36th Parliament, 1st Session

L228 - Thu 11 Sep 1997 / Jeu 11 Sep 1997






















































The House met at 1004.




Ms Bassett moved second reading of the following bill:

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

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I welcome the opportunity to debate my private member's bill today. As you know, and for the audience that's watching, private members' bills give backbenchers a chance to bring forward issues of concern to their constituents and to the public at large, and in some cases to see those issues of concern become law, which is what my aim is today.

My private member's bill, An Act to provide more protection for animals by amending the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Bill 153, which I'm now going to call the OSPCA act, will make changes to strengthen the enforcement of animal protection and hopefully to reduce cases of abuse and neglect.

Before outlining the details, I want to say first of all that an overwhelming majority of Ontarians love their animals, care for their animals well and are very concerned when they hear of any cases of neglect, cruelty or abuse. We all are well aware of that. This said, we still hear terrible reports of animals being severely mistreated. In fact, humane societies everywhere, right across the province, get thousands of complaints every single year about cases of abuse and neglect of our animals.

Most complaints are resolved immediately. Some really stem from ignorance on the part of the caregiver or the owner. They're not intentional at all, and when the inspector suggests that such and such be done, the owner complies right away. However, about 30% of complaints received by the humane societies right across the province are serious cases of abuse and neglect and they require further ongoing action and checking on by humane society inspectors.

There is an overwhelming response, as I said, from the public any time any case of abuse occurs that's made public. For example, we hear in news reports, editorials, phone talk shows, whatever it is, people calling in and saying what should be done to protect poor, defenceless animals. In fact, last year the Premier's office was absolutely deluged by calls about the case of the Irish setter, Holly, who was dragged behind a car to teach her a lesson. The public just was not going to stand for that, and phoned in by the hundreds.

In extreme cases such as Holly's case, the offender is charged under the Criminal Code and sentenced accordingly. In Holly's case, the person involved got a six-month suspended sentence.

It's relatively easy to deal with cases that are so high profile. We all read a couple of weeks ago about the man who hopped across the balcony and tossed down the little dog that was barking and disturbing his peace. In that kind of case the humane society inspectors can go in easily and charge the person who is making the offence.

It's the cases that aren't so high profile that humane society inspectors and agents have trouble dealing with. "We hear all too often about animals," they say, "who are deprived of water, left out in the sun, locked in cars when the owner goes shopping," and on and on. You have all seen or heard of such cases yourselves.

Inspectors of the OSPCA would rather not lay criminal charges in many of these cases if they had another way of dealing with the problem and getting the individual who is making the offence to clean up his or her act, in effect. That is what my bill wants to do: We want to encourage people to treat their animals humanely without laying criminal charges against them.

I've been working closely with the Ontario Humane Society and the Toronto Humane Society. Some of the members are sitting in the gallery today and I welcome you and thank you for coming. It's good of you to show your support. It's because of the support of animal lovers everywhere and members of humane societies that I feel I must bring forward this bill today, because we are all speaking out for animals, who cannot speak at all.


My private member's bill will do three things: (1) It will make people less likely to obstruct inspectors from carrying out their duties; (2) it will make people more likely to comply with an inspector's orders when he or she writes them out; and (3) it will prohibit owners charged with cruelty or neglect of animals from owning animals in the future; for example, the person who tossed the dog over. That person obviously is not a fit person to own an animal.

I must point out, however, that the bill does not lay out any new definitions of abuse or cruelty. I say that to members of our caucus and members in other parties who are farmers and are involved with animals and they may feel that we're going to descend with a bunch of new laws. That's not the intention of this bill at all. The law of what denotes cruelty and distress is clearly defined in the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and in the Criminal Code, and I'm happy to show it to anybody who wants to see it.

All this does is give teeth to the existing law, and I want to go through the three areas and how it works. First, obstruction and non-compliance with orders: If you see an animal that is being abused, you can lay a complaint with the OSPCA. An inspector then goes out to check up on the situation. In some cases -- not many, but in some cases -- the individual who's being inspected says, "You can't come in," or he or she verbally abuses the inspector who's coming out. Now, under my bill, you are going to be subject to a fine: $5,000 for individuals, $10,000 for corporations. So obstruction is one area.

If the inspector then gets in to see the animals, if he sees the animal in distress, he leaves a written order saying, "Feed the animal; clip its feet," whatever has to be done. Sometimes, not in all cases, but in some cases, about 30% of cases, these written orders are not complied with, and when the inspector comes back to check up on whether the animal has been relieved of his or her distress, he finds that this hasn't happened. My bill is going to make failure to comply with an inspector's written orders subject to a fine of $5,000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for corporations. I feel strongly that this will encourage people to think twice before they neglect their animals. It attaches a certain seriousness to this particular case.

Under the current law, if somebody is abusing an animal, you cannot remove the animal for good right away. Under my law the judge can make the decision, but up until that time the OSPCA can go in and remove the animal. Then the judge can make the decision down the way, saying that a person may not own an animal, ever, or up to a certain period of time.

We feel that in some cases it's warranted that some people never, ever own animals. Some people because of health problems -- some people I know are becoming forgetful and they forget to feed their horses. In cases like that, if the OSPCA goes in and finds that these animals are not being fed and cared for properly and the person is incapable of understanding, then he or she should not be owning those animals.

Those are the three amendments to the OSPCA act that my bill is bringing in. We feel that this is a very good move and a very safe move, and it doesn't create any new law that is going to change the definition of distress. I keep coming back to that so that people will understand.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Thank you. The member's time has expired. Further debate? Member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Let me first of all, on behalf of my caucus as well, welcome the representatives from the OSPCA to the chamber today. I know that the various branches that operate throughout the province certainly do very worthwhile work. They're actively involved, many volunteers are involved, to make sure that the animals, particularly pets that people have in their households, are treated in a fair manner and are looked after properly.

I can't continue, though, without saying I know that the member, who is a very influential member within the Conservative caucus, particularly when she was parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance --

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): She still is.

Mr Gerretsen: She still is, I'm sorry. I would hope that she would pay the same kind of attention to some of the other problems of abuse and neglect that are faced by children in this province and come up with perhaps a similar kind of recommendation. I will say right at the outset that when this matter was first raised and I became aware of it earlier this week and I got some information from the member's office, I was highly impressed with the kind of background work that had been done by her and her staff with respect to finding out information as to what other provinces do in that regard. Hopefully you could put the same kind of effort into looking after another serious problem in this province, and that deals with the 36% of the children of our province who are living in poverty.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Shame.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Gerretsen: I don't understand why the members of the Conservative caucus are so upset about this, that they don't think --


Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): Sit down. That's disgusting.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Gerretsen: Madam Speaker, are we going to be allowed to continue? That is just as serious a problem, if not more so.

In any event, I think it's kind of interesting that Ontario is one of only two provinces currently where it is not an offence to obstruct an inspector or an agent, the other province being Saskatchewan. The chart that she so ably provided us with indicates that all the other provinces except for Saskatchewan regard it as an offence to obstruct an inspector and that in most provinces a fine for obstructing an officer can be anywhere from $50, in the case of British Columbia, up to as much as $5,000, in the case of Alberta. As a matter of fact, in Alberta for a second offence the fine can be up to $10,000.

I wouldn't want the general public to get the impression that just because a fine has been set at a maximum, at a rather high level, that the provincial court judges in this province necessarily are going to impose that in those situations where a person has been found guilty of obstructing an officer. In most cases, the first time around the fine is much, much less than the maximum.

But it's a good attempt and certainly I think there should be a maximum fine in that range because in a subsequent offence to a first offence it should be dealt with in a very severe manner. I agree with you that the kind of abuse situations that one hears about, for example, of the dog being dragged by the vehicle, I too in my office received many calls that something should happen about this kind of situation, that we certainly should be treating the pets and the animals we have in domestic use in this province in a much better fashion than was indicated in that particular situation.

I intend to support this particular bill. I think it's a good bill.


Mr Gerretsen: I don't know why the members of government are so surprised at that. I indicated right at the beginning that this was a good bill, but I would hope the government members would pay just as much attention to some of the other issues that people are confronted with on a day-to-day basis.

As a matter of fact, we have a situation in Kingston where one particular family, I believe, has about 100 or 200 cats in their home. I know this offends some people. They feel that perhaps the animals are being abused. Other people think it's an all-right situation. Certainly I think that as a general principle there is no sense in our passing any laws in this Legislature if we don't have effective enforcement mechanisms. I think that in the past, many, many laws that had been passed in this Legislature and elsewhere usually lacked the required enforcement mechanisms to make those laws and those situations meaningful.

As a matter of fact, I'm reminded by my colleague from Nepean, who at one time attended Queen's University, that there were 635 cats in one particular home. I don't want to cast aspersions on that particular situation, but it's the kind of situation where inspectors should certainly have the right to examine what's going on, because who knows what the situation may be?

I intend to support this resolution. I hope -- I have the greatest respect for this member -- that she will pay just as much attention and be equally diligent in looking after the abused children in our province.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to my colleague's bill in the Legislature today. There are very few things as upsetting as a person abusing a helpless animal. Every time a case of animal abuse is reported in the media, it strikes a powerful chord across the province.

I would like to commend the member for St Andrew-St Patrick for bringing this important issue to the attention of the Legislature. On behalf of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services, we support this private member's bill. The ministry continues to examine how best to address long-standing animal-welfare-related issues but welcomes this bill to deal with the immediate concerns.

Last year the province of Ontario was outraged when an abusive owner dragged a dog behind a car. Being a pet owner myself, I was particularly moved by the incident. One can only wonder what sort of person could abuse a defenceless, trusting animal who gives unconditional love all the time. More calls were received by the Ministry of the Solicitor General in this case than any other except the Bernardo case.

There was also the highly publicized recent case of a large group of kittens left to die by a person who is widely speculated to be an unscrupulous breeder.

My family has pets. We have a beautiful Labrador retriever named Coconut, a cat named Tiffany, and three goldfish. These are all friends of mine, permanent friends, real friends.

Animal welfare legislation has not undergone any fundamental change in the province of Ontario since 1919. Ms Bassett's bill addresses many concerns not covered in the existing act. This bill prohibits pet owners who abuse their pets from owning pets. I fully support this motion to make pet ownership a privilege and not a right. Pet ownership is a privilege and, like any privilege, can be revoked if it is abused. Unlike a driver's licence or a gun licence, there is no test to own a dog or a cat, but failure to look after a pet the first time should mean a revocation of this privilege.

Another important aspect of the bill is the amendment to make obstructing a humane society officer an offence punishable by fines. Humane society officers have a difficult job. They lack the authority to obtain a search warrant on their own and thus don't have the power to conduct lawful search and seizure of dwelling houses. This bill does not suggest that they should be given powers of search and seizure. The rights of people to be secure in their homes from search should only be suspended in the most serious of circumstances. My colleague's bill allows animal officers to use their limited authority unhindered. Obstructing a police officer in the execution of his or her duties is a criminal offence. Obstructing an animal welfare officer will now result in a fine.

Orders from animal welfare officers can be ignored under existing legislation, but under this bill orders have to be complied with or the offender faces a $5,000 or $10,000 fine. We should hit negligent pet owners where they will feel it: in the pocketbook.

My colleague's bill touches on some important changes to existing legislation. Recent cases in the media show there is a definite need for tougher legislation. It's about time that we created some animal abuse legislation with some real penalties for offenders and prevent animal abusers from owning animals in the future.

My heart cries out for the pets and animals living in abusive homes or circumstances. Their unconditional love, their companionship and their trust should not be abused. I'm proud to support this bill and I personally will do whatever I can to make it law. God bless the animals. My thanks go out to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. I would ask all the members of this House to support this excellent bill.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I will, of course, as one might anticipate, be supporting this bill. I would be very surprised if there were any member of the Legislature who would not support a bill of this kind, because it deals with a very difficult circumstance that exists. I've often said that we who are in this Legislature should be elected to protect those who cannot protect themselves. That applies to people, but it also applies to animals who are unable to have a spokesperson for themselves, quite obviously, and require human beings to speak on their behalf.

I can't think of anything more revolting than some of the stories that have emerged in the news media of abuse of animals. When we think of our constituency offices and the kind of calls or letters we get, a story of abuse of animals, because they are innocent, because they cannot protect themselves, usually engenders a number of telephone calls and letters and other communications from people who are extremely concerned.

Members have already mentioned that pet animals play a very important role in our society. If you think of the companionship they provide, particularly to lonelier people in our society, but to virtually everybody, that is an important component. Medical people, particularly those who deal with mental health, will tell us how important it is for many individuals in our society to have the companionship of the animals, as the member for Scarborough has indicated, the uncontested love they provide for their so-called masters.

When we see the abuse that takes place in certain circumstances, we recognize that there is a need for increasing the penalties, increasing the provisions within the laws to ensure that we limit the risk of that happening.

I would hope that the member, in her position as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, would ensure that the Ministry of the Solicitor General has sufficient funds and resources to assist the local people in carrying out their responsibilities. One of the problems we have, if you talk to people involved with humane societies across the province, is that while they have significant contributions made by people who are friends of animals in general, one of the concerns they want to bring to our attention at all times is the fact that there's a need for resources at the local level.

Those of us who have sat on municipal councils in years gone by know that each year there is a budgetary process the municipalities go through and they allocate a certain amount of money for the humane society in the area. In our area of Niagara, we have the Lincoln County Humane Society, and a number of municipalities contribute to the operation of the humane society in our area. Some of them have expressed to me concerns outside the provisions of this bill, concern that they don't have the kind of resources they would like to have to do as good a job as possible in terms of animal protection.

When we think of the transfer of responsibilities from the provincial government to local government and the competition there will be for those dollars, we have to recognize that there is a danger -- we all hope it won't happen -- that when the crunch comes in terms of providing funding, humane societies will not get the kind of funding they need to carry out their responsibilities.

Every time we pass a law in this House -- a Treasurer, a Minister of Finance, will always tell a cabinet and a caucus this, just as your treasurer at the municipal level will say you really make policy every week; that there's not just a budgetary process but you make policy every week. When you make decisions, when you pass laws, when you bring into effect new penalties, you must have the resources and the staff to enforce those.


I draw a bit of a parallel with the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Minister of Natural Resources has a very commendable bill, in my view, that will come before the House when the government decides it will and will be debated in this House. There are some interesting provisions in it that I think are helpful. But at the very same time that is happening, the government is cutting back drastically on the staffing of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I know all the members who will be supporting this bill will be urging the Treasurer and the Premier and members of cabinet to provide the necessary funding for humane societies to enable them to carry out their responsibilities.

There's also an education component that exists as a result of a bill of this kind. Because it draws some public attention to a matter which is of concern to many, it allows the news media and those who have access to the news media to explain to individuals in our society how much abuse of animals takes place and the important role those animals play in the lives of many, the pets they have, often for a lifetime.

There are people who don't have pets and perhaps don't understand that kind of affinity and affection that takes place between an individual or a family and family pets. When you hear, for instance, of funerals, even, or special care being given to animals -- I've listened to people sometimes who mock that. When they do so, they simply don't understand that affinity between the individual or the family and those pets.

This is not a government bill; this is an individual's bill. This is our time, as members of the Legislature. I think that is a good time; I like the Thursday morning opportunities. What I like about this bill -- well, I guess everything has a political connotation, but I think this bill is not in that category in any major way.

I appreciate this as well: The member is not in here pointing to some other level of government to do something. She's saying: "We have the responsibility in this Legislature for this. We're dealing with a matter that is within the purview of this Legislature." I want to commend her for that aspect of bringing forward this piece of legislation, because so often now I'm seeing resolutions and bills that ask another level of government to do something.

She has not chosen that option. She hasn't said, "It's the federal government," or "It's the local government." She says, "We have this power and this responsibility within the purview of this Legislature, within the responsibility of this Legislature." For that reason I want to additionally commend her for bringing this forward.

This is something over which we, as legislators, have control, so I am confident that she will be supportive of my suggestion that we provide the necessary resources so that we don't simply have a bill or new rules on the books but have the wherewithal, the resources and the staffing to carry out the enforcement provisions of this bill, which are particularly important, and the educational provisions, which are also part of dealing with animals. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and humane societies across the province are going to be supportive of this.

We shouldn't be surprised that the general public is going to be supportive, even those who don't have animals themselves. Even those who are not involved with humane societies or societies for the protection of animals will find this a commendable piece of legislation. I'm confident that we will see it pass in this Legislature and receive the support of all parties and all members.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this bill. I too want to commend the member for St Andrew-St Patrick for bringing it forward. People have already talked about the importance to us, as part of the animal kingdom, in recognizing the necessity that we protect all those who are vulnerable, whether they're our species or not.

The whole movement to prevent abuse of children and vulnerable people very much has its roots in a common purpose to try and prevent cruelty to animals. When you look at the history of the humane society, the history of the society for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals, we know that that kind of history is there. The recognition has been there from the beginning of the movement to protect animals, to recognize that they are part of a larger picture, that we have an obligation as human beings, as citizens, to protect those in our community who are vulnerable and who don't have a voice. This is very much part of a very honourable movement that has a history that evolves.

I think that's what's important about the bill the member has brought forward, because it marks a new step in the evolution of our accepting of that responsibility, particularly the part which talks about corporations having a responsibility. As we know, increasingly it is important for us to define the responsibility of corporations as well as of individuals. This is a gap that has been seen to exist by many who are concerned about the fate of animals under the care of various large corporate entities, particularly corporate farming operations.

The member, in bringing forward the bill, has not changed the definition of cruelty to animals as it exists in the act, although I'm sure she must have had considerable pressure to do so. We all know that the definition of what is cruel varies very strongly between the extreme end that no animal should ever belong to or be controlled by any person and that it's cruel to do that, to in any way use an animal for food, to in any way raise animals for food -- that is one extreme -- and the other extreme, which my friend from St Catharines talked about, the callous disregard for animals and their important place in our universe, with our obligation to speak on their behalf.

While the member knows she enjoys the support of most people for this change in the act, certainly most people in this Legislature and most people generally, those who are very firmly convinced of their position -- I believe they call themselves animal rights activists -- will not be as pleased that this definition did not strengthen the definition of cruelty. I think we ought to recognize that.

Passing this bill is not going to end the controversy about whether it is appropriate for large animal operations, large poultry operations, to exist. It is not going to end the controversy about using animals for medical research or other kinds of research. It won't do that. But what it will do will be to add to the ability of those who work so hard in our communities to try and protect animals from cruelty as it is currently defined to do their job and be assured that they have some of the tools required to do their job.

The first section of Bill 153, which prohibits the obstruction of an inspector or an agent of the society, is extremely important. We know that unless we can get the facts, unless we can observe what is actually happening, the condition of an animal, do an appropriate investigation, it's extremely difficult to then take the action that's required to protect animals. It is really very important that the kind of obstruction that has been difficult for inspectors to deal with would be prohibited under this act. When we think of some of the stories we've read in the press, we need to give these tools to the people we expect to protect animals.

I also believe very strongly that giving powers to the court if someone is found to have contravened the act, giving a court the ability as a condition to prohibit future ownership of animals, is very important, because when we look at what happens with these kinds of abuse situations, what we really see are people who are prepared to exercise power and control over another creature in a way that harms that creature. That unfortunately, as we know, is often learned behaviour and it is often behaviour that is very difficult for the perpetrator to recognize as not being acceptable behaviour.


As with child abuse, as with wife assault, as with sexual assault, we hear accused perpetrators of abuse of animals making excuses for their behaviour when they are charged with an offence. We hear them talking about, first of all, how they own the animal. The animal belongs to them and it's their right to act in any way towards the animal. We hear them talking quite clearly about not seeing the animal as having feelings or having rights to humane treatment.

When that happens, although a person may be convicted of that offence, the fear always is that the person will go out and simply acquire another animal in some way. We know that there are many homeless animals, there are many animals whose owners may not be able to care for them, who may not take the care to ensure that someone is an appropriate owner in the way that humane societies do. I have a friend who says that now applying for adopting an animal is really quite an experience because you have to show why you want the animal and what the living circumstances are going to be and what your experience is with animals in order to show that you're sincere in your desire to care for an animal in an appropriate way.

I think it will be a great relief to those who are engaged in the care and protection of animals to know that if someone has been cruel to an animal, the court would under this act have the ability to prohibit them from owning an animal in the future. Obviously time periods are going to be a discretionary issue in terms of what has actually happened, but I think for most of us we would be very relieved to know that that would be true.

For me, I must say that having corporations guilty of an offence under cruelty to animals will ease some of the pressure that people have. Of course that definition of what is cruel and what isn't cruel will continue to be contentious, but I think that as we change and develop the way in which we care for animals who are mostly in a corporate farming situation but not always -- it could be a horse-raising operation which is not a farming operation but a racing operation -- there are many different ways in which we might see corporate raising.

Then there are the puppy farms. I think perhaps one of the things this might deal with are people who run these operations with little regard for good breeding practices and for good care and raising of puppies. We know there have been very serious problems in terms of the expectation that people have of these operations being ethical and having good standards and finding that a puppy bought in those circumstances very often is ailing, has not had the kind of care that it needs. This would make it possible for those who are concerned about those operations to take some action.

I think having fines set out is important, although always we need to be really aware that the actual bringing to public attention of cruelty is probably as important as any fine that is brought to bear.

I don't know about most of the members here, but I often say I can't imagine what life is like for people who don't enjoy pets. I've had pets all my life and know that it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience to have a friend who lives with you, who is an intelligent and loving companion through good times and bad.

I think the fact that so many of our long-term-care operations are moving to do pet therapy with some of their residents and making sure that those who are incarcerated in institutions because of ill health and who may not have their own pets any more at least have the opportunity to enjoy the company of those pets and get the comfort of the pets of other people tells us that we're beginning to recognize how important our animals are to our mental health. We all know that when people pat a cat or a dog they love, their blood pressure tends to go down, and certainly in this place we all know that anything that reduces our blood pressure would be a good thing.

I think any assurance we have that those of us who love and rely on our pets can be sure that other animals are being cared for in a humane way will be of great comfort to us.

I would like to say a little bit about the wonderful work that's done by humane societies across the province. In my family, for the most part, all of our pets have come from animal shelters, from humane societies. We have had a series of amazing animals who have added so much to our lives, many of whom were abused before they came into our care. Certainly two of the dogs we had were dogs who when they came to us cringed every time anybody raised their voice a little bit, were afraid to go through doorways, obviously having been kicked as they tried to go through doorways, had difficulty accepting the kind of love that we were prepared to give because that had not been their experience in their life.

I now have a wonderful cat who lives with me when I'm in Toronto and travels back and forth with me who equally was able to come into the shelter of a humane society because her family discovered that the third child in their family had allergies. This cat was fortunate to have a loving home, but a home that could no longer accommodate her. I am very grateful that the humane society was there, able to arrange an adoption and to give comfort to that family that that animal was going to have a good home.

I think all of us have experience with those kinds of stories and know that any tools that we can give the fine men and women in our province who dedicate their lives as volunteers or as full-time employees to the protection of animals is to our credit.

Having this bill, I sincerely hope, will give some publicity to those fine efforts, that it will encourage people to dedicate themselves again to ensuring that we are assuming our responsibility as citizens in this province and ensuring that the animals whom we share this earth with in our communities have a life that is free of the kind of cruelty, the kind of abuse, the kind of neglect that we so often hear about happening. It's our responsibility to assist the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by reporting those. All of us as members know that as we go around and canvass, we meet many animals, we see the conditions in which they live, and we need to be accepting our responsibility to ensure that those animals are cared for as well.


Mr Turnbull: I'm delighted to support this bill brought by my colleague the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. In listening to her explanation about this bill both before today and today, I know how strongly she feels about animals. Also listening to the excellent debate from my colleague the member for London Centre, I can tell by the way she speaks about animals that she feels as passionately and deeply as I do about animals.

I'm disappointed when we have partisan shots creeping into the debate, as we heard from the Liberals.

I want to concentrate on the elements of this bill. As has been mentioned, this bill does not change the definition of cruelty, and indeed there are some people who believe that perhaps we should revisit the definition of cruelty. There is a spectrum of views ranging from people who believe there should be no testing on animals whatsoever to people who agree with the present set of rules. But what this bill endeavours to do is to put teeth into the ability of the officers of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to enforce their orders.

I want to just spend a moment and salute all the people who have come here who are involved with stopping cruelty to animals. Many of you, I know, are not paid, you are volunteers, and that is that extra effort which I think everybody owes a great debt of gratitude to, the fact that you spend that time on a very worthwhile venture. There are many ventures -- preventing cruelty to children, preventing cruelty in any form in this world -- and I think that is something that hopefully everybody would agree to.

Obviously in society we have some people who don't understand fully what cruelty truly means, and this is something we have to address. We have to be able to stop in a meaningful way those people who are abusing animals, and fines seem to be one of the way that perhaps we can address this.

The key elements of this bill are that, first, it imposes a fine of up to $5,000 for a person and up to $10,000 for a corporation that is guilty of obstructing an officer of the OSPCA or an agent of the society. That means that if an inspector goes to a door and wants to inspect the premises to see if the animal is being abused and they are turned away, abused in any way, if they are subjected to verbal abuse, the person giving that abuse can in fact be fined. I think that will serve as a chill against many of the people who would otherwise try to obstruct the inspection of the premises.

It also has fines for compliance. If after an order is issued to ensure that an animal is properly looked after, those orders are not complied with, once again a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual and up to $10,000 for a corporation can be imposed.

Finally, it allows for the prohibition of that person who has been guilty of an offence to own an animal for a period which can be prescribed by the courts. It may be indefinite, it may be a lifetime prohibition, or it may be a temporary prohibition. If somebody is temporarily incapacitated but doesn't realize their incapacity to be able to care for an animal, then indeed this addresses it. No one should feel threatened by the terms of this bill because of the fact that it doesn't change the definition of cruelty. All it does is ensure that those definitions are enforced.

I'm delighted to support my colleague and I congratulate her for bringing this bill.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): It's a pleasure to join in the debate as well on what I consider a very important bill that's received a lot of interest in the riding of Niagara South. I want to thank off the top Jack Slibar and Leane Wong from the Toronto Humane Society, who came all the way down from Toronto to Fort Erie and to St Catharines to talk about this bill, to meet the OSPCA employees in that area, whom I think they've already met before, but at the same time to do a little bit of announcement on this bill so that the public know how we're reacting in this area.

It's important to me too, because I remember quite well about a year ago, and some people have mentioned it already, when Holly the dog was dragged behind a car somewhere north of Toronto for some distance and was injured. Interestingly, the number of calls we received to the office was one of the largest numbers of calls we've had on any issue that wasn't riding-specific. That sort of twigged my mind a bit to say that this should be investigated.

