36th Parliament, 1st Session

L236 - Thu 25 Sep 1997 / Jeu 25 Sep 1997





















































The House met at 1003.



Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Is there a quorum?

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Can you please check for a quorum.

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): It is with pleasure that I present the following resolution:

That in the opinion of this House, since the Humber River is the largest watershed of the nine river systems in Metropolitan Toronto, and

Since the history of the Humber River is one that parallels the growth and development of Toronto, and

Since the Humber River is currently home to many outstanding recreational, educational and tourist facilities, and

Since the province of Ontario through the Minister of Natural Resources is a signatory to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System Charter, which is a voluntary national program that for the last 13 years has recognized and promoted a total of 33 rivers in Canada, including four in Ontario which have been deemed to be culturally and historically important;

Therefore, the government of Ontario should recognize the importance of the Humber River to the history and character of the city of Toronto and the development of Ontario, and encourage the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board to nominate and ultimately designate the Humber River as the first urban river in Ontario recognized under this charter, and

The Minister of Natural Resources should accept the recommendations of this nomination bid and allow for a three-year management strategy to be put in place for the voluntary coordination of all concerned parties to work towards the enhancement of this precious natural resource for the benefit of all Ontarians and their future generations.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): According to rule 95, the member for High Park-Swansea has 10 minutes.

Mr Shea: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It's always a great pleasure to see the distinguished member for Perth in the chair. I know that he, like all other members of this House, shares my sincere concern with the issues of clean water and clean air. It is without doubt that we all understand that fresh water is essential to life on earth and that Canada is blessed with more than one fifth of the world's fresh water supply, much of it in the province of Ontario, and that our rivers are a priceless and irreplaceable part of our national and provincial heritage and identity. So it is with great pleasure that I advance this resolution today in the hope that my colleagues in this House will support this resolution and allow us to get on expeditiously with the designation of the Humber River.

I was particularly pleased in my research to note that the Minister of Natural Resources and the government of this province are signatories to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System Charter. We signed on in 1996, although other governments have been giving support to this system. I applaud all of them, because I think all Ontarians would like to see us take very careful care of our natural resources to ensure that we can return them in a condition that is appropriate as a legacy for our children and their children. I'm pleased to see that we are beginning to recognize the movement that is certainly North American, if not worldwide, as an attempt to restore some natural balance to our environment.

I want to give a little background about the Canadian Heritage Rivers System and why I think it's important that we support this resolution today and encourage the board to designate the Humber River as part of the system. I remind this House that the Canadian Heritage Rivers System Charter was established 13 years ago. It is a national program. It is signed by all 10 provinces and two territories, and Parks Canada acts as the lead agency. The program has no legislative power to enforce compliance, but it is based on voluntary compliance by all parties, private and public, who have interests in any designated river.

I want to pay particular tribute today to the tremendous effort that has been made already in this regard by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and by other agencies that I'll mention a little later on in my comments to bring us to this point where we hope the Humber River will be advanced through the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board for designation.

I want to indicate very briefly the vision that is considered appropriate for this designation: that our rivers will be nationally recognized and managed through the support and stewardship of local people and provincial, territorial and federal governments to ensure the long-term conservation of the rivers' cultural, natural and recreational values and integrity.

The charter of the rivers system is nationally recognized and managed through the support and stewardship of the local people, and I think that's terribly important for us all to remember.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sorry to interrupt this very important speech. It is indeed a very important matter and I don't believe there is a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Will you please check for a quorum.

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): Quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: Quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for High Park-Swansea.

Mr Shea: I will remind us that the charter of the system "defines a framework for cooperation between Canada and the provinces and the territories...to recognize, protect and manage, in a sustainable manner, Canada's important rivers and their natural heritage, human (cultural/historical) and recreational values."

That's an important statement for us all in this province that has so many marvellous rivers and fresh water resources. It's important that we manage them to the very best of our ability to the benefit of the ecology and as an appropriate legacy to leave to our children and to their children.

In Metropolitan Toronto we are blessed with a number of fresh water resources, but I want to remind us that they have been under threat for years and years and years. That threat has come to them as a result of the growing urbanism that has been attendant with the economic growth of this province. I remind us of the issue of the fresh water question for Lake Ontario, the Don River, the Humber River, Grenadier Pond, the Credit River and so forth. All of these fresh water resources in the Metropolitan area have been under threat for years and years and years. This rises far above partisan politics; it is an issue that goes to the very systemic nature of our developing community.

In recent years we have discovered I think a new sense of stewardship about the environment that is causing us all to recognize the importance, not only of clean air but also of clean water, and the importance of beginning to take seriously the stewardship issues of those resources. One of the responses in that regard has been the formation of coalitions and alliances of communities and groups to deal with these issues and to apply for designation -- in this instance dealing with rivers -- to the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board to allow a three-year strategy to be put in place for the recovery and refreshment of that fresh water source.

This resolution that I bring before the House today reflects and applauds the tremendous public effort made by so many on behalf of the health and the vitality of the Humber River in this particular instance. As I mentioned at the beginning of my comments, I refer specifically to the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. I could remind us of the Humber River Heritage Committee. There are a number of others that are involved in the coalition and the alliances for the Humber River.

My background as a former chairman of the Metropolitan water pollution committee, chairman of the Metropolitan works committee, has always been one that has been dealing with the issue of water quality. I can tell you we have a long way to go in terms of restoring our fresh water resources to the natural condition they rightly deserve among us. We have, in this community, struggled hard to refresh our fresh water sources. Metropolitan Toronto taxpayers have, to their credit, over the years contributed significant amounts of their property tax dollars to water reclamation issues.

I would like to hope that this House would give its support now to designation of the Humber River, which would allow us to advance this process one step further. I remind us that in the process, when the application is made, the river has to go through a number of quality checks before it is given any designation. It must prove it has natural heritage value; it must prove it has human heritage value, recreational value and integrity value. I can tell you, in terms of recreation value -- indeed when I grew up, and that was just a few years ago, it was a river --


Mr Shea: Thank you so much for my colleagues and that burst of laughter. All right, so it was a little more than just a few years ago. But I learned to swim in the Humber River and I learned to canoe in the Humber River, the river along the banks of which I walked and learned to appreciate the flora and fauna of the area. I hold it in very high regard. With sadness I have watched its degradation over the years and would like to see us restore it more and more to its appropriate condition that makes it a natural part of the heritage of this great city.

I remind us of the tremendous value of that river in terms of the economy of this province many years back, not only its prehistoric importance, but I talk about its historic importance -- Étienne Brûlé, for example, and his great travel down the river. I might also mention the name of someone by the name of Florence Nightingale Graham, otherwise known to many of us as Elizabeth Arden, who was in fact a resident of Woodbridge, who herself had some associations with the river. So the river has natural heritage values, human heritage values, recreation values and integrity values. I suggest it meets all of the criteria appropriate for designation.

I would ask this House to support the designation advancement to the board for consideration so that it may join other Ontario rivers that have been so designated -- the Bloodvein, the Missinabi, the French, the Mattawa, the Grand -- and others that are in the nomination stream, such as the Trent-Severn waterway, the St Marys River and the Thames. I ask for the support of this House on this resolution.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is with pleasure I rise today to support the motion put forward by the member for High Park-Swansea.

The Humber River runs through the riding I represent in York South. It is a vital part of the greenway in Metro and one of the largest river and greenway areas anywhere. Even more important when we talk about heritage rivers is what the Humber River has meant to the development of Toronto and the Toronto area. We look at its historical place as a trading route that connected virtually all of North America in terms of its vital connection to the Toronto carrying place, up to Lake Simcoe.

As a native trading route, it contributed hugely to the history of this particular area. We wouldn't have developed if it hadn't been for the established patterns through the Humber River involving the different trading patterns. It sometimes took as many as 20 years for different items of trade to work their way up from as far away as Mexico to this region.

The French found this to be the route they would use as part of their initiation of trade. They made Baby Point, which is in the southern reaches of my riding, in the part of the Humber River travelling through Metro, into magasin Royal, one of their first forts, and subsequently contributed to the location here of the permanent site put on by Mr Simcoe.

We find indeed that the trade links were so important as to create some of the first families of Toronto. In fact the first European child was born into one of the families of the French traders and was there to greet Governor Simcoe when he came to found the city of York.

We have a political connection arising substantially from the existence and the nature of the Humber River. We would not have been a non-slavery colony had it not been for the water power provided by the Humber River. The Humber River allowed Governor Simcoe to put forward an act to make this one of the first jurisdictions to ban slavery, because the water power on the river substituted for the slaves. So the economic rationale was there for one of the earliest human rights gestures in that regard.

The Humber River drops 1,100 feet from the moraine down to the lake and is able to provide that water power. In fact, at one time there were 23 sites for the use of lumber and other types of mills -- just mill sites; that doesn't include the actual number of mills -- between Bloor and northern Weston. It was a tremendous source of early economic activity. It defined some of the essential character of Toronto, and it's important to understand that wouldn't have happened without the existence of the lake. We just need to understand slightly how the water power begat the mills, how that itself brought on the need for trades, for carpenters, for masons, for coopers, for people involved in things like belt-making for the mills, and then they became harness-makers who became the locus of the building steps of industry, and that industry eventually became the heartland of Canada's industrial development.

There certainly is no shortage of the heritage requirements to be met by the Humber River. I think many of us living in the current-day Metropolitan Toronto area can glide right on by the Humber River and not realize the contribution it makes. It has every bit the standing in terms of heritage and contribution to our essential forming history as do rivers existing in more raw and natural form without the incursion the rest of us provide in terms of our current-day use of the area.

We recognize that rich history which saw the continuity of this river provide some of the basic definition for Toronto. It was at one time known in fact as the Toronto River, just as Lake Ontario was known as Lake Toronto. When you look at the very name of this place, which means trees reflecting in the water, it was at the mouth of the Humber River that they had stakes for fishing nets that provided that graphic description which led to the place name initially of that river, the lake it came into and this whole region in terms of Toronto.

We know too that this river continues to have a tremendous amount of relevance. For the people who live in the northwest part of Metro, it is their source of current-day relief. It doesn't have the same economic implication, but it certainly does in terms of recreation and quality of life. The trails for biking, for walking up and down the Humber are the essential ingredient for the leisure activities of people who live in this part of Metro.

Something we probably don't recognize on our own is that the Humber River has an essential visual beauty and enjoyment that is comparable to world rivers anywhere. The people who put the work into drawing the Humber River to our latter-day attention compare it to the Seine or the Thames, anywhere in the places that those rivers course.

I think it's essential for us to recognize and celebrate the Humber River in order to recognize the type of quality of life that is available to us and to recognize too that the Humber River is not just a river for Toronto. It comes from the Oak Ridges moraine, it feeds off the Niagara Escarpment, some of the most defining features of the province that we recognize. The Niagara Escarpment has UN designation for its uniqueness, and we recognize too that that part of our natural heritage needs also to be preserved.

We recognize the essential importance that the Humber River has as a linking of the present day with some of our defining characteristics as a city certainly, and probably as a province when we think of the central importance the economic activity I spoke of has played in the development of the whole province. It behooves us very greatly, as we think of the kinds of things we need to do to sustain quality of life, as the word "Toronto" comes into play, encompassing a political entity, it is essential that the values of connection with our past, connection with nature -- there has been a tremendous effort made by the people associated with the Humber River heritage to make sure that the Humber River sustains its place as a living part of our heritage. We see they have identified that 64 out of 75 species of fish that used to be there are still in the river.

There are tremendous efforts made to clean it. I've participated with Frontlines, our youth centre in the city of York, and with the Weston Ratepayers' Association in annual cleanups of the shore along the river. When you see the people out there picking up everything from large tires down to cigarette butts, you see the kind of relevance and importance this still has.

I think the Humber River's particular importance is one of the hidden secrets of Toronto. The heritage designation brought up by the member for High Park-Swansea is very timely and very important to the essential development of this city and of the province, to make sure that we pay attention to the things that have contributed to our quality of life. In making this commitment, which, as I think the member explained quite well, is something of an official gesture that doesn't bring with it a lot of sanction to support the river, it also reflects our commitment to make sure that the Humber River continues to come back to us as a living natural resource, as something that can be enjoyed without the incursions it has had.


Ms Churley: I'm on my feet a little more quickly than I thought I was going to be and I'm not prepared, but I notice that the member for York South, after receiving a note, sat down abruptly.

I don't know if I can speak to this for 15 minutes without becoming very partisan and slamming the government for so many of the cuts they've made in terms of environmental protection, which includes protecting our water.

Let me start by congratulating the member for High Park-Swansea -- I know the good doctor across the way is really looking forward to my later comments -- for bringing this forward. As he said, and the member for York South said, I suppose overall this is more symbolic than necessarily a call for action to clean up the Humber, to do the kind of work that needs to be done, but indeed a very important symbolism.

As you know, my riding is in Riverdale. My riding is right on the edge of part of the Don River so I certainly understand -- I remember my youth a little bit more clearly than the member for High Park-Swansea, but not a lot, not so many days ago. In fact I wasn't here. I grew up in Labrador, right on the edge of what was then called the Hamilton River and was changed eventually to the Churchill River. I grew up on the edge of a large and beautiful river.

I just spent some time there last summer. For the first time ever you could drive right through Happy Valley, Labrador, which is where I come from. It was a terrible drive. I could spend 15 minutes talking about that. It was the first time ever you could drive all the way from Quebec right up to Goose Bay, Labrador. It took two days of very bad road.

I'm mentioning this because having grown up in the wilds, really, and spent my life canoeing, and still enjoy canoeing, I, like many, feel very strongly about preserving and taking care of our natural heritage. Over the years we have forgotten that, and thus we're reaping the problems now that come as a result of the buildup of the area in Toronto.

I know more about the Don River and what's been happening there. Back in 1988 or 1989 -- my very brief but productive stint at city council -- one of the things I did with Barbara Hall, who was then the councillor for ward 7, and with Jack Layton, who was the councillor for ward 6, was that the three of us worked together and called the first ever Clean up the Don community meeting at city hall.

I remember the first notice we put out. We didn't know how people would respond. I believe the headline in our notice for the meeting was something about, "Do you know that you could once swim in the Don River?" It was that sort of thing, inviting people to come out to a founding meeting to discuss ways that we could get involved, as communities, in our community in Riverdale and then in other communities throughout Toronto where the Don runs, if people would be interested in getting involved.

We were quite surprised and very pleased to see the large turnout. Often, in my experience, I'd get a lot of people out to meetings when I'd call a meeting on traffic, and particularly parking problems, those kinds of things that are very relevant to people in their neighbourhood. It hits them right at their home and they tend to come out in large numbers to deal with issues that affect them directly daily. Sometimes, on other issues, not so many come out. We were quite surprised and gratified to see how many people, from all walks of life, came out to that very first meeting to talk about ways we could start, as a community, cleaning up the Don. As you know, the Don is extremely polluted. There was a time -- we have pictures of people swimming and fishing in the Don, as I'm sure the member for High Park-Swansea remembers himself fishing and swimming in the Humber, but you can't do that any more.

I know that now, after the late 1980s when we started this organization, it runs clear across the city. There are thousands of individuals, citizens, who work together with their various city halls, who go out every year. They take part in events. They have cleanup days, just like they do for the Humber River. The citizens come out as volunteers to help clean up the river, a very dirty river now. There are a variety of activities that take place every year on the shores of the Don. People canoe down the Don, being very careful, I might add, not to fall in. The activities every year -- I notice the member for High Park-Swansea is laughing about that. I bet he wouldn't want to fall in the Humber at this stage, either.

There are so many citizens across Toronto who are involved in these efforts and it's quite encouraging to see that. So I strongly support this today.

Now I'd like to speak for a few minutes about what I think the government needs to do so that this is not just a symbolic gesture. Let me say , before some of the government members say it, this is private members' hour and it's supposed to be non-partisan, so I'll be partisan in a very nice way this morning.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): A change.

Ms Churley: You'll see, right? As I've said many times in this House --

Interjection: Is that possible?

Ms Churley: I'm going to try, I said. It depends on the reaction from the parliamentary assistant. The cuts to the environment, the financial cuts and the deregulation, are already starting to have -- I know the parliamentary assistant says it's not deregulation, it's re-regulation. It is deregulation. The cuts and deregulation have already had a huge impact on the water quality across our province.

I know the member for High Park-Swansea mentioned conservation authorities. We all know their budgets were cut by about 70% shortly after the government took office. It's become much harder for them to do the kinds of work they did in terms of protecting wetlands and our rivers and doing educational tours, providing educational materials, a lot of the work they did to aid us in these fairly monumental tasks of cleaning up our rivers after so many years of very bad, profound levels of pollution: the runoff, the sewers, the garbage thrown into it, the toxic materials, very polluted. We need these conservation authorities to be part of the effort to preserve and clean up these rivers.

I would like the government -- I'm asking politely, as I've asked many times not so politely -- to take another look at what -- I know it's not being talked about out there a lot because we have problems with health care, education, labour matters and women's shelters, and it goes across the board, so people are concerned about a lot more things. But overall, when polls are done on what people feel about environmental protection, the polls will show very high numbers, over 80% in most cases, who believe governments should be responsible for cleaning up the environment and preserving our environment and our health. On the whole people expect by now that governments are doing that.

When you get a barrage of cuts to the environment, there may be the brief headline or so, and then there are the dedicated people whose professional or daily lives, on a volunteer basis or whatever, are involved in environmental issues, who try to get the attention of the government, try to point out the problems with some of the cuts.

This is a good indication. The reason I believe the member for High Park-Swansea has brought this forward is that he is aware that, beyond a very important part of Ontario and our heritage, there are a lot of problems with the pollution in our rivers and that we need to call on not only the citizens, but we also have to expect -- and he's right that the Metro government, the Toronto city government, have over the years put money and time and effort into the cleanup of our rivers, but the provincial government has a role to play as well, beyond a symbolic gesture today.


I don't see any reason why all members in this House will not support this today. If I may say so, it really is a motherhood resolution before us today. The member will be able to feel good at the end of the session today. I'm sure everybody will support his motion. But I'm glad to find out today that -- do we have a tree hugger in the Tory caucus? Do we? I don't know. But I know if there is a tree hugger in the Tory caucus, he should beware because they don't like tree huggers in that caucus. I don't know if I'm inviting him to join our caucus or not. There might be a few other questions asked first. But starting off as a tree hugger is good.

I believe that if the member for High Park-Swansea is interested in the Humber River he may have interests in other environmental matters as well. I would say to him that we very definitely need an ally, one ally, in the Tory caucus to help us in our quest to get some of the funding and the regulations that have been thrown out brought back in.

Do you want to speak to this for a few minutes?

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): You're doing fine.

Ms Churley: I was just asking my new colleague here, the member for Windsor-Riverside, if he wanted to say a few words, because I know he's very interested in the environment and has been for many years. I know that in his city of Windsor he has been very active over the years in environmental concerns and issues.

In terms of the environmental problems that have come about because of some of the cuts, the monitoring stations, for instance, for water have gone way down. There are hardly any left in the province any more. One of the big concerns about water in Ontario is the real concern that the government is in the process of starting to privatize our water, which is something we strongly object to, because our water is not only part of our natural heritage; the air we breathe and the water we drink are what keep us alive.

Some of the downloading, for instance, of responsibilities to municipalities in terms of sewers is worrisome as well, because you tend to think when you hear the word "sewer" that not a lot of people get into it, I must admit. The member for Welland-Thorold might be interested in sewers --

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Very interested.

Ms Churley: -- but not a lot of people are interested in it. But as you know, sewers have played a very large part in the polluting of our waterways over the years, and it still is a problem. I'm concerned to see that the government is downloading that responsibility, without giving the municipalities the proper tools and the proper funding. The government has cut all kinds of funding in terms of keeping our water clean.

Mr Galt: Now we know how the debt got doubled.

Ms Churley: Well, health comes first. I can tell the member how the debt got doubled, but people's health comes first, and keeping our environment clean comes first as well. You can't just decide to cut because you need it for your 30% tax cut and then figure out -- which is this government's policy overall: Cut first, let it all fall apart, create the mess, ask questions later, and then start cleaning it up. That's why we're in such a mess today in terms of the environment and why rivers like the Humber are becoming so dirty: not enough attention has been paid to it.

In closing, I firmly support your resolution today and am happy to do so.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I'd like to thank the member for High Park-Swansea for bringing this resolution forward today.

The Humber River is a living reminder of the importance of waterways in the history of our great province of Ontario. In fact, it was down the Humber River in 1615, I believe, that Étienne Brûlé first travelled. Étienne was a personal aide to Samuel de Champlain. He came down the Humber River in the year 1615 on a mission to visit the Carantouan tribe of Indians in eastern Pennsylvania, and my apologies to the tribe for that pronunciation of their name. As such, he was the first European to gaze upon the waters of Lake Ontario. That first gaze was taken from the mouth of the Humber River, so it's a significant river in the history of this province.

Brûlé was on his way down to visit that Indian tribe in eastern Pennsylvania to bring about 500 braves up to do battle with the Iroquois, the Onondagas in those days, in around the Finger Lakes area. Champlain was travelling with his Huron friends with another 500 friends, warriors, and they were to meet in the Onondaga area and do battle against their arch foes, the Iroquois.

However, Brûlé, having travelled across Lake Ontario and up the Niagara River, was delayed, and I suspect he was delayed because he was probably also the first European to lay eyes on Niagara Falls. Being an explorer and enjoying the pastime of exploring new lands and being the first European to cast eyes on new geographical formations, I'm sure that he would not pass by Niagara Falls without visiting it.

As such, he was two days late visiting the battle site, in which Champlain was wounded in the leg and had to be carried home. Étienne Brûlé decided that perhaps the better part of valour would be not to return to Montreal right away, and he spent the next 15 years, with the exception of one visit, among the Indians.

During that period of time, the reports of missionaries and coureurs de bois of the area reported seeing him in various other parts of the Great Lakes basin, and it is probably arguable that he was the first European to view each of the Great Lakes, and that would include Niagara Falls. I think Étienne Brûlé is to be remembered in Canadian history not only as perhaps a character but as a true explorer, because he made no maps, he kept no journal of his journeys. As such, he travelled and explored merely for the joy of doing so.

The historical designations we are involved in in this debate today, this resolution today, remind us not only of the geographical formations that are before us and act as reminders, but they also remind us of the early explorers who passed through this land. They are something that is tangible that will remind us of the people like Étienne Brûlé, who perhaps ended his life in less glorious terms, in helping the English conquer Quebec City in 1629, and therefore not being very popular with his French compatriots at the time. But we are reminded of his history through the designation of this river and through other historical designations. That memory of early explorers will serve us well in our history. If we forget about our history, we are doomed in our future.

The Canadian Heritage Rivers System is a cooperative program of governments of Canada in all 10 provinces, as the member for High Park-Swansea has mentioned. Ontario's representative on the board is the director of Ontario Parks. If a nomination is deemed worthy of inclusion in the system, it is recommended to the Minister of Natural Resources and the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage.

In the member's resolution, he speaks about the size of the Humber River watershed. It covers about 900 square kilometres. It's a huge area from its headwaters in the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges moraine all the way down to the shores of Lake Ontario.

The point I'd like to make this morning is that the input and acceptance of all the local municipalities along the watershed are very important to this government, which is strong on consultation and listening to the local municipalities and their points of view.

The designation of a river is a symbolic honour. However, some municipalities have raised concerns that this designation may lead to future intrusions in municipal planning. This would certainly not be the government's intention, but it is important to note that the Ministry of Natural Resources will not move ahead with this designation without the support of local municipalities in this watershed.

That being said, I'd like to commend the member for High Park-Swansea for bringing this resolution forward and highlighting the great contributions the Humber River has made to the development of Ontario.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I am delighted to join the debate and spend the next few minutes on this topic. I commend the member for High Park-Swansea for bringing it forward.

It occupies a special place for me, since I represent the area that is completely straddled by the Humber River and I have myself resided in the so-called Humber Summit, which is an old settlement area. For the last 30-odd years, that's where I have lived. As a matter of fact, one of the early settlers, Joseph Rowntree, and the Rowntree family back in the late 1800s had a very successful mill, as the area was known for the mill's operations. Now we enjoy, not only as local residents but as a community within the Metropolitan Toronto area, and we have groups that come from far and wide to enjoy, the so-called Rowntree Mills Park. It's a beautiful area. It's wide. The river meanders around the now-residential area and it affords a tremendous recreational opportunity for everyone, visitors and residents alike.

I also have the very distinct pleasure, if I may say so, to live on what is now called Rowntree Mill Road, which was dedicated to the Rowntree family, and we also have at the mouth, at Rowntree Mill, at Islington Avenue, an old settlers' cemetery which is an historic site. Just up the street we have the Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, which dates prior to Hurricane Hazel back in 1954. So the area abounds with history.

But let me get back for a second to the matter in front of us here, because I only have four minutes, unfortunately. I think we have to support today the initiative and support the designation of the Humber River as the first urban river to be recognized by the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

It's most important that we allocate the Humber River its place, and rightly so, in history. The Humber River is full of history from top to bottom, as we heard from the last speaker. Even today you can appreciate and visit and see in South Humber Park a plaque commemorating the arrival of the first white person, Étienne Brûlé, who came down through the then-known, as it is today, Humber Trail, which used to be the only passage, which was first used by the aboriginal people and then by the settlers who arrived later, the only connection to Huronia, as we now know.

With the passage of time and the opening of other roads and with things like horses and cars, that became less known. But I have to say that at a particular time, the Humber River, especially in the north end, at the Humber cemetery now, contained I believe some 84 mills back in 1817, and then they started to diminish as time went by.

I have to say thanks in the House today to a number of people who on a continuing basis, a voluntary basis, are giving their time to support the natural beauty of the Humber River and maintain it. I would be remiss if I didn't mention a particular group in my own area, the Humber Crang, which continually does numerous projects cleaning up the Humber River. They are one of the very active participants in maintaining and raising awareness of the Humber River.

