36th Parliament, 1st Session

L249a - Mon 24 Nov 1997 / Lun 24 Nov 1997















































The House met at 1332.




Mr David Caplan (Oriole): I rise to bring to the attention of members of this House, and in particular to the Minister of Health, the concerns of the Sexual Health Network of Ontario. This organization of providers of sexual health services has grave concerns about the download of costs of these programs on to municipalities.

They have some real concerns about the impact of downloading on access to sexual health services. Their concerns appear to be justified. Overall public health stands to decline if these programs lose their funding. The negative impact would be tangible in areas such as increased teenage pregnancies, the increased occurrence and spread of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS and HIV, and a decline in accessibility to services, especially for young people.

Not only will municipally administered programs face funding cuts and possibly extinction, but exclusive provincial agencies such as the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada and Planned Parenthood Ontario's Facts of Life Line will have no direct funding sources. These agencies will certainly collapse without provincial intervention. Clinics in Hamilton and Ottawa face closure on January 1 without immediate intervention.

The Sexual Health Network of Ontario is not asking for an increase in funding. They are requesting that these programs remain funded by the province. We believe that your ministry should consider incorporating these valued programs under its budget to protect the provision of these services.

Minister, my colleague Gerard Kennedy and I wrote to you last week to draw your attention to this urgent matter. It is 40 days until January 1, 1998. The remedy is straightforward. It is our sincere wish that sexual health programs can be accommodated in the provincial budget. Your immediate attention to this matter is required to sustain --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): There is great anxiety in the land. People, having seen the poor attacked by massive cuts to their income, seniors attacked by new taxes on prescription drugs and a serious reduction of the money available for subsidized housing, and the general public and communities attacked as health care deteriorates, firefighters and police are disillusioned and civil servants at every level downsized, are waiting for the other shoe to drop. This week we will see that happen. Among other things, we will have passed in this House Bill 160, Bill 142 and Bill 152, a package that makes mega-week pale in comparison.

People are aware of the far-reaching impact of Bill 160, primarily because of the selfless two-week walkout by the teachers.

Bill 152 will see a downloading of the costs of services to municipalities unheralded in Canadian history. This is a complete reversal of the move to a more progressive tax structure, unloading the cost of some of the most important services for people on to the backs of property taxpayers. Property taxes will go up.

Bill 142 is the final straw in breaking the back and the will of the poor in this province.

What are we to do in front of this onslaught? Well, if we can't think of anything to do ourselves, we should support those who have found ways to express their opposition. For example, Gary Connolly is on a hunger strike at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I rise today to thank hundreds of my constituents for their support.

During the past few months, both in my riding and throughout the province, the teachers' unions have made a concerted effort to ensure their political views were the only views expressed. Last week in my riding the unions held meetings at a number of high schools which they advertised throughout the region as being public forums sponsored by parent councils to discuss Bill 160. What they should have advertised was that these were public forums at which only union views would be expressed.

In an attempt to provide parents with information about the bill and its amendments, on Tuesday, November 18, I instructed my executive assistant to travel a 250-kilometre round trip to the riding to represent me at one of the meetings. The OSSTF organizers of the meetings refused to allow him to speak at the meeting. The parents were forced to sit for over two hours listening to OSSTF representatives express their political opinions and were not given the opportunity to question the speakers.

Within two days of the forums, my office received 114 telephone calls, 95 of those calls in support of Bill 160 and the government, with only 19 supporting the union position. I would also like to advise the House that in the past two weeks, I have met with over 700 of my constituents in various meeting. Without fail, I have been surrounded with well-wishers who have stated loudly and clearly that they support the efforts of this government and want Bill 160 passed as quickly as possible.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Within a very few days this House will vote on Bill 160. Never before in the history of this government's regime has there been so much attention focused on one vote.

I challenge Mike Harris and the Conservative whip to ensure that this is a whipped attendance. I challenge Mike Harris and the whip to ensure that every Conservative member is in this House to vote. Will the government ensure that every Conservative member is in the House?

There is no reason for any government member to miss this vote. Remember last week? Mike Harris said it's going to be a free vote. Well, if it's going to be a free vote, you can vote representing the views of your constituents. You should have no reason not to represent the people who elected you.

Are we in the opposition to understand, then, that anyone who misses this vote is missing it because they're in favour of it, or are they missing it because they are opposed to it? That's why, Mike, that's why, Whip, we want every Conservative member in the House. We want to find out which Conservative members believe in PPE, which is "protecting public education," and those who just want to PTA, and that doesn't stand for "parent-teacher association," it stands for "protecting thine" -- for use of another word -- "derrière."

The people of Ontario will understand --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): There is a lot of attention being spent right now on Bill 160, as there should be, on the education so-called reform. But while all this is going on we heard today of another shocking development caused by the policies of this government. Under Bill 152, also known as the Services Improvement Act, the entire downloading of our public health system is going to happen very soon unless this government does something about it.

What we heard at the news conference this morning put on by the Sexual Health Network of Ontario is that they are left in limbo. The entire costs -- which used to be paid for for these programs, the sexual health services, including HIV and teen pregnancy, menopausal services, all kinds of services -- are going to be downloaded 100%.

We all know what that means. We are in transition here, across Ontario. In Metro we have the new megacity. They have not made any commitments as to what is going to be funded and what isn't, but we know that sexual health services are often controversial and often small groups of vocal people can stop a municipality from funding these kinds of essential programs. It is incumbent on this government to at least exempt the sexual health services --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.



Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): It is with great pride that I rise to address the House today to congratulate the Canadian Corps Association, Oshawa Unit 42, on its 50th anniversary.

On November 11 we all took a moment of silence to honour those who fought and sacrificed for the rest of us.

The city of Oshawa is proud to be the home of several veterans' organizations which contribute richly to our community. One of these, the Canadian Corps Association, Unit 42, celebrated its 50th anniversary on November 8 of this year.

The Canadian Corps Association is a national veterans' organization that is committed to the welfare of disabled veterans and their families. Through its federal and provincial network supplying current information concerning war veterans' legislation and issues, the Canadian Corps is able to greatly assist veterans and their families.

Since Unit 42's start with some 38 members, the unit has strongly grown to approximately 800 members, including ex-service personnel and associate members. The unit offers a wide range of activities and assistance to its members. In everything it does, Oshawa Unit 42 is strongly supported by an active ladies' auxiliary.

In its half-century of existence in Oshawa, the Canadian Corps Association has contributed greatly to our community. The unit has been a strong supporter of the local hospital, minor hockey, local charities, and youth organizations such as the army and navy cadets.

Local veterans' organizations such as Oshawa's Canadian Corps Association, Unit 42, and their individual members are a significant and invaluable part of each of Ontario's communities. I'd like to congratulate the Canadian Corps Association, Oshawa Unit 42, on its 50th anniversary.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): Ontarians are becoming extremely worried about the effect that Bill 160 will have on the quality of public education. While all of us are concerned with education, virtually all of the provisions contained in the bill have nothing to do with education.

This bill is unprecedented in scope. It concentrates power in one man, the Minister of Education. He and he alone decides, among other things, what taxes will be imposed. We have in this country a tradition going back for centuries that there will be no taxation without representation. This bully government is ignoring all this and Crown Prince Johnson is insisting on a feudal prerogative to tax the people without their involvement.

Listen to the people; repeal the bill. If not, at least submit it to the courts of this land to determine whether it is constitutional or whether the bully actions of this government are in fact legal.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a two-part statement today, the first part truly non-partisan. I would like to welcome to the Legislative Assembly the mayor of Vallelonga-Monserrato, a town in Calabria, the region in Italy that I'm happy to say I come from. Domenico Garisto is here, also with Francesco Vetrò, the deputy mayor, and Bruno Suppa, the president of the club of Vallelonga-Monserrato here in Toronto, and a number of people from the club and the association. I had the pleasure on the weekend and also today to greet the mayor and the deputy mayor here, together with the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Let me just welcome members here.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): The other part of the statement is not as non-partisan. It has to do with the continuing fight that we are taking on and that we are bringing to the floor of this Legislature that reflects the fight that is going on across the province about Bill 160 and the incredible, horrific changes this government wants to bring about.

We know the concentration of powers in the hands of the minister goes beyond any reasonable limit. We know that the cuts in the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already taken place and that are yet to come will devastate the system of education. It's what parents across the system are speaking out against, parents in many of my schools, like St Sebastian's, where I'll be tonight, Oakwood, St Clair, Hillcrest and many other schools. Indeed parents right across the system are saying to this government, "Stop now before it's too late."


Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): In my constituency of Wentworth North, Dundas Community Services is holding a forum on domestic violence tomorrow evening. This is part of an effort during Wife Assault Prevention Month to raise awareness about an important and troubling issue.

At the forum, professionals from various groups and institutions that deal with the effects of violence against women will present their views. They will also accept anonymous written questions from the audience on how any victim of domestic violence can get help.

This forum is just one of many programs and services Dundas Community Services has offered during more than two decades of service to the community. The group is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I would like to offer the staff and volunteers at Dundas Community Services my congratulations for 25 years of effective leadership in the community and my best wishes and all our best wishes for their continued success.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Standing order 62(a) provides that "The standing committee on estimates shall present one report with respect to all of the estimates and supplementary estimates considered pursuant to standing orders 59 and 61 no later than the third Thursday in November of each calendar year."

You'll be happy to know that the House not having received a report from the standing committee on estimates for a certain ministry on Thursday, November 20, 1997, as required by the standing orders of the House, pursuant to standing order 62(b), the estimates and supplementary estimates before the committee of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs are deemed to be passed by the committee and are deemed to be reported and to be received by the House.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on estimates.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): Mr Bartolucci from the standing committee on estimates presents the committee's report as follows:

Pursuant to standing order 61(c), the supplementary estimates (1997-98) of the following ministries and offices not selected for consideration are deemed passed by the committee and reported to the House in accordance with the terms of the standing order and deemed to be received and concurred in:

Ministry of Community and Social Services, vote 702, adults' and children's services, $199,530,000; Ministry of Finance, vote 1204, fiscal and financial policy, $900,000,000, vote 1207, property assessment, $21,228,300; Management Board Secretariat, vote 1803, business services and corporate controllership, $30,000,000 --

Mr Bartolucci: Dispense.



Mr Morin moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 163, An Act to amend the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act / Projet de loi 163, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la Société des loteries de l'Ontario.

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

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): The bill would ban the sale of lottery tickets through instant ticket vending machines and would prohibit owners and operators of public places from having or keeping such machines at those places.



Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 to 9:30 pm on November 24, 25 and 26, 1997, and December 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business.

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


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that the following substitutions be made to the membership of the following standing committees:

On the standing committee on the administration of justice, Mr Ouellette be substituted for Mr Flaherty and that Mr Stewart be substituted for Mr Guzzo; on the standing committee on estimates, Mr Young be substituted for Mr Grimmett; on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, Mr Guzzo be substituted for Mr Young and that Mr Baird be substituted for Ms Bassett; on the standing committee on general government, Mr O'Toole be substituted for Mr Tilson; on the standing committee on government agencies, Mr Grimmett be substituted for Mr Baird; on the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, Mrs Mushinski be substituted for Mr Clement; on the standing committee on the Ombudsman, Mr Beaubien be substituted for Mr O'Toole; on the standing committee on public accounts, Mr Young be substituted for Mr Grimmett; on the standing committee on regulations and private bills, Mr Boushy be substituted for Mr Beaubien; on the standing committee on resources development, Mr Preston be substituted for Mr Ouellette; on the standing committee on social development, Mr Parker be substituted for Mr O'Toole.

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




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Education. Throughout last week I was asking you, on behalf of teachers, trustees, parents and students, to withdraw Bill 160, to start anew and to put into place in this House a bill which would truly reflect a partnership between government and all those others who must necessarily be involved in delivering quality education in the province.

Today I want to raise a voice on behalf of another community, the business community, which is growing very concerned about the tax implications of Bill 160. We read in today's paper that the education component of business taxes could go up in the 905 area by as much as 37%. As you might imagine, Minister, this is absolutely terrifying for businesses which are trying to eke out an existence and keep the people they employ employed. Can you please provide your assurance right here and now that there is not a single business in Ontario that will see its taxes increase as a result of Bill 160?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I'll refer this question to the Minister of Finance.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Let me assure the leader of the official opposition that this government is not about raising education taxes. He sat as a member of the government. His colleague sitting to the right of him sat as a cabinet minister in governments from 1985 to 1995 in this province that allowed education taxes to rise some 82% in the mill rate over 10 years and 120% in terms of the revenue raised. I can assure the honourable member this government is not about that; this government is about freezing the amount of money people pay in education taxes in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: I did not receive the assurance I was seeking, either from the Minister of Education or the Minister of Finance. How can you expect us to vote on this bill, let alone vote in favour of it, when you cannot provide that assurance? What we're talking about here are business taxes, the education component of business taxes in the 905 area in particular, which could increase by as much as 37%. I want to ask you one more time, to the Minister of Finance this time, then, if the Minister of Education cannot provide that assurance, can you provide the assurance now that there is not a single business in Ontario that will see the education component of its business taxes increase as a result of your bill, Bill 160?

Hon Mr Eves: Of course nobody can provide the assurance that not a single business out of millions of businesses won't see a tax increase. But I will say to the honourable member that the total amount of money raised by business taxes in Ontario will not go up one cent as a result of the legislative action we are taking.

Mr McGuinty: Where have we heard that before? That lends no comfort whatsoever.

Hon Mr Eves: You heard it from David Peterson. You heard it from Bob Rae. That's where you heard it before.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: It's good to have the Minister of Finance back to speak, although he may have an unfair advantage. He's refreshed and invigorated, unlike the rest of us who have been here all along.

Minister, that assurance that you attempted to provide there lends no comfort whatsoever to those businesses which could be on the losing end of this proposition. There are businesses in Ontario which are going to see their taxes go up, the education component of their taxes go up, perhaps as much as 37% in the 905 area, as a result of your Bill 160.

You're the guy who tells us time and time again that tax hikes are job killers. I want you to table today your impact studies that tell us precisely the impact of those tax hikes, what it's going to mean to businesses, which businesses are going to be affected and how many jobs are going to be lost as a result of your Bill 160. Will you do that, Minister? Table those impact studies so we will know what impact Bill 160 is going to have and how it's going to hurt our businesses.

Hon Mr Eves: I will say to the leader of the official opposition, as I have said several times, that the ultimate impact study is, of course, the reassessment of the province of Ontario. When the reassessment is complete, then some of those policy decisions can be made. But, as we already indicated to the opposition and to members of the public, we are undertaking and have undertaken to provide municipalities with the ability to set small commercial rates, lower than larger commercial properties, and he will have to wait until we make those policy decisions about businesses.

But we have made one that we are not going to deviate from, and that is the total amount of revenue raised from business and property taxes in Ontario today with respect to education is not going to go up at all. It is not going to go up over the province.

I understand he has a problem with equity and fairness in the system. I understand that Mr Peterson's government and Mr Rae's government didn't have the intestinal fortitude to introduce fairness and equity in the system, but we are going --

The Speaker: New question, the leader of the official opposition.


Mr Dalton McGuinty: My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. If the Minister of Finance won't tell us how many jobs are going to be lost in the business sector as a result of Bill 160, I want to talk to the Minister of Education about another kind of job loss, and that is with respect to teachers in Ontario. We have heard that from 4,000 to 10,000 teachers are going to lose their jobs as a result of Bill 160. I want to give you the opportunity now, Minister of Education, to tell us, for purposes of the record, how many teachers are going to be laid off, to be let go as a result of Bill 160?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): There will be no teachers laid off as a result of Bill 160. As always, the school boards will determine the proper staffing. As they have in the past, the school boards in the future will continue to determine the proper staffing for their schools, will determine how many teachers they need, what their staffing complement should be. That's the way it has been in the past, that's the way it will be in the future.

Mr McGuinty: You know as well as I do that as a result of your Bill 160 there is going to be a net loss in the number of teachers teaching our students in Ontario. There are going to be fewer teachers available for a growing number of students. Your own ministry tells us that the number of students is going to increase steadily by over 10,000 every single year until we get to 2004. There are going to be fewer teachers -- in fact, we understand thousands fewer teachers -- more students every day and less money in the system.

Now you tell me, because nobody else in the province understands this, how is that going to make for a better education for our students? Thousands fewer teachers, hundreds of millions fewer dollars, tens of thousands more students -- how is that going to make for better education for our students? Therein lies the crux of this matter. How are you improving education for our students, when you are taking out money, you are taking away teachers and the number of students is growing every day?

Hon David Johnson: As I've indicated in this House on many occasions, Bill 160 is about improving the quality of education. It's also about looking at efficiency within the education system because we need to look at efficiencies right across the board. The school boards will determine the number of staff they need. They will determine the number of teachers they need. This government will provide a fair funding formula to cover the funding needs in a fair and equitable way for all of the boards across Ontario.

But in terms of quality, capping the average class size so it doesn't go up, making sure that our students have access to the same number of instructional days as students in other provinces, ensuring that there are qualified people to complement the teachers within the classroom, these are a few of the ways that Bill 160 will be adding quality to the education system in the province of Ontario.


Mr McGuinty: The minister would have us believe that there's all kinds of certainty connected with Bill 160. In fact, there is not. Just to recap for today's questions: We don't know how the education component of business taxes is going to affect businesses throughout the province. We don't know which businesses are going to be affected, we don't know how much their taxes are going to go up and we don't know how many jobs are going to be lost as a result of that. Furthermore, this minister is not prepared to admit how many teachers are going to lose their jobs, how many fewer teachers there are going to be to teach our students as a result of Bill 160. Finally, we still don't know how many hundreds of millions of dollars are going to removed from the system as a result of Bill 160.

What this minister and this government want us to do now is to buy this pig in a poke. There is no certainty whatsoever connected with Bill 160. For that reason, once again, I'm asking you on behalf of teachers, students, parents, trustees and all friends of public education, will you withdraw Bill 160?

