36th Parliament, 1st Session

L219a - Tue 26 Aug 1997 / Mar 26 Aoû 1997














































The House met at 1333.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): The Harris government's tyrannical tactics are once again on display. Now the government is eager to apply the workfare program to seniors and the disabled. Ontario's seniors will be pointing the finger at you, Premier, and your cohorts, who are repeatedly forgetting what you said in your Common Sense Revolution.

You said that you would take seniors and the disabled out of the welfare system and that you would establish a new and separate income supplement program specifically for those unable to work. You stated that funding for this program would be guaranteed at current levels and for seniors and the disabled there would be no cuts.

Now the seniors and the disabled, the most vulnerable people in our province, are once again being made scapegoats of your mean-spirited policies. Slashing the benefits of poor seniors and the disabled by over $400 a month, you're penalizing the most needy group only as a result of your misguided and incompetent government.

Remember, however, that it will be this group that will ultimately judge you, and they will remember your broken promises. They will be there to remind you of the Mike Harris cuts to seniors and the disabled, user fees for drugs, user fees for the sick, less access to medical care. Only a very desperate and frantic government seeks to target the poorest and most vulnerable by slashing their welfare benefits almost in half. Indeed, Mr Premier, the seniors will remember.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): This morning I met with some of the Czech Gypsy families who have arrived in Toronto seeking refugee status. These people are fleeing the violence, the attacks, indeed the murders of Gypsies in the Czech Republic that have, as they have reported to me, been met with indifference by authorities in the Czech Republic.

They have suffered generations of discrimination and violence. One need not go far back into history to recall that Gypsies in the Czech Republic and others were among the millions that were herded into Hitler's abattoirs, into the Nazi camps and ovens. They expect no more than to be treated fairly and with due process under our existing immigration and refugee laws; they deserve no less.

We must condemn the racism that has emerged, that has surfaced, that has reared its tainted, ugly head in response to these tragic people's search for refuge here in this country. I condemn the comments of the ilk of Gordon Chong, who displays himself as a racist in his ill-tempered and evil comments about these people. I tell you, Speaker, if only we could have been a place of refuge for some of those who had been herded into those ovens but 55 years ago. I appeal to all --

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


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): We have options. Past provincial governments lacked the courage to support health care restructuring, and the result is an Ontario lagging behind other provinces in reforming and developing a health care system emphasizing patient services.

We have the option to be like the opposition party, to look at health services restructuring and complain about change and create situations designed to cause fear and anxiety, or we can look at situations where health care providers have taken up this government's challenge and can now add up their accomplishments.

In my riding of Simcoe East, the staff, nurses, doctors and volunteers of Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Orillia have more than met this government's challenges. I am proud to report they have taken the lead and surpassed all. These people know their future lies in satisfied patients and a more informed and healthier community.

With a referral population of 75,000, Soldiers' Memorial closed 12 beds in 1997 and reduced the number of patients waiting more than four weeks for elective surgery by 29%. They have reduced costs wherever possible, saving $40,000 per year on one contract for sutures alone. A recent report of the chairman of Soldiers' states, "Even with service expansions and new programs being added, a balanced budget was once again achieved."

Soldiers' Memorial took the option of creating progress with teamwork, technological advances and quality management principles. Ontario has provided the blueprint for Soldiers'.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I rise today with regard to the lack of information from the Conservative government and inaccurate estimated financial costs of municipal downloading.

The city of Cornwall writes that your government has not been forthcoming with information about your offloading plans, and requests a meeting with the Premier and Minister Al Leach. Further, the city states that the correspondence received from Minister Leach describing a potential allocation of costs and revenues from Cornwall and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry does not match projected costs.

The city estimates that the government offloading plans will require the city to come up with $18.85 million. Minister Leach said that municipalities assume an extra 2% cut per annum for three years. The city states that they have already reduced staff by 11.28% and the budget by several millions of dollars. Further cuts will result in the elimination of key services. The united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry said provincial estimates are misleading and state that the offloading will cost an additional $18.9 million.

In the Toronto Sun, Minister Leach said there is only one damn taxpayer, but these municipal councils don't want to assume the provincial share.

Premier and Minister, please take the time and meet with these councils to discuss your offloading calculations.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Speaker, you are aware, as is everybody else in this House, of the extraordinary rise in the price of gasoline across this province in the last couple of weeks. I want to speak for just a few minutes this afternoon about the impact on northern Ontario and particularly the impact on the issue of cross-border shopping.

It's absolutely phenomenal, the impact this will have on my community of Sault Ste Marie, which is a cross-border community. It's disturbing given the efforts that were made by governments over the last five to 10 years to try to come to terms with this. You will remember, because you were here as part of the opposition when we were in government trying to comes to terms with the impact the cross-border shopping phenomenon had on many communities in Ontario, that Bob Rae was called the businessman of the year in Buffalo on one of the billboards down at the corner of Dundas.

As government, by your inaction, what you are allowing the petroleum industry to do to the community of Sault Ste Marie is to get us back into that exact position again. We were beginning to feel some relief. As a matter of fact, I was talking to a small business person in the Sault this morning who said this summer she was feeling particularly good about the amount of gasoline she was selling at her small gas bar, and when the Michigan government decided to increase the taxes on gasoline, was quite excited because it meant it would positively impact on our side of the border. But when the petroleum industry came in and whacked us across the head with the increases that they did --

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


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): In cooperation with Sarnia's home-town newspaper, the Observer, it's my pleasure to provide all members of this House with a copy of a special Observer edition marking the completion of the second span of the International Blue Water Bridge.

Along with this special edition, I want to extend an invitation to all members to visit our community, which has become the most strategic site for new investment in Canada, as was noted by the Globe and Mail's business magazine a short while ago. Six million vehicles cross the Blue Water Bridge annually, a number projected to double by the year 2000.

The completion of the second span is vital to business and industry and will help promote a healthy tourism environment in Ontario and in my riding.

The $100-million project is testimony to the strong ties we have with our American neighbours. Ontario is open for business, our community is open for business, and through the cooperation of countless individuals and groups, we will be building on the opportunities offered by the bridge.

Exciting things are happening and I encourage all members to visit my riding and enjoy the water, parks and host of cultural activities that make Sarnia a great place to live, work and play.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): It seems that Minister of Transportation Al Palladini is perpetually stuck in neutral. I rise today to remind him that one year ago today a truck accident claimed the life of Kim Wong, who lived in North York. It happened when a runaway truck coming off an exit ramp at Steeles Avenue and Highway 404 crashed into her home. A retaining wall at the end of the ramp could have prevented this tragedy.

It's also been a year since the minister promised he would install a safety barrier at the site to prevent future accidents. To date, he's done nothing to keep his word, and the residents of Meadoways are still living in fear. Our transportation minister just can't get his engine started when it comes to living up to his responsibilities.

You've had a year to act. The residents of Meadoways have made repeated requests for you to do something. All they have received are empty promises.

Tonight I will be joining Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty and the residents of the community of Meadoways. We will gather to remember Kim Wong with a tree dedication and ribbon ceremony.

We will also be there to remind the minister that he has a responsibility to the residents of Meadoways to ensure their community is safe.

This is another example of the minister's inability to do his job. It took him more than two years to deal with truck wheel safety. Highway 407 has been stalled for months. When will you break the cycle of delays? When will you finally fulfil the promises you made to the residents of Meadoways?


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): As the Toronto Star points out today, "The doors are locked and the lights are off this week at one of Ontario's most popular and unique institutions." The Metro Toronto Reference Library has been temporarily closed due to funding cuts directly as a result of this government. Those funding cuts have resulted in a loss of 30% of their funding, 140 jobs gone, restricting hours, trimming the collection, cutting new book purchases and cancelling more than 1,000 periodicals.

This library is the jewel in the crown of the library system in the province. It's used by more than 1.5 million people a year. That's three times more people than visited the Art Gallery of Ontario and half again as many as went to the Royal Ontario Museum. Yet as the article points out, the library seems to be dying a death of a thousand cuts.

Of the people who use this library, 42% are students and 32% are business people. Many people rely on these services.

But it's not just the reference library. Community libraries like the Walter Stewart library in East York, Dawes Road library, Kew Beach, Main Street, all in my constituency, have seen that funding cuts for two years mean they have fewer materials, material costs have gone up, they've lost staff through attrition, they've had to restrict hours, and of course they really worry about the spectre of user fees that will be limiting accessibility.

As the Toronto Star says: "There's a price to pay for the Tory tax break for the rich. There's a price to pay for such ideologically driven procedures."


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I ask the members of this House to join me in congratulating the extraordinary Ontario athletes and their coaches and managers who are bringing home the Canada Games flag from Brandon.

Ontario was declared the winner of the 1997 Canada Games on Saturday, with 272 flag points. This makes 13 of 16 Canada Games that Team Ontario has won. Team Ontario has also won the most medals for individual performance, taking 64 gold, 36 silver and 54 bronze.

The 354 athletes on the Ontario team were all winners. Many of them prepared for years to compete at the games, and once they got there they showed their talent, their determination and their heart.

Residents of my riding are especially proud of two local athletes who have brought home medals from the games: Andrew Munro, who won a gold in swimming in the 400-metre freestyle relay, and Adam Strickland. with a silver medal in wrestling.

We are proud of them and we are proud of the more than 4,000 fine young athletes from all over the country who competed in the Canada Summer Games. Qualifying to compete at these games is a significant achievement.

The drive for excellence and the team spirit these young people displayed at the games shows us what athletic achievement is all about. We are fortunate to have so many fine young athletes in this country. Some of them will be competing in the 2001 games in London, Ontario, and a few of them will go on to represent Canada internationally.

The people of Brandon, Manitoba, also deserve our thanks for doing such a marvellous job of hosting the 1997 Canada Summer Games.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce, in the Speaker's gallery of the Legislative Assembly, the Honourable Dorothy Isaksen, MLC, from Sydney, Australia, the Upper House, New South Wales, who also happens to be the chief government whip. Welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): On Thursday, August 21, 1997, the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) rose on a point of order. He asked the Speaker to rule on the orderliness of Bill 152, An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers by eliminating Duplication and reallocating Responsibilities between Provincial and Municipal Governments in various areas and to implement other aspects of the Government's "Who Does What" Agenda.

The government House leader (Mr Johnson) and the member for St Catharines (Mr Bradley) also spoke to the issue.

The essential concern raised by the member for Algoma was that the bill was an omnibus bill that seeks to amend many unrelated pieces of legislation.

I agree that Bill 152 is an omnibus bill. Omnibus bills have been the subject of much procedural scrutiny in the course of the 35th and 36th parliaments because governments have increasingly used them as vehicles for submitting related proposals for the consideration of the House. There may come a time when an omnibus bill is procedurally unacceptable and when the long title will not save the bill.

The procedural concern that has been raised about such bills is that the proposals in them are not related. However, Bill 152 is not such a bill. I have examined the bill carefully, and it does appear to have a theme of relevancy -- a tangible link -- among its components.

Therefore, while the member may have a legitimate grievance, that alone does not make the bill out of order. All I can say is what I have said on a previous occasion, namely, that the House has it within its power to establish rules or guidelines that will in future alleviate concerns such as the one raised by the member for Algoma.

I thank the member, as well as the government House leader and the member for St Catharine, for their submissions.


Yesterday, the member for Hamilton Centre raised a point of order with respect to the decision of the subcommittee of the standing committee on resources development and a document produced by the Ministry of Labour.

The Ministry of Labour document states that the clause-by-clause review of Bill 99 is to begin on August 25, 1997. This is obviously an error, since yesterday was August 25 and, to the best of my knowledge, clause-by-clause consideration did not commence. While there is no doubt that it is incorrect information, I do not believe that it anticipates any decision of this House. In accordance with an order of this House, clause-by-clause consideration of the bill will happen. The fact that the document has an incorrect start date is neither out of order nor does it constitute a prima facie case of privilege.

The member for Hamilton Centre also raised the issue of a subcommittee decision being subsequently overridden by the full committee. The member will know that the Speaker will not rule on matters that are before committees; however, in a general way I want to state that, with few exceptions, any decision of a subcommittee must be approved by the full committee. It is not out of order for the full committee to amend or defeat subcommittee reports.

I find then that there is nothing out of order.



Mr Jim Brown moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr86, An Act to establish the Scarborough Entertainment and Convention Corporation.

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


Ms Bassett moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 153, An Act to provide more protection for animals by amending the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act / Projet de loi 153, Loi prévoyant une protection accrue des animaux en modifiant la Loi sur la Société de protection des animaux de l'Ontario.

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

Do you have any short comments?

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): My private member's bill will amend the OSPCA Act to provide for better protection for animals from cruelty and neglect by introducing fines and penalties for people who abuse animals. This bill will allow humane societies right across Ontario to get tough with animal abusers by creating substantial deterrents for offenders. The bill has been developed in partnership with the Ontario Humane Society and the Toronto Humane Society, and I look forward to debating the bill on September 11. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the House will be able to support this legislation.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. As you know, Premier, students are getting ready to enrol to get back to college and university next week, and they're going to do so saddled under the 30% tuition fee hike for which you bear responsibility. Never has this province seen such a tuition fee hike in that amount, 30%, that is, until the last government. The NDP were also responsible for 30%. You added to the students' burden another 30%, so that in the last several years students have experienced tuition fee hikes in total of 60%.

Premier, understanding that students are facing costs in the range of $10,000 -- that's for tuition fee hikes, housing, food, accommodation and transportation -- do you think it's fair in those circumstances to proceed with your tax cut at the expense of our students?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the minister would want to respond, but since I don't see him, let me begin. Should he disagree with my answer, I'm sure he'll rush in and correct the record.

I think you've correctly identified in your question that the major cost of education is not tuition. It is housing, it is food, it is cost of living and, of course, for many it's the fact that they are not out working, earning $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year. That is the big cost that students pay by going to university full-time.

We believe we have found the right balance of tuition levels, much cheaper than Nova Scotia but higher than some provinces, given the tremendous payback that comes to students and given the hundreds of millions of new dollars that we're putting into student assistance.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, we are now the lowest funder for our students when it comes to college and university education in the country. Our tuition fees are now the second highest in the country. You understand very well, and I know this, Premier, that our students' chances are much, much better when it comes to getting a job when they have completed a college or university education. What we ought to be doing is making it easier for our students to pursue post-secondary studies rather than throwing up hurdles before them.

Applications are down this year because you've allowed tuition fees to increase by 30% on your watch. Student debt load: Let's take a look at that for a moment. The average student debt load for our students who are graduating is somewhere in the range of $25,000 now. Applications are down, especially when it comes to students who are from poor families. We ought to be doing everything we can to increase those applications.

Again, Premier, if you have to choose between a tax cut and increasing tuition fees, why are you choosing the tax cut?

Hon Mr Harris: As you will know, when you were in government, Ontario was 10th and last in the funding of universities; when the NDP were in government we were 10th and last in the funding of universities; and we inherited a situation where we were 10th and last in funding universities. Others, on the other hand, have said we were first in efficiently delivering some of the best university programs in the world. I tend to agree with the latter interpretation, but none the less, nothing has changed in our status between your government and the NDP government and our government. What has changed substantially, though, is this: hundreds of millions of new dollars going into student assistance and working as fast as we can with the federal government to get an income-contingent loan plan.

Yes, tuition fees comprise about 34% of operating revenues for our Ontario universities. We believe that's a pretty sound investment, equivalent perhaps to an investment somebody makes in the average North American car. I suggest four years of university --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: I think it's important for us to keep the record straight. The fact of the matter is that you have cut funding to our colleges and universities by $387 million. You have increased tuition fees for our college and university students by 30%. On your watch we have now become the lowest funder per capita when it comes to post-secondary education in the land, in Canada.

On your watch, 44 out of 50 American states increased funding to their publicly funded universities. What is it they understand? Well, I can tell you what they understand, Premier, something you clearly do not understand: We have to invest in our students in order to ensure that we can compete in the global marketplace. We are going to make it because we have the best educated workforce in the world, and we should accept nothing less.

Once again, Premier, why is it that you've insisted on increasing our tuition fees at a time when, instead of giving us that tax cut, you ought to be making it simpler and easier for students who enrol in post-secondary studies?


Hon Mr Harris: Of course the tax cut is what is creating the jobs, leading the nation, leading the United States, leading all of North America in job creation, so that when students graduate with a debt equivalent to about a North American car, they'll have a job to pay back that loan, pay back that investment.

Naturally, we are investing about two thirds of taxpayer dollars into their education, and we are asking them to invest about 35% or 34% of the cost of tuition. Why you would relate the biggest job creation measure in Canada, by way of a tax reduction that's actually bringing us more money, with anything to do with that great investment in education -- I don't know why you would link that.

But I agree with your statement that we are going to make it here in the province of Ontario. In spite of what we inherited from your government and the NDP government, we are going to make it because we will have the best-educated workforce in the world.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is in the hope of a better answer that I direct this to the Premier. I want to ask you about your hospital closings. To the perplexity of people all around the province, you have sent the Harris hospital destruction commission to shut down 25 hospitals and you have caused a lot of concern, but right now you're causing some hurt and hardship. The first Harris hospital shutdown is taking place at Northwestern hospital in Metro Toronto.

What they've done is taken out obstetrics and gynaecology and didn't notify anyone. Pregnant women have shown up at emergency and waited as long as four hours to be seen. One woman in critical need had equipment from another hospital sent over by taxi to help her, and they tried to train the nurses on the spot to be able to use that equipment. She didn't get the service until the next day -- at some risk to her.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The question?

Mr Kennedy: I want to know if you're going to have your health minister intervene and slow down the shutdown at Northwestern, which is going to take place on November 3 of this year, not two years from now and not after --

The Speaker: Premier.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): As you know, the Minister of Health doesn't run hospitals, but I would be glad to have the Minister of Health look into the situation at Northwestern, because indeed we are the government that funds hospitals, and I believe by virtue of that we're entitled to answers from the hospitals.

But I can tell you this: We have absolutely no desire to slow down things the Health Services Restructuring Commission called for, like 5,207 new long-term-care beds, 4,181 long-term-care community spaces, five new MRIs, 30 additional child-adolescent mental health beds by 2003. These are the investments in new, modern hospitals and in health care that we are committed to making in the Toronto area.

Mr Kennedy: I think the people of Ontario now can gauge how phoney that list of so-called commitments is. Your restructuring commission told the people of northwest Metro that it would be two years before their hospital was shut down. It told them on your behalf that $55 million would be invested in new community services. Not one penny has been spent and not one penny will be spent, and this hospital will be shut down.

Yesterday two women went into Humber Memorial Hospital to receive Caesarean sections. They were scheduled for 10 am. It took till 11:20 last night, 13 hours later. The only reason they received the service that late is because of the volume. You have stuffed the obstetrics and gynaecology into a hospital, 193 additional births since August and only one extra bed.

Will you stand up and show the people of Ontario --


The Speaker: Minister of Transportation, I would ask that you withdraw that comment, please.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I withdraw it, Mr Speaker.

Mr Kennedy: You can leave the people of Ontario with a choice here: of believing that either you have a renegade commission that can make all kinds of promises and mean nothing to protect health care, or that we have a Premier and a minister who will stand up for patients and do something about the rushed shutdown of Northwestern hospital. Will you tell us today?

Hon Mr Harris: Yes. I've already told you, and now I'll tell you for the second time, I'd be happy to have the Minister of Health look into your allegations, unfounded or otherwise. If they are founded, I am sure the Minister of Health will --

Mr Kennedy: They're founded.

Hon Mr Harris: You say they're founded, but most of the time it turns out they're not. That's the record of your party, of your leader and your government, so you can understand why we want to check the facts first.

We have accepted the advice of the restructuring commission that called for 4,350 more patients to be served through the cardiac management program; we have accepted their recommendation of an additional $8 million to $10 million to the women's health council for province-wide research and education; we've accepted their recommendation for a Metro-wide rehab network to coordinate access to services; we've accepted their recommendation for the establishment of a children's health network for sick kids to lead in development. It is these investments into modern 21st-century health care that are going to allow Ontario to continue to lead the world in quality health care.