My hat is off too to my colleague from St Andrew-St Patrick, Ms Bassett, for acting on this issue. I think it's shown a great deal of foresight in approaching this. To her credit as well, my understanding is that not since 1919 has this act been substantially altered -- improved is a better way of putting it. When Jack and Leane came down to Niagara, you could see that the humane society inspectors -- we met with some of the board members -- were very excited that finally after years of waiting in anticipation, this bill would finally be enhanced. It's a bit of a pun, but the expression is, "Put some teeth into the bill," basically to give the inspectors the wherewithal to carry out their duties.

Great work, to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, and I hope this bill, when referred to committee, will find that time to find its way through the House and become law as soon as possible.

Interesting too, I think, because this bill does cross partisan lines, and often in this House there's a temptation to take partisan shots on issues. But I found this to be very widespread in support. It's not a Conservative matter, a Liberal matter, an NDP matter; it goes beyond that. When we start a petition drive in Niagara to support this bill and to try to get the allocated time necessary to get it into law, I think we'll find that a large number of constituents who don't usually get involved in politics -- they say only a small number actually pay close attention to particular governments or how they're doing. I think we'll see very broad-based support for this bill and I plan on keeping them informed on how it progresses through the House and how the debate went today.

I'd like to say too that I appreciate the member for London Centre -- I always enjoy her comments -- who spoke to the importance of having a pet and the feeling that can convey. Ownership of a pet is a joy. It's good to have that dog or that friendly cat to welcome you home at the end of a long day or a difficult day or whatever kind of day you had. But ownership does come with its own responsibility; it's not a right. When that responsibility is abused, when that responsibility is wielded with any kind of cruelty, I believe that should not go without a quick and decisive response on that animal's behalf.

What this Bill 153 will do is allow the inspectors to act much more quickly and decisively to make sure their orders are complied with in a timely manner. If not, there is a series of fines set up and, important too, a prohibition on ownership, whether it's going through the courts, prohibition for that time, or even afterwards, an order from the justice to ban somebody from owning a pet for up to a lifetime.

In discussing this with the people of Niagara South, I found that this had a great deal of support. Of the 20 or more people I've talked to in this week alone on this bill, only one individual didn't remember the incident with Holly behind the car. After only a couple of years in government, that's the first time I can think of an issue that had that kind of resonance, that again, outside of the riding, people remembered a particular incident and would like to see action taken so that it doesn't happen again, or at least a very strong deterrent effect so there could be a quick and decisive response to those kinds of actions.

I would like to read into the record, as I'm running out of time, some responses from humane society inspectors in Niagara.

The first is Frank Hampson from the Lincoln County Humane Society. It says, "...providing an inspector or agent with these recommended additional powers will allow us to provide much greater protection for animals." He's "looking forward to the passing of these much-needed amendments."


Roy Pastorius, the manager of the Fort Erie SPCA, says:

"The Fort Erie SPCA fully endorses the changes to the SPCA act, which brings us as a society in line with the 20th century. The changes that are proposed will enable us to act more efficiently to protect and prevent animals from neglect and abuse."

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

Ms Bassett: First of all, I want to thank all my colleagues on both sides of the House for your support of this bill. I want to point out, as the members for St Catharines and Niagara South, my colleague just now, said, how great it is -- maybe it happens more than in just private member's bill time, but it's wonderful to have everybody on side for an issue, that we move forward together to make things better.

As my friend and colleague the member for London South pointed out so eloquently, as she always does, and so fairly, her compassion for people and animals, those who can't speak for themselves, rang through clearly. I thank you for your support. I thank you for your speech and I hope that people everywhere read it.

That said, to the member for Kingston and The Islands, I thank you for your support and I want to say firmly that this isn't a case of either/or when you get to children or animals. We're talking, as the member for London South pointed out, for the vulnerable, those who cannot speak for themselves. I feel strongly. My record of looking after and working for, up until now in politics, people who are vulnerable -- children, adults, everyone -- speaks for itself, as I would hope the record of everybody here does.

I want to thank my other colleague from Scarborough West for his support; the Attorney General for his support of this; the member for York Mills, who is an advocate obviously of the humane treatment of animals. Just generally, I think this is a wonderful step forward for us all. As the member for London South said, it is a step. This isn't a panacea. We're not going to see an end to cruelty, but we are moving forward and that's how society does move, step by step. Thank you, everyone, and to the humane society.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I move private member's notice of motion number 69:

That this House call on the government of Canada to immediately amend the Canada Shipping Act as it relates to the small vessel regulations so that:

(a) no person is authorized to operate a motor boat or personal watercraft propelled by an engine of more than 10 horsepower on Ontario waterways unless the person has a boater safety certificate issued by the federal crown;

(b) a person who is the registered owner of a motor boat propelled by an engine of more than 10 horsepower immediately before the bill comes into force shall not be subject to the restriction described in clause (a) until three years after the bill comes into force;

(c) a person shall be required to pass a test in the safe operation of motor boats and personal watercrafts in order to obtain a boater safety certificate;

(d) no person under 12 years of age is eligible to apply for a boater safety certificate;

(e) the Ontario Provincial Police shall have the right to suspend or revoke a boater safety certificate if they have reasonable or probable grounds to suspect that a person is contravening the bill;

(f) the bill includes offences for the dangerous operation of motor boats including personal watercrafts such as,

(i) operating a motor boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and

(ii) operating a motor boat or personal watercraft in a manner that endangers persons or property.

Today marks the fifth time in my 16 years of service in this Legislature that I have stood in this Legislature advocating boater safety in Ontario. For the sake of those families who are living with injuries or loss of life because of boating accidents, I refuse to give up. I not only believe boater safety certification will reduce horrible accidents, I know that it will.

In 1989, when the Liberals were in government, I introduced and received first reading of private member's Bill 8, entitled An Act to provide for Licensing of Motor Boat Operators. This bill died on the order papers when the election was called.

I then reintroduced the bill under the NDP government but it was killed when the government sent it to committee of the whole after second reading, rather than the standing committee of the Legislature, as I requested.

The bill was brought forward again and received first and second reading, only to suffer the same fate before going to the committee of the whole. The fourth time, the safe boating bill was brought forward prior to the 1995 election, and again it died. However, from this effort a joint provincial-federal committee was formed to study the matter, and I personally attended some of the public meetings which were held throughout the province. My disappointment in the outcome of this joint group is that they gathered plenty of information and as yet we have seen no implementation.

In June 1995, the Joint Ontario/Transport Canada Working Group on Recreational Boating Safety filed their report. In their summary of discussion, two thirds of their general principles and assumptions were devoted to the direction of revenues from licensing. I find this disturbing, since licensing is not the issue of safe boating. Learning safety on our waterways was the intention of my bills and is the intention of this resolution.

I am encouraged by the fact that through my efforts over the past nine years a National Recreational Boating Advisory Council has been formed. There are two levels of this advisory council. One deals with boating safety nationally, while the other level deals with boating safety provincially. Both the national and regional advisory councils are made up of members from the marine industry, users, municipalities, law enforcement and public health and safety groups.

The licence plating of personal watercrafts and pleasure boats comes under the small vessel regulations in section 108 of the Canada Shipping Act. This is not new. It is simply the requirement of registering a motorized watercraft and displaying a licence number on the vessel. This act requires all vessels with an engine of 10 horsepower or more to be licensed. Personal watercrafts such as jet-skis and wave runners fall within this category.

The problem is, the Canada Shipping Act requires no experience or education prior to use or rental of boats and personal watercrafts. It is the inexperienced and uneducated operator who is causing accidental injury and death on our waterways. The public has expressed concern, and I am concerned, about the operation of speedboats and personal watercrafts by untrained operators who ignore or who are simply ignorant of the marine rules of the road.

In a brief submitted by the joint working group on boating safety, the Canadian Marine Manufacturers Association supported option number three in the final report. That option called for mandatory education training for power vessel operators, which means that all persons operating a power-driven vessel, including personal watercrafts, would be required to complete an approved basic course on boating safety. Participants would be issued a course completion certificate and a governing body would vet the course. This is exactly what I've been working for all these years.

The state of Alabama passed legislation in 1994 requiring education and mandatory operator's certification in honour of the victims and families of boating accidents. I feel the federal government's inaction to this date is a disappointment for all Ontarians.

I understand the Canadian Coast Guard and marine educators have completed their development of a core curriculum for a boating safety course. I'll repeat that: I understand the Canadian Coast Guard and marine educators have completed their development of a core curriculum for a boating safety course. The next step is to accredit the course for the various marine educators. With this, instructors will also require accreditation. When this is complete, the next step will be to establish whom it will apply to and when it will happen.

Parliamentary changes to the Canada Shipping Act have been estimated at two years away. In my opinion, that is too long to wait. I think we need action now to bring greater safety to our pleasure boating.

Last year, an act to amend the Contraventions Act was passed. This simply allowed provincial enforcement officers to ticket boating offences such as speeding near shore or not having enough life jackets. Many water skiers do go too close to shore. I know, as a boater myself, the OPP and various police forces are working very hard enforcing the current limited pleasure craft laws. These laws are simply not enough. I have been saying this for nine years.

Low standards for boat operation have raised the issue of operator licensing from the public and from a number of coroner's jury inquests, some of which I personally attended. With the ever-increasing number of small watercrafts in the marketplace, the argument for safe boating education gets greater.


Questions are also surfacing concerning the minimum age requirement to operate power boats. In a recent news article, a couple of kayakers wrote: "My partner and I often find ourselves placed in mortal danger by boaters and personal watercraft operators who ignore the basic rules of water safety and rights of way. Several close misses have forced us to relegate our paddling activity to the relative peace and quiet of the early morning hours when the only boaters on the lake are anglers, whose interest is in catching fish."

I believe the people in this province want action now, not two years from now. Just last month, an interested constituent of mine, Richard Crowder, brought this book into my office. He's just one of the many constituents who has ideas on how to teach boat safety in Ontario. He has a large boat launch publication which is entitled, How We Can Teach Safe Boating to Ontarians. He recently published a book entitled, Handbook of Boating Essentials. It is a fine example of people working to make a difference. We also have the Pro Boat Manual, which is a manual that was put out by the Canadian Coast Guard. Sandy Currie from the Canadian Marine Manufacturers Association is promoting that. It's also an excellent manual. I understand that Mr Crowder's book is now being used as a teaching text at Georgian College. It covers the marine rules of the road, dealing with boat handling, being prepared and basic navigation.

Again, I stress nobody wants to cause or be involved in a boating accident, and learning the rules of boating safety can and will prevent tragedies. So I'm standing before you today asking for your support for this resolution. I understand that we're asking another level of government to do something, but I have been here nine years introducing legislation to try to make something happen in Ontario. Once that happens, the Canadian Coast Guard, the provincial Ministry of Transportation and the federal Department of Transportation can get together to try and resolve the issue that's before us.

The way I can see that it can be resolved is with this amendment to the small vessel regulation under the federal legislation. If somebody speaking here today can tell me how we can have some legislation from Ontario to do it, I'd like to know how that's done or how we can do it. I think this is the simplest way to get boater safety and education.

The Canadian Coast Guard and the federal Department of Transportation cannot afford to wait any longer for changes to the Canada Shipping Act. As caring Canadians, Ontarians in this Legislature must push the government to bring in amendments to the Canada Shipping Act prior to another major boating season.

When we look at the regulations that have been talked about, water safety is long overdue. "We need mandatory boater training, operator age restrictions and enforceable safety rules, and we need them now." This is an editorial from the Orillia Packet and Times.

We anxiously await the recommendations that will come out this fall from the coast guard and recreational boating advisory councils. They had 75 meetings across the province and I'm hoping that responsible boaters will take the initiative to get training before mandatory education is put in place. They can take the course through the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons. I would urge anybody who's on the waterway to do that for their own safety and for the others who they're dealing with on the water.

The rules that are in place now are voluntary. I don't believe voluntary rules will work for anyone. We need action and we need it now.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Mr Kiyoshi Hagiwara and Mr Yoshiyuki Terashima from the Nagano Prefecture Office in Japan. Please join me in welcoming our guests today.

Further debate?

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure for me to have the opportunity this morning to say a few words with regard to this resolution. At the outset, I want to point out that recreational boating is carried out all over Ontario, but where I come from, in Essex South, we of course are surrounded on three sides by water, bounded by Lake St Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Erie, and while I always hesitate to say that we have the most of anything or the greatest amount of anything, certainly among areas in Ontario or in North America for that matter we have one of the largest concentrations of recreational water vehicles of anywhere. Most of those come from the United States. There are a number of marinas that are on Lake St Clair, Belle River, Windsor; on Lake Erie we have marinas in Leamington, Kingsville, Colchester. There are a number of facilities that invite the recreational boater into our communities, and certainly the tourism aspect is of great importance.

When we think about water safety, I understand the reason that the member for Simcoe East has brought this resolution forward and in fact, as he has said, has been trying over the years to promote water safety. We -- I, the caucus and, I suggest, most of us in this Legislature -- want to do everything we can to promote water safety in the province. Certainly we should encourage whatever we can do to have voluntary regulations followed or voluntary compliance followed, water safety courses, those kinds of things. In fact there are a number of boating groups, associations that give free courses in water safety, and we should encourage that type of activity.

This resolution of course, because it necessarily has to, calls on the federal government to amend the Canada Shipping Act as it relates to small vessel regulations, because the federal government, has authority and jurisdiction over our waterways. As I look at the resolution, it has some points that I think all of us should be in favour of and I want to speak to those. For example, it's suggested that a bill should include "offences for the dangerous operation of motor boats including personal watercrafts, such as operating a motor boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs."

I suggest, although I'm not familiar with the specific laws, that the Ontario Provincial Police who operate a boat out of the Leamington marina, for example, and the Leamington police services within the harbour area can enforce regulations that would ticket and fine those who would drive a personal watercraft or a motor boat while under the influence. "Operating a motor boat or personal watercraft in a manner that endangers persons or property." I think that's an excellent point.

I'll concentrate for a few minutes on personal watercraft because it seems as though personal watercraft operation is the main focus of the complaints that I get in my office. When I was mayor of Leamington, in relation to the operation of the marina and the harbour and the swimming areas at the beach, it was certainly the operation of personal watercraft that seemed to occur the most, and there are more and more of them all the time. Again, anything we can do to encourage the safe operation of personal watercraft is something that we all should do.


The problem that I see -- and certainly we want to support the idea of water safety, and I perhaps am looking for some direction the same as the member for Simcoe East -- is how we can best go about it, how we can best improve water safety, and yet do it in a way that is reasonable and enforceable. Although I support the idea of water safety, the problem with the resolution as I see it, and therefore I'll have difficulty supporting the resolution by way of a vote, is that under section (a), without any reservation, it says, "No person is authorized to operate a motor boat or personal watercraft propelled by an engine of more than 10 horsepower on Ontario waterways unless the person has a boater safety certificate issued by the federal crown."

That then raises in my area the tens of thousands of American boaters who visit our marinas. How are we possibly going to handle what I think might be a bureaucratic nightmare, to issue certificates from the federal crown? When someone from outside the province of Ontario or the Dominion of Canada operates a motor vehicle on our highways, for example, they have to have a licence. We have no jurisdiction over how that licence was issued or what kind of test they had to take. If you have a driver's licence from the state of Michigan, you can drive on an Ontario highway. That's all handled by the jurisdiction from which they come. But how we could possibly have the federal government issue boater safety certificates to the visitors who come to Ontario, I frankly would be interested to hear a suggestion on how that could happen.

Although the idea is certainly supportable, it's difficult to support the resolution in the form that it's in place here today. I don't necessarily want to see the member for Simcoe East fail again in his attempt to improve water safety in Ontario, but when the member has an opportunity to reply, if he can give us some idea of how this boater safety certificate will be issued by the federal crown, I would be interested to hear it.

If there can be the encouragement to individuals operating water vehicles over 10 horsepower to take boater safety courses, I think that's something we should support. If the provincial government wanted to set up boater safety courses around the province in those areas where there is a concentration of boaters, I think that would be a step in the right direction. But to put bureaucratic process roadblocks in the way -- I think of the words "red tape." We have in the last couple of years heard a great deal about the red tape the government puts us through. Some may consider this to be a red tape nightmare. Not only to ask and require that all boaters who live in Ontario have a boater safety certificate but to somehow require that all the visitors who come to the province have a boater safety certificate I think is a bit beyond what we might be able to handle.

I will reiterate, and then conclude my remarks, that any authority we can give to our enforcement services, ie, the OPP, the RCMP, our local police forces, where they can issue offences for the dangerous operation of motor boats and/or personal watercraft, I certainly support. In absolutely no way, shape or form should anyone be able to operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, nor should they be allowed in any way to operate a water vessel in a dangerous way. But to require everyone to have a boater safety certificate issued by the federal crown I think is a very, very difficult task. For that reason alone, I will be unable to support this particular resolution.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I want to have an opportunity this morning to speak to this resolution as well. I want to congratulate the member for Simcoe East, because he has been extremely consistent. Indeed, one might almost call this a crusade he has had since he was elected to this Legislature. I know he is absolutely sincere in wanting to ensure that the mayhem that occurs on our waterways ends and that we have a much safer situation. So I want to say to him that his persistence is very important.

I think he understands -- certainly, when I was Attorney General, I had occasion to discuss this matter with him -- how very complex the jurisdictional issues really are here. That is one of the real roadblocks that we see to the kind of progress he wants. If an amendment to the Canada Shipping Act were to be passed requiring these things that he's suggesting, they would be required all over Canada, no matter whether we were talking about a high-density population or a low-density population, no matter whether we were talking about parts of our country where access is only by watercraft and anyone who can't or isn't able to operate a watercraft would be unable to have the kind of access they need to services or safety kinds of things.

We've discussed the problem for the federal government of simply requiring this kind of certificate all across the country. I have to say very frankly -- and I'm saying this for myself; I'm glad this is private members' hour -- just as I believe having safety certificates for owning a firearm is essential, I believe certificates for operating a watercraft are essential. I need to be very clear that I think the training and safety for driving any kind of watercraft over 10 horsepower is as much a responsibility of the provincial government as operating a motor vehicle of another kind. Certainly we've had these discussions around all-terrain vehicles, we've had these discussions around snowmobiles. It is my belief that this is as serious as any of those other motorized vehicles. It has always been a puzzle to me that while we accept our jurisdiction around motorized vehicles on highways, on snowmobile trails, even off-road travel, we appear to have some difficulty working out with the federal government a way that we can assume the enforcement powers under their jurisdiction on the waterways.

Having said that, I would also say to the member that the people who oppose firearm safety certificates are the same people who are going to oppose this. We are going to hear people who've been running boats and fishing for years and years saying exactly the same thing: "I've been doing it safely for years and I shouldn't now have to apply for a safety certificate." It's exactly the same argument that we hear hunters and anglers and farmers using all across this province in their opposition to firearm safety certificates. That's a very strong belief on the part of those folks. I would say to the member that I think politically he would need to expect exactly the same kind of opposition to this kind of safety.

I would support him for exactly the same reason that I support the gun control situation. I think it's ironic that people accept the registration of motor vehicles and watercraft but are having a hard time accepting the registration of firearms. I believe all of these things need to be looked at in the same way. It is not a right to drive a car or to operate a motorized watercraft or to own a firearm. All those are things that as a society we ought to be controlling. We ought to be ensuring that those who are using those vehicles or using those implements have the training to make sure that they are using them safely. I see it all in the same kind of way.


I think the member knows that I have been an advocate of ensuring that, within the jurisdiction that the province of Ontario does have, we take this whole issue of water safety much more seriously. It does involve resources. One of the real problems that the Ontario Provincial Police have, for example, in enforcing some of the rules that we have is that they need the resources to have sufficient watercraft, to have sufficient personnel to do the kind of supervisory job that would be required to really do the job properly. That would be true of municipal police forces, municipal police services, where they in fact are in charge of the safety of a harbour, as we know is the case in Metropolitan Toronto around the harbour police.

I think one of the issues that has frustrated the member more than anything else has been the clear reluctance to really do an examination of what kind of resources would be needed to apply this kind of a job properly. Certainly, when I was Attorney General, I knew that those data were missing. We weren't getting the kind of information we needed about how you would actually enforce this kind of regulation.

I think it's also true that when we look at what has been happening, as the member from Essex said, the issue of personal watercraft has made this extremely urgent for all of us who have any kind of experience in living on a shoreline. We know that the style of boating has changed quite remarkably over the last 15 years, and even in the last five years. Boats have higher horsepower. They are lighter and more easily managed and, therefore, we see people using higher speeds and more manoeuvrability in a way that can be very dangerous.

But the personal watercraft issue, the Jet Ski kind of craft, is certainly the one that seems most unregulated, most inexperienced people. Most of us will sit with our hearts in our mouths at most beaches watching people come close to swimmers, to sailboats, to canoes, to kayaks, as the member suggested. In fact, our fear is as much for the person on the Jet Ski as it is for those other people who might be injured, because at that kind of speed, when those craft go out of control, the person who's in charge of that craft is in as much danger as many other people, and I think that's a real fear.

I know from my perspective, I am not a motorboat enthusiast, so I express my bias right off the bat. I love canoeing, I love sailing, but I am not fond of motorized watercraft. In fact, when we chose our cottage, we chose a location where, because of the rock formation, we knew that our swimming area and our beachfront were going to be protected from that kind of activity, because it simply is obviously dangerous enough that you don't get that kind of water traffic near our place. But a very short distance away, there's a large public beach and the whole issue that the member is raising has become more and more an issue in that area.

I think you know that we want to ensure that we are encouraging people simply to fulfil their obligations as citizens to themselves and to other citizens, that this is not an onerous suggestion that this member is making. This member is saying, for the safety of the person using the watercraft and for the safety of all the other people who might come in contact with that watercraft, we need some assurance that the people who are operating the vehicle actually know what they're doing, know what to do if certain situations occur, and in fact have some way of maintaining themselves should there be an accident.

I guess the enormity, when we think of the kind of water coverage that we have and the kind of space across the whole country -- because of course the member is suggesting that the federal government take this on -- and the number of people who routinely use motorboats as their only means of transportation, many times as their only means of maintaining themselves and their families economically, that certainly is one of the reasons the member has not seen a lot of support across the country for this, because the resistance is very strong in communities where people's way of life has been that children as small as five or six routinely take the boat. That happens, we know it happens in many of our communities, and I think the member underestimates the kind of pressure that would be on the government.

I am always nervous when we pass a resolution in this place that calls upon another level of government to do something that is going to cost that level of government a fair bit of money. The resolution suggests that the certificate be issued by the federal crown. In any other licensing situation -- firearms, the boats themselves, the drivers' licences, vehicle licences -- those are all issued by the province. When the member suggests that these be issued by the federal government, we have to really understand that we get into a jurisdictional morass at that point with these regulations and how we work a situation between the federal and provincial government.

When it comes to the bottom line, the province is going to have to be responsible for enforcement. Enforcement is going to be a provincial responsibility and the member recognizes that in his part (e), where he talks about the Ontario Provincial Police having that responsibility. I would say to him that in and of itself would not be sufficient because of the waterways that are in fact under the control of municipal police services in a growing way. So we are going to be responsible for enforcement. When we're responsible for enforcement of rules, then we normally have undertaken the training that we're enforcing, when we think of drivers' licences and firearms certificates. We have control over that within a regime that has been agreed upon across the country, so I think that would be necessary.

I would love to hear from the member what his solution is to the problem raised by the member from Essex, because in all of our border communities the watercraft that we encounter certainly may not be driven by residents of Ontario. Those drivers may indeed be residents of another country, as the member from Essex suggested, but they could also be residents of other provinces. I think particularly of that whole long stretch of the Ottawa and French rivers, along the eastern part of our province, all of the Lake of the Woods area in northwestern Ontario. It would be as common to find someone from a neighbouring province as from Ontario in those areas on any of those waterways.

We have a challenge in terms of how the overall safety could be achieved if we were to do this on a provincial basis. Now the member is suggesting it should be done on a federal basis. That would solve our problems with our neighbours to the east and west but it certainly wouldn't help us with our neighbours to the south, and that is a very big problem. When I look at the harbour at Kincardine, for example, or Port Elgin or Southampton, the watercraft there are as likely to be American watercraft as Canadian watercraft, and although the member mentioned that Alabama has recently passed some legislation on this, most haven't.

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


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of the resolution put forward today by the member for Simcoe East. I'd like to start by indicating my admiration for the member for Simcoe East and his career-long crusade, as the member for London Centre has said, to raise the profile of the issue of boater safety. Long before I got involved in party politics, I knew of Al McLean and his constant crusade to try to bring to the public's attention the need for greater enforcement of boating issues, particularly to raise in the public's mind the need for all boaters to pay more attention to the rules of boating.

Since I was elected provincially I have had the opportunity to speak on many occasions with the member for Simcoe East. We share a common concern. As the member for Essex South said, throughout Ontario boating is a very popular recreation, but some of our ridings have more boating than others. In my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay, the importance of boating is very significant, not only as a recreational activity but also, with respect to the Georgian Bay area, as a commercial activity.

I have also had the opportunity to boat quite actively with my family, and I have been amazed at the level of ignorance on the part of experienced boating operators. There seems to be some perception in the public that this is a problem for the boater who is 10 to 15 years old. That simply is not the case. If you do any boating at all on the waterways in Ontario, you will recognize that an amazing number of experienced boaters simply are not aware of the kinds of good habits boating requires. It is all too often the case, with the tragedies that occur on the water, that it isn't simply a matter of operator error; it is, more often than not, a matter of operator ignorance.

The mention by the member for Simcoe East of the joint working group on boating safety is an important one. This group was set up to encourage better participation and cooperation between the provincial ministries responsible for issues on the water and the federal ministries responsible for issues on the water. I was able to participate in several sessions in my riding where this working group went around and listened to the public input on how to deal with boating safety issues. Quite frankly, the issues that have been raised by the member for Essex South are very real ones, issues similar to those raised by many people at the joint working group.

I have to say I disagree with the member for London Centre. I don't think this is the same kind of issue as the firearms registration issue.

When I was at the meetings of the joint working group on boating safety, there was a good combination of recreational boaters and commercial operators of marinas. Basically, all the people there had an interest in boating safety. I think everyone who went to the seminars was committed to improving boating safety. They all had different ideas on how it should be done, but I think there is a recognition and an acceptance on the part of all people in the boating community that there is a need for tools so that the people involved in enforcement can have the opportunity to raise the level of enforcement, but more important, raise the level of understanding on the part of boaters that they need to develop good habits.