Hon David Johnson: I realize that to a party that doesn't have a policy on education this is a difficult concept, but the concept is simple in that it is looking for quality within the education system at the same time it's looking for efficiency. We are asking our teachers to spend the same amount of time in the classroom as teachers do in other provinces. We are capping the average size of our classrooms.

Yes, we are looking for efficiencies, but in terms of what moneys will be invested in the education system, that will be determined through the annual budgets and you can be sure that whatever it takes to ensure a quality program in our education system in Ontario, that's what will be spent.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Minister of Education. I want to bring the Minister of Education up to date on some recent events in international law. The International Labour Organization committee on freedom of association in Geneva has just ruled that your government has breached international law by the use of Bill 7 to suspend collective bargaining rights for agricultural workers, domestics, land surveyors, lawyers and a number of other occupational groups. You are in breach of international law.

If you read the decision of the International Labour Organization, which is an arm of the United Nations, it would also apply to your plans to suspend the collective bargaining rights of principals and vice-principals. In other words, you've already broken the law once, now you're going to break it again. Minister, will you spare Ontario further international embarrassment and withdraw Bill 160 and restore collective bargaining rights?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I must admit that I wasn't quite up to date on the decisions of the International Labour Organization in general matters, and I'm delighted to be brought up to date in that regard.

I will say, though, with regard to the principals and vice-principals, we are merely going the route that is currently in place in the province of Quebec. In the province of Quebec the principals and the vice-principals are not part of the union. In the province of British Columbia, the principals and the vice-principals are not part of the union. The reason is very simple. The reason is because the principals and the vice-principals have a management role but currently they also play a role in the union. Those two responsibilities are in conflict with one another. The government is saying, to address that conflict, to ensure that the principals and vice-principals are not put in that compromising position, we will take them out of the union to clarify that matter.

Mr Hampton: In fact, what the government is doing goes far beyond that. The government intends to take principals and vice-principals out of the teachers' federations and will not allow them to form any kind of federation representing them as principals and vice-principals, and that is what runs amok of international law.

This is your government's record. Any time an impartial body looks at what your government is doing, we find that you continually break the law. For example, you're cited by Amnesty International over the way your government has conducted itself at Ipperwash park and the death of Dudley George. Then our own courts point out that your attack upon pay equity is unlawful and in breach of the Constitution. Then you yourself, Minister, have been accused of interfering with the labour relations board and your government continues to fight against allowing an independent adjudicator to review the case.

Minister, your government is not above the law. Will you take back Bill 160 and restore the collective bargaining rights of principals and vice-principals?

Hon David Johnson: It's curious to me as to why when in the province of Quebec where the principals and vice-principals are not part of the union, the second-largest province in Canada, in British Columbia, one of our largest provinces where the principals and vice-principals are not part of the union, when those provinces have a model that's working whereby principals and vice-principals are removed from this particular conflict, why indeed it can't work here in Ontario. This is something that's been debated over a number of years. There have been various reports. There have been various submissions on this general topic. There is a compromising position. It's a position that you wouldn't see very many other individuals in. Fire chiefs, deputy chiefs, for example, are not in the union. The top officials within the police department are not in the union. I think it's time to address this particular situation and make sure this conflict no longer exists.

Mr Hampton: It's interesting to listen to the Minister of Education try to find reasons why his government should be allowed to continue to break international law and cause embarrassment for Ontario.

Let's look at Quebec. Quebec is doing exactly the opposite of your government. They are in fact decentralizing control over education. They do not believe in a Kremlin approach to education. In British Columbia, there is no legislation prohibiting principals and vice-principals from forming their own federation in terms of collective bargaining interests or in terms of other interests with the government. Yours is the only government in Canada, and the ILO cites your government as the government which seems to believe that it can trample all over people's rights, seems to believe that you're above international law.

These are letters from thousands of principals and vice-principals across this province. They do not believe that what you're doing in Bill 160 is in the interests of education and they're asking you to remove them from Bill 160, as was originally intended. Will you do that?

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite, the leader of the third party, of the NDP, talks about the collective bargaining process. I think at this time in our history when the labour movement thinks of the granddaddy of them all in terms of violating the collective bargaining process, they think of the social contract implemented by the NDP government. I think it's very convenient for the New Democratic Party to forget about the social contract, where they ran roughshod over the labour movement in Ontario.

But this government, by contrast, has committed to protect the employment conditions of the principals and the vice-principals until September of next year, until they've had a full period of time, through consultations with this government, consultations with the boards, to establish new, proper and appropriate terms and conditions for their employment.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Also to the Minister of Education: Minister, for your edification I'll read the ILO's report on the social contract. For your information, "The committee considers that taking into account all the circumstances and all the provisions of the impugned legislation, the social contract did not go beyond the acceptable limits that might be placed temporarily on collective bargaining."

My point to the minister is this: Minister, under section 207 of the Education Act, boards of education are required to hold all meetings open to the public. Under section 55(3) of the Municipal Act, all meetings must be held open to the public, and meetings where tax levels are decided are not exempted from these requirements. Boards of education and municipal councils have to hold their meetings open to the public, and this includes meetings that will raise taxes. Can you tell me why your government shouldn't be held accountable to the same law, why you should be allowed to set tax rates behind closed doors?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): We have clearly indicated that there will be a legislative process to deal with the property tax, but we've also indicated that over the years there have been thousands upon thousands, upon hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in Ontario saying the system needs fixing, the tax system needs fixing. Senior citizens, young couples with families struggling to pay the mortgage, struggling to pay escalating property taxes year after year have come to members of this government, have come to members of municipal government saying, "Do something about the property taxes as they pertain to education in Ontario." Businesses here in Metropolitan Toronto and across Ontario have been going bankrupt. This government has said, "Okay, it's time for action, it's time to do something" --

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

Mr Hampton: When school boards and municipal councils are going to raise taxes they have to hold open meetings, meetings open to the public. I ask the minister why his government believes it is above the law. If a school board or a municipal council tried to do what you're trying to do now, they would be in breach of the law, they would be in breach of one of the fundamental principles of democracy, trying to set taxation without representation. That's what your government is trying to do. You can try to find every justification, every wishy-washy excuse you can. The fact of the matter is you are in breach of one of the fundamental rules of democracy. You're trying to place yourselves above the law.

Minister, how do you justify that? How you do justify setting tax rates behind closed doors, without any public input, without any public debate, when no one else in this province is allowed to do that? How do you justify that?

Hon David Johnson: Year after year people have been asking for reform in the education system pertaining to property taxes. That's number one. They want to see one government take seriously the costs of education, the tax costs.

Second, if it's indeed above the law, as the member says, then I'm sure the government will be taken to court and the government will be ruled to be beyond the law. If that doesn't happen, then I presume the government isn't above the law.

Third, I would say that in Alberta today this is the exact system that takes place. In British Columbia, taxes are set through regulation in the same sort of manner as has been mentioned here in Ontario.

Mr Hampton: Minister, I have cited today at least four situations where your government has been hauled either before a court here in Ontario or an international tribunal and you have been embarrassed because you have either been in breach of the Canadian Constitution or been in breach of international law.

Let me give you some advice on Bill 160: Send it to the courts now. Ask them if they think it is acceptable to set taxation without representation; ask them if they think it is acceptable to breach one of the fundamental rules of democracy; ask them if they think it is acceptable that you should try to hold yourself above the law which applies to every other public body in this province, that is, that tax rates must be set at open public meetings.

That's my suggestion to you, Minister. Take it to the court and let the court decide. Don't embarrass yourself further down the road. Find out now before it's too late. Do the right thing. Find out if you're in breach of the law, as we believe you are.

Hon David Johnson: I'm sure that if the member opposite is so convinced we'd be in breach of the law, then he would be equally convinced that his colleagues in the province of British Columbia are in breach of the law as well, but somehow the NDP in British Columbia goes through the same process and establishes rates for education purposes. It seems to work in British Columbia. It seems to work in Alberta.

It will work. Not only will it work here in Ontario, it will work better. It will be a fair and equitable system for all schools across the province. It will stop the halt of escalating property taxes for the senior citizens, for the property taxpayers, for the homeowners and for the businesses in Ontario, an escalation they have been crying for years to stop. Finally one government is going to stop that escalation of property taxes.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. Your government has taken out a new set of ads today. The ad is not --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Fort William.

Mrs McLeod: That's right, Minister. The ad is headed in big, black, bold letters, "If You Want To Be Heard... Speak Up."

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mrs McLeod: I know this ad isn't about education, but on education people across this province are speaking up.

I am surrounded today --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister.

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I certainly appreciate that question, Mr Speaker. She's right. People around the province of Ontario are speaking up.

I have a letter from one constituent. It says, "I would like to express my support for the initiatives undertaken" --


The Speaker: Order. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: In the letter: "I support you 100%. I'm a parent of two children aged 5 and 7 years. A note to let you know I fully support the Conservative Party on Bill 160."

Another note: "Do not back down. The system is too top-heavy."


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon David Johnson: The people of Ontario want to see reform and improvement in the quality of our education system. We've seen the slide under the previous two governments in terms of the quality and the accountability of our education system. Bill 160 is about improving the quality, improving the accountability, improving the efficiencies. I believe the people of the province of Ontario want to see those factors in our education system.


Mrs McLeod: Minister, since you've read those two letters, I hope you'll also read the letters from the hundreds of parents and students who have been pouring their concerns into our offices. I hope you will look at the petitions with tens of thousands of names on them in the boxes that surround me today and in the boxes we've been sending over to you.

There are hundreds and hundreds of parents and students and teachers who are marching and holding rallies. They're not only speaking up, they're doing everything in their power to make you listen, to hear them. You have launched chaos. We have parent councils resigning because they're worried about what you're going to make them do; we have the threatened resignations of principals and vice-principals; teachers are demoralized. There wasn't even enough room in the jail cells of Guelph to put the people who came to protest against what you are doing to education.

Minister, if you want people to speak out, will you listen or are you going to ignore their concerns? Are you going to ram through your Bill 160 this week, despite all these voices of people who are speaking out and saying no to Bill 160?

Hon David Johnson: If the Liberal Party wants to stall again, to drag their feet, to not move forward with reform, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to disappoint the Liberal Party. This issue has been studied year after year. This decade alone some eight different reports: the Royal Commission on Learning, the Education Improvement Commission, report after report, study after study, millions of dollars after millions of dollars, consultation processes with the people of Ontario, with the teachers, with the school boards, with parents all across the province.

It is time to get on with the reform of our education system. It is time to get down to the basic problem and allow our students to have the same opportunities as the students in other provinces. This government is committed to that reform, to improving that quality, to improving the accountability and finding the efficiency within the system.

The Speaker: New question, third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Education. This past weekend literally hundreds of parents across the province, in communities like Toronto, Windsor, Sudbury, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, went out and began a petition campaign to hold a referendum on Bill 160. They believe, as your government believes, that these kinds of important questions should be decided by means of referendum. They're going to get the 700,000 signatures to hold that referendum.

Minister, I'm asking you, do you stand behind your own committee report, which says that you believe these kinds of important questions should be decided by means of a referendum? Do you agree with your own committee report and are you going to hold a referendum when those 700,000 signatures come forward?

Hon David Johnson: Across the province of Ontario there are great numbers of parents who want to get on with reform in the education system. This government is committed to introducing reforms to the better curriculum, the more rigorous curriculum, to the testing, to the report card, to the facets in Bill 160 ensuring that our average class size does not increase, ensuring that our students have the proper number of instructional days in the year; currently they have at least 10 fewer than their colleagues in other provinces across Canada.

Yes, it's very convenient to stall, delay, set these kinds of reforms aside, find another reason, as the NDP government found, as the Liberal government found, to stall, delay, not take any action. This government is going to move ahead. This government has a plan, has an agenda and is going to introduce reform into Ontario.

Mr Hampton: These are parents across this province who are organizing. They are organizing the green ribbon campaign in support of public education and they are organizing for a referendum on Bill 160. Minister, just to give you an indication of how strongly people feel, they've sent you a gift today, a gift that you cannot ignore. They are going to continue to send you gifts. In this case, it's your own green apple.

Minister, I want to quote for you your own report. This is what your own MPPs had to say on the committee. They said, "In an initiative it is the citizenry, not the political élite or the media, who are determining what is an appropriate issue for a referendum." The citizens are gathering the petitions. Are you going to recognize their right to a democratic decision? Are you going to grant them the referendum they're asking for?

Hon David Johnson: At the same time, I have communications from parents in Hamilton, St Catharines, North York, Brantford and Scotland, Ontario. I have communications from across the province in support of going ahead with reform. They are saying what parents have said year after year after year: that the education system needs to be reformed. It has been studied since 1950. It has been studied to death. Millions of dollars of taxpayers' money has gone into studies. It is now time to proceed with those reforms, to ensure that our students have the same number of class days and that their class sizes do not increase; that the reforms that are contained in Bill 160, the reforms that are contained around Bill 160, it's time to go ahead and introduce them. This government is going to proceed.

Mr Hampton: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Would the Minister of Education and Training quit reading from the same three letters?


The Speaker: Member for Durham East, I know that's not your seat. Order. New question, member for Durham-York.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): My question is for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs: How is the Ontario Speaks public consultation process being affected by the current disruption in the postal service?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): It is unfortunate that the delivery of Ontario Speaks, the brochure in both official languages, has been delayed in some areas by the postal strike. I know that there is concern that some of the French brochures have not been delivered. Let me assure this House that we have taken a number of steps to address that problem and will continue to do so.

French copies of the brochure have been mailed to postal routes in northern and eastern Ontario and they will be delivered as soon as the postal dispute is resolved. Most of the French brochures for the rest of the province should have been delivered by now. In addition, French copies of the brochure are being inserted in French-language daily and weekly newspapers this week. French brochures are available from MPPs or from our toll-free 800 number: 800-695-4045.


Mrs Munro: I'm also wondering about the timing of the process itself. The brochure says that responses must be received by December 15. What happens if people can't respond by then?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: The December 15 date is being used as the cutoff point for preparing the progress report which the Premier will take with him to a meeting of first ministers in January, but the consultation process will continue into the new year and we look forward to receiving additional responses to that time.

In addition, we have a fully bilingual Web site at www.ontariospeaks.com. We have also sent copies of the French brochure to all officers of ACFO, l'Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario, and to French community and health centres across the province.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We've had many calls from reeves, wardens and mayors about how Bill 160 will be impacting on their business property taxes. The bill, we gather, is going to be pushed through this week. It will represent about $3.6 billion of property taxes on businesses and municipalities, about 60% of business taxes, and they are wondering what the impact will be on their businesses and their municipalities.

My question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs is this: What did you advocate on behalf of municipal affairs? Did you advocate that there would be a uniform mill rate on businesses in Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'll refer that question to the Minister of Finance.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The member for Scarborough-Agincourt heard my response to his leader earlier in question period. We have committed to the businesses in Ontario that the total amount of money coming from businesses in the province will not go up. That is not to say that there won't be some impact on businesses, positive and negative, I suppose, from their point of view, on an individual basis. That's unavoidable when you're reforming the tax system, when you're introducing a matter of fairness and equity into the property tax system in the province.

But we are committing to those people. I understand that individual businesses and municipalities want to know the impact upon individual properties. As soon as the assessment information is complete, it will be relayed to municipalities across Ontario. We have committed that we will not raise the total amount of money being charged to businesses for education.

Mr Phillips: I hope the business community understands how difficult it is for us to deal logically -- I'm used to making a business decision on the basis of information. What you've just told us today, Minister, is that the business community -- you will ask us to pass a bill. We are going to be forced to pass a bill this week, I gather, which will have a profound impact on the businesses in Ontario. Some businesses are going to see dramatic increases, some decreases, we understand that, but you are going to force us to agree to pass a bill here which will have a huge impact on businesses and you're not prepared to tell us and, through us, the business community how it will impact. I gather you're saying that you need these powers to set different tax rates in different parts of a municipality, on different portions of a property's assessment, in different geographic areas within an assessment within a municipality.

My point is this: You have confirmed today there will be tax increases on business. Will you do what my leader asked before we pass the bill? You've confirmed there will be those increases. Will you table, before we pass Bill 160 --

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

Hon Mr Eves: I have not confirmed that there will be an increase in business taxes province-wide.


Hon Mr Eves: The total tax bill for businesses in Ontario will not go up one cent. I want to make that abundantly clear. I thought I made it clear earlier in question period.


Hon Mr Eves: Under the very government of which the member for Scarborough-Agincourt was a cabinet minister, they allowed fully 242 municipalities in Ontario to have public school education mill rate increases of 40% or more between 1985 and 1990. That is exactly what Bill 160 and Bill 149 are going to stop in Ontario. Property taxes for education purposes will be frozen for the 1998 year. As the Minister of Education has said, that is needed for the transition period, and after that, by the democratic and parliamentary process, we will be able to then talk about these rules.

The leader of the third party was talking about taxation without representation. I thought the 130 members in this place represented the people of the province.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Education and Training: Minister, last week you seemed to be pleased when some Catholic school trustees said they didn't think Bill 160 was as bad as everyone believed. You seemed to be quite pleased about that. I want to ask you today, will you confirm that lawyers Peter Lauwers and Paul Rouleau were retained by the Ministry of Education to assist in the development of Bill 104 and Bill 160? Will you also confirm that they are in fact the lawyers for the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association and l'Association française des conseils scolaires de l'Ontario? Will you confirm that for us, Minister?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): The two individuals in question do advise the Ministry of Education on certain matters. Is the member opposite indicating that there is some wrongdoing? Is he prepared to make an allegation of some sort of wrongdoing?


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon David Johnson: The paper referred to, Destroying the Myths within the System, that had been perpetrated in part by the member opposite, is not from some trustees; it's from the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association and represents their point of view.

I'm interested in hearing if the leader of the third party is indicating, in a somewhat slanderous fashion, that their position is based on anything other than their thoughts, their honest views in this matter. I'd be interested in the member standing up and making those allegations.

The Speaker: Minister, you cannot accuse another member of slandering. I would ask you to withdraw.

Hon David Johnson: I withdraw that, Mr Speaker.


The Speaker: Order. Supplementary.


