36th Parliament, 1st Session

L208b - Thu 19 Jun 1997 / Jeu 19 Jun 1997





Report continued from volume A.




Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of 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.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is with pleasure that I resume the debate on what we now know as the Tory Incompetence in Government Act, to talk about all the bungling they're having to go through in order to implement their flawed fiscal agenda.

We spoke last night about how this bill includes in it provisions, for example, around the Liquor Licence Act, to increase fines, but what isn't talked about is the reason for that. Most of the liquor licensing and monitoring responsibilities will be diluted, like liquor in some bad speakeasy, because there will be no inspectors available because they're being given responsibility to monitor the gambling that the government has decided to bring into this province, almost a tripling of gambling activities.

Each of the members in the government will have on the counters of bars and restaurants in their communities video gambling machines, which are purportedly going to be controlled away from minors, to keep down the addiction rate which has been so disastrous in other jurisdictions that have taken on these video gambling machines. Here we have in this measure today, this bill, a very weak attempt, an example of the incompetence of this government in trying to make up for the way that those inspectors are going to have to be spread out across the province dealing with these new gambling machines which they're going to force on everyone.

In relation to that, we saw the headlines today about how municipalities get to vote on gambling in their communities. What they didn't tell you -- as so often this government can't afford or doesn't seem to have the capacity to talk straight to the voters -- is that in reality most of the gambling that's going to be inflicted upon the communities in this province won't be subject to any local control whatsoever.

We'll see gambling machines in every bar and every restaurant that's licensed and we'll see the gambling centres -- they're calling them charity gambling centres, but they really are mini-casinos, and nobody gets a vote on that. In fact local bylaws don't have any control over how much of that is done. Why has this large expansion of gambling become necessary? Solely and exclusively because this is a government that can't balance the numbers, that can't get its books straight and has to depend instead on the last resort, the most cowardly way for any government to bring in its revenues. That's expanded gambling, exploitation of its most vulnerable.

It bears repeating again what this government had to resort to, just how badly it has its affairs in order, when it had to try and tax seniors on drugs. After 20 years of free drugs for seniors, something that many of them had planned their retirement around -- they have bad health; they knew that expenditure would be there; it has been there for 20 years and they couldn't imagine that this government would stoop so low as to tax seniors. But they did it; they taxed seniors: $100 deductibles, $6 at a time. We are aware of seniors paying $1,000, $2,000 a year in a tax on drugs, thanks to the members opposite, thanks to their lack of consideration for the travails of seniors.

That $170 million last year and another $55 million this year have been cut from the drug program. So we have a government that has cut money from the drug program and made up for it directly from the pockets of seniors. That's a significant development in the life of this province, because it talks about a government prepared to pick on vulnerable people, a government prepared to go what it thinks is the most politically easy route, showing us its character.

That was compounded. This government stooped even lower than we imagined it could possibly do when this government took it upon themselves to tax seniors twice in an eight-and-a-half-month period. They charged seniors a second $100 deductible just eight and a half months after the first one was imposed.

You would think, with 80 members on the opposite side of the House, somebody on that side of the House would recognize how patently unfair this was to seniors, how unnecessary it would be to go to the aged people in this province, people who contributed their whole lives, to make up for the foibles of this government, for their inability to make their phoney tax cut work. Instead, we didn't hear a peep. We didn't hear one member opposite stand up and say that seniors were getting a raw deal.

Can you believe it took 71 days, with 972,000 seniors getting double-taxed by this government, harmed by this government, as many of them chose to put off important medications, chose not to get the help they needed, because this government had the recklessness to not even pay attention when told when those effects were taking place?

After 71 days, and only after the seniors of this province banded together and gave this government an ultimatum -- they recognized the only way you deal with a bully government is to try and bully back. So seniors said to the member for Nepean, to the members opposite, "You might think you can get away with double-taxing seniors, but we aren't going to let you." With some help from the Liberal caucus, seniors made their point, and after some embarrassment this government finally backed down and is giving a four-month credit to seniors and is prorating them for the amount of money that had been taxed on drugs. That should have been done in the first place. There's nothing that seniors in this province have to be thankful for, because this has been borne out of their quality of life.

We see the character of this government revealed so very clearly in measures like that. When we're being asked today to look at the various measures, we see a government that simply can't add, that can't get its books straight, can't get its legislation straight.

We're being told unless this bill passes July 1, 1996, all the trust corporations in the province go out of business. So we see a government that couldn't order its business to prevent that risk from being put forward to this Legislature. It's typical. It's the kind of thing we've come to expect: the government slopping around, trying to find ways to deal with its own agenda.

We see also what we might want to term the Bre-X amendment. The government finally stopped taking money from the securities commission, soaking that up for its own purposes, and is now allowing the Ontario Securities Commission to get on with doing its job. It comes a little too late for the people who invested in Bre-X.


We see the centrepiece -- I guess some of the members opposite consider it the crown jewel, but it really turns out for most of the people in this province to be a bag of garbage -- which is the tax cut. We're being asked in this bill to approve the tax on income being reduced primarily for people who are well off in this province. Nobody could argue against reducing tax burdens in and of themselves, but to do so recklessly, to do so irresponsibly, to do so at the direct harm -- not just the consequence but the harm -- of people in this province is what many, many people here are starting to recognize. Every dollar, so-called, that they receive is costing them $3 in extra money that they have to borrow, the services they're losing and the kinds of user fees they're going to have to pay. Many people, including seniors, did not vote for a government to impose user fees as a way of providing this phoney tax cut, a tax cut that cannot be supported by the economics of the government today.

Ironically, in this bill we are being asked to borrow on behalf of the people of Ontario $7.5 billion for the continued operations of this government. That government is, ironically of course, a government with a Reform agenda but an NDP credit rating. Unfortunately three of the major credit rating houses have said to this government, "We've evaluated your plans, we've looked at your phoney tax cut, we've looked at how they can't be balanced, and we're going to give you on that side of the House, with all your rhetoric" -- at least the NDP were honest enough to say where they were making their tradeoffs. But on this side of House, with the usury of this government on behalf of a small number of people who will benefit, of all people the credit watch houses have said to you: "You deserve exactly the same rating. You haven't improved the fiscal stability of this province one bit."

I think it's interesting for people to know how well this looks on this particular government. They are going to borrow $7.5 billion, and approximately $3 billion of that is going to be for the tax cut, is going to be simply for the misguided outlook this government has as it relates to fiscal affairs.

It is really significant, I think, that so many people in the province are now starting to realize how very much this was a comic book agenda. This wasn't a Common Sense Revolution, it was a comic book revolution, 21 pages with pictures: no details, no plans, no idea how to go about the complicated affairs of trying to bring order to this province. Instead, we have a government mired in confusion. We have a government that cannot get its most basic affairs in order, that sees us having this tax cut at the expense of a tremendous number of people.

I want to turn briefly to the affairs of people who are the most vulnerable: people who are sick in this province, people who depend on hospitals. What could they come to expect in this budget from the government? Could they perhaps look to a government to review its affairs and to make a determination about whether or not its decision in December 1995 to slash all the hospitals in this province -- every single member sitting opposite has had their hospitals cut, has had money taken away from essential care for patients. Every single one. There are two hospitals in the province, in York region, that ended up with more money. Every other one has lost money, has lost the ability to provide for people.

The budget, shamefully -- and this unfortunately again relates to something more fundamental than the numbers; it talks to the character of this government. This government tried to advertise the idea that it was increasing health funding. When we brought the health budget, kicking and screaming, into the estimates committee, what did we find? We found that last year $400 million of so-called expenditures was nothing but an accounting change. It's the kind of thing that patients who have had to lie on gurneys for hours on end in emergency rooms across this province have come to understand, that this government is not managing the affairs of this province adequately. It is not putting the money where it belongs.

In taking $365 million away from hospitals last year, in taking $435 million away from hospitals this fiscal year, that $800 million is a tax on the sick, a deduction away from the quality of life. This government doesn't even have the pride of place to say, "We're doing this for some particularly good reason." Instead, it tries an accounting entry at the end of the year to try and fool us that something else has happened for hospitals.

Hospitals have always had a holdback payment every year, and when the government saw itself slipping below the level it committed to in the comic book revolution, it put in $400 million that would have been paid to the hospitals within a couple of weeks of the end of the fiscal year. Instead, it had that accounted for during the fiscal year. But it meant that not 10 cents was available to hospitals to improve what they were doing. It is sad. It is difficult to understand the calculations of a government that can't see beyond the numbers.

We tried again in committee to speak to the Minister of Health, hoping he might have some level of influence on the bean counters in the Premier's office and in the Minister of Finance's office, that he might be able to adequately represent these very serious concerns. Instead, what we received back was what I can only term a shock for the citizens of Peterborough, for a family that was deeply affected by a situation that existed there.

Instead of dealing with the reductions in patient care which all the health professionals in this province agree are occurring -- in fact, we have the College of Physicians and Surgeons in this province having to deal with the situation of physicians being held accountable for the quality of service to their patients, for situations they can't control. They want something done by a hospital, but that system, thanks to the Harris hospital cuts, won't provide those services. That doctor is under the responsibility to do the best for their patient, but it's being taken away from them. In fact, there's a court case now holding a doctor accountable not for what they did on their own, not for the kinds of things they could control, but instead being held accountable for where their patient arrived on a waiting list for cardiac surgery, a waiting list made necessary by the cuts of this government.

The situation in Peterborough was unfortunately an even stronger indication of a government that has completely lost its way, a government unable to acknowledge the reality which has happened probably more quickly for this government than any other that we've seen in the recent history of Ontario. When confronted with the situation, all the Minister of Health needed to say was: "There's a problem here. We want to fix it. We want to work with the people who are involved. We want to do something about this. We do not want 20 or 30 people to be in the emergency rooms of our hospitals in this province in 1997. We don't consider it acceptable that one of those people, a Mr Whitehill, should die in those circumstances, that he should be found dead by a family member." That's all the Minister of Health needed to say, and then to follow up with some actions.

Instead, to the shock of that family, to the discouragement of that family, to the apprehension of the staff at the Peterborough Civic Hospital, the minister decided to create a story about him sitting at home, watching on television, seeing the stretchers in the hallway, and deciding on his own that that was a stunt put upon the people of Peterborough, upon this particular individual and his family, upon the media and upon the government by the staff, the nurses and doctors of that hospital. That is a heinous allegation that occurred more than a week ago, and this minister has yet to provide one scintilla of evidence for its veracity. There is no basis to believe that should in any way be given any credence.

What it shows is a certain level of desperateness which is reflected in this bill, Mr Speaker, I think you would agree, if you were looking at it. There's a level of desperateness there, a desperateness that doesn't acknowledge the reality of what this government's agenda is about. We can have problems in our hospital system that not only are not dealt with by this government, but instead are explained away by blaming some of the very people who are affected. It's not only unacceptable, it's beyond what is reasonable for the public to have from a government of whatever stripe in this House. It again shows us that this Reform government, with their NDP tax credit rating, just has no --

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This is an important issue and we do not have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you check for a quorum, please.

Acting Clerk at the Table (Mr Douglas Arnott): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for York South.


Mr Kennedy: I'm happy to resume to talk about how poorly this government is able to relate to the health concerns of the people in this province, the simple inability of its representatives of the people, the individual members of the government, the Ministry of Health, and ultimately where the responsibility belongs, with the Treasurer and the Premier's office, to recognize how damaging are the cuts they've made in health care.

We spoke earlier about seniors, about the drug cuts of $175 million that have been made by this government. We spoke yesterday in estimates committee with the parliamentary assistant, Mr Newman, who refused to table the government's own estimates of what exactly has been reinvested. But it turns out that it's not necessary, because the estimates process, which thankfully is one of the things this government hasn't tried to change, hasn't tried to obfuscate, is very revealing. The estimates book available now to the public, and put on the agenda of the estimates committee by our party, tells the public very clearly the variance between reality and what actually is being said by this government.

We find, for example, a government that has trumpeted using public funds in the order of $1 million -- we understand it could be as high as $6 million for all the ministries involved -- to advertise what it's doing in terms of health care, to talk about reinvestment, to talk about money it's putting back in the system. The estimates book makes absolutely clear -- and I challenge all the members opposite, in case they believe it should only be left to the minister and the parliamentary assistant, to prove there has been an amount of money put back in the system that is equivalent to the money taken out, because the estimates show a deficit of $300 million that has been cut from this system, from hospitals. It goes higher if we include the cuts from drugs, but from hospitals alone versus the amount of money put back in there's a $300-million deficit, and that $300 million is illustrative; it's the kind of money this government considers okay to take away from seniors but not okay to give back to the hospital system.

We see all across this province tragedies emerging, people on waiting lists, people having difficulty, people having tremendous concern about their own situations and those of their families. It's a new situation. We did not have these gurneys in the hallways before this government. We did not have that number; we did not have that kind of problem.

While the quorum was being established we had a discussion with one of the members and the honourable member tried to assert that hospitals were doing well in Peel region, for example. In point of fact, we have hospitals in Peel and other parts of the province running deficits, deficit-financed hospitals having to cover over for what's happening in this province.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): In Peel?

Mr Kennedy: Absolutely. "In Peel?" asks the surprised member opposite. It again goes to show, just like the minister, there is a difficulty on the part of this government as a whole in getting in touch with what exactly is happening. It is extremely problematic.

Hon Mr Sampson: What's the hospital's name in Peel?

Mr Kennedy: Pardon me, Mr Speaker, but the member opposite is asking whether it is indeed a real hospital. Peel Memorial has had to deal with a tremendous amount of pressure on its budget, a tremendous number of cuts, a single hospital serving 300,000 people, unrecognized by this government, and we don't have a growth formula.

We heard again, as we try to put, as is our job as long as the government doesn't totally circumscribe our ability to do so -- in estimates we established that there have been cuts to hospitals, cuts to the drug program, and the money put back in simply doesn't match. The minister instead has told us about $1 billion. Last year, $262 million was all that made its way back into the system.

On March 28 last year, on behalf of the government, the Minister of Health stood up and said -- this is 1996, I'll remind you -- $170 million, a massive amount of money, is going to find its way into long-term care. Do you know what the actual spending was on long-term care? The spending on long-term care in the last fiscal year was $750,000 less than the year before, and hidden away, $33 million for expansion of long-term care had actually been cut the year before by this government; and the only answer, the weakest answer imaginable that we could get on behalf of the 17,000 people, elderly people, people with long-term-care needs in terms of their health, people who are waiting for long-term-care facilities, the best answer we could get from the minister, from his deputy, from his parliamentary assistant was that somehow the communities didn't respond. "The money was there, but it's their problem." That's the abdication of responsibility the people of Ontario are starting to recognize as the signature of this government, an inability to come to terms with reality, and it's reflected in the kind of fudging we have taking place with regard to the fiscal capacities of this province.

We saw again in health a discussion about a reinvestment fund, a restructuring fund that would help the province get to a new age of hospitals, and in the budget it sat there as $1.3 billion. It looked like a lot of money, but the estimates in this blue book say how much money is actually going to be spent, $1.3 billion promised -- trees fell to create the press releases, to create the propaganda, to do all that kind of thing, money was spent on television ads -- and the reality is that only 17% of that money, 17 cents on the dollar, is going to find its way into the system this year. Now, 17% might be the level of credibility we could ascribe to the government, because it simply is unable, and perhaps fatally constitutionally unable, to follow through to match the rhetoric it has put in front of us as part of its program.

We see that this isn't just a perspective derived from people who have access to the estimates briefing book. The Ontario Medical Association itself says that there is no increase in health funding. Boris Kralj, who is a PhD in their department of economics, says that per capita health spending continues to decline because -- as is so often unfortunately the case for this government; I guess it's the allure of Queen's Park that deducts some of that ability to smell the fresh air and tell what the real world is -- people are getting older. There is an aging population. We've had instead our spending on health declining from $1,270 per person to around $1,100 per person.

That's the kind of thing that has been managed, and as we've already said, it's not just a question of numbers. It's the inability of this government to relate the numbers on the page, to relate the tax cut to the harm it is causing. That will probably be its fatal flaw. It's this inability of its back bench to talk about what's happening in terms of cuts to their own community, to the hospitals that are being closed in Port Colborne, in Fort Erie and in Grimsby, to the threats that were put on there, to the threat to the hospitals in Waterloo, to the closure of fundamentally good hospitals like the Riverside and Women's College, the Wellesley and the Doctors when we ask them to go beyond the numbers. We said to this government: "Provide us with some evidence that you know what you're doing, give some assurance to the people of this province, because it's what they want, particularly in respect of health care. Give us some idea. Will there be policies?"

The people of Grimsby came out 7,000-strong, 2,000 or 3,000 in Port Colborne, 7,800 letters from the people of Walkerton. When faced with that kind of threat the bully backs down and we now may have a small and rural policy. What we won't have is a policy for women's health in this province. What we won't have is a policy to deal with francophone health. Here we have a government of the most populous and economically powerful province of this country unable to rise to the occasion, unable to take in its own hands its portion of responsibility for national unity, unable to recognize that the Montfort has implications. Today the Franco-Manitobans came out and said: "We need Montfort. We need a hospital where French is the first language to train our people to sustain the French back in that province." But the government has washed their hands of those kinds of responsibilities. They've said: "We can't deal with that. We've given it away to an unelected commission, to the Health Services Restructuring Commission."

On behalf of the people of Ontario we pressured the minister to admit, and he finally has admitted, that it is by choice that this exists, because the power to deal with hospitals, the power to close, the power to reduce their budgets, the power to change the way they function, whether they have emergency services to offer, is in the minister's hands. The minister had to agree the law is clear that he has the power. If the Wellesley Hospital closes and AIDS patients don't get service that is as good, it will be the Harris government's fault. If Women's College closes and women in this province don't get served as well, it will be because the Harris government, faced with its responsibility, meets its limitations, is unable to acknowledge reality.


The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mrs Boyd: I'm pleased to have an opportunity to respond to the member for York South and to say to him that he is very right to identify quite clearly the impact of the tax cuts involved in this bill on the services and the service providers and those who access the services of not only the health care system but all of the public services that we have.

There is no question at all but that the all-fired determination of this government to insist upon the tax cut as the only means of triggering economic growth is causing extreme pain to those who require the services that we've developed over many years in this province.

The member talks about the closure of hospitals and what the impact of that is on communities. One of the issues that we've been dealing with at the health estimates, as he pointed out, is what the impact is of the dollar decisions that this government is making. Again and again in those estimates we pointed out that there was line after line after line of the health budget that was underspent from the estimates of last year. Those underspent areas most often involved the vital community-based services in mental health, in health prevention and promotion that we require to turn a system around, a system that's been focused on illness rather than on health.

He is quite right that the decisions that have been made around the money in the health system have focused those dollars on exactly those people who benefit most from our tax dollars -- the physicians. Those who are going to have the highest tax benefit also cost the most to the system.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I think when a member stands in this place and talks about all the closings and all the cutbacks and all the impact that has on health care in this province, they really have to be very careful to be accurate because, whether we like to admit it or not, people do watch the legislative channel. It's unfortunate that sometimes the information that is put on that channel can cause some concern to the public. It's important to reconfirm the fact that the previous two governments closed 9,000 hospital beds in this province. Frankly, we agreed with that because that is the best kind of planning. If there were 9,000 hospital beds in this province that were not being utilized, it made sense not to keep them open.

But really, when you think about the extension of that, how could you close 9,000 hospital beds without closing one single hospital? That meant you kept all these buildings open with closed beds, mothballed wings, and the impact is that you still heat, clean, administer, cool in the summer; all the maintenance of that building continues. But in fact, 43 hospitals are in Toronto. If somebody can defend 43 hospitals in Toronto, I would like to hear it.

The point is, I'm really pleased that we're making the kinds of decisions that we are in health care because we are finally prioritizing and reinvesting the dollars where they need to be spent.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Let me just start off by saying to the member opposite, ask the people of Ontario whether they're satisfied with the kind of health care --

The Acting Speaker: Respond to the debate by your own member.

Mr Gerretsen: I am responding to that. Ask the people of Ontario whether they're happy with the kind of health care restructuring that you're doing.

This is all related of course to the first item that's contained in this bill, and that's the tax cut. That's what this is about. What we're saying is that your tax cut is being funded with the kind of idiotic, nonsensical cuts that you're making to the health care system, as has been so ably illustrated by the member for York South.

There's another very interesting item that has not been talked about in this House at all that's contained in this document, and that's the land transfer tax. For some reason, this government has decided to eliminate the 20% rate of land transfer tax that's being paid by foreigners who want to buy either farm land or agricultural land and recreational land in this province. It's a policy that has been in existence since 1974 that was brought in by an enlightened Conservative government rather than the Reform group that we have in here now.

I would like to hear from a government member or a government minister to stand in their place and to tell the people of Ontario that they are no longer concerned as a result of the action that they're taking in this bill, that they are no longer concerned about foreigners buying up our vacant land, our farm land, our recreational property. There was a concern at one time. Why don't they come right out and say that they no longer care about that, because that is the result of the action that you're taking in this particular bill. You're shaking your head no. Why are you changing that? You're changing that because you don't care whether the foreigners own the property and the land in the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: The member for York South has two minutes to respond.

Mr Kennedy: I appreciate the comments of my colleagues. It is of course sad, though. We believe that there are good and honourable people on the other side of the House. We want to see expressions of that in this House. It is a critical time for the people of this province. When we see these overarching, unreasonable obsessions with tax cuts for a limited number putting at risk the quality of life that has been developed for the vast majority of people in this province it is indeed sad that we can't persuade the members opposite to stand up against that.

We see instead the increase in gambling. We see instead the cuts to seniors, the cuts to health care. We have heard from some members the importance of taking care, and there we can concur. But as we saw from a number of members participating in the estimates committee, none of them had the figures, none of them are being told. The singular question is: Why aren't they finding out? Why aren't they understanding that there's a huge difference between $1 billion in promises and $200 million in real spending, that people hurt when those things don't happen on the part of the government, when you tell people that mental health community services will be improved because we're closing psychiatric beds and at the end of the year not one cent of that $25 million has been spent, not one dime?

When you kick people out of hospitals quicker and sicker -- we heard reference to empty beds. Two thirds of the beds that this Harris government wants to close have patients in them today. That medical management is being done solely to save money, to weasel away from their responsibilities of modernizing the system. If these members would respond on behalf of their constituents, they would put the community system in place first. That's what we will do when we replace them.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): The bill that we are addressing today is Bill 129. The short title of that is amendments to tax statutes. It is, in a manner of speaking, an omnibus bill, an appropriate omnibus bill in the sense that it is minor amendments in a number of tax statutes plus one major amendment in the Income Tax Act.

If I can just for a moment briefly mention the various tax statutes that are affected by this: There is an extension to the refund program under the Land Transfer Tax Act, which is something our government had supported, and we would support that extension. There are some minor amendments to the Retail Sales Tax Act which clarify application of retail sales tax on certain consumer products in the software area, for example, in computer programming, and bring it in line with some of the federal changes. Some aspects to it around border collection, where Revenue Canada collects retail sales tax at borders and the provincial sales tax would be collected by the federal administration: It brings it in line with some of those changes. These are all relatively minor changes.

There are some changes to the Tobacco Tax Act. Given that the federal government has increased the tobacco tax, there is this interesting little number in the Tobacco Tax Act which says that the provincial tax on cigarettes will increase in step with the federal tax. It's an interesting way for the province never to have to actually announce that they are themselves introducing an increase on cigarettes, but it's something that makes sense, rather than having a big debate about this all the time, if that policy is established at the federal level.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): It could say no.

Ms Lankin: It could say no, but it's not something that I personally object to, again seeing both the revenue generation and the fact that I think the level of pricing of cigarettes does remain an important issue with respect to deterrence of purchasing of cigarettes by youth, who have less disposable income usually. That's an issue that has been debated in this Legislature before.

There's a repealing of the Small Business Development Corporations Act. This is not actually a tax statute, but this is one thing that I actually disagree with in here. But the government had made that announcement in the previous budget, that they were winding down the small business development corporation, and so in a sense, subsequent to that announcement a number of years ago, this is now being repealed, the act is being repealed. I think the kind of assistance programs that should be in place for small business should include some of the aspects that were under the Small Business Development Corporations Act, but I do agree that there are other ways to work with small business. So again, while that's not a part of the bill that I think is appropriate, I understand it and I wouldn't object to the bill just on those grounds.

Interestingly, in the bill there are also a couple of changes to the Liquor Licence Act and the Tobacco Control Act. Here I find this interesting, because these two are buried in amendments to tax statutes, and these aren't exactly tax statutes. These amendments are increasing the maximum fines. For example, in the Liquor Licence Act there are a number of provisions within the act where if you contravene that act, you would be fined, one of them being, for example, the prohibition against selling alcoholic beverages or liquor to citizens under the age of 19. If someone was caught doing that, the fines could be increased; similarly with the Tobacco Control Act, and again a similar example could be used.

Again, I don't object to that. I think these things are quite in keeping with public policy with respect to ensuring that tobacco vendors, for example, don't sell to under-age citizens. Those things I don't have an objection to, although I will point out that it's ironic from a government that continues to say, "We will not raise revenues to the government." In government, these things are often called non-tax revenues. These are the sorts of user fees and fines in other areas in the budget. If you look in the budget and you look at the pie charts of revenues, you'll see there are revenues that come from retail sales tax, from personal income tax, from other minor kinds of taxes, gas taxes, other things, and they're all spelled out, and then there's a chunk that come from what's referred to as non-tax revenues. It's still revenue to government. These fines are in that category of non-tax revenues.

Here's a government that says, "We're not going to take in more revenue, we're not going to have more user fees, we're not going to do any of that taking money out of people's pockets," and what do we find here? Increases in non-tax revenues. Again, I agree with these two provisions in terms of the Liquor Licence Act and the Tobacco Control Act, but I'd just point out the ironic nature of that, how the government says one thing to the public and how when you look inside these omnibus bills and look at these minor changes to a variety of statutes, you actually find that they do something else. But I think we're getting quite used to that.

The major part of this bill, and that's what I want to spend most of my time talking to, is the changes to the Income Tax Act. Again here there are a couple of minor changes which just bring the act in line with the federal Income Tax Act in terms of its language. I'll give you an example. You know that the federal government changed the unemployment insurance system to a new name, the employment insurance system, another little bit of political spin-doctoring as far as I'm concerned. It is necessary, therefore, for our provincial statute to be correct in its language. If the feds change the name, you can't have a provincial statute that still refers to unemployment insurance. There are some minor changes like that.

The large change, though, and really what this particular budget bill is all about, is the changes to the Income Tax Act which implement phases 3 and 4 of the 30% Ontario tax rate cut. We know that is very significantly part of the government's Common Sense Revolution and what they campaigned on, a cut to personal income tax, and that they have proceeded along those lines.

There are a number of reasons why I am extremely opposed to this measure on the part of the government, and believe me, it's not because I want to pay more taxes. I, like everybody else, would love to have more disposable income. I'd love to be able to purchase items that I've had in my mind and have been dreaming about and would like to do or perhaps be able to go to the particular vacation spot that I've thought about and haven't been able to do. I think it would be very nice. But I have to balance that desire with the impact of such a public policy on our economy, on the ability of government to deliver services, on the government's fiscal situation with respect to deficit and debt reduction. All those things are very important.

When I see the fallout from the government proceeding at this time in the province's history with this 30% cut in provincial personal income tax, I think it is a devastating policy. It is devastating in terms of what it means for jobs and the kind of job creation we could be having in this province right now if it weren't for this government's tax cut. It is devastating in terms of the kinds of cuts the government has had to make in areas of services and government expenditures in order to finance part of that revenue loss from the tax cut, particularly areas like what it has meant to the poorest people in this province in terms of the cut to welfare rates, and certainly what it has meant to programs that I feel very strongly about, like child care, and how important that program is for people to be able to enter the workforce and be in the workforce and have good-quality, regulated care for their children. What I see happening in the government's policy with respect to that I fear turns the clock back two decades in terms of the provision of child care in this province.

I think it is devastating in terms of what it means to our health care system, something I feel very strongly about, having been honoured to have held the post of Minister of Health in this province. I believe very strongly in the restructuring that must take place, but what I see happening, being fuelled by the fiscal imperative as opposed to the health reform imperative, is quite frightening, both the pace and the way in which it is being managed or, I would argue, being mismanaged.

I want to touch on those areas as I have this opportunity to address Bill 129. First of all, let's talk about the tax cut and what that means to the government's fiscal situation. As you know, the government, when they were elected, were facing a significant deficit. I certainly understand that deficit and the challenge of that, having spent the five years previous in government during one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen, that North America has ever seen, and knowing the gut-wrenching choices you have to make around attempting to provide services and maintain services in the province at the same time that revenue was actually decreasing year over year.

