprised at the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs saying today that the rural community is very happy about the dumping of $175 million of costs on to the rural municipalities.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): So the rurals are happy and AMO is happy.

Mr Phillips: There's the Minister of Municipal Affairs saying -- AMO begged us to change that property tax bill. They said, "Don't let it go through." I'm surprised the Minister of Municipal Affairs doesn't know that, when AMO begged us to change it. But you wouldn't change it. The Minister of Municipal Affairs does not understand. You did not change the property tax bill. They said, "Guarantee the funding for municipalities."

As a matter of fact, we moved an amendment in the bill to do that, as did the NDP, by the way, almost identical amendments to guarantee it. What has happened, and the public should recognize this, is the province has wiped its hands of the farm tax rebate plan, $175 million. But surprise, surprise. Do you know who's going to pay for that? The property taxpayers in rural municipalities. It's all going on them, $175 million on rural property taxpayers.

The province puffs its chest up and says: "We are the friends of the farm community. We have gotten rid of the farm tax rebate program. We've gone to a simpler program." Oh, they did that, but it's no longer being paid for by the province, but by the municipalities. I guarantee you, if the Minister of Municipal Affairs didn't read the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's brief begging us to get that bill changed -- well, the government wouldn't listen to us. They just went ahead and did it anyway. That's part of this budget.

When small business has the full impact when you load something called the business occupancy tax back on to them disproportionately, and when the rural property taxpayers recognize they're being given the bill for the province's old farm tax rebate plan -- in fact the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is worried about it. They say, "Listen, this is causing real friction between us and the rural municipalities." They were desperately trying to find a solution. The government didn't listen.


As we implement this bill, remember this: The debt of the province is going up $30 billion over Mike Harris's regime. The credit rating agencies have signalled their concern. They say their outlook depends on a stable economy. If anything happens to the economy, the rating's going to get worse. It isn't like they're making this on the worst-case scenario; they're making it on the best-case scenario.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I'm shocked.

Mr Phillips: The member for Algoma is shocked. I think a lot of people are surprised.

The government is proud of something I don't think I would be proud of, and that is on jobs. Let's recognize a few facts: There are still more people out of work in Ontario today than when Mike Harris became Premier. They may be proud of that. The government is crowing every day about it. I would not be proud of it. I would not be proud of the fact that there are still more people out of work --

The Acting Speaker: Order. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Speaker for affording me the opportunity to assume a very brief period as Speaker this week, and I'd like to thank the table for their indulgence and for all their assistance.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the job the previous Speaker did, and the current Speaker, I might say.

On the job front, we get into this debate on the numbers. The fact is there are more people out of work in Ontario today than when Mike Harris became Premier. I can remember, in the Common Sense Revolution he was just railing about that. "There are more than half a million people unemployed in this province. The bottom line is that Ontario needs jobs." Well, there are more people unemployed today than when Mike Harris became Premier a year and a few days ago. Yes, there are more jobs, but for heaven's sake, we're in a growing population, everybody. We need to create 75,000 jobs a year just to stand still.

Mike Harris said that by now we'd have 278,000 jobs.

Mr Wildman: Yes, that's what he said.

Mr Phillips: That's what he said. We're 116,000 jobs short.

I might add that the most tragic thing is among young people. The unemployment rate among young people continues to grow. It was 18.5% in the first five months of 1997. Last year at the same time it was 16.3%. So up it goes. The unemployment rate among young people continues to rise. If you talk to the experts in the field, they'll say it's more like 30%.

I would just say to all of us, if the Conservative caucus want to simply accept the Premier's office's talking points, the Bill King talking points, the stuff they send you, "Use these as arguments" -- I guess it's not Paul Rhodes any more but the Bill King talking notes -- you can do that, but you are frankly ignoring a significant problem that's not going away, and that is on the job front. It's just not going to go away.

To begin talking about the detail of the bill, the first thing I want to comment on is the process around here. I've got a lot of friends in the business community and they always assume that the Conservatives must be business people. A lot of them are suits. I say to them, "If you think they're running government like a business, they give business a bad name."

I'll give you a specific example. If this bill does not pass by the last day of June, in a matter of three weeks, every trust company in this province is out of business. Hal Jackman will be broke. He's got his National Trust; it would be out of business. Canada Trust would be out of business. All trust businesses cease to operate at 12:01 on July 1.

Here we are debating a bill. We are probably about one-half hour into the debate on this bill. It has to be passed for second and third reading, a big important bill, and if it doesn't, every trust company in the province is out of business. Gone.

Is this any way to run an operation? It reminds me of coming to the Legislature for something called supply, which is essentially the authority to spend money, roughly two days before the cheques had to go out. If I were running a business and said, "Oh Jeez, I'm going to need a loan to meet the payroll. I didn't realize that. I'm going to have to go to the bank. I've only got two days to get it," the banks would laugh at me.

Here's an example where the trust companies are going to be out of business by July 1 unless we pass this bill. I call it a hostage trick. The government gets a hostage, they put it inside a bill and then they say, "If you don't pass the bill, we'll kill the hostage." The hostage here is the trust companies. There is a hostage in most bills. The hostage phones us up, "Listen, pass this bill or I'm going to be killed," in this case, as I say. You've got us. We can't put the trust companies out of business and we won't. Gosh knows we respect those fine trust companies.

If the public are sitting there trying to make a judgment on the government as a sound, solid business operation, you couldn't run a business this way, as I say, going to the bank two days before you need a huge loan and not even being able to meet your payroll, having a major part of your financial institutions at risk unless this bill passes. I will just say to all those trust companies, we in the Liberal caucus will do nothing that will jeopardize the future of the trust companies. It's only to illustrate the difficulty that one gets into here when they throw a hostage into each of these bills and then away we go.

The issue that seemed to catch some members here by surprise is the disability issue. Some of the Conservative members didn't seem to realize that this budget bill, for the fourth straight year, reduces the tax deduction of people with disabilities. It used to be roughly $395, and in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 it's going down. I would have thought the last people you would want to be clawing back money from would be persons with disabilities, but I guess if you've got to fund the tax cut somewhere that's one way you find some resources. It surprised me to see that.

I was interested as well in the comment on tobacco, because the bill does increase the fines for tobacco violations. Maximum fines are going up very dramatically, I think, to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for corporations. The member presented it as, "This is going to really help stamp out sale of tobacco products to minors." I hope so. But if we think that's going to help, we should have some second thoughts, because the cosmetics of simply increasing the fines may make us feel better here. Why not make it $1 billion if it's a problem.

I just assumed we're fining a bunch of people $75,000 and that's not enough, that they're still flouting the law and we've got to get it up to $150,000. But here I find out that last year there were -- actually, this is on the liquor one; for selling liquor to minors, in this particular case, we're taking the fine up to $300,000. In 1996-97 there were 214 convictions for fines, totalling $53,000.


My point is this: Sometimes we think maybe a cosmetic thing like an increase in fines will sell well when we're out there giving a speech about the size of fines, but obviously judges have levelled fines and right now they can level substantial fines. But in total, 214 convictions and the total fines of the 214 was $53,000, so I don't think the problem is the size of the fines. The problem is elsewhere. The bill on the Liquor Licence Act may make us feel better, but it will in my opinion probably do very little in real terms. Anyway, let it go.

The securities commission: It's not totally clear what's intended here. We're very supportive of a strong securities commission. The securities commission in its last annual report signalled their real concern about their resources to deal with the securities environment here in Ontario. They said they simply didn't have enough resources to do it and the government was taking a substantial amount of money out of the securities commission. They were earning fees of about $20 million more a year than they were allowed to spend.

We're very supportive of strengthening the securities commission. I personally had hoped we'd be looking at some form of a national securities commission. I gather for a variety of reasons that it's been difficult to get that together. I would hope that by setting up this arm's-length independent securities commission, we don't preclude or make it more difficult to establish some form of a national securities commission. Here in Ontario we all understand our financial businesses are one of our key strengths, one of our major global industries, and whatever we can do to strengthen that, and obviously protect consumers at the same time, is important.

The thing I'm not sure of here is, do they have the authority under this to set their own budget? Part of the bill says the minister can pull surpluses out of the securities commission. Will it truly be an arm's-length agency?

In any event, we're supportive of a strengthened securities commission. They have been raising concerns for some time about their ability to deal effectively, and I think this is probably a good step forward. I hope it doesn't preclude in the future some form of national securities commission.


Mr Phillips: I'm trying to ignore the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. He is grumbling about something. I'll try and move on the bill.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): The national securities commission is the worst thing we could ever --

Mr Phillips: He's barking about the national securities commission, the worst thing that could ever be done. I am one who has a broader view on financial institutions than just a small, narrow view.


