36th Parliament, 1st Session

L214 - Mon 18 Aug 1997 / Lun 18 Aoû 1997























































Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'd like to recognize a significant event that took place over the last few days, and that was the recognition of the anniversary of 50 years of independence in India.

I think all of us recall, and certainly all of us have read about, the struggle of the freedom fighters to establish that democracy led by Mahatma Gandhi, and we all are familiar with the enormous success of that struggle. Mahatma Gandhi's legend lives on, of course. Two of the great struggles in the recent past, the civil rights movement in the US led by Martin Luther King and the struggle in South Africa led by Nelson Mandela, both follow the principles of Mahatma Gandhi.

We also on the weekend recognized the tremendous accomplishments of India. I think Canada has much to learn from India, a country with 300 languages, multireligion, and yet democracy continues to grow and to thrive there.

Over the weekend we also recognized the contribution of so many Canadians of Indian background: here in the Ontario government senior deputy ministers, but in every aspect of our life. I particularly wanted to say that I salute the committee that worked tirelessly. In our gallery are the members of that committee, led by Ajit Jain and R.K. Moorthy, as well as the rest of the committee. I wonder if the House might join in congratulating them on a fine accomplishment.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I had the pleasure of joining my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt in some of the festivities that took place over the weekend around the 50th anniversary of India's independence. I hope all members of the House will join with us in offering best wishes to the Indo-Canadian/ Pakistani-Canadian communities on this, the 50th anniversary of their independence from the British Empire after a 200-year struggle.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the first south Asians to Canada. Over this century the south Asian community has contributed greatly to the Canadian mosaic. No major facet of Canadian life has gone untouched. Our commercial and cultural institutions have been greatly enriched by the many talents of these communities whose multicultural, multilinguistic and multireligious heritage date back at least 5,000 years. The people of the subcontinent have also made great strides in the last 50 years. Life expectancy, literacy and per capita income have all risen significantly.

Given recent signs of resolution of conflicts between these two great countries, I have great faith that the next 50 years will be even more promising if the challenges can be faced today.

I too would like to congratulate the leaders and the organizers from the committee for putting on a wonderful celebration this weekend. Congratulations.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): It is with pride that I rise for the second time to once again offer congratulations to the High Park Braves, a little league baseball team. For the fourth year in a row the Braves have won the Ontario Little League championship. This team, made up entirely of 12-year-olds and with only two players returning from last year, represented Ontario at the national championships. They went through the round robin with a perfect five and zero record to advance to the finals.

While they were not victorious on this occasion, they have much to be proud of. Very few teams could even boast of making it once to the finals of the Canadian Major Little League championship, let alone four times. In the case of the High Park Braves, they won the Canadian championship on two of those occasions and advanced on behalf of Canada to the world series.

I would like to thank the parents, coaches and other volunteers who make our house leagues and rep teams across Ontario possible. These individuals give generously of their time to nourish and encourage our young people. In High Park-Swansea the strong support of our neighbourhood's many sports teams has done much more than simply organize games to the benefit of our youth; it has coalesced into a vibrant community spirit.

Once again it is my distinct honour to offer congratulations to the High Park Braves, Ontario champions in little league baseball for the fourth year in a row. If I might be so bold as to speak for all my colleagues in the House, I think I can safely say that the players, the coaches, the parents and the community are all world-class winners.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): After 29 consecutive years in municipal politics, Ontario's longest-serving regional chair has decided to retire after this term. Tom Davies, chair of the Sudbury region, will not only be missed in the Sudbury basin, but he will be missed by politicians at all levels of government.

Being acclaimed as the chair of the Sudbury region for five consecutive terms indicates the amount of satisfaction, respect and love the people and politicians of the Sudbury region have for Tom. Tom was obsessed with improving our area's image. His main focus was always the good of the region and his main thrusts were its survival and growth. Tom believes in our youth and focused tireless energies in ensuring they had jobs in our region to return to.

Tom was, and continues to be, a mentor for all those around him. His ability to remain focused and to keep his priorities in tune with the ordinary person were two of the reasons he was so successful and so popular. For people, Tom exemplified what politics is all about. We all owe Tom a huge debt of gratitude.

To Tom, his wife, Sally, and children Craig, Ward, Susan, Gordon and Scott, thank you for your energy, your focus, your dedication and your commitment. It is now our turn to support Tom and his family. Good luck, dear friend.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise today having just completed the six measly days of public hearings that this government threw out by way of public consultation on Bill 99. Shameful, disgusted outrage was certainly the attitude of the literally hundreds of people who showed up in the public galleries in every community we were in and were not allowed to speak, couldn't get on the list. In fact, there were over 1,200 requests, and we met only a mere fraction.


Finally, these people had had their fill of this arrogant government, and in Kingston the injured workers actually took over the committee hearings. Peter Boyle, the president of the Kingston and District Labour Council, placed the following resolution on the floor:

"Whereas the overwhelming majority of workers who have presented to the Ontario standing committee on resources development, which is holding public hearings on Bill 99, have testified that Bill 99 attacks injured workers in the name of greater profits and will lead to greater numbers of injuries and deaths in the workplace.... Therefore be it resolved that the participants at the Kingston public hearings on Bill 99 call on the labour movement, the injured worker movement and all progressive organizations to continue the fight against the concepts in Bill 99. They should use their resources to fight these regressive changes on the streets, in the workplace and to build support within their communities... That fight begins here in Kingston."

That resolution was passed unanimously by the injured workers who were there, the very people this government denied the opportunity to say, "Shame on you."


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I rise to address the House regarding two of Oshawa's most venerable citizens, who this month have celebrated their centennial birthdays.

Bertha Moore, a resident of Oshawa, celebrated her centennial birthday with friends and family on August 8. Ms Moore is a skilled artist and an active member of our community. Ms Moore has travelled extensively and is continually looking for new challenges. In recent years she has undertaken water ballet, and her competitive spirit enjoys the sound of saying "Bingo."

Henry Patton Price was born on August 12, 1897. Since coming to Canada in 1907 from Great Britain, Mr Price has contributed greatly to Canada and our community. As a signaller in the Canadian Forces during the Great War, Mr Price served with distinction in many of the war's fiercest theatres, such as Vimy Ridge and Dieppe. The signals section in which Mr Price served won the Dominion Trophy twice during his tour. Mr Price continued to apply the determination, dedication and pride in his efforts that he achieved during his military career through the two world wars to his civilian career with Canadian Pacific Telegraph and General Motors.

These two outstanding citizens have demonstrated dedication and commitment to their families, friends, community, province and country. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to meet and speak with both of them. I would like ask all to join me in congratulating Ms Bertha Moore and Mr Henry Price on their 100 years young.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Last week the Mike Harris Health Services Restructuring Commission arrived in Ottawa and did what its flawed mandate instructed it to do: close hospitals. In the wake of the closure of the Grace Hospital and the Riverside Hospital and the downgrading of the Montfort Hospital went $60 million of the region's health care dollars and the loss of some 1,200 front-line jobs: nurses, health care providers and hospital staff.

Evidence shows that moving certain health services to bigger units ultimately increases the costs and diminishes personal care. Closing smaller hospitals is the wrong way to go. The closure of the Grace is an insult to its patient-focused care. The community outrage over its closure is understandable. While its costs are a bit higher than average for a community hospital, the Grace is really a small specialty hospital with excellent credentials that cannot be matched costwise at a bigger hospital. The Riverside is one of the most proficient hospitals in all of Canada, so if the purpose of the exercise was to improve efficiency, why close the most efficient hospital?

To add further insult to injury, this government will be forcing two more commissions, by way of Bill 136, on to the nurses, health care providers and hospital staff. Not only are you stripping the community of health care, you're stripping these workers of fairness in their workplaces.

The people of Ottawa feel betrayed by Mike Harris, and rightfully so. He has cut the heart and soul out of community hospital care in Ottawa.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): In mid-July, the Attorney General assumed responsibility for the bail verification and supervision program. The reason given was that the program fit the mandate of the ministry, and that is true. What didn't fit was the decision to operate only programs in southern Ontario and to shut down and shut out northerners who had been helped in Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie.

In Sudbury, the Elizabeth Fry Society has operated a program since 1979. It has the overwhelming support of members of the defence bar, the crown attorneys and justices of the peace. In 1996 alone, the one and a half staff interviewed and verified information for the court for over 477 individuals. This had a significant positive impact in reducing the time crown attorneys needed to review cases.

Two hundred clients were also supervised by the same staff in 1996. That's 200 people who did not cost the corrections system a cent and who, because of bail conditions, got the counselling, anger management, drug and alcohol programs they needed to avoid further confrontation with the law. All this for a grand total of $86,000 to fund the program in Sudbury.

My questions to the Attorney General are: What specific criteria were used to determine which programs would operate? Who made the decision, as it is clear no one in Sudbury was consulted. Why did you discriminate against northern Ontario and how do you justify only southerners receiving access to the program? We deserve answers to these important questions.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Last Monday, August 11, 1997, I was pleased to attend a major health care announcement in St Catharines. Referred to as the Breakthrough Healthcare Campaign, the announcement has implications for health care providers not only in the Niagara region but across the province as well. It shows what hospital foundations, charities and dedicated individuals can do when they put their community ahead of everything else. It also shows how important it is for communities to become partners with government in spearheading innovative and breakthrough health care initiatives.

Specifically, the St Catharines General Hospital Foundation, along with foundations for the Welland County General Hospital and the Greater Niagara General Hospital, announced a capital campaign to raise a minimum of $4.5 million, $1.85 million of which they already have in signed pledges.

At the heart of this campaign is to bring an MRI to Niagara region, which I announced last year, technology to support vascular surgery, a breast screening centre and the purchase of cardiac equipment. What particularly impressed me was the way all groups were dedicated to the process of working together for the benefit of the entire community, not one specific location or one specific hospital.

I want to congratulate everyone involved in this capital campaign for doing what is best for the entire Niagara region.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House that, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, His Honour the Administrator of Ontario has been pleased to assent to certain bills in his office on Monday, July 21, 1997.

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): The following are the titles of the bills to which His Honour did assent:

Bill Pr51, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton

Bill Pr63, An Act respecting The Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company, Montreal Trust Company of Canada and Montreal Trust Company

Bill Pr64, An Act respecting The National Ballet of Canada

Bill Pr73, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa

Bill Pr74, An Act respecting 4588 Bathurst

Bill Pr75, An Act respecting 750 Spadina Avenue Association

Bill Pr80, An Act respecting the Young Women's Christian Association of Niagara Falls

Bill Pr81, An Act respecting the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto Foundation

Bill Pr82, An Act respecting the Ontario Association of Not-For-Profit Credit Counselling Services

Bill Pr83, An Act respecting the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers' Association (Ontario) Inc.



Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): As we gather to continue the business of this House, I would like to bring all members up to date on some important issues.

As the Legislature gets back to work, we are reminded of what the people of Ontario have consistently asked for of their elected officials: that we work to take action on the issues that are important to them. They want to know that the government is following a plan to manage their hard-earned dollars in a way that is efficient, that is responsible and that is accountable. They want to know that the government has a plan that will protect the first-class services that we all rely on: health, education and safe communities.

I want to remind members that we are spending more money on health care than any government in the history of this province. However, what is equally important is that we are targeting those dollars to necessary, leading-edge medical services, not on bricks and mortar.

Ontarians also want to know that their government has a plan to create jobs and opportunity for all Ontarians today and certainly for their children and for their grandchildren tomorrow. We have that plan, and during the next few weeks of this session we will continue to follow that plan as we manage those changes that will benefit all Ontarians.

Jobs, growth and prosperity for our generation and for our young people have always been the top priority of this government, and it was a significant focus at the annual premiers' conference, which I had the pleasure of attending about two weeks ago.


Our government approached the conference wanting to see some real progress on two issues especially: job creation and ensuring a better future for all our children. These are the issues we have been addressing in Ontario, and we were pleased about the progress that is being made at the national level. The conference agenda was wide-ranging, but the unifying theme of premiers from east to west was our commitment to work together to strengthen our economy and build hope for the future.

There was agreement on several important topics. For example, it was agreed that a strategy should be created to address the problem of youth unemployment in this country.

Our youth are our future.

In that regard, I would like to table in this House a copy of two reports that were shared with the premiers: A Proposed Framework for the Development of a Comprehensive Youth Employment Strategy, and a second report, the Western Best Practices Report on Youth Employment. I commend these reports to all members of the Legislature.

Ontario has enjoyed three straight months of significant job growth for youth, but there is much more to be done. That is why Ontario fully supports efforts on behalf of our youth.

We also agreed that federal and provincial finance ministers should negotiate the renewal of Canada's existing financial arrangements, including equalization. Premiers of differing political parties and regional interests reached a consensus on the need for practical, down-to-earth changes that will improve the partnerships between governments on the management of vital services that we all rely on. The premiers have decided to meet again this fall in order for us to address ways of consulting Canadians to ensure a strong, surviving federation.

I would like to meet with the two opposition leaders prior to then to bring them up to date on the premiers' conference and to hear their views on consultations with Ontarians in the coming year.

Premier Roy Romanow suggests that 80% of the solution to Canadian unity issues is to improve the federation in practical, non-constitutional ways. The premiers have been doing this for two years now. We need the federal government to join us in this most important undertaking.

All these important agreements will help to ensure more efficient, more effective government. This in turn will help strengthen our federation, improve the economic climate and the conditions of every province, and build lasting jobs and prosperity for all our people.

Most premiers left the conference recognizing that we are making progress on important issues but that there is a great deal of work yet to be done as we make our way towards our common goals.

We in Ontario are well aware of the work that lies ahead.

This session will continue the work we have already begun to get Ontario on the right track again. It will be an opportunity for us to take time to talk with our partners, to listen to the input of Ontarians and to ensure that the changes we are making are fully understood by those who indeed will benefit from them.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You never listen.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The members for Cochrane South and Sudbury, please come to order.

Hon Mr Harris: The Chair of Management Board will be making a statement on the legislative plans for this session in a few moments.

As we continue to manage the changes we are making, we are already seeing some positive signs that suggest Ontario's economy is heading in the right direction. Business confidence is at an all-time record high in this decade. Ontarians have already benefited from the implementation of the first of our income tax rate cuts. Consumer confidence has risen for six straight quarters, and with three more income tax rate cuts yet to come, we expect this trend to continue. Retail sales are up almost 5% this year. New car sales in Ontario were up 16% in May, after a 32% jump in April.

This morning, I visited Canadian Thermos Products in Scarborough, hearing at first hand what increased consumer confidence means to Ontario workers on the factory floor. Manufacturing thermoses and lunchpails is a symbol of getting back to work and back to school in Ontario.

The welfare rolls have declined to their lowest levels in over five years. Minister Ecker will make a statement tomorrow to bring all members up to date on our progress on Ontario's work-for-welfare program, which is already bringing hope to thousands of Ontarians who have been caught in the cycle of welfare dependency.

Most importantly, our province is leading the nation in job creation. We've seen 124,000 net new jobs created just since March, about 56% of all new jobs in Canada. Our unemployment of 8.2% is at its lowest point in seven years. We are seeing new jobs and growth throughout the province. For example, just since the last time we met -- it doesn't seem that long ago -- Denso Manufacturing has announced that Ontario will be the site of its first Canadian plant, bringing 150 new jobs to Guelph. In Kanata, Newbridge Networks has announced plans that it will add between 800 and 1,000 new high-tech jobs every year for the next four years. In Trenton, Heinz chose eastern Ontario over locations in the United States for its sweet goods centre, which will bring new jobs for 220 people. In North York, software maker Oasis Technology plans to hire another 50 employees in the next year.

Every one of these new jobs is among the thousands that have been created just since this House last met. These new jobs and the spinoff benefits they bring to our communities are signs of an economy that is growing, creating jobs, creating prosperity and creating hope. That will continue to be the focus of this House, as it has been for the past two years. With new jobs, new investments and new opportunities, Ontario is getting back to work. Today, so will this Legislature, as we continue to manage the changes that were set out clearly in our government's plan for Ontario.

Progress is being made, but there's a great deal of work ahead. I hope all members will join together as we take the next steps in bringing jobs and growth and opportunity for all Ontarians.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I rise today to inform the House about the government's plans for this session of the Legislature. As the Premier has said, in this working session the government will continue to work to implement a plan for managing change that is working for the people of Ontario. Much of the legislation we will consider in this session has already been introduced. There will be few surprises, but there is a great deal of work to be done.

