36th Parliament, 1st Session

L250b - Tue 25 Nov 1997 / Mar 25 Nov 1997



The House met at 1830.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 161, An Act to provide fairness for parents and employees by providing remedies relating to the province-wide withdrawal of services by teachers between October 27 and November 7, 1997 and to make a complementary amendment to the Education Act / Projet de loi 161, Loi favorisant le traitement équitable des parents et des employés en prévoyant des recours à la suite du retrait de services par les enseignants à l'échelle de la province entre le 27 octobre et le 7 novembre 1997 et apportant une modification complémentaire à la Loi sur l'éducation.

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

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I'm very pleased to be able to speak on Bill 161, the Fairness for Parents and Employees Act. This bill is about fairness for the working families in Ontario who didn't anticipate a strike, one that was called at the last minute. Right up until Sunday they didn't know whether it was really going to happen or not. It's fairness for employees with children who couldn't go out to work and had to stay at home and look after their children. It's also about fairness for teachers who were very dedicated and who decided they were going to continue to teach in spite of this illegal strike that was called.

It was an illegal strike. They tried to call it a protest rally, but my definition of a strike is when there's a withdrawal of people or their services from employment. To me, this was a strike. Certainly it wasn't legal, therefore it has to be illegal, and I think that is the proper terminology for it.

We've heard the teachers' unions suggest that the style of this government has been very dictatorial and there's been a loss of democracy. Maybe for a moment, while we're into Bill 160, let's have a look at this dictatorial process.

With Bill 160 we had the two readings. We had hearings, a lot of hearings, which doesn't happen in a lot of other provinces. We've had extensive consultation about this reform going back to 1950, all kinds of things from some 24 reviews, two royal commissions, 10 regular commissions and committees, reports, two fact-finders. More recently, there's been the Sweeney report and in my riding we had several focus groups look at that.

Secondary school reform: The Education Improvement Commission has gone out and consulted with parents, with teachers, with students. It's been --

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe there's a quorum present.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Northumberland.

Mr Galt: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It's interesting to note we don't have an NDP or Liberal member in the House. We look forward to their return very shortly.

I was commenting about dictatorial process and I would like to refer you to what happened with the unions. The unions of the teachers called an illegal strike with no vote of the general membership. To me, that's dictatorial, that's dictatorship. They did have a few regional meetings with some delegates at them to vote, but that certainly is not the way you call a strike in a democratic sort of process. Then after the strike, at the end of it they returned without a vote. That, again, is illegal according to the books. They were supposed to have a vote. That's the way you go about democracy. To me, that was dictatorial.

I thought it was very unfortunate when the teachers and their students and the parents were out in Queen's Park at a great rally, meanwhile the leaders were back at the platform deciding how they were going to end the strike and go back to work without discussing or consulting at all with their membership. I think that's most unfortunate.

We've had an illegal strike that caught parents off guard. They weren't prepared and they had to make special arrangements for their children and they hadn't budgeted for this particular event. Teachers were caught off guard being asked to go out on an illegal activity. Many employers, thank heavens, were very, very understanding. I certainly commend the businesses and the employers who provided that flexibility and understanding at that time.

Certainly government felt it was important that they come through and help, and so $40 a day per family was committed at that point in time. A bill was designed to compensate parents and guardians for up to $40 a day per family for families with children under the age of 13, families with children who were in school and children with special needs who couldn't get into day care centres. It recognized things such as buses being unavailable or not running. It also recognized situations where it would be unsafe for children to cross picket lines, and it recognized programs that might not be available for special needs students.

I think it's very apropos that this $40 a day to be paid to parents would come from the school boards, the school boards that have saved money during this strike. Now, some continued to pay the teachers during the strike and that created a lot of public concern in opposition to the strike.

This bill is also designed to protect employees from employer reprisals if they were staying at home to look after their children during the strike, and that seems to me very much in order. As I mentioned earlier, we're very appreciative to the employers, to businesses. They were flexible and understanding. Some even set up small day care centres at their offices or places of business so parents could bring their children to work.

This bill is also designed to protect the rights of those teachers who wanted to teach while this illegal strike was going on and is demanding that there be no reprisals, whether it be from the federations, the branches or the affiliates, that they not have any suspensions, expulsion from their job or fine or expulsion from the union, regardless of how these teachers resisted an illegal strike, whether it was for not supporting an illegal strike, whether it was for opposing proposals for an illegal strike, for not withdrawing their services from an illegal strike or crossing an illegal picket line or for even advising another teacher against resisting an illegal strike.


It's very important that there be protection for teachers because I personally know of teachers who have been severely harassed following and during the strike, teachers who wanted to teach, who wanted to continue to work in a legal fashion and not go out on an illegal strike. Some of these teachers have actually had nervous breakdowns and there have been other rather traumatic things that have happened to several who did cross a picket line.

This bill is about protecting parents and about protecting children. I'm absolutely amazed and surprised that both opposition parties opposed the first reading. Normally it's just a voice vote, but they required that it be a counted vote. I'm very surprised at that. I'm very surprised at the leader of the official opposition, who made the welfare of children a cornerstone in his campaign for leadership. I also believe, if I remember correctly, that in his victory speech he also talked about the protection and the promotion of the wellbeing of children. Yet he, leading his party, voted against the first reading of this particular bill.

The Leader of the Opposition regularly talks about social justice issues and progressive social issues. He does an awful lot of talking yes and voting no. I think that's typical of the flip-flop of that party and the previous leader of that party, and I see it's continuing. I had a lot of respect when he was a member of that party. I thought he would change the direction of the party, but unfortunately they're continuing the same road of flip-flopping back and forth.

The Liberals have criticized this government for their agenda and their ideas on education reform, but they've come forward with absolutely no suggestions whatsoever. Recently, the Leader of the Opposition was on Focus Ontario and he stated there that the education system needs reform, but did he come forward in this House with any suggestions? No, it's just so much easier to criticize; no policy whatsoever. Maybe in the next election they'll have some policy.

Then the bill's about protecting employees. The NDP has stood for looking after the workers and the labourers in this country, and what did they do when this first reading came? Forced a vote and voted against the first reading of a bill, Bill 161, that's going to protect employees. They voted against it and it's very, very hard to understand why.

I think they have a lot of answering to do to the working moms and dads of this province as to why they would vote against this particular bill. Unfortunately, the NDP has been creating all kinds of unnecessary fear and emotion and spreading myths about Bill 160. Again, they haven't offered any constructive criticism other than their grandstanding and their screaming and their yelling. Unfortunately, for the working moms and dads of this province, they voted against Bill 161.

We're into this situation because of the preceding Bill 160. Bill 160 and its predecessor are all about looking at how education should be managed and how policy should be set in this province. You'll recall that in 1969 a lot of the powers of managing and setting policy were given to the county school board system, and over the years that's been eroded away from the county school board system by the very powerful unions they've had to deal with.

Just to give you an example of the Northumberland-Clarington board that I represent, in the last settlement they increased the elementary teachers by almost $2,000 per teacher and they bragged that was at no increase in taxes to the property owner. Then where did the dollars come from? We have phoned the board office and they will not tell us what the new pupil-teacher ratio will be. You can guess what it is. It's gone up significantly so that they could get a big increase at a time of literally zero inflation. That's why the class sizes are getting so large.

Let me tell you about the settlement the time before. The time before the secondary panel went from a pupil-teacher ratio of 14.9 to 15.2. The elementary panel went from 16.5 to 17. When I'm in a school like Murray Centennial and they ask me why in grade 8 there are 47 students, I respond to them that the pupil-teacher ratio is 17 to 1, where are the teachers? Are they resource teachers, are they on prep time, are they vice-principals, consultants? I don't know where they are and I'm still waiting for that answer. They've negotiated away the length of day; they've shortened up the day. They've negotiated increased PA days and PD days. The latest has been allowing partisan politics into the schools since the strike has been over. They've even allowed the green ribbon campaign into schools and promoted it, although they claim that's being done by parents.

They're even wasting resources such as paper, paper with letterhead, sending it home protesting what this government's doing, with little kids in kindergarten and grade 1 proudly bringing it home to mom and dad. What a misuse of our children, using them as pawns. Then they also have the nerve to fax their messages to my office at taxpayers' expense. You would think they could at least either deliver it or send it in regular mail with their stamp, not faxing it from a school at taxpayers' expense. It identifies why it's so important that we have the principals and the vice-principals out of the union so that maybe we can get a little control of these kinds of activities within the schools.

Yesterday I thought it was quite entertaining to go into the caucus office and find a collection of green apples all addressed to various members of the caucus. These are Granny Smith apples and I thought, "Isn't that rather impressive?" They even took a magic marker and wrote a little message on the outside. If you look a little further at these apples, they're imported apples. Ontario just took off a crop of 12 million bushels and they couldn't buy a few apples from the farmers of Ontario who just happen to be the taxpayers who are supporting their salaries. They call themselves the People for Education and I expect they came in their Japanese car, wearing their Korean clothes and Italian shoes. That's probably how they got those apples here. Then they expect businesses and industry to pay taxes to support the salaries of the teachers and school boards in this province.

I think what's most unfortunate about this gift was that they had written on them with magic marker and therefore we can't even donate these apples now to the local food bank. I'm sure the member for York South would be pretty upset to hear that. This demonstrates the insensitivity of People for Education and our unions. They have no sensitivity for the apple growers. If I was an apple grower, I'd be wearing a black ribbon today because of such a terrible thing that was done to them, that the local People for Education wouldn't buy an Ontario apple. It shows insensitivity to the taxpayers of Ontario. It shows insensitivity to the children we have in this province. It shows insensitivity to parents who wanted to work and to teachers who wanted to work, and there are many examples of harassment.

For a few minutes I'd like to talk about some of the myths that we've had put before us. There have been, to my latest count, some 33 myths that the opposition and the unions have tried to promote throughout this province.

The leader of the third party stood in this House and actually said that there's no mention of "student" in Bill 160 and this is why we had to bring in Bill 161 afterwards. But lo and behold, what's in the bill? It mentions "pupil" 244 times, but he had the nerve to suggest it didn't mention "student." That's the kind of silly emotion and rhetoric that's been spread across this province.

Mr Gary J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Bob Rae wouldn't have done that.


Mr Galt: That's right. That's when they had a leader. They had a leader who understood how to run it, and that was a leader who looked at the social contract.

They've also spread the myth about the power to fire and prosecute school board staff and trustees. In connection with trustees, it's been in the Municipal Act since 1935; we're just moving the same thing over and getting some control over the budgets and how they operate. If they're going into a great big deficit, then we can step in and do something. Certainly there's nothing there about firing a trustee.

Also they talk about firing teachers. Well, they're unionized, and you know how difficult it is to get rid of anybody who's in a union. They have all kinds of protection and they can negotiate just cause. Certainly there are provincial schools run by the province and the minister should have the right to fire teachers in those particular circumstances.

There has been a lot of talk about increasing class size because of this bill. But we have responded and we're putting right into the bill the maximum average class size that a school board can have. I don't know how much further you could take it than that, but they're still talking about this massive increase of class size.

They talk about refusing to give students a voice. In this bill, we're having students sit on the local school board and also on all the secondary school councils.

They talk about the loss of some 10,000 teachers. That is totally ridiculous. The number of teachers that will be employed will depend upon the local school board and how many it needs. There's nothing in this bill whatsoever that would suggest there are some 10,000 teachers going to be laid off. Yes, we're suggesting that we will have the secondary teachers work the same amount of instructional time as the average across Canada. It will increase, on the average, about a half-hour. But I think it's only fair that they should have the same instructional time as the average across Canada. That may mean we'll require a few less teachers in the secondary panel, but with attrition I don't see that this will be any problem whatsoever, especially when we put a quarter of a million dollars into the pension fund in our budget last spring if they would move to an 85 factor for teachers to retire. I know a very large number of teachers would like to do just that very thing. However, there has been resistance from the union. They don't see it that way, and that's most unfortunate.

In conclusion, this is a very important bill for this government, particularly with what has happened following Bill 160 and the strike that occurred during second reading and as we moved into hearings on that particular bill. As Ontarians, we're getting very tired of listening to the opposition criticize when in fact there's quite a consensus out there that education reform is needed. This bill is very important to help families who have been disrupted because of the strike and to compensate them for some of the problems that have occurred. Bill 161 is about fairness to parents, about fairness to employees with children and about fairness to teachers who wanted to teach during an illegal strike. I'm extremely pleased to be able to support Bill 161, the Fairness for Parents and Employees Act.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): In a very short period of time, the member for Northumberland has insulted and really angered the Japanese community and the Italian community; I'm sure he angered the trustees, the parents, the students and the teachers in Northumberland. I want to congratulate him. I think in 15 minutes he angered more people than anyone has ever even attempted to anger in a short period of time. But I can't understand what the logic of his presentation was. He doesn't seem to get it. Bill 161 is the product of Bill 160. This government caused Bill 160 to take place. They caused the political process to take place. Nobody else did it.

