36th Parliament, 1st Session

L226b - Tue 9 Sep 1997 / Mar 9 Sep 1997



The House met at 1830.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading 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 / Projet de loi 152, Loi visant à améliorer les services, à accroître l'efficience et à procurer des avantages aux contribuables en éliminant le double emploi et en redistribuant les responsabilités entre le gouvernement provincial et les municipalités dans divers secteurs et visant à mettre en oeuvre d'autres aspects du programme «Qui fait quoi» du gouvernement.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill 152 because it of course has quite a substantial impact on a number of areas of health care and as the health critic for the NDP I have very, very serious concerns about the effect of those changes.

One of the things this government has heard again and again about the download of services is the way in which it interferes with some of the other major policy directions of the government. That is very true in Bill 152. This government has spent a good deal of its time and energy, and its political capital, on the restructuring of the health care system, and so for it to be making some of the changes it is making in Bill 152, particularly to ambulance services and to the public health services, is really quite a serious error and one we want to bring to the attention of this government.

It is very clear that in taking on the task of trying to restructure the health care system the government has discovered how complex it is. When the minister came to speak to us at estimates, he himself said that when he embarked on this he had no idea it was going to be as difficult as it has appeared to be to make some of the changes, for example, to the primary care system, to the whole way in which we can be sure that every individual in Ontario has access on a 24-hour-a-day basis to the kind of medical care that's necessary.

I think one of the most important aspects of health care restructuring is the need to provide integrated services, services that fill the full spectrum of needs of the population and that will provide coverage no matter where someone lives or what the circumstances may be that bring them into contact with the health system. Sometimes that will simply be needing a checkup to ensure the person's well. In other cases, it may involve concern around a communicable disease. In other cases, it may be an emergency situation. But the whole purpose of talking about an integrated health system is to be sure that it works as a system and works together.

The one thing I would agree with the Minister of Health on is that very often we today, although we have many services, don't always offer those services in as integrated a way as we should. So it's incumbent on all of us, when we're looking at changes to our current system, that they be positive changes. But when I look at Bill 152 and see some of the changes here, I get very concerned that the government is working against its own goal of providing a restructured and integrated health care system.

Let's look at the whole issue of the download of ambulance services and what that really means. We know that as we close hospitals across this province; as we begin to discover what it means in the rural and northern health care policy to have available urgent care on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week; when we look at the necessity to consolidate into units of excellence some of the services that have been scattered across a number of hospitals and may not have had the body of expertise that comes from doing the same procedure, working in the same area all the time, what we are doing is creating the need for more ambulance services. Some of those will be urgent ambulance services, emergency services, and some will simply be transport services.

What the government is doing at the very time that it is putting pressure on public confidence around ambulance services is to download those on to municipalities, to download at what the minister keeps trying to convince everyone is a cost-neutral basis. But when we look at the increase in a service like ambulance service when these hospitals close, when their services are changed, it is very disturbing because we know there will be a greater need for more ambulance trips simply because of what is happening in the rest of the restructuring process.

As municipalities, we are taking on to the property tax a very growing area of health care, an area that's absolutely essential if we are to keep people's confidence in the health care system as it reconstitutes itself under restructuring. Every member here who comes from a northern or rural area knows that the really basic concern that people in rural areas have is whether when they have an emergency -- a farm accident, a heart attack, a stroke, a respiratory failure, a kidney failure -- there is going to be an immediate ambulance response that will get that person to the appropriate location of care for the particular concern.

Because 90% of our ambulance services now are delivered by people who have paramedic training, either level 1 or level 2 paramedic training, we have become used to ambulance services that have well-trained ambulance attendants, well-trained professionals who can assist us when we are in an emergency situation on our way to the hospital facility.

In this bill, there is no requirement for municipalities to continue to provide ambulance services that have paramedical expertise -- absolutely none. What is more, as all of us heard here in the House, the minister refuses to even guarantee that the ministry will continue to pay for paramedical training. It currently pays for the paramedical training on the basis that this is something that ought to be available to all Ontarians.

What we are doing in this bill is taking an ambulance service that has tended to work quite well, because of the leadership of the Ministry of Health -- because the Ministry of Health has been very much involved in ensuring that whether ambulance services were being offered through public sector or private sector deliverers there was a set of standards that needed to be met and that the training was guaranteed by the government.

When we see a download on to the municipalities and a fragmentation of that system to an even greater extent than is true now -- it is somewhat fragmented now because it is offered by different providers in different places -- instead of making it a completely unified system, as was suggested by the Swimmer report years ago, so that we could be sure that system was uniform and the standards were uniform across the province, this government has chosen to download on to the municipalities a growingly expensive part of the health care system, with no guarantees around the kind of service that's going to be delivered. They will tell you that it's going to be in the regulations, but the regulations can be changed from time to time.


When we see the download of an important service like this on to a municipal tax base, at the same time we hear again and again from municipalities that this whole download exercise is going to force them either to raise taxes or to reduce services, we all should be concerned. Ambulance services should not be at the mercy of the taxing power of a municipality. It simply isn't the appropriate way to go for a government that says it's going to guarantee integrated health services. It is foolish to expect that there could be any kind of uniform expectation about the delivery of ambulance services under those circumstances.

We are extremely concerned that the quality of services is not required, is not mandated by this bill; that the training of ambulance attendants is not mandated by this bill; that the length of time for emergency responses, even within a range, is not mandated by this bill.

When we are in the process of closing emergency departments and closing hospitals, this creates fear in the heart of the citizens of Ontario. We're not creating that fear; it's there already. As soon as a neighbourhood hears that it may not have its local emergency department, fear arises. It's the job of the government to be focusing its energies on making sure that those fears are not there, that they are groundless. Instead of that, this government not only closes emergency departments and hospitals but now it is downloading the responsibility for the very emergency response that could make the difference in public acceptance about hospital restructuring. That's a shame.

The other issue here is that already we are seeing some changes in our ambulance services because the standards are not high enough as it is. In my own municipality, where the local provider of ambulance services has decided to strip a number of ambulances of their emergency function and have them be patient transport vehicles alone, we have on numerous occasions not seen sufficient ambulance coverage for the kind of events that have occurred in our neighbourhood. We have seen waiting times increase for very traumatic incidents on the 401, for example, because the number of ambulances, given this change in service delivery, has created some problems.

We see municipalities that are clear that they are going to be strapped for cash. Given the kind of problems they're facing, they've been very clear about their concerns about their ability to protect essential services at the very time we see this government downloading on to those municipalities the services that are so important to ensuring our health care.

The other issue is the public health units. We have certainly seen, in the fiasco that has occurred in Hamilton around the Plastimet explosion and fire, the importance of having an independent medical officer of health. This government is almost convicted out of the mouths of its own ministers because when the requests for a public inquiry were being made they kept saying, "The medical officer of health doesn't say we need one, so we don't need one." But when the medical officer of health finally agreed that it was necessary to have a public inquiry, this government chose to ignore that.

What do we see happening to public health units in Bill 152? We see some very ominous changes. We see changes that may call into question the independence of medical officers of health. It is particularly of concern that the whole area of the bill in section 7, which amends the duties and the reporting responsibilities of the medical officer of health, changes, or has the potential to change, quite substantially the current role of the medical officer of health.

Medical officers of health are seen as the public servants who are there without the pressures of elected office, without the pressures from the ministry bureaucracy, without the pressures of the CEOs of great big hospitals. They have an independence that allows them to look at the epidemiology of situations; that allows them to look at the overall health promotion and prevention that goes on in the community; that enables them, and in fact under the current act requires them, to have a knowledge of occupational and environmental effects on health; and to be in a very independent position around making orders under their act to ensure the health of the population.

Currently in the act as it is now, subsection 67(1) states, "The medical officer of health of a board of health is the executive officer of the board." That means that the medical officer of health has a clear role to play on the public health board. They have a leadership role, an executive role on that board. Subsection 7(1) of this bill amends that by adding to that sentence "unless exempted by the regulations." What this means is that by regulation the lieutenant-governor in council, the cabinet, of any successive government can make regulations that substantially impact upon the role of the medical officer of health as the executive officer of a public health board.

There are those who might not see this as being particularly urgent, but I will say to you that the public health function of medical officers of health has often been a position that has required the medical officer of health to take very unpopular public decisions, to require municipalities to take actions that municipalities may not wish to take, for the protection of the health of the population of the area. That's the job of the medical officer of health, and if we look at the history of the growth of public health units and the growth of the whole public health movement, we know that's important. Anything that impacts on that possibility is a problem.

Let me just go on with 67(2) of the act. It states, "The employees of and the persons whose services are engaged by a board of health are subject to the direction of and are responsible to the medical officer of health of the board." That's the current act. But this bill, in subsection 7(2) adds "if their duties relate to the delivery of public health programs or services." What does that mean? Does that mean that the public health inspectors, those people who have a lot of contact with people in the field, might not be under the direction of the medical officer of health? We don't know. It isn't clear at all.

Subsection 67(3) of the act currently says, "The medical officer of health of a board of health is responsible to the board of health for the management and administration of the health programs and services and business affairs of the board." Subsection 7(3) of this bill amends that by adding "unless exempted by the regulations." What does that mean? Is the medical officer of health in charge, or is he or she not? Clearly this government is giving itself the power to change substantially the duties, the responsibilities and the accountability of medical officers of health.


There is section after section in this bill that this government will try to paint to the population of Ontario as innocuous. They will simply say, "Oh, it's all going to be exactly the same; it's just that the municipalities are going to have to pay for it now." What this government forgets is that municipal leaders, locally elected municipal leaders, often have a bit of a conflict of interest when it comes to decisions between areas of public health and areas of economic growth.

We have seen situations in many jurisdictions where the locally elected politicians, eager to bring in business, eager to have the economic growth they envision for their area, may not pay attention to environmental health issues to the same extent we would like to see, and we all know of those. We know, for example, of situations around landfill sites. We know of situations around safety of water and sewage.

Particularly, we have to have some empathy for those people who are going to be in local office with the kind of horrific download this government is doing on to the property tax base, for the crucible of decision-making that is going to have to be there, and we cannot afford to have medical officers of health in any way less independent than they are now. We simply cannot. Nor can we afford to see our ambulance services in that kind of a situation.

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

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): It's always a pleasure to rise and comment on the thoughts of the member for London Centre. She made a comment that ambulance service should not be subject to the taxing power of the municipalities. I wonder at this paranoia we seem to have that municipalities will not act responsibly. They are the closest to the people. I have not seen any information since my involvement with municipalities that would suggest that they are not every bit as responsible to the wellbeing of their taxpayers as we are as a provincial government.

London is already experiencing difficulties, as the member for London Centre said. They are experiencing difficulties with their service delivery under the old system, and I read about it in the papers there. I wonder whether, if they were under the new system where the municipality was paying the bill, the municipality, being closer to the people, would be able to step in and solve that particular problem. She's justifying a system that currently does not seem to be working very well in her particular area.

As far as public health goes, she argues that the medical officer of health should continue to be the executive officer of the board. In our community of Chatham-Kent, we are seriously short of doctors. The time of one of our doctors is totally taken up with being the executive officer of the board of health. I maintain that what we need from that doctor, who is trained, is his expertise in medical health for the protection of our taxpayers. We do not need his expertise as an executive, because we could hire an executive to do that same job and free him up to take care of sick people. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't do as they have done in many regions of our province: allow somebody other than a very precious doctor to serve as the executive officer of the board of health and let that doctor get on with taking care of sick people, which is what we as taxpayers paid to train him to do.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'd like to comment on the remarks made by the member for London Centre. I think her remarks showed her experience and her wisdom. She wasn't ranting and raving and dumping on the government, but pointing out in conclusive terms very convincing, persuasive arguments that I hadn't considered and that certainly persuade me to rethink and see with a little more insight some of the implications that are not just economic but may have been indeed motivated -- and I believe that is the motivation behind this bill, because almost every time you get into looking at the implications, they have programmatic implications, they have service implications. But the chief value that drives this particular bill is obviously economic, dumping services on to the municipalities and cutting corners and providing opportunities for municipalities to cut corners, when we know full well that in spite of their own desire not to do so, they will be pressed to the wall to utilize, will be forced to take some measures that will cut corners.

The member's point related to the independence of the chief medical officer. It's a profoundly serious point, one that has great importance in the dynamics of a local community. I concur with her. Believe me, in my own community I've seen the medical officer stand up when the council was silent and point out that the municipality had to institute a certain program to deal with a health hazard or to deal with some kind of calamity. That's an excellent point and I congratulate the member for her speech.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): The member for London Centre approaches this from the very methodical and thought-out process about what this means to our communities. It always strikes me that both in government and in opposition Mrs Boyd, the member for London Centre, has always been quite thoughtful about the comments she makes in this Legislature.

She makes the point well, and the government needs to understand this, that although you may be driven by economic reasons, which we can argue about at another time, to download all these responsibilities on to municipalities -- I will talk later in my speech about how I believe it's not strictly the economics that are driving you -- it's a fundamental belief that you don't believe in a lot of these public services and you're trying to offload them on to municipalities so they can fail, they can go into crisis and then you can simply get rid of them and have the municipalities do that for you.

The member for London Centre raises quite well some of the issues, the questions that have to be asked. If, for example, in the case of ambulances you were to say the province will no longer deliver ambulance services and we move to download those on to municipalities, how do we assure ourselves that there are provincial standards as to what is required of ambulance operators, in this case the municipalities? The government will say, "We're trying to do that in legislation." The reality is that if the municipalities haven't got the bucks, they're going to be rattling at the finance minister's door and at the door of the Minister of Health, saying, "We're not going to follow whatever standards you put in place because we haven't got the bucks."

The second point is, what about the level of service? How will the people in Atikokan or Kapuskasing or Timmins compare ambulance services to communities such as London or Windsor or Toronto? There will be no ability on the part of the province to say that there need to be comparable levels of service across the province if you say the municipalities are responsible for not only delivering the service but paying the bill, because the municipalities in the end will say: "We haven't got the money. You've got no business to tell us what to do and we will do what we please."

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I want to compliment the member for London Centre on her remarks this evening. She knows what she's talking about, there's no question about that.