We have returned in August to allow additional time for consultation and deliberation. We will use this time to ensure that we get the details right and that we continue our record of making progress and managing change.

Two years ago we made a commitment to the people of Ontario that we would introduce major change to make Ontario a place of prosperity and opportunity once again. We are not talking about the kind of incremental tinkering that had left us spending over $1 million an hour more than we were taking in, saddled us with a deficit of $11 billion a year, or burdened our children with a $100-billion provincial debt. We committed to make change that would secure a future full of jobs, prosperity and hope for Ontarians. We are honouring those commitments, and as the Premier has just described, there are encouraging signs of progress that our plan for our province is working.

For greater detail about the positive signs we are seeing, the government has produced an informative booklet, Making Progress, Managing Change: A Report to Ontario Taxpayers, the details of the progress Ontario has made as we work towards our common goal. I would like to remind every member to encourage their constituents to call Publications Ontario at 1-800-668-9938, or in Toronto 416-326-5300. I would also like to invite all members to read each ministry's business plan for valuable information on the new, efficient, accountable manner in which the government now operates. All plans are available on the government of Ontario's World Wide Web site, under "What's New?"

The government recognizes that making change is never easy. By following a detailed plan for prosperity, we are making progress and managing the change that Ontarians asked us to make. We will continue to follow a step-by-step plan to create jobs and investment, protect first-class core services, end the cycle of welfare dependency and restore faith in opportunity and hope for the future in every, single Ontarian.

That will be the substance of this session of the Legislature.



Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Last week the Ontario Hydro board received the independent integrated performance assessment. This was a comprehensive eight-month review of Ontario Hydro's nuclear operations. It was carried out by a team of seven independent nuclear experts specifically brought in to review Hydro's nuclear options. Unlike any previous government-appointed chair, Bill Farlinger has initiated unprecedented steps to ensure a more open, accountable process for Ontario Hydro and the public of Ontario.

While the recent reports of Hydro's mismanagement are not pleasant, we cannot ignore the problem. We welcome the fact that for the first time in recent memory Ontario Hydro's problems are on the table and will be dealt with in an open and transparent manner.

The report was highly critical of Hydro's management, workers and processes with regard to the operation of their nuclear facilities. However, despite the shortcomings, the assessment did state that Hydro's nuclear reactors are being operated safely. The report rates Ontario Hydro's overall nuclear operations as minimally acceptable relative to superior industry standards. This is not acceptable to our government, and immediate management attention is required by Ontario Hydro.

As you are all aware, as a result of this report, Ontario Hydro's president and CEO, Dr Allan Kupcis, recognizing his ultimate responsibility for the operations, has resigned.

Upon receipt of the report, I immediately contacted the Atomic Energy Control Board, the regulatory body responsible for the safety and licensing of operations of nuclear facilities, and asked them to give priority attention for review and expert comment with regard to the nuclear safety of our hydro plants. The president of AECB has responded and assured me that they are undertaking a review of the report. They also indicated that the continued operation of Ontario Hydro nuclear reactors does not constitute an unacceptable risk to health, public safety and the environment.

Notwithstanding this, in light of the concerns and issues raised by the IIPA -- that is, the report -- this government believes it is essential to have a legislative committee process to review the most effective means of addressing these issues. We are fully in favour of a legislative process where MPPs and the public have a better understanding of the issues raised and their resolution.

I invite my fellow colleagues and critics, particularly those former critics and ministers of energy who are still members of this House and who have expertise with respect to Ontario Hydro, to consult with me on the issues and to help determine the best process to serve the public of Ontario.

I want to use that opportunity to discuss the issues of nuclear safety, Ontario Hydro's nuclear recovery strategy and the management protocols within Ontario Hydro. Again, let me reiterate that our government's top priority is the safety and reliability of Ontario Hydro's nuclear facilities.

The Speaker: Responses?


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I want to respond to the Premier's statement. Premier, my caucus and I are delighted to be back here and to get back to work as well, but from a different perspective from the one you obviously hold.

I took some time this summer to travel a bit of the province and visited a number of ridings and a number of communities, including your own. I want to tell you about some of the things I heard, and they don't in any way reflect the mood you have in this statement.

People told me that they were very concerned about the direction health care is taking in Ontario. They told me they were very concerned about the fact that you are proceeding with a plan to close hospitals. They understand very well that you promised specifically that you wouldn't close any hospitals. They are concerned about the fact that, notwithstanding the hospital closure debate, you are laying off close to 15,000 nurses in Ontario hospitals. They are worried about whether or not they are going to be able to get treatment for their kids, treatment for themselves or treatment for their parents should the need arise.

They are very concerned about education in Ontario. They are concerned by the fact that you have withdrawn some $530 million in funding to date from primary and secondary education. They are concerned by the fact that as we prepare ourselves for a knowledge-based global economy, as we are on the cusp of the 21st century, this is a government that's eliminating junior kindergarten, this is a government that's cut funding by 16% to post-secondary education. We are now the lowest funder per capita in Canada.

Premier, when you tell us that our youth are our future, clearly your actions don't reflect your words. We used to fund $59 million for summer employment programs for our youth. This year it was $37 million. One in five children in Ontario are growing up behind the eight ball, either in poverty, abuse or neglect, and what did you do in those circumstances? You cut funding to children's aid societies by $17 million. That has resulted in the loss of 343 case workers. This at a time when we all know that the incidence of reported abuse in homes has doubled in the last five years.

We understand the pattern that is emerging all too well. In a Mike Harris Ontario, clearly bigger is going to be better: We are going to have fewer, larger school boards, we're going to have fewer, larger classrooms, we're going to have fewer, larger hospitals, we're going to have fewer, larger communities.

Institutions and systems and wealth obviously count for more than people in your Ontario. It's perfectly clear, and the people of Ontario now well understand this. Notwithstanding this statement of yours today that would tell us that all is well in the state of Denmark, it is clear that in your Ontario, you understand the price of everything and the value of nothing.



Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to respond on behalf of my colleagues in the Liberal Party to the statement made this afternoon by the Minister of Energy.

We welcome the government's intention to strike a legislative examination into the matters of Ontario Hydro that have been in the news recently. My colleagues and I would recommend that we model that inquiry on the basis of the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs which this Legislature had in place 15 years ago. We would obviously expect that when that select committee on Hydro affairs is constituted, it will have two or three key areas of responsibility.

First and foremost, the committee and the province are entitled to know, what is the Hydro and energy policy of the Harris government? Two years after the election of this government, the people of Ontario have no idea whatsoever as to what the Hydro and electricity policy and the energy policy of the Harris government is. So first and foremost, the time has come for Mr Sterling and his friend Mr Harris to put before the people their Hydro and energy policy.

Second, clearly the people of Ontario are entitled to some accountability and some answers for the scandalous behaviour that was highlighted last week in the study to which the minister made reference, a study which highlights criticisms that have been made by the federal regulator over the last two or three years. I don't know where Mr Farlinger has been when the AECB has said clearly many of those things in the last two or three years.

The government talks about transparency, openness and accountability. I have one specific suggestion in that connection today. You, Mr Premier, could today table the letter of resignation of Dr Allan Kupcis before this Legislature just to see what the former president has had to say about the circumstances giving rise to his alleged resignation.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I want to respond first of all to the Premier's statement, because there are a number of remarkable things that the Premier says in his statement.

He says that Ontario is spending more on health care than ever before. Premier, if you examine the estimates, what turns out to be true is that your government is spending more on laying off health care workers and nurses than ever before. That's where the expenditure increase is coming in: the cost of laying off people who work in the health care system. And your government is spending more on the cost of closing hospitals than ever before. That's where the big new expenditures in the health care system are coming under your government.

Don't try to take credit for a better health care system, because it's not a better health care system. There are more people on waiting lists. There are more people who are being told when they go to hospital, "Please bring a family member with you because we don't have the nursing staff any longer to look after you." You have to bring someone to the hospital with you to take care of you. There are more people waiting for home care, more people waiting for other kinds of care outside the hospital system than ever before. So don't try to take credit for an improving system, Premier. It's getting worse out there, far worse, and everybody across Ontario, from community to community, knows it.

You also said something else that has to be examined. You want to somehow try to take credit for youth job creation. I have to tell you, the real youth unemployment numbers out there are worse than ever. That has happened under your government's supervision. In fact, it has happened, 100,000 more youth unemployed, as a direct result of your government, because one of the things your government did, and you've done it consistently over the last two years, was to go about wiping out youth employment programs for the summer. You've gone about it systematically: for example, things like Jobs Ontario Summer Employment, gone; the educational leadership program, gone; the student exchange program, gone; the Ministry of Natural Resources Environmental Youth Corps, cut dramatically; the Summer Experience program, cut dramatically. All of that under your government.

Premier, don't try to take credit for greater youth employment. The fact is, there are more youth unemployed and your government has had a direct role in leading to more youth being unemployed.

Then there's the issue of children, and I want to repeat some of the things that have been said already. Your government is undermining child care. Child care spaces have been wiped out under your government. Early childhood education is clearly not a priority for your government. Clearly, more children are living in poverty.

You like to go about the province crowing about your cuts to social assistance, but, Premier, the reality is that 50% of the recipients of social assistance in this province are children. In fact what you do is you go about the province crowing that you have been able to cut the resources, the income of children. That's what you've done, and the fact that there are more children living in poverty, the fact that there are more children at risk, the fact that there are more children out there who are in very difficult circumstances, is a direct result of the actions of your government. Anybody who takes 30 seconds to look at the issues comes to that conclusion.

I also want to note: Please don't try to take credit for the fact the American economy is doing well. Every economist who comments on the economy says the American economy is doing well; 80% of Ontario's exports go to the US economy and many of them say very directly, "God, we hope the US economy continues to perform well." That's what they're saying.

Premier, as you go about beating up on teachers, as you go about beating up on health care workers, as you go about beating up on municipal workers and trying to shove more and more of the negative impact of your government down on to municipalities, don't try to take credit for the US economy and whatever bubbling over it's had in Ontario. Your government has had some very negative effects on the Ontario economy, and people note that.

Finally, just a word to the Minister of Energy: In the first two years of your government, your administration talked only about the privatization of Hydro. You didn't spend any time. The Macdonald commission was all about the privatization of Hydro. That's your government's agenda and when you did that you missed --

The Speaker: Member of the third party, order.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Premier. You made a very clear and explicit promise in the 1995 election campaign. You said, and I quote directly, "Certainly, I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals." To date you have closed down 22 hospitals; you've shut thousands of beds and laid off thousands of nurses. Basic nursing care is now at risk in Ontario as a direct result of what you're doing to health care.

The net result is that there are a growing number of patients who are going to find less room in our hospitals; they are going to be discharged sicker and quicker. You can tell us you're spending more money, but nobody believes that your actions have resulted in an improvement in health care in Ontario. In fact, you are frightening Ontarians when it comes to health care.

Premier, it's never too late. Will you now agree to disband your commission, pull the plug on it, honour your promise and not close hospitals in Ontario?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Health will be able to follow up with a number of details, but before I refer any supplementaries to the Minister of Health, let me ignore the raucous interjections and say welcome back to all of those who can't get on question period but would like to yell anyway.

Let me say very directly that during the debate, when the NDP and the Liberals talked about their plans to close hospitals, we were very clear. We did not have a plan to close hospitals. What we did have for health care was this commitment: that any savings we found in the health care system would be reinvested, and that is exactly what we're doing.

Mr McGuinty: Nobody buys that, Premier. Go outside this building and talk to Ontarians. Stay away from the golf courses for a while and talk to Ontarians. They're going to tell you that they're very concerned about what's going on in health care in Ontario today.

Let me give you just one little example of your failure to recognize some of the excellence that is already out there, because it seems to me that when it comes to health care we ought to find it and reward it when it comes to excellence in terms of delivery of health care. I'm talking about Women's College Hospital. You've got some time tomorrow afternoon, Premier; I've checked your schedule. I've made an appointment for myself to tour the facilities and to find out what precisely is at risk here as you proceed with your plan to close it. I have a very simple question for you: Will you accompany me, Premier, tomorrow when we visit, you and I together, the Women's College Hospital so you can gain a better understanding of what's at risk here?


Hon Mr Harris: I appreciate the question and I appreciate the offer, but I do have other plans for tomorrow. I don't want to interrupt any of your photo ops at Women's College Hospital. So you play politics and we'll continue with our plan to deliver first-class, 21st-century quality health care to Ontarians.

Mr McGuinty: If you took advantage of that opportunity, you would never, ever again call the Women's College Hospital "a bunch of dingy old buildings." Surely you recognize that one of the big reasons you're sitting in that chair today is because you made a promise in the last election not to close hospitals. You've broken that promise. You have created this fiction called the hospital restructuring commission that somehow is supposed to relieve you, absolve you of any responsibility when it comes to hospital closures. You should understand that people see through that. That is perfectly transparent. Your fingerprints are going to be all over the closed hospital doors of this province.

Again, it's never too late. Tell the commission to set aside their work; now assume your responsibility and honour your promise. I want you to stand up now, honour that promise and tell us you're not going to proceed with hospital closures.

Hon Mr Harris: We have more than honoured our commitment, our promise in the campaign that while others had plans and the NDP acknowledged they had a look and I think the Liberal leader acknowledged she might close hospitals, we said: "That's not our plan. Our plans are that whatever savings we can -- "


The Speaker: Order. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: We have fully honoured our commitment to reinvest any savings that could be found in the health care systems. In fact, we have more than honoured that commitment.

I would ask the leader of the Liberal Party to explain this quote from September 22, 1996: "I am convinced there is enough money in the health care system. I don't think we're spending it as effectively as we can." Perhaps as we make these new investments, you can tell us what you plan to cut to support all the spending you're calling for us.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My next question is for the Premier. Last week we received a very, very disturbing report on the state of affairs at Ontario Hydro. The report was so damning that it forced the closing of seven nuclear generators. That's over one third of the nuclear generation capacity at Ontario Hydro. We got the news today that you're going to give us a legislative committee, as we have been asking for, but obviously that is not good enough here. You understand, I'm sure, that there is much at stake here. We're talking about billions of dollars; we're talking about our economy, our environment, our competitiveness, our credit rating.

I'm going to give you an opportunity to answer the question raised by my critic a few short moments ago. We need to know now precisely what you're planning to do. How are you and your minister going to deal with that report and what specifically are your plans for the future of Ontario Hydro?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Eight months ago, Mr Farlinger, the chairman of the board of Ontario Hydro, went public with this statement: "There are problems with the management of Ontario's nuclear facilities. They are of an extent that we do not believe there are the expertise and the resources within Hydro to identify them or bring forward a plan to correct them." Eight months ago he sought approval from cabinet and the minister to go to the best in the world, to bring in an outside report, to lay out before us what is the state and what needs to be done to do it.

I just want to say this: This is a historic move by the chairman of Hydro and by the minister responsible. Had that been done 15 years ago, or 12 years ago, or 10 years ago, or eight years ago, or three years ago, we would not be in the mess that we're in today. But it has been done. We have made it --

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

Mr McGuinty: The Premier talks about historic developments. Let me tell you about a real historic development in the province of Ontario. You are now about to allow the startup of fossil-fuel generating capacity which is going to be the equivalent of seven million cars. There are only five million cars on Ontario roads today. You're going to add to that the equivalent of seven million cars. Your minister has already told us that 1,800 Ontarians annually die premature deaths because of poor air quality. Because you have been asleep at the switch, we are now faced with this disastrous consequence. We're going to have the equivalent of seven million new cars adding air pollution to the air we breathe in Ontario.

Premier, will you admit that your cuts to the Ministry of Environment have now put us behind the eight ball? You should have anticipated this. You didn't anticipate it. Tell us now, what are you going to do to protect Ontarians from the fact that we're going to have to breathe the equivalent of an additional seven million automobiles' exhaust in our air in Ontario?

Hon Mr Harris: I'm sure the minister can respond.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The fact of the matter is that the estimate which the Leader of the Opposition puts forward was the figure which Greenpeace threw out, which is not accurate. Secondly, if in fact the power is replaced by oil-fired generating stations, Ontario Hydro will still live within the regulated limits set by previous governments for emissions.