In this regard, the cooperation between the provincial government and the federal government in passing the Contraventions Act has been very significant in that it has allowed the police to raise the level of enforcement and simplify the process of ticketing boaters. I note from the statistics that have been provided to me by the OPP that in 1996 there was a significant increase in the number of warnings issued and the number of charges issued to boaters, which I think is something that will gradually lead to improved safety on the water.

While I do have some concerns about some of the practical issues in the resolution, I will unreservedly support the resolution because, as with other ventures that have been undertaken by the member for Simcoe East, this raises the profile of the issue of boating safety, which is of great importance to us all.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I too would like to commend the member for Simcoe East on what some people have said has been his crusade since being elected to the House. But I have to go back to what he has come up with in terms of a solution here. Often we hear the saying that one size does not fit all, and many of the speakers so far today have indicated to him that this is not a solution that would work in an area like Lake of the Woods. Lake of the Woods goes into the United States and actually extends into Manitoba as well. So here we have an unworkable solution being suggested by the member for Simcoe East.

I think of the many American boaters who come into my region. There is one event which has gained recognition throughout North America now, the Kenora-Bath International, which draws between 200 and 210 boats. That's 400 to 420 operators. For us to even suggest that they are going to be faced with red tape to get a licence to operate their boats during the tournament is going beyond what we would want, not only for ourselves in terms of red tape, but putting another stipulation on a tourist coming into a region to participate in such an event.

I would have expected the member to suggest, as he indicated at one point during his opening remarks, that there could be Ontario solutions to the problem. What I suggest to him right now is that enforcement would be a solution. We have OPP who go out on our waterways on a regular basis. I suggest he get hold of the Solicitor General and find out what the cutbacks are doing to those patrols on places like Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake. What is happening to our enforcement? We can prohibit the use of any kind of vehicle -- I don't care whether it's a motorboat, an ATV or a snowmobile -- when someone is under the influence of alcohol. The OPP right now have the right to charge a boat operator with the operation of a vehicle under the influence. We already have that. I suggest to the member that we have to take a look at solutions here in Ontario. Talk to the Solicitor General about OPP patrols on our waterways, because they can too reprimand an unsafe operator.

I go back to the fact that one size does not fit all. The member for Simcoe East has suggested that a person under 12 years of age not be allowed to operate any boat with a motor. I have remote communities in northwestern Ontario where children actually go back and forth to school with the use of a motorized boat, and an age restriction of 12 would restrict their capacity to travel back and forth to school. Again, one size does not fit all here. It may be good for southern Ontario, but the member has to take a look at what this would do to situations I have suggested here.

As well, I would like to bring to the member's attention that the big issue in my riding at present is the removal of buoys on the waterways. The federal government has suggested they are going to be asking private organizations to take over the maintenance and location of these buoys. I must say, if any issue is going to take away the safe operation, it will certainly be the removal of the markers we use on our waterways on a daily basis. If these go into disrepair and actually disappear off the waterways, we've got a big problem.

I commend the member on bringing forth the issue of boater safety to the Legislature again, but I certainly cannot support this bill in the way he has brought it forward.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'm very pleased to rise today and speak on the resolution brought forth by Allan K. McLean, the MMP for Simcoe East, dealing with boating safety.

I'd like to bring into the context of the debate some real-life situations. I had a letter from a constituent by the name of Ed Gilbert. He wrote me in August 1997 about his boating experience on Lake Simcoe. That body of water would cover Simcoe East and Simcoe Centre. Some of the unsafe actions that he observed during that period of time were as follows: excessive speeds; coming far too close for safe passage; towing a flotation device without anyone designated to watch the person being towed; children as young as eight or nine operating the craft alone; the person at the wheel holding a beer in their hand; failure to be aware of or give right of way; overcrowding of the craft.

Mr Gilbert poses some very interesting questions. He says, "Over the past few days we hear of yet more deaths resulting from some of the above foolish oversights." He poses his questions to me as his member:

"(1) Is it because there is no requirement for a test of knowledge of safe boating procedures? (2) Is it because there is no minimum age for the operation of a vessel? (3) Is it because there is very little police presence on the water? (4) Is it due to ignorance or not caring?"

The resolution put forth by the member, Al McLean from Simcoe East, calls on the federal government to act and it answers all of my constituent's concerns.

I'd just like to deal with the jurisdiction issue with respect to boating safety because I think that's one area that the federal government is being very lax on and certainly hasn't taken any responsibility either at the local level or in Ottawa. Some of the facts are that the federal government has exclusive constitutional authority to enact legislation with respect to navigation, for example, to ban certain types of boats, to license operators, to set minimum age requirements or to impose mandatory operator education.

Presently, enforcement is the province's primary role in recreational boating. This responsibility rests primarily with the OPP, although other municipal police authorities are also involved.

In August 1996 Ontario police forces became authorized to issue tickets for boating offences, making it easier to enforce boating laws. The Minister of Transportation has written to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans stating the ministry's desire to see the federal government exercise its responsibility to deal with the unsafe operation of boats. He also stated that Ontario is prepared to work with the federal government in this matter.

I'd state that Ontario will continue to work with the federal government and all interested parties to promote boater safety. That's the purpose of this resolution as brought forth by Al McLean, the member for Simcoe East. It's a very commonsense approach to dealing with boater safety. Certainly we recognize our responsibility as a provincial government to deal with the enforcement of the legislation, but we need something to enforce and the federal government is not doing their job with respect to protecting boaters, protecting passengers in boats, with respect to boating in waters, especially in the province of Ontario.

I'd urge the members to support this resolution. It's a commonsense resolution. The concerns that have been put forth by my constituent Ed Gilbert certainly demand that action be taken by the federal government because it's causing injury, it's causing death to innocent bystanders and passengers. Also, I don't think it's the type of approach that a responsible government, an accountable government, should be taking with respect to the health and safety of boaters in this province. I support the member, Al McLean from Simcoe East, in his resolution and I would urge the federal government to take action and do something responsible for a change.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's absolutely delightful to join with the member for Simcoe East in his persistence in trying to get the issue of boating safety on our waterways as a top priority throughout Ontario -- actually, Canada, if the federal government would look at it as a -national priority issue, since the Canadian Coast Guard has exclusive federal jurisdiction over the waterways and boating habits of people using our waterways. I think the member for Simcoe East's resolution is a model of persistence that some of us newer members in this House can adopt for any of our particular issues.

The transportation ministry of Ontario is completely endorsing the member's resolution in terms of trying to get the boater safety certificate in place. Minister Palladini has written on more than one occasion to his federal counterpart to see if we can get some action in this area.

To me, speaking personally, I can't fathom the provincial Liberal Party's position on this when you actually look at the number of deaths and accidents on our waterways provincially. For example, in 1997, as of a week ago last Tuesday, there have been 33 deaths and 1,574 charges laid by the OPP. In the year prior to that, we had 54 deaths and 2,292 charges laid for various types of boating infractions. Translate that into what must have been the number of unfortunate tragedies, fatalities, boating incidents in other jurisdictions across Canada and you can see the momentous necessity of making this an urgent priority.

As to the reservations, and there are concerns about whether the federal crown ought to be the specific registering agency for the educational certificate, I think one of the ways around it -- and it would be interesting to hear from the member for Kenora as to how he sees that a one-fits-all solution isn't the way to approach this issue. Since there are indications from the federal government that they would like to get on with making federalism more workable, why not look at the jurisdictional problem in terms of the federal government being responsible for the international registration of boaters that come into Ontario, wherever the waterways are in northwestern Ontario or down in southwestern Ontario or out in eastern Ontario, and the provincial authorities being responsible for those aspects of domestic registration?

If you can have interjurisdictional division and devolution of responsibility in other areas, I don't see why this particular issue has to be so insoluble in terms of getting a workable solution. The problem is not whether there is a workable solution versus a non-workable solution but whether there is the political will to actually carry through the member's resolution. I think, based on constituency mail that I have had on this issue from people who have had family members unfortunately die in boating accidents due to irresponsible boaters, that in itself ought to impel any of us to want to act in resolving this issue instead of simply saying the jurisdictional complexity is an excuse for inaction.

I would urge all members to assist the member for Simcoe East in making sure that his persistence is rewarded with success in the end and that we not allow the problems of jurisdiction to counteract a resolution that would lead to safer boating on Ontario waterways. If we can do it in transportation on our road system and in the skies, I can't see why we can't come to some satisfactory resolution of this urgent problem.

I would urge all members to help us in getting the federal government and the federal members in Ontario to help act in concert on this. This is a good example, a small example of making federalism workable.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member for Simcoe East.

Mr McLean: I want to thank all members who have participated this morning: Mr Crozier from Essex South, Mrs Boyd from London Centre, Mr Grimmett from Muskoka-Georgian Bay, Mr Miclash from Kenora, Mr Tascona from Simcoe Centre and Mr Hastings from Etobicoke-Rexdale.

I want to comment on some of the comments that were made by the member for Kenora and Mr Crozier. I totally agree with regard to that tourism aspect. I don't want anything in any bill or any legislation that's going to prohibit people from coming here, from fishing and hunting.

I also agree with the member for Kenora with regard to young people on the waterways. I know there are many people who go to a cottage and they have to go and get groceries. They also go to school on the waterways. That age limit that I put in the resolution is debatable. Whatever is satisfactory to the majority I'll agree with. What I'm really after is something in place that's going to stop people from getting on a machine and just going out full blast and killing somebody.

I agree with Mrs Boyd. She raised an excellent point. If the amendment included that, I would be quite happy. That aspect is that perhaps the provincial government should be responsible for issuing the certificate. If that's what they would deem to be appropriate, I would accept that totally. What I am after here is something in place for boater safety, however it's done. I don't know how we're going to end up with it. I've tried many, many different ways. Currently, a 10-year-old can operate a $1-million boat without any approval. I don't agree with that. I'm saying there should be an education put in place for people who are on our waterways. As Mr Miclash had said with regard to the age limit, whatever it is I agree with.

I thank the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale that the government is in full support. I have a copy of the executive summary from Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard and it's well worth looking at.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): We will deal first with ballot item 95 standing in the name of Mrs Bassett. Mrs Bassett has moved second reading of Bill 153. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be referred to committee the whole House?

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): Madam Speaker, I'd like to ask that this bill be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a majority in favour of the bill being referred to justice? Agreed. The bill shall be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): We will deal now with ballot item 96 standing in the name of Mr McLean. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour please say "aye."

Those opposed please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

It is carried.

All matters related to private members' public business having now been completed, I do now leave the chair. The House will resume at 1:30 of the clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1203 to 1332.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I was shocked and alarmed to learn from a newspaper report this week that Conservative MPPs have been told to quit leaking stories to the media or face banishment from the weekly PC caucus meeting. Who could forget the bragging of Mike Harris in the last election that Conservative members would enjoy the right to speak out and defend their constituencies freely?

With Conservative MPP Gary Carr saying, "Mike Harris has got to realize this is a democracy, not a dictatorship," and "What they want is blind obedience," and Toni Skarica stating: "I've tried to stay principled. Because I was principled and tried to follow democratic principles, I have no future in the Harris government" and "MPPs, backbenchers, ministers even, basically have no say. We're basically voting in a dictator every five years," no wonder the Tory hierarchy is getting nervous.

Morley Kells said: "Mr Harris's office simply has power that is absolute. There is no question about that. It is absolute. It is centralized authority, vastly different in terms of any other Tory government." Garry Guzzo said, "Everything isn't fine, if you ask me."

I say this not in glee, I say this with lament, I say this in sadness: My friends in the Conservative caucus are going to be unable to speak out or they'll be banned from the meeting. Whatever would happen if the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore were part of that caucus?


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I want to take the opportunity today to congratulate the Service Employees International Union, Local 204, and also the Equal Pay Coalition on all the work they have done and their victory on September 5. That is the victory to tell the government they must reinstate pay equity, the proxy method, for 100,000 or so women in Ontario, who are among the lowest-paid and who do very important work and services to our community in terms of child care, homes for the aged and community services.

I direct my comments today in particular to the minister responsible for women's issues. Both my leader and I have asked the Minister of Labour and the Premier to guarantee that they would not appeal this decision. I would ask the minister responsible for women's issues today to please do everything she can, in her role, to convince the Minister of Labour and the Premier not to appeal this decision.

I would also ask the minister to take a good look at the provisions in Bill 136. Not many people are talking about it but there are three amendments within Bill 136 that also undermine and cut pay equity for certain women. Again, like the decision from a few days ago, it could be illegal and it's certainly unfair to strip away equal pay for these women.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): If there is one thing people in my home riding of Northumberland know how to do with finesse it is to celebrate the joys of country life. Whether it's enjoying the beauty of our orchards of apple blossoms in the spring or tasting the bounty of the harvest in the fall, Northumberland has something for everyone. Nowhere is this more evident than in the tradition of fall fairs now being planned and celebrated across the riding.

For instance, this weekend Port Hope holds its annual fall fair at the Port Hope fairgrounds; and at the Warkworth fairgrounds the Percy fall fair is also celebrated this weekend. These two events follow hot on the heels of the Warkworth fair celebrated last weekend and the Campbellford fair held in August of every year.

That's not all. On September 26, the Brighton Applefest begins in Brighton and on the same weekend the Roseneath fair with its famous 19th-century restored carousel also takes place. That gives tourists a twofold reason to visit Northumberland on that weekend.

It is with great pleasure that I invite members of this House and indeed people from across southern Ontario to visit Northumberland this fall. I guarantee you will be in for a taste of what makes Ontario such a great destination.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): "Downloading Packs Tax Wallop." That's what the city of Sudbury says. On Tuesday night the city of Sudbury's director of finance presented some startling numbers to city council. After crunching the latest numbers, it appears that there will be a municipal tax increase exceeding a whopping 8%. The Minister of Northern Development and Mines is across the way. I hope he's listening. That's what the experts of the municipality are saying: whopping tax increases of 8%.

What is of even greater importance is that Councillor Dow said the human impact of this type of tax increase will allow for slums in the city of Sudbury. This is frightening. After downloading health and welfare, after cutting transfer payments, after taking away education tax funds, the municipal affairs minister expects the city of Sudbury to cut its budget by 2.3% after the city has been debt-free for eight years, after there hasn't been a tax increase for six years, after they've cut $2.5 million in services, after they've increased user fees by $500,000, after $4 million of service, efficiencies and cutbacks.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I'm telling you: Wake up; smell the roses; listen to your experts, the municipal politicians.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): On September 4 the council of the regional municipality of Sudbury passed a resolution asking this government to amend the legislation to provide for the direct election of the regional chair. It is a measure of the respect held for the current chair, Tom Davies, the regional council would not have requested that the regional chair be directly elected had Mr Davies decided to stand for election by council.

Unfortunately, Mr Davies is ill and cannot serve another term. At a time when municipalities are going through very difficult times, his leadership will be sorely missed, not just by regional council but by the entire Sudbury basin. Tom Davies has served the people of the Sudbury basin remarkably well. He seemed to have an unerring instinct about the role of a regional chair. He never tried to elbow aside the regional mayors or councillors. He worked with the council as well as with federal and provincial members of Parliament regardless of party affiliation.

I recall that when I was first elected to this Legislature many years ago, Tom was very, very kind to me. At a time when MPPs had no constituency office, he provided me with an office, a desk and a telephone in a municipal building, and I have never ever forgotten that.

Now regional council has requested that the regional chair be directly elected in this fall's municipal election. I hope that the minister will allow that to happen by bringing forward the appropriate legislation at the appropriate time.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I am very pleased to share with members of the House some more good news from my riding of Durham East. Last week a midblock school crossing signal was installed at a pedestrians' crosswalk on Highway 7A in Port Perry. Our government worked together with the community to ensure the safety of the children who must daily cross a busy section of a provincial highway.

For over a decade, concerned parents whose children attend R.H. Cornish Public School and Immaculate Conception Separate School in Port Perry asked the government to assist in the construction of a midblock signalized crossing. The safety of their children was foremost in their minds when they made these requests.

Several years ago, at this very location, a student was killed and a crossing guard seriously injured by a motorist, as there are numerous accidents every year. As the school crossing is situated on a highway, it was necessary to approach the Minister of Transportation for assistance. Minister Palladini was most anxious to help resolve this safety concern for our children. There was a three-way partnership formed, including the MTO, municipality of Scugog and the parents' association.

I would like to thank Minister Palladini, Barry Smith of MTO, Diane Martin, chairperson of the parents fund-raising committee, Mayor Howard Hall and Councillor Pearce of the municipality of Scugog, all of whom contributed to make this a success. By working together with the school community in Port Perry, we have solved a long-standing safety problem.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): As you know, this week we celebrated International Literacy Day, a day meant to draw attention to the vital importance of learning opportunities for all people. In a sad irony lost on Mike Harris, this is also the week his government went ahead with Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act, a bill that will bring irreparable harm and reduce services to Ontario's four million public library users.

This government must pay attention. The health of our library system, especially in this information age, is very much a reflection of how healthy we are as a society. This government's decision to remove itself from all funding responsibility for our public libraries will mean a reduced number of libraries, smaller collections, reduced hours, fewer staff, and in the case of many rural and northern Ontario communities, it will mean closed doors.

Does the Premier not realize that even in the province of Alberta, home to his friend Ralph Klein, an all-party legislative committee is now recommending that more money must be put back into the public library system? In addition, they have recommended maintaining citizen-majority library boards, two things Bill 109 will eliminate in this province.

I also want to join with my colleague from Dovercourt in calling on the government to formally recognize the unique role of the Metro Toronto Reference Library through needed amendments to Bill 148. The Metro reference library is an extraordinarily important resource to all the people of Ontario and its governance structure must be protected. If the culture minister truly supports this provincial resource as she says she does, then she has it in her power to guarantee its future.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Yet again yesterday we had a very interesting day on the legislative committee that is looking at the question of what is to happen with the Workers' Compensation Act. We spent the greater part of the day debating the issue of the purpose clause. As most members of this assembly would know, the purpose clause is what guides how the rest of the legislation really is intended to operate once put into force.

Specifically, the government has decided to delete the word "fair" from the purpose clause of the Workers' Compensation Act. They believe that "fair" is something that doesn't belong in the current act and that the adjudicators and hearings officers should only deal with technical issues rather than worrying about the fairness of the issue for both employers and injured workers.

What was interesting yesterday was the government's position. The government again demonstrated that on most issues, they are quite contrary to when it comes to particular --


Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, I know that the member across doesn't want to give workers any kind of fairness, but allow --


Mr Bisson: I heard everything in the committee yesterday, but the one that took the cake was when the government argued that inserting the word "fair" in the purpose clause of the Workers' Compensation Act would lead to an injustice.

I've heard many arguments from this government, but for this government to suggest that inserting the word "fair" would be an injustice really means to say they have a problem.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): Mr Speaker, I'd like to invite you and all members of the House to the social event of the year in my riding this coming Saturday. More than 10 years ago, Magna International founder Frank Stronach started one of my riding's best known and biggest community fund-raising events. It's called the Hoedown and it's held every September in Aurora at the site of Magna's new international headquarters.

It started out as a small local event, drawing about 1,000 people from the area who came out to enjoy good food, dancing and live country music in support of local charities. Today the Hoedown has become York region's largest annual community fund-raiser. The outdoor country fest draws close to 4,000 people from the Aurora area and it continues to support local charities, raising in excess of $100,000 for these community groups. Proceeds this year will go towards supporting causes ranging from the Yellow Brick House women's shelter and the Rose of Sharon home for unwed mothers to the local Big Brothers chapter.

This year's events will feature a barbecue dinner, celebrity auction and casino under a 60,000-square-foot tent stationed outside Magna's new head office. This year's live entertainment features three great Canadian acts: Jason McCoy, Patricia Conroy and the Desert Dolphins. It's a chance for the people in York-Mackenzie to get together with neighbours and friends for some good fun in support of a great cause.



Mr Snobelen moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 158, An Act to amend the Education Act to allow non-resident owners or tenants of residential property to vote for members of district school boards and school authorities / Projet de loi 158, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation en vue de permettre aux propriétaires ou locataires non résidents d'un bien résidentiel de voter lors de l'élection des membres des conseils scolaires de district et des administrations scolaires.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Does the motion carry? Carried.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I have a brief statement to make. I am very pleased to introduce this bill today. The bill will amend the Education Act to allow non-resident owners and tenants of residential or farm properties and their spouses to vote for school board trustees in areas where they own or rent such property.

Since non-residents, farm and residential ratepayers will continue to pay some education property tax, they should be allowed a voice in choosing the trustees responsible for that local government and its decision-making capacity. This bill reflects this government's commitment to work with our municipal partners for better and more efficient local governments, and I hope we can have the support of all party members for this bill.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Speaker: I hope the government House leader would be able, on behalf of his government, to indicate to the Legislature Assembly whether or not, if not the Premier, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs or someone is going to speak on behalf of the government of Ontario and the people of this province to indicate what position this province is taking with regard to the meeting this weekend in Calgary. What is the position of the government of Ontario with regard to the future of Canada and the development of a framework for --

The Speaker: That's not a point of order. It may be a question, but it's not a point of order.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud): Monsieur le Président, sur un point d'ordre: J'aimerais demander un consentement unanime pour le leader du gouvernement de faire une déclaration faisant affaire avec la position du gouvernement de l'Ontario en ce qui concerne les discussions constitutionnelles qui vont avoir lieu cette fin de semaine.

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South is seeking unanimous consent to allow the government House leader to give their position with respect to the issue in Calgary, I suppose. Agreed? No.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): What are you guys afraid of?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): The problem is they get to convey a certain impression and then we get to say nothing.

The Speaker: Order. My difficulty is this, government House leader: I never know what the point of order is until they state it. It's always near the end of their point of order, which is rather tactful on their part, I admit. But the fact is that it's not a point of order. It's not in order. He sought unanimous consent and it isn't there.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, there was a group of uninvited people at your education commission's press conference this morning. They were the parents that your commission didn't take the time to talk to over the summer.

The parents came here today to tell you that they're worried about what they're hearing. They're worried about what's going to happen to their children as you bull ahead, trying to change every part of the education system within the next four months. They say they're worried because you're doing everything you can to cause their teachers to go on strike. They're worried when they hear that some of their teachers won't be real teachers any more. They worry when they hear that class sizes aren't going to get any larger but their kids are already in classes of 38 and 40. Mostly the parents are worried because you still want to take $1 billion out of education.

Minister, when will you let parents tell you what they want for their children?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I note that we've had contact in our office from some parents, both from my riding and from other ridings in the province, who indicated they are very pleased with the report that the Education Improvement Commission put out this morning. They are certainly very supportive of the bulk of that report, which dealt with having our students have more instructional time with teachers in their schools right across Ontario. I think most parents would find that to be an improvement in the education system, would welcome that, because they value that instructional time and so do their children.

Contrary to what the member for Fort William has said, I have heard from parents on this subject. I think parents are very clear that they want to have a quality educational experience for their students, and this is one step in that direction.

Mrs McLeod: The only parents you've been out there talking to are your appointed Ontario Parent Council that clearly doesn't speak for any parents in the province.

Go and talk to People for Education. People for Education says that your government is destabilizing the education system. They're saying: "Slow down. Stop." If you listened to those parents, if you listened to what they have to tell you, they would tell you first and foremost, "Stop the cuts to education."

Your own handpicked commission said to you today that you cannot take money out of the education system. Your commission says, "Reinvest even the $150 million that you're expecting to save by amalgamating school boards."

It's quite clear that you need to take another $1 billion out of education. Your Premier has said that he needs $1 billion for his tax cut, the Minister of Finance has said that he thinks you can save at least $1.3 billion, and this week you made it clear that your goal was to take another $1 billion on top of the half-billion dollars you've already taken out of the classrooms.

Minister, your commissioners today said, "Don't take another $1 billion out of the education budget." Will you follow your commission's advice? Will you give up your agenda of taking another $1 billion away from our schools?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Fort William has asked me this question already this week and I have already answered this question, but I will again today for her. The only one in this chamber for whom this seems unclear is her.

My commitment is very simple; the commitment of this government is very simple. We want to direct the resources that we spend in the name of education in ways that make a difference with our students. We want to make sure we have a funding system for our students that meets their needs. Our promise and our commitment is very simple, and that is that we will provide the funds that are necessary to have a first-class education for every student in this province. The report of the Education Improvement Commission and the reports of the expert panels that will be reporting very soon will help us to build that better funding system. That's our promise; that's our commitment. I intend to be held to account for it.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you told teachers this week that you needed another $1 billion. Today your commission said as clearly as it was allowed to that you can't take $1 billion out of the education system. You have already put the system under stress; you've already made it difficult for school boards to maintain any sort of reasonable class size by taking $533 million out of the system.

Your commission today as well said that you can only manage so much change at once. I ask you again to listen to the parents who were there, who said there has already been too much, too fast. The parents said -- they were almost pleading with you -- they don't think their children can learn in the sheer chaos you are creating in our classrooms.

You are determined to bull ahead. You're in such a hurry to get your $1 billion for Mike Harris's tax cut that you don't actually care what happens to kids in the classroom. Nothing you say about quality education is going to hide the fact that all your changes about saving money, about doing education at the lowest possible cost -- you've said that's your goal. Will you stop trying to do education --

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

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me assure the member for Fort William of this: Our objective, our goal is very clear: We want the students in Ontario to have the highest performance, the highest marks of students anywhere in Canada. Pan-Canadian tests and international tests and tests this week have told us that our results are mediocre. That's not good enough for the students of Ontario.

We want to make changes; we want to make improvements; we want to make the system better for the students of Ontario. We recognize that change is difficult, and that's why we've put off secondary school reform, so we can make sure we get it right; that's why we've guaranteed stable funding over this transition year; that's why we have the Education Improvement Commission and expert panels working with us: to make sure changes are done, are done well and done right, and that we can manage these changes.

I want to tell the member for Fort William that it is not moral for us not to improve the system as fast as we can. It's not moral to have our students in a system of education that's not up to their standards. So we'll move as quickly as we possibly can in good management to get to that better system. That's our objective.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Deputy Premier. I'm in receipt of a confidential document dated August 8 that was submitted to the Minister of Health. He commissioned a clinical review of Windsor emergency units. Unfortunately, the result of his clinical review, which he asked for, is the most damning report of emergency care yet in Ontario, written by his own ministry.

It describes our situation in Windsor as "a gridlock, a paralysis." It goes on to say that the gridlock "causes significant unacceptable delays to the transfer of care." It goes on to say that our "fast-track activity has been hampered by physical plant inadequacies and gridlock realities."

As you know, the Minister of Health has said himself that Windsor was the cradle of restructuring. I'm asking you now to intervene and override your Minister of Health and immediately release emergency files.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I know nothing of the document of which she speaks, obviously; I'm not the Minister of Health. I would anticipate that she wouldn't expect me to. I would be pleased to take her question under advisement, to take the issue to the Minister of Health and get back to her.

