36th Parliament, 1st Session

L215 - Tue 19 Aug 1997 / Mar 19 Aoû 1997




















































Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): In Montserrat, a tiny island in the West Indies, residents have been hit with a natural catastrophe that has devastated two thirds of the island's surface. The Soufriere Hills volcano that had been dormant for 400 years erupted in 1995 and forced the islanders to move to the north end of their nation.

On June 25 of this year, the volcano erupted again, killing 19 people to date, destroying five villages and over 80% of the homes on the island. Currently, the only access to the island is by ferry or helicopter. Before the disaster, Montserrat's population was 13,000 and now, of the remaining 4,000 residents, half are preparing to leave.

Yesterday afternoon, reports of earthquakes around the volcano were reported, increasing the seriousness of the evacuation efforts. Many of those left on the island are in schools, churches and shelters in the north of the island. Twenty-one Canadian citizens are registered with Canada's high commission in Barbados and are expected to evacuate. In Toronto, about 30 people visiting from Montserrat have been stranded here and hope to have their visits extended by the federal government and possibly allowed to work and their children attend school here.

The Montserrat expatriates in Toronto have been very supportive in assisting with fund-raising relief efforts and community support. A fund has been established for relief funds and donations can be made at any Canada Trust branch to the Montserrat disaster relief fund. The Montserrat Association of Toronto has been working very hard during this difficult time, and I commend them for their perseverance.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Montserratians, and I am appealing to the members of this assembly and the people of Ontario to provide whatever assistance we can.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): This government, this Minister of Transportation, seems intent on downloading, on dumping the maintenance bill for more than 1,700 kilometres of provincial highways. Who will pay? The municipal taxpayers, through their property taxes, a sort of levy, a sort of user fee, because municipalities will have no other choice.

The town of Geraldton in the great riding of Lake Nipigon has been asked to take over 12.2 kilometres of Highway 584. Keep in mind that there has been no upgrading of Highway 584 since 1980. Simply put, the people of Geraldton cannot afford this added responsibility. The minister knows that, but he has been unable to convince his colleagues that this sort of buck-passing, this sort of downloading, this sort of added responsibility does indeed place an unfair burden on local residents in Marathon, in Nipigon, in Manitouwadge and today in Geraldton.

Shame on the minister. It's time to reconsider. Put the cheque in the envelope when you download responsibilities.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): August 15, 1997, marked the golden jubilee of the independence of India, the world's oldest continuous civilization, whose beginnings date back to the third millennium before the common era.

A subcontinent ruled by majestic emperors and possessing a highly developed culture, India's great historic figures include Mahavira of the Jains, Gautama Buddha, Sankara the Hindu philosopher, the Sikh guru Nanak, and later thinkers and reforms such as Dayananda, Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who captured the imagination of India and the world with his non-violent approach to liberation, who led his people to independence as a sovereign nation in 1947.

All Canadians are truly proud to have in India an ally and good friend, just as we are proud of the many contributions to Canada and Ontario that Canadians of Indian background have made and continue to make.

About 350,000 people make up the Indo-Canadian community in this province. Over the years, they have become a powerful social, cultural and economic force. They have contributed immeasurably to Ontario's vibrant growth and prosperity.

On behalf of the government of Ontario, I wish the people of India my warmest and best wishes on Indian Independence Day. May the great historic friendship between India and Canada continue to deepen and strengthen, and may we always honour the great saint and hero Mahatma Gandhi who, like Moses, led his people to the chosen land of freedom and independence.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): This past July 2, a torrential rainstorm swept through Thunder Bay, causing extraordinary damage to Shuniah township in my riding, including a complete washout of Lakeshore Drive as well as extensive damage to numerous private residences.

A disaster such as this required an immediate response and the municipality's public works department worked around the clock to repair the infrastructure damage. But while the work was done, the cost of rebuilding the roadway has put an exceptional financial burden on the community.

As the local provincial member, I wrote to the ministries of municipal affairs, northern development and transportation, asking for special funding assistance to deal with this unforeseen crisis. So far no assistance has been received. Today I am calling on the Minister of Municipal Affairs, whose ministry has been identified as the one where such assistance may be available, to recognize Shuniah's plight and announce that provincial financial aid will be forthcoming.

This disaster was not the fault of the residents of Shuniah township, nor could the municipality be expected to plan for such a disaster. Provincial funding programs are in place for such circumstances, so I have to ask, why is the minister delaying in responding?

Minister, if you feel Shuniah township must justify their need for special assistance, look no further than the recent downloading of policing costs to Shuniah, as they must now find over $800,000 in new money to deal with that harsh new reality. We should not be begging for your help, Minister. Shuniah township needs and deserves the support.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise today to share with you and the people of Ontario that my community, the city of Sault Ste Marie, is in mourning these days. We're in mourning over the imminent demise of the Ontario Lottery Corp as one of the foundation blocks of the economy of our region.

As I walk around the community and I hear from people, there's a tremendous sense of shock and disbelief. This is a corporation that is strong and healthy. There's nothing wrong with it and this government has deigned in its wisdom to change it in a way that will see it, for all intents and purposes, removed as one of the foundation blocks of the economy of Sault Ste Marie and Algoma.

I remind the government that the lottery corporation, since its inception, has improved its bottom line every year, including the years since its move to Sault Ste Marie. The lottery corporation was moved to the Sault in the late 1980s and early 1990s to help stabilize the economy of our area and to assist in diversifying the economy, to build on what was there but changing and bringing us into the next century, confident that we can compete in the new economy.

You are not listening to what the people of Ontario are saying, Mr Harris and your government. They want you to fix things that are broke and not break things that are working well. The Ontario Lottery Corp is working well in the best interests of our community. Please leave it alone.


Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): Yesterday I introduced a private member's bill that, if passed, will proclaim June 19 every year as United Empire Loyalists' Day.

The Loyalists were Canada's first multicultural immigrants who, for various reasons, stood for the unity of the empire during and after the US gained their independence in 1783. The Loyalist influence was the deciding factor in the passage of the Constitutional Act of 1791 that established the framework for Upper Canada's government. This act, also known as the Canada Act, received royal assent on June 19, 1791.

Among the provisions of the Constitutional Act were the creation of elected legislatures for the two new provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, the forerunners of modern Ontario and Quebec. It was the Loyalists who laid the foundations for the future development of Canada as a country with bilingual, multicultural and regional traditions within the unifying context of a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.

The Loyalist influence is clearly seen in our provincial motto, which reads, "Loyal in the beginning, so remaining." I would like to ask all the members to join me in recognizing the historic contributions the Loyalists have made and their descendants continue to make to the development of Ontario by declaring June 19 as United Empire Loyalists' Day.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I rise today in the House to congratulate the Canadian Medical Association because they voted yesterday to reject two-tiered health care in this country. They voted to say that the development of a two-tiered health care system, a private health care system for those who are very wealthy and the rest of us having to queue up for what's left over, is not the Canadian way.

Now that doctors in this country have recognized that this two-tiered, Americanized private health care system has no place in this country, maybe this government will start to realize it too because what the doctors talked about were the cuts to health care, and who's doing the largest cuts to health but Mike Harris. Mike Harris, the largest cutter of health care, has taken $900 million out of hospitals. Mike Harris has made sure --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for York South.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): Mike Harris continues to cut hospitals in a way that is met by no --


The Speaker: Member for York South. It's simple. When I sit down, it doesn't mean you can start yelling again. It's rather Pavlovian, I agree.


The Speaker: Yes. Not that I would ever have done that. I want to make that clear. Member for York South.

Mr Kennedy: The Canadian Medical Association has rejected what the jeering of the government members provides support for, the idea of an Americanized health care system, the one that would shut down the most efficient, the Riversides, the Women's Colleges, the Wellesleys, the best hospitals we have in this province, the only basis being to save money to pay for the tax cut. But these kinds of sneaky manoeuvres are being caught on to by the people of this province.

We want to thank and congratulate the doctors for recognizing how hollow the health policy of this province is and we look for the government members to do likewise.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I would like to advise the Premier, because he just doesn't seem to be getting it, that he is very quickly, apparently with blinkers on, marching us into the abyss in terms of labour chaos in all our communities. The labour movement, the people who represent the women and men who work in our public sector and provide services in our hospitals and schools, firefighters, police officers, virtually every facet of our life, have done everything they can to arrange a simple meeting with Mike Harris so that they can offer up their alternatives to his Bill 136.

Bill 136, if rammed through this House using your new rules to shut down the opposition, will create chaos in all our communities, and at the end of the day it means the quality of life of working people and their families is going to go down to meet your tax cut and your vicious attack on those workers.

Yesterday, twice, Premier Harris, when I asked him, said he would call the office of Gord Wilson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, to arrange such a meeting. To the best of my knowledge, as of half an hour ago, that phone call still hasn't been made. The Premier stands in his place here and elsewhere and says, "Yes, I'll meet," but the phone never rings. Once again, I call on the Premier to honour his commitment, meet with --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I am pleased to inform all members of this House about a successful speciality electronics firm in my riding that continues to grow and prosper in an ever-growing competitive market.

Bryston Ltd is a Canadian company that has been designing and manufacturing speciality electronics for professional and consumer markets for over 30 years. When Bryston moved its headquarters to Peterborough in 1994, it had 37 employees. Since then, the number has grown to 57, with another five working in the United States.

Bryston has grown by 40% this year, with anticipated growth in the 30% to 40% range each year for the next five years. By the end of next year they are projecting a workforce totalling 80, and 100 by the year 2000. On August 13 they began a large project that will expand its current factory by more than 65% to accommodate future growth.

Bryston has been recognized by the industry's leading publications as a company that is revolutionizing the industry. Bryston is a leader, not a follower. Their vision of the future and their hard work have set Bryston on a course of great prosperity.

Please join me in congratulating president Brian Russell and all the workers at Bryston for their hard work in making this company a great success. Ontario is indeed open for business.



Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Today I am pleased to update members on the results we have achieved so far due to our welfare reforms and the introduction of Ontario Works, our mandatory workfare program.

During the election campaign, this government promised to build a strong economic climate to create more jobs. Today, Ontario is leading the country in job growth. We are turning the province's economy around. As the Premier noted yesterday, in the last five months alone, we have seen 124,000 jobs created. That is more than 50% of all jobs created in Canada.

During the election campaign, we promised to reform Ontario's welfare system, to get people off the system and back to work. That's because we believe that people are better off working. Most people want to work, and Ontario Works is helping this happen. Today, almost 210,000 people have stopped relying on welfare since this government took office over two years ago. Put another way, that is roughly the population of the city of Windsor. In July alone, over 12,000 people left Ontario's welfare system. We now have the lowest number of people on assistance in Ontario since January 1992. These numbers show that this government's reforms are producing results.


To date, 36 communities are implementing Ontario Works and more than 36,000 people have participated in one or more of the program's mandatory activities. We have received 71% of the municipalities' business plans and by next year Ontario Works will be implemented across the province.

Communities are finding creative ways to ensure the best possible range of employment supports for participants in Ontario Works. For example, several municipalities are integrating their resource centres with existing federal employment centres. As a result, the participants in places such as Cornwall, Timmins and Orangeville will benefit from a broader range of employment services at one site.

Community agencies are also responding by creating placements that give participants a chance to apply their existing skills and to develop new ones. This is helping community agencies undertake much-needed projects that they have been unable to do in the past. At the same time, participants are given an opportunity to give something back to their communities.

In communities all across this province, people know that it is better to be working than on welfare. Up north, in places such as Dryden, Ignace, Sioux Lookout, Pickle Lake, they are working together to set up self-help employment resource centres where none existed before. This will help others access the tools they require to get a job.

In other locations, some recipients are doing their placements right at the Ontario Works resource centres. Here participants have been gaining skills in dealing with the public, in using technology, and important firsthand access to a network of job opportunities. As more than half of the participants from Muskoka have found, this valuable experience has led directly to paid employment. In Kitchener-Waterloo, there is more good news. One employment agency alone has already helped close to 130 people get off welfare and into paid employment.

People are telling us that their community placements are making a difference in their lives. They feel the satisfaction of contributing to their community. In Cornwall, one participant helped organize Worldfest's International Celebration of Song and Dance. The experience and contacts she gained led to part-time employment after the event. In Hamilton, seven participants helped a community centre stage a festival in a downtown park. They helped promote awareness of the event, they sought corporate sponsorships, they set up the event, and they worked in the festival.

In Burlington today, I met participants at a reuse centre where they help the community recycle household goods that would have otherwise ended up in landfill sites. The list could go on and on.

I have heard from people on welfare that these activities have led to a renewed sense of self-confidence and self-respect, but most important, they have found something that has been missing for a long time, and that is hope. It is this hope, coupled with a desire to better their lives and the lives of their children, that is making Ontario Works a success.

We believe that giving people the support, the tools and the encouragement to return to productive lives is essential. So far, we are pleased with the progress, but we know we must do more to assist more people to become self-sufficient. We are encouraged that more people are moving towards self-sufficiency as Ontario's economy improves, and we are encouraged that this decline in the caseloads and our other welfare reforms have resulted in savings of more than $1 billion for Ontario taxpayers. As a government, we owe it to people on social assistance to provide them with opportunities to become self-sufficient. Equally, we owe it to taxpayers to ensure that the dollars are going to help those truly in need.

Later today we are scheduled to debate Bill 142, the Social Assistance Reform Act. It will strengthen our ability to provide people with opportunities to become self-sufficient, because we need to prepare people for a growing economy and an expanding workforce. That is what Ontario Works is all about: a mandatory program designed to help people on welfare acquire necessary skills, make contributions to their communities and get back into the workforce.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): If we were to use the Conservative government's workfare as the example of success and this were a business, you'd all be out of work tomorrow. In Ontario we have over 750 communities. After two years of governing, you have found 36 communities to participate in your program. I would consider that an abysmal failure. It begs us to remember the FSP and the abysmal failure that was when we talk about this government changing the way they do business. I think you're throwing it all out the window.

Let me say at the outset that today we are debating this bill the minister has brought forward, and still today I expected to see regulation so we could have some very meaningful debate. Why is the minister not bringing forward information like, what is the definition of "disability"? What will it mean for people who won't be able to access the system because you've raised the bar so high and cut off people who are truly disabled? That's what we thought we were going to hear today in this minister's statement. We saw nothing but a whitewash, and I believe that whitewash will continue right through the debating this afternoon and onward.

This government used one of the models in the United States, and that was the Wisconsin model of workfare. Today the bureaucrats in Wisconsin have finally admitted publicly that their program was an absolute failure. The people in Wisconsin said that city shelters are taking in 25% more people, food bank visits are up and soup kitchen visits are up. It's an embarrassment for state officials, all the more so because government ineptitude is partly to blame. When people called for help, they found case workers retired, transferred or swamped. They admitted this may not be the best time to streamline staff.

Guess what the Ontario government is doing under Mike Harris: streamlining government, getting rid of staff people. Those who remain are completely overrun. They don't have the technology in place to bring in this kind of change, and it too will be bungled. It will be bungled just like the family support program was, and that will be to the demise of whom? It will be to the demise of children in Ontario, the very group this minister claims to be supporting.

Let us remember that the people most affected will be the same people who won't have a voice at the polls in the next election. Children will be affected by this. The minister has done nothing to fix the issue of child care. In Metro Toronto alone you have 8,000 people waiting for spaces. When they get their 8,000 spaces, they will be able to go out and find work.

This government needs to understand that every time they go down in the polls, they talk about workfare because they believe they will go back to that populist mantra and the whole world will watch what they're doing and think it's just wonderful. There are children in Ontario who will suffer because of what you are bringing in today, Minister.

This is not a good day to throw out the minister. I am interested in what she has to say to be responsible for the people who need government support the most.


I think all of us in this House have to recognize this one fact: There is an inverse relationship between employment levels and welfare rolls. The sooner we all understand this very basic inverse relationship, the better. When people are working, the welfare rolls are down. It becomes the Ontario government's responsibility to make work for these people --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, folks. Order, please.


The Speaker: I would say to the member for Hamilton East it's a bit of a stretch for you to accuse the minister of provoking you because she's heckling. It happens in here; it heckles. I think we just have to try and maintain some decorum to get to question period. And I ask the government members to come to order, please. This is the response period of time. They're allowed to make their response.

Mrs Pupatello: It's very frightening to think this minister is responsible for children in Ontario with this kind of behaviour displayed today.

The mere fact that 36 communities have been forced into participation begs the question of how she also expects every community in Ontario to be involved in this program when the response initially was absolutely abysmal. It's because they will be forced to play the political game or receive absolutely no funding.

That is why no minister has yet outlined the requirements for all municipalities in Ontario to receive this special grant you're supposed to be giving them. You will hook them in and force them to participate even though every expert who deals with people on assistance understands that this program will not work. It didn't work in the 1930s. It sent cities into bankruptcy.

I am asking every municipality to have a very close look at the increased costs that will be associated with this bill because they will not have the funding to support it.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I have a sense, after yesterday hearing statements from ministers and the statement from the minister today, that we're all going to be treated to a spate of these feel-good, "Everything is rosy out there," announcements from ministers that really have a lot of fluff and not a lot of content. I'm disappointed with the minister's statement today because I think it falls in that category: not a lot of substance.

I've been trying to understand, when a government that is so dedicated to its view of change and the zealous approach it put forward, why things aren't changing out there in a way that is actually making things better for people, in this case people on social assistance. In the zeal to restructure, in the zeal to cut back, in the zeal to pull government out of communities, which is an almost biblical belief on the part of this government, they have moved so fast that they haven't taken into consideration a lot of unintended results. Let me give you some examples.

The minister talks about all these people getting out there into jobs. You cut support for programs for youth employment and as a result there are 100,000 more young workers without jobs. Your workfare is not helping them. They don't have jobs. They did have jobs; they don't now. What does that mean?

We've seen growing numbers of documentaries about kids living on streets who are not going to be eligible under your workfare-welfare reforms for social assistance. They're out there working as squeegee car cleaners without places to live. This is a growing crisis. Minister, your announcements here on workfare don't help those people.

You talk about 88,000 fewer children being on welfare. Minister, there are more children than ever before in the history of Ontario living in shelters, living in abject poverty. Families in shelters aren't entitled to welfare. Some of those numbers you're boasting about are families with kids in poverty who have moved into wee rooms in motels, whole families living together in shelters. That is a crisis your announcement does nothing about.

You talk about the effectiveness of workfare. We have a quote from just this past week from the director of Essex county, who told the press that Ontario Works is nothing more than what they're doing already except that it's mandatory. Show me where the progress is, Minister.

Let me give you a real example of the unintended consequences when you don't think things through. For example, in North Bay there was an organization that was doing placements, that was doing counselling. People were working there doing that job. You cut their grant, that organization is gone, and now workfare participants are doing it. You took away real jobs and now people who are on welfare are doing that through a workfare program.

You say people are getting new skills. Let me give you an example of when you don't think through the unintended consequences. In Algoma the new skills people are getting is painting picnic tables. I don't know how far that's going to take them in the new expending job force in the new changing world you referred to in your statement.

You talk about people gaining self-confidence, and I support that and I hope parts of the program will do that, but there were programs that were doing that. I worked through community economic development, Jobs Ontario Community Action, to establish a program like the Good Food Box, where welfare recipients were working and getting self-confidence and gaining skills. You cancelled that, but you're bringing it back through another door and I hope some of those same things will happen.