I want to focus on the remarks she made related to the downloading of public health on our communities. It's a great concern all across the province. Specifically in Thunder Bay there is one particular program -- actually in northern Ontario, because I know the members in Sudbury have expressed concern about this -- and that is the genetic counselling services which are now provided fully by the Ministry of Health. These are extraordinarily important services that need to be maintained. With the pressures being put on the municipalities to remove genetic counselling services and the ability to provide them in northern Ontario, it would truly be a dreadful thing.

I've received correspondence and spoken to the medical officer of health for the city of Thunder Bay and Thunder Bay district, Dr David Williams, who has written to me. Heather Lebel, who is the area representative for the Huntington Society of Canada has written to me expressing great concern, and she certainly has family experience in terms of the value of the genetic counselling services, how important they are. Sheleigh McMillan from the Easter Seal Society has added her voice to the concerns and to the need that genetic counselling services must be maintained by the province. It is but one element of the downloading of public health that's causing a great deal of concern.

People don't realize the value and importance of this service and how many areas of health it crosses in terms of preparing people for the future. The technological advances are there.

If I may also note, Ms Linda Spooner, Ms Cathy Gillies and Ms Jan Scheween from the genetic counselling services at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have expressed their concerns as well.

The downloading of public health is simply wrong. I think everybody recognizes that; I think the minister does as well. In Hansard he actually said he would look after that, when I was speaking on a previous bill. I hope the minister is true to his word.

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


Mrs Boyd: I'd like to thank the members for Chatham-Kent, Ottawa Centre, Cochrane South and Port Arthur for their kind remarks.

One of the most important things we can do when we are debating a bill like this is to try and alert people to the implications that are often hidden within seemingly innocuous language. This is one of those bills that is very important for us to look at carefully, because it has a lot of detail in it, and the devil is indeed in the detail of most of these things. Not only are these little, minor changes that seem to be being made of much greater impact than people suspect, but they also have hidden within them opportunities for other changes, including regulatory change that doesn't need to come to this place and will not necessarily be fully explained to people.

I get the sense all the time that when we are talking about accountability in terms of public services, this government is somehow trying to set us up against municipal councillors. The member for Chatham-Kent tried to suggest that we're casting aspersions on the integrity and the goodwill of municipal council members. That is not the case.

What we are saying is that this government is downloading responsibility after responsibility on to municipalities that are supposed to carry them out on a tax base that is not adequate to do those services, and the services they are downloading are very clearly services where the financial impact is growing with time, not lessening.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'm pleased to join in the debate this evening on Bill 152. I appreciate in this evening session the very calm tone and the interesting debate on the aspects of the bill and the pros and cons of how we should proceed in terms of municipal restructuring and the direction of health care in Ontario.

I appreciate also the comments of the member for London Centre, who made an interesting presentation. Sitting close to the member for Chatham-Kent, I've grown to very much respect his opinion as well. You see quite a difference in philosophies in terms of how municipalities operate and whether municipalities will adhere to tough provincial standards that we will be maintaining for public health and for ambulance services.

You hear the theme from this side of the floor that municipalities and municipal councillors are very responsive to what their constituents have to say. Sometimes you hear an opposite argument from across the floor, that they will sweep aside the concerns of the residents of their municipalities, their wards, going all out at breakneck speed in favour of big business and expansion. I do not share that opinion.

If you sit on the social implementation committee with Jack Carroll, the member for Chatham-Kent, when he sits there with Terry Mundell, the past president of AMO -- who has taken a very reasonable stance to the approach to this issue, to work with the province in determining how the Who Does What will be best delivered by municipalities and by the provinces -- you can see that the municipalities, through AMO, are very keen. I would say very strongly that they will adhere to tough standards to make sure these programs are delivered at the same level as they are today or better. We on that committee have heard a strong commitment from the municipalities to deliver these programs.

Another comment: The term "inside baseball" comes to mind. I've spent a lot of time in this chamber debating, is it proper for this level to pay this much, 80-20, 50-50, 40-60; who enforces the standards; what mechanism will there be to make sure those standards are adhered to; what are the penalties or the reprisals? But in that kind of inside baseball the idea of what the game means or what's going to happen under this exchange of services gets lost for the average taxpayer. It has two important effects. I'll address how the health aspects of the bill fit into those two effects.

For example, one thing that frustrates taxpayers to no end is the idea of finger-pointing. My constituents or the residents of my ward encounter, whether it's a municipal official or a provincial official, the idea of finger-pointing: "It's not my responsibility; it's the province's responsibility. You go talk to your MPP." Then the taxpayer would go to their MPP and their MPP would say: "Listen, the municipality is supposed to do that. You go back to your councillor, to your mayor, to your reeve, what have you. It's their fault."

I know taxpayers find that tremendously frustrating. In the Who Does What framework we're going to go from 12 types of services that fell into that finger-pointing, that were delivered by two levels of government, two levels of management, duplication, and that ability of politicians who wanted to shirk off accountability and responsibility and 12 different services could say: "Go to the other person. It's not my fault; it's somebody else's."

One of the main purposes of this exercise is to make sure that taxpayers, who pay all the bills, whether it's provincial, federal or municipal, will know where the buck stops, who has the responsibility. who has the accountability. That's one of the main premises of this exercise.

The other important thing is breaking down silos, where you may have several different levels of the provincial government delivering different services but not working together. You get the runaround where you call one office and they say: "We don't deliver that program," or that part of that program. "You call the other office." So the poor taxpayer, if they can figure out whether it's provincial or municipal, then has to figure out what department they should be reporting to. I know from dealing with this in my office over the past few years that it can be tremendously frustrating for the average hardworking Ontarian who doesn't have much time to chase after loose ends and make all kinds of phone calls and leave all kinds of voice mail messages.

When you look in particular at the public health aspect of this bill, the public health programs will be delivered at the municipal level in future. Sure, we're going to have very high, very tough provincial standards to make sure the standards we currently have are adhered to. The municipalities have committed to achieving those standards. They're very confident they can do so. In fact, I think the municipalities will target even higher. They can say, "We can do better than we're doing now if you give us the wherewithal to go about that exercise."

Instead of getting the runaround in terms of the silo issue, we will be delivering at the municipal level programs like social housing together with public health and the administration and management of Ontario Works. In these programs that may affect a lot of the same people in communities across Ontario they can get one-stop shopping. Instead of worrying about the different silos at the provincial level, making those calls to voice mail in Toronto, they can locally, in their communities, with responsible and responsive municipal councillors, get action on their concerns from a variety of programs that can be provided at the same level, instead of getting the runaround.

Ambulances also fit into that. We will be enabling municipalities now to have three types of emergency response. Most municipalities currently do police and firefighting in Ontario. The third component of emergency response obviously is ambulances. Under the changes in this exercise, ambulances will be delivered in concert with police and firefighters to achieve efficiencies, so that they can be called out about the same time, so that they can equally respond to issues, whoever is the best one to respond to a particular dilemma.

It makes a lot of sense in terms of breaking down these silos and enabling municipalities to deliver these services in concert, together, efficiently. Now the local taxpayers are going to know and understand fully where the buck stops, who has accountability for these types of services. They will know they will get the best service for their scarce tax dollars.

That addresses the service aspect of Bill 152, to make sure we get the best service coordinated at the local level and at the same time to end this finger-pointing that's endlessly frustrating local taxpayers, so they know who is responsible for the service, who is paying for it, who is administering it.


While that's being done under that exchange of services, the province, through the Ministry of Health, has a very strong commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards. The standards that currently exist will be enforced at the municipal level. We want to ensure that high-quality care continues.

For example, in terms of ambulances, the province will continue to run the ambulance dispatch centres. In the Niagara area it's very common for an ambulance to cross municipal boundaries in taking people to the hospital where they can receive the best care for their particular ailment. The province will continue to run the dispatch centres to make sure the ambulance that is closest to the individual who is in danger will get there right away, as quickly as possible, and deliver them to the hospital that can best treat them. Through dispatch, we can ensure the best technology is available to get to the patients as quickly as possible, irrespective of municipal boundaries.

I want to say this too: I reject categorically the idea that a municipality, in the interest of saving a few bucks, is going to perhaps hire a shady operator or do a shady job of delivering ambulance services. I wouldn't enter into that type of debate, because I believe municipal councillors are very responsive and will look out for the average taxpayer and make sure they get the best possible health care.

Some members across the floor insist that municipal councillors are slovenly, aren't that concerned with delivering these services. To enter that debate, to say, "What if they shirked their responsibility for ambulances or they hired a shady operator?" this bill makes it very clear that the Minister of Health retains the ability to go in there if they are not meeting the standards and to make sure those standards are enforced, to put in somebody to deliver those services and to bill back the municipality. There is a very strong commitment coming through in terms of enforcing and monitoring the ambulance services so that standards are adhered to for such things as the vehicles, the different equipment and the qualifications of paramedics.

If the opposition's nightmare happens, to take a little scenario that a municipality decides to ignore the concerns of their constituents and to deliver a shoddy service, the ministry and the province have the ability to go in there and make sure the proper operator is running that service up to the high provincial standards, among the best standards in North America.

We can also talk about the arrangements for public health in a similar vein. I talked earlier about the fact that there is a lot of finger-pointing, different levels of payment. Currently the province pays about 75% and the municipalities 25%, except in Toronto, where it's 40% province, 60% municipality. As I said, what this leads to is a lot of finger-pointing, saying: "We don't control that part of the budget. They're three quarters of a dollar; you should blame them." Or the province could say: "It's their 25 cents on the dollar that they're not coming through with. You should blame the municipality."

By putting it all on one level -- the responsibility, the funding --

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): Accountability.

Mr Hudak: -- we can ensure that there is, as the member for Brantford says, accountability for the public health services.

Once more, if it so happens in the Chicken Little scenario across the floor that a municipality decides not to deliver a public health program, the province can step in and make sure the program is delivered right away, can react quickly to maintain that strict monitoring function and to continue to enforce the tough standards we have for health care in the province and to respond to the constituents.

Again, my view is that municipal councillors are very responsive, very reactive to what's going on in their communities and in fact will usually hear about things before we do. I try to depend to a large extent on municipal councillors in my riding of Niagara South -- in Fort Erie or Port Colborne or Wainfleet -- to let me know what they've heard, and we can share information back and forth. I find they tend to be on the ball quite often. A couple of issues coming to the forefront in debates locally in my riding show a quick response of the municipality to what the people are saying.

I have confidence that municipalities will be able to deliver with high, tough provincial standards such things as chronic disease prevention -- that means prevention of heart disease, cancer, prevention of injuries, work on infectious disease control, including sexually transmitted diseases, vaccine-preventable diseases and such -- and also an area that municipalities are currently delivering and will continue to deliver and now taxpayers will know where to go, if they suggest improvements in that plan: family health, including child health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health.

Those programs will adhere to tough, rigorous, province-wide standards, with the ministry watching closely and monitoring to make sure they are adhered to. But my philosophy and the philosophy I often hear on this side of the floor, sometimes shared over there but not as often as I would like to see, is that municipal councillors react and do their best and utmost to respond to the concerns of their constituents and will deliver these programs quite well.

Furthermore, in a couple of areas the province will continue to deliver, as I said, the monitoring of the standards and overall disease surveillance across the province to keep a close eye on what's going on in various municipalities, seeing if there are connections between the two. The expertise that the ministry has developed in these areas can be used in consultation or in support of the municipalities as we're going through this transition process.

Furthermore, some time ago we announced, for example, the immunization for pneumococcal disease. We'll continue to provide vaccines for immunization programs. As well there was the recent announcement in the budget, Healthy Babies, Healthy Children, another program that we're standing by and that will continue to be provided at the provincial level.

I have to say again that sometimes we get caught in that debate in terms of the "inside baseball" arguments and what this means for the average taxpayer out there is that now they are going to know where the buck stops. I've used that expression a few times and I'll use it once more. They'll know whether to go to their municipal councillor if they have a particular concern about a program or a suggestion for improving it, or just a question. They'll know for what services to go to their provincial representative. Then they can stand there, and if there's somebody who tires to shirk his or her responsibility by saying, "It's the other guy, not me. Don't blame me, it's somebody else," they can call him on the spot and say no.

The provincial government under Mike Harris has aligned the services so that accountability will exist in the future, so that I as a taxpayer will know who is responsible for delivering what type of service. I know if somebody gives me that line, "It's the other guy's fault," or, "Go see him," I'll be able to call them on the spot and say: "No, you're responsible. I put you in office. You're the one who has accountability for this project." This makes government make sense for once.

I can say with confidence that the municipalities will be able to deliver ambulance services in conjunction with the other emergency departments, fire and police, for a high-quality emergency response. Secondly, in terms of the public health standards, the province will be keeping a close eye on the municipalities to make sure they adhere to these standards.

But in the discussions in the implementation committees, in the discussions with AMO, the municipalities rejected strongly and categorically any indication or suggestion that they would try to back away from the standards. They believe in tough standards, they feel they can reach those standards and, importantly, they believe they can reach those standards efficiently, at good value to the taxpayer, and they're ready to take accountability for those services.

I should speak too, while I have a couple of moments, of some of the progress we've made in health care in this bill and in other areas of health care policy. I think we'll have a better ambulance system in terms of integrating that with other emergency responses while maintaining dispatch at the provincial level. I think you're seeing some results from health care restructuring in Ontario. Yes, we inherited a system where 9,000 beds had been closed across the province, but closed haphazardly. You could walk through many hospitals throughout Ontario and find empty wards with dust in the halls, and tumbleweeds and such, but you would still have the same level of administration in place, you would still have the six-figure administrators and their army of support staff running that hospital.

Often you'd find there was a competition in the health care system instead of cooperation, where they would compete for a particular type of machine. Some would raise one half of the value, another hospital would raise the other half, not enough would. They would not come together and cooperate so they could each share one machine, but instead compete and find no MRIs, for example, in that area. On the topic of MRIs, you probably know that we've increased the number of MRIs, in fact tripled them, to 35.


