36th Parliament, 1st Session

L231 - Wed 17 Sep 1997 / Mer 17 Sep 1997













































The House met at 1332.




Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Once again, the Conservative government of Mike Harris is taking another step to avoid scrutiny and accountability by the Queen's Park news media by trying to bypass those individuals who have the most knowledge and background on provincial issues and who are likely to confront the Premier and his ministers with the toughest questions.

By hiring Canada NewsWire to be the official primary disseminator of Ontario government news releases, the Harris news manipulators can send out at taxpayers' expense their propaganda without the kind of scrutiny that is essential to a healthy democracy.

This latest initiative is only the most recent attempt by the Harris public relations unit to dodge criticism and questions by informed members of the news media. The purpose of rule changes, as well as greasing the skids for radical right-wing legislation, was to restrict debate by MPPs and make it more difficult for the legislative press gallery to cover the important issues of the day.

With ministers increasingly holding press conferences outside of Queen's Park and by embarking upon expensive, self-serving, blatant political advertising on television and radio and newspapers and by mail at taxpayers' expense, the Harris propagandists are determined to control the message that reaches the Ontario electorate.

With Conrad Black and other media giants reducing their workforce and pulling the reporters from the provincial parliamentary scene, the Harris crowd hopes to be free to exercise full control over the news and those who disseminate it. Democracy is the real loser.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On September 23, a new inquest will begin in Chatham into the death of Theresa Vince. Theresa Vince was shot by her immediate supervisor in their workplace, a supervisor who had been accused of sexually harassing her in the workplace.

This is a woman whose death has created a great deal of action within the community, both by her family and by those who work with women who are abused in these situations. Yesterday, the supporting groups from the sexual assault centre and the women's centre in Chatham released a booklet that has been printed and will be distributed as a result of the over $5,000 that has been contributed in Theresa Vince's name. This booklet talks about how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.

All the family and those who support the Vinces are very disappointed that this government has consistently refused to agree with their request that there be a specific week dedicated to the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. They are distressed that of the $27 million over five years announced by the women's issues minister, no money is earmarked to deal with the very serious problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. We do not want Theresa Vince to have died in vain and we call on the government to act.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I am very pleased to report that the new Ontario Provincial Police eastern region headquarters, located at the Rideau Regional Centre in Montague township, was officially opened on September 11.

This headquarters will administer policing from Trenton east to Cornwall and north to Deep River and area. It serves approximately 1.5 million people in 14 counties.

Through this endeavour, three districts have been amalgamated into one. Some 45 Ontario Provincial Police jobs are centred in Smiths Falls and we are making efficient use of existing facilities at the Rideau Regional Centre. Through teamwork and support from the community, we are bringing two provincial services under two ministries together as part of one facility.

This could not have been achieved without the help of the Honourable Bob Runciman, the Honourable David Tsubouchi, Commissioner O'Grady, Chief Superintendent Eamer, Wynn Turner from the Rideau Regional Centre and the Honourable Janet Ecker. Special thanks go to Bud Loney and Clayton Flemming as the leaders who generated the public support needed to accomplish our goal.

This is a clear example of our government's commitment to do better business for less capital and operating costs.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement is directed to the Premier and the Minister of Labour. It concerns the government's anti-labour Bill 136.

Premier, I've had the opportunity to meet with many hardworking public sector workers in my riding who are concerned about the implications of your government's anti-labour legislation.

As an MPP representing a northern region, I know the value of teachers, police officers, firefighters and nurses to our communities. Let me read from a letter I recently received from a nurse who stated:

"Nurses have worked hard to provide possible solutions for restructuring the health care system and giving quality care. The slash-and-burn scenario of the Harris government's quick fixes only shows what the financial pencil-pushers know about, which adversely affects quality patient care.

"Bill 136 has a major impact on all facets of health care as the ability to pay becomes the watchword of the Ontario government -- not quality of care. It does not take a genius to see what this legislation will do in a supposedly democratic society.

"When power is given to governments the rights of the workers will be suppressed."

Collective agreements, benefits, pay grids and jobs will be inconsequential, as unions will be powerless to bargain. Working conditions will deteriorate as the trend for a more flexible workforce escalates.

Instead of this government bringing forward legislation that brings workers and employers together, the Minister of Labour and her colleagues have done what they do best: brought forward Bill 136, which creates a climate of confrontation.



Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I rise today to raise an issue in this House that is unfortunately becoming quite a trend when it comes to labour relations in Ontario. In my constituency office over the last number of months there has been a very marked increase in the number of complaints we've received at our office about the treatment workers have been getting from the employment standards branch vis-à-vis workplace problems they've had with their employers.

I had one young gentleman in my office recently who was fired by an employer on the basis of having refused to do unsafe work. When that particular employee went to the labour relations people to get some advice about how to proceed because he was not represented by a union, he was really not given any kind of support and left under the understanding that there was not very much for him to do, even though today, barring the government changing it, that employee has rights under the health and safety act that provide that if an employee refuses unsafe work and the employer in any way tries to intimidate him or her, there is some remedy on the part of the employee.

It's not only one incident that concerns me. What concerns me is the frequency and numbers of such complaints that I've been receiving at my constituency office. I want to put the government on notice that I, along with the rest of my colleagues in the NDP caucus, am going to be looking into this issue much more closely to find out why this pattern is developing. I think it is because of the attitude of this government towards workers in this province.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): Last Friday I joined my colleagues the members for Guelph and York-Mackenzie at the official opening of the Wellington County Employment Resource Centre. Our employment resource centre is an important component of the county's efforts to link people on welfare with training programs and other work opportunities. In implementing the Ontario Works program our county is working hard to fulfil the provincial government's objective of reforming the social assistance system by actively helping people on welfare find the work and training opportunities that they need.

I believe that most people on welfare want to work. The resource centre will help able-bodied people enter the workforce by providing information on employment-related services, education and training programs, as well as giving them access to computers, photocopiers and fax machines. I am very encouraged by the county's efforts to give people the tools they need to find work and a more promising future.

I'm convinced that this new employment-focused approach is working. Since 1995, when this government first took office, the general welfare caseload in Wellington has dropped by 38%, more than twice the provincial average of 16%. Ontario is leading the country in job creation, with 33,000 new jobs last month alone, so I know that people looking for work are having an easier time finding jobs.

My thanks to the county and its staff for helping people help themselves, and my best wishes to Ontario Works participants as they take advantage of the new resources and opportunities available to them through this new approach.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Last July 2 a torrential rainstorm hit the Thunder Bay area causing severe flooding in Shuniah township which damaged many private properties and completely washed out sections of Lakeshore Drive. Since that time Shuniah township council and I have been calling on the province to declare Shuniah a disaster area and make the community eligible therefore for assistance under the Ontario disaster relief fund.

Yesterday we finally received a response from Municipal Affairs Minister Leach, and I am most unhappy to report that the minister will not support Shuniah's private property owners in their recovery efforts. The reason? It seems that despite the minister's agreement that serious damage was done during the flooding, it's not considered serious enough under the present guidelines of the province's disaster relief program. Clearly the guidelines need to be changed so that an acknowledged disaster such as the one that hit Shuniah can qualify for assistance.

However, I am pleased to report that the door is not completely closed on possible assistance for Shuniah. The minister says he's still prepared to look at a special assistance grant to reimburse the council for the $250,000 cost of repairing the washed-out portions of Lakeshore Drive. Minister, on this point let me be very clear: Provincial funding to pay for the washout is absolutely vital. If you won't help with the damage to private property, I would hope and demand you would at least see that the same residents do not face a huge property tax increase to pay for this unforeseen event.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I am proud to tell the House today about the opening of the Riverdale Community Business Centre. The opening will take place on Saturday, September 27, at 742 Queen Street East. We will begin at 2 pm with the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the festivities will continue until 5 pm.

Riverdale Community Business Centre is the result of the efforts, dedication and long hours of hard work of many people in Riverdale. It all began with a meeting I called in the community in November 1993 as a result of our government's introduction of Jobs Ontario Community Action program. Even though the Harris government cancelled support for community economic development, Riverdale continued to develop its plan and was successful in receiving funding from Human Resources Development Canada to continue its work. The Riverdale Community Business Centre is the result of all these efforts.

I'm very proud of what the community has accomplished, and I would invite all the people of Riverdale to come out and join us on September 27 at 742 Queen Street East from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Congratulations to all the people of Riverdale who made this business centre the success it's going to be.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Today, local Alzheimer societies across Canada are holding coffee breaks to raise awareness of this debilitating disease.

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disorder that destroys vital brain cells. It's a cruel disease, and there is no cure.

Today in Oxford county there are 50 Alzheimer Coffee Breaks taking place. They're being held in homes, businesses, legions, school cafeterias, social agencies and many other locations. In fact, this morning in downtown Woodstock a public coffee break was held in Museum Square to bring attention to this disease. In Ingersoll it is being held at the Zehrs store.

These events will focus not only on Alzheimer disease but on its effects on those with it and on their friends and families. Along with awareness, the events will also help to raise money to fund programs to support those people affected by Alzheimer's, their families and the efforts to find a cure.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 Ontarians have Alzheimer disease and related dementia. With the aging of our population, it is projected that over the next 10 years the number of people with Alzheimer's will increase by 50%.

Alzheimer's presents a unique challenge not only to the patients living with the disease but also to their caregivers, who are often family members.

I would certainly like to commend and thank all those who are caring for persons with this disease. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers in my riding and those across the province who are contributing time, energy and money to make Alzheimer Coffee Breaks a success.



Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:

Bill Pr65, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.

Your committee recommends that Bill Pr88, An Act respecting Lansing Co-operative Nursery School, be not reported.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

Statements by ministries?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Mr Speaker, I have a brief statement to make. I've had some indication from the opposition parties that they would like me to do this outside of a normal minister's statement, which I gather would require unanimous consent. I'm in the hands of the House. I'm happy to do that if you'd like.

The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent to make a statement outside of ministers' statements on the issue of national unity, and responses? Agreed.



Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I am very pleased today to be able to update all members in the Legislature on developments of the past weekend in Calgary, where I met with eight of my fellow premiers and two territorial leaders.

For the past two years, I and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs have been working together with our counterparts on ways to strengthen this great country. I believe the Calgary meeting was a productive and important one in these ongoing efforts.

Specifically, this past weekend we agreed unanimously that it is time to consult Canadians directly on how best to strengthen the Canadian federation. We agreed to a seven-point framework for discussion that represents a starting point for consultation with the citizens of Canada in our respective jurisdictions. While this framework marks an important step in renewing the federation, it is only a beginning. We agreed we can only achieve a strong, unified Canada if we have a country that works. Governments must work in partnership to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the federation, particularly in the delivery of social programs.

I'm pleased that the agreed framework for this discussion very clearly recognizes this. The provinces and territories renewed their commitment to work towards cooperative arrangements with the federal government as set out in the statement on social policy renewal that was released at the annual premiers' conference in August.

The nine premiers, the territorial leaders and the Prime Minister have agreed to meet this fall at a first ministers' conference to discuss social policy issues. I hope the Premier of Quebec will agree to attend as well. Our belief is that these discussions will help pave the way to greater cooperation between governments in the health care system and other social policy areas. We also hope the discussions will result in the federal government and the provinces working together to address the urgent needs of our unemployed young people.

The framework for discussion also sets out for public consultation some points about Canada. It speaks to the equality of citizens and the equal status of the provinces. It recognizes the gift of diversity that runs throughout Canadian society, and of our tradition of respect for that diversity. It speaks of our tolerance, compassion and equality of opportunity, characteristics of which I believe we're all proud. It also notes the unique character of Quebec society, including its French-speaking majority, its culture and its tradition of civil law. In addition, it suggests that any powers conferred on one province must be available to all provinces.

As I've said, this is a framework for discussion. These statements will help guide consultations with people, which will be held in all of the provinces and in the territories in the coming months. These consultations will attempt to engage the citizens of Canada as creatively as possible and as fully as possible in discussions to guide the future of our country. The framework is not intended to be exhaustive, and each province will determine the nature and scope of their consultations, acknowledging that the government should act as a catalyst for the discussions but not necessarily lead them. The premiers will meet again to report on the progress of our discussions.

As well, the premiers and the territorial leaders have reiterated their commitment to meet with aboriginal leaders to follow up on their annual premiers' conference held in St Andrews. This meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place in November in Winnipeg. It may be finalized now, but that was the tentative date while we were in Calgary.

It's not in the statements that I handed out, but I want to say, if I might, that in the past we've had very well intentioned consultations, discussions on how to make the federation work better, on how to deal with the situation where Quebec did not feel the Constitution reflected their aspirations. We have done so, and I have done so in opposition, through several successive governments. I want to praise that non-partisanship throughout that period of time that all members of this House who were there then and who are here now have displayed in this, the encouragement that the two leaders gave me as I met with them before I went to Calgary, and our desire to work as cooperatively as possible with all members of the Legislature in developing the appropriate consultations for the people of Ontario.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): Let me first thank the Premier for his statement in the House here today. We agree with him that national unity is an important issue. Ontario has had a historic role in the building of this nation, and more recently in nation-keeping. We have a vested interest in a strong Canada if we are to grow, compete and prosper into the next millennium.

Dans ce cas, il est aussi vrai que l'Ontario a des liens très forts avec la province de Québec, des liens qui sont le résultat d'une histoire marquée par le respect.

Our history in Ontario shows how strongly we believe in the value of a united Canada. Anecdotally, it is a testament to the strength of this country, to the richness of this country, to the respect that we have for diversity that a child of immigrants such as myself can stand in this House and speak about the importance of a united Canada and all of its parts.

Under the leadership of Frank McKenna, this year's chair of the premiers' conference, the premiers have reached a seven-point agreement. This agreement will form the basis of a framework for discussion on Canadian unity. This is welcome. But I want to remind the Premier that while there is urgency to respond to that agreement, there is no constitutional crisis. We must continue to dialogue and certainly consult with the people of Ontario, but you must never forget that there are other real needs of Ontario -- health, education and the quality of our lives.

My party is pledged to a united Canada. Our leader has been very clear on this. He stated just yesterday:

"The good news is that we've achieved some consensus on this wording. I think the important thing is what it means to the people of Quebec -- not the separatists, not those who are dedicated to the breakup of this country. That's not the standard we're trying to achieve here. It's the average Quebec citizen, that they feel they can find some comfort in that, and I'm hoping that they can."

My party is particularly encouraged by the last sentence of the framework for discussion on Canadian unity. It indicates that the provinces and territories renew their commitment to work in partnership with the government of Canada to best serve the needs of Canadians. We renew our commitment to just that.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On behalf of my party, I want to indicate that we appreciate the statement of the Premier in the House today in response to the agreements reached in Calgary.

We agree with the Premier that as Canadians "we are returning to a time when choices are going to have to be made," and, "These choices should be made on the basis of the convictions and values of Ontarians and all Canadians."

Ontario has a special role to play. I think the Premier understands that historically the largest province in this country, with the largest population and a significant portion of the wealth of this vast nation, has in many ways ties that are closest among all of the provinces to the province of Quebec. We have a special role to play in dealing with the needs and concerns of that province and the Quebec people, while responding to the needs and concerns of Ontarians and all Canadians.

I welcome the statement by the Premier that we are prepared to move forward with this framework to act as a catalyst for dialogue, but I also would say that we have a significant leadership role to play in the process. I know the Premier understands the importance of all Canadians working together, understanding the needs and concerns of all citizens, but at the same time bringing those needs and concerns together in a way that can respond to the serious situation facing the nation, in a way that can make Ontario a leading province in ensuring that all Canadians -- Quebeckers and Canadians from all provinces -- feel at home and understand that the Constitution reflects their needs and aspirations.

The Premier has said that the process for the framework will be announced in the near future. I note that the framework for discussion agreed to in Calgary states that all citizens must have the opportunity to participate. In Ontario, we hope and expect that this process will make it possible for citizens to have real and meaningful input into the process and that their concerns and aspirations will be reflected in the positions taken by the government of Ontario on their behalf.

In looking at the framework for discussion that was agreed to in Calgary by the premiers, it's important to recognize that while it has been described as a framework and a process, it does deal with very important, substantive issues. "All provinces, while diverse in their characteristics, have equality of status." As the Premier indicated, it recognizes that the "the unique character of Quebec society, including its French-speaking majority, its culture and its tradition of civil law, is fundamentatl to the wellbeing fundamental to the wellbeing of Canada."

It also states, "Consequently, the Legislature and government of Quebec have a role to protect and develop the unique character of Quebec society within Canada."

It also states, "If any future constitutional amendment confers powers on one province, these powers must be available to all provinces."

These indeed are substantive statements of principle. They are not just statements of a framework for consultation. We obviously are into the position of dealing with significant principles and questions for debate in this country. We look forward, as members of the Legislature, to cooperating with the government and all members of the assembly in ensuring Ontarians' views are heard and are incorporated in the final process for working out the future of our great nation, a nation we all love and cherish.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : En tant que député du Nouveau Parti démocratique, j'aimerais répondre aux commentaires du premier ministre. Premièrement, je voudrais féliciter les premiers ministres qui ont assisté à ce congrès à Calgary sur les travaux qu'ils ont faits pour développer le dernier propos, qui est très important pour toute la nation. Deuxièmement, je dois rappeler au premier ministre et aux autres premiers ministres la leçon qu'on a apprise sous les autres tentatives de trouver des résolutions à notre problème constitutionnelle : que tous les chemins que l'on a pris quand ça vient à en trouver une solution ont été difficiles. Cela a pris beaucoup de bons efforts de la part de tous les partis des assemblées législatives, ici en Ontario comme dans les autres provinces et au fédéral, et cela va en prendre encore plus dans les mois à venir pour trouver une solution.

