36th Parliament, 1st Session

L227a - Wed 10 Sep 1997 / Mer 10 Sep 1997




















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I hold in my hands yet another example of this government's vile attempts at justifying its agenda for education. The tabloid entitled Putting Students First is really only missing the sensational paparazzi pictures of the minister running away from classrooms, running away from students and running away from teachers to make this truly a quality imitation of a real piece of journalistic expertise.

Mike Harris's very expensive tabloid speaks volumes about what's not in it. I can't find anywhere where it says that Mike Harris cut funding for junior kindergarten. I can't find anywhere where it says Mike Harris slashed funding to adult education. I can't find anywhere in the journal where it says that Mike Harris reduced funding for literacy programs and for colleges and universities.

The minister claims that he puts students first, but he won't protect class sizes. He pays lip-service to it, but he won't protect class sizes. When I asked him to call my bill, which protects class sizes, he says it's simplistic.

Minister, I say your plan is non-existent. I would rather have a simplistic plan that works rather than one that isn't in existence. What is truly telling about this propaganda is that Mike Harris is trying to justify removing another billion dollars out of education on the backs of the students of this province.

I'll tell you right now, there should be three Rs: reject, refuse and return to the minister.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): All Ontarians should be concerned about a report published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology which warns that those Ontarians with cancer who live in families where the average annual family income is less than $20,000 are much less likely to survive the full range of cancers than those whose income is $40,000 per year. In fact, the higher the family income the more likely the patient is to survive.

"In poorer communities," the study says, "there is both an excess of cancer deaths and an excess of deaths from other causes," among lower-income groups. The study tracked 357,530 cases of cancer diagnosed in Ontario between 1982 and 1991.

This finding must give us pause because it flies in the face of our generally held belief that medicare has smoothed out the differences of mortality rates from diseases such as cancer based on income levels. Whatever the reasons for this disparity -- and there are many suggestions about those possible reasons -- the study is a heads-up call for all of us who value a universally accessible health care system. We must be sure this kind of disparity does not perpetuate itself or even increase as health care restructuring takes place across this province.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): Today I wish to notify the members of this Legislature that yesterday I tabled a private member's resolution, ballot 96, entitled Boating Safety.

The members in this House already know why we need boater safety certification in this province. Since 16.5% of Ontario is water, every member here with a lake or river in their riding has a boating or personal watercraft horror story to tell.

The public is very concerned over the increasing number of high-speed boats and personal watercrafts currently being operated by untrained operators and children. Many operators do not understand the marine rules of the road and mistakes can sometimes be fatal. It is the general lack of knowledge and awareness of water safety precautions that leads to complaints related to boating operations.

I've worked since 1988 to bring boating safety legislation into Ontario. By safe boating I am not advocating licensing for operators. What I have been pushing for and aiming and still pushing for is boater safety certification.

The resolution I tabled yesterday is asking this Legislature to push the federal government to amend the Canada Shipping Act, part II, requirements for pleasure craft. These changes would require persons operating a motor boat or personal watercraft propelled by an engine of more than 10 horsepower on Ontario waterways to have a boater safety certificate.

I look forward to presenting my resolution in full tomorrow at 11 am.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Later today I will be presenting in the House a petition of great importance to a great many people in my riding. It's signed by 730 people, the vast majority permanent residents of the island communities, and asks the province to substantially fund the construction of a bridge between the islands and the mainland.

This government has backed the island communities into a corner. Mike Harris has created an untenable position by saying he will end all provincial subsidies and force them to take on the responsibility for the ownership, operation and maintenance of the ferries. They have asked islands with a combined tax base of $800,000 to shoulder a $4 to $5 million cost. Property taxes would have to increase 338%, which is total insanity.

Islanders are terrified that the ferry costs, on top of the added downloading responsibilities for policing that they don't get and ambulance service, could very well bury them under a burden of debt and kill the opportunities for the communities to prosper.

The people affected are not tourists. These are permanent residents, some of whom have families that have lived on these islands for over 200 years. Have a look at the August edition of Farm and Country if you want a snapshot of how the farmers on Wolfe Island are affected. Already the prospect of ferry downloading has caused property values to drop by a third.

Mike Harris, I ask you once again, reconsider your position to download these enormous financial responsibilities. The islands are willing to pay their fair share, but with a small tax base and few financial resources, they cannot possibly handle these tremendous costs on their own. You are killing Ontario communities that have been in existence for over 200 years.



Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Yet again this government is demonstrating that they are moving so fast they're forgetting to pay attention to the finer details of how to implement their policies.

We know that this government is an ideological right-wing government which believes it is going to offload a number of responsibilities on to municipalities in an attempt to balance its books. But what's the cost of doing that, other than the cost to local property taxpayers who are going to have to foot the bill? It means in a lot of cases in communities across this province a number of services that used to be paid for by the province will no longer be able to be absorbed by the municipal councils across the province. What is the cost of that?

Let's just take a look at the issue of what it means to the youth of this province. In their zeal to deal with this issue in a way that's really not thought through, they are going to be putting in jeopardy and, I would argue, eliminating entirely programs that deal with youth when it comes to substance abuse, suicide prevention and teen counselling when it comes to the health councils of the province.

This government has to learn that whatever it does in its ideological drive to change the face of Ontario, it must take the time to make sure those changes work and to make sure they're done in a methodical way so that they don't end up making the kinds of mistakes that they're making now, putting our system into failure and, I would say, adding one other crisis to the province.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I've often stated in this House that the number one priority of this government is and must continue to be to establish a positive business environment in the province of Ontario, an environment which encourages the private sector to flourish and to expand, resulting in the creation of jobs.

There is a direct parallel between the number of new jobs created in the private sector and a reduction in the number of people on welfare, an increase in the number of people who pay income taxes, an increase in the number of people who are able to support their families and an increase in the number of people who gain a greater sense of dignity.

The true fighters against poverty in this province are those private sector employers who are creating new jobs in the province. I stand today to recognize an outstanding corporate citizen in the Kitchener area, Kuntz Electroplating, a family-owned and -operated company.

In the past three years this family business has created 350 new jobs, doubling its staff to 700 employees. It is a company which was recently honoured by its peers for its nickel recycling efforts, having formalized their recycling department several years ago and now recycling more than 70% of the solid waste produced at the plant.

In August Kuntz Electroplating's efforts were honoured by the metal finishing pollution prevention project, a government and industry task force made up of federal and provincial environment ministries and top industry experts.

I know I speak on behalf of the assembly when I say to the Kuntz family, I send you our best wishes for your continued success.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'm pleased to advise the House that last week in Hamilton we had the opening ceremonies of the 22nd annual Festitalia activities. This is a month-long festival that has been a tradition in the city of Hamilton and it will continue to be for many years to come.

The chair, Margherita Lawlor, and her committee have once again put together a great month of festivities. This includes a performance of Don Giovanni by Opera Hamilton, a Vino e Amore night, which, in effect, is the biggest Italian wedding in North America, at the Convention Centre, and one of the highlights, of course, is the regional dinners. This is where clubs from the various regions of Italy put on a dinner traditional to that region and it is well attended. These clubs include Pettorano Sul Gizio, the Donnici Club, the Venetian Club, Famee Furlane, Santa Crocce di Magliano, the Abrussese Club, the Alpini Club, the Pugliese Club and the Sons of Italy. These are great evenings of great dinner enjoyment for all.

There is a soccer tournament and a film night. It's a month of activities that allow the whole city, the region and many people across North America to share in the Italian culture and the Italian way of life, to enjoy the food, the wine and the goodwill and cheers that are offered up by many.

The board of directors, the Italian community, the city of Hamilton and the region of Hamilton-Wentworth look forward to this every year as a great font of festivities. I want to congratulate the board, the chair and all of the member clubs for their great work in making Festitalia the greatest Italian festival in Hamilton.

[Remarks in Italian]

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Dovercourt.

Point of order?


The Speaker: If you have a point of order, you have to wait for your mike to come on and then you make your point of order so I can hear it.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): I was questioning whether or not you can hear in that left ear. That was all. I know you can hear in the right ear; I was wondering whether you could hear in the left ear, sir.

The Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Rideau, that wasn't funny. I assume it was meant for humour. It wasn't funny. That's certainly not a point of order, and I think you should be cautious in the future.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I want to rise today to call upon the government to respect the decision that was recently handed down by Ontario Justice Dennis O'Leary regarding the proxy pay equity issue.

This is a decision that reinstates the right of some 100,000 women across the province to have the right that was given to them in law in 1993 by a government I was proud to be a member of that ensured that the lowest-paid women in the province also saw the benefits of pay equity, something that did not exist up until that point and something which Mike Harris and his government wanted and chose to take out, chose to remove, as they did last year, and which now the courts have said is wrong.

Those women, just like all of the other women who have benefited in the past from pay equity, also need to see that their rights as women are defended and respected, and given particularly that they are among the lowest-paid workers in the province, that they continue to be at the forefront of those people who receive this basic protection.

I was proud back in 1993, as the Chair of Management Board, to have the responsibility within our government for coordinating the efforts that led to the proxy pay equity legislation being introduced by our then Minister of Labour.

Again, I urge the government to respect the court decision and to take heed of the words that were given by the justice in recognizing that this is a basic right these women need to continue to have.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): This past weekend I attended a major event that reminded me why I'm so proud to live in my community. Chris Hadfield visited Sarnia, where his parents live and where he went to school. A crowd of thousands came out to greet Chris Hadfield, the Sarnia-born astronaut who is the first Canadian to walk in space. Our local airport was renamed in his honour and is now known as the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport.

Our special guest was most gracious in sharing his experiences with the excited crowd. As he told us how he dreamed of being an astronaut when he was just a small boy in Sarnia, we were all reminded that our own dreams for the future can come true if we believe enough to put in the effort.

Sarnia has the right ingredients to be many things to all people: the Hadfield airport, a tourist destination, an efficient transportation corridor, a base for new investment and a place of opportunity.

Chris Hadfield brought home to us an important reminder: If we have the courage to follow our dreams, we will achieve wonderful things.

I would like to thank Joan Link, the chair of the Hadfield event. Joan and I ran in the last provincial election. She's a good friend of mine and she is also a friend of the honourable Lyn McLeod. She did a fantastic job. Thank you, Joan, for a job well done.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to take this opportunity to introduce in the west gallery Jack Riddell, the ex-member for Huron-Middlesex. Welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg leave to inform the House that today the Clerk received the 43rd report of the standing committee on government agencies. Pursuant to standing order 105(g)9, the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: In compliance with the new rules of the Legislature, forced on this Legislature by the government, I gave you notice of a point of privilege that I would be raising this afternoon, as I am now required to do. I note that at the time it said:

"In compliance with the changes recently made to the standing orders for the Legislative Assembly, I wish to bring the following matter to your attention: The Minister of Education, the Honourable John Snobelen, has announced that the Ontario government intends to proceed with an advertising campaign which will cost the taxpayers of the province approximately $1 million."

Upon reviewing the information that the government is communicating with the public -- it's found in this particular document and on this tape being provided to television stations across the province -- I would put forth that it constitutes an abuse of public funds for the purpose of partisan gain. The information does not constitute an important public announcement, but instead puts forth a self-serving political message clearly designed to influence public opinion.

I also wish to raise the question of fairness in regard to this matter. While there would be no objection to this advertising campaign if the Conservative Party were funding its costs or if it were to come out of the funds of the Conservative caucus, this is not the case. The government is spending public funds in order to communicate what I consider to be a blatantly political message, these funds and resources to which the opposition has no access.

Upon appropriate consideration of your jurisdiction and a review of the advertising material, I would ask you to consider whether this constitutes a breach of parliamentary privilege. I would put to you that it does, as the advertising campaigns relate to matters currently before the House as well as the legislation the government has announced it intends to introduce.

Mr Speaker, the reason I thought it would be appropriate to raise this is that you will recall that in a previous ruling you made on January 22 this year, you said the following:

"I say in all candour that a reader of that document" -- this was a document put out by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs -- "could be left with an incorrect impression about how parliamentary democracy works in Ontario, an impression that undermines respect for our parliamentary institutions."

Further, you said:

"On a separate but related matter, the member for St Catharines expressed concerns on Tuesday of last week about the unequal access to advertising resources as between the government and the opposition. He asked whether the Speaker had any jurisdiction to restrict the government from disseminating allegedly self-serving, partisan advertising.

"At this point in my ruling, I want to express some personal concerns about the propriety of public funds being used to advocate, through advertising, a particular position on a matter that is before the House. Let me be clear: I am not speaking here about politically paid-for advertising but rather about funds that are contributed to by every Ontarian, regardless of his or her political view. Personally, I would find it offensive if taxpayer dollars were being used to convey a political or partisan message. There is nothing wrong with members debating an issue and influencing public opinion; in fact, it is part of our parliamentary tradition to do so. But I feel that it's wrong for a government to attempt to influence public opinion through advertising that is paid for with public funds."

That, in a capsule, is my objection in my point of privilege to what is going on with the government, that once again it is embarking upon a public relations campaign using tax dollars, using resources which are available only to the government and not to all members of the House. If the Minister of Education wanted the Conservative Party to pay for this, I would not be able to stand in this House and object. One could even make a case for the Conservative caucus bureau putting forth information of this kind without objection. But it is clearly unfair in our parliamentary democracy for this to happen. I submit as well that many of the matters referred to in the document and in the tape are matters that have not been completely disposed of in this House.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): On this point of privilege, I will say that the newsletter that is going out to the people of Ontario is simply an attempt by the government to convey very important information to the people of Ontario. The people have every right to know some of the basic facts that pertain to an important service such as education in the province; indeed, most people demand to know this kind of information.

The ministry has put together a very simple, black-and-white piece of information which doesn't presuppose anything, which simply conveys information, information that the people of Ontario have every right to be aware of. The cost of 12 cents for each copy is minimal. If some of the members opposite are saying that the people of Ontario have no right to this sort of information, I think the remainder in this House would take issue with that approach.

Mr Speaker, I also bring your attention to a publication from the previous government --


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Look who's talking, the guys who ran the debt up to $100 billion. Look who's talking. You doubled spending and tripled the debt.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I would ask the opposition to come to order, and the Minister of Finance as well, please. Thank you.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): -- in two weeks at Ontario Hydro. It looks good on you.

Hon Mr Eves: Look who spent that money at Ontario Hydro.

The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, order. Minister of Finance, order.

Hon David Johnson: I bring your attention to a publication from the previous government, the NDP government, which did exactly the same thing, with a couple of differences. One is that the publication from the former government, the NDP government, contained both a photo and a message from the minister. This publication today, from this government, contains no message, no photo of the minister. The publication from the NDP is obviously more expensive in that there are more colours involved. The message from this government: straight, factual information, no political information, no message from the minister in a political context, and it's in black and white.

It's interesting that the Liberals have raised this issue, because the Liberals in their last year, 1990-91, spent over $22 million in ministry advertising, over $22 million. This government, through the ministries, spent less than half of that amount in terms of advertising. It's still necessary to communicate to the people of Ontario, but we have done it at less than half the cost of the Liberal government in what they spent to advertise in 1990-91.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On the point of order, Mr Speaker: Obviously, it's a bit silly for the government to claim that because the minister's visage is not part of this, it is not propaganda.


The Speaker: I want to ask the House to come to order. These are points of order. They are directed at the Chair so I can hear them in order to make an informed decision. I ask those behind the Speaker and those on the other side of the chamber to please come to order. I ask the member to address his remarks through me.

Mr Wildman: Speaker, I hope you will consider the document and will look at page 6 in particular, where it says, "Focusing Dollars on the Classroom," and goes on to say that the government has a new approach, that there will be the same level of funding for each student enrolled in their schools across Ontario, but does not deal with what that level will be. If the government House leader says there wasn't a message -- the main issue that concerns parents and people interested in education across the province today is missing from this document.

Yet the government House leader claims we shouldn't be concerned about it because it's not very costly, when in fact it costs 12 cents a copy, which for 4.2 million households works out to about half a million dollars. At the same time, the government is also running a television ad. According to the minister's own information given out yesterday, they have already spent $485,000 on that media buy. So in total we're talking about $1 million at a time when this government says they don't have money for education in the classroom and they're taking $1 billion out of education.


The Speaker: I think we've reached the stage of debate. We're not into points of order.

Member for Cochrane South, you're getting up on a point of order. I ask you to stick to the point of order.

M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Je vais être très court. Je pense qu'il y a deux points importants ici. Le premier point, c'est que le gouvernement essaie de nous faire croire que ce document n'est pas un document politique. Moi, j'aimerais dire que c'est bien un document politique. Ce qu'ils essaient de faire essentiellement avec ce document, c'est deux choses.

Premièrement, ils essaient de convaincre le public qu'il y a une crise dans le système d'éducation de l'Ontario. C'est quelque chose, on sait, que le ministre de l'Éducation lui-même a essayé de nous faire croire à beaucoup de reprises depuis que son gouvernement a été élu.

Deuxièmement, ils essaient de rassurer le public que leur agenda idéologique ne va pas diminuer la qualité de l'éducation, encore un message politique.

Je pense que l'autre affaire, en conséquence, c'est que le gouvernement conservateur a ôté tous les droits à tous les députés de l'opposition pour être capables de communiquer avec leurs citoyens et la population ontarienne en coupant tous les budgets des députés, mais eux, ça pense fin utiliser un million de dollars de l'argent public, du budget ministériel, pour faire quoi, essentiellement ? Communiquer un message politique.

The Speaker: Member for Sudbury.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This is a different point of order.

The Speaker: Can I stick with this one?

Mr Bartolucci: Absolutely.

The Speaker: Member for Fort William.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I'll be brief. I would think, as you examine this point of privilege raised by my colleague, that you might want to use a standard of judgement as to whether it's an appropriate expenditure for a Ministry of Education, in the name of having to inform the public of something that is a public service, as to whether or not there is indeed information.

If you look closely at it, I think you will find there is no information contained in this particular flyer, let alone in the very brief television ad, that is not being conveyed much more fully and more readily to parents at the local school level. You'll find that this is pure political advertising and nothing else.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): And not the truth either.

The Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Rideau, you have to withdraw that statement. That's out of order.

Mr Guzzo: My comment was that the propaganda --


The Speaker: With the greatest respect, I want to hear it because maybe I misheard you, but I don't think I did. Go ahead.

Mr Guzzo: I believe you did, and if you'll allow me, my statement was that the propaganda being handed out at the school level was not the truth.