Mr Phillips: Many of our financial institutions believe that. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Finance has often indicated that he's very supportive of it. He must have been overridden by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale and he couldn't move forward with it. But Mr Eves has got my personal support for it. If he needs something in caucus to deal with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, I can't help him, but some of the members behind might.

The reason I raise the securities commission is that it is important right now that they raise more money than they're allowed to spend. It's unclear in the legislation whether they will be allowed to set their own fees and set their own budgets.

The land transfer tax: This bill eliminates the different land transfer tax between residents and non-residents. That was brought in in 1974. As I recall, there was a substantial concern both about agricultural land being purchased by major corporations and turned into essentially -- rather than the traditional family farm, we are looking at agriculture becoming much more like a big corporate business.

As I recall, I was told by the staff that one thing that drove it was a substantial purchase by an offshore company of a lot of land that concerned the rural communities. They said, "Listen, this is of concern to us, that we're going to see offshore companies purchasing large amounts of farm land and turning it into quite a different environment than we've had in rural communities in Ontario."

But I gather the government has looked at that and they've concluded that is no longer a risk. In fact, I think that's the language they used with us, that it's no longer seen to be a risk. I would just hope that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has had a chance to look at this and reach the same conclusion as the government has, because we are now going back to the pre-1974 era; I gather the differential land transfer tax did have an effect and did slow down or eliminate the concerns a lot of people had.

Part of the tax issue for us is around how the province is going to set the educational mill rates, because to fund the tax cut in this bill and to balance the budget on March 31, 2001, a lot of costs are being loaded down on to the property tax. An unknown question for municipalities is going to be, because for the first time in the history of Ontario the province is going to set one third of the property tax mill rate -- now the province has decided it's going to get its hands on property tax. It's the first time ever.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): There's going to be fair funding to every child in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Huron, come to order.

Mr Phillips: So it's going to set the educational mill rates for businesses and for residential property tax. Roughly a quarter of your residential property tax will now be set by the province and about half of the business property tax will be set by the province.

We are anxiously awaiting how that's going to be done. Is the province planning to set a uniform mill rate across the province? That will be of interest to us. On businesses, that's what it's planning to do. We are getting a lot of calls from businesses that are worried, first, about their taxes going up because of the business occupancy tax coming off and they were paying a low business occupancy tax. They are going to be paying a much higher realty tax now. Over half of their business property tax goes to education. They're very worried about what the province is going to do there because now it's not going to be the local school board; it's going to be the province unilaterally, I guess, setting that province-wide mill rate.

You've got a very nervous group of people out there now worried about their property taxes, particularly when you take into account the combination of $660 million of new costs being loaded on to them, the redistribution of something called the business occupancy tax, the knowledge that the province is determined to find money for their tax cut wherever they can. One of the ways you do that is by loading social housing on to property tax, and they see the same thing occurring in education.

You always hate to say, "I told you so," but I will say that a year from now -- you can remember this conversation -- I will be very interested in the response when people get their property tax bills from the I don't think particularly well-thought-through property tax legislation and all those things hitting them.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Just do nothing, right?

Mr Phillips: The member says, "Do nothing." We had six amendments to the bill, all of which had broad community support. The government members simply voted them down. You say, "What would you do?" We spelled it all out for you.

Because we're dealing with the bill that sets the budget, I want to express my growing concern about the taxpayers' obligations on Highway 407. The impression that has been left with the public is that the tolls are going to cover the cost of this road, so don't worry about it. It is becoming increasingly clear that the taxpayers are the ones on the hook for this thing.

Mrs Johns: Who made the deal?

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that you asked that. The government is now two years into its operation. It has had plenty of time to look into these things and, if you didn't like the deal, to change them. But I gather the government has looked at the deal. They have accepted the deal. The Minister of Transportation has said it's a good deal.

I would just say this: It looks like the cost of this thing is going up. It's probably $1.5 billion now. It looks like it's opening six months late. It looks like the tolls are going to cover less than half the cost of this road. It looks like the taxpayers are on the hook for the other half. That's what it looks like to me.

I drove the road. I think it's going to be quite neat. For some people, it will save a lot of time. I hope for the business community it will be particularly helpful, but I would just alert the taxpayers.

I remember when Mike Harris was in opposition, he had a lot to say about Highway 407. He was going to get this thing all straightened around. It's two years later now. He has had plenty of time to look at it and all we've really had are some more contracts awarded.

The reason I raise that is because this government is getting to the stage where some of these financial matters are going to come back to haunt you, and that's one of them. Another one, I might add, is that we're starting to get into a budget now that I am less confident reflects the real financial realities of the province. We'll see how that unfolds.

To go over the elements of the bill, we've expressed our significant concerns about the income tax portion of the bill. Every penny of this money for the tax cut is borrowed. That is absolutely clear. These are the government's numbers for borrowing.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Get the numbers from revenue.

Mr Phillips: Get the numbers for revenue? Personal: I see tax revenue dropping. In 1997-98, tax revenue down by $600 million.


Mr Phillips: I'm looking at the budget. I can only assume the government is not trying to mislead us.

Mr Bradley: I hope not.

Mr Phillips: I would hope not too.

Tax revenue: 1996-97, $38.1 billion; 1997-98, $37.5 billion. That's $600 million less. The government's own numbers in this budget show tax revenue dropping by $600 million, dropping dramatically, I might add, on the personal income tax side.

As the member said, when is Ontario going to have a balanced budget? March 31, 2001. We're borrowing all this money for the tax cut. These aren't my numbers. These are your own numbers, which I assume you're prepared to stand behind -- revenue changes, budget impact -- $4.8 billion on the personal income tax cut, which moves up to $5.5 billion in 1999.

You may think it's good fiscal policy to borrow that amount of money for the tax cut. You may think it's good fiscal policy to give people in this province who are making over $250,000, $500 million worth of a tax break. By the way, this is all after the health share levy. Why are we doing it? We're doing it, I guess, to reward those who are most well-off in the province. As I say, the irony of ironies is that at the very same time as we're doing that, we're actually cutting the deduction, for four consecutive years, for people with disabilities. It's almost unbelievable. Why would you punish people with disabilities and reward people who are making more than $250,000? I just don't understand that.

Mr Wildman: Them that has, gets.

Mr Phillips: That's right. Someone said that maybe our problem is the rich don't have enough to spend and we've somehow or other got to solve that.

The member earlier in her remarks said that the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, was pleased with the budget. I would say that the CFIB is very worried about property tax and small business. I repeat what I said earlier: I was amazed the minister responsible for small business today said, "The bill allows municipalities to give a lower tax rate on small business." It doesn't. He doesn't know that. Who is speaking up for small business in the province? Who's at the cabinet table saying, "We've got to get this thing done?"

Mr Baird: He is the most pro-small business in government history.

Mr Phillips: He says, "Most pro-small business." We will anxiously await.

The member also mentioned the interest in technology and in the information era. A neat little surprise in the budget is taxes going way up on computers. In fact, the government's decided it's going to rake in another $55 million by putting a tax on computer programs. I half-thought from the member's statements about how helpful this budget was going to be for R&D and technology -- I didn't realize you were going to put another $55 million of tax on computers. That one caught me by surprise, as did the $150 million for making the tax system fairer.

I think most people know what that is: going after more people, and the tax increase on persons with disabilities. Those things frankly surprised us, that we would see in this bill an attack on persons with disabilities, an increase in taxes on computer programs of $50 million, and the $151 million for making the tax system fairer. Actually, I have the numbers on the disability, and it was $395 per person down now to $325. As I say, that caught us a bit by surprise.

I want to once again indicate, particularly for the backbench members, how irritating it can be to us to be given a bill and then be told, "Listen, if you don't pass this thing in three weeks, all these companies are going to go out of business." It's the hostage. If the government wonders why we sometimes get angry about what we regard as bully tactics, how would you feel? You say we should have a nice, reasoned debate about this tax policy that's going to impact everybody and then we find we're being told we have to pass the bill in three weeks -- look at the agenda -- with virtually no debate or else all these businesses go out of business.

Just so we don't alarm anybody out there, it will pass. The doors aren't going to close on any trust company.


Mr Baird: Give, give, give.

Mr Wildman: The spirit of cooperation.

Mr Phillips: It's the a spirit of cooperation, as my colleague says.

I remind us of the job situation, and I acknowledge the last three months has seen job growth. The fact is, though, that since Mike Harris became Premier, there are more people out of work. Youth unemployment continues to be a huge problem. Today the United Nations released its report on countries around the world and the quality of life, and they had two major concerns about Canada in an overall very positive report on Canada. The two big concerns were child poverty and youth unemployment, and they are right.