The shell game in this, the speed with which you move through your cuts, the speed with which you move through your downsizing and restructuring, the unintended consequences are hurting people in this province. This fluffy statement today without substance doesn't change that reality.

Your Bill 142 that we're going to discuss this afternoon really doesn't have a lot of content beyond giving welfare workers more powers, like police, giving them powers to put liens on people's homes. It really is akin to the Quebec Boubou macoutes. People remember those changes, where you turn welfare into a police-enforced situation, and that is not going to help people get back to work.

I guess what I want to say is that we agree change is needed. Change is needed, but it doesn't have to be this way. Your government has stopped listening to people in Ontario. If you would listen to people, if you would work with people, if you would slow down enough to try and get it right, maybe you could make positive change and the unintended consequences wouldn't be hurting kids, families and youth the way they are.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Just before question period, I'd like to make an introduction of guests.

I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today the Honourable G.H.S. Mdhlalose, Speaker of the Kwazulu-Natal Legislature in South Africa. Welcome.

I would like to draw members' attention to the presence at the table of Geof Mitchell, Clerk of the House of Assembly of South Australia. Mr Mitchell will be joining our table for the remainder of this week to observe our proceedings.

I'm sure I speak for all members, Geof, we welcome you and best of luck.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. A few days ago the lid blew off Ontario Hydro and there was obviously tremendous concern at the time. You provided us with some solemn assurances, first, that there was no danger, and second, that notwithstanding that we could be looking at up to as much as $8 billion in costs to repair nuclear generators, Ontario Hydro ratepayers would not be faced with any rate increases.

I heard earlier today that you, in the course of a scrum, offered that you are now considering rate increases. Would you please tell me that I did not hear properly and that you continue to provide us with every assurance that Ontario Hydro ratepayers are not about to experience any kind of a rate increase.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): You did not hear properly. We are not planning any rate increases.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, I want to come back to this; it's not that easy. This morning there was some discussion about rate increases. You said something to the effect that perhaps it'll be on an average of 5% up or down; that you might consider, for purposes of encouraging conservation, charging more at peak hours and charging less at off-peak hours. Did you or did you not talk about that today in this morning's scrum? Our friends in the media are anxious to speak with you again, according to how you answer this.


Hon Mr Sterling: The first question the media asked me was whether we were planning any rate increases. I said no. I said that the legislative committee, in considering conservation matters, may want to discuss differential rates to encourage conservation of electricity. But this government will not break its promise with regard to a five-year rate freeze for our customers, our residents, our businesses.

Mr McGuinty: There are over three million residential ratepayers in Ontario. They trusted you when they read this Common Sense Revolution. They read in there specifically that a five-year freeze will be placed on hydro rates to give consumers, employers and industries guaranteed stability in planning their budgets. They know that coming this January they're looking at property tax increases as a result of their downloading. What they want to know today -- what they want is your assurance that there is no way that their rates are going to increase as a result of what has happened at Ontario Hydro; and furthermore, regardless of that, that they have this minister's assurance, in keeping with the promise contained in the Common Sense Revolution, that hydro rates are not going up for the next five years, no ifs, ands or buts. Do they have that assurance?

Hon Mr Sterling: You have our assurance from before. The assurance stays the same. We are not changing that assurance. We have made the promise. We keep our promises.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): In the absence of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I'll direct my question to the Deputy Premier of the government that keeps all its promises.

We are receiving conflicting information now on a daily basis. We have every solemn assurance from this government that downloading will not produce any increase in property taxes. On the other hand, we hear from our elected mayors and municipal officials that property taxes are going up.

The latest is from the mayor of North Bay. This is the Premier's mayor. He's telling us that municipal taxes are going to go up 75% as a direct result of downloading. The people of North Bay are wondering, who should they believe? Should they believe the Premier, the man who said he wouldn't close any hospitals, the man who said he wouldn't make cuts to education, the man who said he wouldn't increase user fees or makes cuts to agriculture or the environment? Should they believe the Premier or should they believe their mayor?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I would say to the leader of the official opposition that the provincial government, as he well knows, has accepted a proposal put forward by municipalities in the province of Ontario.

Interjection: You put the proposal forward.

Hon Mr Eves: No, no. You're exactly wrong. You are absolutely wrong. Perhaps certain members have lost their memory over the few short weeks we've been away from this place. There is no doubt that the provincial government put forward a Who Does What proposal. There also is no doubt that the municipalities in the province of Ontario, a group led by Mr Mundell, responded by putting forward a counterproposal to the province, which the province accepted.

We have accepted the municipalities' proposal to delineate responsibilities. We have said from day one and municipalities knew that the municipal support grant of some $667 million was going to be phased out. We told them that. They've acknowledged that. They've known that for a long period of time.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, the people of this province are confused and they want your help in this matter. They're wondering whether they should believe their municipally elected officials or the Premier of the province. Just yesterday the mayor of Hamilton told us that he's completed his numbers, completed his review of the impact of downloading, and he says taxes are going to go up at the municipal level by $60 million; that works out to roughly $250 per household.

Niagara region today announced that their 12 municipalities are looking at a $42-million increase, and that means they're looking at, on average, a $200 increase per household.

You're telling us that it's not going up. The mayors out there, the elected officials at the municipal level, many of them Tories, are telling us that they are going up. I want you to tell us why we should believe you and your government.

Hon Mr Eves: Perhaps the leader of the official opposition would like to listen to the former member for Ottawa West. "Chiarelli said the downloaded responsibilities can be absorbed and said the region's estimate of $82 million in new costs is inflated."

I didn't hear the leader of the official opposition criticize Mr Chiarelli when he was sitting here as his colleague. Why won't you take his advice? They're not going up in Ottawa. There's no reason for them to go up. Throughout the province of Ontario, municipalities can find a 2% efficiency.

Mr McGuinty: This minister and this government have a serious credibility problem. You promised that you wouldn't close hospitals -- that's what this was all about -- you wouldn't make cuts to classrooms, you wouldn't make cuts to agriculture, you wouldn't make cuts to environment, you wouldn't introduce user fees, and you especially wouldn't introduce them on the backs of our seniors. Now you're telling us that property taxes aren't going up. I ask you once again, why, why, why should the people of this province believe you?

Hon Mr Eves: Coming from a party that introduced 33 tax increases in five years, it's almost ridiculous that he --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Hon Mr Eves: Municipalities should easily be able to find 2%, two cents out of every dollar they spend, in efficiencies. If they can do that, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why real property taxes should go up in municipalities.

Mel Lastman doesn't think this is a problem. Mel Lastman says: "I can come up with a 0% tax increase. There's no doubt in my mind that it can be done for the new city of Toronto." As I recall, one of the leader of the official opposition's colleagues is the co-chair of Mel Lastman's campaign.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Deputy Premier. Yesterday, lawyers for the family of Dudley George issued notices of examination to the Premier and the Attorney General, requiring them to appear for questioning under oath in the civil lawsuit on the wrongful death of Dudley George.

Deputy Premier, to my knowledge, this is the first time a Premier has ever been subpoenaed to appear in such a very serious matter. You must have received your legal advice last night from your lawyers on whether you will try to obtain a judicial order that would get the Premier and the Attorney General out of testifying.

Can you tell us now, will the Premier appear at the hearing and answer questions put to him concerning the wrongful death of Dudley George? If your government has nothing to hide about your involvement in the death of Dudley George and the Ipperwash affair, then let the Premier go to the hearing and answer the questions.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I'm sure the leader of the third party is aware that this matter is before the civil courts. I certainly don't have any indication of what the Premier's personal decision will be. I would assume that counsel for either side or all parties in a civil lawsuit will iron out these matters.

Mr Hampton: I thought it was a rather simple question, and I hope the Deputy Premier can come up with a more definitive answer. We spoke with the lawyers who represent the George family, and from their perspective the facts are clear: In the past, the OPP always took the approach of trying to avoid confrontation at protests like the one at Ipperwash, and from their perspective it was because of the direction of the Premier via his executive assistant, Deb Hutton, to have the occupiers removed from the park, nothing else, that the OPP suddenly changed their long-standing role of communicating with the protesters.

What you did is you took away the non-confrontational tools that the OPP had at their disposal and you said very directly to them, "Get the natives out of the park."

I put it to you again, Deputy Premier, will the Premier appear at the hearing to answer the questions?

Hon Mr Eves: With respect to the exact question the honourable member asks, I certainly have no knowledge of the Premier's personal intentions. However, I will comment on the preamble to his question.

He's very well aware of the minutes of a meeting of the interministerial committee on September 6, 1995. He's also very much aware of the three ministerial directives that came out of that meeting.

They are: from the Ministry of Natural Resources, "The minister wants to act as quickly as possible to avoid further damage and to curtail any escalation of the situation"; from the Ministry of the Attorney General, "The minister agrees that application will be made for an injunction"; from the Solicitor General's ministry, "As a matter of protocol, the Solicitor General's office 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 and laying appropriate charges."

Mr Hampton: I think the quotations the Deputy Premier has read into the record add a little further to this. You see, nowhere does it say in the directives from the Solicitor General that the OPP should consider whether to remove the protesters out of the park. It doesn't say that. That's the problem. The Premier has given the direction: "Get the natives out of the park." That was the direction from the Premier through his executive assistant. The ministerial work that follows from there is all on the premise, "Get the natives out of the park."

What the Solicitor General did was leave it up to the OPP on how to get the natives out of the park, but you've taken all the other options away. You said, "No discussion." Even in terms of an injunction, you did not allow for discussion. It was hardball all the way. That was a specific change in the OPP approach. They had never taken that approach before; only on the direction of your government.

Will the Premier attend and answer the questions --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Leader of the third party, please come to order.

Hon Mr Eves: As I've said and I say again, the Premier will make his own personal decision as to what he does with respect to a particular civil lawsuit.

I would like to further add to the last preamble that the honourable member made. I'm not going to try to interpret the words of an individual, the observations that they made of what somebody else supposedly said or didn't say over two years ago. I think the ministerial directives coming out of that meeting speak for themselves. The OPP certainly acted on their own. They were given no direction, either by the Solicitor General or by anybody else, as to how they should proceed. That's the end of the matter.

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

Mr Hampton: I would say to the Deputy Premier, there's a way to answer all these questions: Hold a public inquiry. Let's get all the information out.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Environment, speaking of getting the information out, I have a copy of the press scrum and the comments made by the environment minister today. He said in that scrum very clearly, "higher rates during peak periods and higher rates for the larger amount of electricity you use."

You and Bill Farlinger have been telling people there won't be higher electricity rates, but today you talk about higher electricity rates in peak periods. Which is it? Can you tell all those hardworking people across Ontario who would have to pay those higher rates during peak periods that it won't happen?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): In the scrum this morning, reporters were asking about a number of different issues. One of them was the kinds of policies that could be implemented to encourage conservation, and one of them related to a differential rate classification system. I said that the committee would probably want to discuss that. I said to them also that that was a hypothetical, that it was not under consideration by this government of Ontario and that we intended to stick by our promise.


Mr Hampton: I marvel at your ability to say one thing one day, then to say something else in a press scrum and then to try to change your tune again. Let me put it to this minister this way. In this press scrum you also talk about averages, so I want to pin the minister down. I want to be very clear.

If you're talking about changing the rate package, if you're talking about charging more during peak periods, then the people who will have to pay that are all those hardworking Ontarians who don't have a choice about what time they go to work each day. They don't have a choice about not turning on the electricity at 7 or 7:30 in the morning. They have to get up and they have to be at work at a certain time. They have to have their children off to school at a certain time.

Can you categorically guarantee that you will not be changing the rate structure, so that all those hardworking people don't have to pay more during the periods of the day when they must use electrical power?

Hon Mr Sterling: I have said before, and I'll say it again, we made a promise and we intend to keep that promise. We will not raise hydro rates by some 15% to 25% as was the case during your government's reign.

Mr Hampton: I note that the minister didn't answer my question. The question was this, and I'll put it to you again: If you're talking about raising peak rates, there are all kinds of people in this province who have no choice about when they get up in the morning, when they have to go to work, when they have to use electricity. If you're going to try to raise more revenue off the peak rates, that's going to affect all of those millions of people across this province.

That's the question I put to you, and that's the question you have steadfastly tried to avoid, so I put it to you again: Will you guarantee that you will not try to raise more money through peak rates? Will you guarantee that you will not go after all those millions of hardworking Ontarians who have to get up and go to work every day by attacking their power rate when they must use power? Will you guarantee that?

Hon Mr Sterling: We have made a promise. We intend to keep that promise in terms of what we have said before in the Common Sense Revolution and subsequent statements as to hydro rates in this province. The discussion this morning dealt with what the committee might deal with in terms of conservation measures. There is no intention on the part of this government to consider a rate increase at this time or in the future.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. I want to raise a question on behalf of a very young constituent of mine, Sarah Hanrahan. She's 28 months. She has lived all of her short life at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. She suffers from muscular dystrophy. She is tube fed and wheelchair bound.

The doctors have made a decision now that it's time for her to leave the hospital. She is to go home with her mother. The problem is that her mother also has muscular dystrophy. There is another child at home who is perfectly healthy and the mother has no difficulty whatsoever looking after that healthy child, but she has some very serious problems just anticipating how she is going to be able to care for young Sarah.

There is a waiting list for home care in the Ottawa area. They do not have the necessary hours to meet this mother's need. She is going to be discharged this Friday and sent home to her mother because they need the beds at hospital. I'm wondering what assurance you can provide us, Minister, and what assurance you can provide to Sarah's mother.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm very much aware of the disease muscular dystrophy, as it runs in my own family. I too had a cousin who was eight years a resident of Etobicoke General Hospital and passed away recently.

The fact of the matter is, though, that the rules in this province are very clear regardless of what government is in power. Patients are not allowed to be discharged from hospital until a full care plan is in place. I know that the hospital and the doctors in this case will make sure that a full care plan is in place or else people are not to be discharged from hospital.

Second, with respect to home care, we do not have waiting lists for home care in this province. We've cleared those up. I will doublecheck the Ottawa one. I check them every Monday. We checked yesterday. For in-home nursing -- that's one of the things this government is very proud of -- we do have some waiting lists for occupational therapy and physiotherapy, but that's because we don't have the therapists. We need more young people to go into those professions.

With respect to this particular case, though, the patient may need more hours -- that is, I think, the point you're making -- than are regularly available with home care, and certainly we will do everything we can to accommodate that.

Mr McGuinty: Sarah is going to be discharged this Friday. In an effort to fulfil their responsibilities under the child welfare act, the doctors have notified the children's aid society that this little girl is going to be discharged, and they are recommending that the children's aid society inquire into this and that they look at foster care.

What we have in your Ontario is a little girl, 28 months of age, who is about to be discharged from the hospital. She is going to fall through the cracks. She has got a mother at home who cares for her deeply, who wants to bring her into the house. There is no home care available. There is no better person to care for the child than that mother. She is going to end up in foster care because she has fallen through the cracks in your Ontario.

What I want from you, Minister, is your assurance right now that this is not going to happen and that you are going to ensure that the necessary funding is there or you are going to do whatever it takes to ensure that Sarah can go home to her mother, where she properly belongs, and that her mother will have all the assistance she needs to keep her little girl at home.

Hon Mr Wilson: We've just doublechecked, during the time it took to answer the question, with Ottawa, and there are no waiting lists for home care in Ottawa. We will of course, as we do with every case that comes to our attention, do everything humanly possible to help this family. We will exercise our responsibilities, as I know the hospital will. People are not allowed to be discharged from hospital without a full care plan in place. Every time we look at these cases, we find that plans are being developed. We will make sure a full care plan is in place for this young person.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is also of the Minister of Health. Minister, you're probably well aware of the real needs of the urban population when it comes to health care, but you've done nothing to ensure that the needs of those in densely urban populations are being taken account of when your commission plays its number games and sets savings targets and population-to-bed ratios.

I'm talking particularly of course about our neighbour the Wellesley Central Hospital, which serves the most densely populated area in the province. It has a very high concentration of the poorest people in our province, a high concentration of seniors and a high concentration of people who are very vulnerable to diseases such as HIV infection, tuberculosis and many of the other ills of those who do not have supports within our communities.

Minister, are you prepared today to tell us that you're going to finally pay attention to the needs of the urban population and intervene in the order to close Wellesley Central Hospital?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The benchmarks the commission is using were set by the previous government, the member's government, in 1992, when you outlined a complete plan for urban health care. We've adopted that and we've modified that, and the commission has been working in that framework.

I remind the honourable member that there are significant benefits. First of all, nobody spends more per person on AIDS than this government. We spend $55.9 million on HIV and AIDS. That's $15.7 million more than the federal government spends on its entire national AIDS strategy for all of Canada. Recently, Dr Anne Phillips, whom you appointed to the head of Ontario's AIDS advisory committee, told me, after doing a North American research project on drug plans, that we have the best drug plan in North America for people suffering with HIV and AIDS, and the list goes on and on.


I remind the honourable member that restructuring will ensure that programs for HIV and AIDS currently located in one location will perhaps move, depending on the outcome of the court case, a matter that's before the court now, but everything will move. All of the programs will be in place and there will be more money available because of restructuring --

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

Mrs Boyd: My question was not about AIDS support. You're quite right. Our government did put those supports in for AIDS people and we're grateful this is one area you have not cut.

The question was about your intervention in the orders of your hospital commission in the case of a high-need urban health program offered by a community-based hospital. You try to perpetuate the myth that you are not politically involved. All of us watched you stop the process in Lambton county to ensure there was a rural health program in place. We watched you dance around the whole constitutional issue with respect to Montfort. We're not saying those were bad decisions; we're saying we know you can intervene when it's important.

What the people in dense urban populations who need specific care are asking is that you intervene in this case. Will you intervene and set up an urban health program that pays attention to the special needs of people in those areas?

Hon Mr Wilson: First of all, I have never intervened in any case whatsoever before the commission. You can make up all the theories you want, but history will show this government took the politics out of health care and put it in the hands of the experts.

With respect to an urban health policy, I just want to know what the honourable member is opposed to in Metro Toronto when the urban health policy as established by the Health Services Restructuring Commission calls for 5,207 more nursing home beds badly needed; 4,181 long-term-care community spaces, including in-home nursing and community therapies; five new MRI machines for Metro; the creation of a women's health council, which the Deputy Premier and finance minister announced $10 million for, the first of its kind in North America.

Five times more than is currently spent on women's health research is going to be spent by this government so that women and women's health issues will be the focus of all our health care system and not just one part of downtown Toronto; a Metro-wide rehabilitation system, a coordinated system for children and children's services. Those are the --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister of Health, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Wilson: Those are the benefits of restructuring. In Metro Toronto those beds are badly needed.

The Speaker: Minister of Health, can you please come to order. I don't want to warn you again, Minister of Health.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. Recently, as you'll know and as everyone in this House will know, Hamilton experienced a disastrous fire, one of the worst fires in the history of the province.

Immediately after the fire occurred, residents had some samples taken by the MOE, and I must commend the staff for their fast action in conducting those tests. As a result of the samples that were taken, I wonder if you could clarify for this House and all the members in my riding what the cleanup process has been and how it is proceeding.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I'd first like to thank all of the members who expressed their concern for the people of Hamilton as I was very, very much concerned about this fire as well.

Everyone is eager to have the site cleaned up and the ministry will ensure that happens. The company, Environmental Consulting, stated that the work at the site has proceeded as quickly as possible through voluntary measures.