The Speaker: I apologize. I thought you said what the member was saying.

Mr Guzzo: I would never say that of a member.

The Speaker: Okay.


The Speaker: I want to rule on this point of order first.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): Point of privilege.

The Speaker: Point of privilege, you're right, sorry. On this point of privilege.

With the new rules, the member for St Catharines did give me the point of privilege previously -- this morning, as a matter of fact -- and allowed me the opportunity to review it before coming here today. I took the opportunity of reviewing the brochure or small newspaper or whatever it is that was handed out by the Ministry of Education.

The fact is, it's quite simple: If it's a point of privilege, it's got to be a point of privilege. You have to outline contempt. You have to show where it is that your privileges are being usurped, in essence.

Your argument being that it isn't balanced and reasonable or it isn't fair and the government has advantages that the opposition doesn't have when it comes to reporting to the people of the province of Ontario: Whether or not that's true is academic. I, as Speaker, don't have any power to determine whether or not something is balanced or reasonable or information-based or not.

I think I was fairly clear when I ruled on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. I find that if anyone is using government money to purport to be providing information that is clearly partisan in nature, I find it reprehensible -- that is just my personal opinion -- whether it's this government or previous administrations. I will say categorically, having sat in this place on both sides of the House, that I think we were all -- all the administrations -- guilty of this at one time or another.

It's not going to be up to me to make that decision or call, simply because I don't have that power, nor should I have that power. It's going to have to be up to the people of the province of Ontario to make that decision and they're going to have to determine what they consider to be acceptable and not acceptable. You can't look to the Speaker to make those decisions. I can't, nor do I want to.

The only thing I can look to is whether or not there is contempt. I reviewed the Ministry of Education's brochure. There was no contempt I could find. There was nothing out of order about it, there was nothing that was rendering this place secondary by nature, so I would rule that your point of privilege is not that.

Mr Bartolucci: Point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm seeking unanimous consent for second reading of Bill 156, which is An Act to amend certain statutes with respect to The Regional Municipality of Sudbury, to allow for election of the chair by the people of the regional municipality of Sudbury.

The Speaker: Agreed? No.

Introduction of bills.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Can I ask you, does Hansard record the fact that the government members voted against it or is it simply recorded as --

The Speaker: No, I just seek unanimous consent. If there's a no, there's a no. They don't record who the noes are.

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we missed item two, reports by committees.



Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on administration of justice and move its adoption.

Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

Bill 102, An Act to improve community safety by amending the Change of Name Act, the Ministry of Correctional Services Act and the Police Services Act / Projet de loi 102, Loi visant à accroître la sécurité de la collectivité en modifiant la Loi sur le changement de nom, la Loi sur le ministère des Services correctionnels et la Loi sur les services policiers.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? No.

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

I declare the motion carried.

The bill is therefore ordered for third reading.



Mr Bob Wood moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 157, An Act to amend the Marriage Act to provide incentives for pre-marriage education / Projet de loi 157, Loi modifiant la Loi sur le mariage et prévoyant des mesures d'encouragement à la préparation au mariage.

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

Mr Wood, a short explanation?

Mr Bob Wood (London South): This bill provides for a waiting period of 45 days for a marriage licence. This period will be reduced to five days for couples who take a marriage education course.

The bill is based on a growing body of social science research in this field. It is intended to help couples approaching marriage to build relationship skills vital to strong and enduring marriages. It is my hope that this bill will make a significant contribution in reducing the human and social costs of failed marriages and help to strengthen Ontario's families.


Mr Bob Wood: We hear that some find this to be a light matter, Mr Speaker, but I don't. I think it's quite serious.




Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. For the last three days, teachers have been in meetings with representatives of your government. They were there at your invitation. They came despite the tremendously provocative nature of the proposals that you had made to them. They came because they felt they owed it to their members and to students to hear what you had to say. Last night at 9:30 pm your representatives walked out. Why did your representatives walk away from the table, and why are you so determined to force a confrontation with Ontario teachers?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): My information is that the representatives from the Ministry of Education, who were engaged in conversations with people who represented the unions for teachers in Ontario and the boards of education in Ontario -- that set of consultations had taken three days -- did not walk away from the table. If the member for Fort William has any information that they did cut off these talks or end these talks in some way early, if she has any information that would indicate that whatsoever, please send it over, because that is not what has been represented to me as what happened.

I believe there was a very fulsome conversation about issues that are important to education with teachers and with board representatives and I look forward to reviewing all of those talks and all of those consultations over the next few days, because I think that's important for the bill that we will be bringing to this House.

Once again, in direct answer, my information is that the officials from the ministry did not break off these talks. If the member opposite who has made that accusation today in this chamber has any information that would indicate that, please send it over.

Mrs McLeod: The minister is either misinformed or he is deliberately ignorant of what happened last night. Minister, you want the facts. The facts are that when one side has a proposal on the table and the other side walks away, the side that walks away has broken off the negotiations. Last night it was your representatives.

The teachers were at that table in good faith. They knew your goal; you had made it very clear. They knew your goal was to take more than $1 billion out of education. They knew you were more concerned with getting to the lowest possible cost than with meeting the needs of students. They were told you wanted more than the $1.3 billion I thought you were looking for; they were told you wanted $1 billion more on top of the $500 million you have already taken out of education.

They didn't agree with your goals, but they were willing to try and find ways to meet your cost targets without hurting students. They were prepared to use pension funds to meet your savings target, if that was the only way to avoid disruption in the classroom. Why would you walk away from negotiations with teachers who were trying to find ways to save money without --

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Fort William, I asked you in my response to your first question to provide any substantiation of the allegation you've made here. You haven't offered any substantiation of that. I suppose you think that your role here is to stand up and make whatever allegations you'd like to make, without substantiation, day in, day out, even if that comes at the cost of the education of children in the province. That's not something I can support.

I can tell you this: You were right in this one sense: that there was good faith shown by everyone who attended those meetings, everyone who had a discussion about our goal, which is their goal, and that is to have the students of Ontario outperform students in every other province in Canada and to do that as quickly as we possibly can. That's our goal; that's what we were there talking about. I'm glad we had the opportunity to do that with teachers and with boards.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you went to those same teachers less than a month ago and you said, "Let's drop the rhetoric and let's deal with students' needs," and they wanted to believe that you meant that you were going to drop the rhetoric and deal with students' needs. They went to that table for three days; they didn't like your intention, your clearly non-negotiable goal of taking another $1 billion out of education, but they wanted to do everything they could to avoid a confrontation and to protect the students in the classroom.

Whatever you say, it is so clear that you are determined to have a confrontation with teachers. You are determined to cut $1.5 billion from education. You have made that a non-negotiable goal. You are determined to take your savings on the backs of teachers. You've set out impossible conditions for bargaining. It is students who are going to pay the greatest price for your determination to find dollars to pay for Mike Harris's tax cut and you won't want any solutions because you want to do permanent destruction to classrooms in this province.

Minister, before it is too late, will you drop your non-negotiable hard line? Will you set aside your impossible conditions? Will you work with teachers so that students' needs can be protected in this province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to confirm that I did go down to Niagara-on-the-Lake a few weeks ago. I did ask the heads of the teachers' unions in the province to drop the rhetoric, to chill things out, to come in and meet with us and talk about how we improve the system together. In fact, that's what precipitated the meetings that we have just had with the teachers and the boards, to talk about how to do that. I intend to take those deliberations seriously, I intend to review what they had to say seriously, because I think it's important.

You speak of empty and meaningless rhetoric. The only empty and meaningless rhetoric we've heard over the course of the last week on education is from the member for Fort William. I think it's a sad display for an elected representative.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to make a home visit together with a children's aid society worker. I visited a young mother who was raising three children on her own. She lives in an apartment for which she pays $800 a month. She had been receiving $1,500 welfare monthly. Under your changes, after your cuts, she's receiving about $1,100 a month.

She struggles valiantly against cockroaches, mice and head lice. She tells me that she has no phone because she can't afford it. It was the eighth day of the month on which I visited her, so I said, "Do you mind if I look inside the kitchen cupboards and inside the fridge?" I can tell you, if you and I had looked inside those cupboards and that fridge together, we would both say: "There's no food in the house. You've got to go shopping." This was the eighth day of the month.

Do you understand, Minister, what you're doing to young mothers who are making valiant efforts to raise their kids on welfare in Ontario?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Many parents, whether they're on social assistance, whether they're in a low-income job, face many challenges in trying to raise their kids. One of the reasons we think it's so important to help those parents get jobs, get into the workforce, one of the reasons why we think it's so important to have those jobs there for them is so they can do that, because we know that's what they want to do and we know that they and their kids are better off if they have those jobs.

I would agree with the honourable member that we know more needs to be done, because we know where those parents want to be. The experts will tell you where those kids are better off: if their parents or parent is in the workforce. That is what has been driving many of our reforms, because I would agree with the honourable member that this mother does indeed need additional help.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, you care for these mothers and these children so much that you cut $400 worth of welfare from them. That is a tremendous display of love and affection for them.

This mother, by the way, has got lots of initiative. While she has been on welfare she has completed her grade 12, her OAC and her first year of university. But now she can't. This year, for the first time, she can't continue her post-secondary studies because you've changed the OSAP system. This year she would have to borrow the equivalent of $30,000 in order to continue her education because as a welfare recipient, if she wants to go to school, she's going to have to get off welfare. She'll have to borrow for her accommodation, her day care and her tuition fees and whatever else she might need. She is absolutely terrified of putting her family into debt to the tune of 30 grand a year to meet those expenses, so she's going to be pursuing her studies one credit at a time.

Do you understand that what you're doing is prolonging the length of time on which this family is about to live in poverty? Do you understand that, Minister?

Hon Mrs Ecker: The goal I think, and I think you share this, if I may be so presumptuous as to say this -- we don't want kids on welfare. We want to get them off social assistance. We want to help those parents who need the help who have high-risk kids and high-risk families. As the Minister of Education has said previously, one of the things we've been doing with universities and colleges is to make sure there are more resources there for those individuals on low income who need the help to get that education. That's why one of the things that is part of our employment programs is assistance for education needs, because we recognize that training is extremely important.


That is very much part of the agenda that this government is trying to put forward. It's one of the reasons why we're working with Ottawa on the national child benefit, so that additional moneys can be available for us to help kids in high-risk families, because I agree that we need to do more. That's why we have done all the additional funding, all the changes we have made to accomplish that.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, you will know that I have put together a task force which is travelling to a number of Ontario communities and we are looking for ways to meet some of the challenges that our children are facing day in and day out in this great province of ours.

One of the things that we are fast learning is it's not any one particular item of the Harris agenda that's hurting kids, it's the whole agenda. It's things like the gutting of rent control, hiking of tuition, changes to OSAP, cuts to children's aid.

Do you know what this mother also told me? She relies heavily on the fact that she can go to her community centre, she can get free swimming for the kids, she can get free access to the library. She is terrified that because of downloading she's going to have to start paying for those kinds of things, because she can't. It's those kinds of opportunities that keep her kids plugged into mainstream Ontario.

When are you going to start to realize that what you are doing, not only on your own as a minister but the entire Harris agenda, is causing serious damage to Ontario children?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would like to remind the honourable member that he is also hearing in these hearings that he is having across the province that there is no government that can go and brag about what it is doing or has done for children. What he is hearing are many, many long-standing problems in child welfare and in many other programs that are out there.

What we have been very clear about is that we want to take the resources that we have, the increased resources that we are putting into high-risk and prevention, the increased resources that we're putting into child welfare, the increased resources that we're putting into child care -- the list could go on because we know that children's services in this province need a lot of change because they haven't been meeting the needs of those kids out there who trust us to meet those needs.

I would challenge the honourable member to disagree with one of the reforms that we have going on in child welfare. We've consulted the experts, we're doing what they say needs to be done to protect those kids. That's what they're telling him in his task force, and if he disagrees with them, I challenge him to --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, third party, member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): In response to the minister, we might all challenge the fact that --

The Speaker: No, your question is to, member for Algoma?


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): My question is on education to the Minister of Education and Training, and I might challenge the fact that sole-support parents now cannot get welfare. They must depend on OSAP and increase their debt load.

I'd like to ask the Minister of Education and Training about a very serious situation that faces this province today, students and parents, people interested in education across Ontario: the possibility of a serious disruption in education. I don't want to be accused of dealing with hollow rhetoric, so I'll ask the minister a specific factual question.

Can the minister confirm that in the negotiations his representatives said that it was non-negotiable, that the government would take an additional $1 billion out of education, that the government wished to take that out by changing and limiting teacher preparation time and that would mean that the students of Ontario would have a total of 6,000 fewer teachers in the province?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I was not at the negotiations, to be clear to the member for Algoma, the discussions. I can tell you that the representatives from my office would convey to the people who were in those meetings what this government's non-negotiable position is, and the non-negotiable position of this government is that we will accept nothing less than a better education system for the young people of Ontario. By that, we mean better performance on their test results in both pan-Canadian and international tests. We've made several moves to help to do that with the new curriculum, with our testing programs. That's what we stand for. That's what we're there for. We've also said very clearly that we intend to do that at a cost that represents value for the taxpayers of Ontario.

We are certainly willing to listen to any positions of anyone in education. We're willing to listen to the expert panels we've commissioned to tell us how much a high-quality education should cost. We're willing to listen to all of those people because we want to have an education system in Ontario that we can all be proud of.

Mr Wildman: I might be tempted to accuse the minister of hollow rhetoric. We could have found out what he just said in his pamphlet. He didn't answer my question, however. My question was specifically on matters that were raised in the negotiations.

I'll ask a further question then. Can the minister confirm that in the negotiations, the teacher federation representatives, taking the government's position that it was non-negotiable that they wanted to take the money out, offered to make the same amount of savings or similar amounts of savings by taking money out of the teachers' pension plan rather than out of the education of our kids? Can the minister confirm that?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I know that the conversations were wide-ranging. I know they dealt with a lot of issues inside of education. I do know that there was a discussion that involved pensions. I haven't read the full reports from the discussions, but I understand they involved the pension fund that is, as you know, a partnership between the Ontario Teachers' Federation and the government of Ontario.

Again, I'd like to emphasize to the member for Algoma that we are willing to listen to any proposal made by teachers or boards that will help to improve both the value of and the quality of education for our young people. We think it's important and we clearly are not negotiable about the outcome, which has to be a better education for our young people, but we're willing to talk about all the steps along the way.

Mr Wildman: If what the minister says is an accurate description of his position and the position of his negotiators, how can he explain the fact that the teachers' representatives offered to make similar amounts of savings compared to what he has asked for, but that it would not mean cutting the number of teachers teaching students or cutting their preparation time in which they prepare to teach those students? If he's really interested in the quality of education, why wouldn't he accept a proposal to achieve savings that would save teachers' job and ensure that they have adequate time to prepare to teach our students in Ontario?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me say to the member for Algoma, I have to tell you I'm very pleased that the teacher unions have embraced the need to provide education at a good value for the taxpayers of Ontario. I think it's important. They certainly have embraced that, and I thank them for their work and their participation.

Let me make this clear to the member for Algoma. I have not rejected any of the things that were proposed by people who represented boards or teachers in the province over the course of the last three days. I will be looking at all of those discussions, looking at the things that were proposed to us, and I want to get a chance to be briefed on that subject and also to reflect on it, because I believe that when you talk with people, you also have to listen. That's what we'll be doing over the course of the next few days: listening to proposals made by teachers and by boards to us over the last three days.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is to the Premier. Today we read in the Toronto Star that, "People across Ontario are cheering a court decision striking down one of the key moves Mike Harris has made against women." The judge found that your Bill 26 was unconstitutional when it tried to take money away from 100,000 of the lowest-paid women in the public sector in Ontario. As the Star says, "Justice O'Leary was also critical of the government's decision to act without reflection.... He said the government moved without regard to personal or social consequences and without consultation."

You aren't listening to what the people of Ontario are saying, but you should at least listen to the court. Will you announce today that you will accept this decision and live up to your obligation to make sure that women get fair pay for their jobs?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): With all due respect, I'd suggest you ask the question instead of relying on the Toronto Star and opinions stated therein for government positions. I've found it an excellent newspaper but never found it to be, necessarily, the most reliable indicator of what this government is thinking or Mike Harris is thinking, or any government, for that matter.

We remain very strongly committed to the principles of pay equity. We continue to fund at a higher level than did the New Democratic Party when they were in power. So not only do we believe in the principles, we're putting more taxpayer dollars into those principles that are there.


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

Hon Mr Harris: I can assure the member we're looking at the court ruling, and actually more as to what implications it might have with regard to technical aspects of other things the government is doing. But let me assure you of this: We will continue to honour and support our pay equity commitments and --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Ms Churley: Let me say to you, Premier, that the Star's words I read out today I believe reflect what the people of Ontario are saying and thinking about this matter. The people of Ontario believe in fairness, and what you're doing here is unfair.

Let me tell you, this judge's report is very clear. It doesn't leave you any wiggle room. It's very clear.

When we asked your Minister of Labour what she had to say to the 100,000 women affected by this court decision, she said the government was considering an appeal, but after all, there were new jobs being created in the economy last month. That just shows that she doesn't get it and you don't get it. We're talking about women who have jobs. They have important jobs in child care, nursing homes, women's shelters and community agencies. We need them to do these jobs and they want to keep these jobs.

What these women are telling you is that they expect to be paid fairly, as the law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees. Why won't you listen to them and say today you will not appeal this decision?

Hon Mr Harris: We are listening to them. Regardless of whether we appeal or not, we're telling the agencies affected to honour the spirit of the judge's ruling and pay, as we are paying, just as we pay more than you paid with our employees.

Ms Churley: You keep saying that you are paying out more money than our party did. Let's be very clear here about what you're talking about: It's the 1% per year. You're paying money that has to be paid out. You haven't added any money to employment equity; in fact, you continue to take it away. You pay lip-service. You keep saying you support pay equity.

The Toronto Star has some more advice for you and I would suggest that you listen to it. It says Harris should "back off other punitive measures his government is proposing." It says the pay equity rollbacks in Bill 136, your attack on public sector workers, "clearly are unfair. By the standard of O'Leary's judgement, they may also be illegal."