It wasn't a question only of expenditures, as I know the government members would like to make it out to be; it truly was a reflection of the vast numbers of people who were unemployed as a result of the recession, as a result of restructuring and downsizing going on, which was flowing out of free trade agreements and the kind of economic restructuring that was happening in terms of the type of industry and international competitors. All that settling out that people predicted would happen has in fact happened, and the switch from reliance on a manufacturing base more to an information-based industry and service industry. All those changes were happening at a time when the continent, if not more than the continent, was thrown into a very deep recession. You had an economic restructuring recession topped by a cyclical recession.

Of course, the government of the day saw revenues just dropping through the floor. Without any decisions having been taken, within the first few months I remember going into cabinet meetings and being told, "The previous government said there was a surplus, but the deficit is actually $3 billion." Two weeks later we'd go into cabinet and they'd say, "The deficit is now $5 billion." "Wait a minute. We haven't done anything. What are you talking about?" It was dramatic times as a result of the state of the economy, and there were some difficult choices to be made around the balance to be struck. Most of us, having reflected on those years, feel that had we had a better sense of how long and deep the recession was going to be -- and I would say it was not just our government; all the experts predicted a short and rather shallow recession, but instead we had one of the deepest recessions in the history of this country, and a very long one as well.


Had we had a better sense of that we might have looked at those first couple of years, where we made the conscious decision to invest in trying to get people back to work, and invest in fighting that recession as opposed to fighting that deficit, and looked to see if there was a different balance to be struck. I still think the theory was absolutely right, but maybe the balance would have been different. But those are things you can say in hindsight, because that information was not available to the economists, to the experts, to governments of any level, and many governments throughout this country found themselves faced with that significant challenge over those years.

I would say that the concept of a government during those very difficult times wanting to do everything it could to ensure that as many people as we could get to work would be able to work, as many people as we could get jobs for would have an opportunity to go and work, that people would not be relegated to the rolls of unemployment insurance and then welfare and get caught in that trap and not have a sense of hope and a way to provide for their families -- I believe that's what government is for. I guess that's one of the reasons why I'm so disturbed to see a government which I believe is following a very ideological line with respect to this tax cut.

When you look at what the impact is, I would say two things in particular. The budget plans of the previous government and this government before the election, the Common Sense Revolution projections on this government's budgetary policy, showed that the deficit in the province could reasonably be eliminated a year and a half to two years earlier than the current Conservative government will accomplish that, and it could be done without the horrendous level of cuts we are seeing.

Why is that? Because pursuing the income tax cut denies the government revenue. We know that. That means revenue is not coming in. You forgo revenue.


Ms Lankin: I'll say to the member across, who continues to heckle through this, I'm trying to make a point and I think it's worth debating in terms of the economic policies here.

The fact that you forgo government revenue and you're trying to get to a balanced budget and eliminate the deficit means that you have to cut much, much deeper, to the tune of $5 billion or $6 billion more, out of expenditures. Because it takes a period of time to do it, you actually extend the number of years in which we will be in a deficit situation and we will have to borrow money to run the province of Ontario, and we have to pay debt interest on that.

People will know that each year there's an annual deficit that gets added to the debt. The debt is significant, and I will freely admit that a lot of that happened during those recessionary years, but surely, as we see a turnaround in the American economy, a turnaround that we are following -- there's always a lag time but it is coming now -- this is a time when you would want to see that deficit come down and start to reinvest in the infrastructure and jobs and services and in bringing down the debt, therefore eliminating the need for such a huge expenditure on interest on the debt. From that kind of fiscal policy what the government is doing doesn't make sense, but I also want to talk about it from an economic point of view.

The government argues it's giving that money back to us as taxpayers so we have it as disposable income in our pockets and when we go out and spend that we will fuel the economy. Fuelling the economy will produce a demand for goods and that will produce a need for more production of goods, which will produce a need for more workers, therefore this will spur all sorts of job creation.

A couple of things on that: If you want to spur the economy through expenditure of discretionary moneys, through consumer spending, one of the first things you would do is ensure that where you were giving that money back to people to spend, you would be giving it to people who would be the most likely to go out and spend it immediately. What do I mean by that? I mean that the most stimulative kind of tax cut would be a tax cut that puts more money in low-income Ontarians' pockets, because they're most likely to be in a position to want to spend that money.

Instead we've seen that when you have a flat percentage rate cut to income tax, it means the people at the highest incomes, who pay the highest percentage of income tax, get the highest percentage and highest amount of money back in their pockets. You've often heard people on this side -- and some people may think it's rhetorical -- give the examples of the bank presidents and the CEOs of multinational corporations and others, but it's very true. If you're earning $200,000, if you're earning $400,000, if you're like the president of one of the banks and you're earning over $1 million or $2 million a year, the amount of money you're getting back on Mike Harris's tax giveaway is phenomenal.

I suggest that my friend Matt Barrett doesn't need to rush out and spend that money and buy a new fridge. I think he's got enough money to buy all the fridges and cars and things he wants. I suspect that wealthier people will find a way to use that money, which will either be luxury items or trips abroad or investment, most likely. How does that stimulate the economy, when you give the majority of it to people who are not likely to go out and spend it?

On top of that, occasioned by this tax cut and the need to cut more in terms of government expenditures, the government coupled this with a cut in welfare rates. So the poorest people of the province, the people who spend every single cent they get -- they have no savings; they can't keep money because you would claw it back from them in any event -- the government has cut their income. What's the economics behind this? The people who would pay out, who would be part of purchasing goods, of stimulating the economy, are people whose incomes you've cut by over 20%.

Not only does that make no sense in terms of the economics of it, the moral bankruptcy of that is astounding. The number of children who are living in poverty -- I know some of the ministers in the last couple of days were standing up and gloating about how Canada was named yet again the best country in the world to live in. We're all proud of that. But there was a cautionary note in that assessment in which they said there was a growing problem in this country, a near crisis of child poverty. I'm ashamed to say we live in a province that has contributed greatly to that by the policies of the cuts to welfare rates for families.

You have to remember that over 50% of the people receiving welfare are actually children. You must remember that as you think of these policies. I know it's driven by some sense that there's all this abuse and if we just get tougher people will get out to work. On the other hand, there have to be jobs for people to go to. In the meantime, those kids are living in poverty, and a generation is growing up who will have significant problems in future as a result of the vulnerabilities of childhood in poverty in terms of their education, in terms of their health, in terms of a whole range of things, and we'll pay for it down the road. That should be of concern to the government, which cares most of all about fiscal matters, but it should also be of concern to all of us in terms of our children and the next generation.

I mentioned the issue of jobs as well, because while the government says this is going to spur all sorts of jobs, the nature of the cuts they are making, which have led to the layoff of thousands of people in the health care sector, cuts to thousands of jobs in the education sector and in the direct public service, there is an economic drag as a result of that.

The government is fond of saying, "The government doesn't create jobs; the private sector creates jobs." But you have to remember that a police officer, a firefighter, a teacher, a nurse -- those being public sector jobs, are very productive jobs for our society. You know what? They contribute to our economy in terms of making our economy healthy, safe, the kind of place people want to live, where investors want to invest, all of that. But you know what? Those individual families that are supported by those public sector salaries go out and buy goods from the private sector. What's the sense in making cars if people aren't going to buy cars? If you put more and more people out of work their sense of security about the future -- they're not going to go out and buy things.


The government, on one hand, I think has chosen the wrong tax with respect to the stimulative effect. If they were going to do a tax cut I'd rather see it on sales tax or something like that because that would be more across the board for people in terms of ordinary goods and it wouldn't concentrate most of the money in the hands of the wealthiest who won't put it back into the economy directly. But beyond that, you have this need, therefore, to cut expenditures to start to meet the deficit target reduction, which is having a countereffect.

We are in a period of economic recovery, being dragged along by the United States. Thank goodness our exports are up, all of that, because of the US economy; it's not because of the Canadian economy. But that's good. Right? There's a reflection for our own economy and that's very important. But just think what could be happening in terms of the amount of jobs and economic activity in this province if we didn't have the drag in terms of the cuts in government expenditure and the layoffs as a result of that. Incredible the opportunity that we are missing.

I also said that I wanted to talk about child care. The effects of cuts in a number of areas of government are quite dramatic, but in the area of child care, this government is prone to standing up and making announcements about, "We're doing more in this area than any other government in Ontario ever has; we're doing more than any other government in Canada." I laugh. The Premier and others have got this sort of pat way of saying all of this but it doesn't always bear out in the end. Let me give you an example.

Not in this year's budget, in last year's budget the finance minister said, "We are going to spend more money on child care than ever in the history of this province." This was a grand announcement of $200 million more to be injected into child care: $40 million a year over five years. The way that works is the first year is a $40-million new expenditure rolled into the child care budget, next year another $40 million, which means the budget's increased by $80 million in total, the next year another $40 million. You get the picture. Over five years you're spending $200 million a year more on child care. Well, take my breath away. As a child care advocate, as someone who believes very strongly in this, I was absolutely amazed that this particular government would make that kind of investment. I was a little cynical.

It turns out I was right. The government didn't spend one penny of that $40 million. They have now abandoned the commitment to the $200 million and in fact are bringing about changes which are going to decimate the quality of the not-for-profit child care system in this province and instead are replacing -- certainly not in terms of the number of dollars -- their commitment to do something about child care with a child care tax credit.

Again, let me point out to you, the people they target who they want to get out into the workplace, those people on welfare, think of those families with children. They absolutely require support to get child care. They can't afford good-quality, regulated child care when they're on welfare. They need the subsidized support. There are huge waiting lists. This child tax credit doesn't go to people on welfare, not at all, not one cent of it. It doesn't help them.

The government says it is targeted to help those low-income Ontarians, not the welfare recipients but those people who are working, but working at a low wage. Let me tell you the maximum amount of money you're going to be able to get back is about $400 a year, which should buy you about two weeks of good-quality child care for your kid. Think about it.

To boot, you've got to put the money out up front, pay for it, get the receipts and in next year's income tax, when you file it, file it to get the money back. How many people are in a position to do that? They don't have the money in the first place. So who is it going to help again? Higher-income -- some middle-income families might get some benefit, and I hope so and that would be good -- but primarily higher-income families. This is all nuts in terms of what we should be doing as a government to help our citizens get back into the workplace.

I also want to address the issue of our health care system. I heard members talk about the fact that previous governments had moved to restructure and had closed hospital beds and then made these grand statements that not one building was closed, the bricks and mortar were left there and people didn't have -- I like this macho stuff -- the guts to do it. Come on.

The restructuring was in its infancy. The need to reallocate money from patient care, illness treatment, to prevention and wellbeing, the need to understand the determinants of health, all of that work was just being done, all of the understanding of the increase in efficiency in delivery of health care because of better pharmaceutical products, because of newer technologies was all just having its impact. The refocusing on ambulatory care was all just beginning. I think it is incredibly important that those first steps were taken along with involving communities in the decision of how to plan the restructuring of their health care systems, not simply the hospitals. That's what's wrong with what this government is doing now.

I believe there shouldn't be this provincial commission. I think the way to go with the district health councils and local people's involvement and control is the right way to go. But putting that aside, if you're going to hand it over to a provincial commission, it should have been the health system's restructuring. You don't say, "We give you the power to go out there and do the unpopular thing of closing hospitals but we're not going to listen and take directives from you in terms of the reinvestment in the communities."

The health care system is what needs to be restructured. Hospitals are only one part of it, doctors are only one part of it. Community health, long-term care, health promotion, illness prevention, wellbeing, looking at the determinants of health which have to do with whether you have a roof over your head, whether your environment is clean, whether you are getting good nutrition, those are the things that make people healthy.

To simply look at the hospitals is a policy that I think leads to mismanagement of the very precious resource that we have in our health care system. Why is it being done that way so quickly, in such a forced way, in looking at the big-ticket items like hospital expenditures? It's because of the fiscal pressure, and you've got the fiscal pressure because of your tax policy of giving away revenues.

As I said, this bill has a number of minor amendments to various statutes which I find inoffensive; some I actually support. But the thrust in the main theme within this bill, which is the income tax cut, I believe is an ideologically driven policy. I believe it is not the cause for any economic activity that we see growing out there. That's being led by the heated-up US economy and exports. I'm glad that's happening. One of the members opposite said, "It must kill you to see the economy growing." Absolutely not. I want to see people back to work. But you know, we could be doing so much better. Do you know what we could be doing in terms of preserving services and public sector jobs?

I will vote against this bill because I believe this is a bankrupt public policy. I believe this is not the way to stimulate the economy. I might not disagree with the government's goals in terms of making government efficient, in terms of stimulating the economy, in terms of creating jobs, but I don't see this policy doing it. I see it costing us greatly in this province, particularly when much of it is being paid for, the money that is going to the bank presidents, as I said, and the others, by a cut in welfare rates to the province's poorest people and particularly driving children into poverty. That I can never agree with, that I can never endorse, that I can never support.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mrs Marland: That was a very interesting debate by the former Minister of Health and, interestingly enough, the former Minister of Economic Development and Trade. In both those areas she had a lot of experience, and she says today that our fiscal pressure is because of our tax cuts. What I would say to her in response to that is, are you suggesting that you didn't have any fiscal pressures? Every government has fiscal pressures but not every government creates 1,000 new jobs every day in the last three months. That is a tremendous record.

I don't have nearly the same sense of doom and gloom that the member for Beaches-Woodbine has, because in the last 24 hours, as a matter of fact since 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon, I have been at the opening of three new plants and industries in the city of Mississauga, one of which, this morning, was Glaxo Wellcome. That is now a $130-million plant in Mississauga. This former Minister of Health knows very well, because she was at one of the openings of this plant initially, the success of this company, why they choose Ontario and why they have chosen again, in the last two years, to expand in Ontario: because they believe in the future of Ontario under this government. The president and CEO of Glaxo Wellcome said that this morning.

NovaLink was another opening I was at today, a company that two years ago, interestingly enough, was moving to the States. They waited until the election on June 8, 1995, to decide, and then when we won the election they made their decision to stay in Ontario and build their plant in Mississauga, and we celebrated that today.


Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I think everyone in this House would applaud the creation of jobs in this province. Certainly the more openings all of us can go to of different plants or different businesses would be better for the entire province and would be better for all of us. But to suggest for a moment that this government has been responsible for the creation of 1,000 jobs per day is just absolutely ludicrous. According to our calculations, the Common Sense Revolution promised 145,000 jobs per year. We've now had two years of it, so there should have been something like 290,000 jobs created and you're still about 150,000 jobs behind. Those are the facts. I wish they were wrong, I wish many more jobs would be created in this province, but that simply has not happened.

The former Minister of Health hit the nail right on the head when it comes to hospital and health care restructuring. The most common complaint and comment I get from people about health restructuring has to do with the fact that on the one hand the system seems to be closing hospitals but the people out in our communities simply don't know what the alternative resources are going to be. The community care facilities, the community care operations etc just aren't in place as yet. If this government had taken the entire picture and the entire health care restructuring portfolio as one entity and showed people the community care facilities that are available as a result of the closure of certain hospitals, then there may have been a much better understanding in the province. So far, all we've seen is the fact that about 40 hospitals in this province are set to close, and the people of Ontario don't accept that without any alternatives.

Mr Pouliot: I too was most appreciative of the good comments from the member who availed herself of the opportunity to tell us in very simple, straightforward words what brought her to serve the good people of Beaches-Woodbine.

No one will not be fully appreciative of a recovery. Recovery is good. I, for one, sitting with the New Democratic Party, am delighted every morning when I look at the recovery. I think it benefits a lot of people. You bet I am. Whether we use the quartile ranking as a base -- when that comes out I love every second of it. But what is mentioned by the bond rating agency is that it's a matter of choice, it's a matter of extreme.

If you wish to reconcile the deficit, one of the best ways of doing it is to upgrade your rating. Then you have a vacuum of three possibilities which would allow you to tap the marketplace with fewer dollars; it would cost you less to borrow. One upgrade means 25 basis points in terms of interest, which translates into $25 million. You have the opportunity to do that. The bond rating agencies are saying to slow down on the tax cut, because the longer it takes you to reconcile the deficit, the closer you are to the cycle moving on from full-speed recovery to neutral, to maybe a correction. The longer you're out there, the more you're exposed.

In terms of how to do it, it's quite simple. This is an opportunity that might not repeat itself for some time. Full blast ahead, hit the deficit and then all the possibilities will exist for you. I thank the member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): Just a few comments that I felt compelled to put on the record with respect to the debate by the former Minister of Health under the NDP: If my memory serves me correctly, and I think it does, when the Conservatives were in power back in the mid-1980s they commenced a process of closing some hospital beds. At that time it was vociferously opposed by both the NDP and the Liberals. They said this was awful, this was the end of health care in this province.

Then of course the Liberals got into power, and guess what, folks? They closed more beds. That was opposed by the NDP. The NDP said this was terrible, there would be no way you could recover from this. However, when the NDP came into power, they closed even more beds than the combined total of what the Liberals and the PCs had closed. All of this is nonsense. Clearly these beds needed to be closed. When you have such things as laparoscopic surgery, you don't need as many beds because you're in day surgery.

The fact is that the NDP, to their credit, asked the district health councils to look at reorganizing the health care system, and the recommendations of the district health councils have been substantially agreed to by the hospital restructuring commission. There have been some improvements over what the district health councils said, but we have made it an absolutely non-partisan commission that is trying to restructure our hospital care so that we can move into the next century instead of looking at the last century. So there seems to be a little bit of a flaw in the recollection of the speakers here.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine has two minutes to respond.

Ms Lankin: I hope the public watching will reflect on this: I actually attempted to engage in some discussion of ideas and differences of approaches, and not a lot of rhetoric about numbers and percentages and all of that. What did we just hear back? Let me say to the member for York Mills, I remember when the Conservative government went about trying to close hospitals, like Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, and didn't put a penny into the community services and left people living homeless on the streets and in boarding houses in Parkdale. I remember that.

That's exactly the process we see going on now, where you've got a hospital restructuring commission and where you are not doing the community reinvestment at the same time. That's the difference in what the district health councils were doing. We gave them the job of health systems restructuring, community side and hospital side. You've given the hospital restructuring commission only the power to close hospitals; no power to give directives with respect to community reinvestment.

Let me say to the member for Mississauga South, who is a dear friend of mine, that I'm very disappointed with her comments. She stands up and says, "The member didn't mention that this is the only government creating 1,000 jobs a day." What nonsense. This from a government that continually, day after day, says, "Governments don't create jobs; the private sector does."

She refers to Glaxo Wellcome. Let's remember that the first expansions were planned for and done under an NDP government. Let's talk about the Toyotas and the Bombardiers and the others that expanded.

When you talk about the 1,000 jobs a day, you refer to a three-month period. When you talk about our government's record and you talk about a loss, you're talking about the whole term and mandate, all over a period of recession. What you don't talk about is 1994 when we were creating jobs at a record much higher than you're creating now, and it has stalled since your tax cut. Let's be factual. Let's get the facts straight and not spin-doctor and rhetoric in this place.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I would think, given the recent debate, that all members here would agree on one thing: Job creation is very important in Ontario. Observing the recent federal election, job creation was the number one priority. It certainly was in my riding.

To address Bill 129, what I consider a job growth, tax reduction bill, a job creation bill really, a bill designed to eliminate barriers to job creation by eliminating taxes, lowering taxes, to stimulate economic activity, we on this side of the House know that by lowering taxes we will create jobs. We also know by the past record of both previous governments that taxes kill jobs. Taxes take away people's ability to spend, to invest and to live to a standard that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps we should review the record just to remind everyone here and those watching on television what the 1985-95 years did to the people of Ontario, because this government has had to work hard at correcting the damage done during that period and we worked hard on restoring Ontario's neglected economic engine. I'd like to refresh some memories.

The last two governments in this province hiked taxes no fewer than 65 times, including 11 personal income tax hikes. Consumers were given 65 reasons not to spend money, businesses were given 65 reasons not to hire new employees, and investors were given 65 reasons to keep their money out of our economy. During that period, wages increased 54% while the tax burden increased 73%. In effect, no one in this province got to see a single penny of any raise they may have received. This government is giving people the raise they have worked hard for so they can pay down a mortgage, buy a new car or pick up a used car. We are letting people keep their hard-earned money because they spend it much more wisely than any government can, and with a much more positive effect on the economy.

We know that government cannot spend its way out of trouble. We know that the tax burden of the past was just a sign of what I consider a greedy government. My 10-year-old daughter has this opinion. My daughter gets furious when she puts her loonie on the counter to buy a dollar's worth of candy and finds out it actually costs $1.15. She categorizes this, to use her words, as "Greedy, greedy." My 12-year-old son is a Monopoly player. As my son explains to me, when you go four spaces past Go in Monopoly, you pay a 10% tax or $200. Monopoly is a 10% tax, not --


The Acting Speaker: Order. I want to remind members that interjections are out of order. They are uncalled for; they aren't part of the order. I want to bring that to your attention once again. I'm very patient, but I will not tolerate it.

Mr Barrett: If I could continue the analogy with Monopoly, let's go back to Go. Go four spaces forward past Go. If you land on that space, you pay a 10% tax or $200 -- not 50%, as does the typical family in Ontario. Of course, my children understand the need for financing our education system. They realize that physicians and police officers don't work for free. I feel my children's point is well taken, and obviously it falls on fertile ground in my opinion.

We are taxed to the hilt in this country. We are among the most highly taxed people in North America. At over 50%, our marginal tax rate in Ontario is second only to British Columbia. As people in the House would know, the marginal tax rate is the tax we pay on that marginal dollar, that last dollar of income earned. In Canada, a person earning around $60,000 a year pays a tax at a top marginal rate of 54%. In the United States, you have to earn $200,000, and that's in US dollars, before you pay a top rate, which is set at 39%. I might mention the US unemployment rate is about half of what we're seeing in Canada.

This year, June 29 is tax freedom day. That's about 10 days hence. Including GST and all other taxes in Canada, every working person surrenders about 50 cents on the dollar to the state. In dual-income families, essentially one person is working to support the government, a person who in many ways feels they are contributing half the family income to support the family. I might also point out that government has not been able to survive on that other half dollar. It borrows, on the assumption that our children and our grandchildren will be willing to pay off that debt.

These last two Ontario budgets are not the only budgets to cut taxes in recent memory. In the early 1990s, the federal Tories cut taxes, but most provinces, including Ontario, defeated the purpose by raising their own rates. Since then, Ottawa has been expanding what qualifies as taxable income. As well, with inflation and wage increases, people have been pushed into higher tax brackets. Increases in Canada pension premiums and employment insurance premiums are also, in my opinion, a form of increased taxation.

All around the world, jurisdictions have been cutting taxes. Our trading partners and competitors have already recognized the link between tax cuts and job creation. More than 50 countries, including most of the western industrialized nations, have lowered taxes on individuals and businesses in recent years, and the results have been real and impressive. Unemployment levels have fallen, private sector investment has increased, new jobs have been created, and income levels have risen, and yet there are actually some people in Ontario and throughout the rest of our country who oppose tax cuts.

If high taxes created jobs, there would be zero unemployment in Ontario and the rest of the country. If high taxes were good for revenues, we would have budget surpluses and no accumulated debt. If high taxes helped economic growth, we would all be living in boom times. To repeat, high taxes kill jobs, undermine government revenues and slow economic growth. So it really does make sense for government to leave more money in people's hands to get people spending again, to boost the consumer economy and to kickstart our recovery -- very simply, to get people working.

Tax cuts are working. The Royal Bank of Canada projects that Ontario's real gross domestic product growth will be 3.3% in 1997 and 3.6% in 1998. This is higher than our projections of 3.2%. The Royal says that the growth will be led by manufacturing and residential construction, as lower interest rates, lower taxes and pent-up consumer demand spur growth.

I would like to quote the Royal Bank: "Ontario will benefit from the government's decision to extend for another year a program set up last year that gives first time home buyers a refund for provincial land transfer taxes on newly built homes."

I would also quote the conference board: "Strong consumer spending and continued gains in export-oriented industries will propel economic activity in Ontario."

The Scotiabank: "Ontario's economy is shifting into higher gear as residential construction and business investment add to the impetus of exports."

More signs that our plan is working are in job creation numbers. Ontario employment rose by 40,600 net new jobs in May; the job gain in the last three months is 101,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% in May. I know yesterday the member for Welland-Thorold, who is absent this afternoon, talked about unemployment levels in double digits. Well, 8.5 might be two digits, but it's far from a double digit.

Ontario retail sales have increased in four of the past five months, rising 0.8% in March. Housing starts in the first five months of 1997 are up 48.1%.

I also want to stress that Ontario's tax cuts, which will average over 30% for most Ontarians, are already paying for themselves through higher revenues and stronger economic growth. Again, the evidence is in: Tax cuts create jobs, and in addition they pay for themselves. Ontario's plan for cutting taxes, reducing red tape and restoring a climate for investment is also paying off. Ontario is becoming once again the engine of the Canadian economy. We're leading the nation in job creation. In 1996, Ontario's private sector created 90,000 new jobs, and that represented 56% of the national private sector job creation total. Some 91% of all taxpayers will see an Ontario tax cut of 30% or greater.

Families are very important in our community and in our province, and the 1997 budget will continue to assist hard-working families throughout Ontario. There will be a new child care tax credit for lower-income families of up to $400 per child. In addition to providing help with child care costs, the budget will reduce taxes further for low-income families, particularly those with children. In total, the Ontario tax reduction program cuts taxes for 530,000 individuals and families and eliminates Ontario income tax entirely for another 655,000 individuals and families. The federal government, in contrast, is collecting income taxes from more than 55% of the low-income families that are presently and will be paying no Ontario tax.


This 1997 budget contains no fewer than 20 job-creating tax cuts and credits. For example, the land transfer tax credit for first-time home buyers has been extended for 12 months. This saves first-time home buyers up to $1,725. The retail sales tax rebate on building materials for farmers will be extended for 12 months. A 10% tax credit will be available for employers to create 45,000 internship spaces over the next three years. The cooperative education tax credit will be expanded.

The Ontario business-research institute tax credit will support qualifying business-sponsored research and development performed by eligible universities, teaching hospitals and other non-profit research centres. To encourage medical research, the sales tax exemption for R&D equipment will be extended to non-profit medical research facilities, and through what is called a research and development challenge fund -- this is a $3-billion fund -- the province will contribute $500 million over the next 10 years.

The basic film and television tax credit will increase to 20% for Ontario-based productions. Computer animation and special effects for Ontario films will qualify for this combined 35% tax reduction. Publishers will be eligible for a refundable tax credit of 30% of pre-production and promotional costs.

In last year's budget, the budget of 1996, Minister Eves announced a three-year plan to cut the employer health tax by completely exempting the first $400,000 of payroll. This marks the second year of our plan. When fully implemented, January 1, 1999, some 270,000, or 88%, of Ontario employers will no longer have to pay this job-killing payroll tax.

These tax reductions stimulate consumer spending and create pools of job-creating investment capital. By further reducing personal incomes taxes, this 1997 budget will leave more of our own money in our hands, whether it be to spend, to save or to invest.

The evidence is in: Ontario's economy, our economy, is rebounding. Business and consumer confidence is up, and all of the indicators tell us we're poised for future growth in job creation. Consumer spending, real estate, exports, overtime work, even help wanted ads are on the upswing according to data in the budget papers.

Lower taxes, the strong competitive position of Ontario producers and a renewed spirit of enterprise are leading private sector job creation. Increasing confidence and after-tax income have accelerated housing and consumer activity, creating increased employment in construction. Business and personal services continue to lead job creation. Manufacturing will remain strong with recent auto plant expansions and continuing strength in US demand. Private sector economists expect the unemployment rate to decline, despite the growth in the labour force, as individuals are returning to the workforce.

Our housing market is leading the surge of the domestic economy, with strong growth in sales of both new and existing homes. Existing Ontario home sales are up by 17.3%. Ontario housing starts are up over 54% so far this year.

Consumer spending is expected to continue to strengthen over the 1997-99 period, again stimulated by lower taxes, strong job creation, rising wages and low interest rates. More disposable income and low interest rates will ease the debt burden of many households. Mortgage and consumer debt servicing costs currently eat up about 9.1% of personal disposable income. This ratio will fall as debt is refinanced and new borrowing occurs at reduced interest rates.

Out of necessity, Canadian industries have to become highly competitive. In the early 1990s, Canadian producers were burdened with high operating costs, high commercial and industrial rents and exorbitant taxes. Today, with a business-minded government in power, there is ample and affordable commercial and industrial space, and hence it's much easier for companies to compete.

To conclude, what does all this mean? I apologize for giving out a lot of data and a lot of figures based on our economy. Very simply, Ontario's economy is bouncing back, and that means good things for the hardworking people in this country.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Gerretsen: Of course the one figure he doesn't give is the fact that the international bond rating agencies are giving this government no higher a credit rating than the last government, about which they complain so much. Of course the main reason for that is that you're still adding on to the public debt of this province. You will still add on something like $20 billion by the time your mandate is up.