Je vous assure, en tant que députés du Nouveau Parti démocratique, que nous avons un intérêt réel quand ça vient à trouver un propos qui, à la fin de la journée, va répondre aux deux points qui sont très importants dans ces discussions : le premier, c'est que le Québec puisse se joindre à notre Constitution de manière à ce qu'eux pourront en revenir avec fierté en disant : _Nous, Québécois, nous voyons comme faisant partie de la famille canadienne et que notre place dans ce pays nous assure que la Constitution répond à nos besoins._ Deuxièmement, et cela représente les travaux des gouvernements, c'est de regarder la manière de laquelle tous les Canadiens pourront se regarder dans cette entente et dire, _Nous aussi hors Québec on se trouve comme étant Canadiens et nous pouvons nous voir nous-mêmes dans ce document constitutionnel._

Je voudrais aussi dire au premier ministre que les consultations que vous allez commencer ont besoin d'être réelles. On comprend qu'il y a eu beaucoup d'ouvrage de fait jusqu'à date. Il y a eu des commissions, et il y en a qui vont commencer dans les prochains jours, qui ont regardé la question constitutionnelle ici en Ontario comme dans d'autres provinces. Je pense qu'on n'a pas besoin de tout recommencer ; je pense qu'on a besoin de regarder ce qui a été fait jusqu'à cette date, et d'abord ce qui a été fait dans le passé dans ces consultations-là auprès du public auxquelles votre propre premier ministre a assisté dans le dernier parlement, et regarder comment on pourrait trouver un processus qui permettrait à chercher les informations dont on a besoin aujourd'hui pour donner une solution aux problèmes qu'on voit aujourd'hui et trouver une manière de mener ces débats constitutionnels et une fois pour toutes finir afin de pouvoir avancer avec les autres provinces, avec le Canada.

Le dernier point est que ces consultations sont très importantes pour la communauté francophone, parce que la francophonie de l'Ontario se trouve dans une situation un peu unique. On est non-Québécois, on est Canadiens, et on est Ontariens premièrement. Les solutions constitutionnelles envers la famille franco-ontarienne ont besoin de reconnaître ce fait. Je sais qu'avec l'ouvrage vous allez vous assurer comme premier ministre, comme les autres chefs de parti vont s'assurer, que la francophonie peut se retrouver dans ce document.



Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I'm pleased to provide members of this House with information about a province-wide campaign to eliminate and reduce the number of construction deaths and injuries due to falls on construction sites. With the Ontario construction industry booming and a resulting flood of inexperienced young workers into the system to take advantage of the new job opportunities, there has unfortunately been an increase in falls this year. These falls have killed six workers and critically injured 37 people in the first six months of this year.

As members know, our government has made a strong commitment to ensure that Ontario workplaces are among the safest in the world, and in order to make certain that we do everything possible to achieve this goal, we have the Focus on Falls campaign as the latest in a series of coordinated initiatives the government has undertaken to improve our health and safety system. Other changes have included improving workplace training, introducing a new young worker awareness program, providing the Workers' Compensation Board with a strong new mandate for prevention, and setting for the first time in the history of this province a goal of a 30% reduction in lost-time injuries by the year 2000.

Our ministry has also become more proactive in enforcing workplace standards by focusing on industry-specific enforcement campaigns aimed at targeting employers with poor health and safety records. Last year we increased our workplace inspections by 51% and targeted certain areas where we knew there to be problems. In Windsor, for example, we did a blitz of industrial sites and as a result over 800 orders were issued. In the Ottawa area our campaign focused on ensuring that we eliminated forklift truck hazards.

However, there is more to be done. The six construction deaths that have occurred during the first half of this year as a result of falls were all entirely preventable. Sadly, not one of the victims was wearing fall restraint equipment, as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. So we are embarking on this campaign and our 80 construction safety inspectors will be focusing their attention on construction companies with poor performance records and small construction sites where home builders and roofing contractors are working.

Our message is simple: All workers, supervisors and employers must recognize that falls pose a serious life-threatening risk and that the fall restraint requirements contained in the act offer an effective means to avoid injury and death. Our safety awareness campaign over the next six weeks will enable us to share the message of the need to wear the fall restraint equipment. It will contribute to a further reduction in the needless deaths and injuries at Ontario construction sites.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Any effort that goes forward to reduce accidents in any workplace of course is laudable and there is some meagre effort here on the part of the government to take some initiative. But I wonder, in the light of a smouldering time bomb in the province, why we'd get such an announcement here today. I thought perhaps the minister was going to announce that she was withdrawing the closure motion on Bill 136 for this afternoon, and then I find out that in fact the House leader for the government has called the motion to limit the time for people to debate the particular issues.

Relating back to the construction industry -- I see the minister laughing; I don't think it's so funny -- I hope your negotiations with the construction industry are fruitful and will really lead to some kind of support of that industry and some of the accidents they have.

I find it somewhat interesting that the minister talks about a new prevention mandate and that the ministry has set as a goal a 30% reduction in lost-time injuries. I will submit to you, having just gone through Bill 99, which was another time-allocated discussion that limited the opportunity to fully address the issues in the bill, that the statistics will probably go down, but they will go down because fewer people will qualify for certain workplace injuries. Now fewer legitimate injuries that are perceived to be there -- and the medical field and the rehabilitation field acknowledge that people have been hurt in the workplace or diseased in the workplace or stressed in the workplace, whatever it is -- will qualify for some of those, so this will help the government's statistics look very good.

As a matter of fact, with the time allocation, the Liberal caucus had an amendment to make it obligatory for the compensation board to have a health and safety advisory council. It would compel the board to do so. Of course it wasn't supported by the government side, and there was no time left for any debate because we were limited in what we could talk about. So I find that somewhat incompatible.

The other thing is that if the government is truly interested in learning more about any cases of injuries on the job, as to how things could be prevented, then it seems to me that moving away from mandatory inquests isn't going to provide you with the very best and deepest insights as to what happened, what took place or how prevention truly can happen in the future.

I want to share some time with my colleague from Prescott and Russell, but I would say that if you are really interested in the workers, especially workers who are injured after the fact, there is some question in looking at Bill 99 as to what kind of prevention program is really there. There are a few little campaigns, but the real concern is that those who have a legitimate reason to have some temporary or permanent compensation, in fairness, with a sense of dignity, are supported with their families. Of course, as we know, it was a sad day that it did not happen.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I can see that the minister has good intentions. We know that at the present time your goal is to reduce by 30% the number of injuries in Ontario. We know also that there's a lack of health and safety inspectors on construction sites. Apparently we only have approximately 68 inspectors in the whole of the province.

You know that especially in eastern Ontario, through the WCB office, we have received some data that we have paid over $50 million of compensation to Quebec-address-based employees, all this because we don't have the inspectors in place. Do you intend to increase the number of health and safety inspectors? Without this, over 5,000 applications last year alone came from the construction industry, and out of those 5,000, the majority in eastern Ontario came from Quebec residents.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Let me begin by saying to the minister that your attempt today to divert what is really happening with regard to your continuing attack on labour is not going to work. The fact is that you try to paper things over with messages like we have today, and today's is "Fall Focus on Falls." Isn't that cute? Then you go on, and what's insulting about this -- it goes from cute to insulting -- is that you talk about the other things you have done. You talk about the Workers' Compensation Board. You've got a lot of nerve talking about workplace accident and illness prevention and mentioning the Workers' Compensation Board, given what you're doing to injured workers and the WCB. First of all, you're taking away the words "Workers" and "Compensation" from the name of the new agency. That's how much commitment you've got.

When you say in your statement today, "A strong new prevention mandate," give me a break. Everybody who is involved knows that's just a reflection of the mandate for the Occupational Disease Panel and the Workplace Health and Safety Agency that you killed. This new mandate is really taking the mandate from there and putting it back in the WCB, from where it was taken out in the first place because it wasn't working. So this is a sham, much like a lot of what you're doing in terms of the public aspect of this government's agenda.

What's really important today in terms of workers and health and safety and labour relations in this province is the fact that you've moved a time allocation on your Bill 136 that's going to limit the amount of debate and limit the amount of public input to four days. What happened to your promise, your solemn promise? I quote your words from Hansard: "Yes, I commit to you that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province." Your time allocation motion does not have the committee leaving Queen's Park, Minister. What does that say about your word? What does that say about what this government is really up to?

Let's just stand back for a second and take a look at what's going on here. At the same time that you're time limiting Bill 136 you're also time limiting Bill 152; that, of course, is the download. The download is the reason you're passing Bill 136, because you want all the cuts you're imposing on municipalities to be borne by the workers and their families and their standard of living. You did it all in secret. You dropped Bill 136 in here like it was a bomb. Then, when the Premier was forced to meet with labour leaders over the last few days, you've left the impression that you wanted to talk to labour, that you were seeking to find a way to stand down from this crisis point you had put us all on.

Labour accepted that, Minister. Labour accepted that in goodwill because you're a minister of the crown and they don't want a confrontation. So they've had a discussion with you and there have been other discussions taking place. What has your response been to their offer of finding a way out of this? Before those discussions are even concluded, you slam the door shut on any kind of debate on Bill 136, you time allocate it, time allocate it after you've already passed the most anti-democratic rule changes this House has ever seen in its entire history.

That wasn't good enough. It wasn't good enough that you can ram legislation through here in lightning speed and muzzle and handcuff the opposition. You dupe the labour movement into believing that you want to have sincere discussions, and while that's going on you drop a time allocation motion which goes against your word, shuts down any kind of public input and basically suggests that you and your Premier want a confrontation with labour.

You obviously have sought from the beginning to ensure that there was major labour confrontation in this province. Why else would you do what you're doing? It's unimaginable, in the context of the rule changes and what you've said you want to do about negotiations, that you would introduce a time allocation motion that goes against your own word in terms of any kind of province-wide travel and shuts down any opportunity for input. Minister, this is a sham. It's a disgrace. It's another example of your anti-worker agenda. We won't stand for it.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You must withdraw the remark you made, member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I will withdraw my remark, sir.




Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. I imagine these days you must be thinking of a pending cabinet shuffle.

On June 4 of this year I asked you in the Legislature whether you would commit to full public hearings on Bill 136, which guts fundamental labour rights in Ontario. I asked this because Bill 136 will affect about half a million people, if not more, throughout the province, people in Kenora and Sudbury, in Pembroke, in Hamilton, Windsor, Cornwall, Ottawa -- everywhere, not just in this fair city. It will impact on the quality of services throughout the province, everything from education to health care, from snow removal to sewers and roads, police and firefighting services, nursing and libraries, and every other public service people depend on.

I want to quote your reply from Hansard when I asked you that question.

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

Mr Patten: You said: "Yes, I commit to you that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province, we will be in Toronto and we will listen." Why have you broken your promise to have --

The Speaker: Thank you very much.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): It certainly is our wish to ensure that as the restructuring takes place, we are able to provide continuous service to all the stakeholders in this province.

As we deal with Bill 136, as you well know, there was an indication from members of the committee you are on that there was an interest in reaching people in different parts of this province through means of video conferencing. We are actively taking a look at how we can access parts of this province that have never before had an opportunity for input, and we're looking at how we can ensure that those individuals have an opportunity to provide some input on Bill 136.

Mr Patten: You'll notice that the minister didn't answer the question, unless she astro-travels. She said she would travel to other parts of the province, and she obviously doesn't intend to do that. Maybe she will look at video conferencing; I don't know.

Minister, though everyone has been telling you that you haven't been listening, you say you are and that you care. Everyone is telling you to slow down. The Premier was ready to meet and talk with everybody at one point, I guess when he was reading the newspapers. He told the AMO conference that he would move slowly on Bill 136 and that of course he would listen and consult.

This legislation is going to be rammed through. We start the process this afternoon with a time allocation motion. We are going to have some very violent reactions, I believe, out in the community.

Why are you shutting down the consultation process and handicapping the committee from fully doing its job, which it will not be able to do under the time allocation motion and the limitations you've imposed on it?

Hon Mrs Witmer: First of all, the member may not be aware, because perhaps he was not in committee, that the option of teleconferencing was discussed and there was interest expressed within the committee. I understand that you were not always there.

What we are endeavouring to do is to tap into the new technology, which is obviously being used by people throughout this province, and to communicate and provide an opportunity for communication with those individuals.

By the way, we are not shutting down consultation. As you know, last week we met with the OFL. We have been meeting with the police association. We will continue to dialogue not only with the OFL and the police, but we will now embark on public consultations with all the stakeholders, and we'll do that through the days of hearings.

Mr Patten: I hope the press have a chance this afternoon to listen to the debate on the closure motion for Bill 136 and the arguments that are used by the government. It's appalling. You have so-called four days: You'll have hearings on a Friday morning and you'll have hearings on a Friday afternoon; and then you expect amendments to be in, in legalese, on Monday morning at 10 o'clock, to begin clause-by-clause the same day, on that Monday afternoon.

Do you think that's democracy? It's a bloody farce. It's a sham and it's hypocritical. Why are you doing that?

The Speaker: "Hypocritical" is out of order. I ask you to withdraw that.

Mr Patten: "Hypocritical" is out of order? I withdraw.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Perhaps the member does not remember that this legislation was introduced in June. We have had consultations since that time. In fact, I had written a letter to the OFL back in July indicating our interest in meeting with them. We've now had the opportunity to take a look at all the changes they have suggested. We've had an opportunity to listen to the hospital association and we've had an opportunity to listen to the municipalities.

I think we do have a good idea now of what the concerns are. It's obviously time for us to move into the broader sector and to have four days of public hearings. As you well know --


The Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands, I warn you to come to order. Hamilton Centre as well.

Hon Mrs Witmer: If you take a look at the social contract which was imposed by the NDP, which actually did override collective agreements and determine outcomes, that was all passed without one day of debate and there weren't public hearings.

We have already had three and a half months of discussion on this piece of legislation, and we're anxious to hear from the public.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Premier. The week of April 18, you and I had a meeting scheduled to discuss Windsor's health care crisis, especially since yet another emergency centre was closing April 18. You cancelled that meeting.

Your Minister of Health has cut $28 million from our hospitals, and they have spent $6 million on restructuring which they have never had reimbursed. You were told we would be in crisis if you didn't intervene to provide funding, which was promised two years ago but never flowed.

Now a ministry confidential report itemizes the dangers that exist in Windsor: "physical emergency units are hopelessly inadequate, inefficient and unsafe...a lack of privacy, confidentiality and human dignity." We have bed shortages, staff shortages and not enough stretchers. We don't even have enough bays for ambulances to pull up and unload patients.

Will you finally intervene and provide immediate funding relief?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Health would like to answer.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I don't know what the honourable member is getting at today. There was a press conference earlier this week in which representatives of the two Windsor hospitals and the DHC indicated they were pleased with progress being made with respect to hospital restructuring and that they are looking forward to the report of the commission, whenever the commission makes its interim and final reports.

Mrs Pupatello: Minister or Premier, someone over there has to listen finally. The ministry knows full well that the people who made a conference yesterday in Windsor said they could not make even stopgap changes without funding from you. They are calling on $3.1 million that must flow immediately.

You've made announcements and reannouncements for the Windsor area and not one red cent has ever landed in our community. Your own 84-page damning report actually tells you of the dangers that exist today. Moreover, you sat on the report since the beginning of August and did absolutely nothing, and you knew this was coming. The most frustrating part is that it was completely avoidable and you did nothing to avoid the crisis.

All communities are watching your treatment of Windsor today. You called it the cradle of restructuring, and now you are destroying it. No more announcements, no more reannouncements. Minister, you must have that flow today.

Hon Mr Wilson: It was I, in conjunction with the hospitals and the DHC, who launched the report the honourable member is talking about. We asked Dr Dagnone and Nurse McGillis, two of the leading experts in emergency services in the country and indeed our top experts in Ontario -- we paid for them to go to Windsor to look at everything that's going on. They have made 10 recommendations. One recommendation pertains to the Ministry of Health, and it's one we're already working on. The other nine pertain to all of us: the hospitals, the DHC and the ministry. We're working cooperatively.

The honourable member should be in better touch with her community because at the press conference this week in Windsor --

Mrs Pupatello: You knew what was going to happen, Minister, and you let it happen.


Hon Mr Wilson: I don't expect one of the most partisan members to ever, ever be in this Legislature to take my word for it. Perhaps she will take the word of the doctors in Windsor. Dr Ng and Dr Chalmers, who represented the hospitals at the press conference, both indicated that patients were receiving quality care at the facilities and that patient safety is not in jeopardy.

Mrs Pupatello: This is your report, Minister. You had this report --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Windsor-Sandwich, I won't warn you again to come to order.


The Speaker: Thank you for your help.

Hon Mr Wilson: The hospitals indicated that last week's meeting with the ministry was positive and the Ministry of Health has been in daily contact with the hospitals to ensure that patient care is not being compromised.

Finally, I'll say with respect to dollars that the press conference made it clear that everyone's waiting for the directions from the HSRC, the Health Services Restructuring Commission. Finally, I've said --


The Speaker: I'm not going to warn the member for Windsor-Sandwich again. Come to order.

Hon Mr Wilson: Finally, I've said quite often with respect to this matter that because we're in daily contact with the hospitals, we're working in a positive direction with the hospitals to serve more patients in modern hospitals and we look forward to making more reinvestments in the area to help patients. That's what we're all about on this side.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): Minister, this report contradicts everything you've just said. It says that the care there is unacceptable, that it doesn't meet minimum standards, that it's inadequate and unsafe. We know what you did in Peterborough: You didn't respond. Two weeks ago a 74-year-old spent three days in an emergency room using a bedpan in full public view in Jim Wilson and Mike Harris's hospital system.

You're on view here, Minister. Ottawa wants to know, when you merge hospitals there, are you going to provide the resources? What are you going to do for Northwestern on November 3 when you merge hospitals and no new facilities have been built? This is you cutting from these hospitals, taking the staff away, restructuring them, putting them together and then walking away from the problem.

If you have any dignity, you'll stand up in this House and you'll admit the $28 million you cut from Windsor is hurting the patients there. You've got a track record of putting the patients last. Tell us today that you're going to put the money back into Windsor and you're going to review the emergency room cuts you've made all over the province. Let's hear that from you right now.