Mr Hampton: Simply this: I've already recited that with respect to pay equity your government felt that it was okay to breach the Constitution of Canada; with respect to a number of other labour rights, you feel it's okay for your government to breach international law; with respect to the events at Ipperwash park, Amnesty International has to cite you as being in breach of the rule of law. I simply make the point that it would appear that you really don't care that much about breaching conflict of interest either. You as a government consider yourselves above the law. You don't feel that you have to follow the conventions of law or the conventions of democracy that apply to everyone else.

Minister, my question is this: Are you prepared to make full disclosure about the arrangements described by your predecessor John Snobelen in a letter to Mr Paul Cavalluzzo dated July 31, 1997? Are you prepared to make full disclosure around the employment relationships of Peter Lauwers and Paul Rouleau with your government, specifically with the Ministry of Education and Training, in connection with --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: There are very strict conflict-of-interest guidelines that govern these particular individuals and all circumstances around the input to this particular matter.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association looked at this issue honestly, looked at the myths involved. This was their honest opinion.

If the member opposite thinks this government is breaking any law, then I would encourage him, I would encourage any member of the general public to take the government to court.


The Speaker: I would caution the member for Brant-Haldimand, that's probably out of order. I ask you not to make those comments. Thank you. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: There will be challenges on Bill 160. There was the challenge on Bill 104. The challenge was unsuccessful. The unsuccessful challenge is being appealed. If the leader of the third party or anybody else thinks there's been any wrongdoing, then I would be the first one to encourage you, by all means, to challenge it. Take it to court. Prove your allegation. Unsubstantiated allegations are meaningless. Prove your allegations. Prove a conflict.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): My question is to the Attorney General. Minister, I recently read an article in the publication City Journal by James Q. Wilson, a well-known criminologist in the United States. In this article Wilson noted that justice has to move swifter and more efficiently to be effective. In fact, he said that to get a change in behaviour, we must have fast justice. A child in a household who does something wrong usually doesn't wait 12 months for a curfew. My question to the minister is, what action has your ministry taken to combat slow justice and to cut court backlogs?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I appreciate the question from the member from Scarborough. As you're aware, we began a backlog blitz in our six most heavily builtup regions in the province consisting of Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, Newmarket, Brampton and Barrie.

These courts account for about 50% of the caseload in the province. Over the past year, judges, police, defence lawyers and ministry staff have worked together to open new courts, redeploy resources and change the way we manage the system.

I am pleased to report the blitz has worked very well. Overall, there has been a 16% decrease in the number of cases in our courts. The backlog has been reduced by about 8,000 cases, the first significant reduction in the backlog in years.

Mr Jim Brown: While the results are encouraging, we have to make sure we are not simply supplying short-term solutions to a long-term problem.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Scarborough West.

Mr Jim Brown: As you know, I come from a riding that contains a great deal of the crime we read about in the media. In fact the Metro East court offices which are located in my riding have had a problem with court backlogs for quite some time now. This situation has to stop so that justice is swift and effective. What are you going to do, Minister, to make sure our courts don't become backlogged in the future?

Hon Mr Harnick: I'd like to advise the member from Scarborough that in his own riding we have now reduced the backlog by about 28%. To ensure we don't have backlogs recurring, I have recently announced the creation of the Criminal Justice Review Committee, in conjunction with Chief Justice LeSage and Chief Judge Linden. We are taking a look at why cases take the length of time they do. We are taking a look at the trial process to find ways of ensuring that cases are moving at the right speed without sacrificing the quality of justice services.

We've added 35 crowns to the system. We are specializing in domestic violence courts and specialized prosecutions in that area, as well as increasing our ability to deal with cases involving gaming. We're also spending $250 million on the construction of courts around the province to ensure justice services are available in a timely way around the province.



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Education. I'd like you to explain the amendment you brought in this House regarding parent advisory councils and dropping the word "advisory." All we can think is that you will mandate councils to deliver some kind of service. You speak of being fair and equitable, but we know there are some schools that have a very active parent council and some that simply do not. What will you mandate that parent councils must do in their schools?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I have no intention at this point to mandate anything. The intention I have is to wait, as we've said we would do all along, for the Education Improvement Commission. It is studying this very situation.

The dropping of the word "advisory," I must say, was largely at the request of the Education Improvement Commission, which requested the word be dropped to allow for a full scope in terms of their study, their investigation and their report. I discussed this very matter with Mr Cooke and Ms Vanstone last week. They are proceeding in their review of the council. They will be reporting back in the spring. At that point I will pay very close attention to what they report and take the appropriate action at that time.


Mrs Pupatello: In the heart of the city of Windsor we have one school where their parent council tries to be supportive. Unfortunately it does not raise any money. There is a large new immigrant population with a high unemployment rate, 28 different languages, the home language is not English, and they come from countries where it is simply not normal for parents to be involved in school. Most of the countries are those that suffer civil unrest. In south Windsor, the suburban part of the city of Windsor, parents have a choice of three different parent groups. Last year that group raised $80,000. They have another parents' club where they can participate in fun fairs and school lunches, and the third that gets involved in political issues.

Minister, you have to acknowledge that there is a very different system out there, depending on where the school is and what kinds of parents can possibly become involved. Why did you drop the word "advisory" when you know full well that in some schools the parents simply don't have the capability today to provide the services you are now going to be mandate?

Hon David Johnson: I would say that's a somewhat belittling description of parents. All parents from all backgrounds, no matter what, want to be involved with the education of their children and all have different possibilities to be involved. In fact 95% of the schools in Ontario have councils at the present time.

It's a healthy thing to encourage parents, to encourage school councils to be involved in improving the quality of education in Ontario. That's what this government is attempting to do: by encouraging parents from all walks of life, whether they're new Canadians or Canadians who have been here for many years, to be involved, to assist their schools in improving the quality of education in the province. That's what it's all about. I think it's a very laudable objective.



M. Gilles E. Morin (Carleton-Est) : J'ai ici 160 noms qui s'adressent à la Loi 160.

«Attendu que la qualité de nos perspectives d'avenir dépend des services offerts par notre réseau d'entraînement ;

«Attendu que les étudiants et les enseignants ne veulent pas que leur perspectives d'avenir soient amoindries pour des réductions d'impôt ;

«Attendu que les étudiants, les parents et les enseignants ne laisseront pas le gouvernement détruire leur réseau d'enseignement de l'Ontario ;

«Attendu qu'on ne peut améliorer les résultats en abaissant des normes ;

«Attendu que les étudiants, les parents et les enseignants veulent que l'on réinvestisse dans le financement de l'éducation plutôt que de le réduire ;

«Attendu que les étudiants, les parents et les enseignants ne vont pas faire marche arrière ;

«Il est résolu que nous, soussignataires de la pétition, demandons à l'Assemblée législative de retirer immédiatement le projet de loi 160 ; et

«Il est de plus résolu que les membres de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario instruisent le ministre de l'Éducation et de la Formation de faire son travail et de devenir un apprenant coopératif plutôt que d'imposer ses solutions qui ne fonctionneront pas aux étudiants, parents et enseignants de l'Ontario.»

J'y appose ma signature avec un énorme plaisir.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by 320 parents -- not teachers, parents -- from the city of Mississauga who are petitioning to ask the Legislature to vote No against Bill 160 because of its negative effect on education. They believe the process is undemocratic and that what is needed is consultation to come up with and implement a process which would actually improve the quality of education for students in Ontario.

I've signed the petition and I'm presenting it on behalf of the member for Mississauga South, who of course cannot present the petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have been receiving petitions from two rural hospitals in Haldimand-Norfolk. These are from West Haldimand General Hospital.

"We, the undersigned, strongly oppose the recommendations made by the district health council in its July 1997 report about health care in our community.

"We object to fewer acute care beds at West Haldimand General Hospital; a limit of three days for patients at West Haldimand General Hospital; possible downgrading of the emergency department at West Haldimand General Hospital; the district health council's involvement in selecting hospital board members; and unequal budget reductions in all three Haldimand-Norfolk hospitals."

I sign my signature to this petition.


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

"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 education system; and

"Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards; and

"Whereas parents, students, teachers want reinvestment in education rather than a 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'm pleased to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I have a petition from dozens of people from the Windsor area. It's a petition of non-confidence against this government with respect to Bill 160. It says:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has not listened to the public on Bill 160; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario has chosen to overtly deceive the people of Ontario as to the true objectives of Bill 160; and

"Whereas we, the people, believe that no government has a mandate to act in isolation of the wishes of the electorate of this province, and we have lost confidence in the government;

"We, the undersigned electors of Ontario, petition the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the Legislature and call a general election forthwith."

I affix my name to that petition as well.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): I have a petition signed by hundreds of parents in and outside of my riding which says:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, are strongly in favour of educational reform and we support the government's efforts through Bill 160 to initiate the changes that are needed to our education system."


The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order.

Mr Ron Johnson: It gives me great pleasure to affix my signature.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"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 education system; and

"Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards; and

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

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

"Whereas Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty has pledged to repeal Bill 160;

"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."

Thousands of my constituents in Downsview have signed this petition and I'm very pleased to add my signature.


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

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to those of these Hamiltonians.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I have a petition here that Ellen Murray wants me to present. She's a parent and a member of the parent council for consolidated public schools, and it has to do with Bill 160 and it's signed by a number of parents --


The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): What does it say, Tom?

Mr Froese: If you'd bear with me for a minute, I'll tell you what it says: They would like Bill 160 repealed.



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

"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 education system; and

"Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards; and

"Whereas students, parents and teachers want reinvestment in education rather than a 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 have in my hand petitions signed by 473 individuals. I have beside me five boxes with more petitions, and I would ask the Clerk to receive them all.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a petition addressed to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. It says:

"On Wednesday, November 12 of this year, the parent advisory council of Westlane Secondary School hosted an information session for the public concerning Bill 160. The group was addressed by school administrators, the chair of the Niagara South Board of Education, members of the OPSTF and Mr Maves and Mr Hudak, Conservative members of Parliament. A question-and-answer period followed, and as a result, the following petitions of non-confidence were signed by those present." It says:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has not listened to the public with respect to Bill 160; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario has chosen to overtly deceive the people of Ontario as to the true objectives of Bill 160; and

"Whereas we, the people, believe that no government has a mandate to act in isolation of the wishes of the electorate of this province and we have lost confidence in this government,

"We, the undersigned electors of Ontario, petition the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the Legislature and call a general election forthwith."

That is signed by hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people from the Westlane Secondary School parent advisory council in Niagara Falls.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the rock band Marilyn Manson was permitted to play a concert at the Ottawa Congress Centre on Friday, August 1, 1997; and

"Whereas Marilyn Manson's wilful promotion of hatred, violence, immorality and obscenity has been linked to teen suicides and adolescent crimes across North America; and

"Whereas by allowing Marilyn Manson to perform, the Ottawa Congress Centre, a crown agency with a public mandate, helps to legitimize the band and its unethical messages; and

"Whereas the Ontario Court (General Division) has ruled that Marilyn Manson's music does not meet the definitions of obscenity or hate literature in the Criminal Code;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Liberal government of Canada to amend the Criminal Code in order to ensure that Marilyn Manson and other people directing messages of hate and derision towards vulnerable children and youths are not permitted to perform in Canada, and to ensure that messages which offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of Ontarians are not given a voice at venues financed by the taxpayers of Ontario, including the Ottawa Congress Centre."

It is submitted by Lyn and Doug Smith of Nepean.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"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 education system; and

"Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards; and

"Whereas students, parents and teachers want reinvestment in education rather than a 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 have also signed that.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition addressed to the Parliament of Ontario regarding the black bear hunt in Ontario. It says:

"Whereas black bear populations in Ontario are healthy with between 75,000 and 100,000 animals and their numbers are stable or increasing in many areas of the province; and

"Whereas black bear hunting is enjoyed by over 20,000 hunters annually in Ontario and black bears are a well-managed renewable resource; and

"Whereas hunting regulations are based on sustained yield principles and all forms of hunting are needed to optimize the socioeconomic benefits associated with hunting; and

"Whereas the value of the spring bear hunt to tourist operators in northern Ontario is $30 million annually, generating about 500 person-years of employment; and

"Whereas animal rights activists have launched a campaign of misinformation and emotional rhetoric to ban bear hunting and to end our hunting heritage in Ontario, ignoring the enormous impact this would have on the people of Ontario;

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

"That the Ontario government protect our hunting heritage and continue to support all current forms of black bear hunting."


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I have a petition, signed by about 200 people and delivered to me by R.H. Andres, that states as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and

"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and

"Whereas the province of Ontario has exclusive authority to determine what services will be insured; and

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."



The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): I have to have unanimous consent for somebody to move this motion, given that the mover is not present in the chamber at the moment. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I move that whereas education is our future and whereas Bill 160 and funding cuts will compromise that future; and

Whereas the parents, teachers and students of Ontario have shown the government that they will not allow their futures to be sacrificed for tax cuts and will not allow the government to bankrupt Ontario's education system; and

Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards, cutting any more money from the education system or removing thousands of teachers from our schools and whereas students, parents, teachers want reinvestment in education rather than a reduction in funding; and

Whereas Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty has pledged to repeal Bill 160 and restore partnership in education;

Therefore, be it resolved that this Legislature recognize that teachers play the most important role in our children's formal education; and

This Legislature calls on the Minister of Education, the Premier and the cabinet to back away from their plan to cut any more money from our schools and our children's education; and

This Legislature supports the Education Improvement Commission's finding that no more money should be cut from education and that any savings which can be found should be immediately reinvested into our schools; and

This Legislature understands that firing thousands of teachers and removing millions of dollars will increase class sizes, eliminate programs and reduce contact time between teachers and students, therefore destroying quality education rather than improving it; and

This Legislature believes a quality education is more important than a tax cut; and

This Legislature instruct the Minister of Education and Training to withdraw Bill 160.


I rise in full support of the resolution and the principles of this resolution, the recognition that our teachers indeed play the most important role in our children's formal education, the demand that there be no more cuts to our schools because the cuts that the Harris government has already made, to the tune of almost $1 billion, have been devastating to programs and to services that the children in our classrooms need, and the understanding that you cannot improve education by letting go thousands of teachers and by cutting costs even further.

This is indeed what Bill 160 does. It does it directly with what is in the legislation and it does it indirectly with the power that is being given to the minister and to this cabinet, power being given to a government that is determined to cut costs in education in order to find the dollars it needs to pay for its tax cut, giving these powers to this government to cut education spending even more. It even gives this minister, this cabinet, the power to take over from school boards at a local level where trustees may be unwilling to sacrifice their students to this government's cost-cutting agenda.

Nobody should believe that having each teacher teach more minutes in our secondary schools each day is going to give students more time with their teachers. The government wants us to believe this is about students having more time with their teachers, but what they have put into law means simply fewer teachers will teach more students more classes and there will be less time for each teacher to work with individual students. It makes sense. I don't use words like "common sense" in this place any longer, but if you think about it, if you've got fewer teachers teaching more students, it means that each teacher will have less time with an individual student because every teacher will have more students. There's no other way it can work. There will be less counselling and less tutoring time and less time for marking essays, and our extracurricular programs may not survive at all.

Nor should anybody be under the illusion that the Harris government is going to lower class sizes with Bill 160. What they have put into law if this bill passes is the status quo in class sizes. They're freezing what exists now, and there isn't a parent in this province who doesn't worry about their children being in classes of 38 and 40 today. The government is making sure that's the average class size that stays in our classrooms by law.

When school boards are faced with having to enforce even the status quo in class sizes with reduced government funding when this government makes its cut, we are going to see school boards forced into gutting all the programs outside the kindergarten to grade 12 classroom, from junior kindergarten to adult education and from remedial support to library services.

Yet we see government ads that try to suggest that the government is taking over class size because of a concern that class size is increasing. You might actually think that if the government's taking over class size because it's worried about class sizes increasing, the government's planning to lower class size. That's what they would like people to think, but we know that Bill 160 is all about public relations, and even this attempt to make the public believe the government is acting to improve education by lowering class size is a myth that is not borne out by what they have actually put into this bill.

When the cuts start to hit the students in the classroom, the government can say: "It isn't us. We put class sizes right into law. The boards just aren't dealing with the waste; they're making bad decisions; they're not managing the finances properly." After all, the Minister of Education and the Premier have said we can find the $700 million we're planning to take out of education by just cutting waste.

If the school boards actually cut programs that children need, then the Minister of Education will say, "My goodness, the school boards can't handle their finances very well, so I will step in and I will fire the school board and I will take control," because Bill 160 gives the Minister of Education exactly that power. Then he can choose to hand the management over to parent councils, because they are no longer required to be advisory only.

You have to remember that this is part 2 of the government's attack on local governance in education. Part 1 was Bill 104, in which this government made the role of school trustees virtually an impossible one. They are going to be given all the blame for not being able to meet the needs of the students when the government funding proves to be completely inadequate, and they will be able to do nothing to respond to the concerns of parents and the needs of the students in their area. If they should run a deficit in their effort to try and meet those needs, they can be fired, if they haven't already resigned.

Remember too that this government is acting on the advice of the minority of radical reformers and, we learned today, on the advice of David Cooke and Ann Vanstone, his appointed heads of the Education Improvement Commission, who believe, it seems, that Bill 160 doesn't go far enough to destroy local governance and who want boards to be abolished outright. That's what the radical minority are asking this government to do.

I think the government thinks that taking over boards because they can't manage their finances would be a fast, non-legislative and now legal way to take over total control of education. This begins to make charter schools not the exception, not the opening up of alternatives within a strong, publicly funded education system; it makes parent management of schools the only alternative, because boards have been taken out of the picture. This is exactly the opposite of what every parent council has asked for. Without question it will open the door wide to multi-tiered education.

The irony in all of this -- maybe not the irony; it's a deliberate attempt of this government -- is that they will never have to come back to this Legislature again to achieve the goal they had from the very beginning, and their goal is nothing less than the outright privatization of our publicly funded education system. Bill 160 opens the door for that to be done by ministerial fiat.