That's why the members on the other side are getting these -- "Don't Count on My Vote." This one is going to Mike Harris. It says, "Here's why you can't count" --

The Acting Speaker: Order. You're well aware of the rules. You make them; please go by them.

Mr Bartolucci: The postcard says, "Here's why I'm not voting for you, Mike Harris: I'm not voting for you because you wouldn't listen to my concerns on education; you wouldn't listen to my concerns about protecting my child's ability to have a quality public education system; you wouldn't listen to me when I tried to e-mail you. Why? Why, Mike Harris, are you not listening to me?"

I'll end off by reading what Neil Simmie said: "As an educator who decided to remain at work during the recent political protest, I wish to state my opposition to Bill 160. I wish that you would oppose Bill 160 entirely. Thank you for your time. Neil Simmie." That's the way people are thinking even if they did walk across the line and not join the political protest.


The Acting Speaker: Order. The heckling since supper has got out of hand. I want to warn you that if you feel it necessary to do that, go for a walk.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'd be more concerned with what the Tories had for supper if I was more generous in mind. I've got to say that the member for Northumberland makes the case. We've listened intently, we've listened day after day after day after day as the Minister of Education and the Premier of this province have stood in this House and said: "We're not against teachers. We don't have a problem with teachers. They're valued members of our society. They do such a wonderful job." As was mentioned earlier, the member for Northumberland got up in the House just now for 20 minutes and bashed about everybody in education, centred around teachers. Basically, what was he saying? Teachers are overpaid. That's what he was saying. He was blaming teachers and their pay for absolutely everything that's inside the school system.

I think most people understand what this government is up to. Bill 160 and its companion bill, Bill 161, are about what? They're about taking $1 billion out of education and taking control from the local, elected school board officials and having it reside directly in the minister's hands so that the Minister of Education and the Premier of this province can make the decisions they want around education.

The other thing I took great exception to is that the member for Northumberland said: "You know, we've been consulting. This issue has been consulted on since the 1950s." No government in the history of Ontario -- Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat -- up to this point ever decided to try to consult on the issue the way these guys are trying to do it, because no government in the past would have said, "We're going to take $1 billion out of education, and we're going to centre the control of education in the minister's office." These people have not consulted on this bill and that's why people are mad.

I would just muse for one second and try to remember where the member for Northumberland was some two and a half years ago on this night. He had his arm deep in a cow's centre, working and doing his job. I would expect that's exactly where this particular speech and where this member's mind is when it comes to the issue of education.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): It's obviously no surprise that that kind of comment would come from the member for Cochrane South. I'm going to focus on the member for Northumberland's comments. I want to congratulate him for what were obviously very insightful comments about Bill 161. I appreciate those remarks here. As well, I'd congratulate the minister because Bill 161 is highly appropriate, quite frankly.

I hear the member for Sudbury talking about a political protest, not calling it what it really was. We all know what it really was. It was an illegal strike. You know it and your constituents know it. I've got to tell you something else: The leader of your party, who protested on the picket line in an illegal strike, was incredibly irresponsible; your caucus knows it and the people of Ontario know it as well.

Bill 161 is going to focus on fairness. It's fairness to the parents, it's fairness to the students and it's fairness to teachers who wanted to go to work but in many ways couldn't. In fact, some did cross the line; I know in Brantford they did. It's about fairness. I'm pleased to be part of a government that's going to focus on fairness, focus on the needs of parents after what was obviously an illegal strike. To be quite frank --

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): No, I'm Frank.

Mr Ron Johnson: Oh, there's Frank there -- I wouldn't have thought in a million years that the leader of the official opposition would condone such a province-wide illegal action, and I'm certainly disappointed that he would do that.

As I say, this is about fairness. The $40 a day to families is incredibly important to the people in Brantford, those who never planned on having to face that kind of expense of added day care costs. I want to congratulate the member for Northumberland for his insightful remarks.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): As the previous speaker indicated, the member for Northumberland has certainly angered a good number of people, people who were initially angered by the comments made by the former Minister of Education, the present Minister of Education and of course the Premier himself. What the member has done here tonight is drive that knife in just a little bit further in his comments regarding what the teachers were doing for education in this province and what they were doing to bring forth an agenda to a government that would not listen and has shown throughout not only that performance but the performance over the last two years that they refuse to listen.

By coming forth now with this bribery, as I would call it, to bribe the parents of the students who need funding to care for their children, at this point is just an out-and-out bribe. I think a lot of people are seeing that. As they saw what those teachers were doing out there during their protest to show what was going to happen to education, now they see this government coming back and saying, "Okay, we're going to bribe you, but we're not going to bribe you with our money; we're going to bribe you with the money of the boards of education." They're passing on to the boards the authority to pay the $40 and the boards actually have to pay that out. The rules around it are very unclear. We've been told that no receipts are needed, anybody can apply for their $40 and not need to provide any proof at all.

To the member for Northumberland, I think as you spoke your polls may have just dropped a little bit more, being that you've upset a great number of people in this province in those 20 minutes.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Northumberland for a two-minute response.

Mr Galt: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for a chance to respond to some of the comments. I was quite surprised the member for Sudbury still doesn't understand the rules of this House. I gather if he doesn't understand those rules, his comments really don't bear very much weight.

Like yourself, I just talked with a principal last Saturday. He was from western Ontario. I told him I wouldn't let out what community he was from. I didn't know him prior to that meeting at all. He walked up to me after we had both been on the same program speaking and said: "Doug, the principals should be out of the union. The vice-principals should be out. You're doing absolutely the right thing and I'm fully supportive of Bill 160." Then he thumped me on the chest and said, "Whatever you do, don't let people in my area know." He was really upset that it might get back to his community. That's a principal in a high school just like yours.

The comments of the member for Cochrane South: The member talks about insulting teachers. I was not attacking teachers; I was attacking their union and their organization. You go through Hansard tomorrow and have a look. It was the unions I was referring to, not teachers. If there was any confusion, I'm pleased you brought it to my attention so I can clarify it.

Thanks very much to the member for Brantford for his kind comments about an illegal strike. It's a bill that is all about fairness; he's right on that it's a bill about fairness.

The member for Kenora was making some reference to insults that I may have made. Again, I was talking about the organization and I was talking about facts. If facts happen to hurt, that's unfortunate. It certainly was not directed at any particular individual; it was indeed directed towards the union.

I take it as a real insult on behalf of our party that you would refer to this as a bribe. That is a real insult. You don't understand the situation at all. If you have children, I wouldn't be surprised if you apply for that reimbursement of the cost you ended up having to spend, which really was most unfortunate.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'm pleased to participate in this evening's debate on Bill 161. I would like to make an opening comment related to the debate we just had, some of the comments of the member for Northumberland, who continued to argue vehemently for the actions of the teachers, their political protest, as being an illegal strike. I guess we could argue this back and forth all evening.

I would make one reference. That is that the judge who heard the case presented by the government in terms of the injunction said that the action of the teachers was a political protest because the action was not against their employers -- their employers, of course, are the school boards -- and therefore declared that it was not an illegal strike, it was a political protest. That's what he said.

Mr Guzzo: Who read the judgement, your wife? Come on, she's a teacher -- conflict of interest.

Mr Patten: The judge is going bananas over there.

The Acting Speaker: I mentioned it once and I mention it again: I'm a very patient person sometimes, but I did want to mention to a couple of you, and you know who you are, don't make me lose my patience, please.

Mr Patten: Well said, Mr Speaker.

When I was preparing my remarks for this evening, I listened very carefully to the words of our leader, and that's not Mike Harris, that's Dalton McGuinty. I want to quote what he has to say just in part, because I thought it was succinct in relation to it. He says what the government's trying to do with this bill is transparent. It's "a cynical attempt to buy favour with parents, who are extremely concerned about what's happening to education in Ontario. It's nothing more than that. Apparently they're going to come up with $40 a day for babysitting costs in order to reimburse parents."

Fine, but: "These are the real questions that parents are asking: How are they going to reimburse their kids for the loss of special education services since this government has been making cuts to those programs? How are they going to reimburse the 60,000 Ontario four-year-olds who have been deprived of junior kindergarten since the government stepped into power? How are they going to reimburse kids who have been deprived of the services of speech pathologists, school psychologists, librarians, ESL teachers? How are they going to help kids who are in those classrooms today where they don't even have books sufficient to meet their needs?"

If the government is really concerned about being fair to parents, then why isn't the government concerned all the time about helping families to find child care spaces for those who need them or arrangements for children as both parents or single parents have to go out to work? If the government is really concerned about being fair to parents and if children really are, as the minister has said, "our hope and dreams for the future" -- and we share that view -- if they're really responsive to our children's claims, then why does the government continue to take money out of the system?

Why is the minister being so punitive to teachers in this legislation with the prohibition on teachers' unions taking reprisals against any of their members who refuse to participate or who counselled or assisted others in not participating in the strike, when everyone knows that the teachers' federations said there would be no reprisals against anyone who did not participate in the province-wide protest which took place at schools across the province?

Mr Ron Johnson: Do you believe that?

Mr Patten: Yes, I do believe that. It seems to me that the bill adds a little bit of an insult to teachers and to teachers' federations. If the government was sincerely interested in protecting the rights and the interests of children and families and employees, as the minister said in his statement when he so hastily introduced this bill last week, he might instead consider some comprehensive policies to assist working families in this province.

The bill that we're debating is this bill. It's nine pages. As has already been said, it's really a compendium or a sister bill to Bill 160, which stimulated of course the reaction of this particular bill. The real root of this bill lies in Bill 160, and what I would like to start with this evening are some comments related to the backdrop of funding as it exists, and resources as they exist, in the school system today.

I was at the hearings for Bill 160 in Ottawa. The PA, the member for Middlesex, made the statement that this government claims it spends more money on education than ever before, and it says it spends more money than any other jurisdiction in all of Canada. Of course it spends more money than any other jurisdiction. We have a bigger population.



Mr Patten: No, we do not. The member across says, "Per capita." We do not. We're in fifth place.

I would like to give a bit of a backdrop. When that statement was made I asked the PA if he would kindly table the information based on those comments, and he did. He gave me a statement from the Ministry of Education and Training, and I found it quite revealing. What I would like to suggest to you is that when the government says that with these administrative streamlining costs the waste can be taken out of the system, there are a lot of costs that have been absorbed by school boards that the minister never mentions.

The minister never mentions, for example, the cost of the social contract, which was not started by you, it was started by the NDP; we know that. The school boards had budgeted on that money being returned to them. They had to absorb that. That was worth $425 million. Those are true losses that had to be absorbed.

We also had, for example, in 1995-96, the cuts that were in, $533 million. Then of course --

Mr Ron Johnson: Again, taxes went up.

Mr Patten: Mr Speaker, would you ask that young fellow over there if he would please pipe down.


Mr Patten: These facts are from the Ministry of Education. They're from your government. So if you want to take issue with them, then take issue with your own government.

Over the last five years the student enrolment has gone up 86,000 students throughout Ontario. Over the last decade they've increased by 250,000. As you know, the school boards cannot turn away a student; they can't turn away a child. They're entitled to universal education. They have to take that in. But was there any consideration in the budgets for that over the last period of time? No. So there's a very conservative small-c figure of $350 million to $400 million in costs that had to be absorbed by school boards.

I point this out because all these costs that add up and push the boards to the wall suggest that they've had already within their own budgets each year to absorb tremendous costs. Then of course on top of that we have the estimated costs of $350 million to $500 million -- I'll take the lower figure, $350 million -- for the amalgamation and transition costs of the amalgamation of various school boards and the restructuring. Then of course for 1998 there's a proposed $667-million cut again. When you add up all of these figures, we're talking about a net loss in excess of $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion to the school system.

I put these figures out and if some members feel that they're not correct because they're from the Ministry of Education and Training, that their figures are not correct, then I would be happy to ask them to give me the figures that are accurate. I have some questions about, for example, the growth from 1996 to 1997 in numbers of pupils. They usually go up 15,000 to 20,000, sometimes over that, each year. From 1996 to 1997 they went up a little over 1,000. I find that incredible; I think there's probably an error in there. But I took that figure, accepted it, and I put that out to you, saying that it represents in excess of $350 million to $400 million of absorptive costs that school boards have had to take on. Those are the silent cuts and the school boards absorb these particular costs.