In terms of rationalizing, bringing hospitals together, restructuring to take out that dead space, the empty wards, the empty beds, to cut down on some of the six-figure administrative salaries, we put them back into front-line services, things like 35 MRI machines, increased home care services for 80,000 people.

I remember one of the first things in office as the new MPP for Niagara South: A gentleman in my riding came to me because under the health care system of the previous government -- not to cast aspersions -- he couldn't get a heart operation, a cardiac surgery in Ontario. He could, but he'd have to wait months and months. What he chose to do was he went to the States. They found he was in a very difficult and very precarious, dangerous position and he got the operation done there. Luckily, he lived near the border. He was able to access those services at that time, but can you imagine what it was like to live for months on a waiting list with that kind of ticker in your heart, wondering when that time bomb would go off?

One of the reinvestments we've made by savings in administration and bringing hospitals together and getting those excess empty wards out of the system has been 1,500 more cardiac surgeries in a year, so 1,500 more constituents like this gentleman, instead of having to wait for the time bomb in one's heart or having to go to another country for services, could get that health care in Ontario.

Yes, we've made some changes in health care, but at the same time, as the member for Brantford said, we're seeing some progress. Cardiac care is one; kidney dialysis is another; more money into home care, MRI machines, women's health care; more into breast cancer detection, research and prevention.

You're seeing a government that has its priorities straight in health care, a government that's courageous enough to make the necessary changes that were left on the back burner for far too long, a government that's not afraid to make change, but change that makes sense, priorities that make sense, to give key services needed for so long.

Acquired brain injury is another one. Bringing those patients who were in the States back home to Niagara makes sense. It's great for Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Patten: Let me congratulate the member for Niagara South. I think he's one of the few government members who has utilized the full time available. If you'll recall, one of the great concerns in dealing with the rule changes in this House had to do with, "We want to be heard. We want our constituents to know that we're speaking up on issues," yet you're one of the few members from the government side who has utilized the full amount of time.

Now let's talk about the content. I would take no exception to your idea that the provincial government will be tough in terms of its standards, its regulations. Some people would say that it's really a thirst for centralizing power and control but not accepting the accountabilities related to the resources required to do the job at current program quality levels. That's what is the big concern of all.

You said that this side doesn't have the same kind of respect as you might for municipalities. I don't think that's the issue at all. We have the same respect for people at the municipal level who are concerned. What I hear is that they have major concerns. They will be facing service cutbacks because they're going to be squeezed into a corner. They won't have the same resources, so it's not just saying, "Here's the program." You're saying: "Here's the program, but you have less resources. We are now taking away resources and money we used to put with this program. It's in you bailiwick. It's in your area of responsibility." That's what they're saying.

You said this legislation was, in good part, in response to Who Does What, and that's true in some aspects, but I would remind you that David Crombie came back from a holiday or a trip out of town and spoke quite eloquently and vehemently about not taking social housing and placing that on property tax. It didn't make sense. If you're going to do that, leave it as it is right now.

Mr Bisson: It was a truly interesting presentation that the member for Niagara South gave; truly interesting. He makes a couple of arguments. He argues that the taxpayers, the citizens of this province, are not able to figure out who does what when it comes to the delivery of services within municipalities or the province. He talks about it's like inside baseball kind of language.

Listen, I've got a lot more confidence in the taxpayers of this province to be able to figure out who in the end pays for a particular service. If they live in a municipality, wherever it be, in Ontario, I think that most citizens of this province are intelligent enough to figure it out. For you to suggest otherwise shows that you don't have a lot of respect for the citizens in this province and their ability to figure out what it is that governments do. I find that quite a strange argument.

The other argument he puts forward, and he talked about it with a certain amount of pride, is that he had a constituent in his riding because he lives in Niagara next to the States who had a bad ticker, as he put it, and he fixed his problem. He went to the States and he paid and he got his problem fixed. If you think that Ontarians in this province, first, can afford to do that and, second, would even think of doing that, you're very much wrong. First of all, most Ontarians couldn't afford to pay the $50,000 to $100,000 that it would cost to get bypass surgery done in the United States, nor should we, quite frankly, as a province even suggest that that is a reasonable remedy for the problem.

The waiting lists have been increasing steadily because there are more and more problems within our society as people are living longer and longer and needing bypass surgery, but your government has fallen quite short in being able to reduce waiting lists. We're seeing waiting lists in northeastern Ontario rise to the point that people are literally dying before they get in for bypass surgery. For the member opposite to try to suggest that somehow you've made this better I think is at best a stretch of the imagination.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I would like to comment on the speech made by the fine young member from Niagara South, who has always impressed me with his dedication. I think he brings a bright perspective. I also think he's refreshing in that he's one of the few members here who actually provides a sincere speech when he stands. It isn't just a matter of rhetoric, but he dealt quite sincerely with the issues in Bill 152, particularly the issue of accountability.

I think it was accountability more than anything that the member for Niagara South was talking about when he talked about the specifics of some of the particular services that are being shared currently and that there is considerable confusion. I certainly take the view there is considerable confusion on the part of the taxpayer as to what level of government is responsible and which politician is accountable for the service if it's not being provided properly. It's very common for constituents to come and see me in my constituency office and not know that they're dealing with a federal matter or with a municipal matter. I think part of our job is to point out to them who is responsible for the service and part of our job also is to try and help the person, even if the responsibility doesn't necessarily fall on our shoulders.

In the comments that the member for Niagara South made I particularly thought it was important for him to deal with the finger-pointing and the attempt that Bill 152 is trying to make to bring an end to the finger-pointing so that there is a simpler exchange of the services between the local level and the provincial level. Particularly in his comments about the ambulance service and the way that the provincial interest in that service would be dealt with, I thought he dealt with that very plainly and in a way that people can understand.

I want to congratulate the member for a very clear speech.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm shocked and surprised that the member would not be aware of the regional municipality of Niagara, which has probably on its council a majority of Conservatives who have indicated clearly that there will be millions of dollars in terms of money which must be made up as a result of the downloading exercise. Of course those people will then be forced into the position not of being the happy warriors who can hand money over to the wealthiest people in the province by means of a provincial income tax cut, but they will have to break the bad news that there's going to be a substantial increase in property taxes or that there are going to have to be even more drastic cutbacks in services. We recognize rich people usually don't need those services, but modest-income people do.

Alternatively, there are going to have to be user fees imposed, and when those user fees are imposed, once again the wealthiest people in our society can afford them, but it denies others the opportunity. If you're among the wealthiest and most privileged, then you might well like this downloading exercise. I suggest that the regional municipality of Niagara doesn't and that all the treasurers of the various municipalities aren't lying to us when they say it's going to have a drastic impact on their budgets.


In addition to this, I think the member mentioned the health care situation in Niagara. He would know that as a result of his government's pronouncements and withdrawal of funds from hospital funding, the Port Colborne hospital, the Fort Erie hospital, the West Lincoln Memorial in Grimsby, the Hotel Dieu in St Catharines and the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital are all either going to close or be drastically changed, despite the fact that the Premier assured everybody in the leaders' debate, when he said, "Certainly I can guarantee you, Robert Fisher, it is not my plan to close hospitals." I don't think the member should be an apologist for this. I think he should be out there fighting that policy rather than apologizing for that policy to the people of this province.

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

Mr Hudak: Just quickly, the member for St Catharines knows full well that the recently released rural and northern health care framework addresses the needs of the small communities in the riding that I represent, a guaranteed 24-hour access to emergency services, at the very least; a very strong response from the Ministry of Health that looks out for rural health care. Importantly, too, the member for St Catharines often brings out the image of the rich versus the poor, which suits him because he can use it in any debate without having to read the contents of the bill.

Let's face the facts. The rich can look out for themselves. The rich don't have to worry about what level of government delivers what. If there's a complication, they can hire a rich lawyer or a consultant to take care of it for them. This bill looks out for the hardworking, middle-class Ontarians who are tired of their tax dollars going hither and thither and not having any accountability. They're tired of getting the runaround from municipal politicians. This is all about serving the hardworking middle class and those who are moving up the income ladder to make sure that those scarce dollars that they are giving up, pumping gas and giving up half of their paycheques in taxes -- they want their money's worth. I say to the member for St Catharines, that's what this is all about. You like to bring out that particular chimera, but I don't think it fits here. It's for the middle class in Ontario.

The member for Cochrane South shows once again -- maybe I'll speak to him more directly -- that he wasn't listening to my remarks. The gentleman who had to have the heart surgery in the States just after they were kicked out of office -- my entire point was I don't expect they will go to the States for their services. That's why we're making the courageous changes, the brave changes in health care to make sure that 1,500 more operations for cardiac care, more cardiac stents, a Cardiac Care Network, so my constituents can get their health care in Ontario instead of the USA like under your government.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate, particularly because too few of my colleagues will have that opportunity with the limitations that are constantly being put on debating legislation in this place. But I regret that we have yet another bad piece of legislation before us.

I happen to believe that this government itself is going to come to regret this particular piece of legislation. This is another bill, another set of initiatives that they rushed into in a hurry to get on with their political agenda, rushing into mega-week, having absolutely no idea how any of this was going to work. I think they thought they could save $1 billion and thought just maybe the municipalities wouldn't notice if they did it quickly enough. Now they are left with a piece of legislation, having no idea of the costs or the consequences or the impact, and I believe they are going to come to regret that.

We have a bill that's called 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.

This government loves to try and cloak the issue with long and fancy titles, but there is one basic bottom line to what this bill is all about and it has nothing really to do with Who Does What. This government's bill is all about who pays for what. The government would love to be able to talk about this bill as sorting out the duplication and administration of services, talking about eliminating duplication. I did notice as I listened to the speech from the member for Niagara South that he talked about getting rid of silos. Was that the part? No, this was the part about the accountability, that the taxpayers wanted to know where the buck stopped so that they would know exactly who was responsible for what.

I think there's truth to that. Unfortunately, the member for Niagara South and virtually all of his colleagues who use that same speaking note have missed the basic point of disentanglement. The basic point of disentanglement, the whole idea of disentanglement, was that you match the responsibility of delivering the service with the responsibility for paying the bill. If you take that as your basic principle, in this respect this government is hopelessly re-entangling in a way that is absolutely mindboggling.

I don't know how much time there is to go over the details of the legislation. Let me just take child care as an example. I think each of the Conservative members who speaks on the bill wants to assure us all that they are going to continue to set standards in the area of social policy, so when it comes to child care they're going to set standards and then there will be mandatory financial participation on the part of the municipalities. So much for matching the cost with who is responsible for delivering the program.

I don't actually believe that the responsibility for child care made mandatory for municipalities is going to be very onerous because I don't think, unfortunately, that this government's going to put a whole lot of money into child care. But there's no question that it is again entangling the government in setting standards and prescribing programs and then requiring the municipalities to pay for the provincially set programs.

The member for Niagara South did talk about silos and I thought there was some inconsistency between a clarity about where the buck stops and getting rid of silos, which seems to me to suggest that there would be more overlap and that there would need to be cooperation, and I agree that there needs to be cooperation. I do find it a little bit strange, though, that anybody would talk about cooperation related to a piece of legislation which was dumped on municipalities, where the municipalities are supposed to be the ones that are encouraged to be more cooperative and the municipalities were not consulted, they were not given accurate information and they certainly did not see this as a cooperative process. They had to practically beg to have any of their concerns considered before there could be any reasonable semblance of negotiation.

One of the ones that troubles me most in terms of the total violation of the principles of disentanglement is the issue of social housing, because the government has no idea how to make this transfer of social housing work. They don't even know what social housing is going to cost the municipalities because they don't know what it's costing themselves. On January 1, 1998, they're not going to bother with disentanglement or any of that complexity. They're simply going to send the municipalities a bill for the province's social housing costs. If that isn't a reversal of the principle of disentanglement -- remember the principle: the level of government that provides the service pays the bill. In this case, the level of government that provides the service and ran up the debt is just going to send a bill to the municipalities.

After that they're going to dump the whole responsibility for social housing on to the municipalities, along, of course, with the liability of uncared-for buildings. Sadly, this next step, social housing being totally transferred to municipalities, delivery of programs, setting the standards for the programs and paying the bill, is more truly along the lines of disentanglement. The unfortunate part of it is, the reason I say "sadly," is that it is entirely the wrong direction, because it is an abdication of the responsibility for providing social programs and that has always been considered to be fundamentally a provincial responsibility, a provincial responsibility to provide for that equity that has to be separated from a property tax base so that in the areas of social programs, in the area of quality of life for people in our communities, the province accepts a responsibility for taking that non-property tax base to ensure that there is some truly equal opportunity. This government is walking away, abdicating that kind of responsibility, and that again is a true violation of the principles and the whole purpose of the efforts that have been made at disentanglement.

The question is who should pay, then, for the programs that are delivered to citizens throughout our province and at the municipal level. Disentanglement has been talked about for some long time. Let me not ignore that fact. The principle has always been that the property tax to as great a degree as possible should be used to pay for hard services, immediate services, for the people in that community and that the province would assume the responsibility for social services.

This government was prepared to move so far away from this principle that in their original proposals they were going to offload costs of long-term care on to the municipalities, but here again it was not going to be a disentanglement. In fact, it was going to be entangled to such an extent that the province would deliver the programs through an arm's-length government-appointed agency, levy a bill on the municipalities, collect the money and pool it, which is about as far away from disentanglement as one can imagine. That's why everybody who has worked on the issue of disentanglement was horrified that this whole government's approach was to put more social programs on to municipalities rather than less.


My colleague from Ottawa Centre has already talked this evening about David Crombie, who was appointed by the government to head up the Who Does What panel, who said, "Don't do this." He said if the price of taking educational taxes off the property tax base, which in the ideal everyone would like to see achieved to as great an extent as possible, but if the price of that is going to be to put even more social programs on to the municipalities, David Crombie said, "Please don't do it." They went ahead and they did it. When it comes to the education tax, we've actually ended up with the worst of all possible worlds.

The government is going to control the educational financing. They are, however, going to continue to tax property for the purposes of education. They're going to tax residential property at 50% of what they now collect. Now, I can't quite describe how the province is going to do this, because the province doesn't know. The province now has an A scenario and a B scenario.