The Star says the court ruling reflects public unease among the people of Ontario that your government "will forge ahead with policies that favour the privileged without regard to the consequences for everyone else." Isn't it time to start listening to the people and do what the voters of Ontario want? Be fair to the women of this province, Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: The member seems to have trouble taking yes for an answer. Yes, we'll continue to listen to the people of Ontario, if that's your second question.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question is for the Premier. I want to talk to you about an incident that took place in the Harris hospital system. This time it was at Peterborough Civic Hospital. You might recall that on February 5 Ed Whitehill died in the hallway of that hospital and your minister later tried to claim it was a situation made up by the staff of that hospital.

Today I want to talk to you about Mrs Shirley Littlefair. She will be 75 next month. She went to the emergency department in severe pain at 4 o'clock in the morning on August 4. She was finally discharged four days later. She spent her whole time in that emergency department. This 74-year-old woman spent her entire visit on a stretcher in the bright lights of the emergency room, in a draughty, noisy, public corridor. And guess what? She wasn't alone. There were always at least six other people there.

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

Mr Kennedy: Will you direct your minister to stop the cuts that have made these conditions necessary? Will you tell him to stop insulting health care workers and instead --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): When you look at all the statements that are out on the spending, we are substantially increasing funding for health care. I'm sure you don't want us to stop the increases. If that's your position, say so. If you have an individual case, if you'd like to send it over to us, I'd be glad to have the minister look into it for you.

Mr Kennedy: Premier, it was $4 million you took from this hospital. The money you took put this woman in the hallway, gave her four and a half days in the emergency ward. When she had to use a bedpan in Mike Harris's Ontario, it was in full public view. If you're going to condone those conditions and dismiss them, maybe you'll listen to her husband. Her husband has written a letter which I'm going to send across to you. His comment is: "The Harris government is responsible for these conditions, because of the slashing of funds to hospitals. The wrong people are making important decisions about hospital funding, politicians instead of the people familiar with the real essentials."

The Harris government is responsible. You are responsible, Premier, for the deplorable conditions that you've put Mrs Littlefair in. Not long after her release, she fell and injured her hip; in fact she broke her hip. She wouldn't go back to the hospital. She respects the staff, but you've helped make her afraid of the conditions there.

Will you deal with this? Will you put the money back into Civic Hospital? And will you call Mr Littlefair and explain to him why the care has been reduced for his wife and why she spent four and a half days in a hallway in the emergency room?

Hon Mr Harris: Obviously, we will look into any individual situation. I think the member is aware that there is currently a clinical audit at the hospital, an operational review of the hospital. We'd be happy to look into this situation. If you have a letter, as you said you had -- other than sending me across a clipping -- I'd be glad to look at a letter from the member. Given your record on accuracy so far, in spite of the inaccuracy -- and most of the stuff you give us is made up of fearmongering -- I'll still look into it.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Premier as well. Your amendments to the Health Protection and Promotion Act provide that as of January 1, 1998, municipalities will be responsible for 100% of funding for all public health boards and their programs. One of the programs that's going to be affected in this download is what is called the northern regional genetics program, which is run in all of northern Ontario. This program basically allows for testing for cancer patients, leukaemia patients, people who have hereditary diseases, people who have reproductive problems.

From the discussions we've had with municipalities across northern Ontario, it's unlikely that they're going to have the capacity, because of your actions with the download, to take on the financial responsibility you're handing down to them. I'm asking you as a northerner, will you ensure that the province of Ontario will maintain funding for this very important program to northerners? There are no other choices in the north.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I can absolutely guarantee you that we'll make sure they have the capacity to do so.

Mr Bisson: I take it we might have just won a victory. Did I understand you correctly? You're saying that yes, you will ensure that in northern Ontario the northern genetics program will be funded by the Mike Harris government after the downloading exercise?

Hon Mr Harris: I think I was quite clear. I will make sure that the dollars are available to do so.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm shocked. It's the first time we've actually got an answer from the Premier. I thank him.



Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): My question is directed to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. As you know, the Toronto International Film Festival is in full flight. It is a showcase of hundreds of excellent films made throughout the world, many of them in Ontario. My question pertains to job creation. I would like to know how the enhanced film tax credits that were announced first in the 1996 budget have created a number of new jobs and new film productions for both film and television in the greater Toronto region.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you to the honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for his question. First of all I need to remind all members of this House that this government continues to spend close to $200 million annually to foster and promote culture in this province. That's not just spare change; that's really the hard-earned money of taxpayers of this province.

What's even more important is that this government is committed to supporting arts in new and innovative ways. I've been saying that for two years, and the three new tax measures for the film industry, the television and computer animation industry and the publishing sector is proof of that commitment. With a budget of $25 million, we also fund the Ontario Arts Council. That will be the major arts-granting agency for individual artists in this province.

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

Hon Ms Mushinski: What we need to do, however, is to change the way we do business. For example, does it make sense for an agency to spend $1,000 --

The Speaker: Supplementary?

Mr Hastings: The supplementary pertains to, what are your future expectations in terms of job creation for the film and television production industries?

Hon Ms Mushinski: The culture sector generated 81,285 direct jobs in Metropolitan Toronto alone. In fact, Toronto has become North America's third-largest film and television production centre, after Los Angeles and New York. It's also the third-largest theatre centre, after London and New York.

The question becomes, how do you continue to assist a growing and thriving industry like film development? Again I return to the tax credit initiatives as a fine example of the new approach to supporting arts and culture as an industry in this province. In fact, the Ontario film and television tax credit has received 82 applications to date, which represents $13.3 million in credits.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance. It has to do with Ontario's credit rating. He will know that five years ago Ontario had an AAA credit rating. It was downgraded over the period 1990-95 three times. At the time, Mike Harris called that a disaster. We now are two and a half years into the Harris mandate and it still is the same credit rating that Bob Rae had.

The question is this: Yesterday we heard from the auditor serious concerns about the impact on the credit rating of Ontario of Hydro's current position. Obviously, you've had a chance to ask your officials to assess this. Can you tell us what they've told you and what you can tell the public about the possible impact on Ontario's credit rating of the current situation at Hydro?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): There is no possible impact at this particular point in time on Ontario's credit rating. As a matter of fact, the question that was asked by the member from Renfrew yesterday was talking about a statement that came out of Hydro on March 31 of this year. The credit rating agencies have all taken into account developments at Hydro, and after the Hydro report was released, all of them, as I'm sure he knows, reconfirmed Ontario's current credit rating.

Mr Phillips: I think the minister had better get himself informed about what is an important issue for the public of Ontario. Our credit rating costs literally tens of millions of dollars in extra interest costs with that credit rating. You said it had no impact. Here's what Standard and Poor's said: "Ontario Hydro's revised financial projection has the potential to push back the overall improvement in the province's credit profile." In other words, Standard and Poor's were very clear. They assessed it and they said in their opinion the position at Hydro does have an impact on the credit rating. For you to say otherwise frankly indicates you are not current with the credit rating.

I ask you again: Have your officials briefed you on this? What are they telling you about the potential impact on Ontario's credit rating? And can you confirm that the credit rating will cost literally tens of millions of dollars to the taxpayers of Ontario if we remain at the current rate?

Hon Mr Eves: I repeat to the honourable member, all the major credit rating agencies have said that the province's credit rating is not in danger as a result of Hydro's recent announcement. Why didn't you read some of the other quotes?


Hon Mr Eves: He knew I would. Moody's, for example, after the Ontario Hydro report came out, said: "At this time the utility is expected to continue to service its debt without any provincial support. Moreover, the province is making significant inroads in reducing its budgetary deficit and stabilizing its debt profile."

You talk about cost to taxpayers in servicing the debt. I want to read to you the bond spreads between Ontario's 10-year bonds and Canada's: when you were in government, 38, 48, 50 and 54; the two years that we have been in government, those numbers are 23 and 14. Talk about costing Ontario taxpayers money.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Premier. I was with the strikers at PC World yesterday in Scarborough. These are strikers who have been on strike for eight months. They are standing up to an employer that is bringing in scabs to take away their jobs, scabs that you made legal under your Bill 7. They are standing up to an employer that has been found by the labour relations board to be bargaining in bad faith. This is happening all over Ontario. You are encouraging employers to take a hard line, to bring in scabs, to lower the wages and benefits of working men and women across the province.

Today the CAW has called on your government to appoint a special mediator-arbitrator to resolve this situation and, if necessary, they are prepared to submit to binding arbitration. Those strikers and the people of Ontario want to know whether you are prepared to direct your Minister of Labour to appoint such a mediator and resolve this dispute that you caused.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me first of all refer to the preamble about labour relations in the province of Ontario. In the period since Bill 7, we have had more labour peace than we did before Bill 7 under your government: 2,900 collective agreements, and 96% of them, covering about 420,000 workers, were renegotiated without strike or lockout. The year 1996 saw one of the lowest number of strikes in the last decade and 1996 saw the shortest average strike length in six years.

To indicate in your preamble that there is more labour strife now than there was with your government is incorrect. It is not true. The fact of the matter is, your stripping public sector workers of their democratic right to bargain and the actions your government took caused more labour strife than us restoring free collective bargaining to the process. Those are the facts.


Mr Christopherson: No, Premier, those are not the facts. The fact of the matter is that you've loaded up bargaining against workers in favour of employers in every situation in this province. When you talk about labour peace, the OPSEU strike, which did lead to blood on the streets, was the result of your Bill 7. You did that. The workers at PC World are not the only strikers, and I would remind you of the vision on TV last night of all those police officers ready to break that picket line because they have to enforce your Bill 7.

The workers at S.A. Armstrong, Premier, have been on strike for 17 months. Why? Because you've allowed scabs to be used in the province of Ontario and that's what's happening there. Your minister appointed a commission to look into that particular strike. She came up with some reasonable conclusions and some offers of resolving it. The union is prepared to accept those recommendations. Your minister refuses to appoint a mediator because the employer doesn't agree.

Premier, you caused this strike too. What are you going to do to resolve it?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me deal with the preamble because you phrase your question with information that is not correct. You gave the NDP the right to strike, and then you took away not only their right to strike, you took away their right to bargain. Now you're talking about the strike with OPSEU, and you're right. We did have a strike with OPSEU. You raised the issue. I don't know how it helps you in your campaign, but I want to say this: You took away not only the right of OPSEU to strike, after giving it to them, but the right to negotiate.

You're right. We did have a strike with OPSEU following which Leah Casselman said the government is fair and reasonable. Never did a representative of OPSEU, never did Leah Casselman say you or your government was fair or reasonable, I can tell you that.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): My question today is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. The people in my riding of Simcoe East are very concerned about the possibility of York region pumping 26 million gallons of water a day from Lake Simcoe to residential water taps in Keswick, Sutton, Newmarket and Aurora. That seems like an awful lot of water to me, and I can't help wondering what these historically important lakes and water systems which feed directly into the Great Lakes will look like in 20 years.

Minister, for those living around the lake, what studies are you doing to ensure that water levels will not be dramatically decreased by the proposed pumping station?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): This is, I know, a very important issue to the people of Simcoe East, and it's an important issue to Ontario because water levels are very, very important to maintain. The region of York has completed a master plan for their long-term water needs, and in implementing this plan, the region followed the class environmental assessment process which requires consultation with the public and government agencies.

The plan recommends four steps which have further requirements under the Environmental Assessment Act. At this time, the proposals -- and I say that plural -- outlined in the master plan are in the early stages of the planning process and each alternative requires different environmental assessment requirements.

The proposal to construct the water treatment facility at Lake Simcoe is in the preliminary stages of planning. Further environmental assessment requirements are needed, including an analysis of the environmental effects. There will be public and agency consultation. Everybody will have to do this before a green light is given to this kind of a proposal.

Mr McLean: I also have concerns for the Trent-Severn waterway which flows into Georgian Bay and becomes part of the Great Lakes system.. Will your studies also look at the effect pumping this much water out of Lake Simcoe will have on the sister lake, Lake Couchiching, and the Trent system, which is apparently lower than usual? What assurances can you give the people of Simcoe East that no environmental damage will result from taking water from Lake Simcoe?

Hon Mr Sterling: I know how important tourism and this waterway is to the people of Simcoe East and I know of his concern about the environmental impacts of any change with regard to the water quality.

I want to emphasize to the member that this is only one of several alternatives put forward by the region of York to meet their water needs until the year 2031. This one alternative requires a water treatment facility on Lake Simcoe, but it will require further work under the Environmental Assessment Act. Prior to implementing this proposal, the region must ensure that the proposal has been reviewed by many government agencies, including the Trent-Severn waterway agency under Environment Canada, and that any potential environmental effects associated with this project will be mitigable.

The member should also be aware that there will be public consultation. I want him to be assured that the concerns of the people of Simcoe East about this very important environmental issue will be heard.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, who I'm sure wants to protect the people of the province from gas prices that are increasing.

When I asked him the question before, he gave me an honest position of the government. He said, "Ontario motorists enjoy the most competitive prices, I think, in the world...I think overall Ontario is very well served." He said also, "If you travel across Canada, I think that the prices I see at the pumps...are quite fair." He went on to say, "We don't intend to dictate to companies what they should and should not do. I have no intention of interfering with the free-enterprise system, the pricing system. If we were to do that, we would be a laughingstock, sir. It would be a big mistake for this province. We would not attract business to this province."

You have within your jurisdiction, Minister, and you have important responsibilities in the government, the opportunity to recommend to the cabinet that it implement, by passing in this Legislature, a bill prohibiting the predatory pricing practices of major oil companies; that is, selling their product to independents at a higher price than your own people. Are you prepared to recommend that to your cabinet colleagues today?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very happy to respond to the member for St Catharines. As he is well aware, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations is in Saskatchewan at the present time. He has taken to his meeting with his colleagues the resolution and the discussion that occurred I think last week. I don't have to say anything more because we're all waiting to hear how they respond.

I would point out that they will certainly make your colleagues in Ottawa aware of this concern we have and that I'm sure other provinces have too.

Mr Bradley: I'm glad to hear you point the finger somewhere else. Another Premier, in July 1975, who complained about high gas prices, actually took action in this House. Premier Davis, a Progressive Conservative, said on July 3, 1975:

"Today the government proposes to introduce an act to be known as the Gasoline and Fuel Oil Price Freeze Act, 1975...the bill imposes a temporary freeze on refined petroleum products sold in" Ontario." The freeze...will be for 90 days beginning midnight tonight subject to limited extensions by the Lieutenant Governor in Council if the assembly is recessed or not in session."

He went on to say, "I have met with the principals of petroleum companies that merchandise products in Ontario...the wholly legitimate interests of the consuming public must be served. It must be clearly established that all charges made by the oil companies not arising directly from the cost of crude oil itself are justified."

This is Premier Davis taking action in Ontario because he knows it's within his jurisdiction. Sir, are you prepared now to recommend that your government take similar action as the government took in 1975?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I would like to remind the member that just recently there was a chance for his party to allow a vote on the discussion and they refused that.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.



Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I hope I won't be disappointed by the answer that the Minister of Citizenship, to whom my question is directed, will give me. Minister, I want to ask you a question about public libraries. As you know, we went through third reading of this bill yesterday. I continue to be opposed, as many people are, to what you're doing by removing the protection for fees and removing citizen majority on library boards, but I don't expect you to retrench on those two basic points. But there is one issue that you know we've continued to raise on the governance of public libraries and that is with respect to the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library.

You know that there is overwhelming support for that board to continue to exist largely as it is presently structured; that is, separate from the others and not to be amalgamated with the other boards here in Metropolitan Toronto. Will you indicate today your willingness to accept or bring forward an amendment that would do just that, Minister?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I thank the member for Dovercourt for the question. During the committee meetings on Bill 109 I think there was unanimous agreement on the important role the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library plays both in the city and in the province. That's why we are going to continue to fund it and that's why we're making special provisions under Bill 148 to ensure that its special role is maintained.

The question of a separate Metro Toronto Reference Library board runs counter to the whole concept of the Who Does What exercise. The people of Ontario need simpler, more effective government. That's what they've asked for and that's what we've accommodated under both Bill 109 and Bill 148.

Mr Silipo: It sounds like I'm not going to be particularly pleased. I thought that where the minister was going was in fact to recognize what the whole library community has been saying, which is that the special nature of this library, which serves not just Metropolitan Toronto, as the minister knows, but indeed the province as a whole, warrants it also continuing to be governed through a separate board. That can still be done while maintaining the funding relationship that you wanted to maintain, both through the province and through Metropolitan Toronto, the new council to be set up. Indeed, it would be wrong if you persisted in tying it to the new structure of the other library boards in Metropolitan Toronto that you are going to amalgamate.

You mentioned Bill 148. Minister, I just ask you again, will you reflect on this and bring forward an amendment through the Bill 148 committee stage that will reinstate or maintain the present status of this library to be governed as a separate entity under a separate board and still within the context of the new megacity?

Hon Ms Mushinski: I think it's important for me to repeat that our relationship as a provincial government with the Metro reference library will not change as a result of Bill 109. That having been said, we have ensured under Bill 148 that a new Toronto Public Library Board be deemed to be a special library services board. That will then allow me, as the minister responsible for the Public Libraries Act, to continue the special funding relationship, as well as to call on that board to provide the resources and services that are specified by the province. That provision exists under the old Public Libraries Act and will continue under the proposed Bill 109.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I've had many calls from small business operators in Durham East, as well as from mayors and members of business improvement associations who have contacted me regarding the elimination of the business occupancy tax, the BOT, which has been lost or cut with Bill 109 and proposed in Bill 149.

My constituents have advised me that they need the strength of a business improvement association. As a previous council appointee to the BIA, I know the important function of this voluntary group and the vitality they add to our downtowns. Can you advise me, the House today and my constituents, like Ron Hope, Ron Hooper and Murray Taylor, if you have any consideration to finding a way to save these volunteer boards?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for Durham East for his question. I think everybody will recognize that this government took some positive action by eliminating the business occupancy tax. It was a tax that was opposed by both business and the municipalities as being very difficult to administer and an unfair tax. The BIAs, as we all recognize, receive their levies from that tax. The revenues that were collected by that tax will now be on the realty tax and the BIA levy will be applied to that realty tax.

In most instances, the lease arrangements that tenants have with the owners include the payment of tax, so there would be no difference in the assessment. Where the tenant is not responsible for the business tax, the BIA levy would be assessed against the owner. There shouldn't be any significant change to that very important function that the BIAs provide to the community.