I'd ask my friends if they would consider this as a reality and when they make statements that the boards are fat and that the boards have all kinds of waste that can be done, then I would challenge them and ask where they are going to reduce them.

I've had a chance to be on a panel in my particular riding or in Ottawa or parts of eastern Ontario. I've been at three at the moment, other than people who have called in or faxed in letters or have written letters or e-mailed. One of the things I find interesting when I start off is I ask them, "Who said this?" and I quote, "I shudder to think what would happen to education if control fell into the hands of the government."

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mike Harris.

Mr Patten: You see, my friend from St Catharines is so wise he knew. This was Mike Harris when he was president of the Northern Ontario School Trustees' Association. He felt quite differently at the time. He would shudder to think what would happen to education. I agree with the Premier on that statement, except he doesn't apparently feel the same way today.

I would also like to share a few comments by some reputable people. You may have --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Brantford, come to order.

Mr Patten: Some of you may have heard a debate recently on TVO with former Deputy Minister of Education Charles Pascal, who was a highly regarded and highly respected Deputy Minister of Education, I think universally by all sides of the House and by all parties.

His read of Bill 160 -- and I offer these divergent points of view because I think it's important that the people of Ontario, the hundreds of thousands who are watching this debate, indeed hear from the points of view of a variety of people in different fields. Mr Pascal of course isn't the deputy minister any more and he heads up a reputable organization, but he says, "Bill 160 has been exposed as a purely fiscal issue that has nothing to do with improving the quality of the school system." Contrary to what education minister Dave Johnson says, he says: "There is no educational reform in the bill. If the minister were Pinocchio, he couldn't fit his nose into a limousine."

Mr Bradley: Who said that?

Mr Patten: That's what Pascal added, much to the laughter of the people present. "You don't reform a system by gutting it," he says. He goes on to share some other perspectives on this. For those of you who haven't seen the TVO debates, you might be interested. There are copies around in the library that might be of interest.

I would also like to address one of the myths that I feel disheartened about in hearing some of the ministers talk about how poorly our Canadian students are doing. That's not to say of course that we can't do better. I think members on all sides of the House would agree that we always must look at where and how we can improve the quality of education and the results of testing of our students, no matter what. I don't think we would ever reach perfection, but there's always that to do. But there are those who say our system is not quite as bad as it's made out to be.

Mr Bradley: The Premier says it's great when he's in Europe.

Mr Patten: Sometimes the Premier says it's great when he's in Europe, but other times it's not so great when he's here and in debate.

The education reforms: Mr Robitaille, head of curriculum studies at UBC, acted as coordinator for the third international mathematics and science studies. He says that the nature of the reforms that are here today will not raise the test scores, as he understands it. The particular study that he referred to says that the study which examined the performance of Canadian students at three levels compared with that of students in four other countries prompted criticism of Canada's classrooms, but Mr Robitaille said that, while there was room for improvement in some areas, Canada is doing well in others.


At a Royal Society of Canada symposium entitled the wellbeing of Canada, Mr Robitaille asserted "Education is a familiar whipping boy of the press, especially when the Premier of Ontario is beating up on teachers." The symposium, which was held in Ottawa, attracted top academics from across the country. They examined the health care in five countries, they examined education etc.

"But some indicators contradicted," he said, "the doom-and-gloom portrayal of Canadian classrooms. For example, Canadian students did relatively better in this round of testing than they did in a similar mass study about 15 years ago. As well, there was no difference in the achievement of Canadian boys and girls," a big difference from what was happening 15 years ago, "and Canadian students felt good about math and science, while Japanese and Korean students performed better but had more negative ideas about how they were doing in their particular subjects."

Then it goes on to say that while Japan, Korea and Singapore, Austria and the Czech Republic did better than students in many countries, Canada did better than Norway, Britain, Germany and New Zealand. Is that good enough? Of course it isn't and we have to do better. But I just try to share that view in terms of that particular perspective.

For those who choose not to listen to the comments that are made in terms of phone calls in your riding offices, and I say this to all members, I must say to you that the first two days of the teachers' protest the phone calls that I was getting were about two to one in favour of the government position. That was true. Then, as the protest went on for a week or so, 10 days later, there was an enormous reversal. It was about eight or nine to one in favour of the teachers or against Bill 160.

The point I think this illustrates is that while the government would choose to limit the opposition in its ability to cause the government to stall for a time on significant bills, it points out that in our style of so-called democracy, which I fear we have lost, that had the teachers not taken the actions they had, the public would not be as aware, the media would not be as aware and many people would not be as aware of what was the true significance and the implications in the full dimensions of Bill 160, and therefore it's important now.

I also want to share with you -- and I know that the government will have these polls too, but just in a tiny summation taken from Pollara poll, 90% of Ontarians are concerned about the quality of education, more than before; 69% have not been impressed with Mike Harris's handling of education; 52% believe that the quality of education has decreased since Mike Harris took office; 74% feel that the quality of health care has also decreased; 47% feel that the quality of education will decrease over the next 12 months, and that was before Mike Harris admitted that he was cutting $667 million out of the budget.

I would like to share a view from a person by the name of Andrew Brodie who wrote in and said, "_Bill 160 reads that any trustee of a board of education who disagrees with an order of the Minister of Education regarding the allocation of funds and expresses a disagreement in a vote can be removed from office at the behest of the minister, be disqualified for five years from holding any office in which elections are held under the Municipal Act, 1996, or under Bill 160 and, furthermore, is liable for court costs."

What he's attempting to say is that he's concerned about democracy. I have literally hundreds of letters that have come to me from people who are worried about democracy, and they well should be because we've lost some democratic opportunities through Bill 26 and we will lose some democratic opportunities for people and members under Bill 160. I see my time is up, Mr Speaker. Thank you.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): With respect, not so quick, Speaker. We don't have a quorum. I trust it is the responsibility of the 82 members who represent government to at least have enough people here. Would you kindly --

The Acting Speaker: No, you made your point. A speech is not necessary.

Mr Pouliot: Quorum call.

The Acting Speaker: Would you please check if there is quorum.

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Pouliot: As always, I've enjoyed the very factual and very timely, current remarks of my friend and colleague from Ottawa Centre regarding both Bill 160 and Bill 161. He's correct when he mentions Bill 161, that's the kind of guilt trip that the government has endeavoured after Bill 160. Even they must have felt very guilty, so they've used the proverbial 30 pieces of silver, the kind of blood money to buy favours, to buy the love back from the populace. That money comes from the children. It comes from the school boards, it comes from the pockets of those women, those men who are teachers. It's called a bribe, and all you have to do is write your name on a ticket and hope that one of them picks it and then you will have your $40, la payola, and then they will tax you to death.

Let me tell you, at the same time Marlene Fraser from our Lady of Lourdes, Manitouwadge, this is what she has to deal with. She needs the $40 a day for chalk. Peter Scofield --

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): It's broken.

Mr Pouliot: It's broken, indeed. This is the limit --


Mr Pouliot: Oh yes, $40 for the populace, to lure people in, to seduce them, but you don't have a pencil to write with. If you're Miss Turner from the Manitouwadge public school whose mother and father are on general assistance --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Pouliot: So I say, Mr Speaker, this is the bill. This is what they should do with it. Give it to the people for school supplies.

The Acting Speaker: I would like to say to the member for Lake Nipigon, this type of conduct is totally out of order and not acceptable. We don't throw objects in the House. We don't expect that from any members of Parliament, and I would ask you to come and pick up your item. Come and pick it up.


The Acting Speaker: Order. I'm not finished. I would ask you for an apology also, please.

Mr Pouliot: On behalf of the good people I represent, maybe I've gone a little overboard and emotions got the best of me. I'm the victim of my own honesty and I apologize, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments?


Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): I want to comment on a few of the things that were said. First of all, there was a comment early in the member opposite's remarks saying that a judge had ruled this was not an illegal strike. The judge had no such ruling when he ruled on the injunction. There was an injunction applied for by the government on the basis that if the strike continued, there would be irreparable damage. He ruled only that there was no irreparable damage and made no ruling whatsoever on an illegal strike.

The fact is that everybody in this province knows this was an illegal strike. I think Mr McGuinty is going to have to live with that fact: This was an illegal strike. He'll have to live with that fact, despite the fact that a few years earlier he had a private member's bill saying teachers shouldn't even be allowed to strike legally. I guess maybe he feels they can strike illegally but not legally. He'll have to live with that, in any case.

People say we provoked this so-called protest; we call it an illegal strike. We didn't provoke anything. We're passing a piece of legislation. Perhaps there was a lot of bad reaction to it because of a lot of the myths that exist. Let's talk about some of these myths that exist.

First of all, the government wants the unilateral power to close schools. It's absolutely incorrect. The government will introduce a new approach to funding that for the first time would fairly fund schools, fairly fund school maintenance and construction based on the real needs of students attending school. The government does not have unilateral power to permanently close a school.

Another myth: The government wants the power to fund private schooling through vouchers and to create so-called charter schools. Charter schools aren't even mentioned in that bill. We're not going to be bringing in charter schools.

Mr Bradley: That last statement will be one that will be remembered in this House because I think there isn't anybody who doesn't know that among the Conservative caucus there are many who in fact want to see charter schools in this province and would openly say so. I would be very surprised if that were not the case, not the agenda behind this.

I'm glad the member gave a speech which reflected the truth about the funding model in this province. We haven't seen the final funding model, but he has the facts and figures which he has gleaned from the Ministry of Education. If others want to find some interesting information about this government and the bills it's bringing forward, they should read a book called The Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution. This book is written by John Ibbitson who is with Southam News Services. It's available at your local bookstore and it is Prentice Hall Canada. It would make a good gift for the holiday season because there are many people who compliment the book on the back. There are some other books out today -- I'll talk about those perhaps later on in the evening -- about the Harris government that bring you an inside --

I know the member is worried that when he hears members get up to speak, he's really hearing Guy Giorno. He's seeing certain members, such as my friend from Wentworth, get up but he seems to think that perhaps it's Guy Giorno who is speaking. That is what I and my colleague are worried about, that instead of getting up and giving their own views on education, as we hope they would, they have a script which is written by Guy Giorno. I can't think of what riding Guy Giorno was elected in, or any of the other whiz kids who run this government. I'm sure my friend the Solicitor General in his heart of hearts must wonder about that as well.

Mr Kormos: One has to marvel at the constantly changing nature of the responses from these government backbenchers. They've been scripted. They've got their little cheater notes. They've received their marching orders. They know what the consequences are. The consequences are to lose some of the perks, some of the luxuries that attach to being a PA or a Chair of a committee or a Vice-Chair.


Mr Kormos: In the caucus meeting. We were there, we heard it. It was: "Stick with me. Now's not the time to start cracking, guys. Now's the time to stick together because we ram this 160 through and Bill 152 and 142 in three successive days, we ram it through and we're two weeks before Christmas. Then we're going to have a two- or three-month hiatus and things will cool down out there. Don't worry if we keep up this line about the unions and the union bosses. Hang with me, guys, we're going to be okay."

Well, you've been led down the garden pathway by your Premier. You've been set up. The question to be asked, and of course it's improper, is, where has the Premier been? How come you guys are here taking the heat for him? How come Mike Harris ain't here taking the heat? How come he can be long gone, out of town, out of sight, out of sound, out of view of the public, and he sends you guys out to take the heat? For Pete's sake, you're not paid enough for that. You're selling your souls and you're compromising your principles for a Premier who can't and won't take the heat for his own actions. You're reading your cheater notes. It looks like it; it sounds like it. There isn't a person in this province who doesn't understand the scam you guys are trying to pull off. They know what you're doing.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa Centre, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Patten: I'd like to thank the member for Lake Nipigon for his initial eloquent statement and his flamboyant manner of making his point. I understand that Mrs Bartolucci, who is not a member of the House but is related to a member of the House, is a teacher and she doesn't have one of those staff lines.

Mr Kormos: It's broken.

Mr Patten: I know. In spite of it being broken, she doesn't even have one.

The member for Wentworth East: I would like to correct the record. He referred to the leader of our party as saying that he'd ban strikes. He did not. He suggested that there be a limit on the time a strike may go on. I think the record should be straightened out.

But I would like to ask him, if the government is so honest, why is it that at this stage we have not yet seen the funding formula? One can only come to the conclusion that because it is not part of the bill or it is not at least introduced at the same time as the bill, one might not be able to answer the cynics who say, "Because it ain't going to be so good." I suspect that's what's going to happen.