If they use the A scenario, then every municipality will pay 50% of what they are now paying in residential taxes for education. That hardly seems equitable. Since some communities have seen education as a priority, they've raised taxes for it; other communities perhaps have not been prepared to do that. Those that weren't prepared to pay taxes for education before will now benefit from the pooling of the taxes that the province is going to collect at the same rate of tax that was being levied before. It seems complicated. It seems terribly inequitable. So the province has another simpler method, and that's to impose a flat rate of taxation on all properties all across the province. That will be seen to be equally inequitable, not taking into account the true assessment bases of each municipality.

The problem is, the province of Ontario should not be getting into the direct taxation of property, and they had to get into that because they were so desperate to find a way to retrieve the mess that they had created when they first launched this downloading initiative.

Business, of course, will continue to pay 100% of what they have paid in the past for education in their property tax. They are going to pay that plus their share of the new downloaded costs on to the municipalities. The province would like to say, "Oh well, don't worry about that, business, because we've given you a break. We've taken the business occupancy tax off."

It won't be a break for business because you know the municipalities are going to have to increase their revenue to recover what they have lost from the business occupancy tax, because that wasn't the province's money to give away. That money belonged to the municipalities. It is easy for the government to give breaks using somebody else's money. It's the same thing that's going to happen in rural municipalities when they are going to have to find ways to recover the revenue that they've lost by having to pick up the costs of the generous farm tax rebate that the province has dumped on them.

I regret the fact that we're going through so much of this because of a political agenda on the part of this government that really wanted to get control of the costs of education, and as education critic for our caucus, I'm going to speak to that particularly, because there's no question in my mind that the primary goal of the government was to get hold of the education costs so that they could take $1.3 billion, as the Minister of Finance has said, out of education to help to pay for the tax cut.

They also thought that it would work well for them, and that's why they started off with the education announcement as the first, the Monday announcement of mega-week, when they did all of the offloading initiatives. They said: "We've got a good political message here. We're going to get," and I quote, "control of the education costs. We're going to get our $1.3 billion for our tax cut and we're going to be able to say to people: `We took education off the property tax. Isn't that what we always wanted?'" In fact, they didn't take education off the property tax and they've dumped a whole lot more on that property tax base besides, for a net loss, at current count, of some $667 million dumped on to the municipalities.

There is not time to go over all of the details of this yet-again omnibus piece of legislation. Just one of the bottom-line questions is what is actually going to be paid by whom at this moment in time as we understand the numbers. No one out there, no municipality, believes that this is going to be revenue-neutral, in spite of the pinkie promise made by the Premier, the kind of promise that a five-year-old would make, that nobody is going to believe because they understand out there, the municipalities, the complexities and the impossibilities of what this government wants to do.

I mean, we're seeing the figures. We're seeing figures in my home community of Thunder Bay. Under scenario A, they would lose $19 million; under scenario B, they'd lose $21 million. It goes on for every community: $584 million lost, of course, for Toronto, unless it's $603 million; $12.6 million lost for Nipissing district; $20 million lost for Algoma district.

Now I agree, and I'm sure the members opposite will challenge, that those figures are not accurate. Well, they're ministry figures, and I don't think they are accurate because I don't think the ministry has up-to-date costs. There was an element of -- can I use the word "deception," Mr Speaker? I guess that's an appropriate word; that's a parliamentary word -- deception when the government first brought out its figures and suggested this would be revenue-neutral, when in fact they did not include in their calculations any of the costs of social housing. Have you had second thoughts belatedly, Mr Speaker?

The Acting Speaker: You asked about the word "deception," and I'm saying that no, it's not acceptable.

Mrs McLeod: I withdraw "deception" and suggest that it was just plain inadvertent misrepresentation to the public when they suggested that it was revenue-neutral but failed to include social housing. Mr Speaker, rather than lose time, I'll withdraw. Since the member for Mississauga South is going to request that, I'll withdraw. The point is made.

The ministry put out these figures, suggested it was revenue-neutral and did not include, by their own admission, the cost for social housing of about $1 billion, or the cost for roads, because they hadn't figured out how many roads they were going to dump on to the municipalities at that point in time. They still acknowledge, in their most recent submissions to the municipalities, that these figures are estimates only. If you want to suggest they're inaccurate figures, blame a government that has no idea of what it is doing to the municipalities.

The Premier and others have said that this is not going to result in new taxes. The municipalities are being told, "All you have to do is find 2% worth of efficiencies, and then you won't have to have any increase in your property taxes." Well, that means cuts. Let's not play games with those words. Efficiencies means cuts. The only way to avoid an increase in property taxes is going to be to cut the programs that this government is offloading on to municipalities, and you wonder why should municipalities have to cut the programs that the provincial government is supposed to be responsible for in order that the provincial government can save money to provide their tax cut promise.

I believe that municipalities and taxpayers deserve a serious effort at disentanglement. I happen to believe that some of the statements being made by the members of the government about accountability, about clarity for the taxpayers, about understanding who is truly responsible for what, that those are important issues and they deserved serious consideration and not this messy piece of legislation, this costly piece of legislation, we have before us.

I know that there are at least three studies that have been done on the issue of disentanglement, long before the Conservatives came into power. As I said, this issue has been going on for some time. Each of those three studies said categorically that the place to start disentanglement was with social assistance, that the province should assume 100% of the cost of social assistance because it was a provincial program with the costs beyond the control of municipalities.

Well, this government has not even done that one thing that every study on disentanglement recommended as the starting point. In fact, they have given municipalities even more responsibility for social assistance; the costs of administration, which the municipalities now have to share 50%, and increased costs of the assistance program itself. I don't pretend that even this step, taking 100% of the costs of social assistance on to the provincial tax base, would have been easy to do. Past efforts at disentangling to that extent have fallen down because, for example, of the unequal costs of expecting municipalities to pick up the costs of roads.

I'm a northerner. I know how northern municipalities feel about their ability to maintain large numbers, kilometres, of roads when there are few people in a small assessment base. Previous governments have tried to find something that might actually be fair. This government didn't worry about that; all they did was not only dump the road costs on to municipalities but a whole lot of provincial highway responsibilities as well. Fairness, equity from municipality to municipality, hasn't even figured into this government's considerations at this point, and even though they were prepared to dump all the road costs and the provincial highway costs and a whole lot else on to the municipalities, this government couldn't take 100% of the social assistance costs unto itself.

There is so much else that they are dumping. My colleague this afternoon spoke about the offloading of costs of libraries, what that may be doing to public libraries. It's a part of a different bill, we debated it this afternoon, but it's part of this same downloading initiative. I haven't spoken about the offloading of the transit costs on to municipalities, and the concern of the disabled community as to what will happen to disabled transit. I haven't had a chance yet to speak about public health, which so many of my colleagues have spoken about.

I just heard on the news at 6 o'clock the medical officer of health for Toronto, Dr McKeown, talking about his very serious concerns about how the issues of public health, the issues of sexual health, genetic counselling are going to be met in a city the size of Toronto, and I know that concern is echoed in every community across the province, certainly including my home community of Thunder Bay. We have had many communications with our medical officer of health, Dr Williams, on this very subject.


I know, as we start to look at the social housing offload, that in my own home community of Thunder Bay there are some 1,600 people waiting to get into affordable housing. The majority of those people are seniors and I don't know how our municipality is even going to begin to meet the costs of that. That's an uncosted liability, an uncosted need being dumped on to municipalities. That isn't even part of the $1 billion of costs that the province knows it is offloading on to municipalities with social housing.

I am appalled, shocked -- those are words that ministers of the government like to use. I like to use them too when I see the sheer incompetence of government in having presented this initiative in the way they have. They didn't know the cost. They didn't take into consideration the cost of social housing because they didn't know what it was. They didn't take into consideration the cost of offloading provincial highways because they didn't know how many kilometres of highways they were going to dump. But they still went out and they said, "Don't worry, it'll be revenue-neutral."

It took a task force chaired by my colleague Mr Gerry Phillips from Scarborough-Agincourt to go out across the province and talk to municipalities and say, "What are your costs in this area?" and he came back and said: "Government, this isn't revenue-neutral. There's a $1.2-billion net loss to municipalities." The figures that he was able to produce, far more accurate than anything the government had offered or perhaps anything the government chose to offer, at least forced the government to back-track a little bit, to at least back away from that horrendous offload of long-term care on to the municipal backs.

The government, having taken its giant step in mega-week, in its determination to be able to get control of education costs and do whatever it took, pay whatever price it took in order to get control of the educational dollars, wasn't prepared to back away from that political agenda so they're forging ahead with this poorly-thought-out initiative.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs said to municipalities, "Don't try and dump the blame for this back on us because it will not work." I think the municipalities will have news for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and for the Mike Harris government because they know exactly what has happened. The municipalities know the kinds of challenges that they are going to face. They know what the real costs are. They will know what the needs are. This isn't a question of whether you trust municipalities. They know the concerns, they will hear the concerns, they will be in an absolutely impossible position. They will know who is responsible when the taxes go up or the programs are cut and the responsibility will squarely lie where the buck stops with the Conservative Mike Harris government.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Bisson: I think the member for Fort William raises yet another point in this debate about why it is that members should not be supporting this legislation. Simply put, this whole cavalier approach of this government when it comes to this downloading exercise is really analogous to shooting first and asking questions later.

This government is basically saying -- and you've got to remember, they're the ones that are trying to pride themselves on being the great fiscal managers and the great managers of government services. They've got a crystal ball, they understand everything, they do everything so well. But in case after case after case in this downloading exercise, we're really finding out they have an ideological belief of what they want to do. Yes, they take some actions, but in the end they really don't think through how they're going to manage the change and how they're going to get their goals achieved.

A good example of this, as the former leader of the Liberal Party raised, is this cut that they've done to public health units. The government has said: "There's a quick way to cut some money. Snip, snip. We cut some budgets off the public health unit, we make sure that municipalities take on the entire responsibility. That fits well with this Who Does What exercise." But they don't stop.


Mr Bisson: It's that confusing and I'm doing this on purpose. The point is that they go through this real convoluted process that doesn't really make a lot of sense about what it is that they're doing, but they don't think about what the consequences are.

One consequence in my community, as it is in most northern communities, is that by doing that cut to the public health units, we're losing the genetics programs in northern Ontario. It means that people in northern Ontario, after this download cut, because municipalities have already indicated they don't want to pay for this service, will not be able to get any kind of testing done when it comes to the kind of testing that genetics do in regard to everything from prenatal examinations to leukaemia testing and will have to come down to Toronto to get it done. So you really wonder what's the common sense in the approach that this government is taking. It's utter foolishness.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I won't be as fulsome in my praise for the member for Fort William's comments as my colleague opposite, because I don't think Liberals have any credibility when it comes to the transferring of services, particularly not social housing. At the same time as her colleagues in Ottawa have already signed contracts with two provinces and one of the territories to download all federal interest in housing, while giving them, quite frankly, not nearly enough money to meet the existing obligation the federal government was maintaining, and at the same time gave those provinces the express right to transfer their housing to their municipalities, to suggest somehow that we're the villains in this exercise is quite incredible.

The member spent a considerable amount of time suggesting that Mr Crombie's panel had looked at the subject of social housing. Well, we can't the use the words that describe what that member opposite did, because there is not one word mentioned of social housing in any of the correspondence from Mr Crombie's panel, not one word. They did not pass judgement on that issue at all. They talked about welfare and they talked about public health and they talked about all the other services, but they said it's up to the province and the federal government to sort out social housing. Mr Crombie's panel did not pass judgement, and you might wish to reflect on your comments and perhaps retract the suggestion that they did.

The bottom line, again, from the member opposite is we hear words like "downloading" and "offloading." The truth of the matter is there is a transfer of services proposed by this bill: a dollar-for-dollar transfer. To suggest there will be new costs to municipalities is utter bunk. The bottom line is we are taking $2.5 billion worth of education costs, a social cost, off the taxpayers, off the property tax rolls, and we are transferring $2.5 billion of other services. That's the truth.

Mr Gravelle: I certainly want to compliment the member for Fort William on her remarks. I think it's a reflection of the new reality of the rule changes that there were so many issues that the member for Fort William wished to discuss. She got in a remarkable number in 20 minutes but could barely touch the surface of some of them. I want to make some reference, if I may, further to the whole question of downloading of public health.

I spoke earlier about the genetic counselling program, which is a great concern and a very important program, but Dr David Williams, the medical officer of health of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, did write me and what he said was:

"This issue is only one part of the overall complex problem and potentially hazardous decision to offload all the public health services and programs to the municipality. Public health, in principle, seeks to put in place preventive and health promotional programs rather than depending upon enforcement and punitive measures. Prevention when done well is invisible. Thus, it is prone to be overlooked in the debate because those issues which are considered more big-ticket items and ones which have been the centre of past controversy continue to take the limelight.

"A fragmented, decentralized public health system will not be capable of providing the public of Ontario with a timely, informed and coordinated response to outbreaks of disease. Loss of provincial funding will require a public health program to be delivered under the threat of enforcement and provincial offence charges being laid, the antithesis of the basic principle and priority of public health programs and services presently in place."

Dr Williams says it very, very well and obviously he says it very passionately. I will agree with one thing the member for Scarborough East said -- and it's difficult not to respond to him directly, and I'm sure the member for Fort William will do so. The Crombie commission did indeed say that public health should not be part of the downloading process, and it's clear that it would be a disaster.

I remain convinced in fact the Minister of Health himself does not believe it should be part of the downloading process, but because of this ridiculous package that's been put together, public health has become a part of it. We all oppose it. The minister opposed it. Public health should not be part of the process.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I must say that I come down four-square on the side of the member for Fort William, who delivered her, as usual, well-researched and very focused comments on this particular bill.

For the member from Scarborough or Canadian Tire, or wherever he's from, to impugn the member for Fort William's comments is grossly unfair. The Crombie report didn't deal with the housing issue because I don't think that in their wildest dreams they thought the government would do that to social housing. I don't think that for a minute they thought the government would be that silly.