My ministry became concerned, however, that further progress at the site could slow down, as the environmental consultant and subcontractors indicated on August 7 that they had not been assured of payment. On August 12, the ministry issued a notice of a director's order to Plastimet and Mr Levy, the site owner.

By issuing the notice, the ministry has initiated the legal process that will require the site owner and the operator to continue the site cleanup. The order will call for the recipients to submit and implement a detailed cleanup plan for the site. On August 13, insurance funds were released, allowing a further cleanup procedure to occur. While the property owner is responsible for the cleanup, the ministry will assure the citizens of Hamilton that it will happen.

Mrs Ross: One of the major concerns I've heard expressed to me over a period of time has been the concern about the long-term health effects as a result of the fire. I've kept in close touch with your ministry on this issue, but I wonder if you could explain to the people in this House and to the people at home, to make sure they're kept informed of what's happening, what steps our ministry has taken.

Hon Mr Sterling: The ministry has been working closely with the medical officer of health for Hamilton-Wentworth. Air quality results available to date indicate that there should be no adverse long-term health effects resulting from exposure to any contaminants. This has been confirmed by the chief medical officer of health for the area. We will continue to monitor the aftermath of the fire as continuing sample results are made available to assist public and municipal officials in making decisions about health-related issues.

At a public meeting following the fire, 106 people signed up to have sampling done in their backyards, and we are developing a program to do that. On July 29 a community information trailer --

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): What about a public inquiry, Norm?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I was at that meeting. Where were you?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton Centre, I warn you to come to order. While I'm up, the member for Hamilton East, you can come to order as well. Please let the minister --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): We're concerned about people, Speaker.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, thank you for your assistance.

Hon Mr Sterling: As I was saying, on July 29 a community information trailer was opened to provide information directly to the residents in the area regarding the cleanup and other fire-related issues. It's manned by both the regional medical officer of health and the Ministry of Environment.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Sterling: In addition, we provided a committee of citizens with $40,000 of provincial money, which will help them retain professional expert advice --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question for the Solicitor General. Minister, Bill 105 was an attempt to try to bring some fairness to the cost of policing right across this province, but now that the new property tax costs for policing have been released, they appear to be anything but fair. Some examples in the south: Bruce county, $175 per household; Brant county, $354. In the north it's even worse, from $169 per household in Parry Sound, to Cochrane at $508, to Kenora at $711 per house, average cost, for policing.

Minister, is this fair? How do you explain to some of the poorest municipalities and families in this province that they're going to have to pay more for policing than some of the most affluent areas of this province?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): This is all about fairness. As the member will recall, the last two reports by the Provincial Auditor have recommended that governments take this action with respect to fairness and equitable treatment in terms of policing costs right across this province. In fact, a colleague of the member across the floor -- I won't embarrass him by mentioning his name -- when we made the announcement with respect to equitable financing indicated to me that he'd been waiting 30 years to hear that announcement. Various governments of all political stripes had failed to follow through on this promise. We're following through on a promise we made in opposition.

Mr Ramsay: I don't think any colleague in this House would consider this fair. One of the founding principles of this country and this province is that of cost-sharing. As Ontarians, we accept that we share the responsibility to ensure equal access to basic services across this province. Not only is this expressed in how we fund health care and education, but also social services. Why shouldn't Ontarians share equally the cost of basic protections for their families and their property? Why don't we have one-price policing across this province?


Hon Mr Runciman: The estimates that were provided to municipalities are that, estimates. They are indications of actual, on-the-ground costs of the OPP in any given jurisdiction in the province.

With respect to the northern costs, I understand that some of them are quite high, but the costs of policing in some of the more remote areas of this province are indeed high. In fact, I met with the chief of police in Dryden a couple of weeks ago and indicated that at municipal level as well their costs are substantially higher on a per-household basis than those we have to cope with in south, western and eastern Ontario.

The government, through the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, has indicated on a number of occasions that if municipalities find themselves in difficult circumstances which they are completely unable to cope with, the government has established at least two funds to assist them.

We have to take a look at each individual case, assess the impact on any given municipality. No Ontarian will be faced with an undue or unfair burden as a result of these changes.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. People are very worried about the environmental impact of Hydro's decision to fire up three fossil fuel plants as replacement power. Greenpeace and the Toronto Environmental Alliance held a press conference today to talk about the impact this will have on people's health.

Minister, I don't think you're going to deny saying this -- I too have it in writing: You yourself said that the air will get dirtier. The experts at the press conference today had several suggestions as to how we might deal with this. I think everybody agrees that in the very short term we have no choice but to fire up some of these plants, but they have some very good suggestions. What I want from you today is your commitment that you will ensure that the legislative committee you've agreed to will be able to examine all the environmental implications of the firing up of these plants and alternatives to this for the future.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I would be most anxious to look into the environmental aspect of Hydro's proposed plan and would welcome any other suggestions which either the member or other groups might have to avoid firing up any of these fossil plants, if in fact that's an option.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Will the committee be able to look at it?

Hon Mr Sterling: Of course.

The Speaker: The member for Riverdale is asking the question.

Ms Churley: Whose question is this, anyway?

Minister, I'm glad to hear that, and I'm glad to hear, after you sat down, that you will let the inquiry look at this.

This leads me to a very important question, that is, we need a process that is open and transparent. We need an independent process, not one controlled by your government. A legislative committee with a majority of Conservative members, which we've seen over and over again, means the government will control who appears before the committee, what issues they can address, what resources the committee will have and how they will use them; in other words, everything the committee does. It won't be an independent committee; it will be a government-controlled sham.

I'm asking you today, will you ensure that the committee that investigates Hydro will not have a majority of Tory MPPs and will have the independence to get at the real story behind Hydro and to look to the future and where we go from here?


The Speaker: Order. I didn't even get to hear the last part of the question. The member for Riverdale, finish it.

Ms Churley: The last part of my question is indeed important. I want the minister to assure the House that any committee which investigates Hydro will not have a majority of government MPPs and will have the independence to get at the real story behind Hydro and also will have the independence to look at where we go in the future with our energy needs.

Hon Mr Sterling: By the very definition, all the committees during the NDP government and the past Liberal government were shams, because they were all dominated by government members. I don't believe all of the work those committees did was in fact a sham. I'm talking about majority governments, Mr Bradley. This is a legislative committee. I could not give that assurance without first, of course, talking to the House leader. I'll take it under consideration, but I'd say it would be an unusual departure from our normal practice of business here.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for privatization who also led this government's automotive insurance reform initiative. Minister, as you may be aware, Oshawa has long been known as a city which motivates Ontario and the area has a strong automotive tradition and economic base. This has developed a strong interest in automotive issues in Oshawa. In particular, car insurance rates have been an important concern to car owners.

For years the auto insurance rates have spiralled upwards. The Liberal Bill 68 sparked the increase with a 6.75% increase in one year. Further compounding the matter, the NDP Bill 164 resulted in rates going up by 21% over two years. However, I understand the insurance rates for private passenger vehicles have declined in the last year.

Minister, could you give my constituents --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): Thank you for the question. Through you, Mr Speaker, to my colleague from Oshawa, he's indeed correct. The previous two administrations handed Ontario drivers nothing but auto insurance rate increases and I'm pleased to say that on average the auto insurance plan that we brought forward called Bill 59 has provided good drivers in Ontario with up to now a 5.5% rate reduction year over year since it was introduced last year. In fact, the rates have gone down in each quarter year over year since the introduction of Bill 59 last November.

In addition to that, in addition to providing the rate relief to auto insurance that the previous jurisdictions were never able to do, we were able to provide auto drivers in this province the right to access to tort for claims against injuries they had received as a result of an auto accident in which they were not at fault, a substantial improvement under the existing auto insurance product that the previous two --

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Ouellette: This is certainly encouraging news for Ontario motorists. However, what my constituents would like to know is what the minister intends to do in order to ensure that this trend continues. Bill 59 also included measures to reduce the costly problem of auto insurance fraud. Minister, what exactly are these changes and how will they help keep auto insurance rates down?

Hon Mr Sampson: My colleague from Oshawa is indeed correct. The challenge is not over the day one introduces the bill. Of course, that's the view the prior administrations, both Liberal and NDP, had. We believe that our responsibility to Ontario drivers is to continue to work with the existing legislation, to work with the stakeholders, to work with the consumers, to try to continue to improve the product so that they indeed can have what they deserve: a fair insurance product in this province at a fair price where the rates don't escalate, like those which the two previous administrations provided Ontario.

We intend to have a full and thorough review, and in fact we put it in the legislation that within two years of introducing the bill we would have that review. We are now working with the stakeholders in auto insurance to make sure that we can speak to that review process when the time is up, two years from last November, a year coming from this November.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question to the Minister of Transportation. Minister, on June 7 of this year, six months late, amid much fanfare, you opened the 407 toll highway. There is no question that from a transportation perspective this has been a tremendous success. Officials in your ministry indicated to us today that you're seeing volumes of between 275,000 and 300,000 vehicles a day and you expect those volumes to increase in September.

A very straight question, Mr Minister: When will you begin collecting tolls and who will provide the technology to do that collection when you do begin collecting them?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the honourable member for the question and I certainly want to say to this Legislature that the highway obviously is a tremendous success.

You're absolutely right: When are we going to start to charge for this highway? But I do believe we've had an opportunity to allow the people of Ontario to use the highway free of charge.

Basically what I would like to say to the member is that we are in the process of finalizing some of the concerns that were in place, mainly because of the success of the highway. Because of the success of the highway, the tolling technology was not adequate to make sure everyone was going to be deducted when they went through the interchanges.


Hon Mr Palladini: I'm glad it's very amusing to the honourable members --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): There will be a supplementary.


The Speaker: Come to order, Minister of Transportation.


Mr Duncan: If it wasn't such a financial mess, we might be laughing with the minister and the government members. I will remind the minister that it was your government that signed a deal with Hughes-Bell without the benefit of public tender, without the benefit of any kind of public scrutiny; signed, sealed and delivered. To date, the cost overruns we estimate on the toll system alone to be $100 million. That does not include the interest costs that are accruing on the capital that taxpayers bear the full risk of because you don't have the technology. You're laughing about it and you're refusing to deal with it.

Will you take responsibility today? Tell us, first of all, when will the technology be available, how much does it cost, what penalties have you assigned to Hughes-Bell, and when will the government take responsibility and ensure taxpayers aren't exposed to any more risk due to your mismanagement and your incompetence, resulting from a bad deal that you signed after you became the government?

Hon Mr Palladini: I would like to correct the honourable member. This is a deal that we inherited from the NDP. The highway, I've said, is a success. The delivery method maybe could be questionable, but certainly the highway is a success, and it still is a success. I also want to congratulate our government, because we embraced 407. We are doing everything to make sure it works because we have a responsibility to the people of Ontario. But it is a success, it really is. Technology that was in place was not sufficient to handle the amount of traffic volume we're getting. We as a government made the decision not to toll it in making sure we are going to be able to detect everyone who's going to use it.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Palladini: The technology we had in place was only capable of handling 3,000 vehicles an hour. The technology that we are putting in place will be able to --

The Speaker: New question.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Deputy Premier. Your megacity bill currently allows the ward of East York only two councillors. My colleague Frances Lankin, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, has tabled a private member's bill to increase that number to three. East York will not have the same equitable representation based on councillor to resident population ratio as the other cities. Will you support my colleague's private member's bill?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the honourable member, I'd be happy to take her request up with the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Ms Churley: I'm very, very pleased to hear that because to date, Deputy Premier, we have received nothing but no. I don't know what your colleagues have against the city of East York, because to date the member for Beaches-Woodbine has only heard no. I'm glad you're going to take it up because if you don't, if your caucus doesn't support this or find another way to give them three, they will not have equal representation --


Ms Churley: And don't listen to the member for Don Mills, for heaven's sake, because he said no to this. This is a very sensible suggestion. East York cannot wait until the new megacity council is in place to do this. They will be hamstrung; they will not be able to operate properly. The community will not have fair and equal representation as the other cities do. I ask you to confirm that you will talk to the member for Don Mills and for East York and others and support this very small request for the democracy of East York.

Hon Mr Eves: I can assure that even as you were speaking I was conferring with the Chair of Management Board, who obviously has nothing against East York. I'd be more than happy to take up your request with the minister.


Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph) : Today my question is for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. To keep our Canada strong and united we must create, promote and maintain economic prosperity across the country. You have stated that one of the best ways to achieve this is to break down interprovincial trade barriers. Only then can workers compete in a more fair internal Canadian market. I know that you recently attended the annual premiers' conference. The media has reported that the premiers came very close to eliminating these trade barriers. Workers and employers in my riding of Guelph are interested in knowing what work the premiers accomplished in ending job-killing barriers and, more specifically, what work Ontario is undertaking to end interprovincial trade barriers.

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): I think we all know that the Honourable Bill Saunderson is the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism for the government, and I'd like to thank him for his leadership and his hard work.

At the annual premiers' conference, there were significant gains made in the whole area of reducing internal trade barriers. Everyone in this House knows that Canada has to work harder in this response, but the premiers endorsed that we move forward on implementation of the two-year agreement in two regards. First of all, they directed the ministers responsible to conclude negotiations on the agreement's procurement divisions to municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals, known as the MUSH sector.

In conclusion, they also directed trade ministers to examine, as a major priority, improvements to the agreement's code of conduct --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mrs Elliott: Specifically I'm interested in the changes that Ontario is undertaking for reducing interprovincial trade barriers.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: Again, I think this House is very much aware, with the assistance of both government opposition parties that began some of the work, that we have achieved an agreement with Quebec on labour mobility in the construction industry. We're all hopeful that this will be successful so that we have more access to Quebec construction for Ontario contractors and workers.

With the commitment to open up the MUSH sector, our companies and workers in Ontario can look forward to getting access to a much larger market across the country and can be assured of a level playing field for the contracts that we're successful with.

I think all of these actions will mean more and better jobs for Ontarians and all Canadians. It's been ongoing work for all of us in this House since we've been in government collectively.




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

"Whereas the provincial government has discontinued the northern support grant which has traditionally compensated the north for assessment deficiency and increased service costs; and

"Whereas the north is confronted with unique costs, severe weather conditions, higher prices, difficult terrain, higher levels of unemployment and a lower per capita income; and

"Whereas the provincial government has indicated its intention to eliminate all municipal unconditional grants, including the conditional road subsidy; and

"Whereas there has been no indication that the Ontario mining tax which was implemented to fund northern support grants will be eliminated or reduced;

"Now therefore be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario" be petitioned to fully support and endorse "the position taken by the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, FONOM, in its paper entitled Fairness and Equity for Our North, and that the province be requested to enact a new act to establish and provide on a permanent basis northern Ontario investments for northern municipalities to provide funds to maintain the basic infrastructure in terms of roads, water and sewer facilities and provide funds to stimulate the social and economic development of the north; and

"Further, we the undersigned believe that the amount set aside for the northern development investments be equivalent to the amount set aside for the northern support grant in 1989 indexed on an annual basis."

I affix my signature to this petition, as every northern Ontarian is in support of it.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition that is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to the decision of closing Wellesley Central Hospital. We see this as cutting services, which will negatively affect the overall health of our community.

"We are deeply concerned about our future health care for treatment of acute illness and for emergency care.

"We support the alliance between Wellesley Central Hospital and Women's College Hospital as the only solution."

This is signed by 306 residents of the city of Toronto. I have affixed my signature to it and I agree with the petitioners.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 192 people from the London area. It reads as follows:

"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 each 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 abovenoted conditions;

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

That has been signed by 64 residents of Cornwall and SD&G, and I also signed the petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have the following petition to present to the Legislature:

"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;

"Therefore 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'm proud to add my name to theirs.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition signed by a group of 1,800 constituents who are extremely concerned about the performance of Marilyn Manson at the Ottawa-Carleton Congress Centre on August 1.

These taxpayers strongly object to this group, who promote teen suicide, racial hatred and anti-Christian activity, taking place in a facility which is built and constructed and operated with taxpayers' money. I share their outrage and I am pleased to sign my own name to the petition.


Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I have a petition signed by more than 3,000 people. It's addressed to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the Court of Appeal of Ontario has ruled that it is not an indecent act under the Criminal Code for a woman to go topless in public,

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

"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to immediately enact legislation to prohibit women from being topless in public."

I will sign the petition.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"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, women's-centred focus and accessible downtown location of the one hospital most crucial to the future of women's health."

I agree with the petitioners. This petition has been signed by 52 people of Toronto and we agree with them entirely. I've affixed my signature to it as well.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has been signed by well over 300 people, and I'm very pleased to add my name to this list.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition addressed to the Ontario Legislature, the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ministry of Environment, and it reads as follows:

"Re: Amendments to the city of Vaughan official plan and zoning bylaws to permit a crematory, a cemetery, a columbarium, crematorium and chapel on a 1.769-hectare site at the northeast corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West in the city of Vaughan:

"We, the undersigned, object strongly to the cemetery, columbarium and crematorium that the city of Vaughan has approved so close to our residential community at the abovenoted location in the city of Vaughan. All of us live in the city of North York but in very close proximity to this proposed use. We object to having a large-scale death industry, including a cemetery and the burning of human bodies as a daily event, literally on our doorsteps.

"We are appalled that a conservation authority and the city of Vaughan municipality would do this to us and we ask for your help to stop it. We ask the Minister of Environment to intervene and stop it now. The health of thousands of residents will be at risk. We urge you not to grant approval to this project."

I concur with the petition and I will affix my signature to it.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions signed by members of CUPE, OPSEU, CAW and United Steelworkers. 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 support these petitioners and add my name to theirs.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure that our elected officials work to obtain financial assistance for farmers in Horton township affected by the severe drought and throughout the county of Renfrew."

The member for Renfrew North and myself have been working with the Minister of Agriculture trying to obtain some direct assistance for this very serious situation, and I now affix my signature.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition that reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will effectively suspend all labour relation rights from municipal, health and school board employees affected by provincially forced amalgamations; and

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will hurt average workers in every community across Ontario, including nurses, teachers, firemen and police officers; and

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 was designed to provide the government with sweeping powers to override longstanding labour negotiation rights for workers, including the right to negotiate, the right to strike, the right to seek binding arbitration and the right to choose a bargaining unit;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, support our MPP, Frank Miclash, in his opposition to this legislation and join him in calling upon the Harris government to repeal Bill 136, which creates a climate of confrontation in Ontario."

I have attached my name to the petition as well.


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

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

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

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

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

"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, in place."

I am proud to affix my signature.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas over half the people of 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."

This is signed by many people from my riding, and I'll sign it.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Hamilton East has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Environment and Energy concerning the fire in Hamilton. This matter will be debated at 6 pm this evening.



Mrs Ecker moved second reading of the following bill:

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

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill 142, the Social Assistance Reform Act. This bill introduces two new legislative frameworks: the Ontario Disability Support Program Act and the Ontario Works Act. I will be followed by the member for York-Mackenzie, Frank Klees, who will speak to the specifics of the Ontario Works Act, and the member for Chatham-Kent, Jack Carroll, who will address the specifics of the Ontario Disability Support Program Act.