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity on Friday to speak with representatives of my parent councils in Thunder Bay. I'm going to ask my government whip to give me some indication of how much time you would like me to speak, because what I have in front of me are some of the letters, some of the petitions that have been made by parent councils in pleading with the government not to make them other than advisory.

I would like particularly to quote one of the statements that was made by parent council representatives on behalf of all of the elementary and secondary school parent councils in Thunder Bay. They said clearly to the Minister of Education, "You created these councils; now listen to what we are saying." That's the message we've heard from parent councils right across this province, without exception. Representatives of parent councils in the hearings on Bill 104 and on Bill 160 said: "Let us be involved with our children's education. That's what we want to do. But we do not want to take over the management of our schools. We want to keep our local boards; we want to keep our local governance."

We are being flooded with letters from parents not just in my own riding, letters from students, as well as letters from concerned teachers. We have letters like this one from David Workman, who says:

"I feel that in a modern society, in which we live today, that the quality of education provided to our students should be our number one concern. Cuts designed to gain control of the education system do not encompass the needs of individual students."

When people say to the government, "We are concerned about your Bill 160," it is because they are concerned that this bill is purely and simply a way for this government to cut more dollars out of education in order to pay for its tax cut. Parents and teachers and students know that our publicly funded education system cannot survive more cuts, because we're not able to meet the needs of our students with the cuts that have been made today.

Another letter, again from a parent in my own riding:

"Dear Mr Mike Harris:

"We do not agree with Bill 160 as it is. It's okay to change, as change is necessary, but your method of dictatorship is not the way to go. We the residents of Ontario no longer have any say as to suggest what could be good for us -- it's your way or no way.

"Money is mentioned many times in Bill 160, but unfortunately curriculum is not found anywhere -- is this bill just about money or what is really good and needed for our children's education?"

The verdict is in. Look at Bill 160. You won't find curriculum, you won't find quality, you won't find testing. All you will find is a capacity for government to take control so that they can cut costs. Bill 160 is all about control and it is all about money.


Here's a letter from Hyde Park school. It's their council's concerns with Bill 160:

"We believe that the provincial government must not sacrifice our children's education and future for tax savings. Hyde Park school council does not support Bill 160 as it stands. We do believe that education reform and evolution in the entire education system is needed. That would involve a process that would include all parties with a stake in education and not just a few individuals with a particular agenda. Gutting budgets and centralizing control to a few non-elected people is not the way to change our education system."

Those are just a small sampling of the letters that came from parent council representatives in my own riding in Thunder Bay, and they echo the concerns that we heard from parent councils in all of the hearings on Bill 160. Then the government made Bill 160 even worse for parent councils, and now parent councils are ready to resign in protest. But those parents who know that their involvement is needed may well stay on in order to fight this government and its attack on the classroom that their children need so badly.

There is an outpouring of concern from people right across this province. We have had, as I've indicated earlier today, petitions with tens of thousands of signatures from concerned citizens. We've had letters pouring in by the hundreds. With these last few minutes I'm simply going to try and give a sample of what we're getting from concerned people across the province.

On Thursday I had petitions that were brought in by some 7,800 residents of the region of Waterloo. They tell us that the petition started only 10 days before, the modest expression of concern by an individual who called on a few concerned friends. The response was astonishing. Almost 200 people from many different walks of life returned petition forms that they took from door to door and circulated at their places of work. They believe that education represents the future. They believe that Bill 160 will lower the quality of education and that the objective of the bill is to cut funding, which will result in a system with fewer qualified teachers, fewer resources and programs, unqualified instructors in the classroom and ultimately larger classes.

I have a letter from Sarah Dorner, who is a constituent in the Guelph riding, where hundreds of people protested on Friday. This is a letter from a graduate in engineering from the University of Guelph, who says:

"I am proud to live in a democracy, which is so easy to take for granted. I have been reading a variety of sources regarding Bill 160. As a young adult in Ontario, I must say that I am not only concerned about the bill, I am troubled about the future of our democracy.

"From your words in the last few weeks" -- this is a letter to the Honourable David Johnson -- "it is my understanding that the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario believes that since it has been elected in a democratic process, it is no longer necessary to listen to the people of Ontario. Contrary to the belief of your party, democracy does not end once the last ballot has been cast."

Here's a letter from Kevin Teggart, who is "a 13-year-old kid," he says, "but I do know a tad on what Bill 160 is all about. Like for example, I do not understand how taking $600 million out of the school system could possibly make it better for me or the teachers. Also if you take away the teachers' power and give it to the government, I can already see a number of problems with that, one of them being the decisions are all being made in the government's office and not down in the schools with the teachers and parents where the people of the town can have some input."

Another letter from a student, who says, "I do not want you to pass Bill 160," and has some good advice for the Minister of Education, and who ends by saying, "We are the future generation of the country."

A loyal Conservative -- in fact, described as one of the Hamilton-Wentworth area's most loyal Conservatives, Anne Jones -- says she disagrees with the closed-door approach taken by the Harris government because decisions regarding education are being made without any regard to overwhelming public opinion by a small group of people in Toronto.

The letters go on, and I end with just one, a statement released by the justice and peace commission of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Kingston. I can't read all the letter in the time that we have, but I want to just indicate that they say, as members of the justice and peace commission of the archdiocese of Kingston, they wish to express their appreciation and gratitude to all teachers, boards and others who succeeded in focusing public opinion in Ontario on the dangerous provisions of Bill 160.

"It is a principle of Christian social ethics that each group or institution in society must have the freedom and the means to do what it can best do for itself, without its activity being taken over by a higher body or level of government. Only when particular groups or institutions are unable or unwilling to fulfil their role in society should a higher level of government then intervene. In our judgement, Bill 160 violates this principle...."

That's a small sample of the outpouring of concern, an outpouring of concern and protest against this government's attack on education that I believe is unprecedented in this province. It follows the unprecedented action of 126,000 teachers who were prepared to defend public education at considerable personal risk and with personal sacrifice.

This government has launched an attack on one of our most dearly held values. The concern will not go away, as the government hopes, when they ram through Bill 160 because people across this province are aroused. They are not just going to express concern, they are going to do everything in their power to fight back. They will not go away. They will do everything they can, as we will, to defend public education in this province.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise to support the resolution brought forward by the official opposition with regard to Bill 160 and the difficulties that we face in this province thanks to this government's anti-education agenda. I think it's significant that the royal commission on education that was appointed by our government described teachers as the heroes of the education system. This government has attempted to turn teachers into villains.

The government intentionally tried to target teachers. They miscalculated. The government believed that teachers were an easy target; that they would be able to mobilize public opinion against the teachers and hide in a barrage of anti-teacher rhetoric the significant changes that they intend to make in education which will harm the quality of education for students. It didn't work. The reason it didn't work is because the teachers were very successful in mobilizing public opinion in support of quality education in this province.

It also didn't work because very early in this process, in the time of the controversy and discussions between government and the teachers, the deputy minister's performance contract was published and that leaked document showed that the provincial government, despite its denials, intends to take somewhere in the neighbourhood of $700 million out of education, over and above the $1 billion it has already taken out of classroom education in this province.

Up until that time the Minister of Education and Training was denying that the government intended to take more money out of classroom education. After the publication of that document the Premier had to acknowledge that this government intends to take $700 million at least -- somewhere between $500 million and $700 million. The only way that can be done is by cutting staff, because 70% of the education budget pays salaries, and the only way that any government could save that kind of money from education is by removing teachers. The previous Minister of Education and Training admitted that the government believes there will be 4,200 fewer teaching positions in Ontario as a result of the changes in Bill 160.

The teachers' federations calculated somewhere around 10,000 fewer teachers' position. I suspect the number is somewhere in between, 6,000 or 8,000 fewer teachers. Yet this government tries to pretend that this will mean an improvement in the quality of education: having fewer teachers teaching more students for a longer period of time is going to improve the quality of education; having less time for preparation by individual teachers will improve the quality of education for students.

How ridiculous. The equation doesn't work. The government can't take hundreds of millions dollars more out of education, it can't eliminate teaching positions, it can't eliminate time for teachers to prepare for their classes, to do the marking, to give students remedial assistance, to contact other teachers and parents and support workers to assist students who are having difficulty -- the government can't do all of that and improve the quality of education.


The public isn't gullible. The public understands it and that's why, despite the fact that going into the disruption in classes there was something like a little over 50% of the population supporting the government, coming out of the political protest by the teachers across this province, rank-and-file teachers from every part of the province, from every school in the province, Catholic and public, over 60% of the population now supports the teachers' position in defence of public education against the attacks of this government.

The current Minister of Education and Training has admitted there will be 7,500 fewer teachers' positions as a result of the bill and the amendments the government has introduced. While we know this government intends to get the money out -- that's what this is about. It's not about quality education. In Bill 160 there are many references to money, to funding, to finances, and no references to quality education, not one, and that says it all.

But this is about more than just quality of education, important as that is to all of us in this province. The whole argument and controversy around Bill 160 has exposed this government for what it really is: for its attitudes against democracy, the basic democratic process; for its view that the public need not be consulted, that the people who know education, the professionals, the teachers and the other professionals, the support staff, the trustees, should not be consulted about education; that parents shouldn't be consulted about education; that students shouldn't be consulted about education; but even more than that, that the members of this Legislature shouldn't be consulted and shouldn't be able to debate change in education.

This government essentially believes that the Legislature, the democratic process, is a nuisance. It slows things down. It's messy. It involves controversy, disagreement, argument. It's far easier and far more efficient, as far as the government is concerned, to simply allow these decisions to be made by members of the government and the bureaucracy behind closed doors and just have them issue edicts which must be supported and followed by the people who are involved in the education system.

Unfortunately, this kind of approach, of rule by decree, is rejected by the public and that's why the government is in so much trouble. The public believes, the parents believe, the members of the community believe that they all help to fund the education system and that they all must have a say in how that education system is going to serve the needs of the students of Ontario and the communities across this province. That's why the government is in such a rush. That's why the government is determined to pass Bill 160 as soon as possible, to try to get it out of its way and move on to other things.

I predict that even if the government is successful in forcing this bill through against the wishes of the majority of this province, against the wishes of a demoralized teaching profession, against the wishes of most of the boards of this province, against the wishes of the parents and against the wishes of students, the issue is not going to go away. It's going to dog this government and continue to dog this government as long as it remains in power. We're going to do everything we can to remind the public, and it's not going to take a lot because the public is mobilized, that this government has ignored the wishes of the population, the majority of the people of Ontario, and run roughshod over the needs of our students in education.

I read with interest a paper by a Mr D.A. Franks, an educator who has particular expertise in computerization. He has worked on projects for the Ministry of Education and Training and boards in this province. He published a paper and I'd just like to refer briefly to the comments Mr Franks makes in his paper. He says:

"...there is one point that everyone seems to have missed. Under Bill 160, their opinions will from now on have no voice. It is totally irrelevant what their stance on education reform is -- whether they think the quality of education is the pits; or whether it simply needs fine-tuning. If Bill 160 is passed in its current form, all decisions regarding education will be made without any further public debate or input. If you feel strongly on any issue regarding education, you have to be against Bill 160. This is the last time your opinion will either be sought, or listened to.

"Let there be no mistake, the entire purpose of Bill 160 is not about the quality of education; nor about teacher prep time; nor of hours of instruction per year; nor of how hard teachers actually work or don't work; nor of how effective they are. It is not about curriculum reform; nor about improving the standing of Ontario's students. It is not about taking an additional billion dollars or so out of the budget. All of these issues can be dealt with under the current legislation (as they have always been in the past)."

We all know this government took $1 billion out of education last year without bringing in this kind of comprehensive legislation.

Mr Franks goes on to say:

"The purpose of Bill 160 is to completely silence all further public input and debate on any matter regarding education in Ontario. It is designed to squash all public dissent regarding school closings; the offering of junior kindergarten; the transferring of schools between the Catholic, public and private systems; the school-leaving age; and about parental rights regarding how, where, and by whom their disabled child is taught. It is about silencing all of the recent court cases that have been fought on these issues. It is about obliterating the rights of the individual, including the right of the individual to seek redress through the courts. It is about the complete destruction of the democratic process as we know it in Ontario."

As Mr Franks is pointing out, this legislation flies in the face of almost all accepted democratic processes that we believe in in this province and that we have come to value as part of our democratic system.

Can you imagine a bill that not only gives enormous power to the cabinet to make decisions behind closed doors, not only about the quality of education and about what teachers must or must not do but also about taxation for properties across Ontario, but also says in certain parts of the bill that decisions made under the provisions of the act are not testable in court.

Surely that is basic to our system of government since the changes in the Constitution and the passage of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of the Canadian Constitution, the fundamental law of this country. It is basic that if someone believes that a law passed by any legislative body in this province somehow challenges or violates the Constitution, that it may be ultra vires, they have the right to go to court and test it. That is basic. Yet this legislation says that in certain provisions the decisions of the minister cannot be challenged in the courts. As a matter of fact, it says in other parts of the legislation that if a board of education goes into default financially because the board does not implement the decisions of the ministry, the minister can unilaterally fire the whole board or certain trustees on that board if they are in default. The minister himself has said that.

Bill 160 makes it clear that a cabinet, in full secrecy, has all the decision-making power and there is no recourse whatsoever for the public to challenge any of their decisions, either through the elected government and the Legislature or the courts, as Mr Franks says.


Mr Franks goes on. He says: "Make no mistake about it -- every aspect of education in Ontario comes under Bill 160. Everything that was taken for granted before, every right, every rule, every procedure, every policy, can no longer be assumed to be the same under this omnibus bill."

If this bill is passed, as Mr Franks says, you forever forfeit the right to have your opinion heard on any matter related to education. He then says: "No wonder Justice MacPherson made a direct reference to the Constitution in his ruling. Never before has a single bill so trampled on the rights of the public to seek redress through the courts in a matter that so profoundly affects all of us."

Mr Franks says he firmly believes that this bill is not what the people of Ontario want, it is not what every citizen of Ontario who believes in democracy wants, and that is why they must oppose Bill 160. I congratulate Mr Franks for making his views public through his paper.

Fundamentally, this legislation is about the democratic process. It is a defining moment for this government. This government does not believe in democracy. This government does not believe in consultation. It doesn't believe in consulting with the public, hearing what the public thinks, trying to bring people together, form a coalition of views and to respond to the views of the public and then develop legislation and pass it through debate in the Legislature -- true exchange of views. Rather, this government thinks that process takes too long, involves too much controversy and is unnecessary. That is what's scary about this government.

I never thought I would have a situation in this province when I would be able to stand in this place and say that I am dealing with a government that does not accept the basic fundamental views that all of us, I thought, took for granted about our political system in Ontario, in Canada and in the British Commonwealth. I regret that. I very much regret that we have come to a point in this province where a government feels it can run roughshod over the views of the public and when asked about why it is doing it often denies it, but on other occasions says: "We did consult. We consulted in the election campaign. We don't need to consult now, after the election day in 1995. We did it during the election campaign and before that. No need for consultation." Or they will say: "The people who oppose this are simply in favour of the status quo. They're not with the program. They're not part of the revolution. So why should we listen to them?"

That hearkens back to the kind of Maoist view that those who disagree are somehow enemies of the people and therefore are not part of the people and shouldn't be listened to.

I never thought we'd come to the day when we would have a government in this province that would say not just teachers' federations but anybody who disagrees with them somehow is irrelevant because they don't count, they're not important, they're not part of society, they shouldn't be able to express their views because they are counter to the view the government takes. Just because the government won a majority in the Legislature, those people who disagree with it for the next four or five years just keep their mouths shut and put up with whatever the government does, because that's how this government operates. The teachers didn't put up with that. They educated the public.

Now we have a situation where parents across this province are organizing to protect the public education system in this province, to protect the quality of education for their students. This government has created a firestorm and it doesn't know how to deal with it. It doesn't know how to put it out.

It must be very uncomfortable being a member of the back bench in this government these days. Every time you go home there are people phoning you, phoning your constituency office, sending you faxes, demonstrating out in front of your constituency offices. It's awful to have to listen to the public when they don't agree with you, isn't it? Well, that's what democracy is about.

Democracy is about ensuring that the government is responsive to the needs of the views of the people. Democracy is not just about election campaigns; it's not just about how a government gets elected. Democracy is about how a government governs. Democracy is not simply about the choice during an election campaign on election day and the casting of ballots. That's a very important part of democracy, but far more important in a democracy is how a majority government governs after it's elected.

Does it remain responsive to the needs and concerns and views of the public? This government is not doing that. This government is determined to pass Bill 160 over the objections of the majority of the people in this province. That is why it is unacceptable.

I laud the teachers for going out on their protest, for giving up their pay in order to educate the public. I hope it means they also educated at least some of the members of this governing party. If they are not willing to respond to the needs of the public, they don't deserve to be the government in a democratic system and they deserve to lose the next time around. The unfortunate thing is, in the meantime they can do a tremendous amount of damage to the public education system in this province, damage that will be hard to repair.

But I can assure you that if we are fortunate enough to win government next time around, we will repeal Bill 160 and we will begin on a consultative process to rebuild the education system based on the recommendations of the royal commission, rather than cherry-picking a few things and operating in a way to ensure that the government can get as much money out of the system as possible.

I urge all members of the House to support this resolution. I congratulate the leader of the official opposition for introducing it.

Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's certainly a pleasure to add my comments to today's debate and speak in opposition to the motion as presented by the member for Ottawa South.

I think very critically and very importantly, it must be realized that education is our future. Certainly it's from that perspective that the government approaches with very serious consideration the changes that are anticipated from a governance curriculum and financial perspective.

The debate is all about quality of education, and certainly Bill 160 is captured in that. It's about doing things differently, about improving the effectiveness and accountability of Ontario's education system. It's not just about change for the present generation of students but it's also about change for future generations of students in this province. I think we need to reflect where we've been with respect to education reform, the reports, the some 24 reviews, the commissions, the fact-finding reports that have been conducted over a 40-year period.

When the member for Algoma suggests that there hasn't been discussion, that this government does not want to listen, it's simply not the case. This government is about acting on the many reviews and studies that have been completed with respect to education reform in this province. It's not about silencing people. It's about moving ahead.