What the member from Scarborough didn't comment on was what the Crombie report had to say about ambulance services. I wonder why he didn't concentrate on that, why he didn't deal with something that's in the report, because I can tell you that the member for Fort William is absolutely correct when she talks about the silliness of this downloading.

I don't want to speak any longer at this point, because I'm up next to speak.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Fort William for a two-minute response.

Mrs McLeod: Let me just suggest that the member for Scarborough East really does need to learn a lot about listening. Not for one moment, as the member for Nickel Belt has said, would I have suggested that David Crombie and his panel spent any time on the issue of social housing. David Crombie never dreamt that you would dump all of that on municipalities. David Crombie never dreamt that any government, even a Conservative government, would do any of what you are doing with this downloading. Maybe that's because David Crombie is a Progressive Conservative and he would not have believed that a government could do this. When he found out what you were prepared to do, that's when he said, "Don't do it," and you went ahead and did it anyway.

I'm glad my colleague the member for Port Arthur touched again on the issue of public health, because we need to spend even more time on that.

I'm glad the member for Nickel Belt touched on the issue of ambulances. He, as I do, comes from a northern community. My northern community covers a lot of kilometres that are in unorganized townships. There aren't a whole lot of people living there, there is not a lot of assessment base, but there are a lot of miles of provincial highways where a lot of car accidents take place. Nobody has any idea who is going to pay for the ambulance cost as it crosses one boundary of unorganized township into a municipal township into a city township -- some of the few details that remain to be sorted out.

The bottom line is, why would anybody believe this government on this issue? They started out saying, "Don't worry, this is a revenue-neutral exercise," and it was shown to be a $1.2-billion net offload. They changed it a little bit and said, "Okay, it's revenue-neutral now," and they now acknowledge it's $667 million that is dumped on to the municipalities. "But don't worry, that was announced earlier. They expected that." It still counts. It is still part of the net dumping on to municipalities. It is still going to put the municipalities under considerable pressure. I find it incomprehensible that anybody can speak to a piece of legislation when their own government says that the numbers, even today, even now, are estimates.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Laughren: I see that the table officers have cut me back to 10 minutes under the standing orders, which should make some of you happy. I understand that.

I want to make some comments on Bill 152. I realize the content of the bill deals with a lot more than what I'm going to deal with, because 10 minutes is a very restrictive time frame.

The bill itself deals with the downloading of social housing, as the member for Fort William so articulately put it. It also deals with the downloading of the inspection of septic systems, responsibility for public health, the Building Code Act and building permits, the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, GO Transit in the GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth area, and of course day nurseries. That's a huge amount of downloading.

To be fair, there are a lot of traditionally local expenses being picked up by the government in the form of education costs. The real question is, is it a fair tradeoff? I can recall being in government and trying to work out a disentanglement arrangement with the municipalities which didn't work out. The municipalities walked away from the exercise at the end of the day. I always regretted that, but nevertheless that was their choice. I think it was somewhat clouded by the social contract, which was coming into effect at that point. Nevertheless, I understand the need for disentanglement and the need for streamlining the process.

But that's not what this bill is all about, not the final effect of this bill. This bill is about dumping costs on municipalities in order to save the government money so they can pay for their tax cut. It's not a wash. Nobody believes that it's an even tradeoff. Nobody out there believes that any more. If you find somebody who believes it, I hope you'll ask them to give me a call, because it's simply not true. Nobody believes it any more.

Mr Gilchrist: Bob Chiarelli believes it.

Mr Laughren: I don't believe that Bob Chiarelli -- there may be some Tory hacks and sycophants who believe it, but no thinking person believes that it's an even tradeoff that you're doing with the municipalities. You're moving too fast, you're not making the right decisions, you're not listening to the people who are affected, in this case the municipalities. All in all, at the end of the day you're going to have a mess on your hands. It's as simple as that.

I looked at the numbers, and these are Conservative government numbers, not my numbers, because I know you think my numbers would be suspect. Your numbers say that there's going to be a loss of unconditional grants to the municipalities, which I believe comes to about $666 million. That's ending. Then there's the download from the province to the municipalities, which comes to another $550 million, and I believe those are government numbers as well. You add that all up and it comes to $1.216 billion.

The government says: "Don't be worried. We're putting $570 million into a community reinvestment fund and everything at the end of the day will be just fine." The trouble is people aren't believing that because, first of all, the $500 million doesn't make up for the amount that's being downloaded.

Also, I happen to represent a northern constituency, and the Minister of Northern Development has promised a permanent $70-million fund to help northern municipalities with what he calls "special needs." Presumably that means year after year there will be $70 million. But the total download in the north, according to the arithmetic by others, is between $282 million and $292 million. That's hardly a wash. That's hardly an even tradeoff. You're dealing with municipalities in the north that, by and large, do not have a very substantial tax base. You're going to have an enormous amount of unhappiness in northern Ontario when all of this shakes down.

The numbers that come from the municipal area show that there are going to be very significant per household costs as a result of all this downloading. I'll just give you some examples: in the Algoma district, an increased cost per household of from $982 to $1,010 as a result of this downloading; in my own area, over $1,100 per household as a result of the downloading; in Sudbury, an increased cost of between $913 and $953 per household as a result of this downloading. The people in these municipalities are not going to sit still as you do this to them.

The area that bothers me the most is the downloading of ambulances. Right now there are about 172 different ambulance delivery services. If you turn that over to the municipalities, that's going to increase and you're going to have all sorts of cross-boundary disputes and allocation of costs as these ambulances move from one municipality to another, picking up a sick person in one municipality and delivering them to another and then moving to a hospital in yet another municipality afterwards. These are the kinds of things that are going to drive people nuts, and I'm telling you they will be very unhappy with it.

The member from Scarborough talked about the Crombie report. I happen to have it here and this is what the Crombie report had to say about ambulance services: "It is the view of the subpanel" that looked at ambulance services "that the province should continue to fund and control ambulance services as part of the health care system. This would maintain a seamless system in the area of health care with a consistent level of care and service province-wide."


How clear and definitive can you get? This is your handpicked committee chaired by David Crombie, well-known red Tory, who sent this to you. As though you are thumbing your nose at Mr Crombie, you go ahead and say, "We're going to download ambulance services to all the municipalities." It's as though you didn't have any respect whatsoever for him.

The people who feel most betrayed by you folks are the Ambulance Service Alliance of Ontario, consisting of the ambulance operators. They felt really betrayed. This is what they say. This is a letter to Mr Harris:

"You may recall, as leader of the official opposition party, in the fall of 1993 you met with a number of our operators. You kindly listened to our concerns regarding the infamous Swimmer report, a report that I might add attached a value to the operator's licence. At the conclusion of our meeting, you left us with the assurance that you would look after the ambulance operators in this province. A statement that you upheld until the introduction of Bill 152."

That's the ambulance operators, and they conclude their letter by saying:

"The unfunded liabilities coupled with the prospect of losing the opportunity to deliver ambulance service to the communities one has served, in some cases for a significant number of years, amounts to expropriation without compensation followed by personal bankruptcy."

Can you imagine the party of free enterprise, the Tories in this province expropriating without compensation? That takes me back to regimes in other parts of the world. There they are, they're saying that the Tories are practising expropriation without compensation. My goodness, who would have thought that the Tories would be charged with that by, traditionally their friends, the ambulance operators of the province? But that's how badly they feel betrayed, particularly by the Premier, because he told them he would look after the ambulance operators of this province.

I think it's a bit unseemly to put it that way, but that's what he said to them. Then he comes in, introduces Bill 152, hits them over the head and does what they call expropriation without compensation. Who would have thought that a bunch of neo-cons would support expropriation without compensation? Because that's what you're doing to the ambulance operators of the province.

The government is making a mistake. There are a lot of parts of this bill I haven't dealt with, obviously, but I think the quality of ambulance services is very important and is part of what people have come to expect to be part of the health care system of this province. They're going to be very unhappy when they see results of what happens when you download ambulance service to the municipalities.

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

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have the pleasure of responding a little bit to the illustrious member for Nickel Belt, whom I respect a great deal, but let me put it on record that I don't agree with him.

We've heard a lot about disentanglement here today. It's kind of funny. I think back on my years in municipal politics when both the Liberal government and the NDP government were talking about disentanglement and how they were going to solve the problem of the delivery of service so that we could make it efficient, we could make it accountable, and they never did a thing about it. They tried, absolutely, but they didn't have the intestinal fortitude to carry it all the way through.

I hear these constant words about dumping costs and downloading. The whole approach to business today is to do it in a businesslike way: the delivery of service, the efficiency, the accountability, less duplication, less overlap. If we don't get that out of our system, we are in major trouble, and we have been in major trouble for a long time.

It is absolutely ludicrous for two or three levels of government to be delivering the same services, ludicrous for two or three levels of government to be looking after the same types of things. If we don't start to do it on an individual basis -- that's what put the costs up. If we can put those dollars back into the services to benefit the people we are trying to serve, we will be much better off.

One of the members, I believe the member for Fort William, made a comment, something about, "Why should we be getting a hold of the costs?" My goodness, it's all about getting a hold of the costs, and if we don't do it now, we've got a major problem for our children in the future.

Mr Patten: I enjoyed the comments of the member for Nickel Belt. He pointed out three or four things that are worthy of note. He referred to the investment fund as being some way of trying to come back and addressing something after the fact, after months of denying that there was a problem. Then he pointed out the numerous municipalities that will be facing property tax increases, because that's the crux of this whole thing, it's not just passing along services.

As the member for Peterborough said, everybody would agree with streamlining administrations. No one, as far as I know, disagrees with doing that. If there's a better way to deliver something, let's do it. What we're saying, and what the people at the municipal level are saying, is that you're passing down services that you were advised not to do and putting them on the property tax, which doesn't make sense. At the same time you're downloading the cost of those services. You leave the municipalities with two choices, or maybe three. They cut their service, have tax increases or have a combination, and any municipality in its right mind won't want to look at tax increases. I don't think that's in the cards.

What this will really mean in the long term, once this is implemented, is that we will have less service for people. When people find that out, after hearing all the rhetoric of, "This is a wash," and, "This is going to be no extra cost," and, "Municipalities can handle the responsibility of all this," then I think you'll see the biggest backlash you ever saw.

Finally, the member for Nickel Belt, dealing with all of the issues, asked, is this going to be a better arrangement for ambulances? I suspect it won't, when we start looking at the ways in which the cross-boundary situations will add to the complexity of all this.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): It's interesting as you sit here and listen to the various presentations that are made in this place. The member for Nickel Belt got up here just a short moment ago and laid out for us the impact this downloading will have on northern Ontario.

Not long before that, we had the member for Fort William, a long-serving member of this House, with the member for Nickel Belt, who is seen by everybody in this place as the dean of the operation, lay on the table the argument that sees social housing under attack when this bill comes into effect and its impact is felt.

Before that, we had the member for London Centre, a very thoughtful, articulate and well-versed member of this place, who takes great pains to make sure she knows the detail of every bill that comes before the place, making the argument that public health will be affected in a major and negative way by this bill.

Then we hear the folks across the way. We finally tonight had a member, the member for Niagara South, who made an argument here and took his full 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes I began to realize just how little these folks understand what they're doing and the impact it has on communities and the lives of people in this province. We have the Hudaks and the Gilchrists and the Clements and the Bairds of the caucus across the way who are really driving this agenda; all young members, who really are still wet behind the ears in many significant ways, coming to this House and driving an agenda that's going to have such overwhelming impact on the way we do things in this province, things that have been put in place over the years by people like the David Crombies of the world who have been thoughtful and who have taken the time to make sure that they were right and well thought out and that the impacts were understood. Shame on you for not doing your homework. Shame on you for the arguments you make.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): This sounds very much like the Wednesday night of last week on the services improvement bill. The folks across the way are still in the mantra of "with any change, we won't tackle it." We have a litany of excuses from the member for Nickel Belt when he said, "It's interesting that the municipalities didn't really want any of this, so we're not going to do it." Forget the taxpayer, don't worry about trying to achieve any efficiency; don't worry about trying to achieve any kind of quality coordination. For goodness' sake, we wouldn't want to do that.

But the mantra -- you have two, the bipolars -- is firmly caught in most of their thinking across the way, especially the member for Sault Ste Marie. You either have tax increases or you have service cuts or both. There's no other possibility of doing anything with this. I've never heard so much doom and gloom. You never hear any solid alternatives, except the only alternative they would have, especially the official opposition, to increase, jack up your prices.

Yet when you do that, they turn around and say, "You shouldn't be doing that. Just leave things the way they are. Everything's pretty good the way it is, even though there are some efficiencies and effectiveness modes of operation that can be achieved. But we shouldn't make the effort, utilize any of the energy to do that," whether it's in social housing or anything else.

If you go back to the history of social housing, who started it? Social housing started with the municipalities, with churches, with labour groups and so on, and then suddenly it bloomed into a huge governmental program. That's the problem we have in not changing the things that are --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member for Nickel Belt, you have two minutes.

Mr Laughren: I appreciate the remarks from the member for Peterborough, who was most restrained, more than I thought he would be, and the members for Ottawa Centre, Sault Ste Marie, Etobicoke-Bedrock --

Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't mind that occasionally, but I always call the dean of the House the member for Nickel Belt and I would expect he would appropriately accord the same privilege to the name of the riding of the good people of Etobicoke-Rexdale.

The Deputy Speaker: I totally agree with you, and I think you will refer to him as the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Laughren: I agree totally with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale; it was a slip of the tongue. I'm particularly pleased that here with us this evening as well is the member for Mississauga Molars.

I really must deal with some of the comments that were made, though, because it seems to me that there's a misunderstanding that, because we oppose what the government is doing on any particular bill, somehow we're opposed to any kind of change, we don't want streamlining, we don't want more efficiencies in the system. That's simply not true; of course we do.

I wasn't being defensive when I said that when we tried to do it, we thought we were going to get there with disentanglement and the municipalities walked away. We didn't walk away; it wasn't because we lacked internal fortitude. They walked away, and I regretted that very much at the time and I regret it to this day. But regardless I do very much appreciate the interest of the other members in taking part in this debate, and I look forward to further speakers on this bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise and to speak for a few moments on this important piece of legislation. I listened to my colleagues opposite and they say how great it is we have more members participating in debate, we have more members getting their constituent views on the record, and I agree with the member for Ottawa Centre. I'll certainly use this opportunity to put forward some constructive opinion.