Hon Mr Wilson: Perhaps it would be helpful, since the member mentioned Northwestern, that I quote from a September 12 letter from the administrator of the hospital in the honourable member's own riding, Darlene Barnes. Ms Barnes says the following, "While it is our philosophy to be open to the community and to you" -- writing to Mr Kennedy -- "as a leader in our community, your actions to date, unfortunately, demonstrate that you are not coming to us with an open mind seeking the facts."

Ms Barnes, the CEO of the member's own hospital, goes on to say, "While there are many issues and challenges in merging organizations and consolidating services which impact on our patients, staff and members of the community, you seem most interested in generating fear within the community around the safety and quality of care provided to individuals regardless of whether or not the facts support this conclusion."

I suggest you examine your own conscience before you give any lectures to the government.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Minister, I think most of us who are involved in watching your continuing attack on the labour movement, on working people and their quality of life, are left almost speechless by the current action of last night and today. It's absolutely mind-boggling to believe the process that you've followed through here.

First of all, you changed the rules of this House into the most undemocratic system we've ever seen so that you can ram through legislation at lightning speed. Then you introduced Bill 136, which of course was the first bill, coincidentally, that had to play under your new rules. Then, when we wanted you to meet with the labour movement around 136, your Premier tried to suggest it was the labour leaders who didn't want to meet, it was they who didn't want to sit down and talk, it was they who were refusing, when all the while it was you. When there finally were discussions and you said you wanted to listen, what was your response? A time allocation that shuts down debate, shuts down any opportunity and leaves the labour movement --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): It's obvious that the member opposite is quite out of touch as to what's happening in Ontario as far as the quality of life is concerned for working people. If we take a look at what's happening, we're seeing that consumer confidence has been restored; we're seeing that retail sales are up 5%; there's a real boom in the housing market; car sales are increasing; we've seen 33,000 new jobs created in the month of August; and there is a prediction of better news in the years ahead. Certainly the quality of life for all working people in this province is improving and it is a result of the changes that we are making in the life of Ontario.

Mr Christopherson: This is bizarre. You stand up and talk about how you're making things better at the same time as you're shutting down fundamental democracy in this province. That's what you're doing. Don't give us all this pablum about how you're making things better. The reality is you're shutting down debate on Bill 136. You want a confrontation. One lousy week of public hearings in Toronto only, they end on Friday, and Monday morning we have to put in amendments and then we start debating those amendments.

Minister, I want to ask you very directly -- I've got to get focused and get a question, because this is just beyond belief --



The Speaker: Stop the clock. Member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, I want to ask you a very simple question. You made a commitment, you said: "Yes, I commit to you that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province." What good is your word when you make that commitment and do the opposite? Will you bring back integrity, whatever you can, to your reputation and honour the commitment you made to travel this province on Bill 136?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would say, let's get focused and let's focus on the social contract. I find it unbelievable that you, a member of the NDP government that introduced the social contract, which overrode collective agreements and determined outcomes and had not one day of public hearings and was passed in less than three weeks, have the gall to stand up and talk about democracy.

In fact, do you know what you said when you were picketed by civil servants outside of your office? You said, "As difficult as it is for us to go through these times, we are convinced it is the right course of action, and if we don't take the steps we are, things will be worse for all the people in the public sector." That's what you said when you ignored the calls for any public hearings and you rushed the bill through in about three weeks.

Mr Christopherson: I think that everything you've done to working people and their families and our community proves that what I said was right. Things are a lot worse as a result of your agenda and what you're doing to our communities.

There's outrage across this province. Don't you realize what breaking your word is going to do in terms of labour relations out there? You said that you were going to listen, you said that you wanted to have honest dialogue with the labour movement, you said that you were interested in making changes, and then you drop a time allocation motion that limits debate and gives us only a few days here in the province, in direct contravention of your commitment.

You promised to travel the province and listen to people. Why are you breaking your word to the people of this province and when are you going to show some integrity?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would like to indicate to the member opposite that we have certainly listened to people. In fact we have spent the last seven years listening to people. As far as the consultation on this legislation is concerned, we have been listening since the middle of June, and in the letter I sent yesterday to Gord Wilson, which I copied to the OHA and AMO, I indicated that we will continue with consultations.

We feel very confident that, as we move into the public phase of discussion with all of our stakeholders, at the end of the day we will be able to introduce amendments to the legislation that will reflect the concerns that have been expressed.

I would just mention again, we are looking at the option of the teleconferencing. As I say, it gives us an opportunity to reach some of the communities in this province that traditionally have never, ever had an opportunity to provide any input on any legislation.


The Speaker: I see the member for Riverdale is heckling from the wrong seat. Member for Riverdale, you must go back. Thank you for pointing that out. I appreciate it.


The Speaker: That's your choice.

Funnily enough, there goes the member for Durham East in the wrong seat heckling. I would ask that he go back to his original seat. Thank you.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to move from the twilight zone --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): If you've got a question, you've got to tell me whom it's to, member for Fort York. I just need to know right off the top of your question, that's all.

Mr Marchese: I want to go to a less provocative minister, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, for a question.

Yesterday you tabled a time allocation motion on Bill 152, a bill that will download, from Owen Sound to Hamilton to Sudbury and Toronto, $1.2 billion in costs to the municipal taxpayers. Yet, in spite of the enormity of this bill, you have the gall to restrict the public to only five days of hearings on your mega-load, this on top of your rule changes that allow you to speed your bill through this House with very little debate.

Minister, do you really think no one cares about your download or do you believe, or are you hoping, they will blame the $1.2 billion on the municipalities?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I guess the member is in the twilight zone, because that is not my bill. It's the bill of the social services minister, and I'd ask her to take it.

The Speaker: You see, you can't say anything. You just have to refer it. That constitutes an answer. You've got to answer it.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): They're all talking at once.

The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, I'm not debating with you right now. Come to order. Thank you. I appreciate your help, but it's really not helpful.

Minister, you simply refer it. If you start answering or make any reference to the question, then you've got to answer it.

Hon Mr Leach: I say to the honourable member and to you, Mr Speaker, that was my answer.

Mr Marchese: I appreciate the talents of this minister and I will go on with my supplementary.

Today the mayors of the province's largest cities met in Markham. They are trying to deal with your download but they still don't know and haven't been given the full breakdown of the costs. Bill 152 had just one message: The municipality will pay, and you as a minister and as the government are going to tell them how much. There's almost nothing about who will run the services, almost nothing about provincial standards, not even any certainty about which level of municipal government will pay the bill.

Minister, the list of questions grows and grows, the dump on the municipalities grows and grows and your credibility continues to shrink and shrink every day. Will you withdraw Bill 152 until you and some of your buddies get your act together?

Hon Mr Leach: I'll refer the question to the author of the bill.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I don't think there is any reason to withdraw this piece of legislation. As the member across way is well aware, we had made policy announcements in January in terms of how we thought we should be making an equitable transfer of these services. The municipalities brought forward better proposals. We consulted with them. We made further announcements in the spring. What this legislation is doing is simply implementing the policy framework for those announcements that we have spent many months consulting on.

The issue about provincial standards: Of course there are going to be provincial standards for these programs. They're extremely important. For example, one of the reasons I'm bringing in the welfare legislation is so there will indeed be those provincial standards.

I have full faith in municipalities that they're going to be able to work with us to deliver these services. As a matter of fact, in my municipality in Ajax just last night I attended a special celebration. They are the first community in North America to have an ISO 9001 quality designation -- the first municipal government. I think that says something about the commitment of the municipal level of government to good services for the taxpayer.


Mr Marchese: Perhaps you can assist mon ami, M. Leach, with the following supplementary, and that is, the treasurer of Metropolitan Toronto, Louise Eason, says the download will cost the new megacity a minimum of $260 million. In Owen Sound, a good Tory town, they predict a tax increase of up to 26%. In the north, the numbers are really scary. It's an average download of almost $1,000 per household. Bill 152 dumps over $1.2 billion, without giving the answers people need on ambulance services, public health, non-profit housing and many other areas. If you won't withdraw this bill, this embarrassingly inadequate bill, will you at least add a second week of public hearings so that people can adequately be heard?

Hon Mrs Ecker: As I said, we have consulted with municipal representatives for many months over this legislation and in terms of the implementation. That's one of the reasons we have two implementation teams: one that's doing the social and community services; the other one that is doing the other issues. They have been working very hard and will continue to do so, I'm sure.

The other thing I would like to remind the honourable member -- I mean, they keep talking about services going down. They forget to remind the critics out there that the province is assuming $2.5 billion of education costs, a growing cost.

I would also like to remind the honourable members that one of the services that municipalities are cost-sharing with the province is welfare -- 218,000 fewer people, a billion dollars in savings there. So they are having costs that are controllable, costs that are going down, and this will be I think a very equitable transfer.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier and it has to do with Ipperwash. It's been two years, Premier, since the death of Dudley George. We've been asking you over that period of time to at least commit to holding a public inquiry. We understand that you may have your reasons for setting the date for that, for not beginning it immediately, but what we need is a commitment to hold that public inquiry. The Premier I think appreciates that there are serious, major questions about what happened at Ipperwash that clearly need answers. So my question is this: Will you commit to the House today -- commit -- to a public inquiry at a date that you determine?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We've been quite clear that when legal matters are settled we will look at what we believe is still appropriate or necessary to meet our commitment to make sure all the facts are heard.

Mr Phillips: I think the public understands why increasingly we believe there are major implications for the government, that the government is going to refuse to have a public inquiry so we'll find out. I think the public can understand your saying that there are legal reasons why you can't begin a public inquiry. But the public can't understand why you will not commit to a public inquiry. We have the Lambton county council demanding it, the B'nai Brith, the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Catholic church, the Mennonite community, the Lutheran church, many editorial boards -- all demanding that you commit to a public inquiry.

I again say to you, Premier, will you now reconsider, will you at least begin to clear the air about Ipperwash by today saying the government of Ontario will commit to a public inquiry at the earliest possible date that we can do so legally? Will you make that simple, single and most important commitment to the people of Ontario today?

Hon Mr Harris: I'm pleased to repeat the commitment to the people of Ontario that we are prepared, as soon as all court cases are settled, to make all the information that we can available, which I am quite sure will satisfy all concerned who are objective on this matter that we have acted, just as previous governments have acted, in an appropriate manner.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): My question is to the Solicitor General. Solicitor General, you know that on January 1 a number of Ontario municipalities are going to be required to take over the full cost of policing. In Haldimand-Norfolk, like many other municipalities, the regional council is faced with the decision to either expand its own police force or to contract out all of its policing to the Ontario Provincial Police. This has started campaigning the likes of which has never been seen before. Reports from Haldimand-Norfolk are of police officers going door to door, of OPP committees mailing pamphlets with misleading information about the Haldimand-Norfolk force, of the OPP using overhead advertising at fall fairs, of threats to local politicians and of officials from both the OPP and regional forces issuing statements attacking one another.

Is this what you had in mind, police forces fighting it out, playing politics to scoop a municipality to give them the contract? Is this what you had in mind when you dreamed up the download scheme this really consists of?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Those are serious allegations. I would suggest, if a municipality has those concerns and the facts to back them up, to make us aware of them and we will ensure that an appropriate investigation takes place.

With respect to the cost exchanges and the policing amendments, I think this is giving each municipality the opportunity to explore a variety of options. I think that's quite fair. The member raises some concerns surrounding that process, and I would share those concerns that he has conveyed here today if indeed they're accurate. But I can say that the municipality or municipalities involved have certainly not contacted me to express those concerns.

Mr Kormos: Solicitor General, I have been contacted, as have a number of my colleagues. Haldimand-Norfolk regional council is meeting to make their decision tomorrow night, and it won't be an isolated regional municipality; other municipalities are going to be required to make the same decisions in short order. Many in Haldimand-Norfolk feel that they're being forced effectively to buy a pig in a poke when it comes to the OPP services. Some suspect that they're the victims of a bait and switch scheme whereby the OPP is low-balling the price and, in the process, acquiring a monopoly of policing over that municipality. There's no guarantee that if they go with the OPP, they're going to get the same level of service next year and the year after that and the year after that. There's no guarantee that the contract price is going to remain the same. There's no guarantee that they're not going to end up subsidizing the OPP policing of Highway 401 here in Toronto.

Will you please direct that consideration of the competing bids be suspended until you and your ministry have had an opportunity to investigate these allegations and to ensure that the contract and bidding process is fair, transparent and on a level playing field?

Hon Mr Runciman: I reject those allegations categorically. With respect to accurate costings, we've spent considerable time ensuring that OPP costing figures are reflective of actual on-the-ground costs.

I want to say with respect to contracts, the OPP, through the negotiation process, will determine, along with the municipality, the levels of service they will be billed for. Traditionally, the contracts entered into with the OPP are five-year contracts.

I think the concerns the member is raising here do not stand up to scrutiny. In fact, we have done everything possible to ensure that all of these competitions are on a level playing field. We've bent over backwards to ensure that's the case.



Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Many of my constituents telephone me to discuss the changes to our welfare system, in particular workfare. I know the government promised to reduce welfare rolls and get more people back to work. I think my constituents deserve to know how this plan is working at the local level. Can the minister tell me what these changes mean for my riding of Simcoe Centre and what impact they've had on taxpayers?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm very pleased that the city of Barrie, for example, is experiencing the same decrease in the number of people on welfare that we've seen province-wide: a 16% reduction in the number of people trapped on welfare province-wide, and in Barrie that is a 23% reduction, some 2,000 fewer cases. In just this last fiscal year that has resulted in $743,000 worth of savings to the taxpayers in that community.

We know this is due to the economic growth, the job growth in this province. We've seen almost a quarter of a million net new jobs in the last two years. We also know that these decreases are due to our welfare reforms, including Ontario Works, our work-for-welfare program. Barrie is one of the 42 communities that have it up and running and we're very pleased with that progress.

Mr Tascona: It is encouraging that the welfare rolls are smaller than they were two years ago.

A recent survey in the Toronto Star reports that most people in the GTA believe in sharing welfare costs. Most of my constituents are also committed to helping those who are less fortunate. At the same time, many of them tell me they deserve to know that their money is being spent wisely.

I'd appreciate the minister telling me what type of feedback she has been receiving about the Ontario Works program.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Not only are the numbers very encouraging in terms of our progress to date, but the anecdotal evidence, if you will, as well, not only from people who are involved in delivering the program but from those who are actually on the program. For example, we had a news story from Barrie recently where the program manager said that the work-for-welfare program is so popular that single moms, who aren't forced to join, are taking part anyway.

We have another quote that says, "There was some anticipation within the community that some people would not want to participate, but we probably have a 99% rate of people who want to."

We also have a recent letter from the Brantford Expositor from a participating woman who says -- and this is someone who is in the program -- "Ontario Works is a sincere and very admirable effort to get Ontarians back into the workforce and off the system." She talks about the services it provides: workshops on how to write résumés, that it helps people discover abilities, boosts self-confidence --

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

Hon Mrs Ecker: She says, "This is a serious attempt to move people into meaningful jobs," and "The Harris government has produced results." We're collecting a lot of anecdotal stories.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Premier. You will know that yesterday at West Ferris Secondary School in your riding, 300 students staged a rally against the looming increase in cuts to education. This was a well-organized, highly-thought-out protest. The students who protested weren't the rabble-rousers or troublemakers of the school. These organizers and these students were highly motivated, very talented young OAC adults who are genuinely concerned about their future and the future of education in Ontario.

Naomi Cheechoo, one of the organizers for the demonstration, is reported to have said that this protest is "by the students, for the students, in support of our teachers." Co-organizer Erin Hayes said: "You think you're crowded now. Imagine classes of as many as 45 to 50 students."

Premier, these students truly care. Will you listen to your constituents such as Naomi and Erin and rein in the Minister of Education --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I certainly will. Let me tell you I agree with the students. I think any increase in class size over the last period of time has been absolutely wrong, unnecessary, inexcusable and unacceptable to me and to the Minister of Education and to this government.

I want to assure the students that that is precisely why we are moving to work far more cooperatively with the teachers, classroom teachers particularly, to ensure that no actions are taken in the future that would do anything but increase the quality of education, control class sizes and control decisions to take away from quality. We'll move this province of Ontario, and particularly West Ferris Secondary School, my alma mater in the city of North Bay, back to the top of the pack, the top of Canada, the top of the world. Those are the changes and that's the commitment, and I agree with them.

Mr Bartolucci: If you agree with them, you'll stop the cuts to education. That's why they were protesting. Stop the cuts to education. Even one of your young Tory supporters, Peter Loewen, a self-described Conservative Party supporter who took part in the demonstration, said he's concerned and he wants to see the government work with the teachers.

These students felt they had to do something dramatic, they felt they had to do something they didn't want to do: They had to walk out of class. Teachers feel they're going to have to do something they don't want to do. Parents are caught. They want to support the students and the teachers, because they think you're going too far too fast, with too many cuts, without understanding the impact of your cuts.

Again, will you listen to your constituents? Will you listen to your own supporters? Will you listen to the parents, the students and the teachers of Ontario? Will you direct your Minister of Education to slow down his agenda and to stop the cuts to education?

Hon Mr Harris: Listen, I have said yes, I agree with the students. They said they were concerned, for example, about outdated computers, products of a $14-billion system that had proved itself incapable of focusing on the classroom and raising student achievement. I agree with them.

When we look, between 1995 and 1996 enrolment declined 2.9% in Nipissing and funding from the province declined 2.6%, so they had more money per pupil than they ever had before, yet we were not getting those dollars into the classroom.

You mentioned Peter Loewen. I am quoting now from the Nugget: "Peter Loewen said the Tory government has good intentions." If the teachers have good intentions, we'll work together to have the best education system, not the mess we inherited from the ilk of your party.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question to the Premier. Your government has had a bad time in court over the last two weeks: First your government was found guilty of violating the Charter of Rights when you repealed proxy pay equity. Then your government was found to be acting unfairly when you tried to block the appointment of an independent adjudicator to deal with contempt charges against the government House leader. Then last Thursday the Minister of Natural Resources was convicted of allowing an illegal road to be built on crown land into Cross Lake in Temagami.