Mr Kennedy: Here's something the people of Ontario don't imagine: $22 million was cut from these hospitals, including Northwestern, by you -- not imaginary dollars, not the promises you're making that you won't keep, but a real $22 million is gone. It has forced 450,000 people to get substandard care thanks to you, Mr Harris.

This is your chance to show people what you're made of. A woman had to give birth yesterday behind the nurses' station -- no curtains, no privacy, in a so-called modern hospital in your Ontario in 1997.

I want your assurance, Mr Premier. Let's find out whether you really mean it. Let's find out whether you're really going to protect patients. Will you give us an assurance that your minister will visit this hospital, will send a team of his staff in there to look at the substandard care that's being delivered, and that he'll do it immediately? Will you give us an assurance today? If not, then the people of Ontario will know that no one is looking after patient care in your government.

Hon Mr Harris: I've indicated, and will now indicate for the third time, that I'd be glad to have the Minister of Health, when I talk to him, look into it. I don't know if you're calling for an audit of the hospital -- that may be what's required -- if you're indicating that is part of the problem, but I am happy to commit to the member to ask the Minister of Health to look into the situation at the hospital.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Yesterday at the AMO conference, municipal politicians laughed at you. You tried to spin your line about your download being revenue-neutral, but they just weren't buying.

To top it all off, you actually claimed yesterday that you would get income distribution programs off the property tax -- this from a minister who has piled $1.75 billion in social housing and welfare costs on to the backs of municipalities. That's $1.75 billion in income distribution programs that municipalities never had to pay before.

Minister, you're saying one thing and you're doing another once again. I just want to ask you this: Are you making a pathetic attempt to fool people, or do you really believe that making municipalities pay $1.75 billion amounts to a tax cut?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I think taking $2.5 billion of income redistribution costs off the property tax is a good start. Taking 50% of the education costs off the property tax is a great start.

I told AMO yesterday that in my view, getting social services and education off the property tax was a goal this government would achieve. As the finances of this province improve, we will move in that direction.

Let's talk about what this government has done to date. What did we say we would do? We said we'd eliminate the deficit. We're well on the way. Did we say we were going to balance the budget? Yes, and it's well under way. Did we say we would get education costs under control? We are: $2.5 billion off the property tax and a commitment to go even further when the financial situation of the province continues to improve. All these things were told to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario yesterday, and they know that when this government says it's going to do something --

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


Mr Silipo: These are by and large small-c and large-c conservative people across the province and they're laughing at you. When they're laughing at you, you're beyond redemption.

Yesterday you actually admitted that you're downloading $666 million in unconditional grants and that you weren't counting that when you talked about revenue neutrality. You at least admitted that. That's $666 million in tax hikes and service cuts for the people of Ontario, courtesy of Al Leach and Mike Harris. No wonder municipal leaders booed you yesterday when you had the gall to try to blame them for any tax hikes. How can you expect people to believe you when you say that $666 million isn't an issue? How can you crow, as you did yesterday, about lowering your own costs when you've just pushed them on to the property tax base?

Hon Mr Leach: Maybe the member of the third party doesn't understand, but I know the president of AMO, Terry Mundell, understood when he stated on May 2, 1997, in the Globe and Mail, "The reality of the situation is that the province told us about a year ago that the $667 million in municipal support grant...was being eliminated." That's the difference of the tradeoff. The municipalities certainly understood that; AMO certainly understood that. We told them yesterday that even if they want to take the $667 million into consideration, that's $667 million on municipal spending in excess of $20 billion, which is certainly less than 3% and a situation that I certainly wouldn't find unsolvable if I were in that position, and neither do the municipalities.

Mr Silipo: That's the same Terry Mundell who said he was ambushed when you introduced your download legislation, the one you were supposed to be discussing with him as well as the AMO officials before you introduced it.

Let's talk a little bit more about process. On August 11 you met with the large urban mayors. You and the Premier agreed to undertake a thorough independent assessment of social housing costs that are being downloaded on to municipalities, yet over two weeks later nothing has happened. You've tried to blame the municipalities, but I have a letter here, which I'd be happy to send to you if you haven't already seen it, from Al Unwin, mayor of St Catharines and chair of the large urban mayors, saying that they're ready to go. This was faxed to you two weeks ago.

Tell us today when that study will begin, who will do it and what the terms of reference are. Or is this just another one of your broken promises?

Hon Mr Leach: That letter was not faxed to me two weeks ago; it was mailed a week ago Wednesday and it was finally -- found that letter yesterday, as a matter of fact. Prior to yesterday, I never saw that letter. Just to let the opposition parties know, I spoke to the mayor of Gloucester yesterday and we had a conversation. I said, "I didn't receive that letter." She said, "Strange, because it was mailed over a week ago." I said, "I'll have my staff look into it; we'll find it." We've got that letter.

I can tell the member of the opposition that the first meeting is set up with the CAOs who have been recommended by the large urban mayors to work with the municipal implementation team. It will take place this week. That's how quickly this government responded.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. I want to return to your answers yesterday to my question where I was asking you to recommend a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire. You said in part that what you wanted to hear was sound evidence of why there should be a public inquiry. I want to raise three of them with you.

First, there was no evacuation for three days. Did the people who were making the decisions have the information they needed, and if not, why not? What information and how we get that information to them is a question that needs to be answered.

Second, the fire wasn't treated as a hazardous material blaze. Therefore firefighters didn't use the same equipment they would have. They weren't decontaminated throughout the fire as they otherwise would have been, and now over 200 firefighters are reporting health problems.

Third, we now know that we have the most toxic hot spot in all of Canada. Don't you think you have a responsibility to find out why that happened, how it happened and all of the measures that you should take to prevent another one?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The role of the Ministry of Environment is to provide the medical officer of health with all of the necessary information she needs in order to make her decision whether to evacuate or not evacuate. The medical officer of health has told us that she received all of the information she needed to make that particular decision. Therefore my job and the ministry's job was fulfilled to the greatest extent.

With regard to how the firefighters treated the information, which was also shared with the fire chief, who I met with the first day of the fire, he indicated as well that he was getting all of the information he needed with regard to handling the fire. I presume he took that information into account in terms of how he approached the fighting of that fire.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, if you think that answers those three questions and you can sit down and forget about it, you're sadly mistaken. The fact of the matter is the firefighters obviously weren't properly protected for some reason, whatever that might be, because we've got over 200 of them who are reporting health effects.

Your answers in terms of information -- why was there an evacuation three days later? Are you saying we can't get that information any quicker, that there's no way to make those decisions quicker? What if someone had died? The whole point is to prevent it.

Minister, I want to turn to what's happening right now. Hardy Wong is reported in the Toronto Star as saying that the money is running out from the insurance company in terms of the cleanup and it may have to stop at the end of the week. If the $300,000 remaining isn't released, indeed that cleanup will stop.

I want to know from you today, will you commit that you'll step in immediately if that money is not released and assure Hamiltonians that not one day of crucial cleanup time will be lost if the insurance company doesn't deliver the $300,000?

Hon Mr Sterling: I can in fact assure you of that. We are issuing a field order today for that very purpose.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary, member for Riverdale.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Minister, let me tell you what your job is. Your job is to protect the health of the people of this province and to protect the environment, nothing short of that.


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

Ms Churley: On that note, let me tell the minister some of the unanswered questions which we can't fully say today here in question period.

Why wasn't the site contained properly until July 17? I was able to walk through an open gate. That means anybody could.

Why was the dampening down not begun until July 17, or field order 22?

According to your ministry's project manager on the site, steel from the site has been sent to Dofasco. Your ministry tests are showing MOEE swiping steel up to 300 nanograms per metre squared of dioxins. The guideline for special cleanup is 25. Why has steel from the fire been sent to Dofasco as part of the cleanup when we know now -- there's no excuse for this -- that it comes from a site that's so highly toxic and dangerous?

Minister, we want to know how the cuts to your ministry have affected this. We have a lot of questions that we want answered --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Riverdale. Please come to order. Minister of Environment and Energy.


Hon Mr Sterling: As we have said to the residents, who of course have a very, very serious concern about this fire, we will provide them with all the information we have. I've said before that our book is open with regard to the information we have.

There was mention about the security of the site. The city of Hamilton was responsible for the security of the site to July 17. The ministry then took over the responsibility for that site, along with the polluter who is responsible for the site. Then on July 22, we issued an order to be absolutely certain that the Plastimet company was in fact securing the site to our satisfaction. We had people on the site all of that time between July 17 and July 22.

I invite the member and all members from the area to write to me with questions they might have. I know there is concern in the area. There is concern from my caucus members who represent that area. I invite them to write me and I will answer them.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the Premier. I want to return to the question raised by my colleague the member for York South, because I think your answer indicates that you don't fully appreciate the gravity of this matter.

Yesterday in Ontario a young woman delivered her baby in an Ontario hospital behind a nursing station. She was not protected by walls. She was in full public view. There were no curtains to be drawn. Both her safety and her dignity were compromised. I believe she has every reasonable expectation and every right to think that she can attend at an Ontario hospital and deliver her baby in a manner that does not compromise either her safety or her dignity.

This is happening because you are in a mad rush to close Ontario hospitals. Premier, is this what you mean when you tell us that you are leading us into a brave new world of health care in Ontario?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No, of course not. As I indicated, I'd be glad to have the minister look into the individual case.

I can tell you that the board, the management and the CEOs of Northwestern, Humber Memorial and York-Finch General are all very supportive of the government funding and of the government transition measures to new, more modern hospital facilities within the province. The view that your critic has expressed is not shared by the board or the management of Northwestern or of any other hospital.

You raise an individual case which would be a concern to all of us, of course. Given that even the best health care and hospital system in the world, which we have in Ontario today, is not perfect, we'd be happy to look into the individual case with a view to trying to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, you should understand that this is happening as a direct result of what you're doing to hospitals in Ontario, as a direct result of what you're doing to health care in Ontario. In your efforts to shuffle buildings and numbers and dollars, you've lost sight of patients, and that's what our health care system is supposed to be all about. Fundamentally it's supposed to be there to ensure that neither the dignity nor the safety of our patients is ever compromised.

That has happened and it has happened on your watch. It's a direct result, and there is no question about that whatsoever, of the fact that you are in a mad rush to close one particular hospital, so you have transferred all of the obstetrics cases to another hospital. We are compromising the safety of patients, not only of the mother but of the baby.

Again I ask you, Premier, is this what we can expect to find in your brave new world of health care in Ontario?

Hon Mr Harris: Other than you and your critic, none of the professionals, none of the people involved, none of the hospital boards, none of the CEOs accept your premise. Given that your premise is false and wrong, that makes the question a moot point. If you're interested in what Ontarians can expect --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Just a minute, Premier. Member for Yorkview, if you'd please take your seat, I'd appreciate it. Thank you. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: If your question has to do with what Ontarians can expect, they can expect that already one of the best hospital and health care systems of the world will be even better in the future.

The Speaker: New question, third party.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Premier and it's also on this particular issue. I don't think, as you are speeding down this track with no regard to what the consequences are for your actions, not taking the time to look at how they're being implemented, you realize what is going on and how it's affecting people.

Do you understand what it would be like for a woman to go in, give birth, to have to do it on the floor behind a counter in a hospital? Do you understand what it would be like for a woman to have to wait for hours and hours for a C-section? Is that the expectation, that you're saying the system will be better?

It's not what the CEOs say. It's not what the hospital boards say, although let me tell you, they're taking you to court to say that you're jeopardizing health care in this province. So you're wrong about that.

What are you going to say to the women who have gone to this hospital expecting to have the services that should be provided under our universal health care system to be able to give birth to healthy children and you, as a result of your cuts and your mismanagement of hospital restructuring, are jeopardizing them and their children and their children's births?

Hon Mr Harris: I think everybody knows we've increased health care funding in Ontario. I would respond by saying to you that there is a desperate need for restructuring in the health care sector.

Ms Lankin: Absolutely.

Hon Mr Harris: "I profoundly believe that there is a need to restructure our hospital services, our institutional services" --

Ms Lankin: I said that, and I agree with it.

Hon Mr Harris: -- "and to move resources from the institutional sector to the community sector." Frances Lankin, MPP, Hansard, December 4, 1995, page 1193.

Ms Lankin: You see, Premier, you've actually hit the point right on the head. I'm glad you quoted that, because I and my colleagues believe in the need for restructuring in the health care system. But you know what? We would go about it in a different way. We would go about it in a way which cares about --


The Speaker: I can't hear you. It's not a great time for a conversation, regardless.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Why is the clock stopped?

The Speaker: The clock was stopped because I considered the government to be interjecting at that point in time.

Mrs Marland: Oh, okay. So now we know --

The Speaker: Again, it's not any good to have a conversation. If you want to talk about it, we'll talk about it after.

Ms Lankin: We believe in restructuring that puts the patient first. Change is needed, but it doesn't have to be this way. Change doesn't have to mean that women are lying in hallways giving birth, waiting for hours to give birth. Your changes have moved ahead so recklessly and without regard to the impact that you are jeopardizing our health care system because Ontarians sooner or later, if they have a substandard public system, will go and buy the services somewhere else. You are setting us on a track to a two-tier system. You are jeopardizing Ontario's health care system. You are the one who's putting the system at risk.

Change is needed, but it doesn't have to be this way. Please understand the consequences of your actions. Please step back from your ideologically driven commitment and look at what is needed in the health care system.

We can help you and we will help you, but you've got to have the guts to stand up and say you've made a mistake, that the system is in jeopardy and that you're going to take another look at it.

Hon Mr Harris: The ideology we are following is that I quoted to you from Frances Lankin in Hansard. It's also the ideology on CBC, Howard Hampton:

"Are there too many hospitals in Toronto?

"Howard Hampton: You can make a case for the rationalization of the hospital system in Toronto.

"CBC: Right. So you don't need all the hospitals, do you?

"Hampton: No, you don't."

That's the ideology we are following. In making that ideology, let me assure you that while 16% to 20% of the people agree with your way of doing it, I think 80% of the people in this province agree that if our way of putting people first, of putting the patient first --

Ms Lankin: You're not.

The Speaker: Come to order, member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Hon Mr Harris: -- of putting women first, of putting modern health care services first, that in fact --

Ms Lankin: You're not putting women first. Don't you stand here and say you're putting women first. You're not.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Beaches-Woodbine, I warn you to come to order. I won't warn you again.



Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. One of the main reasons my constituents sent me to Queen's Park was to fix a welfare system that was not working for recipients nor taxpayers. My constituents in Niagara Falls want a system of last resort that helps people get back on their feet and into the workforce.

The workfare program under way in Niagara region is one step in the right direction. But we also want a fair system, one that would ensure that the decisions with respect to eligibility are free to be challenged. Given the scope of changes to our welfare system in Bill 142, some of my constituents have been led to believe the right to appeal will be taken away. Could you reassure them?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Yes, we've been quite distressed at some of the comments that have been made that somehow or other Bill 142 is taking away appeal rights. It is doing no such thing. As a matter of fact, one of the improvements the legislation brings to the appeal process is allowing those individuals who have appeals, who have questions about decisions that have been made, a fast track, if you will, an appeal process that they can access internally so they can get a decision within several days, rather than forcing them in all circumstances to go to a fairly lengthy legal process, which many of them are not comfortable with.

Mr Maves: Thank you, Minister, for that clarification.

One of the current policies of our social safety net allows a social assistance recipient who chooses to appeal an administrator's decision to be eligible to receive benefits while their appeal is pending. Will this be the same?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Again the information that some of our critics are putting forward is incorrect. There will remain the authority from the tribunal to authorize interim assistance if there is a need. I don't think most people would object to the fact that people in need should get it. The question is, are they in need? The system is setting up the process to determine that, to ensure those people in need get the interim assistance they require during an appeal process.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier and it is on the subject of Ipperwash and the death of Dudley George. On Wednesday, September 6, 1995, hours before the shooting, your executive assistant was at an emergency meeting which included a very senior OPP officer who was in touch with the command post. Your executive assistant said to that meeting, "Premier, last night," and these were the instructions: "Out of park only -- nothing else."

When you were questioned on this last week, you indicated that Ms Hutton had told you she had been in touch with you in North Bay. We've checked the records and it now appears that's incorrect. It appears to us that you were in Toronto on Tuesday, September 5. The day before, which was Labour Day, you had been in a golf match. You were preparing for a cabinet meeting on September 5. The meeting of the cabinet took place on September 6.

Premier, are you prepared to correct the record and tell the public that you were in Toronto on the day in question when that comment was made by you, and can you tell us whether the meeting was face-to-face with Ms Hutton --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think when I was asked the question, I was given a date of the long weekend by the Leader of the Opposition. On the long weekend, I was in North Bay -- and I have checked the record now -- on the Sunday for the Mike Harris celebration of labour and family picnic and fireworks, which will be held this year as well on Sunday. On the Monday, you're right, I was with the Prime Minister playing in the Canadian Open golf event, and on the Tuesday I was in a similar event at Greystone.

The recollection of Ms Hutton is that she had relayed information to me by phone, and I think everything else is a matter of public record. Any results of any of the meetings that took place were in cabinet on Wednesday where, as you know, the Attorney General suggested and cabinet accepted the advice and the recommendation that we seek an injunction.

Mr Phillips: So you were incorrect in saying that on the day of the occupation you were in North Bay. As a matter of fact, it was on September 4, and you were playing golf at that time here in Toronto; you were not in North Bay on the day of the occupation. The following day, Premier, you were briefed on the cabinet meeting. The cabinet meeting on September 6 made a decision on Ipperwash.

Ms Hutton, at the emergency meeting, was very clear on your instructions: "Out of the park only -- nothing else." She said she got those instructions from you on September 5. Did you have a conversation with Ms Hutton on September 5? Did you have a meeting with Ms Hutton on September 5? And who else was at that meeting on September 5 when you provided those instructions?

Hon Mr Harris: It was a telephone conversation, so nobody else.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. Last Wednesday the standing committee on government agencies deferred voting on the appointment of Norman Seabrook to the Niagara Escarpment Commission. In fact, it was a government member who made that motion, which all the members supported.

I believe they were too embarrassed to support this appointment, because it was clear from what Mr Seabrook has said in the past about the NEC and what he said at the committee that his appointment is totally inappropriate. The fact is, it is unbelievable and frankly appalling that you would even put his name forward for this commission.

You are the minister responsible. You put his name forward. The committee meets again tomorrow morning. My question is, will you withdraw Mr Seabrook's name before it comes up at committee tomorrow morning?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I don't presume to read the minds of committee members. It's a process of the House here.

Mr Seabrook's nomination represents an area that's in the Niagara Escarpment; it's a local area. He supports the plan. He supports the act. He doesn't wish to change the commission. He will give balance to the 17-member commission. I think if you look at the commission, people agree with the appointment of the chair. People think it's a good balance. They realize that we need to improve customer service and represent a wider variety of interests. I'm sure the committee just wanted to take time to look at it.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Minister, you don't get it, do you? You don't understand how inappropriate Mr Seabrook is for this appointment. Let me tell you what your appointee has said publicly: "Terminate the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act." Again: "The notion that the escarpment is a continuous natural environment is inaccurate and is indeed a falsehood." Again: "We question the legitimacy of the biosphere reserve designation." Again, as late as July 19, on CBC Radio: "Seabrook would like to see the commission abolished, its planning authority turned over to local municipalities. He is researching the United Nations document designating the escarpment as a world biosphere reserve, a designation he suspects will lead to forced depopulation."

The Speaker: Question, please.

Ms Martel: Mr Seabrook doesn't represent a balance. He represents the furthest thing from what three consecutive governments have tried to do to protect the Niagara Escarpment. He is inappropriate --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Sudbury East.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I know the committee will be looking at it tomorrow and they'll make a decision on that.