I listened to my colleagues earlier and one of my colleagues said: "Ontario deserves disentanglement. Taxpayers need to truly understand who is responsible for what." That's disentanglement and that was our colleague the member for Fort William, and she's right. I think previous governments have tried exercises aimed at disentanglement but they've lacked the courage to follow it through. They've lacked the guts, when the going gets tough, to just put the issue aside. I think the taxpayers of Ontario want a provincial government to stick to their guns and to ensure that taxpayers' services are delivered efficiently and effectively and that the taxpayers' dollar is treated with the utmost respect.

I have a quote here from the Premier which I think is very relevant. He said, "I think it is important for us to get on with the job of making it clear to citizens who is paying for what and who is responsible for raising the money for whatever services are being provided."


Mr Baird: Someone says, "Stop sucking up to the Premier." That of course was Premier Bob Rae, not Premier Mike Harris. I've been accused of a lot of things from my colleagues the members opposite, but sucking up to Bob Rae has never been one of them. That's what Premier Bob Rae had to say. I agree with Premier Rae, and certainly Premier Rae's views on a whole host of issues have begun to change since he left the Premier's office.

I'd like to read a quote from the Minister of Community and Social Services: "The result [of disentanglement] will be increased accountability which is more important than ever in today's economic climate."

Had Janet Ecker, the member for Durham West, made that comment, she would have been right. But that wasn't the Minister of Community and Social Services. Was it the member for Markham? Wrong. Do you know who it was? It was the current member for London Centre who made that statement in August 1992, that in today's economic climate increased accountability will be more important than ever, and I agree with the member for London Centre. I didn't hear her mention --


Mr Baird: She was an NDP member, the member for Kitchener suggests, and still is, and served very ably in the cabinet for a number of years. She didn't mention that quote in her speech earlier, which surprised me, quite frankly, because I would have thought she would have wanted to put that on the record.

Another quote which I took great interest in was the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Here's what he had to say. "You can't really have accountability if you have two and sometimes three levels of government doing the same stuff...the main purpose is to sort out the roles." Was that Al Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs? Wrong. It wasn't Al Leach. Who said that? The former member for Windsor-Riverside, Dave Cooke. That's who said that, and I couldn't help but agree.

But I've got another quote. We've got to talk about a Minister of Municipal Affairs who followed him, to be fair: "Right now responsibility is blurred, and this overlap leads to inefficiency. Clearer lines of responsibility and more efficient government should ultimately save money." That was one of Dave Cooke's successors as Minister of Municipal Affairs. Was it Mr Leach? No. It was in fact Ed Philip, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the former member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. He said that in the Windsor Star on April 26, 1993, and I certainly agree.


Mr Baird: The member for Nickel Belt we'll look for. I might have some quotes in here on him. He's actually quite a good fellow. That was interesting. I could go on and I will go on.

I have a quote from one of the member for Nickel Belt's colleagues from northern Ontario, Ms Martel, the member for Sudbury East, when she was Minister of Northern Development:

"The people of Ontario want to see their governments work together. We expect that the councils will support the agreement [the NDP's disentanglement package] and that it will take effect on January 1, 1994. When that happens, Ontario's system of government will become more efficient and more accountable. And that's good news for all of us."

That dream Ms Martel had is still alive and well, and we're going to follow through and ensure that more efficient government arrives in Ontario. That'll be good news for all taxpayers in the province. What people see is four levels of government.

My colleague the member for Scarborough East brought up the issue of housing. We ask ourselves, does it make sense, when we see the federal government in Ottawa, having already reached agreements with two provinces seeking to get out of social housing, to have not just the federal government but the provincial government, the regional government and the local government all with overlapping responsibilities? It would make clear sense to have a more efficient government, to have one level of government responsible for that, to provide better and more efficient service to the taxpayers. That's something that's very, very important.

I listened with great interest to a speech by my colleague the member for Cochrane South, and I wanted to touch base on it. He spoke earlier about the fiscal management capacity of this government, and I think that's a credible issue for him to raise. I did notice that, when the current Minister of Finance rose in the House earlier today to table the public accounts -- my friend from Nickel Belt, this was always the worst day of the year for him, where he had to expose the reality of his colleagues and their spending habits. Through no fault of his own, he was the one who had to deliver the bad news for the cabinet, because it wasn't, of course, his fault.


The Minister of Finance earlier today released the public accounts for the fiscal year 1996-97. That marked the first full fiscal year the Mike Harris government and the Ernie Eves term as Treasurer were accountable. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale --

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Nepean, if you address the Chair, it's easier.

Mr Baird: Sure. I said "the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale." I didn't speak in the second person, Mr Speaker.

The member asks what the results were. He was following through on a campaign commitment to balance the budget in five years, and in fiscal 1996-97, in the budget, he put a goal, a benchmark, of an $8.2-billion deficit, to get it down from the $11.3 billion to $8.2 billion, and he released the final numbers today about what sorts of results they got in his term as Treasurer. Was it $8.2 billion? No. Was it $7.5 billion, as he said it would be? No. Was it $7.4 billion, what he updated it to be? No. What we learned earlier today was the real number, the true fiscal capacity of this government to manage. The number was $6.9 billion. That is more than $1.3 billion ahead of schedule from what he had committed to in his first full budget. That is good news for taxpayers and it is good news for hardworking families across the province.

You would think there would have been a unanimous moment to congratulate the minister and the government on that success, but the doom and gloom on the other side of the aisle was simply unbelievable. I was disappointed that they wouldn't have been as happy as most taxpayers across the province were.

Why did the provincial government exceed that target in terms of its fiscal capacity under this bill? It exceeded that target because it brought in $300 million more money than it expected to bring in. Why? Because there are more taxpayers paying more taxes. What Ernie Eves has discovered is that if you cut taxes, you are going to bring in more money, because more people work, and more people working is good news.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): How many?

Mr Baird: My colleague from Northumberland would want to know how many more people are working. How many more people? Some 224,000 net new jobs were created in Ontario. That's good news, and I know my colleagues opposite will want to reflect on the success of that. That is 219,000 off welfare, so when the member for Cochrane South appropriately asks, "Could you trust this government in terms of its fiscal capacity to manage?" I certainly will put Mike Harris's and Ernie Eves's capacity as fiscal managers on the table any day, any time.

With respect to the Who Does What exercise, I have a tremendous amount of faith in local government. One of my colleagues said, "I think local authorities know their area best." That was the member for Essex South, on December 13, 1995, and I certainly agreed with him. The good news is that my colleague the member for Oxford, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services are sitting down working with the municipalities to try to make this agreement better, consulting and listening so they can respond to concerns they may have in terms of the implementation of these pieces of legislation, always prepared.

As a result of those, there were substantial changes made. If the municipalities, working in partnership with the provincial government, can show us a better way to achieve goals of a more efficient and more effective provincial government, the provincial government is certainly very keen to do so and those discussions with two committees are ongoing. They are listening, they are working and they are looking for a better way to achieve the best results for the taxpayers of Ontario. That is good news for hardworking families in Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gravelle: I'm glad to have an opportunity to respond to the comments made by the member for Nepean. It continues to be startling. While he is being rather cute in terms of the quotes he is using from previous speakers, he is ignoring the fact that the whole question of municipal disentanglement is something we don't argue with the concept of, and you can play those games all you want.

What really becomes the issue is how it is being done, and as the member for Fort William pointed out in her comments, yes, there should be disentanglement, but the province should be handling the social services portion of the disentanglement. They are the ones that should be funding it, and I think everybody agrees that should be the case. It is the process by which it is being done.

The concern I have, if I may speak as a member from northern Ontario, is what it is doing to some of the communities and some of the fears that are existing in the communities. For example, Mayor Bob Krause of the township of Schreiber wrote me recently with some concerns that he expressed, and I would like to have the opportunity to read some of the remarks he has. He says:

"I'm having a difficult time with the provincial government's assumption that we can cut our operating costs by a certain percentage each year simply by finding efficiencies. That is how we already operate. For example, our municipal support grant has been reduced over the past few years, and we have cut our budget drastically to compensate for this lost revenue. In the meantime, material and shipping costs have been rising.

"The cost of doing business in northwestern Ontario has certainly not decreased, but we have found better, more efficient ways to operate every year. Two years ago we had 18 regular employees. We have reduced our staff by 25% to 14 and are still operating the library, welfare, recreation, cemetery, roads, water and sewer and all the township services."

The reality is that the cuts to municipalities have been going on for some time now and they have managed it very well. But when one looks at the downloading realities, when one looks at the fact that Schreiber now has to pay OPP policing costs, the extraordinary added cost to them in terms of the transfers of provincial highways, it adds up to nothing much less than an attempt in some ways to kill our northern communities. Some of these communities cannot manage it, and you cannot deny that and you cannot be heartless about it. You've got to recognize these are concerns, and they're legitimate.

Mr Martin: It's good to rise again in this place for another two minutes. These days in this place, because of the change in the rules, the only way a person can put a bit of a speech together is by getting up two minutes at a time and putting on the table their thoughts on these very important issues that face the constituents of my community and of the province. It's actually sad.

I want to continue from where I left off just a while ago and reflect on the comments of the member who just presented: the failure of the members opposite, the Gilchrists and the Bairds and the Hudaks and the Clements, to fully understand the full impact of their decisions on communities and on people out there and their inability to put anything they do in the fuller, more appropriate context.

For example, the member for Nepean just spoke of the presentation today by the Minister of Finance and talked about the lowering of the deficit and did not speak at all about the human deficit that is being created because of the very narrow direction the government is taking re its finances. Present that particular piece of information to those people in the province who have lost 22% of their income, the people you hit in your first month of being in government, the poorest and the most vulnerable among us. You took 22% of their income. Talk to them about this effort you are making to tackle the deficit. Talk to the people who stand in line at hospitals to get heart surgery, who are actually dying while they wait. Talk to them about this and talk to the women who lost the $400 million in pay equity payments. Fortunately, you'll have to --

The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired.

Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): It's a pleasure for me to get up and make a few comments today on people's comments themselves. We heard our member from the Ottawa area earlier making some quotes that had been offered, and I'd like to issue a few quotes myself.

There is one quote here that appeared in today's Globe and Mail, as a matter of fact, which said that Canadians are too heavily taxed. It turns out that since we have come into power our taxes have been dropping and our jobs are going up, as the member had pointed out in his comments earlier. Jobs are up, housing starts are up and taxes are down. We're not doing too badly.

There are other quotes I'd like to mention here today, some from a book called the red book. It says, "For every week that Bob Rae has been Premier, Ontario has lost nearly 1,000 jobs." This red book is not unlike a book that we call the Common Sense Revolution; as a matter of fact, some people think it was written by the same author. But now that we are implementing the Common Sense Revolution, we are being told we shouldn't do it.

On another page it says: "The NDP government has built up a growing environmental deficit. Our natural capital is depreciating while our environmental liabilities have been increasing." If I can go on to quote further from this little document, it says: "The public has sent a clear message that it wants government to change. It is up to government to prove that it can change."

Now we'll take a look at what was said in the Common Sense Revolution. In the Common Sense Revolution we had said:

"Canadians are probably the most overgoverned people in the world. We do not need every layer -- federal, provincial, quasi-governmental bodies, regional, municipal and school board -- that we have now.

"The example being set by the Harris government, of the 24% reduction in the number of MPPs and a 20% cut in non-priority spending, will set the benchmark for municipal politicians and trustees."


Mr Patten: It gives me great pleasure to comment on my colleague in the Ottawa-Carleton region. The member for Wentworth East should know that Nepean is a completely separate city from Ottawa and a proud city it is.

The member was very clever in his use of quotes, and I think it's fair to say that often when someone gets into the responsibilities of governing, they begin to see some of the problems and difficulties and they want to address that. I haven't heard any side -- and I'm pleased to see that there are so many quotations from the red book because, obviously, it has some great value and some great statements, some of which the government itself agrees with.

We do not dispute any streamlining or any improvements related to administration and saving, but the one thing that I would like to say to the member for Nepean is that you forget that many municipalities, most if not all, as a matter of fact all, have already been faced with a series of cuts over the last three or four years in any case, and some severe ones. They haven't taken that into consideration.

Not only that, the responsibilities suggested by the advisory Who Does What -- in terms of ambulance service, for example, to not do that -- they suggested that was part, and the member for Nickel Belt I think addressed that particular issue. The member for Scarborough East, I think it was, who is a very vigilant evangelist for his party, continues to say that the panel didn't say it. No, the panel didn't say, "Don't put social housing on the property tax." David Crombie came back from a holiday, and he was so upset to hear what had happened that he made a public statement, saying this should never have happened, it should not be on property tax. If that's going to happen, keep things the way they are because it's better the way they are than what your particular proposal calls for.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nepean, you have two minutes.

Mr Baird: I'd like to thank the members for Port Arthur, Sault Ste Marie, Wentworth East and Ottawa Centre for responding to my remarks. I certainly appreciate them.

The member for Sault Ste Marie spoke about the comments I made with respect to the announcement by the treasurer of the public accounts, and he spoke about there being no reference to human deficit in my remarks. Well, I think there was a tremendous human deficit when this government took office more than two years ago. This province was in trouble with no hope for a better future, no hope for opportunities for people. But there is hope for many more now, not enough hope.

We've got to work harder to see the economy create more jobs. We've got to work harder to rededicate ourselves to eliminating poverty, to working harder to create more jobs in the economy. But 224,000 people were at home and the phone rang; they got the phone call, they picked up the phone and the voice on the other end of the phone said, "You've got the job," and those people are now providers for their families.

Those people's children are now able to see them get up every day and go to work, and that's distinctly a good thing. That solid growth and economic growth in the economy has been seen in the private sector and that's a tremendously good thing that people will experience the dignity of work and being able to contribute to our society. The unemployment rate is still far too high. We've all got to recommit ourselves at all levels of government to work harder, to see the economy do better, but I think that's distinctly a good thing.