You'd be a heck of a lot better off, and I think you'd be doing the people of Ontario a much greater service, if you would avoid the tax cut and simply take that money and put it on the public debt, because you are still adding on to the public interest that's being spent on a year-to-year basis. It went up from $7.1 billion to $9.1 billion in a matter of two years. That's $2 billion more of additional interest payments that are being made.

The other thing he could have mentioned, he said 91% of the people are getting a 30% tax cut. I would say that probably 100% of the taxpayers are getting a 30% tax cut, because that's what your legislation says. But what does it mean in actual dollars and cents to the people who are getting this money?

This is from a KPMG report, not from our propaganda or your propaganda, an independent report, and it clearly states that if you've got a taxable income of $25,000, your tax cut this year is $295. That's about $5 a week. If you make $50,000, it's $970. If you make $100,000, it's $2,310.

Now, you tell me who gets most of the money in your tax cut. We all know that people who are best off and make the most money are getting by far the biggest cut. Why don't you say that to the people of Ontario? The reason you're not saying that is quite simple: You don't want them to know what's really going on, that you're still adding on to the public debt of the province.

Mr Pouliot: This is a government that prides itself on attempting to run the affairs of the province, the affairs of the state, in the same fashion as they would run a business and their personal affairs. If it is so, if this were true, doesn't it make more sense to pay the credit card? You don't go out and give yourself gifts when you're overextended. Every economist, to a person, will say that you pay your debts first. This is good money management.

When the roll comes on, when those debentures, those coupons come due, you have an opportunity during a recovery to take the money that comes in. You should have more money coming in, not fewer dollars, as is the case as we develop this ill-conceived theme.

Except there's a fly in the ointment. They're on the hook. They said while they were soliciting during the course of the election campaign that they would cut taxes by 30%, and they are determined to do so. If the same success had been achieved with a commitment of 15%, you can bet your last dollar that 15% tax cut is all the people would have got and the rest would have gone against the deficit.

They'd have us believe that if Mr Greenspan and other authorities were to raise interest rates, if the market and the Dow Jones were to undergo a severe correction, because the Reform-Conservatives are in power in Ontario, we would continue to live in oblivion and we would not be impacted. Quite the contrary, we shall follow the policies and the economic success or the lack of it of the United States of America.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): The member's time is up. Further questions or comments?


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I want to rise in support of the comments of my friend from Norfolk whom I've know in two years in government to be a very honourable man, a man who ran because he was tired of governments that would say one thing and do another.

Interjection: And they're over there.

Mr Hudak: And they are over there and over there for a reason, as the minister says.

I know that Mr Barrett, the member for Norfolk, is going to stick with that plan, to deliver on the promises of the Common Sense Revolution and, as you said, to deliver a 30% tax cut for working Ontarians in the province today. The members opposite still, after two years of lectures, have missed the point, that when you cut taxes you create more jobs and more revenue coming in. You cut taxes and you have more revenue, which means we're ahead on our deficit targets, which means more money for health care and moving ahead of our targets towards balancing the budget for the year 2000-01. So not only a tax cut for working Ontarians but also more money into health care and great progress in terms of balancing the budget.

Last night in the same debate the opposition acknowledged that we're doing an excellent job in reducing the deficit. Now they're talking about the human deficit. Their new line is the human deficit. But I say to that, we are reducing the human deficit, when you talk about 200,000 fewer people and families depending on welfare, 200,000 more people with jobs now in Ontario who had given up looking for work under previous governments, when you're talking about more money in health care so that patients can get kidney dialysis closer to home in St Catharines instead of having to drive all the way to Hamilton, or recently at Peel Memorial Hospital in Brampton so they don't have to take that drive down the road, more money into cardiac care, more money into cancer care to get the treatment to the patients who truly deserve it at the right place, at the right time.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I think the timing of the member for Niagara South's little two-and-a-half minute speech was perfect. All the little kids are home and I'm sure they're just curled up in their chairs watching the TV, because what we heard was a fairy tale here. It was story time by the member for Niagara South about the tax cut. He's talking about the deficit. This government is going to add another $25 billion to the debt of this province and the reason they're going to do that is because they're giving away $5 billion a year in forgone revenue because of this tax cut.

Who is this tax cut going to? It's not actually going to people who could really use it, to needy people, people who have a pent-up consumer demand, who need to replace the refrigerator, need to get new carpeting, really could use that to buy clothes for their kids. That could cause some stimulus. It's not being targeted to people like that. It's going to the rich people. It's going to the bank presidents. They're walking away with another $150,000 and they're putting that in emerging market funds around the world. It's not going into the Ontario economy. You're just giving that money away.

We had a plan. What we said is, let's get to a balanced budget. We said we'd get to a balanced budget in four years. That's what you should be doing. You should be working faster on a balanced budget by not having the tax cut. In the meantime, you wouldn't be cutting all those services that are hurting regions like mine in northern Ontario.

When you talk to members of the chamber of commerce in Timiskaming, a lot of them are very wary of that tax cut because they've seen the results of it. They've seen the service cuts which mean very good government jobs have been lost in our area. Where does that money go when we have government jobs in our area? That money goes right back into the economy.

All our small business people in Kirkland Lake and the Tri-town area of Haileybury, Cobalt and New Liskeard are suffering. They're hanging on by a thread because a lot of that economy that was there because of government and government support services that we've had in our area is no longer there. That revenue is out of our economy and that's hurting us. Your whole tax cut scheme is not creating jobs, it's losing jobs in Ontario.

Mr Barrett: I would remind the members opposite from both parties that two years ago the deficit was close to $12 billion a year and that was a continuation of a 10-year program of spending more money than was coming in. Two years ago Ontario was in a state of shambles. Job-killing barriers were stifling business growth and taxes were continuing to climb and the job opportunities were declining. Again, both governments had a belief that spending more would somehow solve all our problems.

When Mike Harris came in, we offered a new beginning. We've delivered on that promise. We're offering a brighter future. Today taxes for many hardworking Ontario families are lower. To date, we've brought in 30 tax cuts, including cuts to personal income tax, payroll taxes and a child tax credit to assist working families who do not have institutional day care.

Simply put, and I've said this previously, we're getting people to keep more of their hard-earned money. I have to reinforce this: It's their money, it's not our money to spend on their behalf. In addition to tax cuts, and that's not the sole answer, we've streamlined government. We're eliminating waste and duplication. Government today is much smaller, leaner and more efficient than it was two years ago.

I do wish to remind the members opposite that a government that grows too big, spends too much and tries to do more than it's capable of truly risks its ability to deliver those things that define us as a society. I know in the debate this afternoon health care was mentioned by members of both parties, a top priority in addition to job creation. We need a healthy economy to continue to maintain the health of our citizens in Ontario and to maintain our education and our criminal justice system.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I'll advise that I'll be splitting my half-hour, leaving about 18 minutes for my associate from Parkdale. Will that be fine?

The Acting Speaker: Is there consent to share the time? Agreed.

Mr Sergio: I'm glad I can join in the debate on Bill 129, as it's part of the 1997 budget which was brought down earlier this year. Let me say that the government has every right to bring down the budget and other documents since they have taken power. They have the right to bring down the budget and other laws. I believe it's also our rightful position to make comments the way we see it on behalf of the people we represent, as we normally represent in this House the views of those that have elected us.

I want to speak directly to the Premier and some of the ministers who are present here today and to say to all the members of the House that it's fine and dandy when they say: "We have been elected to do certain things. This is our budget, these are our views. That's the way we wish to proceed in governing the fortunes of the province for the balance of our term and that is how we want to proceed with it."

It's like asking politicians, "How was your election to Parliament?" and stuff like that. I would bet that you wouldn't find one that would say it was easy. Everyone will say: "Oh gosh, it was so tough, we had a tough campaign and good competitors. It was a real tough campaign and it was hard to get elected." Now that the government side has been elected to govern with a majority, they say, "We've been elected and we'll do whatever we want." This is the message we are getting. This is the message that they are giving to the people out of this chamber.

The funny thing is that the government was elected not with 36%, 38%, it was elected to govern on behalf of all the people. It will be very sad if we continue to hear from members on the government side saying, "We are doing for the people that elected us exactly what we said we would be doing." Are they forgetting then the balance of the people who didn't vote for the government of the day? Let me say that the hardest thing was not getting elected to this House and governing. The hardest thing to do for the government and for every member of this House today is to stay where we are. It is harder for the government not to have been elected but to stay where they are until the election and for the next election.

I want to address my comments in the brief time that I have on two major points of the bill and on the budget because I think it reflects the major components of the budget itself. It addresses two particular points: One is the income tax cut and the other is balancing the budget. Those are a couple of areas where the government seems to be enjoying itself and saying, "We promised that and we are going to do it."


Just to go back to the reference I made before, that it's harder to stay in power than to have been elected, as the opposition we have to continually remind the government, and that's why we've been saying in the last couple of days don't curtail our ability to speak on behalf of the people, to tell the government that what they are doing is not the way to go about it.

When they were elected, they made a promise to have a 30% rebate. So be it, but it's how they are doing it. That's the problem. On whose back are they really balancing the budget? That takes us along the way of how they are going to make this 30% tax cut. Certainly it would be fair to say, "We are going to take a little bit from everybody, every taxpayer in Ontario, to make sure we do it in a very fair, sensitive and balanced way." But they are not.

I have here for the benefit of the members of the House, especially the members of the government -- as a matter of fact, I have three of this particular document. One is well kept in one of my drawers, one I have framed and this one I use on a daily basis. I would recommend that the Premier and the minister and the members of the House have one available until the next election because they will need it. This document, which is the Common Sense Revolution, says absolutely nothing of the things they are doing today to accomplish the silly promises they made. I think that was the cornerstone of their promise.

Why are they doing what they promised, what they have included in the budget and other documents, the way they are doing it? Many times they have said, "We are doing exactly what we said we would be doing." That is my reason for keeping this very handy, because I want to tell them they are not doing what they said in this particular paper.

I will deviate from my presentation, because I had made considerable notes. Just let me go to one particular area of the Common Sense Revolution, where it deals with one very important aspect which they cannot get away from. They cannot get away from this particular document. I want to go to page 6 of the document, where it deals with one extremely important area and how it affects a particular interest group, if we want to call it that, and how the government is exploiting this particular group to accomplish their measures and what they have said in their budget and prior to the election.

I'm referring to health care, because when we say health care we mean for seniors, we mean for women, we mean for children, we mean for the handicapped, we mean for people in general. Health care is universal. But just let me say what they have said about Fair Share health care when it comes to seniors. It says this: "A `Fair Share' health care levy will be collected through the provincial income tax, with the rich paying more than the middle class, and people making less than $50,000 a year paying nothing. At $50,000 the levy will be $100."

I wonder if the government members in the House have skipped reading this, and if they have read it, if it bothers them that this is a concrete part of the Common Sense Revolution. I'm sure it's something they don't want to be reminded of, something they don't want to know about, but I'm afraid that not only myself and members of the opposition but other people out there will on a continual basis be reminding the government of the contents of the Common Sense Revolution and the promise they cannot keep.

It's not that they don't want to keep it; they cannot keep it. Even the latest recommendation from one of the major financial institutions commenting on the affairs of the province says, "If they want to accomplish what they said they would with respect to the tax cuts and other things, they have to cut a lot deeper." My goodness, how much deeper can they cut? They have affected every sector not only of the economy but every social sector in our province.

It goes further. With respect to health care, especially for seniors -- and again this is Mike Harris talking -- "Let's start with the top priorities -- the essential services that Ontarians wants to see protected: health care." How about that? Don't we all know what happened to health care? "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important. And frankly, as we all get older, we are going to need it more and more."

Mr Premier, isn't it wonderful that somebody had put it down for you? I don't think those were your words, because otherwise I'm sure it would bother you to read them in your own document today. I would suggest that you read it once in a while, because what you have done especially to seniors is atrocious. It's totally counter to what you said in your own document -- not only to seniors above $50,000; poor seniors, the only thing they have is a measly pension, and those below $14,000 have to pay $2 every time they walk into a drugstore, every time a senior -- or anyone, for that matter -- needs drug assistance, they need two, three, four, five different types of medications.

Some of the things we are getting now from some of our seniors is that they are saying to the pharmacist: "Which one can I take today? I can't afford to buy two of them." So now they have to skip days to get proper medication. I'd like to remind the Premier of the consequences of our seniors doing that.

I don't want to prolong this with respect to seniors. I could spend my time speaking strictly on that, and I haven't even touched on the long-term care for not only seniors but any others -- handicapped or people who need long-term care, how this affects those people.

We forget that when we say seniors or other people in need of whatever care, there are a number of other people who are affected as well. The families of those people are affected very adversely. That is what we call the human deficit. It's not only that we see the person suffering, senior or otherwise; it can be anyone waiting to receive medical attention, an operation or what have you. I think it is another part of the suffering as well. It's not only the patient who directly has to receive that care, but the family members also suffer with it. Very often, I have to say, a lot of these families are incapable of dealing with the suffering associated with one of their own, and that's when the government must become more compassionate when they present and approve their own ruling. That's what we are saying. We are not saying that it's wrong for you to present this particular law or that you should or should not have it approved within a particular period of time. We are saying yes, this is your budget, this is what you want to do. At the end, of course, with the majority you have now, you will have ample time to approve it, but we are pointing out to the government that what they are doing and how they are doing it is wrong.


In the last while we have heard a lot about major problems associated with child care, our children, education. Those are some of the fundamental areas that deal with our own society at present, and most importantly, in the future because if we don't take care of the problems of today, we cannot have a better future.

The Premier has spoken many times with respect to our students, our children in universities and colleges. We can't expect those young people to progress, to succeed, unless we assist them today, give them the tools today, and I have to say to the government that the way they are doing it is not the way. When you are penalized with all your taxes, with all your user fees, on single mothers, on unemployed parents, certainly you are not providing the incentive for those people to maintain kids in schools, universities, colleges and so forth. You are not giving them a hand up. You are not giving the kids that initiation push they need to get on with life and do better in the future.

The Minister of Education says, "We want to see excellence in the classroom." You must give the necessary tools to teachers and parents to accomplish that. You cannot say, "We are going to cut, cut, cut to the tune of millions of dollars," and then pretend that you're going to have bigger classes, that you are going to have fewer teachers, and accomplish at the same time excellence in the classroom. It's not us saying that; it is the professional people who give training to those people in the classroom. They are saying: "You've got to start at the bottom with kindergarten classes. We've got to build up these kids. Kindergarten, grade schools, grades 8, 12, 13, colleges, universities and so forth." That's the only way we can accomplish what the government is saying but what they are not doing.

We should be moving into the other area. I want to expand on a couple of other issues, because I know my time, unfortunately, is running out.

We can accomplish that, and again I don't want to take anything from what the government is intending to do, because it's their prerogative to introduce laws in any ways they want to, but I have to warn them, as we have been doing on a continuous basis, that unless they become better administrators with respect to individual rights and rights of groups in our society, they will fail.

Now I want to move into the area, for example, of the Workers' Compensation Board. It's funny because the other day something new came out from the infamous Bill 26. Isn't it strange that there is something very hidden in there? Bill 26 was so big, so huge, that something escaped everybody, and I think it was reported in one of the papers the other day. It's with respect to equity in women's pay. Not only have we now eliminated practically every right the worker had; now we are dealing, as well, with equity in women's pay. This is a huge issue that I'm afraid is going to come back to haunt us and the government and governing body as well.

I'm going on for a couple of minutes because I want to mention a couple of important points. The government is going to any extent to accomplish this 30% promise they have made to the rich people -- because the poor people are not going to see any money. They will do it, and they will not accomplish what they set out to do; that is, balance the budget fair and square and give 30% without causing chaos among our society. So they are going to any extent. Wait until we see some five permanent 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week casinos established in Metro here -- in Ontario we already have two or three -- and some 30,000 slot machines. Why? Because they need the money.

The funny thing is that whatever they are doing, they are not placing anything else to offset the consequences of these ill-thought-out rules and laws that they are proposing. What do they have in place? Absolutely nothing. When we hear the government claiming that things are going well, that unemployment is down and employment is up, I have to say that unemployment is still at the same rate at which it was a couple of years ago. Don't take the credit for the number of new jobs being created, because this is due mainly, as one of the previous speakers said, to the stable government we have now in Ottawa, as we have had in the last few years, and the world economic situation, the US economy as well, and those are the main reasons.

The budget contains absolutely nothing with respect to improving our economy and creating jobs. We have fewer jobs today than we had a couple of years ago. This is not a deal that deserves support. I will not support it and I am sure the members of the opposition side will not support it either.

Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I just want to bring up two issues on the agenda that are very close to the Liberal caucus and present a real gap in government programs. One, of course, has to do with barriers to employment. We all know that Ontario welcomes tens of thousands of highly skilled immigrants each year. These newcomers are expected to integrate easily into our economy because their educational backgrounds, talents and professional experience, and technical skills are in high demand here.

However, many foreign-trained professionals and tradespeople find themselves unable to apply those skills here and are consequently forced to compete for low-skill jobs, jobs for which there are already more than enough qualified applicants. I'd like to quote, because this is directly related to the budget, from Ratna Omidvar, the executive director of Skills for Change:

"Our country, Canada, presents itself as a recruiter of skilled immigrants, but then it doesn't know what to do with them. We are not coming clean on this issue with the public. There is a body of anecdotal evidence but no statistics on what it costs the taxpayer in terms of lost opportunity."

The barriers to employment were recognized in 1989 by the previous government, then by the NDP government, and are also recognized today by the Conservative government. The question is of course, what has been done?


In 1989, the provincial government report called Access, which was the Task Force on Access to Professions and Trades in Ontario, found that few professions were free from discriminatory practices, few professions were free from structural solutions and few professions were free from systemic barriers, including (1) lack of appropriate means to access professional qualification and experience received in other countries; (2) limited information about licensing requirements and unfair testing procedures; (3) inadequate technical language training, technical skills and retraining opportunities; and (4) insufficient or non-existent avenues for appealing decisions made by the licensing bodies.

What is the situation today? Little progress has been made to address these issues. Information remains decentralized; the assessment of credentials differs between professional bodies and trade associations; unfairness in licensing procedures has been recognized but not eliminated; and retraining opportunities are scattered and often expensive.

The promise has been made by this government and previous governments to create what is necessary and essential to ensure that, when they come to Canada, those who have academic credentials and are trained professionals outside this country are not used to drive taxis, deliver pizzas or do other jobs of that kind when they have great academic credentials and are professionals.

The promise has been made that we are going to create an academic credentials assessment service. Quebec has it, and they have a wonderful immigration program, BC has it, Alberta has it and two other provinces are now instituting what's called the academic credentials assessment service. Ontario is lagging behind.

It is obvious that we need one solution, and the solution can be had tomorrow. All we need is to maintain and deliver on the commitment that I thought was made by the Minister of Citizenship when a leaked document that came out of that ministry in terms of Access said what we need to do. There is one thing we need to do, and that is, finally and quickly to create the academic credentials assessment service, because it is only fair and just. The promises were made when those people came to Canada that they would have adequate employment, yet in terms of sufficient bases to create the employment structure, to maintain the benefits and to maintain the resources that are essential, are we correctly using the resources these people are bringing with them from abroad when we employ them in these kinds of menial jobs when indeed they are true, honest, verified and bona fide professionals?

I say to you today, and our caucus says to this government, it is high time that you move in the direction of establishing this academic credentials assessment service, simply because it is fair, it is just and it is necessary. Let the word go out from this Legislature, not only to those who are waiting right now -- I'm talking about 300 veterinarians who are at this door, waiting to be admitted, waiting for the door to open so they will be able to access and maintain a livelihood they were used to, either in the country of their birth or the country of immigration.

I think it is incumbent upon this Legislature and it is certainly incumbent upon this minister, in the document that has come from the ministry, even though it is a confidential document, to do what we need to do. It is clear that if we do not maintain this academic credentials assessment service, we're not only lagging behind but we're doing an injustice to those who have come here and who try to maintain their skills in Canada.

Finally, let me simply say this: The organization which is called Skills for Change has presented to the Ministry of Citizenship adequate and fair recommendations of how an academic credentials assessment service can be instituted and how those people who are waiting at the door in order to enter the professions and access these professions for jobs can indeed maintain a livelihood.

I expect today the Minister of Citizenship will hear these words and will know that there are hundreds of people out there in different professions waiting to enter the door of adequate employment. I know not only this side of the House, as Liberals, but I think the NDP also would support the academic credentials assessment service. I only hope the minister will finally see that it is an essential document and that she is the one who is holding the door shut to all those who want to enter. So the question should be asked, why are you maintaining a shut-door policy? Open the door and let them in because --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired. Questions or comments?

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I would like to pick up and say to the member for Parkdale, who was talking about the problem of immigrants coming with professional services -- of course, I've had veterinarians in my riding of St Andrew-St Patrick. I sympathize with their situation and I can say we are helping.

Mr Gerretsen: They need help. They don't want your sympathy.

Mr Pouliot: You've got about four pets to every house.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands, come to order; and the member for Lake Nipigon.

Ms Bassett: We are moving in this direction. I will talk to the Minister of Citizenship and Culture, and I have been talking about that, but in tandem with that it's very important that when immigrants come to this country, there are jobs to be had.

That's one of the areas and the main area that our government is working on by bolstering the economy. To hear the member for Yorkview speak, it was all gloom and doom. What has been happening in Ontario, as the member for Norfolk, my colleague here, pointed out, is that things are beginning to happen. He went through a whole level of statistics, a number of things. In fact, he was apologizing for having to list the good things that were happening, because there were so many on the list.

Mr Pouliot: He can't stand prosperity.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, come to order.

Ms Bassett: I want to say that one of the reasons we are beginning to see changes here in Ontario is because of our tax cut, which so many people on that side of the House are opposed to. There is no question that tax cuts stimulate the economy. They create jobs. They're beginning to promote confidence and they're encouraging consumer and business spending.

The antithesis of that is that high taxes hurt the economy and weaken revenues. The NDP government, as you on that side will remember well, imposed significant income tax increases. The basic income tax rate rose from 53% to 58% and the surtax rate was increased to 30%. I want to point out what your former leader Bob Rae said, and I have to read his quote: "Governments should focus whatever tax relief can be afforded on the lowest paid and give people every incentive to earn, work and learn."

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): What is most interesting is that those who are the very wealthiest in the province, the people in the most privileged positions, are those who will get the most money back from the income tax cut. So while at the Optimist Club, the kids and the families there may not be realizing much of a change, at the Albany Club they will be noticing a major change. They're going to put the membership fees up at the Albany Club because there's going to be more money in the hands of rich people who belong to the Albany Club. So those fees have to go up.

When I have people asking me now, what happens is they say, "I read about Moody's and Standard and Poor's and all of these rating companies, and they're all saying something about borrowing money for a tax cut. I thought the tax cut I was getting would not affect the provincial finances. I have to say I'm sorry they have to borrow, as the Dominion Bond Rating Service said, up to $5 billion to finance the tax cut. When you borrow that money, you have to pay interest on that, and that means the accumulated debt of the province is increasing."

So in the period of time in which the Conservative-Reform party is in power, the accumulated debt of the province is going to increase $20 billion. One would have thought if they were going to give a tax cut out, they would at least wait until they had the balanced budget so they wouldn't have to borrow that money to give a tax break and they wouldn't have to slash and burn so many all of the vital services that the ordinary, average person in Ontario needs very much.


Mr Pouliot: What the people on this side of the House are saying makes immense sense. How many times must we respectfully remind you that you pay your debt first? Then it enhances your capacity. Pay the deficit first, then pay your debt, and you get a better rate. Your line of credit is better. That's what all the economists are saying. But there again you're on the hook for your 30% tax cut because you call it progressive.

The member for St Andrew-St Patrick, the sponsor of this bill, with high respect, you can only eat one meal at a time, wear one set of clothes at a time, watch one television at a time. You must spread the good news, spread the wealth. You can do it by going to a sales tax cut, so Harry and Jane, who are working at the minimum wage level, trying to join the ranks of the middle-class, get a bit of a break. There are a heck of a lot more -- most, unfortunately -- of those people than Matthew Barrett. I wish him well, he's doing a good job, but he benefits. He makes over $2.5 million a year. He saves hundreds of thousands -- does it make any sense? -- while we have people lined up at the food bank.

It's not only immoral, it is porcine. It is a disgrace. Not that we should punish those who have much -- they're the shakers and movers, I'll grant them that -- but they don't need it nearly as much as we need health, as we need education. Give your head a shake and do what's right for those who need to be like you, who aspire to a better future tomorrow.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I was listening to the member for Yorkview. I know this is the fourth two-minute response, so I'm just taking the time that is allotted to me. I was listening to the member for Yorkview when he was talking about education, and that's something that I think concerns all of us. I just want to read to him and everyone else what the Liberal red book of 1995 said:

"Sixteen cents out of every provincial dollar and an average of 55% of property taxes are spent on education and training. We must make sure that we are getting value for our dollar. As much as possible, our education dollars must be spent on classroom learning rather than administration.

"The creation of a provincial core curriculum will save money by eliminating the need for individual boards of education to develop their own core curriculums.... which will help shift decision-making out of the hands of bureaucracies and into the hands of parents." That's what we're doing. "A Liberal government will further cut spending on administration" -- that would be making a cut to education -- "and get rid of waste and duplication by:

"Reducing the number of trustees" -- that was in Bill 104, and they were against Bill 104 -- "placing a cap on the salaries of trustees, and recognizing the part-time nature of the job;

"Clearly defining the role of school boards, publishing guidelines and spending on administration and asking boards to publish an annual report card comparing their administrative spending with provincial guidelines; and

"Encouraging school boards to increase efficiency in reducing costs by sharing expenses and looking for opportunities to share services with other public sector institutions."

The people in my riding -- in fact, I was at a school council meeting on Tuesday night in my riding -- are very happy with what this government is doing in education. They are very pleased with the curriculum. They believe that it's clear, it's going in the right way. I would ask the member for Yorkview to go and visit schools in his riding and see what they say, because in my riding they're in favour of education.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Yorkview has two minutes to respond.

Mr Sergio: I'm really honoured to have received so many comments from members of the House, and I especially enjoyed the last one. Let me state what you have done with respect to education, because I think this is the crux of the equation, the thing that you people fail to understand. You know it and you fail to understand with respect to education.

This is what you have done so far with respect to education: You have practically eliminated, cut, 25 school boards and cancelled junior kindergarten classes. You have eliminated 23 boards and reduced special education programs. In 44 boards you have reduced transportation services. In 42 boards you have cut the custodial and maintenance budgets. In seven boards you cut libraries; and now another user fee is going to come into the picture with respect to using libraries.

As to the first comments with respect to health care, "My goodness, we never said we would close any hospital." So far, there are 23 hospitals slated for closure. You will have to render some idea at the end of what you have done up to now and what you are going to do at the end. Some 12 emergency wards are scheduled to close. This is what you're giving to the people, let alone the downloading and user fees about which you people will have to respond to taxpayers, let alone the homeless. There is a list of 30,000 people waiting out there to get some reasonable accommodation.

So please, don't come into the House and lecture all the time that you're doing wonderful things. You have to tell the people out there what you are doing from health care, to hospitals, to education, to the homeless. I will let my colleague from Parkdale have the last 10 seconds.

The Acting Speaker: Sorry, you can't do that. You had to complete it. Further debate?

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): It's a great pleasure to join in this debate this afternoon. It is always a pleasure especially to debate something as important of the budget of the province of Ontario, because that of course, as the opposition well knows, sets the direction for the province, both fiscally and in terms of priorities in spending over the next year, and I am pleased to add my overlay on this very important bill.

Obviously a lot of the debate this afternoon has focused on the tax cut and its relative importance to the Ontario economy. I want to dwell a little bit on the tax cut as well, but I want to do so from the point of view that the tax cut is not an end in itself. I want to stress that for those who perhaps are viewing the parliamentary channel. It is a means to an end, and the end of course is we want to create jobs and opportunity in Ontario. That is why we are doing all that we said we would do in the Common Sense Revolution policy document, to get to the goal of greater jobs, greater opportunity.

Mr Bradley: Is this what you said in the Reform campaign?

Mr Clement: The honourable member is talking about other campaigns, but I want to concentrate on what is important for the people of Ontario, unlike what the honourable member wants to talk about.

Clearly, we went through what we call 10 lost years in this province when other governments were in power when they tried other means to the goals that I'm sure they share. They, as well, want to see an economy where jobs are created. Their solutions were: "Tax more. Spend more. If there's a problem, surely there must be a government solution."