As well -- and who doesn't know? -- I'd like to give credit to my colleague from York South, Mr Kennedy, because there is a group of people working from the south end, especially Madelaine McDowell from Humber River Heritage. And who doesn't know Jane Jacobs? She continually holds tours and conferences with respect to the Humber River, and I think this speaks very loudly to the importance of the river.

I don't have time to go into the various aspects, the object as to why we should support the motion and make sure that the Humber River is recognized as such. If it's not done, I'm afraid that what we have enjoyed in the past and what we are enjoying now -- I have to say that there is a trail which is part of the 84 kilometres along the Humber River which is being enjoyed by everyone. It is full of flora and fauna. There are deer, there are rabbits, there are raccoons, all kinds of wild animals for the enjoyment of the residents, kids and everyone in general.

In finishing, it is important that we ensure that the integrity of the natural heritage, the human heritage and the recreational value of the Humber River is kept.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It is my privilege to rise and speak to Mr Derwyn Shea's ballot item number 99 and his resolution number 73. Mr Shea's resolution, for those who may be bringing it into context, is to recognize the important heritage significance of the Humber River, the largest watershed of the nine river systems in Metropolitan Toronto.

I respect Mr Shea very much, and on a personal note I would have to say that Mr Shea and his lovely wife, Julia, reside on the most beautiful Grenadier Pond. Recently I was asked as a guest to attend a small reception at their home and was pleased to watch what seemed to be remote-control white swans gracing the beautiful Grenadier Pond. That, as I'm sure Mr Shea recognizes, is meant in a very complimentary manner.

Mr Shea's resolution further goes on to serve as an education for perhaps each and every one of us who is paying attention today. Respect for our heritage: really, that's the theme. It's learning and respecting our heritage through knowledge. To me, the most important thing is to look at the importance of history. The waterways of this great province have served to both develop and explore, and still nurture each one of us today. Mr Chudleigh has given us a very fine history lesson as well.

I thank Mr Shea for bringing this to our attention. That the Canadian Heritage Rivers System was developed some 13 years ago was completely new to me. I apologize for my lack of knowledge on the subject, but it serves as a very definite focal point for us to examine why people like Mr Shea take the initiative to recognize these important geographical features and heritage aspects of our country.

In preparing to respond to Mr Shea and support his resolution, I looked to my immediate riding of Durham East. I looked to my own riding to see what I could learn about the history and heritage of our river systems. I am pleased to share with people that my riding of Durham East is east of Oshawa, is part of Durham region, and its southern boundary is the north shore of Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario is a great heritage body of water as well. In fact, the shoreline is graced by three or four very significant class 1 and class 2 wetlands. I might add that the Lynde Creek Marsh, as well as the Second Marsh, east of the General Motors headquarters building in Oshawa, and the Eastside Marsh, which is in Bowmanville, adjacent to the St Marys Cement property, are three very important class 1 and 2 wetlands that act as the lungs or filtration system for a very important creek system.


I was pleased, when preparing for this morning, to examine the creek systems which feed these marshes; the water eventually goes to Lake Ontario. The creek systems are the Lynde Creek, of course, Black Creek, Farewell Creek, Bowmanville Creek, Soper Creek and Wilmot Creek. These are all widely known in the area, and not really appreciated for their importance. There were mills and all sorts of activity in the early economy and development of Ontario settlements. Bowmanville Creek had a number of important sawmills. In fact, Bowmanville's history can be traced completely to the establishment of a mill for milling flour and other agricultural products. If I move further north in my riding of Durham East, I come immediately to the Ganaraska Forest, which is an important forest stand, and also the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, which looks after the creek system and the flooding issues around the conservation mandate.

I run into the Oak Ridges moraine. I heard one of the previous speakers mention the Oak Ridges moraine. That almost completely crosses my riding of Durham East. We all know that the Oak Ridges moraine was the shore of the ancient Lake Iroquois, a once-great lake during the glacier period that has since receded.

It's important to go back to the basics of this discussion this morning, to talk about the heritage. I thank Mr Shea for encouraging me to look into the heritage of my own riding. I would ask everyone to do that. It's not just about the Humber or the Don or Soper Creek. It's the whole aspect of the importance of our waterway systems in Ontario and indeed our great country.

I just want to wrap up my remarks. Moving north in my riding of Durham East, we have Lake Scugog. Lake Scugog is more or less a manmade lake. I've got a bit of history on that which I'll share. It served as an important part of Port Perry; in fact it gave it its very fundamental economic purpose for existence. It served to transfer logs and other kinds of things down through the Trent system. I'll cover that in a moment. The history of Lake Scugog -- I think this is important; I just learned this, actually -- is that in 1828 the government gave a Mr Purdy permission to build a dam at Lindsay to power a grist mill. That mill was destroyed in 1929 and there was another dam built. Anyway, Lake Scugog then became a flooded area for the purpose of transferring both grains and lumber downstream. It eventually feeds into the Trent system, and I know my friend Mr Rollins is going to talk about the Trent system.

I want to conclude by saying that I have a cottage on the Otonabee River. This was once my grandfather's farm. The Otonabee River is just south of Peterborough and it's part of the Trent-Severn waterway system, which in itself deserves a complete discussion. But I know the Trent system is going to be covered by Mr Rollins, so I'm going to relinquish the rest of my time for him. I thank Mr Shea for the opportunity to speak on this subject this morning.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): It will do me great good to support the member for High Park-Swansea in bringing forward the Humber as a designated river. As my colleague from Durham East mentioned, I am going to talk about the Trent. It's also on the nomination list. I think it is the greatest inland waterway there is in Ontario, stretching from the shores of Lake Ontario up to the shores of Georgian Bay, with many locks and rivers and streams feeding into that great Trent system. We need to make sure we can travel that, as did our forefathers before us, and be able to see to the bottom of that great river. We've always been able to do that.

It hurts me, and I know it hurts a lot of us, to drive by the Humber and see the stuff floating down it. We've got to protect that environment for our children and particularly our grandchildren. I know it's only one little step for the future to put forward this nomination that our member has to make sure our grandchildren and great-grandchildren have the opportunity to see to the bottom of some of these rivers. It's very unfortunate to see how they have been polluted and mismanaged.

This is one step closer back to our heritage, back to our basics, where we've got to respect the soil, the water and the air. It has been said in this House that we as a government have done a lot of cutbacks to those. I can tell you that there are more people in this 82-member caucus on this side who are concerned about the waterways and the lands we all grew up on and breathe and work with than a lot of people want to give us credit for. We're going to have to make sure those waterways are left clear for us.

The Trent-Severn stretches from Trenton; it goes through my riding. The amount of boat traffic that goes up and down that each year is absolutely fantastic. When we see people from other countries express appreciation about the beauty of the Trent and being able to float up and down that, through all the canals and everything, it does me good to stand up and support the resolution this morning. Thank you and congratulations.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for High Park-Swansea.

Mr Shea: It's been very gratifying to hear the comments in the chamber today, to hear the comments from the member for York South, who represents the riding just immediately north of mine, who has echoed many of the points I raised during my outlining speech.

I appreciate the member for Riverdale, particularly her diligence in environmental issues. She expressed a number of questions about the issue before us, also reminding us that while this may appear to be symbolic, there is an opportunity, particularly in the three-year plan, to make this much more than symbolic, in fact to drive a recovery plan that's extremely important for this river, and I hope similarly for all the other freshwater resources that are so designated around this province.

I'd like to thank the parliamentary assistant of natural resources, the member for Halton North, who I think gave a remarkably fine historical setting for the river and reminded us of its contribution. He went back to 1615. I have to respond to the comments of the member for Riverdale: I was not swimming in the river in those years; it may only appear like that. But I do appreciate the comments of the member for Halton North, who also reminded us of the significant contributions of this river to the Niagara Escarpment and to the world biosphere and so forth. We should be conscious of all of that.

The member for Yorkview has given his comments about the quality of the water. I appreciate the comments of the member for Durham East, who has reminded us of the importance of the wetlands in his riding. That was picked up by the member for Quinte, who, in a very heartfelt way, reminded us of the determination we all have to restore the environment and make sure we leave a legacy for our children and their grandchildren that is one of honour.

I seek the support of this House in moving the Humber River one step closer to its designation.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I move that in the opinion of this House, given that plant breeding and the science of biology (the study of living organisms) have been used for years in enhancing the quality of our food supply and are critical to the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of a safe agriculture and food industry in Ontario; and

Given the understanding that agricultural biotechnology is becoming an ever-emerging field of importance in transforming the global agriculture and food production industry by creating an increasingly competitive global food commodity market; and

Given that in a world of change, if government and industry fail to form strategic partnerships and lead the way as innovators towards this 21st-century industry, they face being driven out of the competitive global marketplace;

Therefore, the government of Ontario should recognize the importance of safe and cost-effective biotechnology and support well-researched science in advancing Ontario's agriculture and food production to ensure the industry's viability and competitiveness in the global marketplace and continue to work with all levels of government to ensure a safe food supply for the consumer and protect Canada's high standard and world leader status as a safe supplier of food; and

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs should provide leadership and support to Ontario biotech initiatives and recognize their importance to future opportunities for growth, jobs and investment and continue to coordinate and support biotech research and development, and to lead efforts in pursuing investment from financial institutions for biotech and its applications for the agriculture and food industry in Ontario and become the political champion of this budding technological industry of the 21st century.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Chudleigh: I'm pleased to rise in the House today and discuss the future of agriculture and food in Ontario and indeed the world. Much like the Industrial Revolution was to mass production, or the invention of the microchip was to the advancement of computer technology, biotechnology is a 21st-century tool that will change agriculture and food production and productivity forever. My resolution calls on the government to recognize the importance of this new technology to Ontario's agrifood industry, provide leadership and support to Ontario's biotech initiatives, and champion this new field politically and in the financial community.

When I refer to biotechnology as a new technology, this isn't necessarily accurate. While many applications of agricultural biotechnology are new, the practice of plant breeding, seed selection and the study of living organisms have been around for over 10,000 years. In fact, as far back as 8000 BC people have saved the best of their crop to use as seed for the following year.

Today the study of genes has taken us to a powerful level of understanding, where we can use information to improve our overall quality of life. There are, however, many obstacles and myths to overcome while dealing with the powerful new applications of this science. Many of those in the House today will undoubtedly have heard about experiments regarding cloning of sheep and other organisms. There has been a mountain of speculation in the media as to the perils of these practices and their effects on people, especially when the technology is applied to humans.

Biotechnology, and specifically agricultural biotechnology, has in the past been poorly defined and generally misunderstood. Dr John Aw, president of Calex Biosciences in Nepean, gives us far more poignant reasons to pursue this technology and highlights some very real concerns with the future of food safety. Dr Aw wrote to me in support of this resolution, stating, "Agrifood biotechnology is not only one of the fastest growing industries in the world today, it represents one of the most critical of all human enterprises because of its potential to provide for safer foods, a cleaner environment and better health."

He goes on to say that recent outbreaks of E coli diseases in various parts of the world and BSE, more commonly known as mad cow disease, transmitted in beef in the UK, are clear examples as to why Ontario as a province should be concerned with food quality and food safety.

Canada is recognized as a world leader in the production of a safe food supply. The Canadian Seeds Act, the Canadian Feeds Act, the Health of Animals Act and the Canadian plant act, among others, provide the basis of regulations for food production in Canada. Through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the principles of this regulatory framework are put into action. The agency maintains standards, develops guidelines for testing and new products, provides a scientific assessment of risk and evaluation of products, and most importantly, ensures that the regulations contribute to growth and investment in the agrifood industry. Other countries, including Japan, have based their entire food safety systems on the regulatory framework we in Canada have enjoyed in developing and maintaining a safe food supply of their own.

That is why it is imperative that we take the steps necessary to lead the way for the development of biotechnology in Ontario. As recognized leaders in the safe production of food, Ontario has an opportunity to be a world leader in agricultural biotechnology and food production. We must be innovators and accept the challenge which is rightfully ours. If we fail to capture this opportunity, we risk being left behind in agrifood production and, more importantly, as world leaders in the safe production of foodstuffs.

Don't just take my word for it. There is a long list of supporters of biotechnology and of my resolution in the House today. They include the following organizations and individuals who wrote in support of this motion: Richard Penner, chair, and Paul van den Berre, vice-president, of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association; Murray McLaughlin, president of Ontario Agricultural Food Technologies Inc, which represents over 30 industry groups including growers' associations and universities; Ray Mowling, vice-president of Monsanto; Terry Daynard, Ontario Corn Producers' Association; Larry Anderson, chair of the Ontario Bean Producers' Marketing Board; Tom Lassalin, chair of the Ontario Soybean Growers' Marketing Board; M. Rozanski, president of the University of Guelph; and Larry Milligan, vice-president of research, University of Guelph, to name a few of the supporters of this resolution. Seated in the members' gallery today are a few of these supporters of the resolution and I'd like to recognize them at this point and thank them for coming here and showing their support today.

If the names and faces of Ontario's biotechnologies haven't yet swayed you in support of my resolution, the following should: Recent estimates predict that worldwide sales from current biotechnology products will hit $150 billion by the year 2000. It is a technology that is already upon us. Ontario currently has the biotech infrastructure to become a world leader in biotech. If it does, it means much-needed jobs and stability for Ontario's farm community and rural heartland. Not only will there be jobs for Ontario's farmers, but a wealth of investment and growth for our intellectual community and the benefit of attracting global industries to Ontario with billions of dollars in spinoff potential. It's good for agriculture, it's good for safe food production and it's good for Ontario.

The proof is already here. Just last Friday, the Premier helped plant one of the 75 transgenic grapevines developed in Ontario at the University of Guelph to produce a stress-resistant grape that could revolutionize the growing of grapes and the production of wine in Ontario. The vine is expected to have a greater resistance to cold of between three to five degrees of Celsius. It doesn't sound like much but that's a tremendous amount in horticultural production, enough to avoid serious crop damage when winter temperatures fall to below minus 25 degrees Celsius.

Products like the grapevine and others currently being developed will give us a worldwide reputation as leaders in the field of biotechnology. The time is now for Ontario to lead the way to this new technology for the 21st century. If we fail to take this initiative, we'll be forced to follow in the footsteps of others and eventually get pushed out of the way. The innovators of agricultural biotechnology will not wait for us to get our act together while a rapidly growing world population, developing nations and depleting resources for food production put greater pressure on world food supplies.

Ontario must take this opportunity to provide leadership in Canada and the world in developing and producing products as a result of agricultural biotechnology. We must also, as a government, be willing to provide the political leadership and assistance necessary to get us there. Passing this resolution is a good start and it sends a signal to everyone involved in agriculture and food production that their government is listening and understands where the future is going but, more importantly, is committed to helping Ontario get there first. I ask the support of the House for this very important resolution.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I am indeed pleased to speak to the resolution put forth this morning by the member for Halton North. This is the second time we've had a resolution put forth by a government member urging the Minister of Agriculture to get on and do his job, to get on and do what is normal within the realm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. It was not long ago in this House that the member for Huron stated that she thought that the minister should get out there and speak with the farmers and farm organizations of Ontario, and once again we have a member of the government stating that the minister should be acting.

In part, the resolution says, "The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs should provide leadership and support to Ontario biotech initiatives and recognize their importance to future opportunities for growth...." It says the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs should provide leadership; it doesn't say that he has been providing leadership. The member is urging the minister, Mr Villeneuve, to get on and do what is correct.


I have often spoken about research and development in this House and I've stated before that for every dollar of investment there can be a $40 return in terms of research and development. That is a return that is absolutely phenomenal. We must be able to develop our research in regard to biotechnology and other areas here in Ontario. We can keep the technology here -- we don't need to buy it from other sources -- and then we can sell quality food products to a growing population not only here in Ontario, not only here in Canada, but indeed throughout the world.

We need research and development, as does any industry. Agriculture is no different than any other industry in the world. We need to maintain our competitive advantage with a proper regulatory system and of course financing and support from all levels of government.

Examples of what research and development has done for agriculture can be seen in the area of corn production where we've had a 100% increase since 1975 and we are using 25% less energy to achieve that goal. The same could be said of soybeans. There have been great advances in soybean technology. The member who has put forth this resolution would know full well that in the apple industry there have been great strides and great changes in how we produce that crop and how indeed it is grown.

What we have in Ontario currently is a situation where the University of Guelph and the agricultural colleges have come under one umbrella. The faculties have been downsized by 20% at the University of Guelph. For example, the effect on pig research is that when 12 researchers left, only five were replaced. I quote from an article in the Kent and Essex Farmer: "Generally, we're replacing one researcher for every three or four that we lose." That's sad.

Ontario Agricultural Food Technologies, whose president is Mr Murray McLaughlin, is made up of grower associations, 12 in number, universities, five in number, and from industry, 11, and they recognize the importance of agricultural technology here in Ontario. Indeed they are a non-profit organization formed to focus Ontario's participation in developing, promoting and adopting biotechnology in the agrifood sector of this province.

I have been a proponent of agricultural research for many years. We will support this resolution put forth by the member opposite. I hope this is a foreshadowing of a statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on his commitment to technology and biotechnology research here in Ontario, and I hope it happens soon.

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I want to speak in support of this resolution for a few minutes, because this is another of those sort of mom-and-apple-pie types of resolutions that it's very difficult for any member to vote against. As the member for Essex-Kent has indicated, the resolution says, "The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs should provide leadership and support to Ontario biotech initiatives...." Really this is a resolution to encourage the Minister of Agriculture and Food to basically do his job, and how can any of us really object to that?

It also goes on to say that he should "lead efforts in pursuing investment from financial institutions." That is important as well, but we all recognize that government has a role to play in providing financial initiatives for business and for farmers as well and providing the resources to promote research into biotechnology as well. This isn't something that farmers are going to be able to do all on their own. This is something that they need some backing from the government to do as well.

My area is not an area that is predominantly farms or family farms -- it's a suburban area that I represent -- but we do have a major food producer in that area. It's Family Tradition Foods, formerly known as Green Giant. A few years ago Green Giant was going to take its plant out of the town of Tecumseh and take the jobs that were connected with it from the town, and it was the assistance that was provided by the then NDP government that ensured that the plant continued to exist and those jobs were maintained in the town of Tecumseh.

A couple of weeks ago I was back at that plant to celebrate the grand opening of a freezer-packing facility. That's a situation, an example, of where the government and industry in partnership can create jobs and advance the food packaging and production industry. Of course that plant uses farm products, products that have been developed and improved over the years because of improvements in production and hardier, resistant-type crops. They package things like corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and products like that. They ship these all around the world. We know with further research, if they were products or vegetables that were more resistant to frost, they would be able to increase their production in that area, so this sort of research is something that is necessary.

We also have great production in our area of grapes that are used for wine-making. It's not just the Niagara Peninsula that specializes in the production of wine grapes. We have those down in Essex county as well. Once again, developments in more frost-resistant types of grapes would certainly benefit the wine-making industry in Essex county.

Having said that, we also know it's important to have a regulatory background when it comes to research and development in the biotech area. This is something that we all need to put our minds to as regulators, because we can't have research and development going on in an unfettered manner. We need to ensure that the products that are being developed are nutritious and safe and they increase product yield but they're not being done without any input from regulators. That's not such a big concern when it comes to fruit and vegetables, but it is a bigger concern when it comes to animal research.

The member who has introduced this resolution has made reference to the cloning of sheep that took place in Scotland, and that's an area that we all need to be concerned about, further developments in the cloning of animals and the development of different types of agricultural products.

Leadership and support of these initiatives are important, of course, but a strong regulatory framework in which this research and development can take place is important as well, because we've seen examples of what unfettered development of different types of products does to our environment. I'm thinking about products like CFC. Not an agricultural product, of course, but at the time that was developed there wasn't a great deal of thought about the future impact that CFCs were going to have on our atmosphere and the patterns in our weather. We've seen that has been very disastrous in increasing global warming. We want to make sure that when we're developing agricultural products we're not creating something that is going to be more harmful in the future, even though initially there may be increased yields and benefits to our communities.

I want to raise one other concern. I want to share some time with the member for Riverdale as well. We need to address our minds as to how we can ensure that increased advances in biotechnology are going to benefit people who are on the family farm and ensure that this isn't something that is going to just benefit large corporate farms. This is an expensive type of development and we need to ensure that when these products are developed, people who are on family farms are able to take advantage of that technology and the cost of it doesn't become prohibitive and therefore ensure that only large corporate farms are going to be able to benefit from this improved technology.

Just in closing, I support the motion and I do agree that government and industry need to form strategic partnerships, as has been indicated in the resolution, but those partnerships also need to include, on occasion, financial assistance and regulation as well.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's a pleasure for me to rise and speak on the resolution of the member for Halton North. Just before I really get into that, I'd like to set the record straight on some of the comments that were made by the member for Essex-Kent. I know he is not in his seat, but he is still in the House. It has to do with some of the criticism of the Minister of Agriculture and Food and some of the support.

I bring to his attention that some $5 million is being given to the University of Guelph, as I understand it, for research. Also, I suggest that our Minister of Agriculture and Food is an exemplary minister. He has been on three circuits of the province since election time, on consultation to find out what it is the farm community wants. I was very impressed to be at one of those last July and to hear the response from the public, and to be here last night to see the number of people in this House supporting the minister and his right-to-farm legislation being brought in for second reading last evening.

He also made reference to the member for Huron criticizing the minister, when in fact I was here last night -- I thought he was -- and she was complimenting the minister for the number of times he has been in her riding and consulting with the constituents of Huron county, so I was a little surprised with that comment.

Also, in connection with research and development in general in this province and what came out in the last budget, some $3 billion is to be spent over the next 10 years, in partnership with business and with universities and with the Ontario government. I don't know of any government in the past, particularly theirs, that really did that kind of thing for research and development. That is just to set the record straight and bring those to your attention.

Speaking on biotechnology, I'd like to talk for a few minutes about the father of high-yield agriculture. His name was Norman Borlaug and he was really the one who sparked the green revolution. If it hadn't been for him, literally millions of people today would be starving in this world.

We don't know too much about him, because he spent most of his time working in Third World countries. He developed the specialty rice varieties in the Philippines and the wheat varieties in Mexico. Really, in our part of the world, he received very little recognition until he received the Nobel Peace Prize back in 1970.

In the 1960s, when we had a population of between two billion and three billion in this world, there were great predictions that there was going to be massive starvation over the next few decades. There was even a book written at that time -- it was a bestseller -- called Famine 1975, but because of this plant breeder, we reversed the world food shortages that would have occurred. When you think about people who are starving today, it has nothing to with food production; it has to do with wars, particularly civil wars within countries. The food is there if we can get it to the people who desperately need it. It's quite a turnaround from what we had back in the 1960s.

I had the opportunity to work for a year in Indonesia, on the island of Java, in the city of Jogjakarta, and I saw first hand what this green revolution was doing for the people there, the biotechnology that created the green revolution. That was a country that was a massive importer of foods back in the 1960s and into the 1970s. Today that is a country that actually exports some food, all because of the green revolution. They are able to produce enough rice that they have small quantities to export, but at least they have come to a balance and are not in the position they were before.

They have a very rich soil, very heavy clay. Some dozen volcanoes spew out some very rich volcanic ash, so the quality of soil hadn't been a problem, but what they needed was biotechnology and to come up with the kind of plants so that they could plant rice three times a year and get the kind of production that was needed for that country.

The island of Java is about the size of southern Ontario, roughly 100 miles or 150 miles wide at the most, and they had a population when I was there of well over 100 million. They guessed it was in the neighbourhood of 120 million and growing quickly. Something like 50% of their population was under the age of 20 at that time. You can see the kinds of pressures that are going to come to a country such as that.

There is no question that more food, because of biotechnology, is being created on less land, and because of this -- I'd like the member for Riverdale to take particular note of the fact -- it preserves tremendous tracts of areas for wildlife habitat, and certainly into the future is going to preserve a tremendous amount of forest habitat for our wildlife.

Borlaug also had many other accomplishments. Shuttle breeding was one, for example, whereby they were able to speed up the disease resistance of certain strains of crops that previously weren't resistant. He developed cereals that could grow in various climates and various kinds of daylight. He developed a dwarf spring wheat that was very productive. Certainly he was very much recognized in the 1970s when the world global population took off.

Of course, it may be argued just a little bit, if you think about Malthus and his thesis going back, I believe, into the 1700s. His philosophy was that the world population would expand to fill the kind of technology of the day we had to produce food. If we hadn't come up with this technology, maybe the population wouldn't be increasing quite so rapidly, but we also know what the result of that would have been, and it would have been starvation. That's what would have limited the population.

Back in 1950 the global production of grain was in the neighbourhood of 692 million tons on an annual basis for a population of approximately 2.2 billion. By 1992, that production had increased to 1.9 billion tons of grain, and that was to feed a population of 5.6 billion. We increased the grain production 2.8 times and we increased the population by only 2.2. Obviously more people were being fed with a better quality diet. The global grain yields on a per acre basis have increased over that time period from about 0.45 tons per acres to 1.1 tons per acre.

As we look around Ontario and see some farms disappearing and we see some reverting to habitat for wildlife, the media develops a crisis about vanishing farms, when in fact the high-yield agriculture that is going on is very environmentally friendly, very favourable to developing and maintaining our wildlife habitat.

Just to quote from Borlaug himself, he stated, "Without high-yield farming, either millions would have starved or losses of pristine land would be 100 times greater than all losses to urban and suburban expansion." I think that's a quote very worth hanging on to.

If we were to feed today's population with organic farming, or the way we were doing it back in the 1940s and early 1950s, we would have to put under the plow another 10 million square miles, or put another way, we're saving that many from being plowed today. That equals, just for simplicity, about 1.5 times the size of South America.