This legislation keeps two of the major commitments in the Common Sense Revolution. We promised major reform for Ontario's welfare system. We promised the creation of a new and separate program for people with disabilities.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Point of order, Mr Speaker: It's not clear whether the member is saying she is splitting her time between those people and she needs to get unanimous consent in order to split her time.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles Morin): I didn't hear anything so please carry on.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Thank you very much. We promised the creation of a new and separate program for people with disabilities. With this legislation we are keeping both promises.

For people with disabilities, this will create a new program which significantly improves income and employment supports. For Ontario's welfare system, self-sufficiency will become the goal. We have been guided by three principles in these reforms: fairness, accountability and effectiveness.

Social programs simply must be fair to both the people who need them and the taxpayers who pay for them. There is a mutual and interlocking set of accountabilities. Ontario Works participants are accountable for their own efforts to become self-sufficient and to join or rejoin the workforce.

Government is accountable to taxpayers and to those for whom the programs are designed. In addition to short-term financial support, government must both provide practical steps that will aid in a rapid return to employment and encourage the economic climate that will ensure those jobs will be available.

Programs that merely provide financial assistance that make no contribution towards assisting, for example, welfare recipients back into the workforce are a double failure. They let down both people who need assistance and the taxpayers. They perpetuate the cost and they prolong the problem.

Effectiveness means far more than spending dollars where they are most needed. Effectiveness means programs that work and that are seen to work. Effectiveness produces positive results -- the shortest route to self-sufficiency and a job in the case of people on welfare. For people with disabilities, it produces better control over living and job supports, more assured income and a better chance of securing and retaining work. Fairness, accountability and effectiveness.


Let me now address the two reform packages in greater detail, beginning with the Ontario disability support program. People with disabilities have been telling Ontario governments for years that the system wasn't working. Their income support came from welfare, and that fact has limited society's view of what people with disabilities can do. It has failed to match their own self-expectations. It has categorized them as permanently unemployable, a label and stigma that is false, unfair and wrong. Put most simply, the old welfare program did not meet their needs.

For people with disabilities, employment supports and services were delivered under the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act. There were some success stories, but there were also many horror stories from a system staggering under arbitrary rules and processes.

I've spoken before of the man who needed artificial arms for a training course as a mechanic. When the training was over he got his licence, but the program took the arms back. He wasn't deemed unemployable, because he was a licensed mechanic, so he couldn't get disability benefits. He couldn't get help from another program because that supplied prosthetic limbs only to assist in acts of daily living, not for employment aids. And on it went.

This isn't a criticism of the people working in the system, those who deliver those services. The fault lies with the system itself. Inside and outside government a great many people knew what was wrong, but somehow the necessary political priority to fix it never materialized. It has now. These criticisms were made forcefully and repeatedly to us during the consultations we conducted. People with disabilities and the organizations that represent them asked for a separate program to meet their needs; we agreed. They asked for more personal control and choice, more flexibility and practicality in the supports to employment that were available to them; we agreed. They asked for an end to mandatory counselling. It should be available for those who do need it, but not forced on those who don't; again we agreed.

The important new focus has to be on abilities, not disabilities. The new program has to look at what people can do and want to do, not what they can't do, and it will. The final instruction from the consultations was simply to get on with it, and we are.

The purpose and goal of this legislation is a comprehensive and effective program for people with disabilities. It will meet their unique needs. It will provide greater fairness and consistency.

Our first objective was that the reformed program begin with clear and understandable criteria for eligibility. They will assess how a disability restricts activities at home, in the community and in the workplace. We will end frequent retesting and reassessment. Obviously, retesting is needed and useful in cases where conditions are expected to improve, but in others repeated assessments are personally intrusive and a waste of time and money.

We know that some people with disabilities need lifelong support. For others, the needs are of shorter duration or cyclical. In both cases, many people with disabilities want to live and work with as much independence as possible. So our second objective is that the new program provide greater opportunities for independence.

There are unique costs that result from disability, and it is only fair that these be recognized more fully. Under the old system, for example, when a person with a disability found employment but the job did not work out for whatever reason, there are delays in the reinstatement of benefits. They have to reapply, leaving them for a period without disability benefits. That practice will end. Benefits will be reinstated immediately if the employment cannot continue.

There are other improvements in the new program. We intend to raise the limits on cashable assets and on retention of compensation awards. We will remove the fees for technological aids that assist in daily living. We will permit loans against life insurance policies to assist with the costs of such serious illnesses as AIDS and cancer.

All families in Ontario want to help their children to a secure future. That is particularly true for the families of people with disabilities. Those families spoke loudly and clearly during the consultations. They wanted and they will have the ability to make contributions to their loved one without triggering a financial penalty. They will now be able to buy specially equipped furniture or appliances or bathroom fixtures, for example, without that cost being deducted from the disability benefits their family member receives. They wanted and will have the ability to make annual contributions towards other costs to improve the quality of life of their family member, such as vacation, travel or housing supplements. They wanted and will have higher limits on inheritances and more flexible rules on their use. They wanted and will have more generous rules governing family trusts.

The final major theme we heard repeatedly during the consultations was that people with disabilities do work, can work and want to work. So the third objective is to assist them towards that goal with practical employment supports that produce real and measurable results. The range of potential supports will be broader, from employment planning assistance and skills development through technological aids and devices to interpreters and ongoing job supports. The range is very wide and will be tailored to individual needs. It might include a voice-activated computer, for example, or specialized training or job coaching. Consultation and advisory services for the employer, the new employee and his or her fellow workers will be available both initially and on an ongoing, on-demand basis. People with disabilities that create a substantial barrier to seeking, getting or keeping a job will have much more choice and much more control over the supports they need and receive.

In replacing rather than simply amending the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act, we are recognizing the judgement of people with disabilities themselves. The existing act had its successes, but its weaknesses were so widespread that fundamental change was needed. That act is being replaced. We intend to see that the Ontario disability support program is significantly more effective than its predecessor.

Among other changes, there will be more resources going directly to services and less to administration. The current training allowances under the VRS Act will be reinvested in employment supports under the Ontario disability support plan. When the system is completely implemented, spending on employment supports for people with disabilities will increase from approximately $18 million today to close to $35 million.

Another change has to do with drug and alcohol addiction. Under the current welfare system, people with drug and alcohol dependencies are included with people with disabilities, regardless of their specialized needs. That will no longer be the case. In future, for those requiring treatment for addiction, there will continue to be substance abuse programs available through the Ministry of Health. If income support is necessary, those individuals would apply for financial assistance under Ontario Works.

The new Ontario disability support program, then, has three clear objectives: It recognizes unique needs; it supports independence; it supports employment. Moreover, it takes into account the shared responsibilities of governments, communities, families and individuals. It translates the principles of fairness, accountability and effectiveness into reality.


We were therefore particularly pleased at the initial reaction that welcomed these proposals. Mr Gary Malkowski, of the Canadian Hearing Society, a former NDP member of this Legislature, described the bill as the most positive kind of announcement we've had in some time. The NDP member for Beaches-Woodbine said on June 5 that the proposed legislation has the potential of becoming one of the most significantly positive programs for people with disabilities in Ontario. I thank them both for those comments and I agree. It is this government's intention to ensure that potential is realized. We remain open to additional ideas and suggestions while the legislation is being considered and the regulations developed.

Let me now turn to the changes we are proposing for Ontario's welfare system. It is difficult to imagine an area of public policy that was more in need of fundamental reform. When we assumed office just over two years ago, Ontario's welfare system was out of control. Previous NDP and Liberal governments increased payment levels to record heights. And the end result? The number of people on welfare tripled between 1985 and 1995. Costs went up by a factor of five, from $1.3 billion to $6.8 billion annually. In just one decade NDP and Liberal governments had spent $40 billion on welfare.

When we became the government, 12% of Ontarians were trapped on welfare. Canada's richest province had the highest per capita welfare caseload in the country. I think that's a shameful record. Even the previous government recognized that the system wasn't working. Former Premier Bob Rae said, "It doesn't make sense to pay people to sit at home." One of his community and social services ministers said: "If there's one thing just about everyone agrees with, it's that Ontario's welfare system isn't working. It's an expensive system. It's a confusing system." But that recognition did not translate into needed reforms. By June 1995 there were 1.3 million people trapped on welfare.

We were elected to do, actually do, what previous governments had only talked about and it is important to note that these legislative reforms are the next and most important step in a series of concrete reforms, many of them already in place.

We started with the obvious: People are better off working. First came jobs. Our government's economic and fiscal policies are aimed straight at creating a climate of sustainable economic growth. The results speak for themselves: 124,000 new jobs in the last five months alone. To give people on welfare the skills and experience to help them seek, find and hold jobs, we introduced mandatory workfare. Doing nothing is no longer a choice.

But our reforms did not stop there. Welfare rates were reduced. The new rates are still 10% above the average of Canada's other nine provinces. Recipients are allowed to earn back the difference between the old and new rates without penalty. It was and is the most generous earn-back provision in the country.

To protect the system for those who truly need it, we must stop those who abuse it. We established a welfare fraud hotline, the first of several moves to reduce and eliminate this theft from taxpayers and those on the system.

To stop those on welfare from collecting benefits from government programs they are not eligible for, we are developing new information-sharing agreements with other provinces and Ottawa and between ministries. This is necessary, for example, to stop welfare cheques going to prisoners. We tightened eligibility for teenagers, for people living in common-law relationships, for people who left jobs voluntarily or refused employment. Those and other reforms are already showing results.

There are 210,000 fewer Ontarians relying on welfare, an unprecedented reduction in the caseload. An independent 1996 survey found that more than 60% of those leaving the system left for employment-related reasons. Over $8 million has been recovered through the welfare fraud hotline. More than 36,000 people have already participated in one or more of the mandatory Ontario Works activities in the more than 35 municipalities already delivering the program. Participants' experience has been overwhelmingly positive. So has that of the municipalities and organizations working with them.

Those initial reforms were important. They proved what could be accomplished with a different approach. But they are just a beginning, a downpayment on the commitment we made to Ontarians to deliver fundamental welfare reform. This legislation before us today simply continues down that path. As promised, it will fundamentally change the welfare system from handing out cheques to getting people back to work, from trapping people in dependency to encouraging self-sufficiency. This bill was designed using the same three principles referred to earlier: fairness, accountability and effectiveness.

A welfare system has to be fair to the working Ontarians who pay for it. It has to be fair to those who need its help. A fair welfare system has to be a program of last resort designed to get people back into the workforce. A fair welfare system has to ensure that people are better off at work than on welfare. Welfare is not a way of life. Welfare is about to become a way back to work.

These changes in both philosophy and practice have been criticized, but the criticism ignores several essential points: there is no humanity in warehousing people in the name of social assistance; there is no compassion in fostering dependence instead of building self-respect and self-reliance; there is no fairness in wasting human potential by not acting to fix what we know is not working.

A good welfare system provides income when people have nowhere else to turn. A good system simultaneously helps them find the fastest possible route to a paying job, of the jobs that Ontario's growing economy is producing. Government must be actively accountable for designing and delivering the programs and we will be. Those who receive welfare must be actively accountable for participating in those programs and they also will be.

I want to draw the members' attention to six changes in particular proposed in the bill: (1) to include sole-support parents; (2) newly mandatory services for children; (3) the future recovery of a portion of taxpayers' investment from welfare recipients who own their own homes; (4) new measures to reduce fraud; (5) an improved delivery system; and (6) the ministry's role in monitoring compliance.

First, the changes for sole-support parents. We know that the longer a parent is on welfare, the tougher it is to get off. We know that children are better off when their parent is working. We therefore intend to provide single parents with the same opportunities available to others on welfare. Participation in Ontario Works will be mandatory for single parents with children in school. If child care is needed, it will be provided. The government has committed $30 million to meet these needs. The inclusion of sole-support parents is one of the most effective ways of breaking the cycle of dependency that can be so depressingly familiar: Grow up on welfare, live on welfare.

Second, we are proposing an improvement in access to basic services for children. Until now, basic vision and dental care for children in financial need have been discretionary under the General Welfare Assistance Act. We believe that those services should be mandatory for all children who are beneficiaries of Ontario Works, and under the new program they will be.

The third key change here deals with recovery of some portion of the taxpayers' investment. An important authority conferred by the Ontario Works Act relates to the ability to place a lien on the residence of a person on welfare where circumstances warrant. The purpose is to allow taxpayers to recover a portion of their investment and support, but only when a home is eventually sold or refinanced or when ownership changes. No one is going to be forced to sell their home to satisfy such a lien.

A fourth change would improve our ability to fight fraud. Estimated fraud levels have ranged from 3% to 10%. The Provincial Auditor has stated that fraud may be as high as $100 million a year. Various commentators have said that those figures are either way too high or way too low. I say they're way too much and no amount of fraud is acceptable. This form of theft from taxpayers is not going to be tolerated, not just because it takes money away from those who truly need it. Welfare fraud destroys the credibility and justification for a welfare system in the minds of those who pay for it. It stigmatizes those doing their best to get off the system.


The Ontario Works Act provides two broad approaches to reducing and eliminating welfare fraud. There are tougher rules for who can get welfare and tougher penalties for those who abuse it. The new legislation also gives government the authority to use new identification technologies. We must be certain that only those who need welfare will receive it.

One of the technologies with great potential is finger scanning. Members who have heard or read misinformed criticism of this technology should know that finger scanning is not fingerprinting as used by police authorities. It is a much more sophisticated approach to individual identification and verification.

The process of electronically scanning a finger produces a unique identification number. It can only be reproduced when the same individual's finger is scanned again. Having the number does not allow the re-creation of the fingerprint and therefore protects privacy. The only purpose is to prevent the claiming of benefits under multiple names or false identities. It is just one tool, but an important one, and it is now being tested and evaluated by Metro Toronto. If it can be used on a cost-effective basis to reduce fraud, we plan to introduce it province-wide.

The fifth key change in this bill is structural. The Ontario Works Act contains the first substantial legislative changes to how we actually deliver welfare programs and services in more than 30 years. The existing system, delivered by two levels of government, created needless duplication and waste. The bill provides for one welfare system delivered at the municipal level. Municipalities have a proven track record in delivering welfare. These governments are closer to their communities, they are more flexible and they can be more cost-effective.

At the same time, we will reduce the number of municipalities delivering welfare from some 200 to approximately 50, thereby streamlining administration. Municipal and first nation delivery agents will be able to build on their experience and strength in providing programming that is sensitive to local needs. In addition to the changed delivery system, the bill also provides for a more effective and streamlined appeal process.

The sixth and final key change concerns the role of the ministry. The legislation ensures that across the province, Ontario Works will be delivered within a comprehensive framework of standards and common systems. The ministry will monitor compliance and ensure the standards are respected. I should emphasize that this applies to assistance under both the income and employment portions of Ontario Works.

If welfare is based on mutual responsibilities, if we are going to require people to participate in program activities as a condition of eligibility, there is a quid pro quo. Government and its delivery agents, in this case municipalities, have an equal responsibility to offer people an integrated program of the services and supports they need to become self-sufficient. The act provides the ministry with the authority to hold delivery agents responsible for making those services available

In summary, our experience with Ontario Works already shows that the new approaches are working. The proposed legislative changes will help them work better still. For participants in Ontario Works, community participation is allowing them to improve their employability and make contacts with prospective employers. Referral to basic education and jobs-specific skills training is providing the opportunity to upgrade qualifications. Job search assistance and employment placement are delivering direct help in finding and getting a job.

These aren't just theories. Ontario Works participants themselves are telling us they work.

I'd like to read from an excerpt from a letter by a participant from Brockville:

"The placement has given me an opportunity to demonstrate my skills. Some of my co-workers and a few business associates have offered to supply me with employment references. As a result of my Ontario Works placement, my self-esteem has improved tremendously. I am a much happier, confident person today and I am only in my third month. I strongly support and recommend this program, and I truly believe anyone would benefit from participating in Ontario Works."

A 22-year-old single mother in Sault Ste Marie recently said this about her experience with Ontario Works: "It's a great opportunity for me to get job experience. I love it, being able to do something with myself, knowing I can give my kids a future. I don't want to rely on the government. Now I feel better about myself."

The purpose of the Ontario Works legislation is exactly that kind of outcome, to give people on welfare the opportunity to get off. The three components of mandatory workfare -- community participation, job supports and job placement -- are being tested. We find they work in theory and in practice.

The programs that will result from this bill are fair to taxpayers and to those on welfare. All involved are clearly and specifically accountable. The positive results already available to date prove the effectiveness of these new approaches.

The Social Assistance Reform Act fulfils our promises to people with disabilities, to people on welfare and to the taxpayers of Ontario. The Ontario Works Act significantly improves the job prospects of people who are required, by economic circumstances, to rely on welfare for their existence. The Ontario Disability Support Program Act deals separately and justifiably with people with disabilities. They are a very special group of Ontarians. They do not ask and do not want charity. They do require full recognition of their abilities and their needs.

This legislation presents to both groups the prospect of a better future, a better life. It brings to both groups significant improvements in the way they are treated by their society. For Ontario taxpayers, but most certainly for the hundreds of thousands of our citizens who will benefit even more directly, who will finally see political will and political action replace political rhetoric, this legislation is a significant and common sense step forward.

I strongly recommend this legislation for the favourable consideration of all members.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'll briefly respond to the minister, and we'll get an opportunity later, after my colleague does the opening part on behalf of our caucus.

Clearly, as this government has done with any type of welfare reform, they have taken the opportunity to bring in some small changes that are beneficial, but within that they have incorporated hundreds of changes that continue to hurt the poor in this province.

We have seen a track record from day one. We've seen a government that decided their first action was to cut welfare benefits by 22%, a government that has continued its attack on the needy and the poor in Ontario right from day one. No one in this House would disagree that we need meaningful welfare reform, welfare reform that makes sense, welfare reform that helps people, but what we have seen from this government continuously, time and time again, it's simply a continued attack on the poor for sheer crass political purposes.

Every time the numbers start dropping, every time the government agenda gets thrown off, they bring back workfare, they talk about workfare, not because workfare makes sense, not because workfare helps people who are receiving assistance today, but because workfare's politically a hot potato for the government. It's an exploitation of the needy and it's one you pushed throughout the campaign time and time again. You didn't care about beating up people. You didn't care about the 400,000 kids for whom you've cut 22% off benefits. You know why? Because the whiz kids in the Premier's office told you that'll sell. You didn't care how it would impact people.

There isn't one jurisdiction in North America where workfare has been a success, unless you want to talk about New Jersey, unless you want to talk about New York state. If you want to compare yourself to that, you go right ahead. Ontarians pride themselves on not being New Jersey or New York and this government is leading us down that path.


Mrs Boyd: It is very clear in the introduction that the minister has given to Bill 142 and in her ministerial statement earlier today that she continues to play on the concerns of the electorate in this province around issues of welfare, that she continues to play on the myth that has been created, largely by right-wing politicians in North America, that those who are poor are to be blamed for being poor, they are to be controlled, they are to be forced to work, they are at every step to be considered to be less than eligible for due consideration under the law.

It is going to be important as we go through the discussion of this bill for those of us in the opposition parties to have an opportunity to point out exactly how virulent is the attack on those who are most vulnerable in our society under the guise of improvement to the welfare system.

There is no one, I would say, who would suggest that our current system did not have to be reformed. I don't think there's a recipient in the province who would make that claim. I certainly don't think there is a politician or an administrator who would make that claim.