Very clearly over the course of the public consultations we heard about regulatory power: regulation versus legislation. We've captured those concerns of the public who expressed genuine discontent with respect to the extent to which regulatory power had been granted to the minister. That has been moved into legislation. That debate can continue as it applies to class size, instructional day and differentiated staffing. Certainly the opportunity continues and it will present itself for future debate with this issue.


Perhaps one of the most important aspects in the next short while will be the discussions the Education Improvement Commission undertakes with parents in this province. Clearly they are a critical, important point of the education system, one that must be fostered, and their viewpoint is welcomed, and that consultation will take place in the future.

To suggest the debate has expired or has exhausted itself -- whether it's here in this Legislature, whether it's with parents province-wide, whether it's with trustees, that debate has occurred recently in terms of the new roles and responsibilities. We heard quite clearly from the Catholic trustees' association about their viewpoint and their optimism about participating and being a trustee in the education system into the future. Very clearly they have articulated that during the public meetings with respect to education in this province.

This bill, this motion, is about a comprehensive plan this government has, one that deals with governance; one that, as I indicated, deals with curriculum and the quality initiatives this government has undertaken to date.

Equally important with respect to Bill 160 is the establishment of a new, fair finance system for education. The system, once established, will provide equal opportunities for all students in this province, whether you live in Thunder Bay, Ottawa, London or Windsor. We are finally moving to a system that ensures that those students have the same access to resources that their colleagues and counterparts do in other parts of the province. That is critically important not only to the students and to their achievement levels, but also to the classroom teacher, who very clearly needs the support and resources to provide the quality education that so many of our teachers provide on a day-to-day basis.

The comprehensive package we've seen, in addition to the quality initiatives started with Bill 34 -- some time ago it seems, but Bill 34 was the start, where we established a College of Teachers in this province. We also established the Education Quality and Accountability Office under Bill 34. I might add that notwithstanding the criticism that teachers have not been involved in the process, it's important to remain mindful that teachers were in fact involved in that process and clearly indicated to the office in exit interviews that they considered that process one of the most beneficial and rewarding educational experiences to date. So there have been some very good things that have happened.

Bill 34 was followed by Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, which was clearly the start of the process where we see a redefinition, a shift away from administration and a shift to classroom resources and a focus on students, fewer trustees, fewer school boards and a fair funding model for all students in this province.

That's what is captured in the comprehensive package of education reforms the Minister of Education, both current and past, has presented to this Legislature and presented to teaching professionals across this province.

At the core of our reforms is a determination to create a system in which every student has the opportunity to succeed both in the classroom and in the future. I admit this is an ambitious goal, but it is a very necessary goal that must be pursued. As well, it's a goal that is clearly essential and one that's realistic in terms of its objectives.

As I've indicated, our focus is on students and on learning and teaching in the classroom. We are well along the road to fundamental reform in these strategic areas. A new, challenging curriculum, a streamlined system of educational governance and a new, student-focused funding model -- all three areas share a common theme: the need to focus our system's energies on the most important aspect of the education system. That aspect is creating a learning process that is dynamic, not only for the student but for the teacher as well. It is that partnership, that marriage between teacher and student, that will result in the student achievement levels that we anticipate, that all people anticipate, our students will reach in the future. That's a relationship that needs to be strengthened with the interaction of others, including parents and the wider community within which our school communities are situated. One of the transitions our education system is making is towards a new, four-way partnership that includes teachers, students, parents and the community.

Over the last month and a half or so, we've heard a lot in terms of the debate between regulation and legislation. The issue of unprecedented powers -- which I would suggest are not there -- and the issues of class size, instructional time, differentiated staffing and the King Henry VIII clause have all been addressed, either by moving from regulation to statute or, in the case of the King Henry VIII clause, by removing it in its entirety from the legislation.

It's about accountability. As part of that reviewable process, we've heard again today the member for Algoma speaking of the non-reviewable component with respect to the Education Improvement Commission. Very clearly this bill states that should that commission act outside its parameters, those practices would be reviewable before a court. I ask the members who preceded me in this Legislature, both in the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party, if it was such a significant issue, why did you not remedy those powers that currently exist under the labour relations board or those powers that currently exist within the Education Relations Commission? Why did you not take the leadership to remove those powers? Those powers have essentially been there since 1950 and 1975 respectively. Your opportunity was there. You missed it or you perhaps chose not to do it. I'm not going to debate that today, but that was an opportunity you had.

Very clearly, from my perspective, I do not think it's unreasonable to expect trustees who are charged with public moneys and the distribution of those moneys to be subject to any fewer criteria in terms of accountability that those currently applied to municipal councillors in this province. That's the parallel we're making here. It's not one fitting against the other; it's about bringing together a process that has been in place for municipal governments for some time and providing the same framework as it applies to school board trustees. Parents in this province have said to this government that they want a more accountable and streamlined system. This is but one measure that allows for that accountability to materialize, and I might add, one that's very consistent with the Municipal Affairs Act that applies to municipal councillors across the province.

We've heard a lot about centralization, and clearly the centralization process is not unique to Ontario. There are examples in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. About a month and a half ago, I had the pleasure of representing the Minister of Education and Training in Saskatoon among his colleagues, other ministers of education from the provinces. While I don't want to be critical of the system, as we went around the table of other ministers of education, when it came to Ontario's opportunity to speak, I was at a loss for words. Other provinces have provided leadership.

This process, this comprehensive package we have, is about bringing us up to speed in terms of where we need to be both as a system and in terms of providing the resources that students need in this province. It was a very telling experience for me, because you always question -- any normal person will question -- whether or not you're doing right. But it was that experience in Saskatoon that made it very clear to me that this is the right direction to go, that we should not be ashamed of putting ourselves on the same platform as Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Changes are needed. Governments of all different political stripes have made the tough and necessary decisions with respect to education reform.

Bill 160 should not be looked at in isolation with respect to the quality initiatives the minister has undertaken to date as well as those other initiatives that have been contained in legislation preceding this particular bill.

Clearly it's time for action. It's time to build a system that meets students' needs for a quality education. It's time to make Ontario's publicly funded school system more open and accountable; open and accountable for parents, students and taxpayers. The government has a plan that will give our students the knowledge, the skills and expertise they need to succeed in a global economy.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'm pleased to rise and speak for a few moments in support of my leader's motion today. Not only will I rely on my experience as a parent, but I hope I will be able to share some insight after spending 30 years as a teacher, vice-principal or principal. I'll also rely on some of the public presentations on Bill 160 that took place in Sault Ste Marie, in particular the presentation by Wendy Gauthier from Manitoulin and Vincent Greco from Sault Ste Marie. I'll also be referring, as a supportive document, to the study done by Dr David Ireland with regard to Ontario student performance on international testing. I'll also refer to the document from the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association which this government has referred to so often.

I continue to have deep concerns and fears with the direction this government has chosen regarding educational reform and, in particular, Bill 160. The first is rooted in the very nature of the legislation entitled Bill 160. As we all believe, ours is a democratic society. Bill 160 moves very deliberately and dangerously away from the ideals of democracy by vesting within the minister the power to put into law changes to education regulations without debate and without appeal.

Whether those decisions are good or bad is irrelevant. There are no checks and there is no balance. We cannot risk having any political group, simply on the basis of being elected, find themselves free to change and enact laws independent of legitimate public debate.

It has been said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The government's educational reform, especially Bill 160, gives the minister power far beyond the healthy limits of good government policy and action. Of concern to me and shared by most of the people who made public presentations is the absence of fair and deep analysis with regard to the impact of this legislation.

The issue of removing principals and vice-principals from their federation is a perfect example. The government, by its own admission, has not studied the serious effects this will have on learning, on the students' overall growth and on the collaborative approach necessary to achieve the end we all want for students.

By its own admission, both here in the Legislature and clause-by-clause, but also in estimates, the government has admitted that the removal of principals and vice-principals from the bargaining unit is simply being done because the principals and vice-principals chose to walk with their fellow professionals as a form of political protest. Every partner in education has told the Minister of Education that removal of principals and vice-principals from the --

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't want to contradict the member speaking, but what was said in estimates committee, and I was there, is not what he said.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Kitchener, you cannot correct the record. You may have an opportunity to speak later, but you can't do that. Member for Sudbury.

Mr Bartolucci: If the member gets the Hansard he will find that everything I've said is absolutely correct. Every partner in education has told the minister and the government that removing these administrators from the ranks of teachers is wrong. Students have told them, parents have told them and parent councils have told them. Parent councils have even gone to the extent of resigning over this particular aspect. Teachers have told them and principals and vice-principals have told them. The former Minister of Education said they should be within the bargaining unit. The present Minister of Health, who knows something about education, has said they should remain within the bargaining unit and trustees have told them this move is wrong.

We have heard from associate professors from the York school of business, one of the most reputable schools of business in the world, which has suggested that the business approach is wrong in education and that principals and vice-principals should not be removed.

Even the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association has stated that the decision to remove principals and vice-principals from the bargaining unit is unnecessary and will be viewed as vindictive and punitive. Yet, based on no clear or definitive analysis, this government blindly continues to say that this attempt is good, that it will avoid conflict of interest.

In my 22 years as an administrator in several different schools and several different jurisdictions, I have never had a conflict of interest. Administrators then, now and always will act in the best interests of students and that argument that the minister uses, the only argument the minister uses, has no credibility at all.

What you will see, though, is chaos in the system. You will see that because school administrators have no alternative except to submit their resignations. They will submit their resignations because this new reality doesn't understand the role of principals and vice-principals. I ask rhetorically: How can that be good for education and how can that be good for kids?

The need for educational reform and for Bill 160 has been cultivated by the government, largely by claiming that our students have not been performing well on national and international tests. There are serious issues in the manner the government has shown which is a manipulative one with regard to these tests.

For example, in the pamphlet Putting Kids First it only reports the province's standing to the extent it suits its own purposes, cutting off the balance of the chart which showed that Ontario's students finished ahead of students of students in 27 other provinces or countries, including the United States, Great Britain and Germany. The government didn't tell you that on the practical tests done internationally Ontario scored the highest of any other jurisdiction tested.

During estimates, Mr Doyle, the Conservative member from Wentworth East, asked about these results and he was effectively brushed off by the Minister of Education and his bureaucratic staff. I implore every government member to read the study by Dr David Ireland, which I have supplied to you in your mailboxes today. Before we condemn our teachers, our students, our parents and our system, we should consider his findings. We have far more to be pleased with than we do to be ashamed of.

Honest governments don't distort information to justify its initiatives. An honest government would not proceed with legislation based on distortions. One is reminded of what Thomas Jefferson once uttered: "Error solely needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."

I will summarize by saying that change is not my concern. Teachers have been and always will be open to change and live with change, for our students' needs are constantly changing. But poorly thought-out change is disastrous for students. This government has repeatedly criticized the former NDP government for their direction in education. Yet it hired the NDP architect of their change, David Cooke, to be this government's agent of change. No matter how you view it, we have all seen the huge black and yellow signs that say, "Mike Harris plus David Cooke equals lousy education."

Can we blame the partners in education for being suspect of a government that criticizes a former government and then hires the man they criticized the most? You wonder why people are cynical when it comes to politics.

I am also a little frustrated as well with the tricks some political parties are doing in order to attract political gain. I question why an opposition party, a third party, would buy into the government's agenda on referendum to secure political support. Did the members of the third party tell the people this past weekend that the government will be the sole people to decide the question on the referendum? Did the third party tell the people that the government will be able to spend enormous amounts of money in advertising the referendum, if it ever took place? We all know it won't.

I may be growing cynical. I used to be the most positive guy in the world, but I am getting a little frustrated about what a government based on ideology and others based on political gain are trying to do with our kids and our kids' futures. That's why I ask that you vote for this motion. Kill Bill 160, because at the end of the day, regardless of the ideology, regardless of the political gain, we should be talking about what's best for the future of our kids. If at the very end you choose to defeat the motion, remember, government members, that the operation may have been a success but the patient died.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity this afternoon to put a few thoughts on the record re this very important piece of legislation that we confront or that confronts us, that confronts everybody who considers Ontario home, particularly those who are involved directly in the delivery of education in the province.

I take my job in this place quite seriously, I work hard at it, and when I get an opportunity like this to present to this place, to the people gathered, elected to represent their constituencies here, and in doing so, to the people who are watching out there, either through the parliamentary channel or perhaps through some other medium, I present my own thoughts and, even more important, I present the thoughts of my constituents whom I'm in contact with on a regular basis every weekend. When I go back to Sault Ste Marie, at every function I go to, in my office, whether I'm walking down the street or at home, people are talking to me about the job I do, about the things I'm involved in that affect them. They want me to take their view and present it here in the House, and I try to do that.

I also try to read so that I can understand other groups out there that have a concern about the way this province evolves, who have a concern about its people, its institutions, and who have a concern about our future.

It's in that context that I begin my few comments today to say to you that there are a number of groups becoming increasingly alarmed, more and more alarmed with each piece of legislation that comes forward by this government, and no less as they look at the implications and the impact of Bill 160.

It was interesting. I picked up the other day a copy of the Catholic Register, a newspaper I read on a regular basis as it comes in because it has some very interesting perspectives on a lot of issues that I have concern about and interest in. On the front page of that November 17 edition I read a heading, "Government Creates Spiritual, Moral Crisis." This is written in the context of 14 religious leaders in an open letter to the Premier, commenting on the state of the province and where they see him leading us.

Not so long before that, during the mandate of this government, we also had a statement that came out from the United Church of Canada. It said, "The very first priority of this government must be to stop the slashing of the safety net." Part of that safety net is education, education for all children, access to education by all children. "We as a society wove under the feet of our neighbours the means by which we joined God in making justice and love concrete among us." They go on to say, "In today's Ontario, what we're missing is moral; a spirit of community and leadership."

I'm going to talk in that context today about a project of teachers in my own community because they specifically, even though they've worked hard all their lives to become the best they can be, are a group that is very much under attack by this government in Ontario today, are very much in the cross-hairs of this government as it moves ruthlessly to make good on a promise of a tax break for the rich and famous among us.

I also want to share with you some letters I've received from some constituents. I get them now by the bagful daily. We heard earlier today in the House the Minister of Education read some letters. I think he had six in his hand and he read them each probably two or three times -- the biggest recycling project of this government so far in its mandate. I have here beside me literally thousands of letters and petitions by constituents in Sault Ste Marie who have taken time to write me, who have taken time to tell me how concerned they are about this piece of legislation. I have one or two letters here that I want to share with you re their thoughts on this piece of work as well.

Before I do that I want to share a quote by a good friend of mine who writes in the Catholic New Times. This is the November 30 edition. He says this, and I think he's right: "The Ontario teachers' work stoppage is one of the most significant moments in the history of teachers in the province: 126,000 people withdrew their services to testify to their belief that there is a price to be paid to keep democracy viable."

He goes on --

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: There are some visitors here in the gallery who are talking. They've been commenting things to me for some time. I find it annoying and I'm having trouble hearing the speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): That is a point of order. I would just caution the gallery that there isn't supposed to be any talking or conversing back and forth. I'm interested in hearing the continuing comments of the member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: I also find it annoying that the government would take the little bit of time that I have here this afternoon to share my thoughts and the thoughts of my constituents with the Legislature and the people of Ontario on this so very important piece of work that we're dealing with.

Thank you for coming today. We appreciate the fact that you'd take time out of your busy schedule to come down and to show some interest in what's going on in this place.

I continue, from that quote by my good friend Ted Schmidt in the Catholic New Times, to share with you a project that was undertaken in Sault Ste Marie which epitomizes the efforts of teachers in our province to do the best they can for the students they have in their charge and to put the lie to the myth -- the minister likes to talk about myths -- that somehow, some way, those who are charged with the responsibility of education in this province, whether it be trustees or parents or administrators or in particular teachers, have somehow failed and have not done their job properly or somehow are lacking in their responsibility or their commitment or their work when it comes to education.

Here's a description of an achievement by a group of students led by some teachers at White Pines Collegiate in Sault Ste Marie. It goes like this:

"Since 1992, a group of teachers in Sault Ste Marie has been working collaboratively to provide a `superior' education for their students. These teachers have worked long hours, devoting time, effort, and energy to develop a stimulating, non-conventional, creative, and participatory curriculum focusing on Lake Superior, a curriculum that provides ongoing opportunities for students to excel in the arts, language, science, technology, and social studies areas. Through their actions, the nominees have helped students to realize that `environment,' especially as it pertains to the largest freshwater body in the world, is more than just a word. They have created opportunities for students to: adopt and provide, with MNR support, restorative care for a fragile Lake Superior beach; conduct water quality studies and transmit the collected data via cellular phone and onsite computer to schools along the Mississippi River; plant brown trout fingerlings at the outflow of Lake Superior where Ernest Hemingway used to fish; participate in a sweetgrass ceremony with native elders on Whitefish Island, legendary birthplace of Nanabijou, sketch Ojibway pictographs on the cliffs above the blue-green waters of Agawa Bay, cut holes through the lake and operate Echmann dredges to retrieve bottom sediment samples for classroom analysis," and it goes on and on.


In essence these teachers have involved students in an exciting, motivating and challenging educational process that takes them far beyond the traditional walls of the schools. These folks in Sault Ste Marie, these teachers and students, were honoured with awards. Here's a picture of them in the Sault Star, and it says: "Ontario's Best. Ontario Envirothon: Take the Natural Challenge." It goes on to say that -- I'm sorry, this is another group from Bawating Collegiate. This first group was from White Pines. Every school in our community has projects of this nature that go on every day under the direction and leadership of teachers who are committed and who care about their students and who work hard, above and beyond the call of duty, day in and day out, week in and week out.