If you were to project the population growth we have, we would be looking at putting another 25 million to 30 million square miles under the plow by 2050, and that's an area equal to North America, Europe and most of Asia. So it's certainly significant what high-yield agriculture is doing for the population of the world, especially the size we have today.

I mentioned a few minutes ago the support of OMAFRA and the Ontario government for research and development, and particularly OMAFRA through the University of Guelph: tremendous potential for biotechnology and what it can do to reduce the quantity of pesticides used. We don't need to put pesticides on nearly the number of acres. For example, we've tripled the production of corn, and therefore those two acres that do not get any pesticides are two acres that are left for wildlife habitat. Good biotechnology has reduced the quantity of antibiotics needed. It has reduced the soil erosion problems just because there's far less under the plow.


There's a great industry in biotechnology. The potential by the year 2000 is for an industry of some $46 billion. In Canada in 1993, it was in the neighbourhood of $50 million and rising, and still on the increase.

There have certainly been a lot of interesting developments in biotechnology, including cloning, as mentioned by the member for Halton North, when Dolly was born. That raises all kinds of moral issues in our human population: Just how do we handle this kind of thing? We've handled many others. Recently we heard that you can take human embryos in the very early stages and examine them for some 27 various genetic defects and therefore save some people from some very, very serious genetic problems.

These are just some of the examples of biotechnology that's out there, that's working. We've evolved a long way in the last century because of it. I look forward to further research in biotechnology and therefore enthusiastically support the resolution being put forward by my friend from Halton North.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): Is there any doubt that science and technology have had a very positive and critical effect on our society? Is there any doubt that there's a high correlation between the kinds of products that have been created, the kind of research that has been done, and the quality of life that we now enjoy? Is there any doubt that research and technology are not just the domain of some academics in ivory towers, but are very real in our lives by creating jobs and by creating products which are worthwhile for us? Just a small example, a statistic that I think continually shocks many people: For every dollar that is spent in science, about $5 is generated in spinoff products, everything from transistors to better agricultural strains.

So this resolution is timely. The private member's resolution notes that the government has a responsibility and a critical role to play in the funding of science. That, of course, is a position that the Liberal Party has always taken and that I endorse. The fact is that many of the experiments that are required to be undertaken simply cannot be done without funding, and that funding will normally, most naturally, come from a government that is committed to the betterment of society.

Having said that, I think all of us have to pause and look at the record of this government and be shocked by what has happened since they took office. I'll be very brief and I'll simply cite for the record some of the statistics that I think will illustrate the point.

One of the very first things they did was to cancel a grant of $1.7 million to the Ottawa Life Sciences Council, a move that the director of the council said was "a serious blow" because the council had expected those funds to attract a further $9 million in private sector investment in companies working together to create medical devices and other biotechnology products.

Almost from the word go, there was little appreciation of the importance of science and technology, and biotechnology as well. Perhaps I could just cite from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the estimates that have been tabled with the Legislature over the last three years.

If you look at the centres of excellence program, in 1995-96 it was reduced 2%; in 1996-97, another 2%; in 1997-98, another 9%.

The industry research program, 1995-96, 16% eliminated; 1996-97, a further 40%; 1997-98, a further 28%.

International agreements -- those are agreements that are entered into with three countries in particular; it's a joint committee of researchers to expand areas of scientific and industrial exchange -- 1995-96, 23% cut; 1996-97, 27% cut; 1997-98, 28% cut.

We move to the Radarsat program: totally eliminated in 1995-96 with the coming into power of this government.

The science and technology awareness program: totally eliminated in 1995-96.

The technical personnel program in 1995-96 was cut by 14%; in 1996-97, 52%; in 1997-98, 27% in addition to the other cuts.

The technology and adjustment research program in 1995-96 was cut by 62%; in 1996-97, by 93%; and eliminated totally in 1997-98.

The university research incentive fund in 1995-96 was reduced by 19%; in 1996-77, by 77%; in 1997-98, a further 78%. It went from a $3-million budget to $178,000.

This is shocking, quite frankly. The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs can stand up and say that they have done so much in this sector, but the reality speaks otherwise. The reality is that this government has very little commitment to science and technology. I applaud the member for bringing his government to task. I hope he can do more than just pass a resolution. Let's have some real programs.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I'm pleased to be able to speak to this resolution today. I don't know a lot about biotechnology; I have to admit that. A number of years ago I did read a book by Jeremy Rifkin about more animal research, I think it was, animal biotechnology, where some alarming and unpredicted things happened to animals. The animals were being genetically changed and altered. Some of these animals ended up -- I don't want to describe it here -- just terribly deformed and in a lot of pain. I guess what it has to remind us is that we're dealing with nature here, that we're altering nature. When we do that, we have to be very, very careful.

The paragraph in this resolution that I like and that is significant for me and I believe allows me to be able to support this resolution is the second-last paragraph that says, "The government...should recognize the importance of safe and cost-effective biotechnology and support well-researched science in advancing Ontario's agriculture and food production...."

I don't know if people here are aware, but I know there is a major controversy in Europe, in the European Union, about genetically engineered crops. It's true they are further ahead of us there, so they've now reaped some of the rewards, but they've also seen some of the problems. The concern is about whether or not there has been enough research done to introduce certain varieties at the commercial level, which is what's been happening, and there have been problems.

In Canada, one of the few areas that I do know something about is that you may recall that there were genetically altered seeds in a canola variety of crop and then the product had to be withdrawn because it did not contain some of the genetic materials that the company that developed said were in it. That turned out to be a big problem, and that's an example of something that can go wrong if the research isn't done properly and isn't well verified.

We're hearing a lot today about the federal government because of downsizing and cutting and all kinds of, I suppose, other reasons. There's some controversy about Agrifood at the federal level creating a new food agency. I understand that they will be charged with the evolution of new foods. Now, this could possibly be a good thing. There could be problems as well, but certainly Agrifood now is a bit like the Ministry of Natural Resources on the provincial level: They have a conflict of interest.


Agrifood has been very involved with the development of these new strains, these new genetic materials, the development of new foods, but they're also the regulator, as we see here with the Ministry of Natural Resources, for instance, having the Niagara Escarpment Commission turned over to them. They also are advocates for the aggregate or gravel industry. We see that real conflict here, and that is a conflict with Agrifood. As we get more and more into development -- new strains, new genetically altered crops -- it's very important that governments don't just look at the bottom line for the big corporations or at developing these new genetic materials, new foods, but that there is a strong regulatory body in place that makes sure the proper research has been done.

I know a little more about this as well; I believe it's soybeans. There was a genetically altered soybean which was designed to resist certain kinds of pesticides -- I believe it was Roundup -- and it works. You can spray tons of the stuff out of the sky from an airplane into the crop and the soybeans have been genetically altered so they can survive it, but everything else in the field can't.

You might think this is a good thing. I don't think it is. I don't think that developing crops that become totally dependent on dangerous pesticides, which is something we're trying to phase out, is a good idea. Of course, you have the added problem that as you develop more and more of these genetically engineered crops which can be resistant to certain kinds of sprays, well, guess what happens over time? A new kind of bug is developed. The bug will evolve to such an extent that it's a new, different breed of bug which can resist the particular chemical. It will not be bugged by it, in other words. Then you've got a whole new problem. You've got a whole new bug and you've got technology that's going to have to be created to deal with that.

I'm just pointing this out because I believe that in the process of developing more and more biotechnology, genetically altered seeds, you are playing with nature, and there are things, as has been discovered in Europe, that can go very wrong. The part of this resolution that I believe is important, which I will reiterate, is "support well-researched science." The Ontario government has to make sure there's an arm's-length body making sure that not just the short-term corporate bottom line is being looked at, but that consumer protection and the long-term viability of the many varieties of crops we have now will remain, because that is another danger as you develop more and more of these genetically altered crops. They've seen that in Europe as well. What happens is that some of the crops that exist today start to slip away. They disappear. You could end up losing a lot of the diversity within the agricultural system, which also is something that needs to be looked at.

I support the resolution. I'm sorry I didn't hear the mover of the motion, but I've read it and I support the words of the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy to some extent. I believe we have to explore this, but I want to make sure that the money and the effort is put into the research so we know what we're getting into, so we know we're not putting crops out there which will cause huge problems later. That is the real danger, and I believe you would agree with that. With a proper regulatory system in place and good research, this should be carried through.

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I rise this morning in support of the member's resolution on biotechnology. It's encouraging to me that the agrifood industry is working hard to help ensure that we will all reap the benefits of new foods that are being, or will be, introduced into the marketplace. As a government, we have to make sure that we have a strong, more competitive agrifood sector. This will mean more job creation, investment attraction and certainly export development. The member for Halton Centre recognizes one of the tools that can help strengthen the agrifood sector.

He also raises some very important issues in his resolution. Almost every day there are stories in the newspapers or on TV about biotechnology. What is clear is that the agrifood industry must not only be responsible for the development of this emerging science but be seen to be responsible. I believe that by working with the industry we can do a better job both in developing food product innovations that meet consumer demand and in communicating the benefits of these innovations to the public.

This will benefit everyone, because that's the way we do things here in Ontario. Industry partnerships are beneficial in several ways, not the least of which is making good use of the research being conducted. There are several examples of this kind of cooperation already under way.

The Ontario government has partnered with the Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada. That will see the results of consumer research previously conducted in Canada, and indeed in other countries, combined with the information gathered here in Ontario. This was done through a grant from Grow Ontario. This government is supportive of any advancement that gives consumers what they want and deserve, namely, a wider choice of safe, high-quality food products.

I'd like to give the members an idea of the depth of support that OMAFRA already gives to biotechnology. In 1996, approximately $3.3 million of the total $39-million research budget was allocated to biotechnology research. Last summer the ministry launched a 1-800 number -- 1-888-ONT-AGRI -- to make it easier for investors and researchers to obtain information about the province's biotechnology industry.

We are an important part of Ontario agrifood technologies, a not-for-profit corporation aimed at coordinating and promoting the commercialization of technologies and products derived from biotechnology research. OAFT was launched in January and includes representatives of universities, agriculture groups, banks, agrifood companies and government. The ministry has committed $1 million over five years to this cooperative effort and is represented on its board of directors. It may interest members to know that the head of OAFT is Dr Murray McLaughlin, one of Canada's leading experts in biotechnology.

I would like to ask all the members of this House to support the member's resolution on biotechnology. As a government, we will continue to support biotechnology as a tool to allow the agriculture and food industry to prosper in the province of Ontario.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): In the short time I have to address this resolution put forward by the member for Halton North, I thought I'd focus in on one aspect. I want to read it because it's so important: "Given that in a world of change, if government and industry fail to form strategic partnerships and lead the way as innovators towards this 21st-century industry, they face being driven out of the competitive global marketplace."

This government has yet to adopt any strategic partnerships with Ontario's colleges and universities as far as research is concerned. The Conservatives have called for research to be driven by the interests of private sector business, with little regard for basic research -- and as you know, that is extremely necessary -- before any applied research can occur. They've not done any of that.

"The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs," the resolution says, "should provide leadership and support to Ontario biotech initiatives and recognize their importance to future opportunities for growth, jobs and investment and continue to coordinate and support biotech research and development."

I want to bring to the attention of the member and the ministers too, especially the Minister of Education, that the Smith report was presented. They had two reports: One was presented in December 1996, and the second one, on research, in May 1997. Yet we have not had any response. I just want to remind him that that report called for an increase in the research overhead infrastructure envelope, which is now at $23 million. The government responded energetically and put it to $27 million. What they asked for in the Smith report was that it should have gone to $100 million. They put a mere $4 million on it and said, "We are moving forward." It's quite inadequate.


The report also recommended that the province develop a research policy covering basic and applied research and encompassing both the public and the private sector. As you know, I heard many of the members echoing the fact that this is a good step. The fact is that you have excluded universities, one of the most important partners in all of this research. There is no mention whatsoever of universities. Why would you exclude the universities, where actually most of the research is being developed?

While I support this resolution, because I can see what the member for Halton North is saying, his frustration, that the minister has got to get on with it and do his work and, as members have said, not only put the right amount of funds into research so the work can be done, my emphasis also is that the universities be included in all of what they're doing, because that's where it should be.

The Smith report released a framework for research policy for Ontario. It said that emphatically. Among the 20 sections, Smith recognized the value of the challenge fund and the tax credit announced in the budget and repeated the advisory panel's finding that base funding for research in Ontario is seriously deficient. If you recognize that, how can you move forward into the 21st century while pulling back so much of that money from research and development? The framework argues for clear public statements on the importance of research. You have not yet done any of that.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize very much that if this government is serious about promoting not only the development of biotechnology but also basic and applied research which would benefit all Ontarians, it should begin by implementing the research recommendations of its own report on research policy. The first step is to acknowledge the report; the second step is to act on it. A key component on acting on this report is clear: Talk to the colleges and universities of Ontario and include them in the planning and implementation of a research policy.

So far we have heard from many universities; they have come before me and have said that somehow they are being excluded from any sort of consultation that is meaningful. I commend you for bringing this forward and I commend you for telling the minister to get on with it and do his job.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Halton North, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Chudleigh: It's a very short period of time to cover such a large subject, but I would thank the member for Essex South for his comments and refer him to the comments of the member for Hastings-Peterborough, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as to the support the minister continues to give to the food and agricultural industry in Ontario.

The member for Windsor-Riverside indicated that this is a motherhood-type statement. It may well be inside this House, but let me tell you that it represents a strong statement to companies around the world that are involved in research and development in the biotechnology industry. They want to go and locate in provinces where they are needed and wanted. Ontario supports these initiatives, and the best researchers are attracted to those areas which have a benevolent climate to these types of developments.

The fears that are expressed by a number of members are perhaps indicative of the lack of understanding that many people in this country have, in that we take our food supply so much for granted. We expect our food supply to be safe. That doesn't happen by accident; it happens because we have one of the best food inspection and food development systems in the world, a system that is copied by other nations around the world and one which we should be extremely proud of. The quality of Canadian and Ontario foods in particular is never at risk, and it's something that I take great pride in. I think if you go to visit other countries where you have some concerns about the foods you eat, you'd never express those concerns when you're eating food at home.

I thank the member for Northumberland for his kind remarks. Dr Galt is perhaps, among us, the best qualified to give an opinion on these types of research, and his unqualified support of this resolution is indeed appreciated in this case.

The member for Downsview talked about the funding. The focus of our funding, as the member for Hastings-Peterborough pointed out, is far more targeted than it has been in the past, and I think that targeting of research dollars will make much better use of them.

I'd just say briefly that the member for Riverdale indicated that she honestly didn't know much about the subject, and I'd leave her comments at that. I thank the House for your support.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item 99 standing in the name of Mr Shea. Mr Shea has introduced private member's notice of motion 73. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item 100 in the name of Mr Chudleigh. Mr Chudleigh has introduced private member's notice of motion 70. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

All matters related to private members' business have been dealt with. The House will resume at 1:30 of the clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1207 to 1331.



Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have in my hand a news release issued September 22, 1997, by the St Thomas detachment of the OPP from which I would like to quote. It reads:

"With less than one month into the school year, the Elgin County OPP have received numerous complaints of vehicles failing to stop for school buses when they are picking up or dropping off children." It goes on to say: "The consequences for failing to stop for the bus when it has its `bus signals' activated can be disastrous. A child could be severely injured or killed because you were either not paying attention or in such a hurry that you thought you could beat the...signals" on the bus.

Not three months ago a child was killed in a school bus accident near St Thomas.

Mr Palladini refuses to give the law teeth. He refuses to give the law a mechanism to convict drivers who pass school buses illegally. Raising fines is not enough to protect children. Your bill is a failure, Minister. There is no deterrent. Your job is to protect innocent children, not guilty drivers. Police should not have to beg drivers to heed the law. Lives are at stake. Pass vehicle liability.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise again in reference to the Plastimet fire in Hamilton and the absolute need for a public inquiry. I want to preface my remarks by saying that we have a tradition in Hamilton, a very proud history, that when it comes to community matters, regardless of the level of government and regardless of the party affiliation, we unite around each other and around a common cause. I've seen that since I've been in public office for 12 years now and I know it was there before I arrived.

I also referred yesterday to an editorial in Saturday's Hamilton Spectator, the fifth one, I might add, that spoke to a number of the questions that are outstanding. It refers to the fact that both Dominic Agostino and myself have called for the inquiry but that we are opposition. Then they go on to say:

"Lillian Ross, Trevor Pettit, Toni Skarica, Cam Jackson, Ed Doyle: Where are you? What do you think? Do you agree with Sterling and Wilson that calls for an inquiry are much ado about nothing? How about you, Premier Harris?

"Where do you stand on a short, concise, authoritative investigation into the Plastimet fire?"

I rise today to remind the Minister of Environment that one of his own members, Trevor Pettit, is on side with this issue. The minister keeps saying it's about politics and it's about partisan politics. The reality is that it is about community, it is about safety and it is about finding answers and making sure it doesn't happen again. I'm glad to see Trevor Pettit is on side. Now where are the other Tory MPPs? Where are they on this issue? Where are you standing up for our communities?


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Despite the hot, dry conditions farmers experienced this summer, all indications are that this year's apple harvest will be the second-largest in Ontario's history.

According to the Ontario Apple Marketing Commission, Ontario's producers expect to harvest about 15 million bushels of apples this fall. McIntosh, Empire and Red Delicious appear to be well above last year in volume. These are the three main varieties grown in Ontario, but we have lots of Spartan, Courtland, Northern Spy and Golden Delicious apples as well.

Now that I have everyone's attention focused on their stomachs, I'd like to remind the honourable members and the public that one of the premier apple festivals is set to take place this weekend. It's called the Brighton Applefest, and I'm proud to invite everyone to come to Brighton and enjoy a slice of what Northumberland apple producers have to offer.

The apple growers of Ontario are indeed an important component of our farming industry, especially in Northumberland, where the scenic apple route winds through miles of roadways lined with apple orchards.

The Big Apple at Colborne and the Applefest in Brighton make it a perfect destination for a fall drive in the country. That is all the more true this weekend, as we celebrate another great apple harvest in Ontario.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Today at Metro Hall in Toronto, a group of outstanding Canadians called Canadians for North Korean Famine Relief met to call for help for the famine in North Korea.

North Korea has experienced four straight years of significant natural disasters. The result has been a massive shortage of food and it is having a devastating impact, particularly on young people. The estimates of the death toll indicate that there are tens of thousands of young people dying of starvation in North Korea.

I appreciate that we have our own challenges in dealing with issues here in Ontario, but Ontario has always had a generous and caring attitude that responds to these enormous human tragedies, even when they are far removed geographically.

I understand the Bank of Montreal has agreed to accept donations. I have asked the Premier to consider providing some coordinating assistance on behalf of the people of Ontario. I recognize the challenges of a provincial government providing international relief, but certainly Ontario has responded to situations like this in Italy and Poland and Jamaica. I think Ontario could provide some coordinating activities. I realize that many of us disagree violently with the North Korean government, but in this case it is young people who are suffering terribly.

I would encourage, as always, Ontarians to have that caring, compassionate heart and to provide some assistance.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Make no mistake about it: This government hurts kids. Its cuts to funding in education have forced five- and six-year-old youngsters in Niagara South in the Welland area to face hour-long rides to and from school, including kindergarten students. One parent reported to the Niagara South Board of Education earlier this week that his child actually spends more time on the bus than he does in the classroom with his half-day of kindergarten.

The Niagara South Board of Education has made it clear that it's as a direct result of the cuts in education funding of this government that it has had to eliminate some 25 buses and amalgamate bus runs, creating these longer and longer distances for five- and six-year-olds to travel.

This government simply doesn't understand that its cuts to education, along with a whole lot of other things, including health care, all in the name of funding a phoney tax break, two thirds of which is going to go to the top 10% of income earners, hurt some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

This government is prepared to attack the welfare of five- and six-year-old youngsters on their way to school and their way back home again so that those youngsters can be called upon to help pay for the phoney tax break.

When is this government going to understand that its policies are hurting people, hurting innocent people, hurting youngsters and their parents and grandparents, none of whom deserve to be attacked in the manner that this government is attacking them? I say shame on this government. When will it finally listen to the people of this province?



Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My constituents want their government to be responsible and accountable, and I as their representative am here to help make this happen. Next Thursday I'll be introducing a private member's resolution to the House which asks that fiscal responsibility be compulsory for the province of Ontario.

Following the balancing of the budget by this government in the year 2000-01, my constituents and I would like to see legislation that would make it mandatory for future governments to balance their budgets and not overspend. I look forward to receiving support for this endeavour from the members of this Legislature, as I receive much support from the people of the great riding of Perth.

In 1995 the people of the province stated clearly that the time for government overspending had to end, governments should be accountable and spend within their means. They gave the job of straightening out the province's finances to the Mike Harris team, and I'm proud to say that we are succeeding.

As the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Ernie Eves, announced recently, we are on or ahead of schedule to balance the budget and we're witnessing the return of jobs, hope, growth and opportunity in Ontario.

The people of the riding of Perth made it clear to me during the election and afterwards that they wanted a provincial government that could provide quality service at a reasonable cost. They saw themselves living within their means while being forced to support a government that could not do the same.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): This morning we had reported that the medical director of trauma and the chief of emergency medicine at Hôtel Dieu and Windsor hospital are resigning effective the end of this year because, in their words, they can no longer be held responsible for what goes on in that emergency ward.

Another one of the doctors indicated that they are concerned and confused by the government and the government's inaction with respect to restructuring in the Windsor area.

Months ago, March of 1996, the Minister of Health for the government of Ontario acknowledged that money needed to be reinvested in the Windsor emergency rooms, indeed across Windsor's remaining hospitals, to accommodate the changes.

As of today, not one penny of that money has flowed. Patients' health is at risk, the quality of care in our community is at risk, and the minister hides behind the Health Services Restructuring Commission, which we now know is no more independent than any other of the façades this government has established.

Emergency care for patients in Windsor is at risk, health care for Windsorites is at risk. If this minister is not prepared to deal with it in a proper and expeditious manner, the minister ought to resign, and he ought to resign immediately.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I've been following with great interest the Minister of Education's about-face on the length of the school year. I found it really striking to hear that the main reason he's backing down on his proposal to bring students into school a week before Labour Day is that his rural colleagues have talked to him in the last few days and they're very concerned about starting school before Labour Day. "There's a real problem in the farm community," the minister is quoted as saying. That of course is a very astute observation on the part of this minister.

What I find most striking is that what this tells us is that even the Conservative caucus members are more and more being shut out of decisions as the minister continues to ram through his $1 billion in cuts across the province. Because we know that at the end of the day, while the minister will continue to fudge back and forth, while he will continue to play with numbers, play with figures and play with days of the school year, his basic bottom line is to take $1 billion out of the system.

I just want to say to my Conservative colleagues opposite that I hope now you're beginning to twig to what the real agenda is, that in the same way you've brought the minister to his senses on this question of the school year, you will also bring him to his senses on the insanity of proceeding to cut another $1 billion out of the school system, because that would wreck greatly the system we have in place now.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): It is truly an honour today to rise in the Legislature to recognize the anniversary of a milestone event in Canadian sports history. September 28, 1972, at about 4:45 pm Canadian time, history was made. Everyone in Canada knows where they were at that moment. This was history -- Canadian history. What government hasn't been able to do, a group of gutsy, spirited, fierce Canadians accomplished. Across the nation people jumped for joy and spontaneously sang O Canada.

Our nation was united as Team Canada `72 won the summit hockey series against the Soviets with only 34 seconds to go in the deciding game. Hearts, guts and spirit prevailed. Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Rod Seiling, Ron Ellis, Ken Dryden, Bobby Clarke and a whole host of great hockey players: just a few of the guys who never quit playing Canada's game the only way they knew how. We won. We beat them. Canada won. Shortly in the gallery we will have some of the members of Team Canada.

At the Ice Palace in Moscow, I sang O Canada with the 3,000 fans there. It was a passionate and proud O Canada, followed by, "We're number one." I was there. I was covering the series for the Toronto Sun. I remember the Russians taking away our horns. I remember them staring in amazement at a native Canadian in full head dress. I remember the snow in early September, the lineups, the hardships. The cry was, "Da, da, Canada; nyet, nyet, Soviet." We're number one, and with glowing hearts they did stand on guard for thee. They fought a war and they won.

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the summit series for hockey supremacy. The Soviets won two, lost one and tied one in Canada. After losing the first game in Russia, Team Canada had to win them all, and we did. Some of those players are here with us today and I honour them. Yes, thank you for uniting Canada. Thank you for exemplifying the Canadian spirit. Thank you for showing the world Canadian skill, guts, grit, spirit and heart --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would have let you go on, but the member for Durham East wants you to sit down. Sorry.


The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to let him finish his statement? Agreed.

Mr Jim Brown: Thank you.

Thank you, Team Canada, for uniting Canada. Thank you for exemplifying the Canadian spirit. You will long be remembered not only for what you did, but how you did it: in adversity, on foreign shores, with your backs to the wall and with sheer determination. I don't think Canadians will ever forget. Thank you, Team Canada, for making us very proud Canadians.

I will be tabling a resolution calling on the Ontario Legislature to support the inclusion of Team Canada `72, the whole team, in the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I gave you notice of my intent to raise a point of privilege. I apologize that I wasn't able to give you further details, given the short time line and the fact that this just came up this morning. It's a point that I believe is quite a serious infringement not just of my own privileges as a member, but of those of committee members as a whole.

As I indicated in my notice to you, it relates to an issue that arose this morning in the general government committee. That committee is charged, as you know, by order of the House with holding hearings last week, today, and then clause by clause next Thursday on Bill 148, which is the companion bill to Bill 103, the megacity bill.

