36th Parliament, 1st Session

L218 - Mon 25 Aug 1997 / Lun 25 Aoû 1997













































The House met at 1332.




Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): On many occasions I have risen to express my deep concerns about the closure of regional offices of family support and the crisis in the new Family Responsibility Office. Only a very small percentage of cases are solved quickly. Most require repeated phone calls which leave my constituency assistants on hold for 20 minutes or more waiting to speak to an agent. Since last year, my long-distance costs have more than doubled; FRO is the cause of that huge increase.

It takes many weeks to resolve problems. One of my faxes was not picked up for a month. The system is not working, Minister. It is not working for those who must pay, it is not working for the custodial parents and children are suffering. Families must resort to self-help groups to get your attention.

In Chatham a group called TNT, Takes No Time, has been set up to urge the government to take action. These are not government cheques that you are delaying. This is not welfare and it is not charity; it is court-ordered support payments. You've had more than a year to address this problem. When are you going to fix this crisis?


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission was created by the province 95 years ago, in 1902, to open up the vast area of northern Ontario. Since then the economic development of the area has been closely linked to the services provided by the ONTC.

The ONTC is facing unprecedented downsizing and budget cuts, for example, $10 million in the last budget, and the cuts are just as deep as any faced by municipalities and various other provincial agencies. Right now, the passenger train service that runs between Cochrane and Toronto is under scrutiny. What will be the outcome of this study? No one knows; certainly the officials of the commission do not know.

The population of northern Ontario is worried. What is the future of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission? They have already lost the quality of service of NorOntair. They now face the possibility of losing the passenger train services they have come to enjoy for so many years.

Their worries don't stop there though. More and more people are now raising concerns about the freight train services as well, particularly on the level of safety. Recently, two derailments in the Kapuskasing area occurred over a period of two weeks. Add these incidents to another derailment in the past year. People are raising questions. Within the context of the cuts and downsizing, they are demanding an explanation. Is there any relationship between the government's agenda and these derailments?

How do we explain the sudden high frequency of accidents? Are the cutbacks and downsizing affecting the proper maintenance of the lines so much that the public and workers' safety is at stake? People are concerned and they're worried.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I rise today to speak to an issue which is on the minds of a great many Canadians, not only in Ontario but across this great land.

Last year there was a resolution put forward in this House by my colleague the member for Dufferin-Peel with regard to section 745 of the Criminal Code of Canada, commonly referred to as the faint hope clause. The resolution called upon the federal government to repeal this odious section of the Criminal Code, introduced by the federal Liberal government in 1976, which allows murderers to apply for parole earlier than permitted by their original sentences. This section gives those serving a life sentence a chance of an early parole and to have a hearing concerning early parole.

The rationale for this section at the time was to justify continued abolition of capital punishment. A life sentence was supposed to mean a life sentence, not 15 years and then parole. The punishment must fit the crime. Rehabilitation is one factor but it is not a primary factor in a crime such as murder with a relatively low rate of repeat offenders. Retribution and general deterrence must be considered paramount.

The federal government to date has refused to repeal section 745, and now we have the spectacle of Clifford Olson applying for early parole under section 745. This is a disgrace.

I invite my colleagues to join me in imploring the government of Canada to act immediately and repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code and, in so doing, stop the grievous injustice it inflicts upon innocent victims of crime and their families.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): What do King Henry VIII and the Mike Harris government have in common? According to a judgement of the Ontario Court of Justice, they are both big bullies.

Justice Archie Campbell described as "breathtaking" a clause in the government's bill on school board amalgamation. This clause gives cabinet the right to amend its own act by regulation -- no debate, no vote in the Legislature, cabinet just sits down and makes its own laws.

Justice Campbell notes that this kind of clause is called the King Henry VIII clause by legal historians because it gives cabinet exactly the same kind of autocratic power that King Henry gave himself -- the power to make laws by proclamation.

Now, with the new rule changes that have been once again forced on this Legislature, the Harris-King Henry VIII government is even freer to drive through its agenda, with no right to be heard for those who will be affected by the changes. Even existing laws can be arbitrarily overruled by the Harris cabinet, which keeps putting itself above the law, just as it puts itself above the people.

Time and time again we have seen this government discard any interest in hearing the opinions, the views, the concerns of those who would be affected by its changes. Even today, with the Toronto hospitals in court challenging the unilateral decisions of the commission, they say the views of those people made no difference. One big difference is that King Henry VIII is dead. We can all hope that the Harris government soon will be.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): This morning at 10 o'clock the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation held a press conference in the media studio to announce the government's plans with respect to charitable gaming casinos in the province and the allocation of the funds. I note with interest that the minister is not scheduled to make a statement here in the House and I think that's very unfortunate.

But let me say that it was a disgraceful performance. I think people were very disappointed. The minister absolutely guaranteed that the charities will be receiving up to $180 million of new revenues and she was able to talk about what percentage that was of the revenues coming in as a result of video slot machines and expanded gambling in local community neighbourhoods. When asked what the government's take was, however, the minister had no answer. We found that quite perplexing.

I say to the minister, perhaps some assistance with a little calculator might have been helpful. If you expect that the charities are going to receive $100 million from video slot machines and you say that is 10% of the revenues -- guess what? -- total revenues look to be about $1 billion, and $900 million going to the government.

It is a quick grab at money. I think what I find so offensive is that the minister spoke about a great deal of consultation about how to allocate the moneys, but the government refuses to consult with communities like mine in Beaches about the fact that we don't want a charity casino there in the first place.



Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I rise today to honour a constituent of mine, Serge Leclair, one of five recipients of the Award of Excellence presented by the Honourable Noble Villeneuve, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

This prestigious award, presented annually by the ministry, recognizes excellence in academic achievement, leadership abilities and community involvement. The award is presented to one student in each graduating class of a diploma program supported by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr Leclair is a hardworking and highly prominent student at Kemptville College. He enriched the life of every student on campus in his varied roles as activities chair for student council, master of ceremonies at the OPAC banquet in 1997, and a member of both the yearbook committee and the athletics committee.

His academic achievements are also worth noting. In just five semesters he earned not only a diploma in horticulture but also a certificate in powered equipment. At graduation he served at class valedictorian.

Mr Leclair is now using his knowledge and experience to excel in the private sector.

The four other students are Beverley Goodwin, of the independent study program at the University of Guelph; Nancy French, of the Ontario Agricultural College; Pierrette Séguin, of Alfred College; and Shannon Ward, of Ridgetown College.

I would like to thank the Honourable Noble Villeneuve, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, for taking the time to present this award. I would also like to congratulate Mr Leclair and all the other award winners on their fine achievements.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): In all the discussions about this government's downloading of responsibilities on to the municipalities, there may be one area that has not received the attention it should, and that's the area of public health programs.

This is an issue of great concern in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario, and unless the Minister of Health manages to change the Premier's mind, all public health programs must be funded by our cash-strapped municipalities come January 1, 1998.

To make public health part of the downloading package is simply wrong, and I believe that you must surely feel the same way. As Dr David Williams, the medical officer of health for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, put it to me: "A fragmented, decentralized public health system will not be capable of providing the people of Ontario with a timely, informed and coordinated response to outbreaks of disease."

While this downloading has potentially hazardous consequences in all areas of public health, I want to draw your attention to the vital need to maintain the genetic counselling program in particular. The families of patients affected by genetic diseases such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS need to be helped locally. Some of these patients in their later years cannot travel at all.

Minister, listen to the pleas of our area doctors and nurses as well as people such as Heather Labelle, the area representative for Huntington's disease, and make the decision to take public health off the downloading table and give all of us reassurance that the genetic counselling program will stay in place in the north.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise to advise the House that just a couple of hours ago Dr Matthew Bramley of Greenpeace held a news conference at the Howard Johnson Connaught in downtown Hamilton and announced the results of studies they had done on some of the soil from the Plastimet fire site. They said at the news conference that the results, which have been verified by independent laboratories, said they found 25,000 parts per trillion of toxic equivalent of dioxin at a time when the cleanup guideline for contaminated industrial land is 1,000 parts per trillion.

What we should appreciate, for those of us who are laypeople, is the fact that Dr Bramley found -- I'll read his words:

"Greenpeace has consistently stated there would be extensive dioxin contamination because of the large amount of the PVC plastic that burned, but I was shocked when I saw these figures. None of the past PVC fires documented by Greenpeace generated dioxin levels quite so high. I am concerned for firefighters and others who have been exposed to this material without adequate protection."

He goes on to say that this makes the Plastimet site probably the most toxic in Canada. Yet this government persists in stonewalling in terms of a public inquiry. After today's announcement, there can be no excuse for not having that public inquiry.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): Last Friday I had the pleasure of being a guest at the opening of the Assistive Devices Program Centre at the Hamilton office of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The program at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is designed to provide an assessment centre for visually impaired and blind individuals in order to make available various equipment and technologies to enhance the independence of their lives.

The technologies available to blind and visually impaired individuals are truly exciting. From the simplest computer enhancement providing large print to the scanners that read written text and articulate it in a human voice, the ADP program offers a valuable service to members of our community in Hamilton. What is more, Hamilton-area residents will no longer have to travel to facilities out of town in Kitchener and Toronto. The assistive devices program is right in their backyard.

I would like to extend my congratulations to the cooperative efforts of the community in Hamilton who raised $150,000 for the program, as well as the Ministry of Health, which contributed $200,000 to open the doors for a new program that already has a waiting list.

I know the CNIB appreciated the attendance of the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jim Wilson, at the opening of the program, and I would as well pass along my personal thanks to the minister for his assistance.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was just wondering, with the new rules in place, when we have visitors -- we have the Sam Tu Dang from England visiting us today -- is it appropriate to introduce them and welcome them to Canada? Would that be appropriate?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You mean in the gallery? No, that's inappropriate.

Mr Curling: We welcome them anyway.



Mrs Ross moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr65, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.

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



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on Tuesday, August 26, 1997, Wednesday, August 27, 1997, Tuesday, September 2, 1997, and Wednesday, September 3, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Johnson, Don Mills, moves -- dispense? No?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'd like to get up on a point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: There's no point of order, to the member for St Catharines. This is just a motion and it's moved by the government.

Mr Bradley: But the point of order I would like to make --

The Speaker: Okay, I'll hear your point of order if you like.

Mr Bradley: The point of order I have is that the new rules of the House, the new dictatorship, begin today, not last week. I understand the motion was filed last week, before the rules came into effect. If they were to be filed today, I'd fully understand that. I'd say: "Yes, that's the new rules. Too bad, but that's the way it is." But these were filed last week, and surely to be in effect, that motion should have been filed when the new rules were in effect, which was after midnight on Thursday night.

The Speaker: Although you're accurate, correct in the way you've listed the sequence of events, the fact is it matters not when a motion is filed; it only matters when a motion is called. They've called the motion today, and we now are under the jurisdiction of the new rules, so in fact they're not out of order. It's just that simple. Anybody can file any motion and ask the opposition party about filing an extra day for debate on opposition day. You can file it, but if it's attempted to be called or you're brought forward, it's out of order.

They filed this last week. It's true the House wasn't under those rules, but they called it today. We are under those rules and it's perfectly in order.

Pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 to 9:30 pm on Tuesday, August 26, 1997, Wednesday, August 27, 1997, Tuesday, September 2, 1997, and Wednesday, September 3, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 15-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1350 to 1405.

The Speaker: Order. All those in favour of the motion please rise and be recognized by the Clerk one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Baird, John R.

Bassett, Isabel

Beaubien, Marcel

Boushy, Dave

Brown, Jim

Chudleigh, Ted

Clement, Tony

Elliott, Brenda

Ford, Douglas B.

Fox, Gary

Froese, Tom

Grimmett, Bill

Harnick, Charles

Hastings, John

Hodgson, Chris

Hudak, Tim

Johns, Helen

Johnson, David

Kells, Morley

Klees, Frank

Leadston, Gary L.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Maves, Bart

McLean, Allan K.

Munro, Julia

Mushinski, Marilyn

O_Toole, John

Palladini, Al

Parker, John L.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Ross, Lillian

Runciman, Robert W.

Sampson, Rob

Saunderson, William

Shea, Derwyn

Sheehan, Frank

Skarica, Toni

Smith, Bruce

Snobelen, John

Sterling, Norman W.

Stewart, R. Gary

Tsubouchi, David H.

Turnbull, David

Vankoughnet, Bill

Villeneuve, Noble

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

Young, Terence H.


The Speaker: All those opposed please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.


Agostino, Dominic

Bartolucci, Rick

Boyd, Marion

Bradley, James J.

Brown, Michael A.

Christopherson, David

Churley, Marilyn

Colle, Mike

Conway, Sean G.

Cordiano, Joseph

Crozier, Bruce

Curling, Alvin

Grandmaître, Bernard

Gravelle, Michael

Hampton, Howard

Hoy, Pat

Kennedy, Gerard

Kormos, Peter

Kwinter, Monte

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Lankin, Frances

Martin, Tony

McLeod, Lyn

Morin, Gilles E.

North, Peter

Patten, Richard

Phillips, Gerry

Pouliot, Gilles

Ramsay, David

Sergio, Mario

Wildman, Bud

Wood, Len


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 49, the nays are 32.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I think the House leader should move even more expeditiously to get bills through this House. He's moving too slowly.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Who's your question to, member for Lawrence?

Mr Cordiano: It's to the House leader, the minister. Last week, without notice or warning, you betrayed municipal leaders who were willing to work with you to sort out the mess you created on Who Does What legislation. By introducing legislation late last Thursday, you broke all faith. You introduced it late in the day, with as little media coverage as possible and without any statement in this House. It's obvious that what you really intended to do was to avoid this House, the media, municipal officials and the people of this province. You're running away from everyone, Minister. You simply aren't willing to guarantee that your downloading on to municipalities will be revenue-neutral, and so you're trying to hide that possibility.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Cordiano: How could you possibly introduce this legislation without at least first talking to municipalities and then --

The Speaker: Thank you very much. Minister.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): First of all, I would say that this legislation was introduced at the normal time in the Legislature, on a normal basis. There's no requirement for a minister's statement in terms of a bill. In some instances there are ministers' statements; in other cases there are no ministers' statements.

Finally, I would say that the province has been discussing this very matter with the municipalities for some considerable period of time. In fact back in June, I believe it was, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, many of the municipal leaders came forward with a recommendation in terms of the splitting of responsibilities and the splitting of funding between the municipalities and the province, and that is what was accepted by the province of Ontario and implemented through this bill, the services improvement bill.

Mr Cordiano: Here is what a few municipal representatives had to say about your bill and the way you introduced it. In fact, no one trusts you any more. Terry Mundell, the head of AMO, after you quietly introduced your bill, said: "What does that tell you about partnership? Trust, respect for our level of government is not coming through."

Or Markham Mayor Don Cousens, a former colleague, on how much trust he places on your guarantee that the downloading will be revenue-neutral: "I'd like to have something in legislation" to guarantee that.

Municipalities say your plans will increase taxes, as high as 75% in the Premier's own riding. You say they're all wrong. No one believes you any more. Even your own back bench is doubting your credibility.

I ask you again to withdraw this bill until you can guarantee to municipalities that it is in fact revenue-neutral and that people won't be facing huge property tax increases.

Hon David Johnson: I think the member opposite would agree with me when I say that obviously not all of the municipal leaders are wrong. For example, I'll give you the quote of one of those involved at the municipal level. The quote is: "Chiarelli vowed not to raise taxes. Chiarelli says the downloaded responsibilities can be absorbed with no tax increase."

Mayor Mel Lastman says: "I can come with a zero tax increase. There's no doubt in my mind that it can be done for the new city of Toronto."

Terry Mundell has said, "The reality of the situation is that the province told us about a year ago that the $667 million is being eliminated, but the rest can be absorbed." That's our view, that the municipalities will be able to absorb and not put taxes up. Indeed, there's a considerable amount of support for the disentanglement process that we have initiated.

Mr Cordiano: It's obvious this government is not listening -- not listening to AMO representatives, Terry Mundell, Don Cousens, various other mayors across the province. It's obvious this government has something to hide when it comes to this piece of legislation. What's in it is the inability of the government to guarantee that any of the changes will be revenue-neutral to the municipalities. You've failed to confirm this. You have failed to reassure municipalities that it is in fact revenue-neutral.

In the end, what are municipalities left to do but throw up their hands and say, "We can't trust this government"? Time and again you've shown that the people of this province cannot look to you for trust in the way that you can bring forward a piece of legislation that deals with these additional costs. Some $670 million in additional costs will be dumped on to municipalities, and what do you say them? You say, "Trust us."

They have tried to trust you. The very people who were working with you, those same municipal representatives, are saying you have failed to consult with them. You introduced legislation without even talking to them. Minister, withdraw the bill.

The Speaker: Member for Lawrence, please take your seat. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: In fact there have been very extensive consultations. I would say that even at the present time, as we speak here today, the Minister of Municipal Affairs is speaking and dialoguing with the members of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Indeed a number of ministers will be attending the AMO conference this week. There is considerable dialoguing.

I reiterate once again that this government sat down with many of the municipal leaders, and the proposal that's coming forward that's encompassed in the Services Improvement Act comes out of those discussions with the municipal leaders. They have asked for this for years. The previous government attempted to deliver on the request for disentanglement. They failed. We have taken it one step further. We have taken it that step to success in conjunction with the municipal leaders. There will be no tax increase. There will be a better division of services. It will be a more efficient and effective service.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Environment. This morning I, along with my colleague David Christopherson, the member for Hamilton Centre, attended a press conference by Greenpeace at which they released the onsite soil testing from the Plastimet fire that was taken the day of and the day after the fire. This test was done by General Laboratories, an independent company that has done work for the federal and provincial ministries, a credible firm.