Mrs Pupatello: Deputy Premier, we've tried working with the Minister of Health, who has not listened. For two years he has delayed funding to the Windsor condition. He has created an absolutely chaotic situation in Windsor and now the minister's own people have determined that everything we have said for two years is absolutely true.

The day before he received this clinical review, we received a letter from the minister himself telling us the closure of the Western emergency site went so smoothly. He said he has ensured that patient care is not jeopardized.

Today we know by his own hand that he had this report 30 days ago. He has not acted yet. It is criminal to have a minister knowing that we have not had care, and the rest of Ontario knowing that they're headed down the same path. I ask you again: please, emergency relief funding for the Windsor emergency services.


Hon Mr Eves: I've already said to the honourable member that I am not aware of this particular document. Obviously I am not the Minister of Health. I'd be more than happy to take the issue up with him and I will do that directly upon his return.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): We need more than that from this government. This is the Minister of Finance who took away $450 million. You created this situation in Windsor. You've required them to merge four emergencies into two. You haven't lived up to your part of the $100 million in funding that was promised to provide. None of it has happened.

It's not just happening in Windsor. It's happening all across the province, people being served in hallways. Right here in Toronto, for eight hours on an August weekend, there was no emergency service available in York region. For almost 40 hours there were different hospitals on alert, not able to take people in their emergency because they were so overcrowded.

You provided that condition by taking the money away. We want to know today whether you will prevent this happening anywhere else in the province. Will you commit to restoring some of those cuts so that, for example, Northwestern and Branson, where emergencies are supposed to close by November, will you act and will you put the money back in to those hospitals so people won't be in jeopardy when they have need for emergency services?

Hon Mr Eves: This government is spending this year on health care $18.5 billion in Ontario. I realize that the then leader of your party in the 1995 election pledged to spend only $17 billion a year on health care in the province. We're spending fully $1.5 billion more on health care than you promised to do if you got elected in the June election. What are you talking about?


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. We know that the minister has draft legislation already prepared. That legislation gives the government power to make regulations concerning the length of the school day, the length of the school year, class size and other matters which have traditionally been the subject of collective bargaining between teachers and school boards.

This morning the Education Improvement Commission issued its first report, which backs up many of the provisions the minister has in that draft legislation and which his representatives have been putting to teachers in discussions of late.

Can the minister indicate whether or not he intends to proceed with this draft legislation, which probably will produce a confrontation with Ontario's teachers and thus will cause interruptions in classroom education for the students in this province?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I think the member for Algoma knows it's our intention, we've publicly stated its our intention, to bring legislation forward some time during the course of this session and we still intend to do that. I can tell the member for Algoma what I've told the public when I've been asked over the course of the last few weeks about the date of that introduction: We don't have a date for the introduction at this point in time.

I think it's important to reflect on studies like the study that was produced this morning by the Education Improvement Commission, and the results of the talks we've had with teachers' unions and with boards over the last few days. I think it's time now to reflect on those studies and those conversations and to prepare finally for legislation to arrive at the Legislature and go through the normal legislative process.

Mr Wildman: As we understand, the government has already got the draft legislation. We understand that this legislation allows the minister to make regulations on the use of people in classrooms who are not certified teachers. There's only one reason that the government wants to do this. It's because the government is determined to use less-qualified people in the classroom so that they can pay them less as part of the desire to take an extra $1 billion out of education in this province.

The minister has said that he wants to negotiate with the representatives of the teaching profession in this province. I ask you again: Does the government, after reflection, intend to proceed on this legislation as it is currently drafted on changes to the education system in our province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me again say that, yes, it's our intention to bring legislation forward during this session and to deal with some of the issues that perhaps should have been dealt with some years ago in Ontario in helping to build a better system of education, in helping to lift the results that our students have on pan-Canadian and international tests. We're not satisfied with those results on behalf of our students, and so, yes, we'll be bringing the bill forward.

We will authentically review the reports that we've asked for to help us with preparing that legislation. We went into talks with unions and with school boards to help us with that legislation. We commissioned this report that was released today to help us with that legislation. I intend to use all of those observations and all of that input to draft a very good piece of legislation that will help the students' education.

Mr Wildman: The minister has committed to his cabinet colleagues, to the Premier and to the Minister of Finance, that he's going to find the money. It appears he's determined to do that.

The Education Improvement Commission, which was appointed by this government, has said to this government this morning that the education finance reform should be phased in over a period of about five years. They remind you that there already have been extensive cuts to our schools which have affected education in the province.

Is the minister, in his reflection, going to act on that recommendation from the Education Improvement Commission to at least phase in his funding changes over five years?

Hon Mr Snobelen: As I'm sure the member for Algoma is aware, the study of education finance in Ontario has been somewhat of a cottage industry over the course of the last 10 years. We've had several reports on this subject and several plans to change the funding of education. Unfortunately, that has been put off by previous governments.

We have taken up that burden. We will make the system better and we'll improve the funding. We'll also improve the system of study for our students. We intend to do all of that. We intend to do it in a time frame that is realistic, but we intend to do it as quickly as possible, because we believe these improvements are important for the students of Ontario, important for the future of Ontario.

That's our commitment, the commitment of myself and my colleagues, of our whole government: to make the system better for our students and to do so as quickly as we possibly can. We intend to be held to account for that promise.

Mr Wildman: Of course the minister will be held accountable for that.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): My question is again to the Minister of Education and Training. The minister must know that one of the greatest sources of uncertainty in our education system at this time is the question of how much money the system is going to have, how it's going to be funded. We understand that the draft legislation that the minister has prepared includes two systems for funding education.

In one, which will be implemented as of January 1, 1998, school boards will no longer have taxing powers. The provincial government will set the mill rate. But the draft legislation also says that after five years, the system will be reviewed by a legislative committee. If the committee finds it ineffective, the first system will be repealed and replaced with a second which gives the taxing powers back to local school boards.

Can the minister confirm that it is possible that after five years, local property taxpayers will find themselves with increased school levies after the download of all of the other municipal services: social assistance, long-term care, ambulance, public health and everything else that your government is dumping on the municipality?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I am sure the member for Algoma knows that we have arrived at the share of education funding with the province taking a senior responsibility for the funding of education.

After some years of study of the funding of education in Ontario, after some many months of negotiation with the municipalities, we have arrived today at a point where we are satisfied that the province will take on the burden of that responsibility and that the local taxpayers will not have a burden from that.

I can tell you that we are also aware of the fact that money and funding is important inside of a system that spends some $14 billion a year. It's important for people to know and that's why last spring we were able to announce stable funding for the education system during this transition year. We wanted to send that signal very clearly to people who are charged with the responsibility of providing education.

We are building this better system, better from a governance point of view, better from a funding point of view and better from the resources we have for our students. We're building it step by step, piece by piece, as we go through this process.

Mr Wildman: The minister's colleagues in the government have justified just about every other download in almost every other ministry to the municipalities on the basis that the government is taking over 50% of the cost of education in the province. Now we know from what we've discovered about his draft legislation that this really only seems to apply for five years.

What is happening is the government is going to propose legislation that the municipalities are supposed to accept on the basis of funding for education. They're going to accept all these other downloaded services and costs, and yet the whole thing could be changed in five years. In other words, they'll end up paying for the download in five years through the property taxes. Is that what you're proposing? Is that what your government is really about?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to remind the member for Algoma that over the course of the last decade and longer, people have studied the funding system, the general legislative grant system in the province of Ontario and found it wanting and asked for it to be changed and asked provincial governments of the day to take on the responsibility for funding education.

We believe it's important to accept that responsibility. If we're to have a better system of education for our students, if we're going to make the improvements in the classroom that we need to make and if we're going to get to a better level of student performance, we have to take on that responsibility.

I can assure the member for Algoma today in this House, as I have in the past, that this government's intention is to take on that responsibility, a senior responsibility. We've announced that publicly. We intend to act on that when we bring legislation into the House later on during this session.

Mr Wildman: The minister hasn't answered the question. This is central to the whole Who Does What process that this government has foisted on the municipalities and the property taxpayers of Ontario.

The argument has been that the government is going to take over 50% of the costs for education in exchange for the municipalities taking the other downloaded services. On top of that, the minister has committed, as a non-negotiable position, to take an additional $1 billion out of the education system.

Are we to understand then that after five years, when our kids don't have enough textbooks or supplies and when their school boards are in difficulties, you will turn it over to the school boards to fix it by raising taxes? Can the minister at least commit that he will not now take an additional $1 billion out of education only to be foisted on the property taxpayers five years hence?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I think the member for Algoma is certainly wise in the ways of this chamber and I am sure he is not suggesting today that I would in some way talk about legislation that hasn't been presented to the chamber. We'll have time to debate the content in the legislation when it's presented and we intend to do that and we'll enjoy that activity.

I can tell the member what I've told him and that is this: When the legislation comes forward it will reflect this government's intention to take on the majority responsibility for funding education and making sure that the education system provides a first-quality education for every student in the province of Ontario.

As the member knows, the general legislative grant program which persisted over the course of your government made second-class citizens of some of our students by virtue of funding. We will end that with a new, better funding model in a new, better school system. That's our commitment.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, I'd like to follow up our discussion of Tuesday of this week about Ontario Hydro debt. Very simply, has Mr William Farlinger, the chair and acting president of Ontario Hydro, met with you to discuss the various options that Ontario Hydro looked at and discarded before they decided on the $9-billion nuclear recovery program that was announced about a month ago?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): No, he has not.

Mr Conway: As the man who guarantees on our behalf $29 billion worth of Ontario Hydro debt, can you indicate if you intend to meet with Mr Farlinger, who is not only the chair but the acting president of Ontario Hydro, to satisfy yourself and the people of Ontario that this $9-billion recovery plan is appropriate and does not unduly expose the taxpaying public of Ontario to risks and costs they ought not to be considering bearing?

Hon Mr Eves: As I indicated to the honourable member on Tuesday of this week, officials in the Ministry of Finance are indeed meeting with officials at Hydro to make sure Hydro's plan is indeed workable. In addition to that, the Minister of Energy is of course, as you know, talking to the other two parties in the Legislature about a special committee to look at the entire Ontario Hydro matter. That would include, I presume, looking at a workable plan. It's in the best interests of everybody in the province, obviously, and certainly in the interests of the government of Ontario, not to mention the people of Ontario, to make sure that Hydro does indeed have a workable and viable plan, and one that can be worked out within the fiscal confines we have.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, recently during a debate on the City of Toronto Act your parliamentary assistant, the member for Scarborough East, stated that it's too late to change the number of councillors for East York because it would be unfair to the candidates since they already have their literature printed and their offices open.

Minister, all 11 candidates running for election in East York have signed a declaration -- I have them here and I'll send them over to you -- urging you to increase the numbers. That's not a problem for them. You know what the problem is in East York. I'm asking you if you will help us resolve that issue and resolve the problem before the next election.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): This question has been brought up on several occasions before and what we've indicated in the past and what I would repeat today is that that's an issue for the new council to deal with. The boundaries of the municipalities are established. Each ward will have two members. There are two members for East York, just as there are two members in East York for the current Metro council. If the new council of the city of Toronto wishes to make changes to ward boundaries, that would be their prerogative and their responsibility. I think we should leave it to that new, directly elected council to make that judgement as to whether they want to change the wards.

Ms Churley: Minister, I'm sure you know and you've looked at the numbers too, and we all know that East York is going to be underrepresented on the new megacity council. That is not in dispute. This is of the utmost importance to the people of East York.

Sitting in the members' gallery are many of the candidates who are running in the election and also some of the citizens. We've tried to take your concerns into account, we really have. I honestly believe the parliamentary assistant would like to find a solution to this.

The member for Beaches-Woodbine has submitted amendments to your bill that allow an extra one or two councillors to be elected on a transition basis, so that for the next three years East York will not be underrepresented. This is a transition bill. During the next three years, yes, the new council will be looking at a lot of things and will be changing many things that are in this bill now. Would you agree to at least take a look at the amendments, talk to your parliamentary assistant, talk to the citizens and the members who are running, and see if we can all together try to find a transitional solution to this problem?

Hon Mr Leach: I don't see this as a major problem. Metro council at the present time has two representatives from East York and they represent their community extremely well. I don't see any problem whatsoever with two members from East York continuing to represent the needs of East York equally as well.

I wouldn't argue the merits one way or another as to whether you need more or less representation, but I believe that is a responsibility for the directly elected council of the new, unified city of Toronto to make, not for the provincial government to make. I'm sure if that argument was to be put forward to the new council at one of its early meetings, they'd be able to deal with it at that time.

I know that two representatives from East York have represented that community extremely well at Metro council for many years and I see absolutely no reason why they couldn't continue to do that.



Mr Bob Wood (London South): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. She is aware of my view that our children's services are not well structured for the times and that they could provide much more service for the money spent. We should move in the direction of single-point access, funding following the child and services being provided on the basis of best quality and best price. Does the minister accept the need for restructuring how our children's services are delivered?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I certainly agree with the honourable member that the current system of children's services is a confusing patchwork. We've recognized, as previous governments have recognized, that despite the best intentions of governments and agencies and despite the hard work that all the individuals involved in those agencies are undertaking, it is a confusing patchwork. There is duplication. We're asking families and children to twist their lives into a pretzel to fit the rules of different agencies. As one parent said to me, why is it that she has to go five different agencies to get the services for her child?

We recognize also the overlap and duplication between education, health and community and social services. There is a lot of overlap. What that has actually prevented, because the funding has gone out from three different ministries, is a lot of unique and creative things that many agencies are trying to do. Those are the reasons we have launched reforms of the children's services system.

Mr Bob Wood: A plan was developed two years ago in London to restructure our children's services and little has been done to date to implement it. Would the minister tell us what her plan is to achieve change and when we might see some concrete, province-wide changes?

Hon Mrs Ecker: London is one of the areas where restructuring actually got started before the ministry had launched it province-wide, and they are to be congratulated for the work that they have done. There are some very innovative and creative things that they are attempting to do as they combine resources, as they try and meet the needs of children better.

We have a complete restructuring of children's services that we have started across the province. They recognize that. They're cooperating. There are a lot of wonderful things they're doing to make those services serve more families. We have better coordination between the three ministers. For example, we have a new assistant deputy minister who is working with all three to coordinate better services. We've seen how that has actually worked in the healthy babies initiative, the $10 million we've put out for home visiting, for high-risk families. For example, Dr Paul Steinhauer, a well-known expert in children's services, has said that this kind of home visiting can prevent child abuse by about 75%. We're also spending more on child welfare services this year than any other government has spent.

We are doing a lot. We know more needs to be done and I look forward to --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. New question.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): My question is for the Attorney General. I'd like to talk about A Blueprint for Publicly Funded Legal Services, a report of the Ontario Legal Aid Review that was released today. This report echoes the findings of Stanley Beck, whom this government appointed as special adviser to review legal aid in 1995. Both reports indicate the significant shortcomings of the legal aid system. Let me just cite one example. The report has plenty of them but I'll simply cite one:

"The cuts to legal aid occurred at the same time that other services available to assist low-income litigants were also being cut because of budgetary pressures."

The members of the review committee are, by any account, individuals of the highest credibility. My question to the Attorney General is really very simple. Is he willing to listen to the recommendations of the commission to ensure that all Ontarians have access to fair legal representation, not just the wealthy ones?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I appreciate the very important question from the member. Yes, I am very interested in the review of these recommendations. What I intend to do, as I have indicated in a press release that I released contemporaneously with Professor McCamus's report being released today, is to begin a process of consultation with people who would be affected by this report. I'm very interested in their feedback about the report so we can begin to make the changes to legal aid that are deemed the most effective to make the plan available to the largest number of people possible at a level that taxpayers can afford. Certainly access is our primary motive, and we want to ensure that we get that feedback.

Ms Castrilli: Let me highlight for a moment the magnitude of the crisis we're facing. The report, on page 20, indicates that there were 174,120 certificates issued when this government took office in 1994-95. This past year, in 1996-97, 80,000 were issued, less than half. The memorandum of understanding with the law society with respect to legal aid requires 154,000. By any standards, we are falling short.

Professor McCamus this morning indicated that one courthouse reported to the commission that 87% to 88% of family law cases were appearing without legal representation. The report states further, "The judges are therefore required to make interim decisions based on incomplete and unreliable evidence, causing delay in our court system." This, you will agree, tips the justice scales away from litigants who are the most vulnerable.

Given the credibility of not one but two reports that have now been issued to the Attorney General, my question is this: Are you willing now to base the legal aid system on the needs of society and not just on the Harris government agenda?

Hon Mr Harnick: That is precisely why we commissioned this report. As the member knows, the governance of legal aid is through the law society, and the law society entered into a memorandum of understanding in 1994 with the previous government that set the levels of funding on an agreed-upon level. As a result of that, the legal aid plan continued to operate, as the member knows, without any significant changes even though the parties had agreed to take the system from open-ended funding to capped funding. Quite simply, we are doing what I believe should have been done at the time the MOU was entered into, and that is fundamentally taking a look at the amount of money the parties agreed should run legal aid and using that money in the most appropriate way. That's why we have commissioned this study and that's why we are dealing with legal aid in this comprehensive way the first time in --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


The Speaker: Order. I don't mean to break up the East York council meeting up there. Thank you very much.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Attorney General. It has been a year since you closed the regional offices of the family support plan and laid off 290 staff, and there has been no improvement for many of the women and children who count on getting the money they have been ordered by the court to receive. Every day women and children call our constituency offices because they can't get through to the 1-800 line, they get no reply to their faxes and letters, and their cheques continue to be delayed or do not come at all.

Andrea Younker is here with us in the gallery, with her parents and with two of her children. Her other two children are severely disabled and they are at the Bloorview centre today.

Andrea is owed $4,000 in arrears. It has been confirmed that her ex-husband is working, but as soon as the plan tried to garnish his wages, he switched his status from being employed to being self-employed, obviously with the agreement of his employer.

You have not proclaimed the sections of Bill 82 that would help Andrea. We've been trying to help her since August 19, but your office won't even answer our calls. Will you tell Andrea today what you're going to do to help her?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I appreciate that question, because we will be in a position to implement the next phase of the Bill 82 enforcement program very shortly.

The things we are doing, the implementation of these new enforcement measures, are things the former NDP government rejected out of hand. So when they say that I am not moving fast enough, if they really wanted these enforcement tools that would have prevented this individual from being in the position she's in, they would have done this five years ago. But what did they do? They turned away Mothers Against Fathers in Arrears, who were advocating these measures, and they said no to them.

We as a government are acting and we're putting teeth into the Family Responsibility Office for the first time in --

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

Mrs Boyd: Every time, this minister tries to pretend it's somebody else's problem. Andrea wasn't trying to collect money under our government.

The reality of your situation is that you promised people, when you destroyed the family support plan in September last year, that immediately you were putting things in place. You promised it for November; you promised it for December. Well, we're back in September and you still don't have the means in place. Your government House leader wouldn't even bring the bill forward for a long time, and you expect people to believe that you are not responsible.

I'm going to send over to you the synopses of Andrea's case with some pictures of her and her children because, after all, we're talking about real people here who haven't got their money.

What you have done is destroyed the regional offices and given no recourse for people like Andrea. You have put a 1-800 number in that no one can reach. You then say you will give a special MPP line to people that they can reach. Nobody answers us any more. We can't help our constituents. Minister, when are you going to clean up the mess that you made in the family support plan?

Hon Mr Harnick: People seven years ago or five years ago were people then too, and they wanted enforcement tools in the Family Responsibility Office.

We have reduced the backlog of items that was left in the regional offices. Some 90,000 items that had been left unattended have now been reduced to 38,000 items; 90,000 items that were buried, files that hadn't been opened in five years, enforcement tools that this party, when they were the government, rejected out of hand.

Bill 82, which provides new enforcement tools for the Family Responsibility Office, was the subject of an opposition day motion by that party, and they asked that the bill be withdrawn. They've never been in favour of driver's licence suspension. They've never been in favour of the private sector going out to collect debt that the Family Responsibility Office couldn't collect. We're taking those steps and we're going to try and eat into the $1 billion of overrun they failed to collect for women and children. We, as a government, are doing that.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): My question is for the minister responsible for seniors. Minister, last month delegates to the United Senior Citizens of Ontario's 39th annual convention passed a resolution calling on the government to increase funding for nursing homes. I've also had requests for that in my own riding. In fact, when you were at my riding attending a seniors' seminar in June, I received other requests as well. I know we have acted to some extent on this request. However, when will the money begin flowing to the nursing homes?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I want to thank the honourable member for his question and to advise all members of the House that nursing homes, homes for the aged and charitable homes for 57,000 Ontario seniors in this province had not received a raise or increases in their grants since 1992.

This government felt this was an injustice, causing unfair pressures in our health delivery system involving long-term care, so we did announce $100 million additional is going directly into these facilities for seniors across Ontario. That funding has already begun to flow to the nursing homes and the homes for the aged. Because we have a monitoring system in place, we're able to target those dollars primarily for nursing care in the province and also for hiring additional staff. But the money has already begun flowing.

Mr Wettlaufer: Minister, will the monitoring system that you have in place ensure that the money will be used to enhance the quality of life for these seniors?

Hon Mr Jackson: The fact is that there were not full accountability systems in place in these facilities across the province. We have extremely capable nurses who go in and do field audits to ensure that the nursing home dollars are actually going to hiring additional staff and ensuring that levels of care are appropriate for each individual. We have service agreements that are signed with the operators and they do not get the money unless they've signed the service agreement.

Perhaps more importantly, if they don't spend the money, they don't get it, so they have to prove to us that they are going to expand these services: $70 million for direct nursing care, 1,700 new jobs for nurses in the province of Ontario; therapists; additional money for food allocation and for direct services and supports for seniors, totalling $100 million.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance, who I believe is close at hand, if I'm not mistaken. He was right here a moment ago. If not, I'll go to the Chair of Management Board.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The Minister of Finance is here. Here he comes right now.

Mr Phillips: Minister, I think all of us are aware that the most massive change in property taxes will occur in less than four months. We have before the Legislature a bill that we're anxiously awaiting dealing with, Bill 149.

Small businesses are calling us on a regular basis. They are concerned about their cost increases on property taxes. The bill, as you know, gives you the authority to: "The Minister of Finance may make regulations providing for graduated tax rates for the commercial property class which shall consist of a tax rate for each of the bands." In other words, by regulation you will be setting the tax bands for commercial property.

Can you tell us today, because I assume you have prepared them, what those tax bands will be for small and medium and large businesses?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): No, I cannot tell the honourable member that today. However, I can tell him that we will be introducing Bill 149 for second reading very shortly. The ministry is currently in the process of accumulating information. I understand the concerns that small businesses have. That's exactly why we have provisions in Bill 149 for different rates of taxation for different sizes of small businesses in Ontario.

Mr Phillips: I hope the government does bring it forward shortly, because it going to have a major impact.

I want to follow up on another part of the bill. As you know, a very major change is that from now on Ontario Hydro, CPR and Consumers' Gas will all be paying their property tax on the basis of the number of acres of land they occupy in a given municipality. In other words, if CPR occupies an acre of land at Yonge and the Gardiner, they will pay the same property tax rate as an acre of land they occupy in the rolling hills somewhere in the rural areas.

The minister is shaking his head, but that's the way the bill is written. You can appreciate that for many municipalities that's going to have a very profound impact. Once again, it's you who makes the decision. It is a bit of an unusual bill in that the Minister of Finance is setting the tax rates in a whole variety of areas. It says here, "The Minister of Finance may make regulations providing for the taxation of land under this section." In other words, it will be you setting the tax rate on Hydro.

My question is this: Now that we're less than four months away, can you at least tell the House today what is the tax rate that you're planning to set on an acre of land for CPR in downtown Toronto and in the rural --


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Eves: I appreciate the honourable member's concern and his frustration, quite frankly. He's quite right that Bill 149 has several regulatory powers. I believe there are 25 in all in the bill. We at finance have been going over those in the last few months, because I share the same concern he does and I believe it is proper to enunciate as many as you possibly can up front in legislation. We've identified an additional seven that we believe we can now move to the legislative portion as opposed to doing it by regulation. That will leave some 18 to be done by regulation.

There are all kinds of tax statutes, obviously, where many powers, for many different reasons, are left to regulation. For example, the Retail Sales Tax Act has some 68 provisions for items to be defined by regulation. There are over 400 rates right now existing for railways in Ontario, just to give you an idea. It would be preposterous that anybody would suggest that we would enshrine that into legislation.

I share his concern about the variations in taxation rates in various parts of the province, railways being one example. We are going to come forward with a system which I believe will be a better system; I'm not saying it will be perfect.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): In the absence of the Solicitor General, I'd like to direct a question to the Attorney General. It's in regard to Ontario Provincial Police policing in the rural communities of Algoma district, specifically in Echo Bay. There's been a rash of break-ins in the rural areas, particularly in Echo Bay, over the last few weeks. We've seen a situation where some of these break-ins have been into the same homes for the second time. When the OPP are called, on some occasions there's been a wait of one hour before the police can get to the site where the crime apparently has been committed. The response has been very slow, and because it's so slow in some cases the first nations police from the neighbouring Garden River reserve have had to answer to the calls, because the OPP did not have a cruiser available.

Could the minister explain why the OPP appear to be so understaffed that they can't respond to the calls of the people --

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

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I would like to apologize to the member because I don't know the answer to the question. He acknowledged that it was a question that would be more appropriately put to the Solicitor General. I will advise the Solicitor General of the question and endeavour to ensure that an answer is provided.

Mr Wildman: I appreciate the Attorney General's response. In consulting with his colleague, considering that at this time, when the government is proposing to download the cost of Ontario Provincial Police services to the municipalities and to the property taxpayers, surely it's important to ensure that if they're going to be having to pay for this service, they actually get the service.

The OPP staff have told residents in the area that they are so short-staffed they cannot carry out thorough investigations with the resources available to them. It's impossible for the OPP to maintain a police presence throughout the district because of the shortage of staff. If this shortage of staff occurs now, what are we likely to see when these services are downloaded to the municipal taxpayers?

Hon Mr Harnick: Again, it's an area that I am not familiar enough with to be able to provide an answer. I believe the Solicitor General could respond to that most appropriately. I will ensure that he's notified about the question and that a response is provided.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): My question is to the Minister of Education. Minister, your proposed reforms to the education system in our province are widely applauded, both by parents who have children in the system and by educators alike. There continues to be concern, however, at what appear to be threats of illegal strikes.