We tried that as a province for 10 years: 65 tax increases, including 11 personal income tax hikes; a doubling of the debt and a tripling of the deficit in that period of time. That method was tried. We gave it our best shot as a society. But out of that, out of tripling the deficit, doubling the debt, 65 tax hikes, we had more unemployed, more people on welfare, more people using the food banks. Our streets were not as safe for our men, women and children. Our education system was at risk in terms of the excellence required to succeed in the future competitiveness of the world, and indeed our health care system was put at risk. So we tried that.


Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I was just wondering if you would ascertain whether there is a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Can you check and see if there's a quorum?

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The member for Brampton South.

Mr Clement: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I clearly have to do a better job of enthralling my colleagues on both sides of the House. I will endeavour to do so.

To quote, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax." Albert Einstein said that. Now, Albert Einstein was known as a learned man in many fields and was seldom baffled by anything, but he was baffled by income tax. I share his bafflement sometimes. When income tax is overlaid and increased and augmented over a number of years, it has the net impact of doing far less, in fact the reverse, of what the originators intended it to do.

My colleague from Norfolk mentioned tax freedom day being some time in July in the Dominion of Canada. That compares not very favourably with some other tax freedom days I've managed to research. Tax freedom day in Singapore is March 4; in the United States of America it's April 11; in Japan it's April 12; in Australia, socialist Australia, it's April 25; in Spain, again a socialist government for 12 or 14 years, it's May 5; Switzerland's, known for its welfare plans and social welfare state, is May 6; in Britain -- of course, they went through a Thatcherite period, but I understand Tony Blair has promised not to increase taxes -- it's May 9. Finally, we get into the company we're keeping right now, with such countries as France, Italy and Belgium, which are going through amazing social upheavals right now because their taxes and spending were all out of whack. That gives you a bit of an example of the company we're keeping rather than the company we want to be in.

The honourable members are making a lot of points today about how the tax cut, in their view, brings us further away from the ultimate goal, which they at least mouth, of balancing the budget. That argument is expressed a great deal by the naysayers. They're quoting economists; you get two economists in a room and you get three opinions, so I'm wondering about the value of that, but that is the depth to which they have sunk.

Let me at least put forward the argument in this House, which is evidenced in the budget, that the tax cut indeed pays for itself by creating the jobs and the opportunity our economy needs. It will generate the revenue growth that will pay for itself and get us closer to the balanced budget earlier than the track we were on before. There are a number of examples I can cite -- and will cite because I have the floor -- where this has occurred. I'll look at a couple of examples to the south of us and then I'll look at a couple of examples in Canada.

I look to the state of Michigan, where in one budget the governor of the state of Michigan, a fellow by the name of Engler, cut $2 billion in one budget, just in one budget. He eliminated over 2,000 obsolete and burdensome regulations. This was a state that was almost entirely dependent on the auto industry for 75 years. Suddenly, with some of the cuts they did in terms of their budget, spending within their means for the first time, the industry began to diversify. They had 21 separate tax cuts. Suddenly, since 1991 employment has climbed by over 500,000 persons, and in 1995 one out of every five new manufacturing jobs in the United States was created in the state of Michigan. Personal income has climbed 25.9%, the fastest in the nation. One of their major concerns right now is finding enough workers to fill the jobs in this booming economy. Would that we had such a problem in Ontario.

Let me talk about Massachusetts, a state that was governed by Democrats for a number of years. The Kennedys are from Massachusetts, and that was the state of that very successful American politician, Governor Dukakis. Dukakis, faced with what was called a fiscal Beirut, imposed a $1-billion emergency tax increase to try to stem the damage. Well, that didn't work. A fellow by the name of William Weld won in 1990 on the platform of "Tough on taxes, tough on crime." At the time, the deficit was the equivalent of a $200-billion deficit at the federal level. Weld immediately cut tax rates across the board, accompanied by government downsizing. Economic activity surged and tax receipts ran ahead of predictions. And what did he do? He cut taxes again. He has cut tax rates 15 times, with theoretical savings of up to $1 billion for the taxpayers, and because of the supply-side effect, tax revenues have actually moved ahead at 5% a year, unemployment fell from 9.6% in 1991 down to 4.5% in July 1996 and over 200,000 new jobs have been created in the process.

Just to have a little bit of balance, what happens when taxes are raised? In the state of California, a Republican governor, Governor Pete Wilson, acted more like a Liberal Democrat in that jurisdiction. He imposed an $8.3-billion tax increase, or about $1,000 annually for the average family of four. The budget itself increased by 10%, economic activity declined, and with the increase in taxes, tax revenues fell by $5.9 billion. Taxes go up, revenues fall; taxes go down, revenues go up. That is the example in the United States of America.

In the province of Alberta, they are the fastest-growing economy. We are trying to catch up as fast as we can to the growth rate in terms of jobs and opportunity in Alberta. They of course have the lowest tax rates.

Let's look at the 1997 Ontario budget, shall we? I want to draw to your attention, because I like to do things from the facts as they are stated rather than hyperbole and rhetoric, to the economic outlook for Ontario as described in the Ontario budget. I refer the honourable members to page 21, for those who are following along. I know the honourable member from Kingston has a budget in front of him.

Hon Mr Sampson: That's not the red book, John.

Mr Clement: That's not the red book, honourable member, it is the budget. There is an interesting chart there that looks at the disposable income for average Ontarians: people in my riding of Brampton South, people in the honourable member's riding, I'm sure, who are working very, very hard to earn a dollar and save a dollar for themselves and for their kids, to get a little bit ahead by working a little bit harder. After the tax cuts are fully implemented, the real, personal, disposable income goes from around $155 billion up to $170 billion.

That extra amount may not seem like a lot to people who are used to spending billions of government dollars, but for the average taxpayer, that is a large amount of money. For the average taxpayer in Brampton it's over $2,000 a year; a $2,000-a-year increase, the first raise they've had, because government was always taking away their raises, always making disposable income decline, so that despite working harder and harder, they could not either save for a rainy day or pay off the mortgage or pay off the car loan.

The honourable member from Kingston is following along, so I would also refer him to page 34. There's a very interesting point here. His colleague the honourable member for Scarborough-Agincourt has almost made a political career, I would dare say, talking about how when we decrease taxes, we are decreasing government revenues. In fact, that was a theme that was picked up today. But page 34 deals with the revenue outlook. I refer you to the numbers, honourable members and Madam Speaker, because they tell a different story than the story the opposition parties are telling. They say that if you looked at the standardized tax revenue, it went from $36.730 billion in 1995-96 up to $37.394 billion in 1996-97.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: He's going to have me in the poor house.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, you have to withdraw the comment you made, please.

Mr Pouliot: What, that he's driving me into the poor house?

The Acting Speaker: No.

Mr Pouliot: If I had a bank account with that person, I would withdraw everything.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon --

Mr Pouliot: I withdraw, and I apologize to the member.


Mr Clement: I have been accused of a great number of things in my short parliamentary career, but to drive him to the poor house would be something that even I couldn't accomplish. I want to assure you of that.

Even the actual interim numbers indicate that with a $2-billion tax cut thus far, revenues have gone up by at least $2 billion. For those following at home, there is a recognition that next year there will be a slight decrease in PIT numbers, but that is because the numbers for this year, when they were standardized, were higher than the government had even projected. That is why there's a slight decrease. I have every confidence in our Finance minister that those revenue numbers on personal income tax will be higher, even with the tax cut, than we project. We're fairly conservative in our projections because that's the way good managers of the province of Ontario should be.

The proof is in the numbers. The proof is in the examples I have cited in other jurisdictions, that this policy, as embodied in the tax cuts, in the regulatory changes to make sure our businesses thrive, in allowing people more choices in their lives, in everything from our social welfare reforms to our reforms in education to our child welfare reforms -- all those things added together create an environment where people succeed, not only for themselves but their children too.

That is an Ontario worth fighting for, and that is why this government is not for turning.

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

Mr Gerretsen: The one table he didn't refer to is on page 132, if you'd like to follow along, which clearly states that in 1995 the public debt of this province was $100 billion and by the year 2000 it will be $120 billion, an increase of $20 billion. That is all caused because of your tax cut, sir.

He also didn't give us the figure on the expenditure side, on page 64, which clearly states that the interest on the public debt is increasing from $7.1 billion to $9.1 billion a year in a matter of three years, an increase of $2 billion on the interest we're paying on the public debt in this province, money which could be much better off in people's pockets, money which could be much better used to actually pay down the debt, if only it weren't for your tax cut.

There is nobody in this House who wouldn't agree with a tax cut. The question is, when? The question is, can we afford it? We simply cannot afford it right now. You always like to talk about business. I know of no business that loses money and still gives their customers or the people who work for them a bonus or dividend. It just doesn't work that way. When you're still in the red each and every year, you cannot cut the revenue side of the picture. Sure, there may be more revenues coming into the province coffers because hopefully there are more people working, but certainly not as many as you claimed you were going to get working in the Common Sense Revolution.

You indicated that you'd find 145,000 new jobs per year. Sir, over the last two years, you are about 156,000 jobs short of that amount.

Mr Pouliot: What an irony. I guess if you say something loud enough and often enough and don't listen to the positive criticism of the pundits, people who make it their business to know about these affairs, you can believe, with your blinkers on, that you're forever and forever right.

No other jurisdiction and no other province -- seven out of 10 are deficit-free and they're now starting to go after the debt. Then they will perhaps cut taxes. The federal government has had the same choices: Do we go after the deficit to give us more latitude, do we go debt-free, or do we cut taxes mainly for the rich?

The bond rating agencies have perused your books. They've conducted due diligence, have pored over Ontario's books. They make it their business to assess the capability of large borrowers. It doesn't make too much sense. If the revenues are up, why all the cuts to social services? Why have most of the ministries -- some of them have been gutted -- suffered substantial cuts? Why the downloading to municipalities? Why? If the money is filtering through, why doesn't it create jobs for those aged 16 to 24? Why do you have user fees when you said you didn't have any?

The pain out there paints a different picture, the anxiety, the uncertainty. Sure a tax cut, but to the magnitude of 30%? Ronald Reagan cut taxes. The legacy still lingers.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mrs Marland: I want to congratulate the member for Brampton South. That was a very interesting debate on this bill because it brought into this chamber excellent comparisons about what has worked and what is happening in other jurisdictions.

I would like to say that the member for Beaches-Woodbine was perfectly right when she corrected me when I said earlier this afternoon that we have created 3,000 jobs a day for the last three months. She said, "You always say government doesn't create jobs," and she is perfectly correct. We don't say that government creates jobs. What we say, and I'm proud of the fact that we not only say it but are actually doing it, is that we have created a climate in this province where jobs are being created.

It's interesting. We hear, as we just heard from the member for Lake Nipigon, that what we have done is gut this and this and this, in terms of the examples he gave. When you talk about gutting civil service jobs, it's a pretty indefensible argument. It is never written that the responsibility of government is to be an employment agency.

The responsibility of government is to make sure we serve our electorate, in this case the people of this wonderful province of Ontario. It's not our responsibility to have people on the payroll when we can deal with less, because every single cent of that payroll is paid for by the hardworking people of the province.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Brampton South has two minutes to respond.

Mr Clement: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to thank my colleagues in the Legislature, the member for Kingston and The Islands, the member for Lake Nipigon and the member for Mississauga South for their comments on my comments.

Just a couple of brief points: The member for Kingston and The Islands is asserting that we cannot afford the tax cut. The fact is that we cannot afford not to have a tax cut. The fact is that we need to have jobs and opportunity back in our economy. We need to have some revenue flow for businesses, people spending some of their hard-earned money by themselves rather than government spending it for them. That is why the tax cut is so necessary for the average Ontarian in our economy and for the economy as a whole.

The member for Lake Nipigon mentions that seven out of 10 other jurisdictions in Canada have concentrated on the deficit fight, just as we are concentrating on the deficit fight. There's no question that you have to concentrate on the deficit fight. But other jurisdictions in Canada had a spending problem; we in the province of Ontario inherited a spending problem and a taxation problem because of 65 tax hikes in 10 years. We had almost double the challenge that other jurisdictions had. Whereas Alberta had the lowest tax rates in the country -- they could concentrate on the spending problem -- we had to simultaneously concentrate on the spending problem and the tax problem.

May I put it into perspective. At the end of this entire exercise we will have taxation rates and spending in terms of government spending that are no less than when Bill Davis was Premier of Ontario. I believe Bill Davis ran this province pretty well and could spend money in a way that was for the benefit of all Ontarians, and that is the standard Mike Harris and this government are setting for the province of Ontario.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerretsen: Certainly the last two speakers have given all of us something to think about. Just getting back to the member for Mississauga South's position as to what the responsibility of government is, I would agree with her that the primary responsibility of government is not to put people on the payroll. No, the primary responsibility of government is to make sure that all its citizens and residents are dealt with in a fair way, that everyone has an equal right to an education in a fair and open way, that everyone has an equal right to health care and that people do not have to subject themselves to a two-tier health care system we're rapidly going to in this province, that everyone has an equal opportunity and a chance at life and the better things in life, to get a job and to contribute to this society. That's what government should be all about.

I can tell you that from where I sit there's no bigger issue than the issue we're dealing with right now, and that is the issue of your 30% tax cut. If your 30% tax cut is such a good idea, why didn't you make it 40%, 50% or 60%? The argument just doesn't hold any water at all while we're still running an annual deficit in this province. If the public debt in this province is going up by $20 billion over the next five years, it's all because of your tax cut. If you had taken the position, "Let's get the deficit down to nothing and we've got to make these drastic cuts in all these areas," then at least some people would have said, "At least they're trying to get their financial house in order and under control." But you cannot cut off the revenue side of things at the same time as you're trying to bring the deficit under control. That is simply not possible.

Coming back to the earlier point that was made about the 725,000 jobs, there are at least two references to it in your so-called Common Sense Revolution in which this same Conservative model tells us, "This plan will enable our economy to grow by more than 725,000 jobs -- real, lasting and productive employment opportunities for all Ontarians." By taking the 725,000 figure over the life of your mandate, which is five years and it may very well only be four years, you're promising at least 145,000 jobs per year. If you take it over a four-year period, it's even more than that. You are running short of that and many people in Ontario are suffering as a result of that.

The other thing I'm sure the people of Ontario have observed is this total naysaying attitude you're bringing to this exercise. We ask about cuts to health care. "No, it's not happening," the Minister of Health says on a day-to-day basis. It's the same thing with education, "No, we're not making any cuts to education." As far as you're concerned, you're bringing that $12-billion deficit down, right now around $6 billion or $7 billion, but you're not making any cuts. These are the kinds of answers you're giving to questions here on a day-to-day basis.

Let's take a look at your budget document. What does it say exactly -- this is your budget document -- about the kinds of cuts you're making in these various areas? Let's just take a look at that. Let's take a look at education and training and see what's happened there.


Mr Gerretsen: The figures I've got in front of me out of your document show that there has been, even according to your figures, at least a $1-billion cut in education over the last two years. You can't have it both ways. You can't tell the people of Ontario on the one hand, "We're not cutting education and we're putting just as much money back," and have your budget document say something to the contrary, where you've gone from a figure of $8.6 billion in provincial expenditures to $7.7 billion, almost a $1-billion cut. You cannot have it both ways.

We've identified the areas where you've been cutting, like the junior kindergarten program where you've cut $145 million. Study after study has clearly indicated that for every dollar that you put into early childhood education you are going to save $7 in social welfare costs somewhere along the line over the next 20 years.

I see the Minister of Community and Social Services and I hope she agrees with that. If she does, she should be fighting for it. If we want to make sure that we take people off welfare or that we don't create another generation of welfare recipients in this province, then we should be funding these kinds of programs. You have been cutting it. Your own figures in your own budget document clearly show that.

It's the same thing with respect to adult education. This is another one that absolutely gets me. Adult education is intended for those individuals who, for whatever reason -- and it may very well have been their own fault. I'm not saying it is, but I'm sure there are isolated cases where it's their own fault and they checked out of the education system while they were teenagers.

They now realize that for them to get the necessary life skills and job skills, they need to get that education when they're in their early 20s. What you're basically doing by cutting off the funding for that program is that you're telling those people: "I'm sorry, but you are now going to lead a lifetime of menial jobs. This province is not going to give you the kind of opportunity. You had that once. You lost it. It's just too bad." That's not the compassionate society that I know Ontarians to be or that I know Canadians to be, or the kind of reputation that we have around the world. If not, why are you cutting $150 million out of adult education? Why don't you tell the people of Ontario that? Why do you still stonewall with the notion: "Oh, we're not cutting. Those people have an equal opportunity." Well, they don't. Your own budget document indicates that in the billion-dollar cut in education costs.

How about the $163-million cut in classroom spending? You can't fool the people of Ontario. They're not going to believe all of the savings in your education budget are in administration. They can see the class sizes their kids are subjected to on a year-to-year basis growing by five or six students. How can that teacher now give the same kind of attention to each of the students if there are five or six students more? It just doesn't work. At least be honest and up front about it and say to the people of Ontario: "Rightly or wrongly, this is the decision we have made. The decision we have made is that we believe there's absolutely nothing wrong in larger classroom sizes." Then at least the people of Ontario would know where you stand on it, but you're still into denial. You're still saying --

Interjection: The Liberal way.

Mr Gerretsen: The member opposite is saying "the Liberal way." I'm talking about being honest with the people of Ontario and telling them right up front what your actual policies are, and you can't stonewall.


Mr Gerretsen: I see the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is here, and now let's deal with him. His funding has been cut by $666 million. The support grants that the municipalities, particularly the smaller rural municipalities, used to depend on are gone. You've cut it out. Ask the local councils, "Are you still getting the municipal support grants?" and they will say, "No, we're not getting it any more." Even as a result of the deal you have made with AMO, the municipalities are still $600 million short. You know who's going to pay that freight? You and I and the many other property taxpayers in this province.


Mr Gerretsen: I wonder if I could ask for some order, Mr Speaker. They're obviously not paying attention. This is obviously hurting them. They cannot stand hearing the truth like this. The local tax dollars in this province, the local taxes that property taxpayers are going to be paying, are going to be a minimum of 5% or 10% more because of your downloading programs.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): No wonder you got the flip flop.

Mr Gerretsen: Oh, Mr Minister, you've been in denial for two years.



Mr Gerretsen: Let's take a look at the transportation budget and what's happening there. What they did there is they decreased it by $300 million. I can tell you the people of Ontario aren't going to be all that happy when you have dumped most of the roads on to the local municipalities and you have basically said, "They're now your responsibility. We're through with them," and you've cut $300 million out of the transportation budget -- you look like a real bunch of heroes doing that -- until every road in this province has got so many potholes in it that people don't know whether it's safe to drive on them or not, as many of the roads already are.

Let us just go on. The other one, as I mentioned before, is the interest on the public debt. We're paying $2 billion more than we did three years ago. Why is that? Because the public debt is still rising. It may not be rising as quickly as it was before, but it's still rising by some $6 or $7 billion projected this year.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): Where do we get the momentum? The Liberals or the NDP?

Mr Gerretsen: I'm very pleased that these members are so interested in it that they simply have to resort to the kinds of shenanigans that they're involved in right now to make their point.

I suppose the real tragedy of this whole situation is this: The number of children in poverty in Ontario is still rising. Nineteen per cent, nearly one in five children in this province, are living below the poverty line.


The Acting Speaker: Order. It's out of order to interject or make interruptions. If you feel it's necessary to say something and talk to somebody, then I wish you'd leave voluntarily. It will save me doing it for you.

Mr Gerretsen: The fact that one in five children in this province lives below the poverty line I don't think is a laughing matter no matter what side of the House you sit on. I think this is something we should collectively do something about. I see the Minister of Community and Social Services is here and it's something she should be doing something about.

Rather than cutting $17 million out of the CAS budgets of this province, it would be a heck of a lot better if you took that money you're giving to the people that are making $100,000 or more, the $2,500 per year in a tax cut, and did something about the eradication of child poverty in this province.

You can shake your head no, but I would think there would be unanimous consent in this House. Surely there isn't a child in this province, in this bountiful country that has so much to offer to so many people, who should live below the poverty line. If you don't believe that, my friends, then I'm afraid that you live on a different planet than I do.

Mr Klees: Tell us about the poverty line..

Mr Gerretsen: You will have your chance, sir, when you get up to speak.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Gerretsen: Are you suggesting that the poverty line is too high? Is that what you're suggesting?

Mr Klees: Tell us what it is.

Mr Gerretsen: You know quite well what it is, sir, and I'm not going to --

Mr Newman: Do you know?

Mr Gerretsen: I darn well know.


The Acting Speaker: Would the member for York-Mackenzie come to order.

Mr Gerretsen: Talking about equal opportunity towards education, let's take a look at what has happened with respect to tuition fees in this province just over the last three years. Back in 1994-95, the average student --

Mr Klees: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It would be very helpful if the honourable member, who is referencing his comments to the poverty line, could define what that poverty line is for the people of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. If that gentleman would like that information, he knows where to get it.

The point still is that --


Mr Gerretsen: If they are suggesting that there are not children in this province who live below the poverty line, as defined by Statistics Canada, one in five children in this province, then obviously --

Mr Klees: That's not answering the question. Tell us the facts.

Mr Gerretsen: I'm dealing with the facts. These are Statistics Canada facts.


The Acting Speaker: Order. There are several members. Maybe pangs of hunger that are calling you, but please don't make me interrupt the proceedings. It's lively debate and indeed it should be vigorous. Please don't spoil it by having yourselves removed. Would you bring yourselves to order, please.

Mr Gerretsen: I certainly concur with you that the decorum in this place right now is pretty bad. One of the reasons, of course, is because I think these members are finally hearing the truth on some of these major issues that concern the people of Ontario. Obviously, that doesn't make them very comfortable and I don't think it makes them very comfortable either when you look at what it costs to go to university and compare that, as far as tuition fees are concerned, with what our students were paying even three years ago. Three years ago, it was $2,200 on the average; now it's almost $3,400 per year on the average.

Some of you may say: "So what? I'll take another thousand bucks out of the bank and pay it." But there are many, many students who simply don't have that ability and we are, for the first time in about 30 years, once again starting to deny people who have the academic qualifications but who simply do not have the economic resources to get a university or college education. If that's something that you think you're proud of, then again you live on a different planet than I do.

Mr Klees: What planet are you on?

Mr Gerretsen: I live in Ontario, sir, an Ontario that's caring and compassionate, and you are very quickly ruining that sense of compassion, the fact that there's an equal opportunity for people to get an education and have an equal access to health care and an equal opportunity to enjoy the better things in life, including having a job.

If you are proud of the fact that Ontario now ranks 46th in North America -- in all the jurisdictions in North America, out of 60 jurisdictions, 46th in the amount of the money that the province is spending with respect to education -- I can tell you I'm not proud of that. Just within the last three years, we've dropped from being 29th to 46th.

Mr Klees: You want to spend more.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, I want to spend more on programs like junior kindergarten that you have completely cut and eliminated, and I want to spend more money on adult education so that you can give people a real chance and a real opportunity in life. If you didn't have your idiotic tax cuts, you actually could be giving people an equal opportunity in life, which is something that you're totally and absolutely denying.

Getting back to the children below the poverty line, let's just take a look at the children, and this is according to the statistics provided by the food banks in this city, in the greater Toronto area. In 1995 something like 42,000 children were dependent on food banks. What is it one year later? It's 70,000. Is that a figure that you're proud of? It's not a figure that I'm proud of, I can tell you that, and it's not a figure that many Ontarians are proud of.

You talk to the average person in this province and they will openly admit to you that the disparity between the haves and the have-nots of this province has escalated at an ever-rapid rate over the last two to three years. We would be a heck of a lot better trying to do something about that so that we could bring back real prosperity, not just prosperity for the few, to this province. I think we would be doing ourselves and our children a big favour, and that's not happening right now.

Let's take a look at one of the other -- the Minister of Economic Development is here. That's another interesting budget. I don't know what he's minister of because his budget sure is shrinking. Let's take a look at economic development. Back in 1994-1995, according to their own budget document, they spent something like $463 million in their area. Do you know what it is now? It's $201 million, a decrease of something like 50% or 60%, and the minister stands here today and says, "I am now announcing that from now on, every year, we will have one week which will be known as Tourism Awareness Week."

I've got news for you, Minister: I've been involved on the public scene for 25 years and they've had a Tourism Awareness Week in Ontario for at least 25 years. It's nothing that you came up with; there's nothing new about that. It has existed for the last 25 years, and I think many of us in this chamber on all sides of the House would openly agree with that. What have you created today? Nothing. Just another sort of feel-good announcement that doesn't mean anything, because it has been around for years.


This is the minister who's stopping the funding of all the tourist sites that the province has any involvement with. You know what I'm talking about. For example, let's take a look at a place like Fort Henry, which is located in my riding. It's a main tourist attraction which attracts 200,000 to 300,000 people per year. What's the decision that's been made? "We're not going to fund you any more. Goodbye, Charlie Brown. You look after it yourself." Now if you think that --

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): We're working with them. It's going to work out better.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, you're working with them to see how you can unload the operation. It's exactly the same thing as the Ministry of Transportation is doing with respect to the three islands in my riding. It has caused at times some merriment in this House, but I can tell you there's no merriment as far as the 2,000 people who have lived on those islands, in many cases for the last seven or eight generations, and they've just been cut off unilaterally. They've been told, "As of January 1, you find your own way to your jobs and to the mainland," as if they aren't part of this province any more. That's the kind of government you've been giving.

There are very well known Conservatives in my own riding who can't believe they elected a kind of Reform government that would do that kind of thing, to unilaterally say to people, "You don't count any more." They've got absolutely no tax base, and in order for them to come to the mainland and do their jobs or be involved in educational opportunities, they would have to raise their taxes seven-, eight- or tenfold in order to get back and forth. Of course the minister is working with them as well to give them the key to the board and say at the end of the year, "Now it's your problem and we don't care how you're going to raise the money."

That is not the Ontario I'm used to from Bill Davis, John Robarts, David Peterson or Bob Rae. The one thing you have to recognize once you're in government is that now you're no longer in government just for your friends or for your supporters. You are in government in order to govern all the people in Ontario, all 10 million irrespective of political stripe or philosophy or where they live. You cannot just unilaterally cut 2,000 people off and say, "You're no longer our responsibility; it's now a local responsibility," and then try to make the local residents even feel good about it.

It is just awful what's happening to this province, and this budget bill that we're approving here tonight, the 30% tax cut, is the essence of it because that's where it all starts.

As I mentioned before, if the government had said, "Look, folks, we've all got to bring this deficit down and we want to wipe it out and then we can start talking about tax cuts or we can start talking about funding some newer programs that will help people in one way or another," I think an awful lot of people in this province would say, "Yes, I can go along with that."

But to implement a tax cut at a time when we're still running a deficit and increasing the public debt of this province and increasing the amount that's required on an annual basis to service that debt, an additional amount of $2 billion per year just in the last two to three years, is totally indefensible. It's for that reason and many, many others that have been enunciated by other members in our caucus that we intend to vote against this bill most vehemently.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments? Further debate? No? Would the parliamentary assistant, the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, like to wrap up?

Ms Bassett: I want to thank everybody who's participated in the debate this afternoon and in the days prior to this. I think we have said this afternoon what we meant to say all along with this bill, doing what we said we were going to do and the evidence is all around us.

The Acting Speaker: Mrs Bassett has moved second reading for An Act to stimulate job growth, to reduce taxes and to implement other measures contained in the 1997 Budget. 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.

Call in the members. This will be a 30 -- yes, Mr Leadston?

Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to defer this vote until immediately following question period Monday, June 23.

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? It is agreed.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I believe there's unanimous consent to proceed with second and third reading of Bill 127.

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Is it the pleasure of the House? It is agreed.


The Acting Speaker: The agreement, and this is what I want to clarify, is that we will have second reading, and if that is completed, we will go to third reading. Is that agreed? It is agreed.


Mr Hudak, on behalf of Mr Wilson, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 127, An Act to amend the Nursing Act, 1991 and to make consequential amendments to the Healing Arts Radiation Protection Act, the Medical Laboratory Technology Act, 1991, the Respiratory Therapy Act, 1991 and the Vital Statistics Act / Projet de loi 127, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1991 sur les infirmières et infirmiers et apportant des modifications corrélatives à la Loi sur la protection contre les rayons X, à la Loi de 1991 sur les technologistes de laboratoire médical, à la Loi de 1991 sur les inhalothérapeutes et à la Loi sur les statistiques de l'état civil.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I have moved second reading of Bill 127, which will legally recognize the contribution of nurse practitioners to health care in Ontario. I think this is a very important piece of legislation to address before we rise for the summer recess.

This legislation is a key component of primary care reform and for this government's commitment to supporting a high-quality, integrated health care system that puts patients first. Health care services are delivered by many different types of professionals in many health care settings.

