36th Parliament, 1st Session

L240 - Thu 2 Oct 1997 / Jeu 2 Oct 1997













































The House met at 1000.




Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I move that in the opinion of this House, since past provincial governments have been known to spend well beyond their means and these overspending practices have placed the people and the province of Ontario in a precarious fiscal position, and

Since responsible governments should be able to spend within the means available to them and the present government under the leadership of the Honourable Mike Harris intends to balance the budget by the year 2000-01,

Therefore, after balancing the provincial budget, the government of Ontario should recognize the importance of ensuring that future governments do not place the province of Ontario in fiscal difficulty and should introduce balanced budget legislation that will prohibit deficits in future provincial budgets, require the government to dissolve within 90 days of the presentation of an unbalanced budget or the overspending of a budget, and require the people of Ontario to approve government borrowing through a province-wide referendum that includes a repayment schedule for the principal and the interest.

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

Mr Bert Johnson: It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to present and speak to this resolution. I look forward to the comments of all my colleagues in the House this morning, as we will be debating what I consider should be the future direction of provincial governments.

I'd like to begin by briefly discussing the reason I've brought this resolution forward and how I see it impacting the future of Ontario if it receives the support of the members today.

In 1994 I looked around my riding of Perth county and was not at all happy with what I saw. The people I had grown up with, the people I lived and worked with were being subjected to an ever-increasing burden. Taxes were high, unemployment was high and government spending was high. About the only thing that was low was morale. The people of Perth county were living within their means while being forced to support a government that could not do the same.

I had a decision to make. I could sit back and watch this happen or I could join with others and try to make a difference. I decided to make that difference, so October 5, 1994, I delivered a speech in which I promised the people of Perth county that a brighter future was possible. I would like to read an excerpt from that speech I gave on my nomination night as it lays the foundation for this resolution I have tabled in the Legislature which we are debating today.

"Year after year, somewhere in the budget speech -- look for it along with the finance minister's new shoes -- the provincial, or the federal as well, Treasurer says, `We will pay down the deficit.' Does he mean it? Yes. Will he do it? Not unless he has a lucky trip to the casino in Windsor. He will not do it and the reason he won't do it is because it's not in his budget figures, just in his speech.

"If you're surprised and think this oversight is the fault of our forefathers' design of the provincial budget, I don't agree. I think their common sense told them that if you borrowed something, you paid it back -- not leave it for your children to pay back. So it wasn't in our budget way back when and it's not in our budget now.

"Could it be that it's a bad idea? I don't think so. Your banker insists that capital repayment is in your budget and the province of Ontario insists that capital repayment be in the budget of every municipality and school board."

That was written in 1994 when the provincial government had presented the people of Ontario with high deficits and massive accumulated debt. In fact, the higher the NDP government hiked taxes in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994, the less revenue the province took in. The policies, which resulted in 65 tax increases in 10 years, were crushing the spirit of the hardworking people of Ontario.

That's why I was proud to become part of the Mike Harris team that was looking towards the future of Ontario. The vision is summed up in one sentence: "It's time for government to make the same types of changes all of us have had to make our own families and in our jobs." For those of you who missed that one, it can be found in the introduction to the Common Sense Revolution.

In June 1995 the people of Ontario sent a clear message that the time for government overspending had to end. 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 are witnessing the return of jobs, hope, growth and opportunity to the province of Ontario. As of the first quarter, the deficit for 1997-98 is projected at $6.6 billion -- still way too high, but more than 40% below the $11.3-billion deficit the government was faced with when it took office.

In 1995 we set out workable targets and as a government we have modestly overachieved on our targets in the first two years of our mandate. Our plan was to cut taxes, cut spending, remove barriers to growth, do better with less and to fully balance Ontario's budget. Clearly we are doing what we set out to accomplish and we will have the budget balanced.

With this goal accomplished, we must begin to once again look to the future and ensure that the people of Ontario are not put in a position of fiscal difficulty again. It is for this reason that I've introduced the resolution we are debating today. I see the need for legislation that will ensure that governments of the future are as responsible and accountable to the people of Ontario as the present government under the leadership of Mike Harris.

Balanced budget legislation is not new. Quebec introduced legislation in 1996 mandating a balanced budget by the year 1999-2000. Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick introduced legislation in 1995.

The legislation which other districts have introduced covers a wide range of ideologies. My resolution focuses on three main points: (1) there should be no deficit in a provincial budget; (2) overspending should result in an immediate election; and (3) government borrowing must include a repayment schedule for the principal and interest and must be approved by a referendum.

The first point I have already discussed. There is a need for governments to live within their means, just as the people of Perth county, whom I represent, live within their budgetary means.


The second point revolves around the policies of the Mike Harris government. In 1995 we set out to (1) build a climate where jobs and prosperity are equally available to all, (2) to maintain the quality of life, unrivalled in North America, that we in Ontario enjoy, and (3) to ensure a healthy future for our children, full of hope, opportunity and security.

We are accomplishing these goals. Governments in the past have failed to do this, and if governments of the future can't do it, I feel that they should be required to go to the polls and test their excuses on the voters.

The third point I have addressed in the resolution is the use of referendums to determine spending priorities. The Common Sense Revolution was the consolidation of years of listening to the people of Ontario. The policies outlined were those of the people of Ontario.

For many politicians, especially the government of the time, listening to the people of Ontario was a new concept. As I mentioned earlier, governments in the past have always stated their commitment to the principle of a balanced budget, but it was only this government that had a sound fiscal plan and the will to carry it out.

In 1997-98, $9.2 billion has been budgeted to cover the public debt interest alone. Imagine what could be done for the people of this province if this money were available now. The use of referendums in the future will allow the people of Ontario to set the standards and keep the government accountable to the electorate.

It is my hope that the decision today will start the debate over the need for balanced budget legislation in Ontario. As a whole, this resolution will tell Ontarians that the provincial government will never again mortgage our children's tomorrow through unaffordable spending.

I thank you for your time, and I look forward to receiving support for this endeavour from the members of this Legislature, as I have received much support from the people of the great riding of Perth.

Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I'm pleased to rise on this important issue of the motion that's being presented before this assembly today. It is a motion. It does not bind this House. It is an expression of opinion of this House, but it's dealing with an important matter, not only for government finances, but it affects the economic wellbeing of this province.

I bring some particular personal opinion to this. As a professional economist, I can tell you that if you get two economists, you get three opinions, and there are many opinions about the nature of the issue that the honourable member for Perth has presented to us.

I have to applaud the honourable member for Perth. I know, as a former municipal politician, that he and I share the same background of balanced budgets. In the municipal sector, both for school boards and for municipalities, we are required to bring in a balanced budget every year. But the honourable member has maybe failed to remember or recognize that that is for the operating budget only. On the capital side, municipalities borrow all the time. It is sometimes impossible to finance a major capital work from the local property tax base, so you borrow money, rent money, over the next so many years, and indeed municipalities and school boards have accumulated debt, within certain limits set down by the Ontario Municipal Board. In this context, the honourable member for Perth and his community I'm sure have availed themselves of the same thing.

This brings me back to the issue of the day, which is the motion before us here that once the government attains a balanced budget it is required thereafter always to have an annual balanced budget. Quite frankly, if this were a municipality, this would be easy to say, because property tax by and large funds very stable services. It is not really susceptible to the winds of economic change, to the pressures that are put on to us by a recession because of our major trading partner to the south or whatever.

This is the major difference, because municipalities and school boards have stable funding and stable expenses, except for that one part, which we've heard from municipalities a thousand and one times, where they are obliged to contribute to income redistribution programs. Property tax, as we all know, is not appropriate for that. As a matter of fact, the chair of the Who Does What commission, David Crombie, said that financing income redistribution programs from property tax is not only wrong in theory but devastating in practice. I just have to take you back to the Dirty Thirties, where municipalities went bankrupt trying to do that.

This leads me back to the issue at hand. Our party did present a balanced budget proposal during the last election, but it was over a specific cycle, the term of the government, five years, similar to what is there in New Brunswick. This makes sense, because part of the responsibilities of the provincial government is to try and maintain some kind of stability within our provincial economy, as best as possible, and try to protect our vulnerable. If you look at the beginning of the recession at the turn of this decade, 1990-91, where we had our last balanced budget, under a Liberal administration -- look back over the past 25 years and you'll see there was only one balanced budget, which was under a Liberal administration; you'll see 17 years' worth of unbalanced budgets by previous Conservative administrations. But I'll leave that to one side.

What happened the following year? The following year we walk into a recession. Our revenues go down by over $1 billion and our requirements to support the vulnerable in our community go up by over $1 billion. Right away, under this proposed resolution, we would be forced into an election, we'd be forced to lay off people, we'd be forced to cut benefits. We would hurt the economy by being pro-cyclical, meaning we'd be taking money out. I would like to remind my colleagues opposite that in their hunt to chase down expenditures, when they cut welfare rates by 21.4%, they took, believe it or not, $150 million out of the economy of Ottawa-Carleton, so the recession that was already in place worsened.

All I can tell my colleagues opposite is that while it's fine to trumpet the mantra of a balanced budget, you have to look at a reasonable time line and look at the responsibilities of government to do that.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): It's with some trepidation that I rise to participate in this debate, knowing that I may very well be the victim of slings and arrows from across the way. However, I'm prepared for that.

The member for Ottawa West made a comment about being a professional economist. Before I get into this debate I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about professional economists. I think they have a role to play in this debate as well. I can tell you that in another life I used to take the advice of professional economists, much to my own peril.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): How did you recover?

Mr Laughren: Not very well. I have yet to see an accurate forecast from one of them. But there are two sayings about economists. One is that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they wouldn't reach a conclusion. The other one, I think a more appropriate line, is that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end, it would indeed be a very good thing. I think that's the better line on professional economists -- not to do damage to the member for Ottawa West, of course.

I must say, this debate around balanced budgets is one that I find very interesting. The new right got caught up in the whole argument of balanced budgets, and I understand that. It certainly sounds appealing, and at first blush it is very appealing. Quite frankly, if you've got a government at this level, it's not that difficult to accomplish either.

We're seeing how this government is going to balance its budget. It's not hard: Take $1 billion out of education, download on the municipalities, raise tuition fees even higher. It's not that hard to do. All you have to do is download. You learned well from the federal Liberals in Ottawa. They did a masterful job of downloading on the province. So the province says, "There's a good idea. Why don't we download on our partners, the municipalities and the school boards?" and anybody else they can get their hands on, like the seniors of this province or like the Red Cross. There are different ways you can balance your budget. I mean, I could stop supporting my children. Of course I should be anyway; they're old enough. But anyway, that's for another day.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): They're all in their 50s.

Mr Laughren: Listen, I may have trouble supporting myself since the Premier took away my gold-plated pension plan.


Mr Laughren: I don't know what all the heckling's about. One of the things the Premier ran for election on was that he was going to cancel the MPPs' gold-plated pension plan, and he did, and do I ever resent it. However, I'll put that aside, because I'm not here to argue for something for my own self-interest.

I simply say that I wouldn't get too enthusiastic about the member's resolution, although I can understand where he is coming from and I give him credit for bringing it forward for debate here this morning. I think it's a well-worded resolution. I'm just issuing a word of caution about what can be involved if a government is determined that it absolutely must balance its budget at the provincial level and if there is a downturn in the economy. All that means is that you have to speed up your downloading and your cuts to people who depend upon support from the province, whether that's the school board or whether that's the municipalities.

We know that's happening. I can take you to a community in my own constituency where the government, in its interest to provide a tax cut for those people who don't need it nearly as much as the people who live in this small community need a break, I can tell you -- the downloading on that municipality, the net downloading, is 175% of their tax base. Now, you tell me how that community is going to deal with that. I can tell you.

Mr Bob Wood (London South): Transition funds.

Mr Laughren: They've already been told the maximum they can get out of the transition fund, and it still leaves them over 100% of their tax base. I know the solution and I'm advising them to do that: Send the keys to Al Leach or to Chris Hodgson. Send the keys. That's what I would do, and I'm advising them to do that. If that's what the government wants, if that's the way you balance your budget, that's the kind of fallout you're going to have to deal with. Why wouldn't you? Why would anybody have to cope with that in a small municipality where the tax rate is already high because it's a small community and they don't have the substantial tax base and residential taxpayers are already paying a great deal?

I say to the member for Perth that while I appreciate the fact he's brought this resolution forward, I'm going to have difficulty supporting it, partly because I think people would see it as somewhat contradictory on my part if I did support it; and second, I worry about how you get there and how you stay there at that balanced budget at this level of government, where you have to consider, as the member for Ottawa West said, the cycles of economic activity in the country.

We're on an upswing now and I'm happy about that, but I can tell you it won't always be on the upswing. There will be downturns in the economy. We know it's going to happen. When it does, you're going to find it a lot more difficult and a lot more difficult to cope with balancing a budget if suddenly your revenues are going through the floor. Believe me, it can happen. Then what do you do? You can't overnight download.

This government has some time now to download because the economy is growing. But if the economy were shrinking and you were doing your download, you would have a very difficult time in balancing the budget in the period of time you say you're going to. You may accomplish it, but you must ask yourself at what price you're accomplishing this, at what price to the municipalities and the property taxpayers in the province, and at what price to the children of this province in terms of the education they're receiving. You start taking another $1 billion out of education and it's going to be felt in the classroom. You can use all the nice words you like that cuts to education won't affect the classroom. You cannot take $1 billion out by reducing the number of trustees in the province. It's not possible to do.

I simply say that I have some difficulty with this resolution, although I appreciate the fact that a Tory government in Ontario, especially the neo-cons and the Reformers, simply couldn't go back home with their head held high if they didn't attempt to pass a resolution like this or even get it into the legislation of the province.

I appreciate where the Tories are coming from in this resolution. I just hope they've thought it all the way through.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure this morning to be asked to speak on the member for Perth's resolution with respect to a balanced budget. Actually, it comes very easily to members from this side of the House, because we've committed, each and every one of us, to work towards balancing a budget. That's the fundamental of the Common Sense document. Most people would be familiar with it, and if not, they should certainly pick one up and become familiar with it.

It is the plan that made several commitments. I'm just going to bring people up to speed on what the commitment is. It is an integral plan, an integrated plan, the combination of a 30% provincial income tax rate reduction -- we're going to reduce the income tax for every single hardworking Ontarian -- and on our part we're going to have a "20% non-priority spending reduction and elimination of job-killing government barriers, which will make Ontario a magnet for new investment and new jobs and will get people back to work and the economy moving again." Clearly, the plan is a well-balanced plan of economic renewal, not more government expenditures.

I am going to return to this particular point of view throughout my comments, but I want to start by saying that there were a number of positions of attempting to achieve the same goal. If I may take the liberty of using another government's position, I'm going to recount, or recant -- no, "recant" means retract -- recount for you some of the responsibilities they committed to during the election period.

I'm not plagiarizing. I think it's important to understand that I believe they will be supporting the member for Perth's resolution this morning because they committed to it themselves, very clearly. I'll read directly from page 7, with your permission, Mr Speaker: "High deficits and big public debt are job-killers. Rising deficits" take money out of people's pockets. "Ontarians are paying more interest on debt." I'm going to go on: "A Liberal government will both preach financial restraint and practise it. Through the Ontario Liberal balanced budget plan, we will balance the provincial budget within four years."

At the time they and we were looking at it, we were looking at a deficit of some $10 billion or $11 billion. That's the shortfall, every year, of revenue to expenditures. How can you possibly balance the budget without reducing spending -- unless, of course, their intent was to raise taxes. But no, they go on to say -- and I give them all the credit in the world. They went part-way; they went to the middle. They said, "We will cut taxes" -- imagine that; Gerry Phillips, the very guy who criticizes us every day -- "by 5% during our first term." So clearly their plan was half of our plan.

How were they going to save the other $11 billion to get to that balanced budget in four years? They had to cut spending or raise taxes, as simple as that. They've already said they were going to cut taxes by 5%, so theoretically they were going to reduce spending in the order of $15 billion.

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): No.

Mr O'Toole: I'm not sure. Maybe yes, maybe no. It's important to keep it in mind.

I have the greatest respect for my good friend from Nickel Belt, because he has a great sense of humour and he's also seen inside the large vault in Ontario. He's been inside the vault. Mr Laughren, I believe, when he was in there saw the catastrophic conditions he was in. In fact, they tried to deal with the reduction of spending one way: the social contract. They cut every public sector employee drastically, just like that, with the stroke of a pen, no debate.

I want to make a couple of points about how important Mr Johnson's budget plan is. I can do it by memory, really, because I know it so well. We spend more on interest than we do on education. To service the public debt, we spend more on interest than we do on education. That's just wrong.


We also in my view have a plan that by reducing taxes -- our public accounts record shows we've reduced taxes and increased revenue. That theory is well practised in many parts of the world. It's called a Laffer curve: by reducing taxes you can increase revenue. But what we promised for sure -- I'm going to wrap up my comments here because I'm getting the cane.

We have got to balance the budget. That means you can't spend more than you earn. Every single Ontarian understands that. In my home I can't spend more than I earn. I would love to have two cars or three televisions or whatever, but I've got to spend within my means. Our plan encourages people getting back to work. We promised to create 725,000 new real jobs where people will create more income for the province, and to balance the budget and quit taxing people to death.

I would encourage you to stay tuned because all the way through while balancing the budget we've committed to health care; we're spending more on health care. We've committed to education. There will be no reductions to spending in the classroom. Any waste in administration or wherever should be addressed.

I'm going to save the rest of my time for the member for Perth. Thank you very much for the opportunity to address this important issue of balanced budget legislation.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I am pleased to join the debate on ballot item 101 presented by the member for Perth. At the outset I wish to laud the initiative and, at the end, I will be voting because of the principle the proposed ballot implies. But the content of it leaves me a little bit aghast, with respect to the content of the presentation itself.

As I said, the principle is a motherhood or fatherhood type of issue because it sounds good. If you were to speak to anyone and say: "Listen, we're going to impose on the politicians to balance the books; otherwise, within 90 days, if they present some increases, they will have to resign. They will have to go back to the people." Is this the type of government we really want? I don't think so. I don't think that if the facts were to be presented to the people of Ontario they would say, "Every 90 days you go to the polls."

The resolution being presented, as I said, is a good, sound principle, but the contents are totally flawed and will not work, unless of course we go back to resolution 13, as was done in Florida, "Don't touch the budget," but every time there is some expense that has to be incurred you go and tax the people in a different way.

I like to remind the Premier, Mr Harris, who was it who said any increase or any due or user fee, by any other name, is a tax increase? Is this what we are going to impose on the people of Ontario, that every time we want to increase taxes, to escape what we are proposing here, we are going to impose new user fees as we have done in the last couple of years? Wasn't it this now Premier, prior to the election, who said, "Oh no, we are not going to do that; we are not going to close hospitals; the envelope is sealed; we are not going to touch one penny from the education and health care systems"? But now we see a different story. They have been raising taxes by downloading on to the various local municipalities.

It calls for us to have this particular piece of legislation so that it would bind future governments so it wouldn't place Ontario citizens in a very precarious situation. We had a litany from the member for Durham East on how we have been promising and how we have been spending. For heaven's sake, I'm sure their memory is not so short. In 1989-90 we were the only government, after 40 years of Conservative government, that balanced the books, and we even had a surplus. Even they themselves said so in their own document.

We did it without promising 30%. For whom? Certainly the poor people don't see any of that money. If they really wanted to balance the books they could have done it without the 30%, without the 2001. They could have done it well before. This is what Liberal people were saying during the election and that's the way we should be looking at it.

Unfortunately, in three and a half or four minutes you can't say very much, but let me say to the member that I do compliment him for the initiative he has taken. But to bind any future government, to say that unless you bring in a balanced budget, or there is any increase, then within 90 days you will have to resign, I think is totally inappropriate and totally contrary to the principle of good government.

Mr O'Toole: Will you support it or not?

Mr Sergio: Yes, I did say that I will support it in principle but I have severe reservations, as the content of the initiative is totally flawed and it does really merit a long debate.

As a matter of fact, when you talk about a referendum, didn't Mr Harris say in Your Ontario, Your Choice to give them the choice every time you want to raise taxes? Doesn't it say, on your own page 5 here, "Nevertheless, the issue of cost must be addressed as part of an overall referendum strategy for Ontario"?

Why don't you do that before you come up with suggestions like this one here? Why don't you go to the people of Ontario? Give them the facts. Get the answer from them. But then again, we have seen the record of this government when it comes to bringing and posing issues in front of the people. They don't even listen, never mind giving them a chance to express themselves, and when they do, such as the Metro debate, 78% or 80% or whatever it was, the government didn't pay any attention.

Is this what we are saying to the people of Ontario, that we will bind future government? "Oh yes, of course, probably to clean up the mess that we are going to inherit from the previous government. That's the way it is going to work." I'm sorry, I don't think that's the way it should be working. Responsible government shouldn't have to have recourse to such a drastic need and I don't think the people of Ontario should be bound by such a strong and tight resolution.

As I said, I will support it because of the principle, but I have serious reservations on the content of the proposal.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I find this piece of business before the House this morning rather interesting and somewhat strange, given the track record and the activity of this government in its two and some years in power in this province. I find it actually quite hypocritical.

All the way through the election we heard this party, before it became government, talk about the deficit and how they were going to balance the budget and fight the deficit and bring the business of this province into the kind of constraint that only Conservatives have the ability to do.

It wasn't long after the election that we began to realize that in fact they didn't mean that. What they meant was they were going to turn the business of this province over to their buddies in the corporate sector and then they would do what they will with the finances of the province, and whether we reach a balanced budget or not became, all of a sudden, really not that important. What was more important was the tax break, making sure that all those people who bankrolled and supported and continue to bankroll and support the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario and this government get all the rewards they possibly can in the shortest period of time.

If this government was really interested in balancing the budget, they would not be moving ahead as quickly as they are with the tax break they're putting in place that is just, in my mind and as we experience how it's playing out across the province, absolutely unrealistic.

This government is not in any way serious about balancing this budget. That's what makes this piece of business before us today so absolutely bizarre, so absolutely useless and so much public relations, so much ideological claptrap. I want to be on the record here today to say that.

If this government is interested at all in a balanced budget -- and I don't think any government in its right mind wouldn't be. I think every government through the ages and that is sitting in power in Canada today would love, if they could, to balance the budget, but they know that the pushes and pulls, the constraints and the demands on government are such that you walk a very delicate tightrope. Any business I've known of, and I was part- owner of one before I got this job, walks that kind of tightrope. There's always this debt-to-equity ratio that you're continually looking at, and it's the same thing for a government, particularly a government that has any business acumen at all.


To stand here today and listen to the members of the government get up and support this piece of business that talks about a balanced budget, having one for ever and a day after that, is frankly bordering on the ludicrous. As I said before, if they were really interested in a balanced budget, if they were really interested in the principles behind this bill that's in front of us today, they would immediately go to the finance minister and the Premier and say: "Let's back away from this tax break. Let's stop this nonsense of turning over literally billions of dollars to people in this province who don't need it, who are already well off, who already have what they need to do everything they need to do."

We see in the province today many business enterprises declaring historically record-high profits with every quarterly report they make. Some might say -- and I talked to some friends out there, very hard-working constituents in Ontario -- they are obscenely high profits, at the same time as this government is doing everything in its power to make sure those profits are even higher, by way of the tax break and some of the regulations they're putting in place.

They'll suggest that that money is creating more jobs. The reality actually is showing us that's not the case either, that this target they set for themselves of some 720,000 new jobs over the term of their government they're not even close to achieving.

Interjection: They're at 225,000.

Mr Martin: They've created 225,000. They're halfway through their mandate and they've created 225,000 of those jobs. There's absolutely no way they're going to do it. Those are the targets I think they should be focusing on. Bringing a piece of legislation here today to talk about balanced budgets when they have not reached and will not reach the targets they set for themselves during the election campaign is at best hypocritical.

I'll leave a little bit of time for my colleague.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I'm pleased to rise in support of the resolution put forward by the member for Perth. One of the primary reasons I ran for office was this basic thing we're talking about here. I could no longer sit on the sidelines while governments continued to run up mammoth deficits and destroy the future of our children.

I could only describe what has happened for the last 15 years as irresponsible fiscal policy. The province today has a debt of over $100 billion. Interest payments on that $100 billion is over $9 billion a year. How could you say that this is anything other than criminal?

The spiralling deficits and the growing debt, if left unchecked, had the potential to destroy the very fabric of our social programs, including health care and welfare. This does not include the jeopardizing of our future economic wellbeing. The opposition parties continue to attack each and every attempt this government has made to bring its fiscal house to order. They have not yet made one positive contribution as to how we might accomplish this mammoth task.

As a result of the $100-billion debt, the children who today are age 15 will probably be 60 before the debt will be eliminated. We have saddled two entire generations with a massive debt, a financial burden, and they will have no benefits from that debt. We have done it to them.

In the Financial Post a couple days ago -- Monday, I believe it was -- there was an article on a recommendation that had been made to the federal government. It's a report issued by economists William Scarth and Harriet Jackson of McMaster University in Hamilton. One of their recommendations is that future tax cuts should focus almost wholly on reducing tax rates for wage earners rather than lowering taxes on capital or interest income. It seems to me that is what we as a government have been doing.

This report also talks about how the gross domestic product, I believe measured at $800 billion federally and $340 billion provincially, how the debt burden should only bear a rate of 15% of that gross domestic product. In Ontario we're sitting at 30%; federally we're sitting at about 75% or 80%. Obviously something has to be done. The only way that can be done is if we have balanced budgets. We must bring the debt under control.

It's really interesting that they talk about how this must be done within the next 20 to 25 years. Why? To compensate future workers. It must be done because we must treat wage earners fairly so they derive equal benefit from tax cuts. Son of a gun. Here we are talking about tax cuts for the average worker again. Isn't that what we've done as a government? That is what we will continue to do through balanced budget legislation.