Your minister has failed to understand the seriousness of this issue. He said in the House on February 17, "As far as the EA for the road goes, it's a minor process." The Ministry of Environment and Energy didn't think so when it laid the charges and the court didn't think so when it convicted the ministry. My question to you is, how do you propose to deal with a minister who doesn't seem to understand the seriousness of allowing his ministry to break the law?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I intend to refer the question to the minister.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I'm glad to answer this question again in this House, to remind the people of Ontario of the issue. As the papers reported at the time, it was the Ministry of Natural Resources that realized the process hadn't been followed and phoned the Minister of Environment. That was clearly quoted by all the Toronto papers at the time.

The issue is around a road that existed, and after a number of years of study by the comprehensive planning commission, they decided they would like to see the road blocked at the top of the hill instead of going down to the water. When I received that recommendation, I felt that was unfair to the elderly people and the disabled people who wouldn't be able to access the lake as they had in the past and that therefore our staff should go through the proper environmental assessment process to determine if any damage was done.

What happened in the court was that we pleaded guilty to the charge, but it was recognized that there was absolutely no environmental damage or degradation to that area.

Ms Martel: I'm sorry the Premier didn't want to answer how he's going to deal with the conduct of this minister. It was this minister who stood in the House on February 17 and said the EA process was a minor matter; breaking the EA law was a minor matter. You obviously don't understand what's happened. You've shown contempt for the law. You've shown contempt for the local residents, because the comprehensive planning council recommended last June that there be no motorized access into Cross Lake. They recommended that because they were concerned there would be too much angling and fishing on Cross Lake and they wanted to protect this lake. That's why they made the recommendation.

Minister, your road is opposed by the comprehensive planning council, by the Temagami first nation, by the town of Temagami and by the Temagami Lakes Association. They have all said the road should go. Will you finally do the right thing, listen to the local people and say that a road will not be built into Cross Lake? Will you do that?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I'm glad the member of the third party allowed me the opportunity to clarify my position. The Environmental Assessment Act is not minor. This proposed extension of a road from the top of the hill at the parking lot down the hill to the lake was a minor project which still needed to go through the proper process.



Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): My question is directed to the minister responsible for seniors. Today across Canada, local Alzheimer societies are hosting coffee breaks. These breaks are to raise both money and awareness of a disease that can strike any adult, but particularly those over the age of 65.

With between 80,000 and 100,000 Ontarians suffering from this disease, can the minister tell the House what the government is doing to help persons with Alzheimer's and their families?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I want to thank the member for the question and to advise all members of the House that, with World Alzheimer's Day coming up this weekend and with the announcements all across this province of expanded programs to assist in this program, this government has taken a very clear and decisive stand in expanding dollars for the fact that Alzheimer's is a growing disease and is going to affect an aging and ever-longer-living population in this province.

Aside from the $100 million we recently committed to long-term-care facilities, I want members to know that 45% of all the residents in our facilities have some form of dementia, and therefore we had to expand those dollars, but the community-based dollars is also where this government is expanding. Right here in the city of Toronto, we've increased by $14.3 million in additional dollars caregiver support services and badly needed respite services.

Unfortunately, not every government in Canada is as enthusiastic. I know all members read in the Globe and Mail on Saturday that the federal Liberal budget and campaign promise of more home care dollars, to quote Minister Rock, was "tentative, preliminary and non-committal." That's not the level of commitment we're getting in Ontario from this government.

Mr Jim Brown: My supplementary is also addressed to the minister responsible for seniors. Will the new community care access centres, one of which will be in my riding, make life easier not only for those who suffer from Alzheimer's but also for those family members who take care of them?

Hon Mr Jackson: There is no question that the new community care access centres will be helpful in providing one-window access, coordinating community-based support programs. I'm pleased to report to members of the House that on Monday of this week, the six CCACs were opened and are in full operation within Metro Toronto. I'm pleased to indicate, having made the transfer of these responsibilities, that they are increasing their programs, $1.3 million in the budgets for adult day services and more than $800,000 for respite care, bringing our total to almost $9 million.

In Ontario, we are reinvesting our health care dollars into priority services for seniors, a patient-focused program. The Mike Harris government is very proud of the fact that we've increased by 40% the budgets for community-based long-term care in Metro Toronto since we formed the government. That's a 40% increase in funding.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question for the Solicitor General. From the mishandling of young offenders and the privatization of fire departments and the continuing disaster up at the boot camp, I want to ask you today about a disturbing trend we now have in policing.

We're seeing more stories of inadequate police response to citizens' cries and calls for help. Last week, an 84-year-old woman in St Catharines waited three hours in her car for police to respond to the accident scene. The Niagara Region Police Association reports that this happened because of inadequate staffing.

On another front, housing developments such as Foxwood Creek in Burlington are now marketing their communities on the fact that they have a gate and a wall around their community to provide extra security. Obviously, the downloading and cuts are having an effect on police services in Ontario.

Minister, what is happening to police protection on your watch in Ontario?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): It's quite clear that public safety has improved in this province in the brief period of time we've been in office.

I can give you a couple of examples. The parole board is an example. When we took office, the parole board was releasing into the community on the average of 62%, 63% under Liberal and NDP tenure. It seemed to the public that they were focusing their energies, their cares and their concerns on offenders, not victims, not the public at large.

We've changed that process completely. We've made community safety the number one priority of the Ontario Board of Parole. The last statistics I saw were release rates of around 37%. I'll compare our record with respect to public safety against theirs any day.

Mr Ramsay: Over the last two years you have cut $3 million out of community policing and prevention. We're now starting to see the development of a two-tier system of policing in this province.

The town of Dundas has recently made the decision to hire a private firm to provide additional security for the town. This came about when the business improvement association reported a 50% increase in break-ins in the downtown district and a lack of police response to those calls.

Minister, I don't believe safety should be for sale. As you continue to cut the core services, only the more affluent individuals and communities are going to be able to afford adequate policing in this province. Do you support one level of policing for the poor and a better level of safety for the rich?

Hon Mr Runciman: I have respect for the member opposite, but he is making suggestions today which I would hope he knows are totally inaccurate. He knows that municipal police forces are funded through the municipal tax base. The policing force that this province, this government is responsible for is the OPP.

I want to give you another statistic with respect to coverage and commitment to policing this province. When we assumed office in 1995, the 24-hour coverage across this province with respect to OPP service was around 32%. Communities were receiving 24-hour coverage. The latest statistic on that: Over 80% of Ontario is now receiving 24-hour coverage. That's a dramatic change in a little over two years.

We're also committed to spending an additional $25 million on the DNA lab to improve DNA lab operations. We've established a proceeds-of-crime unit. We've brought into this House the Community Safety Act, which is going to allow communities to identify --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. The Solicitor General, come to order.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. For weeks and weeks now, our community has been calling upon you to hold a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire. We now have a number of other community councils, local councils, that have come on side because they're worried it may happen in their communities and they want answers, and every time you have said no because there have been no specific questions.

Minister, let me ask you one: A staffer in my office has talked with an official of Environment Canada, who has told her that the federal government had special equipment on the road, on the way to the Plastimet fire while it was burning, and your ministry said to them, and I quote, "They have it under control," and that equipment was sent back. My question to you is, is this true and, if it is, why did you send back the federal help that was offered?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The determination of my ministry was, as I understand it and as I can remember, that they were in control, they had all the necessary test equipment there --

Mr Christopherson: Oh, yes, really under control.

Hon Mr Sterling: -- and that the federal government wanted to charge us a very pretty penny for supplying additional equipment --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Members of the third party, you must allow the minister to answer the question.


The Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, I'm warning you to come to order now.

Hon Mr Sterling: As I said before, my ministry was there within an hour, an hour and a half, providing test results to the medical officer of health, to the fire department, to make decisions as to what they might or might not do. The determination --


The Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, I don't want to have to warn you again.

Hon Mr Sterling: Not only did we have adequate technical knowledge there, scientists, but we had a technical van there within two hours. The equipment which we were going to get from the federal government would have been much less timely in getting to the site than our own equipment, so it became not an imperative for them to be coming with their equipment.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it coincides with the postcard campaign across the north.

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

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

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

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

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to revoke the new tax imposed on the north and convince the Tory government to understand that indeed northern Ontario residents do not want the new Mike Harris vehicle registration tax."

Of course I affix my signature to this petition.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has issued directions calling for the closure of the Wellesley Central Hospital; and

"Whereas the Wellesley Central Hospital has played an integral role in the health care needs of the people in Toronto's downtown core; and

"Whereas the Wellesley Central Hospital has become well known for its focus on urban health, minimally invasive surgery and expertise with diseases of the immune system; and

"Whereas the Wellesley Central Hospital's busy emergency department sees 33,000 visits per year; and

"Whereas the Wellesley Central Hospital is Ontario's premier HIV/AIDS hospital and is located in an area populated with a high number of people affected by this illness,

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to stand by its responsibilities for hospitals in the province and to overturn the directions of the Health Services Restructuring Commission, thereby allowing the Wellesley Central Hospital to continue to serve its communities with excellence."

I agree with the petition and I am proud to affix my signature.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 45 people. It reads as follows:

"Whereas at this time in the province of Ontario it is not illegal for a woman to appear topless in public, and due to the fact that this lack of restriction offends a large percentage of Ontarians;

"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."


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas on July 15, 1996, the government of Ontario forced seniors with incomes over $16,018 to pay an annual $100 deductible on prescription drugs;

"Whereas this user fee imposed significant hardships on vulnerable seniors;

"Whereas on April 1, 1997, the government of Ontario unfairly and knowingly forced Ontario seniors to pay that $100 deductible again;

"Whereas the time between July 15, 1996, and April 1, 1997, is only eight and a half months and not one year;

"Whereas the Ontario government has wrongly taken an additional $30 million out of the pockets of seniors for prescription drugs;

"Whereas Ontario seniors feel cheated by the government of Ontario and this $30 million ripoff shows a tremendous disrespect for Ontario seniors;

"Therefore be it resolved that the government of Ontario credit Ontario seniors for the three-and-a-half-month overpayment they were forced to pay on prescription drugs by making the effective date for the 1998 $100 deductible July 15, 1998, instead of April 1, 1998."

I have attached my name to that petition as well.


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

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

This petition is signed by 21 women and men from Keswick, Jackson's Point and Pefferlaw who are constituents of my riding of Durham-York, as well as others from Newmarket. I agree with this petition and I have affixed my name to it.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have another very important petition that's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It deals with the standing orders reform or the withdrawal of democratic services in the province of Ontario. It states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've signed my name to it as I am in full and complete agreement with this petition.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have another petition which is against fingerprinting, a plan of Mike Harris, and it says:

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, has proposed the fingerprinting of Ontario citizens; and

"Whereas fingerprinting of Ontarians was never promised in the Common Sense Revolution or in his election campaign; and

"Whereas universal fingerprinting of Ontario citizens is a direct violation of basic civil rights and fundamental rights of privacy; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is intervening and intruding into all aspects of daily life, from megacity, user fees, rent controls and market value taxes, which he never promised in the election campaign;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to oppose Mike Harris's plan to fingerprint Ontario citizens, and to respect their privacy and to stop creating a mega-government that does not respect the basic freedom and individuality of the citizens of Ontario."

I have attached my name to that petition as well.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition but before I do, I don't believe we have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Let me check and see.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): 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: Thank you. The Chair recognizes the member for London Centre for a petition.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

This is signed by 56 constituents in the city of Toronto and I'm proud to affix my signature.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I have a petition signed by 21 constituents in the Fort Erie area, like Patricia Howe of Fort Erie and Laurie Ramsay of Ridgeway. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas ownership of a domestic animal or pet is a responsibility not a right;

"Whereas owners have a responsibility to treat their pet with care and utmost concern for their wellbeing; and

"Whereas cruelty to animals should be punished and sanctioned with fines, penalties and/or bans on animal ownership; and

"Whereas inspectors of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should not be obstructed from carrying out their duties to investigate abuse or neglect;

"We, the undersigned, support the amendments to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Bill 155."

I sign my name to it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further petitions? The Chair recognizes the member for St Catharines -- I'm sorry, Kingston and The Islands.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): They're both equally great communities in this province, Mr Speaker.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have another petition here, which is addressed to the government of Ontario.

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crimes such as embezzlement and robbery; and

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come; and

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income; and

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Mike Harris and Ernie Eves were so critical of the provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations,

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, call upon Premier Mike Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."

I've affixed my signature to it, as I'm in complete agreement with this petition.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition, but I believe we do not have quorum again.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you check if there is a quorum present, please.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): 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 London Centre.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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

"That over 70% of people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C through the use of blood-derived treatment products. With hepatitis C, as with HIV, the same institutional players of the blood system failed to respond to the identified risk of transmission, failed to properly notify people of the potential risk of exposure, failed to implement safety measures to lessen the risk of transmission, ie, the failure of the Red Cross to implement surrogate testing for hepatitis C for over four years and now continue to deny any responsibility for these failures;

"That the representatives of Hemophilia Ontario and its hepatitis C task force have been advocating for financial compensation to those individuals who have been infected with hepatitis C through the Canadian blood system. The provincial Minister of Health, Jim Wilson, has three times cancelled meetings with Hemophilia Ontario, and the provincial and territorial ministers of health have publicly stated that they intend to keep the issue of hepatitis C compensation off their agenda in future meetings; and

"Further, that the only prescribed treatment for hepatitis C in Ontario is alpha interferon, which has a less than 25% success rate in clearing the virus among people who have had one exposure to the virus. Many haemophiliacs were repeatedly exposed to the hepatitis C virus through the use of blood-derived treatment products. The response to interferon therapy in haemophiliacs with chronic HCV infection is poor and appears inferior to that of other groups of infected patients. In view of the generally poor response to interferon therapy in haemophiliacs, treatment with interferon is inappropriate in the majority of individuals.

"Therefore we petition the Minister of Health to meet with representatives of Hemophilia Ontario's hepatitis C task force now to discuss issues related to compensation."

I am pleased to affix my signature.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I have another petition, signed by Karin McKenney of Fort Erie and Dr Howe, also of Fort Erie, and a number of other constituents, about 21, and it reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas ownership of a domestic pet is a responsibility not a right;

"Whereas owners have a responsibility to treat their pet with care and utmost concern for their wellbeing; and

"Whereas cruelty to animals should be punished, sanctioned with fines, penalties and/or bans on animal ownership; and

"Whereas inspectors of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should not be obstructed from carrying out their duties to investigate abuse or neglect;

"We, the undersigned, support the amendments to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act."

In support of the petition, I sign my name to it.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition which is of particular interest, I know you will know, to those people who are interested in the wine industry in the Niagara region. It reads as follows:

"To the government of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirit sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products sold in its stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wine and thereby contributes immensely to grape growing and the wine producing industry;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its plan to turn over the sale of liquor and spirits to private liquor stores and retain the LCBO for that purpose."

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




Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 136, An Act to provide for the expeditious resolution of disputes during collective bargaining in certain sectors and to facilitate collective bargaining following restructuring in the public sector and to make certain amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Pay Equity Act, when Bill 136 is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment, and at such time the bill shall be referred to the standing committee on resources development;

That the standing committee on resources development shall be authorized to meet to consider the bill on September 23, 1997, following routine proceedings until 6 pm, and from 7 pm to 9:30 pm;

That the standing committee on resources development shall further be authorized to meet to consider the bill on September 24, 1997, and September 25, 1997, from 9 am to 12 pm, and following routine proceedings until 6 pm, and from 7 pm to 9:30 pm;

That the standing committee on resources development shall further be authorized to meet to consider the bill on September 26, 1997, from 9 am to 12 pm and from 1 pm to 5 pm;

That all proposed amendments shall be filed with the clerk of the committee by 10 am on September 29, 1997;

That the committee shall be authorized to meet for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on September 29, 1997, at its regularly scheduled meeting time and from 7 pm to 9:30 pm;

That the committee shall further be authorized to meet for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on September 30, 1997, following routine proceedings until the completion of clause-by-clause consideration;

At 5 pm on September 30, 1997, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);

That the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;

That, upon receiving the report of the standing committee on resources development, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;

That one sessional day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At 5:45 pm or 9:15 pm as the case may be on such day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;

That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know the minister gave a commitment in the House that there would be public hearings throughout Ontario and I'm sure she would want to correct --


Mr Gerretsen: No, just hear me out. I'm sure she would want to correct this motion by adding the missing paragraph that the committee will be travelling throughout Ontario and will be holding public hearings. That's my point of order. Would the minister confirm that a paragraph is missing in this motion?

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): That is not a point of order. The Chair recognizes the minister from Waterloo North.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Mr Speaker, I will be speaking to this time allocation motion and I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton West and the member for Quinte.

It is a pleasure for me to rise and to have this opportunity to describe in very clear terms why the government is moving forward to the next stage in the legislative process for Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act.

I want to state at the outset of my remarks that our government has been and remains committed to dialogue, consultation and communication on Bill 136. For example, prior to the introduction of Bill 136, regardless of what may be said by others, there was consultation. As a result of the consultation with the union leaders, Bill 136 did maintain successor rights for broader public sector employees and did not intervene in collective agreements to eliminate restrictions on contracting out. I think it's extremely important that that point is stressed and the point made that that was in response to the concerns that we had heard voiced from the unions.

We have over the course of the last three and a half months, ever since the introduction of this legislation in June, regularly by way of both verbal and written invitations, indicated our willingness to meet with employers, employees, labour leaders and others who wanted to discuss this bill.

As a result, I am extremely pleased to say that there have been meetings and there have been discussions which did take place, not only prior to the introduction of the bill but also during the months of July, August and September, and I would like to focus specifically on some of these meetings which have resulted in very extensive consultations.