Nurses are key providers of health care services and we have now in Ontario approximately 250 nurse practitioners practising safely and have had for more than 20 years now. In that time, in the 20 years with 250 practitioners, not one complaint has been made to the College of Nurses of Ontario about their practice. Up until now, before this bill, nurse practitioners have had to function within a complex system of shared legal accountability with physicians. This has required both nurse practitioners and physicians to spend time developing enormous protocol manuals for each practice, time which could be much better spent on delivering care to patients.

Let me give you an example. Linda Jones, a nurse practitioner in the Southeast Ottawa Community Health Centre, has shared her protocol manual with the minister's office. It runs over 300 pages in length and contains detailed descriptions of just what the nurse practitioner is expected to assess, tell patients and order in the way of lab tests and treatments for common ailments such as sore throats, earaches and rashes. To talk about the amount of red tape involved, one protocol related to rashes alone, simply to rashes in the protocol, runs 12 pages in length.


These protocol manuals are not used by NPs in everyday practice because frankly nurse practitioners know, by virtue of their education and experience, how to manage every one of these conditions described in the protocol manuals. These enormous paper trails currently exist solely for legal purposes because legislation does not exist which recognizes nurse practitioners currently in the province. All of this paper, 300 pages in length and 12 pages on rashes, is required to outline the scope of practice for the NP within each practice setting because we do not have legislation.

In addition, nurse practitioners are currently required to take time away from patient care to update these manuals for every change in current nursing practice, no matter how trivial. It's time away from treating patients. This is required so that the nurse practitioner and the physician that the NP works with are legally protected for what the NP is doing in her practice.

We want to eliminate all that red tape so that nurse practitioners and doctors can use their time to treat patients, not spend their time editing manuals and getting caught up in red tape, so that more patients can benefit from the unique knowledge and skills of NPs in health promotion and illness prevention. The Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act that we're debating today will accomplish this goal.

The safety and effectiveness of the nurse practitioner role has been supported by extensive research. In fact, the role of nurse practitioners has been so thoroughly investigated with respect to its impact on patient and system outcomes that we feel confident that nurse practitioners are a good approach for this government to take to improve access to health care services for the citizens of Ontario. In this research, nurse practitioners have been shown to be highly effective in providing primary care to patients. In study after study, patients of NPs have been found to have similar outcomes to patients cared for by family doctors and to be highly satisfied with the care that they receive. In fact, in some cases the outcomes are even better.

Patients with chronic health problems have demonstrated better knowledge of their health problem and its management and are more likely to adhere to their medications and treatments when they receive care from a nurse practitioner. In some cases, due to better understanding, patients have taken their medications appropriately for the first time. Improved effects of medication have permitted dosages to be reduced or changed, with better therapeutic effects and fewer side-effects for patients.

This is particularly important in elderly patients, who often will require more time and expertise with patient teaching, skills which nurses have refined in their practices, and for seniors, who experience more hospital admissions for treatment of drug-related problems than younger persons.

Although this legislation introduces changes to support the primary care nurse practitioner, it also lays a foundation for the recognition of other forms of advanced nursing practice.

The creation of an extended class registry within the College of Nurses recognizes for the first time that there are generalist and specialist nurses and that it is in the public interest to regulate the practice of specialist nurses. These forms of advanced nursing practice create new employment opportunities for nurses within our health care system and new opportunities for patients and the system to benefit from the unique knowledge and skills of these nurses. As health care and the health care system become increasingly more complex, it is increasingly important that all the pieces work together effectively as a whole. The Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act is an important part of achieving that goal because it will help physicians and nurses to work together to provide the most comprehensive care in Ontario.

We're here today as a result of more than two decades of positive experience with nurse practitioners in the system and a process of consultation which has involved many stakeholders, including the public.

This government has responded to the recommendations of stakeholders such as doctors and nurses, pharmacists and the public, to name just a few, in the drafting of this very important legislation. We believe we are on the leading edge of a wave of change in the roles which nurses can play in the health care system of the future. Citizens want better access to nurses and they expect nurses to assume more expanded roles in primary health care services. This is an important piece of legislation, without a doubt, for the nursing profession as a whole.

These are difficult times for nurses. Perhaps more than any other group, they are experiencing the impact of major change in our health care system. Restructuring of the system is not about saving money. It is about improving our valued health care system, putting the needs of patients first, and making sure the system can meet the needs of a growing and aging population.

Passage of this legislation before the House today will provide opportunities for nurses to contribute to patient care in an expanded professional role. The Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act will improve access to first-class primary health care services for all citizens in Ontario. It also represents tangible evidence of the regard this government holds for the current and future contribution of Ontario nurses to the health care system. When all parts of the health care system are working together -- hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals -- to make high-quality care accessible now and into the future, we will have a health care system which truly puts the needs of the patients first.

Many of the improvements that have been made in health care are possible because of the advances in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness, and the range of services that are now available from well-prepared and dedicated health professionals. We want to help those professionals to collaborate more effectively by eliminating red tape that currently gets in the way of them delivering high-quality health care.

When we introduced this legislation for first reading on April 30, we had all-party agreement. I look forward again to all-party support as we move this bill forward this evening. In my opinion, the Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act is an important bill for nurses and for the health care of all citizens of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): One thing you have to know is that when you're on the government side, all you have to be able to do is move your lips, because they provide all the necessary briefing notes on the government side. In the opposition, you actually have to think of what you're going to say; you don't just have to give the line. I'm not putting the member down -- this is generic, this is universal -- but it's always interesting to see. Someone once said that all you have to be able to do is move your lips on the government side, because you have to be careful you don't deviate from the government line.

Anyway, on this particular matter, I've been looking forward for a long time to this particular piece of legislation and it has been developed over a considerable period of time. Every government that has been in power recently has been beginning an initiative on this. It has finally come to fruition and will be implemented.

I know there will be many nurses who will be looking forward to this because 15,000 of them have lost their jobs or are in the process of losing their jobs in Ontario as a result of the hospital funding cuts we've seen. My two friends from the peninsula are over there. The Port Colborne hospital and the Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie are both vulnerable, of course, because of those cuts.

I know that the nurses who work there, including some who may even be daughters of people who have been recently appointed to the Niagara District Health Council, are concerned that their jobs might be lost as a result of the closing of those hospitals. These are people who were appointed at the insistence of the local member. I don't remember mentioning names in here, but Bill will know what I'm taking about if he happens to be watching this evening, I'm sure.

I'm going to look forward to the debate a little later on tonight.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I can just imagine being among the 15,000 health care providers, nurses, who were shown the door, who were pink-slipped, and hearing the cavalier comments vis-à-vis this bill. This is not red tape. We're talking about holistic health care, we're talking about community-based health care, better health care. It's as simple as that.

How can you on the one hand say it will make things better and yet your actions betray your words? There's a lot of anxiety, and anxiety has led to fear. When it comes to the most essential of service, that of your health, Speaker, our health, all of us, no one is immune. Inevitably we shall find ourselves on the waiting list. They will not listen to demographics. It's right in front of them. They should be able to predict what's coming and attach a timetable to it. They've turned their backs: not a helping hand; the back of the hand. Then, like instant coffee, they would like us to pretend that we've buried the hatchet, that all is well.

Community after community is saying: "What gives here?" You made an agreement with the doctors. You've invited people to join the doctors and then you're not going to come across. You're pink-slipping people. You're putting the padlock on hospitals. The Liberals have said one or two examples and unfortunately with your agenda there might be more. It leads to that. The catastrophe of visiting a father to find that he was dead, dead, dead in the corridor. The health community says negligence of the highest order.


The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): It's my pleasure to join in this debate on the questions and comments side and compliment the member for Niagara South for his comments.

I, for one, was poignantly made aware of where nurse practitioners can be made more available and more a part of our health care system. I happened to be in the delivery room of the local hospital, Peel Memorial Hospital, two weeks ago upon the occasion of the delivery of my third child. The doctor who has been our family doctor for all three of our children over the past six years unfortunately had a soccer tournament in Grimsby for his daughter at the same time as the delivery was taking place.

Those of you who have a number of children know that the third delivery happens somewhat more quickly than the first delivery. Certainly that was the case here where we were admitted to the hospital at 11 am and by 12 noon it certainly was very clear that we needed a little bit of assistance, that we were ready for the final stages of delivery. To the great commitment of the staff at Peel Memorial Hospital, there were two nurses who were there who were able to assist in the delivery of my third child. In fact, the delivery happened simultaneously with the entrance of the doctor, who walked into the delivery room just as the baby was born. I did not have the circumspection to ask whether he was actually billing for that particular procedure, but it was always good to have another observer there.

But it was made poignantly clear to me that nurses are integral to our health care system, that they have a lot of skills that should be made more available, that those skills should be more recognized, that there should be an education system and a standards system that would recognize those skills. I, for one, am looking forward to voting for this bill at the earliest available opportunity.

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I'd just like to comment that we really are in a crisis situation with the nurses and this bill really does nothing to help it.

As members will know, I've been involved with Branson hospital. I have been championing the cause of Branson hospital and one of the things that I've been able to determine is that, number one, nurses are being laid off. The hospital has not had any kind of provision for severance, so they've been committed to a huge financial obligation and this government is literally turning a blind eye to it and has done nothing to relieve that problem.

We have another situation. I am sure members will know that it was brought to the attention of this House just recently that at Northwestern hospital and, yes, even Branson hospital, because they have been slated to close, people are literally jumping ship. These hospitals are going to implode. Notwithstanding that they've been told they've got a year or two years before the closing actually takes place, what is happening is that doctors are saying: "Why should I possibly stick around in this hospital when we've been told it's not going to be around? I'm going to get myself another placement."

With that other placement you have a total deterioration of the system. You have nurses being laid off, so you don't have the support system. Patients come in and are told, "Make sure you have a relative with you to look after you because we don't have any staff to do it." You have a situation where doctors are saying, "We can no longer be guaranteed that we're going to have a practice here, so we better find a location somewhere else." As a result, you no longer have the necessary anaesthetists, you no longer have the necessary stocking of the emergency department, and before you know it, you have a hospital that, de facto, ceases to exist. That problem has to be laid squarely at the door of the --

The Speaker: Thank you. Responses?

Mr Hudak: I'm pleased to respond to the comments from my fellow members here, and I appreciate their comments on the importance of this bill.

We are seeing a shift in health care from the institutional sector to more community-based care, care closer to home and in the home, where patients can recuperate better, be in better shape and back to good health more quickly. In fact, I think the signals point to a growth in jobs in nursing in the future. Great Britain is one that has already gone through it and I think they've experienced a shortage of nurses. Australia is another one ahead of us in the demographics. Soon Ontario, like the rest of Canada, will be experiencing that need, especially for university-educated nurses.

That's why this legislation is so important. If there are some young women and men out there who are interested in entering this field, it is an excellent education, to the point where there are more jobs out there for the nurse practitioners than there are nurse practitioners graduating from the education system. A survey done recently by the College of Nurses of Ontario shows this demographic, that currently 28.3% of the nurses registered are over the age of 50 and 15% are over 55 years of age. Knowing that very few nurses practise past the age of 60, this means in the near future a lot more jobs coming into the employment sector. In fact Edutrends, a study that recently came out in a national publication, said that nursing will rate second in the top 10 occupations in this and in the next decade.

So yes, there is a shift in the way that health care services are being delivered, but I would say closer to the patient and better quality care. That's why this legislation is so important to moving into the 21st century of health care and recognizing the vital role that nurses play in the health care system and finally, through legislation, recognizing that role so they can practise without going through these mounds of protocol. I encourage members to support this bill.

Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Would you kindly check the Toronto Club for a quorum, please.

The Speaker: I'm afraid I can't.

Mr Pouliot: Quorum, quorum. The House has got to be constituted with 20 members.

The Speaker: Oh, the House. Can you check for a quorum?

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

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Speaker: Member for Timiskaming.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm pleased to get up in my place today to speak on this bill. I wonder if I could ask permission to split my time with the member for St Catharines, as this would be a 90-minute leadoff.

The Speaker: This means you're seeking unanimous consent?

Mr Ramsay: Yes.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent for the member for Timiskaming and the member for St Catharines to split their time?

Interjection: I don't know.

The Speaker: You can't say "I don't know." Either it's agreed or not. Agreed? Yes. Member for Timiskaming.

Mr Ramsay: Thank you, Speaker. I thank the members of the House for agreeing to that unanimous consent.

I can't remember in the two years of the Harris government actually getting up in my place and speaking in favour of a bill. This one I would say is a bill that's long overdue to do something in the health care system that, as the member for St Catharines said, was absolutely stolen from the Liberal platform, because we think, as did the previous government, which further re-regulated nurse practitioners, that making sure the most appropriate health care practitioner is delivering the most appropriate health care services is the way to maintain and run a proper health care system in the province, and nurse practitioners have been a vastly underutilized resource in the Ontario health care system. The previous government had recognized that we needed to move on, and you have too. It's unfortunate that we're not moving faster than we are, because as previous speakers have said, we have 15,000 laid-off registered nurses in Ontario from all the hospital closures and cutbacks in hospitals, and we really need to allow many of these nurses to do the necessary and required upgrading to become nurse practitioners.


I'll tell you, especially from a northern perspective, why this is so important. It has been a chronic issue in northern Ontario, also in rural Ontario, and surprisingly now in many small towns in southern Ontario, that we have been for years underserviced with medical practitioners, especially family doctors, and in some cases specialists. We have tried for years under successive governments to bring in incentives, to find ways of coercing and persuading family physicians especially to come to underserviced areas, and while you might get an initial hit with an incentive program to bring people up, in the end, people tend to leave these underserviced area programs and we find ourselves, in rural and northern Ontario especially, not having the required number of doctors to service our population.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was wondering if you would check and see if there is a quorum.

The Speaker: Quorum, please.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present.

The Speaker: Member for Timiskaming.

Mr Ramsay: As I was saying, the issue of why we find ourselves in the chronic position of not having a sufficient number of doctors in our rural northern Ontario areas is very complicated. At one point about three years ago, I acted in our caucus as northern health critic and went on a fact-finding study throughout northwestern and northeastern Ontario to try to find some of these answers. It's really very complicated and not an easy problem to solve.

One of the reasons we find ourselves underserviced is that a doctor will come up to one of these areas, and it is underserviced to begin with. Therefore, the doctor immediately becomes overworked, because we don't have a sufficient number of physicians to share the work. So what happens is that a physician coming up to one of these areas gets burned out very quickly.

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Would you check and see if there is a quorum?

The Speaker: Quorum, please.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Speaker: Member for Timiskaming.

Mr Ramsay: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. These quorum calls will certainly try one's concentration.

One of the other aspects of why it's difficult to retain doctors in isolated areas is really the point of professional isolation. Unlike the southern Ontario teaching hospitals in communities where doctors are trained in this province, where you've got expertise in the next office and --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: You can advise me as to whether this is a point of order or not. On the parliamentary channel, normally when there's a quorum call, the clock is also shown. That is within your jurisdiction, I think. During that last quorum call, the clock was not on the television parliamentary channel, and for those people who are trying to eat dinner so they can last till midnight, it's difficult for them to know how much time they have.

The Speaker: I'm not certain whether it's a point of order, but according to the rules, the clock is never shown for a quorum call; it's only shown for votes. That's why you didn't see it.

Member for Timiskaming.

Mr Ramsay: It's a great evening here at Queen's Park.

The other problem is professional isolation. As I was saying, when doctors learn their skills in the teaching hospitals in southern Ontario, they have specialists next door and they have the latest of high-tech equipment down the hall in those hospitals. Then all of a sudden we ask them to come up to places like New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake in my riding, or Hornepayne or Dryden or Kenora, or even more isolated communities than that, and they are facing a very different type of medicine. The rural medicine they face is one of sole responsibility. They don't have a specialist to refer to next door or even in the same town.

What we have not been doing through our teaching is preparing our doctors for rural small-town medicine. We basically teach big-city medicine. That's the problem, so when doctors come to our smaller communities, they feel they don't have the support that they were trained to use. So it's very difficult to maintain our health care professionals in the north.

Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I hate to interrupt the member, but would you check and see if there is a quorum?

The Speaker: Quorum.

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

The Speaker: Member for Timiskaming.

Mr Ramsay: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Now, where were we?

The problem is that we're not training our doctors to feel confident in small-town rural settings, because we are unable to provide them with all the expertise and the latest of high-tech, bells-and-whistles equipment in those towns. Part of the trouble there is that we need to have a rural medicine specialty option in our universities so that those doctors who would really like to work in some of the smaller communities in this province could do that, and do that with the confidence that they have had the additional support and training.

The other thing we need to do is increase our telemedicine facilities and make sure that we still have some rural hospitals, after all the hospitals that are being closed by this government, and that the proper supports are there for our medical staff. That's going to be very important.


This all brings me back to the point of this legislation. One of the things we can do to help the situation is to look for other types of health care professionals to fill that gap, and nurse practitioners could fill a tremendous role in northern and rural Ontario in supplementing the job that our physicians do.

To get back to a little bit of detail about why I think it's important to use the most appropriate health care professional for the service, what happens in many of our communities, take wintertime in northern Ontario, is that you'll get a highly trained physician seeing 30 to 40 people with sore throats over a day. Quite frankly, that's an inappropriate use of a family physician, who has training far beyond that.

There is a tremendous role for people like nurse practitioners to handle those sorts of symptomatic diseases that are based seasonal occurrences like that, which could really take some of the load off our doctors. It would help the underserviced areas by lightening that load for many of our physicians so they could be doing more highly specialized work in those communities, not being burnt out by all the patients they need to see with colds and ear infections and these sorts of minor ailments, but could really be working on more specialized areas of care, working in the hospital more, freeing the general surgeon up to do the general surgery. So it's very important that we expedite this program.

I look at the statistics here and see that in Ontario at this time, we only have 250 nurse practitioners and only 33 are graduating this year. I know the previous speaker had said how important it is to get more of our nurses -- because you have to start as an RN in order to enter the nurse practitioner program. What we need to be doing, and the government should be doing this, is funding more courses in the province, because they have to be funded by the government. Our universities need the money so they can offer more openings to so many of these laid-off nurses. We've got the people who want to get into the business, we have the demand for it, and yet we don't have the funding from the Ontario government to provide that.

The other point, of course, is the rising tuition fees that are happening here in Ontario. The Harris government has raised the tuition fees substantially now, making it more and more difficult for people to enter or to re-enter our post-secondary institutions in the province. It's incumbent upon the government to make sure there are a sufficient number of seats available for the nurse practitioner courses so that we can start to graduate more of these people, to get these men and women throughout the province and to make sure it's accessible, to make sure it's affordable and to move on quickly to either an income-contingent system or a new system of assisting many of these people who need, in this case, to go back to university to get this course.

That's our plea tonight from the Liberal caucus for sure, that they've got to get on with funding our universities. I have many requests from nurses in my area who want to go to the very good course provided by Laurentian University in Sudbury, their nurse practitioner program, but there are so few seats available in that program that there is a tremendous waiting list. So while nurses are lining up to take this course and while we're underserviced in many parts of the province, our nurses who are being laid off by the Harris government can't get into these courses and take up a new career as a nurse practitioner.

This is a roadblock that needs to be corrected by this government. The ministry really has to make a commitment to the provision of funds so that RNs can take these courses, that they are affordable and that they are accessible.

One of the things that has been straightened out with this, that I think got off to a rough start previously, was what sort of function the nurse practitioner was going to take part in. I know when this first came out when Ruth Grier was the Minister of Health, the College of Physicians and Surgeons was quite upset about the initial introduction of this and even filed an application in the Ontario Court (General Division) for a judicial review, but since then that has been cleared up. I think doctors understand now that nurse practitioners can be a very effective partner in health care provision in Ontario. The regulations have now been spelled out as to what are the functions of nurse practitioners in this province, and I think it's important that people understand the complementary nature of the function of a nurse practitioner with that of the family physician.

In order to make this really effective and to make this happen, it's incumbent upon the Ministry of Health to really invest in an extensive education program so that people understand there is a new health care professional on the scene who is able to provide many of the services we have traditionally relied upon family physicians for. That's really going to be a change of mindset for many people who feel that even when you have a minor ailment you have to go to a family physician or even a specialist. For minor ailments that is certainly not the case, and it's very important that the Ministry of Health embark upon an advertising program, an education program that would really let people understand the function of a nurse practitioner, that a nurse practitioner works in conjunction with the family physician, where these people are and how to access them, and that's it's as simple to access a nurses practitioner as it is a family physician.

When you talk to many of these nurses who have been laid off in the province -- again, it's 15,000 nurses so far in Ontario who have been laid off because of the Harris government cutbacks -- 81% of them say that patients are being put at risk because of these cutbacks, and when you talk to people who have been in hospital or who have relatives in hospital, it is quite apparent that one of the main problems with our hospitals today is the lack of nursing care. There just isn't the nursing care that used to be there, and I think when people get into hospital or find themselves there with a relative, only then do they really understand how important that front-line nursing care is to total patient care. Many people have told me they've had to go out and find their own nursing care and pay for that private care and bring that person into the hospital to provide some overnight nursing care, or as a family member, if they couldn't afford that, which most people can't, they have had to provide that nursing care on their own.

It's a real change out there, and it's a very different day from when in the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s we really developed a first-class health care system here in Ontario. Maybe we took for granted that if you or your relatives were in the hospital, there was nursing care there. Now you've got to make sure it is there, and if it is not, you have the responsibility to go out and get it yourself or provide it yourself. Many families find themselves in the hospital all night tending to maybe their parent or their child. That's a very different scenario. While many of the members across the way might think that's the way the health care system should be, most people today find that they have to be at a job. They have to be up in the morning and out at work, and they are not able to provide that nursing care for their family. Times have changed and we have to rely on the health care system to provide that nursing care for an ailing relative. That's very important.

Some 85% of nurses surveyed also say that the quality of patient care has declined. Again, that is because there are so few nurses now on duty, especially on the overnight shifts but on the day shifts also, that these nurses are basically spread too thinly around the hospital. Many patients have said to me that when they have pressed the buzzer by their bedside looking for nursing care, the nurse is way down the hall tending to another patient, that there just isn't a sufficient number of nurses to provide the high quality of care required in our hospitals today. That is not a situation that we should accept at all. It's a shame that we have all these highly trained professionals sitting idly by now and not providing the nursing care.


Some 76% of these nurses say their workload is unsafe. That's the other point here. Not only is there so much work that the nurses can't provide the quality of care, but when you start to overwork nurses, then it gets into a situation where, because they can't get to a patient in a timely manner, you're now crossing the bounds of safety. That is something we cannot tolerate here. We have to have sufficient nursing care to make sure that all our patients in the hospital are safe.

I think people underestimate the importance of nursing care and the important role that nursing care has played over the decades as we've developed a first-rate hospital care system in this province. Nurses are the front-line workers. They are the ones who give the constant attention. They are the ones who understand on an hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute basis exactly what's happening to that patient, how that patient is reacting to treatment or to medication. They are the ones who know. They're right there on the front line, and if you start to cut that front-line worker out, as you people across the way in the Harris government have done, then you start to put people in jeopardy, and that shall not be accepted by anybody in this province.

It's ironic that Mike Harris said during the election campaign, on Bob Fisher's show on Global TV, Focus Ontario, that he had no plans to close hospitals, yet we find ourselves in this position today.

Some 86% of nurses who have been surveyed said they believe the provincial government doesn't have a good understanding of health care issues. I think that's correct when we see the hospital restructuring commission going around to communities across the province. They seemed to use the north as their first testing ground, going up to Thunder Bay and then to Sudbury for their first announcement of closures. They announced these closures, which they call a rationalization of the hospital care system, without instituting, because they don't have the mandate, the community care services that should be there to at least replace those hospital services they're closing down. They haven't done that. They don't have the authority to do that. All they can do is make some recommendations, yet we haven't seen too many of those reinvestments being made.

Many of our communities are feeling abandoned by the Harris government. They don't see the health care facilities on the ground to replace these hospital services that are being closed and shut down. There's a lot of fear out there.

I think the government should re-examine exactly how they are rationalizing this health care system. We're not against the rationalization of the health care system, but it's the way you approach it. You're putting the cart before the horse: You're closing down the hospital care services without instituting community care services. You've got to spend a little money first and make sure those community care services are there. Then you can start to ratchet down some of the hospital care services.

You're right, we don't need all the hospital beds we used to rely upon because of the tremendous advances in medical care today. Many of the new techniques and advances mean that much of the surgery, for instance, can be done on a day care basis: day surgery and you're in and out. The anaesthetics are better, the techniques are better, the procedures are better, doctors and nurses are more highly trained. So we do have potentially a much more efficient service as long as the community-based service is there. It's very important that these services be there, but it's very important that the government tackle it in the right order and make sure the community-based replacement services are there before they cut the hospitals.

Some 76% of nurses also believe they do not have a say in the types of health care decisions being made. I think this is very, very important. What we have is a hospital restructuring commission that goes around but doesn't really talk to the people in the community. It doesn't talk to the health care providers involved with these services. Who better than nurses, for instance, to give especially the government advice as to how the health care system should be rationalized?

The nurses themselves have gone through this procedure. Over the last couple of years they have taken a very critical look at the health care system. They have brought forward some very innovative proposals that are cost-effective and should save the government a lot of money, yet I don't see the government, through the Ministry of Health and the Minister of Health, Mr Wilson, taking a look at the advice that nurses have brought to the people of Ontario. They've done some extensive studies, working with all other health care professionals.

Most doctors endorse what the nurses have proposed in rationalizing the health care delivery system, but I don't see the hospital restructuring commission looking at those ideas. They basically come into town, talk to a few people, and a month later they make a decision. It's frightening to people across the province when that sort of group comes into town and says a month later, "We're closing your hospital." You have a 30-day appeal period, maybe, but so far we really haven't seen too much result from those appeals. Those decisions seem to be final and they are causing a lot of fear and aggravation in the communities involved.

I would say to the government that maybe it's time to take a pause, to take a breath and stop for a minute. Let's just take a look at what you've done so far. Is it effective? Are you doing what you think you're doing to the health care system? Let's take a look at it. Maybe it's time just to stop this and take account of the changes that have been happening so rapidly, because we're hurting people, we're hurting communities, and I think with great haste we're closing down institutions that have served our communities very, very well. So I think it's time to pause and take stock of all these changes that are coming forward.

It's important to note the importance of health care practitioners, but if we don't have sufficient health care practitioners, we're not going to be solving the problems we face in Ontario.

Another example of where health care practitioners can be of very big assistance is on many of the aboriginal first nation reserves we have in northern Ontario. It is very difficult and sometimes not practical to have a family physician permanently stationed on one of the northern reserves, especially those reserves north of the 60th parallel in Ontario where many of our isolated reserves are. But it is very practical to have a nurse practitioner stationed at those reserves. That nurse practitioner not only can handle many of the cases involved on a day-to-day basis but also has the education and knowledge to be able to know when to very quickly evacuate a patient to one of the more southern health care centres or hospitals, such as Kenora and Dryden etc, which would be the referral centres for those northern reserves, where there are doctors and even specialists in those towns. This is another excellent use of a nurse practitioner. Where we have been unsuccessful in getting doctors to go to those areas, a nurse practitioner is the right and proper person to provide that service.

I say to the government today that it's important that you expedite the nurse practitioner training programs for this whole province. You'll find that it will greatly alleviate our underserviced area problem in northern Ontario and I think in a lot of places in rural Ontario too where we have this problem. It is surprising that up to a few years ago the underserviced areas of this province for doctors have primarily been in the north, but now we're finding that many of the highly populated areas of rural southern Ontario, even a city such as Windsor, have now been decreed as underserviced areas. It's unbelievable that a city like Windsor now finds itself underserviced.

That's the position we find ourselves in today. We desperately need nurse practitioners. I think it's timely that the government got on to providing the funding for our universities so that many of these 15,000 laid-off nurses can find their new opportunities. The government, through underfunding these courses, is not providing these nurses, whom they put out of business, with opportunities to get on with some of these new careers. Also, by delaying the institution of these community-based services, where nurses are going to play a very large role, we're basically building a roadblock for nurses going into the new service provision areas that they're going to be highly qualified for and that are going to be greatly needed as hospitals shut down.

I hope the health minister will come into this House next week --

Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: My apologies. Our friend displays great oratory skills. Unfortunately, the government has chosen not to have people to hear him. A quorum call, please.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): A quorum call.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.


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

The Acting Speaker: The member for Timiskaming.

Mr Ramsay: Another very important area that nurse practitioners can bring to medical care is the area of health promotion. Up till the last few years health care in this country -- I'm sure my colleague from Wilson Heights will be very interested in this because of a very related private member's bill he brought forward a few weeks back -- has really been the treatment of disease and not the promotion of wellness.

It's part of the training, I suppose, and the culture of our medical practitioners in this country that this is the way we've treated health care, that basically when you're sick, you come to a doctor, you get fixed up and hopefully you don't get sick again. I think we understand now that enhancement of individual wellness is the way to live out a healthy and productive life.