Mr O'Toole: Thank you very much for those very encouraging comments. I have a further question that I would like to ask the minister. Our government is listening to our constituents. Will there be any changes in the upcoming new Municipal Act that will affect BIAs in any other ways?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I thank the member for Durham East for his very good question. As members of the House will know, the government is proposing to do a complete rewrite of the Municipal Act. We now have that in draft form and we intend to put that out to all of the major municipalities and stakeholders for comments in the very near future, probably in a matter of weeks; a rewrite, by the way, that has been asked for by municipalities for about the last decade. We're finally taking action to make sure the Municipal Act is rewritten. In that rewrite we will ensure that the government looks at the governance and operations of BIAs, to make sure that very important community function is protected and strengthened.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a question to the minister responsible for privatization. On June 26, you announced that TVO would be put through a privatization review. The TVO board acknowledges that it has to manage change at TVO in a highly creative way. They have put forward a plan to change TVO from a government crown agency to an independent, not-for-profit corporation.

TVO has in recent years introduced efficiencies and entrepreneurial instincts that the private sector demands while at the same time supplying the quality of programming that only a non-commercial, public service television network can provide. This programming includes innovative educational services and important services to the francophone community.

Can you assure us that the proposal that was put forward by TVO will be given full and proper consideration by the office of privatization during their review of TVO? If I've only got one question, I would like to add, what kind of consultation process have you put in place to make sure that all of those who are interested in the wellbeing of TVO have a chance to express their views?

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): To the honourable member across the floor, I'll try to answer the four questions that I think were included in there. I want to assure the member that part of the privatization review process we put in place in March of this year did have a role for Ontarians to play as far as consultation is concerned. We believe that in assessing the options before we make a decision about which particular route we go, we should hear from Ontarians. We intend to do that. As I said, we believe Ontarians have a role to play -- somewhat different, I might say, from the privatization efforts executed by your government and the NDP government across the floor. We will listen to Ontarians. That is, with respect to TVO, something we definitely plan to implement.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I would like to give you notice under the standing orders that I'm filing a notice of dissatisfaction with the answer I had earlier from the Premier on the question of the northern genetics program. It would seem that the answer we got wasn't as clear we thought it was.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): He just said he was very happy with it.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You know, Minister of Agriculture, I don't know what happened, so we'll have to just let that pass.




Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the undersigned residents living in the city of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario are in need of a new regional acute care hospital situated in the city of Thunder Bay to provide the said residents with quality health care services in a modern and up-to-date acute care hospital; and

"Whereas the partial renovation and restructuring of the existing Port Arthur General Hospital, a 65-year-old outdated and antiquated hospital building, proposed by the health services review commission and the Minister of Health for the province of Ontario will not be suitable, adequate or proper to provide such quality health care services to the said residents; and

"Whereas the undersigned residents endorse and support the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital and the trustees of the hospital board and their vision of a new centrally located hospital to serve the northwestern Ontario region;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to reverse the decision and direction of the health services review commission and the Minister of Health to have all acute care services for the city of Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario region delivered from the renovated and restructured site of Port Arthur General Hospital and to endorse and approve capital funding to build a new centrally located acute care hospital in the city of Thunder Bay."

This has been signed by yet another 242 constituents in my riding. I've affixed my signature once again in full agreement.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by 26 residents mainly from the Toronto and Ottawa areas. The petitioners are petitioning the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure that the public is informed that bills are being debated in the House with enough time that they can ensure they have input and can study the bill. As a result, they are opposed to the changes in the rules this government has brought forward.

I have affixed my name to the petition.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 211 people. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, draw the attention of the Legislature of Ontario to the following:

"That managing the family home and caring for infant and preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society and deserves respect and support;

"That child care policies and funding should provide equity and fairness to all Ontario families;

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislature,

"(a) to pursue policy and funding initiatives that will support a full range of child care choices, such as extending the child care tax credit to all families, including those providing full-time parental care; and

"(b) to pursue discussions with the federal government to review the tax system to find ways to assist two-parent families where one parent chooses to remain at home."


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition signed by more people in support of a petition organized by Marjorie Archambault and others concerned about health care and hospital closures. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we wish this petition signed in favour of two hospitals to be kept open, and one board for the city of Cornwall."

I have also signed the petition.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition which I wish to present. It's signed by 370 people.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): This is further to the statement I made earlier in the House. It's signed by the Wolfe Island bridge petition and it's addressed to the Parliament of the province of Ontario. It was presented to me today by Mr Walter Knott of the island, who is very much concerned about the contents of the petition. It states:

"Whereas the restructuring of Frontenac county has isolated Wolfe Island into a small new community with a limited tax base, and such restructuring also barred any assistance with ferry costs by any of the other new communities in Frontenac or the new City of Kingston; and

"Whereas the announcements of mega-week from the Who Does What review have placed full cost of operating the ferry service on Wolfe Island; and

"Whereas it is obvious that the only long-term solution to connectivity to the mainland is a fixed link (bridge); and

"Whereas the studies approved by the Minister of Transportation are clearly focused on obtaining private sector financing to provide the transportation linkage to the mainland, this will undoubtedly place the control of all developments on Wolfe Island in the hands of the successful bidder in order for them to recoup their investment; and

"Whereas the citizens of Wolfe Island must have control over any development on their island, this being consistent with the democratic process supported by the government of the province of Ontario;

"Therefore we the undersigned citizens of the township of Wolfe Island petition that the government of Ontario guarantee and provide the majority of funding necessary for a fixed link (bridge) to the mainland in order that the future development of Wolfe Island remain under the control of the democratically elected representatives of its citizens; and further

"That such guarantee of majority funding for a bridge be announced before any `memorandum of understanding' is signed with any successful bidder resulting from the current business plan study."

I have signed the petition as well, as I am in agreement with same.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have literally hundreds of different petitions here. I'll start with this one. It seems the government is having some problems with a whole bunch of issues. This petition deals with the following:

"To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the following undersigned citizens, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has broken its election promise by slashing millions of dollars from the education budget;

"Whereas by slashing the education budget these cuts are resulting in larger classes, less help for special needs students, loss of junior kindergarten, fewer resources for the classroom and teachers to help students;

"Whereas by amalgamation of school boards into superboards community voice and needs will not be heard or addressed, resulting in a less dynamic and productive education system less reflective of individual community needs;

"Whereas should future cuts continue, these will encourage the downward spiral of the present quality of education."

I've signed by name to that petition.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I rise today with a petition again on the issue of toplessness, courtesy of Kennedy Road Tabernacle and Bramalea Baptist Church:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

I am happy once again to affix my name to this petition.



Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I have a petition signed by a number of Sudburians, addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas TVOntario has served Ontarians of all ages for more than 25 years with quality commercial-free television that continues to focus 70% of its programming schedule on education and children's programming; and

"Whereas TVOntario is available to 97.4% of Ontarians and for some uncabled communities is the only station available, making it a truly provincial asset; and

"Whereas TVOntario continues to work towards increasing self-generated revenues;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure that TVOntario continue to be a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster."

I have signed the petition.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have another petition having to do with the following:

"To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the following undersigned citizens, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"Whereas the Ontario government has repealed the employment equity legislation; and

"Whereas this legislation was designed to assist many disadvantaged groups; and

"Whereas in the past" -- and again now, and in the future -- "voluntary efforts to achieve employment equity have and will not work; and

"Whereas employment equity was working;

"We therefore demand that the government reinstate the employment equity legislation in the province of Ontario to a level playing field for all workers."

I have signed my name to that petition.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition regarding the state of education in Ontario, and it reads as follows:

"We believe that the heart of education in our province is the relationship between student and teacher and that this human relation dimension should be maintained and extended in any proposed reform. The Minister of Education and Training should know how strongly we oppose the secondary reform recommendations being proposed by the ministry and the government.

"We recognize and support the need to review secondary education in Ontario. The proposal for reform as put forward by the ministry is substantially flawed in several key areas: (a) reduced instruction time, (b) reduction of instruction in English, (c) reduction of quality teaching personnel, (d) academic work experience credit not linked to education curriculum, and (e) devaluation of formal education.

"We therefore strongly urge the ministry to delay the implementation of secondary school reform so that all interested stakeholders -- parents, students, school councils, trustees and teachers -- are able to participate in a more meaningful consultation process which will help ensure that a high quality of publicly funded education is provided."

I have affixed my signature to this document.


Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition des gens concernés de la région de Hawkesbury. À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario:

«Attendu que le jugement de la Cour d'appel a été en faveur de la dame qui ne portait pas de haut dans un endroit public ;

«Attendu que la majorité de la population de l'Ontario s'oppose à cette décision ;

«Attendu que cette décision est à l'encontre des valeurs morales et humaines de la majorité des résidents et résidentes de l'Ontario ;

«Nous, les soussignés, adressons à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario la pétition suivante :

«Que le premier ministre de l'Ontario apporte un projet de loi qui interdit la nudité du haut du corps des femmes dans des endroits publics et qui spécifie des lignes de conduite pour les endroits désignés privés.»

J'y ajoute ma signature, merci.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition in support of family resource programs, and it's addressed to the Ontario Legislature.

"We, the undersigned, are firmly opposed to the erosion of the child care system. We are most particularly concerned about the unregulated child care sector, which represents the choice of most Ontario families, many living in rural areas.

"We urge this government to make its budget reduction in areas where children and families will not once again be the target of cuts.

"Family resource programs support the informal sector of child care, which includes parents caring for their own children and the care provided by grandparents, home child care providers and nannies."

I am affixing my signature to this document.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have another petition. The reason I have three petitions today is because there are many people in my riding who are fairly upset with the quick pace of change taking place in Ontario today. The petition is addressed to the assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:

"Whereas the Minister of Labour has introduced" a new bill "to drastically amend the Labour Relations Act, the Employment Standards Act and other labour legislation which has been brought forward by successive Progressive Conservative" and other "governments in recognition of the legitimate rights of employees of Ontario; and

"Whereas the implementation of" this new bill "undermines the fundamental democratic rights of employees to organize and to have access to collective bargaining; and

"Whereas employers have raised concerns about" this bill because it "will result in an increased number of strikes; and

"Whereas the Minister of Labour is proceeding with" this bill "without consultation with employee groups and without conducting public hearings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to urge the Minister of Labour to withdraw" all new bills that concern this issue.

I am affixing my signature to this document.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Although this petition may be somewhat out of date in light of the fact of the rather undemocratic methods that were used by the government to get new standing orders, I will file it with the Parliament in any event. It states:

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

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

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has passed new legislative rules, which have eroded the ability of both the public and the media to closely scrutinize the actions of the Ontario government; and

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

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

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

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

I'm in full agreement with this petition and have added my signature to it.



Mr Grimmett moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 140, An Act to establish the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to other statutes / Projet de loi 140, Loi créant la Commission des services financiers de l'Ontario et apportant des modifications complémentaires à d'autres lois.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased today to kick off the debate on second reading of Bill 140. This is a bill which follows up on a commitment made by the finance minister in the budget in May and it is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the provincial government's regulatory scheme with respect to part of the financial services sector.

Before I deal with some of the details in the bill, I'd like to say, as part of an overview, that the scheme in the bill is to merge the three entities that currently regulate insurance, pensions and some of the smaller financial institutions, some of the other financial institutions that are not perhaps as well known as the banks in Ontario.

The scheme of the bill is also to clarify the role of the government regulator and to establish an independent tribunal to which decisions of that regulator can be taken by members of the financial community.

The present process that exists in Ontario I think is worth reviewing because those people who may be watching, and perhaps some of the people here today, may not be aware of the current regulatory setup in Ontario with respect to insurance, pensions and other financial institutions.


The Ontario Insurance Commission currently licenses and registers people and companies dealing in the insurance industry and its main purpose is to ensure the solvency of provincially incorporated companies and supervise the business and market conduct of insurance companies. It also provides a dispute resolution service. It maintains the motor vehicle accident claims fund, a very important aspect of auto insurance in Ontario, to protect anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident where insurance is not involved.

It's important, as we review the current setup, to pay attention to my later comments on how the bill will set up a different regime.

The commissioner of insurance occupies a statutory position and performs both adjudicative and regulatory functions. There are some people who feel that the adjudicative and regulatory functions should be moved further apart and the bill addresses that concern.

The insurance commission also conducts hearings, and those hearings are held on issues such as licensing of life agents and orders regarding unfair or deceptive practices. It can take away adjusters' licences and limit conditions on the insurer's licence. Also, it can reduce the term of the licence and can seize the insurer's assets.

Those are some very important regulatory issues that the insurance commission currently deals with. I think it's important for the public to realize that under the new bill all of those functions will be preserved and carried out by the new Financial Services Commission or by the separate Financial Services Tribunal.

The Pension Commission of Ontario currently regulates the administration of pension plans through registration and filing requirements. Of course, its purpose is to protect the rights and pension benefits of members of employer-sponsored pension plans. It also administers the pension benefit guarantee fund, which provides compensation up to specified limits for pension plan members whose plans have a funding deficiency when their employer becomes insolvent.

The commission is a body of five to nine members, which performs regulatory and adjudicative functions. One of its functions is to ensure the solvency of pension plans in Ontario. Again, the pension commission holds hearings as well and those hearings could relate to such issues as payment of surplus money out of a pension plan. It deals with windup and partial windup of a pension plan. As many people would know, those are at times controversial issues. It deals with the registration and rejection of a plan amendment. It also deals with the appeal or review of orders and proposed orders of the superintendent of pensions.

The deposit institutions division of the Ministry of Finance is the third institution that is addressed in the bill. The ministry's deposit institutions division currently regulates the loan and trust industry. It regulates mortgage brokers, credit unions and caisses populaires. It licenses and registers companies, performs field audits, financial analysis, and its duty is to ensure sound business and financial practices are being followed in that field.

There are no adjudicative functions in the deposit institutions division that are comparable to the insurance and pension commissions that I've discussed, although certain decisions of the director of the credit unions and cooperatives branch can be appealed to the superintendent. Certain decisions of the superintendent can be appealed to the Commercial Registration Appeal Tribunal and the courts.

You can see from the analysis of the existing system that there is considerable variation between those three agencies, if you will. In analysing the setup in those agencies, both the ministry and the industry have commented, when comparing Ontario with other jurisdictions, that there was a need to provide more clarification of the roles of the regulator, to try to distinguish between the role of the provincial regulatory body and a possible appellate body. Also, by looking at other jurisdictions, the Ontario ministry and some of the people who from time to time consult with the ministry identified that in other jurisdictions steps have been taken to integrate those kinds of financial institutions into a more centralized body.

For example, we have Quebec's Inspector General of Financial Institutions, similar to what we have in the proposed bill, British Columbia's Financial Institutions Commission and also the federal government's Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. In all those cases, and in other jurisdictions in the United States and western Europe, there has been a move to integrate the regulation of financial services. In many cases it mirrors an integration within the industry, because when you look at insurance, pensions and financial institutions, they are in similar activities. In some cases they are now the same companies that operate in all three fields. I think from that standpoint it makes sense to see our regulatory agencies integrated, and that is part of the scheme in the bill.

Obviously one of the purposes of integrating the agencies is to try and find efficiencies. There is good reason for that, not only because our government wants to be as efficient as possible with the public's money but also because currently the regulatory scheme is financed almost entirely by the industry. The industry is well aware that the direction we're headed in and the direction of all western jurisdictions is towards having those institutions that are regulated finance the regulatory service provided by the government. So it is in the interests of the government and of the industry that the regulatory institutions be operated effectively and efficiently so that the costs to the industry of maintaining the regulatory scheme are not so high that they have to be passed on to consumers.

Generally speaking, the idea of pulling together the agencies is one that the industry recognizes is necessary, as does government. There are certainly savings I'll speak about later that are going to be realized from bringing them together.

I wanted to speak about the consultation process that preceded the drafting of this bill. The stakeholders in the community who have an interest in the agencies affected by the bill were notified that the ministry was looking into the prospect of amending the legislation. Most of the bodies that were contacted took the time to either send in written commentary or to meet with officials from the ministry.

I'll just provide the names of some of these organizations which I think are quite widely known and respected: the Association of Credit Unions of Ontario, the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario, the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association -- perhaps some of the members here today are members of these great organizations -- the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, the Credit Union Central of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Life Underwriters Association of Ontario, the Pension Commission of Ontario, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario. There are many more, but that is an example of the kind of consultation that took place. All of those bodies, and more, were able to meet with ministry officials, provide them with their comments, and to some extent they were influential in the drafting of the legislation.

The legislation itself is designed to establish a new regulatory hierarchy in Ontario for the industry that we're trying to make sure continues to be regulated. The reasons for regulating these aspects of the financial industry are quite obvious. We want to protect the public and make sure the public maintains confidence in Ontario's financial services sector.


The new regulatory hierarchy that's established in the bill is the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. It will be composed of a chair and two vice-chairs. There will be a director of arbitrations and a superintendent of financial services. It's important to understand that there will also be a separate Financial Services Tribunal, which is an independent appeal review body.

The practice whereby the superintendent will have statutory authority and be responsible generally for first-instance regulatory decision-making is important for the industry to know about. I think the industry will grow comfortable with that situation. They will go the superintendent with an idea. For example, a pension plan might go to the superintendent and say: "We have this situation with our pension plan. We would like to do such-and-such with it." The superintendent will be in a position to provide a first-instance notice of proposed decision. The person or party that's going to the superintendent will then decide whether they're going to accept that decision and carry it out or whether they're going to amend their suggestion; or they do have the option under the bill of taking it to the Financial Services Tribunal by way of appeal or review of that proposed decision from the superintendent.

One of the concerns raised by some of the people who were consulted by the ministry was that if the current bodies were merged, there could be the loss of expertise that's been acquired by people who sit either administratively or in a tribunal situation and make decisions. The legislation has been purposely tailored to make sure the experience and expertise of an applicant to sit on this commission would have to be considered by the cabinet and the chair of the Financial Services Commission before they're appointed.

The legislation designs the commission so it will ensure that the agencies will be sufficiently financed to cover their cost of operations. Each regulated sector will pay its share of the ministry costs plus the commission's costs, plus an equitable portion of the common services and overhead. The assessments will be set by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to cover costs of regulation, and the fees will be set by the commission with the minister's approval. The members of the industry are well aware of this. I'm told by the ministry that they're quite prepared to deal with that, because for all intents and purposes that is the reality under the current scheme.