I'm pleased to be able to talk about this because it is getting the balanced budget discussion on the table. Obviously we can't do it today, because we still have to fight the deficits. We can't do it tomorrow; we can't do it next year. But before the term of this government is out, we will have a balanced budget and we will be able to have balanced budget legislation on the books.

My time is short and I want to leave some time for the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. I just want to say that this balanced budget resolution places a much-needed focus on the issue and I look forward to the time when we will be able to introduce it.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I'm pleased to rise and speak on this motion this morning, because I believe it is very important for all the taxpayers of Ontario.

When we talk of a balanced budget it tends to mislead the people of Ontario, and every time you talk about the balanced budget, it definitely does. At the municipal and also the school board level, we have to come out with a balanced budget, but at times, when we have to have some capital investment, we borrow the money over a period of time. The payback could be 25, 40 years. It doesn't show as having an unbalanced budget, but the debt is going higher and higher.

I was listening to the member for Perth a little while ago. Every one of us does believe in a balanced budget, but remember one thing, and I think the people across the way should remember this too: At the present time this government is trying to have a balanced budget by the year 2000, but by the year 2000 I believe it is going to cost everyone in Ontario an additional $14 per month extra. How do I come up with this? It's because of the downloading; it's because of the user fees we are going to have.

I'm looking at the ambulance transfer to the municipalities. In the past, the government was paying $300 million a year

Only the city of Toronto had their own ambulance which was costing the city of Toronto in the area of $30 million a year. So the government is saving $300 million in ambulance services, but who's going to pay for it? The local people.


I don't call it a real balanced budget. It's going to look good for this government; a balanced budget at the end of the year. We're looking at the year 2000 to have a balanced budget. In 1998 we're looking at a deficit of approximately $6 billion. If we look at all this downloading that we are doing, the assessment, for example, used to be done by the provincial government; now it is going to be every local taxpayer that will have to pay the assessment. It's going to be an average of $31 per household in Ontario.

Septic tank inspection is an average of $450 per inspection, per home that you are going to build. Who's going to pay for it? They'll have to increase the building permits for which the new home buyers are going to pay an average of $450 extra. How much is the transfer of provincial highways going to cost the local taxpayers? Again, it's going to be on local taxes.

The farm rebate tax: This government, when they made the announcement of the mega-week, January 13, 1997, said the farmers will have a saving of $175 million, in that area. Immediately, when we heard about it, I called the assessment office in our region and they told me there's no saving for the farmers directly, because they were already getting the 75% rebate from the provincial government. It is the provincial government that is going to have a $175-million saving. Who's going to pay for it? The local taxpayer; because there will be 75% less revenue from the farm tax at the local level. Who's going to pay for it again? It's the rest of the residential and commercial areas from each municipality.

I look at social housing, for example. Social housing was fully paid by the provincial government. Now it has been downloaded to the municipality. Sure, it looks good for this government. We will reduce the deficit. We will reduce it on the back of the local taxpayers.

Casinos at the present time: We will have a revenue --

The Deputy Speaker: Time has expired. Further debate?

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I want to start out by congratulating the member for Perth for what I consider to be a fine public relations exercise. That's really what we have right here, because what he's doing by this resolution is attempting to pass a resolution now to bind the hands of any future governments, and I have this sneaking suspicion that the government in the years 2000 and 2001 isn't going to be a Progressive Conservative government.

If they really have any intentions of balancing the budgets, they should make those intentions known. They should balance the budgets now. Why can't they do that? Because they know that those choices are difficult and we shouldn't be binding the decision-making powers of future governments. That's why we're all elected here, to make those difficult decisions. I would suggest to the member for Perth and his colleagues in the Progressive Conservative government that if they really want to balance the budgets, do it now, and not to pursue this phoney tax cut scheme to benefit those who are most well off here in the province of Ontario. That's what it's really about.

My friend from Kitchener, when he had an opportunity to heckle during a previous member's speech, said tax cuts are going to lead to the creation of more jobs. We heard just this week in the city of Toronto, Campbell's Soup, a profitable company, is reducing its workforce by 12%. We've seen similar examples throughout the province of Ontario over the last few years. General Motors reduced 12,000 jobs. Imperial Oil reduced 4,000 jobs. Inco cut 2,000 jobs. Molson's reduced 6,000 jobs, and it goes on.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I'm delighted to have the opportunity today to speak on behalf of the balanced budget resolution brought forward by my colleague the member for Perth. This government is committed to the part of his resolution which deals with fiscal prudence and responsibility and the elimination of the deficit by the fiscal year of 2000-01. But we believe that the member for Perth's resolution is simply too restrictive and could limit the very role of government in certain circumstances.

There's no question about our fiscal responsibility. Since this government took office in 1995, we have remained committed to our promise to balance the budget in our mandate. Two years ago the province had a deficit of $11.3 billion, and I'm happy to report that that's now been reduced to $6.9 billion.

The government has not only reduced spending across the board but it has also restructured the delivery of its services. This is very important because it has created a new thinking here in Ontario. This makes us believe it's unlikely that governments will ever again run up deficits as they did in the past. However, in the unlikely circumstance of some unforeseen act of God, government might want and need the flexibility to overspend in order to minister to the needs of its citizens in dire emergency need. That's why this government cannot support the second part of the member for Perth's resolution which calls for the dissolution of a government that overspends.

I'm just looking because I know my time is running out. Our approach also is in keeping with the approach of other provinces across Canada. Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, none requires government to dissolve in the event of overspending or of creating a deficit. Government members are committed to the principle of balanced budget, and as I have shown today, our record proves that we are proceeding on target to achieve a zero deficit by 2000-01 and that we've restructured the delivery of services that will prevent and make it very unlikely that governments will run up deficits in the future.

In summary, I would like to say that this government is in favour of that part of the member for Perth's resolution that advocated balancing the provincial budget. Where we differ is with the resolution's requirement that governments who return a deficit must be dissolved. This said, I'd like to thank my colleague and friend from Perth for bringing forward this important resolution. This government's fiscal plan is on track but it always does help to be reminded of our fiscal responsibility.

Mr Bert Johnson: I'd like to thank all the members who spoke to my resolution today. I feel that the ideas and opinions brought forward will go a long way towards making this type of fiscal responsibility a legislative requirement for the province of Ontario. It has not surprised me that members of the New Democratic Party -- I'm sorry, the Old Democratic Party -- will not be supporting this. They have given their lifelong support to spending money they do not have.

What does surprise me a little bit are the comments from some of the members, and I'm glad to see that the members for Renfrew North, St Catharines and Scarborough-Agincourt are here, because I'd like to remind them that they were part of the government that balanced its books, according to them, in 1989. I want to tell you just a little bit about how they did that.

I have in front of me a bill that was assented to on March 2, 1989. On its third page, it says, "This act shall be deemed to have come into force on the 2nd day of May 1988." For those of you who remember back in those days, that was when the provincial sales tax was increased from 7% to 8%. Some may say, "Well, that was a 1% increase." Those members must have chuckled around the cabinet table when their spin doctor told them, "Tell the people of Ontario that that was a 1% increase," because it was designed to take out of the pockets of the hardworking people of Ontario over 14% more tax.

I hope this resolution will pass through with the support of the members today, so that we can begin to move to a future where Ontario government is more accountable to the people of Ontario. I'd like to thank the participants for their participation in the debate.



Mr Parker moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 159, An Act to regulate the keeping of Exotic Animals / Projet de loi 159, Loi visant à réglementer la garde d'animaux exotiques.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 95(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): It's my privilege to rise in the House this morning as sponsor of Bill 159, an act to provide for the licensing of exotic animals. At present --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Does that include John Hastings?

Mr Parker: No, but it does include the member for Sudbury.

At present, Ontario has no legislation which addresses the possession of exotics. Ontario and Manitoba are the only provinces in Canada which lack any form of provincial control over the possession of or trade in exotic animal species. Bill 159 is intended to bring Ontario into line with the rest of the country in this regard, or, as the August 28 issue of the London Free Press so clearly put it, in Ontario you can "adopt a baby racoon from the wild...and you can expect to get busted." But if "you want to own a 135-pound jaguar that could rip a person's throat out in a matter of seconds, feel free." It's precisely this incongruity that Bill 159 will remedy.

I recognize that our farmers in this province are in a mode of diversifying these days and it's not the intention of this bill to restrict that phenomenon. I'm prepared to work with my rural colleagues and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to add such amendments to my bill as are appropriate or necessary to clearly allow Ontario agriculture to diversify as it presently is doing.

My rural colleagues have made me aware that in recent years our farmers have branched out into new areas such as farming ostriches, emus, llamas, fish and other species which are not native to Ontario. I support those efforts; in fact my rural colleagues campaigned in the last election in favour of legislation which would support agricultural diversification in Ontario and I support them in that initiative.

By passing Bill 159, this House would enable Ontario to establish a consistent, uniform approach to the control of the conditions under which exotic species could be possessed, owned, traded, kept and displayed. Standards could be established and enforced for the protection of both the public and the animals themselves. Bill 159 would address the phenomenon of the exotic animal owners who are chased out of one community by the passage of a bylaw only to set up shop in a nearby community that has not yet chosen to establish a bylaw.

Also, by establishing a province-wide standard and establishing some control over the possession of exotics, Bill 159 might serve to discourage the spread of exotic animal possession and limit the possession of exotics to legitimate zoos which have the expertise and physical resources to handle each species appropriately.

How widespread is the phenomenon of the ownership of exotic animals in Ontario? Precisely the fact that no regulatory regime exists at present makes it difficult to assemble complete and reliable data on this point. One owner-breeder, however, of exotics estimates that over 2,000 large cats are kept by private individuals in this province as house pets. This exceeds the number of tigers kept in the major legitimate zoos in the province.

There's every reason to believe that this figure of 2,000 could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. My community of East York is home to Zoocheck, a volunteer organization which has put hours of research into this matter. According to Rob Laidlaw of Zoocheck, lions, tigers, monkeys and venomous snakes are all common throughout the province. They are widely advertised for sale in publications which are freely available to the public and can be purchased for anywhere from $50 to $1,500. Some vendors will take your order over the phone and deliver right to your door, no questions asked.

You can order right from a catalogue Bengal tigers, Siberian tigers, jaguars, ocelots, lions, camels, you name it. Many of these creatures are kept as pets. Many others are put on public display for commercial purposes in what are promoted as "zoos" but which are probably more accurately described as private menageries.

Setting up a so-called zoo is not hard to do and it isn't even expensive. On any day of the week, you can start out from Toronto with a truck and $1,000 in your pocket and by evening pick up a monkey, a couple of tiger cubs, a wallaby, maybe a few mambas and spitting cobras and other small exotic animals and still have change in your pocket. You can put them all on display in any community in Ontario, apart from the few that have passed prohibitive bylaws, and call yourself a zoo.

Zoocheck estimates that there are about 60 such menageries throughout the province and more seem to be opening each year. No provincial authority exists to inspect the quality of living conditions or habitations or the conditions of confinement in these operations.

By contrast, Ontario has only five zoos which are accredited as such by CAZPA, a group to which the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo belongs which administers on a voluntary basis a set of standards to be adhered to by any organization in Ontario wishing to be considered a legitimate zoo.

An accredited zoo will take great care to provide for the proper care of its animals and for the safety of the animals and the visiting public. They all feature perimeter fencing, double doors, appropriate stand-off barriers and other safety measures. There is no provincial authority or standard in place, however, to apply the same precautions to menageries. Typically, menageries do not have these features.

What are the risks posed by the unrestricted possession of exotic species? Many people who acquire an exotic animal as a pet are completely unprepared for the problems they bring upon themselves, their neighbours and their animals. Many believe that if you acquire an exotic animal as a pet at an early age and raise it as a house pet, the animal will grow up to be as domesticated as a regular dog or cat. Most people don't realize that domestic dogs and cats are the products of hundreds, sometimes thousands of years of domestic breeding. Most dogs and cats are by now genetically conditioned to have characteristics that make them suitable to be trained as family pets.

This can't be achieved in a single generation by taking a tiger cub into your home and bottle-feeding it from infancy. To put it simply, you can take the tiger out of the jungle but you can't take the jungle out of the tiger. People are surprised to find that as their exotic pet grows up, it turns into a creature whose behaviour they cannot predict and which may respond to its natural predatory instincts without warning. Periodically, an animal will turn on its owner, leading to serious injury or death.

In 1992, a Brampton man was crushed and suffocated to death by a python he kept in his residence as a pet. In 1994, in Wiarton a 16-year-old was attacked and killed by a tiger kept by his uncle as a pet. In the coroners' inquiries which ensued in each of these cases, the juries recommended that provincial legislation be enacted to prevent a recurrence of such events. In my submission, the present bill responds to exactly these recommendations.

From time to time, an exotic animal will escape from captivity, putting an entire community at risk. The animal can present a threat to other animals kept by the same owner, to humans, to pets, to farm animals and to wildlife. Thousands of hours have been consumed by authorities in this province in tracking down and apprehending escaped exotics. Often it takes days or weeks to capture an escaped animal. There are some cases on record of escaped exotics being on the loose for years and in still other cases the escaped animal is never found.

Owners of exotic animals which have outgrown their welcome also find that they are impossible to get rid of. They often try to donate the animal to their local zoo, only to find that no responsible zoo will take on an animal whose pedigree is unknown. In the end, their only recourse is to turn the animal over to a private menagerie or have it destroyed.

The present bill also provides for controls to be put in place to address the issue of the welfare of the animal itself. At present, there are many accounts of exotic animals being kept under conditions that can only be described as squalid and inhumane. There are accounts of animals being undernourished, provided with unpotable water, lacking adequate shelter, suitable cages and living space.

It can occur anywhere. In my own neighbourhood in Toronto, right in a residential area there was until recently a storefront operation calling itself an animal sanctuary in which exotic animals were kept and occasionally put on display. Eventually, steps were taken to have the enterprise shut down, whereupon the problem was merely shifted to another community. However, before it closed, the premises were inspected and were found to be home to many different species, including several large cats which were kept in small cages in the basement. These animals were found to have suffered from lack of nourishment, lack of natural light, lack of fresh air, lack of living space and lack of exercise.

Ontario, apart from Manitoba, is the only province in this country which does not have a uniform set of provisions to address the matter of the possession of exotic animals. This bill seeks to correct that situation.

I hope my brief remarks this morning have helped to illustrate the need for such legislation, and that this bill will have the support of members of this House.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I am also pleased to join the debate on Bill 159, proposed by the member for Scarborough Centre. It is a good topic. I think it's timely as well, even though I have to say at the outset that there are quite a few municipalities in Ontario that have adopted a policy of no exotic pets within their own boundaries. Then there are some others that have limited it. This is an area I wish to touch on later on during my presentation with respect to the number of exotic pets or animals.

The bill as it is presented is totally silent with respect to the number of exotic animals kept as pets or stuff like that. It's something the member may want to take into consideration, to have the proposed Bill 159 changed to include the number of exotic pets or whatever. Sometimes they are used as pets; often they are used for gain, let's say employment in some circuses or acts, and we have seen very recently in some establishments within Metro Toronto that such an animal, a tiger I believe, was being used to assist in whatever type of show was being conducted in one of these establishments.

Yes, that is a concern. Although people may feel comfortable in a particular place if the owner or attendant is with that particular animal, you have no idea at what time the wild animal instinct may show up and cause panic or harm to people in attendance.

The bill proposes to establish a licence for persons above the legal age, and for a number of persons the regulations provide they may have such a licence. There are a number of exotic animals held in Ontario that are not native to our own environment. How do we apply the licence to people who wish to possess such an exotic animal?

I'm sure there are a number of species, qualities of animals that we could attribute such a definition as "exotic animals" to. I don't have to tell you that we have, for example, pet stores that have exotic animals which parents buy for their kids as pets. It's not only the licence of the person acquiring the exotic pets; it's also the people who eventually will maintain or look after it, or if used by children as pets, how they are being handled and stuff like that.

Sometimes we hear of infectious diseases caused by animals as well, not only exotic but also native to Ontario. The legislation should address that aspect as well, where exotic animals should be totally banned where such an animal may be of a species that may cause health hazards to humans.

If the legislation is not done -- I know this is for second reading -- -- and the requirements are not final, are not presented totally to us, it should not deny, as we move along with this piece of legislation, that some children would love to have an exotic animal. I'm not talking of lions or tigers or boa constrictors or stuff like that. It could be a number of other species that would do well for some children, but perhaps the parents or guardians are not in favour of having to get a licence to acquire one of these exotic pets for their children.

That's one area where I think some accommodation should be made. According to the type of exotic animal, we could make some necessary accommodation so kids may enjoy the pleasures of an exotic pet, providing that the legislation would allow for that. Of course, we are talking of minors.

Meeting the standards: This is a case where it depends on the type of exotic pets. I'm speaking with respect to some experience we had when we dealt with legislation in the city of North York, In that particular legislation, we arrived at it because of the many complaints not only of a variety of snakes and stuff like that, but we were receiving complaints about boa constrictors and racoons and other animals -- even though racoons are native to Ontario -- that perhaps were not so docile to the environment in which they found themselves.

It's important that we specify the type of environment for a specific exotic animal or pet -- if it's something that can be kept indoors, if it's something that can or should be kept outdoors, and what kind of provisions, what kind of conditions we are going to impose on the owner of that animal or pet so it does not endanger the vicinity or the neighbours. It's important that we specify, unless we ban totally, under what conditions those exotic pets or animals are maintained.

The legislation should address very seriously, if this is going to pass and in time become law, how we are going to look at this later on. We know the difficulties we have when it comes to inspections and enforcing of regulations, enforcing of standards. I know there are grace periods, grace times, and that is done mainly through the various local municipalities and local property standards and bylaws and so forth.

I don't have to tell you that the municipalities are crying, with all the cuts they are receiving, that they won't be able to afford the number of inspectors to provide inspections of those conditions on a regular basis, and inspections of the condition of the animal itself, let alone what it may be causing in the immediate neighbourhood. Proper attention should be directed to that as well.

One area we have to take into consideration is, for example, section 17(3) that deals with the powers of entry of such an inspector on behalf of the province or the municipality. At this stage I really am not sure if the province should be getting into the total control of that or leaving it to the local municipalities.


Don't we know that the provincial government is passing on -- not mentioning the infamous word "downloading" -- to the local municipalities many other and more stringent responsibilities and regulations. This is an area where the local municipalities can do it on their own and have their own regulations, have their own controls, without being so sanctimonious and saying, "This is what we're going to do." But that's fine. It's a good argument. It's something we can all identify with. I'm sure it's something the public will be happy is being addressed, so we move along. In due course, if we are speaking to the new city of Toronto, they can address that themselves in the future and changes can be made. But I think it also addresses the other municipalities in Ontario.

As I was saying, subsection 17(3) deals with power of entry. That is not clear, as presented in this bill. Are we saying an inspector can automatically demand to walk into a house solely on, let's say, a telephone call they may have received from a neighbour that such an exotic animal is being kept? Before an inspector assumes that power, I think he or she must ascertain himself or herself that indeed an exotic animal stays or lives, with a licence, at that particular place.

I don't have to tell anyone with municipal experience that on an ongoing basis we get a number of calls that there is such and such an animal or whatever problem or whatever noises at such and such an address. It often turns out that we send inspectors on a wild goose chase only because two neighbours may have a problem between themselves and indeed there is no such complaint.

In my own case, there have been complaints about rabbits and chickens, even pigeons -- they are not exotic -- hundreds at this particular address. Once the inspector goes, he says, "Do I have the wrong address?" because there isn't any such thing. Before we send inspectors and probably create even more problems among neighbours in a particular neighbourhood, if the power is given to an inspector to say, "I want to come in," we ensure that the inspector ascertains that there is a problem, there is a pet at that particular address.

Describing the species and type: I want to add that it is important that we define the number of allowable exotic animals per person, if you will; per applicant or per licence. I'm not sure that I would like to see that one licence allows three tigers or five pythons or stuff like that. The more we allow, the more difficult it's going to be to supervise, to control, to take care of, to manage more than one of those exotic animals.

If we are speaking of larger animals, not -- I have no idea -- birds perhaps. We know the species that are very common here in Canada, in Ontario, but there are many other species that are foreign to our climate and our country. I think we should specify some ways -- I don't see it in the legislation, but I'm sure that when we get to the nitty-gritty, this is going to be addressed. Perhaps the number of exotic animals should be limited to either one or two, sometimes maybe none; some others can be maybe two or three or four.

In the case of North York, for example, we say, "Not more than one rabbit if you're gong to keep it as a pet," or, "No more than three" -- I believe, if I remember well -- "chickens or roosters per family if they are considered as pets." This should be taken into consideration.

Also -- and I haven't seen it in the proposed regulation here -- exotic animals are kept by a circus, let's say, and from time to time we do have a travelling circus from town to town, city to city. I have no idea if that particular area is covered by some other piece of legislation or that we should incorporate it in this one.

I had a few more things to say, but time goes fast. As I said, I will support the intent of the motion.

Mr Laughren: May I first of all commend my friend from York East for bringing forward this private member's bill. It's one which I have no hesitancy in supporting. I think it's long overdue. I think he said that every other province has such legislation. It is strange that we don't have it yet in this province. As I understand his bill, it means there must be a licensing system for anybody who has, under their charge, any exotic animal from outside the province, outside Ontario -- not just Canada, but from outside Ontario -- if they're found in the wild in their natural habitat.

The licensing is necessary. I don't know how else you control it if you don't have licensing. I noticed in this bill that other classes can be added by regulation. If this bill were to pass, they can simply add new ones to it. Believe me, I take this bill seriously; I would not want to be frivolous. But I assume they're keeping in reserve being able to add classes, so that in the dark of the night this government can bring the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale-Bedrock under protection of this act as well, without bringing it before the Legislature. I say that in an affectionate way, of course.

There are a couple of parts that bother me. One is the investigators. I don't know where you're going to get these investigators, because your government has cut back so much -- in the Ministry of the Environment, for example, in the Ministry of Natural Resources -- that they're already unable to do the job they're supposed to be doing. If you think you're going to convince your government to hire inspectors for the monitoring of exotic animals, when they won't provide enough to monitor the environment, I think you're dreaming in Technicolor. However, I am not questioning the principles involved or the intentions of the member for York East. I support him 100%.

The other area that bothers me a bit -- and I think the member for York East is trained in the legal profession. At least he has the insouciance, the sophistication, the panache of someone who's been called to the bar -- maybe many times; I don't know. I'm not trained in the legal profession, but I think the member for York East is. I was surprised at the ability of the registrar to refuse a licence, revoke a licence or refuse to allow one to be renewed without a hearing, to just do it. I worry about that. Are there not some rules of natural justice that say you should have to hold some kind of hearing so this issue can be aired and a person can have his or her day in court? It just seems to me that would be unusual. I find it passing strange that the member for York East would put that into his bill.

I think it's too onerous to say that if I go before the registrar and indicate that I would like to have a licence for the keeping of exotic animals, the registrar can just sit there and say, "No, I refuse," just write me a letter and say, "No." As a matter of fact, he doesn't even have to put it in writing, as I understand the bill; the registrar doesn't have to give reasons in writing for decisions. I find that a bit autocratic and draconian. I ask the member for York East to respond to that if he would, if he has time at the conclusion of this debate.


But in principle I support his bill. I suspect there's not one of us who hasn't gone to a zoo or someplace to view animals, to take out children and so forth to see the animals. I suspect most of us have a certain pang of almost guilt when we see these incredible caged animals. Even though I'm not suggesting that we ban all zoos -- I wouldn't go that far -- I still have a pang of guilt whenever I go into a zoo and see these incredible caged animals. It's simply not a nice life sentence for these animals, whether they're exotic or otherwise.

I can certainly remember in Ontario seeing the black bear, which is domestic to Ontario, of course, penned up. There used to be a place on Highway 7 near Kaladar, a service station and a restaurant, and there was a cage there with a black bear in it that was pacing back and forth. It was not a large fenced area either; it really was a cage. I always felt that was not appropriate.

I suspect that while there are rules applied to animals in Ontario that are captured and kept, perhaps this could be done in one bill. Actually, the Game and Fish Act could have been expanded when it was brought for amendments to this House not too long ago. I can't remember when it was, but there were amendments made to the Game and Fish Act, and it should have been, I feel, included in those amendments so that we wouldn't be dependent upon the very good intentions of the member for York East through a private member's bill. However, that's passed now, and I simply wish to commend the member for York East for bringing this before the Legislature this morning.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It is a pleasure to assist the member for York East on the second reading of Bill 159. When the member asked me to address the issues in the bill, I reminisced and thought of some of the municipal bylaws that I was involved in, which I'll report to the House later.

This is an act to regulate the keeping of exotic animals; this isn't about keeping lions and tigers and bears. I think there are really two key issues. The two key issues here are the need to protect both the exotic animals or pets and also humans or the community. To protect and regulate is exactly what this bill is about: the licensing. It goes into some detail under regulations.

The other important aspect for me in the debate is to acknowledge that I don't support the keeping of personal pets of exotic varieties that could be a danger to both the keeper and to the community, certainly not in an unregulated environment, but with regulation I suspect that's a step closer to having a safe situation. But we need to ensure that we recognize both public and private zoos that conform to safe keeping of animals, whatever that is, and we need to recognize legitimate farm practices that prevail in Ontario with the diversification of the agricultural sector.

As I said at the beginning, I want to start with a few comments of a personal nature about what my riding of Durham East has had to deal with. When I was on local council, we passed an exotic animal bylaw, and I'll go into some detail on that in a few moments. Durham East is home to a couple of very famous, well-respected, well-recognized animal zoos, if you will. I'm going to cite them for the members.