Mr McGuinty: That's not good enough, Minister. You're telling us now that we should somehow take solace in knowing that it's not really going to be the equivalent of seven million cars; it may only be six million or possibly as low as five million. I would think that one of the things this government ought to do would be to cause no harm.

You talk to some parents who have kids who are asthmatic, talk to some children who have elderly parents who have breathing problems, and they're going to want to know what you're going to do. What are you going to do now to ensure that this new pollution, tonnes and tonnes -- there are going to be thousands of tonnes of additional pollution added to our air. That is going to cause smog, it's going to contribute to global warming, it's going to contribute to acid rain. They want to know, what are you going to do to protect them? I want you to stand up now and tell us what you're going to do on that front.

Hon Mr Sterling: Because of the problems which were identified by this particular report that we mentioned earlier, I believe the safety of our nuclear reactors is our primary concern at this time. We are, as we have demonstrated in this government, very concerned about our air quality. We are working with a number of other jurisdictions to ensure that our air quality is improving. We in this government have focused like no other government has done on air quality standards. There have been 20 years of neglect, according to the Provincial Auditor, with regard to air quality standards. We are the first government to set a particulate standard in this province. We lowered the volatility gasoline pressure this summer to improve air quality in Ontario, the first government to do that in this province.

The Speaker: Answer, please.


Hon Mr Sterling: We are taking a number of steps to improve air quality. It is unfortunate that the fallout of this particular incident will put some dent in that --


The Speaker: The member for St Catharines, you must withdraw. That last comment was completely --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I simply said it was untrue.

The Speaker: I know. That's the one you have to withdraw.

Mr Bradley: It is untrue, though.

The Speaker: You're not going to get a second chance. You must withdraw.

Mr Bradley: Well, I'll withdraw it, but --

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

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Premier, and it concerns Ontario Hydro. When there have been problems at Hydro, when there have been obvious concerns at Hydro, can you tell us why the first thing your government did when you assumed power was not to deal with the issues at Hydro but to appoint the Macdonald commission to do a report on the privatization of Hydro? Can you tell us why you have been so consumed with the question of privatizing Hydro, selling it off, rather than dealing with the real issues at Hydro?

Hon Mr Harris: The Macdonald commission had nothing to do with privatizing; it had everything to do with competition and transparency and openness, which is one of the problems we're seeing that has come today, particularly by your government's -- I don't know whether "coverup" is too strong a word, but certainly not transparency, throughout your tenure.

The second thing, as I've already indicated, is thank goodness we had a chair of Hydro and we had a minister who were prepared to go to the best in the world to bring exposure and transparency and make public what has been going on at Ontario Hydro. I would say this: This is the beginning of finding professional and proper solutions to the problems at Hydro instead of letting them deteriorate like your government did for five years.

Mr Hampton: This is an interesting rewrite of history the Premier is trying. I remember being part of a cabinet that shut down 12 nuclear reactors because we had some concerns about them. I was part of a government that declared a moratorium on future nuclear development, a government that shut down Bruce A because we had concerns about its safety, a government that approved a $600-million maintenance program at Pickering. That's what I was part of, Premier.

The only thing we have seen from your government in the first two years was the Macdonald report on privatization, and your golfing buddy, the chair of Hydro, running around trying to promote the privatization of Hydro.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Hampton: I put the question to you again. I was part of a government that recognized there were some problems at Hydro and took some steps to deal with some of those problems. The only thing we've seen from your government over the last two years is your attempt to privatize Hydro. The current chairman has been your primary spokesman, and the Macdonald report was all about --

The Speaker: Thank you very much. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: You, sir, were part of a government that ruined this province, and we're fixing it.

Mr Hampton: I was part of a government that, yes, had to deal with what was left over from Brian Mulroney. I was part of a government that had to deal with the massive downloading --


The Speaker: Order. Stop the clock. Supplementary?

Mr Hampton: I was part of a government that had to deal with the immediate impacts of free trade, where Canada lost 600,000 full-time jobs and Ontario lost 400,000 full-time jobs. We dealt with that. We in fact had some of the best investments.


The Speaker: Member for Dufferin-Peel, Minister, come to order please. Thank you.

Mr Hampton: During our term on watch, we had the largest reinvestment in the auto industry ever in Ontario's history, and we repositioned a virtual three quarters of the pulp and paper industry. We actually gained back 400,000 full-time jobs.

But, Premier, that's not the issue here. The issue is this: Ontario Hydro is a mess and for the last two years, instead of focusing on the real issues of Ontario Hydro, your government has ignored those issues. You spend all your time commissioning reports and having the chair of Hydro run around North America trying to privatize Hydro.

I go back to my original question. Why has your government been so preoccupied with the privatization of Hydro, selling it off to your corporate friends? Why have you been ignoring the real problems that exist at Hydro until now?

Hon Mr Harris: Mr Farlinger actually, as I recall, has been one who was criticized for being slow in dealing with privatization. He did so because the issue for him was not privatization. The issue for him was competition, transparency, expertise, professionalism in running the generation and the distribution of energy in this province. I can tell you that it was because of him, this government, the cabinet and the Minister of Energy that this report was commissioned, independent of Hydro, some eight to nine months ago, and I say thank goodness you guys were not in the government any longer to keep covering up the problem.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Premier, if you want to start casting about allegations of coverups, I have a question for you. It concerns Ipperwash. You and your senior ministers have said over and over again in this Legislature that your government gave no direction to the OPP to confront the occupiers at Ipperwash Park. I can quote you, May 29, 1996: "There was absolutely no direction, as there ought not to be, from me or any of my staff to the OPP." That's a quote of you.

We now know through handwritten minutes taken at an interministerial committee meeting, obtained through freedom of information, that your senior aide, Deb Hutton, did give clear direction from you to the OPP. Your executive assistant, Deb Hutton, is quoted as saying: "Premier last night -- OPP only, maybe MNR, out of the park only -- nothing else," and she adds later on in the meeting, "Government must be seen as acting."

Premier, either you didn't know what your senior staff person was doing and saying on your behalf at that meeting or you gave the direction to the OPP via your staff member, despite what you have been claiming in this House for over a year. You have promised that at the right time, in the right way, the questions will be answered. It's time now to answer the questions around Ipperwash. We want a public inquiry now. What is your answer?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Attorney General will have some things to say on this matter, but let me confirm to you that the minutes that were released by the interministerial committee confirm exactly, 100%, everything that I have said on this issue. The minutes themselves that you are in receipt of -- they have been made public now so I believe I can quote from them -- say on page 5:

The Ministry of Natural Resources: "The minister wants to act as quickly as possible to avoid further damage, to curtail any escalation of the situation." This is the day of the unfortunate incident which took place later that evening.

The Ministry of the Attorney General: "The minister agrees that application will be made for an injunction."

The representative for the Solicitor General: "As a matter of protocol, the SGC does not involve itself in the day-to-day operations of the OPP. The OPP will exercise its discretion regarding how to proceed in removing the Stony Pointers from the park."

I tell you we've been open; we've been public. We felt this was an illegal occupation, according to the press release we put out at the time, and we asked the OPP to deal with it --

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


The Speaker: Premier, come to order, please.


Mr Hampton: Let me recite a bit of the history. Occupations of Ipperwash park were not new; occupations of Ipperwash park have happened by the same native people in the past. They would wait until the park was closed in the fall, and as a means of registering their claim, registering their protest, they would occupy the park after it was closed.

The position of the OPP in the past was always: "Don't escalate the issue. This is a peaceful protest. Don't do anything to raise conflict or raise controversy." That was the position of the OPP, but two months after you became the government, that policy changed.

I say again to the Premier, it's very clear why that policy was changed. It is in the words and in the notes that were taken of the words that Deb Hutton spoke: "Premier last night -- OPP only -- out of the park, nothing else...must be seen as acting."

Do you realize the impact that direction would have on officials? Do you realize --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Harris: The Attorney General may have something to add. I've told you everything we know.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The information that has been released simply confirms what we've been saying all along. We indicated there would be no negotiations on substantive issues of concern to the occupiers while an occupation was going on.

Second, we made it very clear, and the notes confirm this, that the issue of the occupation was something that was being dealt with by the OPP, who are responsible for public safety and security. The notes are quite clear that the only step that was taken by the government was taken by me, and that was to obtain a civil injunction.

Mr Hampton: I marvel at the Attorney General's attempt to cover the trail for the Premier. Premier, I want to quote for you from a former civil servant, someone who has left the Ontario civil service. He was at that meeting. This is what he said. This was in the Kingston Whig-Standard:

"`The bureaucrats there were really shocked with what Deb Hutton told them, because that is not the way they did things,' said the official." When he says that's not the way they did things, he's talking about the way these meetings were conducted in the past, before your government took over. "`The general impression was that the Premier wanted to have the protesters out of the park as soon as possible. That was very clearly the message. It was an expression of what he wanted. Certainly everything she said she implied was coming directly from him,'" the Premier.

My point is simply that it's very clear what the words are: "want the protesters out of the park immediately. Government must be seen as taking action" --

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

Mr Hampton: Premier, the next day one of them died. We want a public inquiry --

The Speaker: Come to order, please.

Hon Mr Harnick: The commissioner of the OPP was very candid and very clear. He stated in a release that he issued, "I am the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police and I do not take tactical or operational direction from the government." He went on to say: "We keep officials apprised of policing situations in a broad framework. That, however, does not include sharing details of operational plans beforehand."

Quite simply, that comment from the OPP commissioner is borne out in all the documents that have been turned over. There was only one tactical approach that the government took, and that was to obtain a civil injunction.

The Speaker: New question, official opposition, member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I have a question to the Premier on the Ipperwash affair to find out who made the key decision. The police, the OPP, had a detailed plan. It was called Project Maple. It said the objective was to "contain and negotiate a peaceful solution." This is their own document. It goes on to point out that they set up three separate negotiating teams, three separate teams so two of them could negotiate: one negotiates 12 hours, the next 12 hours and one relief team. That was the OPP plan to negotiate a peaceful settlement to this.

We then find that the government made a different decision. The government imposed a condition on the OPP. It was noted that there would be no negotiations with the Stony Pointers. You, Premier, and the government made that key decision. The OPP wanted to negotiate, they set up three teams, they were ready to do it 24 hours a day and you said, "There will be no negotiations." Why did you determine there would be no negotiations with the Stony Pointers?

Hon Mr Harris: I determined nothing. I gave no direction. I gave no influence on it. We left that entirely to the OPP. I assumed there would be negotiations.

Mr Phillips: Now we are at the heart of the matter. The Premier is saying it was his understanding there would be negotiations. The government represented by this interministerial committee with your executive assistant decided on a different course. One of two things has happened. You said, "Proceed with the negotiations," and they disregarded your instructions, or there has been some miscommunication between you and the public on this matter and in fact you were a party to the decision for no negotiations. Can you confirm today that it was your instructions that negotiations should be proceeding as per the OPP plan?

Hon Mr Harris: I gave no directions. I gave no directions to the OPP. I left it to the OPP how they were to proceed and the interministerial committee was there. I've been very up front about that. I've been very clear --


The Speaker: Order. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: -- the only direction that the government took in any of this matter was to say what we said publicly at the time, and it's now a matter of public record. We felt there was an illegal occupation. The Ministry of Natural Resources wanted its park back as soon as possible and we left it to the OPP as to how to proceed. The only action we took -- and the minutes of the day are very clear -- is that we sought a civil injunction. That's the action we took and everything else is a matter of public record.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Premier. As you know by now, the men and women who work in our schools, fire stations, city hall, police officers on the street, in fact all the public sector workers in Ontario are extremely worried about your Bill 136 and the powers that you're going to give to your special handpicked commission. This is of course your way of making sure that ordinary workers and their families pay the price for your $1-billion municipal download.

Last month more than 2,400 workers marched here to Queen's Park for the first-ever special Ontario Federation of Labour emergency convention to try to present you with a proclamation. You weren't here to receive it and neither were any of your representatives, so I have it here for you and I'll present it to you on their behalf.

The workers don't want to strike. They don't want a confrontation. They want an opportunity to meet with you and talk about the alternatives to your dictatorial, draconian, confrontational Bill 136. Will you stand in your place today and say that you're going to avoid that kind of chaos and that you will meet with those workers' representatives?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Of course. So will the Minister of Labour, so will the cabinet and so will I. We've said very publicly we'd like to meet to resolve the issues so we can get from point A to point B as quickly as possible: point A, an $11-billion deficit and bankruptcy; point B, a balanced budget and a thriving, prosperous Ontario with jobs and opportunity for everybody. Whenever anybody wants to meet with me to discuss that, I'm ready.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): We'll recess for five minutes.

The House recessed from 1450 to 1506.

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Christopherson: Premier, what we've seen here today is exactly what's going to happen in community after community after community all across Ontario, and you're responsible. You can say you're going to set up an arm's-length commission, as you've done in many other cases, but the people aren't fooled. You're responsible for every decision made by those commissioners against workers and their collective rights. You're going to cause the chaos that's happening in our communities, and it's directly related to your tax cut and your downloading on to municipalities.

You've said here today that you're prepared to meet with workers and their representatives. What they want you to do is treat them with the same respect and decency and process you gave to doctors. You've said you'd put that offer on the table and you'd meet with workers. Premier, I want you to stand in your place now and honour that commitment. Tell workers that you will meet with them and that you will have your office call the office of Gord Wilson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, and put the offer on the table that you gave to doctors. Honour your commitment, Premier. Do it now.

Hon Mr Harris: Okay.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. On August 5 the minister announced the Ontario social assistance caseload had declined by 210,000 recipients in two years of reform by this government.


Mr Hudak: Certainly, by the applause on this side of the House, a recognition that this is substantial progress on behalf of taxpayers, on behalf of recipients across Ontario.

In discussions with those receiving social assistance in Niagara South this summer, what they asked for is an opportunity to work, to get back into the workforce and contribute to the communities in which they live. My question to the minister is, how have the government's reforms to date on social assistance helped those people get back into the workforce?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd like to thank my honourable colleague from Niagara South for the question. We have indeed been encouraged by the number of individuals who have been able to leave welfare, to go back into the workforce. That's where most of them want to be and that's the goal of our Ontario Works program, our work-for-welfare program that we are rolling out across the province.

I'm pleased to report that over 35 communities are now involved in workfare. There have been some 36,000 individuals who are participating or have participated in the various components, and we're very pleased with the feedback we've heard from them, both the participants and also the feedback from those administrators and agencies that are involved. We look forward to continuing this progress across the province.

Mr Hudak: I know these are very encouraging results on behalf of taxpayers and social assistance recipients, the early success of Ontario Works and, importantly, 210,000 fewer people receiving benefits.

Also, to the minister, a question on behalf of those who are paying the bills -- the farmers, teachers, truck drivers and those who pump the gas at gas stations, who have every right to expect that the hard-earned tax dollars they pass on to the government are administered efficiently and truly help those who need assistance: How have the taxpayers and the communities in which they live benefited from two years of progress on welfare reform?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Actually, there have been two benefits. There has been the personal benefit, if you will, of those individuals who no longer have to rely on welfare who are better off and where families are better off because they are back in the workforce. Second, it is of benefit to the taxpayers who are paying for the system, and we have saved $1.3 billion in this province in the last two years. That is a major payback for those taxpayers and we will anticipate future savings as our reforms continue. We have an obligation not only to the people who are on welfare to give them the tools and the encouragement to get off, but we also owe it to the taxpayers who pay for the system to make sure their money is being well used. I think when most of the taxpayers in this province look at the savings they've had in their community, they will think this program is working and they will believe this government is doing what it said it would do.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question is to the Minister of Health. I want to talk to you about your culpability. Particularly in the course of this summer, your hand in helping to ruin public services in this province has been well established, particularly the operations of hospitals. We've seen what you want to do to Women's College and Wellesley, Riverside and Montfort, and how you're gutting some of the best services that are provided.

That's not enough, apparently. Your support for Bill 136 and your colleagues' adding police officers and municipal workers and firefighters and those who are teachers in schools to the list is just a reflection of how you want to completely devastate the public service ethic in this province.