There will probably be more equality of funding, but I suspect there will be less for everybody all the way around. It will not be an improvement of resources, it will be less, and the vehicles that are there are going to provide the government with a way in which to garner, to control resources, to retrieve resources, to take money right out of education and to limit the degree of participation from school boards, from teachers, from students and from members of this House on all sides. I think that's a sad thing.

I refer the book The Promised Land by Mr John Ibbitson to anyone who would like an insight into the way in which this government operates.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bisson: I'd ask for unanimous consent for me to go 10 minutes and for Mr Pouliot to take my 20 minutes on the next rotation.

The Acting Speaker: Unanimous consent? No.

Mr Bisson: Okay, I guess I get the 20 minutes. Tough luck, Gilles. I've always wanted to say that.

Bill 161 is an interesting bill. I want to start off my presentation on Bill 161 by starting off with Roget's Thesaurus, the new thesaurus, third edition. In it, you find the words "fix, graft, payola, payoff, grease someone's palm" as definitions of a word that is defined as "anything given or serving to persuade to induce somebody to do something" or "any valuable consideration given or promised for corrupt behaviour in the performance of official or public duty." It is called a bribe. That's what this bill is.

The government members of this House have brought forward this bill because they have to do some damage control. As a government they introduced Bill 160, which does a whole bunch of stuff in order to, first of all, take over $1 billion out of education; and second, concentrate the powers that are presently residing with local school boards in our municipalities in the hands of the cabinet of Ontario.

The government started out on this project and they thought: "We can do this. We can get away with it. The public aren't going to really care, because we're going to direct all our anger towards the teachers. We're going to make the teachers the fall guys for everything that's going on in the education system, and then somehow or other we're going to be able to get away with what we're doing and nobody will notice, because we're going to be so busy beating up on teachers and talking about how bad they are and how overpaid they are and how they don't want to accept change, that everyone will be listening to our buzzwords that we use as a government." They were going to be able to do the kinds of changes they wanted. It didn't quite happen that way.


The government introduced the bill with that plan and what happened was that the people of the province of Ontario read Bill 160 -- not everybody, but a good number of them. The columnists read Bill 160, members of the opposition read Bill 160, school trustees, students, teachers and others, and they found out what this bill was all about and they got upset. Finally the teachers of Ontario said, "We have to take political action." For the first time in the history of the province teachers went out on a political protest against what was a political act on the part of this government. To do what? To bring attention to what this government was doing. That they did, and I think quite successfully, because for two weeks, as the political protest was going on, people started realizing what this government was all about and what this government was going to do in education.

People started to understand. The government wanted to take over $1 billion out of education. How? They had already taken close to $800 million out of education since 1995, and according to the government's own document, a performance contract that was leaked by Howard Hampton, the leader of the NDP, we learned that the government put, by way of a performance contract to the Deputy Minister of Education, a clause that said if she was successful in taking roughly $670 million out of the system of education, she would get a bonus.

So $800 million plus $670 million is over $1 billion, and that's what this government is doing. By way of Bill 26, by way of Bill 160 and by way of the bill that reforms the school boards as far as making them larger, and by way of action of the cabinet, this government is taking over $1 billion out of education. They are also going to take the control, the decision-making powers that are now residing with local boards, where parents have influence in their communities, away from local communities and put them directly in the hands of the cabinet of Ontario. Why? Because this government quite frankly doesn't trust trustees and doesn't trust boards, in the words of the government itself.

This government had a problem. The teachers went out on a political protest, people started looking at what the government was up to and the government realized it had a political problem. It wasn't just teachers who were upset; the public, the parents, the students, the trustees, municipal aldermen, the clergy, all kinds of people were upset about what this government was doing in education and they decided they had to do something about it. They had to try to find some way of getting to the public and trying to do some damage control around what they had done with bill 160.

They came up with this brainy idea. They said, "We can say the reason that people are going to lose all of their day care arrangements..." because they've used schools as a day care arrangement, I guess. They were going to give any parent who applied with a child under the age of 13, according to the rules of the minister, 40 bucks a day per family for the duration of the two weeks that the political protest went on.

That's what this bill is all about. Bill 161 is about trying to buy the favour of the people of Ontario. That's what this bill is all about. It's a cynical attempt on the part of the government to buy the favour of the public because they've done a bad deed when it comes to education. The government may get upset that we put it in those terms, but that's exactly what this is all about.

I say to the members across the way, if you're wondering why the public of Ontario is upset at you and you're wondering why you're getting phone calls by the hundreds in your constituency offices and you're wondering why your faxes are lit up all the time and you're wondering why people are dropping by your constituency office or calling you, it's because they're upset. They're looking at what you're doing in education and they're saying, "We're worried."

This from a government that campaigned in 1995 under the Common Sense Revolution, under the leadership of Mike Harris, who said what? "We will not cut one cent from education when it comes to the dollars spent in the classroom." That's what they said in the Common Sense Revolution. Then they've got the gall to come into this House and say, "We're holding our promises." They're not holding their promises, because when you go into the classrooms across the province, what do you find? You're finding larger class sizes because of the cuts that have been done up to now, you're finding that programs are being cut in school boards, and that is the truth. They can't run away from this, these Reform Tories. Programs are being cut across this province -- everything from junior kindergarten to adult education programs to other programs that are necessary when it comes to arts and sciences in the province. Why? Because the government has taken over $800 million out of the education system up to now.

The government tries to play with these figures. During the political protest, the government held a hurried press conference. They called the Minister of Finance and others to explain and show on graphs and charts that they were spending more money on education than ever before. But the media went there and said: "Hang on a second. You guys are fudging the numbers. You guys are playing with the books. You're not talking about what is really happening with education." They were trying to count new expenditures, the money they have to give as an employer to the teachers' pension plan, the increase. Plus, if you remember, the government froze capital spending on new school construction for the first year and a half that it was government, and now, at this particular time, are starting to reinvest money back into our schools. They're trying to talk about that as an increase. It's not a question of increase. We have less money going into our classes.

We're seeing in the community of Timmins the kinds of effects that could have. For example, what did the government do when they first got elected? One of the first things they did in education was they went to the Timmins Board of Education, they went to the Roman Catholic separate school board of the city of Timmins and to other boards across the province and said, "We will not pay for adult education, we will not pay for junior kindergarten and we will not pay for a whole bunch of other educational programs" that they see as frivolous. Now we're seeing the effects of that.

What we have is a government that has a view of education that is backwards, that is from 40 years ago, that doesn't look forward and doesn't look at the reality of today. My God, we have the Premier of the province of Ontario -- I believe it was the Premier; correct me if I'm wrong; if it wasn't the Premier, it was the former Minister of Education -- who in musing in a press conference said: "I don't see what's good in teaching people geography and history. What does that have to do with anything?" My God, a member of the cabinet -- I can't remember if it was the Premier or the former minister. It was the Premier of Ontario who stands at a press conference and muses about how geography and history are lessons that we should not be teaching in our classrooms. My God, can you believe that?

Maybe this government believes that nobody should learn from what has happened in the past. Maybe they believe we should all forget what happened before and only fixate on what the government is doing today. I don't know what to believe, but it's preposterous for this government to have those kinds of views and for the Premier of this province to make the kinds of comments he has done now.

What is Bill 161 about? Pure and simple, it's about damage control. The teachers and the parents and the trustees, and the Catholic Church in some cases and other Christian churches, and a whole bunch of other people, along with students, banded together and said: "Which way can we slow this government down? Which way are we able to make amendments to Bill 160 or have it withdrawn?" They thought, "We're going to put pressure on the backbenchers of the government." That strategy was working, somewhat. We were seeing different members, like the member for Grey-Owen Sound and the member for Hamilton Mountain and the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore all of a sudden talking out loud about how they were having problems with this bill and giving indications that they might vote against it.

They gathered all those people together in caucus and they scared the bejesus out of them. They told them: "If you don't listen and if you don't follow what your whip is telling you to do and you don't follow the direction of the Premier of Ontario, this, this, this and that will happen to you. Do not step out of line." They came down heavily on these people and didn't allow them to do what they were elected to do, and that is to stand up and represent the people of their riding.

I came from a government where between 1990 and 1995 a number of times members of our government voted against government initiatives. We didn't see that as a weakness; we saw that as members having the decency to represent their ridings. Not everybody in the caucus agrees when it comes to a particular issue. On the social contract we had a number of members, I think about 10, who voted against; on the casino, we had members who voted against; on a number of different initiatives, because we believe as the New Democratic Party that it's important, yes, that we band together in a caucus of social democrats, but also have the ability as members to express our opinions and express, more importantly, the views of the people who elected us on an issue of conscience. But this government caucus of Tories doesn't believe that. They talk about free votes and: "We're all individuals and we do the right thing. We represent our constituents and, oh yeah, we're really good at it."


They've been whipped. The whip has gone over and cracked the discipline on to those particular members. That's what has happened. It's because of this that we're seeing members musing about voting now. I don't even want to get into what they did in order to get them to that point. It's a pretty sad thing when we have the government moving in the direction they are when it comes to public education.

L'éducation comme on la connaît est quelque chose qui est très important, pas pour aujourd'hui seulement mais pour l'avenir. Les élèves de l'Ontario ont besoin de savoir que le meilleur système d'éducation est à leur disponibilité. Ils ont besoin de savoir que, quand ils entrent à la première année et qu'ils ressortent à la fin de la douzième ou de la treizième année, puis ils s'en vont au collège ou à l'université, ils ont fait partie d'un système d'éducation qui a aidé à bâtir la connaissance nécessaire pour être capable de s'établir dans le marché de demain.

Le gouvernement de l'Ontario a une responsabilité de s'assurer que le système d'éducation n'est pas un système où on fait des retraites, mais un système d'éducation où on regarde vers l'avenir, qu'on essaie de bâtir un système d'éducation qui est plus fort. Moi, ce qui me bouleverse vraiment avec ce gouvernement, c'est voir à première main les attitudes de ce gouvernement envers l'éducation, et deuxièmement leurs actions. Quand ça vient à l'attitude, on a vu membre après membre du gouvernement, après le premier ministre, après des membres du cabinet, faire des commentaires sur l'éducation qui sont totalement négatifs.

Ils essayent de faire croire au monde que le système d'éducation est brisé, qu'il ne marche pas, qu'il est pourri, qu'il ne fait rien de bon, puis ils essayent de nous faire croire que tout ce qu'ils ont besoin de faire, c'est pour l'améliorer. Mais les Ontariens et les Ontariennes ne sont pas stupides. Ils savent qu'en Ontario on a un bon système d'éducation. Oui, on peut toujours le bâtir et le faire mieux, mais généralement on a un système d'éducation qui marche.

Justement, combien de compagnies américaines et autres compagnies d'outre-mer viennent ici en Ontario pour recruter, pour aller rechercher nos élèves en médecine, nos élèves comme ingénieurs, nos élèves dans toutes sortes d'autres professions qui ont pris leurs connaissances à travers notre système d'éducation ? Vont-ils aller nous rechercher nos jeunes s'ils ne sont pas bons ? C'est parce qu'ils sont reconnus comme étant les meilleurs. Ce gouvernement dans son attitude temps après temps, chance après chance, parole après parole essaie de nous dire que ce système-là ne marche pas. C'est faux.

Deuxièmement, on n'a non seulement un gouvernement avec une attitude qui essaie de nous dire que ça ne marche pas, ils disent des affaires contre le système d'éducation, contre les enseignants et les enseignantes de la province qui sont vraiment épouvantables. Le premier ministre, M. Harris, et je ne le crois pas, m'offense quand je l'écoute. Il se lance dans un _media scrum_ puis il essaie de nous dire : «Bien, écoute, le système d'éducation n'est pas trop bon. Après tout, on a enseigné des affaires comme l'histoire et la géographie, quoique ça n'a à faire avec rien. Ce n'est pas important que les jeunes apprennent l'histoire et la géographie. C'est mieux qu'ils apprennent comment lire et comment écrire et faire des mathématiques._ Écoute, il parle du temps de 1910, le premier ministre. On ne demeure pas en 1910, on demeure dans les années 1990.

Un gouvernement et un premier ministre qui se lèvent debout et essaient de faire croire que les valeurs du commencement de ce siècle sont plus importantes pour l'éducation que ce dont on a besoin aujourd'hui, c'est un homme qui n'a pas, dans mon opinion, le droit d'être le premier ministre de cette province. On voudrait avoir un premier ministre qui croit en nos valeurs ontariennes. On voudrait avoir un premier ministre qui regarde vers l'avenir et ne regarde pas toujours en arrière et essaie de dire, «Reculons au bon vieux temps de 1910 à 1930._ Nous autres, on n'est pas intéressés.