We have the oldest private zoo in Ontario, perhaps in Canada, the Bowmanville Zoo. A very good friend of mine, Michael Hackenberger, and his partner operate that. They have very well-known tigers, but more importantly, elephants, used in commercials and featured in many movies. Michael Hackenberger is a professionally trained trainer. As well, I believe he has a background in zoology and animal husbandry. That zoo, by the way, is private; there's no public money, not like the Metro zoo or other public zoos throughout the world. It is recognized as part of the CAZPA, which, as Mr Parker mentioned, is sort of a self-regulating body. There's the Bowmanville zoo.

We also have in Durham East the Orono Exotic Cat World. Many of you may have seen that as you've driven up 35, 115 to Peterborough, east of Bowmanville, east of Orono. Exotic Cat World is also a very well-respected place, abode, zoo, whatever, for exotic cats primarily. I know the zookeeper family there personally. They are trained, they are involved, and they treat these animals almost as if they're pets, but they also have the proper storage and feeding facilities for the animals, so they're able to deal with a very complex problem.

I look around the riding, and on a different level we've got the Cadmus Country Club, which is a private trout farm. It's just a beautiful place to go. It's north of Bowmanville, in Blackstock, a little community. That could perhaps, in somebody's vocabulary, be illegitimate.

But one of the more famous ones I want to mention from Durham East is Bill and Paula Lishman. Bill Lishman is well known for the movie Fly Away Home, the Canada geese that were trained to fly in unison behind his little ultralight aircraft. There was a movie made of it, a very widely viewed and respected movie. In this definition, he may have been considered illegitimate, but I think he treated these wild birds as pets, more or less. But again, the animal itself sometimes needs protection in certain situations.

I go looking further, and my riding of Durham East is a fairly large agricultural riding. In my riding I know there are keepers of buffalo, emu, ostrich, mink, chinchilla, llama, and of course there would be the elk and red deer and fallow deer.

I know another family that's in the business of keeping wild birds. They operate a game farm, for release for pheasant hunts and things like that.

But on another level, in my riding there are people who have pets such as parrots and monkeys and other kinds of animals that could be defined as exotic. So it's about time; there was some need to regulate.

I'm going to move to the most important observation of why the municipality of Clarington passed a bylaw. The bylaw is 93-161, passed in the year 1993. I was on the council. I was a local councillor at the time. Mr Parker mentioned that an animal sanctuary moved from East York. Well, guess where it moved? It moved to Clarington, then called Newcastle. Of course that's another story. We were Newcastle, Ontario; now we're Clarington. That's another story, but Clarington is east of Oshawa. This exotic menagerie moved in, and the neighbours were just wild, furious, threatened. What do you do? Improper fencing and housing and care of the animals: Of course any civilized person would be concerned. These pets didn't ask for that situation.

I respect Mr Parker. There need to be regulations. Any person keeping any kind of animal needs to follow proper regulations or standards. I think most people who use them as domestic animals, whether it's horses or whatever, have a long practice of respecting the care and treatment of the animal.

I also must mention the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, Ms Isabel Bassett. Her Bill 153 deals with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

More specifically, why I wanted to comment on this bill, in the remaining minute I have, is to recognize that the member for York East is clearly on record as saying he is willing, as this goes into committee, to deal with the issues surrounding the Ministry of Agriculture.


My riding is an agricultural riding, and I would have the member know that exotic animal husbandry or farm animals that I mentioned and outlined need to be recognized as domestic or regular farm practices. We just went through the Farm Practices Protection Act and in that we fully want to diversify farm practices, but they aren't the same thing as I described, the animal sanctuary of these wild lions, tigers and bears running around the country. We can't accept that. That's just not acceptable. It's not an appropriate kind of thing.

Our bylaw in the municipality of Clarington went on to clearly schedule and itemize the proper storage and use of particular animals. I think it also talked to the need to recognize what were domestic occasions, and there were some licensing aspects and some inspection aspects for each of the animals named in the schedules.

I'm going to support the member's bill and I'm going to support it with the full recognition that he is going to work with the Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Noble Villeneuve, to make the proper amendments, recognizing the diversification of farm practices in Ontario today. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I want to commend the member for York East for bringing forward this bill which deals with exotic animals in captivity in Ontario. As has been said, this is a bill that is long overdue.

It's really not a surprise that it comes up during private members' time because, as legislators, we often become overwhelmed by other issues that we face in our communities, issues that affect health care, education, and working conditions for people who work in our communities as well. So it's good that during private members' time the member has come forward with a bill of this nature.

This is a bill that not only is going to deal with the conditions that animals are being kept in but also is going to provide some control for the government on where these animals are kept, who is keeping them and what conditions they are going to be kept in.

We've seen over the past few years a real escalation in the illegal traffic of exotic species into countries like Canada. It's a worldwide problem and it's depleting species in countries in South America and Central America and Africa, places like that where exotic species of animals, what we would term exotic species of animals but of course they're native in those locations, are now becoming endangered because of the market demands for exotic species here in Ontario, for example.

That's one area where I think a bill like this is going to be able to provide some much-needed control and some legitimacy for that market so that people who are going to be importing exotic animals into Ontario aren't going to do it in conditions that are going to actually result in the death of many of those animals, because that's what happens to them when they're being imported illegally into Ontario. We don't want to be seen to be continuing to deplete species in other countries like Mexico and Costa Rica, for example.

I think it's going to go some way in reducing the incidence of the transmission of diseases that come along sometimes with exotic animals that come from outside the country. These are diseases that may be passed on, not only to animals of that same species but to other animals in Ontario that are important as far as our agricultural industry, that we really don't have any awareness of or ability to deal with. That's an issue that may be addressed as well.

I come from the city of Windsor and had an opportunity when I was a lawyer with the legal department at the city to have drafted an animal control bylaw in the city of Windsor which had a definition of exotic species of animals, and it has an absolute prohibition on the possession of exotic animals within the city of Windsor. Exotic animals in that bylaw are defined as animals that are not indigenous to Ontario. In the city of Windsor the only people who are able to possess these types of animals are people who are running pet shops and people who have circuses. There are no zoos in the city of Windsor. There may be some other exemptions, but I haven't looked at the bylaw for a while and I don't remember exactly what it was.

The other thing the bylaw contains is that anyone can only possess two of any animal that is indigenous to Ontario as pets. This really leads me into one of the concerns I do have about the bill, and that is with respect to the powers of investigation.

In section 15 it says, "The minister or a person authorized in writing by the minister may appoint an investigator for" various purposes under the act. I know in our area, in trying to enforce animal control bylaws, the difficulties that investigators have had in trying to not only gain access into properties, but also deal with the animals they find and deal with the conditions they find in those, many times, residential properties.

On occasion we've found people with hundreds of domestic cats, for example, but living in conditions that are really substandard and conditions that are contributing to disease and malnutrition in those animals. We know the difficulties that enforcement officers have, the resources that need to be allocated, just to undertake searches of residences for a somewhat simple matter like that.

This is legislation that's going to require some resources to provide enforcement mechanisms. The member for Yorkview, in his remarks, indicated that he was looking for something in the legislation that dealt with actual living conditions for animals. I'm happy to see in section 21 in the regulation-making provisions of this bill it provides that regulations can be made prescribing standards for the premises and conditions for keeping exotic animals and the standards for the premises and the conditions in which a licensee is authorized to keep or have possession of exotic animals.

Those are important provisions. We need to make sure that if we are going to license people to possess exotic animals, there are some means to ensure that the premises on which they're keeping those animals are up to standard, that they're not contributing to the spread of disease, they're not contributing to malnutrition of animals, they're not conditions that are basically unhealthy for exotic animals.

That's going to require some investigative resources. The minister who is responsible for this act is going to need more than "an investigator." There is going to have to be a team of investigators in the province who are going to be responsible for the enforcement of this legislation, and I would suggest that this isn't a responsibility that should be downloaded to municipalities and to the local law enforcement people in our communities. We do have inspectors from the Ministry of Natural Resources now who investigate matters of a similar nature, also I would suspect from agriculture and food as well, but clearly these aren't people who are trained in the conditions that exotic species of animals are going to have to be kept in. So that's something I have a concern about as well.

In closing, I do want to commend the member for York East for bringing this legislation forward. It is something we do need and is going to benefit exotic species of animals here in Ontario and those who wish to keep them here in Ontario. I hope we pass this bill today and I look forward to further debate with respect to some of the issues that have been raised here this morning.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate? The member for Scarborough West.

Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I am pleased to be able to speak on my colleague's bill --

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I thought I took the floor first here. Are we going in alphabetical order?

The Deputy Speaker: I recognized the first one who stood up, which was the member for Scarborough West.

Mr Jim Brown: I am pleased to be able to speak on my colleague's bill, An Act to regulate the keeping of Exotic Animals. I have a deep concern for animal welfare and have spoken many times in this House about our animal friends.

I would like to thank the member for York East for addressing the problems of regulating the ownership of exotic animals. We must work to ensure that no animal is abused and that laws are in place to prevent abuse of exotic animals and at the same time protect the public.

My colleague's bill, as it now stands, highlights some concerns to the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services. The development of a system of registration and licensing could create significant costs. Red tape and regulations cost the taxpayers and this concerns our ministry. There must be a balance between cost and effectiveness.

There is also matter of whether such a registry would fall under provincial or municipal jurisdiction. I would invite my colleague to work with the ministry to find an effective and cost-efficient way to regulate the care and use of exotic animals. It is possible this bill could be amended to give the municipalities the responsibility for registering and looking after the regulation of exotic animals.

With some changes, should this bill pass second reading, I believe this bill could be a valuable asset in helping to protect animals from mistreatment and to protect the public from possibly dangerous situations.

Every animal in captivity is in complete and total dependence on its owner. When there is such dependence, there is a danger of abuse and neglect and we can't tolerate that.

There was an incident near my riding this week where a pit bull terrier was found chained to a tree by the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs. The dog was left in such a way that investigators believe the owner intended for the dog to fall over the cliff and hang itself from its chain. A month ago a cat was hanged in Scarborough. This was another pet killed by insensitive human hands.

Abuse of animals is not limited to domestic animals. The motion picture Project X received widespread criticism following allegations that the monkeys used in the film were beaten to get them to perform for the cameras.

Under the definition of "exotic animal" in this bill are included all animals "not native to Ontario" that are normally found in the wild. I believe my colleague is working on this definition to make it more applicable.

Animal welfare legislation in this province has not undergone any dramatic change since 1919 and it needs a review. My colleagues from York East and St Andrew-St Patrick have both given this House good ideas.

Before I conclude, I must relate to this House the public's concern over animal welfare. Holly, the dog that was dragged behind a car last year for disciplinary purposes, spurred more calls to the Solicitor General's office than any other case except the Bernardo case. When puppies were allegedly flushed down a toilet about a month ago, their story was front-page news. The public cares intensely.

I support my colleague's goal and think that this bill is a good idea in general, subject to amendments.

Mr Preston: I have to agree with my colleague from Durham East in his remarks regarding zoos. The Nickel Belt representative said that he feels a pang of remorse when he sees a caged animal, but we must remember that our regulated zoos are the only repository for a very great number of animals that are becoming extinct. If it weren't for our regulatory zoos we would have no more California condor, the sandhill crane, panda bears and the list goes on. Our regulated zoos are really creating a great benefit for our civilization because it's tomorrow that we have to worry about.

I have to congratulate the member for York East on this bill. It's going to mean an awful lot of work for him because the definition of "exotic animal," as has been stated by everybody, is going to be very difficult to pin down. A person who has a chameleon that they wear on their collar or the person who has the 500-pound tiger: Where in between those do we draw the line?

I'd like to thank Mr Sergio from Yorkview who spoke about the wild goose, the goose chase he called it. I had people complain about noise in the back of my property, and when the police got there they came to complain about barking dogs but indeed it was wild geese. So they were on a wild goose chase.

Enforcement is going to be a problem. But the bill in its inception is for the good of the people and the good of the animals. The member for York East has said in his second statement, "I'm prepared to listen and make changes so that it fits." Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for York East, you have two minutes.

Mr Parker: Thank you to all who commented here this morning. I'd like to use some of the remaining two minutes available to me to acknowledge and thank some of the people who have been very central in advising me on this matter, some of whom are here to support it this morning: Joan Henry; Rob Laidlaw, Andrea Villiers and Holly Penfound from Zoocheck -- Rob and Andrea in particular have been very helpful in guiding me through this process; Silia Smith, executive director of the World Society for the Protection of Animals Canada, Patrick Tohill, communications officer for the World Society for the Protection of Animals Canada; Stephanie Brown, past president, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; and Liz White, director of the Animal Alliance of Canada. I am grateful for their support and for the advice they have been able to give me directly or indirectly.

I want to thank the members for Yorkview, Nickel Belt, Durham East, Windsor-Riverside -- and I welcome the member for Windsor-Riverside back to this House after his brief vacation; I haven't had the occasion to do that yet and I'm happy to have the opportunity this morning to do so -- and the members for Scarborough West and Brant-Haldimand for their remarks this morning. I take very seriously the cautions they have raised. I think their concerns are fair, legitimate and deserve attention. I look forward to working with them if this bill gets the favour of this House on second reading and has the opportunity to proceed for further study.

I'm grateful in particular for what I think was support from the member for Nickel Belt. I'm grateful for the same sort of effusive, unqualified support he gave to this bill that I was so pleased to give to his candidacy for Speaker of this chamber. When an NDP member calls your bill "autocratic and draconian," I know they love you and I appreciate that very much.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 101 standing in the name of Mr Johnson. 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 number 102 standing in the name of Mr Parker. Mr Parker has moved second reading of Bill 159. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): Mr Speaker, I move that this bill be referred to the standing committee on general government.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed? Agreed.

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

The House recessed from 1159 to 1334.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to ask for unanimous consent from the members of the Assembly that all three caucuses have the opportunity to pay tribute to World Teachers' Day this Sunday, October 5.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Do we have consent to pay tribute to World Teachers' Day, October 5? Agreed?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I understand that one of our members already has a statement in that regard. This request came in very late in the day. Since one of our members is going to make a statement on this matter, perhaps the opposition may wish to consider making such a statement on Monday, during their members' statements.

The Speaker: So I take that as a no.



M. Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury) : Bienvenue au Collège Boréal. C'est avec grand plaisir que je souhaite officiellement la bienvenue aux membres de la communauté du Collège Boréal en tant que composante du monde de l'éducation de Sudbury et bien sûr du nord de l'Ontario. Il ne fait nul doute que le Collège Boréal a déjà eu des effets positifs sur notre communauté. Nous savons qu'il sera un partenaire important dans la croissance du nord de l'Ontario.

Les membres de l'administration, du personnel et les étudiants et étudiantes du Collège Boréal devraient être fiers que leur rêve soit devenu réalité. L'édifice, l'emplacement et la technologie utilisée dans cette institution et dans l'ensemble du nord de l'Ontario sont autant de signes tangibles de sa présence.

Nous sommes heureux qu'il fait maintenant partie de notre communauté et nous savons le bien considérable qu'il nous apportera. Il sera pour de nombreuses années un outil de croissance qui nous permettra d'atteindre l'excellence en éducation. C'est l'aurore d'une nouvelle dimension.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Speaker, in compliance with your ruling, I have removed the button that says "World Teachers' Day," but I want to bring to the government's attention the irony we see ourselves faced with. We have a debate going on in this Legislature on Bill 160 that, as a very major part of its thrust, is going to take away the basic protections teachers have; but more significantly than that, it's going to make it impossible for them to continue to carry on the kinds of responsibilities they have towards our young people in the school system. Yet we see an attempt by the government to say that they like teachers, that they are in favour of teachers, that their fight is not with teachers, while at the same time they are proceeding to put the teachers' backs up against the wall and forcing the strike that is impending.

We know that the fight our teachers are taking on has nothing to do with bettering their pocketbooks. It has everything to do with protecting the school system we have from the kind of ongoing attack this government seems to be intent on proceeding with. I want to say to the government that whether it's the 100 or so parents who were at the meeting at St Raymond school in my riding last night or the 200 people who were at a similar meeting a couple of weeks ago, parents and students understand what this fight is about. They are unanimously saying to the government that the attack you are taking on against our teachers and against our school system is wrong.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): This is an exciting year for the Orangeville Agricultural Society. Labour Day weekend marked the 140th annual fall fair for the Orangeville Agricultural Society. After 140 years, this year's fair had the largest turnout of visitors ever. Most organizations would be happy to mark their 140th anniversary with a grand celebration. The Orangeville Agricultural Society decided to go one step further and has built one of the premier fairgrounds in Ontario.

In April 1997, the Orangeville Agricultural Society began building a new fairgrounds northeast of Orangeville in Mono township. This beautiful new complex overlooks Island Lake and has a facility that will serve our community well in the years to come. The years of planning and consultation have ensured a facility that not only serves the needs of the agricultural society but also the urban community, with the inclusion of a banquet and exhibition hall.

The first agricultural societies were designed to educate and enlighten the farming population. Educating urban residents has now become the focus of agricultural societies and fall fairs. The history of agricultural societies in Ontario is one that has always involved volunteers and people helping people.

The Orangeville Agricultural Society has not veered from these noble beginnings and has indeed become a focal point of our society. I'd like to congratulate the board of directors and members of the Orangeville Agricultural Society who have worked so hard over the past few years to bring this dream to reality.



Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a message for the Minister of Natural Resources. At this time of year the phones in my office and across the province ring and the letters come pouring in. It's about the allocation of deer and moose tags in this province, and a minister who has done absolutely nothing about it.

I have a letter that is particularly instructive, Mr Minister. It's addressed to you. It says:

"I would really like to know how a person can go year after year, applying for a tag only to be let down by a system that does not work. I know this first hand....

"It has come to my attention after speaking to members of the Elliot Lake Rod and Gun Club, and also with Mr Ed Duff of the anglers and hunters association (Spanish branch) that I am not alone in feeling that this system has major problems and just is not working."

Later on he says, and I find this particularly appalling:

"After finding out I was unsuccessful for the fifth year in a row, I felt I deserved some kind of explanation. I contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources.... I explained my situation to the woman who answered the telephone and asked to speak to someone about this matter. I was informed that I was not allowed to speak with anyone, that she would e-mail my complaint to whomever, and if they felt there was any wrongdoing they would contact me. She said she didn't see anything that was wrong and told me not to expect an answer."

That's totally unacceptable. He goes on to say:

"As a respectful hunter, taxpayer, and a Canadian citizen...I would like to know, is the Ministry of Natural Resources not a government-operated system?"

The Minister of Natural Resources has been there for two and a half years. He has done nothing to correct this problem. He has a report on his desk. The minister needs to act on behalf of Ontario's hunters.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Three months ago the board of health for the Porcupine health unit sent a letter to the Premier to express their serious concerns about the lack of 100% funding for a number of public health programs. Since the Premier has not taken the time to listen and to respond to their concerns, I want to read part of the letter.

"The board believes that the current plan to hand funding of all local public health programs to municipalities will place an unfair funding burden on certain health units and municipalities, most particularly in northern Ontario.

"Programs such as unorganized territories program, genetics program, speech-language pathology program and the mobile dental treatment program are at risk here since they have not been placed in the proposed mandatory program guidelines.

"These programs are unique and vital for northern Ontario, and as such, we are asking that measures be taken to ensure that vital programs provided by public health units will continue to be 100% provincially funded."

I am asking the Premier today to respond immediately to my constituents' concerns and to assure them, and all of us, that northern Ontario has access to funding of these services on the same basis as other residents throughout Ontario.

I might point out that I have a large number of letters here that have been sent to the Premier's office and to the Minster of Health and they haven't been responded to. I don't know if they intend to respond to them or not, but people in northern Ontario are very much concerned that when you dump all this funding on to municipalities, municipalities are going to have no choice but to either eliminate the services or raise taxes.

Taxes are high enough now without having to raise the property taxes to compensate for Mike Harris wanting to give a tax break to the wealthiest people throughout this province.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): As members of this Legislature know, yesterday marked the fourth celebration of the annual recognition by the United Nations of the International Day of Older Persons.

The maturing of nations around the world, including Canada, causes us to reflect on the changing priorities of society, the new challenges we will face in the years ahead, as well as the numerous opportunities presenting themselves.

In his book Boom, Bust and Echo, author David Foot notes the critical role seniors will play in both our economy and in the priorities of everyday life as they become an increasingly larger proportion of our cities, towns and communities.

Our government has recognized the important role seniors play in our society, with the Premier showing the vision to appoint a minister responsible for seniors' issues, the Honourable Cam Jackson, who has long been an advocate for seniors across Ontario.

The demand for strong and sustainable health care that will be there when our growing senior population needs it is a singular priority for our government, reflecting the growing importance of seniors in our province.

I know members of this House as well as friends and neighbours in my community of Hamilton join me in extending our very best wishes to all those who marked the International Day of Older Persons and wish them many years of success in the future.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Milestone Communications Ltd has appealed to the federal cabinet to overrule the decision of the CRTC awarding the 99.1 FM frequency to the CBC and not to Milestone for a world urban music station.

Milestone proposed that the CRTC grant them the frequency to serve Metro Toronto's young listener of world urban contemporary sound. The music would range from rhythm and blues, jazz, rap, hip hop and funk, calypso, Latin and reggae.

The new station would attract a mainstream, multicultural audience aged 18 to 34 who are now underserviced by the present selection of stations. With no station available to those listeners locally, many tune in to the weak signal that is available from Buffalo's world music station WBLK-FM.

Clearly the most diverse metropolitan city in Canada deserves its own station offering a Canadian perspective to black music. Although this Metro area boasts a black population of over 220,000, the station would serve listeners from all the communities around the greater Toronto area.

Our young black community needs a station to call their own. This is their city as much as it is anyone else's and they deserve a clear voice through a clear frequency to share their history, voice, music, culture with those from all other cultural backgrounds. They have a story to share and they need a Canadian radio station to articulate and express their message.

I have supported this bid since the beginning. I truly hope that with this appeal, Milestone will be granted the frequency for a new station on the airwaves for a new and vibrant voice in this diverse urban community.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): On Monday this government will release its fourth set of numbers on the cost of its download. Since no one but the Conservative caucus believes this will be revenue-neutral, it's time for the government to come clean on what it intends to do to assist municipalities facing huge property tax increases. Nowhere is this more necessary than in northern Ontario where the total download cost is now $282 million.

The Minister of Northern Development has clearly been told that the loss of the northern support grant makes the download much worse in the north. A review of the loss of all unconditional grants, including road subsidies, in northern Ontario shows a loss per household of $480.47 in the north versus a loss of $105.32 in the south. That's why the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association have called on this minister and this government to establish northern development investments to cope with our special needs in the face of the download.

The Minister of Northern Development knows the community reinvestment fund announced by the government is not specifically earmarked for the north. He knows FONOM, NOMA and the mayors of the five major northern centres do not accept this fund as an adequate response to our needs. He knows thousands of people in northern Ontario have petitioned him to keep the northern support grant so we won't be devastated by the download.

On Monday, we will see if the Minister of Northern Development will deliver. The north needs its own unique fund to cope with the impacts of the download. Anything less will not be acceptable.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I rise today in recognition of World Teachers' Day. It is an important day for us to look at because of the fact that we recognize teachers have such an important influence on all our children's lives.

While all of us can point to requirements, that is, academic requirements and federation membership, I think there are some real requirements. One of those is patience; patience for all students who come with a diverse set of needs. A second real requirement is a passion; a passion for excellence to stretch our students to become the best they can. Those are the kinds of qualities we see in those who teach our children today.

Today we recognize the importance of this influence and I would ask members to think for a moment on those teachers they remember, those teachers who had the kind of influence on them, who provided the inspiration and the motivation to become the people they could as well.

I want to pay special recognition, obviously as a teacher myself, to World Teachers' Day.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Time for oral questions, official opposition, member for Lawrence.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): Mr Speaker, I don't see the Minister of Education in attendance and he was supposed to be here.

The Speaker: Do you want to stand it down?


The Speaker: Member for Durham East, come to order. Member for Durham East, thank you for your assistance. Did you want to stand it down?

Mr Cordiano: We have a number of questions for the Minister of Education.

The Speaker: All right, then let's stand them both down and we'll go to the third party.


The Speaker: It's one or the other.

Mr Cordiano: Mr Speaker, question period starts more or less at the same time every day.

The Speaker: Look, member for Lawrence, I don't need any lectures on when question period starts. Do you want to stand it down or not?


The Speaker: Stand it down. Third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): We'll have to stand down our questions too, Speaker.

The Speaker: Question, member for Windsor-Walkerville. Can you restart the clock, please?


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The opposition is ready when question period starts. Unfortunately, the government isn't.

Minister, under subsection 257.12(1) of Bill 160, the Minister of Finance may make regulations for prescribing the tax rates for school purposes, but under subsection 257.12(4), the regulations under the above section "shall prescribe a single tax rate for the residential/farm property class and the multiresidential property class."

Given that across Ontario multiresidential apartment buildings are taxed at a rate which is two, four or, in some cases, six times as high as single-family homes, a fact which your parliamentary assistant frequently pointed out in debates on Bill 96, prescribing a single tax rate could mean a significant increase in taxes of homeowners and a significant decrease in the property tax on apartment buildings.

Can the minister tell the House today how much the education portion of the property taxes of homeowners will increase and apartments decrease because of provisions in Bill 160?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for the question. Obviously what this government is trying to do and will do is to bring some fairness and equity back into the property tax system.

If the member opposite thinks it's fair that tenants in Ontario pay up to six times as much in property tax as a single-family homeowner, I have to say I don't agree with that. I want to see some fairness and equity come into a very fractured assessment and tax system that we've had in Ontario for years. A property taxpayer, whether he lives in a rental accommodation or whether he lives in a single-family home or whether he lives in a condo, should be treated with the same fairness and equity as every other member of our society.