One of the practitioners who can help with this, besides family physicians, who I think are starting to work more towards this, is the nurse practitioner. When we're talking about the most appropriate health care professional providing the most appropriate health care, the nurse practitioner probably will be the most cost-effective health care provider for health promotion and disease prevention.

That's the sort of work a lot of people need. We need a lot of more education on our lifestyle habits, our dietary skills, making sure we get enough exercise and enough sleep. That all contributes to wellness. Our system could certainly afford the time of a nurse practitioner in sitting down with patients and spending the time with patients, while our doctors so much of the time are overworked and unable to do this, to work on a regime for wellness, rather than always just coming to the health care provider when we're ill.

This is a whole new area we need to be exploring. Not only would we be providing much better health care to the people of Ontario, allowing Ontarians to have longer, healthier and more productive lives, but also the government would find, whatever government of the day, that it would be a more cost-effective way of managing the system, that if we'd not concentrate on disease treatment as much, but really start to work on health promotion, we'd have a healthier population and a healthier bottom line at the Ministry of Health because we'd find it would be a much more cost-effective way of delivering health care services.

This is another area we need to really move into. By starting to enhance the importance and the numbers of our nurse practitioners, we really could develop a world-class system of health care and start to make some improvements that would be a very different note to health care than what we've been seeing from this government from all the dismantling of our hospitals.

I would like to say, in closing, that we should be encouraging this government to put the funding into the nurse practitioner programs so that we can open up many more positions for those nurses who are now out of work because of the government cuts, so they can get into these courses, can get themselves upgraded, can get themselves into areas that are underserviced, and start providing the people of Ontario with a whole level of health care that would be better for the people of Ontario, cost-effective for the government and really start to change how we look at the treatment of disease and the enhancement of wellness in the province.

Mr Bradley: I thank you for an opportunity to speak on a bill I actually agree with. What you usually find is that when there's a bill where there's agreement, it moves through the Legislature rather quickly. Members will note that a minister rose this evening to indicate there had been an agreement, or at least to ask unanimous consent for an agreement, for both second and third reading of the nurse practitioners bill to be completed this evening, and there was agreement in this House.

One of the things I would note is that if the government is insistent upon ramming its new rule changes through this House, you won't see that kind of cooperation that makes this place work. You won't see that kind of cooperation from the opposition, just as earlier today you saw cooperation. There was an opportunity to have an hour of voting take place because a five-minute bell would be required for each of the concurrences. Instead, the opposition gave consent to have the same vote on each occasion.

Some of the mad dogs, whatever that means, don't realize this. They have the frown on their face and they're disgusted with the opposition and so on. They don't recognize that there are many places where the opposition has to grant consent to the government, and on most occasions that happens, but when you have a loaded gun placed to the side of your head, figuratively speaking naturally, called drastic rules changes, then it's more difficult to have the kind of debates that we have this evening where we have full agreement, consensus from the three parties on the fact that we shall have a nurse practitioners act, that we shall see an expansion of that, because there are already some nurse practitioners in Ontario, as a result of a long process.

I can recall that my colleague Elinor Caplan was very much in favour of this, and subsequent ministers including the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who is here tonight, and the former member for Lakeshore, Ruth Grier, were very much in favour of this legislation. Everyone has been working on it and finally we have it produced in the form of a bill which, the two opposition House leaders indicated to the House leader of the government, would pass rather expeditiously.

It reminded me of the whole list we went through when we were discussing this. This was one of the bills on the list and the government House leader came in and said to us, "What do you think we'll be able to accomplish in the last couple of weeks?" I indicated, and the House leader of the NDP, that the overwhelming majority of the bills that were still on the list could be accomplished within the last two weeks. As we kept giving more and more to the government House leader, in total shock he didn't know what to say because he had been given his orders to impose rule changes, despite the fact that the opposition had indicated a desire to cooperate in the passing of some bills, even some bills with which we have some disagreement.

It was very conciliatory, very reasonable, but you had the feeling just from talking to the government House leader that the orders had come down from on high, that is, the Premier's office, that he must impose drastic rule changes which would severely restrict the opposition's opportunity to debate in this House, and would grease the skids for the government to be able to ram through its radical revolutionary changes in very short order rather than through a process where proper analysis and adequate debate could improve the legislation, and perhaps in some instances convince the government to withdraw that legislation.

There have been discussions since then with the House leaders since we want to at least hear what the government has to say. My suspicion is they want to simply tinker with the original motion and come back with one that they'll try to characterize represents some compromises. It reminds me of when given the choice whether you'd rather have arsenic or hemlock as the drink of the day, provided by the government of Ontario under the leadership of Mike Harris. My guess would be that the opposition would like neither arsenic nor hemlock, although there may be some on the government side who would not recoil at the thought of the opposition consuming at least a little of both, if it would shorten the debate.


Here we are dealing with a bill where, again, there's cooperation, where you're going to see something that is not called for in the rules, that is, consideration of two stages of a bill in one sitting. But because we are in agreement with this, because there is consensus, because it's unlikely that there's a need for any hearings, since extensive consultations have taken place, therefore, the bill will proceed.

Where there are bills that come before us which are more contentious, which have more opposition, which have greater ramifications for the province, then you will see the opposition request more time to deal with those. That's how the House should work; that's what's happening with this particular bill. With the new rules being imposed by the government, that kind of flexibility is eliminated, those kinds of accords will be come rare rather than the norm, as they are at the present time.

This bill is along with some old red tape bills that need third reading, where the opposition has said, "Yes, it looks like some of these which are relatively benign could proceed." The Development Charges Act is one which I don't find particularly good, but it is essential to the fund-raising efforts of the Conservative Party, and who am I to block the efforts of the Conservative Party to fill those coffers to overflowing with the donations from major developers in this province? I'm not prepared to stand in your way to do that, so I said we would probably complete third reading of that.

We have third reading required on the Community Safety Act. That's going to pass, I'm sure, before the end of this session.

The Provincial Offences Act is in its final stages. Not too much opposition to that. Some people are concerned; certainly some police officers, as you know, are concerned that a quota system isn't set up, that they aren't out there with radar guns instead of looking for crooks, pointing radar guns at people going just a little over the speed limit. Some of those officers are afraid there will be quotas. That's what they're afraid of. They've written to us and said, "We are afraid of quotas," and I agree with those police officers who are afraid under the Provincial Offences Act there will be quotas.

Public libraries, where we get information on a bill like this -- if you want to know about nurse practitioners, go to the public library. The funding and the resources for the public library are going to be reduced by a bill that you're going to want to pass, but I still see that as part of this package that we're dealing with tonight.

We could probably deal with a couple of the second set of red tape bills at second reading. The nurse practitioners, here we are at second and third reading. This is part of the package. We said, "Sure, go ahead with that." Road safety is having some hearings right now, so people who have concerns can give their views in committee. We said, "Sure, that's going to finish." We've been calling for it since February of this year.

The Game and Fish Act: I said to the Minister of Natural Resources the other night, the Game and Fish Act is like the nurse practitioners act. We are prepared to proceed with that. It's not contentious. There are some good things in it. We want to do some debate, but there are some good things in it.

The finance bill, the Waterloo bill we've already passed, Bill 135, concurrences in supply, House calendar, more budget debate -- any one of those, we've said: "Let's proceed with it. Let's do what we're doing with this bill."

Orders had come down, unfortunately, and there were six bullets, or whatever you put in a chamber, and it was placed right up against the head of the opposition, and we were told -- I speak figuratively, naturally -- "Either you accept this package or you better throw everything through rather quickly." When we said, "We'll give you everything," then it was like an armed robbery, and somebody came up and said, "I want all your credit cards and all your money," so you give them the credit cards and the money and say, "Is that enough? Here, go ahead, take it," and they say, "No, we'd like your children's photographs and the wallet itself." We began to see that these discussions were a bit of a ruse and the government was intent upon ramming through all its legislation, when in fact it doesn't have to ram through the nurse practitioners act, which I want to deal with this evening.

The nurse practitioners act has been coming for some period of time. We are in agreement with it. My friend the member for Timiskaming has outlined many of the potential uses which will come about as a result of nurse practitioners being available in greater numbers in this province. There are many tasks they could perform, many diagnoses, many medical procedures that do not necessarily require a medical doctor but rather could be performed by a nurse practitioner. It makes all kinds of sense. This is common sense at its best, to have nurse practitioners in this province.

We get to the problem of, where are you going to find them? There are 15,000 nurses losing their jobs in the province. Some of those people are going to be available, because they've been fired out the door at various hospitals. I know we're all afraid. In the Niagara Peninsula, the Port Colborne hospital -- those people have been here, they've had their big rallies. They're afraid this government is going to close the hospital in Port Colborne, and I am deeply concerned about that.

Then I think of Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie, where we have nurses who are going to have to be laid off or turfed out the door if that is radically changed or closed. Then in Grimsby, the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital -- again, the axe is hovering over the top of that hospital. The lovely hospital that we have down in Niagara-on-the-Lake is threatened with a closure, and in St Catharines the Hotel Dieu Hospital is under the gun. There are many who believe it's going to close, some who believe enough to make a recommendation that it close. I am adamantly opposed to the closing of any of those hospitals.

If you look at the demographics of the Niagara region, this is why we'll need nurse practitioners, this is why we'll need nurses, this is why we'll need our hospitals: The Niagara region has, per capita, more people over the age of 55 than any other area of similar size in the country.

That is why Dr David Foot, the author of Boom, Bust and Echo, an economist, a statistician and, I guess the word is "demographer," from the University of Toronto, who has written an award-winning and best-selling book, when asked at a forum in St Catharines, a large number of people gathered at Brock University, "If you had any advice for the Mike Harris government, what would that advice be?" said: "I looked at the demographic picture of the Niagara region. My advice would be, `Don't close hospitals.'" What are we doing? What is the provincial government doing? Trying to close five hospitals in the Niagara region.

It simply shouldn't happen, and I hope this government will review that, because we have many nurses in the Niagara region who have been providing that service over the years in those hospitals and who are going to lose their jobs. I am very concerned about this. I don't want any of the other hospitals under the gun either. A person who says, "Keep ours open and close Welland or close one of the other hospitals" -- we will need all the hospitals in the Niagara region.

Anybody who has been in a hospital lately, either to visit friends or relatives or they themselves have been in a hospital as a patient, knows that the service available in 1997 is far less than what was available even 10 years ago, because there are fewer members of staff available to provide that service, including nurses. It is said now that if you are going into a hospital and you know ahead of time, you better make sure you have a relative or a good friend to look after you, or, if you're lucky enough, a nurse practitioner who might be available to help out, because the number of nurses has been drastically reduced.

I am amused -- I guess that's the wrong word -- in an odd way when I hear hospital administrators say, "We're going to reduce staff by 200 and we're going to provide better service." That can only be classified as nonsense, but the reason they have to say that is that hospital funding is drastically cut, $1.3 billion cut out of hospital funding in this province. That means layoffs. That means fewer people to clean the hospital. That means fewer people involved in food preparation, fewer orderlies, fewer nurses, fewer people who are involved in the operation of a hospital, and everybody recognizes this.


When I hear people talking about the tax cut, they say: "Listen, if I could have a choice between this tax cut you're going to give me, I would prefer good hospital care instead of the tax cut. Maybe after, when you've balanced the budget and there are more revenues flowing in, okay, think about it then, but give me good hospital care."

This government probably does a lot of polling. Some day I'd like to ask an order paper question, but it would have to be one of four under the new rules. I would ask them about their polling lately, because they're always spending lots of money on polling. They're probably asking people about health care and people are going to tell them: "We're prepared to invest the dollars. We're prepared to have our tax dollars go quality health care in this province."

Part of the component of that, if I might speak directly to this bill, of course is for nurse practitioners. The nurse practitioners and the nurses look out there and they say, "My gosh, I remember a big fight the government was in with the doctors and it sounded like a major clash." There was a lot of angst and anguish among members of the medical profession and of course eventually there was an agreement reached.

Those of us in the opposition were quite astounded at the price of that agreement, but we said: "If you're going to adequately compensate physicians in this province, that's fine; do so. But please don't close my hospital, please don't reduce my service, please don't fire nurses so that you can pay more money to the doctors. If you're going to pay more money to the doctors -- and they work very hard and deserve adequate compensation -- then please forget about the tax cut and pay the doctors adequately and don't close my hospital so that I can pay physicians more money."

Everybody recognizes that physicians, as many others in the greater public sector, have had their compensation restrained considerably in the last few years and were looking for additional compensation. I don't think they said, "Would you close hospitals to give it to us?" I don't think they said, "Would you fire nurses to give it to us?" I think they said, "Why don't you simply forget about the tax cut?" as one doctor said in Niagara Falls appearing before Bill 26. He said the tax cut was crazy when I asked him the question about how they're going to give a tax cut.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): He hasn't given it back.

Mr Bradley: The Minister of Community and Social Services interjects, "He hasn't given it back." Of course, because he sees others in the province receiving theirs. I don't expect that that automatically is going to go back. But given the choice, he, like so many others, would like to see it back in the system. If everyone were involved it putting it back in the system, then he, like others, would be in favour of that.

But these are the people who are saying that. Frankly, I thought when I asked the question I wasn't going to get the answer I was looking for, and I didn't load the question. It was a fairly balanced question compared to the questions I could have asked. It was a balanced question, and this is where the doctor said words to the effect that the tax cut was crazy, and I agreed with him. I didn't know what to expect. Because of the level of compensation he gets, he may benefit more than others from the tax cut, but he said, "I think we should put it into health care," and I agree with him.

I hope there's nobody in the government here who believes they can silence the doctors in their opposition to closing hospitals simply by putting money in their pockets and saying, "Here's some hush money." You can't do that. You can't do that because the doctors in this province can't be shut up that way. They can't be. They are prepared to defend the hospitals in this province and the services in this province. They can't be bought off. Any of your efforts to try to silence them by giving them more money won't work, I can tell you that, because they're dedicated individuals and they will continue to defend the health care system, which includes nurse practitioners. The Speaker is concerned that I direct some of my comments at least to the bill.

The nurse practitioners will be concerned about mental health services in our province, because we have a great problem there. Many of the people we have walking the streets of large communities such as Metropolitan Toronto are either psychiatric patients who are out of institutional settings or ex-psychiatric patients. These are pretty sad cases to observe, but they are victims of the underfunding of the health care system, of adequate services available for mental health patients in this province. I know the nurse practitioners affected by this bill would agree with me when I say that we have to ensure that those services are in place.

I know that nurse practitioners would want medical research funds to be adequate so that we could deal with the various diseases and afflictions that are out there, so that people from all strata of the economic society in which we live would have available to them the same level of service and you don't have a two-tier system. I know nurse practitioners would not want to see the kind of two-tier system advocated by Preston Manning when he was trotting around the country talking about giving those provinces the right to run medicare the way they wanted to.

I know our government would never think of establishing a two-tier system, never think of that. Although I have heard rumours to the effect that the government would look favourably upon this, I can't believe that the Conservative Party in Ontario would want to set up a system where if you've got money, you can go to the front of the line, and if you don't, you're relegated to the line with everybody else.


Mr Bradley: The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing makes a very valid case. He says, you know, with the underfunding that our government is involved in in health care in this province, we have lineups, and so people who have money go to the United States or elsewhere. He's quite right. He makes my case for increasing the funding for hospital care and for ensuring we have enough nurse practitioners and other members of the medical profession to serve the people of this province.

There shouldn't be a circumstance where if you're wealthy enough, you trot off to the United States to get the best service, and if you don't have the money, it's too bad; you wait in line. All of us here, including nurse practitioners, would know that there is a long lineup for people, for instance, who need hip replacements and other joint replacements. These are very often elderly individuals who have to wait a long time for this particular service. People will say: "Well, that's elective surgery. It can wait." To people who are suffering the pain and disability associated with a deteriorated joint of some kind, those people will need to have those operations sooner, but they can't have them if they're going to have a tax cut in Ontario and not have enough money to put into the health care system.

I know that many seniors in this province will welcome the opportunity to have nurse practitioners available because seniors need more health care than others. As we all advance in age, the chances that we will need the services of nurse practitioners, nurses in hospitals, acute care hospitals, chronic care hospitals, will increase considerably. The probability increases as we all get older. Surely those people who have dedicated so much of their lives to others, who have paid the price in years gone by, who have been the pillars of our society, the senior citizens of this province, deserve good health care. I think they would prefer that to a tax cut which benefits the richest people to the greatest extent.

I've met seniors and others who cannot get a new family doctor. They say there are simply not enough doctors around: "I have to go to a walk-in clinic to get the service." Perhaps with nurse practitioners there will be more available to us. I certainly hope that is the case.

I'm worried, as I know everybody else is worried, that some of the silence we hear on these issues related to medical care is as a result of intimidation. People are afraid. District health councils, if they peep, will be getting some kind of rap on the knuckles, or they will be the hospital to close, or they will be the hospital to get a cut.


I was travelling through southwestern Ontario and I went to Listowel and looked at the hospital there. There is a fine institution, and I hear it's in jeopardy of closing. I can't believe the government would even contemplate that, and I know my friend the member for Perth would agree with me that that hospital should stay open and continue to provide service to the people of that community. I know he would agree with me. Perhaps there will be some nurse practitioners who will be working in that particular hospital.

In terms of the coverage of this, you say, "What kind of coverage is going to take place of the need for medical services?" It used to be you had a lot of newspapers out there that talked about this and said: "Let's do some special features on health care. Let's be advocates for quality health care." But now Conrad Black, through Hollinger, the company he owns, and Southam, a company he has now purchased, controls, what, 58 out of 104 newspapers in this province or this country. Will Conrad Black be in favour of nurse practitioners? I don't know that, but I know he is a right-winger, an ultra-Conservative who believes there should be a cut in government expenditures, that the public sector is somehow evil. That now starts to permeate into the editorials of those newspapers.

I remember when they used to write progressive, enlightened pieces that were pro-medical care. Now I see a change, even though Mr Radler in Chicago, who is the henchperson of Conrad Black, or the person who speaks for Conrad Black at minimum, says, "We don't interfere in the daily operations of the newspaper." Privately speak to reporters, privately speak to other people in the newspapers now controlled by Conrad Black, and they will tell you it's a far different operation today than it was before Conrad Black took over.

I well remember when Conrad Black was buddy-buddy with Brian Mulroney, a name that the other side doesn't like to hear.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Brian who?

Mr Bradley: They say, "Brian who?" You have a couple of members here -- the Minister of Health was a Mulroney staffer. He worked for Perrin Beatty. John Baird, the person who was handed the notes from the Premier's office about rule changes and told, "Try to sneak these in on election day when nobody will know" -- help me out. Wasn't he --

Hon Mrs Ecker: This afternoon you said John was sending notes to Ernie.

Mr Bradley: He was getting those from Guy Giorno and Tom Long and others. Where was I in this now? I'm trying to tie this down.

Hon Mrs Ecker: You were talking about nurse practitioners and things, I think.

Mr Bradley: You are distracting me in how this happens. Oh yes, Mulroney. I think John Baird worked for Mulroney. He was a Mulroney staffer. I don't know how many people over there were Mulroney staffers, but I know they try to dissociate themselves. But I'm worried about the Speaker. I don't think she wants to have me engage in something outside the bill.

I'm wondering how we're going to get as many people within the medical profession when this government is increasing the tuition for people going into our colleges and universities. I think it's gone up about 30% since this government came in. There are members of the right wing, the Reform wing of this party, who get up and extol the virtues of the University of Western Ontario and Queen's when they come up with these huge tuition fees. They say, "They're going to get that money back later on," but what they don't say is only the kids of the rich people and the privileged people are going to be able to get into those institutions. So that chain of wealth will be perpetuated through the tuition system that is there. In their heart of hearts, I know members of the government agree with me on that.

All these young people are looking for jobs. Some of them might be able to be nurse practitioners, but not everybody will. It's a very sad day out there for those young people who can't receive jobs.

The nurse practitioners, among others, are concerned about the lack of junior kindergarten in the province, because they have to deal with patients. Remember that. They have to deal with these patients as they get older, and they're saying to me: "If only you had junior kindergarten early intervention, as advocated by Dr Fraser Mustard, former dean of medicine at McMaster University, former president. If only there were adequate funding so that school boards would be able to afford junior kindergarten without cutting other essential services, then we'd be better off." That's what the nurse practitioners say to me, and who am I to question them?

Mrs Marland: You finally mentioned them.

Mr Bradley: I did mention them, because I think they will play an important role.

I can say -- I almost said, "in conclusion" -- that nurses and nurse practitioners out there are writing to me about the rule changes. They say, "You know, those Reform Tories want to drive their Cadillac by without getting it scratched." The opposition says, "If the Cadillac is going by, maybe we'll get some nails out and scratch it so it doesn't go unscathed," and they don't like that.

The nurse practitioners know that if there's future legislation affecting medical services in this province, nurse practitioners may not have available to them the kind of debate that's available under the present rules, because this government wants two for one. They want to have two sessional days in one so they can rush through that revolutionary program quickly.

I'm sure my friend for Mississauga South would be more cautious than many of the revolutionaries. I remember her only too well in opposition and on council in Mississauga. She was a person of caution. She said, "Let's take our time and do things right instead of rushing them and doing them quickly." Even the people out there who agree with what these people are doing, with what the government's doing -- and I agree with this measure, I agree with truck safety, I agree with the community safety program and I agree with victims' rights, but there are a lot of other things out there people are concerned about.

The nurse practitioners and others are saying to me: "Would you please slow them down? They're moving too quickly, too recklessly, too drastically and not looking at the consequences of their actions. Help them out. Help them slow down and do it right, instead of simply doing it quickly." But I want to see the nurse practitioners bill through tonight. I have indicated that from the beginning, back in those very conciliatory meetings with my friend the government House leader.

I think members of this House, and some who are unable to be here this evening because they have other commitments would be concerned about those rule changes and how they might affect a future nurse practitioners bill. Toni Skarica, the MPP for Wentworth North, said: "There's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province. It's a dictatorship." You're going to ask me, this Toni Skarica, who says it's a dictatorship and there's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province, is he a Liberal? Is he a New Democrat? Is he an opposition person? No. He is a Conservative, an elected member of the government.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): A reasonable guy.

Mr Bradley: I've always found him reasonable.

We all know Gary Carr, a very moderate individual. Gary says this: "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship." I think he must have seen the rule changes before they brought them in. He must have seen them circulated around, and this is his comment, "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship."

Bill Murdoch had something more earthy to say that I'm not going to repeat in the House, but he did say you have to be "nicey-nicey" and, let's say, show affection if you want to get ahead. I'm just paraphrasing when I said "show affection" because it's something that we don't normally say in the House.

I don't intend to use the full time allotted, because my good friend the member for London Centre is waiting to speak, as is perhaps the member for Fort York, and I am waiting to hear what they have to say on this piece of legislation and others.

You've got a winner here. You've got a piece of legislation that we all agree with. If you brought in more legislation of this kind, you would see this place move even faster.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Do you think we're moving too fast? Maybe we better slow it down.

Mr Bradley: The member for Durham West is listening. I give her credit for that. She says, "You're accusing us of moving too fast, now you want us to move quickly." On areas where there's a consensus, by all means.

Hon Mrs Ecker: So it's only when you agree with us.

Mr Bradley: No, no; when there's a consensus in the province. In an area where there's been a lot of work done over a lot of years, as my friend from York-Mackenzie would know there has been on this bill, then that's when you can proceed with some dispatch, but not when it's controversial, confrontational, radical, revolutionary legislation coming in. That is a time when that should not happen.


Mr Bradley: The applause tells me that it may be time to share with others the opportunity to speak this evening. Much as I know some of the government members, my friend from Lambton and my friend from Sarnia -- I have a sign on my desk that I can't reach right now, but both of those gentlemen have again faced tampering with their hospitals locally. I think if my memory is correct, the member for York-Mackenzie has had a big cut in funding for the York hospital. I heard that today, that there's been a cut in the funding for York hospital. It's not an increase, it's a cut, so I know he would be concerned, as he was when he ran in Essex for the Conservative Party in a little different milieu. He would have been concerned in those days.

I can count on my friend from Niagara Falls to stand shoulder to shoulder with me -- he's in the House tonight -- as we defend all of the hospitals in the Niagara region. He won't simply say, "Well, Greater Niagara hospital is looked after; that's all I'm concerned about." He is going to join the fight for all these hospitals -- and my good friend from Mississauga South is on her feet. I thought she was going to interrupt to congratulate the Speaker or something.

Mrs Marland: No, I was going to do a Q and A.

Mr Bradley: In conclusion, I want to say that I am delighted that you have lifted this idea from the Liberal Party and are implementing it. When you do that, I'll tell you, you can't go wrong. I believe that's what you're doing, but I am prepared to compliment you on doing so. Here's at least one positive move made by this government, among a few others --


Mr Bradley: No, I said "among a few others," because I'm not a person who's negative towards everything the government does. I try to be fair to all of you, but this is one positive move among many others. If I get an opportunity to speak on the other bill this evening, I'll canvass some other issues. Thank you for you kind attention and I will now resume my seat.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mrs Marland: I will be very brief because we have a lot of important debate still to go forward with this evening, but I do think it's important to correct my friend the member for St Catharines about my position and whether or not I agree with certain policies or all policies of our government as we move forward down the road of success that we started two years ago on June 8. I wouldn't want you to misunderstand anything that I may have said and I certainly would not have wanted to have misled you in any way. I fully support in every way the direction of our government.

Mr Bradley: Everything?

Mrs Marland: I'm very proud and grateful that they have been able, as has been shown in this bill that's before us at this moment, to draft legislation in the interests --

Ms Lankin: They didn't.

Mrs Marland: To bring forward legislation then, I say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine, that all parties support very enthusiastically, and isn't that just great? I think it really speaks volumes about constructive work that can be done in this place and really wish that perhaps we could do that more often. I feel that the member for St Catharines must understand that my position is unswerving in terms of the support of my government, of which I am very proud, under our Premier Mike Harris.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It's always a joy to listen to my House leader, because he makes so much sense about the bigger issues in life.

The biggest issue of course that we're facing relates to this whole notion of a tax cut. I can't for the life of me understand how a government that likes to pride itself on being a businesslike government, that likes to run the province as a business, can possibly justify the giving of a tax cut when we are still running a deficit on a yearly basis.

During its term of office, the public debt in this province is going to increase from $100 billion, where it was at when they took over -- of which $40 billion, by the way, was incurred by the Davis government and the ones before that, $10 billion by the previous Liberal government and $50 billion by the New Democratic government. But how can they possibly justify giving people a tax cut when as a result of that tax cut the public debt of this province is going to rise by $20 billion, to $120 billion?

We also know that in the government's own budget documents the interest on the public debt is going to go up from $7.3 billion, where it was two years ago, to $9.1 billion this year, almost a $2-billion increase in interest payments. This is at a time when we have unprecedented low interest rates. Can you imagine what the interest payment would be if the interest rate were still at a 10% or an 11% level, where it has been for most of the time over the last 15 or 20 years?

I say to the government, do the right thing. You could still make up to the people of Ontario and all the harm that you're doing to so many people in this province by renouncing your tax cut and paying down the debt of this province further.

Mr Hudak: It's a pleasure to stand and make some comments on what I've heard from across the floor today. It's a significant change that we're seeing when we see the Liberals opposite talking about the importance of balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit, which is just a wholesale change from what we saw when they were in government not too long ago. I think it's a credit to the role of the government in bringing that issue to the forefront to see that they are agreeing with us that we should work towards balancing the budget and continuing that progress.

To correct the member's approach a bit on the issue, in fact we have put more money into health care. We have cut taxes. Yes, we have more revenue coming into the coffers and that revenue is being used to put into health care.

The member for Timiskaming talked about the importance of the nurse practitioner program, and we agree, we couldn't agree more, and that's why we're bringing this legislation forward. In fact, we have put, I think, $7.3 million for the past few years towards 1998-99 for nurse practitioners, which is going to result in the graduation of 402 nurse practitioners who will have their bachelor degrees by 1999 to help out in the small communities across Ontario to deliver a higher quality care.


That's been borne out by research in the United States and in Canada that shows the outcomes of nurse practitioners are equal if not better than dealing with family doctors in a lot of areas, because of the teaching that they give to the patient, the ability for a patient then working with a nurse practitioner to understand his or her ailment and how to treat that. We've seen great outcomes, and that's why we're proceeding with this legislation, to call the debate back to the bill at hand.

Furthermore, some other investments in nursing, for the record: We have about $200,000 for a research team at McMaster to get the best nursing practices across Ontario and, among many others, $170 million into long-term care for over 4,000 jobs in community care.

Mr Kwinter: We have a bill we obviously are going to support, but the problem we have is that the government gives and the government takes, and unfortunately it's taking far more than it's giving. I listen to members of the government side and they keep telling about how they are maintaining the amount of money that's going into the health care system and in fact they are even possibly increasing it a little bit. What they don't recognize and what they don't bother to say is that just by keeping the numbers the same they are falling behind.