As recently as this morning I was asked to meet with a teacher in my riding who reported that neither he nor his wife, who also is a teacher, have any intention of withdrawing their services from teaching. He expressed his view as well that most of his colleagues with whom he has had communication feel the same way.

This teacher has been told by his union representative that strike action may be necessary because the government intends to interfere with his pension rights. Can the minister clarify for this House and for all teachers in this province whether this government has any intention to interfere with the pension rights of teachers in this province?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member for the question. There has been some speculation on that subject, so I'm not surprised it would come forward. I can say that pensions are a complicated issue. I'll spend a couple of moments clarifying this.

The teachers' pension is a partnership between the Ontario Teachers' Federation and the government of Ontario. I believe that the Ontario Teachers' Federation and I can say the government of Ontario have absolutely no intention of interfering with the rights of the people involved in the pension or their benefits. That's certainly not our intention and I'm sure it's not the intention of the Ontario Teachers' Federation.

However, the reason this subject comes up is that it is a very large pension fund. The taxpayers of Ontario contribute about $1 billion this year to the pension fund. Teachers make contributions. By some estimates there will be a $10-billion surplus in this pension fund by the year 2000. So obviously there are conversations about what to do, what's the best use of the surplus, but certainly no one entertained lowering benefits for teachers.

Mr Klees: Minister, what can I tell the teachers in my riding and what can we tell teachers across this province who want no part of participating in an illegal strike? What rights do teachers have and what obligations do they have to carry out their teaching responsibilities in the classrooms of our province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm sure the member would agree with me, because he has talked with teachers in his riding, and I've talked with teachers across Ontario, that teachers don't need to be reminded of their professional obligations. They are professionals, they understand the contract obligations they have. More important, and again I think the member would agree, teachers understand the honour involved in upholding their responsibility to their students. I have every faith that they will do that.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Environment. September 3 I asked you about a consultant's report that had been prepared for your ministry in regard to the Plastimet site. This report was received by your ministry on January 8, 1997. This report showed that lead, copper and zinc were at extremely high levels compared to acceptable levels.

I asked you what action your ministry took and you said, "As I understand it, these particular materials were in the subsurface and therefore were of no danger to anyone on the surface of the property."

I have a copy of the consultant's report. The consultant's report says, "The continued presence of the impacted and leachate toxic soils pose a threat to the site surface, water runoff quality and groundwater quality."

Minister, can you explain the contradiction between what you said in the House, that it was of no danger to anyone or anything, and the consultant's report that clearly shows that six months before the Plastimet fire the contaminated soil was a danger to water quality and groundwater quality in the Hamilton area?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I don't have the report in hand, so I'm really unable to respond to the question at this time, but will take it on notice.

Mr Agostino: You seem to continue to miss the point in all of this. Very clearly, there's a question for the public inquiry that you can't answer. This report becomes more damning, and what is stunning is the fact that no action was taken. The report goes on to say, "A site assessment should assess the short- and long-term threats to public health and safety due to continued presence of the impacted and leachate toxic soils."

This report, submitted to your ministry in January 1997, six months before the fire, recommends that an assessment be made on the short- and long-term health effects to the people on the site and the residents as a result of these elevated levels. Your ministry took no action. Your ministry ignored it. There were things you could have done to protect the health and safety of the people working on the site prior to the fire and the health and safety of the residents.

Again, can you explain to the House why you ignored this report and put the people of Hamilton at risk of contamination by soil whose levels you and your ministry knew were elevated and unacceptable?

Hon Mr Sterling: This report, which was prepared as a result of what happened previously with regard to this site, was the result of the outfall of a bankruptcy which took place.

As I understand the report that was presented to the ministry -- and of course I was only aware of the report personally after the fire had taken place, but was aware of it -- it indicated that, while there were contaminants on the site, there was no danger of those contaminants going off the site; there were no emissions going off the site; there was no water effluent that was going off the edge of the site; there was no resultant leachate going off the site, and therefore it was not a danger to the environment.

If in fact there had been leachate, if there had been something going off the site, my ministry would have been legally obligated to take action. I presume my ministry officials did the right thing.




Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I want to present a petition on behalf of Ann Roxburgh in Thunder Bay, who is very concerned that Women's College Hospital be maintained in the governance model. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;

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

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

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to teaching, research and care dedicated to women;

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

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

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to preserve the comprehensive model of women's health pioneered by Women's College Hospital through ensuring self-governance of the one hospital in Ontario dedicated to women's health."

Ann Roxburgh is from Thunder Bay, which shows the concern all across the province. I am very proud to add my signature to the hundreds of others that have been put forward.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I have the honour and the privilege to read a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, signed by no less 19 honourable citizens of the township of Manitouwadge in the great riding of Lake Nipigon, as follows:

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

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will hurt average workers in every community" -- they're talking specifically about the township of Manitouwadge here -- "across Ontario, including nurses, teachers, firemen and police officers; and

"Whereas the Harris government's bill will decrease the quality of health care as well as the quality of education delivered in Ontario; and

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

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


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 177 people. It reads as follows:

"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 Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature as I agree with the petition.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): As you know, TVO is under the privatization gun and we're trying very hard to make sure that consultation takes place across the province. Petitions are coming in in large numbers. This petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario/TFO is owned by the people of Ontario; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has opposed public support for maintaining TVO as a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster by putting TVO through a privatization review; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not confirmed that full public participation will be part of this privatization review;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold open and honest public consultation with the people of Ontario before making a decision on the future of TVO/TFO."

This is sent in by Peter and Marion Strawson from Thunder Bay. I'm proud to have their support and proud to sign my name to this.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition signed by literally hundreds of residents of Scarborough Centre who live at 10, 30 and 40 Gordonridge Place. They're quite upset with the fact that their security officer has been transferred from the Gordonridge project to another site and they want their security officer back. It's signed by, as I said, literally hundreds of people: members of the Over 50 Club, residents of 10, 30 and 40 Gordonridge, and members of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Service from 41 Division. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"We, the tenants of Gordonridge Place, have taken this petition in hopes of having our security officer, Jamie Dunham, placed back in our Gordonridge project."

It says, "Keep up the good work."

I support them in this and I wish them all the best.


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 in 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 petition is signed by a great many constituents in my riding, and I've affixed my signature to the petition.


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

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

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

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

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

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

As the MPP for that area, I proudly add my name to theirs.



Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 17 people. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for a woman to appear topless in any public place, except in clearly marked designated beach areas."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Bill 136 is a piece of legislation that we feel very strongly should be withdrawn, and I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that I'd like to read.

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

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

"Whereas the Harris government's bill will decrease the quality of health care as well as the quality of education delivered in Ontario; and

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

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

I'm very proud to sign my name to this petition.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here a petition signed by a number of individuals and it reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

It's signed by a number of citizens: Bill Bell, Don Cooper, Susan Cassibo, and other people. I affix my name to that petition.


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

"We, the undersigned, request the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario to construct a left-turning lane on Highway 11 on to Highway 586 for safety reasons. Most traffic coming into Highway 586 comes from the westbound lane of Highway 11 and must turn left in the face of increased and fast-moving traffic which cannot be adequately seen because of the gradual turn just ahead."

This is signed by a large number of constituents from the Thunder Bay district who are genuinely concerned about the safety of the highway and communicated their concern to the minister. I've affixed my signature, sharing the same concern.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from citizens in the communities of London and Hamilton. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government has introduced Bill 136; and

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

"Whereas home child care providers are predominantly female; and

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

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

On behalf of the NDP caucus, I add my name to theirs.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a very important petition which I think deals with the democratic rights of Parliament. It deals with the standing order reforms. 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 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;

"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 have signed the petition as I am in full agreement with same.


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

"We, the undersigned, request the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy and Environment Canada jointly: (1) to conduct a full-scale public inquiry into the Hamilton Plastimet fire to determine the complete nature and extent of the pollution it has caused, the health effects on firefighters and others attending the fire, as well as residents in Hamilton and farther afield; and (2) to ensure safe, speedy and complete cleanup of the fire site, plus residential and all other areas where chemicals from the fire have fallen out."

I add my name to theirs.



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

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Nickel Belt.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I did want to make a few concluding remarks about Bill 140. I just want to clear up a couple of matters on Bill 140 and I am glad the parliamentary assistant is here this afternoon for this debate again.

As I understand it, and I want to be perfectly clear on this, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario will replace the Pension Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Insurance Commission and the deposit insurance part of the Ministry of Finance -- that's what it says in the explanatory note -- and that there's going to be a chair and two vice-chairs of the commission. I have yet to find out how many other members of the commission are to be appointed.

I don't know whether that constitutes the entire commission, along with the superintendent and the director of arbitrations as laid out in the Insurance Act. I gather, if I'm reading it correctly, that the commission will consist of a chair, two vice-chairs, the superintendent and the director of arbitrations -- full stop, that's it. I thought initially there was going to be a series of other appointments to round out the complement on the commission. That seems like a very small number of people, given the enormity of the job they're going to be facing here.

It's when we get to the Financial Services Tribunal that it gets interesting. The appeals tribunal is there to hear appeals of the superintendent's decision. The superintendent makes the majority of the decisions in this regard, and that's understandable, plus holds hearings on any proposals the superintendent believes should be done. The tribunal can hold hearings on that, as well as decisions already made by the superintendent.

But where it gets interesting is, if you read the explanatory note -- and I hope the parliamentary assistant can straighten me out here because I'm confused -- is the number of the people on the commission. If I read the explanatory note correctly, it says, in the fourth paragraph: "The bill...establishes the Financial Services Tribunal, an adjudicative body of between nine and 15 members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council."

I then turn to subsection 6(3) of the bill on page 4 it says: "In addition to the chair and the two vice-chairs, the Lieutenant Governor in Council shall appoint at least six persons, and not more than 12, as members of the tribunal for the length of time not exceeding three years that the Lieutenant Governor in Council specifies and may reappoint any member to the tribunal."


I'm not sure, unless you add in the chair and the two vice-chairs, you can get the numbers up a little higher, to nine and 15. It must be what was intended but it's worded very strangely in that regard.

Page 6, section 11, of the bill I think is a good idea, as a matter of fact: "The commission shall, not later than nine months before the start of each fiscal year, deliver to the minister and publish in the Ontario Gazette," simply because this is a new commission, "a statement setting out the proposed priorities" etc. That will be welcomed by people in the financial community, and not just the financial community. Other interested persons will be interested in that, including "a summary of the reasons" for the priorities that they're laying out. That's something that speaks well of the drafters because that is important, particularly in view of the significance of this new commission.

In summary, I support this bill. I continue to be a little nervous about the enormity of the task here and the expertise that's going to be required on both the commission and the tribunal. It's conceivable that the tribunal will be very busy. We'll have to wait and see.

The other part that makes me uneasy is the assessment part, where there are enormous powers of the commission to assess costs on different sectors of the financial community, whether it's the credit unions, the banks, the insurance companies or whatever. I'm assuming that assessment of costs can be appealed either to the tribunal or to the minister. I'm not sure where those costs would be appealed. There is some nervousness out there that it's an unknown at this point.

In particular, the credit union movement, which was not subject to this previously -- the other parts of the financial community already were assessed certain costs, as I understand it -- is jumpy because this is a whole new ball game for them being assessed costs by the commission. It will be interesting to see how that finally shakes out at the end. But in the final analysis I have no problem supporting this bill.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I'm delighted to participate in this discussion on Bill 140. It's an area that I've had some involvement with in the past. In general, I support the thrust of what this bill is doing, but like my colleague from Sudbury, I have some very serious concerns about some of the fallout, some of the implications of what this bill is doing.

To give you an example, what is happening is that the government's spin on this particular bill is that it's being done under the red tape provisions to economize, to streamline, to make things better, but there isn't a real emphasis as to who they are making this thing better for. Is it to make it better for those they are regulating or is it to make it better for those who are being served?

It's important that we briefly go through the mandates of the three institutions or agencies that are going to be merged under this new Financial Services Commission of Ontario. When you read about the deposit insurance corporation of Ontario, it was established by the Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act and its mission is to protect depositors in credit unions and caisses populaires. The Ontario Insurance Commission regulates all aspects of insurance matters while protecting consumers against unfair insurance business practices. The Pension Commission of Ontario is mandated to protect consumers and their pensions.

When you understand that all of this legislation is meant to protect consumers, the feeling that I get from the government's statement is that notwithstanding that they acknowledge that they hope to be able to help consumers, the major thrust seems to be, "We're going to economize, we're going to make it more efficient and we're going to make it smaller," not, "We're going to provide a better service for the consumer."

What is this going to say from a financial point of view? If you take a look at those three particular commissions, their total budget is $35.5 million and they have a total staff of 415. The government says, in its documents accompanying this act, that they are going to save $3.8 million over two years, which means 5% a year. If you're going to save 5% a year over two years, and they don't say what they're going to reduce the complement to but obviously those savings are going to be affected by reducing personnel, you have a relatively small amount of money in the context of government expenditures and you begin to wonder how this is going to serve the best interests of the consumers.

My colleague from Sudbury mentioned the fact that he has some concerns about the size of the commission and more important -- and more important for me certainly -- the size of the tribunal. The act provides that the tribunal will have a chairman, two vice-chairmen and a minimum of six members and a maximum of nine, which means, when you take in the chair and vice-chairs, it will be nine and 15.

That particular tribunal, which will have responsibility for dealing with an incredible number of potential disputes in an incredible number of different areas, is really going to be hard-pressed to do it in a timely way. I'm not saying they can't do it, but if you've only got, at maximum, 15 people who are going to have to listen to all of these things, it's going to take months and maybe even years before a dispute can be placed before this tribunal and before you can get a resolution.

Let me give an example of what can happen. Right now there is what is known as the Commercial Registration Appeal Tribunal. This is a tribunal that hears complaints against anybody who is registered under the particular provisions of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations Act, and that has to do with people who are mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, people who sell used goods, people who sell a whole range of things that require regulation.

It's the same thing as people who are charged under the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act. If you take a look at your cushions and you see a sticker that says, "Do not remove," a lot of people don't know it, but once you buy it you can do whatever you want with it. There are people who have been around for 20 years and they've still got those stickers because they think it's against the law to remove the sticker. You can take it off, but the whole idea behind it is to protect the consumer, to make sure that there's only new product that is put into that.

The minute that some unscrupulous manufacturer puts in recycled, reused products that are not hygienically approved, they are subject to some sort of adjudication, some sort of charge, and that goes before the Commercial Registration Appeal Tribunal. There are lots of things like that. If all of these things are being lumped into one particular avenue for arbitration, it is going to be a nightmare. All we have to do is take a look at the family support system. On paper it sounds reasonable: "We're going to consolidate and make it more efficient," but you saw what happened there. We had a very serious problem. I think we may have a similar type of problem.


The other area of very serious concern to me is the provisions in this act that allow this new commission to apportion to individual sectors the expenditures and expenses incurred in regulating that section.

Let me give you a very graphic illustration of this problem. When I was the Minister of Financial Institutions, I had the ill luck to be appointed right in the middle of one of the most major crises in loan and trust regulation this province has ever seen. For those of you who remember, it was the Greymac, Crown Trust and Seaway loan companies that got involved in the Cadillac Fairview flip, where they bought buildings from Cadillac Fairview and flipped them twice in the same day. If you'll recall, Lenny Rosenberg, who was the head of this whole conglomerate, fled the country. He was charged. He may still be in jail -- or he's out of jail; it doesn't matter. But it was that kind of thing.

The point I'm making is that when I arrived in the minister's office and I was being briefed, the lawyers representing the government and the accountants representing the government came to see me and said that at that particular time the cost to the government to investigate and pursue and put forward their case had cost $27 million and running. I don't know what the final cost was because I left that particular ministry and went to another one, but when I left it was $27 million.

Under our old system, that $27 million was absorbed by the government as part of their expenditures under the general revenue fund. It was not passed on to all the people in the loan and trust companies. It was obviously passed on to all the taxpayers, because that was taxpayers' money. Under this system, this commission has the authority to say, "We have just spent," let's say in this case, "$27 million, and as a result we are going to have to apportion it over all the companies involved in that sector."

If that happens, we're going to have exactly the same problem we have with the Workers' Compensation Board -- and many of you, I'm sure, have had complaints from your constituents -- where if someone happens to be in a particular category and one bad apple has lots and lots of claims, it gets apportioned over everybody else. They complain: "We've never had a lost-time accident. We've never had this. We've never had that. Why do we have to pay these increased fees?" The government is saying: "That's the way the system works. You're going to have to pay, because someone in your particular sector has set the rate and the good guys have to pay for the bad guys."

I see that as a potential problem. I see it as a potentially serious problem if we have another Greymac fiasco, just for that sector.

Let's go to another sector. I don't know whether this is double taxation. It would be interesting to hear from the parliamentary assistant if he has any clarification of this. The Deposit Insurance Corp of Ontario is the successor to OSDIC. One of the big problems we have, as I'm sure everybody knows, is that deposits in all credit unions and caisses populaires are insured to a maximum of $60,000. There is an ongoing complaint from the very large credit unions and caisses populaires that because of their financial strength -- they will never go bust, the Hepcoes of this world, Laurentienne, the Desjardins, whatever they are. These people have assets that rival some of the banks; not quite as large as the banks, but substantial organizations that are near-banks. They are lumped into a category with credit unions that -- and I'm not trying to show disrespect for credit unions -- meet around a kitchen table in some small community. The fallout at the low end of the credit union ensemble, if you want to call it that, is relatively high.

We have the big, stable people carrying the load for the small and unstable. That happens through premiums. They complain regularly. The large ones are saying, "Why are we paying the same premium as the small guys when they're at greater risk than we are?" There should be some kind of formula where, given your financial reserves, given your history, you pay more if you're at greater risk and you pay less if you are not. That's the way insurance works. But that isn't the way the Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corp, which is now the Deposit Insurance Corp, works. What we are doing now is compounding that problem, because we are requiring everybody to pay the same premium for the same coverage, and again we have the large, who are not at greater risk, paying theirs and the small not.

If there were to be a major financial calamity -- and it has happened. It has happened in this province and it has happened in my time. There was a mismatch in the late 1980s when people in credit unions had loaned out money at below what they were getting money in at, and there had to be a major bailout.

Right now, the Deposit Insurance Corp pays it and the government guarantees it, so if there isn't enough money in the fund -- and that has happened -- the government steps in and says, "We will make it good." Under this particular act, the government no longer has to make it good; the participants in the sector have to make it good. There are those who may say, "That's the way it should be," but it really is a problem for the good guys, because they are being asked in a disproportionate way to bail out the poor guys. I see that as a problem, something that will require some looking into.

The idea of consolidating and making it easier and more efficient sounds good and, as I say, I support that idea, but I have some very serious reservations as to the efficiency and the cost savings.

There's a whole other problem, which has to do with the third leg of these three particular corporations or commissions, and that is the pension commission. I want to draw on a real-life experience. There are two kinds of pension plans: One is a defined benefit plan and the other is a defined contribution plan. In the defined contribution plan, you put in money and it defines how much you put in. What you get out depends entirely on how well the plan does. If it makes money, you get more money; if it doesn't, too bad. The other one is a defined benefit plan. In the defined benefit plan, you put in a fixed amount of money and you are guaranteed what you're going to get back. How that works is that the employer sponsoring that particular plan guarantees that no matter what happens to that plan -- if there's a shortfall, they will make it up. You are guaranteed that when you retire you will get whatever has been promised to you.

The problem with that -- again we had it during my tenure as the Minister of Financial Institutions. We had it with Dominion Stores and Conrad Black, who felt that because he was responsible for that plan -- the company had put money into it and managed it very astutely. They found that there was a huge surplus in the plan and said, "That surplus belongs to us." The workers said: "There's no way it belongs to you. It belongs to us. It's our plan." He said, "Yes, but it's only got that money in it because we funded it and we looked after it." What happened is that it went to court and they won, but as a result of that, the legislation was changed.

Again, we have a similar potential problem in that something like that could happen. Does that mean, if the decision had gone the other way -- sometimes, and this happens quite often, you have companies that have pension plans for their employees and they go bankrupt. There was in fact a reserve fund that the government had to compensate people who had a problem with that. Now I assume that is going to be apportioned, given the wording of the legislation, over all pension plans.

How do you reconcile that? How do you justify that to someone who has got a pension plan when someone else in a pension plan has got a problem? The wording says that a particular financial sector can have expenses and expenditures paid out by the commission assessed against all the participants. That again creates some concerns for me. I don't know exactly how that is going to work.


One of the other things that I find interesting -- I don't know whether it was an omission or what it is -- is that there is a provision under the Ontario Insurance Commission to have a dispute resolution office; this is under the Ontario Insurance Commission. The Ontario Insurance Commission is going to disappear. It's going to become part of the Financial Services Commission, and the dispute resolution office provides a mediation, arbitration and appeals process for disputes arising from an individual's claim to statutory accident benefits, automobile insurance for bodily injury. I don't know the exact numbers, but I can tell you there have got to be an awful lot of those potential claims.

Obviously the Ontario Insurance Commission is going to disappear, which means, I just assume -- even though I have looked through the act, I could not find any reference to it -- that this particular function is going to be absorbed by the same tribunal. Again, if that happens, I don't know how this thing is ever going to function. It just has got so many different possibilities for people to have to apply to this tribunal to get some kind of adjudication that the backlog is going to take years. It doesn't seem to me to make any sense.

Plus you are asking 15 people -- they may be the brightest and the best -- to adjudicate along a range that deals with everything from marine insurance to medical insurance to automobile insurance to pension plans to credit unions to loan and trusts. It's a formidable task, and you're going to have to get some pretty special people who are going to have the ability to meaningfully deal with this kind of situation.

In closing, I certainly support the intent. I have some concerns about the implementation and how it's going to work, and I hope we are not creating more problems than we are solving.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I would like to congratulate the member for Wilson Heights, who in effect has put this entire matter in a very succinct manner and has explained to the House and to the general public what some of the problems may be with respect to this bill.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): As usual.

Mr Gerretsen: As one of the other members said, "As usual," because the member for Wilson Heights is highly regarded in this House and he has an awful lot of experience, particularly in dealing with a motion of this nature.

I too am very much concerned about the apportioning of costs. The example that you gave of the trust company scandal that happened about 10 years or so ago certainly is a clear-cut indication of what may happen.

I know the government's usual answer to these kinds of problems is, "We'll deal with it by way of regulation." The problem with regulations is that they are not debated in public. It's a cabinet order, and quite often there has been no public input into that. Once they are introduced and once they are accepted by way of orders in council, it's a fait accompli. I think the general theory is that the less that can be done by way of regulation and the more that can be done by way of passing of legislation, the better it is for the system as a whole and the better it is for democracy.

The credit union movement, as he has clearly indicated, does have some concerns about this bill, since they for the first time will be included in this setup. I would hope the parliamentary assistant will once again take an opportunity to meet with the credit union movement association. I know he stated earlier that he has met with them in the past, but perhaps after subsequent meetings he will actually implement some of the changes they are recommending.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): As with all other members, we are certainly supporting the general direction the government is taking.

I just want to, for the record, make sure that we point something out. I know the member raised it, as well as Mr Laughren, in his early speeches, and that is the question of the assessment. Once you have put in place this new board, one of the concerns I would have, and it was expressed to me by one of the credit unions in my riding, is that we need to ensure that the government does not in any way monkey around with the assessment in such a way that it would end up costing those credit unions -- caisses populaires are another -- more than what they are actually paying now. We support the thrust because what they are doing here is bringing under one umbrella a number of these regulatory bodies, and it makes sense to be able to have it in one place.

I also want to point out that I'm a little bit leery, and will give the government some benefit of doubt on this issue, with regard to auto vehicle accident complaints. I understand that under this legislation there will be a formal process where you will be able to go before the tribunal, if I understand correctly, or a hearings officer, to deal with complaints that you may have about your insurance company for not having paid benefits in the case of a motor vehicle accident. I can tell you, as I look at the minister without portfolio, that we already have such a process in place, but as you well know, it is very difficult for people to get action through that body as it is now. I hope the steps you are taking here will try to address that particular issue.

As I say, we give you the benefit of the doubt because this is a step in the right direction, but I certainly hope that we are able to see a speedier process when it comes to dealing with those hearings or those issues when they are brought before this body, because I can tell you now that we have certainly had a real backlog of problems in our constituency offices over this issue.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I am pleased to respond to some of the issues raised by the member for Wilson Heights, and I certainly congratulate him on having a very thorough review of the legislation. It is quite refreshing to actually have a debate where people have read the legislation and make some good points.

I have addressed the issue raised about credit unions earlier in the debate, but I will address it again. There have been meetings between ministry officials and people from the several associations that represent credit unions. Credit unions have been told that they will be contributing to the costs of the regulation under the new legislation. They are well aware of that, and they are going to be part of the solution in drafting up regulations to set fees for all the different sectors in the financial services industry that are affected by this bill.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to assure the people who have spoken in the debate that there are nine to 15 people on the financial services tribunal, and they include the chair and vice-chair.

The other issue I want to clear up for the public watching, as well as the member for Wilson Heights, is that the Deposit Insurance Corp of Ontario is not affected by this legislation. The body that is affected is the deposit institutions division of the finance ministry, and they are part of the regulation of the industry. Currently they regulate loan and trust companies, mortgage brokers, credit unions and caisses populaires, and they assist with the development of cooperative corporations in Ontario. So the Deposit Insurance Corp of Ontario is not affected by this legislation.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Wilson Heights has two minutes to respond.


Mr Kwinter: I appreciate the clarification by the parliamentary assistant. Again, I have no problem with the thrust of the legislation. I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments and to say that I've had the opportunity of having lived in that particular environment for a couple of years. I've had to deal with some very serious problems that may have happened before but certainly haven't happened since.

I am just concerned that this continue to be a consumer protection initiative and that what we are doing is trying to make sure that in areas where people are almost at the most vulnerable when it comes to their life savings, when it comes to their ability to prepare for their retirement, when it comes to the ability to provide insurance against catastrophic events, we do not in any way dilute the protection they have under the guise of efficiency. The issue is not efficiency; it's consumer protection. Having said that, if we can do it in such a way that we eliminate duplication, where we can get a system that responds more effectively to the requirement of their client base, which is the consumer, then I think that's to be desired.