I would like to say that there have been a lot of local people in the area who have been affected by the Niagara Escarpment Commission in the past. They've been frustrated by their high-handed tactics and they'd like to see better customer service.

I can tell you that everyone who is appointed to this commission, whether or not Mr Seabrook goes through the process, firmly believes that the Niagara Escarpment is worth protecting, that it's a very beautiful part of Ontario, that it does represent something that's worth protecting. The act won't be changed. The commission will be in place and it will improve customer service.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We would like to give the minister the opportunity to rethink the use of the term "high-handed" with regard to the commission.

The Speaker: You can always give him that opportunity, I suppose, but it's not out of order.



Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): My question today is for the minister responsible for seniors in the province. On the weekend there was a story in the Hamilton Spectator concerning the home care program and the possibility that it would end the year $1.1 million in debt. I wonder if the minister can assure this House as well as seniors, the disabled and individuals recovering from surgery as to whether they will continue to receive support in the community program.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to respond to the member's question about the article that appeared in the Spectator and assure him that our ministry has been aware of the circumstances in Hamilton-Wentworth. We want to reassure all members of the House who represent voters in that area that we have not and will not be reducing service delivery for home care in these communities.

We want to indicate, though, that this government has clearly set a standard for assessing the actual needs of seniors and the disabled in our communities. We've set up a province-wide accounting system so we can ensure that appropriate service is provided to those in need when they need it and where they need it and where they can receive the best care.

We want to reassure members, based on that article, that we are working with John Connors from the VON to ensure that the budgets of their actual expenditures this year are better suited to the needs in the Hamilton-Wentworth community in the subsequent year.

Mr Doyle: I'd like to ask the minister if he can assure the people of Hamilton-Wentworth that they're going to be receiving their fair share of funding in this care spending.

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to reassure the citizens of this area that of course they will get their fair share. Unfortunately, the Hamilton-Wentworth home care program has been running chronic deficit problems for a goodly number of years. This is an experience that was recognized by the previous two governments as well. But Hamilton receives its fair share. In fact, they are receiving $113.64 per capita funding in this program, whereas the provincial average is $91. So we believe that we should be working more closely with the deliverers of service.

The CCAC is not up and running yet. We hope to have it up and running soon. It will bring more accountability with publicly elected members on it. Also, they have received $750,000 of additional funding for acquired brain injury and $113,000 of new home care dollars in several programs. We believe that not only will they be getting their fair share but that the program will continue to expand.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. It appears that while your colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs has been downloading millions of dollars in new costs on to municipalities, you've been doing your share of dumping costs on to school boards.

The most recent example is the fact that your ministry used to pick up 50% of the cost of copyright licences, but this year you've told the boards they're on their own. You save $2 million; they have to pick it up. So much for the promise that there wouldn't be any more cuts this fall.

What is equally distressing is that you may well be using the $2 million you've saved on copyright licences to launch another mega advertising blitz. Is it true that you are about to launch a massive advertising campaign, at a cost of $2 million, to try to convince people that what you're doing to education isn't really disastrous for kids?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Once again the member opposite is engaging in idle speculation. Yes, our government will be communicating with parents and taxpayers this year on the subject of education. No, I haven't approved a budget for that program yet.

I can assure you, as has been the case in the past with this government, our spending on communicating with people will be much reduced from the spending levels of other governments, including the government represented by the member opposite when they were in power, and that communication will be very direct to parents about what is happening in their schools. It will not be the sort of political messaging that your government put out when you were in power.

Mrs McLeod: I was really hoping this minister would say it couldn't possibly be true that he was about to spend taxpayers' dollars spinning out to the public his self-serving, fact-distorting rhetoric to try and cover up what is actually going to be going on in classrooms this fall. I was hoping he would tell us he wouldn't be spending money on advertising when students in elementary schools are going to come back to face a new curriculum for which they have no textbooks. Minister, your $2 million that you're about to spend on advertising would buy a set of textbooks for about 2,000 classes across this province.

I was hoping you were going to tell me you weren't going to spend money on advertising when students are going to come back to secondary schools without desks, because your half-billion dollars in cuts to education have forced 30 to 40 students into single classrooms.

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

Mrs McLeod: I want you to know that any money you spend on advertising is going to be completely wasted on the parents of JK kids who won't be going to school because there is no JK for them this fall.

Will you stop this advertising blitz so you can assure us that every dollar you spend will be --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Fort William.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I don't know where to begin to correct the member, who continually stands in the House and is inaccurate about the statements she makes. Every statement you've made so far this afternoon is simply inaccurate.

Let me tell you, we will be very pleased to communicate to the people of Ontario, to the parents of Ontario, about the new high standards for their students that will be right across the curriculum, from grades 1 to 8 in the province beginning this very year. We'll be glad to talk to them about a new funding model that will meet the needs of every individual student in this province. We will be very glad to talk to them about that.

I can assure you, and every member of this House, that unlike your party when you were in government, unlike you when you were in power, this will not be self-serving self-promotion. I know that's your only experience of this. This will be information for parents, for students and for taxpayers about a new and better education system for the province of Ontario. Our students have waited long enough.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship. Yesterday you held a press conference about charitable gaming casinos. You said repeatedly that the purpose of this press conference was to confirm that charities were going to be receiving up to $180 million from this new charitable casino scheme. What you wouldn't tell us is what the government was going to get. Simple math from your documents of course tells us that it would be just over $1 billion.

You said repeatedly also that your announcement was about a fair share of charity casino proceeds to the charities. Today, the existing charity casinos produce revenues of just under $100 million and charities get about $10 million; that's just over 10%. The new expanded charity casinos and video slot machines are expected to produce revenues of just over $1 billion and charities are expected to get about $180 million, just over 10%.

Minister, how is this fairer? How can we view this as anything other than the government using charities as a front for a huge grab of money to pay for your ill-timed tax cut?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you for the question. I find it interesting, coming from a member who represented a government that did absolutely nothing about regulating the gaming industry and also did absolutely nothing about generating revenues for charities. As a result, we had close to 5,000 events from roving Monte Carlos last year that were completely unregulated, and only an average of 10% of the revenues generated from gaming tables actually flowed to those charities.

The new gaming framework is actually going to benefit charities, moving from $10 million which they receive right now from roving casinos to up to $180 million available to charities and not-for-profit organizations, something they support, something they deserve, something they've been waiting for.


Ms Lankin: The minister is great at not answering questions. First of all, you're absolutely wrong. Roving casinos were regulated. In fact, we tightened the regulations, and I don't dispute that it's useful to tighten them even further. You say we used to have 5,000 events. Now, with your new scheme, we're going to have 15,000 events a year. This is a massive expansion of gambling.

You said that you consulted. You may have consulted about how to dole out the proceeds. What you didn't consult on was where these casinos were going to be sited. You dictated. My community, the Beaches, is one of the communities that you've dictated will have a casino.

Minister, we have a meeting tonight. Residents Against Gambling Expansion are going to be holding a meeting and they want some answers. Will you consult with my community? Will you put in place a process that will respect the wishes of my community? Will you ensure that my community has a say on this? Will you guarantee that if the municipality passes a bylaw and says no, you won't use any ministerial powers to overrule that? We're meeting tonight. We want to know, will you listen to us? Will you promise me you won't force a casino in the Beaches?

Hon Ms Mushinski: Thank you for the question. I'll refer it to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): First of all, with respect to the areas selected, they're catchment areas. That's the second part of the process right now. Once we have people on the short list, they're to go out and consult with municipalities to find an appropriate location.

I really have to beg to differ with the member for Beaches-Woodbine with respect to her statement yesterday. She indicated, "The government refuses to consult with communities like mine in the Beaches about the fact that we don't want a charity casino there in the first place."

I draw her attention to the fact that the member invited Clare Lewis, who is the chairman of the Gaming Control Commission --

Ms Lankin: And he has refused to come to the public meeting tonight. How do you answer that, Minister?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Mr Speaker, she invited Clare Lewis on June 17 to a public meeting at Bellefair United Church, which he did attend. He has already been there once to consult with the community in the Beaches.

I would like to --

Ms Lankin: That wasn't a public meeting. The public meeting is tonight and he has refused to come.

The Speaker: Member for Beaches-Woodbine, you must come to order.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: My point is that Clare Lewis had been invited to a meeting already once on June 17. He attended to consult with the community. This has happened. The member had stated that this hasn't happened.

Second, I'd like to point out that when the honourable member was the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, back on November 3, 1994, she indicated that prior to the casino's arrival a number of concerns were expressed about issues such as increased crime, traffic etc. She said, though, "During this coming period I would encourage every community that believes it wants a casino to read this report. They will see the success of the casino at Windsor was no accident," and she's encouraging all communities to express --

The Speaker: Thank you. New question.

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to register my dissatisfaction with that non-factual answer and ask for a late show.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for privatization, who also led this government's auto insurance reform initiative. As the MPP for Simcoe Centre, I have received several calls from constituents who are complaining of high auto insurance premiums because they have been assigned to the high-risk market, or what is known as the Facility Association, by their insurer. I recall hearing that this aspect of the auto insurance system was going to change. Minister, can you tell me when changes to the FA are coming so that I may report back to my constituents?

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): To my colleague across the floor, there is a program called FA, or Facility Association as it's known in the industry, that was designed by the previous government to deal with high-risk drivers. That Facility Association framework unfairly deals with drivers because it places them in that high-risk market regardless of whether or not they are deserving to be classified as high-risk drivers, and that's wrong.

There's another component of the high-risk driver market which puts people in a Facility pool and charges them the same as a regular rate even though they are high-risk drivers and they should be paying a higher rate. That particular category is subsidized by the average Ontario driver, who is a good driver, and that's wrong.

We instructed the industry and consumer groups to come to grips with this issue and present to us options and proposals which would deal with re-establishing fairness and equity to the high-risk driver market. They have done that and my understanding is that the board of the Facility Association has agreed on these new rules and they will be in place shortly.

Mr Tascona: I'm pleased to hear that a plan to change the high-risk auto insurance marketplace is coming and that a new system will be in place in the near future. One of the criticisms I have heard from the FA drivers is that they had no idea they were at risk of being placed in the FA and have no idea how they can get out. Will the minister please explain the details of the new plan and its impact on drivers?

Hon Mr Sampson: Thank you again for the question. You are indeed right. One of the unfair components of the existing arrangement with respect to Facility Association is that drivers in Ontario don't know what they have to do to get in there and how they can get out of that particular market. We think that's unfair.

Part of the plan we have encouraged the industry to come to grips with is a mechanism so that insureds in Ontario will know what the rules are before they're placed in Facility Association, before they have the accident, before they are faced with the high insurance premiums.

We think that's fair, so our particular plan will eliminate the four-point system which has been wrongly designed by the previous government, and will be a fair and open process so that Ontarians and all Ontario drivers know what will happen if they get involved in accidents and how they will be able to get out of Facility Association should they be so unlucky as to have been awarded that cost.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition signed by a large number of people that reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature, as I'm in full agreement with this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have the following petition to the Honourable Minister of Environment and Energy, Norm Sterling, and the Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Mike Harris:

"Whereas a fire at a PVC plastic vinyl plant located in the middle of one of Hamilton's residential areas burned for three days; and

"Whereas the city of Hamilton declared a state of emergency and called for a limited voluntary evacuation of several blocks around the site; and

"Whereas the burning of PVC results in the formation and release of toxic substances such as dioxins and furans, as well as large quantities of heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold a full public inquiry on the Hamilton Plastimet fire; and

"Further, we, the undersigned, request that the Ministry of Environment and the government of Ontario take responsibility for the immediate cleanup of the fire site."

As the representative for that area, I add my name to those of these residents.



Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario with over 300 signatures from the town of Innisfil.

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it's a timely one as we enter the long weekend.

"Whereas we, the consumers, feel gas prices are too high throughout Ontario;

"Whereas we, the consumers, support the Ontario Liberal caucus's attempt to have the Mike Harris government introduce predatory gas pricing legislation;

"Whereas we, the consumers, want the Mike Harris government to act so that the consumer can get a break at the pumps rather than going broke at them;

"Whereas we, the consumers, are fuming at being hosed at the pumps and want Mike Harris to gauge our anger;

"Whereas we, the consumers, want Mike Harris to know we want to be able to go to the pumps and fill our tanks without emptying our pockets;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to introduce predatory gas pricing legislation in order to control the amount of money we, the consumers, are forced to pay at the gas pumps."

Of course I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and

"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control of schools and school programs; and

"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence in the government of the province of Ontario."

I am adding my name to the petition.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Criminal Code falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government of Canada;

"Whereas the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that women have the lawful right to appear topless in public;

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has the power to change the Criminal Code to meet the needs and requirements of municipal and provincial governments in Canada and to reinstate such public nudity as an offence;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to urge the government of Canada to pass new legislation or amend existing legislation to ban appearing topless in public places."

This petition is signed by 25 people from Keswick, Sharon and Jacksons Point who are constituents of my riding of Durham-York, as well as others from Newmarket and Fenelon Falls. I agree with this petition and I have affixed my name on it.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas improper catch-and-release methods of sports fishing have a long-lasting effect on any body of water; and

"Whereas the Ministry of Natural Resources is not encouraging proper management of fish stocks by allowing netting during spawning season, which destroys spawning beds; and

"Whereas the Ministry of Natural Resources is not encouraging proper management of fish stocks by allowing the size of fish to be retained; and

"Whereas sports fishing of Lancaster perch and other breeds in the greater Cornwall area benefits local tourism, fishing and the overall economy and will continue to do so if managed properly;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Ministry of Natural Resources to impose a seven-inch limit on fish allowed to be kept, not to allow netting during spawning season, and also to reopen provincial parks in the area to encourage tourism and ensure vibrant, long-term sport fishing in our area of eastern Ontario."

I have also signed the petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): The following petition was forwarded to me by Cathy Walker, the national health and safety director of Canadian Auto Workers, on behalf of Buzz Hargrove, the national president, and hundreds of auto workers in the Windsor area. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

On behalf of my colleagues, I attach my name to theirs.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 369 people throughout the province. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): A similar petition signed by scores of my constituents reads in part:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Ontario government to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for a woman to appear topless in any public place."


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I have a petition signed by over 240 of my constituents from the Milton area.

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

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

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

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

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

I'm proud to add my name to this petition.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The consumers in Ontario are furious about the high gas prices that are going through the province, especially in northern Ontario, where our prices are higher anyway. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we, the consumers, feel gas prices are too high throughout Ontario;

"Whereas we, the consumers, support the Ontario Liberal caucus attempt to have the Mike Harris government introduce predatory gas pricing legislation;

"Whereas we, the consumers, want the Mike Harris government to act so that the consumer can get a break at the pumps rather than going broke at them;

"Whereas we, the consumers, are fuming at being hosed at the pumps and want Mike Harris to gauge our anger;

"Furthermore we, the consumers, want Mike Harris to know we want to be able to go to the gas pumps and fill our gas tanks without emptying our pockets,

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to introduce predatory gas pricing legislation in order to control the amount of money we, the consumers, are forced to pay at the gas pumps."

I'm pleased to sign this petition as well.



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

"Whereas the Harris government has introduced Bill 136; and

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

"Whereas home child care providers are predominantly female; and

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

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

As I'm in agreement, I add my name to theirs.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"I strongly oppose the court decision passed in the case of Gwen Jacob, which ultimately allows women to expose their breasts in public places;

"I find this behaviour to be offensive both to myself and to my family."

This petition is signed by 10 men and women from Keswick and Queensville who are constituents of my riding of Durham-York, as well as others from Newmarket and Bradford. I agree with this petition and I affix my name to it.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The people of northern Ontario are also furious about the vehicle registration fee which the Mike Harris government is putting in as a tax grab on northerners starting September 1. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax does not recognize the uniqueness of the north; and

"Whereas Mike Harris should know that gas prices are higher in northern Ontario; and

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax is blatantly unfair to the north; and

"Whereas we have no voice for the north, fighting for northerners around the cabinet table;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to revoke the new tax imposed on the north and convince the Tory government to understand that indeed northern Ontario residents do not want nor need the new Mike Harris vehicle registration tax."

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



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

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I'm pleased to resume debate and continue my leadoff remarks on Bill 136. I would again remind everyone who is watching that, as a result of the government's changing of the rules, there's no longer the same time opportunity there once was, just last week, to speak in opposition on behalf of the very people who are being hurt by the legislation this government brings down, limiting our leadoff speeches to 60 minutes from 90, and also all speeches after this to 20 minutes, and after seven hours only 10 minutes. I say very clearly that anyone who thinks that 20 minutes for any one of us to speak to Bill 136 or Bill 99 or the downloading omnibus bill you dropped in the House here late Thursday, if you think that's fair, then you have a very strange definition of fair.

The Minister of Labour continually talks about being fair and wanting to be fair and balanced, but proceeds step by step to remove the word "fair" from legislation that affects workers, such as the Ontario Labour Relations Act, where the word "fair" was taken out of the preamble. You say you care about being fair; you took the word "fair" out of there. They did the same thing in the new Workers' Compensation Act, the whole new bill they brought in, the bill that's bigger than the existing legislation. They took out the word "fair." I think that speaks volumes as to the agenda of this government.

I want to begin my comments today by referring to the newspaper clippings that come across all our desks. It's interesting: The first page of today's clippings is from the Globe and Mail. It's one of their front page stories and it reads, "Ontario Urged to Withdraw Bill 136 Pending Dialogue." That's from AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. That is the provincial umbrella group that represents all of the municipalities. It's much like the counterpart of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents all of the workers in this province under one umbrella group.

What's interesting about AMO taking this position is, first of all, it's mostly Conservative types who are on municipal councils who tend to go to AMO. As I mentioned yesterday, I was a member of AMO and I attended. I know the makeup of the partisanship, where there is one, and where it's not formal partisanship, an awful lot of municipal councillors and aldermen tend to be small-c conservatives. This government had every reason to expect that they would get the support of this group of people who tend to be open to the kind of messaging that the Mike Harris Tories give out. Yet look what happened: They took exactly the same position the Ontario Federation of Labour took.

What's fascinating about this is the fact that the two groups that are affected by Bill 136 are AMO and the OFL -- AMO representing the municipalities, OFL representing workers. That's who this bill addresses, and those are the very groups that have opposed this government's ramming through of Bill 136. Yet this government purports to be listening to the people. They aren't listening. If they were listening, then beginning today, the opening of this session, the Minister of Labour would have stood in her place and said: "We have listened. We've listened to the Ontario Federation of Labour, we've listened to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and since they're the very people who are affected by this bill, we will withdraw it and we will commence dialogue with these partners to find an alternative that is acceptable." But that didn't happen.

Just a few minutes ago, orders of the day, wham. They've made up their minds. This train's going down the track. They don't care what anybody says. They don't care what anybody does. They aren't listening. What's so discouraging for the municipal councillors and aldermen and the representatives of the workers within the Ontario Federation of Labour is that they know the implications of what you're doing. You don't seem to, or if you do, you don't care -- but they know the implications. They know the results in our communities. They know there's going to be chaos throughout the public service in our municipalities. They also know it doesn't have to be this way. That's what's so infuriating: It doesn't have to be this way.

Who will you listen to? Bill 136 affects municipalities and the workers who work for them. Both those groups have formally said, "Stop, pull back and talk." But you're not doing that. What does it take? Maybe the doctors should help out. They have the ability to get your attention. We know that the fact that the police are offside with Bill 136 has got you pretty upset. Sure, you'd just love to hive them off as a separate group and maybe give them some kind of exemption or exception, because you don't want that kind of dynamic, that kind of politics, where the cops are going against Mr Law and Order himself, Mike Harris.

But the police, just like firefighters, just like every other public servant who was taken in -- and I say that very clearly and very emphatically -- by this government's bumper slogan campaign in 1995 -- "Don't worry, we'll solve all the problems neat and quick. We've got the guts to do it. We'll even throw in a 30% tax cut to boot. Aren't we wonderful?" -- all those people who got taken in are now realizing they were betrayed.