These tests on the site showed that the Plastimet fire site contained 25 times the maximum acceptable dioxin rate for an industrial site. The same tests showed that it exceeded the agricultural land maximum level by 250 times. These are absolutely shocking numbers. Greenpeace said this morning, "This site is now one of the most toxic sites in Canada."

The evidence is overwhelming. The health effects are there. Over 100 firefighters, over 100 hospital workers, 38% of the residents have been impacted. You are the only one left in this province who doesn't believe there's a problem. Will you now recommend to your cabinet an immediate public inquiry into the Plastimet fire?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I have not seen the Greenpeace results. However, as I understand it, they confirm what the Ministry of Environment has known for a long, long time -- I'm talking far before this government was in power -- that this is a very contaminated site. However, in spite of the fact that previous governments have had some opportunity to clean up this particular site, this government is doing that at this present time. We have --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): What are you talking about?

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm talking about the three fires that were there when you were Solicitor General, Mr Christopherson, and you didn't do anything about it.

Mr Christopherson: There's a plastic fire that put firefighters out of --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton Centre, please come to order.

Hon Mr Sterling: We took dioxin samples off the site in the community and those results were normal, and that is what we were trying to protect in terms of the some 3,000 samples we took after and during the fire. We are onsite. We are attempting to have this site cleaned up like it's never been cleaned up before.

Mr Agostino: I am amazed at the smugness, the arrogance and the lack of concern this minister continues to show for the people of Hamilton and for the people who have been involved in that fire.

You and your ministry have the results of the onsite soil testing. We confirmed Friday afternoon that your ministry has the results but does not plan to release them later in the week. You have seen those numbers. You have seen the Greenpeace numbers. What are you trying to hide? What are you trying to cover up? Frankly, why are you more concerned with regard to the public relations and covering your butt and your ministry's butt rather than be concerned about the impact of this fire?

We have two choices here: Either the Greenpeace numbers are accurate, as we believe they are, or you today have to release your numbers that your ministry has that were confirmed Friday afternoon, that show the onsite soil testing shows the levels to exceed the standards by far.

Minister, will you today in the question period release the results that your ministry confirmed on Friday you have?


Hon Mr Sterling: We are not afraid to release any of the results we have. Those are available under the freedom of information act. We'd be pleased to do that. I know there's concern in the Hamilton community with regard to this fire and the results of this fire. That's why we have taken a substantial public information program. We have sent officials down there when they've been asked to go down. We have a public information trailer. We have a citizens' committee. We've provided the community with $40,000 to confirm any of our results. We are a completely open book on this and we will continue to be a completely open book, because we're concerned about the health of these people. We don't want to make this a political debate; we want to make it an information debate. We have in fact provided all the information to the community and to the municipal politicians as well.

Mr Agostino: It's unbelievable that the minister has not been able to tell us today that he will release those numbers. What are you hiding? You have the numbers. Why are you afraid to release that information to the people of Hamilton?

The Premier agreed there should be a public inquiry. You've said you were not afraid of a public inquiry. The Minister of Health on Friday said, "The government would have to support an inquiry if health and other authorities add their voice." City council has asked for a public inquiry. I spoke to the regional chairman last night. He has said that he supports the call for a public inquiry and he will ask regional council to do so.

I cannot believe you are still continuing to hide behind some screen and lack of accountability you have when the reality is that your mishandling, your cuts, your incompetence in responding to this fire have led to the danger we have on that particular site today.

If you're not afraid, if you have nothing to hide, release those numbers, recommend to your cabinet that there be a public inquiry. Failure to do that, Minister, will clearly show that you are more concerned about covering your butt and your ministry's butt than taking care of the problem in Hamilton. Will you call today to your cabinet for a public inquiry --

The Speaker: Thank you very much.

Hon Mr Sterling: As I said before, any numbers I have, the member is welcome to them. With all 3,000 tests we've taken, the public is entitled to see the results of each and every one of those tests. We have no fear about anyone seeing what those tests were and how they were provided.

In fact, I want to just read from acting mayor Dave Wilson's letter to me: "As you know, staff of your ministry were at the scene of the fire within an hour and have continued to be onsite to this day. With their valuable input and excellent advice they were able to give us the information we needed to make critical decisions in a timely manner. Had we not had their assistance, we would have been faced with a radically different situation."

We have continued since this fire started. We're still on the site. We're still taking tests. We're still providing information. We will release any results we have, not just soil tests from last week. We will release all the results.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New Question, third party.

Mr Christopherson: Is my microphone on? There we go. That's got it. I want to make sure he hears me, because so far everything he's done indicates he's not listening. My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. Minister, I want to join with my colleague Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino from Hamilton East and say to you, if you want a non-partisan approach, you've got it from over here. We're not playing any kind of party politics here when we call for a public inquiry. All of city council unanimously passed it, which includes, as you know, well-known Tories. Recently, the Minister of Health, your colleague who sits two seats beside you, said that if the medical officer of health asked for a public inquiry he would agree with one.

Minister, you know that as elected people we are the ones who are accountable. I want to ask you, if regional council, which is the political body that the medical officer of health answers to locally, passes a resolution calling for a public inquiry, will you join with your colleague the Minister of Health and recommend to the cabinet that there be a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire in Hamilton?

Hon Mr Sterling: Because of my concern for the people of Hamilton, I of course would consider any request seriously. If that is done, I will consider it seriously at that point in time.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, it's getting a little better but we've still got a long way to go here before we hear you mouth the words, "Yes, there will be a public inquiry." Understand something, Minister: Nothing less is acceptable to the people in our community of Hamilton -- nothing less than a public inquiry.

So far, as I've mentioned, we've got the unanimous support of city council, we've got firefighters who are facing serious health problems as a result of this, we've got the OPSEU workers, who are your ministry representatives on the front line, saying, "Yes, there needs to be a public inquiry." We've got a number of environmental groups, including Greenpeace. We've got the Toronto board of health twice now, one just on Friday. The Spectator editorial board, not known to be a real left-wing group, has also called for a public inquiry.

The Public Inquiries Act says there only needs to be public concern for a public inquiry to be called. I'd like you to lay out right now, if you won't call one today, what exactly is your threshold for calling a public inquiry. What are the details?

Hon Mr Sterling: I just want to indicate to the member my concern about the health of the firefighters. We have in the past provided the fire chief with all of the information he has required during the fire and after the fire. We've provided that same information to the medical officer of health so that she could provide information to them about the health effects of the results of the fire, and we will continue to do that.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, I don't know if you fully appreciate how your answers sound. You're dodging the issue. You're abdicating your responsibility. We need leadership from you on this. You're the point person for this government in terms of this disaster that fell upon our community. You have that responsibility. You also have the ability to hold a public inquiry.

You keep standing up and saying you care and you're providing information. That's all that the people in our community are asking for; not for you to fall on your sword but for you to give them a transparent process that allows all the facts on the table. There's so much discrepancy here in terms of information our people have had, all the way from, "Be happy, don't worry," to, "Don't let your kids go out in the backyard in the middle of summer." That's the kind of discrepancy and you know what happened at the last public meeting.

Minister, you owe it to the platform you were elected on and you owe it to the people of Hamilton to say that you really care and show that you care and call for that public inquiry.

Hon Mr Sterling: I've said before and I'll say it again: We have provided all of the information. We're an open book. We're willing to provide any additional information which people would like to try to deal with this situation. I would only say to the former minister, he ought to know, and the member for Hamilton East ought to know that it's not in the mandate of the Ministry of Environment to call an inquiry.

Mr Christopherson: You're stonewalling. What are you hiding, Norm?

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I warn you. You must come to order. Member for Durham East, if you could take your seat, that would be helpful too. Minister.

Hon Mr Sterling: Let me make this clear. If in fact the member or the council or some citizens have some sound reasons, some sound evidence of the need for an inquiry, I would be pleased to pass those along to the Attorney General, who is responsible for calling public inquiries.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the government House leader and acting Premier for the day. Minister, last Thursday you dropped your download bill on this Legislature late in the afternoon. You gave no notice to municipal leaders, no notice to the public, no notice to any members here, no notice to the press. Can you tell us why your government feels it has to be so secretive? What is it that you have to hide? Why do you try to so hard to shut the public out of the democratic process and keep them in the dark? Can you tell us that?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I'm very happy to say that this government has pursued the democratic process in great detail. In fact the Minister of Municipal Affairs is speaking today with AMO. The Premier will be speaking with the association of municipalities later this week. A number of ministers will be present this week at the association of municipalities annual convention.

Over the course of this year there have been extensive negotiations and meetings between the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the municipalities. Other ministers have met; indeed, the substance of this particular bill is one that resulted from those meetings and from the association itself coming forward with suggestions that the province accepted and implemented.

This is much the same process, except with more consultation, that the previous government went through. The previous government tried to address some of these same problems and failed. Our process, of this government, has resulted in a successful conclusion.


Mr Hampton: Let me suggest to the government House leader why his government was trying to be so secretive about this and why they introduced an omnibus piece of legislation at the end of a legislative week with no notice to anyone. The reason you're being so secretive is because this is a tax grab. You are going to grab municipal property taxes to pay for ambulance services, public health services, policing services, fire services, seniors' apartments and non-profit housing, social assistance and much more.

This is a tax grab by your government of municipal tax dollars. You're going after municipal property taxpayers. This bill is all about municipalities pay and you have all the say; that's what it's about. Minister, let me ask you this: Since it's a tax grab and your government promised not to raise taxes, will you withdraw this bill until you come clean and share with municipalities the full amount you're going to download on them?

Hon David Johnson: I guess the leader of the third party feels an authority on tax increases since his government increased taxes 32 times during its jurisdiction. The present government is not about tax increases. This government is about tax reduction. We have reduced the provincial personal income tax. The workers' compensation premiums will be reduced. The health payments will be reduced.

According to some of the main candidates in the upcoming municipal election, such as Mel Lastman -- and I presume his campaign committee and chair -- and Bob Chiarelli, people like that are saying, "Taxes will not go up." We firmly believe that because this is not a tax grab, this is not a download; this is simply a division of funding that your government failed to implement but this government, working with municipal leaders, has been able to accomplish.

Mr Hampton: I understand when the government House leader is trying to spin a story, but this even goes beyond anything you've tried before.

Yes, governments from time to time have to raise taxes, but at least some other governments in the past were honest about it. They didn't try to hide a $500 tuition fee increase and say, "It's not a tax grab." No other government hit seniors with a $200- to $300-a year prescription medicine user fee and tried to say, "It's not a tax grab." No other government shoved off on municipalities a whole long list of new user fees and then didn't say, "It's a tax grab."

Your government, if you add up all the user fees, all the new tuition fees, all the new fees you've assessed low-income seniors and people across this province, has had more tax increases in the last two years than probably any government in the last 10. But I come back to the question: Will you withdraw this bill until --

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

Hon David Johnson: No, this bill will not be withdrawn. This bill results from the many municipal leaders getting together and recommending how this division of responsibilities and funding should proceed. The government has accepted their advice and that is encapsulated in this particular bill.

This government has had to make government more efficient and more effective. That's what we promised to do. We were faced, because of the NDP government in the 1990s, with a debt of some $100 billion, with deficits of $11 billion. We have reduced expenditures throughout Ontario, but at the same time we have put taxes down. I fully believe that with this better division of services, provision of services, funding of services, municipal taxes will go down because municipalities will be able to be more effective and more efficient.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Last Thursday I was asking questions of the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism about the outrageous price of gasoline in this province for motorists, both those who are visiting and those who reside in this province. His response was: "It is not the purpose of this government to interfere in corporate actions. We live in a free enterprise environment." He also said: "We on this side of the House believe in the free enterprise system. We don't intend to dictate to companies what they should and should not do, provided they act with reason."

Do you believe that the big oil companies in this province that are gouging the consumers are acting within reason? Is it your intention to protect the consumers of this province against these outrageous gas prices or are you prepared to continue to apologize for the oil barons of this province?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to turn this question over to my colleague Minister Tsubouchi.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Perhaps we can indicate, once again, the discussion we had on Thursday where I indicated I've already met with the independent gas dealers --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Once again, if we could revisit last Thursday when the member for St Catharines asked us again, I indicated that I already met with the independent gas dealers to discuss the issue.

Secondly, I indicated as well that this will be on the agenda for the interprovincial ministers' conference coming up this September in Saskatchewan. Clearly every minister of the crown of all the various provinces has a concern with this.

Thirdly, I've also taken the time to write to the Honourable John Manley to indicate that they should exercise their powers under the Competition Act, for them to take some steps, because clearly it's a federal jurisdiction.

Fourthly, I've also written to the industry, the gas refiners, to ask them to ensure that the consumers of Ontario are well served.

Mr Bradley: The answer is the minister is doing nothing, as usual, except passing the buck to somebody else.

You have a chance to stand up for the consumers of this province, the motorists of this province, or to get into bed with the corporate barons, the oil barons who are charging outrageous prices for gasoline in this province. I'm asking you to take the side of consumers, to take positive action. Here's something within your jurisdiction and there's support all around this House for it.

Are you prepared to introduce a bill preventing predatory pricing, that is, major oil companies from selling for less to their own dealers than they do to independents and therefore wiping the independents out? Are you prepared to introduce in this province, with the support of all three parties, and it will get by in one afternoon, a bill prohibiting predatory pricing on the part of the major oil barons of this country?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: We are clearly concerned with this and we've taken more action than the member's government did when they were in power.

Mr Speaker, if I could beg your indulgence and take a very short trip down memory lane, I'll indicate to the member that when his own Premier, David Peterson, was confronted with this issue he indicated, "The member is very well aware that the federal government controls this issue, not us." He went on to say on April 29, and this is a good one: "I know it's not easy to impress upon socialists how the marketplace works. I do not want to give them an Economics 201 primer in this situation." Obviously Mr Bradley missed the primer because he's still asking the same questions.

Lastly, I'll indicate that Mr Peterson, who was the Premier at that point in time, on January 24, 1986, indicated that they will tell him clearly that he is asking the question in the wrong House. Obviously he didn't pay attention to his own Premier when they were in power.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): In the absence of the Minister of Health, I will ask my question of the Chair of Management Board and the former Minister of Health. The legislation your government introduced last Thursday requires municipalities to take over funding of all land ambulance services by January 1, 1998, and it requires that municipalities take over the delivery of ambulance service by January 1, 2000, neatly coinciding --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You guys are as large as life when it comes to take credit and you won't do anything.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'm warning the member for St Catharines to come to order. I won't warn him again.

Can I just get who your question is to again? I'm sorry, member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: Certainly. I'm starting from the beginning, am I, Mr Speaker?

The Speaker: Okay, go ahead.

Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, it's to the Chair of Management Board and the former health minister because the Minister of Health is absent again today.

Minister, the legislation your government introduced last Thursday requires municipalities to take over full funding of land ambulance services by January 1, 1998, and requires that municipalities take over the delivery of ambulance services by January 1, 2000, a date neatly coinciding with most of the hospital closures that have been announced so far.

As services are rationalized, as there are fewer hospitals with greater levels of specialization, you're expecting municipalities to provide for the transportation of patients across greater distances and with more frequent transfers, and nowhere in this legislation are the criteria for service elaborated. It leaves many questions about what the response times will be, who will staff ambulances, what their training will be and what equipment is required.

Minister, why is there no assurance in this legislation that as the health care system becomes more reliant on the delivery of ambulance services, the people of Ontario can expect higher --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for London Centre. Minister?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): First of all, not being the Minister of Health at this present time I may not have all the specific information to respond to the question. But I will say that ambulance services are part of the transfer of responsibilities and funding between the province and the municipalities. It is a revenue-neutral situation. Municipalities I've always found to be very sincere and concerned about health issues, through the public health departments, for example. I'm very confident that the municipalities will look at what's required and do the right thing.

Here in Metropolitan Toronto, for example, the Metro ambulance services have shared in the funding 50-50 over the past number of years and delivered a top-flight ambulance service here. I'm confident that municipalities across Ontario, with the advice of the provincial government, will carry on in an excellent fashion the ambulance services.

Mrs Boyd: At a time when you're saying you want to integrate health services, where you want uniform quality of health services, what your legislation has done is create more confusion, more complication between municipal and provincial responsibilities for ambulance service.

According to the changes in the Ambulance Act, municipalities will have to fund most of it, but the province will control some of it, and all jurisdictions are going to have to work out a morass of cross-boundary payments and chargebacks. In the end, the public will have no idea who is responsible for what. What is now a system of 172 operators could conceivably be a system with more than 800 operators. This is not straightening out who does what; it represents the exact opposite to what the Crombie panel recommended.

Minister, you've refused to give service criteria. You're creating greater confusion. Will you provide today the total cost projections for ambulance services, including the impact of hospital restructuring, to January 1, 2000?

Hon David Johnson: It's somewhat interesting that the previous government went through an exercise looking at the same problem, that for more accountability to ensure efficiency, the province should discuss with municipalities who should deliver what service and who should pay for what service. We have finally taken that to a successful conclusion, and part of that whole picture includes land ambulances.

I will say that notwithstanding that municipalities will have the responsibility, the ministry will continue to set standards and monitor those standards and enforce standards to ensure that the people of Ontario have an excellent service delivery and that the vehicles, equipment and qualifications of the service providers are up to proper standards.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. Minister, school board amalgamation is occurring across Ontario as we speak. The school boards are restructuring and changing under Bill 104. Our government has always stated that cost savings can and should be found outside the classroom. The purpose of the bill is to decrease costs while maintaining quality classroom education. What is the status of this transformation of school boards?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'd like to thank the member for Peterborough for the question. He's quite correct on the premise of Bill 104, which is to move from 1,700 to 900 politicians in our education system; to reduce the cost of the bureaucracy and the administration of this system; and to focus on the individual student and the individual teacher in the classroom, to make sure all of our efforts are focused on those people in that critical relationship.