I take my hat off to some of the business community who have been putting a lot of energy into this. There's a program called Careers First that's run by the private sector. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce hosted a conference about two weeks ago on youth unemployment and helped to launch a new program on it. I applaud that, but that alone will not do it. All of us are going to have to put a lot more energy into this.

Members say, "You're just being unduly negative, as opposition parties are." Don't take our word for it. Go back to the Dominion Bond Rating Service and Standard and Poor's, two of our most respected credit rating agencies. This is their business. They look at the finances of governments, of corporations, of institutions to rate their debt so that organizations that are lending them money know whether they are creditworthy and what interest rates they should be charging them.

Just look at what both of them said: "You are on a risky strategy of implementing the tax cut before the fiscal house is in order." In both cases they said: "We simply are not going to change the credit rating of this province, because it's too risky." Those are the people whose business it is to do that.

If you want to know why we worry about the tax cut, first and foremost, it is driving expenditure cuts far deeper than they should have been or needed to have been. I just say to the public that you have not yet felt the impact of the expenditure cuts. There's not a hospital in the province that has yet closed, but a third of them will close over the next couple of years.

The tuition fees are going up. I don't know whether anybody else feels it, but my own alma mater, Western, has taken its tuition fees from $3,000 a year to $18,000 in the MBA program. This will be an interesting debate.


Mr Phillips: I know Rosedale loves it, because many people in Rosedale can afford it. It will make it easier for their students to get into those schools. The MBA program is first, the medical program will be next, then law, then pharmacy, dentistry, all of them; let the marketplace determine. That may be Mike Harris's Ontario, it may be Preston Manning's Canada. I understand that. But what has set Ontario and Canada apart is that regardless of where or under what circumstances you were born, the day you were born there was a sense of hope and optimism. It didn't depend on whether your mother and father had money or not. But I tell you, if you want to divide Ontario, continue to do the things you're doing.

An $18,000-a-year tuition fee is out of the question for an awful lot of young people, completely out of the question.

Mr Hastings: What should it be?

Mr Phillips: What should it be? At $18,000 a year you are ruling out an awful lot of young people. If you think that's the kind of Ontario you want, it's not my Ontario. That's why when someone said earlier, I think it was the member for Mississauga South, "We have a disagreement on the budget," we sure do. I fundamentally disagree with Mike Harris. He has every right to have his opinion; I just happen to disagree with him. I think he's going to divide this province like we've never seen before.

I go back to the bill. You may think this bill on labour negotiation is a great one, but you might as well ask for war. You are taking away bargaining rights for hundreds of thousands of people. If you want to divide this province and have group against group, individual against individual, you are well on the way.

I disagree with you. You're taking Ontario where I don't want to go, and I happen to think Ontario doesn't want to go there. You got elected, you have the authority to do it, and we have the obligation to point out the dangers of it.

We are into one of the dangers today. We are putting Ontario's fiscal health and stability at risk with this budget, with this bill. That's not just me speaking; that is the bond rating agencies, the credit rating agencies. If we get into an economic downturn, we have a major problem on our hands.

I understand the 30% tax cut. Preston Manning and Reform were planning to run candidates in the last provincial election. The Common Sense Revolution, this document, came out May 4, 1994. I remember it well. Mr Clement was one of the proud architects. I just think the Common Sense Revolution is taking Ontario into a divided province, and do you want to know? I fundamentally disagree with it.

I know why you did it. You kept Preston Manning and Reform from running. In fact they thought it was a Reform platform. You hung Jean Charest out to dry. You made the deal with Preston, so you couldn't possibly support Charest. I feel very badly, because there's no question that Preston Manning's attack on Charest was a divisive, mean, nasty piece of business.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Phillips: It essentially said, "If you're from Quebec, you're no longer welcome to be Prime Minister of the country." That was a mean, nasty piece of business. But the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario, and I understand why, sat on its hands and let him make that accusation. Why? Because back in 1994 Preston Manning said, "Listen, if you don't agree to sit on your hands in the next federal election, we'll be running candidates in Ontario."

As I move to conclude my remarks, the member for Mississauga South is absolutely right: We have a fundamental disagreement.


Mrs Marland: But I admire you personally.

Mr Phillips: I try my best to keep personalities out of it. I'm not always successful, as many of us aren't, but I try and deal with the issues.

I don't disagree with the fact that you firmly and honestly have a belief in this document, the Common Sense Revolution. I just don't share that. The budget bill implements it, cutting off our fiscal stability, according to Standard and Poor's and the bond rating agencies. By the way, I would just add that the seniors are paying perhaps the biggest price of all.

Social housing is being dumped on to the property taxpayer. I remember this document well because my opposition waved it around, saying, "Under this plan there will be no new user fees" -- copayments or anything. One of the first things the government did was to bring in these enormous drug payments. I know it very well because my dear 94-year-old mother-in-law lives with us and she had to lay out her $100 and then each time pay her user fee. She thought Mike Harris promised no new user fees.

I'm without hesitation telling you all I don't like the Common Sense Revolution and I will resist it. I will point out that what it means right now is more people out of work than when Mike Harris became Premier, a youth unemployment rate at an all-time high and growing, and class sizes in the province now dramatically larger than when Mike Harris became Premier.

In the health care area, we're looking at closing roughly a third of the hospitals. By the way, the doctors said in their agreement, "We need more money because there's a growing population, an aging population." Ontario's population is going up by over 1.2 million people in 10 years, a large percentage of them seniors, but we've decided that this is the time we can close a third of our hospitals.

I proudly say I'm against the Common Sense Revolution. I think the people of Ontario are beginning to realize the price they're paying -- in their health care system, in their education system, in their policing. The biggest budget of the municipalities is policing and you've decided to cut $660 million and add it on to their expenses.

I'm proud to say that we're against Bill 129, with its neat little hostage in there to get it passed. It simply will add to the despair and the divisiveness in Ontario. With that, I'd like to turn it over to my colleague.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I'd like to congratulate my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt. I think that over the years he's demonstrated a real understanding of the basic economic factors that governments have to deal with. He has an ability to explain some very complicated economic issues which face the people of Ontario and he's done that with a lot of commitment. Nobody can deny that, whether you disagree with his perspective or not.

He issues a monthly bulletin called Treasury Watch, which I know people all across the province are asking for because it tries to explain the numbers, which are sometimes a lot for ordinary citizens to grapple with. He does try to explain the impact of provincial budgets, provincial expenditures to all Ontarians. I hope he continues to do that and I hope he continues to give his side of the story, because it's not easy in opposition to get your side of the story out. This is why we need debate in the House: to get the other side out.

In terms of this budget, I guess the thing that is most pivotal is the continual commitment to the tax cut. As you know, this is a tax cut that takes place before the deficit is taken care of. This government is going to continue to borrow money. In fact, in part XI of this bill the members on the other side will be voting to authorize the borrowing of another $7.5 billion. They're going to borrow this money as they're giving away money for a tax cut which generally goes to the wealthiest people in the province.

As all of us talk to ordinary citizens and taxpayers, over and over again they say, "No, we'd rather have our hospital open, we'd rather have our schools operating with small class sizes, we'd rather not pay user fees than that measly tax cut." Most middle-income, working-class people hardly notice the tax cut when you take into account the user fees. It's something that may be of value to people who make a lot of money, but to ordinary Ontarians the tax cut is not selling.

That's why in this last federal election the two parties that advocated a tax cut got shut out in all the seats in Ontario, except for two. They were selling something that people don't want. The people of Ontario would rather protect the most vulnerable -- the seniors, the disabled in our community. They'd rather have investment in affordable housing. They'd rather have investment in good roads than the tax cut.

They've said that very clearly, because they know with the tax cut there's a price to pay. We're paying the price right now, especially in our health care, where the slogan now is, "Don't dare go to a hospital alone. Don't let one of your loved ones go to the hospital alone," because it's like playing Russian roulette. You may get a room, you may get good care, you may get into emergency; you may not. Everyone is worried about the level of care in hospitals.

That's because the tax cut has essentially shown its impact in the front-line delivery of services in our hospitals across this province. That's where it's most evident. No matter how the government tries to skate on it, that is the price of the tax cut. If you look at this budget and how it impacts on that, it means this government is more committed to that reward in a tax cut than it is to maintaining a high level of basic services like health care.

As you know, part of this will be this government's direction to close over 30 hospitals in this province. In Metro alone this government is about to close and sell off 10 hospitals. When those hospital doors close and those emergency departments close, that will be another sign to the people of Ontario that you have a big price to pay for this supply-side economics approach to fiscal management, to this Reaganomics approach, to this Milton Friedman approach to governance.