Mr Duncan: It's obvious the government doesn't know what the impact is. What we do know for sure is that tenants won't realize the benefit, it'll be landlords, because you provided weak amendments to a bill that doesn't protect tenants and you rejected our amendments, which would ensure that tenants realize the gain from decreases in property taxes.

Minister, the people of this province want to know how much homeowners' taxes will go up in Mississauga, in Kingston, in Windsor, and why you didn't provide reasonable guarantees that any decreases to property taxes for apartment buildings would flow through to tenants. You didn't do that. Why not? Will you now agree to revise Bill 96 and accept our proposition that will ensure that property taxes will go down for tenants and, at the same time, protect homeowners right across Ontario?

Hon Mr Leach: I thank the member for the question. I was actually going to get one of our backbenchers to ask that next week. What we want --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. You have to admit they are cute at that age though, aren't they?

As I said earlier, what we want to do is ensure that there is fairness in the tax system and what we're going to do with Bill 96 is ensure that fairness is there, that tax increases that come to a landlord will be able to be passed on to the tenant and tax decreases that are provided to a landlord will be passed through to the tenant. That's the type of fairness and equity this government is going to bring to the tax system, something that should have been done many years ago. The people of Ontario finally have a government that is prepared to deal with it.

The Speaker: New question, third question, third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): We still have a dearth of cabinet ministers, but the government House leader is here and I'd like to ask him a question.

The Speaker: Okay, but right now, I'm just going to finish the third questions and then go back to the leaders' questions for both parties. So third question from the third party.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. The minister will know that a group of parents delivered 400 letters to the government House leader this morning. These are all from parents who are concerned about Bill 160 and are uncertain about the future of education for their children. They know the bill gives the minister power to decide which classes will be taught by non-teachers, but they don't know which ones those will be. Also, they don't know how much money the government intends to spend on education because the funding formula is not spelled out and they're worried that the government may be going to take more money out of education for their children.

Will the minister, in response to these concerns of parents and the concerns of students who have been outside this place today demonstrating -- and in Durham a number have walked out as well; North Bay as well -- withdraw proceeding with Bill 160 until such time as he makes it clear how much money --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Education.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm very eager to respond to the member for Algoma. I'm pleased to inform him that I've checked with my colleagues on the mail they've been receiving and the phone calls they've been receiving in their constituency offices. I've talked to people in the ministry who are getting the response clips back from the information we've sent out to homes across the province. I can assure the member for Algoma that the vast majority of people, parents who are sending in this information to us, who are contacting our constituency offices, are saying: "Well done. Carry on. Go forward. Get a better education for our kids."

Mr Wildman: The parents who have presented the 400 letters this morning, the students who have walked out of classrooms, the teachers who have attended rallies across the province by the thousands are not happy with the way the minister and the government are proceeding. They are most concerned and worried that the government is pushing teachers to the brink. Parents don't want a strike, but they understand that the teachers are concerned about the quality of education for their children.

If the government is determined to proceed with Bill 160, as the minister seems to be, despite the concerns of parents, students, teachers and others interested in the quality of education, will he at least make a commitment that his government will provide for widespread hearings across the province in committee before this bill is passed into law so that these people will have the opportunity to express their concerns?

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Wildman: Will the minister at least make that commitment, that we're not going to just have three or four days of hurried hearings, that we're actually going to allow everyone who wants to make a presentation --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Algoma.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to reassure the member for Algoma that we have certainly heard from parents and from taxpayers in the province who are concerned with the level of student performance, who want to make sure we can have a level of student performance that's the best in Canada -- we think that's what our young people deserve -- who are very interested in having our students have more time on tasks, the opportunity to have more time in their studies, the opportunity to not have the continuation in the growth in class sizes we saw through the social contract and other policies of your government. They're very pleased that is happening.

I can assure the member opposite that the government House leader will obviously, as this bill goes through the democratic process, provide opportunity for input from people on the bill, on the conditions of the bill. In addition to that, the member for Algoma can be assured by the fact that I will continue -- even outside of that process -- to look forward to working with people who are concerned about education, including the teachers, who, I understand, will be looking forward to a meeting in the near future.


The Speaker: New question; member for Lawrence.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a question for the Minister of Education. You have been, for months, desperately trying to make people believe that your education reforms are not motivated by the bottom-line objectives you have. You want people to believe that somehow you're making these reforms and you're not taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the education system, which in fact you've already done. If that wasn't enough, now you have an even bigger problem. You have another $1 billion in cuts to camouflage. How can you expect anyone to believe you when you say you're trying to put the interests of students first? Will you now stand up and tell the truth about your additional plans to take another $1 billion out of education?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The Premier spoke on this earlier this week and made it very clear to everyone in this chamber -- you might not have been listening -- that we have no such plans. We do have a plan, though, to make sure our students have the best performance in Canada. We think that's what we owe the students of Ontario. We have a commitment to doing that at the best possible cost. If you have an objection to either one of those objectives, please say what it is.

Mr Cordiano: Very clearly, let me tell you exactly what you've done. Over a year ago, you contracted with Strategic Counsel Inc. They knew exactly what you were up to, what you really wanted to do to the education system. You asked them to test how you could get away with getting rid of 10,000 teachers. They conducted focus groups and polls and they told you it would be "very problematic" to fire 10,000 teachers in the province of Ontario and get away with it. I'm going to ask you again: Are you going to stand in your place today and deny that you had plans to fire 10,000 teachers and take an additional $1 billion out of the education system? Will you stand up and deny that today?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The intentions of this government are well known, because the intentions of our government have been put forward in proposed legislation in this chamber. Our intentions are very simple. Our intentions are to have the province be responsible for the funding of education so that every student in the province can have access to a high quality of education. Our intention is to make sure we reduce the amount of money that we're spending on bureaucracies and on governance for education. To make sure our funds are spent on issues that matter to students is another one of our intentions.

Our overriding intention is to provide a better quality of education for our students by capping the growth in class size, by making sure they have more time on tasks in the classroom, in their studies, so they can have the advantages students in other provinces have. I think that's honourable. I don't understand why you would have objection to any of that.

Mr Cordiano: The minister's plan all along was to get rid of 10,000 teachers. Strategic Counsel told you that you wouldn't get away with doing it directly, so what do you do? You try to do it indirectly. You've started a propaganda war against teachers. You attack teachers and you create a whole bunch of phoney issues to undermine teachers' credibility. All the while you say to them: "Tone down your rhetoric. Come and deal with us in good faith." How can they do that when you've shown no faith whatsoever in teachers?

The fact is that you've had a hidden agenda all along to get rid of 10,000 teachers and to pull another $1 billion out of the education system. I want to ask you again, Minister, to stand in your place today and tell us that you have no plans to fire 10,000 teachers and take an additional $1 billion out of the education system. Stand up and deny that.

Hon Mr Snobelen: First of all, I take exception when the member opposite stands in his place and says what is simply not based in fact, and that is some reference to me attacking teachers. I have never done that. I have stood in this chamber and on platforms across the province and said our education has the most highly qualified, highly respected people of any system I know of. I'll say that again today. Our teachers are the best-qualified of anyone in Canada, and we must give them the system they need to make sure our students' performance is the best in Canada.

I've said time and again that the teachers are the core of education and the core of a new education system in Ontario, a better education system in Ontario, an education system intended to deliver the results our students need. That's the case, that's the record, and it's been the record for the last two years and more months.

I can say that if a phoney issue for you is the fact that our students are stuck in mediocre test results, that's not a phoney issue for me or for this government.

The Speaker: New question; member for Fort William.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is to the Minister of Education. In January 1997, the headline in the Ottawa Citizen was, "Government Works on Plan to Drop 10,000 Teachers." Today we are debating Bill 160. This minister has been setting the stage for this fight with teachers from the time he came in with his plan to create a crisis in education.

Minister, you want your $1 billion and you need control of all the tools to let you make those cuts, and that, pure and simple, is what Bill 160 is all about.

This week your Premier has said in the most provocative way that you can't trust teachers and trustees to provide a quality education. Believe it or not, you and the Premier have been trying to lay the blame for larger class sizes on teachers, and that is a direct attack on teachers. You want to say: "Give us the power. Trust us." Minister, you know that larger class sizes are the result of the cuts you have already made, and once again you are deliberately trying to pick a fight with teachers to get the power you want and hide your cuts from the public.

Will you drop this public relations campaign against teachers? Will you stop trying to pick this fight?

Hon Mr Snobelen: To the member opposite, I must say that I think I made the record very clear in the speech I made introducing second reading of this particular piece of legislation. It's on record that our goal here is to improve quality in education for our young people. We measure quality by our students' performance. That's what we believe is the senior measure of quality in our system. All the things contained in this legislation are designed to do just that.

If the member opposite, by virtue of saying "control" or these other words, is suggesting that the provincial government, this government, believes that someone should be accountable, someone should be representing the interests of students, someone should be making sure that class sizes don't grow, someone should be making sure that students have more time on tasks, more time to study, more time to compete with their counterparts across Canada, then yes indeed, that is our goal. Our goal most definitely is to make sure we can control those quality issues for our students.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you are trying to pick a fight and you are trying to create an impression that is simply not based on fact. You are trying to create the impression that large class sizes are the results of teachers looking for pay increases.

I point to the evidence of the record of this week alone. Your Premier said that the Lakehead Board of Education negotiated an increase in class size to give a pay raise to teachers. It is a fact that teachers in the elementary and secondary schools of the Lakehead Board of Education have had no increase in salary for five years and no increase in benefits for five years. There was an increase in class size of one student in grades 3 to 8, and it was there for one reason. That was to save junior kindergarten from your $145 million in cuts.

Yesterday the Premier accused the Lakehead separate board of negotiating an increase in class size. There was a small increase in the elementary class size. It was the only way they could fix the unfairness to young teachers that was created when you cemented the cuts that the NDP had made through the social contract.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mrs McLeod: The Premier has said you aren't interested in why, and we know why you're not interested in knowing why the class sizes went up, because they were the result of your cuts. Again I ask, will you stop the war on teachers --

The Speaker: Thank you.


Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Fort William has been in this chamber for some time and understands what it means to have a grid and what it means when people go through a salary grid, understands all those things, although you wouldn't find that in the question. The point she's missing is this: that regardless of who took what stance at a bargaining table, regardless of who argued what position, the result of bargaining year in and year out in the province, for a long period of time, going back to perhaps before the social contract, has been that class sizes have been growing and property taxes have been going way up beyond inflation.

This bill will allow the province to take responsibility for funding education, which any number of outside reports have suggested provincial governments do, when you were in power and when they were in power. We've done that. We've also now in this bill sought to cap the growth in class sizes and cap the growth in property taxes. Surely, having the ability to make sure class sizes don't grow is a good thing.

Mrs McLeod: I do understand what $1 billion in cuts has already done to public education; I certainly understand what $1 billion more in cuts will do to public education; and I understand completely how you are trying to justify your power grab to make that $1 billion in cuts by falsely accusing teachers and trustees of being untrustworthy. Yet despite all the provocation you have given them, despite all your attacks on teachers, teachers are prepared to sit down once again and try to avoid the confrontation that none of us wants to see ahead.

Minister, if these talks are going to have any hope at all of success, you have to stop your public war and you have to step back from your ultimatums. You are still today setting down bottom lines of what is non-negotiable. You still want all the control. You want that for one reason, and the teachers know it: You want the power to make the cuts you need.

Your bottom line is still to get your hands on the levers that will give you $1 billion, and your bottom line will still mean the loss of as many as 10,000 teachers that you were looking for last January. Will you drop the ultimatums, withdraw Bill 160 and sit down and have real discussions with teachers so we can avoid the confrontation ahead?

Hon Mr Snobelen: To be clear once again to the member for Fort William, this government has no intention, no plan to withdraw $1 billion. It has a plan to change the funding system from a system that treated some students in Ontario as second-class students to a funding system that's not predicated on property values but predicated on identified need of students. We most certainly have that intention. We're working very hard at developing that. I'm sure it will be a dramatic improvement for students in schools in Ontario.

We have no intention whatsoever to step back from representing the interests of students, representing the intention of making sure that Ontario's students have the highest performance of any jurisdiction in Canada. We will not step one foot back from that position.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): In the absence of the Minister of Health, I have a question for the government House leader. Today I sent a letter to the Minister of Health, asking him to meet with me and our health critic to discuss the problems with the Red Cross homemakers' service.

This is a service that provides home care in 45 communities across Ontario. The Red Cross itself says the problem that has resulted comes from your $500-million cut to pay equity. Regardless, this is a vital health care service, one that literally thousands of people depend upon.

I want to ask you, what is your government's response to our invitation? Is the Minister of Health willing to meet with myself and our health critic, the Red Cross representative and the homemakers' representative? Will you do that?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I'll refer this matter to the Minister of Labour.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): As I indicated yesterday, we were quite prepared to meet with all three parties and we would be quite anxious to see if there is a resolution to the problem. But I would just indicate to you that this morning when Mr Prowse was on CFRB, he indicated that he hoped it was up to the three leaders of the parties to come together and set politics aside to address the problem. Certainly that's what we would like to do as well.

Mr Hampton: I asked the question of the government House leader because I assume that he is the acting Premier of the day, since I gather the Minister of Health doesn't answer any of these questions any more.

The Minister of Health suddenly comes into the Legislature yesterday -- and this is a problem that has been around for over a year; it's a problem the Minister of Health has known about for over a year -- and tries to blame everyone else for a problem that he's known about for a year. I ask the minister for a commitment that the Minister of Health would come and discuss this, because this is not a labour issue; this is a health issue. Some 73,000 across this province depend upon this service, yet we haven't seen the Minister of Health.

I'm going to ask you again: Will you guarantee that the Minister of Health, the person responsible for health care in Ontario, will come and deal with this very important health care issue?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just remind you again that this problem arose from the 1988 pay equity legislation, which unfortunately did cover the Red Cross. They were the only homemaking organization to have 500 and more employees. Unfortunately the deadline for compliance is January 1, 1998, so they have been caught in a bind because of the pay equity legislation of 1988.

Mr Hampton: I again ask for a commitment that the Minister of Health would come and try to help us find a solution to this health care problem. It's clear that the Minister of Labour continues to want to find someone to blame, so I'll take her up. Minister, there was no problem until you cut pay equity. Until your government went after the lowest-paid women in this province, there was no problem. That's where the problem results.

I too can quote the Red Cross submission. They say, "There is an overall reduction in the availability and desirability of institutional care while financial constraints are imposed and will continue in the homemaker service providers." In other words, you're cutting hospital care and you're also applying constraint to homemakers. That's what's created the problem. You've got a Minister of Health who wants to cut services in hospitals and then he wants to do homemaking care on the cheap.

I ask you again: Will the Minister of Health meet with us to find a solution to this health care problem, instead of your government looking for someone to blame all the time?

Hon Mrs Witmer: As I indicated in my first answer, the government is quite prepared to meet with the other two parties on this issue, but I think you need to be very clear that this is a problem that was created by the 1988 Pay Equity Act and what you're now --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Minister.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would have to say I'm a little surprised, because last week you were asking us to uphold the principles of pay equity and this week you seem to be asking for us to make exceptions to the legislation.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. In continuing questions to you on the need for a public inquiry into Hamilton, you responded to me on September 18 by saying, "I would remind the member that under the Municipal Act and the regional municipality act, the municipality can hold an inquiry into matters relating to their own firefighters and those matters." You said the same thing to me yesterday. What I want to know is, do you stand by those statements today?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I stand by them, as advised by my legal counsel.

Mr Christopherson: And so the waffling begins. The fact of the matter is, Minister, that the law in the Municipal Act, which you say says our municipal council can hold a public inquiry, no longer exists. Do you know why? Because 10 months ago, under your Bill 86, you eliminated it. It's no longer there under the act. Therefore, if you don't even know the law, how can anybody in Hamilton have faith you could possibly understand the health interests in our community?

Hon Mr Sterling: Before looking into that possibility, I asked legal counsel in my ministry. They assured me that both the region and the municipality have the right to hold an inquiry.

Mr Christopherson: I'm advising the minister that that's just not the case; not that that was sufficient anyway, but it's not the case. But it's interesting that you say you're going on the advice of your officials because it's that same advice that has you standing in your place every day saying we don't need a public inquiry, yet I can list for you a litany of groups and organizations that have experience and expertise, including the citizens, I might add, who say that a public inquiry is needed.

In light of the fact that the same officials that gave you that bad advice are giving you the bad advice around the public inquiry, will you now stand in your place and admit you're wrong and acknowledge that the people in my community deserve a public inquiry and you have an obligation to call it here today?

Hon Mr Sterling: I'd be pleased to provide the member with the legal advice as to why the municipality can hold an inquiry and why the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth can also --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): You know what Shakespeare said about the lawyers. Shakespeare was right.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Minister.

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm sorry, but the member is wrong.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, as you're aware, municipal elections are just around the corner and many individuals in my riding are running. They're new individuals, they've never run before and I'm sure that this applies all across Ontario. They have many questions about the process and procedures to follow. I remember when I ran 20 years ago, I had these same questions. I remember the difficulty. I was a mere child then, I realize.

It can become quite difficult to keep track of all the forms. Candidates are very concerned that they don't breach any guidelines. Do you have any printed information or does the ministry have any printed information available to help campaigners and their campaign teams with the rules surrounding the election?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to thank the member for Kitchener for that very good and timely question. This is a question that all members of the House should be interested in as we draw closer to the November 10 election. The deadline for filing nomination papers is only eight days away, on October 10, and the serious campaign is going to be starting right across the province.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has put together a general guide for candidates in the 1997 municipal elections, which is available to them in both English and French. The guide contains information on such things as financial reporting and disclosure, campaign expenses and key election dates. The information in this guide is very good for new candidates and I would urge any candidate to get it, but obviously it is only a guide and they should refer to the Municipal Elections Act for precise information.

Mr Wettlaufer: I'm sorry, Minister, I didn't hear everything you said because of so much noise over here. I wonder if you could tell us how the candidates could get a copy of the guide that you're talking about.

Hon Mr Leach: I'll repeat what I said for the member if he didn't hear it the first time. Copies of this guide can be obtained through conventional means by applying to the local municipal clerk, or an individual can contact the regional offices of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to obtain a copy. This candidates' guide is also posted on the local government section of our Web site for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which can be reached on the Internet at www.mmah.dob.on.ca. Wow.

In addition, I have asked the staff in my office to make sure --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, dot. I'll break the news to you, member for Ottawa West. Heckling is out of order. It is. You're not supposed to heckle.


The Speaker: The member for Essex South says the Speaker should know that and I do. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: I want to make sure that everybody has this information. We will be providing copies of this very informative document to every member of the Legislature next week.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. This is in regard to Bill 142, workfare. We had a wonderful deputation by Mae Harman, who was born in 1920. She spoke to us at our committee, very concerned with the clause that includes 60- to 64-year-olds in workfare. This is one question that Mae Harman would like you to answer:

"Some of these are people who are illiterate because appropriate schooling was not available in their younger years or lacking in skills needed in today's work market. A lot of these people who are women who have never worked outside the home. In a society where 17% to 18% of youth are unemployed, why would we spend resources on putting old people back to work?"

Minister, could you explain to Mae Harman why you would bring in workfare, what you call career retraining, for 60- to 64-year-olds?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): With all due respect to the honourable member, I am a little surprised that she would ask that question. I think that whether you're 21 years of age and have difficulties, whether it's literacy or language or lack of experience, or whether you're 61 years of age, most individuals don't want to be on welfare. They would very much like to be in paid employment. I think that whether you're 21 years old or 61 years old, you are worth the investment to help you get where you want to be and that's not to stay on welfare.


Mrs Pupatello: I'm very surprised by that response, that 60- to 64-year-olds should be in career retraining. It's just not even reasonable.

I have a gentleman in the gallery today whose name is Hugh. He drove in from Oakville. This gentleman is 50 years old. He is on welfare and collecting assistance. He was downsized in 1990. This individual is very typical of the kind of people who are on your welfare rolls. He has had several contract positions since 1990, but after 3,000 résumés, personally calling 1,250 corporations, desperately looking for work, he is unfortunately still on welfare.

He expected, and through his local Tory MPP was somehow told, that this workfare was going to work for him. Minister, I'm going to send you a copy of his résumé. He is here in the House today, and he would like to speak with you in the hallway outside after question period. Will you please tell us how workfare is going to work for Hugh when nothing so far has, according to your program?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I'd be very pleased to meet this gentleman. I'm met many individuals who are on welfare. One of the things they've told me is that they don't want to be there. What is the honourable member suggesting, that we should give up on this person? Is she suggesting that just because this individual or other individuals are 60, 61, 62, that we should just say, "Sorry, they're over the hill; let them sit there on welfare"? Is that what she's suggesting? I think we owe those individuals a heck of a lot more. They want help, they need help, we owe them that opportunity. I am surprised that she would say that just because someone is over 60 we should let them sit there.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Windsor-Sandwich, that's out of order. Put it down, please.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Today a committee is doing clause-by-clause on Bill 148, the City of Toronto Act. This afternoon we will be dealing with the member for Beaches-Woodbine's amendments to increase the number of East York councillors from two to three, on a transitional basis.

Your parliamentary assistant said on August 26 in the House that it was too late to make changes because it would not be fair to the candidates running. Days later I sent over to you a declaration signed by every one of the candidates saying it was not a problem and urging you to do this. I met with members for Team East York, some of whom are here today, I've been knocking on doors in East York, and I can tell you that the issue I hear time after time is that they want the number increased. This is from people, residents, of all political stripes. I'm asking you today, will you agree to allow the government members of the committee to vote in favour of the member for Beaches-Woodbine's amendment?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): To the member for Riverdale, I certainly would not want to interfere with the workings of a committee of this Legislature. The committee is there to listen to the arguments put forth on amendments both by the opposition parties and by ourselves, and that committee will make the decision on which amendments are appropriate, which amendments are in order and which amendments should be accepted and which should be rejected. That's a job for the committee. They're appointed for that purpose. I know they will make the right decision.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm going to take that as an indication that the minister and the parliamentary assistant are not going to put a whip on the committee; in other words, that the committee members will be able to vote their own mind. The minister knows well that's not normally how committee business is done.

I know your main concern was whether there was general support outside of East York for this as well. I want to tell you that in response to the parliamentary assistant, I have spoken to both of the lead mayoralty candidates, and they are both in favour of this; I have spoken to councillor candidates in the wards around the ward of East York, and none of them has a problem with this. I have also spoken to the transition team, because I know that was of particular concern to you. Alan Tonks, the chair of the transition team, has said he has absolutely no problem with this amendment going forward to provide the third councillor for East York on a transitional basis for the first term of the council.

Minister, I would hope you could do a little bit more than just release the whip on the backbenchers on your committee. I hope you would indicate that it is an important issue and that you yourself support trying to address this issue for the citizens of East York.

Hon Mr Leach: Again, I wouldn't presume to interfere with the workings of a committee of this Legislature. I can also say, as I've said to the member in the past, that I believe it's the decision of the newly elected council to make that decision. They should decide on how community councils work, whether they should be changed in any shape or form, the size, the number, what the responsibilities are. They're going to be the duly elected members of the new unified city of Toronto council, and they should make that decision. However, having said that, I haven't read the amendment that has been put forward by the member opposite, but if it will be given to the committee, I'm quite sure the committee will make an appropriate decision.

The Speaker: New question; member for York East.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services.

Ms Lankin: No, John. Come on, ask about the councillors.

Mr Parker: I will be speaking on the subject of the third member from East York in committee this afternoon, and I look forward to seeing you there, but that's not what my question is about right here. The fact is that I support the motion for a third member for East York, but that's not what I'm rising to ask about right now.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): To the Minister of Community and Social Services: I have been participating in committee hearings on Bill 142, the Social Assistance Reform Act, and I was concerned to see in the newspaper today that there are some allegations that the appeals process you are suggesting might weaken the overall right of appeal. Minister, I invite you to tell this House whether this allegation is true.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd be very pleased to do so, because I know that's a question that has been asked. First of all, the right to appeal is continuing for both those who are on the new Ontario disability support plan and those who would be on Ontario Works. That is certainly because we believe that's an important legal right and it is still in this legislation; we've been very clear about that. We do know that one of the difficulties has been that because that process is a sort of semijudicial process, it can take a great deal of time for a recipient to go through it. We have added an additional step, an internal review process that will be available to them that hopefully can resolve the issue much more quickly.

I'd also like to mention that people say they're concerned that in the new legislation people can't appeal discretionary or emergency benefits. That's quite true, but that is a carryover from the legislation as it existed, as I understand, under previous governments, so we haven't changed that.

Mr Parker: Thank you, Minister, for that explanation. You speak of a need to streamline the current system, and I wonder if you might just tell the House what the current system looks like and why it needs to be streamlined.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would be very pleased to do that. One of the difficulties is that it can take seven months or longer for an individual to go through the process. One of the other things we have found out is that the semijudicial process, if you will, is sometimes very inappropriate to solve what are frequently communications issues or may well be things that a recipient can easily resolve with a case worker who hasn't been involved in the case before. The other thing is that 22% of the cases that are there now are not able to proceed because clients are not able to show up and don't show up. I think it is fair to take a look at this process and ask how we can make it work better for those individuals who need an appeal mechanism to resolve their differences.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Education. About two years ago, you suggested that you wanted to create a crisis in education. Let me tell you, Minister, you've succeeded. You have created this crisis in education. Your cuts are hurting kids across the province.

Let me give you the example of one of my constituents, five-year-old Caitlin Vanderbeek. This five-year-old girl, because of your cuts, has been forced to attend three different schools in two years. She has a school two blocks away from her home. It was overcrowded. The classroom could not be split. She was sent to another school 14 blocks away from her home.

This is a four-year-old. This year again she tried to return to her school two blocks away. She could not. She was sent to a school even farther. This is a girl who is now five years old and in one year has attended three different schools because of your cuts.