Bill 104 is an important building block as we build the future of education in the province step by step by step. It's our goal, with Bill 104 and with our other education initiatives, to lift our students from the clutches of mediocrity where they have found themselves and to fulfil our goal and our commitment, which is to have student performance in Ontario be the best in Canada, not in the middle of the pack.

I can tell you that things are going quite well in this transformation. We are managing the change well. Local education improvement committees are in place across Ontario, working on putting together this new, better education system.

Mr Stewart: Thank you, Minister. It sounds like it's working well.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Mr Stewart: If it wasn't working well, I wouldn't get this kind of response.

The minister often speaks of reducing bureaucracy and indeed duplication. Would the minister elaborate and provide this House with the information on how school board district 14, which is in my riding, is achieving those necessary cost savings while ensuring quality education, and are the objects of our government being met in this particular case?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'd confirm what the member for Peterborough has said: It is going quite well. In fact, although some people from the opposition may find it hard to believe, my mother recently told me that it was going well, and I trust what she has to say.

In all seriousness, we are --


Hon Mr Snobelen: Lest we digress, which happens from time to time in this chamber, let me say that we are in the very early stages of this transformation. There's lots of work to do but there are willing hands doing that work right across the province.

The estimates by experts were that we would be able to save $150 million by reducing the bureaucracy in the administration of education, and I'm pleased to say that in the member's riding, district school board 14 recently determined that they can eliminate three senior administrative positions for an annual saving of $400,000 in that board alone from that move alone. I think that's a positive indicator that we can reduce administration.



Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. Minister, two months ago you announced that the Harris government would be divesting itself of 50% of the provincial highway network in eastern Ontario. As part of that divestment, you plan to turn Highways 37 and 41 over to the respective counties of Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington and Renfrew. In the intervening weeks, chambers of commerce, travel associations and local municipalities have in one voice said it's a bad idea.

Having had some time over the summer to think about your plan, are you now prepared, as minister of highways for Ontario, to reconsider that position and to take back into the provincial highway system Highways 41 and 37?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the member for the question. Obviously it is a concern for many municipalities around the province. In some ways, they might feel overwhelmed with what is happening. But I believe we in the Harris government are doing what is necessary to be done, that is, taking a look at provincial highway infrastructure that truly serves a provincial purpose, and certainly highways that no longer serve that purpose should be dealt with by the municipalities.

We are doing that in such a way that municipalities are going to get adequate compensation, and if there isn't compensation attached to it, we will make sure that the standards of the transfer of those highways are going to be in the condition that they should be. We are doing things that I believe are right.

Mr Conway: Everyone who is on the other side of this says it's a bad idea. Highway 41, running from Lake Ontario at Napanee 200 kilometres northward to Pembroke at the Ottawa River, runs through a sparsely populated area that is almost entirely owned by the provincial government. No one in Renfrew, Lennox and Addington and Frontenac can conceive of what local interest is served by Highway 41.

You're going to meet tomorrow with the wardens of Renfrew, Lennox and Addington, Hastings and Frontenac counties who have got a counterproposal that would see you take back 41 and 37 into the provincial system for some other highways that they're prepared to take into their local and regional system. Are you prepared to consider that seriously and respond, not just to municipal leaders but to travel associations, chambers of commerce and a lot of sensible people who think your plan, particularly for the divestment of Highways 41 and 37, is unfair and insupportable?

Hon Mr Palladini: I want to say to the honourable member that obviously highways are of great importance to Ontario, not only from a commercial aspect but also from a tourism aspect. I want to say to the member that, yes, I am meeting with the wardens and municipal leaders tomorrow and I am going to be going into this thing with a very open mind. I'm certainly going to listen to what they have to say. If there are fundamental opportunities within that compromise that we could both take advantage of the situation, obviously I will take that into consideration.

I want to again reassure the members that the transfers that have taken place have been done in a fair and consistent manner. Money has been attached to the transfers. Again, I want to say that whatever infrastructure needs to be addressed, at least we in the Harris government are making that effort. I don't want to give a shot to the two parties on the other side, but certainly in your term of government the same attention was not given by your respective governments.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. A small municipality in my constituency, the township of Plummer Additional, which is concerned about the downloading to municipalities, called the minister's office to request a meeting during the AMO conference this week. The response they received back from the minister's office was quite offensive. The information they were given was that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines would meet with the executive of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and the mayors of the six major northern centres but that he did not have time to meet with small municipalities. The township of Plummer Additional was advised that their concerns should be forwarded to the executive of FONOM. I understand that the minister suggested they should meet with his parliamentary assistant, the member for Brampton North.

Why is the Minister of Northern Development and Mines limiting his meetings during the AMO conference only to large municipalities and to the executive of FONOM?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I have no idea. I'll check out why that was told to the municipality. I met with FONOM and NOMA this morning, along with the six mayors of northern Ontario. As soon as I'm out of here in a few minutes, I'll go back down to AMO and meet with delegations until about 9 o'clock tonight from small municipalities right across northern Ontario. I'll check out why they were told that.

Mr Wildman: Since receiving this information, the reeve of the township of Plummer Additional has sent a memo to all the municipalities in Algoma district indicating the substance of his conversation with the minister's staff. The township of Plummer Additional has the same kinds of tax burdens, if not worse, as the large municipalities in northern Ontario as a result of the downloading. The township has done an analysis of the downloading and estimates that in 1998 there will be a $2,042 property tax increase to every household in the township.

Minister, how can you accept this kind of increase to the ratepayers of small municipalities in northern Ontario like the township of Plummer Additional? Can you tell them today that you will indeed change your schedule and meet with the reeve as he's attending AMO and discuss these figures and then come back to your government and say that this download has to be rethought?

Hon Mr Hodgson: First of all, you didn't listen to the answer. I told you I am meeting with small municipalities in northern Ontario all day at AMO. Throughout the year I meet with municipal representatives as well. We've given FONOM and NOMA dollars to consult with all the municipal politicians and councils across northern Ontario and they've done a phenomenal job.

We were presented this morning with a report from FONOM and NOMA that they got input from all the small municipalities. You know full well that it's too premature to translate any of these rough calculations to household increases. We had a very positive meeting this morning with six mayors and FONOM and NOMA. FONOM and NOMA represent small municipalities.

This afternoon I expect to have more meetings with small municipalities, and they know this is a process where we've got some steps to take. We've got to work together to make sure there is no tax increase, to make sure that not only is the provincial government making efficiencies and making services better but the municipalities are given the tools to make services better without raising their taxes.



Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): My question is to the Solicitor General. As you've heard today and as I've expressed to you on numerous occasions, people in Hamilton are concerned about the aftermath of the Plastimet fire. They're concerned about the long-term effects and they're concerned about what can be done to ensure that such an occurrence doesn't happen again.

It's my understanding that your ministry is setting up a working group to respond to public concerns. Can you tell this House and members of my community, who are very concerned, who will be involved in this working group and what will they be doing?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I received the fire marshal's report on the incident last Wednesday and I want to commend the fire marshal and his staff for an excellent, timely and thorough work. The report contains 12 recommendations that will reduce the possibility of similar occurrences in the future. I'm told that the recommendations have already been endorsed by the Recycling Council of Ontario. The working group led by the office of the fire marshal with representatives from the ministries of environment and energy, health, labour and municipal affairs and housing, is being set up to translate these recommendations into action.

I'm quite satisfied that the report provides a game plan to address the issue. We're moving ahead and taking speedy action to ensure prevention and improve public safety.

Mrs Ross: I thank the Solicitor General for his response. This issue is a very serious concern. But the people in the community want to know when this group will be up and running, when they will take action and what their terms of reference will be.

Hon Mr Runciman: I appreciate the member's concern and interest in this subject. The government has taken this situation very seriously and we're making good on our commitment to take swift and effective action.

I understand a steering committee will be formed this week. The steering committee will set out the precise expectations in terms of time lines and objectives for the working group and this information will be made public. It's worth noting that there is other work ongoing with respect to related fire safety concerns. Updates to the fire code are expected to be made this fall. Fire safety and prevention have been and will continue to be priorities for this government.

The key to long-term public health and safety is prevention, and I'm confident that the working group will focus their efforts appropriately.


M. Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa-Est) : My question is to the minister responsible for francophone affairs. Monsieur le Ministre, comme vous le savez, la Commission de restructuration des soins de santé a rendu public le sort de l'hôpital Montfort, et son rôle a été considérablement affaibli. Plusieurs personnes semblent dire que Montfort va devenir une coquille vide. C'est inacceptable.

Par contre, la formation de médecins francophones demeure un défi de taille pour l'Université d'Ottawa, la Cité collégiale, les médecins, pour établir et mettre en oeuvre ce réseau de services en français.

Pouvez-vous me dire, Monsieur le Ministre, quel sera votre rôle dans tout ça ? Quel sera le rôle de l'Office des Affaires francophones ? Quelle action allez-vous prendre ? Et ma dernière question : est-ce que le ministère de la Santé va présenter un nouveau plan de mise en oeuvre ?

L'hon Noble A. Villeneuve (ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : Il me fait plaisir d'expliquer tout simplement à mon collègue d'Ottawa-Est que l'hôpital Montfort demeure comme toujours. La chose est qu'il y a eu certains changements recommandés par la Commission de restructuration.

Le rôle du ministre des Affaires francophones est d'assurer que les services en français sont bel et bien disponibles non seulement à l'hôpital Montfort mais aux autres hôpitaux qui desservent une région désignée dans la région d'Ottawa. Quant aux recommandations de la Commission de restructuration, comme vous le savez, le gouvernement, les députés et même les membres du Conseil des ministres n'ont aucune influence sur la décision.

Alors, je veux tout simplement vous dire que ma responsabilité demeure les services en français comme nous les connaissions dans le passé.

M. Grandmaître : Votre réponse est inacceptable. Depuis le début vous vous cachez derrière cette commission parce que vous pensez que ces gens-là vont prendre la bonne décision ; vous allez simplement appuyer et votre attente dit que c'est satisfaisant.

À titre de ministre des Affaires francophones, vous avez un rôle d'ambassadeur pour représenter la communauté francophone. Cessez vos simagrées. Qu'est-ce que vous allez faire et quand allez-vous le faire, Monsieur le Ministre ?

L'hon M. Villeneuve : Je veux tout simplement réitérer que la responsabilité du ministre des Affaires francophones est d'assurer que les services et que la formation des médecins francophones se continuent.

Vous savez, c'est intéressant que le premier ministre, l'honorable Jean Chrétien, se dit très d'accord avec la décision. Mon collègue et votre collègue au niveau fédéral, l'honorable Don Boudria, nous dit la même chose. Il voit le rôle de l'hôpital Montfort se continuer. Alors moi, je suis d'accord avec mes collègues d'Ottawa.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a question of the Solicitor General. We know that Bill 136 has nothing to do with restructuring and everything to do with dismantling the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. Quite frankly, the inclusion of police officers in Bill 136 demonstrates that as clearly as anything.

Specifically, what have you done to protect the collective bargaining rights of police officers, municipal and provincial, across this province in the context of Bill 136?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I'll refer this to the Minister of Labour.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I would simply indicate to the member for Welland-Thorold that we have started to talk to the police, and I have indicated that we are quite prepared to respond to their concerns and make what changes would be necessary to accommodate those concerns.

Mr Kormos: It's unfortunate that the Solicitor General declines to take the opportunity to explain what he has done to protect the interests and rights of, in this case, police officers who are directly within his bailiwick. Not only am I disappointed, but I suspect that thousands of police officers across the province now have seen the true colours of this Solicitor General, that he cares not for the welfare of police and policing and quite frankly is prepared to deliver them up to the Minister of Labour just as public sector workers across the board -- provincial, municipal and regional -- are being delivered up and sacrificed in the context of Bill 136.

How can the government justify the inclusion of, let's say, police officers or firefighters in 136 if indeed they insist that the purpose of 136 is about restructuring rather than a direct attack on the bargaining rights of public sector workers?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would like to also share with you the fact that the Solicitor General and I have certainly been in communication, and all of the concerns that were brought forward to his attention he has shared with me. I would simply reiterate what I said in response to my first question. That is that as we look at the entire issue of restructuring and we put it into the appropriate context, we need to recognize that as we do have amalgamations, as we do have mergers of municipalities and hospitals and school boards, it is going to be absolutely necessary that there be the appropriate processes in place to deal with this restructuring to ensure that the needs of all employees, whether unionized or not, are appropriately addressed.

At the same time, we're taking a look at the arbitration system. As you probably know --

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

Hon Mrs Witmer: -- there has been an outstanding request to take a look at the arbitration system and somehow ensure that arbitrated settlements are dealt with in a more --

The Speaker: Thank you very much. New question.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Minister, you are the right person with the right skills for a tough job, and I am confident that you will make the right decisions. I understand that after much deliberation, you announced last week, along with local Thunder Bay industry and Environment Canada, a major cleanup project of toxic waste in Thunder Bay harbour. Can you tell the House today more about this cleanup and its impact on the province?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The ministry has been working for over 10 years on various remedial action plans across the Great Lakes. There are some 17 of them in existence. We have gone from the planning stage into the action stage, and last week we announced, along with the federal government and Abitibi, a $9.3-million cleanup in the Thunder Bay harbour of former toxic contamination done by Northern Wood Preservers. This cleanup will remove and treat the toxic sediments and thus improve the local water quality at Thunder Bay harbour.

We have spent in the past some $287 million on RAP-related activities. This project is going to have new innovative technologies and provide 200 jobs in the local area. I think it's a wonderful example of this province's commitment to clean up the Great Lakes.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Even though the Minister of Northern Development and Mines met with FONOM and NOMA this morning, they still believe this is an important petition.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to hear the petition.

Mr Bartolucci: "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;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to fully support and endorse the position taken by the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities 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 I'm in agreement with it.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): This is a petition signed by hundreds of people in the Toronto area regarding the Wellesley Central Hospital Staying Alive campaign.

"We, the undersigned, are vehemently opposed to the proposed closure of the 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 illnesses and emergency care.

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

I am proud to have affixed my signature.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 350 people. It reads as follows.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the courts have ruled that women have the 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 O'Toole (Durham East): It's my privilege today to rise and read into the record a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Court of Appeal in Ontario has 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 continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to ban going topless in public places."

I'm pleased to support this.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas on September 6, 1995, Anthony O'Brien Dudley George of Stony Point First Nations 43 was shot and killed by Acting Sergeant Kenneth Deane of the Ontario Provincial Police; and

"Whereas the Ontario Provincial Police met with a representative from the Premier's office before the massive police buildup that led to the death of Anthony O'Brien Dudley George; and

"Whereas the people of Ontario need to know what role the government played in ordering the Ontario Provincial Police to confront the Stony Point people with violence;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call a public inquiry into the Ontario Provincial Police shooting of Dudley George."


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a petition signed by over 150 people from my riding of Dovercourt and West Toronto in general, which reads as follows.

To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with this petition and I've affixed my signature to it as well.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Christians are called to a love of neighbour which includes a concern for the general wellbeing of society; and

"Whereas gambling does not meet basic criteria for socially responsible economic development; and

"Whereas it is unethical to offer gambling as a source of economic security to people on low incomes, poor communities and poorly financed sectors of our community such as culture and sport; and

"Whereas gambling proceeds provide an insecure source of income and are a regressive form of funding and should not be relied on for funding of social services such as health care or for other agencies; and

"Whereas there is a direct link between the higher availability of legalized gambling and incidence of addictive gambling (Macdonald and Macdonald, Pathological Gambling: The Problem, Treatment and Outcome, Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling); and

"Whereas the damage of addiction to gambling in individuals is compounded by the damage done to families both emotionally and economically;

"Therefore, we the undersigned of Guthrie United Church, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That the government of Ontario cease all moves to establish more gambling casinos in Ontario; and that the government cease all action to legalize video lottery terminals."

That's signed by myself and 26 people and I have identical ones from people in Elmvale, Phelpston and Midland.


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

"Whereas black bear populations in Ontario are healthy with between 75,000 and 100,000 animals and their numbers are stable or increasing in many areas of the province; and

"Whereas black bear hunting is enjoyed by over 20,000 hunters annually in Ontario and black bears are a well-managed renewable resource; and

"Whereas bear hunting replaces natural mortality and reduces cannibalism among bears; and

"Whereas hunting regulations are based on sustained yield principles and all forms of hunting are needed to optimize the socioeconomic benefits associated with hunting; and

"Whereas the value of the spring bear hunt to tourist operators in northern Ontario is $30 million annually, generating about 500 person-years of employment; and

"Whereas animal rights activists have launched a campaign of misinformation and emotional rhetoric to ban bear hunting and to end our hunting heritage in Ontario, ignoring the enormous impact this would have on the people of Ontario;

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

"That the Ontario government protect our hunting heritage and continue to support all current forms of black bear hunting."


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition here, and rather than read the whole petition, I would just summarize it, if that's allowed under the new rules as it was under the old standing orders.

The petition contains 425 signatures of residents of Peterborough county who are registering a vote of non-confidence in the government of the province of Ontario. They've signed their names to the petition because they're dissatisfied with the government's lack of meaningful public consultation as it restructures, eliminates and downloads the cost of vital services in this province, and they want their views presented to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

I am doing that and I'm supporting their petition by affixing my signature thereto.