We have had elected representatives of the police unions and elected representatives of the firefighters unions come forward in formal public hearings of committees of this Legislature and they have said very directly, "We were betrayed." When are you going to start listening? You say you're listening, but you're very good at the words, you're very good at saying what you think people want to hear and hoping that they never analyse it beyond that.

It's like the ads you ran earlier this year, all those fuzzy, feel-good kind of ads where Mike Harris was there with his casual shirt and jacket by the arena, walking along by the hospital. That didn't work. You thought it would. You thought that people were so -- what? -- easily fooled again that you ran those ads. They were an insult to the people of this province and they did a lot more harm to you than they did good.


But what does it take for this government to realize 136 is a disaster for our communities? Is it that you want the confrontation? Certainly we can't help but think you do, that somebody back in the back rooms has determined a strategy that says, "Hey, if we can force some people to be fighting for their jobs and fighting for a decent standard of living, maybe we can be successful at labelling them again as special interests and put all the blame on them." It certainly seems that way, because when you listen to the words that the Minister of Labour uses, she talks about the fact that she wants to provide incentives for bargaining, that she wants to encourage bargaining and that she's giving the tools and processes for bargaining.

Yet there's no bargaining going to take place under this bill. This bill provides for the fact that if the employers believe they need the upper hand in negotiations, all they have to do is say, "We're taking it to the commission," the Dispute Resolution Commission, the handpicked commission of Mike Harris and his cronies. By the way, that also eliminates any ability for those workers to fight for themselves and fight for what they have fought for for years, because you will eliminate their right to strike. While that may sound good to people, what it means is the collective agreements, the standard of living of those workers and their families, and therefore their communities, is going to go down.

You've done nothing to enhance the lives of working people and their families. You've done a lot to help those who already have a lot. They're doing quite well, thank you very much. Everything else you've done is to lower people's wages, lower their income, lower their standard of living. Even in 136 you take a shot at pay equity, the pay equity legislation, which is there to provide some assistance to whom? The very people who are most vulnerable.

Again you speak the words. The minister and the Premier stand up and with those calm voices say: "We care about people. We want to help them." It sounds an awful lot like Ronald Reagan. But the reality is, your legislation, as your attack on pay equity within Bill 136, will lower the standard of living of women in this province. That's a fact. The legislation is there to provide some assistance to those who are among the lowest paid in our province who do some of the most important work. That's what it does, and you're attacking it in 136; and you're eliminating the employee wage protection plan. Neither of these has anything to do with Bill 136 and its purported reasons, by the way. This is just a drive-by shooting to take a shot at a couple of more opponents that exist out there, legislation that helps people, on your massive drive to this downloading.

Before I leave the employee wage protection plan, I just want to say there was a reason that was one of the first pieces of legislation that our government brought in. I think reasonable people would agree there was good reason for it and that there are better reasons for leaving it in place. With all the globalization, free trade, all the change that's happening around us, we've seen an acceleration in plant closures, office closures, relocations, bankruptcies.

In too many of those cases severance pay isn't paid that's owed, termination pay that's owed isn't given, wages that are owed aren't given, vacation pay that's owed isn't given. Workers have probably been told in the weeks and months leading up to the closure: "Don't worry. Just give us a few weeks. We'll catch up with you. You know we'll make it good. We've been a good employer. We wouldn't do that to you." Then they lower the boom: "Your job is gone, and the eight weeks of pay we owe you and the termination pay and severance pay are gone."

Oh, and by the way, while they're going through the process of deciding who gets how much money out of whatever is left over, particularly in the case of a bankruptcy, workers are at the end of the line. Creditors are taken care of. The banks, those suffering institutions that only made $6-billion-plus last year, are up near the front of the line. Other financial institutions are up near the front of the line. But you know what? If they don't get their immediate payout from that closure, they're still going to open the doors the next day. They've got more than enough cushion to survive this.

I'm not saying they shouldn't get their money -- they should -- but in terms of priority, a worker, who in many cases lives paycheque to paycheque, can't afford to be ripped off for weeks of pay or years of loyal service in terms of termination and severance pay. They can't afford that, so our legislation said: "Look, rather than you being at the end of the line all the time, hoping for a few crumbs which usually don't come, and ending up in debt, maybe losing your house, putting all that pressure on you" -- can you imagine being 50 years old, facing that kind of situation, wondering what your future is? You're owed all this money, you've got all the bills stacked up, and a program that was there to help you has now been eliminated. At the same time you're reading headlines announcing, "Bank Profits At Record High." How would you feel if it happened to you?

We brought in legislation that said: "This is enough. This is the 1990s. Look, what we're going to do is we're going to provide a fund where those workers will get the money they're owed under the law. They've worked for it, they're entitled to it, and the government is going to provide them with the protection they should have, because who else has the power and the strength and the ability to do it for them?" If that individual can't do it, they need to count on the government to represent their interests. This is not a handout, this is money they've worked for and they're owed. They're owed that money, so there's a fund there where they are given the money they're legally entitled to.

For a bunch of law-and-order types you'd think that was a good idea, that the law is being upheld. Then the government will use the authority and power it has to go after the people who should have paid that bill. They may or may not be successful -- I don't know; you can't get blood from a stone -- but there's a lot better chance of the power of the Ontario government getting that money that's owed than there is of one 50-year-old worker who has been just tossed on the social scrap heap, probably for the rest of his life.

That's what that plan did. You killed part of it in earlier legislation and you kill the rest of it in Bill 136. I honestly don't know how you live with yourselves doing that. That's $25 million that you've taken, in my opinion stolen, out of the pockets of people who are in arguably the worst financial crisis of their lives, through no fault of their own, and they're legally entitled to what you're now going to deny them. Legally entitled; they worked for that money.

It's not even as if we're arguing for something new. It's already there. We did it. We put it in place. You're taking it away. Yet the Minister of Labour and the Premier have the audacity day after day to stand up and say, "We care. We care so much about people. We care about the most vulnerable and we're going to make our labour legislation the best there is and the health care the best there is," and on and on to the point where it's so nauseating that sometimes the toughest part of being in this position is looking at you people every day and listening to you saying one thing and doing another.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I feel sorry for you.

Mr Christopherson: I feel sorry for the people of this province. Never mind me. You don't need to feel sorry for me. I'll tell you who you ought to feel sorry for. It's the people who are being hurt by your legislation and the chaos you're going to cause in our communities as a result of Bill 136. That's who you ought to feel sorry for. Rather than talk about it, you ought to do something about it.

I want to finish off my opening comment with regard to AMO and why they've done this. It's interesting that on the front page of the Toronto Star the headline is "Laughter Greets Leach's Pledge." What was that pledge? I'm quoting from today's Toronto Star:

"The province's plan to pass more social costs on to municipalities won't hurt property taxpayers, Municipal Affairs Minister Al Leach insisted yesterday.

"But the reply that echoed back to him from a packed meeting of municipal leaders was derisive laughter."


These are not the kinds of people who do something like that lightly. If anything, they give ministers of the crown more than the benefit of the doubt. But they did it in this case because it's so patently untrue and unfair for this government to suggest that municipalities aren't going to be hit, and hit hard, as a result of your downloading. For the minister to say, "Don't worry, it won't cost anything," they knew that's not the case in all of their individual and collective municipalities. That's not the case.

How does that tie to Bill 136? Real neat. I've never accused your strategists of being stupid -- mean-spirited and a lot of other things but not stupid -- because the game plan here is, while your government is attempting to bludgeon municipalities and trying to set a political stage where they wouldn't dare raise property taxes to offset the cuts you've made, you provide them with Bill 136, where you were expecting and hoping, and for all I know, urging them to take that money out of the standard of living of the people who work in that community, who provide the public services. Bill 136 makes sure it can be done because they don't have to bargain at the bargaining table. They just say, "No, we'd rather use the Dispute Resolution Commission." Zing, bang, it goes off to the commission, handpicked by Mike Harris, and they're bound by the decision that commissioner makes. You can't even have a judicial review, you've made it so airtight.

All of this downloading that municipalities are angry about and laughing at your minister for suggesting it's not going to cost anything is expected to be borne on the backs of the people who work in that community and who have committed no other crime than to get up and go to work every day providing public services in their community. That's their crime, and for that crime the sentence and the punishment of this government is, "Your standard of living goes down."

What is so infuriating is all of this is being generated, the cut in the first place to the municipalities, so you can find the $5 billion to pay for your tax cut; a tax cut which, at best, is giving the average working middle-class family a couple of cups of coffee a week while a lot of other people are doing very, very well, thousands of dollars in tax relief, an income tax gift. That's what's going on with Bill 136, and I'll be listening intently to people who suggest, in whatever way they want, that's not the case. We can quibble over details, we can split hairs, talk technicalities or talk the overall macro, but there's no doubt in anybody's mind that this is what's going on.

You have to find that $5 billion. You cut billions of dollars in transfer payments to municipalities, tell them they can't raise taxes, don't want them to lower services in the community and provide them with a legal mechanism to take that same money, that same 30% tax cut, out of the pockets of those working middle-class families. That's the name of the game, that's what's going on with Bill 136 and that's why the Ontario Federation of Labour and its affiliates representing working people are so angry.

AMO is angry that you're going to cause all of this turmoil and chaos in their communities. We know that well over 90% of all collective agreements are settled without any need for a strike or a lockout. In the vast majority of cases there's an excellent working relationship between employers and their representatives, the unions that are there, whether that's private or public sector.

You're going to cause that turmoil because you want to force the municipalities to take the money out of the workers in that community because you know that if the municipal councils have to raise property taxes, they're going to blame you. You're going to be held accountable for property tax increases, and that's why you don't want the money to come from anywhere else other than from workers.

I have about 10 minutes left. I want to refer again to an article that Judy Darcy, the national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, wrote in the Globe and Mail just a couple of weeks ago. In part she says: "I guess the Harris government's oft-repeated claim that it wants `less government interference in people's daily lives' doesn't apply to workers." Isn't it interesting, when you want to use that bumper sticker slogan, "Get the government out of people's faces, get the government off their backs, get them out of the way," it doesn't apply when you feel the need to interfere in a huge way in the standard of living of hundreds of thousands of working people.

You don't like red tape and you don't like bureaucracies, but you're creating two new ones. We don't know how many millions of dollars these commissions are going to cost. As I said yesterday in my remarks, this commission is there not only to make these decisions that gut collective agreements -- and by the way, they can do whatever they want to a collective agreement; it's not just wages. They can do anything they think is appropriate and nobody can appeal the decision. Not only is that what they're going to do, but they are going to be handpicked by the cabinet to ensure that there's no doubt that is what they are going to do, and after they make that decision, this government expects them to take the heat. I realize I'm repeating myself from something yesterday but I think it's so crucial to say and it's such an important part of all of this.

Just as we watch the health minister stand up when he's asked questions about closing down hospitals and the chaos it's causing because of the way you're doing it -- not the fact that we have to make changes; that's a given. It's the way you're doing it and the rush and the lack of consultation and consideration for the implications that every time one of us asks the Minister of Health a question about that, he stands up and says: "I didn't make that decision. That was the commission. They did that, not me, not Mike Harris, not Elizabeth Witmer. Oh no, we didn't do that. We wouldn't do that. Oh no. It's that commission. They're making all those decisions, and what can I say? The law prohibits me from saying anything about it."

They conveniently forget that they not only appointed the commissioners, but it's their law. We didn't have such a commission until they brought in -- remember it -- the omnibus bully bill, Bill 26. That's what gave life to the Health Services Restructuring Commission, that evil body that somehow Mike Harris doesn't have to take ownership for. That's where that came from and these two commissions are spawned from the same thinking. Every time there's a controversial decision that comes out of that commission you can bet apples to dollars that the Minister of Labour is going to stand up and say: "I didn't make that decision. It was that commission. They did it. It's those bad people. We wouldn't do that."

We need to remember, Bill 136 -- this is the moment in time, right now, second reading, there's only one more reading to go and it will happen quick enough given your new rules -- that's where those commissions come from. They are created by this government, they will be appointed by this government and they're bloody well going to be held accountable by this government.

I want to read one more quote from Judy's article because I thought it was one of the best pieces I've seen in terms of exposing what's really going on with Bill 136. She goes on to say: "This dictatorial approach is supposedly necessary to get Ontario smoothly through its current restructuring."

Remember, that's the guise that the government's putting forward as to why they're doing this: "We have to do this because, you know, those irresponsible public sector workers will just strike at the drop of a hat, because that's the way they are." That's the suggestion this government makes.

As Judy points out in her article, if that's what they're arguing, she says, "But if the bill is to facilitate restructuring, why does it cover all workers in essential services (hospital workers, firefighters, police) permanently?" If it's only for a transitional time, why is there anything in Bill 136 that's permanent? We know why. And why is it being imposed on groups of workers such as those in private sector nursing homes who are not even involved in the government's restructuring?


As I pointed out yesterday, she says earlier in the column that she's not aware of any strike that was caused as a direct result of restructuring. So not only is your argument bogus, but even if it had some validity, what you're doing cannot be rationalized in terms of responding to that concern. None of it washes, but you want to keep hoping and praying that it's all attached to your bumper-sticker slogan which says, "We have to streamline and provide for the efficient transition," and all your other spin phrases, and you want to encourage bargaining. Oh, it sounds so reasonable when presented by the minister, truly it does. They just want to help people.

Look at their track record. Of course they want to help people. Look at the big benefit they gave to the poorest of the poor in our province. Their first hand up was to cut their income by 22%. What is their helping hand to injured workers? They're going to cut their pension contributions by 50%, cut their income by 5%, and oh, by the way, out of the $15 billion they're cutting from injured workers, $6 billion goes back to their corporate friends.

They took away successor rights from OPSEU and caused that awful strike that didn't need to happen because you're getting ready to privatize everything, so when you do privatize that public sector -- and you'll sell off the most profitable to your corporate pals -- the collective agreement doesn't go with it; standard of living, wages, benefits don't go with it; seniority doesn't go with it; certainly those employees don't go with it. Other workers out there get the benefit of being able to bid the lowest wage they can live by in order to get that job. That's the world you're creating with that piece of legislation.

Then, of course, you moved on to non-union people, people who don't have the benefit of a collective agreement. The Employment Standards Act, the bill of rights for workers, you've started to gut. You're only halfway through that process. You took away rights from people who have no protection at all, the most vulnerable.

Somehow through all of this you expect people to believe that you're only doing this to protect -- well, you like to separate people by saying there's the taxpayers and then there's everybody else, as if the taxpayers are a separate group. Among those taxpayers are hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, and there are also, unfortunately, tens and hundreds of thousands of poor people. There are also an awful lot of people who may be earning a middle-class income who are watching their education system under attack, their health system under attack, who are about to see chaos in their communities, services cut.

If you've got a middle-management job and you're thinking, upon listening to any of this, "None of that has anything to do with me; they're always worried about those who have nothing and prepared to take away from anybody who has anything at all," the reality is that if you've got a half-decent paying job in this province, you'd better hope that other people are getting a half-decent wage or you won't be able to justify what you're getting. You will if you own the company or you're on the board of directors, but if you're in middle management somewhere, you'd better pray that somebody else is making something close to you or you're next, because you won't be able to justify earning the pay you're so pleased with right now. God bless you, go for it, that's fine, but don't think that other people can have a decent standard of living taken away from them and you're going to remain untouched.

For those who may earn less than those in the public sector who are saying, "They have already got everything, they've got the union to protect them and everything is fine for them and they've got all these benefits," I urge you to think about this: The only chance you've got, if you don't have that collective agreement, of getting decent pay and decent benefits and decent protections is if there's a strong labour movement fighting for you. Mike Harris sure as hell isn't going to fight for you, you can count on that, and he's not going to pass one piece of legislation that makes your life any better. He has proven through two years of governing that you don't count. So you've got a vested interest in this.

I would suggest that it's in everyone's interest to care about Bill 136 and what it is going to do in our communities. That's why the Ontario Federation of Labour is standing up for working families, and that's why AMO has had the courage to stand up and say no to this government, no to this attack on standards of living, no to the attack on the quality of life in our communities and no to Bill 136.

Minister of Labour, withdraw this bill and stop the confrontation and chaos we're heading into.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): That speech would be very impressive if it had been made 20 years ago when there was an entirely different situation in this province than there is today. The fact is that the last time I spoke to the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and asked him the percentage of people working in this province who were involved with unions, he gave me the answer, which I already had a feeling for in terms of the range of the percentage. He told me it was 33%.

We just listened to the yelling from the former speaker. Actually, his speaking is always more effective when he doesn't yell, but he chose to yell. He is still talking about 33% of the workforce in this province. Isn't it interesting that he is speaking as a member of the New Democratic Party which, when they were the government, actually violated to the greatest extent that has ever happened in the history of this province the legally binding position of unionized employees, with the social contract, the first time that contracts had been thrown out the window? There was no respect, no regard. Nothing was sacrosanct.

Now he's standing up and saying that everything we're doing in Bill 136 is against the unions, against everybody and everything. Of course that's the role of opposition, and I respect that this is the role he wants to put on the record in this place. But some of the accusations about what our government is trying to do with Bill 136 frankly are inaccurate. He is suggesting that we have a hidden agenda, for example. There is no elimination of successor rights, and there's no unilateral removal of bargaining rights.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Mrs Marland: I will continue the rest at the next opportunity.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm certainly glad to have a short opportunity to compliment the member for Hamilton Centre on his remarks relating to Bill 136. He always speaks with a great deal of passion about the issues of concern to him and to those of us in the opposition as well.

In terms of 136, it's difficult to know where to begin, other than to go back to the process of the downloading as it began with mega-week back in January 1997. It really does all tie in, because ultimately what the government ends up saying is that this is what the municipalities want.

First of all, regardless of whether you're talking about Bill 136 or a variety of other bills, it certainly isn't what the municipalities want. It's ultimately what the municipalities may have to have to deal with the horrendous consequences of the downloading. It's not fair to say they want that.

As the critic for culture, I can use as an example Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act. The government is saying the municipalities want this. They don't want it; they're being put into a position where they may have no choice but to have these powers.

Having said all that, the truth is that with Bill 136, yesterday the Association of Municipalities of Ontario made it very clear that they want the government to withdraw this piece of legislation. They recognize that this legislation ultimately will cause great chaos between the employers and the labour groups in our community. They are convinced that's the case, and this resolution was really quite astounding to see. If the government is truly listening to AMO, they will consider withdrawing Bill 136 for that reason.

There are various other aspects that are of great concern. The police associations -- I met with the Thunder Bay Police Association in Thunder Bay, and the Ontario Provincial Police -- are very concerned that they're part of this bill at all. I hope I get an opportunity later to speak at greater length, but the fact that they are in there on a permanent basis in terms of the Dispute Resolution Commission is a complete insult to them.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I want to congratulate our critic, the member for Hamilton Centre, on his 60 minutes of comments on Bill 136, at the same time as AMO is having a bearpit session, right now. They're raking Leach and Snobelen and a number of other ministers over the coals. I'm sure they're saying exactly the same things our critic is raising here.

The headlines are saying the same thing: "Mayors Accuse Leach of Misleading Public," in the Toronto Star; "Tories Accused of Municipal `Tax Grab,'" by the NDP leader in the House yesterday; "Laughter Greets Leach's Pledge," to the AMO convention yesterday.

People are telling the Conservative government that it should withdraw Bill 136. It's an attack on all the workers who work in the health care sector, the hospitals, the education sector and the municipal sector. It's a direct attack on their rights, taking away their right to negotiate.

You're going to have a commission that's going to be set up by friends of Mike Harris. His golfing buddies are going to make the final decision on what money these workers are going to get as we go through downsizing and amalgamation and dumping on all the municipalities.