But the way in which the government has gone about its change, the rhetoric it has used against those who are most vulnerable in trying to boost its own political fortunes at the expense of the poor, is quite reprehensible. It is going to be important for us as we look at these changes to show exactly what is going to be beneficial and what is going to be harmful and what changes in this act are going to be needed if they're to have the effect that the minister so proudly says they will.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I appreciate the opportunity to make a couple of quick comments on the statement by the minister. The first thing I'd like to comment on is the member for Hamilton East, who is now so critical of our Ontario Works program. I believe, if the record is right, that during his election campaign he professed to believe in the principle of asking people to work for their welfare benefits, so it's interesting now that he's in opposition that he is critical of a program that we promised, that we're now delivering on.

The Ontario disability support plan: The member for Hamilton Centre talked about how we are picking on the most vulnerable. I believe the most vulnerable are the people whom we are moving out of the welfare system into their own system of the Ontario disability support plan, another commitment that we made during the election that we are now delivering on. Those folks should never have been in the welfare system. We should be allowing them to participate in a lifestyle that is commensurate with what it should be. We should be giving them opportunities to be trained to work, rather than be reassessed and reassessed and reassessed. We should give them real opportunities to learn working skills that they could put into practice.

Contrary to what the opposition would say about what we have done, in actual fact we have made the welfare system a system where here is an opportunity to learn some skills, to get back to work so that you can become a contributing member of society instead of being trapped in the system.

For the Ontario disability support plan for the people who are disabled, we have said to them: "We are going to put you into a plan of your own. You're not welfare recipients. We're going to take good care of you and we're going to give you opportunities to learn a skill so that you can back to meaningful employment."

I compliment the minister on a great act.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? Minister, would you like to sum up?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I think that my honourable colleague Mr Carroll has made some very good points, but I think it is important to recognize that the social assistance system is not to keep people on for great periods of time. The social assistance system is to help people get off the system. I think it's important to recognize that 210,000 individuals are no longer relying on the social assistance system. They don't want to be there. They want to get off. They want to get jobs.

This government takes that responsibility very, very seriously, not only to the taxpayers who pay for that system but also to those individuals who want off. That's why, through our economic agenda, through trying to encourage and support the private sector in doing what it does best in terms of creating jobs, we are moving forward to make sure those positions, those jobs are out there. We are also moving forward through our welfare reforms to try to make sure that individuals who are on that system get the help they need to get off.

One of the very fulfilling, if you will, or interesting experiences that I've had in the last many months is to go around to some of those workfare sites, some of those community placements where people are having the opportunity to contribute back. To talk to those individuals one on one and in small groups and to listen to their stories has certainly reaffirmed my belief that we owe those individuals the help to get off the system.

That's why we are proceeding with these reforms. The fact that the public supports these reforms, I make no apologies for that. This government said that we were going to do this when we went out and asked for the people's support. We are now proceeding with that and I make no apologies for that, and I think that is a record that is certainly something the public expects. This is not something that has been designed to attack the poor, as the opposition keeps saying. This is something to help.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Your time is up. Further debate? The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): At the outset I'd like to ask for unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Hamilton East.

The Acting Speaker: Unanimous consent to split with the member for Hamilton East? Agreed.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you. I would like to say initially that the bill is very large in nature and it will take an awful lot of time, I think, and I expect to have that time through the process of debate, through committee hearings, through additional debate in third reading, to get through all of the detail that is in the bill we have before us, Bill 142.

If I may just start with a brief comment on the minister's presentation, if we had to listen to that salve, to that soothing voice telling us, "Everything's okay," you would think that there would be bouquets of flowers at her feet while we pray to the altar of Mike Harris for all the wonderful things he's done for people on social assistance. Unfortunately, all of the people in Ontario who work with people who are in need understand that is diametrically opposed to the reality in Ontario today. What we know is true in Ontario is that finally, after a significant recession of the early 1990s which continued for some extended period of time, things are certainly moving in some places in Ontario.

What that means immediately for many, many individuals in Ontario is people are allowed to come off the welfare system and move into real jobs, that in fact welfare rolls and employment rates have an inverse relationship. When employment rates rise, welfare rolls decline. What's very worrisome is that knowing that is happening, knowing that our economy is starting to turn around, we're seeing proof of that not only in the United States but certainly across the board in Canada, and we would hope that Ontario too would be experiencing that, given that we're one of the largest economies in Canada.

So, yes, we expect that welfare rolls will drop. It's a function of the economy. What we do see, though, is a government, Mike Harris particularly, deciding that this is a good time to say he's the guy who's doing it. He's moving these people off because he's creating the reforms in the system that have long been overdue.

Let me tell you that every government, despite its political stripe, has always advocated getting people into real jobs. All of us, the Liberals, the NDP, all of them tried to do exactly what they could to move people into real jobs.

This would in no way explain the litany, the many, many examples of punitive measures that we find in Bill 142. When you consider that we are adding fingerprinting -- criminals today in Canada are fingerprinted and now we are seeing fingerprinting -- oh excuse me, they're not calling it that. They're calling it biometric information. I think I learned that word on Star Trek some time ago. They're introducing fingerprinting, which to date is only used for criminals, in Bill 142, dealing with those who receive social assistance.

We have probably the greatest number of areas where you have no right of appeal as an individual, which in my view and in the view of many -- I think the legal position will be that it is against the Ontario Human Rights Code that merely as a function of your financing you will not be allowed the basic right to appeal decisions that have been made, not from a Social Assistance Review Board, as in the past, that you would say was judicial, but in fact a tribunal that's been struck by this government with no right of appeal for individuals.


All I can say initially is, God help us, every one us, if we can't find a job in this province, God help anybody who is now being threatened with the loss of a job, because when your employment insurance runs out, we don't know what's going to happen to you in Ontario. What used to happen in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, when Ontario was in an upswing, was we had some massive population increases in Ontario. We certainly had numbers of refugees and immigrants coming, but we also had a significant movement of people from across Canada coming to Ontario who accounted for a huge surge in Ontario's population.

While the government wants to say, "Oh, well, those Liberals, even when they were doing well in terms of the economy, their welfare rates didn't decline," the truth is you can't look at any one area as if it's only its own little silo, because everything affects our economy and certainly everything affects our welfare rolls. It's true this government will significantly limit your access to a system if you need help, and my greatest fear is -- I hope it's not you, I hope it's not the people in my riding of Windsor-Sandwich and I hope it's not the people in Wawa, people who used to know that even though the economy has changed and for some reason that plant closure has affected them and they know employment will only last a certain period of time -- I just hope it's not you who finds you actually have to turn to Mike Harris's new Ontario for some kind of support because circumstances you haven't been able to control have affected you in such a negative manner. Let me tell you, this is not a place you're going to want to be in.

Let me say too that workfare is not new. It's not new to Ontario. It's not new to Canada. It has certainly been tried in many jurisdictions in North America, specifically in the United States. Since we looked at other jurisdictions so carefully, why didn't we go further to ask these jurisdictions what kinds of results they were seeing from bringing in workfare?

I wanted to mention the Wisconsin model in particular, because now, after having introduced workfare some time ago, we're starting to see some pretty significant results, and I might tell you it's not a pretty picture.

I reference an actual script that was on a radio program. The reporters there talked to the Wisconsin bureaucrats and community people who were involved with the workfare program there, and I think it's worthwhile in this opening to just remark on what their experiences were.

There was an individual who works with homeless people there and what he said with the introduction in Wisconsin of workfare was, "The reality is that nobody knows what happened to these people" -- their welfare rates dropped dramatically as well; no one knew what happened to the people -- "The state wants to say, `You know, well, some of them moved out of state and some of them got a job.'" The truth is nobody knew. When you're dealing with, in that case, only 14,000 households, he couldn't understand why it was so incomprehensible that some of them certainly wound up in shelters.

They give a brief description: "...at the Joyhouse shelter in Milwaukee, the doors burst open to admit a running tangle of children and, following more slowly behind, their mothers. Thirty-three-year-old...and her two daughters sagged together on a couch. Grant has just spent a 10-hour day working for less than minimum wage at a day care centre, the training job set up for her under Wisconsin's Welfare to Work program." The worker at this place, not the individual, says: "It's not working too good." You know, these women, they're all living on the street now.

"Joyhouse, like all the city shelters, is taking in about 25% more people.... Visits to food banks are up 14%, soup kitchens 20%." While this is hardly what they consider a huge calamity, "it is an embarrassment for state officials, and all the more so because government's ineptitude is partly to blame." The cabinet secretary there in charge of welfare admitted that using all the dense legalese in the letters that were sent to welfare families about the coming changes, "We ultimately found out or realized that that really was confusing." No kidding.

"And when people called for help, they found case workers retired, transferred, or swamped." Stewart in fact admits this may not have been the best time to streamline staff.

"They did, however, choose this moment to replace the computers with a new system and all the usual high-tech glitches that entails," and the homeless advocate there said "too many families are penalized for what later turns out to be bureaucratic bungling."

My concerns here in Ontario are that the Mike Harris government has a track record when it comes to changing systems in ministries. It's an absolute disaster.

I'd like to hearken back to the family support program. We had thousands and thousands of moms out there not receiving funding that was very rightly theirs through family support, because the Attorney General decided they were going to fix the system, decided to change all the computer systems at the same time they closed all the regional offices down, so there weren't the people to help individuals who were having trouble accessing the system. Ultimately what is most offensive is that this is a minister and a government who stand up and purport to be for children, and when they've made these kinds of changes, the ones who have been the most impacted have been children -- not a blink of an eye from this government.

It's the children who have been affected. All those Conservative MPPs can sit there and start rifling off statistics, if you will, about people off the welfare system, and all I can tell you is that your government policy to date where it impacts on welfare recipients has not once taken a look at how these changes are affecting children. It is not a government priority, and if you continue to say it, it doesn't make it so. Government of this day, in Mike Harris's Ontario, children are simply not a priority.

We don't believe it's a crime to be on welfare. We do believe that in most cases it's a function of economic stability in the town you're in, the city you're in. There will always be cases of people who abuse the system and it is completely unacceptable, but the response to that has to be something that's workable and not based simply on ideology.

Workfare pilot projects so far haven't been successful and municipalities so far participating, as the minister admits today, are a mere 36 communities out of over 750 communities in Ontario. That in itself is an abysmal failure, and I'll tell you what I believe is the reason for that. Social service commissioners right across Ontario, from day one, were afraid that workfare would come to their communities, because they knew. These are people who work in the field, who work with recipients of social assistance. They understand what the needs are of people and also understand that mandating workfare does not work.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: So much to say and so few people have chosen to be here to listen to what are indeed words of wisdom, and a reminder that a lot needs to be done in addressing those basic needs here in our province, and who better to do it than the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

The Acting Speaker: Do you have a point of order?

Mr Pouliot: Would you check if we have a quorum, please.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich.


Mrs Pupatello: I wanted the opportunity to speak with MPPs across the House. I feel they might be enlightened by what happens in other parts of Canada and other parts of the US that have since realized that workfare has been a failure. What frightens me is that the government isn't learning from mistakes that others have made. They are prepared to go down the same path and make the same blunders and the same errors. The point is, in this case children will feel that and so will individuals who can afford it the least.

We also understand that given information the minister herself gave us today, some 36,000 recipients were somehow on a workfare program. What we know to be true, in checking out those numbers, is that they're all overinflated. In fact, when the minister went to all the municipalities to say: "What have you got for us? Have you got a project for us yet?" they didn't want to participate. All of a sudden the municipalities started feeling the heavy hammer of Mike Harris. Once again there was a threat of withdrawal of funds if municipalities didn't participate in the program.

Second, when the initial numbers came in the minister was so aghast that the response was so poor that they went back to the municipalities and said: "You're going to have to beef up those numbers. That's just not good enough." They took people who were in a whole myriad of programs and just threw them all in so the minister today could stand up and say, "We have 36,000 people in the program." It's a crock. That is not the real number. Thirty-six communities out of over 750 and you have had to beg, then you got no response, then you threatened and you started getting some response.

The way the municipal grants now are going to be structured, we still don't know what the qualifying factors will be in any city or town getting grants from the province for any of the services you've now dumped on them. What we know will happen is that the grants, the community support grants you've offered, the strings attached will be their participation in workfare even though social services commissioners right across the board will tell you that it didn't work in the 1930s and it will not work today. There are other jurisdictions; it doesn't work there either.

What it does is serve a very populist mantra. When people are feeling unstable and when people are feeling threatened themselves -- will they have a job? -- that is when there is a factor, a resentment of people who are somehow being helped by this system. But it is government's responsibility to fight that, and when it comes time to actually setting priorities, people who in other circumstances would be very bright and intelligent probably checked their brains at the door when they walked into the minister's office and actually allowed ideologues to draft policy the government has to follow. It is a government's responsibility, when they're writing laws, that it can't just move in and drift with the winds of time. You have to write laws that can be applicable to everyone. The minister's own words of "fairness" and "accountability" have absolutely no place in Bill 142.

Experts in the field agree that reducing welfare rolls involve several components. Those several things will prepare a recipient for the workforce: improving life skills; literacy training; a very key, important component is child care, education; trades or skills training. To successfully reduce that welfare, the government has to understand that there has to be a real job to go to.

I'd like the members to know that three quarters of all the people who are currently in the welfare system have been in some form of employment over the last five years. The system indeed has been a transitory one for people. You will hear examples of generational welfare. I will admit that exists. I will also tell you that at your convenience as a government, you have overinflated that just to prove your case to this populist mantra because you knew that's what people wanted to hear.

Mike Harris and the Conservative government, since they took office, cut literacy programs, cut child care -- even though it appeared in the budget they cut it. Now they've transformed it into something else. At the end of the day there are still child care spaces lacking, and we know one thing that's absolutely critical to get people, in particular single mothers, into the workforce is the availability of affordable child care.

This government is acknowledging that it will spend taxpayers' money in unlicensed, unregulated day care and they will be moving to a system of which all the indicators are there. When we take public money, that is the people's, the taxpayers' money, and allow it to be spent in a system that has no catches, that requires no regulation, no standards -- that you would actually use public taxpayers' money for potentially under-the-table funding of day care with individuals who may or may not have a fence in the backyard, adequate facilities to take in children. This is what this government is moving towards. They're doing it and at the same time acknowledging they're going to assist in the child care area. In my opinion and that of my caucus, it is not an appropriate use of public dollars, of taxpayers' money.

They've cut adult education. Here's a government that will acknowledge that education is the key to good, long-lasting jobs in Ontario. Most of the people who would have benefited from the adult education programs we've had in Ontario are those who are on assistance. They've raised tuition fees for colleges and universities -- again the very same people who are going to benefit from acquiring other levels of skills or training to meet the job demands that may or may not exist in their communities. They're making them more and more unattainable by raising tuition fees.

Cutting the investment in training programs: Everyone recognized the troubles that Jobs Ontario Training had; everyone acknowledged that it didn't meet the outcomes that were anticipated. But at a minimum you have had governments in the past acknowledge that training is a significant component of moving people from welfare on to the employment rolls.

There are the following instances in social assistance: You will have use, misuse, abuse and fraud. At the outset, abuse and fraud are completely unacceptable. The government has spent millions of dollars, again of taxpayers' money, rooting around for fraud and abuse in the system. Compared to the amount of money they spent looking for it, they actually found very little evidence of it.

What they did find, I say, was always the government's responsibility to root out, not just because you happen to be going on a witchhunt all of a sudden because it's popular to do so today; it has always been your management job as government to look for abuse and fraud. Not because today you feel like another 1-800 number to satisfy or salve the public; it has always been your job not to allow fraud and abuse in the system, but you've allowed it all this time. After two years in government, you decide to have this little witchhunt to look for more cheats. What do I mean, "all of a sudden"? It has always been your job. Again bungled management, failed managers. You would have an F if this were run like a business. That's more than two ministers I would have fired if I had been in charge, let me tell you.

Most of the cases of misuse that occur in the system truly cannot be attributed to the recipients themselves, but with misuse of the system it's critical to note that those individuals who are managing the system at various levels are making errors. Whether it's errors in judgement or simply paper errors, filing errors, ultimately it's the recipient who suffer because of that. Most cases are due to bureaucratic error when there is misuse. Staff is being downsized.

We heard today all the new employment supports that are going to be available for those with disabilities. That is a wonderful thing. You must take that in the context of a ministry that is being significantly downsized. We have fewer people working in the Comsoc ministry today than there have been in years, yet you have more people. What will happen and already has been happening is that those very same people are overworked, have significant levels of stress and sick time. People are having to do more work on a file because more is being demanded of them by their various bosses at different levels.

A good example of this is inmates collecting welfare. I remember when I was back home in my riding and it was the big story of the day: people in jail getting welfare. The government decided to take that opportunity to use it as an example of, "Gee, isn't the system awful?" I was having a good look at this. Isn't this a good example of complete and utter bungling by the minister? Here is a minister who after two years and some in office, over two years of a Conservative government -- and you, the very people who purport you're just going to clean up the act, after two years you've done an absolutely abysmal job. I'd fire you if I had the chance.


We agree that ministries should be sharing information with other ministries. The key reason some inmates were still collecting welfare was that ministries were not sharing information. If this was just a new idea, this workfare, just come out of the blue sky, you would expect that maybe they didn't think of everything. But no, the PC government ran an election campaign that started a year before the election, and you talked about workfare. You have had, if you count that year, three years to think about everything, but you didn't think you needed to share information among ministries?

Maybe you should go back to school. Maybe you should go back to take some training in management programs to talk about how critical information sharing is interministerially, because you know that the people in the social services department should be talking to the people in corrections. In fact, if you maintain privacy standards and do it in a very appropriate manner, it is altogether appropriate to control information that relates to receiving assistance and that it should or should not be stopped if someone is an inmate. The point is that it's your own fault, and you can bloody well take the fall for that one, because that was all your doing.

Overall, I have to say that the government is not interested in creating opportunities for people who are on assistance, and in so doing I have to tell you about, and I mentioned earlier, all the punitive measures in the bill. I want the people to understand how significant this is, because this is not just influencing the recipient; this is influencing their dependants and then some. Let me give you a couple of examples here.

"A recipient" -- this is on page 7 of the bill -- "and any prescribed dependants may be required as a condition of eligibility for basic financial assistance to...participate in employment measures." We're not just talking about an individual; we are also talking about their dependants. There's no clarification here of what age that would be. Would that be their 14-year-old daughter? Would it be their 16-year-old son? Maybe the minister should have laid on the table before we debated this bill regulations that would spell that out. I think that would be a useful exercise.

Let's talk about other punitive measures. "Liens on property." This is very interesting: "An administrator shall in prescribed circumstances, as a condition of eligibility for basic financial assistance, require a recipient or dependant who owns or has an interest in property to consent to the delivery agent having a lien against the property."

We need to understand that we have just moved Ontario from a social assistance program to a loan program. This is not a grant, and it's not assistance; it's a loan that will forever remain on people's property. But it doesn't just say that. It says, "An administrator shall in prescribed circumstances, as a condition of eligibility...require an applicant, a recipient, a dependant or a prescribed person to agree to reimburse the administrator for the assistance to be provided."

Let's take any member here: Mr Klees, who will be speaking later to the bill. Let's say it's his elderly mother, and for some reason his elderly mother is going to receive financial assistance through social welfare. Mr Klees will now be financially responsible for reimbursing the state for all that assistance. I hope he's talking to his mother. That's all I can say. You'd like to think there's a good enough relationship there.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The honourable member is clearly misrepresenting the facts of this legislation. Because I know that my mother is watching, I would hate for her to be distressed at this moment by the implications made by the honourable member. I would ask that she use a different example to illustrate and also to get to the facts of the legislation.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. I don't believe there is anything out of order. First of all, let me say to the member for Windsor-Sandwich that if you feel the member opposite is offended or disturbed by your wording, you have the opportunity to change that. I am just giving you my thoughts here. You have the opportunity to change and make other examples; however, you don't have to.