On September 2 the Premier and myself, as well as several of my cabinet colleagues, met with senior representatives of some of Ontario's trade unions. The unions that met with us on September 2 included the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union, the Service Employees International Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation as well as OECTA and the firefighters' association.

I know this meeting was positive, it was constructive and it was worthwhile. In fact in a letter I wrote yesterday, September 16, to Gord Wilson, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, I indicated: "We were all pleased with the outcome of the meeting involving the Premier, myself and labour groups on September 2. At that time, we agreed that further meetings at the staff level would be beneficial."

As a result of that first meeting on September 2, which was so very positive, additional consultation sessions were set up with the Ontario federation and its affiliates such as CUPE, OPSEU, SEIU, ATU and others. In fact these consultation sessions were held on September 9, 11 and 12.


Again, these were very productive meetings and we had an opportunity to thoroughly take a look at the document that had been presented by the OFL. We took a look at their recommendations regarding the transferring of some of the responsibilities for the LRTC to the OLRB. We discussed their concern about the neutrality of the commissioners. We looked at the arbitration system.

As I would stress, each and every concern that was raised in the OFL document was thoroughly discussed. As I indicated to Mr Wilson yesterday in my letter, the meetings were very productive in that they provided an opportunity for in-depth discussion of the OFL Alternatives document and a very frank exchange of rationale, views and expectations. I indicate that the meeting was very helpful from the government's perspective. I go on to indicate that no final decisions have been made on the legislation.

I want to stress again that we have had the meetings with the OFL, we've had the meetings with the other stakeholder groups, and those meetings will continue to go forward. We are looking forward to continued dialogue with the OFL, we're looking forward to continued dialogue with the police, as well as AMO, as well as the OHA, as well as all of the other stakeholders. As I would stress to you, these meetings have been very positive and very productive. We certainly now have an opportunity to take a look at everything that is on the table.

As we've been meeting with not only the OFL but also AMO, the Ontario Hospital Association and the Toronto transition commission, I want to stress the fact that AMO has indicated to us, as has the OHA, that there is a need for Bill 136 and certainly they support the principles found within the bill as well. Mr Power, the new president of AMO, has stressed the need for the legislation, as has Mr MacKinnon from the OHA.

I want to indicate that the point we're at today is that all of these consultations will be ongoing. These consultations that are staff-to-staff or between myself and different members of the stakeholder community will continue. For those who would try to convey a different impression, that is certainly not the case. It is my hope, and I believe I speak on behalf of my colleagues --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): On a point of order, Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum. Would you check, please.

The Acting Speaker: Yes, I will. Would you check and see if there's a quorum present.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): 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 minister from Waterloo North.

Hon Mrs Witmer: As I was saying, and I want to stress this, we actually now will continue to engage in consultations with some of the parties we have already been in consultation with, and of course that includes the Ontario municipalities and the Ontario Hospital Association, as well as the nurses, as well as the OFL. I've stressed how very positive and fruitful those discussions were -- the police association as well. While those discussions continue, and for those who would indicate otherwise, that these discussions are not fruitful, I would certainly indicate and stress to you that they are.

However, it is now time for us to also move forward and move beyond private consultation to a much more public consultation phase, and that is the committee stage of the legislative process we're now actually into. As I indicated to Mr Wilson in my letter yesterday, where I say, "I want to assure you that as consultations continue, both at committee and through direct discussions with interested parties, we will continue to give the OFL Alternatives document due consideration." We're now at a point where we're going to move into public consultation.

To illustrate our commitment to this open line of communication, it is important that the members of this House know that prior to the tabling of this time allocation motion yesterday by the House leader, I personally contacted many of the employer groups that we had been in consultation with. I contacted the employee representatives, as well as the members in the opposition benches and the president of the OFL, in order that they would know that the government was now moving forward in the legislative process, moving forward into a more public consultation phase.

If we look at Bill 136, it has already undergone three full days at second reading. This has allowed dozens of members, both our members and members in the opposition, with the opportunity to provide some very valuable commentary on the proposed legislation. I can assure you that we are listening very carefully to the dialogue that has been ongoing in this House and to the feedback that we're getting from the stakeholders.

If this motion that we're debating today is passed, our time allocation motion will allow for four full days of committee hearings on Bill 136, as well as two additional days of clause-by-clause analysis. These six days will provide for over 30 hours of public hearings. These four days will also provide an opportunity for many presenters to appear before the committee in order to engage in a public dialogue with the government on this legislation, as we look forward to coming back and making, certainly, amendments and changes to our legislation as a result of the input that we have received and will be receiving in the future.

I am advised that the government members of the standing committee on resources development have expressed an interest in taking a look at new technology and they are interested in using new and innovative ways to receive public input on Bill 136. As you well know, in the past when committees have engaged in the committee hearings, whether it has been confined to only Toronto or whether it has been travelling, there are many communities within this province that have never been visited by any of our committees. We usually end up going to the same cities time and time again. We are taking a look at moving forward and obviously this is something that we within this House will continue to take a look at, and that is, how can you make sure that you reach people in all parts of this province and provide them with the opportunity to give feedback on legislation? We are exploring the use of teleconferencing so that the committee can receive submissions from some of these more distant and isolated communities across Ontario. I would also hasten to add that if it was the decision of the committee to travel on the Friday, obviously that's a decision they could make as well.


I know some opposition members are going to say that this amount of committee consideration does not satisfy their own personal views of how much time is needed to consider Bill 136 at the committee stage. In order to really understand and to satisfy some of these criticisms, we need to step back. It's important to compare the proposed committee time we have for Bill 136 with the previous NDP government's Bill 48, the Social Contract Act. This bill also dealt with the subject of broader public sector collective bargaining.

However, before I make the procedural comparison between the two bills, I want to emphasize that Bill 136 is certainly a very different piece of legislation from the social contract. While the social contract interfered directly with collective bargaining outcomes by forcing wage rollbacks and days off without pay in order that the NDP government could remove billions of dollars from the wages of broader public sector employees, our legislation, on the other hand, promotes collective bargaining.

The social contract, as you well know, Mr Speaker, also suspended effectively the right to strike and lockout, for not one year but for three years. It also overrode the Employment Standards Act for Ontario's workers as well as overriding the system of interest arbitration by dictating that awards that were going to allow for an increase in compensation for broader public sector employees were totally null and void for a three-year period. In fact, it is unbelievable what the NDP did to employees in this province with their social contract as they effectively overrode collective agreements and prevented employees in this province from being awarded the increases in wages to which they were entitled.

I'd like now to contrast this to our bill. Bill 136 builds on the long-standing history in this province of collective bargaining. It is proposing the establishment of mechanisms to facilitate the resolution of collective bargaining issues which may arise out of broader public sector restructuring. Bill 136 encourages the workplace parties to negotiate, themselves, expeditious and timely local solutions while ensuring that all employees, whether unionized or non-unionized, are treated fairly. Unlike the social contract, Bill 136 does not contain the wage rollbacks or the days off without pay that were legislated by the NDP.

Bill 136, as I have indicated, encourages collective bargaining. If the workplace parties are not themselves able to resolve some of the issues in the wake of the restructuring of municipalities, school boards and hospitals, it puts in place a process to ensure that the restructuring can take place in a timely and expeditious manner.

For example, Bill 136 will help the workplace parties if they themselves cannot decide which union will be the new bargaining agent after a restructuring. It will help the workplace parties to decide who is part of the new bargaining unit if the workplace parties themselves cannot decide. It will also help them to arrive at a decision regarding seniority of the employees.

For example, we know that in the midst of the restructuring, we're going to be bringing together not only different bargaining units -- sometimes it's going to be two, three, four or five -- but we're also going to be bringing together non-unionized employees with unionized employees, so we need to make absolutely certain that the rights of those individuals are fairly protected. Our legislation ensures that if the workplace parties themselves cannot agree on the issue of seniority, there is protection there for all employees whether they're unionized or non-unionized.

As well, our Bill 136 will help the workplace parties in the event that they cannot themselves decide on what the first collective agreement is going to look like.

But at the end of the day, much of what is contained within Bill 136 will not be used by those workplace parties who are able themselves to resolve these issues by means of collective bargaining. We're encouraging people to do this in a serious manner.

I'd like to go back to the Social Contract Act. I'd like to remind the members of this House, particularly the NDP, that they introduced this legislation on June 17, 1993, and just over three weeks later it received royal assent. That was on July 9, 1993. It's unbelievable that they would be criticizing this bill and its content and also unbelievable that they would be criticizing the days of debate we've already had. I think I need to remind them that their Social Contract Act did not ever allow for any committee hearings whatsoever; they just went in and did an override of all collective agreements, and they determined the outcomes as they rolled back the wages and people were forced to take days off without pay. Compared to the social contract, Bill 136 has already been before this Legislature for more than three times the total amount of time it took to pass the Social Contract Act from first reading to royal assent.

I need to stress one more time that the former government did not allow for one single day of public hearings. In fact, Mr Brian Charlton, the former NDP government House leader, said, "I think it's the responsibility of this government to ensure that this legislation is amended and passed as quickly as is possible, so that those parties...that will be impacted by this legislation, whether the employers or the employees, will fully understand the context in which either a negotiation and a settlement will be reached...." It's unbelievable, with all the rhetoric we've heard, that they're now singing from a different songbook.

Unlike the NDP, we are very happy to continue to consult on Bill 136. As I've indicated, we will continue our private discussions with the OFL, the OHA and OMA and the police associations and whoever else, but we are also now going to give the rest of the stakeholders in this province the opportunity for their input. As I've indicated to you, we're going to have four days of public hearings. We're going to take a look at the option of using teleconferencing in order that for the first time, unlike other governments, we look at bringing in those people to make presentations who have never done so themselves. This government, unlike the previous NDP government, wants to communicate with the organizations in this province. We want to communicate with people in this province who are affected by this legislation. That is our commitment.


We have also made a commitment to change. As we listen to the input, we will certainly entertain all of the information and all of the recommendations for change, as we did last week as we had the opportunity to look at their changes.

During second reading debate on Bill 136, members from both the opposition parties accused the government originally of threatening to impose passage of this legislation by the end of August. They also indicated earlier on this year that we were not interested in listening to the parties affected by the bill. The opposition obviously have been proven wrong in the past, and they were proven wrong.

We had no desire to pass this legislation by the end of August. We had absolutely no desire to bypass the listening process. In fact, as early as July, I had communicated to all the stakeholders, including Mr Wilson, by letter that we wanted to engage in consultations. We have been able to do so. The consultations have been fruitful. I can't emphasize and stress often enough the fact that they were extremely useful.

We now have an opportunity to move further into committee hearings. I should add that as we go forward on Bill 136, this will add to the over 720 hours of public committee hearings which this government engaged in last year alone.

Using time allocation, we will now be able to move forward to the next stage of the consultation process. I want to remind the members opposite that the previous NDP government used the legislative tool that we are using today no fewer than 23 separate times.

In closing, the government will be very closely monitoring the committee process of Bill 136. As I have indicated to you, we will certainly be seriously considering any proposals and all suggestions in the context of meeting the following objectives: We need to ensure that we have a smooth transition to the new restructured models and we want to minimize the disruption of important and necessary public services. We want to also ensure fair treatment of both unionized and non-unionized employees.

We look forward to further consultation and dialogue with all of the stakeholders, both employer and employee representatives. This consultation is needed in order that the government can proceed with making the changes that are so imperative to dealing with the labour relations issues that will undoubtedly arise from restructuring in the broader sector.

Mr Speaker, that concludes my remarks, but I would certainly indicate to you again that we've had good consultation. We will certainly use the input that has been provided thus far. We are now embarking on the next stage, and that is to hear from the public as to what their concerns are and what their recommendations will be in order that at the end of the day we have a bill that reflects not only the objectives but also the concerns of the people with whom we have engaged in consultation.

Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I'm pleased to rise today in support of the Minister of Labour and the bill that she has brought forward, Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): What a lackey. No public inquiry on Plastimet. Ram this through. You're from a labour town.

Mrs Ross: I'm from a labour town. You're absolutely right, and I'm proud of it. But I'm from a town that wants fair and equitable treatment for everyone.

Mr Christopherson: You're a disgrace to that town.

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

Mrs Ross: The principle of this bill is to provide public sector employers and employees with the tools and processes they need to deal with the changes that are coming forward with municipalities, school boards and hospitals. The goal is to improve accountability, efficiency, effectiveness and affordability.

Bill 136 creates a temporary process and temporary rules to help deal with onetime mergers. The bill has a sunset clause of December 31, 2001. I think that's important to remember while we discuss this bill.

We've heard a lot of talk about the fact that we're not listening, we're not consulting. It's been my experience in this government that we consult on an everyday basis. The Minister of Labour is one of the ministers, I've found, who consults more than anyone else. Any time I've requested a meeting with labour, with the minister, she's been very receptive and always made a spot to meet with those people. So I think she has continued to meet.

Everyone knows by now that on July 24, the minister invited Gord Wilson, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, to meet to discuss Bill 136. Of course, he wasn't prepared to meet at that time, but I understand that discussions are ongoing now with the OFL, with the police and with other unions. I'm pleased to see that.

Every single committee that I've sat on, every single bill that I've sat with and listened to the consultation from the people coming forward, has been changed to reflect some of those concerns that we heard. I'm confident that some of the concerns that we're hearing on this bill will also bring forward changes to reflect what we're hearing.

The bill helps employers who are undergoing amalgamation, mergers or restructuring to help with labour issues and with the issues that need to be addressed. For example: What union represents employees when two or more unions merge? What collective agreement will they abide by? What about seniority? How do you settle matters of seniority? What about the terms of reference? All of these are issues that need to be decided. This bill provides a process for that to happen.

I think that when you talk about there being no support for this bill, indeed there is some support for this bill. I have a couple of supporting letters. One is from the county of Bruce: "The corporation of the county of Bruce... strongly requests that the provincial government proceed with Bill 136."

Also, "The Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario supports the government's initiative to establish by legislative means a process which will ensure a timely and cost-effective way of dealing with disputes that may arise out of the amalgamation of municipalities, hospitals and school boards across the province."

Michael Power, the new president of the AMO, says, "This is legislation that municipalities have asked for," and that "the government is open to changes."

Those are some supporting letters.

I also have one here from the Regional Chairs of Ontario, of whom Terry Cooke, the regional chairman of Hamilton-Wentworth, is a member. Terry Cooke acknowledges, "Through Bill 136 your government has tried to respond to long-standing municipal interests and positions which include the need to reform the arbitration process and the flexibility to manage within a dynamic environment of significant change and restructuring." The letter further states: "Your government's efforts to establish an unbiased labour relations process that is fair and offers speedy resolution to labour issues is appreciated." That is even signed by the regional chairs of Ontario, of which Terry Cooke, our regional chairman, is a member. So there is support out there in the community for Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act.


I want to briefly mention as well -- I won't go into the details because that was gone over by the minister and several other people -- that as a government we still rely on and hope that workplace parties will come to agreement. The employers, employees and unions have a responsibility, and they appreciate that is a responsibility as well. Only if they are unable to come to a solution will the Labour Relations Transition Commission become involved.

I think there are a lot of things in this bill that will help municipalities, school boards and hospitals with the amalgamation process and make the process a lot easier and protect the taxpayers, which is what we are here for. So I rise in support of Bill 136 and in support of the Minister of Labour, who I think is one of the most honest, sincere and respectable ministers.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): It gives me great pleasure today to rise in support of the Minister of Labour in her efforts to bring forth some balancing or evenness in our community. For a long time we listened to a social contract that caused rollbacks, that caused some people to lose their jobs, that cut back the days they were working. This has none of those implications.

We need to have together some way of making sure that the services to the rest of the people in Ontario are not interrupted. We need to be able to carry those services forth with the kind of commitment we can make to people and let people get along, and we know that those people can get along if they are given that opportunity. If we put the power, in putting together those different groups of people, some union and some non-union, into making make sure they each have their voice heard, I'm sure that at the end of the day we will still see the same kind of united service we have been used to in the past, with a lot fewer interruptions and no rollbacks.

The minister better than a year and a half ago travelled down to Belleville and met with my mayor and two or three of the reeves of the municipalities that were amalgamating to find out what we had to do, what she had to do to bring them together. We had a group of people, half of them one union, half another union, and another group that weren't in any union. We wanted to make sure that when we had that kind of service, those people could be amalgamated and the taxpayers of the province would still see the same kind of service they had been used to over the past, with no interruptions.

Yes, there are some people who have some concerns; the teeter-totter has always been tipped in their favour. But there are not rollbacks. We're not going to do what the social contract did in the past to take away those days, to cut down and to save those dollars in that method. We've got to make sure that these different municipalities are amalgamated with efficiency and with the least public upset of service to the people of Ontario, the taxpayers, and that's whom we have to look after.

When the parties have been unable to resolve these issues, there have to be some things put in to make it fair in a way that they can join together and make sure they get to that goal and have the support they need to solve the problem without interrupting the service. In the hospitals and in the police and fire services, we have to maintain that kind of service. We can't have a continual disruption of service.

As you well know, Bob White, way back on June 29, 1993, thought the social contract was the worst thing that had ever happened to labour in this province and stated so and was publicly embarrassed by what the NDP had done to the workers of this great province of Ontario. We do not want to think that will ever happen again, and Bill 136 can level the playing field and make sure we do not take away from those workers.

There are a lot of leaders in the community and many workers out there, 170,000 members of one group, and another group trying to come together. We've got to have some rules in there to make sure that when those members come together, they have the tools to work with. That's something the last government did not see fit to do. "Bang" went the hammer on very short notice, "These are the rules." We are going to be listening.

We've got six days, as the minister has said, with over 30 hours of public hearings. As long as those public hearings aren't the same rhetoric we have heard on bill after bill -- the same thing, yes, a different face saying it -- and people put in some genuine criticism so we can improve this legislation, Bill 136, I am sure the minister will listen, make those adjustments and make sure that as we bring forth the final legislation, we can bring to bear some of those things that need to be done to have a smoother workplace.