When you're dumping on the municipalities, it means that the provincial government under Mike Harris is actually -- it's a tax grab. What they're doing is they're taking millions of dollars away from municipalities in asking them to pay for these services and transferring all kinds of extra responsibilities over to them so they do not have to be blamed themselves for raising taxes. They're going to say, "It's the municipal leaders that are raising taxes on all the property owners in this province," and it's Mike Harris that is doing it.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'd like to comment on the speech made by my friend the member for Hamilton Centre. I have a great deal of respect for the member. I certainly disagree with him on just about every issue that comes up, but I certainly wouldn't question his motives.

The goal of Bill 136 is to ensure an effective transition resulting from the current restructuring going on. Bill 136 is designed to encourage collective bargaining and to ensure the public continues to be able to count on those services that are essential to it.

The various speakers have mentioned AMO. There's an interesting quote here from Terry Mundell, president of AMO, on June 5, that employers, in this case the municipalities, want to settle contracts with their unions and avoid using the DRC altogether. "I think it's in the employers' best interest to be bargaining in good faith and I think you really want a made-at-home solution." That's certainly a very interesting comment.

We'll certainly listen to those comments, as I know all my colleagues will meet with constituents in their ridings and listen to those concerns and bring them back to the debate.

Labour relations policies are never easy. I can say directly to the member for Hamilton Centre that our government could have done it the way his government did. That was 32 tax increases, an $11.3-billion deficit, a $100-billion debt. There's no social justice in borrowing money in the names of our children -- no jobs, no hope and no opportunity. We could have followed the example of his government, the government he served as a member of the cabinet. In fact, a good number of cabinet ministers from the previous government are sitting opposite.

We could have brought in the social contract, totally banned collective bargaining altogether. We could have brought in the social contract and said, "Listen, there'll be no public hearings anywhere in the province of Ontario, zero," let alone to complain that an hour isn't enough to make a point.

We could have taken that approach, the most anti-labour, anti-collective bargaining position ever brought in. Even the heads of the trade unions who sit beside you in this debate today go on and say that was the worst piece of legislation ever brought in. So we watch what they do, not what they say.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, two minutes.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the responses. I don't necessarily like them all, but I appreciate the fact that people seem to be at least listening.

I want to thank my colleague from Cochrane North. I know his hard work and commitment to working people is next to none.

To the member for Port Arthur, I appreciate his comments. I would say very directly to the police, and based on my past affiliation, I hope very much the police don't succumb to any enticement this government might give to hive them off from the other working people of this province who are being hurt by Bill 136. I know they have an obligation to represent their people, but everyone else affected by this needs the credibility and clout they can bring to this fight and I implore them to do that, and the same with the firefighters who carry a lot of credibility in this province.

You heard the spin coming from the member for Nepean when he said people need to be able to count on the services, and the implication there is it's those awful workers who are going to withdraw their services because they're selfish and greedy. That's the subliminal message that's carried in "count on the services."

If you care that much about services, don't cut the transfer payments. Make sure municipalities have a fair and decent amount of money so they can provide the services and none of this would be necessary. Your argument on the debt and deficit loses so much and you people know this in your hearts when you give $6 billion of revenue back with the tax cut. If you'd done that after the books were balanced, it would make a lot better argument than trying to do it now.

To the member for Mississauga South, let me say that when you say elimination of successor rights and collective bargaining is preserved, again it's the bumper sticker. Underneath that, the fact is that once it goes to the commission, there's no collective bargaining, it's collective begging. That's why you may have a fight you've caused on your hands.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I'm happy today to rise and have this opportunity to address the House on issues surrounding Bill 136, and I will address the bill.

As the Minister of Labour has told members, Bill 136 will assist employers, employees and unions in municipalities, school boards and hospitals across Ontario to implement a smooth and timely transition as they restructure to provide better public services that are more accountable to taxpayers.

One section of Bill 136 outlines the temporary processes through which employers, employees and unions can determine solutions to such issues as bargaining unit structure in the new amalgamated or merged workplace; which union, if any, will represent the workers; the determination of seniority, including the fair treatment of any workers who were non-unionized prior to the amalgamation or merger; and which collective agreement or terms of employment will govern the workplace until a first contract is negotiated and put in place.

Bill 136 stresses negotiations between the workplace parties in the determination of these issues. Our government has always maintained that locally negotiated and agreed upon solutions are best. It is to everyone's advantage, since the agreement of both sides to a contract results in more commitment to the outcomes.

It is only if negotiations are unsuccessful that the Labour Relations Transition Commission will step in and assist the parties in reaching a solution, and in reaching a decision, the commission will have clear guidelines that draw on currently accepted labour relations practices, practices that have the support of both labour and management.

Bill 136 is a balanced and reasonable approach that ensures all employees are treated fairly during this time of transition. It ensures that labour relations issues are quickly resolved with no or minimal disruption to important public services that taxpayers need and pay for.

I would also like to point out that these measures are temporary. They draw on Ontario's long-standing tradition of collective bargaining and only apply to the first contract in an amalgamated or merged municipality, school board or hospital. Once the first contract is resolved and put in place, traditional collective bargaining processes will resume.

I'd now like to focus my remarks on the permanent reforms in Bill 136, the reform of the current system of contract arbitration in the police, fire and hospital sectors, essential services sectors that do not have the right to strike. These reforms are necessary and overdue. Both employers and labour organizations in these sectors have been asking for change for a long time. The current process is unwieldy, overly legalistic and leads to unacceptable delays.

Allow me to outline how the current process is applied in the hospital sector. More than 160,000 unionized employees work in hospitals, homes for the aged and nursing homes. These employees fall under the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, otherwise known as HLDAA. There are nearly 1,700 separate collective agreements under this act. Employees covered by HLDAA bargain under the normal provisions of the Labour Relations Act, all the way through conciliation. It is only when the two parties reach an impasse that the provisions of HLDAA govern.


Here are the steps that take place, and if the honourable members think it is exhausting just to listen to them, think of how it must feel during the negotiations.

Notice to bargain is given within 90 days of the expiry of a collective agreement. Either party can request a conciliator, who is then appointed by the Ministry of Labour. The conciliator reports to the minister within 14 days after appointment.

If they are unable to reach an agreement, either party can then refer matters to arbitration. Once the matter is referred to arbitration, an arbitration board is put together. The parties then have seven days to appoint sidespersons. These are people who sit on the board as the nominees of unions and employers. The sidespersons then appoint a chair to the board within 10 days.

If they are unable to appoint a chair, they notify the Ministry of Labour. Then the minister appoints a third person who is, in the opinion of the minister, qualified to act in the proceedings. The minister may also replace a member of the arbitration board if in the opinion of the minister that member fails to carry out duties in such a way as to enable the board to render a decision within a reasonable time.

The parties pay their own costs and share the cost of the chair, regardless of whether they choose the chair or the chair is appointed by the minister.

Now, finally, the process is ready to reach a decision, but it's not that simple. The decision does not come quickly. In fact it is rife with significant delays. Hearings have to be scheduled. Bear in mind that the way the system works, most of the members of the arbitration board are part-time contract arbitrators and have other business interests. Hearings must be arranged at a time convenient to all. In addition, representatives of the unions and the employers also have to be scheduled. They have one or two lawyers with other duties and conflicting schedules, and on and on and on.

Once the schedule for the arbitration board is finally set and agreed upon, the hearings can start. Now we run into procedural tinkering. These are fomalized, lengthy hearings. Documents have to be exchanged. They have to be analysed, rebutted, discussed. Don't forget, these are highly complex documents dealing with a variety of legal and financial positions. But the system soldiers on and finally a decision is reached, many, many months after the initial contract.

In fact our statistics show that over the last 10 years arbitrated agreements in the hospital sector were finalized, on average, nearly two years after the expiry of the previous agreement. This has led the OHA to come out very much in favour of Bill 136. I want to read to you parts of a letter they have sent to us that states clearly, I think, the need for Bill 136 to occur in the hospital sector.

"Once restructuring has occurred," the OHA writes, "hospitals will need to continue to adapt as changes in clinical practice, technological breakthroughs and advances in treatment affect the way health care services are delivered. If hospitals are to operate successfully in such an environment, greater flexibility will be required in dealing with labour relations issues. In our view, current legislation doesn't always allow for the flexibility and speedy resolution of issues now required. During periods of significant change, this can have severe implications for the delivery of vital health care services."

We need to make sure hospital restructuring occurs efficiently in order that Ontarians might continue to have access to those vital services.

Continuing in the OHA brief with regard to the Dispute Resolution Commission, the OHA says:

"Interestingly, the `permanent panel' and 'criteria' components of Bill 136 were recommendations of the Report of the Hospital Inquiry Commission which looked at hospital sector labour relations issues in 1974. And the recommendation for a 'permanent panel' was made jointly by hospitals and unions -- including CUPE -- in the early 80s."

With regard to the Labour Relations Transition Commission, OHA says:

"Criticism of the proposed transition commission is simply unfounded. While the Ontario Labour Relations Board typically deals with union representation issues, it does not do so quickly." For example, "When one considers it took four years, from 1989 to 1993, for the OLRB to sort out a representation issue related to the transfer of obstetrics from Kitchener St Mary's to Kitchener-Waterloo, it is obvious that the transition commission is essential if restructuring is to occur."

I think most people would appreciate those comments by the OHA. Members on all sides of the Legislature have talked about the need, and Ms Lankin's quotes were read into the record today about the third party acknowledging the need for restructuring. In order for that to happen, the OHA and other people -- school boards -- in the past have said, "We need some help with solving labour relations problems quickly and smoothly."

I go back to four years for an OLRB decision -- keep that in mind -- and an average of two years to arbitrate hospital sector contracts. This means that in many cases neither the employer nor the employees and unions know what their contract agreement is until long after the contract has expired. It's sort of like taking a job and not knowing what you will be paid until long after the job is finished.

These arbitration board decisions were not consistent across the province, and in most cases it appears that arbitrators were not taking into account the employers' and taxpayers' ability to pay. We heard yesterday a member from the Liberal Party agreeing that we shouldn't take into account an employer's ability to pay; we shouldn't take into account whether a municipality has the ability to pay. He and the Liberal Party believe that taxpayers have a bottomless pit from which to pull. We disagree with that.

In fact many of the arbitrators rely on being accepted by both the unions and the employers for future work as arbitrators in the determination of contracts or the resolving of complaints and grievances. They know that if they make awards that are unpopular with either side, it will severely impact on their acceptability for future work. So in many cases currently arbitrators tend to split the difference in making their awards. Since the bargaining parties know this, they have no incentive to be moderate in tabling their positions.

I am sure the members will agree with me that this is just not fair -- not fair for the employees, not fair for the employers and most especially not fair to the taxpayers who rely on the important and necessary services that the hospital sector and the other essential services sectors deliver.

As well, unfortunately, this system has led to an over-reliance on contract arbitration in the hospital sector. To a large extent it has become an integral part of regular bargaining rather than a process to be used as a last resort.

On the average, over the last 10 years, 40% of collective agreements in the hospital sector have been settled through arbitration. These agreements involved 46% of unionized hospital employees. In the right-to-strike sectors, in contrast, 95% of collective agreements are successfully settled through negotiation, without recourse to arbitration.

The process I have just described deals only with the nearly 1,700 separate collective agreements in the hospital sector. Add to this the 194 separate collective agreements in the police sector and 87 in the fire sector and you have a recipe for confusion, delay and unreasonable costs, not only for the parties involved but for the taxpayers who eventually foot the bill. Bill 136 is designed to improve this unwieldy system of settling contracts in the essential services sector where employees do not have the right to strike.

If passed by the House, Bill 136 will create a new, permanent Dispute Resolution Commission that will have the power to settle the terms of collective agreements in the fire, police and hospital sectors if agreement cannot be reached. The Dispute Resolution Commission will put far greater emphasis on negotiation and mediation as a way of encouraging the employer and union to resolve outstanding issues, unlike the present system which relies on those lengthy formal hearings that I have just described.

The commission will have a number of innovative powers, including the right to choose the most appropriate method for resolving disagreements. This could include final-offer selection or mediation-arbitration. If mediation-arbitration is chosen, the commissioner would act as a mediator, assisting the parties to negotiate as much of the collective agreement as possible, and then the commissioner would decide the remaining outstanding issues.

If the commission uses the final-offer selection, the employer and union submit their final offer to a commissioner who chooses between the two of them. The offer chosen then becomes the basis for the new collective agreement.

The commission will have discretion on how to use final-offer selection. For example, it may be used for the entire agreement, on an issue-by-issue basis or any other way the commissioner believes appropriate. This method strongly encourages the parties to be very realistic in the final offer they put on the table.


The Dispute Resolution Commission will consist of a number of neutral, fairminded, capable commissioners headed by a chief commissioner. In appropriate circumstances, such as when specific expertise is required, on the request of the parties the chief commissioner may also appoint sidespersons, people who participate in the decision-making process as respective nominees of the unions and employers, as I've already mentioned.

I would like to point out that where an employer and a union agree, Bill 136 will permit them to have their dispute resolved through private arbitration. The Dispute Resolution Commission that would be created by Bill 136 addresses many of the problems with the current system. It provides a permanent panel which should help with the consistency of decisions and ensure the true independence of arbitrators.

The new system will place much more emphasis on negotiations between the parties and not on third-party decision-making. In fact, if the parties turn to the Dispute Resolution Commission before they have seriously bargained, the chief commissioner may order them back to the bargaining table. It is only if all avenues have been exhausted that the commissioner will make an order to resolve the dispute.

The commissioners will be required to take into consideration best practices and affordability to taxpayers and, most important, they will be required to reach a decision within 60 days of the matter being referred to the commission. Contrast this with the nearly two years it takes to reach an agreement in the hospital sector alone.

If the members take a close look at Bill 136, they will see that we have come up with a solution to contract arbitration in the non-strike sectors that effectively balances employer needs and taxpayer needs.

The Minister of Labour has indicated that our government is ready to listen to constructive and concrete suggestions that could improve Bill 136. We have extended invitations to organized labour and other stakeholder groups to meet with us and put forward their proposals. Our intention is to create legislation that will smooth the transition to improved, effective and affordable public services. It will also permanently improve the dispute resolution process in the sectors that rely on interest arbitration.

Our intention is to create legislation that treats everyone fairly and reasonably. I think we have come to that with Bill 136 and I urge all members to support the bill.

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

Mr Gravelle: Certainly I want to comment on the remarks made by my colleague from Niagara Falls. I appreciate that he is taking the party line and perhaps believes that this is going to be exactly as he says it's going to be. But what he's not telling us and not telling the members of the House, and I think he has an obligation to do so, is that the deck is stacked. The situation is set up so that no matter what happens, the situation will be based on the Dispute Resolution Commission, which is being set up and appointed by the government itself. They will decide indeed on a totally partial basis, not a true, independent, arbitrated basis.

That is one of the real flaws in what the member for Niagara Falls is talking about. It can't be a system that can be considered one that truly encourages the continuation of true collective bargaining. It can't be a system that can be considered fair to the employees and even, for that matter, the employers as long as the system is set up so that the deck is stacked. That's something that needs to be recognized by all those who are concerned.

I come back to remarks that I made previously as well. The fact is, this is all really ultimately about the downloading process forcing municipalities into a position where they need to find mechanisms essentially to manage their finances. The fact is that this government has put the people of this province into a situation where, if they indeed decided at this stage to no longer carry on with their tax cut, a lot of these measures would not be necessary. It simply wouldn't be necessary.

There are many things that are happening right now in this province that are hurting people enormously, and we say to the government, if you really have any legitimacy and you want to be taken seriously, then stop the tax cut. It's not doing you any good. It's taking $5 billion a year out of the system and, as a result, forcing this kind of legislation on, which is truly undemocratic. We think it's a bad bill that simply should be withdrawn.

Mr Christopherson: A couple of comments with regard to the parliamentary assistant's remarks. First of all, what he fails to mention when he talks about the fact that the system isn't perfect, and there are very few systems that are, and I don't think there's a worker or their representative who would defend the system to the end of the world and say it's perfect, but you're using the argument that just because it's not perfect, that justifies your doing arguably the worst thing possible, and it's not going to wash.

What you've removed in this process of arbitration is the fact that there's no more fairness, a word that you continually use but you don't respect. It used to be, as it is now, that arbitrators were agreed upon by both parties, and only if they couldn't agree did the government step in. That's the point of fairness and of the independence of an arbitrator, the fact that they can choose who it will be and they can agree to put their trust in that individual. This is not going that way. The person making the decision now will be one of Mike Harris's golfing buddies, and there's nobody in this province who wants their working conditions dictated by a golfing buddy of Mike Harris. I can guarantee you that.

The other think I want to point out is you keep saying, "the taxpayers." I want to come back to that point. In my community of Hamilton, when you talk of "the taxpayers," you're talking in terms of Bill 136, people who remove snow and do garbage collection and keep our recreation centres going. What they make affects what the person who's working in the sewage treatment plant makes, and what they're making affects what the people inside grocery stores and inside department stores can make, and what they make collectively has an impact on how much the people at Stelco can bargain, in addition to other things, but it sets the community standard. And what people at Stelco get has an effect on what people at Dofasco without a union get, because they always get the same amount as the Steelworkers, because they try to keep the union out. That affects nurses, that affects teachers, and what you're trying to do is slow down that whole process. God help those who are the working poor, making minimum wage at the end of your food chain.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I'd first like to compliment the member for Niagara Falls, also the parliamentary assistant for labour, for just an excellent presentation, a very understandable presentation and some excellent information in that speech.

Certainly this bill, Bill 136, is all about fairness and it's about providing for the public sector, both employees and employers, the tools that are necessary to manipulate and work through these changes that are occurring that are so necessary. We're talking about some 3,300 collective agreements within municipalities, health care facilities. As they merge and amalgamate, it will assist in ensuring that fair treatment does occur with the various members of those sectors. It overcomes the uncertainty and it overcomes some of the inherent problems that might be in that restructuring.

The opposition should be reminded, back in 1993 of the Social Contract Act that they developed, in part X, "Miscellaneous," under 48(1), "Salary arbitration": "No" -- I underline "No" -- "increase in compensation shall be given as a result of any arbitration award or decision made on or after June 14, 1993." It absolutely overrides every collective agreement that was ever drawn up, well over 3,000 collective agreements.

What we're doing with Bill 136 is clear, is transparent, is an upfront agenda. There's no elimination of things like successor rights. There's no unilateral removal of bargaining rights.

Certainly it was interesting to hear the member for Port Arthur make some reference to tax cuts. I'll wind up with that one. He should recognize the tremendous increase in revenue coming into the province just because of those tax cuts stimulating the economy.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm always intrigued. I wonder who writes all these speeches that the members on the other side have to deliver. The great disadvantage of opposition, I should tell my friend from Niagara Falls, is all you get are a few little notes here and there, while the government members have a full speech all prepared by whatever ministry it happens to be. That's an unfair balance in this House that must be rectified. It must be rectified some way.

Of course, what everybody won't consider is that these laws are being passed now under the new regime, that is, under the new rule changes imposed by Mike Harris on members of the Legislative Assembly at the very time, Mr Speaker, and you know this very well, when many members of the government who are not in the cabinet and who are not seeking to be in the cabinet are expressing a concern that the government is moving too quickly, too recklessly and not looking at the consequences of its actions.

The government has imposed new procedural rules on this Legislature which allow the government to move even more rapidly, to bulldoze its legislation through at the fastest rate in the history of Ontario. That's contrary to what I'm hearing from some of my good friends in the Conservative Party, as I say, those who don't particularly aspire to the cabinet or don't want to please the Premier and are not afraid to speak out and let the people of Ontario know what they're hearing at the doors.

I look at this piece of legislation and I see the government again moving rapidly and recklessly and alienating even some of the natural supporters of the government, who I know are good Conservatives and have been supporters in the past of the Conservative Party.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Niagara Falls has two minutes.

Mr Maves: I want to thank the members for Port Arthur, Hamilton Centre, Northumberland and St Catharines for their responses. I know the member for St Catharines and his party are still opposed to workfare even though it continues to show good results all across Ontario, especially in the Niagara region. I can't understand that.