Minister, will you agree to change at least your support of taking away not just jobs from teachers, of ruining their working conditions, of making them deal with unbelievable situations in which they're supposed to provide care -- now you want to take away their ability to bargain properly with their employers, to take it all away from the support workers who are needed in those hospitals. Isn't firing them enough? Won't you stand down from these unfair labour rules?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member couldn't be more wrong, and it's unfortunate that he does such fearmongering on such a sensitive issue.

The health care sector is restructuring, and part of the responsibility of all of us is to ensure that happens smoothly, that there are no gaps in services for patients. There is nothing in Bill 136 that takes away any of the existing rights of employees. In fact, it facilitates a faster process, and if the parties on a volunteer basis come to a conclusion in the process at any time, it will be their conclusion and their process, including the right to arbitration.

You're talking about a sector that does not have the right to strike; you're talking about a sector that all parties agree needs to be restructured. A responsible government will provide the legislative basis to make sure that happens, because our goal in all of this restructuring is to put the patients first, to increase the services.

There are no cuts in services in the industry restructuring. There will be more jobs for more nurses. There will be more jobs for more hospital workers in the long run as we meet the needs of a growing and aging population. Bill 136 and the new labour laws help us do that.

Mr Kennedy: I'm certain that not a nurse in this province has been given an ounce of comfort by this minister's total lack of recognition of what they're going through and how Bill 136 is only adding to the anxiety they feel for themselves and for their patients.

The bad news for you and for your colleagues is that people in the coffee shops of this province are starting to get it. They understand that you don't care one whit about making sure that nurses have a good working environment. It doesn't bother you that you're laying off thousands of other workers, that people are left alone in their rooms, that this past weekend in Northwestern Hospital a five-year-old was stuffed in a geriatric ward with all kinds of infections after he had a tonsillectomy because you cut the money.

Minister, in this legislation it says, "...taking due account of how much money hospitals have." They don't have the money because you won't give it to them. Now you want it both ways.

Will you at least show some decency, stand down from your support of Bill 136 and tell at least the hospital unions you've put under so much pressure they'll be able to negotiate in good faith and not see this added to the list of woes you've generated?

Hon Mr Wilson: Let's see what nurses have actually said about hospital restructuring. On November 20, 1996, Jane Cornelius, the former president of the Ontario Nurses' Association, said, "The health care restructuring commission is creating a system that will get rid of the waste, get rid of the duplication and will actually preserve jobs." She said about Dr Duncan Sinclair, the chair of the commission, that he is an ally for nurses and that there's a lot of commonality of thinking about how hospitals should be run. The nurses themselves only last January took out ads in the major daily newspapers in Toronto, saying, "There's 30% waste and duplication and too much administration in the hospital system."

But I'd like to ask the honourable member, if we look at the Ottawa area, something extremely important to his leader, for example: What are you opposed to in restructuring there, when at the end of the day there'll be more services; at the end of the day there'll be six more operating rooms, 15 new intensive care unit beds, two new MRIs, 2,600 new long-term-care spaces including 1,016 new nursing home beds, 44 more rehabilitation beds and 143 new --

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of the Environment and Energy. There's a report in today's Hamilton Spectator by Sharon Boase that says: "While helping battle the five-day blaze last month" -- referring to the Plastimet fire -- "George Cooke fell face first into a `toxic lake' of chemicals and heavy metals. He was headed for a well-deserved cup of coffee but ended up swallowing a mouthful of toxic swill that also got into his eyes, nose and ears."

Minister, you will know that on July 22 I held a news conference to call on you and this government to hold a public inquest. The firefighters association that represents firefighter Cooke was a part of that news conference, as was Greenpeace, CUPE, OPSEU and resident representatives Charlotte Fournier and Ann Gallagher. Your own Premier said on that day: "I think they" -- residents -- "should be getting answers to more questions and we want answers too.... I can assure the public that our concern is the same."

Will you offer the citizens of my community the public inquest that they need and deserve?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I believe the Solicitor General would be the proper minister to report to you. I will take that on notice for the minister and have him get back to you.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I ask the minister if he'd like to refer it now to the Solicitor General.

Hon Mr Sterling: I refer the question with regard to the Plastimet fire and whether or not an inquiry should be held --

The Speaker: You can either answer it or refer it.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I apologize. I was in another conversation in the chamber and didn't hear the question, as it wasn't directed to me. I gather it had something to do with a public inquest or inquiry; I'm not sure which term the member used. But certainly an inquest would not be appropriate, as he appreciates as a former officeholder in the capacity I now serve in.

With respect to an inquiry, I'm not sure what he's driving at. We should have, any day now, a full report from the fire marshal's office with respect to the circumstances surrounding the fire. We'll have a better opportunity to gauge the need for further investigation following receipt of that report, which hopefully we will have this week.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My supplementary is directed to the Minister of Environment and Energy. I want somebody from this government today to take responsibility for something. Let's not quibble with words here. What the member for Hamilton Centre is asking for is a public inquiry into what happened there. The MOEE budget has been cut by 35% and you have laid off more than 750 staff. These cuts seriously hampered the time it took to respond to the Plastimet fire.


We need a public inquiry to look into the effects of your cuts on the lack of coordinated response to the fire, to the long-term health effects of the release of toxic chemicals that entered the groundwater in Hamilton, that polluted the air throughout Hamilton, and we need to know that it won't happen again. Your cuts and your downsizing are having an effect on the environment in this province.

Minister, I ask you, will you hold a public inquiry so we can make sure that this is corrected and won't happen again?

Hon Mr Runciman: I indicated earlier that we were expecting a report this week from the Ontario fire marshal and I think we'll gauge further reactions on the part of this government when we receive that report.


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I rise to respond to a question put by the leader of the third party on July 3. The member made allegations about the Ministry of Transportation and a private contractor.

First, I would like to address the short-term business plan for the Kingston-area ferries. This was not a new MTO contract, as the member had alleged, but extra work added to a pre-existing contract with local municipalities which, by the way, those municipalities had awarded through a competitive process.

With respect to the tenders for area maintenance in Sault Ste Marie, the reason no award was made was because all the bids were higher than the present MTO costs, and this is consistent with our commitment to outsource maintenance only where savings can be achieved for Ontario taxpayers. I think that the member would not want us to spend taxpayers' dollars that weren't necessary.

This non-award was announced in a non-ministry press release four months ago. The bidders were also advised by phone and in writing at that time.

The other issues raised by the member on July 3 had been --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much. Supplementary, leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): The question around the contract in the Algoma-Manitoulin area was raised by one of the contractors who understood at the time that they were the low bidders. They asked the same question of you that they asked of me. IMOS was one of the bidders. IMOS did not get the contract. They were told the next day that no tender was going to be awarded. The same issue arose in Timmins, where MTO employees were given a memorandum stating, "If you want a job, get in touch with IMOS."

The question is this, and it's a very simple question: In Algoma-Manitoulin, IMOS does not register the low bid, so no contract is granted; in Timmins, MTO employees get a memorandum saying, "Talk to IMOS." Why is it that across this province, when it comes to privatization contracts from your ministry, always IMOS --

The Speaker: The Minister of Transportation.

Hon Mr Palladini: Again I want to say that the reason the contracts were not awarded was because the costs these contractors wanted to do the maintenance for were going to be greater than what MTO costs have been over a period of time.

I believe we have a commitment to the people of Ontario only to do certain things that are in their best interests in making sure that we put our dollars to good use. If a private sector contractor cannot deliver services in a cost-efficient way, obviously we are not going to privatize those services.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Environment. I ask you not to pass the question, to deal specifically with your ministry's response in handing the Plastimet fire in Hamilton, from your perspective as Minister of Environment.

What we have seen since that night, and continually, has been nothing but total incompetence and mishandling of the situation by your ministry as a result of the cuts -- not because the people on the front line are not good or competent; it's because you have taken away their tools and their ability to respond to fires such as at Plastimet. Plastimet is only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of such situations that are ready to explode across Ontario, and your ministry cannot respond.

It took 12 hours for your high-tech equipment to get to the site. It took 12 hours before we could properly monitor what was going on. There was a screwup right from the first moment, and you have to wear that and you can't run away from it, Minister.

Let me quote what you said in the Hamilton Spectator: "I am very concerned for the people of Hamilton. I have no fear of a public inquiry as to what my ministry did or did not do." Will you stick by those words and call a public inquiry today?

Hon Mr Sterling: I indicated before that the realm of any kind of inquiry into the emergency situation which resulted at the Plastimet fire would fall under the jurisdiction of the Solicitor General, so therefore I refer the question to the Solicitor General.

Mr Agostino: I find it amazing that this minister cannot stand there and answer to the people of Hamilton why your ministry totally screwed up and put people's lives at risk. Firefighters today are fearing for their health, and police officers and residents, because of your incompetence and your ministry's incompetence.

Let me tell you what you had to say on July 17. This is your responsible comment: "` am not sure it's an environmental problem,' Norm Sterling says. `I don't feel it's an urgent issue.'" That was your response to the problem in Hamilton. Will you stand up, will you be accountable, will you do the honourable thing and reassure the people of Hamilton and of Ontario that this cannot happen again? Will you stand up today and urge your colleague to call a public inquiry?

Hon Mr Sterling: Ask me a question about the fire, ask me about the response of my ministry, and I'll be pleased to answer, but with regard to an inquiry, that's in the realm of the Solicitor General, so I refer the question to the Solicitor General.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. On page 5 of the Common Sense Revolution, your party said, "We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes."

our government's download on to Ontario municipalities is anything but a wash. In fact, it has huge impacts in northern Ontario and northern Ontario households. I want to give you some examples of that per household for northerners. These numbers include what you are downloading with the exception of provincial highways, plus the elimination of the unconditional grants, because you well know they make up a significant portion of northern municipal budgets. In Algoma, the increase per household, $982; Cochrane district, the increase per household, $1,004; Kenora district, an increase of $1,185; Nipissing, an increase of $949 per household; Rainy River, $1,123, and the list goes on.

How can you justify these huge property tax increases for the people of northern Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to refer that question to the minister of northern affairs.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I appreciate the question from the member of the third party. As she's well aware, or maybe she isn't, I'd like to remind her that it's a little premature to make those kinds of calculations right now. What we have is the first step in a process where we've given some numbers to municipal leaders so they can plan better to find efficiencies and restructure, and also give input on how to deliver service in the future given the fact that we're uploading half of the cost of residential education across the province.

She's also well aware of the next step. Now that we've seen some of the preliminary numbers on the fiscal trade, we want to make sure that the north is treated fairly. We recognize it costs more to do business in northern Ontario because of the climate, the sparse population spread over a large geographic area and a number of other factors that have been well documented by this government. We've treated them fairly in the past. We have this community reinvestment fund along with transition dollars to make sure at the end of the day all municipalities and all householders in the province are treated fairly.

Ms Martel: There's nothing premature about these numbers. These figures come from the download announced by your colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs several weeks ago, including the unconditional grants which your government consistently refuses to admit have a huge impact on northern municipalities. Your northern grant of $70 million doesn't even come close to the total download in northern Ontario, which is estimated to be some $282.9 million every year. Your fund has no criteria. No one knows how to qualify. But everyone in northern Ontario certainly knows that $70 million is not going to deal with the shortfall they're going to experience under your government's download.

You're the Minister of Northern Development. When are you going to start standing up and defending northern municipalities and northerners from these huge property tax increases?


Hon Mr Hodgson: I am not sure where the member of the third party gets her exact figures, but I can tell you that the community reinvestment fund has $570 million. I can also tell you, as the Minister of Northern Development, that I've been working for a year with FONOM and NOMA and the mayors of northern Ontario. One of the recommendations they told us was that they want to see the reinstatement of the northern support grant which was cancelled in 1990, that your government did nothing about.

But they didn't want to call it a grant. They wanted grants in this province to be community reinvestment funds based on need, and this is just another step that we'll work on the details of this fall. I'm meeting with FONOM and NOMA and mayors next week at AMO, and that will be another step in the consultation. We want to take our time to get it right.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On August 5, I was both shocked and disturbed to learn that the Ontario Divisional Court had declared one of the province's tough new anti-drunk-driving laws unconstitutional. The administrative driver's licence suspension, a law which allows police officers to get an immediate 90-day licence suspension from the registrar of motor vehicles, and which incidentally was supported by all three parties in this House, is specifically designed to save lives by getting drunk drivers off our roads. This law is clearly in the public interest. Holding a driver's licence is a privilege, not a right. Anyone who abuses that privilege and endangers the lives of others deserves to be dealt with swiftly and harshly.

I realize the minister cannot comment on the case while it is still before the courts. However, I would ask the minister to stand today and assure the people of Ontario that this ruling will not deter him from continuing to lead the way in the fight to eliminate drinking and driving.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to thank the member for her question and acknowledge once again her efforts in the fight against drinking and driving, which began long before many of us were in this chamber.

Unfortunately, alcohol is still one of the most common factors leading to fatal collisions in Ontario. In 1995, 317 people were killed in drinking-driver crashes, one third of all road fatalities. As the member knows, it is with her help and the help of all members in this chamber that this province is leading the way in implementing tough drunk-driving legislation.

In addition to the ADLS program, to which we are still very much committed and we will continue to make sure, we have also doubled RIDE funding to municipal police forces and passed Bill 138, which will increase mandatory licence suspension periods for convicted repeat offenders: three years for second-time offenders and at least 10 years for third-time offenders. All these measures are consistent with the widely held view that driving is a privilege, not a right.

Mrs Marland: I am very glad to hear we are not going to waver in our fight to keep drunk drivers off our roads. Drunk drivers are involved in over 60% of fatal automobile accidents.

I am very interested about Ontario's experience up to now with the administrative driver's licence suspension. We'd like to know if this new law has had tangible results, and do we need to take more punitive steps in this continuing battle to save lives? Can the minister offer the House any tangible results of this program? Is the number of drunk drivers being reduced compared to accident statistics of past years? Are lives being saved through the administrative driver's licence suspension?

Hon Mr Palladini: To date, almost 15,000 administrative driver's licence suspensions have been issued. Although the program has been in effect less than a year, there was an 11% decrease in the number of charges for blood alcohol over .08%. There was a 20% decrease in the number of drinking drivers involved in collisions in December 1996 compared to the previous eight years. There was a 25% decrease in the number of drinking drivers involved in personal injury collisions in the month of December, compared to the previous eight years, in 1996. There was also a 40% decrease in the number of drinking drivers in fatal collisions in December 1996 as compared to the previous eight years.

In the province of Manitoba, when they introduced ADLS, it was conclusive that drinking driver fatalities decreased by 27% over the previous five years, and also that impaired driving charges decreased by 32% compared to the previous five years. So we will continue to fight.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Under section 34(a) of the standing orders, I'd like to request a late show for my question to the Minister of Environment and Energy.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): File the appropriate papers.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 96(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 89, 91, 92, 93 and 94; that Mr Turnbull and Mr McLean exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business; that Mr Danford replace Mr Carroll in the order of precedence for private members' public business; and that the House will commence at 11 am on Thursday, August 21, to discuss ballot item 89 only.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It's my privilege to read a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women and only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;

"Women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's;

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to research and treatment dedicated to women's health needs;

"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as the sole collaborating centre for women's health for both North and South America;

"Without Women's College Hospital, the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that will not be duplicated elsewhere;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure the continuance, independence, woman-centred focus and accessible downtown location of the one hospital most crucial to the future of women's health."

It is with pleasure that I add my name to this petition to protect that important institution from this government.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Could I ask members to please take your conversations outside.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Harris government has introduced Bill 136; and

"Whereas Bill 136 strips entitlements to employee status and therefore pay equity rights for home child care providers; and

"Whereas home child care providers are predominantly female; and

"Whereas home child care providers are one of the lowest-paid groups of workers in Ontario;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 136 and its implications for the Pay Equity Act."

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


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by approximately 371 residents of the London area to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the courts have ruled that women have the lawful right to go topless in public; and

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has the power to change the Criminal Code to reinstate such public nudity as an offence;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to pass a bill empowering municipalities to enact bylaws governing dress code and to continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to reinstate such partial nudity as an offence."



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

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

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

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

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

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

That has been signed by 186 residents of Cornwall and SD&G.