It has been rejected. Even in the United States they've rejected it. Even the Republicans went down to defeat when Bob Dole ran on the tax cut pledge last time. The Republican agenda was rejected because they ran on the tax cut. Even in Alberta, which has a Conservative government, they did not get into giving a mammoth tax cut before they dealt with the deficit. Alberta has the wisdom at least to not try to burn the candle at both ends, which this government is doing.

They are trying to do too much too fast, and you can see it everywhere. You can see it in the user fees. Here's a government that the other day had to admit it was trying to double-charge seniors $30 million in extra prescription fees. They have to squeeze that kind of money from seniors to pay for the extravagances of that tax cut, which even the bond rating services -- it's not Liberals or New Democrats, it's not the opposition saying it. Moody's is saying it. The Dominion Bond Rating Service is saying, "You can't cut taxes, balance the budget and preserve services at the same time. Something's got to give."

What's giving is the social fabric of this province. The way you judge that is by what's happening to those in our society who are most vulnerable.


Certainly this government judges the quality of life in this province by what is good on Bay Street. If their friends on Bay Street are happy and they're eating and drinking high off the hog, they think everybody else on Main Street in Ontario is happy. That isn't the case.

You've got to talk to ordinary people. You've got to talk to the 55-year-olds who are out of work who go door to door asking for a job. They can't get any employment because they've maybe laid someone else off, business is down, "No room for you in my company."

You have to talk to the 20-year-old, the 25-year-old. Some 20% to 25% of the youth in this province are out of work. These are not young people who don't want to work. These are people who want to work at anything, whether it be in the high-tech field, whether it be in education, whether it be in health care. They cannot find employment. You can't write them off as being the so-called welfare bums. These are our children, these are your relatives, these are your constituents who are knocking on doors, just asking for a chance to be hired. They're not even asking for big wages; they're just asking for something so they can at least help out at home with a little bit of income and a regular job. They can't even get that. They're begging for work in a province where one segment of the population is doing quite well.

But as I said, our seniors are not doing very well when they have to pay for prescription drugs. Our seniors are not doing very well when their housing accommodation is being threatened by taking away rent control. Our single mothers are not doing very well when they can't get child care, when they can't get housing. Our mothers and our fathers across this province are all dramatically tuned into what's happening in education, where junior kindergarten has basically been wiped out, when we've been told over and over again that if this government really wants to invest in the future of this province, you start with children; you invest in junior kindergarten and child care.

This government is not interested in doing that because their priorities are not there. Their priorities are basically driven by the Milton Friedman approach, supply-side economics, which essentially favours the haves at the top. That's what this budget is all about, and all the measures are about trying to resolve the economic problems of this province on the backs of the most vulnerable.

That's the way you judge whether or not this budget is good: not by what the Bay Street moguls are saying, not by what those bankers are saying, but by what ordinary, taxpaying, law-abiding citizens of this province are saying. The vast majority of them now, who don't have huge bank accounts, don't own huge pieces of property, are saying, "We would rather have good hospitals with an emergency department, and we would rather have our hospitals left open," whether it be in Brockville, Burk's Falls, here in Metro or Port Colborne. People very resolutely are saying: "Keep your stinking tax cut. We would rather have our hospital open." That's the clear message, yet this government is hell-bent on doing whatever it feels is necessary as long as it doesn't get off the mark from its tax cut.

But this government was very clear in getting off the mark on its promises in the Common Sense comic book, where on page 6 it said, "Under this plan, there will be NO" -- in capital letters -- "new user fees." We're just seeing the beginning of user fees right across this province because of this government. The first who got hit were our seniors. Now every time you go to school the teachers and principals are having to collect user fees for everything from books to day trips; every time parents come to the school, they're hit with indirect user fees because there is no money for after-school programs, for extracurricular programs, for music programs in our schools. Our schools are fighting the result, the consequence of this irrational tax cut. They say, "We've got to keep our commitment," yet they didn't keep their commitment about user fees. They certainly got off that quickly.

The thing about it is, most Ontarians would probably say: "Why don't you delay that tax cut till we get rid of the deficit? Do that afterwards." They would probably forgive the Conservatives -- or the Reformers, or whatever they're called now, Reform-a-Tories; I'm not sure what they're going to be called -- if they said, "We realize that you want your hospitals, you want good class sizes, you want your roads fixed, you want good services, therefore we'll delay that tax cut till later." No, they're hell-bent on doing this thing -- "Right or wrong, we're going to come up with this tax cut" -- to prove a point, to whom I don't know. That is what is most troublesome: Despite the clear message from the voters of this province that they don't want that tax cut at the expense of closing hospitals, they don't want that tax cut at the cost of large classrooms, at the cost of eliminating junior kindergarten, they're still barging ahead no matter what.

That $200 million they scraped back from seniors on user fees: Why not reduce the tax cut by $200 million and give it back to seniors who are needy so they won't have to pay the $100 deductible every year, they won't have to pay the $6.11 for every prescription? If you asked seniors that, what would they say across this province? "Would you rather have your tax cut that goes to the upper echelons of society or would you rather have your prescription drugs without that user fee?" I think most reasonable seniors would say, "We'd rather have our prescriptions when we need them and not with an extra user fee or charge."

The other aspect of this series of bills in the budget is what's hidden here. The government is offloading, downloading, dumping a lot of the responsibilities of the government traditionally, everything from roads to welfare to social housing, on to the backs of property taxpayers. Property taxpayers across this province in essence indirectly are going to have to pay for this crazy tax cut, because generally speaking in the past the provincial government has provided for social housing support. They're getting away from that and dumping it on property taxpayers.

Property taxpayers all across this province will probably see their property taxes rise, or they may have to make the choice of reducing financial support for social housing, for instance; that's the choice municipalities are going to have to make. The municipalities are going to have to make choices on roads because this government has also dumped over 1,700 kilometres of roads on to municipalities. That means property taxpayers again will have to pay for these roads across this province. This is not a local responsibility. Social housing, welfare and long-term care, all these things that the government has tried to dump -- some they've backloaded, offloaded back and forth -- are not the responsibility of a property taxpayer, because a property taxpayer knows that property taxes are regressive in nature. At least an income tax is based on your ability to pay.

This is going to be the hallmark of this government, that they have essentially dumped traditional provincial responsibilities on to those who can least afford to pay, whether it be in user fees for seniors or whether it be on municipalities. Those municipalities all across this province will be offloading what the province has offloaded on to them on to their property taxes. Therefore, who's going to get hurt again? It won't be the property taxpayers who have huge homes and huge incomes. That moderate taxpayer with that modest home is going to be hit with property tax increases because of the downloading, so that this government can somehow say, "We balanced our books at the provincial level so we can get that tax cut through at the same time."

I know in Metro alone it's in the range of $500 million that they've dumped on to the property taxpayers. We don't really know what the exact number is because the ministry still has not even given the figures yet. They're still squabbling about who is to download and dump on whom so, for sure, we're going to see more user fees and higher property taxes.


One of the indirect fallouts of Bill 129 is that the person who is least able to afford these increases will be paying more, whether they take their children to the swimming pool, whether they have to go to extracurricular classes, whether they pay for prescription fees -- essentially in the quality of life.

If you look at people on social assistance, the first thing they did to try to give that tax cut was to cut social assistance unilaterally by 22%. Sure, there may have been some people on social assistance who weren't eligible or whatever, there was maybe some element of fraud that they always talk about, but the vast majority of people on social assistance -- 25% or 40%, I'm not sure of the exact number, are children, by the way. So that 22% cut came to social assistance and most of those cuts went to children and people who, through no fault of their own, couldn't find a job as a result of the recession. On the backs of those poor children and citizens, this government is getting the money for its tax cut, and it continues to borrow money for that tax cut.

In terms of where this budget is going, as I said, it's going to please Bay Street to an extent. Bay Street sees that the stock market is doing well, mutual shares are going through the roof and everybody is speculating on the stock market, so this government thinks everything is rosy in Ontario. But maybe it's about time this government talked to people on Main Street, people who perhaps don't own a company or don't own luxury homes or luxury cars, these ordinary people who can't make ends meet. As I said, these are the 25-year-olds who are out of jobs, these are the 55-year-olds who are out of jobs. As much as they say about all these jobs being created, people keep asking me: "Where are these jobs the government keeps talking about? I'm still unemployed. I would love to have a job. Where are they?" I think this government is not listening to the cries of all the youth who are looking for jobs.