I'd like to address also the kinds of savings that it is anticipated the merger of the three current regulatory bodies will bring about. To some extent, these are commonsense types of savings. For example, there will now be one administrative boss for this entire regulatory field. That person will be the superintendent, who is the chief executive officer of the commission. He will be in a position to locate inefficiencies, identify where savings can be made and identify especially where the three bodies which currently exist at three different addresses may have an overlap in expertise, may have an overlap in knowledge. They may also be able to share some resources and share some knowledge so they can better perform those regulatory duties that are so important, such as perhaps finding bad operators, identifying areas in the industry that need attention, and there is the obvious opportunity to reduce overhead and to share resources that come from such a merger.

Bill 140 delivers on a commitment, as I said, that was made by the Minister of Finance to create a Financial Services Commission. The commission will protect the public, maintain confidence in Ontario's financial services and create a more efficient and effective financial services regulator by merging the three existing organizations.

By being more cost-effective and efficient, the new commission will enable the financial services industry to better serve consumers and business. This in turn will create a climate for job growth. We've targeted significant savings, particularly because costs are paid by the regulated industries on a cost-recovery basis, and reducing their costs will help keep the sector competitive.

The new commission's structure will provide the flexibility to deal with the increasing trend towards integration of financial services that we see in other parts of the globe. It also lays the groundwork to further streamline regulation and eliminate overlap with the federal government. This will enable us to further reduce costs and, by so doing, keep our financial services sector competitive.

We've consulted extensively with stakeholders to ensure the new integrated structure will provide strong consumer protection and maintain quality service. We've received a broad acceptance of the proposed agency structure.

In response to their emphasis on the importance of an independent appeal process, the new commission's tribunal will provide expert, prompt and effective review of regulatory decisions on pension, insurance and other financial matters.

Ontario is not the first jurisdiction to create an integrated financial services regulator.

Our government is committed to having rules that protect the public and help create a climate for job growth. Bill 140 is just one of several steps we've taken to regulate Ontario's financial services more efficiently and effectively.

Creating the Financial Services Commission is another step towards providing smaller, more efficient and cost-effective government. We're moving towards better regulation of Ontario financial services, improved consumer protection and maximizing the contribution of financial services to Ontario's economic growth.

Those are my comments for now. I'll allow my colleagues to make some comments.

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

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): We are now aware of the government position on the bill and what the bill contains. I should say to the member that I have a concern whether the resources are going to be available to deal with this bill. In other words, the government is passing a number of pieces of legislation these days, and if one were to look at them, one would say they may have some positive aspects to them. However, it is one thing to put down on a piece of paper, that is, in the form of a bill, that which the government desires to happen; it's another to have the necessary resources and staff to carry out that which is contained in the legislation.

I want to say that in so many other areas -- I think of the Game and Fish Act, for instance, as just another comparison -- what is contained in the government legislation is not offensive, in other words, it is probably supportable by all members of the House, but our concern would be that at the same time the government is bringing in this act, it is not providing for the necessary resources to carry out the responsibilities contained within the provisions of the bill.

We would raise the same concern. We hope that would be overcome. I recognize there's some self-financing that takes place, in other words, the affected individuals will be prepared or at least required to provide some funding, so that may alleviate some of the concern that there will be the necessary resources. But I would ask the member to comment again -- I think he mentioned some of that in his initial remarks -- on how many staff will be available to carry out the responsibilities and what kind of resources the commission will have to carry out its responsibilities. That would be a concern we might express.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): We too, the New Democratic Party, feel positive about the proposal for Bill 140. Nevertheless we'll have to wait until regulatory bodies, regulation comes into being. It seems that this is the way government does things nowadays. They seem to be in a hurry, and, inevitably, you find the devil in the details.

Let me share with you and with the parliamentary assistant, with respect, one example. The credit unions are very much impacted by virtue of this bill. They will be asked to pay an annual fee. Let's keep in mind that the credit unions are pretty well the only competition that banks have. They don't know how much it will cost. They wish the bill to go to committee because, before they fork over, before they pay the annual fee, which will exceed, surpass $2 million, they want to know exactly how much so they can adjust, they can plan for the future.

Yet the government makes no mention of what that fee will be. But at 8 or 9 or 10 o'clock of a certain evening in the not-too-distant future regulators under no scrutiny -- the opposition won't be there, the credit unions won't be there, the client group -- it will be decreed that annually you must pay so much. Before you enter into any agreement, is it not reasonable, is it not sage to ask how much will the freight be? That's something we would do in our private lives, and the situation is no different. We intend to address this by rotation.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to rise this afternoon and comment on the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay's presentation on Bill 140, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario Act. I just want to compliment the member on his fine speech. I think he's a very capable member and a very capable parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance.

When he was speaking today he spoke about the consultation --


Mr Newman: The member for Kingston and The Islands says, "Tell us what he said." I was listening. What the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay stated was all the consultation that he has done and the work that the government has done. It's quite indicative of what this government's all about: listening, consulting with people.

He personally met with the Association of Credit Unions of Ontario; he personally met with the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario; he also met with the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association, the Canadian Bar Association -- I know that would be of interest to the member for Kingston and The Islands; he also met with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, the Credit Union Central of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Labour.

The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay went and listened to what they had to say regarding this bill. I think that he ought to be applauded for that. He also met with the Life Underwriters Association of Canada, the Pension Commission of Ontario, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.

That's a lot of consultation on the part of the parliamentary assistant. I think he ought to be complimented for that. I know the ministry itself has met with a lot of people, including the province of British Columbia and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Once again, the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay ought to be commended for his hard work on Bill 140. He's doing a fine job and, again, a very capable member.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Let me say -- and I take the member at face value -- if he really met with all of these organizations, it'll be a first for this government, because we know that there have been many bills passed in this House over the last two years where there has been absolutely no consultation, or they've only consulted with their client groups to make sure that what they wanted to hear was being said by the different groups that came.

Of course, listening to groups is one thing; actually doing what the groups so sensibly propose, in a lot of situations, is something else. I cannot understand why the request of the credit union movement to actually make them aware of what the fees were going to be wasn't adhered to. Perhaps the parliamentary assistant can deal with that in his response. Why didn't you deal with their requests, and why didn't you put their requests actually in legislation? It's a very small matter but, as has been pointed out before, surely people and organizations have the right to know what their fees are going to be for using the particular service.

Of course, the other thing that I simply want to point out at this time is, why are we dealing with this bill at this point in time? There are so many other bills that this government feels have to be dealt with immediately in order that the municipal elections and the school board elections can take place for next year. That's why we came back in the middle of August. We came back because this government felt that a certain amount of legislation was still required in order to put the municipal elections properly in line. Of course, when that wasn't moving fast enough we all know what happened. They railroaded a number of rule changes through that in effect will limit the democratic process that takes place in this House on a day-to-day basis.

Why aren't we dealing with the property reassessment bill, the Social Assistance Reform Act and so many of the other acts, rather than this particular act about which there is general agreement?

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired. The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay.

Mr Grimmett: I'm happy to respond to the comments from the member for St Catharines, the member for Lake Nipigon, the member for Scarborough Centre and the member for Kingston and The Islands. I'm flattered that they were all able to follow my speech on what some people might consider a dry topic.

With respect to the comments made by the member for St Catharines, I want to assure him that the act itself and the opportunities that the ministry sees coming from the act include very careful planning around resources and staff. All three of the current regulatory bodies have considerable budgetary resources and considerable staff resources, and to a large extent the new commission will simply incorporate all of those resources together. There will be an immediate saving that has been forecast in the range of $3.8 million but, by and large, the resources and staff of those three bodies will remain intact.

I am advised that the credit unions have in fact been consulted, that they continue to be consulted by the ministry and that they continue to meet with the ministry as part of an industry group to advise the ministry on how to set up the new fee schedule. I'm told that that's not set up yet but that the credit unions are well aware of where we're going in the future.

Under the current system, some parts of the financial sector pay more than their share, in terms of keeping the regulatory body going, and some pay less. What we're trying to do is find some equity and make sure that everybody pays their share.

Just to correct something that the member for Scarborough Centre said, in fact, it wasn't me who met personally with all the bodies. I met with some of them, but in most cases it was ministry people that they met with, people with considerably more expertise than me.

I'm sorry I don't have time to deal with the concerns of the member for Kingston.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bradley: Madam Speaker, I wish to share my time with Mr Phillips from Scarborough-Agincourt and Mr Ramsay from Timiskaming.

I begin by expressing concern that inadvertently -- I always put that in there -- the member for Scarborough Centre may have been misleading the House, inadvertently. That's what I heard, and he wouldn't do that, because I know him well. He wouldn't do that. Usually it's the opposition that kind of insinuates that, but to hear a government member say that of another government member is truly revolutionary, and the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay is indeed a revolutionary. I want to say that about him.

First of all, this is an example of a bill that, under the old rules of the House the three House leaders, Mr Wildman, myself and Mr Johnson, would have sat down and said, "Let's allocate not a long period of time to discussion of this bill," because, first of all, I think all three parties will be supporting the bill and I think that's positive. It doesn't always happen that there is a debate that is rancorous over a bill or that there's disagreement. I think we've proved that with our stance on this bill.

But in the old days, which were just a few days ago, before the imposition of new rules, you would have seen an easy agreement on this piece of legislation. It would have passed easily and the government could have gone on with other business. But there isn't an incentive any more for the opposition to cooperate in terms of moving legislation of this kind quickly through the House because correspondingly, the government isn't prepared to give more time on more important bills, at least bills which have more ramifications for the province.


Instead, what we see is that every day at the table they are putting in a new time allocation motion, a motion which restricts debate on legislation. Even though there are new rules that allow the member for Chatham-Kent to speak more -- I heard that's what they wanted to do -- they still bring in these time allocation motions, these closure motions, these motions restricting debate, and I can't figure out why. I don't know if this is the advice the member for Nepean has given to the Premier or to the House leader or what it is, but that's what happens.

This is a piece of legislation that I believe shouldn't have to take five or six or seven days to debate in this House, because its provisions are generally agreed upon by the three parties and because I don't think it's going to have any kind of drastic detrimental effect on Ontario -- the way, for instance, the downloading legislation will have on municipalities across this province, I say, with my good friend the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing smiling and nodding on the other side. I think he is nodding in agreement with me, but he could be simply nodding off at my monotonous voice. I can't really tell.

Anyway, I want to say that I too have a concern about the credit unions. The credit union movement, as my good friend Tom Froese, the member for St Catharines-Brock, would know, has played a very significant role throughout our province, in particular in the Niagara region. Mr Froese was a significant employee of the Niagara Credit Union in a previous incarnation, knows the file well and certainly would agree with me that the credit union movement has played a very significant role in our province.

Certainly the big banks don't need any of these resources. It's difficult for credit unions to compete with the big banks, and one of the reasons they have had some popularity is because of the kind of service they have provided, a different kind of service, to people in the communities in which they are located. I know they must be perturbed that there wasn't more time available to them to find out what the levy would be on those credit unions, because if the levy were of a significant or substantial size, it would have an effect of making them less competitive with the huge banks, which are now making unprecedented profits while they are casting the bodies out into the streets, that is, they are downsizing considerably.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Are you against the downsizing?

Mr Bradley: Yes, I am, I must say. The member for Etobicoke-Humber asks, am I against the downsizing at the banks? I say yes, I am. I am very much opposed to people losing their jobs unnecessarily because they are insisting that somehow we must all use these machines at the bank. You see the little sign that says, "Do you realize this transaction costs you 10 cents more by going to the teller than it does by using the machine?" I must say I'm delighted to pay 10 cents more, first of all to see a person gainfully employed in our province, and second, to be able to talk to a human being rather than having to deal with a machine.

Some can say that's anachronistic. Some may say that is certainly old-fashioned --

Mr Pouliot: Mr Ford won't say it's old-fashioned.

Mr Bradley: Mr Ford won't say it's old-fashioned. I know that. I happen to like to deal with people.

One of the reasons the credit union movement has been successful is because to a certain extent it has avoided the kind of massive reductions in employees that the big banks have effected. I become perturbed when I see individual after individual losing his or her job in a bank or the bank going strictly to part-time people sometimes, where the same benefits are not necessarily paid to those individuals as would be paid to others. I don't think that's progressive. I don't think that's right-sizing; I think that's wrong-sizing.

One has to wonder where the jobs will be if the big banks continue to do that at the same time they are making unprecedented profits. If they were losing a lot of money, one wouldn't like it --

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): They can't afford to --

Mr Bradley: I will get to that. I am pleased with that interjection.

I know people wouldn't like it if they were downsizing under any circumstances, but if they were losing money, people would say, "At least I understand they are trying to cut their costs." But they are already making unprecedented profits and they are casting their employees out into the street in large numbers.

The member for Burlington South, who conducted an exhaustive review of workers' compensation in this province, went from community to community, and in a report he provided, recommended that the Workers' Compensation Act apply to the banks. Obviously, he was well aware the banks could afford this, that there are employees in certain circumstances who might have to avail themselves of the services of the Workers' Compensation Board. I am bewildered at the fact that the government did not implement that very progressive, and I must say enlightened, suggestion and recommendation from the member for Burlington South, who was responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board consultation at that time. I know he will continue to try to prevail upon the Minister of Labour and the Premier to have that provided for in the act, because the banks can certainly afford that.

I speak on behalf of those credit unions in the province that are perturbed that they don't know what the assessment will be and the potential impact of that assessment on them.

I would have thought that perhaps we would have dealt with this bill this evening and that this afternoon we would have been dealing with a bill in the House on gas prices. This afternoon I revealed to members of the House that it is within provincial jurisdiction. We all remember when Bill Davis stood in this very Legislature on that side of the House, on July 3, 1975, and announced the following:

"Today my government proposes to introduce an act to be known as the Gasoline and Fuel Oil price Freeze Act, 1975. The bill imposes a temporary freeze on refined petroleum products sold in Ontario."

Perhaps he was contemplating a commission of this kind that would be dealing with gas prices. It says:

"The freeze will be for 90 days beginning midnight tonight, subject to limited extension by the Lieutenant Governor in Council if the assembly is recessed or not in session."

He went on to say, and I admire Premier Davis for this -- he didn't shy away from it: "I have met with the principals of petroleum companies that merchandise petroleum products in Ontario. They have explained their problems. I am not unaware of the legitimacy of some of their concerns, but the wholly legitimate interests of the consuming public must be served. It must be clearly established that all charges made by the oil companies not arising directly from the cost of crude oil itself are justified."

That's Premier Davis, and he brought this bill in. I would have thought that this afternoon, rather than dealing with this legislation, we would have been dealing with a bill of this kind that Bill Davis thought was suitable for Ontario. He took direct action. He didn't huff and puff. He didn't point fingers somewhere else. He said, "I've got the responsibility right here in Ontario, and whatever responsibility I have constitutionally, I'm going to take action on it." I admire Bill Davis for doing that, and I hope he's watching this afternoon as we are debating in this House this very legislation, as I offer him the compliment that he so richly deserves.

Had I been in the House at the time -- I was not; my friend Floyd Laughren from Nickel Belt was -- I would have complimented him on implementing this kind of legislation. He didn't shy away, he didn't go out into a media scrum and huff and puff and say how awful it was after his Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism said the government would certainly never be intervening and would be a laughingstock if they did; and then of course a week later, the Premier wants somebody else to intervene.

I would have thought we maybe would have been dealing with that this afternoon, but we aren't. I know Mr Ford would have been happy to deal with that legislation this afternoon because he's very intereseted in the matters that are before the House and I am sure concerned about them.

I thought -- you would appreciate this probably as much as anybody, Mr Speaker -- we might even be dealing with an issue of hospital closings, because they've threatened so many hospitals in your community and my community. We feel uneasy about the potential for closings.


I would have thought there would be a bill perhaps this afternoon that would say: "No more closing of hospitals. We're finally going to live up to Mike Harris's promise," when he said, during the leaders' debate in May 1995, "Certainly, Robert" -- he's referring to Robert Fisher -- "I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals." I thought this afternoon we might be dealing with legislation of that nature, but we're not.

Speaking of commissions -- and this Financial Services Commission is a good one; I think it has the potential to provide a good service for us -- I would have thought, however, that we would be perhaps dealing with an issue of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario this afternoon, where we were going to confirm the continued existence of the LCBO. As my friends from the Niagara region know, one of the best purveyors of the product produced in the Niagara Peninsula, something that allows us an equal access out there, is the Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores. That allows our product, which for years was shunned unjustifiably, to now enjoy the advantage of being on display prominently in our Liquor Control Board stores.

I hope the government has abandoned any of its ridiculous plans to privatize and give to its political friends the right to dispense alcohol in this province when in fact the LCBO has changed with the times and has modified its mode of operations. It is a very progressive organization under the capable leadership of Andy Brandt, former member for Sarnia, former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party when it was a progressive, conservative party and a person who is knowledgeable in the field of wine and of the other products which are sold in the stores of our province. He knows that the LCBO -- just as we hope, because I want to tie this into this bill all the time, this commission will ensure quality control -- ensures quality control of the products.

Mr Ford: Do you think VLTs should be in there?

Mr Bradley: The member asks, "Should VLTs be in there?" I would say, probably a good idea. This morning in committee we had the Honourable Robert Welch, QC, former Deputy Premier of the province, a minister of many different portfolios, the MPP for St Catharines-Brock for 22 years -- I think previously it was called Lincoln when he was first elected -- a very much respected individual who was appointed to the body which supervises the implementation of video lottery terminals in Ontario.

The reason I was happy to see Bob there is that I think he's a cautious individual when it comes to the spread of this disease called video lottery terminals or electronic slot machines. I am hopeful he will prevail upon the government to not just move slowly, but to avoid moving into every bar and every restaurant on every street in every neighbourhood in every town, village and city in Ontario with these video lottery terminals which prey upon the most vulnerable and desperate people in our society.

I thought that was a good appointment. Our party supported it and I'm sure the NDP supported it. I am confident Mr Welch will do a good job. By the way, I should say in my remarks again that as a member of the Davis administration one of Mr Welch's many pluses, one very important plus, was his ability to build consensus. He wasn't dogmatic, he wasn't ideological; he was a man of principle in this House, but not ideologically way over to the extreme right.

So he was able to deal. He was in favour, for instance, of the purchase of Suncor so that the government of Bill Davis had a window on the oil industry. He was in favour of the act which I made reference to, an act to provide for an interim freeze in the price of certain petroleum products. He was a progressive individual and maybe he should be considered for this commission because of his progressive views. As I say, he was there back when it was the Progressive Conservative Party and not the Reform Party in power.

I wanted to deal with some specifics in the legislation and I promised to share the time with my friend from Timiskaming, who has some observations to make, and the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, who is highly respected for his knowledge in the field of finance and economics.