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

"Whereas black bear populations in Ontario are healthy with between 75,000 and 100,000 animals and their numbers are stable or increasing in many areas of the province; and

"Whereas black bear hunting is enjoyed by over 20,000 hunters annually in Ontario and black bears are a well-managed renewable resource; and

"Whereas bear hunting replaces natural mortality and reduces cannibalism among bears; and

"Whereas hunting regulations are based on sustained yield principles and all forms of hunting are needed to optimize the socioeconomic benefits associated with hunting; and

"Whereas the value of the spring bear hunt to tourist operators in northern Ontario is $30 million annually, generating about 500 person-years of employment; and

"Whereas animal rights activists have launched a campaign to ban bear hunting and end our hunting heritage in Ontario, ignoring the enormous impact this would have on the people of Ontario;

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

"That the Ontario government protect our hunting heritage and continue to support all current forms of black bear hunting."

I'm pleased to sign my name to this petition.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly, and 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 the 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 648 residents of the city of Toronto. I agree with the petitioners and I have signed my name to it as well.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I also have a petition.

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to the decision of closing Wellesley Central and Women's College hospitals.

"These cuts will negatively affect the overall health of our community.

"We are deeply concerned about the future care of women, people living with HIV-AIDS and the many people in the densely populated neighbourhoods served by these hospitals.

"We support the alliance between Wellesley Central Hospital and Women's College Hospital as the most reasonable solution, a solution that reduces costs and promotes the health of our community."

I am happy to affix my signature in support.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): This is a petition 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."

I'm happy to affix my name as well.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition addressed to the Parliament of Ontario. It's signed by 20 residents of Algoma district and it reads as follows:

"Whereas there is much well-documented evidence that the social and economic disadvantages of government-sanctioned gambling far outweigh any apparent benefits;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, declare our opposition to the expansion of casinos and the installation of electronic gambling devices. Therefore, we petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to delay the implementation of Bill 75 and request that the province hold a binding referendum (in conjunction with the 1997 municipal elections) to determine the will of the people regarding the expansion of casinos and the installation of electronic gambling devices in Ontario."

I'm signing the petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): A point of order, Madam Speaker, and in addition to a point of order, it's also a point of privilege. I would like to bring the following to your attention, bearing in mind a previous ruling by Speaker Stockwell with regard to information that ministries have publicized regarding what's happening here and when it's incorrect or before the fact.

On Thursday, August 21, the Ministry of Labour released a fact sheet which states that the review of Bill 99 will begin August 25. I would like to point out to you that on that very day that this was released, August 21, there was a subcommittee meeting of the standing committee on resources development, which is responsible for Bill 99. We agreed unanimously that the hearings for Bill 99 clause-by-clause would begin September 8.

The latest information I have, and it could have changed in the last few minutes, is that this information is still on the government's Web site on the Internet. I would like you to direct the Minister of Labour to correct this error.

I would also bring to your attention -- and I'll be very brief; I'm not deliberately trying to take up any time here. But I want to leave with you also that subsequent to the subcommittee meeting on Thursday where we reached unanimous agreement about September 8 -- the Libs, the government and the NDP all agreed -- since then, the government has been trying to get a full meeting of the committee or a new meeting of the subcommittee because they want to change the date. For some reason, the minister or someone high up is not happy. That's why I have particular concern about this, because it suggests that somebody thought it was a fait accompli that the change was going to take place.

That's the point of privilege, wherein the government shouldn't be sending someone to a subcommittee meeting cutting a deal that's then going to be vetoed by the Minister of Labour. That's not the way this works. Speaker, I would ask you to do what it takes to put my rights and privileges as a member and that of my caucus correct again.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Member for Hamilton Centre, if you could provide me with the documentation I saw you waving around, if you could have that sent to me, I'll take a look at it and reserve judgement and get back to the House later.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, barely on the same topic, because I was outside and just caught the tail end of that: My understanding is that there may have been a committee schedule with regard to Bill 99 -- I believe this is the topic -- but the subcommittee, as I understand, has met and I believe with the agreement of all three parties has come up with a new schedule. Now, I may be wrong in that, but that's the information I'm getting. I don't know if somebody else substituted or what happened there, but I understand that the subcommittee did meet and a new schedule was arrived at. I don't know if that muddies the water or clarifies the situation.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the government House leader attempting to help, but I hear my Liberal counterpart, who is the other member of the subcommittee, along with usually the parliamentary assistant for the government, saying that he wasn't at any meeting. I am the member of that committee. There were no substitutions. There were no changes. We have unanimous agreement of all three parties that it's September 8, and quite frankly, all the gymnastics in the world by the --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. What I would suggest, given the statements from the government House leader, is that the three people involved from each party get together and see if you can work it out. In the meantime, if you could provide me with the documentation, I will see if there is in fact any breaking of the rules or privileges. Thank you.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I would point out that under the new rules, the kind of meeting that you have just suggested might take place among the subcommittee members cannot take place today, because it's the same policy field as what is being debated in the House.

The Acting Speaker: That may be so. I guess my suggestion is that if this can be worked out, if there is some confusion about what happened, please do so, but in the meantime I will endeavour, after I receive the documentation, to check that and see if there has been any breach of the rules. Is that okay?


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Another point of order, Madam Speaker: I would have raised this previously if I'd been here prior to the departure of the Honourable Chris Stockwell, Speaker of the assembly.

You will know that I raised a point of order on Thursday last with regard to the bill that was introduced on Thursday, a bill which was an omnibus bill amending 10 different pieces of legislation which, in my view, were not really related. The occupant of the Speaker's chair at the time indicated that the Speaker could and would review it. My friend the government House leader and also my friend the member for St Catharines spoke to the point of order. I was wondering if you could give us some information as to when you expect the Speaker to rule on this matter.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): If you could just give me a moment here.

Member for Algoma, I conferred with one of the table officers and I have no information as to when that ruling will be made. It's my understanding that the Speaker is still reviewing the documentation and will be getting back to the House shortly.




Mrs Witmer moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 136, An Act to provide for the expeditious resolution of disputes during collective bargaining in certain sectors and to facilitate collective bargaining following restructuring in the public sector and to make certain amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Pay Equity Act / Projet de loi 136, Loi prévoyant le règlement rapide des différends lors des négociations collectives dans certains secteurs, facilitant les négociations collectives à la suite de la restructuration dans le secteur public et apportant certaines modifications à la Loi sur les normes d'emploi et à la Loi sur l'équité salariale.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I am very pleased to move second reading of Bill 136. The main principle of the Public Sector Transition Stability Act is simple and straightforward. It is to provide public sector employers and employees with the tools and processes to deal with the changes under way in the delivery of public services. It is a necessary and integral part of the restructuring of municipalities, school boards and hospitals as our government improves the accountability, the efficiency, the effectiveness and the affordability of public services.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't want to interrupt the minister particularly -- I'm sure most members would want to hear what she has to say -- but is there a quorum present?

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Clerk, 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, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Minister of Labour.

Hon Mrs Witmer: This government is committed to redefining and restructuring the delivery of public services from who pays to who delivers and to providing improved services with more accountability at less cost to the taxpayer. The reforms we are introducing are long overdue. The status quo is no longer acceptable if the province of Ontario is to grow and prosper into the 21st century.

Obviously among those most affected by these necessary changes are the nearly 450,000 Ontarians who work for our cities and towns, in our hospitals and schools and in our police stations and firehalls, the dedicated men and women we all depend on for the collective public services we too often take for granted and who make a significant contribution to the quality of life we enjoy in Ontario. For many of these individuals the restructuring process will mean different employers, perhaps different bargaining units and perhaps new collective agreements.

More than 3,300 collective agreements could be part of the transition as municipalities, school boards and health care facilities merge, amalgamate or reorganize. School boards alone will decrease from 129 to just 72 at the beginning of the year. By January 1, Ontario will have reduced its number of municipalities from 815 to about 650, and in Toronto alone the Health Services Restructuring Commission has recommended that the 39 hospitals currently operating in 46 separate facilities be reduced to 24 organizations operating 31 inpatient sites and four outpatient sites.

As you can appreciate, special processes are needed to ensure that these employees, whether they are unionized or not, are treated as fairly as possible as the changes unfold. Uncertainty over how it will happen must be minimized for both the employees and the employers. Bill 136 provides the framework for the transition. Bill 136 will create the new temporary processes and rules to deal with the volume of onetime, often complex labour relations issues that are likely to arise from mergers, amalgamations and restructuring.

Bill 136 will also provide often-asked-for permanent reforms to the current compulsory arbitration system in the police, fire and hospital sectors where strikes are not permitted. Bill 136, unlike the contract-nullifying social contract of the previous government, builds on Ontario's long-standing tradition of collective bargaining. Bill 136, contrary to the cries from the opposition benches, respects the tradition of collective bargaining.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Bull.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, come to order.

Hon Mrs Witmer: It is based on the fact that employers, employees and unions can best find satisfactory solutions to the unique labour relations issues in their workplaces.

The reforms in Bill 136 will ensure that the workplace parties have the opportunity to do this during the restructuring process. We know that when the workplace parties bargain in good faith it is to everyone's advantage, since they are more committed to achieving the outcomes.

However, if, as may be the case in some instances, the workplace parties are unable to resolve these issues despite their very best efforts, Bill 136 provides the legal and institutional framework to solve them in a timely, fair and reasonable manner. After all, we are dealing here with the delivery of very important public sector services, services the taxpayers of Ontario rely on and depend on being delivered efficiently and effectively.

It is incumbent upon all of us to see that the uncertainty inherent in the restructuring process is minimized -- minimized for the employers, the employees and the recipients of those services, the taxpayers of Ontario who pay for them. That is the principle behind Bill 136.

Most of its provisions are of a temporary nature to deal with the onetime, unique problems restructuring will raise in many bargaining units across Ontario. There is no hidden agenda. There is no elimination of successor rights. There is no unilateral removal of bargaining rights. These are concrete, specific provisions for assisting public sector employers and employees in dealing with the restructuring of our public sector services. We believe the provisions are fair and balanced for all parties.

The modernization of Ontario's public sector service delivery is under way. Bill 136 is a necessary part of the restructuring.

Before I deal with some of the specifics of Bill 136 as they now stand, let me say that they are not etched in stone. The principle, yes; the specifics, no. If there are suggestions, from whatever quarter, to improve the bill, we are more than ready to listen and consider them. As you well know, we are presently in discussions with the police, and I have extended an invitation to the labour leaders and to Mr Wilson in order that we can meet and also consider any suggestions they may have.

I hope I will hear some suggestions, both as the bill is examined in committee and in the ongoing discussions that are now in progress and future discussions. Fairness to public sector employers, employees and taxpayers demands that a consistent set of balanced rules be in place to smooth the transition to the restructuring of government services.


I would like to turn to Bill 136. It will actually create two new acts. The first is the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act. This will establish the temporary Labour Relations Transition Commission, and it will deal with the high volume of complex labour issues that may arise as the result of the school board, hospital and municipal mergers and amalgamations. However, it may not be necessary for the parties to access the commission that is provided here if they can solve their own labour relations issues.

As I said before, our legislation is quite different from the Social Contract Act. As you know, that act intervened in the collective bargaining process. In fact, there was an override of existing agreements and in effect it forced most employers to impose wage rollbacks and social contract days. Furthermore, the social contract, unlike our legislation, was passed with minimal consultations with affected parties and was presented as a fait accompli. In fact, the Social Contract Act received first reading on June 14, 1993, and royal assent less than one month later, on July 8, 1993. That's less than one month for debate and passage, and it was imposed despite strong opposition from organized labour and without any public hearings.

By contrast, Bill 136 will be the subject of public hearings and, as I indicated before, we look forward to the consultation. Bill 136 also will not restrict the freedom of parties to resolve collective bargaining issues and negotiate their own collective agreements; in fact it encourages the parties to use negotiation as the first and best option. However, if that is not possible, the commission, with its temporary mandate which ends on December 31, 2001, will be available should either party wish to use it as a fair and expeditious vehicle for resolving outstanding labour relations issues.

When an amalgamation or a merger does take place, we're going to have two or more workplaces coming together. These workplaces obviously will have operated under different collective agreements with different terms of employment and probably they will have been represented by different bargaining agents. As well, some of the issues we'll be facing are the mergers of unionized and non-unionized workplaces. In order that we treat all the individuals fairly, there will be a need for a consistent set of rules to assist the parties in arriving at a solution to the various labour relations questions that may arise. For example, what will happen when members of two or more bargaining units are brought together? What will be the size and shape of the new bargaining unit? Which union will represent the members of a new bargaining unit when you bring two or more unions together? What happens when unionized and non-unionized workers are combined? Which collective agreement will apply during the transition? How will seniority be determined?

In all of these cases the responsibility will be on the workplace parties -- the employers, the employees and the unions -- to develop their own solutions through negotiation. However, it is only if they are unable to come to an agreement that the Labour Relations Transition Commission has the power to resolve the issue. For example, if a single union does not represent a substantial majority of employees or if the unions are unable to agree which union will represent employees when two or more come together, the transition commission will be able to determine the matter by ordering a mandatory secret ballot vote. Again, this will enhance workplace democracy in the choice of a union.

Currently under section 69 of the Labour Relations Act, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has the discretion to make an order stating which union will represent employees in a newly unified workplace or it can order a secret vote by the employees. Bill 136, however, will require the Labour Relations Transition Commission to order a mandatory secret ballot vote by the employees if there is not agreement on union representation or if no single union has the required majority of employees in the new workplace.

I'd just like to review what could happen in the instance of a majority. When two unions are involved, in order to be the representative, one union must have at least 75% of the employees. In the case of the amalgamation of three or more unions, the union must have at least 60% of the employees to become a union representing the employees.

What happens if we have an instance where we bring together employees who are non-unionized and unionized and we have at least 40% of these employees who are not represented by a union? In this instance there will be the option of including non-union representation on the secret ballot. As you know, this 40% figure is consistent with the Labour Relations Act certification and decertification provisions where a vote is conducted by the board when at least 40% of a workplace indicates a desire to either become unionized or to decertify the union. So in an amalgamation or a merger, they will be able to also determine, if more than 40% are non-unionized, whether they want to continue with union representation.

Let's take a look at the issue of seniority, because it's going to be imperative that we protect the seniority of each and every employee, whether they're unionized or not. We must ensure fair treatment, and the act requires that for seniority purposes equal recognition is given to the relevant years of service of both unionized and non-unionized employees. The new workplace will also require a temporary collective agreement. Bill 136 provides for a composite collective agreement, which means it can be made up of all the previous collective agreements and those can temporarily apply. This means the employees will temporarily continue to be covered by their previous collective agreements even though they may be in a new bargaining unit. Employees who were not represented by a union before the reorganization will continue to be covered by their previous contract of employment during this interim period.

Once the composite agreement is in place, the employer and union can choose to continue with that agreement for up to one year, or, depending on the needs of the workplace, the employer and union can agree to a new collective agreement based on one of the collective agreements that existed before the amalgamation or merger. However, another option available is that the parties can jointly ask the Labour Relations Transition Commission to choose one of the existing agreements to apply. At this stage, either the union or employer can choose to begin the process of negotiating a new collective agreement by giving notice to bargain.

If such notice is given and the parties would normally have the right to strike or lockout, either party now has 30 days to indicate that if negotiations are unsuccessful, the dispute will be settled by the new Dispute Resolution Commission rather than resorting to a strike or lockout. This alternative was put in place to ensure that disruptions of service to the taxpayer during this period of restructuring in the public sector are minimized. However, I should remind the members that if neither the employer nor the union wishes to exercise this option, the right to strike or lockout still remains.


Let me remind members that the option is available under current legislation. Recently, the 4,200 civic workers in Ontario's second-largest municipality, Ottawa-Carleton, opted for binding arbitration in contract negotiations, thus themselves forgoing the right to strike. I don't remember anyone inside or outside the union claiming that their bargaining rights were taken away.

Let's not forget that more than half the broader public sector employees, for example, the police, the fire and the hospital sector, don't presently have the right to strike. Once the first post-amalgamation or merger collective agreement is reached, the provisions of Bill 136 will no longer apply and the parties will revert to the traditional collective bargaining process.

Labour leaders had indicated prior to the passage of Bill 136 that they were concerned about the elimination of successor rights and overrides of collective agreements. We listened. Our legislation does not eliminate successor rights and it does not override collective agreements.

As well, we responded to their concerns about contracting out. If this is to occur, it is an option that is going to be up for negotiation between the workplace parties.

We have also recognized the uniqueness of the construction trade unions. We know they bargain under a different process, and so my officials have been consulting with those parties in the public sector construction industry regarding the application of this act to the construction trade unions, which have construction bargaining rights in the broader public sector. I'm optimistic that they can reach their own conclusion and outcomes.

I'd like to turn now to the second act in Bill 136, the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act. This act will permanently reform arbitration in the fire, police and hospital sectors, where strikes and lockouts are not permitted today.

Mr Christopherson: Shame on you, Elizabeth.

Hon Mrs Witmer: In these sectors, binding arbitration is used when the parties are unable to reach an agreement. In fact, I just referred to the fact that Ottawa-Carleton opted for that option.

Mr Christopherson: Fair arbitration.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Hamilton Centre.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Almost half of the employees in the broader public sector currently don't have the right to strike. We're talking about 25,000 police officers in local forces and the OPP. We're talking about the nearly 10,000 full-time firefighters and the 192,000 workers in the hospitals and nursing homes.

What this act will do is to create a permanent Dispute Resolution Commission to promote and encourage negotiated settlements and resolve disputes should those negotiations fail in these sectors. This is what has been asked for.

Mr Christopherson: Your handpicked cronies.

The Acting Speaker: Minister, take your seat a moment. Member for Hamilton Centre, come to order, please. Minister.

Hon Mrs Witmer: This new process will address the concerns that have been expressed for many years and will ensure that the system is more accountable to the taxpayer as well.

Concerns about the present arbitration system have been raised in a number of studies, including a 1994 study by Dr Joseph Rose of McMaster University's faculty of business titled The Complaining Game: How Effective is Compulsory Interest Arbitration? Dr Rose's study found that arbitrated wages settled in Ontario from 1982 to 1990 exceeded private sector settlements achieved through collective bargaining by up to 2% per year. A study done in 1992 by well-known labour researcher John O'Grady titled Arbitration and its Ills found similar results.