You said earlier that parents are complimenting you. Let me tell you what the Vanderbeeks have said to me in a letter:

"I blame this situation on...the constant budget cuts. The bottom line of this equation is quite simply the scarred emotions of my little girl."

These are the parents of a five-year-old you have hurt by your cuts, Minister. Will you today --

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

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): First, let me say to the member opposite that it might be useful for you to have a look at what has happened in terms of funding in education over the course of the last two years. I believe if you do the investigation you will find that the actual amount of funds, the actual spending in education, has gone up over the course of the last two years. You'll also find that the enrolment has gone down. That's what you'll find if you investigate what's happened in terms of spending in education.

As far as the choices that are made and the effect they have on students, I agree with you that there have been some bad choices made in the past. That's one of the reasons we are moving very quickly, as quickly as we can, to get a better governance structure in place, to get a more accountable system of education in place in Ontario, more accountable to parents and more accountable to students like the one you use as an example today. I believe that's a case for reforming and changing and improving our education system.

Mr Agostino: Minister, you asked about the cuts. Through an order paper question, your own ministry acknowledged that you, as minister, over the last two years have cut $19.4 million out of the educational system in the Hamilton-Wentworth area. Your order paper question, your ministry: $19.4 million.

We have a school, R.A. Riddell, 600 students -- no librarian; Fairfield and Lloyd George elementary schools -- library services, music, gym, learning resources have been cut. Minister, how many more examples do you need? Students understand what is happening. As of this morning, we have had five high schools in Hamilton where the students have walked out in protest to your cuts and what you're doing to education.

Minister, you can talk all you want about what you're doing in reform, but how do you explain to this four-year-old girl why she can't attend a school with her friends two blocks away because you have cut $19.4 million out of the educational system? If you will not admit that the cuts have hurt the kids, will you today guarantee that this little girl will be able to go back to her school two blocks away on Monday morning?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I think the member opposite knows that those sorts of decisions are made at the board level; I know that he does know that, so I think the question is somewhat disingenuous.

But I will address the underlying issue, and that is this: Yes, we asked school boards to make some reductions. We targeted those. We believe there is too much being spent in administration, too much being spent in governance in education, not enough getting through to those critical areas that are important to our young people. Yes, we asked for that.

The net result was an increase in property taxes. Rather than cut the cost of administration, rather than cut what is by anyone's description a bloated bureaucracy, people chose instead to increase property taxes. I think if the member opposite does his homework and checks, he will find out the net effect has been more spending in education.

But that's not the point. The point is, how do we control the growth in class size? How do we make sure our students have better a curriculum? How do we make sure our students have more time on task? The answer is in the legislation before the House.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development. I am happy he is sitting beside the Minister of Municipal Affairs because it's a related question. It has to do with a small community in my constituency by the name of Chapleau, with a population of about 2,900.

The people in Chapleau heard the Premier's pinkie-swear promise that after all the downloading takes place, it would be revenue-neutral for the people in Chapleau. Will the Minister of Northern Development today assure me and the people in Chapleau that that pinkie-swear promise of the Premier's will be honoured for them?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I agree with the member of the third party that Chapleau is a beautiful part of Ontario and it's got some fine people. I just want to thank him for the question and thank the people of Chapleau for all their encouraging advice to the government.

The Premier mentioned that the Who Does What exercise with the community reinvestment is fiscally neutral. The people of Chapleau have worked through FONOM and NOMA and Minister Leach and I met at the AMO conference with FONOM and NOMA and six mayors from cities in northern Ontario. We had a very positive discussion where they presented a proposal that recognized they have to find some savings, and they just want to be treated fairly with the rest of Ontario. That's all I can report at this time.

Mr Laughren: I'm not sure what I heard, but let me tell the Minister of Northern Development what's happening in Chapleau. The net downloading, the net after everything is netted out, is 175% of their revenue base. Now, you and I know that's an impossible situation. Anything they've heard from you folks about assistance comes to about 7% of the problem.

You know that's untenable. I want you to tell the people in Chapleau and me why they should not simply mail the keys to that town to you or to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I appreciate the question. Municipal affairs and my ministry have working teams that can go out and talk to the clerk and the politicians of Chapleau. I know they've heard a lot of fearmongering about property tax increases.

I can just tell you that in general the Mike Harris government is against property tax hikes. We're trying to lower income taxes and payroll taxes for working people in the province. We're not going to transfer that on to household taxes. We're trying to have a fair model which allows municipalities to meet the challenge of becoming more efficient, more effective and more accountable to local representatives.

In the northern development ministry, we've had meetings with municipal leaders right across northern Ontario on ways they can deliver services that are designed in the north, for the north and will work in the north.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question today is to my honourable colleague from Scarborough, the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

As the minister is well aware, Scarborough is home to many athletes and many athletic teams from recreational and house league to competitive and rep. In fact, just yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with one of my constituents about her 12-year-old daughter, who is a very accomplished gymnast. I am pleased to say I was able to assist her in receiving sponsorship from a private company in order to help pursue her dream of competing in the Olympics one day.

This week marks the first anniversary of the minister's announcement on a new sports strategy for Ontario. Since that time, the provincial sports organizations which continue to receive provincial government funding have been working with the minister to finalize their allocations for this fiscal year.

Would the minister please explain for everyone interested in sport in Ontario, and especially my riding of Scarborough Centre, how the application process is going and the rationale for the government's decision to change its strategy for sport in this province.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I would like to thank the member for Scarborough Centre for the question. As he knows, last year on October 4 I announced for the first time a real strategy for the government's interest in sport. Previous governments had no strategy and this led to the taxpayer paying for snooker and solo swim and fly-and-bait casting and baton-twirling, among other things.

Our strategy is designed to support athletic development from novice to national levels. If a PSO participates in the Ontario, Canada or Olympic games, they are eligible for support. We will only fund activities which serve the provincial interest. These include coaching and athletic development, sports safety and initiatives.

Mr Newman: I appreciate the minister's response. As I mentioned in my earlier question, amateur sport in Scarborough is flourishing. As the member for Scarborough Centre, I am always pleased to lend my support to these worthwhile programs. I, like many other individuals and businesses in Scarborough, am the sponsor of hockey teams, soccer teams and baseball teams. During my contact with these organizations, parents, players, coaches and organizers have shared with me their comments on our government's strategy.

Would the minister please share with this House some of the comments she has received on the new strategy and respond to some of the criticism that has been reported on the delivery of support to eligible provincial sport organizations?

Hon Ms Mushinski: Again, I'd like to thank my colleague from Scarborough Centre for the question. First of all, I'm not about to apologize for asking PSOs to explain how they spend taxpayers' dollars. PSOs which do not provide a plan for how they are going to spend taxpayers' dollars won't get taxpayers' dollars.

It's really too bad that the Liberals don't agree with that philosophy. They are already advocating a return to the old free-spending ways of the last decade. Both my critic and the member for Fort William have recently written to my office advocating the funding of 10-pin bowling. I hope they are ready to defend that decision with their constituents.

Dan Kozak, the president of the Ontario Speed Skating Association, said this of our new strategy: "The government's new approach to sport funding will have a positive effect in the long-term development of sport in Ontario. It will make the provincial" --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.




Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Windsor-Essex county was the first community to undergo hospital restructuring; and

"Whereas the community supported the recommendations of the Win-Win report based on a funding model that included the expansion of community-based care; and

"Whereas recent reports estimate that Windsor-Essex hospital expenditure is underfunded by approximately $122 per person; and

"Whereas this represents the lowest funding per capita for hospital services of any community in Ontario with a population of over 200,000;

"Whereas hospitals across the province have been forced to further reduce expenditures by 18%; and

"Whereas these cuts have forced hospitals to eliminate emergency services in the west end of Windsor and other desperately needed services; and

"Whereas the minister acknowledged that additional funding was necessary in high-growth areas;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to call on the Minister of Health to provide the appropriate level of funding to hospitals in Windsor-Essex which would allow Windsor Regional Hospital to provide urgent care services for the west-end community and to restore equitable health care funding across Windsor and Essex county."

I join thousands of my fellow citizens in signing this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition regarding the call by Hamiltonians for a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire.

"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 into the Hamilton Plastimet fire."

I continue to support and join my constituents in this demand.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition submitted to me by a constituent, Margaret Baker, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the volume of traffic travelling along the Queensway between Highway 416 and Moodie Drive has grown steadily in recent years due to population and industrial growth of Kanata, the addition of a third lane to Moodie Drive, the recent expansions of both Nortel and Newbridge, the evolution of the Corel Centre into the home of the Ottawa Senators and Ottawa's premier entertainment arena, and the opening of Highway 416 as a primary route connecting Ottawa to Highway 401; and

"Whereas this increased volume of traffic is producing levels of noise which are disturbing local residents both during the day and the night;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to continue to develop the roadways along this section of the Queensway in order to accommodate the increased volumes of traffic, but to couple this development with measures, including the extension of a berm along the north side of the Queensway in the Crystal Beach area to mitigate the negative aspects caused by this traffic."

I've affixed my own signature thereto, because I am in complete agreement.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and concerns Bill 160.

"Whereas education is our future; and

"Whereas students and teachers will not allow their futures to be sacrificed for tax cuts; and

"Whereas students, parents and teachers will not allow the government to bankrupt Ontario's educational system; and

"Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards; and

"Whereas students, parents and teachers want reinvestment in education rather than reduction in funding; and

"Whereas students, parents and teachers won't back down;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to withdraw Bill 160 immediately; and

"Further, be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario instruct the Minister of Education and Training to do his homework and be a cooperative learner rather than imposing his solution, which won't work for the students, parents and teachers of Ontario."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition that reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

I would remind the government, not like the six crummy days they offered on Bill 99 but 20 proper days of hearings across Ontario, and I add my name to theirs.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 69 people.

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

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

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


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition signed by over 150 petitioners and it comes from the Alliance of Seniors to Protect Canada's Social Programs.

"Whereas a not-for-profit, affordable and accessible continuum of quality health care has been has been a long-standing and world-renowned tradition for Canadians; and

"Whereas more not less not-for-profit, accessible health care both in the home and in institutions is required by the aging and increasing poor populations; and

"Whereas hospital facilities are being closed resulting in inadequate acute care beds, inadequate chronic care beds and inadequate access to emergency care; and

"Whereas many patients are leaving hospitals quicker and sicker; and

"Whereas not-for-profit health care services are now threatened by government cutbacks which encourage the emergence of private, for-profit supplementary health care insurance companies and for-profit service providers; and

"Whereas the new system of community care initiated by this provincial government devastates the quality of our health care by lowering wages and benefits of health care workers, lowering qualifications for nursing and health care workers, lowering the ratios of health care workers to patients;

"Now, therefore, be it resolved that this forum of the alliance of seniors representing over 500,000 seniors in Ontario demand that the Ontario provincial government preserve a universally accessible not-for-profit system of health care, maintain the highest standards of quality care which have been the hallmark of our society and undertake whatever actions are required consistent with the not-for-profit sector remaining the cornerstone for the provision of health care in Canada.

"Honour the five principles of the Canada Health Act;

"Be it further resolved that copies of this resolution be forwarded to the Right Honourable Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and to Premier Mike Harris."

I concur with the petition and I will affix my signature to it.



Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which reads as follows:

"The Ontario Works Act will change social assistance from a system based on entitlement and need to one based on bureaucratic convenience and stripping citizens of their basic rights. It will fundamentally change the treatment of single mothers and their children in the social assistance system, not just in work requirements but also with respect to assets, information requirements and penalties. It paves the way for the government of Ontario to get out of the social assistance business and sets the stage for privatization of welfare. There is no requirement that a private delivery agent be a not-for-profit organization.

"We need to demand full and public hearings before an act which revolutionizes the very nature of social assistance in Ontario is passed. This is imperative even though there have been many consultations on social assistance over the last 10 years. None of these consultations recommended anything like the Ontario Works Act. The democratic process at least requires informed and open debate. In order to be informed, people need to know what the regulations will be.

"Therefore we, the undersigned, demand (1) all the rules on how the welfare system will run and who will be eligible are to be incorporated into the act before it receives assent in the Legislature; and (2) the right to have the most important issues to be decided with public notice and public debate."

This is signed by 67 residents of the city of Sudbury and I agree with the petitioners. I've affixed my signature to it.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by eight people.

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

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

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


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Conservative government has cut funding to St Clair College; and

"Whereas these funding cuts have caused hardship on senior citizens by increasing the costs for their programs by more than 400%;

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

"To ensure that all college programs, be they educational or recreation, remain affordable and accessible to senior citizens."

I join with hundreds of my fellow Windsorites in signing this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition and it reads as follows:

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the protections of the Rent Control Act;

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to allow a landlord to charge a tenant who moves into an apartment whatever the landlord can get away with;

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to raise the limit of how high rents can increase for all tenants;

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to make it easier to demolish or convert existing affordable rental housing; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the rent freeze which has been successful in forcing some landlords to repair their buildings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent laws which provide true protection for tenants in place."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I still continue to get petitions with respect to the standing orders, the way they currently exist and the way in which the rules have been changed so that debate cannot take place in a full and complete democratic fashion. I'll read this to you, Mr Speaker. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've signed this petition and I'm now handing it to Lee Ann, who will take it to the Clerk's desk.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Orders of the day.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Government notice of motion number 48.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we don't have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check if there's 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.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House pertaining to 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 government, when Bill 149 is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment, and at such time the bill shall be referred to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs;

That the standing committee on finance and economic affairs shall be authorized to meet to consider the bill for four days during the next recess;

That all proposed amendments shall be tabled with the clerk of the committee by 5 pm on the fifth calendar day following the final day of consideration referred to in the previous paragraph;

That the committee shall further be authorized to meet for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill for one day during the said recess; and that the committee shall be authorized to meet beyond its normal hour of adjournment that day until the completion of clause-by-clause consideration;

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

That the committee shall report the bill to the House on the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to have been passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;


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

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

That the vote on third reading of the bill may, at the request of any chief whip of a recognized party in the House, be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding "deferred votes";

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

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Point of order; point of privilege.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Cochrane South on a point of order.

Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, by way of a point of privilege, I just want to mention -- I think this is quite important -- that the government House leader now holds the record for the House leader having introduced the most closure motions of any government in the past history of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: You rose on a point of order and changed it to a point of privilege. I'm not sure if it's either one.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): It is not even correct.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the minister from --

Hon David Johnson: Allow me to introduce myself: Don Mills.

To the member for Cochrane South, I would say not only is that not a point of order, but, as the whip has pointed out, it's not even factually correct, because the NDP government --

Interjection: How many?

Hon David Johnson: How many time allocations? There were 23 time allocations, establishing the all-time record. It is preferable, however, not to have to time allocate.

Here we have a measure that is for the benefit of the people of Ontario, because this bill, along with Bill 106, its companion bill -- the two bills go hand-in-glove -- create a fair assessment system across the province. I doubt there is anybody today who would say that across Ontario the assessment system that we have, city by city, town by town, community by community, across the province is a fair system.

In recognition of that, the former government attempted to address the assessment system. I'm sure the member for Cochrane South, being a member of that government, will remember well the attempt, for example, to bring in a fairer system in Metropolitan Toronto.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): They blinked.

Hon David Johnson: The member is saying they blinked. They gave in. They caved in. They threw up their arms. They ran. They left the problem unaddressed, the unfairness in the situation, the fact that some people, not only in Toronto but in many communities across the province, are paying too much in property taxes. There's no question about that. Certainly examples could be given in Metropolitan Toronto. I remember back when the NDP tried to grapple with this issue. I think it was in 1991 or 1992, in about that time frame.

There are some 40,000 homes in Metropolitan Toronto that have an exemption that goes way back to the First World War. The veterans coming back from the war were given a partial exemption, to be more correct. At that point in time, it was the appropriate thing to do. It was the proper thing to do, to recognize those people who had fought for freedom, fought for our democratic way of life, fought for Canada, fought for the free world. But that was the First World War -- long decades ago. I think we all recognize that today none of those returning veterans would still be in the homes that received that partial exemption, yet those partial exemptions exist as of today in some 40,000 homes in Metropolitan Toronto. The taxes they pay are a fraction of what their neighbour across the street in a similar house would pay. It's just not fair.

Over the years the property tax system in Metropolitan Toronto hasn't been updated since the early 1950s. It's actually based on data developed in the 1940s and implemented in the 1950s. Many changes have occurred. Newer residential properties in particular are hard-hit by the current system.

This government, like the previous government, said: "We should do something about this. We should restore a fairness to make sure that people aren't paying too much in their property tax." But unlike the previous government, we are committed to the fairness. We are carrying through. As a result, you see Bill 106 and you see this bill today.


Hon David Johnson: My colleague from Kingston and The Islands mentions businesses. Certainly a couple of components of this bill deal with the business community. I can recall that back when the NDP attempted to deal with this in the early 1990s, one of the hardest-hit sectors was the small business sector. Some businesses benefited, obviously, because the overall tax load wouldn't go up, but some businesses would have received an increase in their assessment and an increase in their taxation. Particularly some small businesses along the Danforth, along Yonge Street would have been hard-hit. Very small businesses were lumped in with huge businesses, all in the retail-commercial category. I don't think that was fair.

Mr O'Toole: We're making it fairer.

Hon David Johnson: So we're making it fair, as I'm being prompted from behind.

Interjection: More categories.

Hon David Johnson: And more categories.

Mr Turnbull: Don't forget to mention utility rights of way.

Hon David Johnson: We have about four speakers at the same time. I'm getting lots of help.

The additional categories will allow the municipalities to deal with this situation and to ensure a fairness for those small businesses so that they will be compared among themselves but not compared with larger businesses, and consequently will not get hit with the huge taxes.

Some mention has been made about market value assessment, that market value assessment is being implemented. I can tell you, that's far from the truth. If pure market value assessment were being implemented across all categories, there would be huge changes, with immense impacts on the residential sector, small businesses and many other components. This is a fairer way to do it. It gives the municipalities the ability, within classes, to establish a fairness, and it doesn't shift the burden to any great degree between classes. It is not a pure market value system; it's far from it.

It's a fairer system that has caps built into it; that has phasing built into it; that has controls between classes built into it; that has additional sectors for dealing with the small business community; that has supports built in for the elderly, for many people who have owned their homes for years and years and years, who are getting on in life and will not be able to afford a tax increase, should there be one. Many, I might say, will go down.

Many of the elderly will find that they have been paying too much in taxes over the years and they're going to get a break out of this and their taxes will actually go down. But for those who might go the other way, might go up, the municipalities will have the ability to defer taxes, an eight-year phase-in to deal with that, so the elderly are protected. Again, I think we need to reiterate over and over that many homeowners, including the elderly, will find that their assessments will actually go down, that they've been paying too much over the years, and they'll get the tax break they deserved some time ago.

With those few comments, I'm being reminded by notes coming in that I'm splitting my time with the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, the member for Northumberland, the member for Brampton North and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. I know they will have considerable comment and worth to add to this whole discussion, so with those few comments I will sit down and leave the floor to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I thank the member for Don Mills for sitting down, because with the speakers here today, who all don't lack for words, I'm sure we're going to need every minute left on the rostrum to get through all the points we want to make about 149.

I'd like to speak on the motion to close the second reading debate on Bill 149, that is officially called the Fair Municipal Finance Act. Bill 149, coupled with the reforms already passed in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, would give Ontario a property assessment and tax system that's fair, consistent, understandable and accountable.

Mr Morley Kells (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): And reasonable.

Ms Bassett: And reasonable, as one of my colleagues points out. It's long overdue, getting that in. It's certainly urgent that we move ahead with Bill 149 so that on January 1, 1998, all Ontarians can benefit from a fairer system.

Bill 149 has specific measures that respond to feedback that we received from municipalities, non-profit organizations, small businesses and others, including opposition members. Small businesses were concerned, they told us, that they may face large tax increases as a result of the assessment update and the way municipalities choose to deal with the revenue changes resulting from the elimination of the business occupancy tax. Bill 149 addresses these concerns by introducing three tiers of commercial tax rates that municipalities will have the option of implementing in order to offset the changes caused by the elimination of the BOT. Small businesses in lower-valued commercial properties, such as small retail strip stores, could benefit from this provision of having three tiers.

The bill also addresses concerns about development. Currently, farm land that has been purchased by a developer is assessed as farm land until farming stops. However, some farm land, pending development, attracts very little property tax relative to its value, particularly in the urban fringe. If passed, Bill 149 would balance the needs of farmers, developers and municipalities with a staged approach to taxing farm land pending development. To balance goals that benefit Ontarians, Bill 149 would preserve farm land and encourage bona fide farming, encourage development at reasonable cost and ensure that the parties pay their fair share of property taxes according to use and value of the land. We believe that's a fair method.

Bill 149 would also provide further protection to low-income seniors and disabled homeowners from tax changes resulting from a reassessment by extending the tax relief program in Bill 106 to the education portion of the property tax. The Fair Municipal Finance Act also allows for municipalities to phase in tax changes resulting from reassessment over a period of up to eight years. Bill 149 would allow the education portion of residential property tax to be phased in for up to the same time.

Bill 149 would also make the property tax system fairer for vacant commercial and industrial lands and units by taxing them at lower rates than currently is done. This would recognize the absence of business activity and ensure that owners of vacant land and units are treated fairly under the changes to the property tax system that the government is in the process of implementing. Had we not done this, vacant lands could have been taxed as fully operational entities.

Bill 149 would also recognize the benefits charitable groups provide to the community by allowing municipalities to give charities tax rebates when they occupy business property.

Bill 149's provisions encourage Toronto's competitiveness as an international theatre city, along with the vital contribution of small theatres to this industry. Metro Toronto's commercial live theatre industry is the third-largest in the world, and it attracts 90% of Ontario's live theatre audience. However, Metro's largest commercial theatres pay higher property taxes than both their international competitors in New York and London and their publicly owned local competitors. By exempting Metro's commercial live theatres and theatres with less than 1,000 seats from property taxes, Bill 149 would benefit an important generator of jobs.

In another key area of Ontario's economy, Bill 149 addresses rights of way. The bill's provisions to set tax levels per acre for nine geographic regions of the province would eliminate a patchwork of tax rates and an uncertain tax base. This would also protect rights of way from reform-related tax increases while ensuring that municipalities have a stable revenue base at the same time.

Every Ontarian who does business with the United States knows the vital role played by our international bridges and tunnels. By levelling the playing field for all 14 international crossings, Bill 149 would enhance Ontario's international competitiveness. We estimate that under the new system, the total tax for all international crossings will be below the total tax paid under the old system in 1997.

For the telecommunications industry and as part of the Who Does What initiative, Bill 149 moves the gross receipts tax from municipalities to the province. This bill would help cut administrative costs and would eliminate the outdated way of distributing GRT revenue among municipalities based on phone rentals.

Bill 149 reaffirms the province's commitment to paying its fair share of taxes in support of local government services. The bill would ensure that payment in lieu of property tax paid on provincial properties to municipalities continues.

We listened to the opposition's views about the number of regulations in the original bill, and we responded by setting out as many matters as possible in the legislation rather than dealing with them in regulation, as the original bill did.

At the beginning of second reading, the Minister of Finance proposed amendments to move seven regulatory measures into legislation. These amendments affect the measures provided for -- and I'm going to read them off because they're important -- taxing farm land pending development, tax reductions for vacant commercial and industrial lands and units, a level playing field for large commercial live theatres, supporting small, privately owned live theatres, defining which charitable organizations qualify for property tax rebates, creating nine geographic regions for taxing right-of-way properties, and lastly, maintaining current provisions of sharing of assessed value among tenants pending the passage of the education quality bill.


Putting these measures into the legislation rather than regulation would offer more certainty for municipalities and taxpayers. This government is open to suggestions for improving the legislation. To encourage public input, the minister also released draft regulations before Bill 149 goes to committee in a couple of weeks.

It is essential to remember that previous governments resisted fixing the property tax system because of the difficult issues that had to be confronted. Unfortunately, this delay was at the expense of taxpayers and local governments. It allowed the system to become confusing and more unfair. Ontarians everywhere have told us to fix these problems, and we are fixing them. Ontarians want us now to get on with the job.

This government is committed to the principle of fairness and consistency. By delivering on this commitment, the bill would help reduce barriers to investment and economic growth and improve Ontario's long-term competitiveness.

It's important for Ontarians that we move ahead with the measures in Bill 149 to ensure a smooth and efficient transition to the fair property tax system that benefits all property owners in Ontario.

Ontario taxpayers want a fair property tax assessment and property tax system. They expect the government to put a fairer system in place, and we are delivering.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's a pleasure for me to be able to say a few words on Bill 149, the second in the series of fair municipal finance acts --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): We're dealing with closure.

Mr Galt: Thank you very much.

Ontario is the only jurisdiction I know of where it takes more brains to sort out the rationale for property taxes than it takes to go out and earn the money to pay them.

Take a home in Scarborough versus a home in Toronto of the same size and value and you'll find that in Scarborough you pay twice the taxes you pay in Toronto. Take a home in Campbellford that looks very much like, and is similar in size to, one in Scarborough and you'll find in Campbellford you pay twice as much as you would in Scarborough and receive very few services.

I question the opposition: Does that make sense? They held the government, each for about five years, and did nothing about this kind of inequity in Ontario.

The municipal tax system has been crying for change for years and years, probably since back in the 1940s, that a lot of our assessments go back to. This is the first government in many years that is doing anything about that assessment.

One of the basic fundamentals we have in a democratic society is that there should be no taxation without representation. However, this has not always been true. From 1988 to 1989, I served with CIDA in Indonesia. I had to sign off my rights to voting but they did not take away my right to taxation. They still taxed me and I had to pay full taxes while I was out of the country, but I did not get the chance to vote in either the municipal election or the federal election in the fall of 1988. I'm pleased to report that the PC government of the day, when I brought this to their attention and expressed my concern, corrected that inequity. I'm very pleased to report that now people working with CIDA have the opportunity to vote when they're abroad, like residents of most other countries when they are abroad.