I want to deal with a couple of the items that I have jotted down as being of some significance. I want to reiterate that we agree in principle with the idea to reduce some of the duplication which has resulted. This is the kind of thing I think there is a consensus on, this kind of duplication. The opposition doesn't always say that what the government is doing is wrong or doesn't always say that the specific direction the government in is moving is incorrect. There are going to be instances where there is a consensus, and this is one of them. The government is doing what any one of the parties would be doing in this regard. It's essential to effect those kinds of economies.

It mentions that the bill establishes the Financial Services Commission in place of the Pension Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Insurance Commission, the deposit institutions division of the Ministry of Finance, and also it creates a Financial Services Tribunal which will hear appeals of review decisions made by the superintendent of financial services, who is essentially responsible for the operation of the commission and supervising the regulated sectors.

I have heard many people say, "Let's deregulate." There are some members of the House who are obsessed with deregulation, who believe that all government intervention is evil and is wrong. I think the people who devised this particular piece of legislation recognized that there is a time for regulation, that there is a time for government intervention, that there is a need for supervision so that not only the richest and most powerful are able to implement their agenda on the province, but they may have to do so under the restraint of an independent government.

There were concerns in the industry because, as my colleague noted in the two-minute responses, many groups are under the impression that this government is going to wait to consult with them, making changes before proceeding, not moving very rapidly ahead without input. Well, there is some consultation. The two members on the government side were arguing over how much and whom they consulted with, but there was some consultation. It wasn't as extensive as we would like.

Once again, it's an example of doing it quickly rather than doing it correctly. We in the opposition are not here to sandbag you, we're not here to bring you down at this point in time; we simply want to help you to do things better. You probably had a different impression. I don't know where you would get that, but you probably had a different impression. We simply want to help you along in terms of your ability to bring in legislation which will work. That's why some of the non-cabinet members have been whispering out there, although I see Margaret Marland is now going to put a rein on those people. She says they shouldn't be speaking outside of caucus. But some of them have said: "We're moving too quickly. We've moving too drastically. We're not looking at the ramifications of the actions." That's what some of the members have been saying.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Who said that? Name names.

Mr Bradley: I don't want to embarrass them in this House because I've listened in the past to what my friend Morley Kells, an independent-minded person, has written in the Toronto Star. I've listened to my good friend Mr Skarica from Wentworth North who has in very colourful terms labelled this government; I won't get into the details of that. Mr Carr, a long-respected member from the city of Oakville, has certainly expressed his concerns that the power seems to be concentrated in the hands of a few people in the Premier's office. Bill Murdoch has certainly expressed some concerns on television and radio and in newsprint. Even my good friend from Wellington many months ago expressed his concern that the government was unwise to be proceeding with an income tax break before the budget was balanced.

I hate to see them restrained. I read that in the paper, in the Toronto Sun. A story by Jeff Harder said, "Margaret Marland, the chair of the caucus, is now saying members shouldn't say anything outside." Yet I know that when each one of the members was elected they were under the impression, because Mike Harris was talking like a Reformer, that the members would be able to say anything and vote any way they wanted and do anything they wanted to. Then in power it's exactly the opposite.


Some of them have shown some dissent and I admire those who are prepared to speak out. They may not be on the way up. They may not be close to the Premier in terms of affection the Premier may have for them politically. But I'm going to tell you, they are admired by their constituents when they do that. I know they must have a few concerns about this legislation, or at least that you're moving more quickly than you should, without consulting with everybody who should be consulted with.

The Financial Services Commission recovers the cost of regulating the sectors from companies within the sectors. In other words, the commission will be self-financing. For credit unions, this means a substantial new user fee being imposed upon them with no formula for assessment yet. This is another tax. I know you people don't like counting this as a tax but it's a tax, because a user fee is a tax.

You used to talk about how many taxes the NDP or Liberals brought in. I was counting one day and I counted 167 new taxes implemented by this government, 167 new taxes. You know why? Because I counted those user fees. Mike Harris said a user fee is a tax. I remember he said that, so I've counted 167. I think if I went through everything, I'd count 200 or 300 or 400 more new tax increases by this government, forcing the local level of government to also implement such tax increases.

There are concerns whether the tribunal is the appropriate place for major decisions such as pension windups that may be best handled by the courts. Pension windups are a real problem. Many people have brought them to my attention. They seem to take forever and often people believe that the final result is unfair.

Lastly, I want to just touch on -- it mentions the Insurance Act. I've had a member from St Catharines city council who has brought to my attention her concern about the fact that there is not a provision for insurance companies to continue to insure people simply because they've had claims as they relate to water. You passed an act in this Legislature, the government did, under the auspices of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I believe, which restricted the ability of people to say that the municipality was responsible when there was a sewer backup. Many of these people are faced with this constantly and they are now told by the insurance company, "We're not going to cover you any more." Then they hear the provincial government has passed legislation saying, "You can't go after the municipality for this." Those people are left in a very vulnerable position.

I hope that the corporate captains of the insurance companies will look at their consciences and perhaps make a change in this and allow for assisting people.

Mr Ford: They just look at the bottom line, Jim. There is no room for conscience.

Mr Bradley: The member for Etobicoke-Humber says they look only at the bottom line. Did you say they had no consciences as well?

Mr Ford: They look at it this way, Jim; they look at the bottom line. It's strictly business, and if they don't make a profit, there is no insurance.

Mr Bradley: I hope Hansard got that because I wanted that on Hansard. I will share that with the member of St Catharines city council --

Mr Ford: I understand that. Not your socialist position.

Mr Bradley: -- and she is not a socialist, I assure you -- who would like to know what government members think about that. I will be happy to share that intervention. I only hope that Hansard was able to get the whole statement in there.

I don't want to take up too much time now because I have on record what I want on record. I don't want to take up too much time in this House because I promised to share some with my colleague from Timiskaming and my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt. I will now pass the torch to the very capable member for Timiskaming.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): As difficult as it is for the member for St Catharines to pass on the opportunity to speak because he is one of the most enthusiastic debaters in this House, I very much appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this debate.

When I look at the bill that is being debated here, I agree with the member for St Catharines that I could probably think of 30 other areas that we should be debating and moving on in this House to protect working people and families in Ontario. In fact, I see I have a very attentive listener here.

I would like to say that I wasn't here yesterday because I was back in my riding and I was attending a meeting of 30 displaced older workers from a mine that had gone down in Virginiatown, a municipality that is due east of Kirkland Lake and sits right on the Quebec border. That mine, originally called the Kerr mine, was run by the Kerr-Addison Mining Co years ago. They had a pretty good run at it and they got over 50 million ounces of gold there from that town, but you wouldn't believe that if you looked at the town today because none of that gold ever stayed in that town. It's had a different group of owners over the last 10 years and twice in the last seven years has gone bankrupt.

There is a provincial-federal program, the program for older worker adjustment, that kicked in when it first went bankrupt in the early 1990s. Some of those workers are on a pension now. These are workers who are in their late 50s and early 60s who have worked in very tough conditions, doing very hard labour for 30 to 35 years. These men aren't in the best of shape and many of them never had the very best of education. They started right from, in some cases, elementary school, not even going to high school, or maybe they got grade 9 or grade 10 and went to the mine, because in those days you could make a very, very good living and raise a family, as they all did in that town.

The program has changed since it was developed in the early 1990s to take care of all these bankruptcies that were coming forward from the recession of the early 1990s of this decade. Now we have a program that has been redesigned, both by the provincial government and the federal government, and it's not nearly as rich as it was before. Now we're going to have recipients of the same program living in the same town, in fact living on the same streets and being neighbours to each other, and one is receiving cheques for $900 a month and others will probably be lucky to get $300 to $400 a month under the same program. That really doesn't seem fair to me.

What I think this really begs, and I wish the government would look again at their adjustment programs -- in fact they've brought in a bill that has changed the wage protection act that was brought in by the previous government --

Mr Bradley: Abandoned the workers.

Mr Ramsay: They abandoned the workers, for sure. It's sad in a situation -- because we're talking here about financial commissions -- where there is a bankruptcy, whether it was the bank that pulled the plug or, in this case, the township was involved because of the arrears of taxes, that who in the end usually suffers in any of these actions is the worker. It's the person who is doing the very hard work that generated the wealth in the company, in this case down underground in the mine. They're the ones who suffer.

Some people watching might ask why it would it be necessary to have such a program in place. Partly the answer is because of the reason I stated. You have, in many cases, a workforce that only knows that particular skill. Their labour skills are not any longer mobile. Some are not literate, some may be undereducated, and also they've worked so hard that some of them are in pretty tough shape and it would be very difficult for them to go back underground and, say, work until they are 65.

One of the real problems and why this program is needed is that because there is no wage protection for these workers. These workers are owed today thousands and thousands of dollars, some of them over $20,000, from the previous employer. Because the employer went to the employees and said: "I'm trying to keep this company going. If you just bear with me and forgo your paycheques for a few weeks, your bonuses for a few weeks, I think I can try to keep this thing going." I'm sure the owner was doing this in good faith. I'm sure the owner was trying to keep the mill going because the owner understood the importance of the operation to the town and to the families and the workers he was responsible for. In the end, because of all sorts of circumstances that conspired against this operation, the owner was not able to keep it going.


I'm not here to point blame today, to point an accusing finger at anybody about this. The point I want to make is, who suffers? And when you can't determine who's to blame, you can't get some redress from the party who caused all this trouble so that you can legitimately pay the workers what is their due, the wages they earned, then there's got to be some sort of protection system in place.

The previous government brought in a wage protection act that at least guaranteed up to $5,000 of wages owed in the case of a bankruptcy. As I said, in this case, it's not even clear whether this business technically went bankrupt or not, but it's no longer functioning and the workers are no longer working.

This government has decided to remove that provision from our labour law in Ontario, so there will be no wage protection act at all to cover workers from now on when bankruptcies occur in Ontario. Quite frankly, I don't understand why all of us should not have that obligation to ensure that if our laws are not good enough to ensure that in cases of insolvency and bankruptcy workers are guaranteed through some sort of private sector mechanism, therefore the government does not step in and ensure that at least workers get what is their due. That's not only wages earned and vacation pay, but also should be their severance, so they are equipped either to get the retraining they need to move to another community, if that's what's necessary, or at least to be able to survive with their family until they can find suitable employment.

This POWA, which is the acronym for program for older worker adjustment, is there because and has criteria that only kick in when a major employer in a community represents a vast proportion of the jobs in that community and therefore it's not only the families and individuals who are affected but the whole community is profoundly affected.

In southern Ontario I think we'd be very hard-pressed to point at a community that was solely dependent upon one business or industry. There are certainly big companies that give tremendous support to many of our communities in the south. If you look at our major automotive assembly communities in southern Ontario, we obviously have to say that Ford, GM and Chrysler provide a major underpinning for those communities across the province that are fortunate enough to have such a company within their borders. But in northern Ontario you can have communities where basically the mine or the mill is the sole employer, providing maybe up to 80% to 90% of the work in that community. When that happens, that's why a program such as POWA kicks in, to not only make adjustments for that family and those workers but also for the community.

The other criterion is that of course it's targeted for older workers and only workers in their 50s and older are targeted by this program, to help them with that adjustment. Because the truth is that if you're lucky enough to have another mine or a mill within commuting distance of their home or that area, that region they live in, it doesn't appear from the evidence I have that many mines or mills are interested in hiring workers in their late 50s who have had 25 to 30 years of hard work in a mine or a mill. They're leery of that. They're looking for younger people.

I know we're not supposed to discriminate in hiring practices in Ontario and this country, but the reality is -- because this is what the workers tell me -- it's very, very difficult for them to be rehired. That's why there is such a program there, and I would say to the government that while it's looking at setting up a financial commission to regulate the financial institutions that come under Ontario regulation, it's also very important to start to look at working men and women in this province who are really suffering today.

You only have to sit down at a meeting of 30 older workers who have been displaced in such a situation to really realize how bad a situation in Ontario can be for people like this. You drive around much of this province and, quite frankly, Ontario is a pretty affluent place. The economy is picking up somewhat. There is some more employment coming forward, though we'd like to see certainly more employment for our youth. That's still a big challenge before us.

The Canadian economy has been growing at a steady rate, not maybe as quickly as some would like and certainly not translating into the employment figures that all of us would like. But there are vast pockets of this province that still have not shared in the tremendous gift of the diversification of the Ontario economy, because we never got the post-war industrial revolution that happened in southern Ontario when up the 401 corridor the automobile parts and assembly plants came in. The steel mills all expanded in the south. We never really got a piece of that because heavy industry such as automobiles and steel have to stay close to their markets. So those industries stayed in the south where the markets were and also because of the auto pact agreement back in the early 1960s. They had to be where the markets were for export into the United States. All that industry stayed primarily south of Barrie and remains so to this day.

In the north we never shared the fruits of that post-industrial revolution, so we have a very different economy there. I say to the government members that, when they are considering government policy for labour adjustment and labour law, they really have to have an eye for the whole province and that the province is a very diverse place. The type of work we do in the various regions of this province is different from the different regions within Ontario, and you must have flexibility when you're drafting legislation in order to appreciate what people are going through.

One of the other aspects of this adjustment system that most of the people who applied for I believe are going to be qualified for -- and they should find out by the end of the month or early October -- is that while this program will take a few months to kick in, there's no paycheque coming in to those families. Unemployment in that part of northeastern Ontario could be as high as 25%. It's very high. Statistics Canada and Human Resources Development Canada don't have a breakdown for an area other than just for northeastern Ontario, but for that particular area, for a lot of Timiskaming, the unemployment rate is extremely high. So it's very difficult for those workers to get other work.

As you know, the gold price is depressed. American Barrick announced that mines out of this country are closing, but other mines have their problems, whether it's with price of production or like the Kinross mine in Kirkland Lake, which has some severe challenges for occupational health and safety and is trying desperately to re-engineer that operation to keep it running. There have been some massive layoffs in the town of Kirkland Lake in gold mining also.

The workers in my region of northern Timiskaming are very hard-pressed to get work. The work is not there and the whole economy is depressed. What are these workers to do in the interim while they wait for, hopefully, this POWA program to kick in and get some sort of financial relief through that? The only avenue left of course is social assistance, now sort of tarted up as Ontario Works. The criteria for Ontario Works now have been toughened up. I know most of the government members over there, maybe all of them, really agree with how they've toughened this up. They're out there to eradicate fraud in the system, and I'm sure there has been that and we would all agree in this House, in all parties, that we've got to eradicate fraud.


But I'd like to make a case on behalf of these workers today, and that is that you don't treat these workers who have worked 25 to 35 years doing some very hard work in the mines the very same way you would maybe a 23-year-old employable male coming on to the system, for whatever reason. The reason I say that is this. Many of these workers, while they wait for this POWA cheque to come in, will be forced to go on social assistance, but in order to qualify for social assistance, they are going to have to deplete their assets down to about $5,000; that's their disposable assets. With the tougher rules, if because perhaps they had a large family they happen to have a house that maybe now is valued at $90,000, which I would think today in Ontario is a pretty modest price, they could be in a position where they may have to sell that house and get into a cheaper residence to qualify for social assistance.

Quite frankly, I think that's wrong. I think it is a shame in Ontario for us to be treating people who have worked hard all their lives, who find themselves now in the latter part of their working lives displaced through no fault of their own, because of a bankruptcy of a company, who have lived for 30 to 40 years in a region of Ontario that they've become familiar with, that they call home -- that that is really no longer financially viable for them, no longer supplies the work for them to take care of themselves and their families.

For us to treat them as we would somebody we want to give incentive to to get some life training skills or who has had trouble getting into or hasn't wanted to get into the workforce is wrong. We've got to look at the different type of person that comes to the system for help.

That's why you can't categorize in general all the people who finally come to social assistance. They are not all the same, and we shouldn't be treating anyone who comes to social assistance as a criminal. We should be giving them all the benefit of the doubt and working with them to basically decide why they are there and what their needs are.

In the case of older workers such as I have described -- who are not just in my particular area from that Kerr mine in Virginiatown; this happens all over the north, especially in resource-dependent communities -- we need to take a look at changing our system and adjusting it to fit some of these situations. This would go a long way, as I've mentioned before, as well as with adjusting our labour law and labour adjustment programs, in capturing people who seem to be falling through the cracks and coming on to social assistance, probably a place that is inappropriate for them, a place they shouldn't be in the first place.

Somehow we should recognize the contribution that -- in this case in the mines, it was mostly men in those days that found themselves in that situation. Those men have toiled for all those years, have raised their families, have been outstanding and upstanding citizens in their communities for all these years. We should not throw them on a trash heap but give them some dignity and respect for what they've accomplished in their lives and give them some support, better support than we are today, until they can derive their pensions. That's what we're looking for, a better bridging mechanism such as this program for older worker adjustment. We should be putting the money into it so it is there when workers require this.

In a perfect economy, I suppose we wouldn't need a program like this. We wouldn't have bankruptcies; we wouldn't have working men and women who are thrown out because a company is no longer viable and cannot meet its payroll obligations. We wouldn't have that situation in a perfect Ontario, but we do, and we have to face that reality. That's why there's still a place for government to play a role in this sort of situation. In a perfect world you wouldn't need government. There would be no need for protection of persons and property in a perfect world. There'd be no need for this financial protection for people.

But because it isn't a perfect world, we've decided to come together and form governments. We periodically, every four to five years, go to the people. They elect the people they want to represent them to design the policies they want. Many of the members across the way, I know, would like to see probably half the government we have today, but I will tell you that there's always going to be a need for government. There is always going to be some basic requirements that government come together. And who are we? We're the people. We come together to protect ourselves, to protect each other, to protect our citizenry. It is what we owe each other in doing this.

Sometimes, though, in our zeal -- as you are in your restructuring zeal to get all the various institutions right; today we're talking about the financial institutions -- we somehow forget some of the real people who are out there, who are having real problems because it isn't a perfect world. We must never abandon those people.

In our zeal to restructure and look at all the institutions -- taking on the boards of education, putting the pressure on the municipalities to get more efficiencies out of them, as if they haven't been cutting in the last few years, trying to be more and more efficient; heaven knows, the municipal officials don't want to raise taxes, and many of them haven't over the years because they have been efficient -- with our zeal to change all these systems all at once, I say to you we are forgetting some people.