This legislation will ensure that as the public sector organization restructures, employees are treated fairly. That is the word we need to listen to, "fairly," and that is what we have to do. If we do not treat those employees fairly, it is not to the benefit of you, Mr Speaker, or anybody else in the province. They have to be dealt with fairly.

I think the minister has proven time and time again that she is willing to listen, The big thing is to be able to listen and make sure we make some adjustments so that those amalgamations take place, and the bottom line is that the service has to continue with no interruptions. We cannot allow the taxpayers of the province to have interruption in their services. They need the services they have.

Yes, for some of the sectors the striking privilege is not there, but they don't need to worry about that because they still will be dealt with fairly.

We have a lot of changes, but there's one big change we're not going to make. I haven't heard and I don't think anybody has heard the minister say anything about rollbacks. When we talk about rollbacks, who loses in rollbacks? We have got to be able to join together and go forward. Our government is not interested in confrontation but in making sure the thing moves very smoothly between the small groups, making sure they get amalgamated and that we can still perform the amalgamations we have to do over the long haul under this Bill 136.

I'm looking at some of the records we have put together. They talk about how fast we're going and how long we've had. We have had over 720 hours of consultation in the last year. The NDP in their last year, 1994, had 681 hours of consultation. I don't know; by my mathematics, I thought we had a little bit more. The Liberals, previous to that, had 529 hours. So there are some consultations going on there, and I think we are going to continue to do that.

As the minister has mentioned, we are taking a look at some video conferencing so that we could bring in some people from outlying areas. We were lucky enough to be at a meeting at noon today, and the member over there on the other side sat in the chair and directed us in how we could see some people from Manitoba and listen to them. We can listen all over this province to people in smaller communities that we haven't been able to travel to, which would be keeping those people back. I think it's going to be a great asset to this government now and in the future to be able to listen to some of the people in those small communities of Ontario making their points heard. We don't have to travel all the way there. We can do it through video conferencing, and it will help out.

Mr Christopherson: You're afraid to face the people.

Mr Rollins: We're not afraid to face the people, but we're afraid to face the people with the same rhetoric. You have been to --

Mr Christopherson: You were afraid on Bill 7, you were afraid on Bill 99 and you're afraid on 136.

Mr Rollins: This fellow here isn't afraid of one damn thing.

Mr Christopherson: You're a coward.


Mr Rollins: I don't have to sit and holler and yell and scream to get my point across. Dave, I'm not afraid of anybody, never have been afraid of anybody.

Mr Christopherson: You are afraid.

Mr Rollins: No, Dave. Come on, you're the kind of person who wants to holler and yell.

The Acting Speaker: Order. Please take your seat. I think it would be very helpful if the member speaking would address his remarks to the Chair. It will also be very helpful if we don't have interjections. The Chair recognizes the member for Quinte.

Mr Rollins: I'm sorry I lost my cool and directed my words to the wrong place.

We as a government have got to listen. We have been listening; the minister has been listening. She has met with the labour leaders. She has asked them to bring forth their commitments to the bill. They brought in some things that I believe she has said in her addresses she will make some changes to. I think over the next six days, when those bills come in, they will be listened to. We will make some adjustments. We may not tear the bill apart and throw it all away like some of our opposition members would like us to do, but we will make some adjustments to it, guaranteed.

In my short time here I haven't seen any bills that came into this House in a drafted form to start with that stayed in that form. We've always added some changes to them and I'm sure we will add some more changes to them.

Just going back, the main principle of this bill is, simply and straightforward, to provide public sector employees and employers the tools and a process to deal with the changes in any way to deliver the public service the best we can, always keeping in mind that the taxpayers of Ontario are a people we've got to be able to serve. The taxpayers demand that those people have got to have that type of service; they've got to be sure there is no interruption of that service. Yes, there are some collective agreements. We're not tearing up any collective agreements and we're only doing it for a period of two years. Two years is a lot less time than what the social contract was.

I'd also like to think that the minister has listened. I told you before that she came to our community and met with our community leaders when they had a concern about how they could amalgamate fire departments that were unionized and fire departments that weren't unionized. Those people, when we sat down with her and our community and municipal leaders, listened to her, and she came back with what we had to do. These are the parts of Bill 136 that we've got to put back in place to make sure this happens.

When the parties are unable to solve the problem themselves, there has to be a mechanism put in place so we can have some kind of arbitration to make sure there is a settlement mechanism in place without both just going off in their own corners and staying there. We've tried to put together a different method of appointing some people in there to make sure those people can listen to the problems and try to balance out the differences between the employee and employer. I think that's how the system has to work.

In closing, it gives me great pleasure to say that I support my minister and this government in the way that we're trying to deal and look forward to further debate on the issues.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): First off, I'd like to say that I'll be sharing my time with the member for St Catharines and the member for Timiskaming.

I'd like to provide a little bit of a backdrop for this because you can see a pattern emerging very quickly, aided by the rule changes this government has recently brought in, in order to expedite, as they say, to move ahead, as the minister says, to do the job they have to do. The problem is that some of us happen to disagree with the definition of the job to be done.

Everybody at the end of the day agrees that through any restructuring you want to make sure there a minimal amount of disruption. But should that be done at the expense of the rights of some employees throughout Ontario? Should this be done at the expense of a long history of evolution and a relationship built up between the labour movement and between employers and employees? It is our considered opinion that this is a sign of brinkmanship, that it does not provide --

Mr Len Wood: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe there is a quorum here. Would you check, please?

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Thank you. Clerk, is there a quorum?

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 member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: The pattern I referred to before with the rule changes the government brought in shows us that while the government says it's listening, it really wants to limit the debate.

I'd like to refer to a bill that has just been completed, the workers' compensation bill, Bill 99, where again there was time allocation and the imposition of limitations to how many days and how many hours we could sit to listen to people. We had six days.

When we use the terms "days," a sessional day for a hearing or for a committee meeting may only be two to two and a half hours, depending on what time the House changes its agenda in the afternoon for members to be able to go to that committee meeting.

The public should be aware of that, and because of the time allocation -- there were 256 pages of amendments on the WCB bill; our party put forward 57 of those -- there were five days set aside for consideration of them and the committee had literally four days to draft its amendments to the bill based on what it heard from the depositions and the witnesses' comments.

If you truly listen to what people say and take note, then there's a fair amount of work to put forward amendments that make sense or that will ameliorate the bill in any particular fashion.

I want to come back to this a little later because this time allocation closure motion is worse than the WCB bill. If the workers were pretty upset about that, wait till they read the fine print on this one. They will be quite upset.

The minister says that she is still in consultation, that she is still open to changes etc. I'd like to believe her, I really would, but it's my considered view that this is an overall strategy by the government and that the minister doesn't really have the authority or is not really given the authority to do what I think she probably would want to do: to do the right thing and to listen very carefully to people in a reasonable time frame. I'll come back to try to deal with that in a few moments.


This place of course uses legislative jargon and often people don't know what the terms really mean. What this closure motion really means, in a nutshell, is that it stops debate at second reading, which is where we are at the moment. It ends that. It also has no provision for public hearings outside Toronto or outside this Legislature. Four days of public hearings. The one issue that I think is the most revealing of all in terms of the sentiments and the concern of this government is, how much time is there, once you've heard people speak and represent a variety of views, to draft amendments to the bill? That is the most telling action that is implicit in this particular motion.

In response to a question I asked on June 4, whether she would indeed have public hearings -- I brought this up earlier but I think it's important to reiterate -- the minister said: "Yes, I commit to you" -- this is to the House -- "that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province, we will be in Toronto and we will listen." Unless there's another way of travelling -- and I'm sure there is -- the only way I know of for people bodily to travel around is that they literally, physically leave.

The minister may be an astro-traveller and may have other means of travelling, but I believe it means you get out of Toronto and you go to other places that have concerns, because many municipalities have concerns, many people in different workforces have concerns. Certainly all the people in our essential services have major concerns. The government says it has been in consultation with them. We don't disagree that they have had some discussions with them, but obviously they haven't listened or haven't modified very much, because all those same groups are telling us, and there are reports in the media, that they are still unhappy.

There was discussion with the OFL. The OFL had a news release today and what did they say? Gord Wilson, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said today at the end of an emergency meeting with leaders of broader public sector unions and teachers' federations -- they had a special meeting -- as well as representatives from nurses and firefighters, "It's obvious to organized labour today that the Harris government had no intention of altering Bill 136 from the very beginning. Nothing has changed."

He goes on to say: "The so-called changes are nothing more than fluff and window dressing. Essentially Bill 136 and what it will do to workers in Ontario has remained unchanged." This is September 17; that's today.

The minister said today, "We have ongoing consultations, ongoing meetings." I would suggest to her that she's going to need some of those ongoing meetings.

Mr Wilson goes on to say, my last quote from him, "In their haste to ram this legislation through the House the Harris government has provided for only four days of public hearings and only in Toronto, in order to have Bill 136 in place by October 2, 1997. To schedule four days of hearings on legislation that will affect the rights of over 700,000 workers is outrageous. The government's position on Bill 136 will only intensify confrontation after January 1, 1998," when this particular piece of legislation will take effect.

I have trouble squaring the comments of the minister and some of the members in the government when they say that they are having amicable and meaningful discussions on this particular piece of legislation, because their so-called third parties are not saying that they're very happy at this particular time. If they're ongoing ones, then the government better get on with some of these in order to proceed.

One of the ways of course that the minister can get herself out of an embarrassing situation is to jump on and grab the concept of teleconferencing, where you have in your committee meeting a television screen and you have some group or an individual providing testimony from a place outside of Queen's Park. It's not the same thing. As a matter of fact, today the chairs and vice-chairs of committees had a demonstration on teleconferencing from Manitoba, a jurisdiction that has used it, but in a limited fashion.

One of the members asked: "How widely would you use this? Would you see this as a replacement for face-to-face hearings?" They said quite clearly that, no, this is not a replacement; this is an enhancement. Where they would look at using this is where they would have less than five requests for people or organizations to comment. In that case it might be less expensive to use this particular vehicle of communication than for the full committee to travel to that area or for people to come to Queen's Park.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): But they've got lots of money for advertising, though.

Mr Patten: That's right; lots of money for advertising, but not too much money to go visit people in the jurisdiction. Of course, the message was -- and I asked the members from Manitoba this question because I know sometimes some people in Ontario feel this way -- that it's really the province of Toronto rather than the province of Ontario. You know there's that sense outside this fair city and outside Queen's Park, that people feel there isn't the sensitivity to what happens in their area of Ontario. Certainly in the north and in eastern Ontario and some parts of southwestern Ontario I know that feeling exists because we get representations on that particular issue all the time.

This would not replace that, so I hope the minister will reconsider and show to all the people of Ontario that she truly is interested in going out, reaching out and listening to what people have to say. Hopefully she will attend some of these hearings herself because the decision-makers are seldom at the hearing; it's usually the government-side backbenchers and the opposition. Of course, we're not part of the decision-making of government.

Very often the backbenchers sitting on the committee, when they hear from certain witnesses who are articulate and can communicate their feelings and their views -- it has an impact. It definitely has an impact and it moves them. They're moved personally. But you can't be moved if it's an objective process and things are just designed from the back rooms of the Premier's office: "Overall, here's our master plan; here's what we're going to do and you've got to fall in line." That makes it very, very difficult, I'm sure, for the backbenchers on the government side. Some of them do speak up. I hope more of them will follow their conscience and speak up as well, because I know they feel that way, that there are things that should be changed in different pieces of legislation.

Related to this particular motion, we will have four days -- which essentially is not a full day; some of those are two and a half hours, as I mentioned -- an afternoon, an evening, part of another day. The government has even kindly offered a Friday, where we'll have from 9 through 12 and from 1 to 5 on the 26th, which is a week this Friday. We'll finish and complete hearing from who comes before us. That leaves two days, the weekend, Saturday and Sunday to respond, consider, draft, react to good points made by people who have provided some thoughtful advice.

But in terms of our business days, what an insult. We've got an hour of one business day to draft our amendments and get them checked legally by legislative legal counsel, because not all of us are lawyers, and submit them. Once they're submitted, that's it; no more amendments can be made, it's my understanding, even though there may be some new insight or understanding on behalf of members from all parties. That is it.


What a stale process and procedure. It presumes there is nothing to be learned from the hearings, because even if the government did listen and hear and want to do something, when would they be doing their drafting? On Friday night, on Saturday, on Sunday? When will they be having their cabinet meeting to review some significant recommendations for change? Will they be meeting on Sunday morning? Will they be meeting on Saturday night?

They won't be meeting on Saturday night, so the only conclusion one can draw on this is that they really have already made up their minds as to what they want to do. All they need to do is have an hour because they've drafted all their own amendments -- if they have any, and I suspect they have some. Which ones have substance is yet to be seen. But one hour; what an insult. It's an embarrassment.

Anybody who knows these procedures now knows that. That's why we get so angry and that's why we feel it's a sham when we see this procedure, because you can't do it. Even with Bill 99, the WCB bill, we only had four days. Our caucus put forward 57 amendments. We had to go through each one individually and try to get the legal terminology and what common understanding and usage and legal interpretation mean on the modifications we had if we wanted to change what our interpretation of the intention of a particular article was.

This is not taken lightly. When people at home see the opposition get angry and get upset, there is good reason for that, because it effectively says: "We're must moving this thing along. We're bulldozing through." If there was any indication that the government truly was going to listen to what people would have to say at the hearings, then they would change that date from Monday morning at 10 o'clock to perhaps Thursday or whatever to allow some time to provide some thinking and some considered thought.

It's very, very frustrating to play a role as an elected member in a thoughtful manner, in a responsible manner, when those kinds of conditions are put before you and you know it's almost impossible to do the kind of job that you know you're capable of doing.

I would offer that to the minister and I would hope that she would ponder that point and consider it. Like I say, I'm sure she would, as an individual, because I think she would probably like to do this, but of course, this government has a master plan and she may be caught up in all that.

The minister has referred a couple of times to the social contract, the legislation that was employed by the previous government, the NDP government, and uses that as a benchmark, but says she didn't agree with it obviously. But if you say you don't agree with it, then why would you use that as a precedent in order to justify the legislation that you're putting forward?

It is like tit for tat. To me, it is not a mature response. It would seem to me that if I disagreed with a piece of legislation, I would say, "Here is what I've learned from that experience and therefore I will not do the same kind of thing," or, "I would not proceed with similar measures." It doesn't seem to me to be too logical to say, "They did this and therefore, it's okay for us to do it." I offer that to the minister.

The minister says that time allocation is a way of moving ahead. Of course it's a way of moving ahead for the government, but I suggest it is a very slippery slope and that from all the indications we have -- not just from my opinion, but talk to the media, talk to the groups individually -- some of the same groups the minister talked about don't share her perception about fruitful negotiations or discussions or consultations. While someone can go through the motions of sitting down and meeting with people, one of the telling aspects obviously is whether there has been some indication of having heard and listened, by some recommended modifications.

I am of the belief that the labour movement is not out to bring this province to a halt, but they're being forced to. The labour movement is saying: "We've got experience in transitions. We've got experience in readjustments, in squaring different bargaining groups with other bargaining groups." That body of knowledge is already there. If it can be ameliorated, then why not proceed with it?

On this side of the House, we have made suggestions. Why not take the experience of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and use it? One reaction I've heard is they're too busy. I can imagine they're too busy, because they lost 40% of their budget, so they must be pretty busy with the resources they have.

However, if we think of setting up two brand-new commissions with new people, I've heard from some independent arbitrators, by the way, that they would not want to be part of those commissions, because they feel they would lose their professional stature among their colleagues, that they would be seen as a sellout, having to live with the kinds of conditions that are imposed on those commissions, the criteria they would have to use for making decisions, that this flies in the face of their profession, flies in the face of the history and evolution of labour principles and labour law.

What might happen? There are some rumours around that suggest maybe the government will say: "Okay, we'll ask the labour relations board to pick up this role, but the criteria we had for the use by the commissions would still apply to the usage by the labour relations board," which of course would lead us right back to where we are now and would still be of concern to the labour movement and to many of the professionals, the firefighters, the nurses and the professional groups that we have.

That route, you can't go down it half way. You have to trust at some point and encourage, and I'm sure there can be some agreement reached, even at this late stage, with the labour movement on an understanding, as partners moving ahead in the most responsible kind of fashion.

But to take away, especially in the case of the essential workers, the one tool -- I don't think there is any other tool they have, other than perhaps job action or a little bit of job slowdown. The only tool they have in the process of collective bargaining to settle a dispute and a resolution is that with their employer, usually a municipality or hospital administration, if they go down the road of negotiations, collective bargaining, and they cannot resolve it, but they agree to arbitration, the one thing they can do is participate in selecting the arbitrator.

That's not really very much. I don't know why the government would be so tough on this one when you must know at this stage, Minister, that is so important. It's not only the function, but it's the symbolism of it. As you know, we all meet with the firefighters and we all meet with the police and they tell us this is like a slap in the face to them. They said: "Look, we don't strike. Take a look at our history. We didn't strike when we had the right to strike." Now they don't even have the right to strike. "But the one thing we do have which we think is fair and important, and the only thing we have, that one we will stand up for and we will go to the wall for."

I am sure the minister has heard that argument. I know she is considering that very carefully and I hope she'll get the support of her colleagues in order to bring about some amendments in the legislation in order to proceed.

I have to leave some time for my colleagues, so I am going to wind up at this point. I just want to say two things: One is that, for those people who may be watching, you're experiencing a new kind of diminution of the democratic Legislative process in Ontario. I say that in a non-partisan fashion. It disturbs me, it worries me, I feel saddened. As an elected member, I feel diminished by not being able to fulfil my responsibilities as an elected member, as a representative, to be a critic for a certain area of concern and to provide avenues for people to voice their opinions as well. This takes away that opportunity. Any time you take away the opportunity for people to hear about legislation, because this will mean fewer people will hear about it when you move very quickly, less opportunity for people to think or consider something, then I think we lose a democratic participatory opportunity in this jurisdiction.