There's just no question that regardless of the taxation of whatever government, whether it be income tax or property tax, it must be fair and it must be equitable. I'd like to share with you a quote from Will Rogers:

"People want just taxes more than they want lower taxes. They want to know that everyone is paying their proportionate share according to their wealth."

The Fair Municipal Finance Act, Bill 106, received royal assent back on May 27 and it was brought in to ensure that property valuation would be consistent across the province and that it would all be based on the current value a willing buyer would be prepared to pay to a willing seller as an arm's-length transaction, and that it would be kept current on an annual basis.

It's so important that property owners understand the assessment procedure and that they understand the taxation. Right now there is no way the average person can understand property taxes. As this is particular one is being brought in, I'm probably going to be a loser because I have an older home and they tell me I'm probably going to have my taxes go up a far greater proportion than some of the other people. But what's fair is fair and there is no question there.

It will be a simple formula, the assessed value times the mill rate, and there are your taxes, very different from the complicated system we have today, particularly when you look at education tax with the very complex formulas, as I found out when I tried to follow it through for the residents of Campbellford, with all the adjustments here and there because of assessments at different times. It was horrendously confusing and an awful lot of people in the business can't understand it either.

This certainly flies in the face of democratic principles. Taxation really should be clear, concise, transparent, understandable, fair and equitable particularly to those who have to foot the bill. I believe we should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose, and Bill 106 and the follow-up bill we're speaking on today, Bill 149, will do just that.

Bill 149, the second finance bill, following 106, is a very important bill, as I look at it, for my riding in Northumberland, a rural area. It will be impacting that area in three different ways. First, it will ensure that small businesses are treated fairly. Second, it will preserve farm land and encourage bona fide farming. It will being fairness and consistency to tax treatment of utility and railroad rights of way.

First, looking at the small businesses and that they are treated fairly, Bill 149 will allow municipalities to have a tiered tax rate. This will apply particularly to commercial classes. For example, a small business that's on a lower-valued property such as a strip mall or a neighbourhood shopping district could benefit from a lower tax rate. It addresses the concerns of small business and overcomes the large amounts of red tape that might be the case for municipalities. In connection with farm land pending development, this has certainly been a big problem in the past: a big debate over whether it's still farm land or whether it's now officially subdivision land and should be charged at a much higher rate. Bill 149 will allow for three different tax rates and this will relate to the different stages of development.

This will provide a balance for farmers, for developers and also for the municipalities. In fact, it will preserve farm land and encourage the supply of development-ready land ready to go and it will recognize as it moves through, not complicated at all -- what's been complicated has been, when do you change the magic thing from farm land to become developed land? Here we can move it through in easy, step-wise fashion.

Municipalities will have a fair property tax rate considering the use and value of that vacant land. Also in relation to these bills, Bill 149 is going to recognize that farm land can be taxed at 25% of the assessed value, similar to managed forests at a 25% taxation level, and environmentally friendly, we will be exempting conservation lands from taxes. This is something that environmentalists have been asking for for some time and will certainly enhance wetlands in Ontario.

Third, there's going to be some fairness and consistency with taxation as it relates to utility and railway rights of way. Last Monday morning I had the opportunity to meet with several of the municipal leaders and clerk-treasurers in Northumberland and they really expressed a significant concern about the sort of patchwork kind of arrangement we have in tax rates for rights of way in the province. It really was very frustrating to them and they were saying it didn't make very much sense. I'm pleased to report that Bill 149 will correct some of those serious inequities in how properties are taxed and assessed. It will set a tax level per acre in some nine geographical areas in the province.


Rural municipalities, the taxes that come from these particular components, are very important to helping with their balance sheet. They will certainly be welcomed to stabilize some of the revenue base that they look towards.

Also, I find it refreshing in this bill that we're going to recognize charitable organizations when they're renting or occupying space in buildings. They will be able to get back 40% of the tax that will be allocated to that particular area in the building. This certainly goes along with this government's encouragement for volunteers and recognizing volunteers and voluntary activity in the province. We recognize that in Canada, on a per capita basis, we volunteer twice as much as any other country in the world and that probably is one of the main reasons why Canada is recognized as one of the greatest countries in the world to live in.

In closing, this is a government --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): In spite of 10 lost years.

Mr Galt: Yes, it has been 10 lost years and we've now had two that are getting it straightened out. I'm so pleased you brought that to my attention.

We have a government that in many bills and in many instances has been listening to the public and not only listening but responding to their concerns. That is true in the case of this bill. The public and businesses have been talking about the problem with municipal taxation and assessment. I'm certainly looking forward to this bill going out on the road to committee hearings and hearing the consultation process and the information that will be fed to this government at that time.

They say there are only two certainties, death and taxes. The only difference is death doesn't get worse every time a provincial Parliament meets. I believe that Bill 106 and Bill 149, the fair municipal finance bills, will ensure that Ontario's tax system remains fair and equitable long after this session of Parliament is over.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I am excited to speak on this particular bill. One of the reasons is that we began this process with Bill 106 in January of this year, and I remember, when I was a member of that finance committee at the time, that we travelled to Ottawa and Thunder Bay. We even went to smaller towns, where small businesses were a critical component of the changes to the Assessment Act, Bill 106, and certainly now to this act.

We went to places like Chatham -- and the Vice-Chair of the committee was the member for Niagara South, Tim Hudak -- and Port Colborne. Port Colborne is an excellent example of a small town that has a number of businesses that we want to be able to succeed. We want it to be able to create jobs in this province, and changing the assessment structure for businesses in this province is a critical element of business success.

The multi-tiered commercial tax rate: This provision allows upper- and single-tier municipalities to set lower tax rates for lower-valued commercial properties. You know and you've heard that the municipality could set a threshold of assessed value for the community, then they can tax the portion of each property's assessed value below this threshold at a lower rate. That's critical for small businesses because they have to meet a payroll. Running a business that is non-profit is not a business, it's a charity. If you're in business, then darn it, you're there to make a profit and the small business owner is relying on the profitability of that business just to exist.

The Fair Municipal Finance Act requires municipalities to provide a program of tax relief on the municipal portion of the property tax paid by low-income property owners who are seniors or who have disabilities. You know the imbalance of taxes that are paid by seniors and people on disability. They have difficulty paying their share of tax like other regular income earners.

School boards can reimburse the municipality for the education portion of the deferral and will in turn be reimbursed by the province. But this almost becomes outdated because, under the new funding formula this province will be coming out with very soon, we will have a proper, fair share funding formula for the education system. But the critical portion of this comment is that low-income seniors and persons with disabilities would be protected from tax changes resulting from reassessment.

This legislation was the first step in this government's effort to make property assessment fair, to make it consistent and to make it understandable. Taxpayers must be able to hold their governments accountable at all levels, provincially as well as municipally, and this act will be fair because similar properties in a community with similar values will pay similar taxes.

It builds firmly on the fairness principle of the reforms that our government introduced in January with the Fair Municipal Finance Act and that is the reason why time allocation has been called. Let's get on with it. It's about time that we take the business of this government to the streets and let small business get on with doing what they should be doing, running a business the most cost-efficient way, maximizing their profitability for a very specific reason, and that reason is that profitability creates jobs, not government. Business profitability creates jobs.

The government has listened to the specific concerns expressed by businesses, by the theatre, as the member St Andrew-St Patrick indicated, by municipalities and other groups. We've heard those concerns and we are doing our best to try to address them.

These changes are an important step in reducing the duplication and the overlap between provincial government and the municipalities. It includes measures that my colleagues have talked about in detail that mean fair tax treatment for small business and owners of business properties, publicly owned commercial live theatres, municipalities, owners of right-of-way properties, a group of the segment that is constantly being ignored but an important element, charitable organizations and, as my friend Mr Galt talked about, farmers and developers.

As the Minister of Finance has already told the Legislature, the government proposes to introduce seven amendments to Bill 149. What does this mean? It means a number of measures that are now being dealt with through regulations will be inscribed in legislation so games can't be played at the lower level. This means fairness for owners of business properties.

I talk about small businesses, just to name a few in my community: George and Jon Tyner; Ralph Nijme, who runs a Harvey's store; Bob Nutbrown; David and Andrew, who run a very small clothing store but a successful clothing store in Brampton, along with the Tyners, called David-Andrew; Gary and Frankie Avery, who run GM Jewellers; John Pappain from Peel Resource Recovery; and the little restaurant guys, Gianni from Vesuvio, Alfredo from La Capannina, Tina from Fanzorelli's.

George Theodoropolus from downtown Brampton just opened a restaurant seven months ago called Theia's. Fantastic food. We need to give this man an opportunity to succeed. He just opened a business. He sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in a new business. We want to have the opportunity and create the environment for George to succeed. We've got Joe and Rocky from Gentlemen's Choice, John Logan and Keith Coulter, Lou Duggan of Armor Personnel, Al Brannon from Brannon Steel. These people are all successful businesspeople who struggled during the tough periods. We must be able to create an environment for them to be more successful. Why? Because they create jobs. That's the bottom line: They create jobs. That's what we want people to do. That's what business does.


Small businesses and lower-valued commercial properties, such as small neighbourhood shopping districts or retail strip malls, benefit from these provisions. When I think of these kinds of businesspeople, I think of Ken Cheung from Lai Sing investments. He works terrifically. He isn't just a grand master of the tae kwon-do club, but he also owns a number of properties in Brampton which are greatly beneficial to the community. He was also my master, because I was once in tae kwon-do, until I got elected and got fat. No comments on that one, eh? The opposition doesn't want to bless us with a comment on that one.

Mr Pouliot: You just lost 10 pounds.

Mr Spina: Yes, I did. Thank you, member.

We also have other investors in Brampton for whom we are quite pleased to create an environment for them to succeed. John Cutruzzola from Inzola Construction: Not only did they build city hall, but he has a partnership agreement in building a new marketplace in downtown Brampton with a dozen theatres, a place where the community can gather day in and day out and create a core in the middle of the city that is truly a successful environment for us to create jobs and economic success in our community.

Max Rice is another contributor around town who owns properties and has created jobs in many different ways, but not just in Brampton. The Rice family and the Rice group is a contributor in Mississauga, a contributor in London, Ontario, and many other communities in this province, in many different ways. They don't just own commercial properties like strip malls; they also own and operate properties where we have a provincial courthouse; they own trailer parks for low-income-housing people; they own and operate the Southbrook property, which is a residence for seniors. They make a great contribution to all aspects of our society in our community.

I'm pleased that the legislation we are involved in here will give us the opportunity to provide the environment for these people to succeed. My own landlord where my constituency office is, Jeff Kerbel, of Kerbel Investments -- the Kerbel family has been well known throughout Ontario in many endeavours they have gotten involved in, with partners and on their own, properties in Toronto, in Peel, both Mississauga and Brampton, properties all over the place that contribute to job environments.

You know what I think of when I think of the plaza where my little constituency office is, up above the drugstore? I think of a young man named Miroslav, who came to Canada from Poland six years ago, who spoke very few words of English. You know what? Today Miroslav is the contractor who looks after the maintenance of three of the Kerbel properties. He has commercial vehicles, pickup trucks and other equipment that he operates; he employs at least four other people as part of the service he delivers to the Kerbel group and to other landlords. This is a great example of a young man who came to Canada, and what did he do? He created an opportunity for himself, because other people created the business opportunity for him to grow and succeed. That's what we want to be able to do.

The provision that would allow municipalities to create the three bands of assessment that my colleague spoke about is an example of how a municipality now begins to act as a partner with the local businesses to boost those small businesses, to be able to create the opportunities that small businesses need to succeed, to create opportunities for young men like Miroslav.

Mr Pouliot: What about Frank Stronach?

Mr Spina: People talk about Mr Stronach, and Mr Stronach has been another example, but over a longer period of time. He is an excellent example.

Mr Gerretsen: He is a big business man.

Mr Spina: He has now crossed the line to be a big business man. You know something? The changes in the assessment structure are also going to help big business people. Everybody has to have an opportunity to create jobs because, to reiterate the comment I made earlier, government doesn't create the jobs; it's business that creates the jobs.

In my previous portfolio with Minister Saunderson in economic development and trade, I was the parliamentary assistant responsible for small business. I saw many opportunities. We have to create a number of initiatives to feed small business, allow it the opportunity to grow. Why do we need time allocation on a bill that is creating a change for a more positive tax assessment? That's the reason: for small businesses to be able to start up, expand, grow and create jobs.

I learned a lot, not just when I was in government but for the 15 years I worked with small business before I was elected by the people of my constituency. I'm pleased to see that the small enterprise centres we started are now becoming a vital element of starting up small businesses. We've launched that program and we're looking forward to the opportunity to see it grow across this province.

I now can say, in my role as parliamentary assistant to northern development, that we're going to be opening an enterprise centre soon in Sudbury and we're looking for more opportunities to be developed in northern Ontario.

If there is any one segment of this province that would truly benefit from the changes to the Assessment Act and to the municipal environment, the capability of the municipalities to help feed those businesses, it is northern and rural Ontario, because that is where the small businesses are.

My friend from Lake Nipigon acknowledges that outside of the large mining companies in the communities, I think he will agree with me, the economy in northern Ontario is small business. He speaks after me, so I'll look forward to the comments he will be making.

You see, that is what we are trying to create, that environment in this province where we have a structure that allows the municipalities to grow, allows the municipalities to be flexible in dealing with the opportunities they create for those people in their community, for those small business people, for those job creators.

We talked about an example of how a municipality could put some of these measures to work. As an example, they could set an appropriate threshold for commercial property values, say $250,000. You can pick any number. It could be higher or lower, depending on what the critical value is for your community. If you had a smaller community and it was felt that that value, that threshold, would be better at $125,000, you would have the flexibility to do it for $125,000. But if they felt it was $250,000 or, perhaps in the case of the city of Toronto, $375,000, the beauty of this is that the municipality has the flexibility.

I believe you, Speaker, were a mayor of the fine town of Listowel for a while. That's an example of a community in rural Ontario where small business needs the opportunity to expand, to grow and to thrive.


Let's get back to that threshold for commercial property values. That municipality can apply the lower tax rate to the assessed values that fall below that threshold and a higher tax rate to the assessed values above that threshold. What does that do? That gives the municipality the ability to be a partner, a partner with the small business community.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Tailormade tax structure.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Great flexibility.

Mr Spina: My colleague the member for High Park-Swansea says this is tailormade tax structure to help businesses. My friend the member for Peterborough states this is flexible. That's exactly what we intend this legislation to provide: flexibility and tailormaking to help small businesses.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): A team speech: "with a little help from my friends."

Mr Spina: Well, this caucus is a team. The member for Algoma, my old home town, says this is teamwork. Yes, it is. You know what? I take great pride in stating that if nothing else, this caucus has solidarity and we are very proud of that solidarity. I use that word specifically, because it's not a privileged word for unions in this province; it's something that any team that works together can use. That's what this caucus is about. Regardless of comments that may have been made outside of this caucus, you must remember that not one member of this caucus has resigned from it, nor has one member of this caucus been asked to leave. That is commitment. That is commitment from the leader down, and it's a commitment from the team all the way up.

Let's get back to the point at hand, the relevant debate we are into right now, and that has to do with Bill 149 and the time allocation. There was a comment earlier about how many time allocations this government had pulled on this Legislature. The reality is that nothing could match the previous government in time allocation motions. Furthermore, what compounded the problem with the last government, we felt, was the number of orders in council that they actually delivered. The Legislature didn't even sit for the spring of 1995. It sat for 10 days in the fall of 1994. Tons of legislation came through, and it was all time allocated in the short time frame or it was rammed through order in council. You accuse us of being dictators? Holy mackerel, I don't know that I have ever seen such a dictatorial government as the last one.

What can we say? We are trying to create an environment here. We brought bills forward starting in January of this year through to spring of this year. We finally got Bill 106 through. Now we're trying to get Bill 149 through. Why? We're trying to get it through strictly, solely and purely to help businesses in this province. That's the objective. That's what we are trying to achieve.

But we have also an opportunity for municipalities to address the flexibility with residential property owners. That's an opportunity for residential property owners also to have a chance to either have tax reductions or fair value assessment for their properties.

To ensure that the municipalities can't target specific businesses for higher taxes, the government can prescribe restrictions on the use of this provision in regulation. I think back to an opportunity where we got talking about development charges and how development charges were implemented at one point. The problem we faced in Brampton was this: The Chrysler Corp, back before Chrysler bought it, was a facility built by American Motors when it was owned by Renault; now the building is the Chrysler Bramalea assembly plant. It is, without doubt, the pride of industrial facilities in my riding, with two shifts --

Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With respect, I understand that the address is somewhat long and prolonged indeed, but surely we should still have a quorum.

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

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: The Chair recognizes the member for Brampton North.

Mr Spina: In my remaining couple of minutes, what I might do is seek unanimous consent for my colleague the member for High Park-Swansea to say a few words when I finish. Would that be agreeable?

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?

Mr Wildman: You don't need unanimous consent.

Mr Gerretsen: If he knew the rules, he would know that. Read your own rules, would you?

The Acting Speaker: Please proceed.

Mr Spina: Good. To ensure that the municipalities don't target specific businesses for higher taxes, I said the government can prescribe restrictions on the use of this provision in regulation. I was talking about the development charges on the Bramalea Chrysler plant, where all the development charges that had to do with the infrastructure of creating that particular plant facility were covered in the initial construction of that plant.

Now we are approximately 10 years later, and Chrysler wanted to add a small addition to that plant. It allows them the flexibility to create about 200 more jobs, as a matter of fact. What happened was that because of the arbitrary development rules, Chrysler was going to be facing an $800,000 development charge. For what? The infrastructure was in place. No costs were going to be incurred by the municipality as a result of this expansion, because everything was in place to accommodate this expansion.

Fortunately, the passage of Bill 106 helped the municipality to be flexible in how they addressed that. With an agreement that was made between the city of Brampton, Brampton Hydro and other people in the community, the school board, Mayor Peter Robertson deserves the credit for leading that battle in ensuring that the development charges were covered and we were able to create the expansion at Chrysler and the jobs that accompanied that.

What we want to ensure is that we create an environment with this bill, with the changes and the flexibilities for the municipalities to alter, that they have the flexibility to work with their business partners.

This measure addresses the concerns of small businesses in a way that avoids creating large amounts of red tape for municipalities.

When I talk about the red tape for municipalities, we can't forget the member for Lincoln, who is the chair of our red tape commission. I'm pleased to be a member of that. They do a great job on bringing forward the issues that are red tape that have been created over the past 10 years, or in some cases longer. Mr Sheehan's commission has brought forward many issues that we have been able to cut, and there's nothing prouder that we could ask for. When the member for Lincoln appears at a function and is able to cut real red tape, then it works, because that creates a much better environment for municipalities to be able to create jobs.


The reality is that these businesses will become the winners. They will be the winners and when they are the winners, the people of Ontario become the winners, the people who now will have jobs and job opportunities, which were severely curtailed over recent years.

The objective we are trying to achieve is what we promised when we started in the election campaign in 1995, which was to create 725,000 new jobs in this province. Halfway or a little less than halfway through our mandate, we are just about halfway to achieving that goal, and we're extremely pleased with that. We're producing 1,000 jobs a day. It started slowly and we were under a lot of criticism from the opposition: "Where's the jobs? Where's the jobs?" You can't turn the Titanic around in a small bay, but you know what? We are turning around. The Titanic is now becoming the Queen Elizabeth and a grand proud ship called Ontario.

Mr Gerretsen: Let me just say that if he's so interested in seeing the red tape bills being approved by this House, why doesn't he have his government leader call those red tape bills into the House? They've been sitting there for about the last six months or so. Why doesn't he call them one at a time? We will deal with them here, we will debate them here and we will more likely than not approve them. But they haven't been called. Those red tape bills have not been called in the last six months and the real question is, why isn't the government House leader calling those red tape bills?

The other observation I have of the last speaker is his entire speech dealing with the value of small business in our communities. Let me just tell you that I too value the small businesses in our municipality. They are the people who make the economy grow and they are certainly the people who employ by far the largest number of people in Ontario. I think anything that we can do to help small business we should certainly be totally behind.

But now let's take a look at what will happen to small business as a result of this particular law, this Bill 149. What he forgets to tell people of Ontario is that, first of all, the commercial property owners will still be paying education taxes. Yes, they'll still be paying education taxes, the full education taxes that they've been paying so far, whereas half of the education taxes will no longer be paid by the residential property taxpayers.

The net result of all this is going to be that the small business owners, the small commercial property owners in this province are going to be paying a lot more, on the average, in property taxes than they were before the implementation of this bill, once it gets through. That's what the small business owners of this province should clearly understand: that they will still be paying in their real estate taxes the full levy of the education taxes that they had in their real estate taxes before.

Anyone who knows anything about assessment in municipalities will clearly understand that if a municipality needs $1 million to run its operation or $100 million to run its operation, all of the money basically comes from the property taxpayers of that municipality -- the residential property taxpayers, the commercial property taxpayers and the industrial property taxpayers.

If you in effect have exempted half of the education taxes from the residential property taxpayers, then in order to raise your $100 million to run that municipality, the other people are going to have to pay more. So the commercial property taxpayers and the industrial property taxpayers, as a class and as a whole, are going to be paying more under the new system than they are under the old system.

Don't take my word for it. Call your local municipal treasurer, call your local CAO and ask them whether or not that isn't so. They will agree with me. I'm absolutely convinced of that.

Don't give the small business owners the impression that somehow Bill 149 is going to relieve them for a tax burden, because there's another wrinkle in this whole thing as the member has clearly indicated. The municipalities will have the power under this Bill 149 to in effect set up different bands of assessment in the commercial property class.

So yes, you can place the smaller commercial property owner in a different band, at a different level than another commercial property owner, but there's absolutely no guarantee that this will happen. It will be left up to the local municipal councils to do this, and I would dare say that most local municipal councillors, realizing that there are a heck of a lot more residential property taxpayers out there in most municipalities than commercial property taxpayers -- that the system they will set up in their local municipalities will be weighed in favour of the residential property taxpayer.

I would just advise small businesses out there to be very wary of this act. I know the government members have basically given pro-small-business speeches here today, but they bear absolutely no reality to what's really in Bill 149. I'll get back to that a little bit later on.

The first thing I wanted to discuss today is the whole notion that we're dealing here with a time allocation motion. I think it gives us once again an opportunity to talk about some of the rule changes that have been brought in. I notice that the members across the way feel very uncomfortable about that, but I think the people of Ontario should understand what's at stake here. What's at stake here is democracy itself.

In all democratic systems that I'm aware of every sessional day has a question period in it, which allows the opposition an opportunity to ask questions of the government of the day about government policies or what's happening in particular government departments. That's been the norm. That's been the accepted practice throughout the parliamentary system throughout the world.

What's happened here is that basically we now have two sessional days each day when we have a night sitting here, with the second sitting going from 6:30 to 9:30, counted as a sessional day without a question period. I'm sure the average person out there will say, "What difference does it make?" The difference it makes is that after so many sessional days of debate on a particular bill, the government can either invoke closure or in effect a bill can be talked about and a vote can be taken. What that really means is that during that period of time the number of question periods the opposition has to hold the government of the day accountable has been halved, has been limited severely.

The other thing, we heard a lot today here about how the former government invoked closure 23 times and this government's only done it eight or nine times. Quite frankly, I'm not too concerned about all that, as to what the old government did and what they're doing so far about this. What I'm concerned about is the fact that, up until 10 years ago, closure was almost an unknown thing in the parliamentary system we have here in Ontario. Now it has become almost more and more of an everyday occasion. That's the thing that really concerns me.


Let's just have a little review of the bills they've invoked closure on so far: Bill 96, the rent control bill, or the rent decontrol bill. It is the bill that in effect does away with rent control in this province. That was time-allocated. The workers' compensation bill, Bill 99, which we had so many demonstrations about around this place, that was time-allocated. The workfare bill, Bill 142, on which we heard today during question period that now we are sending 64-year-olds out for retraining, people who have made 3,000 applications, who have had at least 1,000 personal contacts. What are we doing with them at age 64? We're sending them for retraining. It's absolute nonsense. Anyway, that was a bill on which closure was invoked. The megacity bill, Bill 148, the same thing: Closure was invoked.

Bill 152, the bill that's downloading all those social services and health care services on local municipalities, is being time-allocated. By the way, on October 6 -- what is the date? Today is October 2, so that will be on Monday. I received the assurances of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that on Monday -- I guess it's Tuesday -- of next week he is going to give each and every municipality all the figures they will need so that they know exactly what's being downloaded to them for next year so that they can prepare their budgets. We look forward to that.

As a matter of fact, it's about the only answer the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has given in this House in the last two years. He gave a direct answer that on October 6, each and every municipality, from the smallest township to the largest city, will get all the facts and figures as to what they can anticipate the cost to be of taking over all these various services that are called for in Bill 152 and as a result of Bill 26 and everything else that has taken place. He seems very self-assured, he's nodding his head yes, and I'm very pleased to hear that.

That's another bill on which you invoked closure, which basically means you don't allow each member in this House, including your own government members, the opportunity to truly debate this bill. There are many members within our small caucus of 31 who still want to talk about Bill 149, and you are denying them a basic democratic right: the opportunity to debate that.

I'm very pleased to see that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance are here today, because I would like to address one other issue. It came up early on in the government's motion as to what exactly the difference is between market value assessment and current value assessment or actual value assessment. I had my staff get the definitions out of the actual act that is being proposed to be passed and the definition of market value as it is in the current legislation.

This is subsection 19(2) of the Assessment Act. Market value is defined to read as follows: "The market value...assessed is the amount that the land might be expected to realize if sold in the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer." That is the definition.