As a result, I and my colleagues will be supporting this bill. I just want and ask that the government be mindful that this really is consumer protection legislation and that the consumer should not be sacrificed in the interests of saving a few dollars or getting some presumed efficiencies and that we are not in some way putting the consumer at greater risk.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Eves has moved second reading of Bill 140, An Act to establish the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to other statutes. Is it the pleasure of the House this motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Is it agreed? It is agreed.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that the following changes be made to the standing committees:

On the standing committee on administration of justice, Mr Ford, Mrs Ross, Mr Young, Mr Chiarelli, Mr Christopherson be removed;

On the standing committee on estimates, Mr Beaubien, Mr Sheehan, Mr Vankoughnet, Mr Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin), Ms Lankin be removed, and that Mrs Johns be substituted for Mr Kells;

On the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, Mr Barrett, Mr Carr, Mr Martiniuk, Mr Cordiano, Mr Martin be removed;

On the standing committee on general government, Mr DeFaria, Mr Doyle, Mr Stewart, Mr Gravelle, Mr Wood (Cochrane North) be removed;

On the standing committee on government agencies, Mr Ford, Mr Preston, Mr Tascona, Mr Bartolucci, Mr Kormos be removed, and that Mr Newman be substituted for Mrs Elliott, and Mr Spina be substituted for Mr Guzzo;

On the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, Mr Baird, Mr Johnson (Brantford), Mrs Pupatello, Mr Wildman be removed, and that Mr DeFaria be substituted for Mrs Marland, and Mrs Ross be substituted for Mr Tilson, and that Mr North be added to the membership of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly;

On the standing committee on the Ombudsman, Mr Johnson (Brantford), Mr Murdoch, Mr Ouellette, Mr Lalonde, Mr Marchese be removed, and that Mr Ford be substituted for Mr Leadston, and Mr Vankoughnet be substituted for Mr Boushy, and Mr Agostino be substituted for Mr Crozier, and Mrs Pupatello be substituted for Mr Hoy;

On the standing committee on public accounts, Mrs Johns, Mr Murdoch, Mr Skarica, Mrs Pupatello, Mr Pouliot be removed, and that Mr Beaubien be substituted for Mr Shea;

On the standing committee on regulations and private bills, Mr Clement, Mr DeFaria, Mr Vankoughnet, Mr Kennedy, Mr Bisson be removed, and that Mr Leadston be substituted for Mrs Johns, and Mr Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin) be substituted for Mr Gerretsen;

On the standing committee on resources development, Mr Jordan, Mr O'Toole, Mr Spina, Mr Agostino and Ms Churley be removed;

On the standing committee on social development, Mr Leadston, Mrs Munro, Mr Newman, Mr Patten, Mr Wildman be removed, and that Mr O'Toole be substituted for Mr Parker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Mr Johnson moves by resolution that the following changes be made to standing --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Dispense.

The Acting Speaker: Dispense? It is agreed.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): What's it --

Mrs Marland: Dispense with re-reading the names.

Hon David Johnson: Can I read a new order of the day, then? We almost caught you unalert there. It was a good try. But we wouldn't do that, even though the opportunity was there. We're always fair and reasonable.


Hon David Johnson: Just like, I might say, as my colleague from across the way indicates, the rule changes -- yes, fair and reasonable.

Since he's raised that matter, the changes in the committees come about of course through the rule changes, in a sense. There were a number of changes that came through. I know all my colleague in the House share the pleasure that we have in the new rules and how well they're working, how well they're contributing to the democracy of this House.

Mr Wildman: Don't be provocative.

Hon David Johnson: The House leader says, "Don't be provocative," but I will say that I listen on many occasions to opposition members who have a criticism for the rule changes. But I think the facts, the simple, mathematical facts, are that we have certainly had more debating time in this House. You can't deny that. There has been more opportunity to debate the bills. We have had the opportunity to sit in the evening and spend that time debating the bills. As my colleague from York Mills has indicated, more people, more members, more elected representatives in this House, there's no question about it, are having the opportunity to speak to those bills.

Now, they don't get to speak for an hour and a half. When I served for many years at the municipal level, whether it was the borough of East York -- yes, I was very proud to serve as alderman and mayor of the borough of East York -- or on the Metropolitan Toronto council, nobody could speak for an hour and a half. I was astonished when I came here to find out that people could actually speak for an hour and a half.

Interjection: But they're not saying anything.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): But they're not saying anything.

Hon David Johnson: My colleague from Mississauga says, "But they don't say anything." I find it very hard to dispute what my --

Mr Wildman: You cut me to the quick.

Hon David Johnson: Well, there are one or two members, I will say, to leave a little opening, who have a good deal to say -- but an hour and a half. You know, most of the people from the general public would say: "Look, if you can't say it in 10 or 20 minutes or half an hour at most, what on earth are you trying to say? You should be able to say it in that period of time. Get to the point."


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Why did Steve Gilchrist go on for an hour and a half one day?

Hon David Johnson: He won't go for that long any more, I can tell you that.

Mr Wildman: So that was the reason for the rule changes.

Hon David Johnson: So we wouldn't have to listen to the member from Scarborough. There you go. There's the secret reason. You know, I think in the little bit of hilarity that we are having this afternoon it really is coming out that nobody really needs to speak for an hour and a half. We've still allowed the opportunity to speak for up to an hour; up to an hour, one person.

Mrs Marland: Sometimes that's too long.

Hon David Johnson: And sometimes that's too long. I agree with that. But I will say that many of the parties are now taking advantage of the opportunity which we also provided through the rule changes, and I think it was the House leader for the third party in particular who suggested this, and that is, being able to divide. In other words, if a party has an hour, instead of one person using the whole hour, you could have four people each using 15 minutes, for example, and give more people the opportunity. We said, "Boy, that sounds like a good idea. Let's do it," and so we did it. We accommodated that as one of --

Mr Wildman: That's a small victory.

Hon David Johnson: Well, small victories count. I think it has helped. By the way, in that vein I'm going to say, if I'm not too late, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Nepean, the member for York Mills, and I believe the member for Scarborough Centre will be speaking as well. Consequently I'll keep my comments short, but will say that over the years the membership on the committees, and that's what we're talking about, the members of this House who serve on the various committees, whether it's the social committee, the justice committee, the general government committee, any of the committees --

Mr Gerretsen: A social committee?

Hon David Johnson: The committee that deals with social issues, if I need to be too precise. The membership has varied. I think over the years there has been probably membership in the vicinity of nine, some years 11, currently there are up to 14 members, I believe it is, on the committees. Many of the members don't get an opportunity to participate in the discussion when there are that many members.

So what we've come forward with is to streamline the process to have the membership at nine, and I might say that the composition includes members from all parties in the House, now including the independent member for the first time. We have brought in an amendment to indicate that the independent member shall be on one of the committees. Up to this point there has not been the opportunity for the independent member really to serve on a committee. There was a report that came forward to this House about five years ago, I think it was, recommending that the independent member have that ability to be on a committee. We've agreed with that and we've incorporated that into our changes, so you'll see the independent member as a member of the legislative committee, I think it is, this particular time around.

The committees have grown; there are more committees over the years. It think the numbers that we have determined will allow the opportunity for all members to be associated with a committee in proportion to the number of members that the various parties have in the House. Obviously the government would have more members because there are more elected government members; the official opposition would have the second most; the third party, which we experienced a couple of years ago, will have the least.

I think this will be particularly appropriate as we move through the next election as well, in that the number of members elected will decrease, will diminish from 130 down to 103, that 103 representing the number of federal ridings in province of Ontario, and at that point of course, the provincial ridings will coincide precisely with the federal ridings, thereby saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. The committee structure will be --

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): How much is that saving taxpayers?

Hon David Johnson: It's saving taxpayers millions. The estimate is about $16 million. It could be higher, depending on the coordination of the federal. Why can't we use exactly the same collection process, the machinery, for provincial elections that's used for federal elections? Either we contract the elections to the federal government or vice versa rather than duplicating two bureaucracies in a sense, one to handle provincial and one to handle federal. It makes common sense. I see heads nodding across the way. It makes common sense.

Mr Gerretsen: Why not have it at the same time?

Hon David Johnson: Have them at the same time? That might be a little confusing. I suppose you'd like to throw in the municipal elections as well.

I think I'll just restrict my comments to that and give other members an opportunity to speak. This is one of the changes through the rule procedures. The rule procedures, I submit to you, are working extremely well. With that, I will turn the floor over, I believe, to my colleague from York Mills.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I am pleased to speak to this motion today. This is a motion which is overdue. We have to engage in a process of modernizing the way Parliament works and, frankly, it doesn't work very well. We had in the old standing orders an agreement that there should be not more than 11 members of a standing committee. In fact there had been an agreement at the beginning of this Parliament that temporarily the membership of those committees would be increased to 14, which was a Chair, eight government members, three from the official opposition, the Liberals, and two from the NDP.

It was a very unmanageable number for various reasons. The physical facilities of our committee rooms are such that we had the government members virtually sticking out into a passageway where people had to go by. There was a significant extra cost associated with travel as a result of having such large committees. Additionally, there was the problem with quorum.

What has happened with the way government works today, and not just government, but the way opposition works today, we have the availability to the public, which is good, through e-mail, through fax machines. The immediacy of government today, the information to the public, is such that our phones might be ringing moments after an event has occurred, and we need our members to respond to that situation.

As we build up this huge machine of government where we have these large committees, we weren't adding anything to the ability of either the opposition or the government to understand the information that the public was putting forward to us any greater than when we had smaller committees. We made a commitment in the last election -- in fact a year before the last election -- that it was our party's contention that government at all levels should be streamlined. Part of the ongoing process of streamlining government is this motion, so that we can make legislators more available to their constituents and not without a little joy, I would think, from the whips of all parties, the ability to make sure you can staff those committees.

I have seen on many occasions, and I see my good friend the member for Dovercourt is twittering on about savings and the ability to have fewer people on the committees making my job easier, and yes, frankly, it does make my job easier. I think that you, having served in the cabinet of the previous government, will recognize that there is a tremendous number of functions that government members and opposition members are requested to be at, and you're dividing your time out between House duty, committee duty and, in the case of parliamentary assistants and ministers, the ministerial duty.

I'm reminded that Winston Churchill, in his memoirs, would speak of the fact that he would spend two weeks, at the turn of this century, preparing a speech, and that was when he was in opposition. It's not a luxury that anybody in opposition or indeed the government has today. I certainly know from my time in opposition that I didn't have very much time to prepare speeches. I would get the briefing notes and I would go through them and speak on the fly, as indeed we're supposed to do in this place.


At times I've heard cries from all sides of the floor that people shouldn't be speaking with formal speeches, and I agree with that. But one of the problems we face is that we keep on asking members of all parties to do more and more and more. At times there isn't a great deal of sympathy from the public, and frankly I don't seek that sympathy. But I do think among ourselves we've got to recognize that we do have to streamline the way government works.

We have come forward with a proposal which will allow for smaller committees. I've noticed on many occasions that when the opposition have called for quorum in committees --

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sure the government whip would agree with me that it's very important that the members of his own caucus listen to the wise advice, according to him, that he's giving right now. I don't believe we have a quorum in the House. Could you see if there is a quorum, Mr Speaker, and if there isn't, perhaps more government members could be called in so they could listen to their chief whip.

The Acting Speaker: Could you see if there's a quorum? He's lonely.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is present, Speaker.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Is there any requirement in the standing orders which says there has to be more than one single Liberal in the House? I was wondering if you could tell me that.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr Turnbull: I think my colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands has made perfectly well the point I was about to make, that in many cases, while there are sufficient government members on the committee or in the House, they are not obliged to have very many people here, and on occasions have nobody here, but of course we cannot mention who those people would be, because that would be inappropriate.

That is the underlying problem, that if you require quorum and you have such the situation that occurred a few years ago, when I was about to present my private member's bill and one of the Liberals came over and said, "I don't think the government," who at the time were the NDP, "can muster quorum" -- and indeed they couldn't muster quorum and that day was lost. I remember the wringing of hands among the NDP when that happened. Their cry at that time was, "This is disgraceful. The opposition are playing games. This has cost the taxpayer," fill in the number, whatever it was. The whole problem is that no matter who is the opposition, these games do tend to be played the way governments work today, and they don't work very well.

We have to move forward; we have to find new ways of streamlining government. We have to have smaller numbers to represent quorum, but we want quality. We want the people who are on the committees and are in the Legislature to be listening attentively to those people who are coming forward with their testimony and to be able to reflect on it. There has been no demonstration that by increasing the size of the committees, we have increased the quality of deliberation.

What we're doing is reducing the size of the committees to nine members. That will be the Chair, five government members, two Liberal members and one from the third party, the NDP.

We are also recognizing that politics are changing today to the extent that we now have elected an independent member for the first time in decades in this House. It was not appropriate under the old rules that anybody who was elected as an independent would be allowed to sit on a committee. That seems to me to be intuitively undemocratic, that those people that the independent member represented -- and they had decided they wanted an independent member -- should not be entitled to have their member sitting on a committee. So we are also righting that injustice. In that case where an independent member sits, there will be 10 members on the committee, to maintain the balance which was carefully worked out.

I've always been disappointed at the fact that we have had a situation under this government where we've gone on the road sometimes with committees when the opposition have given names as to who's travelling, and tickets have been bought, and then those people haven't shown up. It has cost the taxpayers money for the tickets, and the government certainly would have been prepared to reduce the number of people travelling to save the cost, had they been aware that the opposition weren't going to bring those people.

We have the rather silly situation which still exists, which hopefully we can address in the future, that you can call quorum calls on the road or make points of order which are not relevant to listening to what the public are saying. These are the kinds of matters we hope will be rectified in future changes to the House rules.

During the negotiations on the changes to the House rules, there was a commitment made by our government that we would have an ongoing process where we would have a committee that would look at the rules from the point of view of all parties and all the outside parties who are interested in the way Parliament works, and we would also examine the experience of other administrations in Canada and around the world so we can move to what we're speaking about in all other areas of government, that area of best practices. Best practices means there is value for the taxpayer. That's what we've got to achieve.

In the next Parliament, as a result of the commitment that we made before the last election and that we are now delivering on, we're reducing the number of seats in this Parliament so we have the same number of provincial seats as federal seats, which will save the taxpayers by having only one boundary commission, and all the expense that goes along with that division every 10 years. We're reducing the number of seats in this Parliament by 21%.

I remember about a year before the last election, when our leader, Mike Harris, went to AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and said that he intended to reduce the number of politicians at the provincial level and he intended to streamline the provincial level of government. and he expected nothing less of municipal politicians. He got a somewhat mixed reception to that message, because they were applauding when he was saying he was going to reduce the size of the provincial government, but when it came to the municipal politicians' bailiwick, the idea of saving there, that was holy ground that he was not supposed to tread on.

We were up front from the very beginning: We are going to streamline and reduce the cost of government so the taxpayers can have a reasonable shake in this province. That's going to mean that we will be competitive and we will create jobs, which at the end of the day is what everybody should be interested in, so our children and our grandchildren have a future. That's what all the efficiencies are about, to make us the most attractive place in North America, maybe in the world, to invest and to live and to grow.

That's part of the process as we move forward with a more streamlined committee structure.

We in fact agreed during the motion to change the House rules to pass a separate motion incorporating changes that the NDP wanted. We did and it was rather curious to see they voted against the changes which we had agreed to pass for them. The government voted positively on the changes that they wanted and they voted against it. I suppose that goes back to Winston Churchill's adage: "When you're in opposition, you oppose." They certainly did.


Mr Gerretsen: That's nonsense.

Mr Turnbull: I'm hearing from the member for Kingston and The Islands that that's nonsense. It is absolutely correct. There were two motions. We passed the House rule changes, which we had proposed and which we had amended after consultation with the opposition parties, and then immediately following we passed another motion with changes to the House rules which would piggyback on the ones that we had just passed but it was a separate motion, and in fact the NDP voted against it. I found it at least passing strange.

I will conclude debate now, but just move on by saying that I think this process is well under way, the taxpayers are well served and in fact the constituents are going to be well served by having more availability of their members as a result of our move today.

Mr Baird: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to add a few comments to the record on the issue of committee membership.

Let me first acknowledge that a good number of members in this House are prepared to make some sacrifices. I can speak of two. Myself and the member for Algoma voluntarily agreed to give up one of our committee assignments for the common good. That just showed that we were prepared to do more with less and the savings were going to start with the member for Algoma and myself. I had the privilege to sit on two committees and I offered up one of my committee responsibilities in this downsizing, to say that if there were going to be reductions, I wanted them to start with me.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to reduce you too.

Mr Baird: The member for Algoma talks about reductions. I am the first member to go through a 20% reduction in this House.

When we look at the number of committees in various parliaments in Canada, certainly the Ontario Parliament has one of the largest committee structures per capita in terms of members. The House of Commons has 19 committees, but it of course has more than 300 members. British Columbia and Alberta, in fact, have no formal committees; they'll set up a select committee --

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): None.

Mr Baird: None, the member for Scarborough Centre said. They'll set up a select committee from time to time when they need to. In Quebec, where they have 125 MNAs, they have 10 committees and, interestingly enough, they only have 10 members on each committee, so we'll be very close to Quebec, instead of the extraordinarily large 14-member committees that we had. In Nova Scotia, with 52 MLAs, they have 10 committees with nine members. We'll just simply be following the Nova Scotia example. In New Brunswick, with 48 MLAs, they have eight committees with eight to 12 members, and we'll be the same as well. In Saskatchewan, they have 41 MLAs and six committees with nine members. We'll simply be adopting the practice of Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. That's important to remember.

One thing that's also important to note in these discussions is that standing order 126 allows any member whatsoever, whether it's the member for Dovercourt or the member for Niagara Falls, to fully participate in a committee, with the exception of voting or moving a motion. I know from time to time we'll see members come in to represent their constituents' views on a committee, even though they're not a member. I know I've attended committees to represent my constituents on an issue of local concern and I know all members will continue to do that when an issue comes up that affects their constituencies.

The committees would now, according to the standing orders, have nine members, with the exception, in this motion, of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly. In the motion presented by the government House leader, he has moved that Mr North be added to the membership of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.

Indeed when this motion is passed, the member for Elgin will be, I believe, the first independent member to ever have the opportunity to sit on a committee. That is something that I fought very hard for. Mr North came forward with some suggestions to the draft proposals for changing the standing orders and said he wanted to be on a committee. There wasn't any opposition whatsoever on this side of the House to allowing the member for Elgin to sit on a committee. In fact, I personally championed the issue to allow him to be able to fully represent his constituents in Elgin. That's very important.

I think it's also important to note the sheer numbers of hours committees have sat in this Parliament. I thought we could compare a year in each of the last parliaments to see how this Parliament stacks up in terms of committee time. If we were to compare 1996, the last full calendar year in this Parliament, to the last two full calendar years under our friends the New Democrats and under the Liberals and we could see how they would --


Mr Baird: The member for Niagara Falls asked how they filled up. In 1989, under the Liberal government, committees sat for a total of 529 hours and 41 minutes. Under the New Democratic Party, my friends opposite will be interested to know, they of course built on and improved the Liberal record and went to 681 hours and 41 minutes. The Conservative government this Parliament has been even more consultative, wanting to travel across the province and listen to the good folks around Ontario. We have travelled and heard testimony here at Queen's Park for 720 hours and 11 minutes. That's a considerable number of hours.


Mr Baird: The member for Dovercourt asks how much it cost us to travel. I've got that information right here, he'll be interested to know. I wish he had asked how much things cost when he was a minister. Perhaps we would have all been in better shape.

In consulting with the Clerk's office, the average cost of a 14-member committee to travel this province is approximately $8,000 a day. I think it's an expense well worth paying, but it's a concern that when we go and tickets have been purchased, a bus has been chartered -- the staff here at the Legislative Assembly, with frugality in mind, will charter a bus and then it's not full because some members aren't able to come because they have two committees sitting at the same time. This smaller, more streamlined committee membership will ensure that taxpayers get the best bang for the buck. That is something that's extremely important.

This motion contains contributions from not only the government House leader but also from the House leader for the official opposition and our good friend the House leader from the third party, the member for Algoma. It will allow a new committee structure to come into place and allow us to continue to be able to consult with the people of Ontario, not just here at Queen's Park but indeed around the province.

I would report one thing. Earlier today I was at an exhibition with Newbridge Networks. They're a high-tech firm here in Ontario that works primarily out of Ottawa-Carleton. They have a whole host of solutions that they're using in terms of telecommunications. They work with universities, schools, hospitals and municipalities. They've even been working in terms of setting up network infrastructure for health care in northeastern Ontario, where they've been working with the Sudbury Regional Hospital Corp.

With all of this high technology developed and researched right here in Ontario and in my home community of Nepean and Kanata, perhaps we could even look into other ways to expand the ability of committees here in this place, to explore things like teleconferencing and be able to hear from witnesses who traditionally we haven't been able to hear from. That would be extremely important. That would certainly be interesting.

Newbridge Networks is talking about some exciting things that they're able to work with, and with the Ottawa Heart Institute and the Sudbury Regional Hospital Corp and with the London Health Sciences Centre, to try and expand things in the north. We could perhaps go even further, to be able to visit more places that we haven't traditionally been able to get to, particularly in northern Ontario, wanting to hear the good folks up there. That would be extremely important. We could also hear from folks in Niagara Falls and Bobcaygeon, we could hear from folks in Mississauga, in Chatham, in Wawa and Port Colborne and Thessalon.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Emo.

Mr Baird: Emo, the member for High Park-Swansea says.

This motion is clearly one which merits support, and it is an interesting fact to note that the three party House leaders have put these names in and to note that the member for Algoma was even prepared to give up one of his own committee assignments for the common good, to streamline the government. I commend the member for Algoma for that. The saving started with him at the House leader's office. He was prepared to lead by example over at his caucus there, as I know I was pleased to volunteer one of my committee assignments to help contribute to a more streamlined system here.


The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions? Further debate?

Mr Gerretsen: Comments and questions?

The Acting Speaker: There were no comments or questions, so now I'm in debate.

Mr Gerretsen: It was always my understanding there were no comments and questions while a motion was being debated. Be that as it may, I would like to share my time with the member from Scarborough North.

I have to start off by saying that to listen to the government members speak, you would think this was just the best thing that has ever come along. Let me tell you what you could do, and this is just a preamble. Many of us have only been here for two years, having been elected on June 8, 1995, and most of us who are from either a municipal or a school board background initially, and perhaps still so, are somewhat perturbed and amazed at the committee structure and the public consultation that it has with people. It has always seemed to me, and I know I've brought this up at committee a number of times, that the kind of consultation we do here at the committee level is not exactly the best for anyone concerned.

It seems to me, and it seemed to me two years ago as well when we first got involved with the committees, that you don't start the public consultation process after each party has already staked out its position on a particular bill, in other words, after second reading. Usually at second reading, we have a debate that probably goes on for two or three days and may last seven, eight, nine hours in total, and afterwards everybody pretty well knows where the different parties stand on a particular bill. It's at that point in time that we give the subject matter to a committee and we say, "Now find out how the general public feels about it."

I recognize the fact that the member for Nepean has done some homework in finding out what it costs to staff a committee, how much it costs to go on the road, but I wonder if he has also done a study into the aspect of how many meaningful -- I'm talking about meaningful -- amendments have been made to pieces of legislation as a result of the 720 hours that various committees have been on the road during the past two years.

I think the general public ought to be aware of the fact that this must be one of the only organizations that I know of where you go out for public debate after you have already made up your mind what you're going to do in a particular area. If you did this at the local level, if, for example, a town council decided that it was going to rezone a piece of property to commercial or to high-density residential or whatever, and then you went through the planning board route and actually had some public consultation about that and found out how the general public felt about it, you would probably be hauled into court as having prejudged something. To my way of thinking, this is much the same way.

If we really want to do something meaningful about public consultation, then I think it would be to the betterment of all concerned here, not just the government of the day -- governments of the day do change -- but on behalf of all three parties and the independent member here, to try to come up with a system whereby we go out for some meaningful public consultation before a law is written in its entirety and before parties have staked out their positions on a law as it is presented here on a day-to-day basis, because we all know --


Mr Gerretsen: Now you're all disagreeing, or maybe some people are agreeing with what I'm saying, but I know that many members on all sides of the House that I have had an opportunity to discuss this with over the last couple of years agree with me on a one-to-one basis. They all say, yes, this is not the way to go about it. The general public, at least those people who make representations to us on an ongoing basis -- there are some organizations that we all know about that seem to be here all the time on the same kinds of bills -- are very much aware of that as well. They basically say: "What's the use? Aren't we just making it look good to the general public so we can say, `We now have had public consultation,' and then pass at third reading a law the way it was written in the first place in any event?"

Before we all think that this is such a wonderful new idea, let's go right back to the root of the problem and let's take a look at whether the consultative process that we are involved in is meaningful at all.

Hon Mr Sampson: Are you splitting your time?

Mr Gerretsen: Yes. I have already split my time, and the member for Scarborough North undoubtedly will have his comments as well.

The other thing that is interesting is that the government members have made the point that by going from 14 members on a committee to nine members we are saving the public money because more members, instead of being on the road with a committee, can now be in their own ridings. I believe the chief whip said it allows members to be at home more often.

I suppose if you follow that argument up to its logical commission, why don't we have committees of three or four travelling around so that another five members could be home as well? It totally negates the fact that presumably at these hearings you are there to learn something and hopefully make some meaningful changes to the legislation. I can only assume that one of the reasons that argument is not brought up is that there is general agreement with me that sometimes it's understood by the government that whatever the public process is, the changes that are going to be made to a particular law are not going to be meaningful.

Wouldn't it be nice at some point in time for a government, whichever government -- hopefully this government has courage enough to do it -- to give a committee a number of principles that it wants enacted in a piece of legislation, give that committee some legislative draftspeople and say, "Now do some real meaningful consultation out there with the general public, and then you collectively draw up a bill which would be in the best interests not of a particular party in power here but in the best interests of the people of Ontario"?

I think you would get in the final result a much better bill than a bill that is introduced here when a minister of the crown feels that from the moment it's introduced he or she will have to defend that bill to every last semicolon, every last comma and every last subparagraph. I'm just wondering if we wouldn't end up with a better result if we made the consultative process truly consultative, set up the committee on the basis that the government will have a majority so that they're always going to get their way eventually, but it seems to me that the members of the committee will be a lot more amenable to suggested changes if they haven't really staked out their position or their government's position on a matter contained in that bill.

That's just as a general comment, because I think that many on all sides of the House feel that way, at least from my conversations with them, and just because we have always done it this way or we have done it this way over the last 30 or 40 years doesn't necessarily mean that we can't look at changes to make the whole public consultative process a lot more meaningful. I don't think saying, "We'll have nine members instead of 14," or "We'll have 12 instead of 10," is meaningful enough. If you really believe that the process is meaningful, why are you reducing the number? Why are only nine members of the House to get the various arguments on a particular bill rather than more members?

The other argument, and I know you will give us some latitude to discuss the rule changes in general, particularly since the chief government whip talked about this as well when he talked about this government believing in greater efficiency. I give them credit for that. That means in effect that we want fewer politicians, that the people out there want fewer politicians.