The population is increasing, the population is aging. The amount of money required to provide the same level of service is greater, so by maintaining the same level we have a situation where we are effectively cutting health care. The reality of the situation is that you can argue today, tomorrow and next year that you're maintaining the level of health care, but I can tell those of you who live in jurisdictions where your hospitals are going to close, when you talk to your constituents and tell them, "Yesterday you had a hospital, tomorrow you're not going to have a hospital," that to them is a cut in health care. You cannot rationalize it away. You cannot say to them, "This is good for you for you because this hospital is shutting down so we can provide you with a better system."

I can tell you that it doesn't sell; it doesn't make any sense. We acknowledge that there's a surplus of beds but there is not a surplus of hospitals. The hospital is a facility that services the community, and if it's gone, it is a huge deficit in the health care treatment of those people.

The Acting Speaker: Summary, the member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I'd like to thank all the members who responded to my remarks and those of the member for Timiskaming. I would share further with them the comments of Mary Ellen Jeans, the Canadian Nurses Association president.

"Stress, burnout and `total exhaustion' are becoming a fact of life for nurses, particularly in Ontario, where the provincial government has slashed health care spending, said Jeans, in Vancouver for the 21st quadrennial congress of the International Council of Nurses, the world's largest gathering of nurses.

"`I meet regularly with nurses in the Ottawa area who say they can hardly stand after a 12-hour shift. They're continually run ragged,' she said. `But once they get home, they get on the phone to make sure their patients are okay because they're concerned about them'....

"Jeans said the pressure on the...health system `means nurses, because they are in the front line of health care, are often real victims. The public takes them for granted, but they are continually being brought under more and more pressure.'

"Jeans said patient safety is also being compromised by the trend toward using unqualified hospital staff to carry out nursing duties, as well as a move towards the `rapid' discharge of patients.

"`We are seeing the continual downsizing of hospitals and the move towards getting the patients quickly out of the hospital.'"

I agree with her entirely. I thought maybe one of the other members would be quoting her because, as the member for York South says, they're discharging them "quicker and sicker." Grammatically correct I think you'd say "more quickly and more sickly," but they are doing so. You talk to people now, and they're bouncing them right out of the hospital. They could have infections, they could have complications, and there aren't the services in the community to look after those who are discharged from the hospital. I'm surprised none of my Conservative friends pointed that out and said that they were sorry for the drastic cut in hospital funding in this province.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Madam Speaker, I am seeking unanimous consent to share my time with the member for Beaches-Woodbine.

The Acting Speaker: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs Marland: Of course, if you don't call any more quorums.

Mrs Boyd: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and there's no deal on quorum, just so the member for Mississauga South knows.

This is a day that nurse practitioners and those who want to be nurse practitioners in the province have long looked forward to. I think it will be a day that all of us can be proud to have been part of accomplishing, because the position of nurse practitioner is key in terms of a restructured and integrated health care system. We are accomplishing something quite remarkable here and it is, as a number of members have said, something that has been worked on over quite a period of time.

There was a time when nurse practitioners were able to get their certification, back in the 1970s, and at that time a number of people who still are practising today did in fact get that certification. But for a number of reasons, those nurse practitioners were never allowed to practise with the scope of practice this bill will allow, and they were never funded for the kind of work they were able to do, given their training and given their certification. It is indeed good that tonight we are seeing the culmination of a long period of work that has resulted in this bill coming forward and, we all hope, being passed tonight.

I think a lot of us have had letters and copies of letters to members of the government from nurse practitioners, from physicians, from the various associations, urging us to go on with our work; to be sure that before we leave this place for our brief holiday in July this piece of legislation is passed and it is possible for us as we go forward with restructuring health care to know that nurse practitioners will have the scope of practice they require to be a vital link in our health care services.

I'd like to read to you from a letter that the acting Minister of Health, David Johnson, was sent on March 27. This is from Jan Berger, who is a registered nurse, who also is a bachelor of fine arts and who has a number of other qualifications. She says, in part:

"As a registered nurse, and practitioner involved in promoting health and wellbeing in the corporate and industrial workplace, I am writing to express concern about the delay in the introduction of legislation recognizing the expanded role of nurse practitioners, and the extended class status of registered nurses. The latter is a request for individual assessment by the College of Nurses granting those who have worked in advance care environments the right to practise advanced skills without further education. I am one of the applicants for extended class status.

"Processing this legislation promptly could enable the nurses of our province to refocus their skills out into the community and industry. With the imminent hospital closures in the current mandate of the provincial government, providing ongoing education funding for the purpose of refocusing the skills of nurses may have substantial long-term benefits."

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Madam Chair: Would you ascertain whether or not there's a quorum?

The Acting Speaker: Could you check and see if there's a quorum.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre.


Mrs Boyd: So you can see there is a pent-up desire among the nursing community to be able to have this bill passed and to be able to move forward.

I think it's important, since we have agreed that we are going to pass both second and third reading of this bill and this bill won't go out to committee, that someone talk about what actually is involved in this whole issue of being a nurse practitioner. Many of the people of Ontario have not encountered a nurse practitioner. They are not sure what the qualifications are for a nurse practitioner. Although some other members have talked about some of the tasks a nurse practitioner might do, there are many others that have not yet been mentioned.

We owe it to the nurses of the province to give real attention to what this is we're passing. When we go out to committee, very often part of the purpose of that is to educate the public about a change that is about to occur, and to inform them, to give them an opportunity to ask questions, to be clearer about the changes we're doing. Quite frankly, the discussion that we've had here tonight, with the exception of the member for Timiskaming, has not really furthered that educational goal to the extent we normally would do in this House.

The member for Niagara South who introduced the bill on behalf of the government, and who has two hospitals closing in his riding, seemed to be of the mistaken belief that what he was bringing forward was a red-tape bill. Now we know there are two lots of red-tape bills. This in fact is not a red-tape bill. So if anyone out there was mistaken and thought this was a red-tape bill, because somehow there was a long protocol that used to govern the practice of these nurses, that is not the point at all.

This is a bill that is expanding the scope of practice of nurses who have gone through very specialized training which enables them to participate in the health care system in a way all of us anticipate will be to our benefit.

I think it is really essential we make sure people know how complex it has been to ensure that the education is there for these folks, that they are able to access this in an appropriate way, that the ability to upgrade these skills has been carefully thought out over many years.

My colleague from Beaches-Woodbine worked very hard when she was Minister of Health to set up the program, and the program is called the Ontario primary health care nurse practitioner education program. It is a remarkable program because it is made up of a consortium, and it is a model for a kind of post-secondary certification, a post-secondary education, that is really quite remarkable. It is offered by the Council of Ontario Universities programs in nursing and it includes Lakehead University, Laurentian University, McMaster University, University of Ottawa, Queen's University, Ryerson Polytechnic University, University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, University of Windsor and York University.

This consortium has developed a program that enables nurses to take this education through a number of different means using all the most modern techniques we have so far developed. They can do it by e-mail. They can do it on CD-ROM. They can do computer-mediated learning, audio conferencing, video conferencing, print-based modules. It's a very exciting prospect because these nurses can upgrade where they are, and because so many of the universities are involved, the possibility of expanding the education of these nurses, I would say is well beyond the 420 that the member for Niagara South expected to be certified by 1999; our capacity is great.

It needs to be because, as other members have pointed out, we have about 15,000 nurses in this province who find themselves at least job-threatened if not laid off. We can't afford to lose their talents and their commitment to the work that they have. We need them in our reconfigured system of health to deliver the kinds of services that are going to transform health care from what it has been in this province, an illness system, gate-checked by physicians, into a system that allows us to participate with a nurse practitioner in our primary care. I think it's very important for us to recognize that this is a huge step.

There are a number of enrolment options that people can have, depending on what their circumstances are. First of all, this education can happen in both English and French, although French is only available at Ottawa and Laurentian universities. It can be done part-time or full-time. If the person has a baccalaureate degree, then the course is 12-month, full-time for the nurse practitioner certificate, and if they are a diplomaed nurse, it is a 12-month, full-time task, and at the end of that they get a bachelor of science of nursing and a nurse practitioner certificate.

It is part of the move that has been recommended by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario for many years to move our education more and more into baccalaureate nursing, and those of you who have heard from the RNAO know the reason why they believe that level of education offers the best use of nursing skills in our community.

The admission criteria: Who can get into this? Can it be just anybody? Well, no, there are very clear admission criteria. First of all, they have to hold a current Ontario certificate of competence in nursing. They have to have a minimum 70% average in their completed nursing program, whether it's diploma or degree. They need to meet the individual requirements, the admission requirements of individual universities, and they must have the equivalent of at least two years of full-time nursing experience within the last five years.

Mr Pouliot: Snobelen would never make it.

Mrs Boyd: A lot of people wouldn't make it unless they upgrade, and so we know that some of the nurses who want to get into this program also have to take additional education.

The role of the nurse practitioner, as it is defined in this, is as follows: Nurse practitioners hold advanced education in primary health care nursing; nurse practitioners emphasize health promotion and disease prevention, serving individuals, families and communities in collaboration with the client and a variety of health care professionals; the nursing practice of nurse practitioners addresses client health needs over the entire life span.

This is a bit of a change from what we're used to. We're talking about our primary health care nurse, our primary health care contact in the health system working with us as clients in communities, and working with us to plan for health as opposed to working with us only to deal with illness when it occurs.

It's a very important role and one that every single document on the change in our health care system has emphasized, that we need to move, that we need to do everything we can to lever the change of a health care system that puts more and more of its emphasis on the prevention of illness and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, healthy and safe communities, not simply perpetuating the treatment of illnesses when they occur, because some can be avoided, many can be avoided, if the kinds of advice around nutrition, lifestyle, hygiene, addictions, that can be given in that primary health care setting were actually done.

Where is the workplace? We heard from the member for Timiskaming about the use of nurse practitioners in the north and on reserves, and coming from Timiskaming, he knows how very important it would be to amplify what is available in those communities by having this kind of nurse practitioner available. He did a fine job of that.


I don't think he really talked about some of the other areas that are also important. Occupational health is one that is very important. If you have a nurse practitioner onsite in a plant, able to do the kind of preventive work for the workers in that place, able to ensure that the environment is healthy, that people are following their safety requirements, that illnesses are dealt with quickly because people don't have to lose time in order to get these checked out, then that practitioner is very, very valuable in that setting.

In correctional services, nurse practitioners also can help to maintain the health of those who are in those facilities. It's extremely important for us to understand that those facilities are not always the healthiest places to be and that many who are in those prisons have a poor level of health when they enter in the first place.

Many people don't know how prevalent the problem of tuberculosis is becoming among the prison population. Two individuals in the Don Jail were diagnosed with active tuberculosis within the last month. In fact, I think they were diagnosed within one week. Those of us who know the scourge of tuberculosis once it takes hold and the resistance of tuberculosis to the kinds of antibiotics that were developed to deal with tuberculosis, because of the way our immune systems have adjusted to them, know that the threat of a tuberculosis epidemic is always with us.

Indeed, having that kind of primary care on the spot, that ability to deal very quickly, to order tests, to ensure that there is quick action is a very important protective part, not to mention dealing with all the other complaints and stresses that occur for people in that circumstance. Of course, when you have an onsite nurse in a facility like that, they are also there to maintain the health of the employees, and that is very important.

In long-term care, particularly in the assessment of people -- what level of care do they need? -- work is being done to try and make sure that as we move into community-based long-term care, we have teams of people who can deal with the level of care that's required in an appropriate way and that that can be monitored by someone who has good experience in the area.

Home health services are similar.

Community health centres are very important. Most nurse practitioners currently work in community health settings. While community health settings occur in rural and northern Ontario, as the member for Timiskaming talked about, probably the most impressive work that is done by nurse practitioners is in the urban setting where nurse practitioners are extremely important members of the teams that work with street people, in this city and in other cities. In fact they are probably the only health professional who has won the trust of many of these people, who have often been abused by the health care system in one way or another. They are on our streets, working with people whose health is extraordinarily precarious, who by the indicators of health are extremely vulnerable, because of poverty, because of malnutrition, often because of addictions or mental illness, sexual and physical abuse in their past, isolation and abandonment by others.

I had a very exciting discussion this morning with a group of women who call themselves street nurses who were talking about the work they do with the youth on the streets of Toronto, talking about their mandate, which is usually from whatever age the youth comes into their contact up to about age 24. They were saying that many of their clients now are the children of those children. So we are seeing a spread of very serious problems where people do not have access to health care, are living in the streets, have very few supports, and the only support they can rely on is the expertise of the nurse practitioner and the social workers who work in those agencies.

The epidemiological circumstances for that population are very serious. Infections are rampant. Nutrition problems are rampant. Medication issues are very serious. Addiction issues are very serious. It is a population that needs special attention, and this group of nurse practitioners, because of their philosophy to work with their clients, with their community, without judgement and without the kinds of class biases that often affect those in professions, is particularly valuable.

Madam Speaker, I don't believe we have a quorum. Would you call for a quorum?

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

You can see that the kind of change we are facilitating through the passage of this bill could be quite enormous.

I think it is important to know what the training comprises. This is the kind of thing we would have heard if we had insisted on going out to committee, so that the public would know what kind of education this is that people have.

There are five major courses that must be passed by nurse practitioners. The first one is a course called Pathophysiology for Nurse Practitioners. It's a very interesting description that I think all of us would feel very, very comforted to know is part of the training of nurse practitioners. I'm quoting the document from the consortium of universities:

"A systems approach is used to examine concepts in pathophysiology as a basis for advanced nursing practice. Case studies will provide a comprehensive overview of the ideology, pathogenesis and clinical manifestations of disease in adults and children. Building upon knowledge of normal anatomy and physiology across the lifespan, the student will learn to demonstrate an understanding of pathophysiological principles such as clinical manifestations, alterations in physiological function in organs and systems, and the impact of stress on age-related acute, episodic and chronic conditions found in the primary health care practice.

"Utilizing the concepts of pathophysiology, the foundation of nursing management of clients during acute phases of illness, as well as during recovery and rehabilitation, will be explored. Analysis and interpretation of laboratory data will be undertaken relative to pathophysiological principles and concepts."

What is important here is that the guts of this bill, if I may say so, are to change the scope of practice for nurse practitioners, to enable them to diagnose and to convey a diagnosis directly to their client, and to be able to prescribe, within the scope of practice that is going to be determined by regulations, to call for tests within that scope of practice, to order X-rays, mammograms as part of that expertise. This is quite important because this kind of training on top of their baccalaureate nursing training gives them an ability to deal with most of the problems that would come to the primary health care setting, gives them an opportunity to act quickly and to be able to ensure that people receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible.


The next course is Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnosis, a similar kind of thing but much more focused on how you diagnose, how you look at and weigh and determine between the various kinds of conditions or ailments that could present the kind of symptoms that are there. But it also includes the way of looking at the continuum of care. It's a course that very clearly says, "It's not enough for you to treat the disease; you have to look at that within the context of this person's life and look at whether" --

Mr Pouliot: I'm sorry. There's so much to learn. Such an exciting presentation does require -- would you kindly please check if a quorum is present.

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Acting Clerk at the Table (Mr Doug Arnott): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: For those who don't know and have never experienced the care of a nurse practitioner, knowing they have this kind of expertise and education will help them to accept the change in the primary care setting that may result from having nurse practitioners able to exercise the skills and talents they have.

The next course is Therapeutics in Primary Health Care, in other words, designed to develop knowledge, skill and competencies to manage health and injury through the whole range of therapeutic strategies: counselling, pharmacology, complementary medicine. We all had a very good discussion in this place about alternative forms of medicine. Nurse practitioners are very open to the various forms of healing that are possible.

Next is Roles and Responsibilities: This is part of the ethics of a nurse practitioner's job, to know where they need to be building additional knowledge, the preparation for an outcomes-based evaluation of services, helping them to have the skills to be able to participate in that part of health care, which we all know is going to become more important as we look at what we're doing in our restructured system.

The next is a practicum. They need to do what's called an Integrative Practicum course. It's in the final year of the program and it enables them to consolidate all they have learned in their courses and to practise within a setting of primary health care. It is very important that we understand that there is both knowledge-based and learning-based in the classroom, a theoretical base as well as very practical knowledge, that there is also a practicum attached.

The last element is about aboriginal communities, because many nurse practitioners, whether they are working in urban, rural or northern settings, will practise in the field of aboriginal health care. Aboriginal people are not quite as caught up as we are with the kind of status of the traditional physician-based health care system. They have a very holistic approach to their own lives, a healing approach to their own lives, and are very open to the kinds of concepts nurse practitioners have, so it is considered an integral part of the kind of training the nurse practitioners have.

I mentioned that in the 1970s, when nurse practitioners were there, they gradually went out of fashion. We stopped educating them. The major reason for that was that we weren't providing the funding in a way that was possible. The big disappointment about the bill, quite frankly, is that the bill does not provide for a funding base for nurse practitioners. The minister said very clearly that they would be funded out of the various pots of money the ministry already has.

One of his assurances to try to prevent some of the backlash from physicians who see nurse practitioners as intruding into their field of practice was that they would not have access to some of the dollars that have gone into that area. This is a double-edged sword, then, because we need to find some way to fund the 420 or 422 nurse practitioners we expect to be available by 1999. The minister said something about many of them being in community health centres, so that's where we would see it.

But when we were doing the estimates, it was interesting to find that although $103 million had been allocated in the estimates of 1996-97, only $87 million of that community health centre funding had been flowed during that year, according to the interim estimates. In fact the estimates show that there is a decrease in the estimates this year of 2%, $2,000,500 that will not even be in the estimates, will not be available at all for community health centres. This is a reason for us to be very concerned, because we are, all of us, engaged in passing legislation that all of us hope will facilitate a change in the delivery of health care, and yet at the very beginning we see a situation where many of these people may never be able to have the positions that we are enabling them to have.

I'd like to read a letter that was sent on June 3 to the Minister of Health, Jim Wilson. I'm going to read it right through. This is from Annette Hoop, who is a registered nurse and a bachelor of science of nursing. She said:

"Dear Minister Wilson:

"As a nurse practitioner student who will be graduating in August 1997, I would like to commend you for introducing the NP legislation this April. It is with anticipation that I await the second and third reading and the passing of this legislation. It is clear that the current status of the health care system necessitates the expanded utilization of nurses.

"The legislation that you introduced brings us one step closer to a system which supports NP practice; however, I have concerns that there has been little discussion regarding strategies for enabling NPs to practise throughout Ontario. Currently NPs practise primarily in community health centres or in globally funded group health centres. Unfortunately, the rarity of these...settings in northern and rural parts of Ontario makes NP utilization in these underserviced areas difficult. Concrete, innovative mechanisms which permit NP practice must be implemented in order for the NP initiative to become a viable reality. The 1970s NP initiative was not as successful as it could have been due to lack of funding and work setting strategies. I am hopeful that history will not repeat itself.

"I am interested in knowing what strategies are being considered by your government. I understand that discussions regarding integrated health delivery systems are currently taking place; however, it is clear that the development and implementation of a new system will take time. I am also concerned that nurses are not represented on the Northern Ontario Integrated Health Delivery System Task Force.

"Specifically, I am interested in knowing if there are interim strategies for the use of current and graduating NPs? For example, will health units be funded to hire NPs and will there be a funding mechanism permitting NPs to work independently or in collaboration with physicians? The need for these interim mechanisms is especially acute in underserviced areas where communities lack access to primary health care providers. In these communities NPs want to work but have no work options.

"Most of the NPs who graduated last year," and there were 30 who graduated at the end of August last year, "are still unemployed due to legislative and funding barriers. I can only hope that all current and graduating NPs will soon have the opportunity to practise to our fullest capacity, providing innovative and comprehensive health care in our communities."


I have another letter that was also sent to Minister Wilson on May 20. It is from Marilyn Butcher, who is a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner. She also begins by congratulating the government on introducing the legislation and urging all parties to support it, as we are tonight, but she goes on to say:

"As a nurse practitioner who has been unable to find employment due to the lack of legislative support, I respectfully suggest that the minister carefully consider the following:

"Integrated health care delivery systems may in the future prove to be effective in Ontario. However, the seamless system that is being discussed will take a considerable length of time to implement. Underserviced areas cannot continue to wait until this system is up and running. Unemployed nurse practitioners should not have to wait for the evolution of a new system before finding employment.

"The ministry should consider a number of health care structures for NP employment. Community health centres provide exemplary primary care to their communities, but most Ontario communities do not have community health centres. The minister could consider sexual health/STD clinics in public health units as appropriate sites of NP employment. As well, there are many physicians in private practice who want to develop a collaborative practice with a nurse practitioner, but in the absence of a remunerative strategy, their practices are unable to support both care providers.

"Remuneration for nurse practitioners should be fair, given our expanded scope of nursing practice, and should reflect the added responsibility that the role demands. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are key stakeholders in health care reform. Continuing forward with this legislation before the summer recess acknowledges both the tremendous need for nurse practitioners and the skill that we bring to our patients."

While we are here talking in such glowing terms about the possibility of nurse practitioners, let us listen to these women who have taken the training and who are experiencing the difficulty of working in the field they have chosen. We know very clearly that in these days of contracting budgets it is going to be extremely difficult to fit this new practitioner into a system where everyone in the health care system is trying barely to hold on to what they have. Without a remunerative scheme, and the minister has certainly not announced one, this could all fall apart.

I notice that the member for Lambton is here. The member for Lambton in health estimates tried to get across to the parliamentary assistant and the deputy minister how frustrating it is for communities like his to have a community health care centre, as they do in Forest, and then not have the dollars to employ a nurse practitioner. He was saying that in his community the Rotary Club, I believe it was, had to raise the dollars to pay six months of the salary for the nurse practitioner, but they couldn't retain her because she could get 12 months of work in Toronto.

My point and the point of the member for Lambton is that unless we find some way of remunerating these very well trained people, we are not going to be able to utilize them in our communities, and that would be a real tragedy. I hope the members in the government who are joining with us today in supporting this bill will understand that the next step has to be a method of paying for this service, of being very clear that unless you actually can hire nurse practitioners, a lot of money, a lot of energy, a lot of hope, a lot of time is going into preparing people who may not have a position because the dollars aren't there.

I'm almost through, Mr Speaker. I want to do only one other issue, and that is the piece in the scope of practice that is missing that concerns nurse practitioners. That is the piece that does not enable them to refer directly to a specialist. They can refer only to a general practice physician, because all specialists get paid because they have a physician referral. There is no change in this act that enables that specialist referral to happen. That's important in primary health care settings because very often you come upon a situation where someone needs a specialist's attention immediately. Certainly in the obstetrical field that is often the case, or in the kind of reproductive issues that people have. But it may also happen in many other kinds of problems that people would bring to a primary health care setting.

Having to go through those steps is, first of all, more costly for us because it is a double referral. It basically says to the nurse practitioner: You are licensing me to do primary health care, but you don't trust me when the problem is serious and needs a specialist's attention. You are still saying that doctors are the only ones who can make that determination. That is a duplication in cost and a duplication in effort and it may create a serious delay where there is a serious health care problem.

I would urge the government, as they put this bill that is before us into place, to know that the demands over time to increase the scope of practice somewhat more as we readjust our thinking around who can be the gatekeeper of the system, whether it can only be physicians or whether we are prepared to understand that others have the skills and the commitment, the training and the ability to make those determinations -- I hope the government will keep in mind that those changes need to be made.

I know that my colleague from Beaches-Woodbine wants to add to this. I repeat again how pleased I am that we are at this stage and that we will be passing this bill. I hope it will be proclaimed very quickly so that we can ensure that the bill takes effect almost immediately, that the pent-up number of nurse practitioners are able to practise as they can. We will look forward to that day and we'll celebrate it with all the fine nurses who have worked so hard with so many different groups in collaboration to bring this about.

Ms Lankin: I am delighted to have an opportunity -- sorry. I'm laughing because as I rise to my feet to speak to the bill, a number of the government members who were watching on television back there started to run in because they thought I was going to call a quorum. It's okay, I say to the member for Scarborough West.

Hon Mrs Ecker: It's called conditioning.

Ms Lankin: A little bit of a Pavlovian response there.

I'm actually speaking to the bill, and delighted to be speaking to the bill. It is always an important occasion when a piece of legislation has such a tremendous consensus in the province of Ontario. I think this legislation has support from a great number of quarters, from people who have been looking at the need for change in our health care system, who have understood the importance of a shift to community-based delivery of care, a shift to a greater understanding of the importance of primary care and of the role of nursing and particularly the role of nursing diagnoses, which also has a very important focus on health promotion and on wellbeing. I think this step is one that is most welcomed by those who are interested in reform in the health care system.


I'm not going to be speaking at length tonight because I believe a number of the important issues have been covered. I think the member for London Centre has very eloquently and articulately put forward both our support for this bill and our concerns about some areas we believe the government must also address. The area with respect to the scope of practice of nurse practitioners and referrals to specialists is very important. I think it's an area that has unfortunately been overlooked and one that continues the duplication in terms of the nature of services of medical doctors and nurse practitioners. I hope that would be addressed in the future.

Also the very important issue of ascertaining the funding mechanisms for hiring and paying nurse practitioners: It's one thing to have people who are able to practise in the province, but if there is not funding through global budgets and community health centres, or capitated budgets in health service organizations, or in comprehensive health organizations, or in group practices, if that funding isn't made available by the government, when the government has made it very clear that the OHIP fee-for-service funding is not available for nurse practitioners, it will be a pyrrhic victory that we will have achieved here tonight in conjunction with the work of many people over a great length of time who worked to bring this about.

I am pleased particularly to be here for this momentous occasion because, as I've said before to members across the floor, I had the honour and the privilege of serving the province in the portfolio of Minister of Health for a period of time. It was one of the most interesting and exciting jobs anyone could have. I feel such a passion for the important work of health reform that being here and present when a bill which is an important piece of that health reform will pass second and third reading is an important honour for me.

When we began looking at the need to restructure the health care system, to look at how you move the resources -- because a lot of people have said that there were significant resources being expended and that those resources could be applied in a better way that would promote a healthier population -- we started looking at how that shift could take place, that shift from illness treatment to health promotion, to illness prevention. We started to look at how important it was that government, in its other areas of expenditure, have the room to invest in what are referred to as the determinants of health, those things which keep people healthy in the first place: good nutrition, important emphasis on child nutrition; a good education; a clean environment; clean, safe housing; safety in our streets -- all those things that build a health population.

The healthier your population is, of course, the better you can use your resources overall in the province and in the health care system. Through all of that, the role of community health became highlighted as a very important area. I'm pleased that during years where we were facing tremendous fiscal challenges in the government through the recession and we saw restraint beginning on government expenditures in a large number of areas, we were able within the health envelope to continue to expand, even in those very difficult times, the investment in community health centres and to expand the number of community health centres in the province.

I was very committed to continuing that because I believe that it is a critical point of entry for people to the health system in their community and that the community health centres have an opportunity to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to the delivery of health care services and that it is an important option that must be developed in our health care system to avoid the gatekeeper system through the OHIP fee for service. That focus on community health centres and the development of pilot projects for comprehensive health organizations and health service organizations was an important piece of that.

That led as well to the beginning of the review of primary health care, to bring the people together to indicate a real commitment to reforming primary health care in this province. Part of that was to look at who was involved in the delivery of primary health care. The issue of nurse practitioners arose as a key issue that needed to be addressed.

For those of you who may not be aware, there was a point of time historically in this province where there were nurse practitioners, where there was a university program and we were educating and graduating, producing nurse practitioners in this province a number of years ago. That was done away with. We had moved away from encouraging nurses to go on to become nurse practitioners and from the use of nurse practitioners.

I remember one of the first challenges I had as Minister of Health was to deal with the regulated health professions legislation. That was a package of statutes being amended that amended how certain health services, health providers are regulated, things like the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Nurses and a whole range of other health care providers. That package of legislation saw three different governments working on trying to arrive at a consensus out in the field among all of the professions, three different governments and eight different Ministers of Health. That's how many it took to get the job done.

When I finally was able to take part in the final stages of that, I have to say it really was the final stages. There may have been a couple of crises that were left that had to be sorted out between certain groups or professions around scopes of practice, but by and large, the work had been done over years by previous governments: by Tory governments, by Liberal governments and finishing up by our own government.

At that point in time I felt sorry that there hadn't been the work done on nurse practitioners because I would have liked to have moved forward very quickly on that, but recognized the need for that. In talking with people in the delivery of community health care and primary health care, I saw that there was a consensus re-emerging about the importance of the role of nurse practitioner. I began at that point in time to do the work with one of our sister ministries, the Ministry of Education and Training -- at that time the Ministry of Colleges and Universities -- to work with post-secondary academic institutions to reinstate the education program to educate and graduate nurse practitioners.