In addition to these studies, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and two hospital inquiry commissions have called for the kind of changes to arbitration that we are now proposing in Bill 136.

As well, in past years, both employers and unions have complained about the long delays in the current arbitration process. Currently it takes on average three times longer to settle an agreement in non-strike sectors than in the private sector. Since the beginning of 1995, it has taken an average of four months to settle agreements in the private sector. During the same time period, it has taken more than 12 months to achieve the same results in the non-strike sector using interest arbitration.

On average, arbitrated police agreements are concluded approximately 13 months after the expiry of the previous agreement. In the fire sector the figure is even longer, 20 months, and in the hospital sector agreements are finalized nearly two years after the expiry of a contract. This stands in stark contrast to the private sector where, as I indicated, it is all concluded within four months on average. This means that in some cases the employers and unions are learning the final result of an arbitration after the term of the arbitrated contract is over. As I indicated, it may be 13 months, 20 months or two years.

As well, both unions and employers in the non-strike sectors agree that the present system encourages employers and unions to rely on arbitrators to make decisions rather than seriously attempting to negotiate their own agreements. They would prefer a system that does encourage more face-to-face negotiations. Both parties agree that since arbitrators often tend to split the difference in their awards, there really is little incentive to negotiate.

To deal with these concerns and to encourage unions and employers to negotiate settlements, the Dispute Resolution Commission will have the ability to use a number of alternative dispute resolution methods, including final offer selection or mediation-arbitration.

Under final offer selection, the employer and union would submit their final offer to a decision-maker, who then chooses one of the two offers. Final offer selection could be used for the entire agreement or on an issue-by-issue basis, or any other way the commission believes appropriate. This method strongly encourages the parties to be very realistic in the final offer they put on the table.

Another method available to the commission is mediation-arbitration. In this situation, the person appointed by the commission acts as a mediator, assisting the parties to negotiate as much of the collective agreement as possible and then deciding the remaining outstanding issues.

The Dispute Resolution Commission will consist of a number of commissioners headed by a chief commissioner. Where appropriate, the chief commissioner may also appoint side persons who participate in the decision-making process, and they would be nominees of unions and employers.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Conrad Black; that's who we'll have.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for St Catharines.

Hon Mrs Witmer: For both the Dispute Resolution Commission and the Labour Relations Transition Commission, the government will be seeking to appoint people with experience. The task at hand requires experienced and fairminded individuals.

The government today already appoints arbitrators where employers and unions cannot agree on an arbitrator to settle contracts in the police, fire and hospital sectors. It is important to note that employers and employees would not have to use the Dispute Resolution Commission. They would still have the option of having their dispute resolved through private arbitration if they both agree.

In addition to its permanent powers to resolve labour disputes in non-strike sectors, the DRC will also have a temporary mandate to administer a binding dispute resolution process during a first-contract negotiation following an amalgamation or a merger in other parts of the broader public sector. As I mentioned earlier, this power can only be exercised at the request of either party.

Bill 136 adopts the provisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Act that require both parties to bargain in good faith and make a serious effort to reach a negotiated settlement. Both parties will be required to go through the normal conciliation process before they can even apply to the Dispute Resolution Commission; that is, they will be required to have an outside party try to assist them in reaching an agreement.

If either party applies to the DRC before they have seriously bargained, the chief commissioner could order both sides back to the bargaining table. It is only after all other avenues are exhausted that the commission will step in and make an order to resolve the dispute.


By creating greater incentives for the parties to settle disputes themselves, this new process will not only encourage more effective negotiation, it will also protect taxpayers against unnecessary disruptions of public services through strikes or lockouts during this transitional period.

When compared to other jurisdictions, our legislation enhances the principle of collective bargaining by ensuring that the parties have an opportunity to determine outcomes that suit the unique needs of their workplaces.

In the past six years, I might note, there have been 29 separate pieces of legislation passed in Canada affecting public sector labour relations with a view to restructuring government. Governments across Canada in recent years have largely chosen to implement legislation that determines collective bargaining outcomes, either through direct collective agreement overrides or by extending collective agreements.

For example, if you take a look at both British Columbia and Saskatchewan, they have enacted regulations that determined new bargaining units and also determined which union would represent employees in those bargaining units. In both cases, the government didn't provide the parties with a process to negotiate their own solutions when determining new bargaining unit structures, as we have done. Neither government conducted representation votes or allowed the parties to achieve a negotiated solution as to which union will represent which employees. That determination was made by government regulation. In that process, a number of unions lost bargaining rights.

It is clear, therefore, that our approach is very different. By enshrining the ability to negotiate solutions independently, we continue to respect the principle of collective bargaining and we continue to allow the parties the primary role in determining collective agreements that are appropriate to their unique workplaces.

I now want to turn to two other aspects of the legislation. To facilitate restructuring and to address some other concerns, we are introducing some amendments to the Pay Equity Act. Bill 136, if approved, will allow for more flexibility in establishing pay equity adjustments where there is a sale of a business, including an amalgamation.

The current Pay Equity Act requires a new employer in an amalgamated or newly purchased organization to develop a new pay equity plan if the previous plan is no longer deemed appropriate. For example, if two municipalities are merged, a new plan may be required if the old plans are no longer appropriate. For example, you may have different wage rates and yet have similar jobs, so obviously there's going to be a need to take a look at the whole issue of pay equity because different adjustments have been made within the different organizations.

Currently, today, the law does not allow the new plan to lower any previous adjustments, even where that would be more rational and appropriate in the new organization. Under the amendments in our bill, the prohibition on reducing the pay equity adjustment in these cases will be removed.

Bill 136 will also provide that in the broader public sector pay equity adjustments will have to be made back to the time an employee made a complaint, a union tried to negotiate a pay equity plan or a pay equity plan was posted, rather than back to January 1, 1990, as is now the case.

These amendments are going to clarify the responsibilities of the new employer, following an amalgamation or a merger, for making these payments.

Bill 136 also clarifies that people who provide private home day care under the provisions of the Day Nurseries Act are not considered employees under the Pay Equity Act and, as such, are not eligible for pay equity adjustments. These are individuals who are contracted by some municipalities and other agencies to provide day care in their own homes. It was never intended that these self-employed, private home day care providers be considered employees under the act.

Finally, Bill 136 will allow us to take the steps to wind down the employee wage protection program. This is the very last program in Canada that uses taxpayer funds to cover the employers' financial obligations to their employees. Unfortunately, this program has not lived up to its expectations. When the program was established, it was expected that a large portion of money would be recovered either from the employers who had refused to pay or from the directors of bankrupt or insolvent companies. Unfortunately, this has never happened. The total recovery stands at just over $8.5 million on government payouts of approximately $200 million.

Mr Christopherson: So let the workers get stiffed. Let your buddies go bankrupt and let the workers get stiffed.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Hamilton Centre.

Hon Mrs Witmer: The poor collections record is partly the result of actions that were taken by the previous government. It was the previous government which disbanded the collections unit of the employment practices branch and they placed the onus for both enforcement and collections on the employment standards officers in the field. As a result, when that was done by the previous government, collections dropped approximately 25%.

However, we want to ensure that these employees receive the compensation that they deserve from their former employers and we are going to continue to press the federal government to amend --


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre.

Hon Mrs Witmer: -- the federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to provide a higher creditor status to employees.

Even though I first wrote to industry minister Manley in August 1995 on this issue, and even though I received the support of the provincial and territorial labour ministers from across Canada at the federal-provincial labour conference in February of this year, the federal government has refused to consider the interest of these employees and change the legislation. Nevertheless, we will continue to press for improved status of employee claims under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

In conclusion, if Bill 136 is passed by the House, it will promote and encourage a timely, fair and orderly transition to a more efficient and effective public service. It will also encourage the workplace parties to cooperatively resolve their issues through collective bargaining. However, if they are unable to do so, there will be a process in place to ensure that the issues are resolved in a fair, timely and expeditious manner and also a process that treats each employee, whether unionized or not, fairly.

Bill 136 builds on Ontario's tradition of collective bargaining and is consistent with our government's balanced approach to collective bargaining. We have not intervened to impose a solution on any major public sector dispute such as the ones in the Ontario public service, Ontario Hydro or the Toronto Transit Commission. Instead, we have continued to put in place fair and balanced processes to encourage the workplace parties to negotiate their own solutions.

We expect, as the amalgamations and the mergers take place, that the workplace parties will continue to bargain in good faith as they have in the past and they will continue to arrive at agreements that will benefit everyone in the new workplace.

I want to make it clear that our government looks forward to receiving constructive comments from all parties on how we can improve Bill 136. We want to be certain that the legislation meets the needs of all concerned and that it will promote the smooth transition to the improved public services that is required. We want legislation that will ensure that every individual in the workplace is treated fairly and we must ensure that Ontarians continue to receive the public services they require during this time period.



The Deputy Speaker: Member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I'll wait for the applause to die down over there when I get up, but I want to say that this legislation represents yet another attack on people who are somewhat vulnerable in our society and it intrudes in areas where it doesn't have to intrude.

I met with members of the police force in the Niagara region the other day who clearly made the point that police officers should not be included in this legislation, that they are in fact included in their own legislation, that collective bargaining has already worked well between police officers and the police departments for which they work. For the life of me, I don't know why this government is bringing the police forces of this province under this particular act.

I want to say again that everyone should recognize that the government will be able to get this bill through in record time. The government, beginning today, has new rules. Premier Harris has forced through this Legislature, through the overwhelming majority of members in this House who are Conservative, new rules which will severely restrict debate on this legislation, which will allow the government to get it through very rapidly so that there can be a minimum of discussion not only in this House but in the public, so that people will quickly have forgotten about it. In fact, they could get this bill through very quickly this week.

I'm also concerned when I hear the minister say that the employee wage protection provisions are being ended. This was a positive program. She joins with her fellow ministers who point the finger somewhere else whenever there's responsibility but are large as life to take credit when there's any credit to be taken. It's time that this minister and this government took their responsibility to protect workers in this province and to maintain that program so that many people are not left out in the cold as a result of bankruptcies that take place in businesses.

Mr Christopherson: I don't think there's anything that enrages me and a whole lot of other people who are watching this today more than listening to this minister on behalf of this government talk about fair and balanced. What the hell do you know about fair and balanced when you take a look at your track record of labour legislation? Every single piece of legislation and regulation that you've passed has been an attack on workers' standard of living, an attack on their rights, an attack on things that they worked for and earned and fought for over decades. That's your track record and you still have the audacity to stand there and say, "Fair and balanced, we care about everybody, we want to be fair." It's not the truth. The fact of the matter is that the labour movement and the workers they represent, you perceive --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. You have accused the minister of not telling the truth and I don't accept that. Would you please withdraw that?

Mr Christopherson: I withdraw my unparliamentary language.

The reality of what you have done is to take away at every turn -- and I've got to believe, Minister, and I say this so -- I was going to say "sincerely." I don't know if I can reach that word in dealing with the emotions I have in listening to what you're doing. But how do you live with yourself on the pay equity part of this? First of all, it's got nothing at all to do with anything else in 136. How do you do that as one of the few female representatives in that government? How do you stand there and support and promote and push this through?

When you talk about the employee wage protection plan and you talk about the fact they haven't yet been able to get all the money back from the employers, what you're saying is those workers are out of luck. They don't get their severance pay, their termination, their wages, their vacation pay. It's all gone. We put in place a program that said workers don't stand at the end of the line behind banks any more. They stand at the front of the line, the government will use its clout to get the money. This is a disgrace.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a real honour for me to rise in response to the minister's statement today on Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act. Our minister today very clearly has invited every Ontarian to participate in this debate and she's clearly open to suggestions and meaningful, positive dialogue.

All of the members of this House are concerned that everyone has an opportunity for input, and on several points in the remarks today by the minister it's very clear that there is an opportunity for every Ontarian to have input.

During restructuring we all need stability. The workers of Ontario most of all need stability. What is this stability? It's in the public sector. In our municipalities in the restructuring, we as a government are responsible and workers are responsible to ensure the delivery of service. That's what this stability in transition act is all about. Let's call it what it is.

If I wanted to respond more positively, I would say to the minister -- I'm reading a memo dated July 24, addressed to Gordon F. Wilson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour; just a few comments from the letter to let the people of Ontario know that what you read in the press isn't always the case of what is really going on. They have a job to do to be seen to be opposing everything we do. I'm reading a memo from our Minister of Labour.

"I am writing in response to your letter," that's Mr Wilson's letter, "to the Premier of July 21." That's communication. "I was disappointed when, earlier this week, you declined to meet with me." This is communication. Imagine the optics of it all. What if they were trying to play the positive role and recognized that change is important? Our minister clearly announced today that this is going to be a progressive bill to ensure stability in Ontario, and everyone has input, despite what you may read.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I find the minister's comments to be rather interesting to say the least as we read through this. What she's really saying is, "Ontario will really work and really work well if we just give managers the ability to say, _Do it, this is the way it's going to be.'" There's no real input from anybody other than the manager.

That sounds very good in theory. You can keep your costs down, you can push people around, you can make anything happen if you want to; at least that's what the minister thinks. The problem with that is that in the real world it doesn't work.

In my constituency I've had chats with policemen, with others who are affected, hospital workers, all these kinds of folks who will be affected by having their ability to bargain in good faith with their employer taken away because they're going to impose first contracts and restructuring.

It's nice to impose things. It makes it real easy. It's a simple solution, but it doesn't work. What do you think the morale will be like in these organizations after the government -- in essence, when you boil this all down, that's what's going to happen in this bill: Somebody is just going to dictate how things will be done. And do you know what? It doesn't work. We all know it doesn't work.

We are in for a period of chaos in our public services in this province and it can be laid right at the feet of the Harris government. The deterioration in our public services will continue. People will not be able to get the kind of services they have been entitled to in this province.

The Deputy Speaker: Minister, you have two minutes.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I appreciate the comments I've heard from members of all three parties. I would just like to reiterate one more time that the objective of the bill is to provide employers and employees with the tools and processes that may be needed to deal with the changes under way in the delivery of public services.

However, what this bill really does, first and foremost, is to continue to encourage collective bargaining to take place between the workplace parties. The workplace parties will only be using the commissions that are being established when they cannot negotiate solutions themselves. I want to repeat, this bill encourages collective bargaining, and if they cannot resolve the issues, there is a process in place that will allow the issues to be resolved in a timely and expeditious manner.

I would also indicate to the members, particularly opposite, that we are extremely interested in hearing from both of the opposition parties, as well as the stakeholders who are impacted by the bill, as to their concerns and as to how those concerns and issues could be addressed.

As I mentioned before, there is a principle behind the bill and we will be moving forward according to the principle, but if you have some changes you would like us to consider, we are certainly quite amenable to giving serious consideration to those changes.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I've listened very carefully to what the minister has said today, and through the course of my remarks I will address a number of points she has raised. I must say, though, at the outset that the minister is an excellent communicator. She has a very solid form of communication that sounds logical. If someone wasn't familiar with this legislation, they would certainly think this is the most logical piece of legislation anywhere. But I would suggest much of this is not just from this minister. The minister isn't alone and I'll talk about that in short order.

I must say that this legislation before us is extremely important to the province and, as the minister has said, it is a marked departure in the province's history of labour relations, let alone the whole manner in which the province conducts its own affairs. Sadly enough, in my opinion it is neither a positive nor a productive change; it is regressive. That's been the pattern of much legislation in the past two years and, in my opinion, this legislation is no different.

This legislation is part and parcel of this government's whole restructuring exercise, the downloading of services on to the municipal tax base and the massive cuts to public services such as the recent closures of hospitals across Ontario. The Minister of Labour has brought in what has been coined the amalgamation hammer, the tool for prying open collective bargaining agreements in Ontario's public service, and now the die has been cast. But it was not moulded with the extended hands of cooperation; it's been forged with the fists of confrontation.

With Bill 136 the stage has been set and the government has taken its position on the battlefield, prepared for what it knows only too well will be confrontation. I believe Mike Harris has been looking forward to this day to take on what he considers is his ultimate opposition: the labour movement. But I believe he's mistaken, because his ultimate opposition will be the dedicated workers who deliver public services: nurses, police officers, firefighters, educators, day care workers, garbage collectors, librarians, and of course those people who rely on those services, the Ontario voter and taxpayer.

The public is beginning to see beyond the Mike Harris smokescreen which blocks out an agenda driven by a premature tax cut paid for on the backs of hardworking Ontarians and the social fabric of this province.

This legislation is not about union leaders as Mike Harris would like everyone to think; in reality it's about ordinary working people and the public services we all rely on. Today it is the public servants, tomorrow it will be the teachers, and the day after that it could be every other worker in Ontario.

The only way Mike Harris knows how to manage labour relations is through provocation and bullying. Last year Mike Harris provoked a strike with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union as its chosen negotiating strategy. Mike Harris only sat down at the table to negotiate with doctors after the doctors threatened a withdrawal of services. Now Mike Harris is extending unilateral control over the collective bargaining process to get at the contracts of hundreds of thousands of working Ontarians. This is unfair and it's heavy-handed. Regardless of the politics at play, it is a poor way to handle labour relations.

The real question before us in my mind is, what is the rationale for this legislation? What is really the rationale? I submit to you that the real rationale is as simple as the premature tax cut, because money is what is behind all this. Everything this government has done from day one and intends to do until the end of its mandate comes down to the responsibilities and the search for money as a result of lost revenue from its tax cut.