The member for Hamilton Centre said that the existing system is not perfect. Not perfect? Two years on average to settle at arbitration is far from just not perfect; that's really in trouble. Four years for the OLRB to make a decision on bargaining units? That's far from just not perfect; that's in big trouble. Something needs to occur while this period of transition goes forward.

The member from Hamilton also said the government steps in now if the employer and the employee can't agree on an arbitrator, and he's right. This is the same system that's being set up now, only it's going to be an expedited system. They are still encouraged to bargain, and if they can't come to an agreement, either one of the parties can refer it and say to the government Dispute Resolution Commission, "We need an arbitrator to come forward and help solve this dispute," just like it is now. The Solicitor General appoints the third person or the Minister of Health puts forward the third arbitrator. That's how it is now. He said it and he's right. It's going to be no different, only it's going to be expedited and a lot smoother.

I want to close on the note of saying that we will listen to anyone who has an alternative. To date, only the police associations have come forward and talked to us and accepted the government's invitation to have a dialogue. The OFL and CUPE have been invited to discuss the bill and have turned us down so far, but I'm hopeful they will come forward and I hope they will bring their alternatives forward. We do indeed want a smooth transition to move to fewer school boards, to fewer municipal bureaucracies and a streamlined, more efficient, patient-focused, service-oriented hospital sector.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm pleased to stand in my place today and speak to Bill 136, which is the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, if that's what you want to call it. Really, it should be subtitled, "Just another in a series of bully bills of the Harris government." You could sub-subtitle it, "Another bill that hits upon workers in this province." That's exactly what it is.

It's really interesting. The whole series of bills that this government has brought forward in its first two years is really a series of bills stripping powers away from people, powers that people have fought very hard for over the last 60 years in this province. Systematically, bill after bill, this government is stripping those powers right from workers in this province.

Mr Bradley: From the corporate captains?

Mr Ramsay: Not from the corporate captains, as the rhetorical question from my colleague the member for St Catharines asks, facetiously, I know. No, it's ordinary working women and men across this province who are suffering the blows of bill after bill from this particular government.

What's interesting is that the Harris government always couches the rationale for these bills in the terms, "The other partners out there require this legislation to enact the restructuring that has to go on." I've talked to my constituents, and in dialogue with them we all understand that restructuring is necessary. I don't think anybody in this House is against restructuring. We all understand that has to happen.

Why we need bills such as this onerous anti-labour legislation now, why the Harris government believes it does, is that this restructuring is going down such a reckless and fast path towards destruction that this is the type of tool that has to be there, that the so-called partners are going to have to use. That's the rationale of the Harris government, but last night I was down at the Royal York Hotel at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention -- for those who don't know, annually all the mayors and the reeves --

Mr Bradley: Good people all.

Mr Ramsay: Good people all, as my colleague from St Catharines says, and I agree. They meet annually to discuss pressing issues at the local level of government. I think we'd all agree that the local level of government is the level of government that is closest to the people. Boy, was there a different mood in the room last night from previous years. This group of people -- as stated in this House earlier today, they're primarily of a small-c and in many cases a large-c conservative bent -- is furious at the Harris Conservatives, absolutely furious about the downloading changes they're bringing forward.

Ironically, what's interesting about this bill we're talking about today, the so-called Public Sector Transition Stability Act, is that the vast majority of delegates, the mayors and reeves and councillors from right across this province, voted down yesterday the necessity of having this bill as a tool. They said, "We don't need it." They said, "We would rather deal with our workforce and our unions in the way we always do: We sit down and" -- let me throw this radical idea out here: They negotiate. That's what they usually do.

How many times have you heard in Ontario that we've had some massive municipal strike? It's a rare occurrence. It really doesn't happen. Our municipal people are able, 98% of the time, to come to agreement with their unions. They're the grass-roots people who are making these decisions on all our behalf, and they're very close to the workers who work on our behalf in all our municipalities.

They said yesterday that they don't need this, so I'm wondering why we're wasting our time on this. If your partners the municipalities, who by and large have been very supportive of this government up till now, say this bill is no longer required, why are you proceeding with this? Let's get on to something more important. Let's spend some of our time on being smart on some of this restructuring, rather than going holus-bolus down this reckless path you've embarked upon, ruining the local government fabric we've had in this province and have developed over the last 130 years. It's very reckless, and your partners the municipalities have said to you that it's time to slow down.

We are, if you can't tell already, opposed to this legislation. It's wrong and it's not needed, and it's not the way to go, to force the working men and women in all the various groups, whether they be unionized or non-unionized, who work in our school boards -- excluding teachers, because this bill does not include the teachers -- municipalities and hospitals into these amalgamations. In fact, many of the spokespeople from the various unions have said they have been through some of these situations before -- never to this extent and on such a large scale in this province, but there have been amalgamations.

Another radical idea: The ones in the past were voluntary. Most of them were voluntary amalgamations between municipalities and, in some cases, some school boards wanting to realign their boundaries. These happened on a voluntary basis. Never, in those cases, have the workers in those various boards and municipalities failed to come to some agreement. The presidents of some of the major unions that represent these workers have said, "We have formulas that can accomplish this and we have the experience that can accomplish this." Now your municipal partners on the negotiating side of so-called government say they believe they can accomplish this also. So why we're going down this path I don't know.

What this bill is going to do in every community right across Ontario is hurt our nurses, eventually our teachers, because that's going to spill over to them in another piece of legislation forthcoming, our firefighters and our police officers. Boy, talk about some groups that have already been whacked by the Harris government. Firefighters -- here we go again; we're going to give it to them again -- and now we're including the police officers in this particular piece of legislation.


Just as the Conservative Harris government didn't listen to Ontarians who were opposed to all of these amalgamations such as Bill 103, the megacity bill, and also Bill 104, which came very quickly upon the heels of that, the reduction in school boards bill -- I'd like to talk a little bit about that later and how that's having tremendous impact especially on some of the big rural and northern regions of this province -- just like it didn't listen to all the folks who were upset about those two pieces of legislation, guess what? They didn't consult with the so-called municipal partners either, who yesterday said, "We don't need it and you should rescind this bill."

Instead of doing that, they're trying to bring workers and employers together, to deal with these massive changes, with a gun to their head. That's not the way you bring a successful outcome in labour relations or any other type of discussion. This is wrong. It is wrong again to be giving some sweeping powers to one side versus another side.

It's interesting to note, and I think people should really understand, that we have a very successful province here. We have an extremely successful country and Ontario is one of the lead provinces in this country. It's most successful. How have we done that? We've done that through a balancing of powers between the various interest groups in this province. Any time you start to tilt that balance to one side or the other, as has the Harris government, you bring problems and trouble to this province. You'll see that come through in every day of our lives in this province. In every sector of the economy, in every walk of life that trouble's going to start to brew. That's the big mistake this Conservative government has made.

I wish the government members who are here today would just reflect upon the history of past Conservative governments that really tried honestly to bring some balance to the day-to-day proceedings of this province. I would say that the history books will treat pretty kindly the Robarts and Davis governments in how they tried, not always successfully, to bring balance to the day-to-day proceedings of this province. But for some reason this government that's got the same political party name as those previous governments is taking a very radical bent in a very different direction, a new and quite frankly untried direction.

It's frightening people. You can tell by the polling results, which, sure, mid-term really don't mean anything other than the people of Ontario are very concerned about your direction and the reckless speed with which you're embracing that direction. That is going to be a major problem for you.

Groups like AMO, the municipalities of Ontario, which are a substantial number of Ontarians in their own right and of course represent each and every one of us, are speaking to you. I think it's time you listen. I think it's really time you just maybe sit back, take a breath and start to listen to what people are saying.

We had some examples here today in question period. Gerard Kennedy, our health critic, brought in some examples in some of these hospitals in Toronto that are going to be closed as soon as November 6 of this year, just a little more than two months away, of a woman who had to give birth to her child right behind a nursing station in one of the hallways of one of the hospitals in Toronto. This is the type of thing that is only starting to happen and this is the type of occurrence that will begin to increase as time goes on and we start to make those closures.

What the municipal leaders, the leaders in health care, our leaders in education, in all the areas that, granted, we really do need some restructuring in, no doubt about that, would like to say is, "We'd like to work with you in doing that, and let's don't do it so quickly." I don't know what all the rush is, but you're embarking upon this very reckless path and it's endangering the way of life we've come to know in Ontario.

In this particular bill you are affecting literally thousands of people: municipal workers in Ontario, 49,000 will be affected by this bill; library workers, 4,700 people; 13,000 transit workers; all 23,000 municipal police officers and workers and staff will be affected by this bill; our almost 9,000 firefighters are again going to be affected by this bill; all the workers at school boards, all the non-teaching workers in those boards, 48,000 of them in all boards; the part-time teachers, 30,000 of them will be affected by this; nurses, 46,000.

I didn't even know there were that many left in Ontario with the 15,000 nurses this government has fired over the last two years. Try to get some help in hospitals nowadays. Families have to either go out and hire some private nursing or rotate in shifts through the family to provide 24-hour nursing -- in a hospital, of all places. This isn't at-home nursing which we would hope to have, which would be more cost-effective than hospital nursing, but even in a hospital many families are forced to either dig down deep in their pockets to provide that or share those duties among family members. It's a shame that in this wonderful province of ours in the year 1997, three years away from the next century, we're seeing our health care deteriorate like this.

Non-nursing hospital staff: 73,000 of those people are going to be affected by this bill.

Quite frankly, I'd say to the government, this is really bad politics. This is stupid politically, and I don't know why you're doing it, especially when the main partners, the municipal ones, are saying, "We don't need it."

But what is this causing? This all relates to the whole downsizing that is happening in our province. When I speak to some of our municipal officials in the Timiskaming area that I represent, one reeve, Ray Beland, the reeve from Hudson township, said to me -- and I thought this was very perceptive -- "You know what this government's doing? They're constructing a building without a blueprint." I thought that was extremely perceptive, because I think we all agree we have to reconstruct the building, not demolish it, tear it down and try to rebuild it. But at least we could make some additions and we could do some reconstruction on it. I think he was very perceptive when he said that.

You know why that perception is out there from all the municipal officials? Because they can't even get the answers. Up to this day now -- we're on the eve of September, three months away from when all of this is going to take place on January 1, 1998. We're on the eve of that and yesterday the Minister of Municipal Affairs was down there at the Royal York at his noon luncheon speech and he couldn't answer the most basic question as to exactly what the downloading figures were going to be in certain areas such as for non-profit housing, for ambulance service, for all the social services that are still yet to come, what's going to be the total offset with education, what you are going to be paying for your share for education to the new mega-boards.

Mr Bradley: Do you think they knew the answer but didn't want to give it?

Mr Ramsay: One of my colleagues, the member for St Catharines, asks, "Do you think they knew the answer and they don't want to give it?" I'm not sure that's even correct. I think they're working so quickly on this, they don't even have all the answers. There may be a few they have and they don't want to lay out on the table yet with all of those angry mayors and reeves there, because I think any of the ones they do have are just going to anger them some more.

Mr Bradley: Neal Schoen is here, in fact, from Port Colborne.

Mr Ramsay: I see that. The mayor of Port Colborne is here. He probably had enough from the bearpit session down at the Royal York that's actually probably just finished now, I would guess, that he wanted to come up here and see what was really going on.

The mayors and the reeves are not getting the answers that they deserve. I'll give you an example of a reeve in my area of Timiskaming, the reeve of Harris township, Marty Auger. He said that if he was re-elected a reeve next year for his township he could not -- he said it actually stronger than that, that he won't approve paying the $96,000 police bill that his township is going to be assessed. That's pretty serious stuff when a duly elected municipal official says he's not going to recommend paying that bill to the Ontario government.

But I can see why he's angered, because what this government has failed to realize is that you've created an unequal offloading to the various classes of municipalities in Ontario. If you take an example of this particular township that is very similar to many townships right across the province that are situated in rural parts of Ontario, they're made up of small hamlets. Some people live in subdivision areas and commute into town, but primarily they have an agricultural tax base with a lot of farm land. These particular townships are going to be hit with an extra double-whammy that all the other municipalities aren't having to suffer the burden of; that is, this policing cost, which will be new to them, and of course the forgoing of the ability to tax farm land because of the substitution of the farm tax rebate for an exemption of 75% of the value of farm land being exempted from property tax. Now a rural municipality that's primarily made up of farm land can only tax farm land up to 25% of its assessed value. Where's the municipality going to get the rest of that money? From all the other homeowners.


What usually happens in farm country -- I see one of my rural colleagues from across the way paying attention to this -- is that when a farm husband and wife retire, sometimes they just stay in the house on the farm or sometimes they move into the hamlet or the village in that township. It's going to be that retired couple, or possibly the widow, in those small villages who are really going to get whacked with the property tax on their home to try to make up for the lack of taxation that the township is unable to assess on all that farm land. All the homeowners, whether they be the farmers or the people who commute into town or the retired farm families, are going to be hit with an extremely heavy hand.

You're going to start to dislocate some of rural Ontario. For some of those people who could only afford a small home in a township that didn't offer that many services and therefore didn't assess that much tax, you're going to dislocate those people. You're going to chase those people away and maybe chase those people into poverty, because that widow or that retired farm family may no longer be able to retain their home. That would be a shame.

Why is this happening? It's because you haven't taken the time to think about this, to think it through in all the ramifications. But if you'd talked to Marty Auger in Harris township or the reeve of my township where I live, Roland Lachapelle, they would have told you that. I was the clerk of that township for 10 years. We are very close to the people, when you work on the municipal level. Both the administration, which is usually about two or three people in those townships, and the council live and breathe and eat right at that level. We're really in touch with what's going on there.

Those are the people you should have consulted with. Those are the folks you should've talked with, who would have worked with you truly as partners, no doubt about it. We'd all like to do better.

But now you're saying to them: "Here's all the offloading. And by the way, for your part, municipality, we'd like you to achieve some 3% in efficiencies each year for the next 10 years."

I don't know any municipal government, especially the small ones, that have been rolling around in the waste for the last 10 years -- I don't know a municipal government that hasn't cut through the fat well into the muscle now, and probably into the bone. I think most municipal governments are into the bone already. I don't know; you're forcing them to cut right through the bone, and then you're going to have a breakage. I think that's going to break municipal government and start to have a profound impact on this province.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I always enjoy the remarks of my distinguished colleague from Timiskaming. He too has had years of municipal experience. What he's cautioning the House and asking the government to do is to put the brakes on, nothing short of that. In fact, his sentiments, his words are echoed by the vote that took place yesterday right down the street at the Royal York Hotel, where the municipal leaders are congregating. It said, by a margin of 198 to 108, "Slow down the passage of your Bill 136," another bully bill which is supposedly a facilitator, easing the transition. We know very well that what it does is punish people.

Mr Bradley: Will it make the trains run on time?

Mr Pouliot: "Will it make the trains run on time?" asks the member for St Catharines. This is not the kind of legislation that you can get up in the House one day and, with a click of the heels, this is pushed forward and you run and rule by decree. Those days are gone. You must give the municipalities a chance to grow. You can't shove things down their throats.

They'll be responsible for public housing. Let me tell you about social housing. The federal government sends the province $476 million in transfer payments. That's earmarked for social housing. Now the province is getting out of social housing; they're passing the buck to municipalities. They're putting in jeopardy that transfer payment of $476 million. Almost every municipality is saying, "This downloading will cost us money."

When the minister attempted yesterday to say it was a wash, revenue-neutral, no one believed him. They're slow in putting the figures forward. In fact, the press said -- someone said he was misleading; the press said the minister was lying. Those are very strong words.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? The member for Niagara Falls.

Mr Maves: Mr Speaker, I'm getting discouraged, because you have to keep looking down since you sit only two seats away from me. But that's okay.

I must thank the member opposite for his words on municipal transfer of services. He didn't talk much about Bill 136; he just talked mostly about transfer of services.

It's funny that the member opposite mentions the motion voted on by AMO. The original motion, I understand, was to withdraw Bill 136, but they didn't want to vote on that because I think they see a lot of merit in Bill 136. They see the fact that when municipalities start to have mergers, they may need to refer. If they can't get agreement after they've exhausted all the current avenues, which they still have to follow under the Labour Relations Act in good faith, then they may just need somewhere down the line, in order to have smooth transition, a little assistance from either of these commissions, the Dispute Resolution Commission or the Labour Relations Transition Commission.

They voted on something very different. They said, "Talk a little more." As you heard yesterday and as you have heard today, we have been more than willing to talk ever since we introduced this bill. Yesterday Mr O'Toole and myself read letters to Mr Wilson of the OFL from the minister, saying, "We are ready, willing and able to sit down and talk about this." No one has come forward yet. The police association has, and we've been in discussions with them about this. We're ready to listen to any alternative.

People must continue to realize that Bill 136 says, "You have to bargain first, you have to go through the existing process right now, before you can even think of coming to the Dispute Resolution Commission." I'm sure the municipal councillors are going to bargain as hard as they can and try to get a negotiated settlement before they even dream about going to a DRC.

Mr Bradley: I'm pleased to be addressing the House in the presence of Neal Schoen, who is the mayor of the town of Port Colborne. I consider it the city of Port Colborne. He rises in the House to be suitably acknowledged. He's here at the AMO conference. All the AMO people are worrying about the downloading.

Mr Maves: Whose box is he sitting in?

Mr Bradley: He is sitting in the members' gallery. He is sitting in a position where he can see the opposition better than he can see the government, which of course is very wise on his part.

Members of the House will remember that Mayor Schoen has been one of the leaders trying to keep the Port Colborne hospital from closing. All around the province of Ontario, despite the promise of the Premier when he said, "Certainly I can guarantee you, Robert, that it is not my plan to close hospitals" -- Port Colborne ended up being very vulnerable to closing or radical change. Mayor Schoen was one of the leaders of the group opposing that. I'm glad he's in the gallery today to hear the debate on this particular issue.

Mr Maves: It was the district health council report, Jim.

Mr Bradley: Well, they try to pawn it off on the district health council. The district health council of course is only acting on the orders of the government. As you know better than anybody, Mr Speaker, when you chop all that funding from hospitals, somebody comes up with some radical surgery; they want to cut their leg off at the knee instead of at the hip because they figure they'd be better off. Of course it would be better if they didn't have to perform any surgery. I want to compliment Mayor Schoen on his stand on the hospitals.

I will get back to Bill 136 later.


Mr Len Wood: I just want to respond briefly to the member for Timiskaming on his address concerning Bill 136. Every point that he is making has been covered. A lot of them are covered in the news articles that are coming out. The Toronto Star is saying today about Bill 136, "Mike Harris has launched a pointless war on the people who provide valuable public services in Ontario."

All the press clippings are full of articles saying, "Laughter Greets Leach's Pledge," "Mayors Accuse Leach of Misleading Public," "Tories Accused of Municipal 'Tax Grab,'" and it goes on and on, that AMO, which is made up of municipal leaders, is speaking out harshly against the Conservative government for moving too fast and in a direction that doesn't have to be done.

I know the member for Timiskaming was talking about all kinds of amalgamations and mergers that took place over the last 30 years. In Kapuskasing and Timmins it happened, and there was no reason for a bill like Bill 136 at that time that eliminated collective bargaining and put in a bunch of people like Mike Harris's golf buddies as the arbitrators who are going to make the final ruling on whether people are going to be able to protect their seniority in the jobs they are in right now, whether they are going to be able to hold on to the wages that they are getting right now. All of these decisions are going to be made by Mike Harris and his golf buddies out on the golf course someplace throughout Ontario, and the collective bargaining process has been completely eliminated.

I know for a fact that for the group that is not covered under Bill 136, the teachers, similar legislation is going to be brought in during this emergency session of the Legislature this summer to deal with the other group that is not being touched by this bill.

Mr Ramsay: I am pleased to be able to have at least another two minutes to sum up. I certainly miss the good old days, which were last week I guess, when we had 30 minutes at least. It's a little bit shorter now.