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

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;

"Only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;

"Women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's;

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to research and treatment dedicated to women's health needs;

"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as the sole collaborating centre for women's health for both North and South America;

"Without Women's College Hospital the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that will not be duplicated elsewhere;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure the continuance, independence, women's-centred focus and accessible downtown location of the one hospital most crucial to the future of women's health," Women's College Hospital.

This petition has been signed by 139 people and I am proud, on behalf of my caucus, to add my name.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by 401 Friends of Women's College Hospital in my riding.

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women; and

"Only about 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;

"Women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's;

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to teaching, research and care dedicated to women; and

"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as its first collaborating centre for women's health in both North and South America;

"Without a self-governing Women's College Hospital the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that is not duplicated elsewhere;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to preserve the comprehensive model of health pioneered by Women's College Hospital through ensuring self-governance of the one hospital in Ontario dedicated to women's health."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): There's a great deal of concern about Bill 109, the province's Local Control of Public Libraries Act, which is about to go through third reading. A number of people are very concerned. I have received a petition here from Nancy Fleming, the executive director of the Book and Periodical Council, who sent in a petition with hundreds of names. The petition reads:

"Given that the Ontario provincial government has withdrawn any direct financial support to the libraries of Ontario; and

"Given that community and citizen involvement in the defence of library collections will be weakened by recent legislation, Bill 109; and

"Given that municipal and education funders are also experiencing severe reductions in government support causing massive alteration of services; and

"Given the concomitant threat to the publishing and cultural industries of this province;

"Let it be known that we insist the government of Ontario seriously reconsider its role in supporting and financing the libraries, the publishers and the cultural producers in Ontario."

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


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): "Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;

"Only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;

"Women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's;

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to research and treatment dedicated to women's health needs;

"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as the sole collaborating centre for women's health for both North and South America;

"Without Women's College Hospital the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that will not be duplicated elsewhere;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure the continuance, independence, women-centred focus and accessible downtown location of the one hospital most crucial to the future of women's health."

I sign my name to this petition as well.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I again rise, this time with just under 1,000 names, and the petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the lawful right to go topless in public; and

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has the legislative authority to restrict going topless in public places; and

"Whereas sections 173 and 174 of the Criminal Code relating to public nudity be clarified to provide better protection of community standards;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the province of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to clarify legislation on going topless in public places."

I endorse this petition with my signature.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My petition reads as follows:

"Whereas the people of Ontario want rigorous discussion on legislation dealing with public policy issues like health care, education and care for seniors; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition as I'm in full agreement with its contents.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly, and it reads as follows:

"Over half the people in Ontario are women; and

"Only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health; and

"Women have special medical needs, since their bodies are not the same as men's; and

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to research and treatment dedicated to women's health needs; and

"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as the sole collaborating centre for women's health for both North and South America; and

"Without Women's College Hospital the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that will not be duplicated elsewhere;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure the continuance, independence, women-centred focus and accessible downtown location of the one hospital most crucial to the future of women's needs and health."

This has been signed by 96 people. Our NDP caucus believes Women's College should be kept open. I have signed my name as well because I agree with the petitioners.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition signed by 21 people from my riding. In accordance with the standing orders, I'll summarize the contents of the petition. The petitioners declare their opposition to the expansion of casinos and the installation of electronic gambling devices and call for a binding referendum to determine the will of the people regarding the expansion of casinos. I'd like to file that today.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Speaker, as you know, a privatization process has begun for TVOntario and there is a petition, that this process has now started with some concerns about public consultation. It reads as follows:

"Whereas TVOntario/TFO is owned by the people of Ontario; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has bucked public sentiment for maintaining TVO as a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster by putting TVO through a privatization review; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not indicated that full public participation will be part of this privatization review;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to hold open and honest public consultation with the people of Ontario before making a decision on the future of TVO/TFO."

I'm glad to sign my name to the petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions forwarded to me by Cathy Walker, the national health and safety director of CAW Canada, on behalf of Buzz Hargrove and thousands of auto workers. The petition reads as follows.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I again add my name to theirs. Also, hopefully those hearings will be a lot longer than the shame of the WCB hearings.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition signed by a number of people from the Peterborough riding. It reads:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the protection of the Rent Control Act; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to allow landlords to charge a tenant who moves into an apartment whatever the landlord can get away with; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to raise the limit of how high rents can increase for all tenants; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to make it easier to demolish or convert existing affordable rental housing; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the rent freeze which has been successful in forcing some landlords to repair their buildings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent laws which provide true protection for tenants."



Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I beg leave to present a report on the June 25, 1997, report of the Integrity Commissioner from the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Does the member wish to make a brief statement?

Mr Tascona: No, Madam Speaker.



Mr Danford moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 150, An Act proclaiming United Empire Loyalists' Day / Projet de loi 150, Loi proclamant le jour des Loyalistes de l'Empire-Uni.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Do you have a brief explanatory comment?

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I will be very brief today. This basically is a bill that will recognize the significant role that I feel the United Empire Loyalists played in the formation of the province of Ontario. We'll debate it later, and I'll be glad to address it then.



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

Bill 143, An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997 / Projet de loi 143, Loi autorisant le paiement de certaines sommes destinées à la fonction publique pour l'exercice se terminant le 31 mars 1997.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): Bill 143 provides for the necessary legal approval of estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997, and for expenditures made during that fiscal year. The government passed interim supply motions to pay salaries and other costs of the government to provide public services to Ontarians. Bill 143 gives effect to those interim motions.

Supply bills are a routine part of the spending process. The expenditures approved in Bill 143 reflect this government's putting into action its commitment to spend less money and reduce the size of government. We know we are spending taxpayer money, not our money, and we are accountable for every dollar the government spends.

This government is committed to the principle of accountability to the taxpayer in everything it does. This is a break from the past which saw the provincial government grow even larger, more costly and more out of touch with the people it serves. We are demanding that government do business like any other business, in other words, in an efficient and productive manner that focuses on results and puts customers first. We are committed to maintaining the quality of our programs by looking at delivering them in a different, more efficient way. We are protecting priority services within a more affordable and innovative government.

To meet this challenge, we are continuing to explore the most cost-effective means for government to do this job. We understand that taxpayers work hard for their money and we will continue to work hard to ensure that their tax dollars are wisely spent. We believe that government must be accountable to taxpayers. That is why we introduced the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, cut red tape, ended the gold-plated pension plan for MPPs, and that is why we will be introducing the Public Sector Accountability Act, so that taxpayers can see how their tax dollars are being used.

The government's plan is working. Our cautious and prudent approach means that we are on a track for a balanced budget for 2000-2001. Ontario's economy is responding with jobs and growth and renewed optimism and confidence. These goals are playing a key role in returning prosperity to Ontario and making this province the best place in the world to live, to work and to invest.

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

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is an exercise which may be modified by the rule changes the member's government is bringing in to restrict the opportunity for members of the Legislature to debate the important issues of the day, and it's most unfortunate that she should know that under the rule changes this debate, and any future time, regardless of the issues that might be before the House, will be confined to one sessional day as opposed to any other period of time. There are from time to time instances where that should be extended, some instances where it might be abbreviated.

Not this particular bill, but the most important bill or motion coming before this House is the motion to change the rules of this House, because it will mean that now there will be much less debate on important issues of the day, including interim supply. The government will now essentially be run not only symbolically speaking but in fact by a few advisers to the Premier and senior cabinet ministers and this House will become completely irrelevant.


What you saw today in the gallery, unfortunate as governments believe this to be, will become the norm rather than the exception as people believe they don't have the opportunity to express themselves in this House in any meaningful way, indeed in any significant length of time. That means people are going to be looking more outside of the Legislature to make their points or engage in extraordinary procedural or disruptive activities to make their views known.

The member should know that is exactly what is going to happen. I hope she will inform the Premier and his advisers of the inadvisability of proceeding with the drastic rule changes that are being contemplated by the government.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): The parliamentary assistant yet again has demonstrated the sort of revision of history this government always tends to indicate when they talk about anything. The parliamentary assistant, during her comments on concurrence in supply, talked about how her government was the first somehow to have taken into account how government spends money.

I want the member across the way to know that every government in Ontario, in every province across this country and the federal government, has always been concerned about how it spends taxpayers' dollars. The Mike Harris government is not the first government of Ontario all of a sudden to care about where public dollars are spent. Everybody who serves in this Legislature understands we are here primarily to do a couple of things, but one of them is that we oversee, especially you as the government, the finances of Ontario, and you do so at the behest of the taxpayers and on their behalf.

To somehow stand here in your place and in your speech talk about being the first government to come to this conclusion, that really galls me and I think it galls a lot of people in this House. It's very much of a pattern that this government tends to do. Every time this government gets up and talks about anything, they talk about how all of a sudden they're the first government to ever have done anything; nobody has ever done anything in the past; the last 10 years were the lost 10 years where everything was terrible and awful; nothing good happened in Ontario. What hogwash.

People are very understanding of what happened in Ontario over the last 130 years and they understand that every successive government that has governed -- and I use the word "governed" -- in this province has done so on behalf of the people of Ontario and has done a very good job. This province has been a prosperous one because of the efforts of all the governments of Ontario. For this government to somehow say differently I think is a great disrespect.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today and participate in some small way on Bill 143. The member for St Andrew-St Patrick, who is the PA to the Minister of Finance, as we all know in this House has done an exemplary job of communicating the message, and the message is very much like the previous member said, "the lost 10 years." In fact, if you look at the fiscal situation we inherited, our commitment to balance the budget is where we were elected and I believe why we were elected. This particular Bill 143 is just one more step.

But I think the commitment to fiscal responsibility, as well as maintaining service in Ontario, is important, but the most important thing is that we started with ourselves. We reviewed the MPPs' compensation. I give all members of this House full credit, but there were some who wanted to hang on to those old traditions. We eliminated the MPP pension and all members shared in that fiscal responsibility.

We're working with our municipal partners and all of our partners in the public sector: hospitals, colleges, universities and the schools. In fact, if you look at the record of this government, we look at what programs we can afford and what programs we can sustain in the future. I ask the people listening to the discussion on Bill 143 here today to recognize the importance of having sustainable funding for our colleges and universities, our schools, our hospitals and our safe communities. We're all sharing in a province that's trying to stop spending $11 billion more per year than it takes in as revenue. We had two choices: We could either increase taxes or cut services, or reduce or modify services, eliminate waste and duplication. So I commend the member for St Andrews-St Patrick and I anxiously await her response to the rebuttals from all three sides.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Of course, if you had just done what you said you were going to do, it may have been one thing, but by giving people a tax cut when we're still running an annual deficit on a year-to-year basis makes absolutely no sense at all.

The other thing you've got to remember is that in this interim supply are the municipal support grants, and I think the people out there should know that as of this year there are no more municipal support grants. It's all right for the Premier to say, as he did after he had the meeting with the mayors here in the city of Toronto last week, and I quote him, according to the paper anyway, that "Nothing in these trades should impact on property tax rates positively or negatively." Let me tell you, the municipalities in this province think totally differently about that.

As a result of a meeting we had in Kingston this past Friday which was attended by 15 wardens and 15 CAOs of the 15 counties making up eastern Ontario, each and every one of these wardens and CAOs stated that real estate taxes in their particular municipality were going to rise by somewhere between 20% and 56% as a result of the downloading that this province is doing upon the municipalities. Those are the facts. This is not the propaganda of one party or another party. These are the figures that have actually been determined in each one of the counties as to what it will cost local taxpayers as a result of property tax increases, as a result of the downloading and as a result of the municipal support grants which have traditionally been available throughout Ontario to municipalities no longer being available to them.

Let me just quote to you from the minutes of the meeting that took place last Friday. It states, "Counties anticipate tax increases will average 20% to 30% and vary between 20% and 50% as a result of the Who Does What initiatives." That's the result of this government's action.

Ms Bassett: I'd like to thank my colleagues for their comments, certainly the member for St Catharines and the member for Cochrane South, who pointed out that he is -- and I stand corrected; I am delighted to hear that he is concerned about every penny we spend. As you know, when we inherited a deficit of $11.2 billion as the newcomer coming into government, we focused on how we spend every single penny. That is exactly what the Supply Act -- it's a routine part of the spending process. The government passed the interim supply motions to pay the salaries and other costs of government to provide public services to Ontarians. Bill 143 certainly gives effect to these interim motions. As the member for Durham East pointed out, we as a government are committed to spending wisely, and I was delighted to see opposition members reiterating that thought.

I encourage my colleagues to ensure the timely passage of this bill so we can move on to other business of the House.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to join the debate on the money bill. I suspect the public's aware of what we're debating here, and that is authorizing the government of Ontario to pay its bills. It's quite in order for a bill like this to be before the House.

It does give us an opportunity, though, as the previous members have done, to provide our comments on the direction of the government. The previous speaker, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, talked about running the government as a business. I used to be a businessperson. I had three companies, 300 employees, and I always say one of my claims to fame is I once looked at the first 25 people who left my company and I think 19 of them are presidents of companies right now, major companies in Canada or around the world. So I understand a little bit about running a business.

I just say to the government that no businessperson would run a major business the way this government's running the province of Ontario. There is no question that the government is close to getting things out of control. I have never seen an organization that tried to do so much on such a broad front all at once. It's starting to come unravelled, and you'll be held accountable for it unravelling.


I'll just go through the things that, in my opinion, are unravelling: the dumping, the downloading. The public is probably aware that we use this term a lot: "dumping" or "downloading." They've probably heard the Who Does What committee. The fact is that the province has essentially decided to load on to property taxes some of the essential social services that used to be handled by the province. What that means is that rather than funding it out of the general revenues of the province -- things like sales tax and corporate tax and gas taxes and income taxes -- it's going to be put on property taxes.

That's a mistake. All of our social housing -- and by the way, over half of our social housing is seniors' housing. To all the seniors watching this, it used to be that your seniors' housing was funded, quite properly, in our opinion, by the province as a whole. It didn't matter where you happened to be living in the province and whether that community was able to support a seniors' service, because it was handled by the province. It recognized that perhaps the fact that you lived in an area that didn't have a lot of property tax resources shouldn't dictate your level of service. But no, that's all 100% going on to property tax now. Heavy amounts of our child care and our social services are going on to property tax. All of the ambulance services and public health: going on to property taxes.

Furthermore -- and I guarantee this -- the government, Mike Harris, has said they are going to load $660 million of new costs on to property taxes. I challenge anyone to dispute those figures; I will debate any member of the government at any time on these numbers. Here is why you're adding $660 million. By the way, that's a 4% or 5% increase in property taxes, so if I were in the back bench of the Conservative caucus I would be pounding the table at your next caucus meeting, saying, "You are going to get us into problems that we will not be able to overcome at the next election." Why $660 million in new costs? Because quietly, behind the scenes, Premier Harris took away the $660-million grant that used to go to municipalities. It's gone starting January 1, 1998.

That's my first point when I talk about a government out of control: the downloading, the dumping on to municipalities of social services that even its own Who Does What committee -- Premier Harris handpicked 14 people to look at this, led by Mr David Crombie, a name that would be recognizable to many people in Ontario. They said: "Don't do this. It is a mistake." They begged the government not to proceed with this, but you're going ahead with it. That's the first major mistake I wanted to comment on.

The second thing that's going to happen at the same time -- I don't know whether the Conservative caucus has been privately briefed on what's going to happen with property taxes, but I guarantee you that come March or April, about eight months from now, there is going to be a reaction in the province that none of us has seen before on property taxes. Why is that? It's for these reasons: We are going through the most sweeping property tax changes in the history of the province. And yes, everybody, the NDP caucus, our caucus, your caucus, all agreed to the need for change. But here's what's happening.

By the way, Mr Speaker, did I get approval -- I should have said earlier. Did I get unanimous consent to share my time with the members for St Catharines and Windsor-Sandwich? Should I move that? Unanimous consent? I do appreciate that. My apologies to the House for not seeking that earlier.

To the members of the Legislature, on the property tax issue, when the business occupancy tax is removed and put back on to the commercial realty taxes, when this sweeping change goes across the province -- by the way, all of us are going to be asked to approve Bill 149, I gather quite quickly. I don't know whether the Conservative caucus has had a thorough briefing on it, but it has some profound impact and implications for property tax in the province. It's phase two of the property tax bill. We've already passed the first bill, Bill 106. Bill 149 is phase two.