As I mentioned in the House the other day, I had a 77-year-old man come into my office looking for a part-time job because he was trying to help out his daughter whose husband had lost his job. That's what it's come to. It will be just like in some of the states in the United States where you have 80-year-olds working as cash and checkout attendants in a grocery store because they can't afford the medical system. That's what we're getting to with this kind of budgetary approach. We're cutting off the most vulnerable.

I pass the baton over to the member for St Catharines now, who is going to finish off the debate.

Mr Bradley: I want to compliment my colleagues for outlining their concerns about a number of the provisions of this piece of legislation. There are some concerns and there are some supportable parts of the legislation as well. Most bills have that.

The bill is being influenced this afternoon, because as I am speaking, the government has dropped secretly or rather quietly this afternoon that which they tried to hide on Monday, June 2, and that is proposed drastic changes to the procedures of the Legislative Assembly, changes which I believe will totally eliminate the ability of the opposition to meaningfully deal with legislation.

I understand the zealots will like this. I understand those who are extremists on the government side will think this is very good and it will be efficient to pass a bill of this kind. But I'm telling you, I know there are people in the Conservative caucus, because I've served with them for a number of years, who frankly know better than to allow this to happen.

I know that if you run a small business, there is a way of running a small business, and you are quite entitled to run it that way. I think that's appropriate. A business does operate in a different way than a government, and government sometimes can use business methods in its various ministries. I think that can be applauded. I don't try to impose on businesses out there, for instance, the small businesses that people have, the same rules that we would follow in this House.

But I'm going to tell you, what we're seeing here is a real stroke against democracy; it really is. And do you know why it is? Because the next government won't change it. That's the problem. It will be used forever. You see, subsequent governments don't change those rules. Oh, yes, we'll make our speeches now and I am determined that I am opposed to the kind of changes I see being thrown down on the table now for debate. I'm very much opposed to those. I wish I could say to you that a subsequent government of which I was a part, if that ever happened -- that it would be changed. But it doesn't happen. I've watched it too often. It's too easy for a new government. If you give them the tool chest, as I think the Minister of Education was talking about, they use it. What I see here is simply the removal of any influence the opposition can have.

You see, governments are going to get their way. With this bill, for instance, you have 82 members. This bill is going to pass. You've been elected as a government and you have those 82 members. That's the way the system works and I respect that this is going to happen with legislation of this kind. Ultimately, when the vote takes place, it will pass in this House. There are some redeeming parts of this legislation, I must say, the bill that's before the House this afternoon brought forward by the parliamentary assistant. But there is nothing that is more outrageous than watching governments put a gun to the head of the opposition.

I know you are going to say, particularly newer members, as they said to me when I sat in the cabinet and newer members joined, "Isn't it awful the way the opposition wants to throw a monkey wrench into the works, wants to slow this legislation down, wants to use extraordinary tactics to stop the government in its tracks from time to time." Yes, it is. It's very inconvenient for a government. But I'm going to tell you, it's essential for democracy.

With this bill, with any bill that you have -- I listen to people out there. Not everybody disagrees with what you're doing. Some people who support me support some of the things you are doing. They say: "You know, we like this measure," or "We like that measure, and we understand you people in opposition don't agree with it. But what we wish is that the government would move more slowly and that the government would move with more consultation, that it wouldn't make such drastic changes and that it would look at the consequences of its actions."

This just allows the boys in the back room of the government, in the Premier's back rooms, to run the government, and the rest of you will be reduced to applauding. The rest of you will be reduced to being the cheerleaders for the backroom people in the government.

There are a lot of people on the government benches who know who has the most power. It's not even the members of the cabinet. Yes, the cabinet has more power than the average members, but really it's Guy Giorno, it's Tom Long, it's people of that ilk who have the real power. They are the people who drive the revolution, and there are some who applaud it. But there are some moderates over there as well, some people in your government who don't agree with everything you do. You agree with the general thrust, otherwise you wouldn't sit in the government caucus. But you know, you throw this at us and you just throw a monkey wrench into things.

I've been to the House leaders' meeting to discuss this bill this morning and to the House leaders' meeting on Tuesday. The mood was pretty conciliatory. I know the government's never as happy as it might be, but the mood was quite conciliatory. I was talking about how yesterday we offered to bring the Waterloo bill in and pass it, as well as a routine motion that we had. That was at the suggestion of the opposition. The two opposition parties agreed with that. I looked at the legislative schedule. Frankly, I think most of it could have been accomplished.

I compliment the government on one thing: It did not put a very controversial bill, I think it's 136, on the docket, and I think that was good of the government not to do that. That was good of the government, that was smart of the government, but I got the feeling this morning in the House leaders' meeting that you really didn't want the opposition to compromise, that somebody in the Premier's office had made the decision, "We're going to impose these rule changes and the hell with everybody else."


I like the government House leader and the whip. I know both of them. I respect them. I've sat in the House with them. They're good people and they're good people to deal with. Both of them are good people to deal with. I know where the orders come from, and the orders don't come from those two individuals. The ultimate orders come from the Premier's office, and that's the sad part. The unelected people, the advisers to the Premier, are running this place with this kind of motion.

It's awful when you go into negotiations realizing that no matter what you offer, the other side really doesn't want you to compromise. What they want you to do is dig your heels in so they have an excuse to shove this through. They didn't even have the intestinal fortitude the other day to have the government House leader make the announcement. They brought in the member for Nepean to make the announcement. If you're going to do it, I wish Mike Harris would actually make the announcement and say, "This is what I'm going to do." At least then it's on the table who's really behind it and not somebody else.

That's what happens with this bill. With this bill, for instance, the debate extended a longer time than I had anticipated this afternoon, and that was because we had the word -- I want to give him credit -- from the government House leader, who said to me about an hour ago, "We're going to drop these rule changes down." He was kind enough to do that. As I say, I respect him very much.

But this, I tell you, just turns the mood ugly, when this could have been the end of a session where the mood was I think quite conciliatory. Yes, we'd be disappointed that you're passing some bills, such as this bill, with which we find some considerable fault, but at least it would have been done recognizing that you are the government and you really believe in these things; you believe they're going to help the people of Ontario. I don't think you're doing it to be negative or you're doing it to be mean-spirited. I think a lot of people actually believe that what you're doing is going to work. You know something? In your heart of hearts you always hope it does work, that what the government is doing, despite that fact that in opposition you might oppose it, might help the province of Ontario.

But you do this and you poison the atmosphere. You'll get some editorialists who agree with you, who will say, "It's time this place worked more like a business instead of like a democratic institution." But democratic institutions aren't businesses, just as businesses can't be democratic institutions. They can't be. You can't run your business that way, and I understand that, but nor should you run a democracy this way.

I look at this bill and I ask, if this bill passes, will the world end? No, it won't. Are there some things detrimental? I think so. Are there some things good going to come out of this bill? Yes, there are.

But I see the iron fist coming and heading right at the opposition. It takes goodwill for this place to work. Sometimes that breaks down. Sometimes the opposition is at fault; sometimes the government's at fault; sometimes both sides are at fault when that happens. Nobody can claim to be pure in this at all. This is a political forum -- we're discussing the bill politically this afternoon; this is a political forum -- but it still has to work with the goodwill of people, with the discussion of people. As soon as you poison the atmosphere, as soon as it gets ugly in here, as soon as the war starts, I don't think anybody really benefits from that.

I want to tell you something. You can win the war on the government side because you have the numbers, because you have the weapons. You will win the war, but it will be a pyrrhic victory if you do, because you will have diminished democracy so much that even some of your supporters out there are going to be concerned when they see this happening. If you're ever in opposition again -- we never know; we can't predict these things -- I would hate to see another government in power that would restrict your ability to oppose, the way this motion that has been dropped this afternoon is going to restrict that.

As I say, I think it's important that elected people make these decisions, particularly senior members of the caucus and those who have a genuine belief in democracy. Not everybody finds democracy easy. I understand that. I even respect the points of view of people who aren't as democratic as I would like. I really do, because I understand their frustration with the system. They've come from the field of business. They must look at this place and say: "My gosh, it's cumbersome. It's often inconvenient for government, and shouldn't we be moving quickly? We believe in our agenda."

But you bring in this and, I'm telling you, it just poisons the atmosphere. Unanimous consent is something rather interesting in this House. Everybody needs it sometimes. When you ask for unanimous consent and it's not there, problems arise. It's: "Yes, we need unanimous consent. This afternoon you were kind enough to grant us unanimous consent." We have to grant you unanimous consent, because sometimes a government makes a mistake on a motion that could even lose a bill for you. Usually, the opposition, if they're reasonable, will say: "I understand that. Gee, we could get you with this, but we won't because we understand it's important, that it was just a mistake, just a technical or clerical error, and we want you to be able to proceed."