One of the groups that appeared before us last week at the request of the committee was the transition team. Because the committee was not able to hear them for the full time because of disruptions that happened in the morning of last week, there was agreement that the transition team members would return today during the second day of hearings.

This morning at the committee we learned that they would not be coming, and I put a motion to the committee, which the committee passed, to have the Chair or the clerk again contact the transition team and request that they attend. I did that at the time, as I explained, because I believe very strongly that the transition team, as a group that is appointed by order in council, as a group that's dealing with the issues of implementation of the megacity, is crucial to be at the committee for us to complete our questioning of them so that we, as the committee that is dealing with Bill 148, which also has as its main objective the bringing about of the megacity, have the opportunity to question them on the work they are doing.

The refusal of the members of the transition team to attend I think raises a serious question and a serious issue about our abilities as members of the Legislature to do our work, and that is compounded when two things happen which are true in this case.


The first is when it is a committee that has requested that presence; it's not an individual member of the committee that wants to have a particular group of people there.

Second, I believe it is fundamental when we are dealing, as we are here, with a body that is appointed by order in council -- it's not a group of citizens out there, it's not elected people at other levels of government; it's a body that is appointed by order in council and a body that is dealing more directly and is dealing exactly with the nature of the issue that's in front on the committee, which is the transition to the megacity.

I think it poses serious limitations and hence causes an infringement on not only my rights as a member of that committee but indeed other members' rights to be able to properly do our work if there is an outright refusal by those individuals to attend to the committee. I ask you, Speaker, to rule on that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Let me just say first, before the government House leader gets up, that I, as Speaker of this House, will not hear nor am I allowed to rule on points of privilege at committees. Those are to be taken up at committees.

If the committee determines that they would like me to hear points of privilege, they then have to report to this House by way of the committee itself. If the committee chooses to report here, I can hear it, but until that takes place, I can't hear a point of privilege taken by an individual member at the committee level.

Further, there is a process by which a witness may be compelled to attend before a committee, but such a process again requires a motion properly made and passed by this House.

In essence, I say to the member for Dovercourt, your argument or discussion need be taken up at the committee level. If you don't find success there, the committee then must request the Speaker to hear submissions with respect to the point of privilege. Until that time happens, until I receive that request from the committee as a whole, I cannot seize the issue.

Mr Silipo: May I just rise on a very brief point?

The Speaker: A brief point, the member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I would just point out to you that I raised the issue of privilege this morning with the Chair of the committee. I was told, and I believe the Chair of the committee was correct in doing this, that he has no authority to deal with questions of privilege. I hope you can appreciate the position that this puts individual members of the committee in.

I hear and I appreciate your point that the committee can make certain decisions. But what it does is it leaves this vacuum, then, if a member is told that a committee Chair does not have the authority to rule on a question of privilege and that the only resort is to the Speaker, and the Speaker says that I have to go back to the committee Chair. If that's what you're telling me to do, then fine, that's what I will do. Otherwise, you're creating a vacuum here in which the committee Chair says, "Go talk to the Speaker," and the Speaker says, "Go talk to the committee Chair."

The Speaker: Let me just help you clarify the Chair of the committee's ruling. He or she -- I'm not even sure who it is, to be honest -- from what I understand is fundamentally saying the same thing that I'm saying. In essence, if they are to hear the point of privilege at the committee, they must do so by the committee, if they want to report it out to this House. They can't do it by an individual member, that particular point of privilege. I believe what they're telling you is that the only way to hear this point of privilege at this level, in this place, is for the committee to report it out here.

Mr Silipo: Speaker, I'm not arguing on that point. What I'm seeking some clarification on is that it seems to me what you are saying is that as an individual member I do not have the right to raise a point of privilege at a committee of this House and have the committee Chair rule on whether there is or is not a point of privilege, because what I was told by the Chair this morning was that he could not rule on that.

The Speaker: I understand the point you are making, that your point of privilege in committee was made, but the Chair ruled that they couldn't hear your point of privilege and they suggested you take it up here.

Mr Silipo: That's right, and that the only person who could deal with it was you.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): That's not true.

The Speaker: Order. You've got to withdraw that comment. You can't say that. You should know that, member for Scarborough East. You can't say that.

Mr Gilchrist: I didn't --

The Speaker: No, you said, "That's not true." I heard you very clearly say that.

Interjections: Withdraw, withdraw.

Mr Gilchrist: I certainly withdraw that, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: You're going to have to give me an opportunity to review it and see exactly what happened, to review the situation and report back. It's only fair. I don't want to get all this information at this place, at this time. I think I should try and get the information myself on a firsthand basis, if the member for Dovercourt would allow me that opportunity. I will report back subsequently.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to take this time at this point to introduce some guests in the Speaker's gallery. I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a South African parliamentary delegation. Please welcome them.

We also have in the gallery today, whom the member for Scarborough West was speaking about earlier, five members of Team Canada 1972: Mr Rod Seiling, Mr Ron Ellis, Mr Yvan Cournoyer, Mr Frank Mahovlich and Mr Bill White. Welcome, gentlemen. And the waterboy, Mr Jim Bradley.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. We have just learned that teachers across this province are ready to take job action in response to your attacks on them and on education. They are ready to go on strike and you are about to get the fight you've been looking for. This is a very frightening time. It's a frightening time for students, who are worried about their education; it's a frightening time for parents, who are worried about their kids and about how they're going to manage. It's a frightening time for the teachers, who feel that you have driven them to this.

You have the crisis you set out to create. You've played a game of brinkmanship. You've taken students and parents to the edge of the precipice. I ask you this afternoon, will you pull back from the brink? Will you back off your $1 billion of cuts? Will you back away from firing 6,000 teachers? Will you do this now before it is too late to avoid this crisis?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I think the member for Fort William will know that a matter of weeks ago I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake. I met with the heads of the unions that represent teachers in Ontario and I asked them that day, as I would ask them again today, to reduce the level of rhetoric, to reduce all the sabre rattling, to come in and talk with us and find resolutions to the problems we have so that we can get that better system of education for our students. I think that's the responsible way of doing things.

I believe that at this point in time it would be useful for the member for Fort William, and indeed every member of this chamber, to take that same approach, to take the approach of saying, "Let's have a look at the issues that we have and let's find the solution."

This government heard the teachers' request regarding the importance of their right to strike and we honoured that. We heard their request in terms of having principals remain in the bargaining unit and we honoured that request. We listened.

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

Hon Mr Snobelen: We heard their request in terms of their right to represent teachers and we honoured that request. We have a track record of listening carefully to what people have to say, and we'll continue that.


Mrs McLeod: You said you would talk to teachers, but in fact you laid down ultimatums. Your ultimatum came right down to cutting $1 billion more out of education and firing thousands of teachers, and that ultimatum is still on the table today. You are talking about saving money by having some 6,000 fewer teachers. You don't improve education by having 6,000 fewer teachers. You don't improve education by having fewer teachers teaching more students and more classes. This is not about improving education. This is only about cutting money so that you can pay for your tax cut. It has always been about paying for your tax cut.

I ask you again today, will you back off your plan to cut $1 billion out of education? Will you back off your plan to cut more than 6,000 teachers? For the sake of our students, will you do this now?

Hon Mr Snobelen: It's exactly that kind of theatrics that I think raises the boiling temperature in the province of Ontario. It's exactly that kind of rhetoric. It's not useful for our students. It's not useful for improving education.

The member opposite should know that we have introduced in this House a bill that, if it passes, would have the effect of allowing us to cap the growth in class size -- the growth in class size that happened while your government was in power, that happened while your government was in power in response to the social contract, some 7% increase in class sizes.

Our government wants to make sure that doesn't happen for and on behalf of our students in this province. We want to make sure their instructional time, their time on topic, their time on subject in school increases. We want to make sure that teachers get to spend most of their time with their students in class, where education happens, on what's important to our students. That's the purpose of the bill we put before this House. I think the public of Ontario knows that.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'd encourage the member for Fort William to communicate that, communicate it right across Ontario, because it's important for our students.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you've been trying to pick a fight with Ontario teachers from the time you became Minister of Education. You have described teachers as being underworked and overpaid. You have consistently devalued teachers. You have tried to portray everything that is done outside the classroom as being administrative waste. You've accused teachers of being lazy and unprofessional and you've been eager to see professional teachers replaced by non-teachers so you could save money. You have pushed teachers into a confrontation and now you are going to get one, and the issues on the table are $1 billion more out of education and 6,000 fewer teachers.

Minister, I say to you, this is not about who gets the best spin; this is not about who wins. This is about students and their need to be in school. Clearly you are not ready to resolve this crisis you have created, and I don't believe you can. Will you step aside so someone else can?

Hon Mr Snobelen: For the third time today I'm going to ask the member for Fort William to drop the rhetoric. The member for Fort William knows that I have never said any of those things about teachers. The member for Fort William knows that I'm on record from day one in this ministry as saying that I have the highest regard for the profession of teaching and for teachers. She knows that I have from day one on this job said consistently, day after day after day in this House, that teachers are the backbone of our education system.

I believe our system has failed teachers. I don't think it's given them the support they need to make the difference they want to make with their students, and that's why step by step we're building a better education system for Ontario.

The member for Fort William perhaps would like to take the time today to stand up and withdraw her comments, because clearly they're contrary to the record that's very clear, established by this minister and this government, in support of the teachers and the students and the parents in Ontario.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): Minister of Education, it's obvious to everyone but to you that you should step aside and do so immediately. You've lost all credibility. One day you announce that you're extending the school year, and then you wake up the next morning and announce: "Oops, I've made a mistake. I've changed my mind." Whom did you consult? It wasn't parents, it wasn't teachers, it wasn't students. It was your Tory back bench. That's who you consulted.

You've created nothing but chaos and confusion. It's time you realize it's time for you to step aside. Minister, will you do the right thing today and step aside because you've lost any credibility with the people of this province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: On behalf of my colleagues, who together have worked very hard over the course of the last couple of years to take on the tough questions, to take on the tough issues in education, to take on a system that had a funding mechanism that left some students as second-class citizens in this province, that had no measures of performance, no measures of quality, that had allowed students and teachers to be trapped in mediocrity -- that's what the system of education that we inherited had done.

My colleagues and I have worked very hard to take on the tough questions to help build a better system for our students. That's what we all want. I'm proud of our record. I'm proud of building step by step that system for our children and I'll remain proud of it as we go through the reading of this next bill.

Mr Cordiano: Minister, how can anyone believe you when you keep changing your mind? You say you'll protect classroom size, and you want to get rid of 6,000 teachers. You talk about improving education and then you want to take another $1 billion out of the system. One day you play hardball with the teachers and the next you want to sit down and talk to them, and then you're back to playing hardball.

No one's fooled. Everything you have to say is nothing but a snow job. You've lost all credibility. I ask you again, when will you step aside and let someone else take over who can do the job properly? Step aside, Minister.

Hon Mr Snobelen: The honourable member opposite and I might disagree on the type of job. Perhaps the member opposite believes the government of the day should not ask tough questions, that perhaps the government of the day should not ask, why is it our students perform in the middle of the pack on international and pan-Canadian tests? Why is it our costs are higher than other provinces, while our student performance is lower? Why is it our elementary school teachers in Ontario spend as much time in class as their colleagues across Canada -- they are at the national average in terms of the time they spend in class with students -- but our secondary school teachers are at the lowest time in terms of the amount of time they spend in class?

Those are tough questions and I appreciate that, but they're asked not on behalf of this government, they're asked on behalf of the future of the students of this province. I believe that's what a responsible government does; it asks the tough questions and it listens to the responses.

Mr Cordiano: You are the Minister of Education for the province of Ontario. When you say something -- and don't forget that -- people have the right to expect that you've done your homework and that you know what you're talking about. But you want everybody to believe that two plus two equals five. Let me give you the basic math. Classrooms minus teachers minus funding equals lousy education. That's what you're giving the parents and teachers of this province, and the students are going to have to put up with that. That's why I'm asking you again to step aside. Lousy education is unacceptable for the students of this province. Will you do the right thing and step aside?

Hon Mr Snobelen: There's maybe a more fundamental equation the member opposite would like to keep in mind. It is simple: mediocre education plus high debt -- the $41,000 per student in debt you left every student in Ontario -- equals no future for the young people of this province. We have taken on those issues. We have taken them on. We've asked the tough questions. We're listening for the right answers. We're putting that system together piece by piece for our students, for their future. That's the reason my colleagues and I are working so hard to make the improvements as quickly as we possibly can.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question for the Premier: For two years now we've been telling you that your cuts to hospital funding are damaging patient care across this province. You want to ignore that. You want to ignore the fact that you've cut over $600 million from hospital budgets. You insist on moving ahead, bulldozing people, shoving your cuts and changes down people's throats in community after community.

Today there were two studies released that you ought to have a look at: One is done by the University of Western Ontario school of business that examines what's happening with hospitals; the other is done by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce looking at hospital budgets. They both conclude that your cuts to hospitals and hospital budgets are damaging patient care all across this province. They lead to this question: Will you acknowledge now what everybody else knows, that you are damaging patient care? Will your government stop the cuts to hospitals?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): As you know, the context in which you're asking the question is that you are talking to a government that has increased health care funding to its highest level in the history of Ontario. Secondly, you are talking to a government that is carrying forward with the restructuring proposals that your Premier and your minister and your government started.

We have had some who have expressed concerns with the speed and the pace of those changes. As you will know, many hospitals have said, "Yes, the reductions you made in the first two years were quite appropriate and needed to be made, and so did the restructuring." However, at the same time they said, "Unless the restructuring gets along quicker -- and thank God your government's there; the other two sat on it for 10 years -- we don't believe there are any other savings in those budgets to reinvest in other areas." We concurred, we agreed, and we announced that any further reductions are on hold until we get the restructuring proposals up and running.


Mr Hampton: Premier, you should have a look at this report by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. It looks at the budgets of 192 hospitals across the province, and it shows that many of them are in big trouble. It says you cannot cut hospital budgets and at the same time demand that they restructure the system. You can't do it.

Premier, the people you cite, for example, the Ontario Hospital Association, call upon you -- they released these reports -- to make a commitment today that there will be no further cuts to hospital budgets during the term of your government. Will you make that commitment today?

Hon Mr Harris: What they specifically asked for was that there be no cuts to hospital budgets until the restructuring is there, until we fund the restructuring, until the capital reinvestments are made, until the community reinvestments are made. We have made that commitment. We have made it to them. The Minister of Finance has made that commitment and I'm happy to give you that commitment today.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): In fact, the Premier is mistaken. What the Minister of Finance has said is that they will not be cut in the 1998-99 fiscal year. That does not talk about the restructuring and the time frames according to these reports.

You've been given independent advice. This report from the Ivey business school says "less nursing time per patient, reduced patient supervision, slow recording of patient data, high employee stress, reduced level of cleanliness in facilities."

The real condemnation in these reports is that they set out clearly the problem with your agenda. We've been telling you all along that you cannot cut hospital funding and expect them to restructure at the same time. But you had to bull it through. Hospitals can't maintain patient care, drop budgets by over 7% and change all their clinical practices all at the same time. Taking care of sick people costs money, and restructuring costs money. You're destroying the ability of hospitals to do either one.

The question --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for London Centre. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: We agree with the reports. The Ministry of Health sponsored the press conference today. Let me read to you from the Toronto Hospital, "We believe the revenue reduction targets for the first two of the three-year cycle were stringent but appropriate. The increased efficiencies were long overdue and we believe the targets were correct. We understand the policy regarding the third year has changed and essentially the hospital industry as a whole will be flatlined. The Toronto Hospital applauds that decision."

We have given an unqualified commitment. We've committed $2 billion in new money to hospitals to assist with the restructuring. We've committed new capital dollars to assist with the restructuring. We have committed as well that there will be no reductions to hospital budgets until the restructuring takes place and those supports are in the community. In the meantime we are funding those restructurings. So we've made all those commitments. They are still there, and the hospitals continue to tell us that is appropriate.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Labour, but I would say it's obvious the Premier still isn't listening. Minister of Labour, you have made some incredible changes to the way quasi-judicial appointments are made to bodies like the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Workers' Compensation Board. You have made the process totally partisan. You have tried to ignore the fact that you've done this.

Last night, Mr Ron Ellis, the very respected founding chair of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, made a very important speech to the Canadian Bar Association. Mr Ellis said the Harris government's policy on appointments to that tribunal and to the Ontario Labour Relations Board "is fundamentally different from anything that has been seen before in Ontario, and it is a policy that, in my respectful opinion, is incompatible with the judicial integrity" of the administration of justice.

What are you going to do to restore judicial integrity to the --

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

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Perhaps I should also quote from what was said last night in the speech by Mr Ellis. He is referring here to the NDP, and he indicated:

"The ours-for-theirs strategy first really came to life in Ontario with the election of the NDP government. As far as I recall, with the NDP the focus of the strategy was principally on agency chairs. And it was under the NDP that the strategy made its first appearance in the labour field. I refer here to the mid-term change of the labour relations board chair that occurred shortly after the NDP formed the government."

Let me say to the leader of the third party that our government will continue to ensure that the independence, the impartiality and the integrity of the board is protected.

Mr Hampton: Let me say that I am impressed by how selectively the minister can quote from a speech. Let me quote the very next sentences that come in this speech. He says:

"I am not personally aware of any instance of incumbent non-chair adjudicators being dismissed or refused an expected reappointment to make way for the NDP government's appointments. And, with a few...exceptions in the filling of vacancies, the NDP government by and large continued" to follow a "competitive selection policy for adjudicators, including...the active involvement of agency chairs."

Minister, what Mr Ellis says is that for the first time in Ontario, we have a government that is inflicting partisan politics into the appointment of quasi-judicial officers.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Hampton: He called on all lawyers across the province to become active in demanding a system which will allow for the survival of a credible administrative justice system.

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Perhaps the member of the third party didn't read the quote, but I won't repeat it. I will simply indicate that he does stress the fact that this issue came to life in Ontario with the election of the NDP government. I want to stress again that our government is going to ensure that the impartiality, the independence and the integrity of the board is protected.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): The Ontario Labour Relations Board is about to accept awesome new responsibilities as a result of your restructuring under Bill 136. You know that you had to give those powers over to the labour relations board when it was seen that your proposed commission was going to be stacked and packed with Tory hacks, and that was unacceptable to the credibility of the process of labour relations in this province.

We have heard in committee hearings today, as short and as strange as they are, that two things are needed for the board: first, increased funding, and second, to restore the integrity of the appointments to the labour relations board before they're given these new responsibilities.

With regard to Bill 136, what exactly are you going to say today to restore the confidence in the new appointments you're going to have to make as a result of the increased responsibilities the labour board is about to take on under Bill 136?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I simply say that I understand the public hearings on Bill 136 have been going extremely well; in fact, I see some very supportive quotes.


The Speaker: Members for Cochrane South and Hamilton Centre, come to order.

Hon Mrs Witmer: The police association indicates:

"We have had extensive meetings. We appreciate the time and energy. We believe the sessions have provided a forum to address our issues in a meaningful and productive fashion. We have gained a better understanding of the government's issues and believe that they, in turn, have gained better insight into the mechanics of our system."

OSSTF says they welcome and applaud the moves that have been made. OPSEU says, "We welcome the amendments being proposed to Bill 136."

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mrs Witmer: It's obvious that people have recognized that this government, in order to achieve its objectives, is quite prepared to be flexible and --

The Speaker: Thank you.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I'd like to address a question to the Premier. I'd like to bring you back to the report from the Ivey school of business and one from the CIBC about your Harris hospital system.

Your earlier answers indicate that you don't understand the gravity of what they said today. Every measure you've taken with hospitals has created significant problems. It has put nurses and doctors in a state of stress. It has taken away from hospitals the very people they need to be able to manage change properly.

The CIBC says you took away $604 million, and you can't deny that. With that $604 million, you took away a lot of care.

Today may be one of the last chances you're going to get to be reasonable, in the sense that the association is willing to talk to you. There still is a sense that the crisis out there in Ontario hospitals can be averted.

Will you do two things: Will you promise to put off the funding cuts until beyond the year 2000, to cancel them entirely, and will you put money back in the system to take care of the problems presented today?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'll put it off as long as it takes to make sure that the $2 billion we're flowing, the capital dollars we're flowing, the community supports we're flowing, are all in place. If it takes five years, fine; if it takes two years, fine; if it takes three years, fine.

Second, yes, we do commit to make sure that those reinvestments are in place and that the timing is right and to work with the Ontario Hospital Association, as it has asked us to do. I don't know why you have trouble taking yes for an answer.

Mr Kennedy: The reason is because yes in this House has not meant yes in the hospitals. Last year you tried to give them $21 million less than was promised in the public allocations. Last year, your minister said he would give $120 million more to home care that would allow them to accept some of those patients who are being kicked out of hospital quicker and sicker. Instead, he spent $124 million less, $4 million less than the year before. On community mental health you said you would spend $25 million more, and you spent $1 million less.

That's your record, Premier. You need to do better. You need to give patients, hospitals, nurses and doctors an assurance, a guarantee that there will be no cuts to hospitals in your mandate and that if they need it, they can get more money to make up for the money you've taken away, and replace some of the services, like in Windsor today, which occasioned the resignation of emergency doctors, frustrated with you, Mr Harris, and your inability to make the hospital system one of excellence. They said that today. They said: "This hospital system no longer has excellence. It's barely satisfactory."

Premier, will you do this today?

Hon Mr Harris: Yes, we absolutely guarantee that there will be no cuts to health care funding. In fact, we'll continue our policy of increasing health care funding. We also commit to two billion in restructuring dollars to assist with that: $2 billion in hospital and health care restructuring, over that process.

I would give you some quotes, since you are happy with quotes. MacKinnon, the OHA: "strong supporters of progressive and constructive change...not only support the change, but we create change...increased strain on health care delivery services not a new phenomenon but a pattern that has been with us for many years. Liberal and NDP...cut 11,000 beds while hospital visits rose by 300,000." The Ivey report: "The Ivey report is not a study on patient care outcomes."

What we are getting is a report on how we can go from the disaster you left us to quality, first-class, modern health care in Ontario in the 21st century.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations: The member for Sault Ste Marie has been urging you for the past year to take action on the regulations to protect small business owners who are involved in franchise operations. You continue to say you're going to do something, but you never do.

I have been reading the latest issue of Franchise Times. It's an American publication. It says something interesting about Ontario in the current issue:

"Large franchise corporations shouldn't worry about new regulations in Ontario to protect small business franchisees. There has been a change in government in Ontario, along with a change in the minister in charge of the franchise industry. I think it is becoming more and more dubious as to when, or if ever, this sort of regulation will ever be introduced."

Minister, it's pretty clear that the large franchise corporations understand that you're not going to do anything to protect small business. What's your response? Are you going to do something or not?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Yes, we're doing something.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): That response is typical of the responses I've been getting over the last two years.

Tomorrow this minister is expected to make an appearance at the huge franchise show here in Toronto. This will be a great occasion for him to change his mind and tell the big franchise operators that Ontario is no longer going to be a happy hunting ground for them.

Terry and Les Stewart from Nutrilawn were in the House last week. They laid a complaint before the franchise association, on your suggestion that the franchise industry should regulate itself. Three days later, they had their loan called by Nutrilawn.

New Canadians and immigrant families are one group of entrepreneurs particularly affected by this. Tomorrow, you meet with the franchisors. Will you tell them that you're going to regulate?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The member knows full well that we have a meeting on a regular basis with both parts of this sector, the franchisors and franchisees. This is an attempt for the first time to bring some balanced legislation to this province. I could remind the member that when you were in government this did come up before. This is not a new item for you to deal with. In fact, your government indicated a certain amount of interest in doing something, and you know what? It did nothing.

We are now coming forward with something balanced. It's very important for us to come forward with something that's going to be balanced, certainly something that requires disclosure requirements, a piece of legislation that has a code of ethics, has a right to associate. All these various things that have been coming up as concerns from franchisees we will be addressing.

We feel it's very important to us. We are reacting to the interests of the small franchisees because we are cognizant that there are a lot of people involved with this, small business people, who we have a concern for. So the answer is yes.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: When the leader of the third party was addressing his question to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, he made reference to having read the particular franchise journal that he spoke of. I heard from the area of the member for Quinte the interjection, "Was it in Braille?" I don't know for sure what that was supposed to mean, but it seems to be beyond merely even insensitive in the context of understanding what it means to be blind and to require to read by way of Braille. I'm asking if that remark "Was it in Braille?" in response to the leader of the third party --

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, let me just say quickly I did not hear it. I will go to the member for Quinte. If he said it, he may withdraw it or choose to do whatever he chooses to do. Member for Quinte.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I withdraw it.

The Speaker: Thank you.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is for the Minister of Education. I was under the impression that the Minister of Education announced last Friday that, in response to the demands of the various teachers' unions, the Education Quality Improvement Act would not infringe upon the rights of teachers to bargain collectively or strike. On Monday the Leader of the Opposition claimed that this was not the case. He claimed that the Education Quality Improvement Act somehow secretly allowed cabinet to strip the teachers of Ontario of their right to strike.

I ask the minister, does Bill 160 take away the right to strike, could it ever and does the minister intend to?


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank my friend and colleague the member for Mississauga South for the question because I believe this may have been an attempt to boil the water a little higher, to turn the temperature up on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, which I think is unfortunate.

I made an announcement before the introduction of the bill that said that in the consultations we'd had with teachers' unions -- and I had them one on one following review of Bill 100 -- we'd heard their principal issues: making sure they had the right to represent teachers, making sure the principals remained part of the bargaining unit and the importance they placed around the right to strike. We made that announcement before we put the bill in the House.

The Leader of the Opposition made reference a few days ago to a section of the act that he said would impinge on the right to strike. We have outside counsel now that has given us a report that says the enabling legislation would not extend to permit the provincial cabinet to enact legislation relating to labour relations matters. It's very clear, and I regret the fact the Leader of the Opposition, who's a lawyer, didn't get this kind of information before he turned the temperature up in the circumstances in Ontario.