That took some work, both in terms of curriculum work and in terms of finding money yet again in the budget through that ministry to be able to provide program funding money to the university sector to re-establish that particular program. Also, the work began at that point in time to try and build a consensus about the nature of the legislation and the regulation that should be in place.

My successor, the former member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ruth Grier, who took over as Minister of Health, worked very hard on ensuring that the funding was put in place to actually establish the nurse practitioners post-secondary education program. She was able to do that. As you heard, last year the first group of new nurse practitioners were graduated into this province. They are out there ready, awaiting the passage of this legislation and awaiting the establishment of funding mechanisms so that they can take their rightful and important place in contributing to the health of our population and to the more effective delivery of health services in our province.

Ruth was also the minister who I think brought together the final consensus with respect to the legislation. There was a lot of work. In these things, there are always competing interests from different health providers who are concerned with respect to the quality of delivery of health care and how that relates to scopes of practice of various professions. There was a lot for the ministry at that time, and the minister, to work through.

I want at this moment to pay tribute very much to the staff of the ministry. They have done yeoman's service in working not just with those in the nursing profession -- there are many in the nursing profession who have contributed to making this possible -- but with many other health providers to bring about the consensus around this legislation. I think a tribute should be paid to the ministry staff and to Ruth Grier, the former Minister of Health.

I take the time to do that because, unfortunately, when the current Minister of Health finally delivered the piece of legislation which was drafted and ready to go and two years later we have it -- I wouldn't be saying that if he had stood up and actually paid credit to Ruth Grier. It would have been a classy thing to do. It's unfortunate that he didn't see fit to do that.

This is a piece of legislation that does enjoy the support of all parties in this Legislature, which is reflective of the type of support that is out there among the public. If not long overdue, it's a bill whose time has come. It is a great pleasure to participate in the province of Ontario, in this Legislature, in actually passing very good legislation which will contribute to the wellbeing of the population. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to participate.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions and comments?

Mr Hudak: I'm pleased to rise to comment. I appreciate the commensurate remarks from my comrades opposite, both the member for London Centre and the member for Beaches-Woodbine. In fact, the member for Beaches-Woodbine is correct; Ruth Grier, the Minister of Health in the previous government, did bring forward this legislation. It hadn't been brought into the House and we're pleased to bring that legislation forward for debate as part of this government, and very pleased with the support we're receiving from both opposition parties this evening.

Having listened to the member for London Centre, who did a very good job describing in plain language to the audience watching here tonight what it is that nurse practitioners will be doing, I think she's a little unfair to my comments when I talked about the red tape aspects. Technically, she's right, this legislation does expand the scope of practice, but for practical purposes these things are ongoing. Nurse practitioners are currently out there communicating diagnoses; they're prescribing certain drugs, limited by regulation after this bill; administering the drugs they prescribe; ordering ultrasounds; ordering X-rays, lab tests; directing ambulances; signing medical certificates of death.

The only difference now, is that before the nurse practitioner would have to run down the hall chasing a doctor to get the doctor to sign on to what had already been ordered, which was time that could be better spent. So when tomorrow comes, when this bill is passed, the nurse practitioners will be free so they won't have to chase the doctors, because they know how to do these things very well. Important too for the red tape considerations of this legislation, they won't have to spend their time going through the 300-page protocols that they currently do, like I said with the example from Ottawa, 12 pages on rashes, having to update those things. Instead, they can devote their energy, their knowledge, their experience, the sum of their resources to providing quality patient care.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? I recognize the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health to wrap up.

Ms Lankin: He just did it.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Hudak has moved second reading of Bill 127. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? It is carried.

Shall the bill be moved for third reading? It is agreed.

Mr Hudak moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 127, An Act to amend the Nursing Act, 1991 and to make consequential amendments to the Healing Arts Radiation Protection Act, the Medical Laboratory Technology Act, 1991, the Respiratory Therapy Act, 1991 and the Vital Statistics Act / Projet de loi 127, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1991 sur les infirmières et infirmiers et apportant des modifications corrélatives à la Loi sur la protection contre les rayons X, à la technologistes de laboratoire médical, à la Loi de 1991 sur les inhalothérapeutes et à la Loi sur les statistiques de l'état civil.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that third reading pass? It is carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Mr Jim Brown moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 102, An Act to improve community safety by amending the Change of Name Act, the Ministry of Correctional Services Act and the Police Services Act / Projet de loi 102, Loi visant à accroître la sécurité de la collectivité en modifiant la Loi sur le changement de nom, la Loi sur le ministère des Services correctionnels et la Loi sur les services policiers.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Scarborough West.

Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Thank you for the opportunity to highlight for members of the Legislature a number of the provisions of Bill 102, the Community Safety Act.

I feel the proposed legislation is a very important step towards making Ontarians feel safe and secure in their communities. It is a step that will help make our streets a little safer.

As the Solicitor General said last December when this bill was introduced, this government believes that every Ontarian has the right to feel safe in their communities. I believe one of the reasons this government was elected in June 1995 was our commitment to rebalance the justice system in favour of victims of crime and law-abiding citizens, instead of coddling criminals. Bill 102 is another example of this government's continued commitment to protect children, youth, women, men and families. This bill will make our streets safer and our communities more secure. It removes obstacles that prevent police and other parts of the justice system from doing their job: protecting the public.

Bill 102 amends the Police Services Act and the Correctional Services Act as well as the Change of Name Act, which is administered by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

I want to take a moment to speak briefly on each of the highlights of the bill. First of all, as members are aware, the police have long called for clear legal authority to publicize the names of criminals being released from jail who they believe pose a danger to law-abiding citizens. In fact, some police chiefs have been hesitant to identify paedophiles and other dangerous offenders out of fear of breaking privacy laws.

Dr Jim Cairns, the deputy chief coroner of Ontario, stated recently that "Chiefs of police have said... `We now have a dangerous offender in our community -- what do we do?'" Police chiefs well know some of the threats on the streets, yet they have been forbidden to say anything about dangerous offenders. This must be changed. This government is changing it through Bill 102 and its regulations.

Bill 102 will finally allow the police and other justice officials like correctional officials to notify the public of the release of dangerous offenders into their communities. It's about time.

With respect to the release-of-names component of the bill, it will give police and correctional officials the legislative authority, after assessing the risks posed by specific individuals, to disclose information about offenders who are about to be released into the community. These decisions will be made subject to regulations under the act which will clearly spell out the kind of information that may be disclosed, to whom it may be disclosed and the circumstances under which it may be communicated. We believe that decisions by police and correctional officials to disclose personal information will be made on a case-by-case basis in a responsible manner and in the interests of public safety. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have similar legislation.

Secondly, the bill will also close legal loopholes around the change-of-name process. I want to take a moment to emphasize the importance of the amendments Bill 102 proposes to the Change of Name Act. Currently there is no process to update criminal records and law enforcement orders to reflect name changes. In effect, that means a serial killer or other dangerous criminal can change his name to avoid being tracked by the law. That's wrong, and we are taking steps through the bill to right that wrong.


To give you an example of how Bill 102 would improve things, if a convicted paedophile applied for a name change, he would not be able to hide a criminal record for sexual assault and other offences. That information would be reflected under his new name. If the individual in question applied to work in a day care, a children's aid society or as a volunteer for a Boy Scouts organization, his justice records would be accessed as part of the screening process, preventing him from gaining access to kids.

In fact, the change-of-name component of Bill 102 puts Ontario on the cutting edge of criminal justice in Canada. This bill would make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to close a legal loophole that may be assisting criminals.

What we are proposing in this bill has attracted the interest of other provincial governments and the federal government.

The amendments to the Change of Name Act will require that those who have a criminal record, pending charges or outstanding law enforcement orders against them must submit to a police records check if they try to change their names.

This will make sure that a person's new name will be linked to any justice records held on them and will provide a process for police to update information to reflect an individual's legal name change on the Canadian Police Information Centre or CPIC system. By allowing the linking of individuals to their criminal record, despite a change of their name, the Community Safety Act will result in improved law enforcement and investigation in areas such as restraining orders on spouse abusers and stalkers or drivers with licence suspensions.

This will make our streets safer and it will protect the most vulnerable in our society without any negative impact on people who don't have a criminal record. One of Ontario's most infamous criminals was in the process of changing his name from Paul Bernardo to Paul Teale.

Not surprisingly, Bill 102 is being well received. If you look at the media reports on the bill you will see favourable comments by victims' groups such as CAVEAT, school trustees and, as I mentioned, by the coroner's office.

The Hamilton Spectator said, "The Ontario government is taking an overdue and necessary step by introducing legislation giving police chiefs the right to publicize the names of...offenders released from prison." There were a whole host of positive articles in all the newspapers: the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail.

I also want to point out that the amendments we are proposing in Bill 102 are in keeping with the recommendations of the Christopher Stephenson inquest in 1993. Eleven-year-old Christopher Stephenson was killed in 1988 by repeat child rapist Joseph Fredericks. Fredericks was a baseball coach and there was no check done on him. The Stephenson inquest recommended greater public disclosure of offender information upon release and encouraged public cooperation with police background checks to ensure that records are accurate and current. Christopher's father, Jim Stephenson, hailed this bill as a valuable step towards protecting children from dangerous sexual predators.

In conclusion, I want to say that Ontario is the first province to implement such comprehensive procedures. These amendments will enhance victims' and community access to information at all stages of the criminal justice process, fulfilling the principles of the Victims' Bill of Rights.

As I said, they're in keeping with the recommendations made by the Christopher Stephenson inquest and support the victim notification system of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services.

Bill 102 is a long-overdue piece of legislation that will help police and other parts of the justice system to do all they can to protect the people of Ontario. The rights of victims, taxpayers and law-abiding citizens are more important than those of dangerous offenders.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): For the second time this evening I'm pleased to stand in my place and speak in support of a government initiative that is overdue. I'm glad it's here. It's good we have an opportunity to discuss it. There are some very sensitive issues in it, but I think the time has come to deal with these issues and it's important for the public to understand why we're having to deal with these particular matters at this point in time.

One of the most important aspects of this bill, as the member has stated, is an amendment to the Change of Name Act. Why this is necessary is that people with a criminal record have found it convenient in avoiding the law to apply for a name change to the registrar general. There really hasn't been the regulation in place to notify all the proper authorities that this is taking place, nor has the registrar general had the authority up till now to make a check for a criminal record or to demand that of that applicant.

This is very important as criminals have been making greater use of this loophole to avoid detection. It's an important regulatory change that should help stop some of this activity. I just want to say that the Liberal caucus is very supportive of that. I think, actually, this is just a beginning. I would encourage the government to do more.

The previous speaker alluded to the Christopher Stephenson case and he described that very well. There is actually more that both levels of government could do. The federal government could do more to protect society and so could we as a province. In fact, as of May 1995, about 20 of the recommendations that came out of the Stephenson inquiry, about 30% of these recommendations, had not yet been implemented. Some could be done at the federal level and more could be done at the provincial level.

Out of that inquest there were 71 recommendations, and if you count all the subrecommendations, there were 108 recommendations that were directed to 116 different governments, ministries, organizations and agencies, all aimed at enhancing the system's ability to deal with dangerous sexual predators such as Fredericks. Tonight's bill does go part way in correcting that and closing the gap of that 20% remaining and that's good.

I would encourage the government not only to finish up those recommendations, but also I would certainly lend my support in any request that the provincial government would want to make to the federal government for it to move its amendments. They would have to make some amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to fulfil all the recommendations that came out of the Stephenson inquest.

In fact, in 1995, then Liberal MPP Steven Offer introduced a private member's bill to amend the Ontario Mental Health Act to facilitate the transfer of violent sexual predators from prison to secure mental health institutions for indefinite detention at the end of their sentence. That's something that we here in this place would have to consider. A lot of work has come out of private members' bills in the past. In 1995, the member for Burlington South, Cam Jackson, also brought in some private member's bills that dealt with victims' rights that I would say would be a complementary piece of legislation to this.


What we're talking about tonight here in Bill 102 is legislation that's intended to permit justice officials to track offenders and notify the public about dangerous offenders about to be released into their communities. So this bill, in order to do that, amends the Police Services Act, the Ministry of Correctional Services Act and the Change of Name Act in the following manner.

The Police Services Act will be amended to permit the disclosure of personal information about individuals by police chiefs or by people designated by the chief for this purpose. The police services boards will be required to establish policies regarding such disclosure, including the nature of information to be disclosed, in which circumstances and to whom. Any such disclosure is deemed to be in accordance with the provincial and municipal laws governing freedom of information. This is meant to specifically authorize police to warn communities about dangerous offenders about to be released back into the community.

In some law enforcement officials' opinion over the last few years there has been some reluctance and some hesitancy to do this, and there is certainly a dissenting opinion to this. Many of the advocacy groups that support the rehabilitation of offenders have felt and have brought the position forward that if you disclose offenders' names being released into the community who potentially pose a new threat and danger to the community, you'll drive those people underground.

We've found, unfortunately, over the last few years with all the attempts we have made to bring the very best rehabilitation into our prison system that it's very difficult to rehabilitate some of the very worst sexual predators we have in the criminal justice system. I think, in order to protect our communities, we will have to resort to this sort of notification of those extremely dangerous offenders being released into our communities. I think it's a tough measure whose time is due and I support that.

This act also changes the Ministry of Correctional Services Act. It's to be amended by explicitly permitting regulations to be added to authorize persons employed in the administration of the act to disclose personal information about individuals and to set out the type of information that may be disclosed, in which circumstances and to whom. This will authorize correctional institutions also to warn communities about dangerous offenders about to be released. So there are two areas of the criminal justice system that get this authorization: the police, but also the officials in our correctional institutions who are about to release dangerous offenders.

The Change of Name Act, governed by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, specifically by the registrar general, will be amended in order to prevent individuals from avoiding their previous records by changing their names. As I stated earlier and as the previous speaker Mr Brown had mentioned, even Paul Bernardo was attempting to do this. So this is a loophole that really needs to be changed.

This amendment will require persons applying for a legal name change to disclose whether they have any criminal record or if there are any outstanding law enforcement orders or pending criminal charges against them. So before registering any name changes, the registrar general must also clear the request with the Ministry of the Solicitor General to ensure that people changing their names do not have criminal records or outstanding criminal charges against them. This is intended to catch those individuals who lie on their name change application. So again this is additional protection for our communities from offenders trying to circumvent the law by lying on their name change application forms.

In either case, if people applying for a name change disclose that they have a criminal record or charges outstanding against them, or if they're caught by the Solicitor General, their application will not be processed until they provide a police record check revealing particulars of all criminal convictions, charges, outstanding law enforcement orders and pending criminal charges. The registrar general must also advise the Solicitor General if a person who provided a police records check is given a change of name, allowing updates of the records and attaching criminal histories to the new name.

The bill also permits the sharing of information between the registrar general and the Solicitor General, and the Solicitor General is further authorized to disclose relevant information about a name change to other ministries or agencies for law enforcement purposes.

It's interesting to note that when this bill was given first reading back in December of last year, the Ministry of the Solicitor General officials were advising at that time there were no mechanisms in place to allow this to happen. So it is very important that the ministry have the resources required to make this happen because it is going to take some resources. With all the cutbacks we have seen with the various ministries, it's very important that the resources be there, because this is going to take some time, it's going to take some bureaucracy and probably some technological changes to get it going. But I think it's going to be very important to make sure those resources are in place and I would ask the parliamentary assistant to ensure that will happen.

This legislation already authorizes the registrar general to refuse a name change if he or she believes that the name change is intended for an improper purpose, subject to the right of the applicant to appeal to a court. None of these amendments reflects specific recommendations contained in the Stephenson report, but they're more or less in keeping with the spirit and the intent of those recommendations. So that's why I think it's very important that this bill get quick passage from this House, that we support this so we can make sure the various ministries involved in this change have the tools to do this job. I think it is paramount that we protect our communities from offenders who pose a danger of reoffending.

The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to thank the member for Timiskaming for his excellent contribution. Once again we see the consensus that has developed in this Legislature on wanting to meet the needs as exist in the community. There may be some quibbles over details, but I think the initiative which is designed to enhance community safety is going to receive the support of everyone. What you find with all these initiatives, however, is that you require the resources -- financial and staff resources -- to be able to implement these policies. In many jurisdictions there are people who will engage in the rhetoric or will even go as far as to establish a framework or a piece of legislation, but they don't take advantage of the opportunity then to provide the necessary resources to carry out the provisions of the legislation.

My friend the Attorney General was in St Catharines either earlier this year or last year, where he made an announcement about a victims' rights office, for want of a better word. The idea is commendable, it is good, it is what people are looking for, everybody in the House has spoken on it some time in agreement, but one of the problems is that the resources to staff that office aren't what they should be even to this point in time. I think it's important that if you're going to have these crime-fighting initiatives, you have the necessary resources. Again I say you can't cut taxes and still have those financial resources to cover these kinds of things. They are commendable initiatives, but I'd like to say to people that if you want them to work, you have to be prepared to pay for them, and I think most people are.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I did have a very excellent speech prepared on Bill 102, and in listening to my colleagues the member for Nipissing and the member for St Catharines, and anticipating hearing my colleague the member for London Centre, I feel it will not be necessary for me to place on the record my support of this bill. Again, as with the bill previously dealt with this evening, it is very encouraging when we can have legislation on which all three parties agree. I am very appreciative of the fact that we are going together, all three parties, in agreement on both these bills this evening.

I'm really standing to comment on the contribution to the debate by the member for Timiskaming. You did keep to your word of 12 to 15 minutes. I think that you have been extremely fair, and we all appreciate that at this late hour, so I will also show the same commitment. Thank you very much.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I will also forgo my speaking time, and I'll just do a couple of very brief minutes, also commenting on the excellent presentation and the understanding that my colleague has of the bill. As he says, we are in support. We understand it is something that is needed. I think we owe it to our communities.

I want to make one quick point, without repeating the extremely succinct points my colleague has made on the bill. We should do everything possible not to have criminals hide behind a new name. I think it is something that perhaps has happened in the past, but I don't think our community would accept the fact that a criminal, someone wanted who has been involved in a variety of criminal acts, just changes their name and the activities of the person will not go along with their new name.

We have to do everything we can to protect every member of our society. This bill is not a total solution but will go a long way to give the power, not only to the proper authority here locally in our own government but also to our police forces, to make sure that anyone who commits any crimes towards our society and wants to get away just by changing their name won't be able to do that. I think this will assist. This will give the tools necessary to our police and peace of mind to our communities which so much deserve our full protection, so I'm very pleased to support it.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Timiskaming has two minutes.

Mr Ramsay: I would just like to say that I appreciate the comments of the members following my speech. I would like to reiterate what the member for St Catharines had stated, as I had in my speech, that it's very important that the resources be there so that when this program is implemented it can work well, it can be effective and do the job it was meant to do and protect the communities, as we're all working to do here in this assembly tonight.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I am pleased to speak briefly on this act, which again all parties are supporting. The issues that are involved in this are very important to those who have been victims of crime and those of us in the community who understand the vulnerability that all of us have when someone decides to break the law.

The provisions here have been asked for over a period of time, not just by victims' advocacy groups but by law enforcement officers, by prosecutors, by those who are engaged in local safe community work, so it is important for us to be very clear that there is a real demand in the community to see our laws and our actions focusing on the pain and distress that often result from criminal activity.

I would say that I'm very concerned when I hear my friend from Scarborough West talk about one person's rights being more important than another person's rights in our community. I can understand the sentiment entirely, and I can assure the member that in my work with victims of crime it is very hard for those who have been victimized not to have an impression that the rights of the victims seem much less than the rights of the accused. I remind the member, however, that every citizen, whatever their situation, does have rights and that we could be the accused the next time. It is extremely important for us to think about people like Guy Paul Morin, to think about those who are often convicted of crimes and to know that those people are not always guilty, and even if they are guilty, they have rights.

One of the things that disturbs me in the current thrust about law and order is a lack of understanding about the need to respect the rights of the other if your point of punishment is to remind them that they have not respected the rights of their victims. It's really very much a conundrum for those of us who feel deeply on behalf of victims to also have to recognize that unless we are protecting the rights of those who are accused of crimes, as well as the victims, balancing those, not putting one out of kilter with the other, there is a real difficulty.

With that caution, I'd like to talk just a little bit about the various elements. The Change of Name Act is an important one. This has been used as a mechanism to try and hide the fact that someone has a criminal record or has outstanding orders or has pending criminal charges. All of that is very clear. It is often hard for law enforcement officers to follow through on the kinds of tips they receive if someone has been able to change their name, and certainly this has come up in a number of cases.

The member for Timiskaming I think mentioned the Paul Bernardo case, as did the member for St Catharines, and we all know that Mr Bernardo and Ms Homolka were in the process of getting their names changed to Teale and that that could very well have confused things. I would also say, however, that at the time they were trying to change their names they didn't have pending criminal charges against them and didn't have a law enforcement order against them, and it might not have prevented them from changing their names had that name change gone through in a fashion.

But it is good that this bill gives the registrar general the right to refuse to change a name, because in cases like that where the time was out of joint, quite frankly, and it was all happening at the same time, if the registrar general is informed by law enforcement officers that it would be wise not to grant the name change, this gives permission to the registrar general to withhold that permission.

The issue of the bill allowing the Ministry of the Attorney General to obtain information from the registrar general's records that may be relevant to a change of name and make further disclosures is a bit puzzling to me, and like the other two pieces of the bill, it is not quite clear to what extent this kind of information may be used.

In the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, for example, the bill permits the disclosure of personal information about individuals by the Ministry of Correctional Services, but the nature of the information that may be released, by whom it may be released, to whom it may be released and the circumstances in which it may be released are all going to be left to regulation. What we are doing tonight is giving a blanket permission without knowing what those regulations are that enable the Ministry of Correctional Services to disclose personal information about individuals. It is a very serious thing for us to be giving that kind of blanket permission, because there is such a thing that when we as a society have someone incarcerated, they still have a right to some personal privacy. It is not clear that this personal information could only be released in terms of protecting victims, and that may be the way it turns out. I hope it is, but it isn't really clear in what we're passing what the limitations are on the release of that information.


We don't have the experience we have in terms of the Police Services Act, where we have seen, as the parliamentary assistant suggested, quite judicious use of the discretion police chiefs have had to release information, a very, very clear discretion about when that might be more harmful than not releasing the information. We don't have the benefit of that kind of experience with the Ministry of Correctional Services because the disclosure of information has simply been forbidden in the way we're talking about here.

While we're certainly going to be prepared to pass this bill, I sincerely hope the ministry is going to be carefully monitoring what happens with this bill, that when they make the regulations, they will be very clear that again this should only happen when there is reason to fear for the safety of another and not happen as a routine matter that might infringe upon the privacy rights of an individual.

Simply because someone has done a criminal act, that does not mean they are no longer a citizen with a citizen's rights. We have to balance the protection of the rest of our society with those rights, because once we begin to infringe on citizens' rights by making a judgement call about whose rights are more important than another's, we begin to undermine our own rights. We have to be very, very careful how we go about that.

Again, in the Police Services Act the disclosure of personal information by chiefs of police or their designates, the nature of that information, the way it's released and the circumstances under which it's released are to be set out in regulations. I hope the example police chiefs have generally set in terms of their previous discretion on this matter will impact on the setting of those regulations and that the government will be very, very aware of the caveat many of the police people in this province have on this.

There is a fear that this could drive people underground and that the normal kind of surveillance over them to make sure they are following conditions of their release would be impossible, that they would simply disappear. I think we need to take fairly seriously that concern and be sure that in our regulations we're looking at this release of information in such a way as to minimize the possibility that the release of that information could endanger the community rather than making it safer, because we know that is not our purpose in passing this bill.

I am fearful that these bills, once passed, may give a false sense of security in our communities. If people imagine that if anyone has been released from prison, they are going to know whether or not they're in their neighbourhood, that is not what this is designed to do, and certainly not when we are talking about the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services Act, which covers people who are in jail only for two years less a day -- generally speaking, not always but generally speaking, fairly minor offences and not the kind of offences, generally speaking, where the general public is at risk. Yes, there are people who have committed sexual offences who are in provincial jails, there's no question about that, but certainly an examination of the statistics shows that those people are not as likely to have committed their sexual acts upon strangers but within a family or within a very close kind of circumstance.

We just have to be aware that having these tools may help us in some instances to be sure of being able to create a better sense of community safety, but we mustn't ever give the impression that these tools are the be-all and end-all in terms of keeping communities safe. They aren't.

In my work with victims' groups I have always cautioned them about whether or not this in and of itself is as effective a tool as many have thought it was. It doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, it just means we shouldn't have any illusions that as a mechanism it is necessarily going to create the level of safety anyone victimized by crime wants to have. The fear factor will still be there, and the reality is that this will not necessarily produce results in terms of calming those fears that many victim groups hope it will when they put this forward as a real demand. I think we just have to have that in mind.

Having said that, we certainly are going to support the bill. We're going to be watching very carefully, as I'm sure will all the people who look after civil liberties issues. We're going to want to be sure this is used with discretion and in cases where it will have the result that's intended for public safety and not used to create a further punishment of people who have already fulfilled their term in prison if that's not necessary. We certainly hope that balancing act we have seen police chiefs exercise with discretion will continue to be exercised with discretion.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments?

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I just wanted to acknowledge at this time both the remarks of the member for London Centre and the previous remarks of the members for Timiskaming and Scarborough West.

As some of you know, part of the catapult for this legislation was the recommendations of the Stephenson inquiry. The Stephenson issue arose because of the terrible tragedy that occurred in my riding of Brampton South at the time, and I'm going to take the opportunity to let the Stephenson family know. As constituents of mine they deserve to know about the debate tonight and the support of all three parties with respect to the recommendations of that inquiry. I want to thank you and thus end my remarks.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bradley: I'm going to be uncharacteristically brief because we have canvassed a lot of the issues associated with this, but I want to underline one more time, if I may, the need for resources.

I hear a lot of people with some pretty strong rhetoric when it comes to fighting crime, and many of us are very strong on fighting crime. Coming from the community I do where there's been some high-profile crime taking place, I can assure you that the people of St Catharines have no sympathy for those who perpetrate crimes upon others and a lot of sympathy for victims of crime. I know personally victims of crime, very well, some of them, and I've had long discussions with the individuals directly affected and with their families. When I hear stories about how various governments and various people in political campaigns want to undertake very strong law and order measures, I simply hope they explain to the population how much they cost.

I think it's worth the cost, I think it's worth the investment, but very often a lot of these ideas are put out -- I'm not associating that with this bill as much as some other initiatives -- and they are extremely costly. I think for the protection of the community they're important. This bill is one of the steps.

I want to pay tribute to Mrs de Villiers, who has been one of the prominent leaders of the effort to look at victims' rights. I happen to know Doug and Donna French in St Catharines very well. They've gone through some very traumatic times and very sad and tragic times. I can think of another victim almost killed by an individual who was saved by an OPP officer. This victim had been kidnapped, taken to around Paris, Ontario, assaulted and probably would have been killed had this retired OPP officer not come along on a tractor to effect a saving of this person. The person who was alleged to have committed the crime and indeed did commit the crime is now in jail for life because that person had already killed somebody else, one or two other people, during this spree.

When you talk to victims themselves, the terror that's inflicted upon them, the concern that whoever is released, as the member for Scarborough West expressed, back to the community is going to perhaps commit another crime -- we can't always tell, but if there's a likelihood, those people live in terror. They're almost a captive in their own homes.

I would hope that nobody could change their name to avoid this kind of detection, and this bill addresses that. On pieces of legislation, I simply urge the initiators and the promoters of this legislation to make sure you have the necessary resources.

The ideas are good. I don't think very many people are very sympathetic to those who carry out crimes. We're sympathetic to the circumstances that breed criminals, the difficult social circumstances that point some people in that direction, but we cannot excuse crime because of those circumstances, nor can we excuse crime when it is committed by a deranged individual, because paramount must be the protection of the innocent in our society.

Everyone in the House is going to agree with this bill. As I mentioned before, there are some minor details with which there may be some differences as expressed by the member for London Centre, but you may be assured that we will be happy to see this legislation pass. We will want to ensure in the estimates process or in other areas that those resources are there and we'll support the minister in his efforts to secure those resources from the treasury, from Management Board of Cabinet and from the finance minister and the cabinet as a whole so our communities can be protected. More and more, whether it's apparent or it's real, people are concerned about crime and violent crime, and justifiably so. I believe this bill will go partway to deal with some of that crime and for that reason deserves the support of all members of the House.

The Speaker: Mr Brown has moved second reading of Bill 102. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Mr Jim Brown: I ask that the bill be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.

The Speaker: So ordered.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move adjournment of the House.

The Speaker: Mr Johnson has moved adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

It now being before 12 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until Monday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 2215.