We're not going to engage in a filibuster on this bill, to my knowledge; we're not going to be putting all kinds of amendments through; we're not going to be having a sit-in as a result of this piece of legislation.

But I'm going to tell you, when you get into the fundamental rights of this Parliament, you watch the opposition dig in. It's not a warning; it's just something out there that I know will happen. You know, you can pass any bill. We fight over bills, as we've argued over this bill. My colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt and my colleague from Oakwood both made speeches on the actual contents of this bill. You'll disagree with them. There were some interjections; there was a good jocular exchange, I think. But the bills aren't nearly so important as the tool chest, when you give any government a tool chest so it can ram through its legislation with a minimum of consequences for the government.

The people in the back room want you to be able to move extremely quickly and they want you to move so there are as few scars left on you after the battle as possible. That's the way the public finds out about things, through extended debate or unique or extraordinary action on the part of the opposition which draws attention to something happening in the Legislature. Otherwise, unless you've got a gimmick or you do something with a prop in the House, or -- and I say this in a very positive sense -- a video always works well, chances are the public's not going to find out about a piece of legislation.

I think many members of the government were secretly happy that the opposition, extraordinary as the action was, did what we did on Bill 26 so that we had hearings right across the province and the government was able to make about 150 amendments to its own legislation. Was it a better bill as a result? Yes, it was. Was it an extraordinary action? Yes. Is it the kind of action you're ever going to take again? Very, very rarely would you ever dare as an opposition to employ that kind of action. But it helped democracy; I think it changed the government attitude in many ways to many pieces of legislation as a result. It wasn't a proud day for us, but it was an essential move on our part.

I just hope the government will withdraw this motion, because it's going to poison the atmosphere in this place.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks of the three members of the Liberal caucus. The first two members spoke of their disagreement philosophically with the direction this government has chosen in its budget. I will be echoing similar feelings, perhaps for different reasons; in some cases maybe the reasons will overlap. But certainly there will be a fundamental philosophical difference from the direction the government has taken. I want to commend both my Liberal colleagues on their excellent presentations.

I want to spend the remaining bit of time I have in responding to the Liberal members' comments focusing on the issue the member for St Catharines has raised: the rule changes. As he has indicated, there are two affronts that are felt. One is the substance, of course, what you're intending to do, but also the way it's been done. In the previous government, when there were to be rule changes -- government members who were here last time will recall that that was the result of quite a number of lakes and rivers and streams being mentioned, a tactic that had never been used before. In fact, a lot of things were done in the last Parliament that had never been done before, which is quite interesting from a historical perspective.

There were negotiations. I haven't seen the document, but as I understand it, one of the clauses contained in the document that's tabled today changes the very protection for the opposition that the then third party House leader, now Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Ernie Eves, proposed. It was his protection for the opposition, and now they want to change it. It's interesting that at the end of the day that same member agreed with the changes, although formally voted against it in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time is up.


Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I want to make a few brief comments in response to my colleague the member for St Catharines, who spoke somewhat on the bill that is before us and spent some time speaking about the House rule changes that have been tabled today.

Indeed, there's a great deal of wisdom that my colleague from St Catharines expresses. What we have to bring to bear in this debate is the fact that there have been problems where the House has not been proceeding. Indeed, I certainly can express my personal desire that we always protect the rights of the opposition to be able to express, in a reasonable time frame, in a reasonable way, their objection to bills.

Governments should never lose sight of the fact that in a three-party system, it's very seldom that a party ever gets 50% plus one. I know that's a little catchy phrase at the moment. Indeed, our government received 45% in the last election, which was an extraordinarily high amount of the vote. I believe the Liberals, when they had their great electoral success, got 47% of the vote. These were all-time highs.

We have to protect the rights of the opposition, but we also have to protect the rights of the government to pass legislation. Some extraordinary events have occurred in this Legislature which have completely stopped the passage of any legislation, in a way that has wasted time; it hasn't contributed to debate. I look forward to the opposition tabling their amendments to this and their suggestions about how to make the House run better.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to respond to the comments made by the members for Scarborough-Agincourt, Oakwood and St Catharines, although the member for St Catharines has been responded to by our very capable whip.

More specifically, Mr Phillips -- if I may be so liberal as to use his name -- was talking about our budget. I want to give the members and the people who are watching today a bit of background. The intention of our election was to stop spending $1 million each and every hour in interest. That was where we started. We were well supported across the province, and under the leadership of our Premier, Mike Harris, our plan is working. Ontarians are being able to keep their hard-earned money, the government is learning how to do more with less, yet we're maintaining the highest levels of investments in the priorities that the people of Ontario have been telling us.

Health care is our number one. We've increased the spending from $17.4 billion to over $18 billion, and added additional program funding for the transition in the delivery of health care in Ontario. We're investing in health care. We're investing in education. We're also restructuring both those important areas.

Is the plan working? I was just reading in the newspapers the other day that we're creating over 1,000 jobs every day in Ontario. It is obvious that the confidence is returning to this province. Under the leadership of our Premier and our finance minister, our budget surplus this year to the deficit plan was over $710 million, and we are committed to balancing the budget in the year 2000-01.

Is it working? Ask the housing industry. Is it working? Ask the auto industry. Is it working? Ask the people who have just received a job -- 1,000 jobs each and every day in the last couple of months.

I respect Mr Phillips. He's a very knowledgeable finance person. I'm not sure who prepares his briefing notes, but I'm going to read some things from his party's briefing notes.

The Acting Speaker: Sorry. The member's time is up.

Mr O'Toole: I thought I had an hour.

The Acting Speaker: No, this is questions and responses. You know that.

Mr Baird: I compliment my colleague the member for Scarborough-Agincourt on his remarks. He would be pleased to learn, I know, that the Ontario economy -- not the provincial government; the Ontario economy -- has created 101,000 net new jobs in the last three months. That's very good news for the people of Ontario. In my own community, it's 5,000 new jobs in Nortel, that could grow to as many as 15,000 to 20,000, even 25,000 new jobs, which is good news.

On the issue of the proposals to change the standing orders: Nothing in the proposals would limit the amount of debate in this chamber on a piece of legislation by one minute. What they propose is more opportunities for backbenchers to have the opportunity to participate in debate. Many of my colleagues on this side of the House and some of the others sit and watch some members give 90-minute speeches and then we don't have the opportunity to come here to this place and represent our constituents, and that would allow more democratic debate in this place.

One of the changes would require a vote on the budget. That was something that caused me great concern. I looked and checked the records. In fact, in the last 10 years this place has only voted even on the budget in three of the last 10 years; 70% of the time they didn't vote for the budget under all three parties, and that causes me great concern. This change will enable members of provincial Parliament to hold the government accountable for those decisions.

A majority of the proposals contained in the motion tabled with the order paper are simply employing the practice used in the House of Commons. I come from Ottawa-Carleton. The House of Commons is one of the most democratic institutions in the world. People come from all over the Commonwealth to look at the democratic principles employed in the House of Commons, and that's something a majority of these proposals simply seek to adopt.

What we're seeing is more accountability, a greater role for individual backbenchers and more opportunities for MPPs to speak in this place.

The Acting Speaker: The member for St Catharines, you can sum up.

Mr Bradley: We appreciate the comments of the opposition, as we always do. I particularly appreciate the comments of the government whip, whom I have a good deal of respect for and I don't always agree with, but I respect his viewpoint.

I want to point out that I have looked at these rules. Every one of them virtually is there, if you look at them carefully. The people who know the rules of the House know what they're designed to do. They're designed to very much limit the opposition. There may be a few others thrown in. I haven't heard the opposition get up and say, "We demand that you vote on the budget." That's routine. The budget went through. We know you're the government and you pass the budget. We haven't gotten up to demand more budget debate or anything of that nature. I've looked at them and I know, when people write them, what they're up to. They're up to severely limiting the opposition, and that means you, if you're in opposition some day.

It is partisan, because one government is proposing it and the opposition is opposing it. That does make it partisan. But I'm telling you it goes outside of partisan considerations. If you let this happen, it will poison the atmosphere in this place -- it will severely -- and you will win every time. With those rules, I'm telling you something, you can't lose. You'll win faster and tougher than you've ever won before and it will make some members of your caucus feel very good about doing so.

In the long run you don't win and democracy doesn't win. We can't help you by slowing you down so that you can take a look at what you're doing and maybe correct some mistakes, because sometimes governments make mistakes they want to correct themselves. Unless they are slowed down, unless they're held up, unless sometimes extraordinary action is taken, the government will bulldoze ahead and make mistakes. For the sake of all Ontarians, it's important that we do our best not to make those mistakes.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Christopherson: I would first ask for unanimous consent to allow us to split the leadoff debate with myself and our finance critic, the member for Lake Nipigon.