On regarde un système d'éducation avec les réformes que le gouvernement fait, et je veux vous laisser savoir ce que M. Charles Pascal -- vous le connaissez, il est l'ancien sous-ministre de l'Éducation -- a à dire des réformes du projet de loi 160. Il dit que cet exercice est seulement fiscal, qu'il n'a rien à voir avec des changements positifs en éducation, et que si le gouvernement est sérieux et veut faire des réformes positives en éducation, il fait rapport au projet de loi 160 pour dire qu'elle n'y a rien à voir. C'est l'ancien sous-ministre de l'Éducation qui nous le dit. Il y a un problème dans la province de l'Ontario quand on voit un gouvernement prendre ces actions.

Ce qu'on doit faire est très simple. On doit adopter, dans mon opinion, deux stratégies quant à ce gouvernement, ses attitudes et son agenda contre l'éducation et d'autres choses : à court terme, qu'on essaie de les ralentir. Nous, les Ontariens et les Ontariennes, on doit faire tout dans notre pouvoir pour nous mobiliser. On doit mettre de la pression sur les membres du gouvernement Harris pour les laisser savoir qu'on est mécontents avec ce qu'ils font, non seulement en éducation mais quand ça en vient à toutes sortes de projets de loi que ce gouvernement essaie de passer et qu'ils vont passer.

À plus long terme, on a besoin de s'organiser comme population, parce qu'une journée il va venir une élection provinciale, et la population va falloir faire une décision : est-ce qu'on veut continuer sous la direction de M. Harris, une direction qui fait reculer la province de l'Ontario à un bon vieux temps, à un temps où les travailleurs n'avaient pas de droits, à un temps où les jeunes n'avaient pas un bon système d'éducation, à un temps où on n'avait pas un système médical où, quand on était malade, on pouvait se faire servir sans penser à combien d'argent on avait dans la poche ? Veut-on regarder et essayer de bâtir un meilleur avenir, une meilleure province pour tous les Ontariens et Ontariennes ?

Comment est-ce qu'on fait ça ? On s'organise politiquement. On dit, dans mon cas, qu'on s'organise avec le Nouveau Parti démocratique. Puis on dit que du moins ce parti-là a des valeurs qui sont plus associées à ce que je pense sont les valeurs de cette province, et on travaille avec ce parti-là, politiquement, pour organiser les comtés. On propose et on supporte des candidats à travers la province afin d'arriver aux prochaines élections pour jeter ce gouvernement dehors et l'oublier pour un bon longtemps.

Pourquoi ? Parce qu'on ne peut, comme province, avoir un autre quatre à cinq ans avec ce gouvernement, parce que si on le fait, il ne restera rien quand ça en vient à l'Ontario qu'on a tous connu.

La question de cette Loi 161 est très simple. Le gouvernement de l'Ontario essaie d'acheter les électeurs de cette province avec ce projet de loi parce qu'ils savent qu'ils ont fait une grosse erreur en ce qui a trait à la Loi 160. Ils savent qu'ils ont pris trop de pouvoir, qu'ils vont retirer trop d'argent du système d'éducation, puis ils essaient de trouver une manière de racheter les électeurs qui les ont élus en 1995. Monsieur le Président, je vous le dis, ça ne va pas marcher.

Mr Galt: What a speech we had from Cochrane South, continuing with the myths, continuing with the exaggerations and trying to build up emotion here in Ontario. He couldn't even get a quote from the CSR, the Common Sense Revolution, correct. Let me give the quote to you so you really understand what was in it. It's under the heading of "Protecting Priority Services" and it says:

"Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed.

"That does not mean that savings cannot be found elsewhere in the education system. Too much money is now being spent on consultants, bureaucracy and administration. Not enough is being invested in students directly.

"Our principle of `classroom-based budgeting' will help ensure that this essential service is protected and, indeed, that excellence in education and training is enhanced."

Under the heading "Finding the Savings," page 11:

"Reform education

"For years now, we have been spending more and more on education, but getting less and less in the classroom.

"Interprovincial comparisons are worse. Ontario spends $14 billion a year on primary and secondary education -- more per pupil than any other province -- and still gets a failing grade.

"We believe Ontario's education system is in need of system-wide reform, based on the principles of providing opportunity to students, excellence in curriculum and teachers, and accountability to parents and taxpayers."

I suggest that we're doing exactly what was in the Common Sense Revolution and we're carrying it out.

The member for Cochrane South also suggests we're taking $1 billion out of education. Well, so far, we've had to continue to spend more than before, mainly because of the agreement their government made in connection with the pension for the teachers. They stripped out dollars from the pension that they owed; we had to catch it up. That was another way of hiding the debt and very, very unfair to the taxpayers of Ontario.

This government is committed to spending what it takes for quality education, something the previous government wasn't. The only glimmer of hope we saw from them was the social contract.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Northumberland, in the future wait until the Chair asks for questions and comments. You were too quick.

Mr Galt: I was too anxious.

The Acting Speaker: That's right.


Mr Bartolucci: I'd like to thank my colleague from Cochrane South for his very informative and accurate words. There is absolutely no question at all what the intent of this government was with Bill 160, what it is with 160, and because of that, we had the political protest by the teachers which caused the need for Bill 161.

I suggest to you, as the member for Cochrane South has said, there is less money in classrooms today than there was last year and the year before. Operating grants to school boards have gone down. Operating grants are money that goes directly into the classrooms, so I suggest to the member across the way that the member for Cochrane South is in fact accurate. You are spending less money in classrooms. You are breaking that promise that you referred to.

I might suggest further that this is all about this government wanting to beat up on teachers, wanting to destroy the public education system, wanting to start a very unique but really two-tier educational system that's doomed to disaster for the average child and the average student in Ontario. That's what the member for Cochrane South is saying to you and to the people of Ontario and he's right on.

Your agenda is wrong for the students of Ontario. What the member for Cochrane South said is accurate: Your agenda will destroy quality education. He backs that up with the former Deputy Minister of Education, Charles Pascal, who said in fact that this government's agenda will ruin public education; it will not enhance it.

I refer to a grade 9 student in Sudbury, Laurel O'Gorman, when she said: "The scars of Bill 160 will be with us for a very long time. Withdraw Bill 160."

Mr Kormos: Once again the member for Cochrane South has addressed this issue in a context which is most revealing of the true agenda of this government. The member for Cochrane South talks about this Premier's indifference to post-secondary education, the devaluation of education, the fact that this Premier, whose library consists of one copy of Mr Silly which he may or may not have read, dismisses post-secondary education. He talks about how it's irrelevant. I suppose in his world, in Mike Harris's world, quality education is irrelevant. Just how much post-secondary education do you need to flip hamburgers at one of his McJobs? The jobs that this government has created are inevitably part-time, temporary and minimum wage or, as often as not and increasingly so, subminimum wage. This is part of this government's agenda: Drive wages down.

Part of this government's agenda is to defeat the trade union movement and destroy the progress that workers have made over the course of decades and generations, developing protection for themselves as a collective workforce in their workplace; protection against bosses who would dismiss them with a snap of the fingers or who would discard them once they're injured in what we still witness as increasingly, sadly, tragically unsafe workplaces.

This member for Cochrane South, my friend Gilles Bisson, has hit the nail on the head. It's tough for this government to take. It's tough for its members to take, because it doesn't click with their crib notes. It doesn't click. It doesn't coincide with the cheat notes they've got, the scripts they've been given to try to peddle Bills 160 and 161.

I want folks to keep watching, because Gilles Pouliot will be speaking in a few minutes. He will have more to say from northern Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? The member for Brampton North.

Mr Bisson: En français.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Je parle français mal, moi. Sorry.

In regard to the comment that the last people have indicated, I just want to not read from the cheat sheets from which we've been accused of reading but rather read from someone who has published this publicly. It says --

Mr Kormos: Tell us who.

Mr Spina: Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun.

"One of the silliest criticisms is the one from people like NDP leader Howard Hampton. `This bill has nothing to do with students,' they say. `There's no mention of the word "student" in the entire bill.' Well, duh. No, that would be because, you see, the legal term used in the Education Act is `pupil.' Bill 160 does, however, mention `pupil' 244 times.

"What's most bizarre is that no one seems to question the political reality in all of this. Why would any government follow the scorched earth policy that teachers' unions have attributed to the Tories? The goal of any government is to get re-elected. If the Tories did what the unions say they're going to do, they would be committing political suicide.

"What is the alternative to Bill 160? What happens if it doesn't pass third reading? Well, the answer is easy. Unions will have won the divine right to rule in our schools and we will have betrayed our kids and the school system. It will be doomed."

The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, you have 10 minutes.

Mr Bisson: Ten minutes. My Lord.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, two minutes.

Mr Bisson: I start out with 10, I go to 20 and now I get 10 on two. That's not bad. New math, right?

To the member for Northumberland, I would just say that you got up and I thought you read quite accurately what the Common Sense Revolution said, which is that you would not take any money out of the classroom. That's exactly what you guys are doing. You're doing the complete opposite of what you promised in the Common Sense Revolution. You said you'd take no money out of the education system through the classroom; that's exactly what you're doing.

We are seeing across Ontario dollars being taken out of boards of education and more to come -- at least $670 million to come -- where it's going to be directly affecting the classroom now. We know in communities across Ontario that JK is no longer offered. That's classroom. We know that in communities across the province the government of Ontario did, a year and a half ago, cut the entire funding, or pretty well most of it, of adult education. School boards are now having to go into moneys that they were using for other programs. If they decide to keep adult education running, they are having to go into moneys for other programs in order to fund adult education. Where do you think that comes from, member for Northumberland? It comes out of the classroom.

So don't stand with your Common Sense Revolution somehow thinking that you've kept your promise because you have not. You have broken your promise with the people of Ontario. You're doing exactly the opposite of what you said you'd do in the Common Sense Revolution. The dollars are coming out of the classroom.

I would say to the member for Brampton North, your English is not much better than your French. I thought your comments, if they come from Christina Blizzard, and she's on the opposite side than I am, I think I'm doing okay. Christina Blizzard has never been known to be -- how would you say? Well, I won't say. It's probably better not to say. But if that's all you can quote, I think you're in trouble.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to my colleague's bill this evening and I'd like to congratulate the Minister of Labour for his thoughtful bill.

As presented by the minister, the Fairness for Parents and Employees Act will certainly help all the individuals who were affected by the teachers' illegal strike in three different ways.

First, the act will enable a payment of up to $40 per day to parents or guardians of children who were unable to attend public school during the strike. This money is not taxable and no receipts are required. This will include all children of 13 years and younger, whether they be in the public school system, day care or nurseries or in special needs in the secondary school system.

The strike caused a great deal of inconvenience in Ontario to many parents and to several teachers. However, the money saved by the school boards from unpaid striking teachers' salaries will assist the victims, the families. It will not cover all the costs lost during the strike but it will help families in need. It will not cost the taxpayers any money; the money is already there in unpaid teachers' salaries.

In fact, after the bill is passed, should the bill be passed, there will be a form to request the $400 payment. What I'd like to see on that form is a box that parents can tick off when they're applying for their $400 to donate the money back to the school, should they so chose, to help buy books, donate for a computer. Certainly, if they believe that the money is deserving in the classroom, they should put the $400 back.

Second, the act will protect employees who were unable to work during the strike because they had to care for their kids. This is an important measure since no employee should be dismissed or have to suffer because of the nature of the illegal and unlawful strike by teachers' unions. Employers are prevented from dismissing any employee who had to take care of a child during the illegal strike. Working parents have to be protected from any repercussions at their place of work, and this bill will accomplish that measure.

Third, teachers who refused to join in the illegal province-wide strike or cross the line will be protected from the wrath of their own unions. This government is opposed to union disciplinary measures against any teacher who did not wish to participate in this unlawful strike. Like many other Ontarians, I have been disturbed by the actions of the teachers' unions since the illegal strike first started. That harassment continues in my home. My wife, who is a teacher, crossed the line.

One recent teachers' ad asked the following question: "How can you cut $667 million from the school system and still maintain education quality?" The answer to that is very simple. Ontario teachers have one of the most lucrative pension plans in Canada and they know it. Ontario teachers at the high end, at the top salaries, know that they can retire today and their net take-home pay is only $1,000 a year different than their take-home pay if they were fully employed. Some teachers have calculated that the difference in net take-home pay of a teacher who retired six years ago is negligible compared to working. You see, the pension fund has a cost-of-living factor built into it. Teachers' salaries have been frozen, but the pension fund allows the pension amount to increase at the cost of living. Today you have teachers who are retired who are making more than their brethren who are working. That's how lucrative the pension fund really is.