These students here, the Bawating Collegiate and Vocational School students, Heidi Koschwanez, Geoff MacNaughton, Laura Dommerman, Luke MacMichael and Steve Hertz, are joined by teacher-mentor Kevin Skalecki, as they display the provincial Envirothon Award they won --

The Acting Speaker: Order. The Chair recognizes the member for Scarborough East on a point of order.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Given that today is an opposition day, a day that is set aside by the government to allow the opposition parties the time to bring forward the issues that they claim are of concern to the people, I find it quite remarkable that they can't maintain a quorum in here. Mr Speaker, I wonder if you would ascertain if in fact a quorum is present.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma on a point of order.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Speaker: I don't want to take time from my friend from Sault Ste Marie, but I just wanted to point out that the member who called for a quorum was mistaken when he said the government sets aside time for the opposition for opposition days. The rules of the assembly do that.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. We will continue. The Chair recognizes the member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: Again, I am stopped in my attempt to put on the record some thoughts re this piece of legislation by the government. It has become a regular occurrence around here, an interference in the political process once again, very ill timed and not appreciated.

I'm going to continue, by now having shared with you some of the fantastic work that has been done by teachers out there, and no more so than by the teachers at White Pines Collegiate and Bawating Collegiate in Sault Ste Marie, and in fact all of the schools in Sault Ste Marie, as these teachers go beyond and above the call of duty, day in and day out, week in and week out, to make sure that the students of Sault Ste Marie and of Ontario get a superior education.

Here's a letter that was put together interestingly enough by, if you can imagine, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the diocese of London, Ontario, concerned about Bill 160. I just want to share a couple of paragraphs with you:

"We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of London, pioneers and providers of education in southwestern Ontario for over a hundred years, deplore the manner in which this government has been and is dealing with the question of education reform in Ontario. We wish to register our strong opposition to Bill 160 as it now stands. The sweeping powers which this bill places in the hands of the Minister of Education set a dangerous precedent which threatens to erode the democratic principles upon which the province was founded and until now has continued to operate."

Then it goes on, and I'll go down to the bottom:

"We objected to the dismantling of Ontario's social safety net to no avail. We have protested and watched in horror as our history of excellence in health care has been reduced to minimal and inadequate levels. We cry out once again as this unresponsive government rides roughshod over the will of the people and the future of our children. This is not democracy." This is signed by the superior of the general council of the Sisters of St. Joseph of London, Ontario.

I want to read very briefly as well a letter from a group of my constituents in Sault Ste Marie and it goes like this:

"Dear Mr Martin,

"This is a list of people concerned about the educational future of our children. And these signatures were taken from just as small part of the town, so we can just imagine how many people in the whole town are not agreeing with Bill 160. We just don't understand how the government thinks that for one minute we would think that Bill 160 would be good for our children. The only concern the government is thinking of is saving money, surely not the education of our children. Money shouldn't be a concern when it comes to our children's future."

I have other letters. I have a card here from a constituent. It says:

"Dear Tony,

"I am opposed to the passing of Bill 160 by the Harris government. I feel that many of the educational reforms involved would be harmful to the youth and teachers of Ontario. The dictatorial approach of the Harris government does not fit my definition of a democratic government."

This was delivered to me by a gentleman who saw me at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste Marie. It's signed by J. Franklin Murphy.

I just want to wrap up by asking people out there, any of them who are concerned, who want to do something, to show their disgust and their opposition to this bill -- right today in this city there is a gentleman named Gary Connolly who is on a hunger strike because of Bill 160. He's at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church. That's 427 Bloor Street. This evening at 6 o'clock, there will be a service in solidarity with him. Anybody who would like to be there is more than welcome to participate. That's at 6 o'clock, at 427 Bloor Street West at the Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, to support Gary Connolly in his hunger strike and his effort to stop this bill and to bring this government to its senses.

I just want to show a couple of pieces of art that were done by a couple of students at SF Howe school in Sault Ste Marie, obviously primary grade students. It says, "Will I have a future?" and "Delay Bill 160."

My last comment and job this afternoon is to send a message to the Minister of Education and Training with some help from my constituents. A group of constituents, teachers and parents in Sault Ste Marie, brought to my office a bag of apple cores. They have been in my office for about a week now. I don't know how long they had it before I got it, but they are rotten apples, I want you to know. That's what this minister and this government deserve re their attempts to reform education and Bill 160. I would ask the page to come over and deliver this to the desk to the Minister of Education and Training.

The Acting Speaker: Maybe I would direct the page to leave it just on that step there. That would be fine, I think.

Mr Martin: I asked him to bring it to the minister's table.

The Acting Speaker: I'm standing up and you said you were finished. If you give me a minute, I'll explain it to you.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Have respect for the chamber.


The Acting Speaker: Order. The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma on a point of order.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Speaker: The Minister of Community and Social Services just impugned motive. I would ask her to withdraw her remark.

The Acting Speaker: I didn't hear it, but if the minister has something she would like to withdraw --

Hon Mrs Ecker: I wasn't aware that I had said something which impugned motive. If I did, I would like to withdraw.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Norfolk.

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): No rotten apples here, but I would like to take this time allocated to discuss Bill 160, as amended, and try to set some of the record straight. There has been a lot of rhetoric, misinformation, fables, fiction and fantasy surrounding what is really contained in Bill 160 and what Bill 160 is meant to do. Throughout the debate we have heard a lot of noise from the opposition side, but as Mark Twain once said, "Noise proves nothing."

The minister adjacent I think used the expression "egging on." I used to have a flock of laying hens, and I concur with the rest of Mark Twain's quote: "Even a hen who merely laid an egg cackled like she laid an asteroid."


The first myth I wish to deal with is the one that says no consultation has taken place between the government and the citizens of Ontario. If we look back we find, as the member for Middlesex pointed out earlier this afternoon, there have been, under previous governments, 24 separate reviews, 10 commissions and committees, two fact-finding reports, two panels and countless meetings to discuss education reform. Each of these bodies and panels made recommendations for reform to the education system in this province. Until this government came to power, none of the recommendations were ever acted upon.

In the evolution of things leading up to Bill 160, we can begin with the Royal Commission on Education, chaired by Liberal cabinet minister John Sweeney. That commission toured the province and heard delegations from people in the education profession, school board trustees, teacher unions and concerned parents. There was a lot of fanfare and, as I understand, all-party support was received for these recommendations. In the interim there was an election and we all know what happened there: The party that said it would get rid of the deficit, control spending, cut taxes but not cut health spending and reform the education system won.

In the meantime, the government has set and met targets for eliminating the deficit -- actually we are now ahead of target -- has cut taxes, has increased health care spending, and now our government is reforming the education system. I should add, I'm proud to be part of a government that follows through on its promises.

This government set up the Education Improvement Commission, with David Cooke, former NDP Minister of Education. That commission went about the province and again listened to the education profession, school board trustees, teacher unions and concerned parents. The EIC made recommendations for improvement of the system in this province, recommendations that have now found their way into Bill 160.

The bill was referred to the standing committee on administration of justice. It travelled the province and spoke with the education profession, school board trustees, teacher unions and concerned parents. This led to over 100 amendments being proposed to the final version of the bill we are debating today.

There has been consultation leading up to this, without a doubt.

Bill 160 is only a part of the education reforms started by this government. We are moving students to the head of the class by introducing a clear and challenging province-wide curriculum, by introducing province-wide testing and a standard report card. We implemented the College of Teachers. We've introduced a four-year high school program similar to the other nine provinces and all 50 states. Students will be streamed starting in grade 9. It will be challenging and it will encourage our children to reach higher and to develop the skills they need. We have reduced the number of school boards, we've reduced the number of trustees and we are concentrating resources on the classroom, where they belong.

Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, is the next step in the fulfilment of our government's plan to improve education. The plan is comprehensive and far-reaching and, I might add, one that has been opposed at every step by members on the opposite side. I realize the job of the opposition is to question government policy as it makes its way through the House, but opposition for the sake of opposition is one of those things that voters in this province are becoming tired of. Voters in this province want to see policy, and quite frankly I haven't heard anything of substance from the other side yet, except for them to say they are opposed.

The same can be said for teacher union leaders. They are opposed, and nobody seems to remember that when this government was formed the union leaders said they were opposed then too, and have merely been looking for a fight with the government right from the start.

This plan began with the establishment of the Education Quality and Accountability Office, an external agency designed to test our young people throughout their school lives. Until now we haven't been able to accurately measure our students' progress. There were unequal standards applied across this province. Now, with province-wide testing, parents can see clearly how their children are progressing. We have started a comprehensive testing program and we received the first results this fall. How is this important? These results give us a baseline set of data to gauge progress and to compare with other provinces.

This government has also recognized very early that the key component in an education system is teachers, and in order to recognize the professional nature of teaching we have set up the Ontario College of Teachers to enhance the level of expertise they bring to the classroom. I should also point out that the college participated in discussions on Bill 160 and made recommendations which are included in this amended bill.

As part of the plan to reform education, this government established a clear, challenging and consistent province-wide curriculum. The curriculum is rigorous and demanding.

Mr Wildman: That is not in Bill 160.

Mr Barrett: As I've explained, I'm giving the background and leading up to the good work that's been done by both the NDP and Liberal governments to bring us to where we are now with Bill 160.

The curriculum has year-by-year standards that will raise the standard of education for all students in Ontario. The first components of the new curriculum, math and language, are already in the schools. Science, technology, history, geography and physical education will soon be phased in. The new curriculum is a response by this government to the concerns of parents that Ontario schools are not keeping pace with those in other provinces and other countries. It is a response to create a province-wide standard so that a grade 3 student or any student who moves within the province will know that he or she will be able to fit right in, regardless of their new location.

This government has also introduced a standard report card to replace the hundreds of different report cards that were being used across the province. This report card matches the grade-by-grade expectations of the new curriculum. Parents can meet with teachers, turn to the new curriculum and discuss their children's strengths and weaknesses based on the curriculum's standards.

As I mentioned, we are introducing a new four-year high school program similar to that found in the other nine provinces. This program will be streamed from grade 9. It will be more challenging and it will encourage our children to reach higher and to develop the skills they need.

I should point out that grade 13 was a temporary measure introduced after the end of the Second World War, designed to hold students in high school an extra year to create more space in universities for our returning veterans. We hung on to this extra system too long and it's time we joined the rest of the world with a four-year program.

This example, the continued existence of over four years of high school, reminds me of what are referred to as the cliff watchers in England. These were a group of people who were hired by the English government to walk along the cliffs of Dover and watch over the English Channel in case an invading fleet should appear on the horizon. The only problem was they were hired to watch for Napoleon's fleet in the early 1800s and the positions weren't declared obsolete until the 1950s. I will say they did perform their duty well; Napoleon's fleet never did show up.

The cliff watchers on the other side of the House would have us go back to an education system that wasn't working very well. The cliff watchers would have us get rid of all the reforms to education that we've put in place and then go back to watch for Napoleon's fleet. Bill 160 is the latest step in reforms to education that this government has undertaken. It's really about getting the best results for taxpayers' money.

As the Education Improvement Commission has said, "We've been paying more attention to the resources we put into education than into the results we're getting out of it." Bill 160 clearly defines the role of school boards and the Ontario government in providing education services and getting results in our new system.

In general, the powers and duties of school boards remain the same: budget setting; the purchase, expropriation or sale of real property; appointing teachers and other officials; the provision of accommodation and instruction; and many other duties that are currently set out in the Education Act.

Boards will still develop courses of study from curriculum documents. Nothing in Bill 160 changes this. In fact Bill 160 contains many provisions which already exist under the current Education Act or in other pieces of legislation such as the Municipal Act.

I would like to refer to an editorial that appeared in the Simcoe Reformer last Friday. It is titled "Much Ado About Nothing" and was written by Monte Sonnenberg, a local journalist. It talks about the report by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association, which says Bill 160 will greatly enhance education by establishing an equitable funding formula for all Ontario students. Instead of rich boards spending $9,000 per year per student while boards with a weaker tax base spend $4,000, all students will be funded equally.


Mr Wildman: Everybody will spend $4,000.

Mr Barrett: The cliff watchers are obviously against this.

The Simcoe Reformer editorial says that Bill 160 does not give Queen's Park extraordinary powers to take over school boards and close schools as claimed. Indeed, what powers the education minister has in this area are already contained in the Municipal Act, and then only for insolvent boards. The so-called draconian powers Bill 160 allegedly gives the education minister to dictate policy already exist in the current Education Act.

This editorial goes on to say that proposed class sizes of 22 pupils in high school and 25 pupils in elementary school "reflect current provincial averages." The establishment of average maximum class sizes in legislation does not dictate cost savings directly. It will impose changes on school boards that are above the average class size. It goes on to say, "This will enhance the quality of education in Ontario by reducing the student-to-teacher ratio in overcrowded classrooms." Again, the cliff watchers are against this one.

Bill 160 does not allow the board to replace teachers with unqualified teachers. The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association states: "There is no change in the current criteria that a principal must be a qualified teacher."

What is the point? The point is that this is a government that has a plan. It's a plan about improving education in the province and Bill 160 is merely one part of that plan.

Bill 160, as amended, will require secondary school teachers to spend an extra half-hour a day in the classroom, and this can be adjusted locally to take into account new teachers who may need extra time and to take into account the role of a department head who may need extra time. In the amended bill secondary school students will have an extra 10 days of instructional time; elementary students will have an extra five days in the school year. The year will not be extended because extra days will be found by eliminating exam days and professional activity days. We know this is possible because teachers themselves have already said that the 10 missed days from the illegal strike can be made up without extending the school year. Why not continue with this on an annual basis?

This would add up to about 80 extra days over the lifetime of a student. This is important because we know that by increasing the amount of exposure to a teacher students receive results in students who are better prepared to go on in life.

These changes in the education system of this province are being done for the students of the province to give them a better chance. It creates a system which is more accountable to the public while improving quality and making it more cost-effective. Again, the cliff watchers on the other side are opposed to this proposal.

I would like to say at this time that I have spoken to many people in my constituency of Norfolk, teachers on the picket lines, and have received phone calls, faxes and letters from the general public. I wish to report that while the majority of the teachers in my riding are against Bill 160, 80% of everyone else I've talked to in the riding of Norfolk is in support of the changes this government is making to improve education.

I intend to vote for the wishes of this majority and I intend to vote for Bill 160. I intend to vote for this bill as a former teacher, I will vote for this bill as the father of a teacher, I intend to vote for this bill as the son of a teacher and I'll vote for this bill as the grandson of a teacher. Thank you for your attention.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you for the opportunity to speak briefly this afternoon on this very perceptive and reasonable motion which I hope the government will vote for instead of against.

What I want to point out is something that I think is important for everybody in this province to know, because the government has endeavoured to characterize this as a fight between the teachers and the government of this province. This is not a fight between the teachers of Ontario and the government of Ontario. This is a fight between those who believe in a strong, vibrant, high-quality, publicly funded education system and those who do not. That is what this fight is about and that is why there is such a grand coalition of individuals and groups in this province who are opposing this legislation because they believe it will be detrimental to the education system and to the students within that system.

I have not seen, in my 20 years in this Legislature, such widespread and deeply felt opposition to a piece of legislation as I have seen with Bill 160, and that includes a lot of controversial bills that have come before the Legislature. I must point out that virtually everybody has, directly or indirectly, a stake and interest in education. It has been traditional for all the parties in this Legislature, including the Conservative Party of Bill Davis, of John Robarts and of Leslie Frost, and the years that can be remembered in this province by those of us in this Legislature -- these were all individuals who understood the importance of education and the need for appropriate funding for education and a solid, strong education system.

Within the Conservative Party over the years, then, there has been a significant contingent of individuals, in education and outside of education, who have understood the importance of that strong, vibrant, high-quality education system. Those people today are, I am sure, expressing to many members of the Conservative caucus and to some of us in the opposition their deep disappointment with this government and the resentment of this government for its attack on education. These are not people who have traditionally supported other parties or people who have been neutral in the process. These are strong Conservatives who have worked hard for the party over the years. They may have raised funds, they may have knocked on doors, they may have been part of executives, they may have been candidates for the party, they may have been members of this Legislature who are expressing absolute dismay when they see this government abandoning that commitment to education and deciding to launch an attack on teachers and trustees in this province. Many of the trustees are people who have supported the Conservative Party over the years as well.

We're seeing that resentment build, and with justification. Bill 160, they understand, is about the centralization of power within the field of education in Toronto in the hands of a few bureaucrats and individuals within the Premier's office, the political advisers. This is contrary to the Conservative tradition, which has always held that the best decisions in most cases in education should be made at the local level, where people are locally accountable, as trustees, to the people who elect them.

This is a dangerous bill because it removes from the power and jurisdiction of elected representatives, who are accountable to people, the kind of power that's necessary to carry out educational responsibilities and transfers it to the very few people within the Ministry of Education and, as I say, the advisers to ministers -- these are political advisers to ministers and the advisers in the Premier's office. The Globe and Mail referred to that group as the "Harris Kremlin" and the "politburo" of Ontario because they are a very few people, very young in age, who control the agenda of this government and dictate even to ministers who I think have far more experience, who are elected people and who are much more accountable. In so many instances that dictation comes from the Premier's office, from that collection of people. I think that is not good for the democratic system in this province. So we see that transference of power.

This Conservative government has made permanent -- because it is about money -- the hundreds of millions of dollars of funding withdrawn, supposedly temporarily, from the education system as a result of the social contract. Even though the Conservative members were critical of the previous NDP government because of the imposition of the social contract, today you are embracing that and making permanent those cuts which were to be temporary -- that was my understanding -- during a period of crisis.


You have taken an additional $533 million, half a billion dollars, from the classrooms of this province, from the education system of Ontario. You have said this is not about money and all the government representatives were told to go to the public meetings and say: "This has nothing to do with money. It has to do with the quality of education." Then we find a document that is a contract for the Deputy Minister of Education and one of the stipulations, when that secret document is released, is that she is to take $667 million out of the education system. When that document appeared in public, as it did through the efforts of those who were in opposition to the bill, we found that this was in fact all about the taking of money out of the education system.