What is the definition of current value as contained in Bill 106, which is adopted in Bill 149? Current value is "the amount of money" that land would realize "if sold at arm's length by a willing seller to a willing buyer." There are only two words that are different, and those are the words "open market." However, "open market" means nothing, because we're talking about a willing seller to a willing buyer in both cases.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Is that all the information they gave you?

Mr Gerretsen: That's all the information they gave me, Mr Minister, because that's all the information we need. We will let the people out there judge whether or not those definitions aren't exactly the same.

Hon Mr Leach: Read the rest of it.

Mr Gerretsen: I read the whole definition, the entire definition, Mr Minister, of both market value assessment and current value assessment; in both acts, the exact definition.

We keep going back to the promises that were made in the 1995 election. What's interesting is that I have this sheet here. It's a yellow sheet now. I guess it yellows with age. It's dated June 2, 1995, and it states, "My party and I will never" -- and "never" is underlined -- "support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto." It's Al Leach. I believe that's the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. So here is a minister who said that he would not ever support market value assessment, and he has done so in Bill 106 and Bill 149. What's even worse than that is that he is the minister who introduced those bills; or if he didn't introduce them, he's very closely connected to them.

I will just let the people of Ontario judge to see whether or not this particular member has actually lived up to the promise he made on a very plain sheet of paper, "My party and I will never support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto," unless by MVA he meant something entirely different. It is possible that this is some sort of organization or group that has nothing to do with assessment at all. I will certainly try to get unanimous consent if he wishes to stand up right now and tell me that by MVA he meant the Motor Vehicle Act or something like that. Maybe that's what he was talking about. Maybe it wasn't assessment at all. If that is so, I'd like to hear that.

The other person here on the same yellow sheet of paper, by the way, is the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, but she is more imaginative, I would say, because there's a lot more wording on this. She also was actively involved in introducing both of these bills in the House which are now applying market value assessment to the province. She is saying, "The policy of the PC Party has always been that we will never" -- and "never" is in much darker print than anything else on this page -- "impose market value assessment on Toronto." She goes a little bit further than that. She says, "We remain firm in that position." Maybe she would like to correct the record, although in her case she cannot say that she was talking about the Motor Vehicle Act or something like that because she does state "market value assessment." So in her case it's a little bit tougher to get out of.

Any time Mr Leach wants to get up and say, "I'm sorry, John, you are totally wrong, I was talking about the Motor Vehicle Act," or something like that, then I will take everything back about you. But, you know, I think he was talking about market value assessment. I think the people in Cabbagetown, Moore Park and Rosedale, the homeowners there -- it's interesting that he would only send this to the homeowners. I don't know why he wouldn't send it to the other people. Maybe it's because those people are the ones whose taxes are going up as a result of this reassessment. In any event, it's kind of interesting. It's interesting that here we are again dealing with a motion that basically talks about limiting debate on what the government itself has stated is a very, very crucial matter.

I would just like to deal with some other issues that are contained in the bill. I hope you will give me the latitude not just to talk strictly on the motion but about the subject of the motion, which is this bill itself, because it seems to me the government members spend about 58 minutes of their one hour on that.

One of the interesting things that was stated during the debate was the fact that the payments in lieu are going to be much more direct now than they were before. Well, I beg to differ. It's interesting that in the existing acts that deal with payments in lieu -- and again, for the people of Ontario, they should understand that there are some communities, or I dare say, every community doesn't pay property tax on every piece of property that's in that particular municipality.


There may, for example, be provincial institutions or educational institutions or hospitals and other provincial and federal government agencies that don't pay taxes. What is done instead of paying property taxes is they make payments in lieu of taxes. In my community of Kingston, I think about one third of our entire property inside the city of Kingston is subject to that. The city receives payments in lieu of taxes rather than the tax revenue on those buildings themselves, based on a market value or on any kind of a value system.

But what's interesting is that the comment has been made that municipalities will know a lot better what those payments are going to be from year to year. What I find interesting is that currently in most municipalities where there are hospital institutions, where there are educational institutions, the regulation or the bill clearly sets out that that municipality will receive $75 per head per year.

For example, in my case where we've got Queen's University with about 12,000 students, the municipality receives $75 for each and every student that attends Queen's University. Our local municipality can sort of budget on that $1 million that comes in, rather than the taxes that would normally be assessed on the value of those buildings themselves. That's what the current act states.

But what does the new act state? The new act simply states that the Minister of Finance may make regulations prescribing what those payments in lieu should be. For those people out there who may not know what regulations are exactly, let me just say this. Regulations are basically approved by a minister and then there may be an order in council, so I understand. They're approved by cabinet. It's done behind closed doors and, all of a sudden, you read about them in the Ontario Gazette.

They have no public debate. There is no time for people to have any input into that in a public way. It may very well be that some of your special interest groups may have access to different cabinet ministers or to different cabinets, but that's how it's done. The easiest way for a minister of the crown or for a government to get away from public scrutiny is to have the regulatory power to actually implement that behind closed doors by cabinet itself. There's no public debate on it, so whenever a minister in an act gets more regulatory powers then he currently has, in effect there will be less public debate about that particular matter in the years to come, and that's what's happening here.

For members of the government to get up and say that that system has been made more transparent and more public is totally, totally incorrect because right now those municipalities that rely on a lot of these payments in lieu of taxes know what it's going to be from year to year. Under this act they will not know at all because the minister by regulation can change that at any given moment. So don't tell me it's going to be easier for municipalities to know what that amount is going to be or it's going to be more transparent. The act clearly, clearly contradicts that.

Now, of course, what most of those municipalities want is the real tax dollars that those buildings represent in that municipality. In other words, they want the actual tax dollars. We've heard so much about how this new system is fairer. Well, it's fairer for everybody except for those municipalities that have these kinds of facilities in their municipality because they're still not going to be dealt with fairly.

The fair thing to do would be to assess those buildings, those provincial buildings or those provincial institutions, and to pay to that municipality the proper amount of taxes that they would charge to other people who have buildings of equivalent value. I know those municipalities, mine included, have been after this, not just from this government, but from the previous government, and yes, from the previous Liberal government, and yes, from the previous Tory governments of Bill Davis and John Robarts. This has been an ongoing debate for about 30 or 40 years.

I put it to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that if he really wanted to do something about that situation and since this is such a large bill that is going to change the system in Ontario so drastically, this would have been the perfect opportunity to do something about those tax-exempt properties. Unfortunately, the boat was missed and unfortunately, in those municipalities this problem will become even larger, rather than smaller, as a result of the changes that are in this act.

One of the other things I noted we've been asking for ever since this bill was first produced, and I had a briefing with the finance people at that time and it has been asked for a number of times in this House, is why you don't release the impact studies that you undoubtedly have as to how it's going to affect different municipalities and how it's going to affect different individual taxpayers. Why don't you release them?

As I stated before when I had an opportunity to speak about this bill, from my own personal experience in my own city back in 1982, when we adopted market value assessment, we were told by the province that the difference --

Hon Mr Leach: You were mayor.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, I was mayor at the time and took a lot of heat over it as well. I'll tell you something. We were told --

Hon Mr Leach: It must be a good system.

Mr Gerretsen: I'm trying to be -- you're not being consistent, Mr Minister, if you set up three or four different classes of commercial properties, for example, because you know as well as I do, if you want to be truly fair about it, then you have a market value assessment system over the whole province for every property, whether exempt or not, and regardless of what class they're in, if you want to be really fair about it.

You're trying to make it sound fair but then you know, in different classes and different categories of commercial properties you can't have different rates etc. I'll tell you quite frankly -- and I'm certainly totally supportive of the small business that is run in each municipality -- if I have a property there that's worth, let's say, $250,000 and I am being charged $10,000 per year on taxes, and somebody else has got a property that's worth $2.5 million in industrial or commercial property, if I were the larger commercial property owner, I would say, "Why shouldn't you pay 10 times more than the guy whose property is valued at a tenth of your value?"

But you're allowing municipalities in this act, in effect, to set different rates for different categories. Then don't call it the fair system any more. Why don't you call it the system in which you basically say, "An act to assist the smaller property taxpayers, the smaller business owners"? Why don't you say, "We want to do something for them," and they in effect will be taxed at half the rate than, let's say, a plant that's worth 10 or 20 times the amount of money?

Hon Mr Leach: What have you got against small business?

Mr Gerretsen: Now he says, "What have you got against small business?" I have nothing against small business. But don't make it sound as if this is totally an actual value assessment system, when you allow all sorts of exceptions and exemptions in it. You can't have it both ways, Mr Minister. You cannot say this is a fair system across Ontario and then allow local municipalities to create all sorts of different classes.

Hon Mr Leach: If it's fair to small business, it's fair to large business.

Mr Gerretsen: Anyway, Mr Minister, you can't have it both ways.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): Like you guys.

Mr Gerretsen: No, we tried to be consistent. We certainly --


Mr Gerretsen: Well, it's nice to see that I've woken up the dozens of members who are in the House right now who are undoubtedly listening to this debate.

But you know, you can't stand in the House and say, "This is totally fair to everybody," and then say, "It's going to be a market value system or an actual value system," and then say, "Well, okay, but we're making an exception for this class. They can do something different," and "We can make an exception for another class. They can do something different." It just doesn't wash.

The other one that is very interesting, of course, is the senior citizen exemption or the proposition whereby -- undoubtedly the government knows that particularly older residential properties, not just here in Toronto but elsewhere as well, are going to be affected by this. You're going to have some situations where you could look at double the amount of property tax. So what the government is saying is, "If you're a senior citizen, a municipality can in effect pass a bylaw in which some of this money can be deferred." You've always said "deferred." If you read the act, you will see it doesn't only say "deferred," it also says "cancelled."


If I'm a senior living in a house whose property taxes have doubled as a result of this, I would not like to have a lien on my house for the amount I cannot pay. Most seniors, and I'm sure you have some of these individuals within your own caucus, are the kind of people who have gone through the Depression, they haven't had any debt for the last four or five years, or maybe 20 or 30 years, and they don't want to incur any debt. Many of them don't have credit cards. They don't want to incur debt. They've paid off their mortgage.

Mr O'Toole: So who pays?

Mr Gerretsen: That's the whole point: Who pays? If you've cancel that for a senior citizen, it means the other taxpayers are going to pay more. What's interesting in the debate here is that nobody has ever talked about the cancellation of those taxes. All you've ever talked about is deferring those taxes so they can be paid once the house is sold later on or when the person dies etc.

The point is that the act clearly allows them to cancel those taxes as well. The moment you cancel taxes for one group of people, no matter how justified you feel it is, other people have to pay more. It's as simple as that. If you need X number of dollars to run a municipality and you're giving somebody a tax break, some of the other taxpayers will have to pay more.

I'm not so sure whether that's all that fair either, and I'm not so sure why you haven't talked about the cancellation of taxes, why you only talk about it in terms of deferring taxes when your own bill clearly states you can cancel them as well.

Of course, this bill should not be looked at alone. It's all interconnected. I see a smile on your face, Mr Speaker. It is all interconnected, and we know what it ultimately has to do with.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As the member thinks about the interconnections and how he might expand on them, I hope we would have a quorum to hear this presentation.

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

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: I appreciate the members coming in to listen to this, because this may be our last opportunity to talk some sense into you. Hopefully, you will make some changes here, particularly in the areas I'm going to talk about now. I will talk about the interconnection between Bill 149 and the other stuff that's happening, the other downloading you're doing on local municipalities.

Mr Wildman: And 152.

Mr Gerretsen: And 152, you're right on. In Bill 152 you are downloading another $663 million on the local taxpayers. That's how it's very closely connected to Bill 149. One of the functions you're downloading on local municipalities is the property assessment function. I don't know how many of you were around back in the late 1960s or early 1970s when all assessment was done at the local level. I wasn't involved, believe it or not, even municipally until 1972. I can tell you, from what others used to tell me, that when the assessment was done at the local level it was a mess. It was subject to political interference, one of the reasons the province took it over. The municipalities didn't come to the province, to the government of John Robarts at the time -- or it may have been Bill Davis during his first term; I'm not sure -- and say, "Please take over the assessment." No, the province had to take it over, because the number of systems that were appearing throughout the province were so disconnected one from the other that even the province could no longer stand it.

Do you know what you're doing? You're going right back to that, because you cannot have both the assessment function and the setting of the rate, which is done by the local councils, done by the same people. If you look at a municipal budget, no matter what the number is totally, it's made up of the assessment times the mill rate. One of the reasons it worked fairly successfully here in Ontario over the years is that the value of the properties, the assessment aspect, was done by the province over the last 25 years and the rate aspect was done by the local municipalities. If you have the same group of people doing that by a local assessment department, which still hasn't been worked out, or even privately by privatization -- I've heard that being mentioned as well. That would be an absolute disaster, because can you imagine the amount of interference there could be with somebody in the private sector who perhaps lives in that municipality and gets accosted by individuals? You know: "Hey, Fred, I don't think my property is worth X number of dollars. It's only worth Y number of dollars."

I can tell you, this may have been a very easy political way for you to sort of download some aspect, $119 million, to local municipalities, but in the long run you will regret it. The assessment function simply ought not to be done by the same people who also set the tax rate for that municipality. There will be manipulations going on. I have a great faith in local government, but that's what happened before and there's absolutely nothing to indicate that it's not going to happen again. I ask you to look at that.

The assessors are very concerned about that as well. There has to be an independent arm, particularly as you're looking, through Bill 149, towards a province-wide system that is basically the same. How can it basically be the same if the assessment functions are going to be dealt with differently by different people in different municipalities? It is just not going to work.

Don't take my word for it. Talk to some of the people in the field. Talk to them about how they feel about the assessment function returning to the local level. It is one of those small items that I suppose there hasn't been much talk about. In social housing, social assistance and the public health aspects and the ambulance aspects, we're talking about a lot more dollars being downloaded locally, but this assessment function may be the one that in the long run you regret the most, because it shouldn't be done by the same people.

But there are the others as well. The Minister of Housing is here. He still hasn't given the municipalities any figures yet in terms of what it's going to cost, the social housing transfer of $905 million, or how that's going to be divided. What's very interesting about that is the fact that some municipalities have a lot of social housing and others don't have any at all, and it's happened all over Ontario. Does that mean that those municipalities where the social housing is located, which maybe didn't want the social housing in the first place -- which I think is regrettable. Having been involved with this for many years, I think social housing has done a lot of good in a lot of communities. But some communities have it and some don't. Does that mean that only those communities where the social housing is located are the ones that have to pay for it on an ongoing basis, a system in which basically they had very little say about whether it should be in their municipality or had very little knowledge about the projects themselves?


The other one, of course, is public health. As a matter of fact, just about every health unit in the province that I'm aware of, certainly the local one in the Kingston area, is very concerned over the fact that here we have all the health services in the province looked after through the Ministry of Health. We've got this one health service, public health, that is now going to be paid for entirely with local municipal dollars, and let me tell you the history of that.

Just about the same time, 25 years ago, when each local municipality had its own little health department, when the assessment function was taken over by the province, guess what? The enlightened province of the day also realized that if public health was going to be consistently applied throughout the entire province, they were going to have to have a much larger say in the whole situation and they took over control of the situation. I think after that, the cost-sharing arrangement was 80% by the province and 20% by the local municipality. That was done in order to ensure that there was a level of consistency of services throughout Ontario.

What are you doing now? You're downloading the only health service I'm aware of back on to the local taxpayers when just about every expert has told you that it's the wrong thing to do. It is wrong to do that with social services, health care services, the kinds of services where you really don't know because of epidemics, because of runs on welfare etc, what your total budget is or what your total financial outlay is going to be from year to year. You're going to put that on the local property taxpayer, which is basically a tax system which cannot react very quickly to changing circumstances. That's the reason why they don't want you to do that and just about every expert has told you that.

What are you doing? You're downloading that on to the local municipalities. You're going to have different standards in different parts of Ontario depending upon whether or not a particular council in that area feels that health care, public health, is an important issue to them, and if it isn't, with a lot of councils, I can tell you, if the squeeze comes between paying for those hard-core services like roads and snow removal and that sort of thing and the soft services like public health and social services, the soft services are going to suffer and you'll have different standards across the province.

You can, through your Ministry of Health, publish provincial guidelines and that sort of thing, but in the long run you do not have the power to enforce them any more. Do you know why? You've also taken away the municipal support program on which many municipalities relied because it was the equalizer between the poor municipalities and the richer municipalities to make sure that some basic core services were available in different municipalities regardless of whether or not they were able to get that money through their own local taxation. That was the whole idea behind that. The idea was to provide some kind of level of services.

The municipal support grant payments are gone. As the minister said the other day, two or three years ago it was $1.3 billion or $1.2 billion, then it was cut to $667 million and now it's going to be gone. You're going to have much less control over local municipalities. There are going to be a lot fewer provincial standards.

Then we have the ultimate bribe. That's the only way to put it, but it's still parliamentary. Look it up. It is a bribe where roads are being handed over to the local municipalities, sections of highways in those municipalities, and they're being told that as of January 1, 1998, they are local roads: "You look after them. By the way, here we're giving you money." As the minister said the other day, "We're giving you $1 million or $2 million to pay for one year," I believe he said, "of upkeep and some more money for small renovations somewhere down the road."

I'll tell you what's going to happen in most municipalities. In most municipalities they're going to take that money and they're going to pay for next year's services because next year in most municipalities property taxes are going to go up. They've got this pot of $1 million or $2 million, and rather than putting that aside until the road needs to be reconstructed, that money is going to be used up. So three or four years down the road, when you need a major reconstruction of that particular road that used to be a provincial road, the money won't be available.

Why do you think the Ministry of Transportation was such a big player in road reconstruction in any municipality? I believe on any major road they usually paid somewhere between 75% to 80% of the money. Why do you think that was so? I'll tell you why it was so. Because the local municipal tax base couldn't afford some of those projects on their own. They couldn't, so the Ministry of Transportation over the years got more and more involved. They had to approve those projects, obviously; they were paying 75% to 80%. Depending upon what kind of a road it was, they paid 75% to 80%, so they ultimately called the shot.

I can tell you that as a local councillor you didn't often appreciate it when the ministry said: "No, that's not a high priority. We prefer to do that road in the other municipality this year. It's a higher priority." If you were from the first municipality that in effect was being cut out of the system for that particular year, you usually didn't feel very good. On the other hand, you knew you had a chance at those capital subsidy dollars and that you were going to get that major road work done at some point in time.

With the system you're setting up of downloading all of these roads, in three, four or 10 years from now when those roads need to be rebuilt, local municipalities simply will not have the ability, the financial capacity to raise enough money on their own to do that kind of thing. That's why the province was always involved in major capital projects in different municipalities, for the simple reason that they couldn't afford to do them by themselves.

There may be one or two fast-growing municipalities that will be able to do that. I'll grant you that much. Maybe in Mississauga, maybe in Markham, maybe in some of those places where there's been real economic growth and where a lot of businesses are moving in that may be possible, but for the vast majority of communities and municipalities in this province that simply will not be possible.

Getting back to the time allocation motion and what you're really doing, and I will wind up because my colleagues in the NDP undoubtedly want to say something as well and I've only got a few more minutes left: The time allocation motion on such an important piece of legislation, according to your own speeches here in the House today and other speeches you've made earlier, is simply too important a piece of legislation to ram through this House.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I agree.

Mr Gerretsen: You agree.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Very undemocratic.

Mr Gerretsen: It's very, very undemocratic. I guess what bothers me more than anything is this notion that about once a week or sometimes twice a week we have these motions in the House.

Mr Newman: Oh, come on.

Mr Gerretsen: Oh, yes, we have. We've already had it eight or nine times over the last seven or eight months. On every major bill it seems to go that way.

What we're really telling the people of Ontario is that when you elect a member to come to Queen's Park and he wants to say something, particularly about an important piece of legislation -- which is severely limited in the amount of time we can say it in anyway because it's only 10 minutes per speech now, other than on motions like this -- what you're telling your own constituents is: "We don't want to hear from every member in the House even though they may have something to add. After a certain period of time we want to say: `That's it. We're going to ram this piece of legislation through whether you like it or not.'"

Do you know something? The more often you do it, the more acceptable it becomes to the general public, and that is a real shame. It shouldn't happen that way.


Mr Gerretsen: Mr Speaker, can you get some order here?


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Nepean on a point of order.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Mr Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the member for Scarborough North to make a statement committing the Liberal government never to bring in time allocation.


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

Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I appreciate the confidence the member for Nepean has in the members of the opposition if he realizes too that the days of this government are numbered and that within two years we will have a compassionate, sensitive Liberal government in Ontario again, a government that will truly balance the rights of individuals, groups and communities in this province, not a government whose prime motivation -- sorry, I can't talk about motivation -- whose prime purpose is to give a tax cut to those individuals who least need it. Let's never forget what these various bills are about, whether we're talking about the cuts to health care, whether we're talking about the cuts to education, whether we're talking about municipal downloading, whether we're talking about the 50% cut --


The Acting Speaker: Order. I realize it's Thursday afternoon and you're all wanting to get out of here. If you're in a hurry to get out, leave. Take my word for it, just leave. But if you're going to be in here, then you must go by the rules in here. Please, I want to hear the speaker's speech.

Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, because I'm sure you want to hear this as well. The people of Ontario are interested in good government, and they know this government is basically concerned about just giving a tax cut to those people who least need it. Let's never forget that for somebody who makes $25,000, as a result of your tax cut that person gets something like $200 back a year; if somebody is making about $50,000, they get back about $500 a year; but if you're in the $100,000 range, you might get back $4,000 or $5,000. That's really what this is all about.

If you were just interested in balancing the budget and cutting the deficit of this province as low as possible, I would have no problem with it all, but you are handing money back to people when you haven't even got a balanced budget. It's amazing that this is the government of the business party, that believes in running this province in a businesslike fashion.

Mr Shea: And it's their money. This isn't Kingston, John.

The Acting Speaker: The member for High Park-Swansea, come to order.

Mr Gerretsen: What's happening is that they are driving the public debt in this province up from $100 billion to $120 billion when at the same time they're giving tax cuts to people.

I see that my colleague the member for Oakwood has arrived. I believe there are only 10 minutes left on the clock. I want to give others an opportunity to speak about this as well. I believe the rules allow for a sharing of the 60 minutes between members of caucuses, so I now yield the floor to my colleague the member for Oakwood.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): As you know, this bill is complementary to Bill 106, which brings about quite a fundamental change in taxation in Ontario, and it especially affects Metro. As you know, the Conservative Party in Metro ran for years on the principle, on the policy -- they went door to door in June 1995 saying: "We are against market value. The Conservatives will never bring in market value."

What they've done with Bill 106 and this bill is that they've introduced something they said they wouldn't do. This, for all intents and purposes, is a variation of market value assessment. It's based on the market value of your property, which fluctuates with the economic cycles, with the real estate cycles. That's what is being adopted here. That is what is being reinforced, in essence: something they emphatically said they would never introduce if they were elected. What did they do? As soon as they got into power they introduced something they promised door to door they would never do.

Sure there is a need to change and reform the property tax system, but this is the system they said they would never introduce because it was wrong in principle. The Conservatives opposed market value certainly in Metro. They swore up and down they would never do it because they knew what it would do: It would subject a lot of people in Metropolitan Toronto to fluctuations in real estate. Toronto real estate prices fluctuate constantly. Those real estate prices, once they're linked into your property tax, mean that you, who could be a homeowner, who may be out of work, have no control over the property taxes you pay. So you could be unemployed and the value of your property goes through the roof and you have to pay higher taxes. You're sitting in your home on a piece of property and you've got no income coming in, yet your taxes will go up.

It's got nothing to do with your ability to pay. All it has to do with is speculation in the marketplace, the real estate market in the neighbourhood you live in. You're constantly under that pressure and it's very acute in Toronto. It may not happen as much in rural areas, but in Toronto it happens periodically and it happens regularly. In other words, we could be in a situation where all of a sudden, because the neighbourhood becomes hot, the value of that property goes very high, and that pensioner is on a fixed income. That pensioner will now have to pay exorbitant property taxes and it's not because of anything they've done. Their income is the same. Now they're going to have to pay market-value-based property taxes, and that hurts. Maybe people with a lot of money are not that affected, but people on fixed incomes, people on marginal incomes are going to be affected by this type of system.

This system also doesn't wipe away one of the greatest inequities there is with this market type of system. That is, if you renovate, improve your property, automatically you're still going to get higher taxes because you do that. In other words, if you've got a moderate home that you fix up, the value of that property could increase because you've invested in that home. What this system of market value does -- I don't know what they call it; they've changed the name three or four times, actual value, market value -- it means is that if you fix up your home, you're going to be hit with a tax increase. So here you've got a person who moves into an older part of Toronto, fixes up their home, puts $100,000 into a new kitchen and bathroom and the tax collector is going to come along and say, "Hey, your taxes are going to go up." Your assessment is higher because you've fixed up your home.

That is one of the big penalty clauses in this type of market value property tax system, which they've introduced all across Ontario. Sure, on paper it looks great. All the accountants will sit down and say, "This is fair." Yes, it's fair to those who are sitting in their ivory towers. What about those pensioners who are sitting in those homes they don't want to move out of? Those are homes they may have through marriage or through family. They don't want to move anywhere. They have a moderate income or perhaps they haven't had any income for a number of years. This system is going to punish those people.

All it will enable them to do is basically try and seek redress from the municipality, and what the municipality will do with this bill is basically put a lien on the property so they can defer some of the taxes. What pensioner wants a mortgage on their property when they spent their whole life trying to get rid of the mortgage? This gives them a mortgage on their property after maybe 40 or 50 years of working to unload a mortgage. This is the reprieve it gives pensioners. This is certainly going to hurt sections of Metropolitan Toronto that have been stable neighbourhoods.