Let me explain what has happened to the teacher pension fund and why it is the richest, most lucrative pension fund in North America; how it can afford to own a major share of Maple Leaf Gardens, how it can afford to own 46% of the Toronto Sun, and it has a myriad of other investments; how it could afford to lose $100 million on Bre-X and didn't stumble, didn't blink -- $100 million in the dumper on Bre-X from the teacher pension fund and nothing said and it can absorb it.

Let's go back to 1993. In 1993 we had a recession. Stock prices were down 40%, real estate was down 40%, and those were the things the teacher pension fund had its money in. Premier Bob Rae, who wanted to sell the social contract, went to the teacher pension fund and the teachers: "Buy into the social contract and we'll look after any unfunded liability in the teacher pension fund." The unfunded liability at that time was about $8 billion. Bob Rae said: "No sweat. We'll give you $8 billion over the next 22 years, starting when the social contract is finished in 1996." As a matter of fact, that works out to $400 million a year extra into the teacher pension fund; not in the classroom, into the teacher pension fund.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): On a point of order, Speaker: I wonder what any of this has to do with Bill 161.

The Acting Speaker: He's coming to it.

Mr Jim Brown: I'm coming to it.

Let's go back: $400 million a year into the teacher pension fund over and above what the normal contribution is. In a normal situation, a businessperson would say, "Look, once that unfunded liability is no longer unfunded and we're back into a surplus, we shouldn't have to pay the $400 million." Not so; the government is committed to pay $400 million extra for 22 years. We've already made two payments; we've got 20 more years to pay $400 million. You know what that means? That means almost 10% of the education budget of $14 billion, that is, $1.1 billion, $1.2 billion a year, goes into the teacher pension fund, an already rich fund.

What do we do with all this money? Leave it there. Why would you leave it there? My wife's a teacher and she's approaching retirement. We need the money. She'd like to retire but she's got a few years to go. The teacher pension fund at the end of last year had a $1.8-billion surplus, because stocks go down but stocks also go up. They're up and that's where there's a big surplus. There's a $1.8-billion surplus in the fund. It's estimated that at the end of next year it will be $8 billion, maybe $10 billion. This pension fund is doing superbly. Any teacher who's watching, the fund is funded and there's a $2-billion surplus now and there will be $8 billion. That $8 billion doesn't go to teachers who are now employed. That $8 billion goes down the road to some future teacher who's going to be employed.

Why don't the teachers say: "Wait a minute. That ought to be my money"? I know lots of teachers who would take early retirement if in fact the retirement factor, age plus years of service, instead of being 90, as it is, was dropped to 85. There is a surplus in the fund. In the last year the union went to an actuary and had an actuarial assessment done. The cost would be $800 million to reduce the factor to 85, and they have the money. In fact they have enough to take it to 80. If the factor was dropped from 90 to 85, you'd see 12,000 teachers accept early retirement. Like I said earlier, with the cost-of-living bump-up in their pension, their net take-home pay would almost be similar to if they were working. They could do supply teaching and a whole host of other things. Maybe there would be more than 12,000 teachers who take early retirement, so they'd be winners.


What would happen? There would be 12,000 positions available for younger teachers, and the younger teachers would not cost the system quite as much, probably less than half. And 12,000 positions, and you probably save $30,000 or $40,000 per position, is $420 million annual savings. I don't understand. Everybody wins. These young people who have studied education and who are now clerking somewhere, doing accounting, shipping, whatever, they're highly qualified. They would be taken up and doing their chosen career, and the jobs that they left would create an opportunity for the unemployed. Everybody would win. Why doesn't it happen? Because the union bosses don't want it to happen. They could make it happen. They've got the money to make it happen.

Maybe this whole illegal strike, maybe this whole discussion about Bill 160, and the criticism of Bill 161, maybe it's a smokescreen to divert teachers from looking at their pension fund, what they're duly entitled to, and taking advantage of the surplus of $8 billion to $10 billion. My advice to any teacher who is watching is to ask their union bosses, ask Mr Earl Manners why we can't have an 85 factor, why we can't have an 80 factor. My wife has asked, just to be rebuffed. There are a few teachers who know what's happening with their money. There are a few teachers who realize that that $8-billion surplus, which is theirs, is going to go to somebody else.

Anyway, the union leaders know they can afford a drop in the pension fund to drop the retirement factor to 85, and they know that their pension fund, even after doing that, will still be one of the most lucrative in North America. I suppose if they had done that, we wouldn't have had all these families during the illegal and unlawful strike.

The teacher unions have tried a number of strategies to convince their members that Bill 160 was going to hurt schools and hurt kids. They included comments that the bill was going to increase the power that the province has over education and that the government was running a dictatorship. As usual, the union hierarchy tried to use scare tactics on a bill that they dislike, and not surprisingly, the high-ranking union bosses are wrong.

Bill 160 is an important and necessary measure to enhance the quality of our public schools and Ontario's education system. There will be maximum class sizes in each classroom; professionals and paraprofessionals will be able to complement certified teachers in the public school system; and the often-quoted Henry VIII clause is eliminated so that government regulations won't override any existing laws or decisions by the Legislature. These are important steps in helping our children get a better education and to get the educational system back on track. The teacher unions are using children for teacher unions' vested interests and they are using parental love to attain union goals. The unions are also arguing that cuts hurt children. They say that Bill 160 cuts education funding.

Bill 160 does not talk about cuts; unions do. Hurting the education of children, hurting the jobs of parents and employees, hurting the future of young teachers and hurting the many teachers who didn't want to strike -- this is what the teacher unions are all about. At the same time, this government is going to stand up to union threats and it also recognizes the fact that many teachers who struck didn't participate in any kind of strike vote. Some participated in a vote that occurred back in April, months before Bill 160 was introduced.

In conclusion, the Fairness for Parents and Employees Act will ensure that all individuals are protected from unions. It is another step in the right direction in trying to improve the suffering status of education in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Ms Castrilli: I must say I have seldom heard in this chamber such wonderfully mellow tones. The member for Scarborough West would have you believe that this is just such wonderful legislation. He would further have you believe that the government has no responsibility at all for Bill 161, for Bill 160, for what's happening in education. He would have you believe that it's all the teachers' fault. To the member for Scarborough West I want to say, good try, but not at all a good result.

The reality is that it is very much the government that has created the crisis; it is very much the government that set out to create the crisis; it is very much the government that with Bill 161 is trying to create a smokescreen for what are the real issues in Bill 160, which are power and money. It has little to do with improving the quality of education. In fact, the word "education" barely appears in the bill at all. It has little to do with creating a system that will make us competitive in the 21st century. It has everything to do with who decides and what they decide. Those decisions which would now be made in an open forum at the local level or in this Legislature will in fact be delegated to a handful of individuals behind closed doors. I would remind you, sir, that the Magna Carta, a long time ago, decided that taxation without representation was a non-starter. It was that way then and it is that way now.

Any discussion that you want to throw at us about teachers and pensions, and all of the other paraphernalia that you've presented here today, is absolutely irrelevant to what you're truly doing, which is concentrating power in the hands of the Minister of Education. If that happens, there will not be another debate on public education in this province, and you should be ashamed of yourself for advancing that kind of specious argument.

Mr Pouliot: I welcome the comments from the distinguished member for Scarborough West, whom I trust to be a chartered accountant by profession. I certainly commend him, so he would therefore be most familiar with and trustworthy in the numbers he puts forth. He did spend, by choice, a long time in his address talking about unions and union bosses. We understand, we get the rhetoric, we recognize the tone.

When you refer to teachers you're referring, at the public and secondary levels, to about 126,000 among the most educated people in the province. They respect the member's opinion, they respect him. They wish in return that he could, and I'm sure he does, appreciate their right to organize, the right to unionize. The leaders are former teachers, by and large. What is being said here is that people have that right and I am sure that you will respect that right.

I have a document which is a 1997 Ontario budget that I want to share with you. It is the government's document, the Honourable Ernie Eves, Minister of Finance. These are the figures that I wish to throw at you. The teachers' pension plan is a contractual arrangement between an employer and an employee. It has always been itemized separately from the amount spent on education and training. So when you try to mix it, to wed, to marry the two amounts, it does not, under estimates, come out that way. The pension plan is different. The money that was spent on education and training in 1994-95 was $8.357 billion. What you intend to spend --


The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Time has expired.

Mr Klees: I'd like to take this opportunity to commend my colleague from Scarborough West for a most informative account of some realities in this province. There were probably few teachers, but certainly after today there will be many more, who understood some of these facts and figures and some of the rights they have under their pension plan. I and many of my colleagues will make a point of sending a copy of the Hansard of the member for Scarborough West's remarks to teachers across this province.

I can also say that I have had teachers from my riding send letters to their union representatives making the same kind of appeal, to use the resources of the pension funds -- which are their funds -- for the benefit not only of their profession, but for the benefit of education in the long term in this province. I might say that discussions have taken place already between the pension fund and the Ministry of Education on these very points. By the way, I'm told by teachers in my riding that when their union representatives are confronted with that issue, they deny that those discussions have even taken place.

As time unfolds, people in this province and teachers in this province will come to understand the facts. The general public will come to discern the difference between the lies that are being perpetuated across this province, the misrepresentations about Bill 160 and the realities of the intent of this government in the interest of public education and in the interest of students, parents and teachers. Time will tell.

Mr Patten: I would acknowledge the member for Scarborough West and his rather tranquil, moderate tone in presenting his argument. I think he made a couple of interesting points. But if I have it right, what you want to do, in combination with the member for York-Mackenzie, is take money out of the teachers' pension fund to fund programs that the government has stopped funding and has removed, even when the court ordered this government to add money to that superannuation fund because it wasn't adequately funded. The government had a responsibility to do that. The logic of this worries me.

In the face of this, knowing that we've already lost over 5,500 teachers in this province over the last three years and probably are going to be losing maybe 10,000 teachers -- and the comments you make about teachers are derogatory -- what kind of a relationship do you think you'd have, asking them to mortgage their future after they can no longer work in order to fund something in which you are removing resources from the whole educational system? I find that, as my friend from Downsview has said, somewhat of a specious argument.

The member for York-Mackenzie says he's going to share this information with the unions, which of course is his right. I hope he does. But I would suggest to him that when he does share this information in the spirit in which it's being offered, it seems kind of strange that he would get a welcoming response. I would find that when you see the government finally admitting that they will take another $667 million out of the system, the welcome would not be --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you.


The Acting Speaker: I'd just like to remind the people in the gallery that you're not allowed to applaud or to make any signs or any demonstration whatsoever. It is a privilege to be in the House, to be in the gallery, and I would ask you to refrain from doing so.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that the standing orders are clear. It is not a privilege to be a member of the public coming into the gallery as a spectator. It's a right, not a privilege.


The Acting Speaker: Would the security guards please remove the three people from the gallery.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Durham East, please, you're not in your seat.

The member for Scarborough West, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Jim Brown: My message is to all the teachers out there and all the future teachers out there. I'd like to see you get a break. I'd like to see you be able to retire. I'd like to see that the $8-billion surplus that's going to be in your pension fund at the end of next year is yours. It belongs to you; it doesn't belong to somebody down the road. The only way you're going to get it is to force the teacher unions into lowering the retirement factor to 85 or 80. They have the money to do it; they already have an actuarial study that says it'll cost them $800 million to drop it to 85. Therefore, why don't they do it? Why don't they talk about it?

Teachers have come to me and they've told me that the net difference in pay between being retired and working is only $1,000 a year; only $1,000 a year to stay home or to go to work, net. Right now, that's the difference. Furthermore, a retired teacher enjoys a cost-of-living bump-up every year to their pension payment. I've got to tell you that those teachers now, the younger teachers who were sold out by the union and the older teachers in 1993 and who are on the grid, those are the ones who will be pushed up and not laid off. There'll be 12,000 new teachers in behind them with vitality and vigour. They want to work in their chosen profession.

Mr Bisson: I take it older teachers are no good.


The Acting Speaker: The members for Cochrane South and Lake Nipigon, I don't need to ask you to refrain from heckling.

The member for Kenora.

Mr Miclash: I'm pleased to have an opportunity to partake in this debate this evening. As you will know, it's the recent rule changes of the Conservative government that have now limited me to only 10 minutes. We know that after 20 minutes past 8 o'clock we are now limited to only 10 minutes apiece. In that short time, I wish to get my comments regarding Bill 161 on the record.