Mrs Marland: This clause that the Leader of the Opposition has interpreted rather strangely is part of the package of reforms that is before the House. What is its purpose?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I regret the Leader of the Opposition didn't investigate this matter a little further, because he would have found that the purpose of this section in the bill was actually to protect students during the transition period, particularly the rights of francophone and anglophone students who may have their schools switched during the course of this transition. This part of the bill makes sure they have the educational services they need, want and deserve. That's why it's there: to protect the children of the province.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance and it has to do with the property tax bill. He will know there is growing concern in the business community about the impact of the property tax bill, that the details are coming very late. We're dealing this afternoon with part of it. But the business community certainly is worried. We are only three months away from the new tax year.

They've watched with interest -- I guess that's one way to describe it -- the removal of portions of education from the residential property tax, but they were surprised to find they still will be paying, I gather, exactly the same amount for education on their property tax, plus now picking up social housing.

They heard the promise from the Premier that residential property taxes should drop over the next couple of years by 5% to 10%. Earlier this week, the government announced that it would be freezing the revenue from residential property tax and imposing a uniform mill rate on residential properties. The question is, is the government planning the same policy with our commercial-industrial property tax sector?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The honourable member will know, because he has already alluded to it, that we are debating Bill 149 in the House this afternoon. I will be tabling some seven amendments and many proposed regulations to the legislation, many of which speak to some of the issues you're talking about. I'd be happy to discuss them with you further after they are tabled later today.

I can tell you that, as the member knows, we had a C&I panel of experts from many fields that advised the government on how we should treat commercial and industrial property, and I can assure you their suggestions and recommendations will be taken into account when the final decisions are made.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that, but our business community, which is trying to plan ahead, would like a little more than just three months' notice on one of their major expenses.

I go back to the question I just raised with you. Surely if the government has made a decision on this -- you've said to the residential property taxpayers that you will have a uniform mill rate across the province -- the business community is owed an answer on this. Also, in response you can give us your answer on whether we will have a uniform mill rate.

Secondly, they've asked me to get an explanation of the policy logic of removing education costs from the residential portion but leaving 100% of the current education costs on the business community. What was the policy reason for making that decision?

Hon Mr Eves: The response to that is quite simple. The municipalities wanted more tax room. They came back to us with a Who Does What proposal. We accepted their proposal. I don't think that changes the tax burden on commercial properties. As a matter of fact, there are several measures in Bill 106 and Bill 149 that go to treating smaller commercial properties much more equitably than they have ever been treated in the past.

As the member knows, municipalities will now have the ability to have up to three different commercial rates for smaller commercial properties, taking into account small, medium and large-size commercial properties. We on this side of the House don't happen to think that small commercial properties should be taxed as heavily as larger commercial properties are. If the honourable member disagrees, he should say so.

I understand the need for businesses of all types, be they commercial or industrial, to know what their tax base is, and I can assure you they will have those answers as soon as we can provide them. Some of them will be provided this very afternoon.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): To the Minister of Community and Social Services: The minister knows full well that a terrible tragedy occurred in Toronto earlier this week when two innocent people were murdered and a third took his own life. You see, we've received information that George Holdbrook was in receipt of GWA assistance under the category "permanent ill health, disabled," that his August cheque was held back after he failed to attend at an appointment in July to apply for referral to family benefits, and that one of his major concerns was that he receive a drug card. That meant he had been for two months without medication.

Minister, we agree with your change to the system that no longer puts it on the shoulders of family doctors to determine eligibility. However, this isn't the first tragedy that has occurred because of your drive to force people from social assistance. We are afraid it also won't be the last.

Will you please request an inquiry into the manner in which the case of Holdbrook was handled so that we can determine what, if anything, went wrong and avoid a tragedy like this in the future.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, it was certainly a very sad event that occurred when three people lost their lives earlier this week. I know that all of us would feel sympathy and extend condolences to the families that were involved in that tragedy. But I would also like to caution the honourable member that the police are investigating this. There are yet to be facts that will be determined.

I also say to the honourable member that there has been no change in disability regulations; there has been no change in disability policies in this province. They are the same as they were under his government and they are the same as they were under the previous government. I would caution the honourable member about making any deductions or comments about a situation that is yet to be determined.

Mr Kormos: Minister, we know that you take great pride in the fact that some 200,000 people have been forced off the assistance rolls; you've lost 30% of them and you don't know where they've gone to because you haven't been able to identify them after they've been forced off social assistance.

You brought in Andersen Consulting to aid you by withholding cheques from people who haven't provided the technical monthly income verification. We're told that staff shortages in a number of welfare offices mean that some people are having their cheques withheld simply because the data entry is not happening on time. We also know that 60- to 65-year-olds with your new bill are going to be forced off family benefits on to workfare and reduced incomes.

Your system is becoming increasingly punitive, increasingly inflexible. We're concerned that this will continue to generate levels of hostility and despair and frustration among recipients such that case workers and other members of the public may become the victims of that hostility and frustration. Please, will you not conduct an examination into the need for some flexibility --

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

Hon Mrs Ecker: I find myself quite at a loss that the member would actually be asking a minister of the crown to interfere in a police investigation. I would caution the honourable member that the police are investigating a tragic circumstance.

I would also like to point out to the honourable member that 218,000 fewer people are trapped in welfare. We know that those people have left welfare because they've gone out into paid jobs, and we know that because no government ever bothered to ask the question about where people went. We went out last year and did an independent survey and we found in that independent survey that 62% left for employment-related reasons; that an additional 11% left because they had income increases, which meant they didn't need to have welfare; and that other people listed reasons such as that they went to jail or they found it too much of a hassle to get a government cheque, which would cause you to question their need in the first place. We asked the survey, sir. They had never done that.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services and concerns the federal government's throne speech of a couple of days ago. I find it quite astounding that the federal throne speech did not address the very important concern that I think almost every Canadian has: the Young Offenders Act. The vast majority of people in my riding of Durham East agree with you, Minister, that the Young Offenders Act is just not doing the job it was designed to do. They want the federal government to listen to the people and get on with fixing the federal Young Offenders Act. What has our government done to put the issue of the Young Offenders Act on the front burner of the federal government's agenda?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I very much appreciate the question. With respect to law-and-order issues, the Liberal throne speech was a significant disappointment, not just for this government but for other governments across Canada which expected some commitment to significant movement with respect to the Young Offenders Act.

Where was the commitment to automatic transfer of young offenders charged with serious offences to adult court? Where was the promise to publicize the names of serious violent offenders? Where was any reference to toughening up a failed act?

The federal government recently received a report indicating strong weaknesses in the system right across this country, and concerns of police officers. One of the quotes in that report was, "Kids learn early on: Even if you do it, you don't have to face up to it." The government of Canada has that report in their hands. They have listened to testimony from various provincial governments and individual citizens across this country and they have failed to act. It is a significant disappointment, and we intend to keep up the pressure.

Mr O'Toole: I publicly want to thank our Solicitor General for his undaunted commitment to the correctional system as well as to victims services. Thank you, Minister.

When you read the throne speech, it talks about developing alternatives to incarceration and trumpets the decrease in certain crime rates and all these fine, idealistic concepts, but nowhere does it mention the reality that the rate of certain serious violent crimes among young offenders is actually on the rise.

The fact is that these violent young offenders need to be dealt with in the correctional system, and despite all the platitudes in the world, that costs money. Nowhere does the federal government make any commitment to put resources into dealing with reality. Minister, tell us today: Is Ontario going to get its fair share of the federal funding for young offenders' institutions?

Hon Mr Runciman: We inherited a system from the Liberal and NDP governments that was failing the people of this province.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Mr Runciman: To Liberals and NDPers in the province, the fact --


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): What was the question again?

The Speaker: Do you want to ask it again?


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Runciman: To Liberals and NDPers in this province it's a joke that over 60% of young offenders will repeat and over 80% of our adult population were graduates of their youth justice system. That was a joke, Mr Speaker.

We've set out to correct that system. We've set out to address the concerns of victims in this province. We've set out to address the concerns of ordinary citizens about youth crime and increasing levels of violent crime in this province and in this country. What kind of reaction are we getting from the federal Liberal government? I want to tell you --


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Runciman: What kind of response are we getting from the federal Liberal government? A reduction in their cost-sharing from 50% to 30% and a further reduction coming up. What are they saying to us? More diversion, more coddling of people who are committing violent crimes in this country and in this province. We believe in a range of alternative programs, but certainly people who do the crime have to do the time. Canadians are fed up with soft, coddling treatment of young offenders and want to see measures that actually work, reduce crime and turn around young people from a life of crime.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Minister, last year I told you about my community's outrage when a motorist ran a red light at St Clair and Dufferin, seriously injuring nine people and killing one. The driver got away with a mere $300 fine for running that light and, at that time, you didn't do anything about it when we asked.

Once again, there are calls to make high-collision intersections safer by installing red-light cameras at these killer intersections. Metropolitan Toronto Police Chief Boothby wants these red-light cameras because he doesn't have enough police officers to babysit all these intersections. Furthermore, yesterday Metro council passed a resolution to have these cameras installed.

The problem is that you and your government won't cooperate. Minister, what will do to make safer these intersections that are killing people across this province?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to answer my colleague from across the way in a manner I feel is appropriate obviously. We want to target the drivers, not the vehicles, and we want to make sure that the ones who are breaking the law are going to be punished. I believe that the road safety plan we have put together is certainly working towards that element.

There's still a lot more to do, and I understand that, but what we also need are more enforcement officers out there because that's where I feel we're going to get a lot more of the targeting as far as who is breaking the law. Photo-radar or red-light cameras, all it is is a cash grab. We're not stopping people from doing it over and over again.

One other thing I want to say to the member as well: I believe that if enforcement officers are there to stop these people who are breaking the law, maybe there are some other things that are going to evolve from that stop. I really feel that red-light cameras are not going to solve the problem.


Mr Colle: As you know, Mr Minister, you're more than willing to use photo cameras on the 407 to grab cash from people when they use the highway. What people are asking is to try this as a pilot project because police forces across this province have been cut. In Metro they're a thousand police officers short. They don't have the officers to babysit the intersections.

In Metro alone there are 11,000 collisions at these intersections a year; 50,000 across the province. People are running red lights on a daily basis without any regard. This person who killed the person at St Clair and Dufferin got a measly $300 fine, went back to California, and left that person dead and the other nine injured. What kind of deterrent is that? There are no cameras, there are no fines. What can we do? What will you do?

Hon Mr Palladini: I think the honourable member is putting too much emphasis on a camera. It is inconclusive. Although it might have some merit in certain places, it is inconclusive.

I want to say again that this government wants to do the right thing, wants to have more enforcement officers out there who will enforce the law. People are going to be face to face with an enforcement officer, rather than having a camera take a picture and not targeting the culprit. We want to target the driver, not the vehicle.

As far as the honourable member making a reference to the 407 is concerned, I'm really surprised that he would say that, because we're talking about a different element altogether.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question to the Premier. You may have heard me earlier today raise the issue of members of the transition team refusing to come to the standing committee on general government this afternoon to answer questions that we have to put to them. I want to remind you that these are people you have appointed through order in council to, in effect, put together the transition to the new megacity. They're people who had agreed last week to come for about half an hour. We had slotted them in for an hour. They're people who I presume haven't appreciated the fact that what they're doing is refusing to come on a decision that was made not just by me but by the committee as a whole. In fact this morning we voted, with the support of some of your members, to ask them again to come this afternoon.

What I'd like to ask you, Premier, is, will you undertake between now and the beginning of committee this afternoon -- I realize time is short -- to phone Mr Tonks, the head of the transition team, or have someone from your office call him, and impress upon him the importance of respecting the committee's decision and have him or one of the members of the transition team appear before the committee this afternoon?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No, I won't interfere with a committee of the Legislature of Ontario. They can order their own business. They can direct what they wish. I think you would find it very improper if I or my office or the cabinet or the minister started to direct the committee.

I understand there were concerns that when the transition team did come before the committee there was an unfortunate demonstration by those who thought screaming and yelling and interfering was more important than getting the facts. I've always said I don't think that tactic works very well. I think reasonable dialogue and discussion is better. If you wish me to provide the transcript of your question to the Chair of the committee, I'd be glad to do so.

Mr Silipo: No, Premier. The issue here is twofold. First of all, you should understand, and perhaps you haven't, that the committee, by a majority which included members of your own caucus, this morning, when we heard they were not coming, voted to request them again to attend this afternoon. We're not talking here about any witnesses. We're talking about people who were appointed through orders in council, people who have been given a task that's directly related to the work of the committee in dealing with Bill 148.

Premier, I'm asking you, because it seems to me it's the only way. The committee made its decision. The committee made the request. Mr Tonks and the members of the transition team are ignoring the committee's decision. So I'm asking you to step in and ensure that Mr Tonks respects the processes of the Legislature and understands that he has an obligation to attend the committee, either in person or through one of the other members of the transition team.

Hon Mr Harris: As you know, the transition commission did make a presentation. All parties had an opportunity to ask questions. If you would still like to ask legitimate questions instead of your grandstanding silly old demonstrations, you're welcome to do that directly to the transition commission. Perhaps you will actually get more productive answers that way. But I'm not about to interfere in the process of the committee or to demand or insist that people do things.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): My question is addressed to the minister responsible for seniors. Yesterday in the House two members of the opposition raised concerns about the deficit being run up by the Hamilton-Wentworth home care program. Many of these services will soon be provided by a community care access centre which I know will be opening very shortly. I wonder if the minister would provide for the benefit of the members of this House an update on the CCAC in Hamilton and how that will improve the situation.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to thank the member opposite for the question, as well as the member for Wentworth East, who asked the same question back on August 26 on behalf of the situation in Hamilton.

I've had an opportunity to look at the letter being referenced yesterday by the leader of the third party. The information he failed to share with the House was "the disturbing news that the home care program must stay within its allocated budget from now on" -- the disturbing news that the home care program has to stay within its budget.

Some of the highest per capita costs for home care exist in the city of Hamilton, Ontario. The communities of both the member for London Centre and the member for Rainy River are spending less on a per capita basis and yet providing a very efficient service. We're simply saying to the programs in Hamilton that they must maintain the level of efficiency that exists elsewhere in this province. Quite frankly, the Hamilton-Wentworth situation was $2 million over budget when the NDP were in government, and they did nothing about it.


Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm rising to seek unanimous consent to allow the member for Scarborough West to now move a motion with respect to Team Canada 1972 and that immediately upon motion the Speaker shall put the question without debate or amendment.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Unanimous consent? Agreed.

Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I move, seconded by Mr Bradley, the member for St Catharines, and Mr Wildman, the member for Algoma, that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario indicate its strong support for the induction of Team Canada 1972 into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.



Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 53 people that reads as follows:

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

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

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


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Dangerous, high-collision intersections:

"Whereas there are a number of dangerous, high-collision intersections throughout Metropolitan Toronto and Ontario;

"Whereas a pilot project installing photo-radar-type cameras would help monitor these dangerous intersections and act as a deterrent;

"Whereas photo-radar camera monitoring systems have worked well in Australia and other jurisdictions, improving safety;

"Whereas the provincial government is using a photo-radar-type camera on the new 407 to collect tolls;

"Whereas the increase in traffic and growing disregard for speed limits and traffic laws is the cause of great concern to pedestrians, cyclists and safe motorists alike;

"Whereas funding for extra policing is not available and very limited considering the great number of demands on the police,

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"That the provincial Solicitor General support the installation of photo-radar-type cameras as a pilot project at Metropolitan Toronto's 10 most dangerous intersections and at various other dangerous intersections throughout the province."

I'll affix my name to this petition.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition regarding the Plastimet fire in Hamilton and the need for a public inquiry.

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

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

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

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

Where are the other Hamilton Tories on this issue?


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): "Whereas we are the residents of Ontario who currently live in supportive non-profit housing, we petition the provincial government not to transfer the financial responsibilities for supportive non-profit housing to our municipality.

"We, the undersigned, ask the Legislative Assembly to consider and acknowledge the difference between non-profit housing and supportive non-profit housing. Options Bytown is supportive non-profit housing. We petition that funding for our home and our support continue."

I sign my name to this petition as well.


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

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is signed by over 300 residents of Toronto and I am proud to affix my signature.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The four million library users in this province are very unhappy with Bill 109. We have a petition that's sent to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario re library services and Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act. The petition reads:

"The system of public libraries in this province has successfully and equitably met the needs of Ontarians for nearly a century and a half. This has been done through the effective use of independent citizen boards that have been relying on adequate provincial and local funding. Bill 109 and other initiatives of the present provincial government will irrevocably undo this system."

This petition calls on the government to withdraw Bill 109 and to:

"(1) provide for the continued existence of truly independent citizen library boards;

"(2) restore adequate provincial and local funding;

"(3) abolish and forbid user fees; and

"(4) ensure universal and equitable access to library resources and services."

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I proudly add my name to theirs.


Mr David Caplan (Oriole): I'd like to present a petition to this Legislature. It's entitled, "Don't Get Burned by Bill 84," and is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Firefighters need speed, experience and teamwork to save lives. The undersigned oppose any legislation that could undermine the work of local firefighters and jeopardize fire safety in my community. Please listen to professional firefighters and amend Bill 84 to eliminate the threat to fire safety."

The petition is signed by 25 residents, and I add my signature to theirs.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"That over 70% of persons 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, that is, 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 on 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," and, to quote from Blood magazine, volume 87, number 5, March 1996, "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, your petitioners call upon 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 proud to affix my signature.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas communities strongly disagree with allowing women to go topless in public;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"To enact legislation to require women to wear tops in public places for protection of our children and for public safety in general."

This has been signed by 54 of my constituents, and I'll sign it to put it in the record.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a further petition here, signed by over 100 residents with respect to a crematorium in the Jane and Steeles area:

"Whereas an application has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Energy for a certificate of approval for the development of a crematorium and columbaria at the northeast corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue in the city of Vaughan....

"Now, therefore, we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"We call upon the Ministry of Environment and Energy, which has the primary responsibility for protecting and enhancing a healthful environment for the present and future wellbeing of the people of Ontario, to:

"(1) recognize that we, the citizens most adversely affected by this proposal, have the right to participate in government decision-making;

"(2) honour its commitment to safeguard our environment and therefore reject this proposal for a crematorium of such a large scale and literally at our doorstep;

"(3) acknowledge that the health of thousands of residents will be at risk and thereby refuse to grant approval for this project."

I do concur and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government has introduced Bill 136; and

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

"Whereas home child care providers are predominantly female; and

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

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

On behalf of my NDP colleagues, I proudly add my name to theirs.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): As you know, TVOntario is threatened by privatization under this government's review announced recently. There's a massive petition campaign going on across the province, and I have a petition sent to me by V.C. Smith from Lakehead University. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): A further petition regarding the need for a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire in Hamilton:

"We, the undersigned, request the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy and Environment Canada jointly:

"To conduct a full-scale public inquiry into the Hamilton Plastimet fire to determine the complete nature and extent of the pollution it has caused, the health effects on firefighters and others attending the fire, as well as the residents in Hamilton and further afield;

"To ensure safe, speedy and complete cleanup of the fire site, plus residential and all other areas where chemicals from the fire have fallen out."

I add my name to these petitioners.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Mine's about red-light cameras trying to make high-collision intersections safer.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas there are over 55,000 motor vehicle collisions at intersections throughout Ontario every year;

"Whereas running red lights is becoming too routine at many high-collision intersections;

"Whereas there is a shortage of police officers;

"Whereas the collisions at these intersections are resulting in serious injury to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists;

"Whereas installation of red-light cameras at dangerous intersections has proven to be successful in Australia and other countries;

"Whereas the provincial government has endorsed the use of similar camera systems to collect tolls on the new 407 freeway;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"That the provincial Solicitor General and Minister of Transportation support a pilot project for the installation of red-light cameras at high-collision intersections to monitor and prosecute motorists who run red lights."

I'll affix my name to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women and only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health; and

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

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

"Whereas 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; and

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

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

I proudly add my name to theirs.



Mr Eves moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 149, An Act to continue the reforms begun by the Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997 and to make other amendments respecting the financing of local governments / Projet de loi 149, Loi continuant les réformes amorcées par la Loi de 1997 sur le financement équitable des municipalités et apportant d'autres modifications relativement au financement des administrations locales.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Before I begin, I would like to indicate that I'll be sharing my time today with the member for Simcoe Centre and the member for Peterborough.

Ontarians know that the property tax system in Ontario needs updating. They know it has become outdated, inconsistent and unfair. They told us to fix these problems, and we are fixing them.

We began to fix these problems by establishing the Ontario fair assessment system, which bases the assessment of properties in Ontario on fair current values and updates those values on a regular basis. We began to fix them by eliminating the outdated business occupancy tax. We began to fix them by giving municipalities more autonomy and flexibility to implement the new property tax system to suit local needs and priorities and by putting in place measures to protect low-income seniors and disabled people.

Building on the foundation established in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, this bill is another step towards our goal of making the tax system fairer for all Ontario taxpayers.

Small business is the engine that drives the Canadian economy. In the Fair Municipal Finance Act we eliminated the antiquated business occupancy tax and provided municipalities with considerable flexibility to recover those revenues in a way that satisfies their community needs.

Business groups, including the Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Windsor and District Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto have all responded favourably to the measures taken in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, measures that will result in both tax fairness and economic growth.

In this bill, we are giving municipalities the opportunity to further assist small businesses by establishing lower tax rates for lower-valued commercial properties, such as small retail strip stores and restaurants.

Bill 149 also enhances the property tax protection provided for low-income seniors and the disabled in Bill 106 by extending the deferral and cancellation provisions to include the school portion of property taxes.

Bill 149 introduces specific measures that respond to feedback from municipalities, non-profit organizations, small businesses and others in a way that is fair, clear, consistent and accountable. We are listening to the advice that these groups are providing to us. We will continue to listen.

That is why, to encourage dialogue on these important issues, I am today releasing seven proposed amendments and seven proposed regulations for comment during the public consultation process. We will build on this consultation process over the coming weeks and continue to be open to advice as we proceed with the important task of improving Ontario's property tax system in a fair, thoughtful and consistent manner.

We recognize the benefits that charities and similar organizations provide to communities all across Ontario. Under Bill 149, municipalities will be able to offer such organizations tax rebates of up to 40% when they occupy business property.

To help municipalities administer this program, we are proposing an amendment that will clearly define which organizations can qualify for this rebate and will allow municipalities the flexibility to extend this benefit to other similar organizations, if they so wish.

We're also proposing an amendment to ensure that owners of vacant lands and buildings, which incurred no business occupancy tax under the old system, would retain similar tax treatment.

Through Bill 149, we are taking steps to ensure that the Ontario arts community can continue to thrive and contribute to the economy of our province. We are all proud that Metro Toronto's commercial live theatre industry is the third-largest in the world and attracts 90% of Ontario's live theatre audience. However, Metro's largest commercial theatres pay higher property taxes than their international competitors in New York and London and their publicly owned local competitors. Bill 149 will ensure that these theatres are treated in a fair way that reflects competitive realities.

We have listened to specific concerns raised by publicly owned theatres as well. In response, we are proposing an amendment to Bill 149 that recognizes the importance of not-for-profit operations such as the opera, ballet and symphony and acknowledges the difference between public theatres that are used mainly for not-for-profit productions and those primarily booked by commercial productions.


We also recognize the vital contribution that small live theatres make to communities across the province and their importance as a training ground for the industry. Through Bill 149, these theatres will be exempt from property taxes.

On September 22, the government introduced legislation to exempt Metro's large commercial live theatres from education property tax to help these theatres compete on an international scale. Together, these measures will help support Toronto's competitiveness as an international theatre destination and support the viability of small theatres throughout the province.

In proposing changes to the tax treatment of farm land pending development, our goal is to fairly balance the needs of farmers, municipalities and developers. I look forward to hearing the views of all parties affected by this proposed amendment to ensure that Bill 149 achieves this balance. Fair, consistent tax treatment of rights-of-way properties is necessary to provide tax certainty as well.

It will also help prevent unpredictable tax increases and help stabilize revenue for municipalities. At present, railway, utility and hydro rights of way are taxed at different levels throughout the province. The current system of property tax creates a tax base that is uncertain and very uneven.

For example, under the current system, as a result of the last reassessment in the Halton region, railway properties faced a property tax increase of 500%. Under Bill 149, the province would set municipal tax levels per acre for rights-of-way properties in nine different geographic regions of the province. These regions are defined in the proposed regulation that we have introduced today.

Ontario's international bridges and tunnels play an important role in the development of the province's economy. To help keep Ontario competitive, we are replacing the existing hodgepodge system of assessing and taxing international bridges and tunnels. We are levelling the playing field and putting in place a more consistent system.

We have consulted with representatives of international crossings on our proposed changes. As a result of our intentions, the Peace Bridge Authority in Fort Erie recently announced the approval of phase 1 of a $200-million capital expansion project.

Quite obviously, fair property tax treatment does have a positive impact on economic development in this province. Previous governments have resisted fixing the property tax system because of the difficult issues which had to be faced. Clearly, this inaction was at the expense of property taxpayers and local governments. We are fixing the property tax system. Bill 149 is yet another example of that. It will help reduce barriers to investment and economic growth. It will improve Ontario's long-term competitiveness.

I look forward to hearing further from the people of Ontario on Bill 149. I can assure you that Bill 149, coupled with the reforms already passed in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, will give all Ontario property owners a system of property taxation and assessment that is fair, consistent and accountable. The people of Ontario deserve no less, and quite frankly it's about time.

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'm pleased to join the debate and follow the Minister of Finance with respect to the Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997 (No. 2), Bill 149. I'd like to deal with the bill in the context of the initial bill brought in through the Minister of Finance, Bill 106, the Fair Municipal Finance Act, which was introduced in January this year and proclaimed into law in May.