On the other hand, the member for York-Mackenzie, you must withdraw the accusation that the member for Windsor-Sandwich was misrepresenting the House.

Mr Klees: I don't think I can withdraw, because that is not what the legislation --

The Acting Speaker: No. I was listening carefully. Let's clear this thing up now. The only thing I'm asking you to withdraw is that you used the word "misrepresenting" and you accused the member of misrepresenting.

Mr Klees: I will withdraw that and rephrase to say the member does not fully understand the legislation.

The Acting Speaker: All you have to do is withdraw.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I would ask you to rule on the point of order that the member for Windsor-Sandwich is not referring to the other member by his riding.

The Acting Speaker: You have a good point, member for Mississauga South. I would ask the member for Windsor-Sandwich to refer to the member as the member for York-Mackenzie. I would remind all members they should do that. Thank you.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Speaker. I will do better than that; I will use my mother as the example. I extend apologies to the member for York-Mackenzie, although you're sitting there and I thought it was convenient.

If my mother required some kind of assistance, the point is that I am beholden now to the government to repay that. The point is, when did Ontario make the determination that we are moving from a truly social assistance community, where we help people who need help on a short-term basis, which is what the program is, to require other prescribed persons to be responsible for that assistance? I am asking you that question. We have just made the most significant move. Do the MPPs in the House understand what a significant move that is?

When we talk about rights of appeal, the minister herself spoke about fairness and wanting fairness in the system. The truth is that in this bill, decisions made by the tribunal are final. There is no right of appeal. I will use the Minister of Transportation as the example. I cannot imagine that this minister would allow himself, in any situation dealing with the law, not to have the opportunity for appeal, or any one of us in the House. All of us expect that under the Ontario Human Rights Code, under all the laws of the land, we have the right to appeal whatever. With Bill 142 they have no right of appeal. I want to tell you that it's not fair.

Mr Klees: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: With respect, if the member had read the legislation, she would know there is a clear right of appeal in this legislation.

The Acting Speaker: Member for York-Mackenzie, take your seat. You will have an opportunity to speak later. It is the member's right to speak at this time. You will have your opportunity later.

Mrs Pupatello: I don't want to make light of this and I don't want these interruptions unless they're appropriate. This is a very important issue. We are talking about human rights and people's ability to appeal decisions. I am telling you that the bill you are introducing in this House today that you will be speaking to does not allow the very basic right of appeal for individuals who find themselves in certain circumstances. When we have an opportunity to take this bill on the road for public hearings, we will prove that to you.

May I say that this government has been wrong before. May I say that this government has made mistakes before. I am suggesting to you that this is a huge mistake. Not only that, it isn't fair, and we're talking about fairness for people. Since when does the concept of fairness have to be related to what your income levels are?


Mrs Pupatello: John, for Christ's sake, would you take it seriously?


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Klees: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I know that the member wants to have a meaningful and factual debate of this legislation. I would ask for unanimous consent of the House to recess for 30 minutes so that the member can read the legislation so that she can deal in a factual way with this. Do we have unanimous consent?


The Acting Speaker: There is not unanimous consent. Member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: That is only one area in terms of right of appeal that is grossly unfair. It is unfair because we are putting conditions on people on the basis of what they earn or what they don't earn. In fact, their financial stability will give them rights as an individual in Ontario or not. All of those quizzical looks -- I would suggest to you that Bill 142 will make very good reading this weekend, say, as we prepare to go into hearings, I hope in your community.

Let me tell you that the minister spent some time talking about additional supports regarding employment for those on disability. In this context of massive cuts to the ministry, because the ministry has been continually downsized so we have fewer people who are going to be overseeing these new programs, you have --

Hon Mrs Ecker: Municipalities.

Mrs Pupatello: Yes, you apparently have 50 delivery -- of course, we don't know that kind of detail because the minister doesn't want to give us regulations to allow for some kind of meaningful debate. The minister doesn't tell us what the new definition of disability might be --

Mr Klees: You haven't read the legislation. Why would you read the regulations?

The Acting Speaker: Member for York-Mackenzie, come to order.

Mrs Pupatello: -- because that is going to be in regulation. We don't want to make it too hot for the minister all at once, do we? How will the ministry afford to pay all of these additional supports to people who will be on disability? There's only one thing we can deduce from that: There will be fewer people on the system. That's how they're going to pay. When you can get over the bar, because they just raised the bar on what they call disabled, they're going to have manna from heaven. If they manage to get over the bar, they will have the kinds of employment supports that are required, that they truly want, to be able to be employable.

But God help us, people, if we are on the margins, if we have the kind of disability that the minister doesn't feel is disabled enough. Because the definition is very clear. It says: "The person has a substantial physical or mental impairment that is continuous or recurrent and expected to last one year or more."

We need to know what "substantial" means. Do we have a medical definition, do we have a psychological definition, a sociological definition? Which doctor do we listen to? Is it the specialist or the family physician or the general practitioner? This is a significant item in the bill because you are telling people today -- you will recall the numbers of times that we asked this question in the House: Will there be fewer people after your new definition or will there be more people? The minister refused to answer a very simple question. The minister refused to answer the question.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I didn't. I said there would be more.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mrs Pupatello: Now she's yelling or heckling across the House and saying that there are going to be more people on disability. We asked what the definition would be and what the change would be.

Hon Mrs Ecker: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I think that the record needs to be corrected. When the member asked me the question --

The Acting Speaker: Minister, order. Take your seat, please. You know that is not a point of order. You will have an opportunity to speak if you feel that the record needs correcting, but that is not a point of order.

Mrs Pupatello: The worrisome part is these are the people responsible for children in Ontario. This is the kind of behaviour we see. These are the kinds of bills where their own backbenchers really aren't aware of all the ramifications of the bill. You don't know what effect it's going to have on children in Ontario, but you're prepared to sit here and support it blindly.

Let me tell you, we're going to have a lot to learn in this House as we go forward because we asked the minister very specifically, "After the new bill is passed, will there be more people on disability or will there be less?" I have yet to hear an answer to that question because the answer is there will be less.

We have a ministry with less funding, and yet you're offering all of these additional supports. The only way that will happen physically -- unless you have some magic potion that I'm not yet aware of, there will be fewer people on the system. So you will be moving people off.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services cannot just look at its own little area in isolation or like you're one little silo. It doesn't work that way. We have people who are on FBA or GWA or whatever those systems were called who are now going to be in Ontario Works.

Before we got to that place, you recall, the Ministry of Education made some pretty significant changes. They decided that the people who were going to go to school weren't going to get family benefits any more, they were going to be put on OSAP. Let me give you a scenario that was put to me very clearly and very succinctly and really proves the point.

We have a mother of four young children. After her husband left her with no support, she was on the system, requiring assistance. She needs to go back to school because she recognized and was told that she really had to upgrade her skills in order to get back into the workforce at a meaningful job that actually would pay appropriate supports for her and her children.

Because of the changes, she went to her case worker. Under this new mandate by those above, namely, at Queen's Park, saying, "Get them off the system; we want them off the system because we are driving our welfare rates down," this individual was put on OSAP.

Here's someone who has not managed her own affairs, ever, four children at home, returning to school. She has now been handed a cheque for $42,000 in OSAP loans. This is a loan system. First we had the person in the old system receiving assistance, but now here's an individual who has probably never managed more than $5,000 at a time being responsible for a $42,000 loan.

As it was put to me so well, let's see what happens here. The case worker is going "Ch-ching, I just reduced my welfare roll and that's what I'm supposed to do under the Mike Harris government." The bank manager is thrilled. He's going, "Ch-ching," because he just got to write a $42,000 loan. The school that is accepting this student is saying, "Ch-ching, I just got a new student and guaranteed tuition paid."

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Will you spell that for Hansard.

Mrs Pupatello: Please, I'm talking here if you don't mind. So every single individual who has to deal with this woman is pleased. They're all saying "Ch-ching." In the end we have a $42,000 loan --

Mr Klees: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe anyone in this House understands the word "Ch-ching." If we could have an explanation, if it's relevant to the debate, I think we all should know what it means.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Point of privilege, Speaker: I don't want to take up any more time than necessary but it looks like it's not going to stop. I want to say, as a member who is not in opposition of this member, in a different opposition party, not in the government, that it's unfair that government backbenchers continue over and over on the same point of order. You know you can't correct someone else's record. You're infringing on my privileges. Speaker, please do more than you are and stop this. It's unfair.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, when a member in the House rises on a point of order or privilege, I have to recognize that member to find out whether it's legitimate or not. I would ask all members to come to order and to exercise a little bit more common sense, if I may use that phrase, at this time.



The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: Thanks. My only aim is to make sure that the people who might actually be listening to what positions we have here would clearly understand that "Ch-ching" means they just won big time, because the FBA case worker who is following the case has managed to clear another file off the desk. The bank just managed to secure another loan at interest-rate charges. Mike Harris is thrilled because he can go around and tout her as a perfect example of "moving her off the welfare system."

The reality is that the first thing this individual did was to go out and spend $12,000 to finally buy furniture that their home had never had. I am asking the public, who is responsible for this? Yes, the individual has some responsibility to be responsible. Does the government which has enacted all of this not carry some sense of responsibility that the likelihood of that loan being repaid is not high, that the schooling that individual will receive is going to be exactly what that individual needs to get back into the workforce, but because the government has decided that is just not their mandate any more, there is no one who is going to follow up? There is no one who should have sat down and said, "Okay now, $12,000 on furniture is just not a good idea here." Whose responsibility is it?

While we sit and listen to the platitudes and the new rhetoric the minister puts forward, I'm worried about people who for all kinds of good reasons aren't making good decisions or wise ones. Somebody has got to be responsible for them too. The sooner we all realize that there will always be some people in Ontario who really need some help, the better off we're all going to be, because I think we judge our societies on how we treat our children and the people who are most in need. I believe that on that score you are failing miserably.

I'm embarrassed to be here while you bring in this kind of bill. It's an affront to people who want to do right by other people, and I think you should be embarrassed. I don't want you to sit there and sing it to people as though it's something you're proud of when the thing doesn't have a hope in hell of working, and you knew it; you were told it and you were given all kinds of examples of that but you still didn't change. You just went rolling right along. I'll hate to be proven right on this but I'm sorry, there's all kinds of documentation that tells me that's what is going to happen.

If you speak solely from a municipal financial perspective, you have a responsibility to go and tell your 50 new delivery agents across Ontario exactly what's in store for them. There are people out there like the mayor of Belleville, who is admittedly a good Tory -- I think the whole world knows that -- and he doesn't know. He doesn't know the half of what's coming to him in term of the costs he is going to assume. None of the municipalities know. In my own city of Windsor they are now looking at a minimum 15% increase. That's only based on information they know. They don't know about the rest.

Your fingerprinting system is going to be hugely expensive, but you're giving half of that cost away to every city and town that will be delivering the service.

Your new computer system, which you have to have in order to properly enact the things you think you are going to do, is going to cost a fortune, but now you are downloading 50% of that administrative cost to those cities and towns that are going to be delivering the program. The last time we talked about what it takes in terms of moneys to change a whole system, the figures were around $1 billion. It's not fair of you to do this in the dark. It's not fair that you didn't go to municipalities and talk about how you administrate this when they are going to be ultimately responsible and paying 50% of it. It isn't fair, and when you brought in the bill you said it was supposed to be fair. Let me tell you, folks, it is not fair.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Hamilton East.

Mr Agostino: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I want to --

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: When are you doing the Q and A?

The Acting Speaker: The time has been split here by unanimous consent. Member for Hamilton East, continue.

Mr Agostino: I want to commend my colleague from Windsor-Sandwich for outlining clearly many of the flaws that are in the bill and clearly outlining the agenda of this government when it comes to welfare reform.

This government treats welfare reform as if it is something new. This government figures that they have somehow found this magic solution, this very simple solution to welfare reform, and that solution is to beat up on the poor. That is frankly how you plan to reform the system.

If you will recall, up to 1985 there had been some efforts in welfare reform. Frankly, not a great deal had occurred; there had been some stagnation. There had been a period of over 42 years in this province where not any really significant welfare reform had taken place. Between 1985 and 1990 a government came to power that undertook -- not perfectly by any stretch of the imagination, not able to fix the system completely, but that made some significant strides in reforming and fixing the welfare system that had been out of date for 30 or 40 years.

Between 1990 and 1995 an NDP government came to power, and again in that area made some significant strides towards fixing a system that wasn't working.

In less than two years you have stripped all that away. In less than two years you have taken away from Ontario what it has taken 15 or 20 years of governments of all three political stripes to build: a caring, compassionate, fair welfare system. Not that it didn't need help and fixing, not that it didn't need adjustment, not that it didn't need reform; of course it did. But a welfare system that you want to reform cannot be based on a punitive approach, and that's what you have taken.

If you look at the history of what you have done -- and I realize what it was driven by -- it was driven by your focus groups. It was driven by your public opinion polls. It was driven by the whiz kids in the Premier's office who said: "You know what? If we go out there and beat up on the poor, if we go out there and beat up on the needy, if we go out there and beat up on single moms, there are political points to be scored." It is the most divisive, mean type of politics one can play. It is the old politics of simply adding by subtracting: "You know what? It's okay. It's okay if we lose those folks. It's okay if those folks don't vote for us. We're punishing them, but you know what? There are going to be a whole bunch of others on the other side who will vote for us because they like what we're doing to welfare recipients; they like what we're doing to single moms."

Your first action as a government was to proceed to cut 22% of the benefits to welfare recipients. Why did you do that? Did you do it because you felt that those 400,000 kids who were relying on welfare were somehow living in the lap of luxury? Did you feel that those 400,000 kids who were relying on welfare maybe had an extra pair of shoes to go to school or an extra coat that you wanted to take away from them? Is that why you cut their benefits by 22%? What other rationale is there? What other rationale is there to come in and slash benefits by 22% to 400,000 kids?

Of course, politically it made sense for you. Again, it bought into your constituency; again, the public opinion polls looked great. So you came in and said: "We're going to reform the welfare system. The first thing is that we believe welfare recipients are lazy and need a kick in the butt, so we're going to give them that kick in the butt by cutting their benefits." Then you realized that all of a sudden those people couldn't make ends meet. You realized they couldn't pay their rent, you realized they couldn't feed their kids, so what did your minister at that time suggest? "Well, you know, there's an answer to this. We've cut your benefits, but you can make do. You know how you can do that? Buy dented tuna for 69 cents a can, and you know what? That will help you make up the 22% we cut from you. That's part of the answer. Or we'll give you a budget." The minister at that time suggested a $90-a-month food budget was going to take care of a single mom with a couple of kids. That was your answer to the welfare problem in Ontario: punitive.

Think. Go back to the exploitation. The exploitation didn't start simply with the Common Sense Revolution. Let me remind you that your leader, at that time the leader of the third party, Mike Harris, made the disgraceful performance of bringing out a woman who had a job and advising her to quit her job to prove a point about the welfare system. That was the start of the disgraceful beating up of welfare recipients that your government undertook. We all remember that. Mike Harris's facts were all wrong, of course, as time showed, but he trots this woman out and says: "Here, tell them how rich our welfare system is. You were making $40,000 a year and now you've quit your job and you are better off." That was a load of crap and it backfired on you badly because very clearly within a day or two the real numbers came out and you saw the fact that it wasn't true.


Mrs Boyd: Point of order, Mr Speaker: For some time the clock was doing the regular time rather than the time on his speech. I don't know how long it was going, but I do know the Clerk just caught it and I do not know whether it was doing a simultaneous countdown for the member, but there may be a problem with timing.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary Leadston): I'm advised that it will adjust chronologically. It does flip over, but it does accurately record the time for the member.

Mrs Boyd: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Continue.

Mr Agostino: As I said earlier, we'll remember that. None of you will stand up and be proud of that today, will you? None of you will think Mike Harris did a great thing by bringing forward this individual and suggesting to the whole province that if you have a job, quit your job and go on welfare. That was Mike Harris, the welfare fighter at that time, but that started this pattern of exploitation towards the needy and the poor in Ontario. It is shameful because you know you are hurting people.

Governments sometimes makes mistakes. All governments of all political stripes have made mistakes in legislation, but I cannot think of a government in recent memory in this province or anywhere in this country that has intentionally and knowingly set out to exploit and hurt people for political gain as you have with the poor and the needy and welfare recipients across Ontario. That is a legacy that's going to haunt you time and time again.

You may gain some short-term political points on this. You'll get some hot buttons from it that you'll be able to push whenever you're down in the polls, as we did today. Your numbers are starting to drop, so your minister goes off and does some "Workfare's wonderful" announcement in Burlington this morning. You just pull them out, trot them out and say: "Here we go. Hey, we like workfare. Our numbers go up again." It is simply a cheap, sleazy exploitation of the needy and it's something you're going to regret. You folks have to go to bed at night, you have to be able to sleep and look at yourselves in the mirror the next morning and think of what you've done to these kids in Ontario.

Think if it's acceptable in Ontario today to have kids who are dependent on the welfare system do with 22% less and think if that is good public policy. Think if that is a good start for these kids. Think if that is a start you want the young people in this province to have. Think of those parents who are struggling for the coat or that pair of shoes because you have cut their benefits by 22%. That is what has set the pattern to what we're moving towards and to Bill 142. What do you do after that?

Then we had the regulation mistake by the minister: an order that was published in the Gazette that would in effect have cut 100,000 disabled people off benefits. When did you retrench and retract? When the opposition brought it to your attention in the House, and the minister said it was a drafting error -- a regulation that went through cabinet, that went through and was published in the Gazette as a law of the province of Ontario that would have cut 100,000 people off. You only retrenched when you were embarrassed and forced to do it. That is part of the legacy of this government.

Then you decided to cut the agencies that serve the poor. Those agencies were way too wealthy. Social workers making $16,000 were overpaid. Dealing with kids in crisis, dealing with families in crisis, they were overpaid. How dare they make $16,000 a year doing social work. You'll fix them. So you've cut the funding to the agencies so they have to either pay less or let go of these workers. That was great. That was progressive. That was helping the needy.

Not only have you taken their benefits away, not only have you hurt them and hurt their kids, you then proceeded to cut the agencies that help these people at a time when the need would have been the greatest, where the need would have increased. You decided you were going to basically cut away that short lifeline that agencies could provide the people. You did that shamelessly because it was a cheap, sleazy political point and exploitation of the needy, and you felt that was acceptable because it helped you in the public opinion polls. That is the legacy of this government when it comes to social services.

Then of course we had workfare. The great Common Sense Revolution brought us workfare. I challenge members of this government to show me any jurisdiction across North America where workfare has created one new job for a welfare recipient, where workfare has helped people get back to work. Again, it is an exploitation.

And you know what? Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin loves you for it because that's what they do there. John Engler in Michigan will tell you it's a great program. It is a great agenda of the right-wing Republican governors of the United States of America to continue to tout workfare.