It has a profound impact. It will allow municipalities to set three classes of commercial taxes, but most of that will be done through regulation. It changes assessment on hydro rights of way and utility rights of way and changes the way they're assessed. It used to be municipally assessed; it's now going to be province-wide assessed. It allows the provincial government to siphon off the federal in-lieu-of-payment payments which currently, for the Ottawa area, for the Kingston area, for other areas, is a huge part of their revenue. Now the provincial government is going to be able to siphon it off.

By the way, this bill also presupposes the passage of another bill dealing with education matters. Separate school supporters will no longer have to be named in apartments. The reason I raise that is because we now have the second huge change that will occur in the province over the next 12 months.

The third huge area of change -- and this is where I'm responding to the parliamentary assistant's comments that they like to run the government like a business. You would never run a business like this. The third big change is that you essentially have decided to pick a fight with organized labour. It cannot be anything other than that. I gather that there's a companion bill coming forward dealing with the educational sector.

Our labour movement cannot ignore Bill 136. They cannot permit themselves to stand idly by and let that bill pass. It is a direct challenge to the labour movement. It really does remove collective bargaining in all our public sectors for the next four to five years. The employer can simply refer a labour matter to a tribunal, and the government establishes the tribunal. I said somewhere else that either deliberately or inadvertently -- or maybe Premier Harris perceives he's got to have this fight with organized labour. No company would ever choose to attack its union as frontally as this bill does, Bill 136.

The fourth big change that's going to occur is in the education area. I used to be a school trustee. I was chairman of the Metro school board and chairman of the Scarborough school board. I know a little bit about education. We are seeing absolutely fundamental change in the education system over the next 12 to 18 months. The province really now will run the provincial education system board by board by board. The province will set the budget. The province will tell each school board exactly how much money to spend. Inevitably, when you've got one operation paying the bills, that operation will control it. It's just the way it works. And we'll be into province-wide bargaining with teachers.


I realize that some in the public watching this probably say, "It's about time. Thank goodness they're taking over. The school boards have not done a particularly good job." But I would just say that many school boards have done a terrific job. Many communities value the fact that they are able to have a sense of involvement in their local school system. That is gone. Once we move to the big amalgamated school boards and the province setting the budgets, it's gone. As I say, I have severe reservations. I think many of our communities across Ontario have been very proud of the job that has been done by local school boards and the relationship between themselves and their local school boards. But that's gone.

I might add that part of the property tax issue now -- for the first time in the history of the province, the province is going to set one third of the property tax mill rate. It used to be set by locally elected councils and locally elected school boards. Now a third of the property tax will be set by the province. I'm quite amazed there has not been a stronger reaction to this, that the province has moved in and has said, "We want one third of all property tax money now." How do I get that number? For residential, one quarter of your residential property tax will now be set by the province. For businesses, over 50% of the business property tax mill rate will be set by the province to fund education. That's the fourth area of, frankly, just chaos.

The fifth area is health. We heard a debate earlier today about hospital closings. Mike Harris has said that he is planning to essentially freeze health spending for 10 years. In 1992, health spending in Ontario was roughly $17.5 billion. Mike Harris has said that come the next election, around the year 2000, health spending will be essentially the same, $17.5 billion to $18 billion. We'll have gone 10 years, we'll have seen a growth in the population of well over 10%, I think we'll see another quarter of a million people over the age of 65 in the province, but the publicly funded health system money will essentially have been frozen for 10 years.

It's no wonder we're starting to see the stresses and strains on our health system. The first big stress and strain for many of us in communities is hospital closings. I have this fear that we are seeing two ships pass in the night. One ship is the growing need by our aging and growing population for health services, with clearly a larger demand down the road. At the same time, the hospital boat is going the other way, that is, it is closing. We are seeing substantially fewer services in our hospital sector.

The doctors, and I give them a lot of credit, have an agreement with the government that essentially immunizes them from this. They're okay. I take my hat off to them. The doctors reached, it looks like, a very good agreement between themselves and the government, calling for an increase in spending on physicians, calling for a lot of extra-billing opportunities. They're going to be able to come forward with a bunch of things, new, creative ways of billing, of charging people indirectly. If I'm not mistaken, the auto bill that we passed recently transferred about $100 million of cost on to our auto insurance bills and off the public bill. That's the fifth area of chaos out there.

The government set up something called the hospital restructuring commission to try and say this is at arm's length and then found, "We don't like the arm's length direction it's taking on rural hospitals, so we'll tell them to stop and we'll put together a policy to direct them there." I was quite surprised, actually, that Minister Leach didn't realize that it was inappropriate for a cabinet minister to be communicating directly with the restructuring commission and asking them to do things. The whole restructuring commission, unfortunately, has been tainted with a perception that it wasn't free from political interference.

The sixth area I'd like to talk about is youth unemployment. You may or may not recall -- who does? -- but I have been saying for many months that youth unemployment is a serious problem in the province of Ontario. I can remember Premier Harris saying: "Your figures are all wrong. You don't understand. It's a problem that's being solved," and what not. Finally, he was forced to admit it is a serious problem.

I have been particularly disturbed about our youth unemployment. We have seen job growth in the last few months, but it has not been with our young people. Ontario has a substantially higher unemployment rate among young people than the rest of Canada. We pride ourselves in Ontario on being an economic leader, but young people do better outside of Ontario than they do in Ontario. In the most recent numbers which came out in July, we see that the unemployment rate among young people a year ago was 16.4%; today it's 18.3% -- up dramatically in Ontario, the unemployment rate among young people. We see that the number of young people unemployed has increased by 25,000; there are 25,000 more young people out of work today than there were a year ago.

The reason I raise that is because some members in the House listen to the exchanges that the opposition have with the Premier, and the Premier has always been saying: "You people are all wet. There's no big problem." I will admit that I am happy to see him finally acknowledge that there is a serious problem among our young people. And not only that: We are punishing our young people in so many ways -- tuition fees. Make no mistake about it; it is the young people who are being asked to make up, through tuition fees, the cutbacks in grants to colleges and universities. I've said this before. The MBA program of my old alma mater, Western, used to be $3,000 a year. It's going to $18,000 a year, and that's just the starting point; it's going to keep going up from there. That won't be just the MBA program. It will be many of the "preferred" faculties, preferred in the sense of, "Where might I have the best chance of getting a job?"

Among our young people there is this sense of concern and in some respects despair, so I welcome all the premiers' saying that they are going to begin focusing on youth unemployment. We've been saying that for 24 months and we'll hold the government to deliver on that promise.

The seventh area is Ontario Hydro. For the last week we've been bombarded on Ontario Hydro. The parliamentary assistant said, "We've got to run things like a business." Well, I was mildly amused and perhaps more than slightly disappointed. The Premier appointed an individual to chair Hydro, an individual, by all accounts, well regarded in the business community. But that individual has been two years as chair of Hydro, with a not inconsequential salary.

My experience of business people is that you jump in to that job and you find out what the problem is. If you're the chairman and two years later you find the problem, the board normally asks some questions: "I don't understand. What took you two years to find out where these problems were? Were there no reports? Did no one tell you?" It was just curious to me that it was two years before this businesslike approach, with the high-powered business people suddenly bringing their microscope to the situation. It took them two years? It's unusual. It raises some questions for me. What was going on there? Were the lights out for two years in the office? What happened?


The eighth area I want to talk about, of the government moving on a broad front designed to, I believe, destabilize the province, is privatization. The parliamentary assistant mentioned there's a public accountability act coming forward. If you want to begin to add a note of uncertainty through our whole public sector, not just the Ontario public service -- bear in mind, one out of five jobs in Ontario is related to the public sector.

The government has decided to put a cloud over all that and has decided to essentially say, "Everything's open to privatization." I'm looking forward to the public accountability act because it will require all of our public sector to look at private sector alternatives, to look at the whole business of where they may privatize.

As a matter of fact the arbitrators, and this is a major part of Bill 136 -- it may take me a moment to find it, and hopefully I can before people get too impatient. I'm now on Bill 136. That's the bill that in my opinion is a direct challenge to the organized labour movement. It's sort of like: "There. Now we want to fight."

One of the directions to the arbitrator is that they must look at benchmarks versus the private sector in determining their settlements. All of that's kind of legal jargon, but it is part of a well-thought-out Mike Harris plan to move forward with broad-scale privatization in our public sector.

People say, "What's so bad about that?" I'll say this: It's a bit like any organization being told: "You should be aware we are thinking getting rid of your job at any time." So for our whole public sector now we create this mood of uncertainty because it's clear that Mike Harris's arbitrators, the arbitrators he will appoint, must look at: "Could the private sector do this job more cheaply?" The public sector accountability act the government says it is going to bring in forces all the public organizations to do what's called, in the jargon, benchmark.

The reason I raise this is, here we are, Canada with a solid economy, and Ontario, after a fairly disappointing 1996-97, it's been a good year to date, but here we are, about ready to pour cold water on Ontario. The downloading, the dumping on to municipalities and the uncertainty it will create among our seniors and our young people who rely on social assistance, among our health sector who rely on our ambulance services and public health, is going to be the first area of confusion.

We've passed one bill on property tax. We've now got another huge bill that we've got to pass to try to patch up that bill that we only passed a few weeks ago, and furthermore the bill on property tax actually leaves most of the decisions to the Minister of Finance, which by the way I'm surprised the Conservative caucus agrees to, because they've always been strong proponents of dealing with tax issues out in the public and what not. The Minister of Finance will be able, by regulation, to set tax rates on property. To me, it's totally inconsistent with everything else you talk about in the public domain.

The attack on labour: We saw today in the gallery, for the public's information, a demonstration by organized labour. Organized labour cannot ignore the challenge you've thrown at them with this bill called Bill 136, and we await the education bill which I think could similarly challenge our education sector. The health sector's in some kind of turmoil. As I said earlier, the doctors seem to have emerged immunized, but the rest of the health sector is moving into a condition of critical.

We continue to see problems with youth unemployment. Our young people are the ones who are being asked to bear the brunt of so much, and why? I can't ignore this: the government has to find $5 billion to give a tax break that goes to the best-off in this province. The young people say: "Boy, oh boy, oh boy, this is some kind of province I live in. Those with jobs that are well paying are getting huge tax breaks, and me, I can't find a job," or, "I'm trying to pay for my college or university career and I'm being asked to pay huge tuition increases and to go out and borrow that money to do that."

All of our public sector is under a cloud right now. Privatization may in the public's mind be a popular thing, but I'm not sure if any organization can handle this degree of change and problems.

Just to wrap up, I appreciate a chance to comment on the supply bill. This, as I said earlier and the public perhaps is aware of it, is the bill that authorizes the government to pay its bills and it is quite in order, but it is an opportunity for all of us on all sides of the House to express our views.

I would just say in closing that if any business tried to run a business the way Mike Harris is running the government, you would find that profits would slip and you would lose the confidence of your organization and of the consumers, in this case the taxpayers. I'm seriously afraid that over the next 12 months, with all this planned chaos, we're going to pour so much water on the Ontario economy that we'll also lose the one thing we have going, a fairly solid economy.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Did the Liberals ask to split the time?

The Acting Speaker: We agreed to split the time. The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am pleased to be able to speak to concerns that significantly impact on my area, not just in Windsor but in Windsor and Essex county. Certainly it's in order to have a supply bill; the government certainly needs money to continue to operate.

I find it's a very interesting time to talk about exactly the direction the government is going in, given that we have three by-elections in Ontario today, and one is certainly in my home town of Windsor, in the riding of Windsor-Riverside. It's given us some unique opportunities as MPPs, all of us, because I know all of us have been involved in some way, after hours, helping our local candidates run in those by-elections.

Let me start by saying that in June of this year I struck a community council and decided at the two-year anniversary of the government's term I would ask people of all political stripes, not just Liberals, but Tories, NDP, labour supporters, business supporters, to sit down and talk about their feelings of important issues concerning our community directly related to the provincial government.

My biggest surprise at the first community council meeting was that there was not one mention of the tax cut. The one issue this government could hang its hat on that would go over so well with the voting public was its tax cut. There are so many other overriding issues today that at this community council, represented by all parties, there was not one mention of the tax cut. I found that fascinating.


What they did talk about was health care. If you've been in this House at all, you know that in Essex county we have some significant issues with this government's delivery of health care service in Essex county. That certainly hasn't changed over the course of the last couple of months. In the last few weeks, because all of us have had a chance to be at home in our ridings, I think many of you are beginning to agree with me that this government has made major errors in its delivery of the health care system and services to people.

What are they telling me? Health care is their number one concern. They're very concerned about children and the negative impacts this government has had on children. They're also telling us that they're very concerned about young people. In fact, we spent at least half an hour of a one-hour meeting of this community council in Windsor talking about young people and how many strikes they now have against them thanks to the policies of the provincial government.

I had to smile when the Premier today stood up and said that he was pleased to attend the premiers' conference out east with all the 10 premiers. He said, "We're going to the feds and we're going to talk about how important the young people are." I'm begging the Premier to look in his own backyard. Here is the same Premier who gutted 30% of all expenditures for the youth summer programs. Here is the same minister who took the average student working on that program, who used to collect a paycheque in the summer for 10 weeks, now collecting a paycheque for six weeks -- all this at the same time they're facing increased tuition when they return to school in September. Time will be the judge for this government on youth employment programs. The very Premier who is trying to lobby for young people isn't taking care of his own programs and has in no way made young people a priority here in Ontario.

It gave me an opportunity, with the leader of our party, to strike the McGuinty task force on children. We had a very informative meeting in Belleville just this past Friday to talk about exactly what the government is not doing for children when people who work with children in Ontario know exactly what kids need to level the playing field and get them going in life. We found many examples of what the government has not responded to. We have been reported to death, frankly, on what children need, especially children at risk. The government has been non-responsive. If anything, it has been detrimental in its policies for children.

The first thing they did when they took office, and they were proud to do it, was cut welfare rates. In fact, they spiked up in the polls after they did that. Everyone thought that was wonderful: "Those damned welfare people; they shouldn't get that 20%. They should just be cut." This government didn't recognize that half of the people are children, that 500,000 of them were kids, and none of them want to recognize that today, that it all trickles down so in the end it was those children who were the most affected by those changes in social welfare and the level of moneys they were being given. That's hardly recognition that this government has children as a priority.

If we look in my community -- I remember very well, because I made sure every MPP in this House knew how many days were left to go before they shut emergency service on the west side of Windsor. I know all the MPPs remember that they were getting pages that said, "Eighteen days to go," and then they got, "17 days to go," because we were very desperate to get the Minister of Health to understand that on that date of April 18 we were losing yet another emergency service in Windsor. Remember, we've gone from four hospitals to two hospitals. You've heard about this probably a hundred times. If your government is so intent on reinvesting, if your government is intent on coming here and asking for money to run the province, the people of Essex county would like to know why you're not reinvesting in Essex county.

We can go on. Why are we getting a letter from the hospital in Mr Hudak's riding: "Please come and see, because we're desperate"? Why would it be that the people in Mr Runciman's riding are so concerned about the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital? "With a long sigh, he adds that all his energies now will be summoned to deal with the Brockville hospital problem."

Here's a minister at the cabinet table who set up the Health Services Restructuring Commission. Mr Runciman's own hand and fingerprints are on the very commission that closed his hospital. Today he wants to deal with the hospital problem? I say to the minister, you were at the table and you could have made a huge difference at your own cabinet table. What that tells me is that even the ministers themselves are completely not responding to the concerns of where they come from. It's no wonder that the Conservative backbenchers have absolutely no voice: Neither do the ministers. I have to question whether Mr Runciman even raised the issue at cabinet table. Was there any concern at all that they were going to lose $36.7 million out of that local economy?

Today he's concerned about jobs in Brockville? He didn't know last year when this was being planned that $36 million would be gone from the economy when they closed the Brockville hospital? Just last week they make the final report on the restructuring commission, and it's news that there's a major impact on the community as a whole when you shut a hospital down?

I find that amazing. You can't go home to your riding and try to support the people at home, when you sit at the cabinet table and set the motions, set the detail and the timetable for when this is going to happen and hurt the very people you represent. That is your responsibility. You cannot go home and sing from a different song sheet. You are obliged to say the same thing at the cabinet table as well as back home in your constituency office.