To my colleague from Port Arthur, he doesn't disagree with the concept of disentanglement. They don't disagree with the concept of work for welfare. They don't disagree with the concept of tax cuts. They don't disagree with the concept of deficit reduction. They don't disagree with the concept of a $17-billion health budget. They don't disagree with the concept of hospital restructuring. But they just disagree with the way we're doing it. I'd like to see an alternative proposed by the members opposite.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): It's a pleasure to offer a few comments in the now reduced 10 minutes that I have to speak because of the new rule changes, and I'd like to divide it in several different ways.

First of all, I'd like to address some of the concerns that the residents in northern Ontario and in the riding of Sudbury have expressed to me with regard to public health services. Then I'd like to offer to the members of the opposition some alternatives, some suggestions and some information that I've shared with the various ministers with regard to this particular bill, information that I think would have been very, very worthwhile using in arriving at the method of doing business and the idea of what the impact is going to be on the various municipalities.

I'm sure that not only the members in opposition but the government members have received many, many concerns from the citizens they represent with regard to the downloading of public health programs, both mandatory and non-mandatory, to the municipalities and the municipalities' ability to be able to provide those programs.

I'd like to address for the next few minutes one particular program that exists in northern Ontario, and it's called the northern regional genetics program, which is the sole provider of genetic services to about 8% of the population of Ontario, but that happens to be the entire northern Ontario population, which covers 90% of the territory of Ontario.

The northern regional genetics program offers clinical consultation, genetic counselling, genetic testing and educational opportunities in the sensitive areas of hereditary disease, congenital malformation, mental retardation, productive problems, familial cancer, leukaemia, maternal serum screening and prenatal diagnosis.

You see, this isn't a mandatory program. This is a non-mandatory program. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has already suggested that they're not interested in the responsibility or the accountability for mandatory public health programs let alone non-mandatory public health programs.

What happens to a program such as the northern regional genetics program? Does it now become a non-existent program because it transcends municipal boundaries? This program is offered to the entire north. It is not offered to one municipality; it is offered to every municipality in northern Ontario.

I've asked the question of the Minister of Health, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, for clarification and for direction so that I can tell the several hundred people who have contacted my office about this particular concern. To date, I want to tell you, that we haven't had any responses, and I guess I'm concerned that these non-mandatory programs, which are essential for northern Ontario but in fact essential for everyone in Ontario, are going to fall by the wayside because, seriously, the municipalities won't be able to afford them.

So I think that's a concern the minister has to address. I think that's a concern that has to be addressed by several ministers: the Minister of Health, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and certainly the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Let me move on to something I did as critic for northern development and mines for the Liberal Party. After the announcements, I decided that it was very important and incumbent upon me to send out a municipal survey to all northern municipalities, collate the information -- don't keep the information here, but share it with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and I did, and I'm sure that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines shared it with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. These are some of the real responses that we received from the municipal leaders' survey.

With regard to municipalities considering raising taxes, the question was, "Do you believe that in order to meet future financial responsibilities your municipality will be required to consider raising taxes?" Well, 35% of the respondents said yes, 29% said possibly and 22% said most likely. Only 6% said no.


A second question, with regard to the expectation of new user fees: "Do you believe that in order to meet future financial responsibilities your municipality will consider introducing new user fees for municipal services?" The answers were again staggering: Yes, 39% of the respondents; most likely, 22%; possibly, 37%. The percentage of respondents that said no was zero.

A third question, with regard to the level of services: "How do you believe the recent changes in funding from the provincial tier to the municipal tier will affect the number of municipal services which you presently deliver?" Well, "overall decrease in services" was 31% stating that substantial decreases to services will take place.

There are several other questions. The Minister of Northern Development and Mines has a copy of it. We offer, with municipalities, several alternatives, recommendations and suggestions. To date, I haven't heard from the minister.

An independent study was done with regard to the figures by the city manager and the treasurer of the city of Sudbury, who did a one-year and a three-year analysis using the minister's figures with regard to what the impact would be. Certainly the one-year impact on the north is an increase of $263 million of expenditures; the three-year analysis, an increase of $203.8 million in expenditures. That results in increases across northern Ontario of percentage municipal expenditures ranging from 20.3% in the Algoma district; 22% in the Kenora district; the Nipissing district of Premier Harris 23%; in Parry Sound 15.1%; in the region of Sudbury 19.7% over a one-year analysis, and percentages such as 20%, 17.4% etc.

The city offered several alternatives to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. I have spoken to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines about this particular study. He is very, very interested in the figures and says they make sense, even though they're only projected or estimated figures. But that's how we're basing this downloading, on those types of figures, and I think that's wrong. Again, the city has offered several alternatives that haven't been pursued by the government.

Finally, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and NOMA, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, met with the parliamentary assistant and with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing I think, and went through this document called Fairness and Equity for Our North. In it, they pointed out some of the commitments that your government made during the election in the Common Sense Revolution. I'm not going to quote them, because I'm trying to stand here this evening and to be non-partisan. I simply want to tell you that both the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and NOMA have provided several alternatives and several recommendations for you to follow.

I would only hope, as a member representing one riding in the province of Ontario, that the government members would listen, that the ministers responsible -- the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines -- would only listen to some of the suggestions offered by the municipalities across northern Ontario, the city of Sudbury in their three-year analysis and FNOM and NOMA in their fairness and equality for our north. If you listen, I think you would be prone to make several major decisions and changes in direction.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Martin: I want to take the next two minutes that I have in this narrowed-down opportunity that we all have in this place now to present our very real concerns about the agenda of the government to congratulate the member for Sudbury for an excellent presentation. He painted the picture of northern Ontario as another of the victims of this government.

This government is ready and quick to talk about, as they did this afternoon, the good work they're doing in the area of the deficit, but they are not willing to speak at all about the impact of the major cuts they're making and the effect it's having on communities and whole regions of this province, for example the region of northern Ontario.

The member for Sudbury very succinctly and in a very clear and supportive manner presented the impact and also some work that's been done by people in the north on alternatives. It's really interesting. We have a situation in this province now where the economy, and I'm willing to admit to this, is really doing well. Corporations are making historically record high profits. Every time we open a newspaper and we look at the quarterly reports, we see corporations and banks making historically record -- as a matter of fact, a person in my community just recently called it "obscenely" -- high profits.

That's happening at a time when we have taken 22% away from the most vulnerable and poorest in our communities in terms of their income; when we've taken away $400 million from some of the lowest-paid women in the public sector. Mind you, the courts have now told you that you have to reverse that decision because you were constitutionally wrong. You're knocking the stuffing out of northern Ontario, an area of the province that has been historically the engine of industrial growth in this province. You're kicking them until they have nothing left to give.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): It is a pleasure for me to get up and respond to the member for Sudbury on his speech. His 10-minute speech gave a lot of facts and figures that I appreciate being shared.

I would just like to set the stage of where we are for those who don't know. Here we are, we're at five to 9 on Tuesday night, September 9. The member for Sudbury has just given us a 10-minute speech. We have been blessed with hour speeches and with 20-minute speeches, and after seven hours of debating time in this House, then we reduce that down to 10. I just wanted to set that stage because at this time of night there may be some people who wonder why the member for Sudbury was not going on for a longer period of time. I just wanted to put that in context of the changes that this government has made.

I wanted to comment a little bit on his figures on Bill 152, and I'm glad he shared them because they are both interesting and appropriate. But that doesn't mean that we would interpret them in quite the same way as the member for Sudbury.

As you will recall, a little over two years ago the people of Ontario decided to make a change in government. We ran on the promise to create jobs, to do something about hope and opportunity in this province. I'm glad to see that the member for Sault Ste Marie has included in his remarks some of those achievements that we have made to this date because yes indeed, those things have been improved upon. We are certainly not satisfied. We're far from happy with it --

The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired. The member for Port Arthur.

Mr Gravelle: I want to compliment the member for Sudbury on his remarks. Certainly they were very reasoned and they were very thoughtful, and I think in some way he was responding also to the government members who were saying: "Give us some alternatives. Give us some ideas." Those of us who know the member for Sudbury, and I think all do, certainly know he can get very, very angry. He's always very impassioned, but I think the calmness of his address tonight is very important. I hope the government members recognize that. He was trying in every way he could to say: "This might be considered wrong. This is something that might be harmful. You might be making a mistake. Please listen." I appreciated it very much myself.

I particularly appreciated him having an opportunity to spend some time on the genetic services and genetic counselling in the province, particularly in northern Ontario, and how many illnesses and how many conditions and situations genetic counselling can be extremely important for in this province. I think he made that point as well as anybody has. It speaks to the whole issue of public health and the downloading.


There's a story I want to tell the members of the Legislature about. It went in an article that was written by Dr Raisa Deber, professor of politics and health policy at the University of Toronto.

Dr Deber talks about the fact that several years ago, Ontario had the highest rate of measles in all the Americas. "In 1991-92, Ontario had more than 8,000 reported cases. In 1996, the provincial government decided to implement a new immunization program. Many local public health departments disagreed, saying there were more important priorities. However, because of the provincial role, there was a rapid and complete response. As a result, there were only 16 reported cases of measles in 1997."

I think this speaks to the importance of the fact that public health doesn't recognize local boundaries. You cannot expect that one community will have the resources or be able to look after the process when province-wide epidemics and situations take place.

M. Bisson : Le membre de Sudbury, je pense, soulevait un point qui est très intéressant faisant affaire avec ces débats. C'est que le gouvernement fait ses décisions à beaucoup de reprises, en regardant la question, en regardant leur situation, d'une manière beaucoup plus idéologique que pratique.

Ce gouvernement à tant de reprises a fait des décisions idéologiques faisant affaire avec des politiques, comment certains programmes vont opérer, mais n'a jamais regardé à l'implémentation de ses politiques.

C'est vraiment ça le fléau, le problème qu'on a : c'est que le gouvernement tout à coup décide qu'ils vont faire quelque chose et ne figure vraiment pas comment ils vont faire marcher et ménager le changement.

On voit beaucoup que, par exemple, à différentes reprises des programmes sont coupés sans vraiment penser à ce que ça ira dire.

A good example is the northern genetics program. We are looking at the public health units in northern Ontario because of an ideological position taken by the government that it was going to download services on to municipalities. They did not realize that their decision was going to mean that in northern Ontario we would not have genetics programs funded by public health units in the future because the municipalities at this point are saying, "We aren't going to pick up the bill when the province downloads that responsibility to us."

What do you do as a northerner? What is the practical solution for a person living in Sudbury or a person living in Timmins or Kapuskasing or Thunder Bay? The practical solution, and I would argue it's not practical at all, is that we will have to go to some university hospital or some local hospital in downtown Toronto or Hamilton to get services that used to be delivered in the north, at further cost to the taxpayer, a loss for northern Ontario and I say a bad decision and bad management on the part of this government.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sudbury, you have two minutes.

Mr Bartolucci: I'd like to thank the member for Sault Ste Marie for his comments and for his dedication. Mr Martin always speaks from the heart, very sincerely.

To the member for Perth, I'd like to thank him for explaining to the people of Ontario why the rule changes effectively eliminate the opposition from putting forth a case in a longer time frame.

To the member for Port Arthur I would like to say that I'm always impassioned but never angry, but I'm glad you addressed the public health concerns, especially the concerns with regard to genetic services. I want the members across the way to believe it is so vital to the people of northern Ontario to have those types of programs enshrined or protected. The downloading initiative really doesn't do that.

Au député de Cochrane-Sud, merci pour vos mots. J'apprécie les remarques.

I want to tell the people of Ontario that the downloading initiative must be reconsidered. I'm not fearmongering when I tell you that if it is reconsidered and if we look at streamlining in a very sensible -- even if you want to use a commonsense approach, you will change the direction you are going in. With all due respect to the government and its right to govern, in this instance a very serious error is being made, and the lasting consequences of this initiative will be, over the course of time, detrimental to the stability and the survival of many smaller communities not only in only northern Ontario but southern Ontario.

I thank you for your attention.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bisson: I want to come at this from about three different points. It's going to be rather difficult to do in the short 10 minutes we get now that the government has changed the rules. They have decided, by way of their majority in the House, to stifle the words of the opposition because they really don't want to listen to any kind of critical suggestions made by the opposition in regard to legislation they are bringing forward.

Specifically in this bill, the government is giving itself the legislative authority to go through its downloading exercises to municipalities. What does that mean for municipalities in Ontario? I will not speak at length about what it means economically, because most people can figure that out themselves. If the province stops paying for a service and says the municipality shall pick up the responsibility or downloads that responsibility to the municipality, it is pretty simple to figure out who is going to pay the bill: municipal taxpayers, that's who. You may be getting a tax break from the Mike Harris government in one pocket, from the 30% cut in the provincial income tax rate, but you are certainly going to be paying at the other end when it comes to your property taxes.

What does this mean from a policy perspective? That is what I want to spend my time on. It means a couple of things. Let's take a look at a couple of examples of what happens when the province abrogates its responsibility to deliver services here in Ontario and says the municipalities will now be responsible. It means there will be further fragmentation of services at the local delivery level.

Each level of government has, quite justly and quite rightly, its responsibility when it comes to delivering services. Municipalities are best situated to deliver what are essentially local services that do not have provincial interests. But clearly in services such as health care, such as long-term care, such as welfare, and the list goes on, there are provincial interests. For the government to suggest by its actions that there no provincial interests and, "We can just offload this to municipalities," I think is naïve at best. Not only is it naïve, I think it's really shortsighted, because it means that many Ontarians living in various communities across this great province are going to end up getting different levels of services based on where they live and the ability of their local municipality to pay.

In the situation of Timmins, I know from discussions I've had with our local aldermen and mayor that there is a great question about what transit services will be available to the citizens of the community of Timmins at the end of this downloading exercise. They really don't think they're going to be able to deliver adequate transit services to our citizens -- not to mention Wheel-Trans, which is quite another issue.

But how is that going to compare to the transit services for people living in Toronto or Ottawa or Sudbury? What will happen is that municipalities, for fiscal reasons because of the downloading, are going to have to make some choices: to concentrate on delivering either health services or transit services, or what used to be provincial housing, now municipal housing. They will have to make those decisions. Depending on where you live in this province, you will get services delivered at varying levels and in different ways.