We're forgetting some of the people who make this wonderful Ontario possible, the people who toil every day for a living and, in the cases that I'm talking about, toil very hard physically for a living in very dangerous circumstances to make their family possible, to make their community possible, to make their region and their province possible. They generate tremendous wealth for not only the province, through the taxes they pay, but for all the shareholders who have a part of the ownership of these particular operations. It is extremely important that we not forget these people when we look at these programs.

I would say to the members that when you look at social assistance, when you look at a worker adjustment program, things are not necessarily as simple as they appear. Sometimes it's very attractive to reach out and grab the very first simplistic solution that appears, sometimes because, with our blinders on, that's just the way we'd like to try to fix it. Sometimes a very simplistic solution is what we think is maybe the most attractive to the voter, so we put that out to the voter: "If there's a problem, here's the solution." I suppose all politicians are guilty of that.

I think most of us would agree that this government used issues such as that, with very simple solutions, to attract voters, whether it be a tax cut or the boot camp or the big welfare cuts. I say to you, stop relying on the simplistic solutions. Take the time to really look at a situation and to really look at the problems that are there for all the various people in this province. All the problems aren't just involved with all the government agencies and all the government structures. The problems are far bigger than that. They're bigger because they affect real people and their families.

It's important, and I think that's why the people, in the polling across this province, are telling you to take your time when you look at this, not only because we all want you to get all the restructuring right that you're trying to bite off -- quite frankly, I think you're biting far too much off than you can chew. You're doing that far too fast and far too deep, and the vast majority of Ontarians are telling you that. Not only are you making mistakes in the institutions you're grappling with to restructure, but you're ignoring other institutions and other people and families that are not getting the attention that is their due. That's just one example of that.

When I've been speaking to municipal leaders in the Timiskaming area, one township reeve put it very succinctly. I'm glad the Minister of Municipal Affairs is in the House today to hear this. He said to me that he understood and believed in the restructuring, but he really thought you were constructing or reconstructing a building without a blueprint, that in your zeal to work on this -- we all agree we need to work on this; there's no problem there -- by going so quickly, we maybe don't know exactly what the building's going to look like at the end of the road. That's an impression from one municipal reeve.


I share that, because we're not quite sure what our municipalities are going to look like in the end. In many cases in my particular area we are not seeing a very heavy participation so far in the nominations for municipal elections. In fact, in Kirkland Lake we have three people vying for mayor, because the present mayor is not planning to run, but right now it looks like maybe only one of the incumbent councillors is planning to run out of the five positions that will be open under the newly reconfigured council.

I think a lot of this is the apprehension being caused in people who take a genuine interest in their communities, who would really like to contribute to public service at the local level. I can think of no better level to do that at, a level that's so close to the people and so vital, a level where more people can take advantage of that. When you run for office at the federal or provincial level, you basically have to give up your work, and in many cases you have to leave your community, as we all do, to come in this case to Toronto, which for me is far away from home.

At the municipal level, people who live in the community can stay in the community, can stay in their jobs and really contribute their energy and their ideas and their intellect to municipal government. But right now what I'm finding is that many of those people, who could potentially be a tremendous resource for municipal government, are hesitant about doing that. Part of the reason, as I just explained to the minister, is that they really are not sure about what they're going to be in control of and what the resources are going to be to handle the various problems out there.

On Saturday night at one of the functions, I was able to have dinner with one of the municipal councillors from Kirkland Lake. We were talking about the transfer of non-profit housing to the town of Kirkland Lake. I was bringing up the concern, a caution to this councillor, that, "You really have to watch the condition of all the different apartment buildings you're going to inherit," because we know there are millions and millions of dollars worth of repairs that are outstanding, that have not been done.

Basically, there's a big repair bill down the road that's attached to this gift, this present that the Harris government is giving to all our communities. While there may be some adequate resources from the federal government and the provincial government to maintain the daily operating costs and to service the mortgages owing on these buildings, for sure we know that the disrepair of much of the housing stock in the whole Ontario Housing Corp throughout this province is going to be a large potential unfunded liability that the property taxpayer down the road is going to have to pay.

I understand that now that most of the figures have come out on the municipal downloading from the Harris government to our municipalities, some of the municipal clerk-treasurers in our townships are getting some very close figures as to what the tax increases are going to be. With the non-profit housing, with the ambulance, with the police, which is a horrendous per-household charge that basically becomes a new property tax for many municipalities, taxes are going to go up at a horrendous rate in many municipalities.

I don't know how many of those small municipalities are going to compete -- and that's what it's going to be: a competition -- for this new restructuring fund that the government has put in place of the unconditional grant formula that used to be there. At least with the unconditional grant formula there was a pot of money there, but there wasn't a competition to grab at it; there was a rational formula based on what they used to call the equalized assessment that compared the ability of each municipality to raise money through taxation. When you had low property values, for instance, in a particular region, that it didn't have a very high commercial or industrial assessment as you would in many parts of this province, you got a larger share of the provincial grant.

That program is no longer going to be there, but for one or two years there will be a similar pot of money. But now it's going to be a cap-in-hand begging operation, with municipalities fighting over municipalities to try to make a case that "We're under greater hardship than our neighbour township because of these various reasons, because our taxes are now going up 130% or 200% or 300%," or whatever the case may be in some of these municipalities.

The government members are going to have to be aware of this. They're going to start to see next year that while they've been given reassurances by the Premier and the Treasurer that local property taxes are not going to go up, there are going to be certain small rural townships that are no longer able to tax the full amount on farm land, that are going to have to spread that 75% loss of the value of the farm land assessment across all taxpayers now in that municipality to make up for that loss because the farmer doesn't get the farm tax rebate any longer. That and the police are going to cause a tremendous tax increase.


Mr Ramsay: I only hope, to answer the member across the way, that in terms of the fund that's there, those smaller townships that have the greater hardship are able to make the case that they can derive a greater share of that fund than probably they ever had to before under the support grant system, to make up for those deficiencies.

Those are the questions that still aren't answered, because unlike the old formula -- you understood what you were to receive from the grant. There is no formula right now that says, "Township X, town X or county X, you will receive this much money from the fund." That's not there.

I would say to the government members that maybe you should ensure that some sort of formula is in place so that the municipalities have that anxiety healed over. What you're going to have in the municipal elections coming up this fall, probably starting officially in a few more weeks, is that a lot of the municipal officials who used to be on board with the governing party are finding themselves having to run against the governing party in order to get themselves elected or re-elected.

I'd like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity I've had to speak today. I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to share the time further with my colleagues, but I appreciate the chance.

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

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): The member for St Catharines and the member for Timiskaming covered a lot of territory talking about Bill 140. I share the same concerns they do, that although we're having a lengthy debate on Bill 140, it is not nearly as important as the high prices of gasoline. Bill Davis, back in 1975, when he knew he was dropping in popularity and had to go into an election, brought in a bill that would regulate and freeze the price of gasoline for 90 days throughout this province. We haven't seen any action coming from this particular government.

The member for Timiskaming, when he talked about the combining of the financial services, was very concerned about a mine in his area now that the Conservative government has eliminated the wage protection act. You're putting older workers at risk out there and they're not going to have enough money for survival and to care for their families. It's a direct result of action that was taken by this government.

Health care: They're talking about the closing of hospitals right across the province. When you're talking about 25 to 30 hospitals that are going to be closed in the next year and a half, where is the health care going to be? Who's going to look after health care?

Education: At the same time as they're saying they don't have enough money to go around, the government is going to go out and waste $1 million on a program to bash teachers across this province and try to get them to give in to lowering their wages and increasing the size of the classroom.

There are so many bills that could have been brought forward. We could have had a more productive afternoon debating some of the bills that will have to be debated and passed into third reading before the municipal elections can proceed in November. This is not happening. We're dealing with a bill here that is not important to those issues that the people out there want to hear about.


The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Grimmett: I wanted to touch on the comments made by the member for St Catharines. The member for Timiskaming had an interesting speech today, but I don't think it really dealt with Bill 140, so I'll restrict my comments to those made by the member for St Catharines.

The member occasionally spoke to Bill 140, and the concerns that were raised really were around the issue of credit unions. I just wanted to make it very clear that the Ministry of Finance and other people in our government have been consulting with credit unions. The credit unions, in all of their member associations -- and there are several associations that represent credit unions from the province of Ontario -- have had the opportunity to meet with Ministry of Finance officials. They were given early notice of the concepts that were going to be in this bill.

The concept of a regulatory scheme, where the financial institutions that are being regulated would pay for that regulatory scheme, is one that is widespread in western countries. It's one that the credit unions were well aware of. They were told, "We intend to set up a scheme under the Financial Services Commission whereby those bodies that are being regulated will pay the cost of regulation for their sector." It was recognized that under the current scheme, for example in the pension commission, pension plans contribute a little more than the cost of the regulatory scheme for their sector, and the credit unions contribute a little less than the cost of the regulatory sector for them. So they're aware that there are going to be some costs under the new scheme, but they're being consulted and they have an opportunity to help design the new fees.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I want to compliment the members for St Catharines and Timiskaming who spoke on the bill and to say I appreciate the points they made about our party being very supportive of things that we can do to improve the efficiency of our financial community in Ontario; that we are very supportive of bills that move to update and modernize our financial institutions. So we very much look forward to this new commission.

I appreciate what the member for St Catharines did to point out that we're dealing with perhaps the most sensitive issues here: Ontario's pensions, Ontario's insurance plans and Ontario's savings in our trust and our credit unions. While we appreciate this commission going forward, I think the member for St Catharines quite correctly cautioned that if the government does here what they did to so many other things: the family support plan, the boot camp -- for example, we now have the only toll road in the world that has been open for nine months with no tolls on it. It's amazing. It's an artistic success but we're losing money on every car. I guess we'll make it up on the volume because there are no tolls.

I say those things because here we go again: the government embarking on a commission. If they do what they did here to a bunch of other things they've done, we'll have chaos. As I say, we in the Liberal caucus are supportive of modernizing our financial community. I shake every day thinking about this government being in charge of that, however, based on their track record.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wanted to commend the member for St Catharines -- it's good to see him on his feet in this place actually making a speech; it's refreshing -- and the member for Timiskaming, who I thought did an unbelievable job of taking this bill apart. I choose my words carefully. I wanted to commend them both for their presentations. I must say I, myself, will be speaking on the bill later, I hope, but our critic for this area is the member for Timiskaming, who has had --

Mr Len Wood: No, Lake Nipigon.

Mr Laughren: What did I say, Timiskaming? I'm sorry, the member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Len Wood: The member for Timiskaming quit the NDP in 1986.

Mr Laughren: I don't need to be reminded of that.

The member for Lake Nipigon is our critic on financial matters. He's had a lot more dealings with high finance than I have --

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Than most people have.

Mr Laughren: Than most people have had, and continues to have these kinds of dealings. I'm sure I share the view of most members of the House when I say I look forward to hearing the comments from the member for Lake Nipigon, who will be able to speak as soon as we shut up.

The Acting Speaker: The member for St Catharines has two minutes to respond.

Mr Bradley: I'm pleased to respond to the people who have responded to me on this. I appreciate their comments.

I was particularly intrigued by the comments from the member for Cochrane North, who talked about the fact that maybe we could have a commission -- because this is a commission -- to deal with gas prices in Ontario. I thought his observation was most appropriate. He remembers, though he was not a member of the House, that in 1975, Bill Davis didn't say, "I want somebody else to solve this problem." Bill Davis seized the opportunity and passed a piece of legislation which froze gasoline prices here in Ontario.

He didn't care what they were doing in other provinces. He didn't care about anything else. Bill Davis said, "If there's a problem in Ontario, I know it's provincial jurisdiction; I've looked up the constitutionality of this," and Bill Davis moved forward with action right here in Ontario. Not for Bill Davis to fob it off on the feds or anybody else; he took action.

I suspect as well that if he knew about the predatory pricing law that I've proposed in this House, which is certainly a pet project of my friend the Conservative member for Quinte, Bill Davis would want to see this government implement both of those.

As well -- because this bill mentions commissions -- he set up a one-person royal commission while this freeze was in effect to assess the impact of this and to determine whether there was any collusion or what was happening with the gas pricing.

Bill Davis didn't look to anybody else. He said, "I know it's in Ontario's court." His advice to the consumer and commercial relations minister in Saskatchewan is probably: "Forget bothering with anybody else. Let's just tell them we're going to take action here in Ontario ourselves. We're not just going to huff and puff in Ontario."

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Pouliot: I will be sharing the time allocated to the third party with the most distinguished dean of the House, the former Deputy Premier and former Minister of Finance, no less, the member for Nickel Belt.

You will briefly allow me to say how moved I was by his comments. At one time he mentioned, en passant, that the finance critic for the New Democratic Party was the member for Timiskaming. The member for Nickel Belt, the dean of the House, has been here a long, long time and at times I can understand there's an element of fatigue. With the workload that he has to address, it's only normal that he would forget so many friends.

He will be contributing. He has insisted. He came to my office about half an hour ago and said: "Mr Critic, I understand you have been asked to offer our view, our thoughts on the matter. May I, member for Nickel Belt, etc, ask that you share your time? There are some subject matters of some importance. I wish to be analytical. Yes, I will be meticulous, I will decipher, I will scrutinize the bill. I might even, time permitting, go into an in-depth analysis of the clause-by-clause."

I will, with some anxiety, wait for the comments from the dean of the House, our cherished and beloved member for Nickel Belt.


Mr Speaker, allow me a departure from form to compliment with all the sincerity at my command the good people in the minister's office, members of his political staff, and of equal importance, members of the Ministry of Finance, who time and time again, hour after hour, spare no efforts to share their expertise by way of information, by way of briefings to members of the official opposition and to our party. The intricacies associated, not with this proposal, this issue, but with some bills, are of importance, and without their help the opposition could not begin to debate and to suggest positive alternatives. That deserves more than a verbal pat on the back; it deserves an acknowledgement. Mr Grimmett, Madame Bassett, your venues have made available the very good people both in the minister's office and in the ministry.

Bill 140 -- and I've heard my colleagues discourse on it -- if you're listening, is as dry as dust. It was an invitation for them to embrace the generic. They saw one word here, one word there, and they said, "We'll talk about this," because they felt that in the context of legislation this has no sex appeal, this is not one of the main motivators in life. It's almost like being a wallflower at a party: You don't have the motivation to really participate.

Listen to the title: Overview of Financial Services Commission of Ontario Act, 1997. The purpose of the bill -- what does it do? -- is to establish the Financial Services Commission of Ontario as an agency of the Ministry of Finance, replacing the Pension Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Insurance Commission and the deposit institutions division. Three of them become one. It's going to be fairly big-time. I can only wish well to whoever gets appointed as chair of the commission.

The government will say, "It's done elsewhere and it works." The government will echo that there's a need to simplify, to expedite, to cut through red tape, to streamline, and who's to disagree? We too, like our brothers and sisters in the official opposition, say we will support the principle, the intent, what's in the compendium, but given the track record -- and I must say this with candour. I say this is going to work. I read it. There's a few pages. It's going to be simpler. The province will save some $3.8 million, somewhat consequential over a period of two years, so it must be good. It's not because the government of the day says something that automatically you must oppose, you must find some substance.

Having said this, I ask myself some questions, not wishing to be the devil's advocate, not being cynical in the least. But then there's one side of me that says, "Examine their track record." If only I could simply say that this bill, as given, underwent a good deal of scrutiny, has been well thought out, that they thought about the pros and cons, considered all alternatives, consulted and listened to the client group, and then in their search for equilibrium, for balance, they came up with the reflection in the bill by way of solution, by way of improvement, making things better. Alas, I am not totally at ease and my sentiment vis-à-vis their effort is what I've just mentioned.

Bien au contraire, et vous le savez. Nous avons aujourd'hui en Ontario un gouvernement en hâte. Ils font tout changer. On nous dit, surtout avant de passer un projet de loi sur le papier, _On l'a étudié, on a su écouter la clientèle, les contribuables, Ontariens, Ontariennes._ J'aimerais bien y croire quand on nous dit, _Nous l'avons fait._ J'aimerais bien, comme vous, Monsieur le Président, être certain que c'est la vérité. On n'a rien parié pour nous assurer que tous et toutes aient été consultés.

Bien sûr, si vous êtes du groupe des mieux nantis, si vous faites partie de cette classe particulière qui sont les privilégiés, vos chances d'être non seulement consultés mais d'être écoutés sont meilleures que celles des groupes marginalisés, ceux et celles de la classe moyenne, ceux qui dépendent un peu plus du système, les vulnérables, ceux et celles qui courent moins vite, les pauvres, ceux qui en ont moins à cause de l'appétit de ceux qui n'en ont jamais assez.

We talked about the appointments to the new commission. When we mesh, we web, when we make three bodies becoming one, there will be some appointees, and one of the criteria is vague. Some will say it might be an invitation to excess. Expertise, a group of experts, that's all it says, and that expertise will be a primary condition of appointment.

I've heard it said, vis-à-vis the future appointment, that it will demand the closest of scrutiny. Someone whom I had a frank discussion with mentioned, "Let's make sure that we don't end up with political appointees with, let's say, Tory hats." That's what he said. I said, "I don't believe that any government would stoop to that level, that as a condition of appointment to that commission it would suffice to be a card-carrying member of the government du jour, the government of the day."

I think we don't have the resources to go and visit every golf course to check on every foursome and caddies and then go and spend additional time at the clubhouse. This is not our role here. This is a bit of a blind faith exercise, but we will be watching to see that a good cross-section is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

We don't wish to have a stacked deck, because it's far too important. We will be talking about financial institutions. We will be talking about the board, which is quasi-judicial, and people will have recourse. We will be talking about women's and men's pension plans, lifelong toil in exchange for a bit, some financial security by contractual arrangement, by defined plans. We want to make sure that if there is a snag, those hours and years of work will not be jeopardized because of a bias, because of minds made up in advance because they are sold to a philosophy.


The way you ensure this is by diversity. When we say people from all walks of life, providing they can carry the load, they can digest, assimilate the act, then you will find the equilibrium, the balance. The checkmarks will be in place by virtue of good appointees representing all sides of any issue. Otherwise, if it's a political appointment because you're in the back pocket of people with influence -- and let's face it. When we talk about bankers, I don't know the presidents of banks. All I know is that when I read the Report on Business of the Toronto Globe and Mail, I don't see many women appointed as chairpersons of those major banks.