I'll tell you, I for one am not convinced of that at all. We will still have to wait to see what's going to happen here in Metro Toronto once the megacity starts. The metropolitan local representation has been reduced by I believe about half, from 108 members to something like 55 members. In effect, what has been created is a mini-Parliament. Let's see if that works better than the individual councils that may have had anywhere from seven to 20 members on them. I'm not so sure it will, because if there's one thing to be said for this place with the number of people we have, it is that most of the time we do have some party discipline here.

I'm not so sure how this organization would function if you had 138, or in the case of Metro Toronto 58, different people, without any party affiliation to anybody, coming into a place to try to come up with some sort of collective framework on particular laws. That really remains to be seen. You can build consensus among maybe seven to 20 people, but how you're going to do that with the 58 members they're going to have here in Metro Toronto I'm not all that sure about.

I'm not just talking about the local politicians who will be elected here in Metro Toronto; it's happening all over the province. In my own area of Kingston, for example, a new amalgamated city is going to start as of January 1 and in effect the total municipal representation for the immediate Kingston area is going to be reduced from something like 30 to about 15 or 16.

You could say, "Aren't you saving the salaries of those additional 15 people?" I'll tell you, those 15 people are probably making less than $10,000 apiece, and yes, $150,000 in savings is $150,000 in savings, and that aspect of it should be applauded. But to make the general public think that somehow by reducing the number of politicians you're saving piles of money in the public purse -- on a budget in my particular case of well over $200 million, you're saving $150,000, but now you've got half the local representation. I'm not so sure whether that's worth it.

The moment you have fewer local politicians or the moment you have fewer provincial politicians or even the moment you have fewer federal politicians, you're going to get less representation from that particular area. Your member is going to be less accessible. When you have to look after 100,000 people rather than 60,000 people, you are going to be less accessible to the general public.

I think all of us at least can agree on the fact that most politicians work hard at their jobs and try to do the best job, irrespective of party. I'll be the first to admit that, and that's certainly been my experience over the 25 years I've been involved in public life.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm most disappointed that the government members seem to have taken the whip's comments seriously and have gone home to their ridings to be accessible to constituents. I hope you would check to see if there's a quorum present.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check to see if there's a quorum present, please?

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I'm glad so many members came back into the House to take part in this debate.

In any event, that is only part of the problem we're dealing with here today. The other thing that's very interesting is that in our caucus's case, we went down from three members per committee to two members per committee. That basically means there are some members of our caucus --


Mr Wildman: On second thought, I wish he hadn't come back.

Mr Gerretsen: As I stated, in our case the number of members on the committee has been reduced from three to two, and basically that means that six members in our caucus will no longer be able to serve on committees.

Mr Hastings: Oh.

Mr Gerretsen: I hear the groans and the moans there, but they're the people who are saying that these committees are so important. In effect what they have done is denied our membership the right to have those six voting members of this assembly be part of a particular committee. I would imagine that in the case of the third party it's even worse, because there are only 10 committees and they've got one member per committee, so at least five of their members will not be members of a committee. I know members in my caucus are deeply disappointed with that, because everybody wants to be on at least one committee.

The other thing that's of even greater importance in these rule changes is what has happened to question period. Question period is the most important hour for the opposition. It is the time when the opposition can try to hold the government accountable for its actions. In case the members of the government don't believe me, just look at standing order 1, which states: "The purpose of these standing orders is to ensure that proceedings are conducted in a manner that respects the democratic rights of members...to hold the government accountable for its policies." It has been traditional in every Parliament I know of that there's a question period in each sessional day.

You know what has happened. As a result of the rule changes, when we sit at night it's regarded as another sessional day, but it's the first sessional day in the history of this Parliament for the number of years that it's been here -- I'm sure some of the historians can tell me how long this Parliament has sat, but I'm sure it's been here for at least 150 years or so. For the first time, a sessional day shall not include a question period.

The other issue that was brought up earlier this week really compounds it even more. You may recall there is a rule change that in effect states that if by 4 o'clock on a given day orders of the day have not started, question period will cease. If you give me a minute, I will get that for you so you can follow this as well. Let me see. I hope I can find it quickly.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Take your time.

Mr Gerretsen: I don't want to take too much time.

Question period will finish at 4 o'clock. I am sure the main purpose of that, as far as the government was concerned, was to avoid a situation where the opposition parties, for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, tried to stall the proceedings in the House, so we couldn't stall it to such a time that there would be no opportunity to call for orders of the day and therefore a sessional day would be lost.

Quite frankly, that's what we were thinking as well. I don't want to be presumptuous as to what the NDP was thinking, but I'm sure they thought the same thing. The reason why it was put in there was to make sure a sessional day was held on that day.

I am also sure that nobody in the heights of their imagination envisioned a situation where the government could do the opposition out of a question period by stalling and bringing motions that were ruled out of order. That happened this week. Your House leader tried to bring in the same motion that we're debating here today. He felt it was not a substantive motion. He brought it forward and the Speaker ruled, after representations from all parties here and after deliberating on the matter for a while, that the government House leader was wrong in trying to bring this motion forward as a matter of just straight procedure and not of substance. He was wrong. Without giving notice etc, he was held to be wrong, and in effect the opposition was penalized for that, because our question period was shortened to only 45 minutes.

To my way of thinking, that is the utmost abuse of process and the utmost abuse of the standing orders.


Hon Mr Sampson: You could have asked that point to be considered after question period.

Mr Gerretsen: It is your House leader, sir. It is the government House leader who brought this matter forward. To my way of thinking, it is another clear indication of the contempt this government has for this particular place. Sure, you can laugh about it all you want, but the bottom line is that it was your motion that held up the procedures in this House. The Speaker agreed with the position that the opposition had taken on the issue and basically said, "Yes, this is a substantive matter; notice has to be given," but as a result of all that, question period was reduced to 45 minutes.

Far be it from me to suggest that you would ever attempt to do this again in the future, but I can tell you, there will be some future government that will use that tactic over and over again just to get rid of question period. Sure, you could say, "What's one question period?" You've got to remember that from the opposition's viewpoint, we are elected to make sure the government is accountable for the actions it takes on a day-to-day basis. This is our opportunity to publicly raise those issues and those questions about which the general public has concerns. The moment you start fooling around with that, the moment you start limiting that, whether purposefully or otherwise, you are tampering with a democratic tradition which is as much a part of a sessional day, namely, question period, as anything else.

I hope your government House leader, a man for whom I have a lot of respect, will take this matter back under consideration because I don't think it's to anybody's advantage. Friends, you may be sitting on this side of the House one day too; you never know what may happen sooner or later. I don't think it was anybody's intent that the government can take those kinds of actions and thereby limit the question period opportunity of the opposition.

Mr Curling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't know if you've noticed the important points that the member for Kingston and The Islands is making. They are some very important points and I would hope there are enough members in the House to listen to all of these points. In other words, there is no quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker: That is a point of order. Would you check whether there is a quorum present, please.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: I have two announcements I have to get in. Pursuant to standing order 37(a), the member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Premier concerning the northern genetics program. This will be debated at 6 o'clock tonight.

The other is, I'm going to be asking the member for Kingston and The Islands to continue in a moment and I just wanted him to be aware that it's motion 36 that is under debate.

Mr Gerretsen: I am talking about the motion that's before us, in the same way that the chief government whip was talking about the motion before us when he talked about the aspect that, as far as he was concerned, fewer politicians are better for the system. I don't know what that has to do with this particular motion either, other than the fact that it dealt with something he had promised during the election campaign at some point in time in the past.

It is important to realize that question period is important to members of the opposition and any attempt by anyone to deviate from that or take away from that I don't think does the system any good in the long run.

With respect to the independent member -- and I'm only bringing it up because the government members talked about this. I totally agree that an independent member should be a full-fledged member of this House. I don't think there is anybody who disagrees with that. Sure, that individual should sit on a committee, but what's interesting is that he is now guaranteed a position on a committee, whereas we, in a caucus of 31, are only guaranteed 25 positions on committees when you take the Vice-Chair and the Chair positions into account. Six members in my caucus don't have the right to sit on a committee. They have the right to be there and the right to take part in the discussion, but they cannot vote. Only two members can vote. With respect to the NDP it's even worse, I would imagine, because they've got 15 members. There are only 10 committees and they are only entitled to one position on each committee.

The other thing that's very interesting in the rule changes is that not only has the government attacked the democratic rules that were set out in the previous standing orders but they've even attacked the independence of the Speaker. I hope it's nothing personal against the excellent Speaker that we have today. Certainly in talking to many people throughout the province, irrespective of political parties, they are all impressed with the Speaker.

It's very interesting that there was one of these small changes made to standing order 10. I'll just read what it says now. It says: "Whenever the House stands adjourned, if the government advises the Speaker that the public interest requires the House to meet at an earlier time, the Speaker shall give notice that the House shall meet at such time...."

What did that rule say before? It said: "Whenever the House stands adjourned, if it appears to the Speaker, on the advice of the government, that the public interest requires the House to meet at an earlier time, the Speaker may give notice" to the House. In other words, at one time, before these new rules were implemented, it was up to the Speaker to determine whether or not an emergency situation or a special-interest situation existed that required the House to deal with that matter. Now with the new rules, that's been taken over by the government. When the government decides it wants to meet, the Speaker has to call the House back into session.

I'm wondering, quite frankly, why. Why is the independence of the Speaker, which as far as I know has not been abused in this House -- no examples were given during that wide-ranging debate about when it may have been abused at all in this House. Why are they changing that? Is it because they don't trust the Speaker to make the right kind of decision when such a situation emerges?

My sole point in bringing this up is that it's another attempt where the government of the day is not only trying to take complete control of its function, which is to govern, but also to try to control this House and indeed the officers of the House. The Speaker of course is the most important officer in this House.

The other issue the government House leader talked about was the length of debate. He talks about his municipal experience when he states: "If it isn't worth saying in 10 or 20 minutes at the municipal level, there is a feeling that it probably isn't worth saying. Whatever you wanted to say could be said during that period of time." To a certain extent that's true at the local level, but what he very conveniently forgets is that at the local level, at least in any council that I've been involved with, a member was allowed to speak as often as he or she wanted on a particular matter. Here, on any matter that comes before this body, a member is only allowed to speak once at each reading stage or during a motion. So there is quite a difference there.

The other thing you've got to keep in mind is that from the opposition's viewpoint, it's our function to question what the government is doing. It's our function to suggest changes to pieces of legislation etc. We need negotiating tactics; we need items to negotiate with.

The fact that we've got 31 members in our caucus means that on any given bill you could theoretically, under the old rules, have debate of up to 16 hours: a half-hour each for 30 members and an hour and a half for the 31st member, so that would be 16 hours.


What the new rules do, by limiting debate for the leadoff speaker to 60 minutes and 20 minutes thereafter, and after seven hours of debate to 10 minutes per member, in effect limit it to something like -- I figured it out the other day -- in our case seven or eight hours. So you've reduced it by more than half.

What does that really mean? Does any bill ever really take 21 hours of debate here? Obviously not. Very few items have actually taken that length of time. But you've taken away the negotiating power of the opposition. If you sit smugly in government, you say: "That's a good thing. We were elected with a 45% majority vote in the province" -- of course 45% isn't a majority, but that's beside the point -- "and therefore we can do what we want over the next four years." All I can tell you is that in the long run, democracy is not well served by that.

I'm glad so many members are back in the House to take part in this debate. Obviously, some of the comments that have been made have provoked some animosity or uncomfortable feelings in the members of the government, and I wish that were more often the case. Certainly the perception out there of an awful lot of people is that this government likes to steamroll along and make changes for the sake of making changes, likes to bully its way through.

For example, we heard I believe the Minister of Education today say, "We have to bring some changes" to one of the education acts. I say to him, why didn't you write the act better the first time around? The same thing happened to the megacity bill; we had a second megacity bill. Why? Why couldn't they bring it in the first time around?

Hon Mr Sampson: How come you didn't bring the amendment in?

Mr Gerretsen: It's nice to see the minister without portfolio getting so actively involved in this debate. I look forward to hearing from him.

In the bill we discussed just before this, you may recall that the government House leader said, "Under these new rules, we hear from more members." On that particular bill, just for your information, I believe one member from the government spoke -- the parliamentary assistant -- two members from the Liberal caucus, and there may have been two from the third-party caucus. But nobody else spoke on the government side. Why didn't they speak up about this? There's more opportunity for them to debate now. Why didn't they debate?

Mr Curling: We don't hear a word from them. They've been whipped into shape, to keep their mouths shut.

Mr Gerretsen: I agree with you, that they have been whipped into shape. This has nothing to do with whether more members can get up and say anything. It's well known in this House that most of the 90-minute opening speeches that used to be made by the members in our caucus, anyway, were split between two or three members. That practice has been followed for some time.

Just to wrap up my portion of this debate before I turn it over to my learned colleague from Scarborough North, by doing this in effect you have denied some members of the opposition caucuses from being part of the committee structure. By having two members of the official opposition and one member of the third party on each committee, there aren't enough spots for each member of the caucuses to be on a committee.

If the committees are as meaningful as the government members would like you to believe, in effect they have been denied their democratic right to freely take part in those committee hearings and vote on matters that come before them, whereas the independent member has basically been guaranteed that right, because he can sit on one committee.

I would also, in all seriousness, ask the government House leader to take a look at the whole notion of question period. That is the fundamental right of the opposition, that each sessional day contains a question period. He has already taken it away from the night sittings, and now there's a good possibility that the time for question period may be seriously shortened as a result of the government's own actions.

It's ironic that the first time that concept has ever been tested was a day on which the government itself brought forth a motion, with which the Speaker didn't agree, but as a result of the representations made by all sides and the time the Speaker took to deliberate on the matter, as he certainly has every right to do, it was the government's own motion that denied our ability on that particular day to get in a full question period.

Even though that by itself, to a lot of people who may be watching this out there, may not be all that significant, it is another erosion of the democratic rights we enjoy in this Parliament. Anyone, irrespective of party, who would deny that I would ask again to examine within themselves whether they truly believe in the democratic principles and rights of this House. After all, we were not just elected to government or to opposition, to run ministries or to cut ribbons or whatever. Our primary function, when we were elected, was to debate freely the matters that come before this House in this chamber. The moment you start to tamper with that, you tamper with the fundamental rights that we as members of Parliament, having been duly elected by the citizens of Ontario, enjoy.

With that, I will turn it over to the member for Scarborough North.

Mr Curling: I just want to take a few moments to commend my colleague from Kingston and The Islands for the excellent presentation he made, the very cogent points he pointed out to the government. Mr Speaker, while I'm very optimistic about your listening ability and intelligence, I'm not quite that optimistic about the government taking in some of these very important points that the member for Kingston and The Islands put forward. If the government had listened to even five minutes of what he said, there was enough there for them to take a second look at what they're doing.

What we are debating is all these changes to the committees. As you know, Mr Speaker -- you were here -- this government sneakily tried to put forward these changes as just an ordinary, routine motion. The member for Beaches-Woodbine got up, and our House leader also, Mr Bradley from St Catharines, and pointed out that this is not a routine matter; rather, a very substantive motion to make these changes.

The reason I point that out at this time is again to indicate the manner this government operates in. It's sort of a bully way, pushing things through without any substantive discussion. They want to almost insult the intelligence of the opposition that we would not have seen that. Of course we saw that. Readily, we saw this government as usual trying to ram its way through, thinking we would just pass it by.

You, Mr Speaker, as an individual, see that the routine procedures should be handled in the proper way and that the orders within the House be conducted in the proper way so that the opposition can have their participation and make democracy work. Because if we allow this government to continue the way they are, we'll be obsolete. They just wish the opposition would go away and they could get on to do their bully approach to things.


We were saying this all along. We said it from the time they came into power, the manner in which they behaved. As a matter of fact, many times, even when questions are asked of the minister, the opposition can't even get an opportunity to answer. The ministers are heckling the basic respect of the opposition to put their questions forward. So, as a matter of fact, it's a matter of respect in which they have done so.

What is the motivation, I would say, Mr Speaker -- and maybe you have had the opportunity to ask that question -- behind all these changes? First, they feel, "If we bring all these changes about, not only will we confuse the opposition, but we'll confuse the masses out there," the people they were given the mandate to govern. "They will be so confused they wouldn't know what's happening." Not at all. We have pointed out from time to time how they try to push things through without the proper procedure.

When they realized they couldn't get through it in that manner, they said: "You know what? We will change the rules so we can ram our own things through. We'll change it so we can get our own way." Even with that, as you recall, Mr Speaker, they changed the rules. They would say: "We want to get the business on as fast as possible. We'll extend the times when we want it. We will take one day and call it two days. We will make sure that we don't waste time to be accountable on the question period. We will shorten it in our own little way." And they made all those changes.

They will limit the time that members will speak and they will limit the number of members who will serve on a committee. They said, "Well, if we can shut them down enough" -- and you would feel, Mr Speaker, with the strong mandate they have, the number of members who have been elected to this government, that they would speak very often. I think there's only one muscle within the heads of those backbenchers: up and down. They just keep on saying yes to everything that the government ministers have said. No contribution whatsoever on behalf of the constituents in what they were elected to do. All they do is bow their heads and say yes, and when the time comes to speak we hear none of them speaking, but we hear them heckling when we make our own contributions. But we are not at all offended or put off by the heckling and the pushes and the smart comments made by them.

Committees have changed. They have tried to confuse the members of the opposition and tried to confuse the people. But what the people have said to you -- the people are saying you're becoming pushy, the people have said that you are a bully and you will not push and hurry democracy. They want to understand the process, and the parliamentary committees are part of the way to understand some of the legislation that is going through the House.

That is why we form committees; that is why we spread around in the province to articulate, to emphasize, to point out what this legislation will be doing for them. But this government doesn't want that. The first thing they say is that those who come before committees are interest groups. Yes, they are, but they say these are special interest groups and they should be discarded. The Premier himself, the first citizen of this province, called them special interest groups and said they should be ignored.


Mr Curling: Of course, if you forget, and so quickly the backbenchers on the government side forget that. They say, "Who said that?" Your Premier said that. He said they are special interest groups; tenants are special interest groups looking after their own interests. But somehow, when they change the rules, looking after their own interests, the government's interests, they are not considered a special interest group.

The people have seen the light. The people have seen right through you, that you could change committees, you could reduce members on the committee. Whatever you do, they know that your approach is a dictatorial, a bully, a pushy way. Yes, they say that in this wonderful province we have we can make it better, we can make sure that everyone is served and given all the things that are rightfully theirs, so to speak. So what they did, they elected you to do so, and what you've done is you have abused those powers. They are not confused at all about the way that you have behaved.

You tend to dominate. You want to make changes so you can dominate the process, and this will not happen. Even my good friend the Minister of Education, who I know is quite honourable and a very respected man whom I knew long before he came into politics, has been caught up in all of this dominance and this bully approach to things. Of course my prayers are with him and some of the teachers who are out there saying, "Take your time so we can go to committee and look at this legislation."

Today, when the minister himself came into the House, we thought he would have introduced something and let us hear some debate. No statements in the House whatsoever. As a matter of fact, it was the same minister who said, "We must create a crisis. We've got to create a crisis if there's none," and, by golly, we have found out today that the crisis at hand is the government itself. They are in crisis, so they dominate and they try to confuse.

What they're trying to do is, very much so, they've come home to deprive the members who are rightfully elected to participate and to reduce them on this committee, to say that what we should have is not nine members, but six, because we want to send those individuals, the three they feel are surplus on that committee out into the community, out in their constituencies to do their job.

Let me tell you this. I have been out there, Mr Speaker, and you know that. The people out there haven't seen them. They are scared to face the people. Even though you'll have freed-up time to go out there, yes, go and face those people you have shown your bully and dominance role in governing. They want to speak to you. Yes, the teachers want to speak to you.

You know very well how important a committee is. I would have hoped that when they make changes to committees, we will start seeing ministers presenting their bills and defending their bills. In committees I quite often can't find the minister out there defending his or her own bill. They don't. I recall when I was Minister of Housing and going through the rent control bit, I was at every committee hearing, every single one, facing the people, listening, because that's what it's all about. What democracy is all about is consultation so that they can hear what impact and what difference this law makes to them. Legislation is written in rather confusing language and people like to speak in layman terms to understand what it's all about.

What they have done is they have tried to limit representation there -- limit that; in other words, limit democracy -- to make sure that we don't get so many different views at all because they have already made up their minds. Sometimes before they even present the bill properly and say it is a perfect bill, hundreds of amendments are made before. They will come in and defend it as strongly as possible, and when we point this out to them, they will say, "No way."

But as I went out to a couple of committees since this government has been around, the people have told them: "Take another closer look at this because you're moving too fast. We want to understand that." You're telling them: "We have no time for you to understand this. We have the power. We will push our way through this and we don't care what you think out there." Then they feel if they hurry this process, it will help them to say, "Look what we have done." Then they come into the House and of course they brag: "Look how much we have done to the deficit. Look what we have done. Look how much money we have saved."


Mr Curling: I pause for that applause, because it's at the expense of the poor, at the expense of people on welfare who have been cut and can't even pay their rent that the government is paying this off on the backs of the poor, and they're applauding. Of course it would be the Conservative Party who would say, "I will applaud it because I will take away the money from the poor and then I will pay down the deficit itself on that." It is this government itself that has come in here many days and spoken so confidently and with great praise about what they have done to those who are most vulnerable in society and need the help.


I recall when employment equity of course, when those who had no access, or difficult access, to work, who were qualified, who were not able to have access to the workplace for many, many reasons -- this government cut that immediately because, they said, "We can save money to pay down the deficit." But in a committee hearing -- they didn't want to put that in the legislation and take it out to let the people hear that. Oh, no. What they will do, they will limit the time and limit the individuals who will participate.

This government applauds every time we can find money on the backs of the poor to give it to the rich and say, "Look what we have done," at a time when we have seen that banks are making profits beyond any kind of a history they would ever think about, the largest profits ever; at a time when the economy, they say, is booming, but the poor are getting poorer, because the government is also making sure that this happens.

We must emphasize and insist on public input, regardless of what you've done. But there is hope, as I have always felt. If this government, this Conservative Harris government, could postpone the election in two years' time, they would. They would gladly do that, because what happens? Democracy is going to get in the way of them to bully and rule. They would be gladly saying to themselves, "We have a mandate to govern," but they seem to have a mandate much more to rule, to rule and roll the bulldozer over those who are so poor and have no representation.

What have they done now? Limit that representation in every form that they can see. Limit the representation when we can come and ask them to be accountable in the House here by questions we put to them that have been put to us by the people to say, "Make the government be accountable for that."

What they have done is they have said, "If it's an hour for question period, we should find a rather creative way of reducing that time," and we have seen that of course. That was reduced one time this week to 45 minutes from 60 minutes in the House.

But we will make you accountable and we're going to make sure that you can always run at this time, but you can't hide, come that day of election in two years' time. I'm looking forward with great excitement.

As a matter of fact, there are other people who will be accountable. The teachers are waiting out there to see what you're going to do to them. The nurses are confused. The other day I was in court and the fact is, many of the police officers were concerned about the backlog of cases that is there. What you should be doing is expanding more courts and making sure that people have justice being done to many of the cases before the court. People are waiting a year or so. Human rights cases are in backlog. They've been thrown off, so the fact is --

Mr Newman: Speak to the motion.

Mr Curling: The member for Scarborough Centre is saying I must speak to the motion. The motion is about access to democracy. The motion is about participation. The motion itself tells you that the people who have put you there and us as members to sit on committees, to make you accountable, you are depriving us of that. That's what it's all about, and if you can't stretch your imagination to that, they will stretch your point to say that when the time comes, you will be accountable for all of these discrepancies and this bullying way that you are dealing with this.

The fact is, I do address the motion and as you sit in quiet agreement -- you're nodding there, Mr Speaker -- yes, I am on top of the motion itself. As I speak to the members in the House here, they feel I'm only speaking to them. No, I'm not, because there are people in the constituencies across this province who may happen to be rolling all their channels and may be seeing this and realize that I'm saying the things that they have told me and I am just passing it back on to you here in the House to say, "Beware."

I want a good country and a good province, like you all of course. I want to see a democratic country. I want to see people who are the most vulnerable in society get help from this government. I don't want you to take from the poor and give it to the rich. I would much rather have a huge deficit financially -- and I'll say it over and over -- than have a human deficit like what you are creating. I would much rather see that we have access for everyone to schools, to education. It costs us a lot of money to give them that education. I'd rather see that, and then people would have the ability of course to have access to education.

This government wants to stream those, whoever they want to, in some areas of education and say, "By grade 9 or grade 10 you should know what you want to do, you go that way." Then the most vulnerable, who has no money, would have to pay a huge amount to go to postsecondary education. Sad.

Do you know that if someone gets a loan of $30,000, as a student loan, in a 25-year period, if they're not able to pay all that they will be paying about $83,000 additional for interest on their loan? Tell me something now. Someone who may be getting a job for $30,000 a year, how on God's earth can they pay for that? But, oh no, this government is going to make sure they pass that kind of burden on the poorest of the people and say: "You see what we have seen here now. We have balanced the books." I say, what happened to the people? "Oh, the rich are quite happy. Those who are able to look after themselves are quite happy." What about the poor? Some of the ministers were saying that they could go and buy dented tuna. My golly, it is a sad day, when we have a very rich province like this, that the wealth and the resources are skewed to those who are able to afford it more.

Mr Speaker, I want to make another point and you'll understand this very much. Since the rule changes have come in, since this government wants to rush things through and reduce committees and bring only six of their members so they can free up three of them to go out to the community -- which they won't go because they're scared to go -- and have only two members of the Liberal Party, the opposition, to sit on a committee, and only one of the New Democratic Party, depriving members, and they say they want to hurry these things up and shorten the time in which we can speak and participate. Even with all of that, and furthermore, even with the fact that they have made one calendar day and put two days in that so they can ram their things through, even with all of those things, they have put closures to three different bills in the House so far. You recall that, Mr Speaker, three time limits on motions before the House, saying that we have to hurry this thing up. We have late sittings, almost three weeks now, because we want to get these things through. Even with that, ramming all these things through, the people have not gotten a chance to participate.

Democracy again is being deprived by this government that consistently believes that they have the power to rule and they will rule over all of the people here regardless. They will ignore the poor and they will deprive the opposition of participation. You will recall, Mr Speaker, I think you were in the House at the time, even when Bill 126 was before the House, before the time that even the opposition had the time to read this legislation, they want us to vote on it. Even more than that, even when the opposition itself was not even in the House --

Mr Gerretsen: That's right, when it was introduced.