That is not what a community is all about. That's not what a province is supposed to be about. The reason we have both federal and provincial governments is to make sure we have the taxing capacity through the federal government to raise dollars to pay for services that we've decided in this country all citizens should have access to. The federal government then makes sure there are provincial standards that each province must follow, and consequently the provinces are responsible for delivering those services in their provincial jurisdiction, to make sure there is consistency throughout the province and the country. This government is short-circuiting that. They're saying that somehow municipalities are going to be able to do this.

In many cases, I would say in almost 99% of them, services are being transferred to municipalities without adequate funding because it's a strict download to the municipalities; therefore the municipalities will not have the ability to pay. They will either have to raise taxes or cut service. I submit that either is going to be a losing proposition for the local taxpayer.


What you end up doing, by the very nature of this download exercise, is fragmenting services. For example, in ambulance services, right now there is a very greatly coordinated system across the province. In different places it can be run by the municipality, the province or a private operator, but the provincial government, through the Ministry of Health, takes the responsibility of making sure there are standards that set out how ambulances are run, how ambulance attendants are trained and that there is a dispatch system that works and makes sense when it comes to dispatching an ambulance to an emergency call. Once we move to this new system, this government is going to fragment the system even beyond what it is now. I think it should be a totally provincially mandated and run system, but this government is going to move in the opposite direction and is going to give it to each individual municipality.

"At first," they say, "we are going to establish standards by way of legislation to make sure the municipalities deliver those services according to a provincial standard." The problem is that if you don't give them the bucks, how are they going to do it?

Imagine you as the province, imagine the Tories today, if the federal government were to come forward and say: "We're going to offload the entire responsibility for health care to the province of Ontario. We will no longer transfer any dollars to the province through transfer payments, and we expect and we demand that the provincial government deliver these services according to the guidelines we set out as the federal Parliament." What do you think we would be saying here in Ontario? All members of the House, Conservatives, New Democrats or Liberals, would be standing and saying, "The federal government cannot offload its responsibility on to the province without giving us adequate legislative authority to make our own decisions or giving us the funding."

That is exactly what the municipalities are arguing. So in the end, what you've got is the worst possible scenario, the worst of both worlds. I say this government is going in the opposite direction in terms of trying to streamline services and make them more efficient. They're not streamlining; they're getting rid of them. They're going to get rid of them and make them even more fragmented, and they haven't even figured out how to make it work.

That's the second point. This government, in terms of the way they do business, tries to make us believe that they're the be-all and end-all when it comes to managing government services, that there is nobody like the Conservative Party when it comes to making decisions about how government should be run and how those programs should be delivered. But we see time and time again that this government has a very cavalier attitude, analogous to shooting first and asking questions later.

We see the government decide on the question of social housing: "We don't like public housing. We want to get rid of it. We're not quite sure how. We'll figure it out." Then all of a sudden one day they say, "We're going to transfer the responsibility to the municipalities and let them figure it out." How ludicrous. If the government doesn't believe the province should be in the business of providing social housing, they have to figure out how to get out of it in an orderly way. But they can't even do that right. They're incompetent. They're doing the worst possible thing. They're saying: "We can't figure it out. We'll throw it off to the municipalities and let them figure it out." What do you think the consequences will be? There's going to be a real mess in the province when it comes to how municipalities are able to cope with this downloading and this offloading that the province is doing in social housing.

There's not only the example of social housing. There's a whole gamut of services the province is offloading to municipalities that will have the same kinds of consequences. If you believe ideologically that you want to make changes to how services are run in the province, at least get it right. You have a responsibility to figure out what it is you want to do; then how you're going to do it. We're hearing time and again that people in this province are saying that not only are you going too fast; you may even be going in the wrong direction.

I tend to agree with that particular comment. This government has got to slow down, has got to figure out what it wants to do, and it has to stop moving according to ideological principles strictly. All governments are ideological, and I don't want to make the argument that they shouldn't be, but they have to stop moving strictly on ideological principles and start looking at the practicality about how they make their changes happen, not just shoot first and ask questions later. In the end, who will suffer? It will be the taxpayers, the citizens of this province, the very people this government says it pretends to represent. I submit they don't, and all they're doing is making matters worse.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Hudak: I am pleased to respond to the member for Cochrane South's remarks. I disagree with part of his conclusion, in particular where he talked about this being ideologically driven, that we're running off in some direction as fast and as far to the right as possible. That's not right at all. It's completely the opposite.

We're moving because we're caught in a bog of competing government services that we inherited from 10 years of mismanagement. To get out of this mire, working with our municipal partners, we have to make decisions to get municipal programs and health programs back on solid footing. We want a government that is less confusing, that is more accountable, that delivers the highest-quality services possible to the taxpayer. We need to get out of this mire where you have different levels of government providing the same services, 75% here, 25% there. "It's not me, it's the other guy." Taxpayers are frankly fed up with that kind of government. They want us out of this bog, and that's where we're moving. When you make these types of decisions, when you show that kind of vision that says we want to go to a higher ground, you start to see the payoff.

I would argue that in health care, making tough decisions that were left on the back burner for so many years, you're seeing the payoffs. Instead of going to the States for cardiac surgery, we'll have 1,500 more operations in Ontario for those needing cardiac care. Kidney dialysis patients who had to drive hundreds of kilometres for three hours of very difficult treatment now can get kidney dialysis closer to home. Acquired brain injury survivors, those who were in traumatic car accidents and had to go to the States to get services, we're bringing those folks back home so they get care closer to home, closer to their families, and then under very difficult circumstances heal faster and better closer to home.

I fully expect, through making the tough decisions and enunciating that vision, working with our municipal partners, you're going to see the results of these changes very soon, with better services to the taxpayers, more accountability and finally getting their money's worth for their hard-earned tax dollars.

Mr Bartolucci: I'd like to comment on the remarks made by the member for Cochrane South and agree with what he said with regard to the pace and the acceleration with which this government is trying to implement the downloading initiative. I believe what happens when you move too quickly, and too stubbornly in many instances, is that you make the wrong moves. I think that's what the member for Cochrane South is saying, that you're moving too fast and you're not moving at a pace that's acceptable to the people of Ontario.

Let me make a few comments about the survey I conducted and some comments that people in Ontario have suggested. The mayor of Timmins said, "The city faces massive problems, not only this year but in the years ahead." The treasurer of the city of Sudbury said, "What's scary is what we don't know," and that's exactly what the member for Cochrane South is saying. An alderman from the city of Thunder Bay said, "To maintain the level of services that our citizens have become used to would amount to a 22% tax hike in the city of Thunder Bay," obviously something that is impossible for a council to implement. A Timiskaming child care worker suggests, "If the local taxpayer has to make a choice, that choice may not be in the best interests of children."

We all know it's important to manage dollars wisely. No one disputes that. We all know that streamlining is important. No one disputes that. But I suggest that the member for Cochrane South is giving you good advice: Slow down; reconsider; if you're going to do it, do it right.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I just want to comment briefly on the member for Cochrane South, the excellent comments he made over the last 10 minutes or so on the fact that Mike Harris and his Conservatives are dumping on to all the municipalities. It's a tax grab that they're trying to take from all the property owners right across this province.

It doesn't matter whether you own your own home or whether you're renting an apartment, as they give the tax break to the wealthiest people across this province and shed their responsibilities for the services they were given. Whether it's ambulance services, OPP policing or any of the other services they're dumping on to the municipalities, municipalities are going to have to pick it up. It's one thing after another.

We know from the experience over the last six or seven months that this government is not able to get anything right. They had to call an emergency session of the Legislature in January, a special winter sitting of the Legislature, because they made so many mistakes last year. In August they brought back the Legislature for a special emergency sitting because they had made too many mistakes over the last two and a half years. It shows in the polls. They've dropped in their popularity and it looks like they're going to drop right out of sight.

I know a lot of the things the member for Cochrane South is pointing out bear true right across the province. People are scared. They're starting to panic when they figure out that, because of what Mike Harris promised during the election campaign in 1995, property taxes could go up as much as 30%, 40%, 50% as we go into 1998 and 1999 when the municipalities are going to have to pick up all of these services. At the same time as they're amalgamating and getting rid of a lot of the mayors and reeves, we're going to end up with a whole new structure of municipal government. School boards are all going to be changed. It's in a mess.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): It's a pleasure to get up and make a few comments on the presentation made by the member for Cochrane South. I think the most important part of the presentation was missed, and it's spelled out in the title of the bill. It's An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers by eliminating Duplication and reallocating Responsibilities between Provincial and Municipal Governments. This bill does not deal with the financial impacts but with the process of putting that in place. I would point out that I think the financial impacts are very important and need to be discussed.

The member across the aisle discusses the cost of the programs that are going to municipalities in a vacuum and does not relate that to the education costs that will be coming off the municipal property tax base. I think if you balance the two, you will find that it is an equal trade or an equitable trade between municipal and provincial governments. It does reduce a lot of the duplication and overlap that presently exists in the delivery of services.

I think earlier in the evening there were some presentations made related to the former government's disentanglement process and how the municipal sector walked away from the table when they had almost reached a conclusion. I happen to have been on the other side of the table at that time and the reason the municipal sector walked away from the table was, at the end of the disentanglement process, the provincial government of the day decided they wanted a percentage decrease in the provincial share of the funding. The municipalities said: "You have told us all along this would be an equal trade and equal responsibilities for both levels of government and now you are turning the clock back and not doing that. If we cannot trust you to hold up your end of the bargain, we do not want to be part of that." That was why that was turned down. We think we have a better package today.

Mr Bisson: In reverse order, the member for Oxford tries to make the argument that his downloading exercise is revenue-neutral. I only rely on what I've seen and what I saw myself at the AMO conference two weeks ago. When Minister Leach stood and said, "This is revenue-neutral," what did the AMO delegates do? They laughed. They said: "You've got to be kidding. We're the ones who are having to deal with this and we know it's not revenue-neutral." So who am I to believe, one minister or all of the municipalities in Ontario? When the Premier raised the same issue in his speech a day or two later, what did they do? They booed him, they hissed and they hollered and they did all kinds of things. It is not revenue-neutral. We know that. That's basically a myth that this government is trying to raise.

The member for Cochrane North raised the issue about how incompetent this government is and described that this government, in a number of situations, has had to recall the Legislature to fix up the messes they created because they couldn't manage the House well. I would add to what the member for Cochrane North said that that's the reason they put the rule changes in place. The government is incompetent and incapable of dealing with passing their agenda through this Legislature with the current rules. The NDP was able to do it, the Liberals were able to do it, and the Bill Davis government prior to that was able to operate under the current rules. You guys have got to change the rules because you're incompetent and you can't get your agenda through in the time you had. It's not our fault; it's yours if you're incompetent.

The member for Niagara South talks about the 10 lost years and that it's the government, strictly the government, that has to deal with the 10 lost years of the Liberals and of the NDP. I would remind the member for Niagara South, who invented welfare? Who invented the FBA system? Who invented the health councils? Who invented the health units? Who invented the hospitals that you're trying to dismantle? It wasn't the two governments over the last 10 years; it was your own Tory government that put them in place. If it was wrong then, don't blame us, for God's sake, when it comes to your own incompetence.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I think it's important to pause here tonight and take an overview of why we're making the changes that we are making. History has taught us that bureaucracies by their nature expand and grow. It's a worldwide phenomenon. We're overgoverned, we're overtaxed and everybody knows it. In Ontario, middle-class families pay out up to 65% of their income in various taxes. Many of them can't afford to save for their own retirement, can't afford to save for a family holiday or help their children save for college or university.

Governments take too much. They've encumbered people, they've stilted innovation, they've stilted risk, and in many cases they've discouraged people from working. Many people who have been creating jobs and working have given up, moved south or just stopped. So we have to find better and cheaper ways to provide services, and perhaps above all else, get rid of duplication.

I'd like to give you one example of duplication in a city in my own riding, Burlington, where they have not one, not two, but five transit systems: Burlington Transit, Wheel-Trans, ambulance service, public school buses and separate school buses. Each one of those transit systems has its own administration department, its own payroll, its human resources department, its own finance, regulatory, planning and on and on. What we need, obviously, are efficient, integrated services.

If you look at the federal and provincial governments, the scene is even worse. It's not Who Does What; the voters and the taxpayers are trying to figure out who is in charge. So we have federal and provincial ministries that duplicate in labour, in health, in environment, mines and resources, and there is incredible duplication in many other areas, for instance in education and training, transportation, and the list goes on and on.

The need for Bill 152 and the purpose of Bill 152 is to assist in the smooth transfer of responsibilities to municipalities for programs and funding, in whole or in part, for a number of services that are best provided, most efficiently provided, at the local level.

The goal: Get rid of duplication, find savings for taxpayers, identify inefficiencies and keep costs down. We've set the example. We've already cut our internal operations by 30%, a difficult and stressful process but an absolutely necessary measure. Our first step in this whole process is that we've taken $2.5 billion off the property taxes, which is half the cost of education, so the process should be called uploading. We've chosen to call it Who Does What because we think it gives a good handle to the voters on what we're trying to do, which is to get rid of duplication.

We know education taxes have gone up year after year. School board spending has gone up 98% in the last 10 years, yet the number of students has only gone up 16%. It's all about accountability.

I have talked to seniors in my own riding who have had to sell their homes because the property taxes kept going up and up. These are people who have lived by the rules, who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to society and paid taxes. Now they have to move out of their neighbourhood for something that is totally beyond their control, something they have no control over, which is big-spending school boards.

We had support; we had very broad support. Everyone told us, "Take school board spending, education costs, off the property taxes." We have done that. The challenge is to find $2.5 billion worth of services that rightfully belong in the municipalities to make it an even trade, to make it revenue-neutral.

Those should be services that are close to the needs of the community. So municipalities will have full responsibility for social housing, and they know better their own economy. They know their own transportation system, they know their own employment situation and they know their own social service delivery. They are in a far better position --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. It is now 9:30, and the House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 2131.