The money you've put into workfare you could have put into meaningful programs that help people to get back to work. Nobody is suggesting to welfare recipients that if they can get into programs that are meaningful and helpful they should not get into those programs, but simply being forced to do 17 hours, 15 hours or 20 hours a week of volunteer work to make you feel good is not meaningful return-to-work programming. It simply makes you feel good. You can point out one or two letters and I'll give you 100 letters on the other side that show you how destructive it's been to people and that it does absolutely nothing to help.

But you know what? It makes you feel good. You can pound your chest and say: "We're getting those bums back to work. We're forcing them to work." It makes you feel good and it scores cheap, sleazy political points once again for your government. That's why the minister this morning trotted out to Burlington saying, "Today in workfare we're back in three months." If your numbers don't go up in the polls, we'll have another announcement somewhere else and you'll give us another update on workfare. There was nothing substantial this morning, but it was simply a public relations exercise to help drag up your sagging public opinion numbers. You used that button and you continue to push it.

But you know what? Workfare has not had the impact you thought it would have because municipalities, first of all, have been forced into participating. You've blackmailed them. You've held a gun to their heads. You have given them bribe money. Simply, you have legalized the art of extortion. You've said to municipalities: "You must participate in this, and if you do not participate in this program, we're going to simply withdraw your funding. We're going to withhold grants. You're not going to get this extra support."

What you have done is you've forced municipalities to participate in programs they didn't want to participate in, but you have not been able to force many of the agencies because many of the agencies in this province that are in the business of helping the needy saw through your agenda and they've said to you: "We are in the business of helping the needy. We're not going to participate in the business of exploiting the needy." Therefore, your numbers are not there.

You have never given us estimates. You've trumpeted this program. You have set targets for everything else, but you've never set these targets for workfare. You have simply made a moving target that you can shift any time you want. You now have incorporated existing programs -- talk about a hoax. You now have taken existing programs that municipalities have run for years successfully and you've incorporated that as part of your Ontario Works program. That's part of your workfare and you're taking credit for those numbers. There were thousands and thousands of Ontarians who were involved in meaningful programs, retraining programs, skills programs, literacy upgrading. Before you brought along workfare those programs were working.

The region of Hamilton-Wentworth had a program called Helping Hands. That program dealt with hard-to-employ individuals, individuals who have alcohol and drug problems, individuals who have had a very difficult work history. They took those individuals and they've put them through a very systematic, very structured, very reasonable type of program, and that success rate went 60% to 70% before workfare came along. But they were able to work with those individuals. They weren't simply forced to say, "You all must be involved in the program and we're going to put you through like cattle because it looks good on our numbers." They were able to work with these individuals.

What did those programs do? Those programs involved classroom upgrading, résumé writing skills, job interview skills, hands-on work experience, helping seniors and the disabled, but again they were willing participants in programs that fit their need. They weren't simply shoved into programs or had to be threatened to have their benefits cut off.

You fail to understand that before you even came to power, before you felt that all of a sudden you had to revolutionize the welfare system, there was a provision under the general welfare act that allowed the case workers to suspend benefits of anybody who refused a reasonable or meaningful work or training program. That was already there and it gave the worker the discretion and the flexibility to deal with individual clients as the need arose.

Somehow you made it look as if all these individuals were sitting at home doing nothing. You tell me. I challenge any member across the floor to explain to me how workfare helps the 50-year-old laid-off steelworker or construction worker in my riding who has worked for 30 or 35 years of their life and now is forced on welfare because of the economic situation. You tell me why the 50-year-old steelworker or construction worker in my riding must participate in your workfare program in some meaningless feel-good activity. Why? How does that help that individual? How does that help self-dignity? This is a person who has been in the workforce 30 or 35 years, has never had a problem, except now we have an employment problem. That's why that individual is on welfare, but you're going to force that person into workfare.


The minister, when he made the announcement, talked about painting park benches and cleaning up parks and picking up rocks. That is meaningful welfare reform? That is workfare? No, but it's cheap, sleazy political points. Again I say to you, show me how many new jobs have been created as a result of workfare.

You try to fool the public into believing there are savings in workfare. What you fail to understand is that the public is going to start seeing through that. They're realizing that when you have someone on workfare, first of all they are getting their benefits, reduced as they are, but there's a significant cost to the administration and operation of that workfare for that individual, which adds to the welfare costs in Ontario.

You take credit for the numbers and you say workfare is working; the welfare numbers have dropped. Let me tell you why the welfare numbers have dropped. The first thing you did when you cut their benefits by 22% was you also cut the threshold that people could earn while they were still working part-time. You reduced that eligibility, so you automatically wiped thousands of people off the welfare system. Those people are no better off today than they were yesterday, but once you made that regulation change they were no longer eligible and they were no longer on welfare according to their needs. That's one of the reasons.

You took 15,000 or 20,000 individuals who were receiving assistance in post-secondary education and shifted them all to OSAP. Again, that knocked 15,000 or 20,000 people off the welfare rolls. Bingo. Simple. A regulation change and they're gone. They're no longer on welfare, folks. They're off and they're rich and they're doing well again because you made a regulation change. Those are the types of initiatives you have undertaken, and somehow you believe it has been your workfare program that has helped this.

You talk about fraud. What did you do for the first two years? You instituted a 1-800 number. We did not see any meaningful welfare fraud reform by this government for the first two years. You had a 1-800 number that made you feel good. The numbers have shown that welfare fraud, even through your 1-800 number, is still what people said it was before: 3% to 4%. It has not gone up. Let me suggest to you that 3% or 4% is unacceptable. However, compared to any other system -- compared to your taxation system, compared to income tax, compared to GST or PST -- it is not any worse, and let me suggest to you that the rate is lower.

But you're not going to go after that, are you? You're not going to go after people who are avoiding the PST, because that's not in your best interests. You're not going to go after people who are avoiding income tax, because it's not in your best interests. But it's politically acceptable and it's a political winner to go after welfare recipients. All this is part of your legacy. All this is part of the history.

I recall when this government couldn't explain where all these people on welfare had gone. Every month the numbers would drop, but the employment numbers wouldn't change and numbers went up in the food banks and in the shelters, in the homeless. You couldn't explain what happened, so what you did is you went out and issued a survey. This had to be a classic government manipulation of numbers and exploitation of welfare recipients. You went out and issued a survey and you tried to contact over 4,000 welfare recipients.

You came back with this high-paid consultant's report and you said: "You know what? Fifty per cent of these people are now working. That's what our survey told us." As we looked more closely at the numbers, it revealed that of the 4,000 you tried to reach, over 2,000 you couldn't reach because they didn't have a phone that was working. Of the 2,000 you reached, less than half were either working in part-time or full-time employment of some type. So the real numbers were significantly less than you had suggested.

It's like taking a survey of income in a neighbourhood but only counting houses that have Cadillacs in the driveway, and saying, "Here's the level of income in this neighbourhood." You exclude the homes that don't have cars at all or have a beaten-up old car in the driveway, and you count the ones that have the Caddy in the driveway. That's exactly what you did with your survey, and now you tout that number, that somehow 50% of the welfare recipients who are off welfare are working. That is a fraud. It is wrong, and you know it is, but you continue to exploit that; you continue to use that.

Now we see what I think will be the final piece in Bill 142. Not only do you change the system in a way, and I'll talk about it in a few minutes, that I don't think is going to help recipients, but you have taken it a step further. You have now moved to a system that strips the basic dignity and rights of welfare recipients. Bill 142 will strip any dignity and any rights that welfare recipients had. Anything you left in the last two years as you went on to beat them up and kick them in the head and exploit them, Bill 142 takes away.

You have significantly curtailed the appeals program. There will still be some token appeals. What did you do? There was a Social Assistance Review Board that generally worked fairly well over the years. You couldn't change that initially, so you stacked that board with a bunch of your right-wing, anti-welfare-recipient friends, and therefore anybody who appealed was basically shafted anyway. So you bought yourself some time. You now have moved to an appeals tribunal system that is very difficult to access, is very restrictive to people. So technically you still have an appeals system, but in reality that appeals system doesn't work; in reality that appeals system is not going to serve anyone.

We used to allow people to receive interim assistance while they were appealing because we realized there were situations where the appeals were successful and people were in dire need. Because of that we gave them assistance. If the appeal was unsuccessful, the welfare system would reclaim that and recover that money. You now have taken that part of it away from this legislation, so you're saying, "If you've been wronged, while you're appealing it's tough. You just sit at home and wait and wait and wait. If you do qualify under our strict criteria, we'll listen to your appeal, and if you're successful, then we'll give you your money." What happens in those months and months in between when that's happening? You have taken that away.

What is even more offensive in what you have done here is your idea, any way you want to mask it -- the minister can call it electronic scanning, call it whatever you want. The reality is that you are on the way to introducing fingerprinting for welfare recipients in Ontario. It is that simple.

It was interesting when you first brought it out that the Premier talked in a scrum about doing it for all of Ontario, some sort of universal system. As soon as the public got wind of that and the backlash came, you backed away from that so quickly it was amazing. Flip-flop Mike moved so fast to back away from that position, but you have stuck to fingerprinting welfare recipients. What rationale is there to fingerprint welfare recipients in Ontario? Is it simply to label them? Is it simply to add to the stigma you have created? It doesn't cut welfare fraud. What you're doing is you're equating in the public's mind receiving social assistance with being a criminal. We only fingerprint criminals in our society in most cases.

There are circumstances of employment where people have a choice. In welfare, you don't have that choice. People are on welfare because of need. People do not choose to go on welfare. Contrary to what many members across the floor may believe, people do not choose to live the life of luxury as a single person at $520 a month. People do not choose the wonderful life that when you pay $400 or $450 for your rent, which doesn't get you an apartment in downtown Toronto, you then have $70 left for the rest of the month. I'm not sure how many people would choose that life of luxury that you're suggesting people are exploiting and using, but you're going to fingerprint them now.

I go back to the laid-off steelworker or the laid-off construction worker in my riding. You're going to say to this individual, "Because you are in need, given the fact that you've worked for 30 years and your savings are gone and UI's gone and you can't get another job because of your age and economic conditions and so on, first of all we're going to put you into workfare, but before we do that, we're going to fingerprint you." We're going to say to the laid-off steelworker or construction worker in my riding, "We are going to fingerprint you," because that helps cut down on the 3% fraud you're talking about. Why are you doing that? What evidence is there anywhere to show that fingerprinting welfare recipients cuts down on welfare fraud? Absolutely none, not one shred of evidence anywhere that shows that.


Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think it's important for the person who has the floor to refer to finger scanning, not fingerprinting. That's totally inaccurate.

The Acting Speaker: In my humble opinion, you could probably use both.

Mr Agostino: Thank you, Mr Speaker. You can phrase it any way you want, you can use all the buzzwords you want, you can use all the scripts that the whiz kids in the Premier's office have given you to use to sugarcoat this. The reality is that at the end of the day, if you have your way and you continue to do this, you're simply going to fingerprint every single welfare recipient in Ontario. That's how simple it is. Call it anything you want. You can use any buzzword you want to describe it; you're not going to fool the public. When you force people to go there and do that, people know they're being fingerprinted. It is that simple, it is that obvious. You're doing it because politically it sounds good, because politically it scores you points.

As I mentioned earlier, nobody is suggesting that programs that work to help welfare recipients get back to work should not be used. Nobody is suggesting that. Let me tell you very clearly, we must take every opportunity to help people get off welfare and into the workforce, but it's got to be done on the basis of reasonable, fair programs that work, not simply what you're doing here today. Bill 142 continues to add to that.

Then you've redefined "disability." From the regulations we've seen, the few details we've been given, we see that this is going to be much more restrictive. We see very clearly that what you're going to do is in effect hurt people who should be getting disability benefits and aren't going to be. You've redefined it. You've taken the area of addiction, that has long been recognized -- it has become more and more recognized today in the medical field, the psychological field, that many forms of addiction are a disability. For people who are addicted to certain substances, often their life is so impaired, their way of functioning is so chronically impaired that they can't work. But you're going to make it almost impossible for anyone who has an addiction to be deemed disabled.

As difficult as it is and as much as we like to blame the victim, I would ask any of you to talk to those who have individuals in their family who may have chronic alcohol problems. Ask them if that is an addiction problem, if that is a problem that often makes it difficult, in severe cases, for someone to be able to work, to maintain employment and do the daily duties that are required in a work setting. There are many people who are in that situation, unfortunately, and as a result of your redefinition you are now going to get rid of that. You are not going to make it almost impossible for these individuals.

That's not the first attack you have made on people who have addictions. You in this government snuck through a regulation change about a year or a year and a half ago where individuals -- and this is something you should be ashamed of, because you have affected thousands of people, particularly women. It used to be, under the previous system, that when an individual went into an addiction treatment program in a place like Mary Ellis House in Hamilton, as an example, went in for alcohol or addiction treatment in a residential program, they could still continue to receive welfare assistance while they were in the treatment program, for the few months they were in there. For three months, six months, eight months, whatever time they may have been in that program, they could still receive assistance so they could maintain their apartment and so they could carry on with their life once they got out.

You changed that. You changed that system. You snuck through a regulation change that said that if an individual -- and most of the people affected that I'm aware of are women in particular programs. If anyone goes into a residential treatment program, automatically their welfare is cut off. What does that mean for these women? That means these women have to choose between treatment for their addiction in a residential setting or, on the other hand, losing their benefits. You've forced them to choose between having to give up their apartment, give up their benefits, or go into a program.

How does that help? How has that regulation change helped women who are trying to get help for their addiction? Most, 90%, of the individuals who are affected by this change, are women. How does that help? Explain to me how asking a women to choose between giving up her support, her apartment, her assistance, or going into a treatment program -- if you choose to go into a treatment program, you come out after six months. You may no longer have the addiction, but you have no apartment, you have no furniture, you have no home, you have no support system. That's what you force them to do. This redefinition is going to make that situation even greater and it's going to make it even more chronic for these individuals who are trying to get some help.

What has been amazing through this as well has been that many of the concerns -- you have consulted to some degree. You have consulted with individuals in the disabled community, you have consulted with a number of groups out there with regard to the redefinition. You have done some consultation in that area, but you have failed to consult with groups, consumers out there with regard to this slew of changes you've made here. You have not consulted with municipalities, on to which you're going to download a tremendous amount of these costs. You have not consulted with individuals who represent welfare recipients. You have not consulted with municipal social services departments that have to carry out the programs that you now have imposed on them.

Have you consulted with seniors' groups? Do you realize that as part of the changes now you're going to force people who are 60 to 64 years of age into workfare programs as you expand this, with the definition you have here? You're going to force 60-year-olds into workfare programs. Think about this for a second. You're going to force a 63-year-old woman or man into workfare in return for receiving assistance until they turn 65. What benefit is there to that individual at that age who is receiving assistance to be involved in workfare? Absolutely none, except that it makes you feel really good.

That is what this legislation is all about. You have taken away the basic democratic principles that welfare recipients to some degree have enjoyed up until now. You have chosen to continue to attack them. I find it extremely offensive. One can agree or disagree with the meaning of welfare reform, one can agree or disagree with specific parts of legislation you bring forward, but what I find extremely offensive is how you have gone about very systematically beating up on people in Ontario, how you have continued to go after individuals whom you didn't consider part of your core support, people whom you felt weren't really part of the Ontario you represented.

Kids have a tough time speaking for themselves. The 400,000 kids that you've cut off welfare have a hell of a tough time coming forward and telling you how they've been hurt by this. Single moms who are struggling to get by and taking care of two or three kids have a hell of a tough time organizing lobby groups to come and speak to you. They don't have access to your cocktail parties. They don't have access to the Albany Club. They don't have access to your fundraisers on golf courses across Ontario. Somehow single moms have a tough time getting into that. I don't know why, but somehow they have a tough time hiring a lobbyist to come and speak to the government on their behalf. Somehow it's just out of the realm of possibility. You can't imagine.

Let me tell you, as much as you think you're representing the majority of your constituents, I think you have a special responsibility, and I appeal to your sense of fairness that you have a special responsibility, that we all have a special responsibility to look after people who cannot look after themselves in this province.


Big business from time to time needs government assistance, but you know what? Generally big business can take care of itself. High-powered lawyers, high-powered investment companies, Bay Street generally can get by without the protection of government. That responsibility falls especially on us who have to find it within ourselves to put aside what we believe is strictly politically right from the point of view of what our pollsters are telling us and do what is right for Ontarians. Somehow you fail to grasp that. You fail to grasp the fact that you are hurting people. You may sugarcoat it nicely. You have a minister now who certainly is able to spin the message much better than the previous minister. Your spin doctors are hard at work. You have Jan Dymond and others in the background telling you exactly what you have to say -- at good fees and continued consulting contracts that are open-ended for you.

You hire Andersen Consulting at hundreds of millions of dollars and say to them, "The more people you help us get off the system, the more money you're going to make." It's not based on need. Your vision of welfare reform is not based on: "What is the need of the recipient. How do we help the recipient?" Your vision of welfare reform is, "How do we score the best, cheapest political points?" How do you score the most points? You hit the hot buttons, right? And you did it through the election, did it well.

I'll give you credit. The hot-button politics you have mastered. You have made it into a fine art. Murphy and the other Republican consultants came down and told you what you should be doing, the masters of the Willie Hortons and other great Republican ads of the past. They came down and told you guys exactly what you should do in the last election, and you mastered that. You hit all the hot buttons. You went after visible minorities. You went after welfare recipients. You went after the disabled. You went after the poor. What rationale was there except, as I say again, cheap, sleazy political exploitation at its worst?

You may win in the short run. In the short run you may feel there is a benefit to be gained by what you're doing, and in the short run, you may score points in your riding and your constituents will call you and say, "Yes, stick it to those folks." But I ask you to tell every one of those individuals who may call your office and say, "Stick it to those welfare recipients," to look at themselves and say, "How would I want to be treated if I was in that situation?" How would those individuals want the government, the social service agencies, to treat them if they were in a situation where they needed social assistance?

If you look at the demographics and the numbers, the face of welfare in the late 1980s and into the 1990s changed dramatically. The vast majority of people who came on to the system came on as a result of layoffs, as a result of economic conditions, as a result of moving from full-time to part-time work, and most people who were on the system were not on the system a long time. You fail to realize that, that most people who are on welfare are not on that long. It's moving all the time, shifting. People come on and go off the system. That is the reality. You fail to acknowledge that. Yes, you'll point to the 5% or 10% of chronic welfare recipients you like to refer to, but that does not reflect most welfare recipients. I challenge you to look at the numbers. Instead of simply continuing with the hate literature you put out every time you bring forward a piece of welfare legislation, I ask you to look at the numbers, to look at the demographics and the makeup of welfare recipients in Ontario and realize how you are hurting them.

You want to talk about workfare? I ask you to produce some numbers. Don't tell me how many people are not on the system any more, because that number is flawed and there is no real explanation. Tell me how many jobs you plan to create as a result of workfare. Do you think that's fair? You're spending hundreds of millions on this program. Do you think you owe the people of Ontario an explanation: "We're going to spend $200 million or $300 million or $400 million over the lifetime of this program, and here's how many jobs we plan to create as a result"? Tell the people of Ontario how many placements you expect so they can gauge your success. You have failed to do that. The minister has not come forward yet and said, "We expect X people to be on workfare by such-and-such a time," so people can gauge your success, can gauge whether the $100 million or $125 million that you plan to spend in your first year on workfare is money well spent.