The Acting Speaker: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr Christopherson: I thank members of the House for the unanimous consent.

Mrs Marland: Not today, though, right?

Mr Christopherson: No, not today. It will be after today. Margaret, you get to hear me from now until the end of this House, so if you have to go, that's okay, I'll understand. I won't be offended at all, I assure you.

Mrs Marland: And you won't call quorum.

Mr Christopherson: I didn't say that. I didn't say I wouldn't call quorum.

As members know, when we're having a discussion on budget bills, there is the latitude to talk about virtually all a government is doing because at the heart of everything a government does, the budget very much dictates where the government is going. In that light I want to pick up again and just spend a couple of moments on the rule changes, first of all because it's so important, and secondly, because it's also so new.

It's just been a little over half an hour, as I understand, since the government tabled their proposed changes with the officers of the House. As I mentioned in my two-minute response, there are a number of things that we find very offensive, including the process. As early as this Tuesday, apparently the government House leader was advising opposition House leaders that he and they, you, were entertaining ideas and options around what process might be used, which is the way rule changes have always been implemented prior to our government, during our government, and once again we see the traditions, particularly the democratic traditions, of this place being ignored by this government.


When we think about what the government is using as their reason for bringing these in, the fact that the House hasn't always run as efficiently as they might hope, when we saw this House react to Bill 26, there was a positive outcome to what took place here. It wasn't perfect, but we at least forced this very much anti-democratic government to slow down.

First of all, there was the whole idea of that omnibus Bill 26, which was so far-reaching, again unlike anything we've ever seen in the history of Ontario in terms of the amount of raw legislative power you removed from this place and shifted into the confines of the cabinet room, which of course meets in private, whereas this place, for all its faults, is wide open. The seats are here for the public. The cameras are on. The media report. It's a transparent process. When you brought in Bill 26, you took away so many legitimate powers that belonged here, and you converted what used to require legislative debate and legislative approval into regulatory approval, which again can be done in the cabinet room. That was the first thing you did. Remember? You don't always like to talk about all of your track record.

The second thing you did was try to ram it through in the dying days of this Legislature in the ramp up to Christmas. Yes, the opposition went berserk, absolutely, and I would say no less berserk than members currently in the government would if they were on this side of the House and they saw what was contained in Bill 26, how vast it was, this omnibus bill, the bully bill, and how quickly you were trying to ram it through. We forced you to slow down. We forced you to provide at least some modicum of public hearings, although not nearly enough.

People will recall that the Health Services Restructuring Commission was but one part of Bill 26. That's how big, that's how vast, that's how incredibly imposing that bill was. You would call the use of the House during that time inefficient; we call it fighting for democracy.

I don't think there's a person out there, or certainly they haven't talked to me, who is saying one of the things the Tory government has to do is move quicker: "You're not moving quick enough. You guys are moving too slow. That's why you've got to have the rule changes." Nobody would believe that; in fact, quite the opposite. Even people who have some support for what you're doing are worried and concerned about how quickly you're moving.

You will get your rule changes. You have the majority. At the end of the day, no matter what we do, you will ultimately prevail, but the crime in this is that democracy loses. It's not me personally per se, nor our caucus, nor the combined opposition, but it is democracy that loses. If the rules are what came out of the discussion paper last week -- again, it was just tabled and I haven't had a chance to look at the details but I suspect it's fairly close -- if that's the case, under those rules you would be able to introduce a bill like Bill 26, or your WCB attack or your new attack on bargaining rights in the public sector, all the things people have a great interest in and deserve to be heard on, and there would be all but nothing we could do about it. You could introduce it on a Monday and make it law by the end of the week. The only thing that could stop you would be public opinion, and in this day and age, with the amount of mass information that people are bombarded by every day, it takes well over a week to get a single message out of this place. So by the time most of the public were aware of what you were planning to do or were in the process of doing, it would be done.

I realize that for the government House leader this sounds like a great idea. But for those who really believe, even as juvenile and as outlandish as it can get in this place, that there is something important that takes place in here, in the public domain, there will be real concern about what you're doing and what you're planning to do with it. Why else would you want it?

We made this argument about Bill 26 when we kept saying, "Look at all the powers you're giving ministers and taking away from this Legislature." The answer we kept getting was: "Oh, we're not planning to use it. We would never use it. No, no. It's just there."

Of course the reality is that, one by one, you're using every bit of power that you gave yourself in the confines of a cabinet room in Bill 26, and these rules are no different. There are obviously certain pieces of legislation that you don't want to face the wrath of the public on. It's not us in the opposition that you're afraid of, it's the wrath of the public. If you can ram something through and set new land speed records in doing it, you're going to, and you're going to do it with the most controversial legislation. You wouldn't do it with anything that might be perceived as popular. You'd want that to be talked about.

I think it will send a real shiver down the spine of the electorate in this province to think that in your cabinet right now the thinking is you can't move fast enough, because I can tell you, the opposite is true in terms of how people feel. This is very scary. It's very frightening. I don't think there's a great deal of honour and integrity around the process that you've used, and I can only hope that enough people are concerned enough to contact the government members, because at this point that's the only thing that at the end of the day will cause this government to change their mind.

I want to move now to some of the specifics of the bill that's before us, because the government of course is standing up and again screaming from the mountaintop how wonderful and perfect and glorious the 30% tax cut is, the magical 30% tax cut, the thing that's going to save Ontario. I even see a couple of the members nodding their heads up and down. I'm sure that if I had something written down, as you did in the skit last night, you'd all be bowing to it, or as a certain other member of this place likes to say, some of you have drunk the Kool-Aid. For those who have, of course the idea of a tax cut is wonderful.

I suppose if you're making enough money in this province, if you're already making $250,000, $300,000 a year, this is great news, this is terrific news. So what if they're cutting the education system? So what if they're cutting the health care system? You've got enough money at that income level to make sure you've got enough private health care to get the best money can offer, so it's not a big problem for you. In terms of education, hey, do what the élites have always done in this province: Send your kids to private school.


Yes, I'm sure there are some people who are just thrilled when every stage of this tax cut is implemented, but for the vast majority of people in this province, the tax cut is a loser. That is beginning to register with people as they see the attack on the health care system. They can't afford the private health care system, which would be the alternative, so they've got to have a decent, efficient, accessible public health care system for their family or they won't have one. The education system is the same thing: Since they can't afford the private system, they need the public system to work.

What hurts is that that's the majority of the people in the province. The majority of people don't make $250,000 or $300,000 a year. They don't make near that. They start to see the looming property tax increases, for those who are fortunate enough to save a down payment, buy a home and build what is usually the largest investment they have in their life: their home. They're looking at the property tax increases. What's so unbelievable is that while they're seeing that property taxes are going to increase, their municipal services are being cut, as a combined result of your transfer cuts to municipalities and your restructuring, which is not working. That will be shown as time goes on.

More and more, average working people and their families, while they obviously bought into your tax cut originally, otherwise you wouldn't have got the votes you did, are now beginning to look at the proof. What's the proof? The proof is what's in your pay every week. "How much of this great 30% tax cut am I getting?" That's the question people ask themselves. It's a legitimate question. It makes political sense. It makes personal sense. That's what people are looking at.

You know what? For most of them so far, zip, zilch, nothing. For a few lucky people it's maybe five or 10 bucks, five or 10 bucks at the cost of that education system and at the cost of the health care system the average middle-class family has to have, because they don't have those alternatives, and all the user fees that are now tumbling into each community from municipalities because they don't have any other alternative. They're saying to themselves: "This is a raw deal. This is not worth it. If somebody's winning big-time out there from this 30% tax cut, it ain't me and it ain't the people I work with, and it's not my neighbours and it's not my relatives. Who is it?"

This government likes to suggest that when we were in government, somehow debt and deficit in no way, shape or form meant anything. I see some of the heads bobbing up and down, the Kool-Aid drinkers once again: "Yup, yup, yup." The fact of the matter is that everyone has a concern about the debt and deficit. I would say directly to all the members, including the member for Mississauga South, who mumbled something that I didn't hear -- if you want to heckle, heckle loud so I can respond.

Mrs Marland: What do you mean by the Kool-Aid drinkers?

Mr Christopherson: They'll know. Ask them.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): He means people who don't drink beer.

Mr Christopherson: No. Jeez, get a life, you people. You don't even know what I mean by that.

The fact of the matter is that if you had any credibility on the issue of deficit and debt, the way you claim, like you're the only ones who know about or care about it, then you would not have brought in the 30% tax cut.