With these fluctuations you're going to see certain people forced to leave their homes, and it's because of this unasked-for property tax system about which the people of Metropolitan Toronto in certain areas said, "Before you do it, at least give us the impact studies to show what this would mean to my street or neighbourhood." The Minister of Municipal Affairs said: "No, I don't have it. I gave it to the Minister of Finance." He says: "No, no, I don't have it. They're secret cabinet documents." Property tax figures are secret cabinet documents.

A person living on a street in Toronto or in East York or in Scarborough couldn't find out the impact of these bills, 106 and this one here, because of government secrecy. They refuse to release the impact studies to show how much the taxes would go up on every street. You know why they wouldn't release them? They knew that if citizens saw what would happen to their taxes on certain streets, they would be in tax revolt. So they've kept those figures from the public. They've kept those tax figures, secret documents, ordinary tax numbers they have at the Ministry of Finance -- they have three studies, or probably more -- from the public because they know that if the public were to find out in certain areas of Metropolitan Toronto what would happen to their property taxes, there would be a tax revolt. So the government has gotten away with withholding information from the public. That's why there isn't a tax revolt, because they were able to connive and keep those figures away from the public.


When the public sees these assessments come in, in certain neighbourhoods taxes may come down, but I will tell you that there have been thousands of successful appeals, where most of the people who would get reductions have already had them. My colleague from Yorkview will tell you that. I've done it. People have reduced their taxes, so all that's left is a lot of people who are going to have higher taxes because of this. There are literally tens of thousands of people who have already appealed successfully. Their taxes are going to be at approximately 1996 values. All there is left is for people's taxes to go up.

That's why this government has hidden those figures and those stats, and that's why I see members sitting across from me who for years opposed this kind of market value system in Metro. As I said, in the June election this government swore that the worst thing in the world was the market value type of system. If you look at it, what's the difference from this system that they call actual value or average value? There's no difference. It is market value. That's what they're imposing and that's what they're doing despite the fact that they said for years a Conservative government would never do it.

You're going to see homes all across Metro where people who are living in stable neighbourhoods with limited income and people even on reasonable incomes are going to be hit. It's not fair, especially when you don't even release the impact studies which give them an opportunity to find out what they're getting into. But this government will never release those studies because they know they are dynamite and they're dangerous and they would have a revolt on their hands. They never have and never will.

This is the beginning of market value assessment in Toronto. It's going to help a few, but I'll tell you, over the years it's going to hurt a lot of people, because they're going to be subject to speculation in the marketplace.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?


Mr Wildman: I'm sorry to interrupt this conversation. Speaker, earlier you admonished the members across the way to settle down. You said that perhaps it's Thursday afternoon and people wanted to get home and wanted to get out of here, and that you wanted to hear the debate. I appreciate that. I think we do, unfortunately, have evidence that the government does want to get going in moving things through because they want to get out of here.

I hate to announce this to the House, and I sincerely dislike the idea of having to announce this, but the government House leader has introduced another time allocation motion on another piece of legislation while we're just debating this one. That time allocation motion relates to Bill 160, the education bill. I'm not going to talk about that bill, but I want to put the time allocation motion that we're debating on Bill 149, the so-called Fair Municipal Finance Act, in the context of this other one.

The government House leader, when he introduced this motion for debate today, said this was about the eighth time -- I think he said it was the eighth time -- the government had used this strategy. He compared it favourably to other governments. But he didn't indicate at any time that it was going to become standard practice, that this was going to be the way the government proceeds, that they were going to move time allocation motions on every piece of legislation that was of any significance in the House.

One of the excuses, and I use that word advisedly, for the rule changes was to avoid this kind of thing, to make it possible to have debate, which is what this assembly is for, to ensure that as many members as possible on all sides of the House could participate in debate on important issues, important pieces of legislation, and to avoid these kinds of measures. That was one of the arguments that the members of the government caucus put forward in the debate around rule changes. And yet now, with these new rules, we still end up with the government moving these kinds of motions on every important piece of legislation. It really is disappointing.

I didn't support the rule changes. I thought they went too far in limiting debate. But the government said that they had an agenda they had to get through, they wanted to move things as quickly as possible through the legislative process, and they needed changes in the rules in order to do that.

Having had these rule changes, I want to point out that on Bill 149 we haven't had particularly extended debate. We've had three days of debate on second reading. On Bill 160, we haven't even had that much yet. And yet we keep getting these motions.

Since the government doesn't seem to move these motions early at second reading debate, but usually waits for a couple of days, I can only conclude that the main reason the government House leader is continuing to use time allocation even though he has these new rules to assist him in his job is because he wants to limit public input. The time allocation motion essentially limits committee. It limits the amount of time for committee and it limits the travel of committee, because of course if you don't have enough time, you can't do a lot of travelling.

It also, unfortunately, has the effect of limiting real consideration of legislation and improvement of legislation based on public input. All of these time allocation motions essentially set forward one day for clause-by-clause debate, and they all say that at 5 pm the committee can continue to sit; however, they cannot have further debate. All of the amendments are deemed to have been put, and all the committee members can do is vote on those amendments.

I understand that on a number of the time allocation motions, including Bill 136, there have been a number of situations where all members of the committee, government party members, Liberal Party members and NDP members, agreed there was a section or there were a couple of sections of the bill that needed improvement, but because of the time allocation motion, the Chair of the committee could not accept, even with unanimous consent of the committee, amendments that would improve the bill. So as I said, it appears that the purpose of this is for public input, amendment and improvement to the legislation, to be limited.


What this means is that the only amendments that can be dealt with are government amendments. Sure, you can have opposition amendments submitted, but if there isn't time for proper debate about those amendments and if they are deemed at 5 o'clock to have been put and no further discussion can take place, automatically the government majority on the committee will defeat those amendments. Ironically, as I said, on those few occasions when all members of the committee, no matter what their political stripe, have agreed that there is a provision that needs to be improved, because of the time allocation motion the hands of the Chair of the committee, all the members of committee, are tied and they cannot even improve the bill in a way that all members support. I don't understand why government members find that acceptable. I certainly wouldn't if I were in their position.

It's been said in debate that the more often this is done, the easier it becomes. I suppose it could be argued that if the government intends to use time allocation on every bill that they consider to be important, then we should go back to the old rules. Why do we need the new rules? I don't understand why. The government's going to time-allocate everything.

Mr Turnbull: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think it would be certainly useful in this debate, in view of the comments that my learned colleague from Algoma is making, if he could perhaps comment on the fact that I recall when they were the government they brought in time allocation --

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

Mr Wildman: I do appreciate the intervention of my good friend from York Mills; however, I was just alluding to the fact that the government members, including I think the member for York Mills, in a debate on rule changes said that things should change and that this approach was not acceptable. The government members argued that they had had to use time allocation motions when they didn't want to and that the new rules were going to make it possible for them to get legislation through without doing this.

I guess it means that even in the world of speedup under the new rules where every time an important piece of legislation is put forward for debate in the House there is the noise, the atmosphere of a train station, with the diesel engines revving up and the locomotives getting ready -- and boy, they take off and they move quickly, and they move quickly through second reading. But even that's not fast enough for this government. Once they get second reading done over two or three days, then they've got to move a time allocation motion, not because they want to limit the debate by members in this assembly but because they want to limit public input into the legislation.

The government does not want to hear contrary opinion. The government does not want to have committees travelling the province, or even committees in Toronto, while the House sits that might attract people who have input to make who don't agree with the government. I know it is a nuisance to have to listen to people who disagree. It can be quite disagreeable to have to listen to people who put forward views that are not shared by the majority in the committee. It does take some patience and it must try the patience of the members of the government, because so many of them know in their heart of hearts that they are right, both with a capital R and with a small r, that their position is correct, beyond doubt.

I think one of my friends in this House once quoted Jesse Helms. I never thought I'd be quoting the great Senator. When asked to describe the new neo-conservative members of Congress who were recently elected, he once said something to the effect of, "You know them boys, they're sometimes wrong but they're never in doubt." That's what we have here, a government where they're often wrong but they're never in doubt.

If you're sure that you're right, then obviously those who disagree are wrong and why should you waste time listening to people with incorrect opinions? It's just a waste of time.

Some might argue that in a democracy it's important to hear all opinions, that it's important to listen to even the most bizarrely presented views because, after all, citizens in a democracy have the right to hold those views and to present them. Some might argue in a democracy it makes sense to try and persuade those who disagree of the rightness of your position. But if you don't have time, you don't have the desire to listen and to try and discuss and persuade, then it's better to run the railroad and to move time allocation so you don't have to waste the time of the committee listening.

The problem with that approach, I believe sincerely, is that even on pieces of legislation with which you agree, those who draft legislation sometimes make mistakes. Often, if you have proper input into legislation from the public, they can point out those errors and that can lead to amendment that will improve the legislation, make it work better for the public and for society, but this government doesn't have time for that.

So if there are amendments that have been presented, they are all deemed to have been put and there's no time after 5 o'clock to debate them on the fifth calendar day following the final day of consideration referred to in this motion. They're deemed to have been put, and all the committee can do is vote on them. So even if the committee members discover a provision that needs to be changed, they can't change it. That's a terrible position to put a committee into, and it's an untenable position for a Chair of committee.

Maybe it's unfair of me to quote Mr Helms, because on those couple of occasions where the government members as well as the opposition have discovered provisions that need change, they did have at least a glimmer of doubt about the rightness of the drafting of the legislation.

This bill does what many other bills of this government have done in that it subverts the language. The very name of the bill carries nominative aspects, in that it is called the Fair Municipal Finance Act. Obviously fairness, just as rightness, is in the eye and the ear of the beholder or the listener. You can't pass a law that makes everything fair. You can pass a law that attempts to do that and may or may not be effective, but it isn't automatic that simply by passing a law things are going to be fair.


By making errors and not having proper drafting and time to listen and to hear what the people have to say, you may in fact make things more unfair.

There's no question that there was need in this province for change in the way we assess properties, to try to get rid of some of the disparities between different types of properties and properties within municipalities or between different municipalities.

These things are not easy. I know that the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, who spoke in this debate earlier and explained the government's point of view with regard to Bill 149, when she was running for election said she opposed this kind of change. She put out a pamphlet to her prospective constituents and said she was opposed to market value assessment.

The government doesn't like to call this market value assessment. They call it actual value assessment. But what's in a name? The fact is, this is market value assessment by some other name. There isn't any difference.

I respect the fact that the member for St Andrew-St Patrick in her role as parliamentary assistant has gotten up and has explained what the legislation is about. She didn't explain why we needed a time allocation motion and why we needed to move it forward more quickly than it was progressing through the House without the time allocation motion, but she did put forward the arguments about the bill. I didn't hear in her remarks why she has changed her view, why this is now good for her constituents when in June 1995 it wasn't.

The fact is that we are, I believe, moving too quickly. I believe there are going to be terrible foul-ups. I believe things are going to be indeed more unfair. It's a tremendous job to reassess every property in this province, and to do it in the time frame that this government is putting forward is completely unreasonable.

My leader, in talking about this bill in the House, indicated that they were going to have drive-by assessments, that the government is now hiring a lot of inexperienced people who I'm sure want to do a good job but who do not have experience, and they're going to give them -- how long training?

Mr Pouliot: Like a day.

Mr Wildman: A day or something. They're going to get a day's training or something like that, and then they're going to be sent out to reassess communities and the properties in those communities. Three thousand assessors?

Mr Pouliot: No, 3.8 million to be assessed.

Mr Wildman: Yes, 3.8 million to be assessed in values. This has the potential for a horrendous botch-up. There are going to be many, many appeals.

Why does it have to be rushed? I guess you can ask that question about just about everything this government is doing. The restructuring they are proposing for municipalities and for school boards in the province all has to be in place in a few months, about 90 days.

There's a municipal election this fall. Nobody who is thinking about running in this municipal election, for whatever office, knows what kind of budgets they're going to have, has any idea of what kind of revenues they're going to have, of what is going to happen to property taxes. Nobody knows.

Suddenly, they're going to be thrown into office in the new year and they're going to have to be able to put together a coherent budget when everything is going to be up in the air.

The fact is that we're seeing this bill as part of a much larger restructuring that this government is doing in too much of a hurry. There is absolutely no reason, if this government wanted to do the restructuring, that it had to be done for this municipal election. It could have been done over a three-year period and come into effect in the next municipal election, and it could have then been done right, in a considered, thoughtful, step-by-step manner, instead of the rush.

I think I know why the government wants to do it so quickly: They want to do it because they have to get the money out. They are trying to download as much as they can to the municipal sector, as many costs as possible, so that they can get less expenditure on the provincial side so that they can fund their income tax cut for the top 10% of income earners in the province. That's the reason. That's why they couldn't wait until the next municipal election, because that would probably be after the next provincial election. That's the reason.

So we're going to have a tremendous mess at the municipal level, property taxes are going to go sky high and this contingency fund, which every minister who has anything to do with the municipal level of government and the download has spent many times over already, nobody yet knows how anybody can access that fund.

In my area, just the download of provincial highways to the municipal level of government and the download of Ontario Provincial Police services will more than take all of the share that those municipalities have of that contingency fund, and that doesn't count any of the social services and other services that the municipalities are going to be asked to shoulder.

In my area, the estimate from the Ontario Provincial Police for the OPP service is $450 per household, on average. That's the average. The highest, in the township of Day and Bright Additional, a very small township in the east end of my riding, near Blind River, is $750 per household. The total bill in that municipality for OPP services is higher than the total municipal budget, excluding education, in 1996, just for OPP services. What this means is an enormous skyrocket in property taxes and a tremendous amount of uncertainty and dislocation at the municipal level of government. The property taxes are going to go way high, and property taxpayers are going to pay for it.

There is absolutely no excuse for this government to be rushing this through with a time allocation motion. Why doesn't the government do it right? Why don't they listen to the municipal politicians, the taxpayers' coalitions, the property taxpayers from local municipalities? Why don't they travel the province, hear what people have to say and do it in a reasonable fashion?

It's a truism that things done quickly often cause problems. The government here believes, I know, that bigger is better, that amalgamations are the way we should go. I don't believe necessarily that bigger is better, coming from a rural area, but if you're going to do it, do it right. Don't rush it through with time allocation motions. Don't take every significant piece of legislation that has to be passed in this House and time-allocate it so we don't hear from the public, so they don't have an opportunity to make their views known and the members of this House don't have the opportunity to respond to the views of the public and to amend legislation, at least to do it right.

I will be sharing my time with my friend from Lake Nipigon, who will make the rest of the presentation for our caucus.


Mr Pouliot: I wish to commend my distinguished colleague who's been in the House for 22 years and who has mentioned on many occasions that never did he imagine that one day -- well, the past two and a half years -- he would work with people with such determination, such zeal, prone to mistakes, people in a hurry.

Time allocation is the order of the day, the subject matter being addressed. By this time, views on time allocation, on gag orders, on handcuff motions from the present government should be completely exhausted, for it has become practice, the method of this government, to silence the opposition, to silence the potential contribution of the taxpayers, of the general public. One more time they've imposed their will on the minority of opposition members. It is becoming a weekly occurrence. Once you wish to help the government as a parliamentarian, as a representative of people in your riding, almost inevitably you should expect to be shackled, to be muzzled, whatever it takes to impose their silence.

Once you reach the committee, what they cannot do in the House they shall do at committee, where they control, by way of their relentless majority, the regulations, the amendments, the will of the government. To a person, committee members have been told to readily acquiesce, because what we have is the master puppeteer, the puppets and the shadow puppets who will comply, and comply at once, or else. Consequently, we're left with very little to say.

We're not just talking about any bill, any law which is about to be. This is of a consequence, of a magnitude seldom presented to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. No matter where you live, no matter how you live in Ontario, it is virtually impossible to bypass the impact of what is about to happen. This is the ultimate. This is the mother lode of dumping, of abdicating one's responsibility, of transferring the pay-for-service responsibility to others. This is big time. This is the limit.

The threshold is about to hit your community. Social services will now be, in large part, the financial responsibility of municipalities. More than 800 municipalities, villages, hamlets, unorganized territories will suffer the severe impact of what is about to happen. How much will it cost? Well, we're less than three months before the clouds get so very low, in fact, in some cases, if I may be so bold, before all hell breaks loose, and the government has refused to this day, October 2, 1997 -- keep in mind January 1 is when you meet your destiny, when you start paying for all those additional services -- to share impact studies with the general public. It has been adamant about releasing the true cost of services.

Also, I wish you to keep in mind that we have the school board and municipal elections the same day, in November, next month. One of the tragedies of this exercise is that many people who would have sought re-election, people with experience at councils -- mayors, reeves, council people -- have decided not to seek nominations, not to run again, simply because they don't need the kind of mess that is about to descend on their municipalities. Only three days of debate? Not a lot.

The government is in a rush, and when you're tired and when you are rushed, you make mistakes. Look at the amendments. They come and face us by the dozen. Every aspect of the bill is being amended. You can hardly recognize the first draft, the legalese. The people who work at the ministry look very tired indeed because they have to respond in a hurry to the orders of the commissars. They come up with volumes. The paper industry is doing very well in northern Ontario because it's draft after draft after draft, a litany, a continuity of incompetence, of mistakes. You confuse people a lot when you don't know. Because you are in a rush, you don't know what you're doing.

It's less than three months before you pay the bill and they won't tell you what the bill will be. They have 3.8 million units across Ontario being assessed. It's never been done. It's never been seen before. It's the largest assessment and reassessment exercise ever undertaken, not only in Ontario, not only in Canada, but in North America. Some 600,000 units will be appealed. People in the ministry tell us that.

What a mess we're in. It could have been avoided if these proposed laws, these bills, were debated for longer periods of time, because they're consequential; they're very impacting. We need more time. We need to listen better and we need to make some counterproposals.

But you see, this government does not operate that way. The democratic way is only respected or best respected when you have Democracy Incorporated -- Democracy Inc or Democracy Ltd -- then you might have a break. Otherwise you have to comply. "Out of the way. I shall have my way."

You've heard many qualifications. Some have gone perhaps too far when they've mentioned that the government is dictatorial, that this unit, this body, this ensemble resembles tragedies of yesteryear, that they will dictate their will. I don't entirely share views that are that extreme. What I begin to understand is that not only are they a difficult lot to work with but they don't communicate all that well.

The people of Ontario are saying there's less than three months to go. Like my good friend from Algoma said, where is the cost factor? We're supposed to get the costs on October 6, next week. Someone, I presume the minister, will fax all municipalities and say, "This is what the cost of Ontario Provincial Police will be for your municipality."


Some people will disagree. They have different sets of figures. But as is the case nowadays, the government says, "This is the cost," and we pay. Then they will say, "What's the cost of social housing?" Then you will get another fax and you're supposed to agree. It will be foolproof. We know if it's anything like drafting the legislation, it will be chaotic. There will be quite a mess there.

Assuming that the costs are right on some items and you agree with them, because that's what it costs, who will make up the shortcomings? Who will pay? Will the same minister send you a cheque, or will your council ask you to fork over, to shell out more money through your residential taxes?

Member after member on the government side earlier this afternoon talked about the small business community and how many jobs had been created, and that they will benefit, and benefit a lot, by the endeavours of Bill 149, the downloading of responsibility and money on the shoulders of municipalities. But I did not hear one member of the government saying they will keep paying 100% of school taxes. Residential levels will get a bit of a reprieve, but then the cost of OPP alone -- the commercial sector, the big ones, will be okay, because they get the business occupancy tax, the BOT, taken out, so they get a break. So on top of the downloading, because of the class differences that are in Bill 149, there will be further dislocation.

Municipalities will be left with the following choices: Hit the residential homeowner and/or the small business people, because this exercise will result in a $1-billion shifting. Oh, you will have a contingency fund, but it will not be nearly enough to pick up the losses. There is an imbalance here and you will be asked to face it. People will say, "We don't have the money to pay for these services."

Up north, in our special part of Ontario, we are more vulnerable and we're more prone to some dislocation. Our figures estimate that the downloading will cost the north $282 million, and that's not factoring in the highway responsibility which looms large, the added burden. That's $282 million. Will the minister of the crown stand up in his place today and say: "It will not be so. We will send you a cheque to make up the difference so that your small business and property taxes will not go up by leaps and bounds"?

In northern Ontario, our special part of the north, we're resource-based. We pay for the freight big time so they can enjoy a very good standard of living in other parts of the province and the country. Some $480.47, that's what the cost per household will be when all is said and done. In the south it's $105.32. This is what our research shows. On top of that, you have to factor in a percentage for the unknown -- Murphy's law. In some cases that will indeed be devastating. You also have to add to it the unconditional grants. That is eliminated.

Mr Wildman: And the farm tax.

Mr Pouliot: And the farm tax, like my good friend from Algoma says. What you save on the farm, you will pay on the house. Make no bones about it, there are no free lunches. There's no secret. It's simple mathematics.

The Premier -- I don't know -- one day gets up and says, "When all is said and done, we should be able to save anywhere from 5% to 10% at the residential level," the municipal taxes that you pay. It's okay for him to say that because it's you who should be better managers. "Oh, I'm a good manager," says Mike Harris. "Every hour of every day, I borrow. I spend more money than I take in."

This is a recovery of some proportion, of some importance. It should be this way, except they made the mistake of not paying down the mortgage. As the money kept rolling in, they just detoured; they transferred the money to honour the commitment which is the big tax break.

This is what it's all about again: $1 billion coming out of education, $1 billion coming out of municipalities. You have to reach by instalments $5 billion per year, because that's what the tax break is, and at the same time you have to reconcile the debts that you have accumulated. You will by the time you leave office have increased the provincial debt by more than $25 billion during boom times.

Is this good management? It could have been avoided if you had paid down the mortgage, paid down the debt, in lieu of the tax break. It makes no sense to me and it makes no sense to you. And I'm not factoring in Ontario Hydro, which will have to borrow another $10 billion because of the mess you left us in. Simply put, $35 billion more, an economic sin of the highest order: a government that should be judged so harshly, a government that missed one of the great opportunities during good times to put some money aside.

I know you read the scriptures, Speaker. I know that you've often quoted about the good years and the bad years, and you told me yesterday, "For it is written." Do you think you and I could have the scriptures read by the Minister of Finance and the Premier of this province so that they can at least spiritually arm themselves better when dealing with the challenges they are faced with? It should be rewarding times, not times of agony, another legacy that you leave for tomorrow, for the year after and for the generations to come. They'll have to foot the bill for this kind of incompetence.

We're not only offended, but we begin to see a sense of repetition, that every time a bill is jeopardized, when we wish to help the government with commonsensical counterdrafting, every time they move closure on us. The government House leader, who is present right now, present today, takes a great deal of pride standing at his post and making sure that democracy ceases to exist a little more.

We wish to debate for more than three days when it comes to Bill 149. Three short days surely does not suffice. Surely the next time we shall have better fortune, better luck, surely if the people we represent stand up and tell the government: "Look, you don't know what you're doing. Therefore I know little of where I'm going, but it shall cost more."

It being 6 of the clock, Mr Speaker, I understand that you will be asked to conduct a most important vote on this closure. I will finish my remarks.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Johnson has moved government notice of motion number 48. Is it the pleasure of the House that this motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. There will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1800 to 1805.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): All those in favour please rise one at a time until recognized by the Clerk.


Baird, John R.

Bassett, Isabel

Brown, Jim

Carroll, Jack

Chudleigh, Ted

Clement, Tony

DeFaria, Carl

Ecker, Janet

Flaherty, Jim

Ford, Douglas B.

Froese, Tom

Galt, Doug

Hastings, John

Johnson, David

Klees, Frank

Leach, Al

Marland, Margaret

Martiniuk, Gerry

Maves, Bart

Mushinski, Marilyn

Newman, Dan

O'Toole, John

Parker, John L.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Sampson, Rob

Saunderson, William

Shea, Derwyn

Sheehan, Frank

Snobelen, John

Spina, Joseph

Sterling, Norman W.

Stewart, R. Gary

Tascona, Joseph N.

Tilson, David

Turnbull, David

Wood, Bob

Young, Terence H.

The Acting Speaker: All those opposed, please stand and be recognized by the Clerk.


Bisson, Gilles

Christopherson, David

Colle, Mike

Cordiano, Joseph

Curling, Alvin

Kormos, Peter

Laughren, Floyd

Lessard, Wayne

Marchese, Rosario

Martel, Shelley

Pouliot, Gilles

Ruprecht, Tony

Sergio, Mario

Silipo, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Clerk Assistant: The ayes are 37; the nays are 15.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the resolution passed.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I have the weekly business statement for the week of October 6, 1997.

Monday, October 6: Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act.

Tuesday, October 7: Bill 158, the Education Voting Rights Act; and Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act.

On Wednesday, October 8: There's an opposition day for the NDP; in addition, Bill 128, the child support guidelines; Bill 102, the Community Safety Act. There's also a series of government process simplification acts, otherwise known as the red tape: Bill 61, from the Ministry of the Attorney General; Bill 63, from the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; Bill 64, from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations; Bill 65, from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism; Bill 66, from the Ministry of Environment and Energy; Bill 67, from the Ministry of Health; Bill 68, from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines; and Bill 69, from the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services.

Thursday, October 2: private members' public business, ballot items 103 and 104; Bill 99, the Workers' Compensation Reform Act.


Hon David Johnson: Why I am getting all this heckling?

Private bills on Thursday as well: Pr65, the Hamilton act; Pr78, the Scarborough act; Pr84, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Association of Metropolitan Toronto. Then there's a series of red tape reduction acts: Bill 114, from the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; Bill 115, from the Ministry of Finance; Bill 116, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Bill 117, from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations; Bill 118, from the Ministry of Health; Bill 119, from the Ministry of Natural Resources; Bill 120, from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines; Bill 121, from the Ministry of Environment and Energy; Bill 122, from the Ministry of the Attorney General. Finally on Thursday, after that, the House calendar motion.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): It being after 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday, October 6.

The House adjourned at 1811.