I challenge you to come forward and give us those numbers. I challenge the government to show us where these individuals who are off the system have gone. I know your survey told us 50% --

Hon Mrs Ecker: No, 73%.

Mr Agostino: -- once you forgot the 2,000 you couldn't get hold of, and you forgot to tell us about those who had no phone whom you couldn't reach and conveniently excluded from your survey. You forgot to tell us that. But I ask the minister, as she is heckling across the floor, to tell us how many people she plans to have on workfare by the end of the year, how many people she expects to get jobs through workfare. I hope that tomorrow or the next day she will come back and give us those numbers, because then we have a standard to gauge you by, we have some measurement.

You had no hesitation in setting your job targets, which you're not going to meet, of 750,000 people, but you don't seem to be able to tell us how many people you're going to get into workfare. If you did that, if you told us and set some targets, you would be held accountable for that, and as you were being held accountable for that, you would also then expect that the public would have a very difficult time buying into your agenda.

As I wrap up, I hope this government comes to its senses. I hope this government understands that meaningful welfare reform is important but that there is more than just "mean" in "meaningful." You have taken the first four letters, you have taken the word "mean," and applied that to welfare reform. Ontario is too good a province, too compassionate a province, too caring a province to be led down the road by your vicious, cruel attack on the needy in this province.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments? The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: I thank you, Mr Speaker, and just as important, I thank both the member for Windsor-Sandwich and of course our last speaker, the member for Hamilton East. Both showed a great deal of courage in calling it like it is with this scheme, this vile attempt of the government in its style of shoot to kill to hit the marginalized and to take the tradeoff, which is a handful of votes. It's so easy. The bill is entitled Ontario Works, and it's not even two pages long. The devil is in the regulations. The devil is in the detail.

Anyone at any time can impact and impact again, can hit the marginalized, when it suits their purpose, when the climate turns in their favour. We don't see the same consistency when it comes to recommendations from the Provincial Auditor, when Revenue Canada tells us that when we're talking about fraud, some members of the business community, by way of opportunities, by way of loopholes, are charging all kinds of chits, all kinds of receipts, to defraud the rest of the taxpayers of their rightful share. Nobody goes against them. You don't go against the chamber of commerce because it's not done. They can charge all the meals they wish, exaggerate their car mileage, and the percentage of those who do -- not all of them, only a minority -- is larger than the single mothers on welfare. Half the people on social assistance are children who don't have a voice, cannot defend themselves. Yet the government loves it, cannot pass the seduction, cannot say no to the lure to hit those who can least defend themselves.


Mrs Marland: We certainly have had some entertaining debate from the Liberal members this afternoon. I want to clarify right away for the member for Windsor-Sandwich that although she has chosen to tell the public one fact, it is not in the bill that appeals will not be allowed. We don't need to spend any more time clarifying that. If she chooses to continue to tell the public something else, it is very unfortunate. It would be appropriate if, when preparing to debate a bill of this magnitude, the opposition critics would at least read the bill thoroughly.

The same member talked about this government rooting around for fraud. You'd better believe that this government is responsible for doing what the Provincial Auditor identified when the Liberals were the government and when the NDP were the government, and that is in excess of $700 million in fraud in welfare in this province. For over a period of nine years the Provincial Auditor came back every time and said, "There is fraud in the welfare system."

I'm amazed that anyone can stand in this House and argue against reforming the welfare system. It's very interesting, in fact, that the member for Hamilton East in his campaign literature said, "Welfare reform: ensuring that people who are able to work, do work." That is exactly what this government is doing. The more money we save from fraud and misuse of the welfare system, the more money we will have to help those people who are truly in need in this province.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I would just like to commend the members for Windsor-Sandwich and Hamilton East for taking a very close look at what the bill is actually doing in terms of getting some of the facts on the table. As we mentioned a good number of times here today, it would have been much, much easier to have a close examination had the minister brought forth the regulations and shown us what was really in the bill and what would be up for review at this time. But as we know, we have a two-page bill in front of us that can be altered and rearranged through the regulations and something that of course will certainly bring on further debate.

I think what the government is doing in showing their true colours in the House here in bringing forth this bill is that they're ignoring the people who are most affected by this piece of legislation, of course that being the children. As has been indicated a good number of times, these are the people who cannot come out and vote, who cannot put forth their views in that manner. This government continues to ignore the fact that those are the people we should be concerned about here today in the Legislature, those are the folks in the province who are going to be most affected by this piece of legislation.

When we talk about the creation of jobs through assistance and having the people on assistance go to jobs, we have to be concerned about the people they're replacing. I personally was approached by folks who are out clearing snowmobile trails today. The minister stands up and says these people will replace them. Where will the replaced people go? That was their question to me, and that will certainly be a question I'll bring forth as we move into this legislation. But again I want to commend the members for bringing forth a very, very good argument on this piece of legislation.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to commend the members for Windsor-Sandwich and Hamilton East for their comments today and reinforce some of what they said.

First of all with respect to the measures on fraud, I was a member of the standing committee on public accounts that looked at the auditor's report. The report clearly indicated that every year the Ontario government is defrauded $2 billion by the business sector in this province. That's a problem this government should worry about. We've got a hotline for welfare and a hotline so you can snitch on WCB recipients. Why doesn't this government put a hotline in to deal with the $2 billion of fraud carried out annually by businesses and business people in this province? Then we'd really be getting at a serious problem.

The second thing that's in this legislation that you should be disgusted about is the fact that you are going to fingerprint welfare recipients. Most people in this province associate fingerprinting with criminal activity. It's a bloody disgrace that you would put in something like this to leave the impression that everyone who is on welfare or social assistance is a common criminal.

Doesn't anyone over on that side think it's wrong or shameful to do that? Are you so interested in trying to grab votes that you lower yourself to that level, that you'll make fingerprinting of people who are on assistance an appropriate thing? For goodness' sake, give your heads a shake.

This government has consistently attacked women and children in everything you have done, from your cuts to welfare to your cancelling of second-stage housing, to your ending of proxy pay equity, to your ending of some the bail verification programs in some of our communities. Everything you do is to get a cheap vote and to attack people who don't have a voice. For a change why don't you start to be ashamed of that kind of thing that you --

The Speaker: Order. Response?

Mrs Pupatello: Thanks for the comments that in general were supportive of my part of the debate today, and of the member for Hamilton East.

I must say that as we go forward with hearings, it would be very helpful if we had regulations. Everything that is in the bill is a shell that is totally dependent on regulations -- that is, levels that will be set -- that are not known by us, so we don't know how fully people will be impacted. It's only fair, as the minister says, that we should have access to information to make very meaningful debate, especially when we go on hearings, and we hope that's soon.

Let me say, just to reiterate comments I made earlier, that I am disappointed to be part of a House that brings in mandatory workfare in Ontario. There is a proven track record in other jurisdictions in North America that tells us it doesn't work. I believe and my caucus believes you should instead turn your efforts to real job employment strategies, that you should be invoking some kind of interministerial strategy team that would really deal with people who need help to get off the system, because most people don't want to be on the system. It's a very bleak existence they have when they're on it.

I would wish too that members on the opposite side wouldn't go singing the praises of this bill until they read it for themselves and understand that there are significant measures here. You are not allowing very basic human rights for individuals, simply as a function of what they earn or don't earn. Those are facts that currently are in this bill and are of great concern. Unfortunately, the very people who are affected by it won't have an opportunity to go to court to prove their case because you've already bungled that ministry so badly in terms of how available legal aid is. These are the very same people who don't have access to that service either. I look forward to further debate on this issue.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Boyd: I'm pleased to have an opportunity to lead off our party's discussion of this bill because it is indeed an extraordinarily important piece of legislation, one that's going to affect hundreds of thousands of lives in our province over, one would assume, many years. It's extremely important, as has been suggested by those speaking before, that we all be very familiar with this bill and what its implications would be.

That's extremely difficult to do because, as has been said, so much of this bill will reside in regulation-making power. We have said before that the status quo is not acceptable to us either, nor I think would it be acceptable to the official opposition, because both of our parties over the last few years have looked very hard at various aspects of assistance to people, at the best way to deliver, at different ways of looking at the delivery of services that are going to empower people to be able to maintain themselves when at all possible, and if not, to find the best way, the most dignified way to ensure that the basic necessities are met and that they are encouraged to contribute to our society to the extent they are able.

But again and again in all of the study that was done, first of all in the Social Assistance Review Committee work that went on for a good many years, and the study of the recommendations then took a little longer, in all of those discussions one of the things that was made very clear was the need to prevent arbitrary decision-making, the need to prevent successive governments from being able, according to their own ideology, their own particular financial circumstances, to change the very basis of the provision of social assistance to meet their needs as opposed to the needs of the recipients.


We heard again and again from recipients that if they knew what the rules were, if they could participate in actually consulting on and buying into, if you like, the actual rules of eligibility, the kinds of things that in the old legislation are also set out in regulation, they would certainly feel much more a part of the system.

Again and again, critics of the General Welfare Assistance Act, the Family Benefits Act and the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act told us, as a government, when we were in power, told the official opposition when they were in power as a government, and I can only assume have told this government as well, that when you leave everything up to regulation, what you do is immediately set up a system that is suspect, that is subject to abuse, that will constantly need definition, redefinition and interpretation, and that because regulations are not made in public, are not legislated, are not up for discussion, there's no process for discussion, but in fact are made either by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, which at least is the cabinet, the responsible and accountable government, or by the minister, and this act gives substantial powers to the minister as well as to the Lieutenant Governor in Council, what you do is set up a situation where a Star Chamber gets to make the decisions about the basic necessities of people's lives.

The principle of social welfare in this country and elsewhere in the world has been to ensure that every citizen at least has their basic needs met, that we have an obligation as a community to provide the necessities of life to every brother and sister citizen in our jurisdiction.

While we might argue, and certainly the right-wing politicians argue, about what a base level of support might be, that at least has been a basic premise within all social welfare legislation that has been passed. So it's quite disturbing that in an act like this, which is completely revamping that system as it applies to Ontario, we have no sense at all of what the definition of basic necessity of life is going to be to this government.

I would remind the members of the government party that by putting in this act in this way, they also are leaving it open to interpretation by subsequent governments, interpretation that you might also disagree with, as we might disagree with your interpretation. It is to the benefit of citizens that they not be subjected to the ideology and whim of successive governments, that there be a much more substantial definition of basic need in a legislative piece of this importance to ensure that there is a continuity, that we do not throw whole classes of people into disarray every time the government changes.

One of the things I will be doing when I have an opportunity to speak at greater length, because there are only five minutes left in this legislative day, is to actually put on the record all the items that are going to be subject to regulation. It is extremely important for the members of the government, the members of the opposition parties and the general public to understand exactly how open-ended this act is and how little substantive and permanent protection there is for those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

I will also be talking about the very substantial change in direction that is suggested. Some of that change in direction is positive, indeed it is. It is a positive general concept to ensure that those who are disabled and because of their disability are unable to work in a consistent way or in a competitive way have the assistance of their community to live dignified and respected lives.

The problem with this act is that those who are most vulnerable in the disabled community understand that the rules could change at any moment. What is a disability today could become not a disability tomorrow. For parents of disabled children, there can be no assurance that the kind of supports the community needs to provide when we as parents no longer are there to help our children will be there and you can count on that. There is no counting on that kind of support in this bill, because any successive government could change basic regulations that would affect the eligibility and the entitlement of anyone under that act. That surely is not the kind of assurance this government or any other government ought to be giving to those who have disabling conditions, who already have a great deal to contend with in their lives and who need the sureness that supports are going to be there when they are necessary.

I'm also going to be talking about the way in which this adds vulnerability. Whole groups of people become vulnerable under this act because of the changes that affect them. My colleagues in the official opposition talk specifically about those people between 60 and 65 who now are eligible for family benefits and who will no longer be eligible, who will need to be part of the Ontario Works program, who will need in those senior years to be always at the beck and call of whatever agency this government decides is going to be responsible for determining what community participation or work experience or skill building they're going to have to participate in. In this particular economic climate, where those of us who are older have increasing difficulty finding jobs in an increasingly competitive market, that is condemning people to a situation which is going to be extraordinarily stressful. It is going to create for them health conditions they now may not be facing in those years and it is going to add to their sense of insecurity and their sense of not being part of a caring community.

Given that it's nearly 6 of the clock, I'm going to conclude my remarks for today and am looking forward to participating in the full debate when the bill is next called by the government House leader.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made. The member for Hamilton East has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given yesterday by the Minister of Environment. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise on a matter of very serious concern to the residents of Hamilton, and frankly of concern to all Ontarians, as a result of the Ministry of Environment's mishandling of the Plastimet fire in Hamilton. I was absolutely astonished at the pathetic response by the minister yesterday, where he basically washed his hands of any responsibility and any accountability from the point of view of having to respond to their lack of adequate response to the Hamilton Plastimet fire.

We had a very serious situation, a dangerous, dangerous situation in Hamilton. Over 400 tonnes of plastic were burned. Dioxin levels were five times higher than regulations. There was no definite evacuation notice. There was a refusal of assistance by the Ministry of Environment, from Environment Canada. They put children and seniors at particularly high risk. There was a $3-million cost in cleanup to the municipality, the possibility of a nearby hospital being evacuated, toxic chemicals being flushed into the groundwater. As of today, over 100 of the 225 firefighters on the scene have suffered health effects as a result. This is a brief sketch of the outline of the Plastimet fire.


We stood in the House yesterday and asked the Minister of Environment a simple question: Would he call a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire? What the minister did was simply slough it off to the Solicitor General, somehow suggesting that he had no accountability and telling us very clearly that the Minister of Environment has no clout. He has no ability in cabinet to talk to his colleague the Solicitor General and recommend to him that he call a public inquiry. I am sure the focus would be on the Minister of Environment and I am sure that if Mr Sterling had the courage to stand by the actions of his ministry, he would urge Mr Runciman to call a public inquiry.

Let me remind the House what Mike Harris said in regard to a public inquiry: "I think they should be getting answers to more questions, and we want answers too. I can assure the public that our concern is the same. I would like some assurances. I applaud the citizens for wanting to know these answers." That was Mike Harris.

What does the Minister of Environment say? "I'm 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." Let me repeat that again, since the minister's not here, for the parliamentary assistant and the Solicitor General to bring that message back to him. Norm Sterling said, "I have no fear of a public inquiry as to what my ministry did or did not do." It is simple; it is unequivocal; it is a commitment.

What we have seen now is Flip-flop Mike and Flip-flop Norm, who one day felt it was okay to hold a public inquiry and the next day decided to simply pass the buck to the Solicitor General and ask the Solicitor General to look into it, which in my view is simply hiding behind the shield and not being accountable. There was an inadequate, poor response by the Minister of Environment.

Let me say what I said yesterday: Very clearly, the front-line staff is not to blame, because you have cut their budget; you have made it impossible for them. It took 12 hours for the equipment to get there. It took a phone call from your member for Hamilton West at 4 o'clock in the morning that woke up the Minister of Environment, Norm Sterling, to get that van from Toronto to Hamilton. That is not the way we should be doing business in Ontario. A phone call at 4 o'clock in the morning from one government member to a minister to get a van that should have been dispatched immediately: that was indicative of the beginning of the problems in regard to the way this government has handled the Plastimet fire.

The member for Hamilton Centre, joined by a coalition of firefighters, unions and residents, came forward a few weeks ago and called for a public inquiry. We have called for a public inquiry. What is the government afraid of? What is Minister Sterling afraid of? Is it because the public inquiry will show that his massive cuts to the ministry have made it incapable of responding to environmental disasters like the Plastimet fire? Is that the real answer? Or is it that the minister doesn't have the clout in cabinet, as we have seen? If he had the clout in cabinet, I'm sure he'd go to his friend the Solicitor General and ask the Solicitor General to call a public inquiry, and the Solicitor General would agree with him.

It's either incompetence or it's a lack of clout by the minister. I'm hoping the parliamentary assistant who is responding on his behalf will clarify for us if the minister is incompetent and cannot handle his ministry, or if he simply does not have the clout in cabinet to convince his colleague the Solicitor General to call a public inquiry.

The people of Hamilton are not going to forget. The people of Hamilton want answers. This government acted criminally and irresponsibly in its response to the Hamilton fire.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak about last month's fire at the Plastimet facility in Hamilton. I appreciate the member for Hamilton East for raising this particular question so we can fully explain and get on the books what really did happen.

It has been extremely distressing for the residents of Hamilton. They've certainly faced a very difficult, unhappy and uncertain time, but I can assure you that the worst is over and people are getting back to their normal lives. This debate allows us to fully explain what the ministry's role has been on this matter.

This role in dealing with serious fires and spills is to provide timely and accurate information to emergency personnel and health officials. I believe we fulfilled that role extremely well. Within one hour of being notified, the ministry had an experienced environmental officer en route to the scene, and valuable information had been given to the firefighters. This information included the types and the amount of plastic products stored in the building and the fact that no PCB material was stored in that particular facility.

On the way to the scene, the environmental officer observed the magnitude of the fire and called for the ministry's regional level II air monitoring van. This van contains monitoring equipment that can be used to monitor the air for dangerous chemicals and also gives information on meteorological conditions.

The van was dispatched to the scene immediately and began monitoring air quality and wind direction to assist fire and health officials.

Shortly before midnight, ministry staff placed a call to the spills action centre, requesting a state-of-the-art trace atmospheric gas analysis, or TAGA, unit, a $1-million-plus laboratory on wheels.

Both units were available in Toronto, and although mobilizing the well-equipped unit and its crew of environmental scientists does require some setup time, by 5:30 am the TAGA was fully deployed and monitoring throughout Hamilton for chemicals from the Plastimet fire. Later that day the second TAGA unit arrived.

Monitoring results from the two TAGA units, along with unfavourable weather conditions, were passed directly to the Hamilton-Wentworth public health department and were the basis for the emergency staff and city officials to order a voluntary evacuation on July 11.

Right from the first call, and continuing to this day, ministry staff took air, water and vegetation samples. Dioxin levels were among the first to be tested soon after the outbreak of the fire. Dioxin analyses are not simple, nor are they instantaneous; and they are very expensive. They take time and experienced staff working in a well-equipped laboratory.

However, ministry laboratory staff worked around the clock analysing dioxin samples, a procedure that normally takes eight days. They were able to do it under 48 hours. All told, about 100 dioxin samples were completed in record time and provided to ministry and health officials for health evaluation.

Air quality information, with public health advice, was disseminated to area residents through local media. On July 21, ministry staff, the Hamilton health department and police, fire and municipal officials held a public meeting to provide further information to concerned residents. The ministry also set up an information trailer near the site, staffed with ministry and local health personnel who could give information to area residents.

On July 21, my colleagues Lillian Ross, the member for Hamilton West, and Trevor Pettit, the member for Hamilton Mountain, told Hamilton city council that the Ontario government would provide $40,000 to a citizens' committee to fund independent expert evaluation of the ministry's tests of the cleanup of the site.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the dedicated staff of the Ministry of Environment and Energy who worked around the clock at the Plastimet fire. Their professionalism was first-class and was recognized in a letter to the Honourable Norm Sterling from the acting mayor of Hamilton, Mr David Wilson. Some members opposite have also expressed appreciation to our staff, and I would also like to thank them for their kindness and for all the dedication and work they put into this particular fire and to look after the environment and help the residents of Hamilton.

The Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried, subject to section 34 of the clam chowder act. The House stands adjourned until 1:30 pm tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1809.