I would say at the moment, according to our procedures -- I just attended a conference with representatives from all jurisdictions across Canada, including the federal government -- that I believe we now have the most undemocratic Legislature in the land. It saddens me, frankly, to say that. It saddens me that the veneer of democracy that I used to think was so thick is now looking quite thin, for governments to see that to have debate and to have the government stalled for a day or two or whatever it might be to reconsider its position is an obstacle. It's not.

Being able to ask the government to reflect longer, to speak on an issue, to carry forward some representations from the community and from all around Ontario is not a nuisance, is not an obstacle, it's a necessity. That's what responsible government is. That's the difference between tyranny and responsible government, that the government puts forward its programs and provides an opportunity for people to react and to respond to all of this.

My second part is on the hearings themselves, that this particular motion limits the time for that. But I would underscore again that if the government were truly serious about learning something, making the assumption anyway that there may be some good ideas there, even from the government's own point of view, there may be some ideas that come out of those hearings that will cause us to reflect upon what is there at the moment, and they might like to revamp or revise, even in their own self-interest.

They've given themselves two days, a Saturday and a Sunday, because at 10 o'clock on that Monday we have to have our amendments in. I would say to you, knowing the small amount of resources that the opposition has, you know that is a very tall, almost impossible order. To consider the full range of depositions that have been presented and the likelihood of some valuable suggestions for amendments is a daunting task.

I want to underscore that and I hope the minister has heard that message. I believe it's fundamental to democracy. I think it may take a lot of time for people to begin to understand what the significance of some of these rules are and what it means in being able to carry out responsibilities and for people to be aware of the issues.

I say, in conclusion, to the minister to move ahead very carefully. I believe we are sitting on a time bomb in this province, where certain federations and certain unions believe that they are against the wall and that they will have little choice to stand up for any rights that they do have. That will vary from union to union, I grant you, but for some of them it's only one or two things, and this impinges upon their rights, and they are very upset about it and will go to no ends in order to communicate that message to this government.

I want to stop there. Thank you for the opportunity. I'll share my time with my colleagues.

Mr Bradley: What is pretty instructive this afternoon is that we are facing yet another time allocation motion, that is, a motion which will severely restrict debate on this very important piece of legislation and which will eventually, in the not-too-distant future, completely close off debate on this legislation, which I believe deserves a very considerable debate and discussion by members of this House and people in our communities across the province.

Despite the fact that this government has brought in the most restrictive rules changes, that is, changes to the procedural rules of this House, to grease the skids for its radical right-wing legislation and policies, what we are seeing is the government employing, day after day, closure motions closing down debate on important issues of the day. Anybody who doesn't think that democracy isn't affected by this is either very naïve or simply doesn't care about that democratic process.

There's an alarming trend with this government, and I think members of the government who are not in the cabinet should reflect upon this very carefully. The rot is setting in, and it happens, I can tell you, to many different governments over the years. But you can see the signs. There's an alarming trend in the back rooms of the government, in particular in the Premier's office.

I noted today that Canada NewsWire Ltd will now be the official purveyor of government news releases. The purpose of having this organization -- and I read here: "A reporter can search for a ministry by topic or name and find 13 months of archival news releases. This is a powerful tool for background information." In other words, they're going to set up this agency -- by the way, paid for by the taxpayers of this province -- to purvey the government line and to bypass the Queen's Park press gallery, the provincial press gallery, in order that they will not be subjected to scrutiny and criticism. That's what this is all about.

But it's part of a trend. You'll notice that ministers today hold more and more of their press conferences outside the precinct of this Legislature, again because the people they have to deal with in the press gallery in the Ontario Legislature are experienced and knowledgeable reporters and columnists who know the questions to ask and who have some background on many of these issues. I think that's extremely important.

They're embarking upon expensive, self-serving, blatantly political advertising, again at the cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers of this province. This week people will be opening their mailboxes to find the latest propaganda from the government, at the cost of the taxpayers. They can turn on their television sets and they will see the ads paid for by the taxpayers of this province. That's blatantly unfair in the democratic process, because opposition parties do not have that same opportunity. If the Progressive Conservative Party were paying for it -- and, heaven knows, they should have lots of money because all of those fund-raisers they are holding for the people they are doing favours for with this legislation and the regulatory changes are overflowing those fund-raisers. They should use that money, if they're going to use money, to purvey their message.

They are also changing the procedural rules in such a way as to make it more inconvenient for members of the news media to be able to cover the events and the issues at Queen's Park, and of course the media giants are closing Queen's Park bureaus and are limiting the number of people they have as employees to cover the news. Conrad Black has downsized everywhere he has been. The government's going to be happy with that. The fewer reporters there are, the more bureaus, such as the Thomson bureau, close down here -- they're tinkering now with the Southam bureau. They're going to change that, make it a Toronto bureau of some kind. When you see the London Free Press losing its bureau here at Queen's Park -- all of these are steps that the government will be in favour of, but they're not good for democracy.

Another thing we have that is usually a sign of panic setting in is that the flacks, that is, the news or media representatives for various ministers, are now going to members of the news media and berating them for the coverage. If they don't like the story, they go into their offices and berate them about the coverage they are receiving. There are many days when I may not agree with the coverage that the opposition may be receiving or I may feel that the government is receiving favourable coverage. I don't head into the various newsrooms to complain about that.

We all want fairness, we all want balance, we all want both sides to be heard, and that's what debate in this House is all about. But now we have members of the government, their flacks, heading around and pointing the fingers and trying to intimidate members of the news media into giving them better coverage. That, I can tell you, will backfire.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): You name one.

Mr Bradley: The member from Rexdale asks for examples. I suggest you go and ask your minister's flacks who has been around berating various members of the news media for their coverage. That's who you can go to. You just go and ask them, member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, and they will tell you.

What has happened here as well is that Hansard is no longer available. The transcripts of this province are no longer available in print. So if someone from the riding of Victoria-Haliburton wishes to have the Hansard -- that is, the transcript of everything that takes place in this House -- delivered to their house at their expense, they cannot do so. You now have to be on the Internet to be able to get that. So that again favours people with more money and more privilege than others. I want to indicate that that is a step backwards.

Now we see that the budgets for the Ontario legislative channel are being proposed to be cut, and for TVO, which again provide coverage of what happens in this House so people can make their judgements. That is a step backwards, but it's an effort to control everything coming out of this place, to control the message, to control information.

This government broke a commitment. I'm the House leader for the official opposition; I meet with the House leaders of the government and the third party. We discussed having hearings across Ontario in various communities so that people in Timmins, Kapuskasing, Sudbury, St Catharines, Ottawa, London and right across the province could have input into this legislation. What we have now is the government abandoning that and saying somehow they're going to put a television screen in and watch people from there.

I believe they're afraid of the reaction because they believe ordinary, everyday workers in this province will show up at those hearings to make their views known. You're not going to get the rich and the privileged there except to endorse this legislation, but you'll get a lot of people from the general public who don't usually get involved in politics, who don't usually become militant in any way; they want to live their lives. They are the people who would show up.

The government has reneged on its commitment to have those hearings across the province. I know the Minister of Labour would probably be delighted to have those hearings, but I know what happens. I know how the Premier's office controls all in this government. Therefore, we're not going to have those hearings.

You know, when people don't have their day in court, they're even more resentful. Even if they disagree with legislation, if they've had their opportunity to respond in person, they feel at least they've had their day in court.

I was in Timmins on the past weekend and talking to Brian Ehman of Timmins, who said that he felt people in the north seem to be isolated from some of the happenings at Queen's Park and he would be hopeful, as would many people around various communities in the province, that there would be an opportunity to make representations on bills such as this. The Liberals have demanded, as have the third party, such hearings across this province. We believe you're hiding from the people when you deny that opportunity.

I've listened to the Conservatives berate the NDP about the social contract, saying: "Well, you know, here's this social contract legislation that the NDP brought in that abrogated every contract in Ontario. Weren't those contracts a matter of sanctity for the trade union movement?" I remember who voted for it. If they thought it was so bad, why did the Conservatives vote for that legislation? In fact, I recall Mike Harris saying, "Bring it in and we'll pass it, bang, bang, bang, all in one day." Yet I hear members of the government criticizing the NDP for bringing in the social contract legislation. I think the government is being -- we can't use the word "hypocritical" in this House. But if I can think of another word, I will use it later on, because I can't use "hypocritical" in the House.

I talked to the police. This government had some support among the policing community during the last election campaign. They were in my office, representatives of the Niagara Regional Police Force, and they were extremely unhappy that they would be included in this legislation. They say the way things are working right now is fine with them, it seems to be working well for the public, and they're very resentful of the fact that the government would do this. I don't think they could be bought off by taking them out of the legislation and leaving everybody else in, because they will stand together with their fellow public employees.

We have general municipal employees doing a variety of jobs for municipalities -- libraries, transit workers, police, fire departments, local social and health services, school boards, non-teaching and part-time teaching employees, nurses and non-nursing staff in the health care field -- all affected by this legislation.

What you want to do is provoke a strike. It's quite obvious now that you want a major confrontation. You're down in the polls, Mike Harris, and you want to now provoke a confrontation with people who don't want to go on strike. These people aren't eager to get out on strike. They're reluctant to do so. They lose money. They lose other benefits when they're on strike. Therefore, they would rather see this resolved in an amicable way, which I think it can be. But the government of Ontario is picking a fight with many employees because they think they can curry some favour with others in the community who may be resentful of those people in the public sector.

I think instead what the government should be doing is seeking a consensus, being conciliatory, bringing people together, the way Bill Davis used to. Yes, labour was unhappy from time to time with what Bill Davis did, but very often he was able to find items which would appeal to the trade union movement and to workers in this province. As well as making certain concessions to the management side, he would make certain concessions to the labour side. The employees of this province don't see that balanced, conciliatory, consensus-building approach with this particular government as they did perhaps with other Conservative governments and with governments of other political affiliations.

We also know that legislation will be forthcoming which will affect members of the teaching profession. Again, I talk to these people. I know a lot of these people. They are not eager to get out and hit the bricks. They know what's happening. They know they're going to be pushed to the wall as well and that if they lie down and play dead, this government will trample over them. So you're making militant people out of people who aren't normally militant. People in the classroom are there to deliver an educational service. Their primary concern, their paramount concern, is the wellbeing of students in this province, including members of the administration and others who assist in education in any way. They want that institution to be open. They want those schools to be available to students.

But they also recognize that this government is determined to take away many of the rights they fought for over the years. All of these people recognize the times we're in and the circumstances they're facing. They are not unreasonable people. But this government will not make the kind of moves towards accommodating their concerns that are necessary to avoid a significant confrontation in this province.

I notice this bill as well ends the employee wage protection program. That's being chopped. That's been put in the background as part of this legislation, I believe. That was a good program, by the way.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Do you know what that program is?

Mr Bradley: That was brought in by the NDP government that also brought in the social contract. The member for Beaches-Woodbine asked me that.

There was some balance there and it was a good program because a lot of those people were left out in the cold before. Someone today phoned my office and said, "I have a claim against an employer who's gone out of business and refuses to pay, and I'm stuck." So my office called the Ministry of Labour office and the answer was, "They have to wait eight months before they're going to have this case even looked at." That's because of the significant cuts in the Ministry of Labour office. That's most unfortunate. That may not worry the member from Rexdale or many of the Conservative members, but it worries everyday, ordinary people -- not rich people, but everyday, ordinary people out there. I think it's lamentable that that program is terminated.

I see this government moving in the wrong direction. A foolish trend is being established towards bigger instead of better. So we must have bigger municipalities, we must have larger school boards which are the size of many countries in Europe, larger health councils, larger everything, when what we really need in this province is something that takes into account local accountability and local input. Bigger isn't always better, and it's not always going to save money for this government, as they think it is.

In concluding my remarks, I call upon the government to withdraw Bill 136, to start again a meaningful consultation, to try to build consensus, to be conciliatory and to bring about peace in this province, peace in our time, our turbulent times in this province, by sitting down with the representatives of employees and of management and bringing them together to find acceptable, plausible, balanced solutions to the problems that confront us as a result of the legislation this government is bringing in.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm just going to take a few minutes to put on the record the importance the police associations across Ontario attach to Bill 136. I've had submissions from the Metropolitan Toronto Police Association, the Police Association of Ontario and the association that represents the OPP across this province.

As my colleagues the members for St Catharines and Ottawa Centre mentioned, we are really concerned and wondering why the Minister of Labour has included municipal policing in this bill. The record for police disputes in this province is an excellent one. Police organizations really don't like to get involved in political activity. They know they're there to uphold the law. They feel uncomfortable lobbying politicians. Only in very rare circumstances have they failed to negotiate a contract and have had to go to arbitration. But at least when they did go to arbitration, maybe four times in the last few years, they had confidence in the system. They knew the arbitrators were independent and they had faith and confidence in that.

Now the minister, with Bill 136, is going to bring in -- on a permanent basis, by the way -- a Dispute Resolution Commission that is going to stay beyond these two-year, so-called temporary labour rules changes and is going to be there as handpicked government arbitrators who will dictate in the future to both sides in a dispute exactly how the settlement is going to go down. That is going to shake the confidence in all the public sector people who, if having to go to this extent, at least in the past have had confidence that an independent arbitrator would come in to settle the dispute. When it is an independent arbitrator, even if you maybe don't get everything you want, at least you have faith in the system, and in the end you accept the decision. But with this new, handpicked government Dispute Resolution Commission, the problem that I see is going to happen down the road is that we're not going to get the acceptance by probably either side, whoever loses the decision, of the decision. That's going to be the problem. We're not going to get labour rest; we're going to get unrest because of this.

I make a last-minute plea to the minister to at least, besides all the other changes we'd like to see, exempt police and firefighters from this legislation, especially municipal police forces. They have the protocol in their associations now where they're able to handle, and have been able to handle in the past, amalgamations, which we're unfortunately going to be facing more of in the next year. They know how to handle that and they've done that successfully. They don't have to have these provisions shoved down their throat, as Bill 136 does.

I'd say to the minister that you need to take another look at that. We want to make sure that our police forces are working well, working cooperatively with their employers, the municipalities across this province. It's very important that we have that good relationship so we have good, secure public safety in our communities. Minister, make sure that's out of there. Look for those amendments. I wish you were going across the province so you'd hear that from policewomen and policemen across this province who are going to be telling you that. Unfortunately, those hearings are not going to be travelling; they're only going to be in Toronto. That's a shame, because this committee should be going out and hearing what all public sector workers and the public in general want to say on this bill.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the disgrace that's happening here today.

I want to begin by responding to some of the comments of my fellow Hamiltonian, the member for Hamilton West, who, coming from a labour town, had, first, the personal audacity and, second, the political naïveté to stand up and support not only Bill 136, which is one thing, but this process of shutting down democracy and making a sham of any public hearings. I can't for the life of me believe how anyone from Hamilton could stand in this place, the people's place, and support legislation that does what this does and, more important today, the way it does it.

Then, the shocker of all shocks, in the middle of her speech she talked about the endorsements from other communities. What she failed to tell the people is that her own city council in Hamilton unanimously opposed the implementation of Bill 136, in fact rejected it and asked the government to retract it.

I'm going to read part of that resolution verbatim.

"Whereas Bill 136 imposes a new system of dispute settlement upon public sector labour relations which violates basic democratic principles; and

"Whereas neither the Labour Relations Transition Commission nor the Dispute Resolution Commission can be considered independent or impartial, nor do they have the confidence of the workplace parties and so fail to meet the internationally recognized standard for civilized labour relations practice, as set by the United Nations, to which Canada subscribes;

"Therefore be it resolved that the council of the corporation of the city of Hamilton is opposed to the passage of Bill 136 and urges that it be withdrawn by the government of Ontario or defeated by the Legislature, and that the existing collective bargaining practices and procedures under existing labour relations legislation continue without political interference."

That's the position of our Hamilton city council, and I say bravo to them for having the courage to do it. I can say with a great deal of confidence on behalf of Wayne Marston, the president of the labour council, that all of labour in our community is opposed. For anyone elected in our community to come into this place and stand and say they support Bill 136 and the shutting down of democracy, to me, is doing a disservice and a total injustice to the very people who elected them -- and that's not considering the political stupidity of it.

As usual with this government we don't have a lot of time, so I want to talk briefly about -- it's been mentioned, but I want to make sure the ground is covered -- exactly what's in Bill 136. There are two pieces of what we're talking about today. One is what's in 136 and why labour and municipalities -- by the way, it's not just the Hamilton city council but AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, who rejected Bill 136 also. It's important to understand why that's being rejected by all the parties.

First of all, there's no question that this is meant to strip collective agreements. Negotiations halt when either party sends it off to the Dispute Resolution Commission. That commission then, by virtue of having received it, guarantees that the workers have lost the only real leveraging power they have at the bargaining table. That's the right to strike. That's gone automatically. But it also gives this commission the power to take out, alter and change any part of a collective agreement they choose.

We're not only talking about wages and benefits and perhaps grievance procedures, safety procedures -- who knows? It's all up for grabs. Not only is all that on the line, but isn't it kind of coincidental that weakening collective agreements in the public sector fits so nicely with the idea that this government wants those jobs privatized anyway? Doesn't that make those services more appealing to their corporate pals who are salivating at the door, waiting to buy into public services so they can turn a profit, which in and of itself is not a sin, but in this case it's on the backs on those workers because their rights and standard of living and wages and benefits are going to be reduced. They're not going to go up. We're not going to see any better collective agreements. That's not what this is about.


By the way, who are these grand Pooh-Bahs of the labour economy now? Friends of Mike Harris. Mike Harris, by virtue of cabinet decision, gets to appoint all the people who sit on this commission and make the decisions. In the past, we had independent arbitration where there were individuals on a list who were agreed upon by worker representatives and employer representatives, where both said: "Yes, if we can't reach an agreement and rather than be in a strike situation, or perhaps the law forbids it, we'll send it to them and we'll each make our best case as in any kind of arbitration. They'll decide and we'll live by that decision."