We've seen so many ways to date how this premature tax cut has put our health care system at risk with the closure of hospitals; how it's put education at risk through massive funding cuts, resulting in the elimination of programs -- junior kindergarten, adult education -- and increased class sizes. We will see this happening in the next two or three weeks, increased class sizes. Teachers that I speak to are beginning to know what the enrolment is in their schools. It's also put job creation at risk, creating a youth unemployment problem of epidemic proportions.

Ultimately, it affects our economy and adds a risk there as well, which was made abundantly clear a few months ago by the fact that the province's credit rating remained downgraded; the province's credit rating will stay at less than AAA, at AA.

Now we see the impact it is having on labour relations in the province. Seldom before have we seen this province so polarized. It has pushed the province to the point of effectively suspending the right to strike, which workers in this province legitimately hold, except for workers deemed to work in essential service areas.

These are some of the major issues at stake in Ontario today and to which Bill 136 will contribute. The minister says the legislation is designed to prevent employee relations from exploding into chaos as the government closes hospitals, merges school boards, municipalities, police and fire services.

I say that's nonsense. This province has gone through restructuring in the past. It has seen municipalities, school boards, police and fire services merged in an orderly manner under the existing system of labour relations. Now the government wants to throw away that experience and that body of knowledge and impose costly new structures which will serve the government's desperate need to find money, not the quality of services for people in Ontario.

The question is, who created the chaotic mess in the first place? The government created the chaos as a diversion away from its real agenda. The Ottawa Citizen had an editorial in which it talked about the government's need to find a scapegoat. In this case it's the workers. You see, this legislation is needed because invariably the workers and their unions are going to cause problems -- so the government wants the public to believe.

Well, I have news for the government: The collective agreement process works fairly well the way it is, with its own set of balanced incentives. For example, some 85% of fire sector collective agreements are freely negotiated. When not freely negotiated, the present system allows for an independent arbitrator, agreed to by both employers and employees, to come to a settlement. I believe that's the best process when dealing with essential workers. If the right to strike is curtailed, it must be replaced with independent and impartial arbitration to determine employees' wages, benefits and working conditions.

The Police Association of Ontario is questioning why this legislation is being applied to their sector, given their record. I quote:

"Police associations have negotiated new contracts in 55 out of 99 police forces so far without the need for arbitration. On average, only 10% of police agreements go to arbitration. There have only been four arbitration awards to date. Many police services throughout Ontario were restructured a few years ago, and we think the regional police model has been very successful in most areas, if not all. Minor restructuring has been occurring where small police forces merge or disband in favour of OPP policing, and these have gone smoothly."

So why, I ask, are the police included in this legislation where there hasn't been, is not now and is unlikely to be a problem?

Mr Christopherson: On two points of order, Speaker: First, I believe it's the tradition in this place that either the minister or the parliamentary assistant would be in the House at all times during debate of a bill. Second, I don't believe we have quorum.

The Deputy Speaker: Would you please check if there is a quorum.

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

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: I was saying the question that the police are asking is why they are included in this legislation. That's of course a very important question and one that the police say the minister has failed to address. The record is one of productive labour relations and the evidence does not support the government's contention that its new commissions are needed to ensure a smooth transition for the government's restructuring.

The police know why and I'll quote from the Police Association of Ontario, which "views the legislation as the government's way of fixing the game in favour of the municipalities' administrations. Without strikes and little arbitration, contracts have been settled through fair and reasonable negotiations in a timely manner. So if there hasn't been a problem, why does the government feel it has to intervene, if not to favour the municipal negotiators?"

This is how the people who protect our communities feel about the legislation. They say it isn't needed. Here's another point raised by the police, and I quote, "While the government suggests they are temporary measures, the changes they are advancing for policing are permanent." Let me repeat that. The changes as the police see them in the dispute mechanism are permanent changes. In fact, this is the case for all essential workers who do not have the right to strike. The government isn't doing this to ease the transition of their massive restructuring. They are doing it to remove all independence from the decision-making process.

Since the end of the social contract, the public sector has negotiated numerous collective agreements with few going to arbitration and only a half-dozen ending up in a strike situation. This hardly sounds like chaos to me, and from a labour relations perspective, the changes that will occur under the current round of mergers and amalgamations pale in comparison.

What is the government afraid of? Why are they changing the arbitration process to one that they will invariably control through cabinet appointments and that is tied to money-saving targets?

That process has been discredited in the past. Some members of this House may remember the dying days of the Conservative government of Frank Miller during which the Solicitor General John Williams tried to force an arbitrator on the Metropolitan Toronto Police contract dispute. Some members here remember that.

The reaction to that was swift and it was firm. Labour relations came to a halt, the police refused to participate in the arbitration process and undertook a job action to protest this political intervention. The dispute was only resolved when a system of interest arbitration was put in place with a truly independent arbitrator agreed upon by both the police and the police services board.

I say to the minister, it didn't work then and I don't believe it will work now. We as a province have been down that path and the reaction from the Police Association of Ontario is as firm now as it was then. When the minister says she's listening to the police, then I hope she does carefully because that's what they're saying. That particular action did not help labour relations. What did it do? It disrupted labour relations. But the government is determined to go down that path again because it seems to me its only goal is to get money out of public service contracts.

The government created chaos with its tax cut and its massive downloading. Now they have put together a legislative package to address the chaos that they created. It doesn't repair the damage. Instead it guides the chaos to its goal of controlled service reductions that will result in a diminished quality of service. I say government is not a business as members of the government party like to think and like to say; nor can the provision of social and public services be driven solely by the bottom line. It is a process that began with this government with Bill 26 and is being completed with this legislation and Bill 142 and Bill 152. There is a fine line between what society as a collective is prepared to pay for and what is required for that collective to function for the betterment of the society. Unfortunately the government has crossed that line.

True to form, the government is continuing its pattern of heavy-handedness. The government says that it wants the collective bargaining process to work. But it's doomed to fail under the massive restructuring that Mike Harris is imposing on the people of this province, a province built on cooperation and built by people working together.

The minister argues that Bill 136 is needed as the government moves towards restructuring school boards, municipalities and the health care system. She goes to great lengths to say that the legislation does not eliminate the right to strike, that it does not eliminate successor rights. It is only there if needed, if there is an impasse. But as we know, the legislation is much more than that. While Bill 136 purports to support the collective bargaining process, the path to confrontation and arbitration has been set and it will no doubt be a path well worn by cash-starved provincial, regional and municipal service bodies seeking to maintain the quality of services in the face of provincial downloading and funding cuts.

The minister would have us believe that the purpose of the legislation is, as she would say, "_to ensure employees are treated fairly, service disruptions are minimized and labour relations are resolved in a timely manner." What she means is that the legislation ensures that the government gets its own way. It all comes down to the government imposing its agenda on the people of Ontario.

Changes to bargaining units or bargaining rights resulting from restructuring must be based on recognized labour principles and must be determined through a democratic, open, fair and independent process. Why are we not allowing the Ontario Labour Relations Board to determine transitional bargaining units and bargaining agents, issues arising from restructuring, rather than creating a duplicative transition commission which will have no credibility or no legitimacy, certainly, to the working people of Ontario?

This may require providing the Ontario Labour Relations Board with additional authority to make necessary determinations concerning bargaining units, bargaining rights and seniority. However, establishing a new body that effectively usurps the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which has over the past 53 years of experience and acceptability in dealing with such labour relations issues, is deemed to be preferable by the Harris government.

The Labour Relations Transition Act is triggered by an amalgamation or restructuring which results in the discontinuance of what the act calls the "predecessor employer" and the establishment of the "successor employer." The definition of a triggering event varies depending on which sector is involved.

The hospital sector: For them the act may apply as a result of (1) a merger of all or part of the operations or administration of two or more employers who operate hospitals during the transition period; or (2) a substantial restructuring of two or more employers who operate hospitals during the transition period. What that really means is that it will apply to most hospital workers and health services in this province. There are few hospitals that have not been touched or will not be touched in some manner, in some form by the closures of hospitals in their region, in their municipality, in their county or whatever their jurisdiction is. To add insult to injury, now that Bill 136 is being forced on to these workers, the quality of services will suffer even more. The quality of services, the nature of services and some services will disappear.


For the school sector, only non-teaching staff are affected by this particular act. The act applies on the combination of two or more existing school boards by one of the new district school boards. The act does not apply to employees covered by the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act, which of course is Bill 100. We expect that companion legislation will be brought forward soon by the Minister of Education to tackle what I'm sure he says is the teachers and their arrangements.

To determine the structure for collective bargaining, the act contemplates a process by which the parties themselves will agree on the composition of the new bargaining units. But the transition commission will have broad powers to issue orders specifying which institutions are viewed as predecessor or successor employers and to issue orders concerning the number and the composition of bargaining units in the successor employer's organization.

If the parties are unable to negotiate a resolution with respect to the composition of the new bargaining units, it says any party may apply to the Labour Relations Transition Commission -- any party -- to have that issue determined. The commission will determine the issue on a supposed expedited basis. The commission may hold a hearing, but there is no right to a hearing. It may order submissions, but not necessarily, and impose whatever limits or importance on the presentations it sees fit.

Following the changeover date in amalgamations, it becomes incumbent upon the successor employer and employees to come to a new collective agreement. Where a collective agreement has been continued under the act or a composite agreement created, either party may give notice to bargain a replacement agreement.

This is a forced opening of collective agreements. At this point the government has set up a new process to deal with the bargaining process and it is set out under the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act. The act, as I've already alluded to earlier, reforms the entire structure of third-party resolution of collective bargaining disputes in the fire, police and hospital sectors. It centralizes all the power to resolve all disputes in these sectors through the Dispute Resolution Commission by replacing the arbitration board process currently used for each separate piece of legislation. Although the government states that Bill 136 is only a temporary measure to deal with restructuring, for essential services this change is permanent.

For other public sector employers such as municipalities, the government smoothes --

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I would just like to recognize the former member for Lambton, Mr David Smith.

The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: Thank you. For other public sector employers such as municipalities, the government smoothes over the changes by saying that the new Dispute Resolution Commission will have temporary powers to resolve disputes over negotiations only for first contracts or replacement contracts following restructuring.

There will be no chance for employees to exercise their legitimate right to strike, because the legislation outlines that within 30 days of the notice to bargain, either party can ask that the negotiations be referred to the Dispute Resolution Commission for arbitration. In effect, what this does is it neutralizes the right to strike or to lock out and undermines the collective bargaining process. While the government says it does not take away the right to strike directly, the fact of the matter is that the process to be followed effectively takes away the right-to-strike option.

Judith McCormack, who is a past member of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, in my opinion made a good point in an article she wrote called "First Arbitration in Ontario." She says, "The mere fact that a collective agreement has not been reached is not determinative of whether collective bargaining is unsuccessful where it has not been allowed to run its full course." In effect what she is saying is that the government is prejudging the labour relations process. Regardless of whether collective bargaining has run its course, either party can refer the dispute to a binding decision, no questions asked.

The government argues that their legislation is balanced out by the risk factor associated with an arbitrated settlement, that this uncertainty is an incentive to work within the collective bargaining process. The minister has stated, "By creating greater incentives for the parties to settle disputes themselves, this new process will protect taxpayers against disruptions of public services." The government may well think it is creating an incentive by telling the parties that they can solve the dispute or the dispute will be solved for them. That's what already exists. But the path to arbitration has been prejudiced because the arbitration process the government is putting in place is neither impartial nor independent.

How can anyone legitimately have confidence in an arbitrator if he or she is appointed by the government, especially when the government has a stake in the outcome? In fact, the government has a conflict of interest. The process is not balanced between both parties. It is lopsided in favour of the government. If it isn't balanced, the risk is not shared, and in the case of Bill 136 there is very little uncertainty for the employer and therefore little risk.

The Dispute Resolution Commission is directed by the government to consider several factors which play right into the hands of the employers. These factors are the same ones specified and used under Bill 26: the employer's ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation; the extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the commission's decision, if current levels of funding and taxation are not increased; the economic situation in Ontario and the municipality; a comparison, as between the employees and other comparable employees in the public and private sectors, of the terms and conditions of employment and the nature of the work performed; the employer's ability to allow and retain qualified firefighters; the purposes set out in section 1 of the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997.

Section 1 includes a subsection that talks about affordability. Let's go back to the employer's ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation. Who determines the fiscal situation? The government does. The government, it seems, determines everything, yet at the same time is responsible for nothing.

I want to share with the members of this House an article written by Jeffrey Sack QC which was published in the Labour Arbitration Yearbook, of which he is an editor. It is titled "Ability to Pay in the Public Sector: A Critical Approach." I would recommend it to all members of the House, especially members in the government caucus.

Mr Sack points out that an overwhelming majority of independent interest arbitrators have rejected ability to pay as a relevant criterion in public sector disputes. Here are a number of reasons why they have rejected it, and many of you will know that the independent arbitrators have to be eligible by being non-partisan, by having demonstrated that they have not been on one side or the other in terms of their personal views and their activities for a good period of time before they would even be considered, and that they have demonstrated their skills and their ethics related to being an arbitrator.

Here's what a number of them had to say:

Ability to pay is a factor entirely within the government's own control. This is very important.

The government cannot escape its obligation to pay normative wage increases to public sector employees by limiting the funds made available to public institutions.

Entrenchment of ability to pay as a criterion deprives the arbitrators of their independence, and in doing so discredits the arbitration process.

These aren't my words. These are the association, Mr Sack and his view in terms of arbitration.


While governments in the past have tried to use the ability-to-pay provisions, such as the Progressive Conservatives, the Tories, back in 1983, the provision has led to a breakdown in labour relations and met with protest, most significantly by arbitrators, who view the provisions as an incursion on their independence. In fact, in 1983 several arbitrators refused to accept an appointment as an arbitrator under the legislation. The then Conservative government retreated from its program and allowed free collective bargaining to rule the day.

Further reasons working against the ability-to-pay provision are:

The public sector employees should not be required to subsidize public sector services through substandard wages.

Public sector employees should not be penalized because they have been deprived of the right to strike; heretofore at least they had independent arbitrators, mutually accepted by employers or management and employees, to settle contract disputes.

Government ought not to be allowed to escape its responsibility by making political decisions in which it has overall jurisdiction, authority or by hiding behind a purported inability to pay.

Arbitrators are not in a position to measure a public sector employer's ability to pay without clear and decisive direction from government. Which employer would say they have plenty of money available for their employees as they enter into renegotiating a collective agreement? That wouldn't even be said in the private sector. It wouldn't be said in the public sector. Companies that we know are flush wouldn't say, "We have loads of money to give to our employees." They always say they have no money regardless of their actual situation. So who determines that?

All of these points are relevant to the current government and the arguments it has put forward in every measure it has undertaken since June 9, 1995, and which continue with this legislation. Mr. Sack's own assessment of this concept is "_Ability to pay' is really a code for unilateral wage determination, and a requirement to take ability to pay into account amounts to a barely disguised effort to impose a program of wage controls while maintaining a façade of free collective bargaining and arbitration." This is a very thoughtful man who has spent a lot of time looking at the whole process of arbitration and one who I suggest has wisdom, and we should heed his observations and his thoughts.

Unilateral wage determination is not what fair collective bargaining is about, and you can't have it both ways. In the current context, this government is trying to hide behind a situation of its own making, and that is effectively what the credit rating agencies have said. Rick Jackson, for example, an industrial relations professor, in an article entitled "Interest Arbitration Under Ontario's Police Services Act -- An Arbitrator's Perspective," also in the Labour Arbitration Yearbook, wrote, "A government should not be allowed by an arbitrator to solve its fiscal problems -- problems which are largely predictable outcomes of its own decisions -- by treating its employees unfairly."

I agree fully with that statement. It is neither fair nor impartial arbitration. He goes on to say, "Given the state of public sector finances in Ontario, it is entirely possible that we will see a period, with an improving economy, in which school boards and police services boards" -- I will add municipalities to this -- "will argue that they cannot afford increases as much as the private sector." We know that will happen.

Oddly enough, this is the exact situation we find ourselves in. That is the exact argument that this government is using. There is a constant refrain from members on the other side: "Our province's finances are in such a mess we have to rein in the public sector. We have no choice but to cut." This has put the public sector employers in a very precarious position. They are struggling under severe cuts, cuts brought on by the fiscal choices of this government. In fact, what this bill really does is remove any incentive for the two parties together to reach a negotiated settlement, because given these criteria, it is in the employer's financial interest to stop negotiating and to run to the government-appointed commission and ask for an imposed decision, be they school boards, municipalities, hospital administrations.

In fact, numerous municipalities have already told their police forces that they will not bargain until Bill 136 and its arbitration provisions are in place. Why would they do that? Obviously they do that because they know that 136 favours the employers. That's why they're doing it. Otherwise, they would get on with negotiating what they have to negotiate, but they're not. They're waiting for this bill.

I have spoken to a few members from AMO, and they said the same thing relating to this aspect of the bill, that it will be helpful to them in their negotiations with their employees. They didn't say, "It's going to be tough, but we'll try to do the best we can because we care about our services and we care about our employees." That wasn't what they said.

The premature tax cut is keeping our province's fiscal situation and adding to the chaos. Let me read what Moody's Investors Service had to say about the government's tax cut:

"Fully implemented, the initiative will cost the government about $5 billion in forgone revenue.... The specific tax cuts announced to date total more than $3 billion this fiscal year, representing close to 45% of the budgeted deficit.... From a budgetary perspective, the magnitude of the announced tax cut increases the risk that cuts beyond what is currently contemplated to be needed to secure the government's medium-term balanced budget objective."

This is from Moody's Investors Service. That's what they had to say. In simple terms, Ontario is borrowing 45% more money than it would have had it not been for the premature tax cut. The financial impact of this is critical. First of all, the tax cut is preventing the province from getting a better credit rating, which means that it costs all Ontarians more in interest rates. Secondly, we're borrowing more money than we should be and at a much higher rate. So who will pay in the end? In one pocket and out the other for most people affected by that tax cut.