I want to give you another quote from one of the municipal officials in my riding. This time it's the mayor of Charlton, and she says, "We're the blind horses and they're leading us around," with regard to the restructuring. There is also a clip here from the town of Englehart. The clerk there says, "The taxes could be hiked now by 130% in the town of Englehart," and that their OPP charges are actually going to be more than the social services bill for their town. So there is an extra $3.5 million that comes to our district for OPP. In the case of Englehart, it's $316,000 for 740 households, which is over $450 a household. These are all new taxes.

It's going to be very interesting to see the municipal elections this year when the councillors are campaigning about all the new Harris government local taxes that are going to be coming. I don't know how they're going to do it. I'm sure you don't want to hear that in all the government-held ridings many Conservative municipal leaders are going to have to be campaigning against the Harris government and the new Harris government local taxes, the new Harris government property taxes that are having to come.

Some mayor, I think the mayor of St Catharines, said on Newsworld the other day he's thinking of sending two bills out, sending out the regular bill for the services that traditionally the town has had to service and then an extra bill, the Mike Harris tax bill that would go out, so that people would be crystal-clear as to where this new tax was coming from: Michael Harris.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I too appreciate the chance to get up today and speak on this piece of legislation that is in keeping with the pattern of this government over the last two-plus years as they move ever so aggressively to change everything that we who have toiled here over the years have worked so hard to put in place by way of --

Mr Bradley: Do you only have 20 minutes to do this?

Mr Martin: Only 20 minutes. We used to have 30 minutes only a week ago. That's part of the activity that's going on here, part of this government's attempt to speed up the pace at which change is happening without considering for a second the impact that this change will have on the lives of people, the impact that this change will have on the lives of communities and on the lives of the families who live in those communities. I challenge any of you over there who have any morsel of conscience left to sit back for a second and think about it.


Mr Martin: The member from Burlington used to be a member with a conscience, used to be on the left side of the spectrum when it came to Conservatives. We sat at committee hearings for a number of years, and I used to be impressed with the compassion and the understanding he had for people in communities, but he lost all that. He too drank the Kool-Aid, and it's unfortunate, because he was one of their better members.

I'm going to start my few comments today, my 20 minutes, or 18_ minutes, by sharing with the House a quote that I read into Hansard about a year ago, which is still appropriate today and so I will do it again. It's by Ralph Lapp and it's used by one Ted Schmidt in an article he wrote in the Catholic New Times, speaking of the terrible crisis that we find ourselves in in this province today as we deal with the agenda of this government. It goes like this:

"We are aboard a train which is gathering speed, racing down a track...leading to unknown destinations. Nobody is in the engine cab and there may be demons at the switch. Most of the society is in the caboose looking backward."

I spent a number of weeks this summer in July on holidays with my family and I had plenty of time to think about the agenda of this government and why they're in such an all-fired hurry, particularly as Conservatives, to move away from the traditions of this place and this province and the way that we make change and very thoughtfully evolve into a jurisdiction that is thoughtful of more and more people and in keeping with the best of Progressive Conservative ideology and history as we look around the world. It bothers me, because the evidence that you are not thinking out fully what you are doing, the evidence that you are moving too quickly and therefore not considering the impact on the lives of communities and families and people, becomes more and more evident as time goes on.

I suggest to you, members of the government and Speaker, that as time unfolds, people are beginning to catch on, and the people in the caboose of this train that is going at breakneck speed down the road of history in this province are beginning to take a look out the window to see what's coming, to see if there's anything they can do to slow this thing down, to make sure it's on the right track and maybe to find out if there is somebody in the engine cab who understands or who is feeling or intelligent in any way and might take control of the reins of power and do something different.

Here's a letter that I received from a constituent of mine some time ago, and I continue to receive letters of this sort as time goes on. As I get time away from this place -- you folks seem hell-bent on sitting here week after week, month after month, without much of a break, but when I get time to go home to the wonderful community of Sault Ste Marie --

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): We gave you 10 minutes less so you can leave early.

Mr Martin: As you should, member from Burlington, do from time to time -- I hear from my constituents, and they tell me things, and they are very simple things, things like this government is moving too quickly.

They ask me: "Does this government know what it's doing and where it's going? Does this government understand the impact the decisions they are making are having on the lives of my friends, on the lives of the members of my family, on the lives of people who used to be my neighbours who have had to pull up roots and move someplace else in search of work, watch the investment that they made in that little piece of property, the investment they made in their ability to do their work, the investment they made in the education of their children turn to sand and be washed away by the floods of the changes of the Mike Harris government?" They write me letters such as the one I'm going to share with you now.


I think it's important that from time to time in this place we hear directly from the people we represent, the people who pay the bill, the people who ultimately we affect by the changes we make, who will be affected both directly and indirectly when this Bill 136 -- and there's no point in fooling ourselves here. The majority across the way are hell-bent on making sure this piece of legislation becomes the order of the day in short order, and that will probably be within the next week or two. It will affect, directly and indirectly, every single person who calls Ontario home, who lives in any one of the communities we represent here in this place: Kapuskasing, Manitouwadge, Sault Ste Marie, all those wonderfully progressive, hardworking, caring, compassionate communities that have, over the years, found a way to pool their money so that they can provide for each other the services they couldn't afford individually or singularly.

It's funny. In their intelligence and in their wanting to do the right thing, they have found a way to not only provide the service in a caring, efficient and effective fashion, but they have found a way, while doing that, to employ some of their brothers and sisters, some of their neighbours, some of their children who have grown up and been educated in the school systems we've all put together and paid for over the years, which are now being attacked and demolished, so that they might have jobs, so that some of the good people who live in places like Chapleau and Wawa and Dryden and Atikokan might one day see their children come back home and get a job in that community. That won't be the case any more.

Even if they do come back home and get a job, it will be at minimum wage, with no benefits and no hope of a pension plan. A pension plan will be a thing of the past not too long into the future if this government is allowed to get away with what it is doing, with what this Bill 136 will allow them to do. Who collecting minimum wage, who without a decent benefit package, who without the hope of a pension one day will make a decision to invest in a home? Who will make a decision to get married and have a family? Who will choose to make a place like Hornepayne or White River their permanent residence?

Mr Bradley: Nobody.

Mr Martin: Nobody, the member for St Catharines says, and he's absolutely right. Where will they go? Toronto? Is that what we want, everybody moves to Toronto? We beat up on Sault Ste Marie, we beat up on Thunder Bay, we beat up on Sudbury, and as the hordes of people who flood in from places like Manitouwadge and Marathon and Nipigon and Schreiber and Atikokan and Dryden find there's nothing for them in Sudbury and Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie, they move to Toronto. What will be for them here? Well, I suggest to you, more of the same. What a future we prepare, what a future we work together collectively to put in place for our kids.

We hear the members across the way talk about past governments spending money to the detriment of or at the cost of the future of our children. So much hogwash, so much baloney. No thought whatsoever for the future of the kids of today who will be the adults of tomorrow who will look after the kids you pretend to be so concerned about.

Here's the letter I told you I was going to read. It's from Dorothy Thain in Sault Ste Marie and she writes:

"Dear Tony,

"I'm mad. Please tell Mike Harris for me and all people throughout Ontario to keep his tax cuts and start taxing his already rich friends more instead of sheltering them."

Interjection: Right on.

Mr Martin: Right on, absolutely.

"We, the middle-income and low-income people are the ones spending the money to keep the economy going instead of investing our money in foreign countries or taking wonderful vacations abroad, something most people only dream of."

She's talking about the people in our communities who drive the buses; the people in our communities who pick up the refuse on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings; the people in our communities who make sure that the schools our children go to are warm and clean in the morning; the people in our communities who make the food and serve it in the hospitals; the people in our communities who give their lives sometimes to make sure that our streets are safe; the very same people in our communities who come when called because our house is on fire.

These are the people you're attacking with this bill and with almost everything else you're doing in this Legislature. You've given them, by the things you've done, the impression that they are no longer valuable, that the services they provide are no longer essential. That is shameful, downright shameful.

The people Dorothy is talking about are the people who assist the teachers in the classroom to make sure that the child who is challenged and struggling and needs a little extra help gets it. They're the people you see on the sidewalk of your community picking up the litter so that visitors who come can say, "What a beautiful town this is. Maybe next year I'll come back again for another vacation, and when I go home I will tell my friends and neighbours that it is a beautiful community," and they will come back and visit so that the economy of that particular community can continue to go on.

Indirectly, Dorothy is talking about those people who work in shops and sell you that item that you want to buy or who work in a small factory in the industrial park of Sault Ste Marie or Blind River or Elliot Lake, because they will be indirectly impacted and affected by Bill 136 in the context of everything else you're doing.

"We love our country and want to see it grow for the better of all people, not just the chosen few. Mike Harris doesn't care about anyone, especially people in the north, who have had to fight for everything we've ever got. To him, we are expendable and we don't count."

People are beginning to understand and to realize as they are affected indirectly by the decisions your government is making. The only reason the bottom isn't falling completely out of your popularity across this province is that there are still a few people out there, mostly in the 905 belt, who haven't been touched, directly or indirectly, by what you've done over the last two-and-some-odd years while you've been governing this province.

But I say to them, keep your eyes and ears open, because this too is coming to your town, this too is coming to your neighbourhood and to your family. Sooner or later, we will all be impacted, and it's a negative impact. People like Dorothy Thain know that, and we're very thankful that Dorothy has the courage to sit down with pen and paper to write her thoughts and feelings and send it to her member so I can read it in this place. She says: "The rich get richer and the poor will get poorer if he has his way. Please don't let him do this to these fine and proud people."

That was written by Dorothy Thain of St Andrews Terrace, Sault Ste Marie. What a wonderful letter. What a thoughtful letter. What a letter full of compassion and understanding and intelligent response to what she sees all around her.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): They're laughing.

Mr Martin: They're laughing? Well, it isn't important to them because it hasn't affected them yet. I find it disconcerting that more of them haven't, over the summer period, spent more time listening to the Dorothy Thains of their particular constituency. If they had, they would come back here and they wouldn't be laughing in this place as somebody like me puts a letter such as that on the record.

We all know and Dorothy knows and others around the province know that really what this is all about, what this agenda is all about, is this tax break, and we can't say it enough, this tax break that's going to deliver over a four-year period to people in this province who are making $15,000 a year a sum total of $615, and to people who are making $100,000 a year a sum total of $8,705, some 18 times as much money.

People in this province making $1 million a year -- and there are quite a few of them and there are more with each day that goes by under this government and there will be more to come as this government has its way -- will make $77,645, some 166 times the amount a person making $10,000 a year will make.


I ask you, is that fair? Is that in keeping with the traditions of the province of Ontario? Is that in any way helpful to the development of an economy that is civil and positive in terms of people making a half decent living and in terms of longevity and taking us into the future? I suggest, no.

To achieve this tax break we see this government cutting jobs. That's what they've been doing up to now, and with the introduction of this Bill 136, because they've got all the money they possibly can get by way of the job cuts they've put in place, now they're going to take money out of the pay package of the people who still have jobs.

I share with you in Sault Ste Marie, so far we've lost, if you add up all the jobs that have disappeared in the public sector, some 969 to 1,100 jobs. If you put the multiplier effect in place, we're talking something close to 2,000 jobs gone out of Sault Ste Marie.

There was a study done in North Bay. In North Bay it's almost identical because North Bay, as many of you know, is very dependent on the activity of government for its economy and for its job base -- municipal, provincial and federal. In North Bay there will be a sum total of over 1,000 jobs gone; you put the multiplier effect in and you're talking 1,500.

This piece of legislation, Bill 136, is about now taking those who have been fortunate enough to still have jobs and reducing their pay and taking away their benefits and taking away their pension plan. That's the only place now you've got left where there's any money to be got so that you can reach the targets you need to pay out on this tax break promise and still balance the budget. That's what it's all about.

I want to wind up today, if I have the time, and I think I do, with a quote again from Catholic New Times, which last year for Labour Day wrote this:

"Now we all know the statistics and studies about loss of jobs through technological change, cuts, attrition, downsizing and layoffs. We see what that really means, as people we know adjust to contract work, to starting over with each new job to earn some holidays, to waiting for word of an extension. We see the downtimes between jobs or contracts, how people put off having families, how they worry for their children's futures. We see capable, knowledgeable people scared that their age means they will never work again. We see older people afraid to stop working. We see seasonally unemployed benefits curtailed, with less and less money available and whole communities in peril.

"And we wonder what we can do."

The only group of people holding the cards in this game right now are you folks across the way. Please, do the right thing.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mrs Marland: It's quite something to listen to the member for Sault Ste Marie when he talks about his brothers and sisters. This is the same member who stood in this House and voted to override the collective bargaining process in this province with the social contract.

He talks about jobs in the public sector. I wish somebody could explain to me where it is written that the public sector has to be an employment agency. That's what the taxpayers of this province are fed up with. They're fed up with the fact that government is supposed to employ everybody. When government creates those jobs within its own employment ranks, there's only one person who pays for it. It's the taxpayer.

What this government is about is creating jobs in the private sector. I know that's hard for the New Democratic members to understand, but that's a basic formula for success and it's that formula this government is pursuing.

I must just say, as politely as I can, that to listen to the comments from the member for Sault Ste Marie, to use a quote I have used before so that I don't get into trouble with the Speaker, any relationship with the truth is merely coincidental in some of those comments. It's most unfortunate to use the opportunity you have to tell people things that simply are not a result of this legislation to which you are supposed to be speaking this afternoon.

This issue about Mike Harris doesn't care about anyone I guess I'll have to wait till my next two-minute questions and comments to deal with that, because no Premier in this province has cared for people as much as --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired. Further questions or comments.

Mr Gravelle: I want to congratulate the member for Sault Ste Marie on a fine speech and I think a speech that spoke about some issues that perhaps haven't been addressed enough, which is the loss of hope that's happening in this province among our young people and among people who really have come to believe that this is a province where we could grow and prosper. That hope is being taken away.

I must also comment, and I'm sure the member for Sault Ste Marie will do so, that I find quite shocking the member for Mississauga South's clear disdain for the members of the public sector. It's quite shocking to have her speak in that regard, let alone to speak I think quite rudely to the member for Sault Ste Marie, when he clearly does care.

I can certainly tell you, Madam Speaker, and all members of the House, I've been talking to a number of young people myself in the last two years. I think one of the most striking things about what this government is doing on a continual basis, and Bill 136 is just another rather frightening extension of that, is that they're taking away the hope and the belief.

The member for Sault Ste Marie spoke very much about the smaller communities in Ontario, certainly many of which I know we all care about. I think of some of the communities that I represent and that as a member from northwestern Ontario I care a great deal about, communities that are truly frightened by this downloading process, truly frightened about the fact that their tax base is disappearing and this government doesn't seem to really care.

It really does seem to come to down to this philosophy of "May the fittest survive," and that's it. If you aren't one of the fittest and you don't survive, too bad.

It's important that we, as legislators, continue to fight for people and for people's hope, so they can continue to believe there is a future for them. I think the sad thing about Bill 136 and so much other legislation is that is indeed disappearing.

Mr Wildman: I would like to comment and congratulate my friend from Sault Ste Marie for his presentation on Bill 136, and to say how glad I was he read into the record the courageous letter from Ms Dorothy Thain, one of his constituents, who talked about the importance of the public sector and the rights of public sector employees.

In passing, I would say for the benefit of some of the members opposite, many of the public sector employees who were very angry at the social contract, if given the terrible choice between the social contract and Bill 136, which takes away their right to protect themselves and to negotiate, would have taken the social contract any day. This takes away their right to strike and it means they will lose their pay and their benefits and maybe their jobs.

I would just point out for those members opposite who don't seem to understand this, public sector employees pay taxes. Unemployed people do not pay taxes. So if what you're intending to do, beyond laying off the public sector employees who work directly for this government, is to enable municipalities to lay off their staffs, we're going to have more unemployment, we're going to have more people who are going to have to get incomes from unemployment insurance, and then subsequently probably from social assistance, and they will be a drain on the public purse rather than contributing to the public purse and to the society.

I suppose that makes sense, because this government's philosophy is that the poor have too much money and the wealthy don't have enough. That's the reason for the tax cut: The poor have too much and the wealthy don't have enough, so we have to give more to the wealthy through a tax cut and we take it away from those at the low-income level to help pay for it. What a stupid contradiction of common sense that is: The poor have too much and the wealthy not enough.


Mr Maves: I just want to thank the member for Nepean for bringing in the rule changes so we only had to listen for 20 minutes to something that had absolutely nothing to do with the bill in question.

I feel sorry for the people of Sault Ste Marie when they have a member stand up here and talk so negatively about his community. Who would want to invest when there is a member from that community speaking so negatively about it?

Mr Wildman: What a phoney argument. That's insulting.

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

Mr Maves: Contrast that with the member for Nepean, whose positive attitude has brought about thousands of jobs in the Ottawa area: 4,100 Newbridge jobs in the next five years; 5,000 in Nortel --

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): That has nothing to do with this government, believe me.

Mr Maves: It has got a lot to do with this government. The member opposite talks about the traditions of this province. One of the things that was not a tradition of this province ever until 1990-95 was an $11-billion deficit. There was a great accident of Ontario politics that this third party got elected and we're going to be paying through the nose for the rest of our lives for the mess they made in this province. That was not a tradition of this province -- an $11-billion deficit. It's shameful. We'll be paying for it for years.

Jobs losses: You should have thought about the job losses when you were in office. We lost 10,000 net jobs when you guys were in office. This economy right now is producing a thousand jobs a day --

Mr Len Wood: Forty-two years of Tories. That's deficit after deficit.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Cochrane North, come to order.

Mr Maves: -- and they're good jobs. The ones I mentioned in Ottawa are good, high-paying jobs with lots of benefits. High-tech jobs, jobs of the future. They're going to take Ontario and Canada to the top of the world.

Mr Martin: I want to first thank the members for Mississauga South, Port Arthur, Algoma and Niagara Falls for taking the time and making the effort to respond to the thoughts I put on the record just before.

There are just a couple of things I want to mention in summing up. One is the inability of this government to put things in context, to connect bills to the real-life situations of people and families and communities in this province, to understand that everything you do here has an impact on the lives of people, particularly on people who are vulnerable and who are in need of some communal support out there. You've got them in your crosshairs and you're going to make sure that with everything you do you're bang on target, and you are so far.

The other thing I want to very briefly talk about, because it's been brought up so often, is this whole question of our track record and the social contract. That was very difficult for all of us when we were government to do.

We were faced with the same reality as you are today as a government: dwindling resources, a deficit that was growing that we knew we had to do something about and be responsible around. We grappled with it and we sat and we talked with people and we negotiated. Yes, we made some mistakes; we made some big mistakes. In hindsight, in the rush of trying to be a good government and do the right thing and be concerned about people's lives and the impact it will have on them, some of what we did by way of the social contact was not in keeping with the best traditions, particularly of the party that I belong to --


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Member for Mississauga South, come to order.

Mr Martin: I'll tell you, as the member for Algoma said, the social contract was a hell of a lot better for people than anything that your government --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired. Further debate.

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I rise today hopefully above the rhetoric to deal with the facts of what Bill 136 is about.

Bill 136 is entitled the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, 1997, and in effect it's made up of two pieces of legislation. It's made up of the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997, and the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997.

As you know, the municipalities, the education sector and the hospital sector wanted this piece of legislation to deal with the transition they faced with their own sectors.

Mr Martin: That's why they voted against it yesterday.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Tascona: What they're dealing with is about 450,000 workers in these sectors.

There are two points I'd like to address through Bill 136. First of all, I think it introduces reality to public sector labour relations by requiring the public interest and not the union interest to be considered in resolving collective bargaining disputes.

I want to go right to the act and deal with it. The Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997, includes hospital employees under the arbitration provisions of the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act; police and civilian employees under the Police Services Act; firefighters under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997; and Ontario Provincial Police under the Public Service Act.

The proposed act amends these various pieces of legislation by providing that collective bargaining disputes go to the Dispute Resolution Commission for final and binding determination on the request of either the employer or the union. The only exception is if both parties agree in writing to waive the Dispute Resolution Commission process and use a board of arbitration instead under the previous legislative scheme.