As I indicated earlier this evening, we see this as nothing but a crass means of this government now trying to put Bill 160 behind it and coming on with Bill 161 as a bribe to the parents to turn around and begin to support them. I think we'll start seeing a lot of bribes such as Bill 161 coming back from this government. I can tell the members across the way and the other members of the House that the people out there, the people who saw their former teachers out on the line defending public education and trying to prevent this government in their power grab, in their cash grab, they will remember.

In northern Ontario, our communities are very small and people will realize that. Once you've had a teacher in the system, you will remember that teacher, especially if that teacher meant something to you while you were going through the system. I had a lot of people come to me and say, "Why was it that Mrs Jones was out there on the picket line?" It had to mean something for Mrs Jones to be out there, because they knew that Mrs Jones, their teacher they remember from years ago, who they really had a lot of respect for, would rather be in that classroom, would rather be doing her job. But for some reason, they were out on a political protest against this government.

Again, people will not forget. Here we have a $32-million giveaway by this government back to the parents, $32 million that possibly could have gone in to junior kindergarten, $32 million that could have gone into the adult education system, to which a lot of my constituents are looking to upgrade their skills, to move on. But here we have it going back to the parents as a bribe, a bribe on behalf of this government. It was the government that brought in Bill 160 with a blatant disregard for what the people were saying in terms on the education system and in terms of the need for public education.


They know what the government is doing. They're taking over the control of the system and they're taking over the control of the dollars. Yes, we've heard many figures bantered about in terms of the numbers of dollars that are going to come out of the system and out of education, much like health care. We're seeing money coming out of our front-line services in health care, much the same as we're seeing money coming out of the front-line services in our classrooms.

Of course, that money is all going to feed a promise that this Premier made back a number of years ago to the people of Ontario, that being there would be a 30% cut in our provincial income tax for every individual in this province. When I go back to my constituents and I ask them if they've noticed any impact of what the Premier has promised in terms of a 30% income tax cut, they tell me no. But they also tell me that there are services out there that are more important than a measly 30% cut on their provincial income tax, those services, of course, being health care and education. I hear that a lot.

Another thing the people of northern Ontario don't like about this government and about Bill 161 and about Bill 160 is that we're seeing a government that is centralizing power, bringing it all from the communities of northern Ontario right down to the Premier's office here in Toronto. I've said it many times, that it's not the cabinet, it's not the members of the government who are actually formulating policy. All the policy of this government is coming out of that one corner office of the Premier. We've had many exchanges with backbenchers of the government, backbenchers who have actually called this Premier a dictator, stating publicly that the Premier would not listen, that it had to be the Premier's way or the highway. He told many of his backbenchers that and we've seen them revolt; a real setback for what this government wants to stand for and what they really stand for.

We find out that, no, there are not going to be any decisions made at the Kenora Board of Education any longer, they're going to be made here in Toronto. There's going to be money taken out of the system. That money that's going to be taken out of the system is not going to be showing up again in the system but is going to fund the Premier's ill-conceived idea of a 30% income tax cut for the constituents of Ontario. When you ask them, they are not interested in that.

We've seen a good number of people indicate a real problem with the government's agenda. They have to try to let this government know that they are not happy with what's going on. I go back to the teachers who were out there during their protest and how they tried to put forth to this government the idea that Bill 160 was not in the interests of education in this province, not in the interests of a quality education that we would all like to see for our students across the province.

I think about a former NDP education minister and how he is encouraging this government in every step and how he is going back to what they did as a government. I think of a quote of the former NDP member from Windsor, from the November 3 Toronto Sun. This is where the former minister, Mr Cooke, reminded people that Bill 160 reflected many of the recommendations that stem from the NDP Royal Commission on Learning.

I want to remind the former minister that it was because of his government's social contract and education reform that we find ourselves in the mess that we're in today. I met with teachers back in the riding last Friday evening and the leader of the third party was there as well. They very much told him what they felt about the mess we were in in terms of education today and how they felt a lot of it stemmed from the social contract of the former NDP government. They made it very clear to the leader of the third party that they were not happy in terms of the mess the education system was in and how it actually stemmed from there.

We even have the former NDP Minister of Education stating to us that it reflects many of the recommendations that came from the NDP Royal Commission on Learning. I think that's a very important point to consider when we take a look at who's running the ship, who's driving the agenda, who's helping the Premier up there. Besides the whiz kids, of course, whom we all know about, who's helping in driving that agenda? Of course we go back to the former Minister of Education, Mr Cooke, of the NDP government.

But in the few minutes I have left I would just like to quote from a letter that was written to the editor of the local newspaper in Kenora. It was written by a Bridget Sweeney. Bridget's an individual who doesn't mind speaking her mind. She's also a student in the system in Kenora and has indicated that Mr Harris came into her living room just the other day.

"We had a friendly if one-sided chat. He smiled out from the television screen like someone's favourite uncle: indulgent, good-natured, the kind of man who'd like to pop a Werther's butterscotch into Ontario's mouth and tell them it's a bedtime story. The story this time was about his plans for my education."

She goes on to talk about students like herself. They're not happy with what Mr Harris was saying, what he was telling them in terms of planning for her education when he was talking about taking $1 billion out of an education system that she was going to depend on. She indicates in this letter to the editor that she was not happy to hear about the cuts to funding that are going to come to her school and to a school near her. She suggested that Mr Harris could find a better way.

She talked a little bit about her textbooks as well. She said they "may have been top of the line in 1970" -- I was in that same school in 1970 and I remember these textbooks she is referring to -- "but now they have to be held together with duct tape and a prayer," as she indicates in her letter.

She goes on to say the Premier is very short-sighted in terms of degrading the education system in Ontario for his tax cuts, "to save a buck," as she calls it here. She asks the Premier to really reconsider Bill 160. She goes on to talk about the efforts of the teachers and how the Premier should actually listen to the views of the teachers in their protests.

In just wrapping up, I would like to say that I will not be supporting Bill 161 as I see this as a bribe by this Premier to the people of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Comments?

Mr Bisson: I agree with one point by the member for Kenora, which is that this is a bribe to the people of the province of Ontario.


Mr Bisson: I'm going to talk about Mr McGuinty's promise in 1991-92, to be more to the point. But I would agree with one point from the member for Kenora, which is the issue that this bill basically is an attempt at damage control in order for the government to try to repair the damage it did with Bill 160 by trying to buy favour from the parents of Ontario.

I would also remind the member for Kenora that I remember being in this Legislature back in 1991-92 when the member, now leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Dalton McGuinty, tabled Bill 14, a private member's bill in this House that did what? Dalton McGuinty, now Liberal leader in Ontario, wanted to have a bill that would have limited the right to strike for the teachers in the province of Ontario. That's what Dalton McGuinty did.

Mr Bradley: The social contract --

Mr Bisson: That was before the social contract, Mr Bradley. What was even more interesting when Dalton McGuinty brought forward that bill, the now Liberal leader in Ontario, limiting the right to strike of teachers, was that you should have been here to listen to his speech because he talked in the same kind of language Mike Harris does today. He talked about how teachers were to blame for what was going on in the system of education. Dalton McGuinty talked about the teachers being the ones who were incapable of change. You should have listened to that speech on the part of Dalton McGuinty. Do you know what? The Liberal caucus of the day -- not all of them, but a majority -- voted in favour of Dalton McGuinty's motion. Not all, because there were some Liberals who tended to be further to the left who didn't support it.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's my privilege to make a few comments on the bill in discussion, 161, but we seem to have strayed off on to 160. For the record, I want to make a couple of comments. Thank you for the time.

The debate on both sides of Bill 160 has not been productive. In my view, you do not build yourself up by tearing someone else down. The second part that I have difficulty dealing with in this overall equitable funding model is, clearly, I look at the Durham Board of Education. The Durham Board of Education was world-recognized as the recipient of the Carl Bertelsmann award. Their director, Grant Yeo, educates those children in that excellent environment for less than $6,000, and the director of the Durham separate board educates children for $600 less than the Durham public board.

Dick Malowney, from the Northumberland-Clarington board educates for less than that, and Don Folz, the director for the Peterborough-Victoria-Northumberland-Clarington separate school board, educates for less than that. At the bottom of the totem pole are the students and our taxpayers of Ontario under Dianne Dalton. The Victoria county board spends less than $5,000. Ask yourself a question. Public education is a public right. Every child deserves fair access to education and the dollars that all taxpayers of Ontario pay to support the future of our young people.

The member for Cochrane South made reference to the famous document. I've always got to refer to it. The commitments made by the Liberal government during the election were very clearly -- I'll read for the record: "A Liberal government will further cut spending on administration and get rid of waste and duplication, reduce the number of trustees, place caps on salaries and create part-time jobs." They were going to work on a report card to tell the boards how to spend their money. Clearly that --

The Speaker: The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: I'd like to commend my colleague from Kenora for identifying what otherwise might be the best use of $32 million. But I have not heard anybody say, and I think I would like to say this to remind the members on the government side, that the $32 million that is going to support parents who had to use day care or babysitting, whatever, is being paid for how? It's being paid for by the teachers. The teachers are paying that $32 million because they went out in protest and totally lost two weeks' salary. Were they fighting for a salary increase? No. Were they fighting for a better work environment for themselves? No. They were fighting for quality education and against something that would be centralized, less democratic and something that would hurt public education here in Ontario.

I hope that the parents, when they receive this money, remember that the teachers who went out to fight for this system paid for it out of salary. Some of them will have to replace those days that they lost when they were out and give back, and they will receive no remuneration for any of that, in spite of that. That's how deeply the teachers believed in this. The money that is being found is not coming from the government. The money is coming from the school boards, which had savings by virtue of not having to pay the teachers during that particular time. I think that's a very important thing. When people cast aspersions against the teachers, as many members on the government side tend to do, remember that. That's how deeply they felt about public education. They put their hearts on the line. They did it unwittingly, without any intent. Many felt bad having to do it but they stood up to the government against a bill that they felt would hurt public education, and they're paying this money for Bill 161.

Mr Lessard: I appreciated the member for Kenora's comments with respect to Bill 161, especially his final comments that he considered this to be a bribe to the taxpayers of Ontario to try and buy their votes and buy their support for the reforms to education that are being proposed by the Mike Harris government. I guess that gives us some insight into what the Liberal plan is for education in the future. The member for Cochrane South mentioned what he thought that may be when he referred to Bill 14, Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal leader's bill in 1992 with respect to restricting the right to strike of teachers. It makes us wonder whether that's part of the educational policy for the future.

The member for Durham East brought forward the Liberal red book that was their platform in 1995. I wonder if that's some of the Liberal future for education policy here in the province of Ontario. It sounded like a lot of cuts to education that they were proposing at that point in time. I wonder as well, when my friend from Kenora says that he has no problem in voting against Bill 161 because it's a bribe to the taxpayers of the province, whether that also represents the views of the Liberal caucus. We are curious to see where the Liberals are all going to vote on Bill 161.

I wonder as well whether the Liberals are going to join the NDP in the referendum campaign, a referendum that people in the province of Ontario should have to express their opinion about Bill 160, and bills like 161 as well.

The Speaker: Responses, member for Kenora.

Mr Miclash: I would like to thank the members who took time to comment on my remarks. I will start off with the member for Cochrane South. As we know, he has indicated as well that he sees this as the bribe to the people of Ontario. Again, I'm sure we're going to see many more of these bribes after this government attempts to get 160 behind it. He has to remember too that it's David Cooke's agenda that's going to continue to affect all of the teachers in Ontario in his position, where he can push along this government's agenda. I often think of the big black and yellow signs that we saw over the last number of weeks indicating that Mike Harris plus David Cooke equals lousy education. I think those signs in themselves said a lot.

The member for Durham East actually got up and forgot that he should have been commenting on my comments. When he gets into that red book, he has to took a look at what the red book actually says. I would have to say we were talking more about a freeze in terms of dollars in education, not taking dollars out to support a 30% income tax reduction. We know how the people across Ontario feel about losing those services, whether it be in education, in health care, to support that very ill-conceived promise of Mr Harris.

The member for Ottawa Centre indicated about the teachers out there on the front lines, and they too took a salary cut. Many of them took a 10-day salary cut to defend what they had a very strong feeling for in terms of their protection of public education in this province. He points that out as well.

I would like to thank the member for Windsor-Riverside for again bringing up the fact that this is bribe. I really don't think he has to worry about any of the Liberal members supporting Bill 161.

The Speaker: Further debate? Member for Lake Nipigon. I remind you props are not in order.