This legislation was the first step in the government's effort to make property assessment and taxation in Ontario fair, consistent and understandable so that taxpayers can hold their governments accountable. The act will be fair, because similar properties in a community with similar values will pay similar taxes. It will be understandable because when the Fair Municipal Finance Act goes into effect, properties across Ontario will be assessed based on their current value: what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller in an arm's-length transaction. It will be understandable because taxpayers will be able to determine how much tax they should pay simply by multiplying the assessed value of their properties by the appropriate municipal tax rate.

I take into consideration my own riding of Simcoe Centre, which is within the county of Simcoe. It's made up of 16 municipalities, seven towns and nine townships, plus the cities of Barrie and Orillia. As a result of two amalgamations, the number of county municipalities in Simcoe county has been reduced from 28 to 16. There has been no county-wide reassessment, although six municipalities were reassessed after the amalgamation. The old assessment base continues to apply to the other 10 municipalities. Barrie and Orillia are not part of the county structure.

It's interesting to note in terms of how the assessments are applied that for the city of Barrie the reassessment year for the tax year is 1987 for 1988, the base year is 1984, and the type of assessment is fair market value. In the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, it has not been reassessed and there are three parts to the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury. There is the town of Bradford, which has the assessment year for the tax year of 1985 for 1986 tax year and the base year is 1980. For the township of Tecumseth, which is part of this new town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, the reassessment year was 1988 and the base year is 1984 values. In the township of West Gwillimbury, the reassessment year was 1980 and the base year is 1975. In the town of Innisfil, within my riding, the reassessment year was 1995 for the tax year of 1996 and the base year for the assessment is 1992. Also within my riding there's the township of Springwater, with a reassessment year of 1995 for 1996 tax year, with a base year of 1992 values, and they are under the system of fair market value.

You can see that within three towns and one city within my riding you have different base years of assessment which range from 1975 up to 1992. The Fair Municipal Finance Act (No. 2), which is Bill 149, firmly builds on the fairness principles of the reforms the government introduced in January with the Fair Municipal Finance Act. The government has listened to specific concerns expressed by businesses, theatres, municipalities and other groups. We have heard those concerns, and the bill introduces measures that would respond to those legitimate concerns in a fair and balanced way.

Bill 149 includes measures that would mean fair tax treatment for small businesses and owners of business properties, publicly owned and commercial live theatres, municipalities, owners of rights-of-way property, charitable organizations, and farmers and developers.

I'd like to deal with a number of the components within the bill, specifically fairness for owners of business properties, small businesses in particular.

Bill 149 includes a measure that would enable municipalities to protect small standalone businesses. Municipalities will be able to support these small businesses by applying tiered tax rates to properties in the commercial property tax class. Small businesses in lower-valued commercial properties such as small neighbourhood shopping districts or retail strip malls could benefit from the provision. This provision would allow municipalities to create up to three bands of assessment.

Here is an example of how a municipality could put this measure to work: The municipality would set an appropriate threshold for commercial property values; for example, $250,000. The municipality could then apply a lower tax rate to assessed values that fall below the threshold and a higher tax rate for assessed values above the threshold. To ensure that municipalities can target specific businesses for higher taxes, the government can prescribe restrictions on the use of this provision in regulation.


This measure addresses the concerns of small businesses in a way that avoids creating large amounts of red tape for municipalities, and I think it's important because when you look at the context of what we're trying to do here in terms of small business, we're trying to ensure that commercial business sectors are not only kept vibrant, but certainly material within the community, and one of the measures the government is committed to in reform is the business improvement areas in Bill 106.

The government recognizes the important role played by business improvement areas in maintaining healthy, vibrant commercial areas. The changes to the business improvement area legislation are the result of our commitment to rationalizing the property tax system and eliminating the business occupancy tax.

While the changes in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997, will affect some aspects of the BIA operations, the government believes that overall the act will not seriously disrupt these functions. In some ways it will be a better support to the BIAs by creating BIA levies in the same manner as property tax. The changes come about because of the changes to the business occupancy tax in terms of the 50% tax that is applied to commercial properties where there is a business occupying that property, and that's going to be done away with.

The concern that was expressed by business improvement areas was that with that occupancy tax being taken away, what would happen to their business improvement areas? What is going to happen is that they will be continued, and it certainly will have the landlord take a greater role with respect to those business improvement areas. That makes sense, because it's not just the businesses, it's also the landlord that owns the building within which the business operates.

I believe the changes that we're bringing about through Bill 149, the Fair Municipal Finance Act (No. 2) and the measures we brought through on Bill 106 are complementary in terms of our focus on small business, to make sure they are not only viable in terms of being able to operate their business and pay their taxes, but also we create a structure in the commercial core where small businesses can not only thrive but certainly prosper.

The next area I'd like to deal with is vacant business lands and units. Bill 149 would provide fair treatment for owners of vacant business lands and units by recognizing that these properties don't currently pay business occupancy tax. The bill proposes these properties should be taxed a lower rate to recognize the absence of business activity.

That's a fairly important concern for owners of vacant property where the business has not made it or moved and you have a vacant building and you're being taxed at the commercial rate, yet you have no business activity on that property. The previous practice was for the landlord to apply to the municipality to have a different rate structure. It would be changed to residential, which doesn't make a lot of sense, if you own commercially zoned property, to revert to a residential rate.

The changes with respect to the vacant business lands and units will ensure that the rate reduction will be in the legislation rather than dealing with it through regulation.

We are proposing rate reductions of 30% of the full commercial rate for commercial properties and 35% of the industrial rate for industrial properties. This measure would, on average, retain the business occupancy tax preference that vacant business lands and units now have and ensure they are not unduly affected by reform.

With respect to municipalities, Bill 149 gives municipalities flexibility in how they implement a number of tax provisions; for example, charitable organizations. Bill 149 would give municipalities the power to protect significant charities. This would recognize the benefits that charities and similar organizations provide to communities. These organizations could receive tax rebates from the municipality of up to 40% of their total property tax on space that they occupy in commercial or industrial properties. The rebate program would ensure the benefit would go directly to the charity.

To help municipalities administer the program, the government proposes an amendment that would define the charities that are eligible with reference to the well-known definition contained in the federal Income Tax Act. Municipalities would also have the flexibility under Bill 149 to extend this definition of charities to similar organizations if they choose to do so.

Bill 149 will give municipalities the option to decide if this program meets their local needs and priorities. For example, if there are few non-profit organizations in a municipality, the municipality may decide it is more cost-effective to provide support through existing mechanisms.

Another area that I think is important, especially in areas that are in a developmental mode with respect to cities and townships in the surrounding area, and also where there's agricultural property and you're seeing growth in the residential sector -- and there's a good example within my riding in the city of Barrie and in the township of Bradford West Gwillimbury and even in the township of Innisfil -- the farm lands pending development, there certainly hasn't been a consistent approach in terms of how to deal with this property to fairly balance the needs of farmers, developers and municipalities.

The bill will preserve farm land and encourage bona fide farming. It will encourage development-ready land at a reasonable cost and ensure that municipalities receive a fair rate of property tax according to the use and value of the land.

That's certainly important in that if the property was previously a farm and is not an active farm any more and it has been rezoned to residential but there's no building going on because the developer is not in a position to build due to market concerns, he shouldn't be taxed at a higher level where the property isn't even being utilized.

By proposing three tax rate ranges for different stages of development, Bill 149 will give municipalities the flexibility to address their particular situations. At the same time, the bill would provide an incentive to continue farming on lands that are awaiting development and maintain a tax reduction for these lands.

The next area I'd like to address is rights of way. Bill 149 would bring fairness and consistency to the tax treatment of Ontario Hydro, utility and railway rights of way. That certainly is a big issue in this day and age in terms of railway as a result of the federal government's legislation which they brought in last year in terms of allowing CN and CP to discontinue their rail lines.

I believe that certainly there are some tax considerations that face municipalities that have rail lines that go through their communities. The bill would correct serious inequities in the way these properties are now assessed and taxed. Currently, rights of way are taxed at different effective tax rates throughout the province. Bill l49 proposes to replace that patchwork of tax rates by setting tax levels per acre for nine geographic areas of the province. The proposed approach would provide municipalities with a stable revenue base and would also recognize the need for provincial controls on the taxation of these unique properties that are key to the provincial economy.

With respect to taxpayers, the Fair Municipal Finance Act required municipalities to provide a program of municipal tax relief for low-income property owners who are seniors or who have disabilities. Bill 149 proposes to apply this tax relief to the education portion of their property taxes as well.

As you know, we have been dealing with education and with the taxation structure there. The government has proposed that the province and not school boards would be responsible for setting all education property tax rates. The province would set rates for residential properties. The municipality would collect the taxes and forward the revenues to the local school boards. Supporters of public, separate or French-language education would continue to have the right to identify their support for the school system of their choice, and the government has stated that once these rates are set for 1998, they would be frozen. That's certainly good news for residential taxpayers in terms of planning their own future and their needs and their budgeting.

The province would also set the rates for business support for education. Municipalities would collect these revenues and forward them to the local district school boards on the basis of enrolment. In addition, the province would use other provincial revenues to pay for the grants which all school boards would receive based on student need.

In the province as a whole, residential education tax revenue will be cut in half, from $5 billion to $2.5 billion. Under the new system, all residential taxpayers will pay for education at the same rate. That only makes sense for a common service such as education.

Certainly Bill 149, along with the measures that were taken with respect to improving education and fairness with respect to taxation in education in municipalities and through the province, is consistent with the approach we're taking now.


The Fair Municipal Finance Act also allows municipalities to phase in municipal tax changes resulting from reassessment over a period of up to eight years. That's of fundamental importance to any taxpayers and to municipal politicians who have to bring the tax system into the system we're proposing in terms of fairness and having a set rate. But it's not fair to just push that on to the taxpayer all at once when you've had communities that have had assessment rates that are not current. We are in the year 1997, and if you live in a community where the assessment rate is based on 1975 values, you're certainly looking at a significant change. I think that type of measure, which could be viewed as a sunset provision in terms of giving municipalities eight years to bring the tax changes into effect and up to the standard, is extremely fair.

Bill 149 would ensure that this fairness measure also applies to the education portion of the property tax. These proposed measures would ensure that education taxes parallel municipal taxes. They would also ensure that providing education tax relief won't cost municipalities more money and will avoid the cost and red tape of introducing provincial programs.

On that note, I am very pleased to have joined the debate today. I support this bill. I think it's going to bring significant change, along with the initial bill with respect to fair municipal finance reform earlier this year. I look forward to the changes the government is bringing forth with respect to education taxation. I think the measures being taken are fair not only to municipalities and school boards but also, and most important, to the taxpayers of the province. We should remember there is only one taxpayer and we have to be fair.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I too am very pleased today to have the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts on the Fair Municipal Finance Act, (No. 2), better known as Bill 149. The purpose and goal of this legislation are clearly expressed in the name of the act.

Our current system of property taxes is difficult to understand, and I suggest it is very frustrating and unfair to the taxpayers of this province. Currently we have such a complicated process to arrive at property taxes, ie, equalized assessment, that most municipal administrators have difficulty understanding the current property tax system, let alone the general public, the taxpayers of this province. The disparities in our property tax system are enormous, but today I believe, as we debate Bill 149, we are one step closer to improving the overall property tax system.

For too long, previous provincial and municipal governments made it quite clear that the current property tax system did not work well. In my years as a municipal councillor, this situation became quite evident and was very evident on a daily basis. Over the years, as municipalities developed their own systems for property evaluation, discrepancies arose between neighbouring municipalities and in many cases between different areas within the same municipality. For example, in a couple of the municipalities in Peterborough county, local assessments have not been updated since the late 1940s.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I am fascinated by my friend's comments and I'm sure most members of the assembly would like to hear them. Could you check to see if there is a quorum present?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): Clerk, would you check for a quorum.

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Peterborough.

Mr Stewart: I am pleased that the honourable member suggested my words of wisdom were worth hearing. I thank you, sir, very much.

For example, in a couple of the municipalities in Peterborough county, in the area where I'm from, local assessments have not been updated since the late 1940s. That was 50 years ago. I know change is slow and in some cases difficult, but I believe that inequity is totally ridiculous. We began seeing cases where similar properties could receive widely different assessments, resulting in property taxes that were unfair.

After being elected in 1995, one of the very first problems a constituent brought to my office was a dispute regarding his property assessment and the amount of tax he had to pay. This individual was paying more taxes than a neighbour with a house and lot of equal value. My friends, that is not fair. The taxpayers of this province should not be paying different rates of taxation on properties of equal value. This individual also found similar homes in different areas of the city that were paying, again, different rates of taxes. It appears they were being assessed for areas rather than looking at what the house and the lot consisted of. This, I believe, is totally unfair.

In Metro there are situations where similar houses on one side of the street pay a different amount of tax than persons across the street in like houses. This is not fair. A new property tax system and, I believe, a new unified Toronto will help correct this type of disparity.

One of the major reasons that property tax reform has not occurred is because the total tax burden for the people of Ontario is simply too high. Tax levels are so high that there is very little fiscal room for compromise or reform, but I believe we are addressing this issue. We are addressing the total tax problem.

The first step towards total and complete tax reform must be a strategy to reduce all taxes by cutting the size and cost of government. This has to be done at all levels, and when I suggest all levels I'm talking about federal government, provincial government and municipal government alike, something this government can never be accused of not doing. We are creating a more efficient and effective government, and as a result we are seeing greater opportunities to address the issue that no other government has addressed before. The issue is property tax reform. Granted, previous governments expressed an interest in reforming the property tax system but did not have the political will to do so.

Currently many inequities exist within the province's municipalities. Assessments are calculated differently across Ontario. Some properties are assessed based on an estimation of their market value while others are assessed based on a percentage of their value. The failure of previous governments to act on this important issue has done nothing but cost the taxpayers of this province valuable tax dollars. However, with the introduction of the fair assessment system which reassesses all properties at their current value as of June 30, 1996, we are creating a much fairer, equitable property tax system.

Bill 149 represents the second step in a move to create a property tax system that taxpayers will understand and trust, and most important, can afford. Bill 149 gives municipalities something they have always asked for: flexibility in the area of taxation. This bill allows upper- and lower-tier municipalities to set lower tax rates for lower-valued commercial properties by creating multi-tiered commercial tax rates. In the small business world, which is the foundation of business in this province, they have to have a fair and equitable system. This principle will also give municipalities the opportunity to set tax rates in a manner that meets the needs of their local community. This is the type of flexibility municipalities have been calling for.


As we saw in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, municipalities are allowed to phase in municipal tax changes resulting from reassessment over a period of eight years. This phase-in will provide added security not only for seniors on fixed incomes and Ontarians with disabilities but indeed security for all of the province.

Bill 149 also deals with railways, utilities in Ontario and hydro rights of way. Currently, all three of these features are taxed at different levels throughout the province, once again creating a system that is uncertain depending on what part of the province you live in -- a totally ridiculous situation. With this bill, we are proposing that the province would set municipal tax levels on a per-acre basis for nine regions of Ontario and then average the tax changes. This will go to great lengths to level the playing field across the province, stabilize the revenue base for municipalities and prevent large tax increases.

The issue of vacant and industrial property has also been a problem for many municipalities and one that we are addressing head on. Under the Fair Municipal Finance Act, the business occupancy tax has been eliminated. This allows municipalities to recover this revenue from property classes that previously paid this tax. Vacant business land and units will be taxed at a lower rate.

Charities will also benefit from our property tax reforms. Municipalities will be able to provide rebates to charitable organizations occupying business property. Isn't that great, that the charities will now be able to have additional dollars to fund the many needed projects that we want and ask them as partners to do in this province. Rebates could be up to 40% of the total amount of tax. This will allow all municipalities to recognize that these groups paid tax at the lower-end residential rate and did not pay the business occupancy tax.

Currently farm land that is being purchased by a developer is assessed as farm land until farming stops. Some farm land undergoing development attracts very little property tax relative to its value. However, this new bill proposes a tiered approach to the taxation of farm land pending development. This measure would fairly balance the need of farmers, developers and municipalities.

At a recent UDI meeting, one of the lawyers who was a guest speaker at that particular function made a comment about 200-acre parcels across a county road from each other. One was assessed as normal farm land, owned by the same developer as the other one, which was assessed as a commercial operation, or would have been residential. The variance was something like $200,000 worth of taxes. It makes it very difficult for developments to start, with that type of taxation.

The farm tax rebate was a stopgap measure created to assist farmers until a new property tax system was developed that would tax farm land, residential and commercial property in a fair and equitable way. We are doing that. You know, that stopgap measure lasted an unbelievable number of years.

Finally, as municipalities restructure and grow, land is often annexed to accommodate growth. Bill 149 would prevent municipalities that annex unincorporated land from shifting taxes on to property classes that already pay unfairly high taxes.

My friends, Bill 149 is part of a greater package of legislative reform designed to get Ontario working again. Bill 149, in conjunction with our Who Does What initiative, will make the overall property tax system a much fairer system if real restructuring takes place at the local level.

At the end of the day, it is the taxpayer who must pay the bills, and for too long property taxpayers in newly assessed areas have been footing the bill for those living in areas which have not been reassessed for many years. This is simply not right.

Our government is finally addressing the inequities in our property tax system. We are reducing the entire tax burden on the people of Ontario. We are reducing income taxes for the good of Ontario and we are reforming the property tax system, also for the good of Ontario. Total and complete reform of our current system of government can and will lead to tax reductions for taxpayers of Ontario as real change is embraced. Bill 149, coupled with the reforms in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, will give all Ontario taxpayers a system of property assessment and taxation that is fair, consistent, understandable and indeed accountable.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I appreciate the comments of all three government members. I would ask them to respond to two or three things in their response. First, I know the government is moving ahead with imposing market value assessment. I'm just curious about why, before the election, it was Mike Harris's position that they "would never impose market value assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position." Maybe the member can answer why Mike Harris said before the election he would never do this and why now, after the election, he is doing it. That was a piece of literature put out by them.

The second thing is that the member has mentioned eliminating the business occupancy tax. That is going to cause some significant dislocation for small business. To date in the bill we've yet to see how the government plans to accommodate it. I've just looked through the proposed regulations and the amendments and there's no indication of how the government plans to help small business. It was the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that in a letter to the government said: "Ironically, the elimination of the business occupancy tax will harm our sector. Smaller firms are concentrated at the low end of the business occupancy tax." It goes on to say that with the elimination of that, they're likely going to face substantial increases. I hope the member can give us an answer on that.

The third thing I'd like from the member: I'd like to know the logic of taxing an acre of land for hydro in downtown Peterborough at exactly the same rate as an acre of land for hydro in the middle of the Haliburton forest. I just want to know the logic of that. If a piece of land is worth something in one area, is it worth exactly the same in another area?


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I too wish to convey in the spirit of sympathy -- I've listened intently to the spin, the diatribe as we enter debate on Bill 149. Bill 149 is only the offspring of Bill 106 -- doing so at their own peril -- for their ill-fated legislation does not work in isolation.

There are winners and losers. None of the three speakers mentioned anything about the bank towers. Under the BOT, the business occupancy tax, they've won the lottery. Those are the people who take in the money big time. They're the winners. A large corporation, for instance in Oakville, the plant operator in the automotive industry will benefit $18 million. The logical question is, who's going to pick up the slack? Where will that $18 million come from? Will Mike Harris and his cohorts send a cheque in the mail to the clerk-administrator of Oakville? They won't. The difference, the slack will have to be made up. It will be made up by residential taxpayers and also by small business people, the commercial assessment.

CNCP will get a break on account of amendments vis-à-vis rights of way. Hydro will also get a break. In the case of Hydro, the mess they're in, they need every penny they can get. But CNCP, whose appetites are insatiable, have been given huge tracts of land since Confederation. It's well documented; we all know. Dozens of books have been written about those people. But la payola, their friends are giving them another tax break.

The Acting Speaker: Further comments and questions?


The Acting Speaker: I believe the member for Simcoe Centre was one of the speakers. I don't believe you can comment on your own speech.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I would like to thank the member for Scarborough-Agincourt and my colleagues for their comments today. Ontarians know that our property tax system needs fixing. They have communicated that to us very clearly, so when we were elected we said we would make the property tax system fairer, and that's exactly what we have done.

Bill 149 is building on Bill 106, which was favourably received by many sectors of society, and it makes the tax system much fairer. This bill, Bill 149, carries on and it ensures the fair treatment of farms, small businesses and other commercial and industrial properties. It gives municipalities more flexibility to respond effectively to local priorities. It further protects low-income seniors and the disabled. It also closes tax loopholes to help stabilize the tax base for the future.

I feel that Bill 149 takes Ontarians a step closer to having a much fairer and more equitable tax system. I feel, after many consultations, and there will be more consultations, that this will come back and that will be the message we get.

The Acting Speaker: Further comments? Seeing none, response?

Mr Tascona: I'd just like to respond to the comments made by the honourable members. What we're dealing with here is that in terms of market value assessment, there seems to be confusion in terms of how you value the property. What we're not dealing with here is the highest and best use. There seems to be confusion there. We're looking at the actual usage of the property and its actual value assessment, which is based on a three-year rolling average.

The benefit of this, which was pointed out by the member for Peterborough, when you're dealing with a discrepancy in terms of one part of a community being assessed at 1975 values and another part being assessed at 1997 values, is that some significant changes have to be made. We've addressed that through the three-year rolling average and having it set up in 1996 and the implementation period, which is an eight-year period.

What is important in terms of trying to stimulate economic growth is that having a three-tier system for small businesses and lower-valued commercial property I think all parties should hail as something that's fair to small business and certainly will lead to economic growth. Also, looking at agricultural land in terms of how it is used and when it is purchased for developmental purposes, we should not be looking at an approach that really makes it difficult for the person who has purchased the property to hold it and be able to develop it.

I think the replies weren't on point. I just wanted to comment on that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate and to say that it will be my intention to share my time with the members for Windsor-Walkerville and Essex South.

I want to simply say on Bill 149 that this is, as the public knows, the second of two major bills on property tax reform, that this will be the most dramatic change in property tax in the history of Ontario. The analogy I used with our caucus was that it's a bit like the early gathering of a hurricane off the Florida coast in its first moments, but this hurricane hits Ontario in a few months. It will fundamentally change the whole property tax system in Ontario.

The concerns I want to raise today are ones that we anticipate will hit Ontario in March or April 1998. The reason we say "anticipate" is because the government has chosen to provide virtually no information on the impact of these bills. I've never seen a government making such a major decision that will impact literally every home and every business in Ontario without at least saying, "Here's likely going to be the impact." Mike Harris says, "I'm going to run our government like a business." No business would ever make these fundamental decisions without having some idea of their impact. I'm surprised, as I've always been, that the back bench haven't demanded it, because I can guarantee you that when this hits it will have huge impacts on communities across the province. I want to begin to spell those out and to suggest that the government perhaps has not done its homework in these areas.

First is the elimination of the business occupancy tax. As my colleague said, the average bank tower in the city of Toronto will likely have its taxes decreased by $3 million a year. That's the estimate that has been provided: $3 million a year. It is going to be made up by the rest of the business sector. Their taxes go down; someone else's taxes go up.

I point out what I said earlier in my remarks, that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business warned us that in a strange way the elimination of the business occupancy tax, which is a tax that's 90 years old, archaic and out of date for sure, without some idea of how it is going to impact on small business -- in CFIB's mind, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the elimination of the business occupancy tax, strangely enough, will likely represent a negative impact on their businesses. I had hoped today that we would see from the government its plans for how it planned to deal with that. I've been through the proposed amendments and the proposed regulations, and it's not there. That is our first concern, that small business is going to be hurt by the elimination of the business occupancy tax. We have yet to see how the government plans to deal with that. That's our first concern, which I hope all members in the Legislature share.


Our second concern -- this is a more minor point but I had hoped I would have got an answer from the government on this -- is that this bill, Bill 149, calls for the province setting the property tax rate on hydro lands, on utility rights of way and on rail lands. The province is going to do that. It's going to set the mill rate on the land.

I'm trying to figure the logic of the government's decision here. What the government is saying is that they will tax an acre of CPR land down at the Gardiner Expressway and Yonge Street, that an acre of land there will pay exactly the same taxes as an acre of rail land up around Lake Simcoe. I'm trying to find the logic of that. Where is the logic of an acre of land in downtown Toronto paying exactly the same property tax rate as an acre of land up around Lake Simcoe? I have not had the logic of that. That's in this bill.

In its property tax plans, for the first time in the history of the province, the government of Ontario is going to play a huge role in setting the mill rates for property taxes. I hope everybody follows this: On average, half of our residential property tax goes to education, half goes to our local councils or our regional councils. The government has said, "We are going to take away half of the education expense, we're going to leave the other half on the residential property tax and we'll set the mill rate."

The government has also determined that they're going to leave all of the educational costs on business. I think many people in the business community, when they heard the government say, "We're going to take education off property tax," thought they would be getting some relief, but 100% of the property tax on business in these bills remains.

The government will be setting the mill rate for the first time ever; for over half of the property tax, the mill rate for businesses will now be set by the provincial government. It's quite an extraordinary move for a province to move into property tax in that way. Certainly it has never happened before in Ontario. The provincial government has never set mill rates and taken property tax money like this.

Yet even today I asked the Minister of Finance during question period: "What is your plan for this? Are you going to have a uniform mill rate for businesses across the province? Are you prepared to say that you are going to freeze the amount of money you'll raise from business, or are you freezing the mill rate?" In his response to me he indicated, "Well, we're going to be dealing with the bill later today and you'll be getting those answers later today." The answers aren't there. We do not know how the government plans to set mill rates on businesses.