But you know, the day before the final day for amendments, if you wanted to call the bluff of the government, the teachers' federations called the bluff. They said to the government: "You want a longer school day. We propose a longer school day, which will make us second in length of time only to British Columbia." Then they said: "You want fewer professional activity days. That's a good idea. You can incorporate that in the bill." Then they said: "You want fewer days for examination purposes," and they did that. They put all these on the table. They said, "This is going to achieve what you want." Oh, but no. Premier Harris's real agenda and the group of people who advise him, the whiz kids at the Premier's office, really wanted to take another two thirds of a billion dollars out of the education system to finance that tax cut that benefits the most wealthy people in our province the most.

Mr Johnson, the Minister of Education, had to admit on the day he released his amendments that it was really about taking out of the system 7,500 more teaching positions. If you believe that is going to deliver a better quality of education, then your idea of education is somewhat different from most of the people in this province.

Then we have the attack ads now which are attacking teachers and trustees in a very personal way and downgrading the role they play within the education system. Even Elizabeth Witmer, a former trustee and chair of the board, is disgusted with these ads.

This is all part of a system which brings about more regulation as opposed to legislation. It is part of the bullying and intimidation by this government of anybody who happens to disagree with the Premier and that close group of advisers to the Premier.

This is all made easier by the changes in the procedural rules of this Legislature which were initiated and carried out by the majority of this government, some 82 strong. If there's going to be any discussion of any of these matters, I can assure you, if there's to be an inquiry of any kind, this government will simply sweep under the rug any of these contentious issues with the 82 bristles it has that are members of this Legislature. I use that, of course, symbolically speaking.

I hope members of the government will reconsider and support this marvellous resolution this afternoon which will allow the government to repent for its errors of the past.

Mr Wettlaufer: This whole dispute over Bill 160 began two years ago when we were elected. The union leaders did not believe at that time that their members would vote for the Progressive Conservatives. They became determined that their members would not vote for the Progressive Conservative Party again and they began fighting everything we did.

Members of the Waterloo region caucus met with the representatives of the teachers' unions here several times. They opposed the common curriculum. They opposed standardized testing. They opposed the standardized report card. They're still opposing.

I accused them yesterday in a public forum I had of not being truthful with their members and with the public and with the media. They have been lashing Bill 160, specifically section 257. Section 257 was lifted from the Municipal Act. The Municipal Act has only been in force since 1935.

Either the union leaders were lying to their members or they're stupid. Now which is worse --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): On a point of order, Speaker: My colleague has chosen to invoke and provoke and uses the word "lie." Surely he should have more respect for the teaching profession. I would ask him, through you, sir, that he withdraw the word "lie."

The Acting Speaker: That is a point of order, but the member did not accuse another member of this House in his accusation and therefore doesn't have to withdraw, but I would ask him to use temperate language in the future.

Mr Wettlaufer: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would never allude to teachers in that frame of mind or using that phraseology. However, I do refer to the union leaders. However, I will not accuse them of lying again. But the members of my riding know what they've been doing.

I would like to talk about something here. I'm not the only one who is talking about them using scare tactics. For instance, Randall Denley, a columnist with the Ottawa Citizen, also alluded to the fact that they were using scare tactics. He said, for instance:

"The Minister of Education can close a school for a specified period without consulting the Legislature. The minister can accept any combination of experience, academic scholarship or professional training as the minister may deem equivalent. The minister can grant permission for up to one year for a teacher to teach a subject where the person does not hold a certificate required for teaching the subject." He goes on and on. He says, "Frightening, isn't it?" Son of a gun, what he quoted was in the Education Act of 1980.

Isn't it odd that the teachers' unions have not opposed this before? They haven't opposed section 257. They haven't opposed these. They're only opposing them because we're including them in Bill 160. Isn't that odd?

What he does say is: "Rather than being a power grab, Bill 160, an amendment to the Education Act, is in keeping with the original document. Thanks to the amendments, it's actually more democratic because details are spelled out in the legislation, and through amendment, of course, we know that any future changes must go in front of the Legislature."

We went around the province. We heard suggestions for amendments. We made recommendations for amendments and, lo and behold, the minister agreed with those recommendations. He made the amendments and they have been approved in committee. In spite of that, in spite of the fact that the amendments have been made and in spite of the fact that the teachers' unions know now what is in section 257, they are still advertising in the newspapers about what they think is democracy.

Here's an ad from Wednesday, November 19. Bill 160, what is all the fuss about? Section 257.45, "The board and each of its members, officers and employees shall comply with the orders," etc. It goes on. I'll supply this to Hansard. But they are saying that democracy is not being performed by the government. What nonsense. It's also false advertising.


This government is carrying out reforms that were actually started by the two previous governments. Many reports have recommended changes. The previous government started some of those changes. We're carrying them out.

The 1994 report of the Royal Commission on Learning, For the Love of Learning, identified and recommended to the government a series of interrelated initiatives. The commission had 167 recommendations. They included reviewing and revising legislation and regulations governing education -- that's what Bill 160 is about; development of a province-wide curriculum -- we've done that; reforming education finance -- that's what Bill 160 is about; mandating of parent advisory councils in every school -- done that; developing and monitoring the province-wide standards or outcomes -- we've done that; establishing a province-wide testing program -- we've done that; establishing an office of assessment and accountability -- we've done that; establishing the College of Teachers to regulate the teaching profession in Ontario -- we've done that too. But the teachers' union opposed that too.

Interjection: No.

Mr Wettlaufer: Yes. Surprising. But the biggest factor that we have to look at is we hear about all these "testing results" and how other provinces or other jurisdictions play with the facts. Come on. Let's be realistic. David Cooke, the former NDP Minister of Education, recently said on television, "No matter how much opposition there is, no matter how much the opposition likes to play with the figures or the facts, the fact does remain that our students are falling behind and we do have to get ahead, we do have to catch up."

The unions have distorted much about Bill 160. I already talked about what they've done with section 257. But they've also said, and they've persuaded the teachers, the public and the media, that the bill will increase the number of students in the classroom. Since 1992, the unions have consistently negotiated upwards the size of the classroom. Bill 160 is capping the average size of the classroom in Ontario at what the current number is. There will not be any further increases. The boards will still have the flexibility within their own local areas to be able to juggle the class sizes based on special needs, based on ESL. Yes, there will actually be some classes larger than 25 in the secondary and larger than 22 in the elementary. Yes, there will, just as there are now.

Mr Wildman: You're in favour of the status quo.

Mr Wettlaufer: The status quo, I say to the member for Algoma, is sure better than having the unions negotiate the class sizes upwards again next year and the year after and the year after, as they have done since 1992.

Isn't it interesting? We have to put up with this nonsense day in and day out here, and then we have to go back to the riding and put up with the nonsense from the teachers' union leaders.

Even Christina Blizzard, another news reporter, stated about the arguments about Bill 160 --

Mr Bradley: Here's an objective source.

Mr Wettlaufer: The member for St Catharines, oh, my, my, accusing Christina Blizzard of not being objective?

Mr Bradley: I said, "Here's an objective source."

Mr Wettlaufer: Oh, yes, but you were very sarcastic when you said it. That's terrible. I can't believe you would do that.

Anyway, we talk about these rights of commissions, that they're not subject to the courts. No, of course not. Look at what other commissions aren't subject to the courts: the Environmental Assessment Board; the Ontario Labour Relations Board; the Education Relations Commission. Son of a gun. I can't believe the previous governments allowed that. I can't believe the teachers' unions didn't oppose that when those governments were in power. Isn't that odd? It's only happening because we're in power.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association recently came out in favour of a large part of the bill. Granted, they have some concerns with the bill, and we as a government can appreciate that not everybody is going to agree with all parts of the bill. We can appreciate that, but we can wait for year after year and try to get it entirely perfect according to somebody else's interpretation and never accomplish it. We are trying to improve the education system in this province. We're not talking about what we want; we're talking about what is better for the children of this province. They have to be able to compete. They have to be able to compete with the members from India and Japan and Germany and China and every other country, because we have what is called a global economy. They're in global competition. Why is it that some countries are specializing in certain areas? Because they know that those are going to be the needs five, 10 or 15 years from now. We need to do likewise.

I talk about the opposition that we've been getting on this bill. It's really interesting. We had a teachers' rally here a week ago and, lo and behold, it was dug up by a reporter by the name of Thane Burnett that the protesters were paid for their outrage. The protesters were actually paid by OPSEU to come and demonstrate against Bill 160.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): I don't believe that.

Mr Wettlaufer: It's true. There it is right there. There it is. How much did they get paid? One hundred and seventy dollars. Of course, the Local 595 president, Barry Weisleder, defended the offer.

I am pleased to support this bill. I will be supporting the bill because I think it is important that the young people will be able to compete with anyone in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world for the best possible job, the best possible career in the future; I don't care whether it's five years or 10 years or 15 years from now. But I will tell you this: Being in business for the past number of years, I have watched a slow but steady, gradual deterioration in the ability of the students to be able to write, to be able to spell, to be able to add and, by jeepers, I want to see an improvement.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Further debate?

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): It is indeed an unusual position to follow the member for Kitchener, who wants to pretend that $800 million has not been removed from Ontario's schools already, who wants to pretend that Bill 160 is not about removing another $700 million from the system.

Mr Wettlaufer: Dave Cooke --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Kitchener, you had your turn.

Mr Hampton: Let me recount just a bit of the last two years and what we've seen happening in our schools over the last two years. A number of boards across the province have been put in the position where they've had to cut junior kindergarten. I know members of the Conservative bench make remarks like, "Junior kindergarten is glorified babysitting." I've heard them say this. I've heard them say they don't think kindergarten or junior kindergarten is really an important part of education.

They may say what they wish. The studies that have been conducted point otherwise. The studies that have been conducted show that the most important time in any child's development, the most important time in any child's education is the early years. In fact, there are studies from western Europe and the United States which show that every time you spend a dollar, devote a dollar of resources to early childhood education, you save seven dollars later on, either in the education system, the justice system or the social welfare system. But this government chooses to disregard that. They have in fact cut junior kindergarten from board to board to board across this province.

Then there's the issue of adult education. I hear the Conservative members say, "Well, we want people to be able to compete in the global economy." That's their concept of it. That's what they say, but if people are to take part in this so-called new economy, if people are to have the tools to be productive in this so-called new economy, then people need the opportunity as adults to return to the school system to re-equip themselves with skills and with knowledge. But what has this government done? They've cut adult education as well over the last two years, so there are all kinds of people across this province who want to re-enter the education system, who want to acquire new skills or broaden the skills they have already who have been shut out by this government's cuts to adult education.

Then there's the case of children who are in the system who need extra help, the case of children who need special education. But from board to board across this province this government has cut special education so that those children who need extra help, those children who need a unique program if they are to succeed, have been told by this government: "There's no place for you in Ontario's education system. You're no longer a priority either."

Then there is the situation we see in many other boards, where those things which make school interesting, those things which attract the broad spectrum of students also have been cut, and I'm talking here about a good athletic program, a good music program, a good drama program, the range of extracurricular activities that enliven our schools, that make them attractive to that broad cross-section, that broad spectrum of students.

Then there is the reality that in many classrooms across this province schools are not even able to provide textbooks. In a number of classrooms, you simply have an inadequate supply of textbooks, or textbooks that are far out of date. Again, more help from this government -- this is what they've cut already from the lives of students across this province. That has been the $800-million cut as it exists.

The government tried to say, when Bill 160 came into the Legislature, that this is not about cuts, that this is not about taking more money out of education. Then I was able to get my hands on a copy of the deputy minister's performance contract, a very detailed performance contract which not only sets out the cuts that have been made already but sets out the cuts that are to come.

What did we find in the contents of that employment contract? The deputy minister must have in place by the end of this fiscal year a plan to take a further $670 million out of Ontario's elementary and secondary classrooms. It is all about cuts. That's what was exposed in the deputy minister's employment and performance contact which I was fortunate enough to get a copy of and to make available to the public.

Some $800 million in cuts has been made already, another $670 million in cuts will flow from Bill 160, and more to come in the out years. That is made plain by a reading of the deputy minister's performance contract.

I simply ask the question: How can you improve the quality of education in this province when the only observable agenda the government has is to take at least $1.5 billion out of our classrooms, when the government has cut junior kindergarten already, when it has cut adult education already, when it has cut special education already, when it has cut extracurricular activities already, when you don't even have enough textbooks in classrooms? How can you possibly improve the quality of education by taking yet even more?

The parents across this province, despite this government's abusive $4 million propaganda campaign, despite this government's misuse of the media, despite this government's attempt to brainwash people, have clearly seen through the whole direction. When the government has already attacked junior kindergarten, already attacked adult education, already attacked special education, already attacked extracurricular activities, already attacked basic classroom supplies, the parents across the province understand you can't possibly improve the quality of education by cutting yet more, no matter how much money this government spends on television propaganda and no matter how offensive, how ugly, how vicious its propaganda campaign is, and it is certainly all of those things.

There is something yet more insidious about what the government is trying to do. If you read Bill 160 -- and I urge parents across the province, read it. Get a copy of it, download it off the Internet, get a copy wherever you can and read it. When one reads Bill 160, when one sees that the Minister of Education has the unilateral authority to fire democratically elected school board trustees, to dismiss them with no hearing, with no possibility of appeal, to simply dismiss them, when this is a minister who essentially has the power that the Kremlin wished it had had, this is a minister who can literally go from one corner to the other attacking boards of education, it becomes apparent how greatly, how overtly this government is trying to centralize control.

What is so ironic about this is that we all know education is a very dynamic experience, that the classroom is a very dynamic place. It requires spontaneity; it requires human creativity; it requires the energy of literally dozens of people. This government believes it can then centralize control over such a dynamic undertaking, such a dynamic system and can have top-down, centralized, bureaucratic command control over education. That boggles the mind.

If you compare what this government is trying to do with the recent experience in eastern Europe, the experience in eastern Europe is that centralized, top-down command control doesn't work. Yet that is exactly what this government is trying to do with our children's education. They are trying to put in place a centralized, top-down, command style of bureaucracy, the kind of bureaucracy that stifles initiatives, the kind of bureaucracy that stifles the dynamism you need in the classroom, that stifles the spontaneity you need in the classroom.


This will not work. You cannot, in the first instance, improve education by cutting the funding and you cannot, in the second instance, improve education by trying to implement some sort of top-down command structure. Neither of the premises of this bill will improve education.

For those reasons, this bill should be withdrawn. For those reasons, if this bill is passed it will be repealed. The fundamentals of this bill are completely wrong for education, and I will say here that if we are fortunate enough to elect the next government in Ontario, we will repeal this bill. But beyond that, the premises upon which this bill is based are fundamentally wrong, and we will rethink those premises as well.

We understand that if we are going to have a role in the new economy, if we are going to be productive in the new economy, even more thoughtful, even more strategic investments in education will have to be made. All parents across this province are asking this government to do is to reinvest. That's all parents are asking: "Please reinvest. Any money that you find through either structural changes or administrative changes, please reinvest it." The government can't even do that. The Education Improvement Commission has said to this government, "You must reinvest." The government refuses to do that. Well, I will say to people right here, we will reinvest in education. We will reinvest to ensure that people can take their productive place in the world economy.

I also want to point out, so that there's no mistake about this, that while this government is being most anti-democratic through this bill, while this government attacks the fundamental premise of democracy that there should be no taxation without representation, while this government attacks democratically elected school trustees by giving the minister the power to dismiss them without a hearing, without an appeal, while this government continues on that very anti-democratic vein, there is an avenue whereby people can express their opposition to this bill.

This government has, through another one of its legislative committees, endorsed the idea of deciding important public issues by means of referenda. This is something they brought to a legislative committee and the Conservative majority on that committee endorsed the idea that important public issues should be decided by means of public referenda. We say to this government this is an important issue. If you intend to implement taxation without representation, that is an important public issue. If you intend to dismiss democratically elected school board trustees without so much as a hearing or an appeal, that is an important issue.

We are saying to people, there is a way to bring democracy to this legislation, and that is to sign the petitions requesting a referendum on Bill 160. We believe there are at least 700,000 parents across this province who are prepared to sign petitions to require a referendum on this bill. The way those petitions are worded -- and this is very important -- the petitions first of all ask the government to withdraw Bill 160, but the petitions also point out that if Bill 160 is passed by this government, it be repealed. That is the subject of the petition campaign and that will be the subject of the referendum.

I say to people across this province, notwithstanding the anti-democratic bent of this government, notwithstanding that this government believes it is above international law, notwithstanding that this government believes it is above the Constitution of Canada and the Charter of Rights, notwithstanding that this government believes it can trample law and the democratic principle of no taxation without representation, notwithstanding that this government believes that it can dismiss democratically elected school trustees, notwithstanding all of those wrongs, notwithstanding all of that disrespect for democracy, there is still a way for people to demand democracy and demand democracy with respect to Bill 160.

I hope parents across this province will sign those petitions and I hope parents across province will get their neighbours, their friends, their colleagues, their co-workers to sign those petitions because I believe we can make this into the issue that will not go away. We can make this into the issue that will haunt this government from today and ever forward. There is still time for this government to do the right thing. Withdraw Bill 160. If you don't withdraw Bill 160, the people will force you to do it.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Young: I will not be supporting the opposition motion.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): How come?

Mr Young: During the last month I've listened to and spoken to literally hundreds of teachers and parents in my riding. On the teachers' side, the same as the opposition side --


The Acting Speaker: Order, the member for Lambton and the member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Young: -- the issue is very high and emotional, as you can hear today, and the issue is also very low on facts. By now, we all know why. The school boards and the unions are about to lose some power that they've had for a long time, decades, power they've had in trust for the stewardship of our children because somewhere along the line they got way, way off track. Our resources are not in the classroom. Our classes are too large in many schools and the number of days in class is the second lowest in Canada.

We've all heard the slogan, "Teachers' working conditions are our children's learning conditions." On the face of it, it would appear to be true, but when you look closely at the issue, you see a dichotomy between the two. For instance, over one out of four teachers in Ontario is rarely, if ever, in the classroom. The average class size in Ontario is 24 and the pupil-teacher ratio is 15 to one. Do the math.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane South.

Mr Young: Many are where they need to be. They're principals, they're in guidance, they're in special education, and so it should be. But there are others at school board offices writing curriculum or working on various and sundry projects.