I'll tell you, when you come from Windsor, you don't have to go far to find example after example of people who are waiting incredible lengths of time in our emergency wards. Remember, we only have two left now. I remember very well asking the minister the day it closed and the next day and the day after that one of our hospitals with a remaining emergency service only has the bay space for two ambulances to pull in at any one time.

You only have to visit our hospital, Hotel Dieu, right downtown, to see that on numerous occasions we have some four ambulances pulling patients into that hospital. That was the hospital that was supposed to get the reinvestment before you closed down the last emergency room. Well, you didn't reinvest. We still only have room for two ambulances to pull up. Now, at 2 am on a Saturday, when you've got a plethora of patients waiting for service, the ambulance attendants are rolling the patients down the driveway to get into the emergency door.

You think you're going to come down to Windsor-Riverside during a by-election and say that you're taking care of health services? Where I come from, the people of Windsor-Riverside aren't fooled for a minute. Certainly the people in Windsor-Sandwich, who've dealt with the closure of the hospital of Windsor Western are all too familiar with your broken promises and, "It's not my plan to close hospitals." Let me tell you, they know very well what's going on.

There's a significant senior population too. What Gary McNamara has been discovering is that there are seniors in nursing homes in his riding who -- well, they're not sure exactly, because the nursing home uses ambulance service. But that's being downloaded by this government on to the municipality. The town of Tecumseh, which has little or no funding, and of course that's being cut, have to ask, "Who's going to pay for the ambulance service?" We've got one nursing home that averages 10 to 12 ambulance visits per week. These are the frail and elderly who live there, whose families will be paying that cost, if they have family, and many may or may not.

I'm asking you to go home to your ridings, MPPs, and find out if you're suffering the same fate as these people in Tecumseh. Who's looking out for them? You've slapped on new user fees right across the board that have affected our seniors.

It was Mr Manzone on Lesperance Road who was the first to coin the phrase, "How many months in a year?" The government had to do a very quick backtrack, because not only did they add a $100 user fee per year for drug coverage, you stole the money again within three months of reaching that year. You were going back to them and taking more. I remember the clips during the election when the government won the first time around and they said, "No new user fees." Well, it's a crock. Nobody believes that, nobody, because they're paying for it today.


That's what Gary McNamara is hearing at the door, and how very amusing to see that your PC candidate in Windsor-Riverside doesn't have the nerve to put "Progressive Conservative" on the lawn sign or to use your traditional lawn sign colours. I don't blame him. God, who'd want to run for that party where I come from? It's been an absolute disaster. Our health system is absolutely in crisis and not one of you will respond, least of all your minister and certainly not the Premier, even though we've gone to him directly with our concerns.

Let me tell you, yesterday the Toronto Star banner headline read that we're going to fund another watchdog for the health care system. Did we read that in the Toronto Star yesterday? A "new watchdog" for the health care system because they want to find out if there are any gaps in the health care service. I just want to tell the minister and the Premier, I am prepared to tell you that information for free. You don't need to spend $3 million for a new bureaucracy to see if there are gaps in the health care system. Come to Windsor and our people will tell you that for free, for absolutely nothing. There are huge gaps in the health care service in Windsor, huge gaps.

I expect the government to be responsive. The last time your health minister came to Windsor, he was chased right back out on the highway with every media person yelling, "Show us the money." We're tired of all your talking about it. You've been talking about MRI for five years. We still don't have one.

Let me mention that this minister, just to get the scoop supposedly on a town hall that we were having on health care, decides to announce the Windsor-Essex county area as underserviced. Let me tell you what's happened to Windsor and Essex county since the underserviced designation. The minister made a supply for it even though we said it won't do us any good, but we have to do it because it was yet one more hurdle that he offered up to us; "Gee, you haven't even applied for the designation." Fine, so we applied. Today, months after this new underserviced designation for doctors, we have 16 fewer family doctors. We're not even moving in the right direction. Is this news? No, because we offered that information to the minister before. We said, "Our retirement rate of family doctors in Windsor-Essex county is huge, so we need some immediate emergency intervention."

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My apologies to my eloquent friend and colleague. Will you please kindly check if a quorum is present?

The Acting Speaker: Is a quorum present?

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: Further debate? The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: I would ask the benevolence, the understanding of the House: We will be splitting our time among our colleagues --

Interjection: Agreed.

Mr Pouliot: -- the time that is available to us, but I want to bring your attention to a point of order before you recognize me.

It wasn't too long ago, in fact a minute or two ago, that we were talking about supply. We wanted to remind you by way of a quorum to get the attention of the House, as many people as possible here, because what the member for Windsor had to say, be it parochial, was -- and I rise on this point of order -- really important. It's important that people have a firsthand opportunity to listen to the remaining time allocation for the member for Windsor.

The Acting Speaker: I believe your point of order is to ask to split the time. Is that your request?

Mr Pouliot: To let her continue, Mr Speaker.


The Acting Speaker: Order. You were recognized as the next speaker. The member for Windsor-Sandwich had not returned. On the basis that you called a quorum call, you were recognized as the speaker. You've asked the question whether you can split the time with your caucus colleagues and it was agreed. You have the floor.

Mr Pouliot: I need not remind you of the utmost respect that I have for your tenure and for you, sir, and I most graciously accept your ruling.

Periodically the House is asked to pay its bills, to lend support, to acquiesce to a motion of supply so the business of the state can take place. Bills have to be paid at the end of quarters, at the end of every month. The government has chosen that this would be the day when we're able and allowed to address supply.

I listened carefully to the opening remarks by the parliamentary assistant, which in a convincing manner conveyed to the House that this government is saving a great deal of taxpayers' money, that the Progressive Conservative government in power now in Ontario has dealt with the deficit left by previous administrations, and that all is well in Ontario: that we have a recovery of unprecedented proportions, that they can really see things picking up, more people working.

But of course they don't want to talk about youth unemployment, about the real pain that's out there, concrete and palpable, about hundreds of thousands of young Ontarians not able to find meaningful employment. They don't wish to talk about the highest level of employment among our young people. Of course not. They don't wish to talk about the downloading, about the passing-the-buck exercise that is presently taking place in Ontario.

If you were to travel, sir, to more than 800 municipalities in Ontario and ask the mayors, the reeves, the council people if they will be able, next year or the year after, to enact a decrease in general purpose, in municipal taxes, almost inevitably each and every one of them would say, "It cannot be done." Mike Harris and his gang have systematically, deliberately chosen to choke the municipalities by giving them more responsibility and less money to pay for those services. That's the truth.

I wish that the parliamentary assistant and the minister would avail themselves of every opportunity, every time, to tell us the other side of the ledger. There's a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, a lot of "I don't know" four months before they're about to embark on their new responsibility.


By way of example, let me give you more numbers on the downloading, on passing the buck to the less fortunate. Algoma district is downloading $43.7 million to $44.9 million; there's a narrow range here. What does it mean if you occupy an average house? It means anywhere between $982 per annum -- that's more money that you'll have to fork over, to pay out for the services you're now getting. If you live in Algoma and if you happen to be listening this afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of Algoma, this is what you're about to face. No words will replace the negative impact this will have on the standard of living and lifestyle of your families, ladies and gentlemen of Algoma: $982 to $1,010 more coming out of your pocket.

It has been decreed by Mike Harris and the gang that to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the rich ones on Bay Street by way of a 30% tax benefit, you, madame, and you, monsieur in Algoma, will have to pay. You will be filling their pockets.

They will filter the money, they will launder the money; it's going to Bay Street, to those who need it the least. Those who need it the most will have to fork over la payola because Harris is downloading. That's a 25% increase. The fascinating world of sewer and water is going to cost one heck of a lot of money. Tell that to the people of Algoma. Tell them that it's a quarter more, 25% more, and it's coming very soon.

Cochrane district, get ready, 31.6%; Essex county, 3.7% to 4%. Be quiet in Essex, ladies and gentlemen, 3.7% to 4% is a lot of money but it's not as much as other people's, because other people are getting gouged. If this were elsewhere, there would be a warrant for the Premier's arrest. They wouldn't say, "Hail to the chief"; they would say, "Jail to the chief."

Speaker, really, you're a citizen. I've been following your career very closely. I know you to be an educated person. You know who is telling the truth. You're an honest person. You're a God-fearing man. Is it up to him and that lot to give to the rich?

If you make $247,000 per year -- one should be so fortunate -- you save $15,000. If you make $1 million you save a lot more because there is a progression. But if you have a family of four and you make $25,000 per year, you save $450 in the tax cut. If the same family lives in Algoma, they receive in one pocket $450 and from the other pocket they have to shell out, to fork over, $1,010. Is this consistent and reasonable? Is it not like mugging the homeowner? Really, and the list goes on and on.

Hamilton-Wentworth, are you listening? "A 7.1% to 7.5 % increase," says Mike Harris. Kenora district, northwestern Ontario, vast and magnificent, a 28.7% to 30% increase because you'll have to pay for police services; you'll have to pay for ambulance service; you'll pay the cost of the library, assessment, sewer and water, increasing costs because they're passing the buck. They're passing the buck to their rich friends -- your dollars, ladies and gentlemen. They're passing responsibilities to the municipalities.

During the last election the same person, the head of the government of the day, lamented throughout the province as he took his travelling circus from village to village, tried to sell what was to become political snake oil two years later, tried to sell his salade by saying that your taxes -- there's only one taxpayer. In the final analysis, when all is said is done, "I, Mike Harris, promise that you will see a decrease in your property tax." A 31% increase in Cochrane is not a decrease. It's almost one third more than what they're actually paying. What are you doing? You're going to have a straitjacket; you're choking people. They don't have a chance to live because they have to pay for essential services that used to be paid for by the province.

Today we're asked to approve the motion for supply so that the government can pursue its ill-fated policies for another quarter. People are not opposed to change. I meet no one who is reluctant to accept changes. Changes occur all the time. But I meet a lot of people who are reminding the government that it has overestimated the capacity and the willingness of the citizens they govern, whom they represent, to accept that many changes at once. We don't yet know the consequences because they're going too fast.

People are saying to Premier Harris and the gang: "Put the brakes on. You don't know what you're doing." Proof of it is that on some bills you have 40, 50, 60 amendments. You're only four months away from implementation, when your municipal world is about to change big time. When you ask, "Who will pay for this; what will be the cost of this?" the government is guessing.

When all is said and done, when the axe falls, when January 1, 1998, strikes, if you are a property taxpayer or if you're renting, in most cases, the great majority of cases, you will not only pay more but you will pay a lot more for the same services.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Point of order, Mr Speaker: Would you please check to see if there is a quorum? I don't believe there is.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Could you please check if we have a quorum?

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

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon.


Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, if you live in the special part of Ontario, that of the Niagara region, if you own some property, if you are a renter, expect your municipal taxes to increase by 5.7% to 6.6% because of Mike Harris and the gang. No more, sir, nothing else. And not included in those statistics is the cost of highways, because they're downloading provincial highways. They've now become municipal highways. You are asked, if you are a municipal councillor, to either sell out or buy in, so for a few dollars, for the lure, the seduction of a lump sum payment, you take on in perpetuity the responsibility of maintaining, repairing, expanding and building the lifeline, the highway, and inevitably you're shortchanged. Those deals can only lead to increased poverty among the municipalities, because this government does not give you much of a choice. You don't have bargaining power. They hold a gun to you, "You accept or we shoot to kill," in the context of downloading, nothing short of that.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm finding some of your remarks a bit too derogatory. It could be set in a tone which is more dignified, and I think, knowing you, you'll be able to achieve that.

Mr Pouliot: Speaker, with the highest of respect, I'm somewhat startled that you found my comments or my words provocative or a little bold or strong. If I may be so bold, heck, maybe I've gone too far and that's what you wish to convey, but I ask you to put yourself in my shoes, representing some of the remote communities. You have to come here and you would be as mad as hell in the face of what's about to happen when the aspirations are being taken out. The rules only permit some latitude when you describe, and yes, when you accuse -- because they had the choice; it could have been otherwise -- and you in your capacity are reminding me that there are some thresholds. I didn't refer to them as bandits. I didn't do that. I didn't refer to some members of the cabinet as a den of thieves. I did not do that, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: I think you're pushing the issue a bit too much. All I'm asking you is to use dignified language, and knowing you, you are so capable of doing it.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, let it be a lesson to all of us that when we believe and we think we know someone, sometimes we don't know them all that well.

Sudbury district: Would you not be upset, in the privacy and comfort of your home, if you were to be hit with 17.7% to 18%? How dignified would you be? When you have no money in your pocket, you cannot afford the dignity. You'd be mad as hell.

Then they're about to download the highways -- because you're going to work, you're going to Falconbridge, you're going to Inco. You've got to put a paycheque on the table. You have not forgotten those days, the pay stub, when the family gets together and talks about the allocation of money. Right? But now the highway that you take to go and mine the resources, harvest the trees, you're going to have to pay for it. It used to be a provincial responsibility, but Mike Harris and the gang have to fill the pockets, have to satisfy the appetite of those who can run the fastest. You don't meet them. You hear about them. You read about them. And yet, they're not hiding. They're at the Toronto Club and I want to wish them well.

Frank Stronach made 38 million bucks in one year. He works hard, doesn't he? So do you, Speaker. Frank Stronach does not have to go and knock on doors like you have to, Speaker, and sell the hardest commodity in the world, that of your representation. No, no, he rakes it in, and that's okay, but what is not okay is that there is no capping. Frank Stronach must think that Santa Claus comes to visit every weekend, because if you make $15,000 --

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With all respect to my honourable colleague, I find offensive the direction of his comments. Mr Stronach happens to be a constituent of mine who has invested a great deal of money in this province, has created many, many --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Take your seat, please. I don't find this a point of order. The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: The point is well taken, and in the future I'll be able to better appreciate the special relationship that you and your constituent have.

I am not the one saying this. It was in the Globe and Mail, in the Report on Business. I am not wishing the gentleman ill. I know he's a philanthropist. I know him to be generous.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Scarborough East, please.

Mr Pouliot: What I'm saying is that it is beyond the obscene. It is actually porcine to be given a 30% tax break when you make that much money -- 38 million bucks in one year -- and at the same time you go and shut hospitals and you put elderly people in the corridors. Does it make any sense to you? Don't you get mad as hell, Speaker, when you hear that?

We're all on a waiting list. You heard the true story of one family who went to visit their father. That could be any one of us. The person was dead, dead, dead, died in the corridor, lack of care and had been there since the day before. "How are you, Dad?" No response. Dead.

And Frank Stronach pockets 30% of the provincial income tax and I'm mad? You're darned right I'm mad and I have a right to be because I am a citizen, un citoyen, and I have a voice. When I was afraid, they stepped over me and I got up one morning and I said, "No, I am not rich, nor am I afraid." C'est fini. I don't have to be afraid because I am a citizen and I am paying for all this and I am tired of paying for all this. They're changing too much and they're changing it too fast. The police association is against them, those women and men in blue. The teachers have had it up to here. The nurses are anxious. They're being fired by the thousands.

And they're saying that they're spending more money than ever on health care? Well, per capita, they're spending less. You know that and I know that. We have relatives, we have friends, sometimes ourselves, go and visit a hospital and the care isn't the same. Bring a member of your family and make sure they bring a bar of soap with them. The days of the back rub, they're long gone. Keep your health, , because people are overworked. They're being asked to take on more responsibilities because the government has to satisfy an agenda of a 30% tax cut.


Don't get me wrong. We mostly think that we're paying a lot; in fact, too much taxes. But this is disproportionate. If you make $25,000 a year family income, spouse, Mr and Mrs Canada, two children, you save $450. If you make $247,000, you save $15,000. If you make $800,000, you save 10 times more. Does it make sense to you? It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Yet you'll pick it up. What you save on the one hand, you will have to pay for the downloading.

The Rainy River district: My leader is from Rainy River, northwestern Ontario bordering on the sister province of Manitoba, where we're about to make major purchases of hydro. Rainy River, 28% to 29.3%. I know people in Rainy River, people who work at the mill, good, honest, salt-of-the-earth hardworking people -- 28% to 29%. Thanks a lot, Mike. Way to go, Mikey. I guess we don't tread the same circles, we don't have the same friends.