I say to the business community that you should be concerned about where property tax is going, for these reasons: They've left all of the education that was currently on business still there. They've now downloaded on to the property tax all of social housing; 100% of social housing now has gone from the province on to property tax. A whole new area of expense in welfare or social assistance has now shifted from the province on to property tax.

The reason the business community should be speaking out on this is that I guarantee you that Ontario, at some stage in the future, will go through a tough economic period. That's just the way it works. We have good economic times and then tougher economic times. Here's what's going to happen: As soon as that happens, as soon as we run into difficult economic times, our business community should recognize that the expenses for social assistance, for social housing, inevitably go up. That's just the way it is. The business community now in some respects have got the worst of all worlds, from their perspective. They've still got all the education costs they had before and now they've loaded on social housing, and many of those are seniors.

I would just say to our business community who say, "I guess they must have studied this and I guess it's the right thing to do," that the business community should be aware that the government appointed a group of 15 people -- it was called the Who Does What committee, headed by David Crombie; that's how people may recognize it -- to study this matter, to say what things should be on property tax and what things should be handled by the province.

Hopefully I can find the quote, but if I can't, I can remember it fairly well anyway. In his report, David Crombie and all the other commissioners -- Mike Harris picked these people, every single one of them -- said: "The panel strongly opposes such a move" -- putting social housing and social assistance on property tax -- "We are unanimous in the view that it shouldn't be done."

The reason I raise this is that I think the business community can look down the road at the pressures property tax will face in difficult economic times. The business community knows as well or better than anyone what happens in difficult economic times. You can just imagine, they've still got all of education that they had before, and now they've got social housing, social assistance, child care, ambulances, public health. The business community now is going to be picking up those costs.

The business community will find those councils facing some terrible, terrible choices, as we can all visualize. Many of the members here have previously been on councils and you can just imagine an economic downturn and people needing help on housing, help on social assistance, understandably, and the battle that will go on around property tax. This is a package and we are dealing with the government making a decision to put all these new costs on to property tax.

One of the difficulties we're going to run into is that, at exactly the same time as this change is coming in -- I might say, this change is monumental. I think all of us understand that. Every single property in the province is being reassessed. There will be thousands, if not tens of thousands, of appeals going on a year from now. There will be mass confusion out there, and at the same time this is happening the government has decided, as we've just talked about, to download all these services on to the municipalities, plus add $660 million of extra costs on to the property tax.

Here in the Legislature, we get into a big debate, "Well, it's revenue-neutral; it isn't revenue-neutral." But the government has acknowledged that it has cut out a $666-million municipal support grant. In 1997 they are providing municipalities with $660 million; in 1998 the number will be zero. In addition to all the other problems municipalities will face -- believe me they will face huge challenges, particularly many brand new councils coming in, new boundaries, huge new responsibilities for things like social housing, and at the same time they're being told they've got to pick up another $660 million of previous provincial costs that are now on the municipalities. On the property tax bill, we have to view it within that context.


I will speak just briefly about the assessment process because I've been hearing for some time now about the concerns that particularly our professional assessor community has about the approach that's being done. This thing has been rushed, there have been a lot of inexperienced people hired to do it and it is in serious jeopardy of being credible when it's finally announced.

The bill today deals with several aspects to in some respects correct some of the challenges in the previous bill, Bill 106, that we passed several months ago, to expand a little bit on the responsibilities.

Some of the themes that are in Bill 149: I think Bill 149 is almost unprecedented in giving the Minister of Finance the authority to set taxes. I think there are 25 areas here where the Minister of Finance will have the authority to set taxes. I'm not a constitutional expert, but I always thought that it was up to the duly elected bodies to set taxes, not to delegate to a minister tax-setting policy that he can do through regulation. What does that mean for the public? It means that the minister can set, for example, the tax rate on the hydro lines I just talked about; the minister can set the tax rate on those three levels of commercial we talked about. It's unusual.

I'm particularly surprised actually at the Conservative back bench agreeing with a bill that gives that much discretionary power to a cabinet without the public scrutiny and without the public input, because we've all learned that governments come and go and you should also assume that the laws you're passing now could be in the hands of one of the dreaded opposition parties at some stage.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Yes, I agree.

Mr Phillips: Mr Ford is frightened by that thought. I'm just saying to you that this is a law for some time and I would urge you to question, as we have been doing, whether it's appropriate for the minister to have this level of authority. I must say that I raised this question in the Legislature a couple of weeks ago and the Minister of Finance himself said, "I've got some questions myself about any Minister of Finance having that much discretionary authority."

To keep moving on the bill and the areas of concern on the bill, and I will say this is an overview as well, our party has said all along that while we have disagreements with the bill, while we have areas that we think the bill is deficient in, while we have serious concerns about the lack of information, we are not going to do anything that will slow up the bill in terms of ensuring that the government gets this bill passed on its timetable so that it can be implemented as smoothly as possible. The worst possible thing is that this thing be implemented at the last minute.

Frankly, I think the government has been negligent. We should have been dealing with this months ago. The government should have had its act together months ago so that the municipalities could have some idea of what they're dealing with. I just want to say that our caucus has at every step of the way, when the government has said, "We want to be dealing with this," been prepared to deal with it. We believe that we need some public hearings on this, but I think the government itself acknowledges that. I want to be clear and on the record on behalf of our caucus that we have cooperated on both of these bills to make certain they were not held up by the opposition. They've been held up, in my opinion, because the government has had difficulty in getting its act together.

In terms of some of the other issues within this particular bill and some of the concerns we have, I've already talked a lot about the rights of way and what is the policy logic in that. The government has talked about the multi-tier tax rate, where they would have different tax rates for different values of commercial property. They haven't spelled any of that out. I'd hoped we would have seen that today. I'm anxious to find out what they have in mind here, because we are trying to bring in this bill an element of fairness and equity across all of the sectors.

I'm anxious to find out the specific proposals here. For example, if it means that if the building is valued at $500,000, it will pay one tax rate, if it's valued at $2 million, another tax rate, and above $2 million, another tax rate, there's a possibility of some inequities there, because if you rent from a building valued at $500,000, presumably that tax rate's lower than if you rent from a building worth $2 million. It isn't business-specific. It's owner-specific, building-specific rather than business-specific. If the intent is to help businesses and not the owner of the building, then I'm anxious to find out how the government plans to do this.

I also wanted to comment briefly on the use of market value assessment. I raise this because I gather the government, when they got elected, looked at all the options and said: "This is the only one. This is the best one we can find." But I just say to the members -- I represent a Metropolitan Toronto riding -- that Mike Harris could not have been clearer before the election. I guarantee you, Al Leach would never have been elected if he hadn't made a promise to never, ever bring in market value assessment. If he hadn't made that promise, he wouldn't be here today. There are two or three -- Mr Saunderson and Ms Bassett -- who made the same promise and are here for the same reasons. Mike Harris was very clear on it: "The policy of the PC Party has always been that we will never impose market value assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position." I hate to harp on that, but I'm just saying that's what your members solemnly promised. I'm not being bitter about this -- it was quite a nasty attack on the Liberals too -- but that's how many of your members got elected. You're going to have to live with that.

You may have examined all the alternatives and said -- actually, Mike Harris has never said this -- "I'm sorry, but we made a mistake. We shouldn't have done that. We're going with the best possible tax system, but we are implementing market value assessment." The definition in the bill is identical to the market value assessment in the old bill and it's going to be mildly -- well, more than mildly -- embarrassing for Mr Leach and others to explain. People keep these things. They don't just disappear. They don't disintegrate. They're all still around.

I want to go on to some other questions that we may get answers to at the committee. Payments in lieu of taxes: This is a huge issue for some communities around Ontario, particularly for Kingston, Ottawa and others where there's a substantial payment in lieu of taxes, particularly by the federal government. It looks to me, in reading the proposed bill, that the provincial government has decided to take those revenues into its own hands. If that is the case, and that's how I read the bill, there will be some real concern in some of the communities such as Kingston and Ottawa.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: On this very important bill we do not appear to have a quorum. Would you call quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check to see if there is a quorum present, please.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): 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 Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: I was just going over parts of the bill that are of concern to us and I was talking about the payments in lieu of taxes and indicating that I think some of the communities like Kingston and Ottawa will want to look very carefully at that, because it does appear to us as a grab by the provincial government.

I also want to talk about the changes that are being made in restricting the right of our first nations for land claims. As I read this, it appears that there are some moves to limit the opportunity for the first nations to look at some additional claims. I want to signal that we've had concerns raised by the first nations and they will want to talk at committee on it. I wanted to raise that.

As well, there are a few other smaller details. The bill presupposes that we pass the education finance bill and it takes some moves here to remove the requirement to identify separate public school support. The government indicated to us in a briefing, "The reason we're doing that is because we plan to pass a bill around financing of education that will make that unnecessary." I would just say that we've yet to see that bill, that in the absence of that bill we wanted to indicate our concern about possible elimination of separate school designation in some areas, not in all areas, and to indicate that until we see the companion bill we will have some significant problems with it.

The other part of the bill that is perhaps most troubling to us is that, as I said earlier, it is being implemented without any opportunity for any of us to look at what the impact will be. I hope you understand why we are increasingly sceptical about how well thought out these bills are. I can remember the first indication I had about being sceptical was Bill 26. We all remember the first major bill that came in, the big omnibus bill. It was seriously flawed. The government itself amended it 150 times. We've seen, as I've said before, toll roads with no tolls; we've seen prisons with no prisoners; we've seen the Minister of Education one day proudly announcing that a cornerstone of their education plan was that the schools would open a week before Labour Day and the very next day saying, "I've changed my mind; they are not going to open."

These are indications that the government has not thought through its proposals, whether it be what's going on right now with our hospitals, where the Ontario Hospital Association itself said, "Listen, this thing isn't properly thought through; you've got to slow down. You are tearing the system apart"; whether it be in our education system, where one of the first things the Minister of Education did was say, "An organization like this has to create a crisis to change." Well, he has successfully accomplished that, but we don't know how he wants to change it.

So you can understand how we are sceptical about where the bill is going. The fact is that the government refuses to give any studies at all, just to say, "Listen, how is this business occupancy tax going to hurt small business?" I repeat, each of the bank towers will be worth $30 million more the day the bill is passed than the day before it was passed. They're going to have a huge tax break, and I understand that, but somebody's got to pick that up and it probably will be small business. What I'm looking forward to, and what I'd hoped we would get today, are the details on how the government plans to address those problems with small business.

To begin my conclusion and turn it over to my colleagues, there is nobody in the province who doesn't believe we need change in property tax law. I don't think anybody who presented to our committee didn't say that. There's no one in this Legislature who doesn't believe there needs to be a substantial change in property tax. The concern we have is we are now three months away from this, the most sweeping change in the history of the province. All of this is coming in, in our opinion, without being thought through clearly. The fact that we don't know even today how the government plans to deal with small business is an indication of that. And at exactly the same time as this is coming in, you're going to have all new councils but many with whole new structures, school boards fundamentally changing and the province setting mill rates on residential property taxes, huge mill rates on business property taxes. We are facing the unprecedented changes in our health care system. If you want to write a recipe for chaos, this would be it. This is how you would create chaos. This bill looks to us like it hasn't been thought through to the end.

I've raised questions on some of our major concerns about it. We're looking forward to the committee hearings, looking forward to some input from our municipal leaders, from our business leaders, from our community leaders, to see if we can't find ways we can improve this bill and make it operate as smoothly as possible.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): It's a pleasure to be following my colleague the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, our caucus's critic on finance and economic affairs, who has done his usual thoughtful job of analysing a bill that is one in a series of bills that deals with virtually every aspect of how we finance and pay for municipal governance and the functions we associate with municipal governance and education in Ontario.

I want to begin today by looking at the government's broad context of legislation in this area and add to my colleague's observations with respect to the bill itself as well as the context the bill is in, and try to relate to the House and to members in the House some of the impacts I believe will fall out of this bill, particularly for my community and the area I represent in the Legislative Assembly.

When we consider this bill, we have to, as my colleague indicated, consider it in the context of both Bill 106 and the government's intentions with respect to Who Does What, downloading, the realignment of the provision of education and municipal services in Ontario. We have to bear in mind all aspects of the debate.

We are about to embark on or are in the process of reassessing every property in Ontario: every commercial property, every residential property. We are using people, many of whom aren't particularly well trained. We on this side of the House are already starting to hear issues around competence, ability, because we're putting these people out without a heck of a lot of training, without a lot of background. Like many members in the House, I started my public life in municipal government -- I spent six years on our municipal council -- and I remember that the questions around assessment were always thorny, difficult issues that often required great thought and consideration, especially when you're dealing with people's property.

So we have this happening on the one hand, we have this reassessment. I understand that the government has termed what they're doing here "actual value assessment," which means market value assessment. Like the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, I remember very clearly the Premier's commitment that we won't have market value assessment, and I also remember his commitment that we wouldn't close hospitals, and I remember his commitment that we wouldn't cut funding from classroom education, and I remember his commitment that we wouldn't affect law enforcement in Ontario.

What we are confronted with is a theme from a government. We are seeing a government that is struggling to keep its commitments, and they haven't kept their commitments. They said they could balance the budget, reduce taxes 30% and not touch education, health care or community policing. That's tomfoolery, absolute tomfoolery. What do we have? We have a government that prides itself on fiscal management that can't get its credit rating improved. Why? Because you've sacrificed $5 billion a year in revenue and you don't know how you're going to make it up.

What you're doing is backtracking every step of the way. I say to you, we on this side understand that your first priority should have been to balance the budget, and there ought not to have been a tax cut until the budget was balanced. Had you taken that approach, you might have had your budget balanced next year, like the federal government. Instead, you've created a situation where you will have to raise property taxes on every property owner in this province. There will be hell to pay for you in two years, because those property owners will lay it right at your feet. Why? Because this bill operationalizes the property tax grab. This bill and Bill 106 operationalize it.

In Windsor, for instance, the net result of the download from Mike Harris is that property taxpayers in Windsor will have to pick up an additional $27 million. That works out to roughly a 27% mill rate increase. That's assuming the assessment issue is equal, that is, that the reassessment that's going on in our community doesn't have an even further impact. I should tell members opposite that I've met with our local officials and they're concerned about that.

We went through market value assessment in 1984. We went through the difficulties associated with that. There are always winners and losers. We are glad to have the reassessment that is going on, but we are concerned about the outcome. As my colleague from Scarborough indicated, we should be concerned about the outcome.

We think about many bills. For instance, yesterday we were talking about the Family Law Act and the family support plan offices. You went in and closed the family support plan offices. You didn't give it much thought. You left literally thousands of people, the most vulnerable people in this province, in a bad situation. We saw the Minister of Education last week saying, "We're going to start school a week before Labour Day," and now he's saying he's not going to do that, that he'd consulted and changed his mind. Couldn't he have done that before he introduced the bill? We had that figured out, and so did everyone else in the province.

We think about Bill 26. Just last week we had a court ruling saying that Bill 26, a key component of your bill, is unconstitutional and striking it down.


Mr Duncan: Yes, to the members opposite, the speeches are similar because the themes are similar. This bill represents yet another example of what happens when you don't think things through.

The member from Mississauga long advocated stiffer fines and stiffer penalties around drunk driving provisions, and what happens? We don't do it right. We're back to the drawing board again, no further ahead.

We submit to the government that we ought to think about not only what we're doing but how we're doing it and what we want to achieve when we set forth to improve on a system. We agree on this side of the House that we have to look at how we assess properties, have to look at how we tax municipally. We think it's an admirable goal to get a larger portion of the education bill off the property tax base. The question becomes how you do it.

We can't help but be concerned when we see the recommendations of your own government-appointed task force, the Crombie task force, not being adhered to. We get concerned when municipal officials and others in virtually every municipality in this province expressed their concerns about the net impact. Yes, we can debate that back and forth. We think the numbers are clear. The government has acknowledged at least $660 million in the first year and a one-time transfer to cover that, but what do we do after that?


When you look at that context and when you look at what is going to happen, and supposedly this is all going to happen between now and next January and into the following year, we have very real concerns. Indeed I suspect many members opposite have many concerns about it.

It was interesting to note today, as we talk about property tax reform -- how we assess, how we collect, who pays for what, who does what -- to hear the Ontario Hospital Association saying on your restructuring: "Wait a minute, it's not working. You're not meeting your deadlines. We can't possibly do it." Even if you can support the concept of what's going on, you're left with the challenge of implementing it and how you do it.

We had a situation today in my home community where the heads of one of our local emergency wards both resigned, in their words, not mine, and these are not political people, "because of the chaos that's been created because we have not had the reinvestments in our health care system that we needed in order to accommodate the closure of two hospitals."

I say with respect to my colleagues opposite that when you consider these kinds of changes, when you look at them and when you think beyond the simple context of a broad question, you've got to think about implementation.

I found it interesting in this bill that the Minister of Finance in the province will now have additional power to set taxes by regulation in approximately 24 or 25 areas, I believe. As my colleague from Scarborough indicated, that's a remarkable power. The minister himself has acknowledged that. We now see a situation where the province of Ontario will be setting the mill rate on a substantial portion of property taxes that is faced by business or commercial property owners.

I want to take a minute to talk about the balance of taxation between income tax and property tax; what is appropriate to be paid off one tax versus another tax. That's how we tie back into the downloading issue.

Let's take, for example, social housing. We are looking at a situation where the province intends to download, not only the administration but the financing of social housing. I must say to members opposite, I believe the administration of social housing can be done better locally and I support the general thrust of that.

In my own community, I had the opportunity for a number of years to sit on the board and chair the board of a group called the Windsor Housing Co, which provided geared-to-income, non-profit housing for senior citizens. I served on that board for about four or five years. Most people would concur that our local non-profit housing delivery units are, generally speaking, very good. The question becomes the dollars and cents and what tax base can afford to carry the cost.

There are some 84,000 Ontario Housing Corp units and another 150,000, 175,000 non-profit and co-op units in Ontario. The province is now submitting that the municipalities, municipality by municipality, should pick up the cost of that. The operating cost doesn't include the potentially high cost associated with redeveloping those properties and bringing them up to current standards.

We would agree that something has to be done. We would agree that we cannot allow the continuing deterioration of our public housing units. What we should be concentrating on is how you do it. What I would submit to the government is that you don't do that by putting the cost of social housing on to the property tax base.

The member for Scarborough-Agincourt spoke well about what happens when the economy goes down. In my community, we are subject to a very cyclical economy. Windsor's economy is tied largely to the auto industry, and we know in our community that we're the first ones out of a recession but we're also the first ones into it.

What happens when the economy goes down? I'll tell you what happens: The welfare caseloads go up, the number of property taxpaying citizens goes down, and those who are left are faced with an increasingly difficult burden. The municipality is put in a position of having to raise property taxes at precisely the time, from an economic perspective, that they shouldn't have to do it. Now as we put these additional costs on to the municipal property tax bill, it's going to be even more difficult.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): Only one taxpayer.

Mr Duncan: Government members say there's only one taxpayer and we agree. That's why we don't understand why you insist on raising property taxes right across Ontario in spite of your promises to the contrary.

I will say this: In my municipality our senior municipal officials have said that they have looked at the numbers and that there is no way they can prevent property taxes from going up, none whatsoever, not unless the government changes dramatically its point of view with respect to downloading; not unless the government starts to listen, listening to people like Mr Crombie, listening to people like AMO, listening to people like your own colleagues, like Mr Skarica, who have spoken out with some courage and honesty.

Yes, there's room to debate these issues and there's room to say, "Can we rearrange services?" Governments have been trying to deal with this for a number of years, but when we move ahead with this kind of massive change and restructuring, we better think through the consequences. What comes through, we say, is that we don't believe the government has considered all the consequences.

Bill 149 provides the framework by which the Minister of Finance can implement the assessment reforms associated with Bill 106, but it doesn't specify what decisions will be made with these new powers. For example, the minister has the authority to define at which stage in the development process lands should pay higher taxes. However, the legislation doesn't specify when the higher rate should apply.

The government has not released any studies to show what impact the proposed changes will have on local property taxpayers. This is the largest change in our property tax system in 20 years, and you're asking property owners to accept the reforms blindfolded. If you have studies, why don't you release them? It's a simple thing to do. If you have a study that tells you what the impact is going to be, release the study. If you don't have the studies, I would submit that you're proceeding with too much haste and you're going to be left with an absolutely untenable situation when the full impact of these things is felt in a year or two's time.

Government ministers, like the minister of -- what is it you do? I don't even remember -- privatization, laugh. They laugh as they contemplate property tax increases. Why are they laughing? Because they've tried to set up a situation where they're going to be able to force these increases and try to blame it on municipalities; basically a dishonest public policy; basically an opportunity for the minister to sit there and say, "We haven't done this." Well, the people have caught on to you and they will have caught on well before the next general election; people like the mayors in your communities, people who will hold you accountable for these property tax increases that are contemplated in this bill.

This is the bill that will deal with everything from vacant land to charities occupying industrial or commercial lands to rights of way, and it affects everybody. We say that the government ought to take it back, and during the committee hearings we hope you're going to listen. We're glad the government is having committee hearings; as we said, we're not going to stall it, because you've already got yourselves into a time frame, a time dilemma in terms of implementation of all these changes.

We hope you'll listen to the mayors of virtually every major municipality in this province, who have told you unequivocally and documented their points of view. We hope you will listen to them. We hope you will understand that senior citizens on a fixed income can't afford property tax increases when they're trying to stay in their homes. There are many people like that in this province. We hope you'll consider that.


We hope you'll think about the need to consider property tax reform: how you collect the taxes in light of what you're doing with the assessments, your market value assessment project. We hope that you will keep in mind the whole range of things that can result from this.

I think again in my own community what will happen when we download ambulance services to municipalities, for instance, what happens when we download social housing. What is going to happen with education, especially now that you've cut so much money out of the education envelope? Yes, property tax reform is important, but the government in our view has just proceeded too quickly, far too quickly.

What really concerns us, concerns me as a former municipal politician, is the deceptive way in which these municipalities are going to have to make tough decisions that you forced on them so that you could proceed with your tax cut and attempt to balance your budget. We think there is going to be a real mess to clean up in a year and a half. In fact, it will take a long time to clean it up. You're ramming through this legislation without giving anybody a clear picture of where it is going.

Mr Phillips: "No impact studies."

Mr Duncan: No impact studies. The minister said, "No impact studies"; he acknowledged that today. The minister is telling us they're going through the entire property tax system in this province --

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): What are you talking about?

Mr Duncan: Where are they? Produce them. Show us. What is the impact of Bill 106 and this bill going to be on my community? How many property taxpayers in Mississauga or Windsor or wherever are going to have a property tax increase? I submit, most of them will. You will attempt to hide it, you will attempt to blame everyone else, but unfortunately the people have caught on to you. They know what you're doing. You're cutting taxes for your friends so they can pay higher property taxes.

What's most astounding, and the government hasn't figured it out yet, is that this is going to affect small business. Who pays property taxes in our communities, whether it's Windsor, whether it's London, whether it's Mississauga, Etobicoke? It's small business, commercial.

Mr Phillips: That's what the CFIB said. Remember that.

Mr Duncan: Yes. That's what the CFIB said. This is the CFIB, signed by Judith Andrew:

"Ironically, it is likely that the elimination of the business occupancy tax will harm our sector. Smaller firms are concerned at the low end of the 25% to 75% tax range of this archaic tax. If municipalities opt to recoup the amount on the business tax base, an average 40% rate would see most small businesses paying more."

That contradicts what the minister says. The minister says they won't be. Everyone else says they will be. The government's credibility when they say much of anything is wearing thin at best.

Let's talk about the promises. I'm quoting from a campaign document for Isabel Bassett, which says, "The policy of the PC Party has always been that we will never" -- and the emphasis is in the brochure -- "impose market value assessment on Toronto. We remain firm in that position."

What is actual value assessment? It's market value assessment. Another game. Wording: "We say it's not, it's not, but we all know it is." You got away with that for a while. You got away with it in the last election.

Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): We didn't --

Mr Duncan: You sure did. People were hungry for that.

What are we getting now? We're getting closed hospitals. We've got thousands of students and teachers marching on the steps of the Legislature just today because they figured you out. You said you wouldn't cut classroom education, but "heat shouldn't be part of the cost of classroom education." Shouldn't be? Well, people are catching on, just as the courts caught on last week on Bill 26. The hospital association is starting to catch on, with hospital closures. "We won't close a single hospital." I don't know what the count is now, but it is going up every day and we expect more.

Anything like the Common Sense Revolution that is premised on falsehoods, that is premised on promises that can't be kept will eventually collapse. We're seeing that. We're seeing that in virtually every major realm of public policy. It will be interesting to watch as this province is completely reassessed in the coming weeks and months. It will be interesting to watch what happens.

I had an opportunity to speak to our mayor, who is very concerned that the reassessment will increase taxes still more, over and above what is being contemplated in the downloading. As always, I like to check not just what happens in our community but what happens across the province. We're hearing that from every municipality. I've seen the documents from Windsor, from Ottawa, from Toronto, from London. All of them are saying the same thing.

The government is operating under tight time frames. It is changing our property tax system, changing the way we govern ourselves municipally at such a pace that we are concerned about the eventual consequences and outcomes. We believe that taken together, this government's policies shift the tax burden from income tax to the property tax base. We believe that property taxpayers are the ones who are going to pay and finance your tax cut. What does that mean? That means we're using a less fair system of taxation to bear a greater share of the public services we all value, moreover, to pay for your promises which thoughtful people all agreed couldn't possibly be kept in the context in which they were stated.

We look forward to the public hearings. We look forward to hearing from municipalities, from the business community, from others who have an interest in this and who have an interest in making sure their property taxes don't go through the roof to pay for the promises that you now know you can't keep. You didn't talk about those property tax increases in your election document. You didn't say that to anybody. They're going to happen, and people will know who is responsible.