The Ministry of Education has introduced an excellent new back-to-basics Common Curriculum and if you talk to teachers one on one, they like it. We simply don't need so many people writing curriculum at 129 school boards across the province any more. Parents are wondering why are all these projects and why is all this administration necessary; in reality, it isn't.

Although the class time is only three hours and 45 minutes for the average secondary school teacher, they spend two 75-minute periods a day deciding, based on their own priorities, what they should be doing: One is the lunch period; one is a preparation time period. In fact, we spend $600 million a year in Ontario on preparation time. That's a lot of money. No one is quite sure what each specific teacher is doing during that time. Some are buzzing all day, taking little time for lunch. That is a fact.

They're the ones who conduct the band and the orchestra and come in early in the morning to lead the choir or they coach the debating team, as one excellent and very dedicated teacher in my riding does. He took them to first in competition against every other school, including six private schools. They come in early to coach the swim team, they stay late for soccer, football or hockey. These teachers are the stars of the system. They're the ones who give everything for our children, and they deserve our greatest thanks. Others mark papers during preparation time or make themselves available for their students.


But I must repeat the questions many parents have asked me about preparation time. For the teachers who aren't doing the extracurricular activities, what's wrong with the time between 3 and 5 o'clock every day? Where is it written that our school day must end at 3 or 3:30? Why can't my children be guaranteed remedial help every day in the classroom from 3:30 to 4:30 if they really need it?

The teachers will tell you, "We're all working till 5 or 6 o'clock." I have a little trouble with that. I know there are many who do. In fact, there are many who work hours and hours more than their peers. Incidentally, they don't get paid a cent extra for all this extracurricular activity. Why, then, when parents pass the school parking lot, is it half empty at 3:45 every day? It's because the workload is not spread evenly. It's because too much of what goes on in our schools is voluntary. It's because some of the teachers are doing all the extracurricular work.

They say others are taking work home. That's absolutely true. Teachers are marking papers and they're doing planning at home as well. But the tradeoff for long hours during the school year has always been 12 weeks' vacation, including the summer off, and it's a great deal. In fact, if you offered that to the average parents, whose taxes pay the teaching profession, most of them would jump at it. Ask any taxpayer who works in the private sector, "Would you exchange long hours for nine months a year in order to have 12 weeks' vacation a year?" Many of them are already taking work home and working long hours, and they only get two or three weeks' vacation. So you can imagine what their answer will be.

I've asked parents and taxpayers in my riding about Bill 160. Here's the question: "When was the last time anyone ever asked you what size your children's classes should be?" The answer was, "Never." I asked them, "Has anyone ever asked you how long you think the school year should be?" "Never." I asked them, "When was the last time you heard of a poorly performing teacher being fired?" The answer was, "I've never heard of it."

I asked them, "Did you know that some boards in this province spend up to $3,000 a year more per student than your children get in Halton?" No, they didn't know. "Why is that?" I said there is some sense to it because there's more English-as-a-second-language need in Toronto, but you can quantify that. It costs about $600 a year for English-as-a-second-language training. Where's the other $2,400 going?

Bill 160 has sparked the first serious discussion about these issues in decades. The reason? Because parents have been totally left out of the equation by school boards and teachers' unions, who decide these things behind closed doors in collective bargaining.

Class sizes have become too big in Ontario, in some cases over 40.

Compared to the average of the other provinces, our children in elementary schools spend five days less a year in class, and in secondary 10 days less a year in class.

Most parents I talk to are shocked to find out that the principals are in the same union and bargaining unit as teachers. They ask: "Isn't that a conflict? How can you manage the performance of a union peer?" My answer is, with great difficulty, if at all.

There's been little accountability in education. Our children are performing below the middle of the pack on national and international tests. All we hear from teachers' unions and school boards is, "The tests aren't fair." They have people who sit there all day and they're paid to find out why the tests don't make any sense. But they're in denial; not all the tests can be wrong.

We've gotten way off track. Our children have been taught to relate to their feelings and ideas and the facts come along later. This does not prepare them well for a world which relies heavily on facts and core skills in English, mathematics and science. Their education is warm, but it's very fuzzy. Parents who express concern are subjected to fingerpointing and are befuddled with education jargon. The school boards blame the ministry and the unions. The unions blame the government and the school boards. Past governments have blamed everyone but themselves, and they're still at it here today.

This government is taking control of the above issues in Bill 160. This government is saying, "When it comes to average class size, when it comes to learning time, when it comes to class time, the buck stops here." We accept that responsibility. We are not afraid to act and we will not back down to those who have taken the law into their own hands.

In the last few weeks I've received literally hundreds of calls from teachers threatening to work against me in the next election. This they've done on orders from their unions. They've swamped government MPPs' offices with calls, letters and faxes. Some of them have been sitting and calling one after another across the province in different towns and school boards, trying to leave a false and exaggerated impression that there is a more widely based opposition to the bill. They call us reading from a union script. You've all had the calls. They rarely say, "I'm a teacher." They're fooling no one because for every one of those calls, I've had three or four calls from parents that told me: "Don't you dare back down. These changes are long overdue. Get control of our education system."

Here's what I tell the teachers who've called my office. You might want to quote me. Since being elected, I voted to cut my own pay to 1987 levels. I've cut operating costs from my predecessor --

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sure the member didn't mean to allude to the fact that somehow MPPs did not get a raise. It's completely incorrect.

The Acting Speaker: This is not a point of order. The member for Halton Centre, you have 43 seconds.

Mr Young: I tell the teachers who call my office my pension is gone and that my riding and my job disappear before the next election. That's what I've given up personally to build a better future for my children. Then I ask them, "What are you prepared to give up?" What I hear on the other end of the line is silence. The answer isn't in their script.

The Acting Speaker: The leader of the official opposition.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): It's my privilege and pleasure to participate in a very important debate. I've only just begun and I'm delighted already to see that I've piqued the interest of government members, so I feel good about this already.


The Acting Speaker: Order. You're not in your seat, and you're not in your seat either, so I don't want to hear you heckling.


Mr McGuinty: I think it's important for us to remove ourselves from the heat of this debate just for a moment and to carefully consider what it is we're talking about here when we talk about education and the reform of education. I think most Ontarians today recognize almost innately that education is the means by which we can assure ourselves of a bright future. If we toy around with that, if we play with that, if we cause it harm, then what we are effectively doing is causing some severe damage to our future. That's why whatever we do when it comes to education, we have to be careful. I think it's vital as well that we capitalize on all of the resources that happen to be available to us.

Who would I include among the resources? I think it's obvious. If you want to bring about real, lasting, substantive, positive change inside the classroom, it seems to me that you can't do that without the goodwill of the people who happen to work there, the people who can offer all kinds of expertise about what works and what doesn't work.

There are some people who accuse our teachers of standing against change. Over the last 10 years I think there have been seven major changes to our curricula in Ontario and teachers each time have responded in the best possible way they could. To say that our teachers stand against change is to indicate clearly that you don't understand what our teachers are all about. However, what they do want to do, and I think it's important for all of us to understand that, is get involved in lending shape to that change.

In order to best understand what the government will do with Bill 160, it's important for us to understand what it has already done to date. First of all, let's start with the promise contained in the Common Sense Revolution. There was a specific promise to the effect that when it came to education, this government would not make cuts to classroom spending. Clearly this government has broken that promise.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Brantford.

Mr McGuinty: There is no doubt this government has broken that promise in three specific areas. When it comes to junior kindergarten, to date 60,000 four-year-old Ontario children have been deprived of that valuable educational experience. Over two dozen school boards in Ontario are no longer offering junior kindergarten programs to our four-year-olds. I'll tell you why that's important. I've said it a number of times in the Legislature and the government members all understand this and that's why it's so reprehensible for them not to continue to fund it fully.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member across knows full well that it was school boards that cut those programs, not the government.

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

Mr McGuinty: This government is going to save $145 million as a result of the reduction in funding it offers to school boards when it comes to junior kindergarten in Ontario. The government has made its usual tradeoff. It focuses entirely on the dollars, on the tax cut. It has an unhealthy obsession with all matters economic. What that means when it comes to education is our kids are losing out.

We've had a number of by-elections; in fact, four in the province. I'm not sure if government members took advantage of the opportunity, but if you go out there and knock on any door in any community anywhere in this province and ask people, "What do you prefer, a tax cut or quality education, a tax cut or quality health care?" you know as well as I do what the answer is going to be. People will put quality education and quality health care over a tax cut any day. We're losing junior kindergarten at a time when we all recognize and when experts tell us that the single more important indicator of academic success is how ready you are to learn when you get into kindergarten. We simply cannot, in a knowledge-based global economy, afford to do without junior kindergarten.

The government has also made cuts to special education. Again, I'm going through some of their track record. They have made cuts to special --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Brantford, I don't want to warn you again.

Mr McGuinty: For me, when we're talking about making cuts to programs for our children who have learning difficulties, this isn't purely a financial issue, it's a moral issue. In Ontario, again, our history has been to ensure that we look out for those who can't look out for themselves. By and large, that has been our history until the election of the Mike Harris government. This manifests itself perhaps nowhere more importantly and more visibly than through the cuts that have been made to special education, to programs that help our kids who have learning difficulties learn.

The Harris government is also making cuts in the area of adult education. The government members are very good at telling people on a regular basis that they've got to get up, get out and get a job, that they've got to fend for themselves, that they have to do what they can, that they have to assume responsibility over their own lives. Well, what about those people who've only got grade 10? If you're 24 years of age and you've only got your grade 10 and you're making a genuine effort to get ahead, one of the first things you're going to want to do is to be able to complete your high school. This government is now making it extremely difficult for school boards throughout the province to deliver high school education to adults. You think it's tough getting a job with a university degree or a college diploma? Try getting that job if all you've got is your grade 10 education. We have an obligation to ensure that our adults who want to complete their high school learning can do so, and right now this government is making that extremely onerous for our adult learners.

Let's take a look at a bit of the track record. Not only have we had cuts to junior kindergarten, special education and adult education, we've got schools now that are experiencing some of the problems connected with the loss of speech pathologists, school psychologists and librarians. We also have a Premier who has made it his specific mission to undermine, to degrade public education in Ontario.

This was brought home to me in the most poignant way possible, I think. The other day I had the opportunity to speak in a high school classroom of OAC students. When I go into a high school classroom, I'm looking for signs that these young people are ready to infuse us with some highly oxygenated red blood, people who are going to come out of there and take on the world, look for challenges, rock the boat and look beyond the here and now to what can be. That's what I'm looking for from our young people. But when I go into high school classrooms lately what I get is the impression from these young people that they are shrivelled up, that there is a loss of idealism and that there's a sense that the entire weight of the world is on their shoulders.

One of the most significant contributing factors to that, I would argue, is our Premier, who steadily bombards our students with the message that they're not cutting it, they're not measuring up. In effect he's telling our students that they're losers and they're not going to be able to compete in this new global economy. I think that is simply unforgivable. The job of the Premier in the greatest province in the most blessed country on the planet is to tell us how we're going to make it and to talk about all the things we've got going for us. For the Premier to go inside our classrooms by way of television and by way of his advertising and tell not only our teachers but our students that we're inept, that we're inadequate, that we can't compete, to me, once again, is unforgivable. You just can't do that kind of thing and as the Premier in Ontario you shouldn't be allowed to do it.

Understanding what the government has now done vis-à-vis public education in Ontario, that it has made cuts to the extent of $1 billion -- and our students are paying for that -- and understanding that the Premier has carefully constructed a crisis to undermine and degrade public education in the province, now the government comes forward with Bill 160. Let's understand, based on the track record, what it is the government wants to do with Bill 160.

First of all, it is now accepted by the Premier that he intends to cut $670 million further; in addition to the $1 billion in cuts, $670 million in new cuts from education in Ontario. We understand already some of the tragic downside of the cuts to education. I've already talked about them: loss of junior kindergarten, loss of special education programs, loss of adult education programs, loss of speech pathologists and school psychologists. Now we're going to take another $670 million out of the system.

Furthermore, the government has said time and time again that they intend to ensure there are thousands fewer teachers working in our system of public education in the province. I gave the Minister of Education the opportunity once again today to tell me how many fewer teachers there are going to be in Ontario teaching our students. He would not or could not give me that answer.


Somehow the government would have us believe that if we were to vote in favour of Bill 160, a bill which is going to enable the government to cut a further $700 million from education and to lay off thousands of teachers, somewhere in the neighbourhood of between 4,000 and 10,000 teachers, we'll be ensuring that we are going to put in place a measure that's going to bring about further improvement to the quality of education we offer Ontario students. Nobody buys that. The government should understand that. We've had all kinds of evidence from people outside of this place, let alone evidence from people inside this place, that nobody believes that. Many, many government backbenchers know in their heart of hearts that this is not about improving education, that this is about taking money out of the system, and is about centralizing control over public education.

A number of backbenchers have spoken out already against this bill. They understand what the folks back home are telling them. They understand that at some point in time when you're in government it's important to look ahead and talk about and think about and do work for re-election. Right now, many backbenchers understand that the way you get re-elected is by doing what the folks back home sent you to do. If there was any doubt before, there is none now. The folks back home are saying, "You can toy with all kinds of things, you can find all kinds of savings, but don't play around with education."

What you're doing with Bill 160, when you're centralizing control, when you're removing money from the system and laying off thousands of teachers, you're doing much, much more than simply playing with public education; you're causing what I would argue to be irreparable harm. If not entirely irreparable, it will take years and years and years before it can be turned around. In the case of some of the children caught up in the system, there is an excellent chance that we will never be able to catch up and give them the kind of quality education they deserve and that we have an obligation to provide in Ontario.

One of the things that galls me most about this particular bill coming from this government -- this is the government that was going to do away with large government institutions, it was going to bring forward the age of small government, government that was going to be more efficient and that was going to ensure that people closest to the decision-making will be able to make those kinds of decisions. What we've got here is a government that is going to centralize power over public education in a way that has never, ever before been seen in our province. This, from a Conservative government; this, from a Tory government; this, from a government that stands against making government bigger.

This is a government that stands against government, and yet when it comes to public education in Ontario, what we're going to have is centralized control over the minutiae of delivery of education inside our classrooms. Not only is that going to be centralized in government, it's going to be further, in a sense, subcentralized within cabinet, so that not even backbenchers and, in reality, not even many of the members of cabinet are going to have significant say in what's going to happen in terms of the delivery of education in our province.

If I hear one more cabinet member speak out against Bill 160, I think I'm going to flip. We've got backbenchers speaking out against it, we've got cabinet ministers speaking out against it, even to the point where the Minister of Education himself, a man well known in his previous life as a municipal politician to be fiscally responsible and to understand the basic workings of democracy, said he is effectively very, very uncomfortable with the notion that he is going to be able to, with the stroke of a pen, levy $6 billion in taxes in a back room in Ontario. That is unprecedented. That has never before been seen in our history.

Why are we doing these kinds of things? Why is this government bent on taking control of public education in Ontario? I think the reasons are twofold. First of all, the reason that's more apparent is quite simply that this government feels duty bound to honour an irresponsible and ill-considered election promise to deliver a tax cut to Ontarians. I can tell you that if you go out there and knock on doors anywhere in the province and ask people, "What's more important to you, ma'am, quality education or a tax cut?" "What's more important to you, sir, quality health care or a tax cut?" people will tell you time in and time out that, when it comes right down to it, they're for education and they're for health care.

The other thing we should keep in mind, and this is not so readily apparent but I think it's not reading too much into it, is that this government ultimately stands against a healthy, viable system of public education in Ontario. What this is doing, in combination with the attacks levelled by the Premier and the former Minister of Education against the public system, is very, very clearly undermining public education, and if we lose that --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Mrs McLeod has moved opposition day motion number 3. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members; this will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1757 to 1802.

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


Agostino, Dominic

Bartolucci, Rick

Bisson, Gilles

Bradley, James J.

Brown, Michael A.

Caplan, David

Christopherson, David

Churley, Marilyn

Cleary, John C.

Colle, Mike

Conway, Sean G.

Cordiano, Joseph

Crozier, Bruce

Cullen, Alex

Curling, Alvin

Duncan, Dwight

Gerretsen, John

Grandmaître, Bernard

Hampton, Howard

Hoy, Pat

Kormos, Peter

Kwinter, Monte

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Lessard, Wayne

Martin, Tony

McGuinty, Dalton

McLeod, Lyn

Miclash, Frank

Morin, Gilles E.

Phillips, Gerry

Pouliot, Gilles

Pupatello, Sandra

Silipo, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Wood, Len

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


Arnott, Ted

Barrett, Toby

Beaubien, Marcel

Boushy, Dave

Brown, Jim

Carr, Gary

Chudleigh, Ted

Cunningham, Dianne

Danford, Harry

Doyle, Ed

Ecker, Janet

Elliott, Brenda

Eves, Ernie L.

Fisher, Barbara

Flaherty, Jim

Fox, Gary

Froese, Tom

Galt, Doug

Gilchrist, Steve

Grimmett, Bill

Guzzo, Garry J.

Harnick, Charles

Hastings, John

Hodgson, Chris

Jackson, Cameron

Johns, Helen

Johnson, Bert

Johnson, David

Johnson, Ron

Leach, Al

Leadston, Gary L.

Marland, Margaret

Martiniuk, Gerry

Maves, Bart

McLean, Allan K.

Munro, Julia

Murdoch, Bill

Mushinski, Marilyn

Newman, Dan

O'Toole, John

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Palladini, Al

Parker, John L.

Preston, Peter

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Ross, Lillian

Runciman, Robert W.

Saunderson, William

Shea, Derwyn

Sheehan, Frank

Skarica, Toni

Smith, Bruce

Snobelen, John

Spina, Joseph

Sterling, Norman W.

Stewart, R. Gary

Tsubouchi, David H.

Turnbull, David

Vankoughnet, Bill

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Wilson, Jim

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

Young, Terence H.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 35; the nays are 64.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:30 of the clock this evening.

The House adjourned at 1805.

Evening sitting reported in volume B.