Standard and Poor's and Dominion Bond Rating, who also spent weeks going over the province's books, came to the same conclusion, that the premature tax cut undercuts putting Ontario's fiscal house in order. This is the crux and the supposition behind this legislation. This government created the need to cut programs and transfer payments by introducing a tax cut before the province could afford one.

You'll remember that very eloquent statement made by Premier Klein in response to the tax cut in Ontario before the deficit was balanced. He said it was stupid, and it is foolhardy, because we will pay for it through loss of services and we'll pay for it at home.

A tax cut before the province could afford one is really what we're talking about. Most people would agree -- probably all parties would agree -- that it would be nice to give a tax cut if we have all our services in place, it would be nice to give a tax cut when we've got streamlined organizations, but not until you deal with the deficit, let alone the accumulated debt, which will be, by the time this government is through its mandate, over $100 billion. That's the Ontario government's mortgage.


The financial situation is the government's justification for controlling the collective bargaining process in the public sector and effectively suspending basic labour rights such as the right to strike and the right to a fair and impartial arbitration process. Who oversees the process? Two so-called arm's-length commissions. Where do they come from? Appointed by order in council, or in laypersons' terms the cabinet, or in the case of this government the Premier's office.

Once again we have two commissions established to do the distasteful work of the government under the guise of arm's-length bodies and independent third parties, which we know they are not. Everything from the government appointing the arbitrators to requiring them to take the financial impact of their awards into account is tilted away from fair, independent and impartial collective bargaining.

As I see it, the deck has been stacked in favour of a positive outcome for the employer and ultimately the government. If not, why would we have this legislation before us? We already have the Ontario Labour Relations Board. As I mentioned earlier, it has a proven record of capable and professional management of relations between the province's employees and employer communities. But the government says that the labour board is too busy, that it would be too busy to deal with this particular issue.

I suggest, when that's said, that we're being fed a line, because this government cut the funding to the labour board by 40% or over. That was last year. This occurred at the very time when the resources and the knowledge of this board would be most needed. It's a well-known fact that the government intruded on the independent, impartial membership of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. There was the well-publicized dismissal of three board members. Presumably they were from another party -- wrongful dismissals, according to the courts of this province.

There is no justification for establishing two new commissions and ignoring the Ontario Labour Relations Board. What is going to be the cost of these new commissions? Nobody has shared that view. The minister has not talked to us about the costs of those two commissions. Will they be taking the money they took away from the Ontario Labour Relations Board and giving it to these commissions? We also don't know what the costs are for the restructuring of hospitals and we don't know what the costs are for the transition forum for education either. It would be quite interesting to see. I have a hunch it's in the tens of millions of dollars. It hasn't been talked about because it wouldn't make sense.

Let's see: We have a government that has a different view of labour relations from that of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The government cuts the funding to the board, then sets up its own commissions because the board doesn't have the required resources. Doesn't that sound a little contradictory, somewhat of a specious argument? Indeed it is, but it fits completely with what I call the heavy hand of this government. It reminds me of the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, but in this case it's The Government Strikes Back. We've seen time and time again where the government does not trust the existing structures and moves to squelch any opposition.

Most recently we saw it with changes to the rules of this House just this past week, changes to grossly limit the ability of the loyal opposition, which has a responsibility, when necessary, to cause the government to pause when it believes there is a requirement for more consultation or hearings or to take a second look at their legislation. Watch how short a time this bill will take to move through second reading. It will probably be done in three days. It's my hunch that it'll be through probably by Thursday, because now each day the government has the option of doubling its days because it can sit from 6 to 9 each evening and call that a sessional day. I say to you, to the tens of thousands of people watching, watch what the government will do with this bill. They will attempt to have it completed by the end of this week.

So the government is showing that it does not trust the existing structures in terms of the health services. It has set up the Health Services Restructuring Commission as a separate body, ostensibly to have a more objective analysis of what may happen. Why did it not negotiate with the district health councils, which had proposals, had all the data, are more representative locally and are designated and designed to plan overall health care changes in their particular region?

We have in the field what is called, I think cynically, the Education Improvement Commission, which might better have been called the education implementation or adjustment commission, but the government always uses these in-your-face terms. There is some wordsmith in the Premier's office who is obviously very good at coining these phrases that often mean the antithesis of the true mission of the legislation. This Education Improvement Commission, by the way, will be another vehicle that will stand between the government and school boards so the minister can say: "It wasn't me. It wasn't the government. It is this commission that will be sorting out these particular issues."

Then, because all the changes that are going to be taking place in health, in education, in municipalities, what do we find? Lo and behold, another commission, in fact two -- a commission for the transition phase in municipalities, for example, where there is an amalgamation. What happens to the workers who have one contract with one arrangement and the other workers with another? I spent some considerable time talking with people at the municipal level and I must ask again, why did the government not use the Ontario Labour Relations Board? They say it's because the Ontario Labour Relations Board is too busy and doesn't have the scope to deal with this particular issue. Of course it doesn't have the scope. If you lost 40% of the budget in your department or your organization or your municipality, you would probably lose some scope too.

I have a note from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and they voted on Bill 136 on a motion this afternoon. The amendment reads, "That we ask the government to withdraw the bill until there has been dialogue with the affected parties." So when you say there have been satisfactory negotiations with AMO, that's not what they're saying. When you say you've had negotiations with municipalities, somehow the other side is saying that ain't the case.

Any members who doubt that, go down the street and talk to your municipal mayors or representatives or staff people and see what they have to say. For example, where there is an amalgamation, what will happen, as I mentioned?

Sorry, Mr Speaker, I got sidetracked on this note, which I thought was very important to share with the House.


How can we have, after these statements and the statement we just received from AMO, any confidence, or trust is perhaps a better word, in this government after what it has done? They've run roughshod over our hospitals and district health councils, they are running roughshod over our school boards and they've run roughshod over our municipalities and their representatives and their associations. Who can forget the resounding 76% of the people of Metro Toronto and their No to the Toronto megacity legislation, Bill 103? None of us will forget it, and I bet you the people of Metro Toronto won't forget it when down the road we are called to go back to the people.

I would suggest that members visit the AMO conference today to hear the disgruntled mayors concerning downloading and this particular bill. You just heard what they passed as a resolution. Contrary to what the minister has said, there was no consultation, or little consultation if any, with the parties who were most affected. Consultation simply was not part of the picture.

Nor would the Premier meet with those affected by the legislation: labour leaders, workers. Instead, Mike Harris repeatedly stood in this House and said to the media that he was willing to meet with those affected. This is what he said on August 18, and I quote the Premier: "Of course" we will meet. "So will the Minister of Labour, so will the cabinet and so will I." But there has yet to be a meeting. He said it three or four times outside of the House, and in the House, and I wonder why.

Instead, the government took what it thought was the easy route: just ignore the dissenting voices. The government created the chaos it is now trying to find a way to fix. They have tried to come up with a process to hide the mess that will result from their massive downloading of provincial services, but the only way out of it, they say, is to do away with basic labour rights in this province. The government is intent on picking apart existing agreements to replace them with less expensive or cheaper deals to pay for the provincial cutbacks to municipalities, school boards and hospitals.

I want to say that I met with a few people yesterday, some representatives who were at the AMO annual meeting. What they were saying was that the government says it will be a wash in terms of what's been downloaded except for two very important factors. One is the government takes away the support grant to municipalities.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): -- years ago.

Mr Patten: It was not taken away 50 years ago. It was taken away recently; it was cut back. Then they dump on municipalities new costs of provincial highways that run through the municipal jurisdiction. When you add in those costs, it exacerbates the costs for municipalities. That's why the municipalities are so upset.

I want to share with the House the Ottawa Citizen's editorial of June 6 which was entitled, "Province's Union Move Necessary." While I disagree with some of the substance of the editorial, its conclusion is interesting and thought-provoking. Here's an excerpt from that editorial:

"Unions are upset by the provincial plan and rightly so. The right to strike is important and ought not to be taken away lightly. It's always troubling when the province, in its role as employer, changes the rules to suit itself."

This is very true and I believe it's very dangerous. This will bring us into turmoil we haven't seen in a long, long time in this province.

Herein lies the crux of the whole debate. This is not a situation upon which the province has stumbled. It is one that has been written, produced and acted out by the government of Mike Harris.

The only labour chaos that will occur will be a direct result of this government's attempt to control everything from top to bottom and hand over as much as possible to the private sector and to the local municipalities, and they're doing it under the smokescreen of a confrontation with the labour movement. The confrontation isn't an accident. I believe it's an intentional strategy to divert attention from the government's real overall master plan.

This was the Harris government that promised in the last election to get government out of your way. Ironically, this is probably the most intrusive, in-your-face government affecting the lives of people in the last 50 years.

John Ibbitson of the Ottawa Citizen has an upcoming book entitled The Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution. I want to read an excerpt from it that was in Friday's Ottawa Citizen: Mr Ibbitson concludes that those attempts, the implementation of the Common Sense Revolution, have changed not just the laws and programs of Ontario, but have also altered the way Ontarians relate to each other.

He says: "A society that governed itself by seeking to accommodate conflicting interests has been transformed into one where interests hurl themselves against each other until the more powerful prevail_. It has also left the citizenry raw and bruised and surly towards one another. And there is no end in sight to the prevailing public distemper."

I agree with Mr Ibbitson on that. The government wrote the script for a showdown with the labour movement. They have produced a showdown by introducing a premature tax cut that has robbed provincial services of revenue and resources, and now they're directing the confrontation move by move, frame by frame, with the provisions of this legislation.

Termination of the employee wage protection program is further evidence of what I think is really a mean-spirited basis and the heavy-handed approach of this government.

The provincial program had helped some 89,000 employees between 1991 and 1997 who were owed wages and vacation pay after their employer declared bankruptcy. Many of the individuals who were assisted were employees who earned a weekly wage and lived paycheque to paycheque, only to find that the money they were owed for their labour would not be forthcoming. The victims are ordinary hardworking employees, not the general taxpayers as the minister has already tried to argue. Without this protection, these employers are at the bottom of the creditors' list. In all fairness, they should be first on the list, having given their labour already.

Why would the government favour big banks over the little guy not getting his due wages?

The government is pulling a fast one by lumping the program in with its labour relations changes. The only link between the elimination of this program and the changes to collective bargaining is money. The program is ending so that the government can get back revenues from its premature tax cut, and that's the same with these new commissions which are designed to get money out of public sector collective agreements.

The government says it will seek changes to the federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to improve the standing of workers in relation to other creditors, such as banks, but why not phase out the program as the objectives are met? Why pull the rug right out from under these workers? It strikes me as strange the government would move in this fashion.

In all the government's literature and discourse on the tax cut they talk about ensuring that Ontarians keep more of their hard-earned money, but what about those workers and their hard-earned wages? They're going to be stiffed by their employers. The government is sending the message that they don't care. What will be the end result? You'll have fewer people with less money to spend in the economy.

The government has far more resources at its disposal to try and collect from delinquent employers than the ordinary worker. They are being thrown to the wolves and it's a sad commentary on this government's commitment to community spirit.

This legislation is only a first step. It's part of a larger agenda. It's a particular view of the world that the government is imposing on the province. Today it's unions, but in reality it is unionized workers. Next it will be all workers. Every single last individual in this province will be affected by changes to this province's labour relations climate, everyone who earns a wage or a salary and everyone who relies on public service, which is most Ontarians.

This government is forcing working conditions and wage rates down for ordinary workers right across the province. This legislation has to be seen in the light of the overall labour relations changes, particularly those we have yet to see from the reviews of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act.

That is why in the end Mike Harris is going to see that his ultimate opposition is not the labour movement; rather it is everyone who cares about this province, who cares about the standard of living and the quality of public services.

I'd like to conclude my remarks by saying that I look forward to the province-wide public hearings to which the minister committed herself on June 4, because I notice she did not mention that in her presentation today. But she did say: "Yes, I commit to you that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province, we will be in Toronto and we will listen." That's what the minister said.

I am convinced that the word from everyday working Ontarians will be decidedly different from what this Harris government thinks is the way to treat people.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary L. Leadston): Before I recognize the member for Hamilton Centre, I'd like to acknowledge in the members' gallery guests of the member for Cambridge, representatives from Cambridge council, councillors Greg Durocher, Karl Kiefer, Bill Struck; from the township of Wilmot, councillor at large Bill Weichel and Mrs Weichel; and Mr Connolly, councillor from the city of Waterloo, and Mrs Connolly. Welcome.

Mr Christopherson: I would like to compliment the member for Ottawa Centre on his remarks. I think he has outlined a number of the major concerns that are out there and expanded on them quite effectively.

Of course, I only have two minutes to respond at this point and I want to underscore the fact that the rules have changed in midstream for us. This bill was introduced under existing rules, but once it lands in the House here now, it's debated under other rules. Isn't it interesting, and what a coincidence, I'm sure it's just a coincidence, that the first bill that has limited debate by opposition members happens to be another of your anti-worker labour legislation. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

We know that the opposition now on the leadoff speech, which is always deemed to be the priority speech, if you will -- it's the opportunity to get in depth on these bills and to talk about some of the complexities that are here so we don't have to listen to only bumper sticker slogans, which is the way this government likes to message things -- has been limited from 90 minutes to 60. Of course, everyone else no longer has 30 minutes to speak to a bill after the leadoff speech; they're down to 20 minutes.

After seven hours -- and Speaker, seven hours sounds like a lot, it seems like a long time, but as we know, when you already have three hours for the leadoff debate and a number of speakers speak 20 minutes at a time, that doesn't take very long, and with the added sessions in the evening, where you get two days for the price of one, the name of the game is change the law, ram the legislation through, take away workers' rights, and do it as quick as you can. You ought to hang your head in shame for it.

Mr Maves: It's a pleasure to rise and respond to the member opposite. I'll try to go quickly to get several things covered.

He talked about a lack of consultation up till now. I want to read one paragraph of the letter that Mr O'Toole read earlier from Minister Witmer to Mr Wilson. It says:

"In drafting this legislation we paid careful attention to the needs and expressed concerns of workplace parties. For example, we heard clearly the concern from organized labour that successor rights not be eliminated and contracting out provisions in collective agreements not be touched. Bill 136 respects both these concerns."

They went on to make phone calls and write letters. Again, I reiterate from the same letter to Mr Wilson from Mrs Witmer:

"I was disappointed when, earlier this week, you declined to meet with me. Nevertheless, I am once again inviting you to meet with me to discuss issues and options with respect to Bill 136."

The Premier made a public invitation. In the paper the next day, Mr Ryan said no. The invitations have been there and they haven't been followed up on.

I hope that does change in the near future. I know that our government is open to having those discussions and I hope that does occur soon.

With regard to AMO, I must say that if a member of AMO is part of an amalgamation and they don't want to refer their labour relations issue to either commission, then they don't have to. That's the whole point of the legislation, that they should negotiate first, well before they even consider any kind of arbitration.

Finally, I have to say that the member opposite spent a lot of time quoting a labour lawyer who says he doesn't like ability to pay being a factor in public sector arbitrations. It doesn't surprise me that a Liberal would say that municipalities, school boards, hospitals shouldn't have to worry about their ability to pay, that they have an endless pit of money that they can continue to grab from to pay and pay and pay. That's why the Liberals brought in 33 tax increases in their time in office, because they didn't think the taxpayer had any limits on his ability to pay.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I too want to commend the member for Ottawa Centre for having led off the opposition comments on this draconian bill.

I hear the member opposite say, "Where are the unions in sitting down with the Minister of Labour?" Where was the Minister of Labour in refusing to consult with any of the public sector unions before she brought in this piece of unprecedented legislation that not only strips away their rights but is the basis for stripping away their contracts in the future?

We heard in this House the Premier of this province say, "I'm ready to meet any time," except there was no invitation for a meeting with the Premier of the province of Ontario. Now, today, he seems to be suggesting, "Maybe we'll meet with them. Maybe this Friday we'll find a little bit of time in the schedule to be able to sit down with representatives of the labour unions," except that if there is any willingness to actually sit down and discuss this bill, to negotiate it, to come up with, as the Premier suggests, a way of dealing with the chaos the government has created without this War Measures Act legislation, if there was any reason to think that the government was prepared to do that, why are we beginning the debate on this bill in this Legislature today?

If the government was serious about negotiating, if they really were prepared to consult, however belated it is, they would set this bill aside and sit down with the unions and talk about a better way of dealing with the crisis that the government has created.

I am impressed that AMO has voted as they have. They are saying, "Go back to the table and negotiate it." For goodness' sake, these are the employers. These are the ones the government says it is supposed to be helping; they're giving the employers the tools they keep talking about to deal with the chaos the government has created for those trying to deal with the provision of public sector services. The employers themselves are saying: "We don't like your bill. We know it is a bad bill. We don't like bills that come in without consultation. We don't trust you either. You dumped the offloading bill on us without any notice, without any consultation. Go back to the table on this one, but withdraw it before you do."

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I too want to commend the member for Ottawa Centre on his comments with respect to Bill 136 and just to say briefly that I sense very clearly a growing nervousness within the government members, from ministers to backbenchers, particularly among the backbenchers, in just watching and seeing what's been happening over the last week or so as people have come back from vacations and from an opportunity to be in their ridings.

It doesn't surprise me, therefore, that the government would be quite interested in getting this particular piece of legislation through as quickly as possible. We see this, as has been pointed out, being done now under the new rule changes in a very quick fashion, with additional debating time, additional time in the evenings, additional sittings so that a bill can be put through probably before the end of next week and then, at least on this one, will have the chance to go out to committee and to hear from people.