Also, what's important about this legislation in terms of bringing reality to the labour relations process is that there are statutory criteria to be considered. The bill requires that in making its determination the commission consider the criteria contained in Bill 26, including the requirement to consider the employer's ability to pay. The commission is also required to consider the purposes of the act in deciding the wages and working conditions of the collective agreements. These purposes, which are contained in section 1 of the proposed act, include the requirement to have regard to "best practices that ensure the delivery of quality and effective public services that are affordable for taxpayers." Isn't that a novel idea?

The criteria are specifically included in the sections of the bill which address each of the employee groups; for example, firefighters, police, hospital employees and others.

The second part of the bill which I think is important is that it will ensure that essential public services are provided and are not interrupted in the hospital, municipal and education sectors through unions engaging in turf warfare.

I'd like to refer to the second major piece of the legislation proposed in Bill 136, the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997, which is aimed at the labour relation consequences of the restructuring presently taking place in the hospital, municipal and education sectors.

I'd like to point out that teachers, whose collective bargaining rights are now covered by the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act, Bill 100, are not covered by the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act. That's an important point.

Also, the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act establishes an entirely new regime, to be enforced by the new Labour Relations Transition Commission, for deciding all successorship matters, including bargaining unit composition and union representation, as well as new rules for deciding over a transitional period the continued applicability of collective agreements.

As my friends in the NDP know, and in the Liberal Party also, Bill 136 does not override existing collective agreements, some 3,300 of them out in the public sector. It also provides that successor rights are not overriden.

In essence, Bill 136 protects the public interest during the period of transition in the municipal, education and hospital sectors. The dispute resolution process not only provides a fair mechanism for employers and unions to settle their collective bargaining disputes, but like the private sector, imposes economic reality: the ability to pay. In essence, in the past it was, "We'll put a wage increase out for the public sector and increase the taxes." Well, property taxes are not something that can continually skyrocket. Also, Bill 136 adds the element of the unknown to negotiations that has resulted in more collective agreements being freely negotiated in the private sector, rather than in the public sector.

I say that Joe Taxpayer will not tolerate spiralling wage increases that directly result in increased property taxes. There must be accountability on the employers and the unions. I'll use the analogy: The private sector must consider consumers' ability to pay for their product, which is logical, and the public sector must be held to account by considering what Joe Taxpayer can afford or is able to pay. That's a really novel idea, to make sure the taxpayer isn't gouged every time there's a wage increase.


The status quo, which we're trying to change, is that you give a 2% wage increase and that automatically equates to a 2% tax increase. I say, for what? Do you get an increase in productivity? No. Do you get an increase in services? No. Do you get greater efficiency? No. Do you get better service? No. The current system provided by arbitrators is to give a wage increase just because Joe Taxpayer will pay. It protects their interests -- I'm talking about the arbitrators, not the public interest -- in getting the union to agree to them being hired in the next arbitration. The union interests plus the self-interest of arbitrators who are in the business to decide these disputes always overrides the public interest.

Bill 136 protects Joe Taxpayer from spiralling wage increases which will result in property tax increases, plus ensures that essential hospital, municipal, fire and police services are protected from union turf warfare.

Let's not forget who wanted this legislation: It was the municipal sector, the education sector and the hospital sectors. They wanted this bill to ensure the transition in the labour relations sector for the public service.

This government wants to work with unions and the public sector to get us from point A, which is a $100-billion debt plus an $11-billion deficit, to get us to point B, which is a balanced budget and the best hospital, municipal, fire and police services the taxpayer can afford.

As we all know, with respect to balanced budgets, the Liberals oppose our efforts to achieve a balanced budget. They're on record for that. But with the exception of the police unions, the other union leaders -- Mr Wilson, Mr Ryan -- won't meet, which is proof that when the union leaders have taken this position, they have no interest in Joe Taxpayer, they have no interest in the public interest and they have no interest in accountability with respect to their own actions.

I say to you, I support Bill 136 and I would urge the unions, with their leaders, to come and meet with the government to work with this bill, to make sure there are better public services, to make sure we have accountability in the services that are provided and to make sure we can balance the budget, which is all that taxpayers want.

We know the Liberals do not want the balanced-budget approach we're taking. I question whether they even want a balanced budget, based on the actions of their predecessors.

I support Bill 136 because it's good, sound labour relations sense and it ensures that we have a transition that will be effective.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments? The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: The member for Simcoe Centre talks about, "What a novel idea." I would say to him, what a novel idea to consult with people who would be the most affected. The Premier said many times that he would meet with the labour leaders: "Come on, sit down, we'll talk about it, just like I did with the doctors." He didn't have the guts to do it. He wouldn't meet with them.

You say, "We're prepared to meet with the labour leaders and to discuss some of these issues with them." That's absolute nonsense. When you talk about a balanced budget, and that we don't agree with your approach, you're darned right we don't agree with your approach. On one hand you cut and on the other hand you remove resources from the local level. This is one of them. You remove resources from the municipalities and then put the screws to them and provide the employers with tools to take advantage of contracts that are in place at the moment, to open them up. It's tilted totally in favour of the employers, and anybody who's in a position of being squeezed will see this as an attractive idea.

In spite of that, AMO passed a resolution yesterday. You're saying the municipalities are in favour of it. They're not in favour of it. They said, "You never consulted with us." Again, isn't that a novel idea, as you would suggest, to consult? There's no evidence of any real understanding of consultation. If you had, you'd consult with people. In the same way, you didn't consult with people on Bill 99 and the injured workers. The minister never met with injured workers and that bill is all about compensating people who are injured in the workplace.

Finally, he talks about a balanced budget. We don't agree with his particular approach because (1) I don't think he's going to achieve it, and (2) he's doing it at the expense of the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. The richest will be the biggest benefactors of all, according to these policies.

Mr Christopherson: The member for Simcoe Centre talks about the fact that successor rights are not stripped away in here. So what? The fact is, I don't see anything in here that prohibits any commissioner from being able to touch that part of a collective agreement, no matter what. Given the fact that you took them away from OPSEU in Bill 7 and you didn't talk about that in the campaign, it's nowhere in the Common Sense Revolution, you didn't tell anybody you were going to strip them of their rights to have the same benefits and wages and seniority when their jobs are privatized -- you talked about Bill 40.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Bill 40; remove Bill 40, that is all.

Mr Christopherson: Yes, you did, as the Minister of Agriculture is heckling from across the way. You did do that. As much as I disagree with it, you did talk about what you were going to do there. You did not talk about taking successor rights away from OPSEU members, virtually firing them and causing them to be unemployed when you privatized their jobs. That's exactly what will happen.

Under this Bill 136, it may not strip them away explicitly, but I'd like to hear the member point out to me where that cannot under any condition happen as a result of Bill 136, and the matter being referred to the commissioners.

As far as I can see in reading this -- and I stand to be corrected -- those commissioners have absolute power. Those commissioners are appointed, handpicked by the cabinet, Mike Harris's buddies. The decisions they make can't even be appealed to the courts. This is absolute and total power, and we have no doubt your intent is to gut these collective agreements, because you're hoping to see those jobs privatized too. Privatized jobs, when you do it, means lower pay, no security and God forbid anybody should have a union in the province under Mike Harris.

Mrs Marland: When we talk about what's in or out of agendas and campaign promises, yes, we had the Common Sense Revolution. The New Democratic Party had An Agenda for People, and there was nothing in the Agenda for People about stripping union rights, as they did with the social contract.

Mr Christopherson: Point of order, Mr Speaker: I will gladly debate my comments with the member for Mississauga South anywhere and any time she pleases, but as someone who's a stickler for the rules, she knows very well -- I can't get the microphone on.


Mr Christopherson: No, I'd like to make a point of order.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre has a point of order. He's correct; you're supposed to be commenting on the speech of the member for Simcoe Centre, not the comments made by the member for Hamilton Centre.


Mrs Marland: Mr Speaker, earlier today you stopped the clock when there was, in your opinion, an interruption from the other side of the House.

The Speaker: But I think his point of order was in fact in order.

Mrs Marland: Yes, but you stopped the clock earlier today not over a point of order. You used your own discretion to stop the clock when there was an interruption on this side of the House.

I don't mind sticking to the rules as long as they apply equally to everybody who responds in questions and comments, but that doesn't happen in this place. You know what does happen in this place? A whole lot of rhetoric that unfortunately confuses the public. But don't ever think that at the end of all of this the public won't understand what our government is about.

This is the transition stability act. It's a one-time act, and if you read it, it deals with one situation --

The Speaker: Order, member for Mississauga South.


The Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie, that comment is out of order. I ask you to withdraw. You must withdraw it from your own seat as well.

Mr Martin: I withdraw.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Bradley: Thank you for this opportunity that comes on the very same day that there is a wake for the closing of the London Free Press bureau here in Toronto, the Queen's Park bureau. As all members may know, with the downsizing and with the buyouts and so on at the London Free Press, more than 600 years of editorial and newsroom experience is being lost and yet another bureau is being closed.

When we look at this bill that we have before us, we find out it's going to receive not the same kind of coverage that you, Mr Speaker, and all members of the House will be concerned about. So we will be draping black over the Legislature because the Free Press bureau is being lost. The Speaker is wearing black to demonstrate that quite obviously today.

I found the member's remarks interesting, though predictable, unlike those of us on this side who are never predictable in what we're going to say. I found the defence of the government position extremely predictable, and I can't get over the fact that so many of the Conservatives are being critical of the NDP for imposing the social contract.

As I recall in this House, members of the Conservative Party voted for the social contract. You were supportive of it. When Bob Rae and the NDP brought in the social contract, I didn't hear anybody expressing concerns then about the abrogation of contracts. But now today, when there's another bill before the House, you keep mentioning the social contract, which I think is -- I can't use the word. Some people would have said "hypocritical," but the Speaker makes you withdraw that word. I just wonder why you're doing it.

The Speaker: I am aware that the member for Sault Ste Marie also used disparaging language about the Minister of Agriculture at that time. I ask you to withdraw that comment as well.

Mr Martin: I did and I withdraw.

The Speaker: Responses?

Mr Tascona: I'd just like to thank my colleagues for responding to my position with respect to Bill 136. I'd also like to respond to the member for Ottawa Centre that it's very interesting with respect to his approach to consensus and reaching agreement. He refers to the doctors. Certainly I would say that this government took a very responsible approach, a reasonable approach in terms of reaching a settlement in the public interest with the doctors. It's interesting that when the Liberal government was in power, the government of that day had a strike with the doctors. It's just unbelievable that they would be saying our approach is not reasonable. At this point in time, we're at second reading and basically we're going to be going through public hearings. We're listening and we're trying to meet with the union leaders, who have refused to meet.

The member for Ottawa Centre, buttressed by the member for St Catharines, has confirmed the Liberal approach. They're not interested in a balanced budget. They're interested in basically breaking down to whoever they can please and spending as much as they can. The Liberal Party is not interested in a balanced budget. We all know that.

With respect to the member for Hamilton Centre, I'm glad he admitted that successor rights were not affected by the legislation.

Mr Christopherson: I didn't say that.

Mr Tascona: There's no language in there taking away successor rights and he knows it. He also knows it would take express legislated language to take away the successor rights that are imbedded already in provincial legislation. So let's get to the facts and not fool around with what you're trying to prove here.

I would say in closing, with respect to the social contract, it was a fact that they overrode collective agreements. This legislation doesn't do anything of the sort. It basically keeps labour relations intact and protects the public interest.

Mr Bradley: I know there would be many issues to be canvassed on this if we weren't now relegated to only 20 minutes of debate on a bill which has such ramifications for the province.

What's going to happen now is that the government's going to be able to get its agenda through much more quickly at the very time when I hear Conservative members in the hallway, and read about them in the press, saying the government is moving too quickly, too recklessly in some cases, not looking at the ramifications of its actions. Here we have the Premier and his -- are you allowed to say "henchmen" any more? -- his advisers --

Interjection: Go ahead.

Mrs Marland: No, it's unparliamentary.

Mr Bradley: It's unparliamentary, my friend from Mississauga South tells me. I was back looking at the television set a while ago and there was a bit of a problem with it as Mrs Marland was on television with her ravishing new outfit and it was having an effect on the television camera. I'm told we're supposed to wear something plain, Margaret, in here.

I am again intrigued with how many Conservative members get up and berate the former government of Bob Rae, the NDP government, for implementing the social contract. The Liberal Party opposed that, but the Conservative Party today keeps talking about it, about the fact that the social contract was imposed on the public service. I don't know why you're doing that because you should be dealing with this piece of legislation. I intend to deal with this bill and not with a number of extraneous issues that I hear government members dealing with when they get up.

I was intrigued by the reaction at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention which is being held in Toronto. My observation in the past is that the Conservative Party and Conservative supporters have been well represented among that group of individuals which comes to Toronto. Knowing that many of them have been strong Conservative supporters in the past, I was flabbergasted that a resolution was passed by people who supposedly are going to benefit from this bill, people who are the employers in the public sector, a resolution which was not supportive of Bill 136. I would have anticipated that if the government had sold this to the municipalities as necessary and desirable, there would have been a good deal of support at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

The mayor of St Catharines, Mayor Alan Unwin, was concerned and expressed his concern at this meeting that the government is not moving forward with providing the necessary figures on the effects of downloading.

The member for Simcoe in his response indicated the other parties don't care about the budget, but here is a situation where we have a government which is forgoing almost $5 billion a year in revenue to give a tax break to the richest people in our society.

As all the members know, we have a circumstance where the government had an opportunity to meet those obligations to bring down the deficit. I kept hearing from all the people who were supporting the Conservatives, "The number one priority is bringing down the deficit," and yet here they are borrowing money to finance a tax cut, which benefits --

Mr Patten: At prime rates.


Mr Bradley: At prime rates, as my colleague from Ottawa Centre mentions, and therefore having the accumulated debt of the province increased. I know a lot of Conservatives who are concerned about this, Conservative economists who say to me: "I'm a Conservative in my approach. I thought the deficit was important and I can't believe this government is giving this income tax cut which will largely benefit the richest people in our society." If people were in the category of being multimillionaires and if they didn't have a social conscience, they might well say, "Well, that's okay," but even wealthy people with a social conscience would say, "Why don't we maintain those services?"

What is this bill about? This bill is about downloading. That's why this bill is necessary, because this government is disrupting and downloading. There are some people who initially will say: "I like the sound of this bill. We're getting some other group. It's time we got that group." I mean no disrespect or any particular allusion when I say this, but just as 50-some years ago there were people who said, "I'm not worried when some other group is being affected," and then when they were being affected said, "I should have been worried," I look at today and say that people out there are beginning to see that everyone is becoming a victim of the zealots in the Premier's office, those who are the revolutionaries, the true believers, the YPCs who at the conventions are more radical in terms of their right-wing conservatism than the regular Conservatives I've seen in this House.

My friend Noble Villeneuve is here today. I can't speak for him, but he will recall some of the people I will mention. I can't believe that Bob Welch, the long-serving and distinguished member for Lincoln and then St Catharines-Brock, would be the kind of person who would want to see this imposed on Ontario. While he was a Conservative and Tom Wells was a Conservative and our late friend Larry Grossman was a Conservative and Dennis Timbrell, all these people were Conservatives, they were moderate Conservatives; not even red Tories in some cases but moderate Conservatives. They would not move so radically, so quickly, so recklessly. They didn't let the YPCs, the Young Progressive Conservatives, the zealots push them into these positions: the people who are now filling the editorial boards of the Conrad Black papers across Ontario and this country, the people whose only experience is that they worked in either Mike Harris's office, the Conservative research office or the Reform Party office and then get jobs on the editorial boards of various places at the age of 20-something and have all the knowledge and wisdom that more senior members of this House are not reputed to have. I can't believe those people would be supporting Bill 136. It's an unnecessary piece of legislation. It's a confrontational piece of legislation.

People in the public sector are quite realistic as to what they're facing today. I'm talking about the rank and file out there. They're pretty certain that they're not going to be getting huge wage increases or major benefit increases at a time when governments are fighting deficits. They are not radicalized people; they are moderate people. When you talk to the rank and file out there, they are moderate people but they see this government as picking on them. You go after each group in our society. At the cabinet table, someone must come in with the jest, I say to my friend Mr Villeneuve, "Who haven't we annoyed today?" because the government seems to go out of its way to annoy various people.

This legislation, while not as radical as some other pieces of legislation, is not likely to gain much support among the general population when they see it is unnecessary. This bill will move through quickly. The government says it's going to listen. The experience has been that unless it has made some technical errors, the government doesn't listen. Guy Giorno in the Premier's office and Tom Long, outside adviser, are the people who make the real decisions in this government, and the rest of the people are here in the government benches simply to applaud, to laugh when the Premier tells a joke and to applaud everything the government does and to read the speeches prepared by the minions in the various ministries, the political advisers, the brain trust of the radical Harris regime.

That's my complaint with this legislation, that it's unnecessary, that it's unnecessarily confrontational. But some of those unelected people who advise the government want to pick a fight. They say: "We've fallen down in the polls. The way you get us back up in the polls is to pick a fight with somebody, somebody that we can make out the public won't like. When you do that, somehow you're going to win." That's not the way you build consensus in the province. When you think of what the Davis administration wanted to do, the Robarts administration, it was to build a consensus, to find a compromise acceptable to all. That's not good enough for the zealots. The zealots in the Harris regime will move forward, trampling the rights of the working people in this province, unnecessarily passing legislation to take away rights which had been won after many years, rights which by and large are not exercised frequently in this province.

I wonder why you're annoying the police. I met with Niagara Regional Police Force representatives. Many in the past have been supportive of this administration. They were beside themselves over the fact that the government would include them in this legislation. They felt they have their own legislation out there, that it's worked well, and they were hoping they wouldn't be included. They can't be bought off, either, simply by taking them out of this legislation, because now they see that others are affected by this bill and they are joining with those others who are affected across this province by the provisions of this bill.

I mention a few of them: the general municipal workers, those who are in libraries and transit, municipal police, fire, local social and health services, the non-teaching people in the school boards, the part-time teachers in school boards, the nurses and the non-nurse hospital staff -- all these people affected because this government is involved in many disruptive and unnecessary amalgamations and restructuring.

Where there is consensus -- and there has been sometimes in the province -- for an amalgamation, that makes sense, but an imposed amalgamation does not. The real losers ultimately will be the whole population of Ontario. When you have a discontented workforce, when you have employees out there who are no longer loyal because they see their rights being set upon by the government, they aren't going to be able to function as well as they have in the past. They won't have that enthusiasm they've always brought to the job. They won't have that commitment, the determination, to perform at their very peak capacity when they see that the government is taking away their rights.

Of course you'll be introducing companion legislation shortly to rein in the teachers as well in this circumstance. I know a lot of these people. By and large, they are not militant. They prefer to be working with children in the classroom and doing so in a non-confrontational way. But again the government will push them to the wall. We heard in the House today an answer to a question by my colleague the member for Fort William, the Liberal education critic, Lyn McLeod, that the government is going to embark on a $2-million advertising campaign, yet another advertising campaign.

While I am speaking of this, I wonder if anywhere in here it talks about the Province of Ontario Savings Office, which you are bound and determined, apparently, to privatize. I think you should leave them alone. They're a success. But when I see you embarking upon legislation of this kind, I have to ask myself: What is next? What is going to happen next? Who will be the next victim of Mike Harris and his revolutionaries?

Under the new rules, whoever it is will have that legislation pushed through this House in record time, with less accountability because you've shoved question period back to seventh place. I worry very much about this. I wish I could continue this, but I see we have to rush off. We will be back, Mr Speaker, as you know, tonight at 6:30, and be counting that as another legislative day so that the trains will run on time. The revolutionaries will like it, but I suspect some of the really cautious, thoughtful people in the government caucus will be concerned about that, and so they should be.

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

The House adjourned at 1800.