That still is not perfect, but at least it's fair, unlike the Dispute Resolution Commission contained in Bill 136, which has nothing to do with fairness, because those commissioners are handpicked by the cabinet, and I'll bet a dollar to doughnuts that there are corporate entities and friends of Mike Harris who are going to get a whole lot of influence and say in who those people are who are appointed, and very little by labour, if any at all.

Maybe the government is going to bring out some amendments. Who knows? They won't show us. We don't know what their amendments are. They weren't tabled here today along with the time allocation.

By the way, in what we've coined in our caucus as a drive-by shooting, Bill 136 also makes a further attack on pay equity legislation, protection for women workers, those who are in jobs that are among the lowest paid in our society, your favourite target, the vulnerable. Bill 136 does that.

It also eliminates the final pieces of a program we were very proud of enacting as an NDP government, the employee wage protection plan, that made sure employees didn't lose vacation and wages they were owed, and severance and termination pay they were owed in the event of a closure or a bankruptcy. You've eliminated that as part of 136. It doesn't have anything to do with 136. The only commonality it shares is that it's an attack on rights and benefits that workers are deserving and have and it takes those away. That's the only thing consistent with what you're doing in 136.

Let's take a look at exactly what's going on overall here. First of all, we've got a government that has decided they're going to make sure that the 30% tax cut is carried out no matter what. Never mind the fact that they claim the debt and deficit are the absolute crisis that's driving everything, which of course immediately puts the lie to the argument of giving revenue back. If your debt and deficit is your biggest priority, if that's what's driving everything, what the hell are you doing giving back $5 billion or $6 billion of revenue? It doesn't even make any kind of common sense. What it does do is take care of your political pals.

Where are you going to find this money? It's $5 billion or $6 billion. If it was being shared equally, you might even have a better stand in terms of defending it, but the reality is, ask any worker in this province, ask any middle-class working family what they've benefited by the tax cut. What? A cup of coffee or two a month? But you take someone who is making big bucks, Mike Harris's friends, I mean serious coin, they're making hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are those people in this province. They are getting back thousands and thousands and thousands of after-tax dollars. But it has to be paid for. Who's paying for it? Working middle-class families. They're paying for it with hospital closures. They're paying for it with an attack on education: $1 billion out already, another billion to come out. They're paying for it with user fees, cuts in services.

Ask seniors how they feel about your copayment. But that's not user fees, is it? Not unless you listen to the former leader of the third party in the last Parliament, who said that copayment and user fees are the same thing. Who would that be? Mike Harris. Funny how that works out. That's where it's being paid for.

But you know, even that hasn't been enough, because $5 billion and $6 billion is a lot money, it's a lot of service. So where is the government going next? They're going after municipalities and school boards and everybody that's in the public sector that receives a transfer payment. I admit that this is the point when an awful lot of people glaze over, transfer payments; it's just sort of all red tape and bureaucracy. But in this case it's so crucial to understand and appreciate that the senior level of government, in this case the provincial government, in large part because of their broad tax base, because of their broad taxing powers, assists municipalities in paying for virtually everything they provide. So when there's a cut from this place, from Queen's Park, to each of our respective municipalities, our communities are affected because something's got to give.

But Mike Harris has said what's not going to give is any kind of increase in property tax. Here you've got all these municipal leaders who have been told, "You're going to be cut by millions and millions." I believe the figure is around $60 million to $80 million net loss in my community. That money can't be made up for in property taxes. Why? Mike Harris would look awfully bad if he talked about this great tax cut that he gave everybody, but the opposition could point to all of the increases in property tax and make the argument you haven't cut anything, you just transferred it from one place to another and gave your pals billions of dollars in the process and jacked up the cost of living in all our communities by the property tax going up. They've all but declared by edict, "Thou shalt not increase property taxes."

Municipal politicians, and again because I was one for five years, are very close to their communities and they know what's important. They know what matters to people. If you're going to talk a dollar or two off somebody's property tax but it means they're going to lose something valuable in the community, people are not quick to say that's a fair deal. In fact most people, because they can't afford to replace whatever is being lost on their own, think it's a bad deal.

What's left? The municipal politicians are turning to the government and saying: "How's this supposed to be? You want us to cut millions and billions of dollars out of our budgets, you tell us that we can't increase property taxes, we know politically that we can't cut services. How do we get out of this jackpot that you've put us in, Premier Harris?"

"Don't worry about it," says Elizabeth Witmer. "I'll give you the tools you need to pay for it. You know how we'll pay for it? We'll take it away from the public sector workers. Yes, that's how we'll do it. And you know what? I'll make it real easy for you. I'll make sure they can't strike. I'll make sure they go into negotiations with both hands tied behind their backs. No, wait a minute. I've got a better idea. I'll make a law that says my friends will decide what the collective agreement is."

Ergo, Bill 136. That's what it does. It's meant to be the out for local politicians not to raise property tax, not to cut services, but to take every dime of that transfer off the backs of working people, men and women who under the regime of Mike Harris were unfortunate enough to happen to work in the public sector, who you have declared time and time again as special interests. Those special interests are my neighbours and they're your neighbours and they're your family members. By the way, you're all public sector servants too.

Now we've got a situation where it's perfectly set up for collective agreements to be stripped and watered down to provide a means for local municipalities to pay for this cut in money that you are putting upon them. Also, it sets up services to be privatized, because there's a weakened collective agreement and anybody who buys that service, if they have to keep the collective agreement -- in the case of provincial workers they don't because your Bill 7 took that away -- in terms of any municipal services, they've got a watered-down collective agreement and those workers are going to have to fight years to get back what they've lost -- all to pay for your tax cut, which your buddies are getting rich from. That's what's going on.


It's not just a coincidence that Bill 152 is being time allocated also. Bill 152 is your downloading bill. That's the very bill that's cutting the transfer payments to municipalities. You've time limited that too. You've linked the two of them. It's not a difficult case for us to make.

By the way, all of this is happening in the context of this House having the rules changed in a way that makes this the most undemocratic era ever in the history of Ontario. You can already ram through legislation at lightning speed in a way that no other government has been able to before, nor was allowed to, nor would even think about. I don't care whether we're talking NDP, Liberal or the Tories of old. We're talking about a regime that has decided that it wants the power to ram through whatever it wants, whenever it wants.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Brampton North, come to order.

Mr Christopherson: That's the context of what's happening here. That's the context, where this government said, "That's not enough" --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Brampton North, I don't think you could hear me, you were yelling so loud. Please come to order.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Sorry, David. We were yelling pretty loud.

Mr Christopherson: That's all right. I was saying that the government has these undemocratic rules, where it can pass legislation at lightning speed, but that's not enough. They want to ram Bill 136 through this Legislature in a way that not only is undemocratic, is not only disgusting; it's cowardly and it violates the word of the Minister of Labour, who said she would take that committee and Bill 136 across the province in full province-wide public hearings. What did she say exactly? I quote from Hansard of June 4 of this year: "Yes, I commit to you that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province."

The motion we're debating today denies going outside Toronto, outside Queen's Park totally. The minister broke her word. It's very clear. What has the response of the labour movement been? My colleague from Ottawa Centre has read the quotes from Gord Wilson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. I will not read those again; you've heard them. If you listened to the minister's comments earlier -- for those who are interested, go back and read them in Hansard -- you'd think everything was going along smoothly and that the labour movement was quite happy and quite pleased with the turn of events. The reality is quite the opposite.

Your government, and one has to believe you're doing it deliberately, has put this province on a war footing with the labour movement. We almost have to believe that's what you want. Why else would you do it? Why else, after we embarrassed your Premier into meeting with the labour movement -- and everyone had the warm fuzzies when they came out of that meeting -- before anything was concluded, and at the same time that the Minister of Labour still says she wants to have dialogue and consultation and listen, at the same time all that's supposed to be happening -- as a gesture of goodwill, the government says -- would they drop this time allocation motion today?

Let's understand how the labour movement approached this. I have the Ontario Federation of Labour's submission dated September 2 to the government. I want to read a couple of parts so that people will understand the attitude and the tone that the labour movement in Ontario was prepared to carry into proper, credible, honourable discussions, which is what they thought they were being offered. Obviously, as a result of today's actions, that's not the case. But listen to this. Does this sound like a group of people who want confrontation?

"Ontario's broader public sector employees and the unions which represent them believe that there are alternatives to Bill l36 which would preserve fundamental rights, protect democratic principles and safeguard the fairness and integrity of the arbitration and adjudication process. Our alternative proposals are rooted in the current practice not only in Ontario but in all of the separate Canadian jurisdictions, and they respect the principles set out in international conventions which Canada has supported but which are violated by Bill 136."

How do they end their submission? With a threat? Quite the contrary:

"We are confident that these measures, taken together, will serve to permit the fair, effective and timely resolution of all issues arising out of the current round of amalgamations and mergers.

"Respectfully submitted,

"The Ontario Federation of Labour."

What is your response to their offer? To shut down the process. What exactly are you doing? At five to 6 today you'll use your majority to ram through this time allocation motion. That effectively ends second reading -- gone. Then we'll go into committee hearings. Remember the ones where the minister said, "I commit to you there will be full public hearings; we will travel the province"? I'm not talking about this virtual reality travelling they're talking about.

Come on. Who are you kidding? If there is a benefit to teleconferencing, then let's have one of the committees take a look at it. It's a major change, but if there's a way to apply new technology, fine, let's talk about it. Let's see if that's possible. Maybe it will help; maybe it won't. I suspect it won't eliminate actually going into communities. We do benefit by visiting communities other than Queen's Park and our own, because we are responsible for the entire province. But even if you wanted to do that, there is a legitimate way to introduce the idea. Instead, the first time I have ever heard it in this place is in trying to defend why the minister broke her word. How flimsy, how shallow, how obvious.

What's going to happen? After today we go into committee hearings only in Queen's Park, only in Toronto, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday until 5 o'clock. Let's remember first of all that ordinarily we send out notices, we advertise, for weeks we advertise on the parliamentary channel when the House isn't sitting: "Those who want to make submissions, here is when the hearings will be, here is where they will be. Here are copies of what we are talking about in terms of the legislation." We take weeks to do that. Two weeks is normally considered -- I've sat on enough subcommittees -- a fairly short period of time, and you only accept that when it's necessary. How much time are the people of Ontario going to get? From today until next Tuesday. Plus, we don't even know what the exact legislation is. We know you made your cabinet decisions on what the bill is going to look like at the end of the day, but you haven't tabled any amendments, so we don't even know at this point what it is people are expected to comment on.

You expect people to believe that somehow they're not being shortchanged, that this isn't meant to deny people, that somehow you really aren't hiding. People aren't as stupid as you would like and hope them to be. They're going to see through this, for God's sake. They saw through it on Bill 99 and they came out in droves. They saw it on Bill 49 and they came out in droves. It's because they did that you're going to hide here at Queen's Park with all the security and all the benefit you need, because I don't think you've got the guts to go out into those communities and face people. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if there was a backbench revolt at caucus that said, "I'm not sitting on that committee. I did it on 49, and I'm not going again," or "I was on that thing for 99, and I'm not going again. You're not getting me out there defending this bloody thing." That's what's really going on. You're hiding. You're afraid to face the people, absolutely frightened.

But what happens at the end of next Friday? Between now and Tuesday people get to prepare for the phantom bill. They don't know exactly what it's going to be at the end of the day, don't know what decisions have been made, so I'm not sure how they're supposed to prepare for it. But given that somehow they do, they've only got till Tuesday.


How we're ever supposed to notify enough people all over the province to be heard -- and are we going to subsidize them to come down here, or is it only people who are in driving distance who even get a shot at these meagre crumbs? Who knows? There's no time to talk or think about anything. You just ram stuff through. You don't know the implications, and more importantly, you don't care about the implications. That's obvious.

Then we get to Friday at 5 o'clock. What happens at 5 o'clock? That's when the pumpkin magically ends being the listening. And Monday at 10 o'clock we, the opposition parties, are supposed to have our amendments in, as I understand it, in legalistic terms. The government has the same process, of course, but they already know what they're going to do or they wouldn't live under these time frames. They made their decisions at cabinet today. They know where they're going.

But we get until the end of Friday at 5 o'clock. Think about it. How do you defend this? Friday at 5 o'clock in the afternoon the public hearings, such as they are, end. At 10 o'clock Monday morning all the amendments are supposed to be in, in legal form. What a joke and what an insult, especially when the minister stands in her place and says, "We're going to continue listening." What did she say? "We will continue with consultation on amendments." Give me a break. How are you ever going to take something said on Friday at 1 o'clock and incorporate it into an amendment that has to be in legal form Monday at 10 o'clock? Of course you can't.

It's not so much just that you're ramming it through, but it's that you still persist in standing in your place and saying, "We're listening and we want to have consultation and we want to have meaningful dialogue." That's what's so insulting about this. It's so insulting that you believe anybody is actually going to think you care about what they have to say. You couldn't. It's so ridiculous. It is absolutely mind-boggling what you expect people to believe just because you say it.

Time after time after time, when the Minister of Labour stands up and says, "The world is this way," it's usually the opposite. When she said, "Our legislation is meant to do this," it does the opposite. It's the same with the Minister of Environment: "Cutting my ministry is good for the environment." The Minister of Health: "Cutting the health budget is good for health. Closing hospitals is good for health." Education: "We cut out $1 billion and made it so much better, we're going to cut another $1 billion and make it twice as good." It's these kinds of insults.

The minister stands up and says, "We approach labour relations in this province with a view to making things fair and balanced." In two major pieces of legislation, WCB Bill 99 and the Ontario Labour Relations Act, Bill 7, you took the bloody word "fair" out of the law when it was already in there.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I've been back in this chamber five minutes. Do we really have to listen to this cussing and swearing? Is that parliamentary language?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Mississauga South, take your seat, please. I'm not ruling that unparliamentary language. It's been used many times in the House before.

Mrs Marland: So you accept cussing and swearing in this House?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Mississauga South, I am not going to argue with you about this. Please take your seat. Member for Hamilton Centre, continue.

Mr Christopherson: I'll tell you what's unparliamentary, member for Mississauga South, and I'll tell you what's unacceptable and disgusting is your government's continuing attack on workers in this province, and the sight of you standing up supporting it and defending it is even worse, because you're so bloody sanctimonious all the time.

The fact of the matter is that I've got about two or three minutes left to offer up for our party all of the concerns that we have about what's in Bill 136, about the undemocratic process that you've imposed here and the fact that you are not listening. You have no intention of listening. There's nothing about what you've done around Bill 136 that suggests you care about anything other than pulling that money -- I would argue almost legally stealing that money -- from public sector workers to directly pay for your tax cut. That's what's going on.

With the rule changes where you've already got the ability to introduce a bill Monday morning and make it law Thursday night, that's not good enough. Muzzle the opposition to the point where we've only got a few minutes to speak to major bills, that's not enough. What you have to do on Bill 136 is you have to put this province on the brink of war with the labour movement because you leave them no alternative.

I'll tell you, every one of you, if you were treated personally the way your government's treating them, you'd react exactly the same way. Let me tell you, if you think you're going to hive off public sector workers and put "special interest" on their forehead and think that you're going to get away with this attack while everybody stands aside, you're wrong. The special convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour spoke to the fact that they're united, private sector and public sector, and I can tell you our communities are united. In Hamilton alone, you've got the labour movement and the city council both opposing it.

Where's your justification? There is none. This is all about dictatorial rule and about doing whatever you want. The added insult is you're not even up front about it. You keep covering things up by saying, "We still want to consult and we still want to listen." I'll tell you, if you really want to listen, take this bill out in the province like your minister promised. She said: "Yes, I commit to you that there will be full public hearings. We will travel the province." That minister stood up today and said, "We will not travel the province." The minister broke her word. The government broke its word.

You're not interested in listening. You're not interested in negotiating. You want confrontation. You want trouble. You want that, and let me tell you, if you go through with this, you're bloody well going to get it.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? Mrs Witmer has moved government notice of motion number 40. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion, please say "aye."

Those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members; a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1759 to 1804.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): All those in favour of government motion number 40, please stand and be recognized by the Clerk.


Arnott, Ted

Baird, John R.

Beaubien, Marcel

Boushy, Dave

Brown, Jim

Carr, Gary

Carroll, Jack

Cunningham, Dianne

Danford, Harry

DeFaria, Carl

Doyle, Ed

Fisher, Barbara

Flaherty, Jim

Fox, Gary

Froese, Tom

Galt, Doug

Gilchrist, Steve

Grimmett, Bill

Harnick, Charles

Hastings, John

Hudak, Tim

Johnson, Bert

Johnson, David

Johnson, Ron

Jordan, W. Leo

Kells, Morley

Leach, Al

Leadston, Gary L.

Marland, Margaret

Martiniuk, Gerry

McLean, Allan K.

Munro, Julia

Murdoch, Bill

Newman, Dan

O'Toole, John

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Ross, Lillian

Runciman, Robert W.

Sampson, Rob

Saunderson, William

Sheehan, Frank

Snobelen, John

Spina, Joseph

Sterling, Norman W.

Stewart, R. Gary

Tilson, David

Turnbull, David

Vankoughnet, Bill

Villeneuve, Noble

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

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


Agostino, Dominic

Bisson, Gilles

Boyd, Marion

Bradley, James J.

Brown, Michael A.

Castrilli, Annamarie

Christopherson, David

Churley, Marilyn

Conway, Sean G.

Cullen, Alex

Gerretsen, John

Grandmaître, Bernard

Gravelle, Michael

Kennedy, Gerard

Kormos, Peter

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Lankin, Frances

Laughren, Floyd

Lessard, Wayne

Martel, Shelley

Martin, Tony

Miclash, Frank

Patten, Richard

Ramsay, David

Silipo, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Wood, Len

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 52; the nays are 27.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

It now being after 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 of the clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1807.