Mr Curling: When it was being introduced. They were sneaking it in. They were hoping that they would sneak this thing through, ram it through in their own bully approach. But lo and behold, members on the opposition side decided that this will not happen. The fact is, we made sure that the people knew what this kind of government is all about, that they would not get away with it. Of course, the fact is that we will continue to make sure that our voices are heard. If you limit us, the committees, with only two there, it will be heard. You have sat on committees, Mr Speaker, and you have noticed too --

Mr Gerretsen: He was a good committee member.

Mr Curling: An excellent committee member you were, and I feel you will be -- while we sat there and legislation is being debated on that committee, I have not seen any of those members voting no against any part of it, giving a contribution to say that they themselves are disagreeing with this. They don't. That's what committee is about. It's a time for you to express your views about your constituency, and of course they limit it. They say there's so much waste of money when we go on committees around the province. They feel it's a waste of time. It's the typical manner of this government, who feel that if they have legislation, they can limit it to three or four or five places and say: "Everyone has been heard. Everyone has heard it."

You remember Bill 26, when we said, "Put it to committee and let us spread it out a bit"? They said: "Oh, no. We will put the whole huge omnibus bill through. We're going to ram it through before the people know what happened. We will tell these people that they only have 15 minutes to speak about this huge bill." The people themselves would say, "No, I need some time to look at that. Could you separate the bill?" And the opposition stood up to these bullies.


Hon Mr Sampson: You sat down, Alvin.

Mr Curling: As you know, Mr Speaker, I sat down and made sure they listened. When they saw the polls dropping like that, meaning when they saw the people reacting and saying, "My golly, we want to be heard," they said, "Okay, we will separate the bills quickly, but we will put some more time on this thing." We had to force these bullies and tell them we'll stand up to them not only today, not only yesterday, but tomorrow, and we'll continue to stand up to these bullies. And a great day will come.


Mr Curling: On that election day, they will not be applauding like this. They feel that today is every day. But as I speak to teachers out there and I speak to police officers and firefighters and to those on welfare, those who very much need assistance and support, who have paid into the system so that when times are bad for them, they can be helped -- they have also paid for all the members here, their fees and their salaries, so they can have representation and they can come before public hearings.

What have they done? They have said it's too costly for democracy, too much of a cost, that we could save money and put it towards the deficit. "What we can do is we can pull the people aside. We don't need a lot of committees. We don't need a lot of members. We don't need to go around the province to those who are unable to even see us on TV, those who are unable to hear the debates, those who are unable to come before us." They said: "You know what? Let's limit them, not only limit those people on the street, the public, but let's limit the people in here too."

There will come a day, which is fast coming -- that's the wonderful thing about democracy. When you become so accountable, your mouth shall be much softer when you have to knock on those doors and they say, "I've never seen you before. I want to be on a public hearing; I want to be on a committee. I want to come before you all to tell you the pain and the suffering that you have brought on us," or how the legislation will be worked. They wanted that, and they said the day will come, and the day is coming. You can run, Mike Harris, you and your government, but you can't hide. I'm telling you, when that day comes, we in the opposition will be proud to stand before them. You ask them. That's the time when you will know that you will be accountable.

Hon Mr Sampson: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the minister from Mississauga -- West?

Hon Mr Sampson: That's close enough. Mr Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to move a motion without notice.

The Acting Speaker: There is a request for unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent? It is agreed.

Hon Mr Sampson: I move that the order for third reading of Bill 140, An Act to establish the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to other statutes, be discharged and that the bill be referred to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that this motion carry? It is carried.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Speaker, I'm wondering if the parliamentary assistant is going to be here.

The Acting Speaker: We are debating the substantive motion.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm wondering if the Minister without Portfolio could explain why it is that his government didn't deal with this earlier when it had the chance. Could it be that they messed up again?

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr Baird: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to ask the House for unanimous consent. I listened with great interest to the member for Scarborough North and I wanted to see if there was unanimous consent to extend our time and give him another half-hour, because we learned so much from his contribution to this House.

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? I hear a no.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask for unanimous consent for the Minister without Portfolio to give us an explanation as to why the government yet again messed up and didn't deal with this issue around Bill 140.

The Acting Speaker: I hear a no.

Further debate. The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma, the New Democratic Party House leader.


Mr Wildman: I don't know what to make of this.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): We're not cheering, Bud. They are.

Mr Wildman: No, that's what I meant. I don't understand. Earlier this afternoon, during the presentations of the member for Nepean and the government House leader as well as the government whip, I couldn't quite understand what was the motivation of the government members at that point, where they kept referring to me in such glowing terms, and now I am greeted with applause from the other side of the aisle but complete and utter disdain from my own.

I note just in passing that the member for Durham East mentioned a former colleague who earlier today along with his co-commissioner had a press conference and I notice that the member for Chatham-Kent is reading the document. I have a copy of it here myself. While this is an interesting document and it does sort of come down in the middle on the issues, keeping in mind that with this government, the middle has moved substantially to the right, my former colleague has perhaps been overly enthusiastic about his new role, and I'll leave it at that.

I would say, in relation to this motion before us on committees and the presentation that was just made by the Minister without Portfolio but with limousine, where he asked for unanimous consent so that the government could move a motion to resolve a problem that resulted essentially from the fact that the government members were once again asleep at the switch, that as cooperative as we are and want to be in this House, we debated Bill 140.

We said to the government House leader that we did not intend to extend that debate, that we understood the import of that piece of legislation and that we would only put up a couple of speakers, which we did. The government knew that. For the official opposition, the member for Wilson Heights made a very knowledgeable presentation on the intricacies of regulation in the areas of finance and so on. Then we sat down. The government suddenly realized that there were some things that needed to be done in committee, but that was subsequent to this matter actually being ordered for third reading. So we had to agree to give unanimous consent to have the matter raised again and referred to committee.


Mr Silipo: What did we do?

Mr Wildman: What did we do? We agreed, of course. We agreed to do this to help the government out of its own little problem. We agreed to refer it to one of the committees to deal with it.

The Acting Speaker: Order. It's confession time. I neglected to put the question to anybody about which committee it was. I must take a lot of responsibility for that error.

Mr Wildman: They say that confession is good for the soul, but I do feel a little bit humbled that you would put me in the position of being your father confessor.

I do though raise with the members that Bill 140, which we have now referred to committee, is being referred to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. This committee is made up of the following members: The Chair of the committee is Terence Young, who is from Halton Centre. The Vice-Chair is Wayne Wettlaufer, who is from Kitchener.

The members of the committee include Ted Arnott, who we all know is very concerned about the reckless speed with which this government proceeds on so many matters and has warned the Premier that the government should indeed have committees consider matters and have sober second thought on many things. We know that he has raised, as I said, with the Premier the problems that result from doing things too quickly. We saw this afternoon what happens when the government moves forward so quickly, even on minor matters like Bill 140: They mess up and they have to ask the opposition to help them out. So we did indeed do all we could to help them out. But I know that Ted Arnott will be gratified, as borne out once again, that he was correct in warning the Premier that we should not move forward with reckless speed, that we should indeed look at things very carefully and ensure proper accountability in this House.

Isabel Bassett is also a member of that committee. She is the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. I'm sure Ms Bassett will also have a lot to contribute to the committee on finance and economic affairs and, considering the role she's had in the past in this House as parliamentary assistant, will be very knowledgeable and will be able to assist in that regard.

Also on the committee is Jim Brown, who is from Scarborough West and will bring the concerns about family values to consideration of Bill 140.

Doug Rollins, who is a small business person and comes from Quinte, will also have something to contribute to the debate.

I should point out that a Liberal member on the committee is the aforementioned Monte Kwinter, who is from Wilson Heights and has a great deal of business experience here in Ontario, across Canada and internationally. As a former minister in a previous government, he was very much involved with trade matters and certainly understands the need for proper regulation.

Gerry Phillips, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, is also on the committee, and as the critic for the Ministry of Finance for his party has a great deal of experience in these matters.

The New Democrat, who is the only member of our party on that committee as a result of this motion, is the member for Lake Nipigon, Gilles Pouliot. We know that M. Pouliot has a lot of experience with regard to high finance and has indeed studied the financial pages at great length every day, as I understand it, and has a great deal to contribute with regard to the regulation of financial matters in this province. I would say that he will do it as one of the few people I know who can talk about figures and ledgers with the flowery speech and presentation of a Molière. I don't know of anyone else who can talk about financial matters with the same kind of eloquence as the member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Adam Smith.

Mr Wildman: Adam Smith was not like Molière, no.

This is a motion where we are dealing with committees like the finance and economic affairs committee, and it is brought forward in the House in the context of the rule changes that the government has forced through. I must say I was a little bit surprised at the presentation of the government whip and the member for Nepean when they tried to argue earlier that somehow as the House leader for our party, I had advocated a number of the rule changes. I found that very odd. I still don't quite understand what they were talking about.

The government whip, in making his presentation, quoted Sir Winston Churchill a number of times, and listening to him, I thought of another quote, a little anecdote about Winnie. At one point the whip indicated that Sir Winston stated that early in this century, when he was in opposition, he used to spend up to two weeks in preparation for a speech in the House. He quite rightly pointed out that most of us don't have that luxury, except perhaps the member for Scarborough East, who every time he makes a presentation in the House gives the impression to all of us that he has prepared for at least a month in advance. But the whip indicated that Sir Winston Churchill said he prepared for up to two weeks for his speeches.

I understand there was one point where Sir Winston received a letter from a lady who had listened to one of his speeches on the radio, and she criticized the British Prime Minister -- he was Prime Minister at that point -- for having left a dangling preposition. In other words, he had a preposition at the end of a sentence. Sir Winston took this very seriously and decided to write back to her. He wrote to her and said, "Madam, this is the sort of nonsense up with which I shall not put." I was reminded of that as I listened to the whip's presentation, because that certainly was the kind of nonsense up with which I shall not put.

There has been the suggestion that one of the things we are doing is lowering the number of members on committees so we can save money. That was the main point made by my friend from Nepean, that we would be saving the taxpayers money. He said that when a committee travels to northern Ontario, it costs about $8,000 a day, and that this is a lot of taxpayers' money. Well, it is. But I would posit the view that sometimes it costs money to find out what people think and to find out what their concerns are and that that is basic to our democracy, that we should indeed be prepared not to be extravagant, but to ensure that we do indeed spend what is necessary to enable the public to have input into the public affairs of the province. That is basic to our democratic process.


The whip indicated that he thought the reason we were changing these numbers of members was to make it possible for members to be at home in their ridings more and thus having greater contact with the public and serving the public well. I suppose that might be a luxury for the government caucus. I'm not certain it makes much difference to us. I really do suspect that one of the main reasons for the change is to make the job of the government whip a little easier. I really do think that one of the reasons he's so enthusiastic about this particular rule change is that it means he won't have to keep as many members around to staff the committees properly. I think that's the main reason. It's just a matter of convenience for the government whip. That's all it is. It's not about ensuring that we have greater input from the public or that the members in this place have more time to go and talk to their own constituents. It's about making the job of the government whip easier.

I'm not someone who wants to somehow make his job more difficult than it is my responsibility to do. After all, he did say that Sir Winston said the job of the opposition is to oppose, and I'm doing that as best I can. Sir Winston crossed the floor a couple of times, as I recall, during his career on matters of principle. He joined Lloyd George at one point and he served as the First Lord of the Admiralty in one government and then of course moved on to greater things when he was called to serve.

Mr Turnbull: Twice, First Lord of the Admiralty.

Mr Wildman: Yes, that's correct.

Speaker, I hope you'll allow me to range as widely in this debate as you have the government House leader and his colleagues, because I recall that in his presentation at the beginning of this debate the government House leader referred to a matter of great interest to the member for Scarborough East; that is, the lowering of the total number of members of this place from 130 to 103. He said this was going to be less expensive and we would benefit as taxpayers because of that. I really do honestly have some concerns about that in terms of the size of ridings in southern Ontario, the numbers of constituents that people will have and whether there will be as easy access to members in those ridings with large numbers of people as there has been in the past. I also am concerned about the large geographic ridings in some parts of rural Ontario and particularly in northern Ontario.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): We've heard.

Mr Wildman: You have heard, and the member for Scarborough East discounted those concerns at the time I presented them in the past and said that they were silly at one point. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, I think, during that presentation, when the member for Kingston and The Islands disputed the position taken by the government House leader, seemed completely nonplussed, like, "Why would people have less accessibility to their MPPs if there were more people per MPP?" I think it's axiomatic.

Mr Gilchrist: It isn't. You already see fewer people than I do. Maybe you don't work as hard as Metro members.

Mr Wildman: That is such a silly point, just a silly point. All of us in this House serve our constituents in different ways based on the different characteristics of our constituencies. I am sure the member for Norfolk serves his constituents in a way quite different from the member for Scarborough East -- at least, I hope he does. He represents a rural riding with a rural constituency, small communities, county government and so on, as opposed to an urban community with a large urban population. They are different.

Obviously, the member for Lake Nipigon, who has the largest constituency now in Ontario, with very, very few people and very many widespread communities, serves his community in a way very different from all of the other members of this place. Very few of us, other than perhaps the member for Kenora and the member for Cochrane North, have the same kinds of difficulties as the member for Lake Nipigon in representing his constituents.

That doesn't mean that because we serve them in different ways that the member for Lake Nipigon is working less hard than a member from Metropolitan Toronto. It doesn't mean that my friend from Kenora is working less hard than the member for Norfolk. It doesn't mean that the member for Norfolk doesn't have as many stresses and strains on his time as the member for Scarborough East. It's just different. Perhaps we have to take into account the differences in this place instead of trying to make everything fit into a particular pattern.

But that's not the way of this government. This government tries to shoehorn different things into one particular type of model and ensure that happens. That's what these rule changes are about. That's why we're seeing the kinds of changes that have been brought about in this House by this government.

The government argues about the numbers of hours that committees have sat in this House, as opposed to the previous government or the government before that, as if the total amount of hours is the most important thing. It's not the number of hours, it's the quality of work that is done. It is not the number of constituents, it's not the number of miles in a constituency, it's the quality of work done by the MPP, and the same thing with regard to committees.

My friend from Kingston and The Islands raised an important point in his intervention in the debate. It's one that has been debated about a lot in this House for many years. There have been efforts from time to time to respond to that concern, and that is to ensure that committees actually work in a more independent way, perhaps even along the lines of committees in the US Congress.

The problem with our committee system is not so much how many members we have on committee, but the fact that those committees are set out to listen to the public after a decision has been made by a government and they aren't really there to listen. They aren't there to listen and to respond. In fact they're there simply to forge through a government position.

I must say that I think it's changed over the years that I've served in this place. I don't think it was just the naïveté of a new member when in 1975 I came here and I saw the committees actually tended to operate in a somewhat different way than they have over the last few years. I'm not being partisan in this. I would include our time in government, along with the Liberals, as well as this government's on this matter.


The fact is that while the main principle of a bill might have been forced through in the past, when I first came here we actually did listen to people who made presentations before committees, and we moved amendments to respond. Often those amendments were moved by the government. That's the way it should be, but unfortunately it's not the way it is in most cases under this government and, frankly, under the last couple of governments.

So I think the suggestion from the member for Kingston and The Islands that sometimes at least governments should go out with white papers, send white papers to committees that could then go out and hold hearings with interested groups across the province who could express their opinions, that would then have real input into what kinds of legislation might come from those kinds of presentations -- that doesn't mean the government shouldn't have a position. Of course the government will have a position, but that position might be modified through real, serious input from the public. It would take courage on the part of a government to do this.

I believe this does happen to some extent in the National Assembly in Quebec, that the National Assembly does follow this kind of procedure from time to time. I know the government House leader keeps pointing to Quebec as one of the examples of assemblies across this country that don't have committees travel. That's true, that is a difference. The committees in Quebec do from time to time go to Montreal, I believe --


Mr Wildman: The government House leader says they don't, they sit in Quebec City. But they do from time to time go out before they have legislation, before second reading stage, and listen.

We have had examples in the past where committees have acted in this way in this House. I think one of the best examples was the select committee on Ontario Hydro -- not a standing committee but a select committee -- which worked in both the 1970s and the 1980s. It was chaired by an opposition member and it had government members and opposition members on it. They all worked very hard to come to some kinds of conclusions about the future of Ontario Hydro. Frankly, I don't think they were able to get to the bottom of the problems at Ontario Hydro, but they did work very hard at it and it was not a partisan operation.

I hope the select committee that is being proposed by the government now to look into the affairs of Ontario Hydro will have as wide-ranging an opportunity as the previous select committees. I hope it's not going to be simply set up in a way that it is dominated by government members.

There's a lot of committee work facing the committees as a result of this government's downloading process, the so-called Who Does What, or as I call it, the who does what to whom for how much and for how long.

Bill 136, the so-called Public Sector Transition Stability Act -- what subversion of language -- takes away the rights of workers throughout the broader public sector. This will be referred to the standing committee on resources development, a committee which is chaired by the member for Guelph, Brenda Elliott -- I think she's from Guelph -- and has a number of other members on it who have experience in this place. I'm afraid this committee is not going to have the opportunity to hear all of the presentations that groups will want to make to it. This government is wont to move forward very quickly on these matters. I hope the government will indeed listen to the labour movement, as well as others, with regard to the impacts of this proposed legislation, because we run the risk of serious disruption of government services in Ontario if the government doesn't listen.

Then we have Bill 148, the City of Toronto Act (No. 2). This is another example of the government screwing up on the first one and having come back with a second.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): They screwed up right from the outset.

Mr Wildman: My friend from Scarborough-Agincourt points out that the government screwed up right from the outset on this one. As we know, this is going to the standing committee on general government, which is chaired by the honourable member for Dufferin-Peel, David Tilson. Our member on that committee, the one member we will have under these new rules, is Rosario Marchese, the member for Fort York.

Bill 103, their first city of Toronto bill, was forced through in this House despite the concerted opposition of the members on this side of the aisle. A government which claims to be in favour of referenda, a government that is concerned about listening to the people --

Mr Phillips: He said it was a waste of money.

Mr Wildman: He just said it was a waste of money. I suppose it's a waste of money if it's a referendum held by somebody else and not by this government. It's only worthwhile if the government decides to have the referendum. That's what this is about.

We had 76% of the people of Metropolitan Toronto who voted on that particular set of referenda vote against it. This is a government that says it wants to listen to the people. We have had a white paper from the Premier on referenda, saying that the government must listen to the people.

The member for Brampton South has shepherded that work through the committee on the Legislative Assembly. He has indicated that he really believes in referenda, and he has indicated two examples of areas where we should have referenda if a government is going to move on something. One of them was --

Mr Phillips: Hospital closings?

Mr Wildman: No, not hospital closings. One of them is changes to the Constitution of Canada. I might accept that view, frankly. The other area is tax increases. It seems to me that if we believe we should have a referendum on the Constitution of Canada and on tax increases, it would make sense that we would want to have referenda on other matters of similar import.

This government says -- and I have heard the Premier say this -- that any kind of user fee is a tax. The member for Nipissing has said that: "Any user fee is a tax." We've repeatedly seen this government increase user fees, but they haven't called any referenda.

Mr Phillips: Not for the seniors' drugs they didn't.

Mr Wildman: I don't understand it. The seniors' drug plan is a very good example.

Now, as I said, we've seen Bill 103, the first Toronto bill, forced through despite the fact that 76% of the people who voted, voted against it -- not just 50%. There's an argument between Ottawa and Quebec about whether 50% plus one is sufficient to determine the future of Quebec. But this was not just 50% plus one, it was 76%.

I've heard members on the government side of the House say, "But very few people turned out, so you have to take into account the total turnout." I suppose you could make the same argument in provincial general elections: If not enough people turn out, we shouldn't count the results. So you set some arbitrary figure: If it's below 70%, we shouldn't take the result in a provincial general election -- or is it below 60%? If the turnout is only 60% in a provincial general election, we shouldn't count it. Somehow I don't think that's the government's position. I think they'd be quite happy to take whatever result in a provincial general election, as long as they could argue they were winners.

We also have Bill 152, the so-called Services Improvement Act, which is an omnibus bill designed to transfer many existing provincial responsibilities to municipalities in Ontario, and that means, of course, transferring the costs for those.


I'd like to know if the Legislature, through the appropriate standing committee, the committees that we are proposing today, will have the opportunity to hear from the municipalities what their views are about this downloading in Bill 152. Will the provincial taxpayers, municipal property taxpayers, have the opportunity to make their views known on Bill 152? I'm sure we'd be interested in what they have to say.

I'm just looking at the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, a periodical that I read as much as possible. It's says here from Friday 22 August:

"Property taxes could go up by 6% or 7% next year just to cover extra costs from provincial downloading, Waterloo region's chief administrative officer says.

"Gerry Thompson told the region's finance and administration committee Thursday there is probably little that can be done to soften the blow the region and area municipalities will face.

"The province has said that starting next year the region will be responsible for an array of services now paid by the province."

The previous day, August 21, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record said, "Waterloo region's welfare bill will jump to more than $120 million from," the current "$61 million when the province's social assistance reform law kicks in January 1."

Again, this is from the region's social services commissioner.

It says further on, "Local officials do not have details on the final costs of the downloading of several services from the province or how the costs will be affected by the swapping of some responsibilities."

Then it says further on --

Hon Mr Johnson: Are you saying this has something to do with the committees?

Mr Wildman: Yes, I'm saying this has to be referred to a committee. We hope that Bill 152 will be referred to a committee so these people can come forward and make their views known, such views as:

"The taxpayer pays anyway. But why should the property tax be involved in something that's substantially more volatile. Twice in the past decade or so -- the 1981-82 recession and the 1990-92 recession -- our caseloads skyrocketed between 200% and 300% almost overnight."

Those are the kinds of things that should be brought before the appropriate committee, because local property taxpayers are going to get hit and local representatives should have the opportunity to make their views known before the committee.

I suppose it would be appropriate, since the clock is approaching 6, to adjourn the debate at this time.

The Acting Speaker: Yes, that would be quite appropriate.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of September 15, 1997.

On Monday, September 15, 1997, we're planning to deal with the Hydro select committee motion and Bill 128, child support guidelines; on Tuesday, September 16, 1997, Bill 152, the Services Improvement Act; on Wednesday, September 17, 1997, interim supply; on Thursday, September 18, 1997, private members' public business, ballot items 97 and 98, and the continuation of this debate, which we've all enjoyed so much, the standing committee membership motion.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Pursuant to standing order 37, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with an answer given today by the Premier. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I find myself in a bit of an odd position here, having to have filed this motion of dissatisfaction at the answer I got to a question Wednesday to the Premier of Ontario. If you remember, Speaker, at the time, I asked the Premier of Ontario if he would be willing to guarantee on the word of his government that the northern regional genetics program, which is a program of the health units of northern Ontario, when municipalities being downloaded on to are going to be losing their provincial funding -- I asked the Premier if he would guarantee that the province would keep the funding for the northern regional genetics program. The answer I got from the Premier at the time, and I'll quote exactly from Hansard, "I can absolutely guarantee you that we'll make sure they have the capacity to do so." That was the answer to my original question.

I thought, "Hey, it looks like we won a victory here." I figured that the Premier of Ontario had recognized they had again made an error, they had moved too quickly when it came to the downloading of provincial health units on to the municipalities and that they didn't realize at the time they made the decision that genetics programs in northern Ontario are funded through health units but in southern Ontario are funded through Ministry of Health budgets at the hospital and university levels. So if you offload those responsibilities of health units on to municipalities you would have a very uneven situation where northerners who need to get counselling or need to get testing done through the northern regional genetics program would have no public funding available to them to get this service -- in other words, the service would die with having no money -- and in southern Ontario people would still have that benefit because it's paid through hospitals.

I thought, "Well, you know, the government just realized that it made a mistake and the Premier is admitting that he'll do something to correct it." I wanted to be absolutely sure, Speaker. So I asked the Premier on my supplementary question, and I read it:

"I take it we might have just won a victory," I said to the Premier. "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?"

The answer I got from the Premier at the time was: "I think I was quite clear. I will make sure that the dollars are available to do so." That's the answer of the Premier.

I have to take at face value what the Premier says in this House as being the truth. So I immediately got up afterwards and I congratulated the Premier for having answered my question and responded to what was a northern concern. I suspected, however, that the Premier was trying to be cute, so I went for a walk across the House to speak to the Premier, Mr Harris, and said: "Listen, Mike, I want to understand. Are you saying, come January 1, 1998, after the transfer is made you will make sure that provincial funding remains in place for the northern regional genetics program or will it be the municipality that pays?" The Premier said to me in private, "It will be the municipalities."

I find myself in a very awkward position of having asked the question in this House on Wednesday, the Premier telling me and telling all of Ontario that his government was going to deal with this, they recognized, in his own words, that they had made an error and that they were going to come good and make sure that this particular program would continue to receive public funding from the province of Ontario. What ends up happening? You talk to the Premier privately and he tells you another story.

That's not good enough. We're tired as members of this assembly in the opposition, and I would probably guess with the back bench as well of the government, I think the public and municipal leaders and school board leaders in this province are getting very tired of hearing the rhetoric of this government that they care, "Everything's fair, don't worry, we're doing everything. It's all you guys making this up," then they stand up in the House and make those kinds of comments, only for us to find out after that they're doing something completely in the opposite direction.

I'm going to say it again: The government has an opportunity here to do what is right. The northern regional genetics program was reorganized under the health units some 25 years ago because northern Ontario understood back then, way before the Harris government came into being, that it would make much more sense from a service delivery perspective to regionalize that program under the auspices of the health unit and not have a whole bunch of individual hospitals duplicate administration, create red tape and spend extra dollars that really didn't need to be. We in the north did our job 25 years ago and now we're being penalized because we did so. Southern Ontario will get funding because their programs are in hospitals and those programs won't be downloaded on to municipalities. But in our case, the health units are being downloaded and we're losing provincial funding.

My question to the Premier or his representative is simply this: Will you ensure that the province will fund the northern regional genetics program come January 1, 1998?

The Acting Speaker (Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired. The Chair recognizes the member for Niagara South.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Are you the parliamentary assistant to the Premier?

Mr Hudak: Mr Speaker, I understand that the parliamentary assistant to the Premier, the member for Brampton South, was unable to attend. As the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health, perhaps I could seek all-party approval to respond to this issue.

The Acting Speaker: The standing orders say that only the Premier or the parliamentary assistant to the Premier is entitled to respond.

Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I would ask for unanimous consent to let the parliamentary assistant speak.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, I am not in a position to entertain a point of order after 6 o'clock.

Mr Wildman: Obviously that was planned. You didn't want to answer.

The Acting Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 pm next Monday.

The House adjourned at 1811.