We look forward to those hearings, but more important, we look forward to debating these issues in our towns and in our communities when people start to get their tax bill next year, when senior citizens whose income isn't going up as much get large property tax increases. We look forward to that debate. We look forward to holding you accountable for what you're doing not only in terms of trying to address problems we all acknowledge are there but in terms of what you're doing and how you're doing it.

It's our view, the view of the official opposition, that you've chosen to penalize property taxpayers, that you've chosen to penalize municipalities. Yes, the government members are right: There is only one taxpayer. The income taxpayer is the same as the property taxpayer and the same as the person who pays user fees. We intend to work with those property taxpayers and those people who are paying user fees to say no to your tomfoolery and restore a sense of order and decency to this province.

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

Mr Wildman: I wanted to congratulate my friends the members for Scarborough-Agincourt and Windsor-Walkerville on their presentations with regard to Bill 149. I thought the member for Scarborough-Agincourt was quite clear in the fact that he believes this bill that is being proposed will compound the mess we are going to see beginning in January 1998 as a result of this government's download of so many costs to municipalities because it is being done so quickly, the reassessment is being done in many cases by untrained individuals who may not have the expertise that is required to ensure that the assessments are done properly and that we will see enormous property tax increases at the municipal level because of what this government is doing. I think it's going to be quite a surprise to the one taxpayer we have, as the member for Windsor-Walkerville indicated. The fact is, they may get a few dollars in an income tax break -- not very much, but they may get a few -- but they are going to see an enormous increase in the taxes on their properties and businesses at the municipal level which will far outweigh what they may save in income taxes. That is going to hurt them certainly, and politically it's going to hurt the government.

I also want to say that I'm very unhappy about the fact that this government has moved to begin taxing off-reserve lands held by first nations without any consultation with first nations people. I don't understand how this government can do this. It's a complete denial of their aboriginal and treaty rights.


Ms Bassett: I want to comment on the remarks made by the members for Scarborough-Agincourt, Algoma and Windsor-Walkerville. I thank you for your comments.

I want to point out that this bill does not give the Minister of Finance undue regulatory power. He has the authority to set tax rates on rights of way, and the other regulations set only the parameters for municipalities to set their own tax rates. This is a very important distinction to make, and these changes are an important step in reducing the duplication and overlap between the province and municipalities.

On the second issue, I want to point out that Bill 149 will assess railway and hydro property lines in nine geographic areas. That is one of the amendments that the member must have missed. The amendment adds a new subsection to section 368.3 of the Municipal Act, creating nine geographic areas in which tax rates for railway and hydro will be set. Therefore, a hydro or railway property in downtown Toronto will not be assessed in the same way as a property in Simcoe. That's another important distinction.

Last, I want to point out that municipalities will be able to create three bands of assessed values and have three rates to meet their local needs. Therefore, the removal of the BOT, which is an outdated tax instituted in 1902 which all three parties have said must be done away with, will not jeopardize small business. It will be up to the municipalities to deal with that, and they now have new powers in order to do that.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I too want to congratulate my colleagues from Scarborough-Agincourt and Windsor-Walkerville on their comments today. I think an important part of what they had to say was to give the taxpayers of Ontario a warning. The warning is this: There are impact studies that exist -- if there aren't, this government should be ashamed for not having them done -- but they aren't released. Why aren't they released? What are you hiding? When my community went to market value assessment, the very first thing we did was have an impact study so we could understand just what effect it would have on the community.

A warning: In this and accompanying legislation, the business occupancy tax is folded into the general tax; the warning is that the residential taxpayer is going to have to pay more.

A warning: Gross receipts are being transferred to the province, some $90 million that the province is taking out of municipalities and not giving anything back; the warning is that property taxpayers in municipalities are going to pay for that.

A warning: They have said that seniors and the disabled could have their taxes deferred, and that's good for them in the meantime, but the municipality has to have that money. They have to get it somewhere: from the other property taxpayers in the municipality. Of course the estate -- and the seniors and the disabled and their relatives should know this -- is then going to have to pay it later on.

A warning: The civil servants in the assessment department have said that this can't be done, you can't do it in the time line that's been set. When new councils sit down next year and don't have the assessment rolls because they aren't ready, they won't be able to set their budgets and it'll be utter chaos.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I want to speak to the issue of the business occupancy tax, because the response the member for Windsor-Walkerville got from the parliamentary assistant about the provincial government moving to remove the business occupancy tax was quite interesting. We know what that means. We're saying as an opposition party, as New Democrats, that if the government does that and gets municipalities to remove the BOT, what'll end up happening is that the money saved on the BOT will be automatically reassessed back on the property taxes of either the businesses or the overall community. The citizens of that community will keep on paying.

What was interesting was that the comment of the parliamentary assistant was, "If the BOT is removed, we're going to leave it up to the municipalities to figure out how they're going to deal with that, so we shouldn't worry." I think we should worry, not because I don't trust municipalities but because the downloading municipalities are receiving from the provincial government is going to put municipal councils of this province in the worst possible position they can be in.

They're losing transfers from the province big time; they're losing revenues in regard to the BOT and other taxes around agricultural land big time; they're having to pick up provincial services being passed to the municipality, everything from ambulance services all the way through education. What ends up happening is that councils are going to be strapped to try to find cash to pay for services. So what do you think they're going to do? Municipal councils are saying already that they're going to have to raise both business taxes and residential property taxes in communities like Iroquois Falls, Kenora, Sudbury, Hamilton and other places, by as much as 50%.

The property taxpayers that you talk about as the one taxpayer are going to remember that, because it means you will virtually be forcing people out of their homes due to property tax increases the likes of which we have never seen before in the province.

The Acting Speaker: Who's going to do the wrapup?

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the comments from the members for Cochrane South, Algoma and Essex South and the parliamentary assistant. I just want to address two or three comments.

The parliamentary assistant helped make my point for me, that is, that I said the bill will now tax an acre of railway land at Yonge Street and the Gardiner Expressway exactly as an acre of land up on Lake Simcoe. The parliamentary assistant is shaking her head, but that's what the bill does. It has nine geographic regions, and one of them is city of Toronto all the way up to Lake Simcoe. That makes my point for me.

Second, the business occupancy tax: The small business community is saying, "Listen, this thing could hurt us badly." Today we still don't have the solution. What is the government planning to do here? No idea -- nothing there. My colleague from Essex South I thought expressed it very well, the warnings to Ontario. We now have enough experience with Mike Harris's government that it introduces things without having thought them through to anywhere near the extent that was necessary.

My colleague from Essex South points out chaos in the assessment system, because it was started late and done, we gather, badly. Here we are less than three months from the start of the year, and how are we doing to deal with different levels of commercial assessment, the rights of way, with seemingly illogical recommendations on them?

The government simply says, "Change is needed and we're doing it." I think the public wants change, but change done right. This doesn't look like it's change done right.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

M. Pouliot : Je prends plaisir à pencher quelques mots au sujet du projet de loi 149. What a mess we're in. With high respect, it didn't have to be this way. With your help, Madame, we'll do it together.

Picture this: In three months' time, on January 1, 1998, coming in your municipality, in your neighbourhood, social housing costs; three months from now, a larger portion of general assistance for the marginalized, brothers and sisters who need a helpful hand. You will pay the cost at the municipal level out of your property taxes. Coming to the same neighbourhood: charities, the elderly, all those of our citizens who need a helping hand.

This is not revenue-neutral. This is not a wash. No government in a western democracy, if it were revenue-neutral, would risk this endeavour. This is very massive. What we're talking about here is 3.8 million units being reassessed or assessed: the largest endeavour, the largest undertaking, in the context of property value ever in North America.

The civil service, those fine women and men who make their daily living monitoring, are saying to expect 600,000 appeals. What a backlog: 600,000 out of 3.8 million. So on January 1, 1998, municipalities shall take on those new responsibilities at a collective cost of approximately $1.2 billion. On the other hand, they will lose $1.6 billion in assessed business occupancy tax. The farm tax rebate will add another $170 million, and so on and so on.

We begin to understand when we look for the substance of the bill, which is to give the opportunity to municipalities to establish subclasses of taxes. If it were revenue-neutral, would they be given that latitude? If this were a wash, would the government, in their proverbial generosity, turn to the municipality and say: "We give you the tools. Be innovative, be imaginative, and you will have the opportunity through flexibility to go and collect left and right"? Well, it ain't so. This is a shortfall of a magnitude never imagined.

The government has the audacity three months before to either sit on or hide impact reports, studies. Where are they?

As you know, Madam, I live in a small village, a small community. Ours is a mere 3,400 people, 850 miles north of Toronto. You know about the great riding of Lake Nipigon. We extend to Hudson Bay. We're 1,000 miles long. The people who live in our communities in Lake Nipigon listen to the Premier. You have to believe someone at some time. In the comfort and privacy of their homes, they sometimes watch question period, sometimes they choose to watch the debate, and they look carefully at the Premier of the province. When he says, "Your taxes should go down anywhere from 5% to 10% in the next three years," our good friends in Manitouwadge and elsewhere are saying, "I believe you, Mr Harris."

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: My apologies to the member for Lake Nipigon. He is a brilliant and compelling speaker. There should be a quorum here to listen to him.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: I wish to thank the member for Welland-Thorold for reminding government members that it is their duty to have enough people in the House. I know that from time to time on a Thursday afternoon at approximately 5:30 you must compete, if you're a government member, with the likes of the Toronto Club and the Albany Club. I apologize to people at the club that they have to come back into the House to serve the people who pay the freight for all this.

Three months from now, some people's worlds are about to severely impacted. Before the quorum call, I was speaking of Mike Harris's credibility when he say taxes will go down. Taxes will not go down in Manitouwadge. Social housing costs will be added, and the cost for the Ontario Provincial Police alone will add $400 to $500 per house. It will hit the pockets of the taxpayers.

It's nothing short of a sham. If we were outside and I heard it said, this is a great untruth, and why is it so? Because the government in the last election campaign, when they were soliciting, asking people to put their X in the right place, promised a 30% tax cut on the provincial income tax. That 30% reduction adds up to $5 billion per year after the final instalment. Plus, they said: "While we're on the hook, we might as well promise the world. We will balance the budget in the first term."

So they were talking in terms of $14 billion to $15 billion. You have to make up the shortfall. Let's face it, if you don't cap it, if you give a full 30% rebate on the provincial income tax, the more money you make, the more you shall pocket. There's no question about that. Frank Stronach and Mme Bassett will do very fine, thank you. Thirty-eight million last year at Magna International and I want to wish him well -- no envy, no jealousy. But I have some elders living in the northern reserves who have to subsist, have to make a living on less than $10,000 per year. Many of our senior citizens experience the same dire needs, and the government talks to me about fairness? I don't mind if the rich get a tax break, because of course they pay a lot of taxes, but what I really mind is that they are given the opportunity to run so much faster: faster than the middle class, faster than the small-wage earner, faster than the marginalized and those who have less. I really believe that it is unfair, that it has to stop someplace. Don't take the money away, of course not, but restore some equilibrium, some balance. It makes no sense at all.


But in order to accomplish your agenda, you must move the world. Never in the annals of the province has an undertaking of such magnitude taken place. Three months before, people are frightened -- well, they're anxious, and when you are anxious, sometimes it leads to fear. Rumours take on extraordinary proportions. You don't know what the cost will be, but you know that on January 1, you will be asked by your local council to come up with 50% of the previous year's levy. You pay taxes for general purpose; you pay taxes under your school levy. They'll go to a full 50%.

Then the assessment will start hitting. The notices will start hitting around late March or April. You'll already be three months into their fiscal year. Keep in mind that our fiscal year starts on April 1, so there is a discrepancy of three months, plus the great world of the unknown. Then citizens, residents, homeowners, small business, industry will be getting the final tax levy. How much will it be? Nobody knows. But Mike Harris says if they really tighten their belt, they -- not "I," but they -- should be able to cut taxes.

I'll give you an example. In some of the small farming communities -- they abound in Ontario; it's vast, magnificent, very productive indeed -- the municipality, the small village, takes 75% or in some cases 80% of its tax revenue from the farm rebate. Now Mike Harris says that money will no longer go to the municipality, but if they tighten their belt, they should be able to enact savings of anywhere from 5% to 10%.

It cannot be done, because they have already been for many years now under a self-imposed austerity program. They are quite lean. They are not about to sell the grader, for as surely as the river flows, there will be winter. They need the grader, one grader operator. Mike Harris says: "No, no. Cut off the grader. You don't need it." That's what he says, because he pockets the money.


Mr Pouliot: Madame, when I say he pockets the money, I want to make a correction: on behalf of the government. He will have to carry the guilt. The money goes into that vat, the general fund, goes into the vortex, and then the accomplices -- I mean the Minister of Finance and the Premier -- get together and dole it out to each ministry.

In this case it will matter less who governs you, when all is said and done. It will matter where you live. This will be the common denominator. Talk about location, location, location. The local entity will be given the responsibilities without the money, and that is traumatic. No one is saying: "What about recourse? If there's a shortfall, what am I to do? Am I to increase taxes by $500 per year per unit so that two of our seniors, Ms Jones and Mr Smith, are out the door?" Well, you can't do that. They don't have the ability to pay.

You know what I've heard at committee? Two prominent members of the Progressive Conservatives in response to this potential tragedy in shelter, a place you call home. "If you cannot afford to live there, sell it," was one comment. Another comment was, "Have you ever heard of a reverse mortgage?" Devastating. If this is not being provocative, it tells a sad story about our friends opposite. I can understand that philosophically they can be somewhat to the right, but with that lack of compassion and truly understanding, it doesn't augur well for Smith and Jones. I try to remind them that we're all on a waiting list of sorts, but most of them are more fortunate than my friends the citizens Jones and Smith. I guess you don't share.

Who gets the breaks? Winners and losers. Think about it. Newton's third law: For every move in one direction, there is one of equal proportion in the other direction. The banks, because of the business occupancy tax, get a big break. The car plants get a tremendous break; they go from 75% to 42% on the formula.

Who's going to pick it up? If you're commercially assessed, you will pick it up, because you get no break on schools. You will still pay the full complement of your school responsibilities. Then the council will have to decide, in their wisdom, because there is a shortfall big time: Do we hit the homeowners or do we hit the Canadian Tire store? I don't wish to impute motive, but there are 500 houses and there are 30 businesses. Some people will wish to count it that way, and they will show no mercy. They will take no prisoners. They need the money.

The government says the municipality will be given a reprieve. They will be given eight years to implement tax changes. They don't have to do it overnight. If you dislocate because your new assessment is forever impacting, extraordinary -- the municipality, you can talk with them. But the municipality has to talk to the banker. At the end of the first year, many will be so far in the hole, they will have a hard choice to make. One of the choices will be to give the keys to the town office: "Here, have it, Mike Harris. I'm under receivership. I'm under receivership, Mikey. You come and run the town." Or they have to pay the banker, and if they have to pay the banker, there's interest, les coûts de manutention. It costs money, so you raise taxes in order to make ends meet.

A sad legacy indeed. Where are the impact studies? Where are they? How will we be impacted in three months' time, not five years down the line? You're reassessing 3.8 million units. You know the way it works. You're spending tens of millions of dollars. You hire those contractors who do assessments. They hire university and high school students, 30 bucks a shot. They put them on a quota and give them 12 bucks an hour. And the contractor -- that's okay, the free enterprise system -- pockets the difference.

The thing is, they've never done it before. Some of them are afraid of large dogs when they go to assess, because they don't have good news written all over them. As they enter the driveway, they're afraid of large dogs outside and large dogs inside, and they're there with their little notebook, their little "calepin," to see how many square feet and so on, and people know that a few months down the line, many of them will have very difficult decisions to make because their municipal taxes, the most relevant form of government, will come calling. Municipal taxes are the most impacting because you write the cheque. It's very much live, live, live; you pay, pay, pay. It's not taken off at the source. You write the cheque twice a year and it's painful, and people will notice. When they notice, when they put the pay stub on the table -- it's sort of a family affair -- the family gathers and they say: "Jane and Harry, this is how much we're spending. That's what we have. That's our lot. We get paid every two weeks."


When they see that the municipal bill has gone up they will remember. Passion, vengeance: Get used to them. They will remember vividly specifically what Mike Harris and his brigade, all of you, said and they will say, "My taxes are going up," and you will say, "It's because you have been reassessed," and they will say, "It is because some other people are getting a break."

Many people who get a break will say: "What about retro? I had it coming. What took you so long?" People who don't get a break will say: "You shied away from the truth. You sold snake oil. You were conjurers of illusion." You played cheap magic because you wanted their vote, and you got their vote and you failed to deliver.

One more example of the Common Sense Revolution; it doesn't seem to stop -- one would have thought that by this time some of the grey eminence, some of the spin doctors in the Premier's office or down on Bay Street would say they are overestimating the capacity of people to assimilate, to digest changes. We all welcome changes. People are saying, "You put the brakes on, let us be, because if you don't do it, it will be at your own peril and you will pay the political price."

Much more important, in a revolution people get hurt, there are victims, it is inevitable, but you have to show some sensitivity. You have to always seek balance, equilibrium, not the extreme left or the extreme right. You are embarked on a voyage that would make the best Anglican reverend or father proud on a Sunday morning as he delivers an address. You're giving him all the material to show his parishioners what is wrong in society and you represent that.

Many of you are not systematic, but it makes no sense not to know three months before the skies are about to be very low. Three months before, you don't know where you're going. What will it cost? Give us the cost factor. Three months -- the train is coming in. Where is it? I have the right as a citizen, as a homeowner, to ask for a feasibility study. How will I be impacted? I'm going to start preparing so I can afford to pay my municipal tax bill. I don't want to be left short at all.


Mr Pouliot: They make light, they mock, it's their role if you're not quite like them, and yet I know it's difficult for ministers from the back seat of a stretch limousine to say, "Okay, stop it here, this is a democratic area, a populist area where average people live, so I'm going to go there." For many of them you don't have to go too far. Just look at their hands; they'll tell the tale. Many of them have Gucci shoes. The unfortunate part is that they don't have Gucci feet. That's the most unfortunate part, but they parade themselves.

I want to get your attention, with high respect, and the attention of the parliamentary assistant to finance, that of Isabel Bassett, the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. She was instrumental, singlehandedly. I was there. You had to be there to appreciate it. When people came calling, democratic theatre, street theatre, the arts, the beauty of the soul, they came calling with their needs, and I see in the proposal, Bill 149, that those concerns have been addressed. On their behalf, thank you very kindly. It's quite a departure from the Phantom and for those who have more to really relate to the contribution they make, and they could be exempt from taxes, although it's not guaranteed yet; there's still some work to be done. This is the one part of the bill that I agree with. The rest of it, and I've searched long and hard for ways to acquiesce, to be positive and to say, "This is a good document" -- most unfortunately I was unable to find any other parts of the bill that I could agree with. It's most unfortunate.

The rights of way: You know about CNR, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific. You know about Ontario Hydro. Under the provisions of Bill 149, they've just won the lottery. Since Confederation they were given huge tracts of land. They did very well indeed. Over the years, as things changed, we had just-in-time delivery, truck traffic more than doubled in the past six years, alternatives were sought, door-to-door delivery, and they fell from favour. So they took the good breaks they had before, sold some properties, moved to the States and now they're competing with themselves. At one time, CP had the largest truck company in Canada. They were competing with the railroad; well, it wasn't called CP Rail.

You begin to understand the leaning, the tendencies of you, Ernie Eves, and you, Mike Harris, and I've been watching you carefully. Both of you, with respect, deserve to be chastised. When we confront you, you start shuffling paper and you start talking to one another. I wish the cameras had the ability to pan and see what's happening around here, but I understand that the protocol does not allow them to focus on individual members.

Rights of way will be exempt. The rich get richer.

Ontario Hydro -- I'm just going through the book -- this is what is happening here with Ontario Hydro. Do you know what the debt is? The debt of Ontario Hydro is about $32 billion. That's what the government says, that it's $29 billion plus another $3 billion. But what they don't tell you is that Ontario Hydro is about to embark on a debenture issue, bond issues, to the tune of $8 billion to $10 billion in the next four years. It will swell their debt to more than $40 billion. In fact, the Macdonald commission -- Speaker, I want to share this with you -- says, "If you wish to privatize Ontario Hydro, reduce your debt to $15 billion so it will become more manageable."


Aside from Ontario Hydro, let's go back to the provincial debt, the one that keeps increasing every day because this government each and every day borrows more money than it takes in. Every hour this government spends $500 more than it takes in. Unbelievable. Day after day after day, 15% of the money that is spent through taxes, through revenues, is to pay the plastic, the provincial debt. And what do they do? They go on another bender. They say: "Raise the limit on my credit card. I will cut taxes. I'm not going to pay my debt; I'm going to throw a party."

I would pay my debt first. It makes more sense to me. People tell you, "If you win something, pay your credit cards, pay down your mortgage," but not those wizards, oh, no, not those power brokers. What do you do? You get in debt even more. "If we're in debt, there's no reason why you at the municipal level, why you the small homeowner, why you the citizen can't join us."

Mr Kormos: "Come along for the ride."

Mr Pouliot: "Come along for the ride and be in debt."

Savings are at an all-time low in percentage. Ontarians don't save nearly as much as they used to. Personal debt is very, very high. Personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high. People give up and turn away the keys.

When I look at the generation that is growing up and the high degree of unemployment among our young, educated people, it is very painful.

They don't seem to put in the incentives. Oh, they talk a good line, they're smooth, but when it's time to walk the walk, they disappear.

I recall when I was raised many years ago in Montréal, we didn't have much in the neighbourhood but we had so much to look forward to. Today I go right here in downtown Toronto, and the young people seem to have a little more but I wonder if they have as much to look forward to as I had. Those are the people who will be the leaders in the society of tomorrow. They are eager to share, looking forward to the adventure, but you're not going to do it by cutting $1 billion from 1996 to 1997 in education. You acquire the tools to defend yourself, to integrate economically in society. Without education you don't have much of a chance.

When the government says, "We're not cutting," oh, yes, you're cutting. When the government says, "We're not cutting health care," because again you've got to find the tax cut somewhere, of course you're cutting health care. You can say that you're spending the same money, but there are 700,000 more people than there were four and a half years ago in Ontario, so per capita you're sure cutting.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): You guys stopped the growth. Frances Lankin stopped the growth in the health budget. She put a cap on it, the first minister who was able to do that, actually. There was 11% growth and she brought it down to 1%.

Mr Pouliot: "You guys this" and "You guys that." You can blame the past government, but the fact is, Minister, you have been the government since June 8, 1995. Madam, you take the credit, you take the blame.

You've had a recovery. Our export markets have been doing so well, you could have done otherwise. You had some choices to make. You have chosen to increase the debt. The debt will be fully $20 million more when you finally leave office -- none too soon, I might add. The people out there are asking: "Will people cross the floor? Will they come and sit beside us?"

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): That looks better.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Not only is that out of order, it could be construed as assault.


The Speaker: I agree. Member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: This is an extraordinary departure from form. I would ask that Your High Tenure do address -- at first I thought it could have possibly been an act of aggression, but I will conclude this sorry episode by saying that I'm a little hurt and somewhat vexed. It interrupted my flow, but more importantly --

The Speaker: Excuse me, member for Lake Nipigon, did you say vexed?

Mr Pouliot: Vexed.

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, thank you for your help. I make the same mistake in three languages, and I'm comfortable in another two, but I do appreciate your help, sir.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): What's the third language?

Mr Pouliot: [Remarks in Spanish]

I want to talk to you, Mr Speaker, while we have five minutes left. I wish to focus on the need to get back on track. Here you have a government that is cutting taxes to the tune of 30%, mostly for the rich. If you're at the bottom end of the pecking order, you hardly get a cup of coffee from the tax cut. If you make $25,000 per year, you pocket $450. Someone who makes 10 times that pockets 30 times the $450: $15,000. Does it make any sense? They call that a progression, yet the debt every hour of every day keeps growing and growing; $247,000 yields you $15,000 at la payola, but if you make $25,000, you get $450. And I'm supposed to believe in you? I'm supposed to go to your altar and respect your manifesto and your mantra. Like heck, if I may be so bold.

They couldn't manage a candy floss shop or a shop of any sort. If I had a few dollars to invest, they would be the last people in the world I would entrust my money with. Would you? Mind you, I would buy their bonds because they pay more, because they will not be competitive for that long. They can improve their credit rating in times of prosperity, but when the cycle hits, when they run out of demographic options in 2006, 2007, will the new government, when we're back, have enough time to rectify the legacy? The party of gloom and doom. You would have thought the Conservatives deserved better. People, we're reminding them, will say: "They overnighted. They stayed one term and they left a very sad legacy. In a time where all around us prosperity was becoming more visible, they chose to augment and to increase the debt."

January 1, 1998, stay tuned, be at your post, be the fine soldier, the sentry, be vigilant, because the bills will start rolling in and they will not give you the shortfall. They will not send you a cheque to make up the difference because the cheque will have gone to Bay Street.

It being 6 of the clock, Mr Speaker --

The Speaker: The member for Mississauga West would like to read the business for next week.


Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): I have the weekly business statement. Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of September 29, 1997.

Monday, September 29: Bill 160, Education Quality Improvement Act; Bill 149, Fair Municipal Finance Act (No. 2).

Tuesday, September 30: Bill 149, Fair Municipal Finance Act (No. 2); Bill 160, Education Quality Improvement Act.

Wednesday, October 1: Opposition day, Liberals; Bill 160, Education Quality Improvement Act.

Thursday, October 2: Private members' public business, ballot items 101 and 102; Bill 149, Fair Municipal Finance Act (No. 2).


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Before we adjourn, I know that all members would like to know that the member for Durham Centre's mother and wife are in the members' gallery. Welcome.

It now being after 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock Monday.

The House adjourned at 1801.