That is absolutely no different from a family that sits down at the kitchen table and puts all the bills on the table and says: "Family, we've got a problem. The credit cards are maxed out, we're behind in some of the utilities, the mortgage payment is looming, the car needs to be fixed, and we don't have enough money. We've got to find a way to deal with this." I would suggest to the members of the government that the one thing the income earners in that family would not say is, "The first thing we want to do in terms of dealing with all these debts we have is that everybody in the family who's working and paid by the hour takes Friday afternoon off." That's what you've done. You've cut the revenue source by $5.5 billion. That makes a lot of sense.

That's where you lose your credibility. You talk about the debt and deficit as being paramount, to the point that you're prepared to hurt people, hurt injured workers, hurt the poorest of the poor, all under the guise of having to deal with and bow to the holy grail of the debt and deficit, yet you've cut your revenue by $5.5 billion and you didn't even do it in a way that was fair in terms of everybody getting an equal share of it. It doesn't wash. That's why we're so outraged when you announce cuts, when you announce changes. Part of it is the philosophical difference, because we don't believe you see the same kind of society that most Ontarians have seen and I think continue to see, that as New Democrats we certainly see, in terms of what made us yet again the best country in the world to live, led by Ontario.

You've only been in power two years. All those benefits are from decades of building a society where everyone gets a share, where we don't say those who are the smartest and the fastest and the healthiest can take as much as they can and, "Everybody else, that's just too bad." That's not what made us number one. Americans aren't number one. Although we respect our neighbours to the south, we see a different way to run society.

While I'm talking about some of the differences between us, I would point out to this government that it was Bob Rae and the NDP who first started to make the changes necessary to actually deal with the debt and deficit. We did it a lot differently.

Mrs Johns: Oh, please.

Mr Christopherson: I knew this was going to happen, that I'd get that reaction from some of the members.

Mrs Johns: That is just outrageous.

The Acting Speaker: Order, member for Huron.

Mr Christopherson: Hear me out. I've still got another 12 minutes and I'm going to spend a bit talking about this. We governed during the deepest recession since the Depression of the 1930s. It wasn't the usual cycle of up and down. It was as bad as it had been since the 1930s. I'll tell you something else. The money we invested in communities kept tens of thousands of people working who otherwise wouldn't have had a job at a time when there were no lifeboats out there.

Something else that was different: In any other recession -- and remember, none of them were as deep as the one we were in -- historically the federal government had stepped in, particularly the Tories because they were there the longest, and worked with them because they recognized the importance of the economy in Ontario.

What I find most ironic, and can only now really start to laugh about it, is that we found ourselves in the most unenviable position of having our traditional supporters refuse to support us in the 1995 election campaign because they thought we had betrayed them in terms of the cuts we'd made, because we were making cuts and we were changing the way this province operates. They couldn't believe that an NDP government would do that. We didn't see it that way, but many of our supporters did.


Mrs Marland: No, it was the social contract.

Mr Christopherson: I hear the member for Mississauga South screaming "social contract." Yes, that was a part of it. All of that was part of us recognizing there needs to be attention paid to the debt and deficit. But I'll say this to the member for Mississauga South: We didn't turn our back on the poor. We didn't turn our back on seniors. We didn't cut the income of the poorest of the poor by 22%. We didn't take away 5% of the income of injured workers. We did it differently.

The reality is that at the same time our traditional supporters felt we had turned our back on them because we were addressing the debt and deficit. We said: "This is an issue that has to be addressed. We can't run from it. We've got to do it differently, because as social democrats we have a different view of this province and a different idea of whom the economy ought to serve, but yes, it needs to be addressed."

While that was happening, the current government members in the campaign were very successful at painting the opposite picture, which was that we didn't pay any attention to the debt and deficit. So we found ourselves in the very unenviable position of being squeezed from both sides, with very little manoeuvring room, and ended up with 17 members.

Such is life and we're not bitter, but that is what happened. I like to remind people that there are two different historical views of the perception of the Rae government, and that's crucial to understanding why we feel the way we do about the tax cut that's contained in this bill that's now before us.

The parliamentary assistant, as I mentioned earlier, said in her comments that they're building a better tomorrow for all Ontarians. She mentioned that the government's on track with deficit targets. Well, if we had $5.5 billion to reinvest right now, because that's how much your tax cut costs, then maybe, if it was invested in the right way, you could make those claims and not face the cynicism and scepticism that you do from a lot of people who are being left out. You know that.

There are some of you over there who have hearts and I've got to believe that some of you have a great deal of difficulty with the people who are being left behind, the people who are paying the freight, especially when so few people are benefiting so much by what you are doing. It's so patently unfair. It may be good politics for you, as you play the Progressive Conservative/Reform game, trying to decide which one you are, but for those Ontarians you're leaving behind, there is no hope. People are scared.

When I talk to seniors in my riding of Hamilton Centre, and I have a lot of seniors who live in the downtown core, they're frightened by what you're doing. That's not us. They're discounting and factoring in the role of an opposition member and the fact that we're politicians, and all of us here are not the most popular people by profession in the world. So it's not a question of fearmongering. It's a question of seniors watching what's going on, watching the parliamentary channel. Do you know how many seniors are watching the parliamentary channel because they want to know what's going on, because they're frightened? They don't know if the health care system that they know they need will be there for them.

When they hear that someone who makes a quarter of a million dollars is going to get upwards of $15,000 a year extra take-home because of your 30% tax cut, they go from fear to anger. You can claim that it's working -- everybody can play with numbers; everybody knows the expression -- but the fact of the matter is that you're way off your target of 725,000 jobs. Everybody is saying so.

As was mentioned earlier, there's no increase in your credit rating; it's exactly where it was when we were there. Yes, you can quote the comments that went along with it, but the fact is it hasn't moved up one iota. Why? Because most economists will say it doesn't make any sense for a government that says debt and deficit is the number one priority to give $5.5 billion back, and give it to those who already are benefiting most from living in the largest province in the best country in the world for the fourth year running, as decided by the United Nations. It's not fair.

If you took that money, in addition to taking a little longer to do this, we wouldn't have to have huge winners and huge losers, we wouldn't have to see communities that are virtually paralysed because they don't know how they're going to provide the key services they need, because you've cut so much. Oh, you've offered them one hope: You threw Bill 136 at them. Bill 136 is ultimately going to allow this government to ensure that collective agreements are gutted. There's money. Go after those public sector workers. Boy, if ever there's a group of people who are living high on a hog and have got it made, that's the group. So you go after them. They're your target.

You do that. You move from target to target. You started with the poorest of the poor. Every study has shown 3% fraud in welfare. Would that all the income taxes filed by all the high and mighty were only 3%. But for that you ran a campaign, got elected and announced you were going to take 22% of the income away from the poorest of the poor. Then you moved on to the next group. You went after OPSEU, and without one minute of public debate you rammed through a law that took away their rights. You didn't do it to anybody else, just them, because you're really good at labelling people. You do this special interest thing and then you build an environment in the community, in the public's mind, that somehow legitimizes, "If we just go after them -- them -- everything will be fine, and besides, they deserve to be hit," and then you find some reason.

You moved on to the next group, and it's been injured workers, and it's going to be teachers. Right now it's municipal workers, hospital workers, people who work in our schools. That's your answer to the paralysing situation municipalities find themselves in because of your cuts in transfers. Why did you make such deep cuts in transfers? Because you've got to find the $5.5 billion for your tax cut, so working people are going to pay again.

You're eliminating so many decent-paying jobs. It's almost as if that phrase were an anathema to you: "decent-paying jobs." It's okay for the top of the House to make as much as they can get, but God forbid an ordinary middle-class working person would go out and receive a decent pay and decent benefits and decent health and safety regulations and have a decent union to represent them. God forbid that should happen, because that's evil. It's got to be evil in your mind, because everything you've done has attacked the standard of living of the average working person, the average middle-class family in this province.

As you continue to move forward with your 30% tax cut, which you will -- you've got the power, and now you're going to change the rules and give yourself even more power because you don't think you're moving fast enough -- I predict there will be more and more people,

and you'll see it when you're out in the summer. I've said this before, and I think it's true. Every summer when you go back into your ridings and into your communities you've got more and more of your citizens who are scared and outraged at what you're doing. But it's too late for you to do anything about it, so the backbenchers who are never going to get in cabinet have to pray that somehow they can come up with more advertising that finds new people to blame in the next election so you can go through the same process that got you here in the first place.

I assure you there will be New Democrats and people who care about communities who will fight you every step of the way, including your rule changes.

The Acting Speaker: It being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday.

The House adjourned at 1800.