As I followed the discussion this afternoon, I was struck by the continuing attempts by the Minister of Labour to, in her calm manner, portray this as a fair and balanced way against what we are seeing not just from the labour movement, the outrage from the labour movement. The members want to make a lot of the exchange of letters and invitations to meet with the head of the labour movement, Mr Wilson. If there was any seriousness in discussing these issues, the government would not be proceeding with this bill. The government would be stopping, they would be putting the bill aside, they would be sitting down and negotiating in a serious fashion changes that, yes, need to be made, but changes that are done in a way and should be done in a way that continues to respect the collective bargaining rights of workers across the province.

That's not what this government is interested in and that's why they want to ram this bill through as quickly as possible.


Mr Patten: I'd like to thank the members for Hamilton Centre, Fort William, Dovercourt and Niagara Falls for their comments.

I think the member for Hamilton Centre was right to point out the implications of the rule changes here and what this means.

I would like to respond in particular, though, to the member for Niagara Falls. He suggested that obviously we would think the school boards and municipalities would be full of money. We know they're not full of money. We were pointing out that by adding a feature you changed the nature of negotiations that has been there already.

Of course employers and unions know what's at stake. I've heard them acknowledge that themselves. They're not looking for the kind of money the doctors got, at all, but they're saying there should be fairness. When you introduce ability to pay into the criteria, that's a prejudicial element.

When the member for Niagara Falls he says he's not surprised the Liberals would think they could spend freely, I would point out to him that the only time I think in the last 30 years government has balanced the budget and contributed to the accumulated debt was in 1989. That hasn't happened for a long time. We lived within our budget and we contributed to areas that needed some funding throughout the province. I'm very proud of that fact, that we balanced the budget, helped to strengthen education, helped to strengthen health care, and were still able to contribute to reducing the accumulated debt of this province. I would challenge any other party to match that record.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity, even though it's limited now, to join the debate.

First off, I'd like to respond to the comments of the parliamentary assistant; it seems like a good place to start. He talks about meetings and about consulting. I would like to offer up the fact that the Ontario Federation of Labour held a special emergency convention, the first ever, I might point out, in their entire 40-year history, to deal with Bill 136 -- I think it's also worth pointing out that the over 2,400 participants meant that was also the largest convention they'd ever had -- held in the dead of summer on an issue, quite frankly, that only directly hits the public sector part of the Ontario Federation of Labour, and yet all the labour movement rallied around their sisters and brothers in the public sector who are under attack in this round of anti-worker legislation with Bill 136.

At the end of that one-day convention there was a democratic procession, a march from the Sheraton Centre here to the Legislature. The president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Gord Wilson, invited the Premier or a representative to be here, to receive a proclamation that would offer up an alternative process to 136.

You see, the problem with your spin is that you're trying to paint out these public sector workers like they are, once again, one of your special interest enemies, that it's their fault you have to do this. That it's their fault you have take away their rights. That's what you want to spin, but the reality is this is the last group that wants the confrontation you're forcing.

They came here to the Ontario Legislature, up from that one-day convention, and they brought along their proclamation, and all they asked for was the respect anybody deserves when you represent over 600,000 Ontarians. Whether you like them or not is not the issue. There has to be a certain level of respect for that organization.

I can recall when we were the government -- and this is why it particularly troubles me -- when there was a similar demonstration of the Bay Street types on the front lawn. They were angry over an entirely different issue. It was a fiscal matter. They had every right to protest, but I have to admit it was the first time I've seen that many cabs delivering up protesters to the front of the Leg, but hey, there you go, live and learn. They were loud and they had signs and they had buttons, all the things that to you people means you're almost a terrorist, because that's certainly the way you treat demonstrators when they come to this place.

What happened when they came here? They were outraged. They were there in massive numbers. I give them their due, they organized it well. The Deputy Premier, the Minister of Finance, went out in front and stood in front of that crowd and talked to them. He got hollered at, he got heckled. He could hardly be heard by half the people out there. That wasn't the point. The point was that he was showing the respect those citizens deserved.

You didn't even do that. You didn't have one representative, not the Premier, not the minister, not a parliamentary assistant, not a single lowly government backbencher -- no one.

If you want to talk about consultation, if you want to talk about meetings, how about Bill 49? There are two kinds of meetings that happen with ministers, and having been there, I think I have a fairly good sense of these things. There are two kinds of meetings you have with ministers.

One is where it's legitimate that the minister is responsible for a particular item. The Premier cannot meet with everyone, that's understood. But things are big enough that they deserve to have a minister present, so the minister will meet with a group to talk about a particular issue, whatever it might be. That's one kind of meeting.

The other one is damage control. They're running interference for the Premier. It's good politics. It's not very appropriate in terms of manners, but that is the way it happens.

This minister is running interference for the Premier. She can't change what's in 136, only the Premier's office can do that. The leadership of the labour movement representing workers in this province know that. They're not going to let themselves be conned or had or diverted by meeting with the minister. They want to meet with the decision-maker on this issue. They want to meet with the Premier.

Besides, this is the same minister, by the way, who on Bill 49, a week before, said, "Oh, don't worry about Bill 49," where you took away rights from non-unionized workers who don't have the benefit of a collective agreement and the Employment Standards Act. You took away their rights, and a week before that same minister met with the heads of the unions and Gord Wilson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, and said, "Don't worry, it's only a minor housekeeping bill, a few little nuts and bolts."

The reality is it did take away major rights, to the point that we were able to shame your government into holding four weeks of province-wide public hearings, where we completely thrashed and trashed your legislation as you tried to say, "Oh, it doesn't take anything away." Yes, it did. It left the most vulnerable in our society even more vulnerable. It was your minister who led them down the garden path, because the very day that legislation was introduced, where were those very labour leaders? They were at a labour convention, a conference in another part of the country, and the minister knew that.

When the parliamentary assistant wants to stand up and talk about who wants to meet with whom, the fact of the matter is that the only time your Premier publicly committed in this place to meet with the representatives of those workers you're about to attack was when I asked him a question directly. The labour leaders who were here were outraged by the insulting answer he gave, and finally at the end of it all last Monday he stood up and said, "Okay, I'll meet with them."

But we still had to push him further because for a couple of days the phone call didn't happen, after he'd committed in this House that it would. So don't start to play games and talk about the fact that the people representing the workers in this case are the ones who are refusing to meet. It doesn't hold, it doesn't wash and you ought to know better than try to defend the record of a minister like the one you're associated with.


The other comment the parliamentary assistant made was on AMO -- a very, very interesting turn of events. In my own community, and I'm very proud of them, Hamilton city council passed a resolution that they were opposed to the passage of Bill 136 and urged that it be withdrawn by the government of Ontario or defeated by the Legislature and that the collective bargaining practices and procedures under existing Ontario labour relations legislation continue without political interference.

Bravo to Hamilton city council for having the courage to do that. Why did they do it? For the same reason that Barbara Hall in Toronto took the same position, and I would argue for the same reason that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario did, which I also used to be a member of prior to coming here, so I have a bit of understanding of that world too. Why did they do that? Because they've got working labour relations that provide the stability and the efficiency you propose to put forward under Bill 136.

What they don't need is the kind of chaos you're creating by pushing working people to the wall. Worse than that, you tie one hand behind their back and then you want to pick a fight with them. You're pretty good at that. You did that with OPSEU. You certainly did that with injured workers. That's exactly what this government has done and that's why AMO took that position.

You know as well as I do there are a whole lot more Tories elected municipally than there are New Democrats, and I don't know about the mix between Liberals and Tories, but certainly there are a whole lot more Tories, and traditionally that was always the farm team for people who eventually came up into the Ontario Legislature and on to the federal Parliament. We're starting to catch on to that method so we're starting to elect as many working people and ordinary, average, everyday citizens as we can.

This is not a group that is politically predisposed to wanting to reach out and sting you. Quite the contrary. They have oftentimes been quite supportive, been willing to sit down and talk, been somewhat I would say guarded and pulled back on some of their comments from time to time, but they have taken that position because the chaos you're going to cause in our communities is one they're going to have to live with. They don't have the benefit of hiding here in the Legislature like the rest of you. They are out there in the community and they are going to have to deal with the reality of what Bill 136 means and what you're going to force working people to do. What choice do they have?

The minister talks consistently about fairness and balance. There's no fairness or balance in Bill 136. Give me a break. Here's what's happening. You've got to find the $5 billion to $6 billion that you need to pay for your tax cut. Everybody agreed there had to be changes. What they don't agree with is that it has to be done this way, and certainly any of the changes that have been made were not fiscally required in terms of being in a position where you're giving back 30% of your revenue. That has to be paid for, and unfortunately it's being paid for right now in my community, my home town of Hamilton, with another one of your infamous commissions: the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

We've got one or maybe two hospitals that are on the line, and part of that is to pay for your 30% tax cut. I'm not sure whom you represent when you are here in this House, but the people I represent are going to be lucky if they get a couple of cups of coffee out of that 30%. We know that those who already have and do quite well under our system are going to be getting thousands of dollars back in your tax cut, and the average working middle-class family will be lucky to get a few bucks. Ask any of your constituents. That's the reality. That's what's happening. We've got this situation where that still has to be paid for.

It's fine to stand up and make the announcement. It always sounds good to say you're going to cut taxes. Everybody likes that. I don't think there is anybody in here who really wants to pay more taxes, and if there's a way to pay less, why not? Of course. It's not rocket science. However, there's a price to be paid, and who's paying it? Who is paying the price of your tax cut? Communities and families and their standard of living and their quality of life. If you're making 200 grand or 300 grand a year, none of this is bothering you. You can afford to pay for a private school system. You can afford to take care of your health needs even if you have to go outside the country to do it. You can --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, member for Hamilton Centre. I'm sorry, I don't mean to break you off in mid-stride, but I would ask the member for Grey-Owen Sound if he would be so kind as to remove the button from his lapel. Thank you.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Mr Speaker, I'm from the north, and we need you.

The Speaker: Well, I'm from the south and I need you too. We can't go around wearing buttons like that. Okay? Good work. Thanks so much.

Mr Christopherson: That's why people who are making a lot of money are quite fine by all of this. It's the average people and their families who are paying the price. We see it through the health restructuring where you're shutting down hospitals, the dispensing fees you've added on to seniors, the increased costs across the board. That's where the cost is.

But a large part of it -- and this is where a lot of the public, I admit, tend to start glazing over, because it's the relationship from one government to another and it just doesn't always sound like it's that important or that it means anything. But in this case it's crucial, it's pivotal to understand that the slashing and the cutting, the degree of cuts this government is making to the transfer payments they give to municipalities is such that municipalities are going to have to start slashing services by laying off people, or raise taxes.

But you've told them they can't raise taxes. You've said they can afford to cut the 2% or 3%, whatever your spin numbers are. But those of us who have served on municipal councils know that we're getting right at the heart of communities, right at the ability of a community to survive and thrive.

Your magic solution, since you don't like working people and you don't want wages to be any higher than they absolutely have to be -- unless they're your own, but if it's anybody else's wages, it's too much -- is to bring in legislation that would have forced municipalities, you thought -- and as it's turning out, thank God, most of them decided they're not going to go that way -- or allowed those that wanted to, to go after the wages and benefits of the ordinary working people who happen to work in the public sector.

As much as you may say the public sector is evil, those happen to be hard-working, decent people providing a service to their neighbours and their community. It has just as much honour and deserves just as much respect as the job any of you do or anyone else in the private sector. But you don't show that respect; you show total disrespect.

What this bill does -- let's remember, you've got to find your $5 billion to $6 billion to pay for the tax cut your wealthy friends are going to benefit from. Part of that is being paid for by shutting down hospitals, making classrooms larger and reducing the amount of money municipalities get. They, on the other hand, are being told, "We'll give you this great legislation that lets you go after those evil public sector people."

What we've got is this nifty clause that now says "ability to pay," which again sounds very reasonable. How could it be any other way? The difference of course is that governments decide what they can pay for and what they can't, and they control their own expenditure and revenue at will. By artificially imposing ability to pay and then cutting back the amount of money that municipalities have, you are the instigator of those families having a lower standard of living.

The minister will stand up and say -- and I see the parliamentary assistant shaking his head: "But they can go on to bargain. Nothing has been lost here. They have the opportunity to still continue to bargain." No they don't. That's the bumper-sticker slogan version of what's going on. Scratch a little bit under the surface and what do we find? The reality is that it only takes one party to send it to your new Dispute Resolution Commission.


And who's going to be on this commission? Will it be from a group of people who are selected by labour and business and where they both agree, "Yes, that's a fair person, who has sort of a judge-like personality, someone with a great deal of integrity and respect, and we'd be prepared to live by his or her judgement," or a panel of them? Is that who the commission will be made up of? Oh, no, no, no. This commission, unlike arbitrators, who decide in any other instance where a matter goes to an arbitrator, is chosen by the cabinet. Well, those lucky, lucky public sector workers. They get to have their collective agreement written by Mike Harris's golfing buddies. Wouldn't that fill you with a lot of warmth and comfort?

There you go. You've now got municipalities that have had their money severely cut and who see services in their communities, desperately needed services, on the line and you've said: "But you can take the money out of wages and benefits and we'll make sure we tie at least one hand, if not both hands, of the union.

We're going to make sure that it's the ability to pay, so the fact that we cut you back can now be factored in as a reason you don't have to deal with a decent standard of living for your employees. Second, if it looks like you might end up in a strike situation and you happen to have people who have formed a strong organization and respect one another and collectively deal with the employer to offset the power they have, normally called a union, if it looks like you might have to face them with the possibility of them saying, _Hey, if you're not reasonable and fair, we're going to have to use the only alternative you leave us.'" -- if that's a possibility for this employer, you've said: "We've got a great solution for that too. You can decide on your own, employer, that you don't have to take them on. You can eliminate their ability to bargain fairly and effectively, because they've lost the only tool they have, and send it off to our commission, full of all our kind of right-thinking" -- and I do mean right-wing-thinking -- "people."

That's exactly what you're doing, and now you've had a major setback. First of all, I don't think you expected that the labour movement could unite the way they have. There are differences in the labour movement, as there are differences anywhere, but make no mistake: Whether it's public sector or private sector, the labour movement is prepared to fight and represent the interests of the working people they're elected to represent, and they are united.

That's the one thing you weren't expecting. The other thing you weren't expecting was AMO to do what they just did, which was to pass a resolution saying that they don't want you to proceed with Bill 136, that you've got to find another way

Isn't that interesting? That's also what the workers' representatives are telling you. They're saying: "We don't want the confrontation. We don't want a fight. We don't want to strike. We don't want any of this. We didn't pick this fight. You did. You brought in Bill 136. You're the one that started all this. We're quite happy to continue with where we've been and where we're going."

Judy Darcy, the national president of CUPE, pointed out in an article that she wrote for the Globe and Mail on July 22 that she's not aware that there has been even one strike as a result of restructuring. But again you want to tell everybody: "Taxpayers, we're protecting your interest. We're going to make sure you're okay. We're doing this for you."

That's not what's going on. This is all about getting back to the point where you can pay for your tax cut. The money has to be found, and you want to lower the standard of living and the income of the families and workers who are in the public sector.

You've tried to demonize "public sector." You've suggested that the only way to make things work in Ontario is to privatize it, and that all you have to do is water down the power of the labour bosses and water down all the rights and perks that all these people have.

Do you know that the average wage for the broader public sector is about $24,000, $25,000? That's whom we're talking about. We're talking about the people who clean the schools. We're talking about the people who collect the garbage, who run our recreation centres, who work in hospitals. These are all our neighbours, our families, but you want to demonize them with that special-interest title that says "public sector worker." If you can do that, then you feel you can politically legitimize going after them.

There are thousands and thousands of former public sector workers who are now gone, on the unemployment lines, because that has been your approach. You haven't wanted to talk to anybody about alternatives. All you want to do is cut, cut, cut, and if that means some of you out there have to tighten your belts, that's what we all have to do.

We've all got to live a little more lean than we have in the past, and we've all got to tighten our belts -- except, of course, if you're one of the lucky ones who is getting to get thousands and thousands of dollars from that 30% tax cut. They don't have to tighten their belts; in fact, they can afford to take a little longer down south in winter or buy a new car a little sooner than they would have before.

It's so easy to sit back, when all your creature comforts are looked after, and say, "Yes, everybody has to cut back; everybody is just going to have to cut the fat and make sure that this thing runs efficiently." When anybody comes along and says, "It doesn't have to be this way; there's another way to do this without attacking the standard of living of working people," you don't want to listen, you don't want to talk, only when you're forced or shamed into it.

You did the same thing to the injured workers on Bill 99 when you said you were going to talk to them and listen to what they had to say, and you threw out crumbs: six days across the province, because you knew you couldn't withstand a prolonged attack. You knew you were going to get beat up out there, and you did in every community we were in. You have done it to every single worker, with pieces of legislation that affect them, since you came into office.

When we talk about the two commissions that you have set up, people don't have a lot of faith in what you're doing. I will wrap up for this part of it, Speaker, because we're getting close to 6. But I want to mention that, first of all, people know that when you set up a commission, it's working people who get hit in their standard of living. Second, they know it's going to be full of your ideologically, hard, right-wing-driven types who will be on there.

They also know that the name of the game is that you want someone else to blame. Think about it. You want the ability, every time a collective agreement gets gutted by your new Dispute Resolution Commission, to say: "Oh, it wasn't us. It was them. It was the commission."

You set up the commission, and we know that's what you're going to do, because your health minister does it every time there's an announced hospital closure in a community in this province. He stands there and says, "That wasn't me; that was the commission," like it somehow evolved after the big bang and came there all on its own. You created that commission, you have responsibility for what you're doing to hospitals, and you're creating these anti-labour commissions, and you're going to be held responsible for what they're doing to working people and their legitimate collective agreements.

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

The House adjourned at 1759.