My notes tell me, for instance, that at the Bank of Montreal the chairperson is presently the flamboyant Matthew Barrett. The notes I have talk about his recent commitment, his recent marriage. It's quite an occasion indeed, so I too, as we always do in matters of this kind, wish everyone well. The picture doesn't show his house -- it shows the happy couple -- but I'm sure the house must be a trophy house, something I would have aspired to had I lived long enough and had the power of compounding interest.

Simply put, we want to make sure that the appointees reflect the consumers. Talk with people at the credit union. They want them to put the brakes on in terms of this bill. What's the big rush? People at the credit union don't know at this time what the annual fee will be. This will be done by regulation. They won't be there to make representation. It doesn't work that way. The opposition will not be there to make representation. The meeting will likely take place between 8 and 10 pm, and there will be a stack of regulations that will give life to the bill. The bill is important, the intent and spirit of the government, but the regulation is the oxygen to the bill.

They are not rich. They're not like the big banks. They are competition to the big banks, pretty well the only competition we have, the caisse populaire and the credit union, but they don't wave a big stick, they don't have as much clout as the big banks, of course, or as the big insurance companies. They are in the bill too.

They say: "How does it impact us? What about the fee structures?" We say: "No, no, give us your acquiescence. Say that you, as members of the caisses populaires and as members of the credit unions, agree with cutting red tape, that you agree with streamlining. Trust us. When it gets to regulation we'll make sure it's not too onerous, that it doesn't cost you too much, that you're not penalized by way of fees vis-à-vis your ability to compete, that this will be taken into consideration." Well, if you're in doubt you say no.

They're asking that this bill be referred to committee and that they be invited in, given a chance to voice their support and also their concern. Will this happen? Will this bill go to committee? Highly unlikely, and there are reasons; there is some justification. Although this is somewhat consequential, it is not paramount; it is not very high on the list of priorities. So it will gather a little dust on the shelf and then it will receive third reading, royal assent, and it will become law.

Les craintes des caisses populaires, vous les connaissez bien. M. Grandmaître les connaît très bien. Ajoutez-y les craintes bien fondées de ceux qui n'ont pas la même force, la même capacité de se défendre des banques à charte. Je vous connais très bien. Je sais déjà que vous partagez mon appréciation, et aussi mes craintes, vis-à-vis des banques à charte. Avec ces gens, il faut un peu se méfier, parce que plus on est gros, plus on prend de la place et plus on se fait entendre. Mais les caisses populaires sont sur les listes d'attente. Ce n'est pas la même chose.

Donc, je vous encouragerais, comme membres de l'Assemblée, comme Vice-Président de la Chambre, d'être vigilants, d'être sur vos gardes. J'irai même à vous conseiller amicalement, Monsieur le Soldat : attention. Quand on parle de ces gens, il faut être en alerte, il faut avoir le geste sûr.

With what is happening and what is about to happen in the pension department, one cannot be too careful, one cannot be too vigilant vis-à-vis this commission. The 1997 Ontario Budget, Budget Papers: Investing in the Future, more important, presented by the Honourable Ernie Eves QC, Minister of Finance -- I draw your attention to page 42. This is an official document. This document here is the most important document we have to debate. Little else matters because in these books you will find the philosophy, the intentions of the government, where they will take their money, where they will spend the money allocated to them, our money, the public's money.


"Pension Benefits Act Reform": I hope my good friend and colleague, for whom I have a lot of respect, Mr Bill Grimmett, will listen intently. I'm sure he knows the reference.

"Ontarians have indicated that the province's pension legislation is complex, inefficient and costly." This is the government saying this.

"They have also experienced frustration because of an inability to access their pension money in locked-in retirement accounts, specifically in cases of hardship.

"To address these and related concerns, the government" -- we, the Progressive Conservative government of the day in Ontario -- "will consult with the pension community on ways of streamlining the regulatory system while ensuring that employees' rights are protected. The government is also interested in exploring with other governments" -- fair -- "the possibility of moving towards a single regulatory regime for pensions."

Then we begin to understand that this bill could possibly take on extraordinary proportions when the rubber hits the road. You know what's happening in the pension world. More and more people are encouraged to buy in.

Let's say Harry Smith worked 28 years for ABC company. Harry Smith is a member of a defined pension plan. ABC company said, "Harry, you will be getting $1,000 a month if you work for 25 years." Harry's got his 28 years in. Every month he gets 5% taken off his paycheque, the company matches the 5% Harry Smith puts in, and that 10% of what he makes becomes a defined plan. Over 25 years it will generate so much money and he will get so much pension if he's age 55, 58, 60.

Then ABC decides that they will buy out, that Harry is not to get a thousand bucks a month. Harry has been privatized, and in lieu of the commitment they will go to actuaries, accountants, people who know that. They will say, "Harry, in order to get you $1,000 a month, we will give you the equivalent, and you will be worth so much." Let's say they give Harry $130,000 in lieu of. That $130,000 becomes what Harry has -- nothing else. But since the employer was a contributor, it goes into an RSP. But in this case it's a locked-in RRSP. The conditions are as such: Harry Smith will not have access to his locked-in RRSP before he is age 60.

There's a real Harry Smith. He can be any one of us. He's a person in my riding who worked for Noranda Mines for 32 years, was commuted, got a little more than the $130,000 or $140,000 I was talking about. The person is in his late 50s; he has cancer. It's a true story. He and his wife wish to go to Europe to see the place of birth. He is pension-poor. Because of the lock-in provision, he can only take 7.55% out each year, and when he gets to be 80, he has to buy an annuity. The insurance company is telling Harry, "But the money will be around." And Harry is telling the the insurance company, "Yes, but I won't be." It's his money. Yet we have someone else who has another self-directed RRSP, the same as Harry has, but his is not locked in. So they're both subject to a minimum, but the locked-in one, because of the LIF, the life income fund, only allows you to take so much out. You're capped and it goes to the insurance company. It's automatic. In the other plan, you have a minimum through a RIF but you have no maximum. And the governments are saying "We want the taxes"? Is this fair?

This is a growing monster. More and more people are being commuted, are being bought out, because companies do not wish to assume the liabilities and responsibilities of future pension plans. They don't have the same flexibility they once had because of scrutiny about the surplus fund, so they're under the gun, and rightly so. What they choose to do as an alternative -- and I'm not impugning motive. It's not for me to say whether it's right or wrong. A buck is a buck here. But, excuse me, something has to be done. This is self-serving. It is not fair to deprive people of the ability to access their money when it is so rightly theirs. It is not consistent with other RRSPs, it is not consistent with your life savings, it is not consistent with your worldly possessions, ie, house, car etc; only in this monopoly, in this cartel that represents an attitude of yesteryear.

Thankfully some provinces are beginning to exercise some flexibility. They see the light. There's a human dimension. It's a good case. It's a true story.

We are asking our constituent to write a letter to the carrier explaining his dire need, accompanied by a certificate from the MD and the specialist to back his case so he can have access to the fruits of over 30 years of service.

It makes no sense to me whatsoever. No one wishes to be unjust, but what are we supposed to tell Harry? "Tell you what, Harry, go to the broker or go to whoever is carrying the plan and tell them you want to transfer to an RRSP. Don't even mention the lock-in. Do it two or three times and then some clerk on a busy day in February, before the end of the RRSP season, will be too busy and you'll become legit." You can't ask Harry to cheat. It's not done. What about the consequences? People get imaginative. You can't ask Harry to take his money and run. He wants to pay his taxes. That's one example of the need to address this legislation.

You say, "What would you do?" One proposal would be to treat it the same way as an RRSP, and if you need some money -- you might not wish to take everything out of it. Unless you need it, it would be stupid, because the tax burden would be so high. Both Revenue Canada and Revenue Ontario would take their share, would take their cut. You may wish to take a little more, but providing you take the minimum -- and now I understand and I don't disagree with age 69 in lieu of age 71 -- a little painful for some; not much of a window. It might go to 65; I don't know. Mr Martin professes no ulterior motives. But again, with those people, sometimes they wish to access whatever pool of money.


That's not as troublesome as the locked-in provision, the straitjacket provision. My friend Harry Smith is locked in. They've locked him in. With a pension, they should have issued him a set of handcuffs: "Here, Harry. Welcome to retirement."

We'll be on our feet again to talk about the pension proposals. I understand that some consultations are taking place. It says right here that consultation will take place with the pension community.

I'll tell you what: I was outside the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it is right downtown. All you have to do is look up. I see all those towers. I see Canada Life; I see the banks; the business community is well represented. I hope that when we talk about the pension community -- to me, the pension community is the person who feeds the engine, feeds the locomotive.

Yes, Harry Smith, that's the pension community. It is his earned money; nothing else matters. It's much easier, I suppose, to return the phone call from a person of consequence, a person whose name is recognized so easily, a person with money, a person in a high position. They take a cut. They're not on the take; they take a cut. It's a fee for service. I don't mind. Give Harry Smith the opportunity and the flexibility to access a small dream, the lifestyle that they both worked for for so many years, decades, to enjoy. After all, it is their money. They've made their contribution in good faith. They too believed that one day it would be possible. Yet the present system does not allow that.

There are other people whose dire needs are not as stringent, as visible as our friend Smith's, but I realize that we must be consistent; we don't wish to deprive people who have maybe a little more under locked-in provision. We have to be consistent. We can't start making exceptions left or right. I readily acquiesce to that. Our focus here is on people who need it. The system must be fair.

This is a bill that raises more questions than it wishes to answer. The government says it will improve customer service and access to financial services. How will they do this? The bill doesn't say this. It's not a statement of platitudes; it's not shallow, hollow, empty. But you don't have any meat here. When you say you will improve services, what is it we're talking about? How will I as a client benefit from those improved services? Where, when, how? Bill 140 doesn't do this.

The commission will allow the insurance industry and the pension industry to not only be self-regulating, but self-policing as well. I hate to give that much power to a person. What kind of guru would be given this much power? Are you judge and jury at the same time? But the good people at the ministry are saying: "Mr Pouliot, it ain't so. The chair and the vice-chair will be part of the board." I said, "They don't make the law." They said: "No, the statutes make the law. The law is the law. They monitor, and then if you have recourse, you go and see them." I guess they change hats, but there will be other people who will be different.

That's supposed to be our guarantee of their goodwill, our guarantee of fair play and success. I believe it will be, although I can't help but be a little en garde; not suspicious, but quite careful when I see the same people trying to satisfy two mandates that are not completely opposite or irrelevant or different, that are in fact quite similar in many cases. There again, we will be watching very carefully.

I want to go back briefly to the representation. The order in council will appoint. People will not be invited to submit. I guess names will surface by some fashion, somehow. If you tread in those circles, you know who they are. I understand they might be the same people. Those are experts. This is positive, I think, indeed. But nothing in the bill says that, for instance, labour will be represented. They're very much concerned. They pay for all this. What they are saying is: "We don't want to take over the board. We just want to be part of the appointment process. We don't want to be straitjacketed to the point where we only represent labour. That's not what we're saying. What we're saying is make sure that the checkmarks involve people who understand, are familiar with all."

I've just received a note I want to share with the House. It says: "Mr Pouliot" -- it's handwritten -- "My husband and I have delayed our supper. Keep going. Mr Laughren does not need to speak." My apologies. There's also another half. It says, "Your maturity will be gauged on whether you share the contents of this note with anyone."

I'm not getting tired, Floyd, and you will have a chance to speak. I want to thank you very kindly.

Back to the subject matter. We wonder, why is the government so anxious? I don't wish to be cynical; it's not in our nature. I don't wish to be even controversial. When I came here 13 years ago, I was so happy. It made me appreciate the lack of job security; that's how I got the job. Then I entered here and said: "These are well-meaning people. This is not a place where 90% of the politicians give the other 10% a bad reputation. Of course not."

I started to read between the lines, say for about five years, and started to lose that candour and always looked for the unwritten word.


There's no emergency. We will be supporting this. We're not here to oppose. But we're here to help and we're here to speak on behalf of the credit unions. They say: "Give us public hearings. Give us a chance to access the blue suits opposite so you can tell us face to face how much you are going to charge us each year." It's a fair question. We will be the liaison between the caisse populaire, the credit union and the government. We will put our positive shoes on. We want them to be on board and we want them to trust, for we believe that when all is said and done in the context of Bill 140, this is a step in the right direction. It is not a monolithic platitude. It makes sense. It will work, and we are on your side on Bill 140. Thank you to the people in the ministry. Thank you to those directly responsible for sponsoring the bill. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm listening to Mr Laughren.

Mr Laughren: I would like to express my appreciation to the member for Lake Nipigon. It's a measure of his generosity that he has left me this much time to engage in the debate this afternoon, and I appreciate it.

I did want to take part in the debate, even if it's not for a long time, on the establishment of the Financial Services Commission, because I can recall talking, thinking and even doing some work on this kind of commission when we were in government. I was supportive then of this kind of move, which basically puts the back rooms, if you will, of the commissions together and has a common front room called the commission itself, so I personally have no problem supporting this.

I obviously have some concerns about the commission, and I did want to put them on the record. I won't go into a clause-by-clause discussion of my concerns, but the commission itself is going to be a very important commission in the province and I worry about finding the people to make up the commission who will have the breadth of knowledge on all these issues. It's no longer one small commission; it has brought them all together. I worry about that, because there will be a limited number of commissioners.

I know there is a provision in here -- which I thought, by the way, was a telling one; probably a good one but also a telling one -- section 6 under "Tribunal." They have already said that the tribunal will appoint at least six persons and not more than 12, but then subsection (6) goes on to say, "Despite subsection (3)" -- which deals with the six and 12 number of members -- "the Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint additional members to the tribunal for a limited time and purpose and the order appointing the member shall provide that the member's participation is limited to specified matters or classes of matters within the jurisdiction of the tribunal."

I think that's a telling admission of the concern in the Ministry of Finance, which I think is appropriate, about the ability to deal with all the issues that are going to come before that tribunal and to have the kind of expertise available at the time it's needed to deal with those kinds of appeals and so forth. I'm a little concerned about that.

The other matter I am concerned about is the role of the superintendent. The superintendent, who will basically run the commission, if I can put it in layman's language, will "be responsible for the financial and administrative affairs of the commission, exercise the powers and duties conferred on or assigned to the superintendent, administer and enforce this act...supervise generally the regulated sectors." The superintendent is going to be a very powerful person. It's going to be a very important position.

When you put together the powers of the commission and the responsibilities of the commission, which basically are then -- if I could use a phrase that I hope hasn't been debased by the currency, you are downloading the responsibilities of the commission basically to the superintendent. I'm not quarrelling with that in principle, but it does mean that the superintendent is going to be someone who's going to have to have a wealth of knowledge and hopefully some experience in a wide number of areas, because that's a very tall order of responsibilities for the superintendent. There are many good people out there in Ontario's public service. I think there are still a few left who perhaps can carry out those responsibilities, and I sure hope that you find them.

I'm glad there are a couple of minutes left, because I wanted to talk about the assessments. By the way, before I get into the assessments, in the preamble -- I think it was in the preamble; sorry, in the explanatory note to the bill, and I don't know whether the parliamentary assistant has a copy of the explanatory note with him. In the explanatory note, at the end of the very first paragraph: "The Lieutenant Governor in Council can assess the entities that form part of each of the regulated sectors to recover the costs that the commission" -- so far, so good -- "and the ministry incur in regulating the sectors." I hope those sectors know that it's not just the cost of the commission that they'll be anteing up for; it's the cost of related matters that the ministry itself deals with. It seems to me that's breaking new ground.


Mr Laughren: Well, I think it is. I can understand why the sectors should pay for those, and I don't quarrel with that, but if I were them I'd be a little jumpy about the ministry being added into that.

The power to assess is very broad and will be done by regulation, which in itself is I don't think is that surprising because lots of fees are set by regulation and quite frankly I suspect you won't know yet what the costs will be for each of the sectors. Maybe there's going to have to be a trial period here to see just what it is that each of the various sectors cost, because some sectors will cost a lot more than others, I would assume. I don't even know what they would be, but I assume that some would cost a lot more than others.

Also, the bill is written quite carefully in that regard in that it even talks about any fees that are paid by a particular sector will be taken into consideration when assessments are made against that particular sector. So I can understand the desire to be very careful in that regard.

I don't know how each of those sectors is going to know that they've been assessed fairly. I'd appreciate when the parliamentary assistant has an opportunity to respond at some point that there be an explanation of what happens to a sector that perhaps is somewhat taken by surprise by this. I'm thinking of the credit union sector, which I don't think is that happy with this model. How are you going to satisfy that sector that what they're being assessed is fair vis-à-vis the other sectors that are also being assessed? Not that they should not be part of the assessment, but how will they know that what they've been assessed is appropriate?

I worry about those assessments and the private sector is going to be sceptical from the beginning about this commission, even though I'm sure they're not in disagreement with the principle involved. But they're going to be sceptical about the costs of running it; I would suspect they tend to be. When it comes to anything the government does, the private sector is sceptical and thinks it should be done much more cheaply.

I note in subsection 25(6): "On request, the commission shall recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council the manner in which the regulations made under this act should determine the share of the assessment in respect of a regulated sector and the share of the assessment payable by an entity that forms part of the sector."

I can see that the government has looked at this very carefully and I'm sure it's trying to protect itself in terms of assessments to the various sectors.

As I said at the beginning, I am concerned about the commission, not in principle, because I support the principles that are in this bill and I support the way in which it's being done, with the one commission, the chair, two vice-chairs, and the superintendent and the director being on the commission. I'm not sure why the director is on the commission, but that's what it says in here. I'd appreciate knowing that.

The superintendent, I would almost think, would be an ex officio member of the commission, because to have that hands-on person as a member of the commission, I find a bit strange. You obviously want them there, but it's almost like a board of directors at a community college or any other institution -- a community college is the system I know best -- where you have the board of directors and you have the president there as well, the hands-on president of the college. That's fine, because you need to have that hands-on experience and expertise. But I wonder about the director in particular and the superintendent, to what extent they're seen to be full voting members of the commission, as opposed to being more ex officio in nature.

We know that if we're going to have a financial services sector in the province that has the confidence of the public -- not just the business community but the public as well has got to have confidence because there have been fiascos in this province. I'm thinking of the trust company fiascos and so forth. There have been fiascos in this province and people expect that they will be regulated appropriately. There's almost a blind faith that government will look after them, whether it's a bank or a trust company. In my own community a trust company went under a couple of years ago when we were in government, and it happened to happen in my own community, so there was a lot of concern about the protection of --

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. It's now 6 o'clock and this House will adjourn until 6:30 this evening.

The House adjourned at 1802.