We certainly have very little influence, because if we live in Manitouwadge, where I live, in Marathon, anywhere in the great riding of Lake Nipigon -- we're 26% of the overall land mass. We go all the way to Hudson Bay. It's a different life there. You've been there, Speaker, with the Office of the Ombudsman. I remember. What are we going to say? Are we going to say thank you? Mixing things up. We're a little afraid, we're anxious. We don't know how much it's going to cost and we don't fully know what we're going to pay for, four months before it's about to happen. The municipal elections and the school board elections are to take place some time this November, and today is August 18. We're asking to know about consistency, about being reasonable, and those are logical, legitimate questions.

I want to share with you -- I have with me the Rural Review: The Voice of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, and this is volume 2, July 1997, last month. Question:

"What's Happening?

"To Survive You Need to Know!!

"I am very concerned about the lack of information being passed down speedily to the municipalities by the province and at the failure of our municipalities to fully grasp the gravity of what we are going to have to deal with in the future. It further concerns me that in November we will be seeing newly elected officials who have no concept of the magnitude of the changes and how they will cope." Scary, isn't it? "They are going to be frustrated.

"Here are some of the responsibilities which will henceforth be assumed by municipalities: policing costs...." You pay now. The province used to pay if you were fewer than 5,000 in your village, in your small town. No, no. Starting in January you will pay the full cost.

Social housing: You know the demographics. We have an aging population, not only in Ontario but in Canada, and more people. You have to satisfy the demand, you have to offer shelter. The municipalities will be asked to take on an important share, so it's going to cost more.

Land ambulance costs: Call 911. No one's immune. But the municipality will have to pay for the land ambulance costs.

Loss of the farm tax rebate. I see that the minister is here and I thank him. I guess what you save on the farm you lose on the house. Is that the way it goes? Because the money has to come from someplace, the municipalities have to get the services.

The managed forest rebate and business occupancy tax -- a loss of $667 million. That's the business occupancy tax. Not ironically, you know who benefits by that? You pay so much per square foot. Take the bank towers in Toronto. Just step out on the front steps of the Legislature and look up. What you will see is insurance and bank towers, the conglomerates, these ensembles of cement and glass. There's a lot of money there. They're going to benefit because they will pay far less business occupancy tax.

Do you know who's going to pick up the slack? The small business people. You know the ma-and-pa stores, the franchisees? They're going to pick up the business occupancy tax because the big banks are going from 75% to 42%. The money has to come from someplace, and Mike and the gang have the audacity to tell people: "You should tighten up your belts. You've been living too well. You should streamline. You should cut your municipal costs and pass the savings along to municipalities."

They've been doing that for years. Municipal council representatives are very responsible, but there is a downloading of extraordinary proportions. That's what's happening. While we are busy trying to restructure at the province's request, the province is making dramatic changes to local municipal governments, leaving more and more of us frustrated and bewildered because we don't know enough about what is going on.

You ask a question one week, you must come back the second week to get an answer and then they put you on hold again because it's not definite. It changes. It seems that every second week they dim the lights and get their hands into that bag of snakes and come up with a different answer.

I'll give you an example. A few weeks back I was in a small municipality in the great riding of Lake Nipigon and I asked the reeve, the mayor of a small town: "Jim, are you aware that starting January 1, if one of your citizens, someone living in town, is on general assistance, is on welfare, and she or he goes to see the doctor, gets a prescription and goes to the pharmacy, now you will have to pay 50%? What do you know, Mayor Jim, about the drug formulary? Do you know how much it's going to cost you? It's going to cost you 50%." "I don't have a clue, Gilles. The council people" -- this is a person with 15 years' experience -- "don't know anything. They've never had to do it." Now they will be asked not only to know more but to administer half the cost if you're on general assistance.

It makes no sense at all. Who's going to pay? I'll tell you, with respect, who's going to pay. The small homeowners are going to pay, the property owners are going to pay, the renters are going to pay and the ones who can best pay are getting such a tax break that it leaves them a lot better off regardless of who lives in whose riding.

I'm reminded that with those people you shouldn't say much if you know your place. You reminded me of my place, Speaker, that with those people you pay and then you shy away. You get into the background, you get into the distance; you don't disturb the established order.

Pardon me, we still have a voice. The people of rural Ontario are saying: "Mr Harris, you're going too far. Put the brakes on. Too many changes at once, and too costly."


Policing options in a changing Ontario: 576 communities. To serve and protect -- in some small towns they can't afford it. I know in Manitouwadge where I live, you're looking at $600,000 more per year. You're looking at property taxes on policing alone going up by an extra $400 to $450 per household. We mine the gold, we don't keep the gold. This goes beyond the ability of someone to pay. What's going on here? Why do that? We know it's unethical. We know an independent body of jurists would not allow it. We know well-thinking philosophers would not contemplate it. We know any other government would not tolerate it, would not impose it. Why are they so adamant? I guess revolutionaries sometimes hurt people, and they truly believe that they're helping and they're finding out -- with their philosophy they find it difficult to help people. They get it all wrong.

People want a chance to grow, they want to look to the future and say it will offer better than today, and people have some resolve. We know that sometimes you have to pull back a bit and then go forward. We know that the less fortunate -- it reminds me that the blind help the lame and they march forward. This administration does not associate with the marginalized and the less fortunate. Why is that? Is it that people are becoming too prosperous? Is it that ordinary people, the middle class, which is being eroded quickly, poses a threat to anyone? Is it that shared prosperity is hurting the state? Why? Why do all this? Why do it so deeply, so profoundly? Why hurt, and hurt those who can least defend themselves? This is what their agenda is all about. It's nothing short of that.

The downloading response goes on and on. The government says: "Of all the money that we're raking in, because we're spending less, we've put a little pool of money aside. In our back pocket, if you look closely, we have some $500 million." We get mesmerized. We say, "Well, $500 million, la manna from heaven. That's a lot of money." No, they've taken $1.5 billion out and then they will come and really have you believe they're doing you a favour by putting a few dollars of your own money into the pool. It won't work. People are wising up to the tactics, the strategies of this government.

I have agreed to share the time that was allocated, and we shall do so perhaps another day or maybe today.

Housing cost, the long-term cost associated with social housing: When we talk about social housing we must not underestimate the cost. Again, with the aging population, it's not everyone who has had the good fortune to latch on to a government pension or to a military service pension, for instance. It's not everyone who has worked many years as a civil servant or as a teacher or with Ontario Hydro, CNR, CPR etc. All this to say that you put in the years and you were and you are getting, if not a commendable, a pension worthy of notice. If you don't have a pension, a source of revenue which is consequential, there's a good chance that you too will be lining up for social housing. A provincial responsibility if there ever was one, but now who's going to pay? The people in the municipality.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): The poor.

Mr Pouliot: In other words, my colleague from Sault Ste Marie says the poor will pay.

Mr Martin: Absolutely.

Mr Pouliot: He's right on. Right on, no doubt. That will not change because the government is saying, "We won't take care of it any more because we're giving you a bit of a break on school taxes." Watch what will happen to the women and the men who are teachers. They will deal with the profession on a one-on-one basis. They have been waiting. They're almost salivating at the thought of negotiating or, I should say, dictating to teachers. They look at the pool of money, that hard-earned money under the auspices of the teachers' superannuation plan, and they revel. It brings out the worst in them. They wish they could have not one but both hands in the pension plan.

Well, guess what? I predict that they will make an effort to lessen their contribution to the teachers' pension plan. If there are teachers who are listening at the present time, I say, "Beware of what's coming down the pipe with those people. You're about to be ambushed. Be prepared for the worst. They will hit your pension plan, because they will invite gurus and will have them spell out that for whatever time period, under whatever defined terms that your pension will be given to you; never any improvement, though, and the rest of it they'll put in the general fund."

The general fund is the big vat where the toxicity level gets higher and higher by the day. Then they take little cups and they dole out the money, a little here, a little to this ministry, but everything comes in. Then they will negotiate with the teachers because the school boards won't have the power to levy. School boards no longer will have the power in a few months to say: "A property's worth so much. We will raise or decrease taxes." No, that's tout finis. Mike and the gang will dictate and then they will deal with the people who educate our sons and daughters, and it does not augur very well. It does not bode well. They're about to get hit big time.

That's okay with that lot because unless you are very privileged, you can expect to tighten your belt. The police force, the OPP, police people at the municipal level have said they'll be watching Bill 136 carefully. You saw what happened in the gallery today, the spontaneous response of people who have had enough, of people who said today: "I will go to the Legislature and I will stand up. I refuse to die on my knees. I don't want to buy in. I don't want to sell out. I am a citizen and I'm standing up in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario." Spontaneously people have said, "I've had enough." The final straw, the threshold: "We're not going to take it any more." Who are those people, Speaker? They're people like you and me. They're ordinary citizens who are saying, "Enough is enough." The message comes back loud and clear: "Put the brakes on."

Mr Martin: It's obscene.

Mr Pouliot: We're paying for all this. It's obscene, my colleague from Sault Ste Marie says, and it's goes beyond: It's porcine. It should not be allowed to take place under any circumstances.


Long-term costs: This is what the co-op housing federation estimates, that unfunded capital repair costs mean the province has underestimated the municipal cost of social housing by a bare minimum of $140 million. How can you make a mistake of $140 million? Suppose you don't have a clue and don't know what you're doing; you're just grabbing figures from all over the place and putting them in the marketplace and saying it'll come out in the wash. They're short 140 million bucks. Where is the money going to come from? You know where it's going to come from. You just watch your property taxes very carefully.

I know you to be meticulous, Speaker. I know you've been keeping your slips over the years. I know, with your most distinguished military service, that you don't misplace things. I know you to be very well organized, to be an excellent planner. We're all envious of your many qualities. Speaker, you'll be one of the first ones to jump. I see you shaking your head. I can see the pain in your face, Speaker, the distress. You don't want to get the bill, but as a citizen you shall get the bill. I want you to think, when you get that bill, that it's Mike Harris, that you and your most distinguished and elegant spouse, when you talk about it, say: "It's Mike Harris's fault. It need not happen." But you make a commendable salary. With your office of Deputy Speaker, sir, I know that you are getting what they call a stipend; in other words, you're getting an extra allocation, a little more money. It's not that much, that little more money, but it's going to help cover your taxes. Other people don't have the tenure or they don't have -- never mind the supplementary allocation you benefit from. Be prepared, because you're going to get hit. You'll notice a difference.

We've had 76% of the people in Toronto, Mississauga, Etobicoke and York saying to the government: "We don't want your megacity. We're okay. We like the neighbourhood the way it is." The government says: "We will listen to people. We're not a dictatorship. We will listen to people." People went to vote en masse; many people went to the ballot box. Three quarters of them said, "No, we do not wish to have it," but the revolutionaries, members of the brigade, Mike Harris and his gang, have decided to shove it down people's throats.

Then they took the show beyond the metropolis. All across Ontario they're downloading, are closing hospitals. Padlock Mike is doing it, nobody else is doing it. More people in the corridors, and the elderly being asked to bend in half and shove into a taxi because there's no place at the hospital. You read almost on a daily basis now about the shortcomings.

Did Mike Harris and the gang promise during the last election that seniors would have to pay the first $100 under the drug program? I didn't hear that. In fact, I heard the Premier say, "I have no plans to close hospitals." No plans to close hospitals, but you're shutting down 22 hospitals. What are you doing? What do you mean? That's only two years ago. "I have no plans." In other words, "I will not shut hospitals." That's the Premier of the province. You have to believe someone some time. "I will honour my promises or I will resign." We have already just mentioned in 15 seconds two broken promises. It's blatant. It's the truth. There's only one thing missing here. Where is the resignation?

If it were any other place -- go and see your friends, and if you were to ask, "Look at what was promised and look at what has happened, did Mike Harris lie during the last election?" what would your friends say? I'm not the one saying this. What would your friends --

The Deputy Speaker: Order, order.


The Deputy Speaker: Order. I ask you to withdraw this immediately. You do it right now.

Mr Pouliot: I will withdraw, Speaker. I will withdraw it and I thank you, Speaker.

You see, what you have is a mere two very basic, very graphic examples of a person who chooses to shy away from the truth for the sake of getting your vote. I find this action despicable. I don't find this very honest. Then you go further to say --

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, you're playing with fire. You're using words that are totally unacceptable, and you know better than that, for sure.

Mr Pouliot: I thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I do apologize, but when you're caught in the context of a revolution, be it a Common Sense Revolution or otherwise, sometimes you are entering uncharted waters indeed. If I've been a little difficult, I do appreciate and I thank you that your good tenure, your good office, through you, sir, is putting me back on track.

Taxpayers' income: You'll love this. This is something else. The Common Sense Revolution -- taxpayer income, $25,000: saving in year one, $425; year two, $638; year three, total saving when the 30% is implemented if you make $25,000 -- hey, that's not rich, right? It's a poor but very adequate income -- $1,913. If you make $50,000, twice the $25,000 of course: $4,052. If you make $75,000, you save $6,926. So you see, you make three times as much and you save four times as much, and then it escalates. If you make 10 times the $25,000, you save 30 times. Does it make sense to you? It doesn't make much sense to me. It is unjust. It is immoral. It is not what they teach you at school.

We know that some will be more fortunate, but come on, Mike, put the brakes on. Give your head a shake. What about a conscience? This is not what I would preach, if I were a person of the cloth, the people in the congregation in my parish. I would be ashamed to put their record through.

Only one taxpayer: This is a picture of M. Harris and it's the Common Sense Revolution. This was the catalogue during the last election, during those 41 days of election time when the writs were issued. This was what was being circulated: "We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes."

You know what I'm getting at. This is what he said, not 50 years ago, and if he does not live by this document, this manifesto, he will tender his resignation. The question is: Where is it? Show me the letter. He said, "will not result in increases to local property taxes." Well, if you're in Rainy River, it says 28.5%, 29.3% in taxes; Algoma, 25% to 26% -- I mean, "will not result," and they said: "Yes, it will result. It's coming down. Within four months, your taxes will go up because of the downloading."

The Premier said, "You will not have to pay," so he should resign. I expect that tomorrow, Premier, will be an extraordinary day, that the Premier will do the honourable thing while he has an ounce of dignity left, by tendering his resignation. "Because I, Mike Harris, have failed to live by the word of the Common Sense Revolution, Mr Speaker, I must inform you and I must inform my distinguished colleagues in the House that, effective immediately, I, Mike Harris, am tendering my resignation." The honourable thing to say, and I will say: "Well, one thing Mike Harris, the Premier, did, he died by the sword. At least he lived up to the commitment that he made in the Common Sense Revolution."

Then it will be interesting to see the meet-your-best-friend-every-five-minutes group gather. It will make the election of some other political organization pale in comparison to what's about to happen because we will have a new Premier. Oh, they will not call an election. We're not asking. We're just saying that you do what you said you would. You can't deliver the goods. You're not a person of honour if you don't do what you said you would, if you will not do what's in the document here, the Common Sense Revolution.

You know I'm telling the truth. You know that. If I'm telling the truth and I have the proof of it, there's a person opposite who is telling the opposite, so is that person telling the truth or not telling the truth? It's borderline to you, Speaker? It's not borderline to me, sir, because I know that I'm telling the truth.

"Fair share health care levy" -- this is frightening. If people are not able to keep their health, if they don't want to end up in the corridor, what are they supposed to do? Make sure that they have the means to go to the United States of America so they can pay? Because he's cutting back, the health care is taking a beating.

Then again, in the Common Sense Revolution he says: "Protecting priority services." Some are protected, let's be fair. But in many cases, they're not as good. There aren't as many as there used to be and you have increasing user fees, which are a tax. But the Premier says there are no tax increases and there are no user fees. Well, if you use drugs, it makes you a user, does it not, when you filled that prescription? Oh, no, this is participation, you see. You're asked to participate. You become a partner in the program because he doesn't wish to have people say a user fee is a user fee. Let's call it what it is. If you use a prescription, you have to pay the first $100 and then you pay up to $6.11 per prescription. If you're an elderly person, that $100 is the difference between calling your sons or daughters, if they're in another part of Ontario, a couple of times a month. It means you might not be able to visit them because you have to make that difficult choice.

Mr Speaker, it's not easy, and you know very well it's not easy. I see you again shaking your head, asking yourself, "Where will it all stop?" I only wish we had more time because I notice that it's close to 6 of the clock and I will move adjournment of the debate.

The Deputy Speaker: It being close to 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1756.