Mr Pouliot: I am choosing my words here. After the rape and pillage through Bill 160, after the assault, the attack on public education, the government has chosen, under a state of siege, to try with a fistful of --

The Speaker: I appreciate what you are saying, but I don't like those two words. If you could withdraw them, I'd appreciate it.

Mr Pouliot: I will withdraw "pillage," Mr Speaker, and the preceding word.

The government simply tries to bribe. They are not unlike a thief that robs a bank and then feels a good deal of remorse and returns the loose change back to the bank. We have a government that perhaps knows the cost of almost everything, yet the value of practically nothing.

I have with me the ultimate proof and, in some cases, the sad legacy that is being lived and that will haunt this government in the future. It's by very simple and candid way, by very simple and candid gesture. I have a ruler from the Manitouwadge elementary, the small one. Rose and Loren Maronese with their parents came to our house and they were willing to part with their Lion King ruler. This is a prized item in Manitouwadge. It doesn't come easy in our small village. Rose and Loren Maronese, I thank you. In the bag goes the ruler to the government.

I have a broken pencil. We don't have any money for supplies here but we have $400 to bribe people, a fistful of dollars for a few dollars more. I guess with user fees you can get all the pencils back in one day. "There is no replacement supply for writers," says Brady Curlew. Thank you for your courage, Brady. I hope you and your parents are watching this. I'm your representative. It takes a great deal of courage for you to say that what is being done here is wrong. It could have been done in another fashion.

The Speaker: Props are still out of order.


Mr Pouliot: Monsieur le Président, you will recall because c'est là où tout a commencé, that's where it all began, on June 8, 1995, instead of choosing leadership, instead of being a government -- and they had choices. They certainly had the following choice and they chose to drive the teaching community to the abyss. You will recall that the provocation was deliberate, was organized, was systematic. They were consistent in their message, "We need to invent a crisis, to create a world of make-believe." They described students as being mediocre, teachers as being underworked and overpaid. Some 126,000 of the most educated Ontarians were driven to withdrawing their services. This is what they've done. It took them two and half years to isolate them.

You don't hear them talk about the doctors' union bosses. You don't hear them challenge the police. But when it comes to teachers you have everything coming to them. You did so at your own peril. This is your fabrication. This is what you have done. You have belittled the profession, you have shortchanged the students, you have committed an act of thievery and deceit on the taxpayers of Ontario, and you did so deliberately and systematically.

Mr Speaker, you will want to join me this evening, on the eve of this fatal, ill-fated vote on Bill 160, on the eve of the deliberate destruction of public education in Ontario, on the eve of learning words such as "charter" and "private school" for a few dollars more, profit-motivated, before the education of our children.

Mr Bradley: How many pieces of silver?

Mr Pouliot: Thirty pieces of silver is all it took, for it is written.

I have a document that I want to share with you: 1997 Ontario Budget Papers, the Honourable Ernie Eves QC, Minister of Finance -- Queen's counsel, Minister of Finance -- page 64 of their document. Education and Training: Actual money spent in the year 1995-96, $8.39 billion. That's money that flows from the province to the school boards to the classroom; 1997-98, what they have planned, $7.735 billion. That's a decrease of more than $600 million. It's their book. It's right here. It's not a surprise to anyone. It's not conjurors of illusion. It's not tales of Houdini who says, "One day you see the figure, the next day you don't." It is the government's 1997 Ontario budget. What they spent in 1995-96, $8.39 billion; $7.735 billion, that's their plan. We've been saying that.

The Common Sense Revolution, the promises made prior to the June 8 election, paint indeed a different story: "We shall spend the same money. We won't reduce the money being spent in the classroom." If you go to the small town of Manitouwadge, you will be confronted, you will be served, you will be asked to operate as a student at the elementary and secondary level with textbooks that are lacking, not enough of them, not that many. Of those that are there many are outdated. Supplies are not being replaced. People have to go to the blackboard with the remnants of what's left of chalk. Now they're saying to the government: "What about the tools? What about the chance to be like the others, to be like it was?"

This government is inclined to take $1 billion out of the classroom, but more important, public education is under a state of siege. They have succeeded in isolating the teacher. They wanted to pick a fight with the teachers. It did not matter, or mattered little, about the general population. The little ones would be left holding the bag and they became expendable.

They choose to centralize public education. They made us believe that everything was wrong and the whole system had to be dismantled. You couldn't isolate what was wrong out of the convention, take it out and fix it and sleep over the rest of it.

It's a good system and it works well. We certainly, collectively as Ontarians, this evening owe a vote of thanks to the teachers of Ontario. Those 126,000 community leaders have made every one of us more sensitive. In a way they have educated us --

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): Big time.

Mr Pouliot: -- big time, for all time, my friend, and I will side with them every day of the week.

This is not a political battle. What is more important is the future, the legacy through the children, the students, the pupils. Who better than their teachers to communicate this message? What you have done is wrong. You have chosen to do so. You did so at your own peril. You engage in a game of winner and loser where the political mantra is, regardless of the human dimension, at the end of the day a majority shall have its way.

You've gone way too far. You could have done it a different way and people today would be thankful. I don't wish you well in this endeavour. I shall not be supporting Bill 160.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Maves: Thanks to the member for Lake Nipigon. I know he's a good baseball fan and he has demonstrated tonight that he's got a good arm and was probably once a very good baseball player. I just wanted to mention that.

The Speaker: You have to talk about the bill, right?

Mr Maves: The member for Lake Nipigon, although he didn't get into it too much tonight in his 10 minutes, has lamented the fact that in Bill 161 we would not require receipts for parents who want to collect this $40 per day that there was a strike. We said quite clearly that, unlike the NDP and Liberals, we don't want to establish these huge bureaucracies to administer and therefore waste more taxpayers' dollars in deciding which receipt goes with which person and so on. Also, we trust parents on this side of the aisle. If they file for their $40 a day because they had an inconvenience to that extent, then we trust them.

I understand the member opposite wants to see receipts and doesn't trust those parents who were inconvenienced during the strike to be up front and honest about the cost, but we do and that's why we've agreed not to have receipts. Also, there are some parents out there who wouldn't be able to have receipts because perhaps they stayed home from work, perhaps they work on a commission and they couldn't work for a few days, perhaps they had to drive their kids across the region to the grandparents' to be babysat, and those receipts wouldn't be available. That's why we haven't allowed it and, as I said, we trust parents in this situation.


The other thing I want to bring up quickly is that the member for Ottawa Centre earlier reasoned that he believes teachers who weren't on the job for those two weeks should still be paid. I think that's a remarkable thing for him to have reasoned. We should take the Hansard from tonight, and I think the member for Ottawa-Rideau will be all over this one in sending that to his papers so that the people back in Ottawa can see that he believes that people who didn't work for two weeks, who left kids without teachers --

The Speaker: Questions and comments. The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I wonder if the member had access to a letter I have access to from a long-time Conservative who is dismayed with this government. He says he grew up in an atmosphere in which the qualities, attributes and virtues of democracy were heralded and the Conservative Party was set out as their bastion and guardian. He goes on to say that he's been an Ontario and education chair, the Canadian consultative council on multiculturalism; he was president of the High Park-Swansea Progressive Conservative Riding Association; treasurer of PC Metro; he was the campaign chairman, manager, executive member on numerous electoral campaigns for Progressive Conservative candidates at three levels of government; he has worked with and personally known many past members of federal and provincial Houses of Parliament, and he names some of them.

He says: "My allegiance to the Conservative Party was unlimited and bordered on the zealous. Although, because of family and professional commitments, I became less involved with the Conservative Party on a direct level, I continue to carry the torch through many a debate with colleagues, friends and acquaintances and through numerous elections. It is therefore with great dismay and chagrin that I find myself in a situation in which my faith in the Conservative Party has been ground into a pulp."

He goes on. He is really very concerned. Let me go to the end, because I don't have much time. He says: "Finally, I took the time to read through Bill 160, Mr Johnson. I was perplexed. This could not possibly be an act initiated by my provincial Conservative Party. It smacked of the Big Brother, anti-democratic sentiments which I associate with other political parties which I have fought since before I truly realized the significance of this fight.

"I may end up just being a small voice in the dark, but it is important that I express that voice. I do not know what real factors have resulted in the actions precipitated by your Conservative Party. I only mourn the loss and death of what was once my Conservative Party."

Mr Bisson: I want to bring attention to the comments made by the member for Lake Nipigon because I think they are very crucial to this whole debate. The government time after time has stood in this House -- the Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Training -- and has said, "We have increased the spending in education in Ontario since we got here." But as the member for Lake Nipigon points out, when you look at the 1997 Ontario budget paper, a document prepared, printed and distributed by the government of Ontario, it tells quite a different story.

As the member for Lake Nipigon pointed out, in 1995-96 money spent in education and training went from $8.3 billion -- that's the provincial share -- to, the following year, $7.7 billion. That's a $655-million cut in education in 1997-98 just in the provincial share of what we spent in 1995-96. So this government, according to its own figures, has cut the money out of education.

For the minister and the Premier and others to stand in this House, time and time again, to say that they've increased, when, as the member for Lake Nipigon points out, there has actually been money cut, $655 million, I think it points quite clearly to who is saying what. I can't use the word "truthful" here, but I think it's as close as I dare get.

Mr Kormos: They lied.

Mr Bisson: They lied, exactly. The member for Guelph got up and made a comment, or heckled, during the member for Lake Nipigon's speech when he said, "...126,000 of the most educated people in this province," the member for Guelph saying, "Not really," as if those people are --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Guzzo: At the outset, let me say how much I appreciated the comments from the member for Lake Nipigon. I say this in all sincerity because those comments I take as at least coming from a heartfelt position, not like the member for Ottawa Centre or the member for Sudbury, who I think have more than a vested interest in the debate, one being a retired teacher and the other being, like his leader, married to a teacher and having a vested interest in these matters.

This teachers' strike is not unlike our postal strike. It is also for the "common good"; not for the members of the postal union but for the "common good." In Ottawa we have another strike going on at the same time: the Salvation Army strike. Here's the union asking the public not to contribute to the kettles put out for the needy and the poorest and the most vulnerable people in our community, a strike for the "common good" not unlike the teachers' strike.

The more we look at this and the more we see the relationship -- my friend from Lake Nipigon looking through the budget for the money that he alleges is missing -- I ask you to take a look at where the money disappeared from education as a result of the social contract. You remember the social contract.

Mr Pouliot: Who says we're for the social contract?

Mr Guzzo: Don't heckle me. That was put in by a man by the name of Bob Rae and you also supported him in varying degrees, I might say.

Mr Kormos: Watch it there.

Mr Guzzo: I must admit, my friend from Thorold, that there were varying degrees of support, but the social contract removed $650 million from education. Our cut was directed to the school boards, not to go to the classroom but to go to the trustees' perks. You directed it at a fund.

Mr Pouliot: It's a rare event when the government is so abrasive, so provocative that it succeeds in uniting what technically is the employer, the school board, and the employee. Both of them are saying you've done wrong. They're asking you to repent; more important, just do what's right, have the courage to withdraw the bill and defeat the bill. I wish that some of the members of the brigade, those who are occupying the back bench, would stop listening to the commissars. They are just as frightened as you are: Say no to them and then they will disintegrate.

You recall that by regulation before we even sat after the June 8, 1995, elections -- those who were marginalized; the poor, the people who are the most vulnerable, 50% of those on general assistance are children; the majority of adults are single mothers -- they went and took 21.6% out of the pittance they were getting. Then they moved up the food chain and came after the civil service, those proud 85,000 women and men in Ontario and they too withdrew their labour. Then Pacman Harris and the gang are moving up the food chain again and are going after the educators.

They're coming after you, Speaker, so if we don't speak up tonight for those people, when they come after the assembly there will be no one else to speak for us. Do it for yourselves. Say no to Bill 160. Wave the flag for democracy. Do it for the teachers.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): The evening goes on but the debate seems to remain the same. I rise this evening in support of Bill 161, The Fairness for Parents and Employees Act, but I could talk on another topic as most have. However, I have had a number of calls on this issue and I'll be attempting to focus on the issue of providing financial relief for families who experienced additional burdens during the two-week illegal strike.

This bill fulfils a promise made to parents and guardians who were adversely affected by the province-wide interruption of school service between October 27 and November 7, 1997. If passed, this legislation will assist families who during that two-week period were required to make alternative child care arrangements. Many parents of school-aged children were required to take unexpected measures to deal with the inconvenience from the disruption of school services.

We have to remain on topic because -- a lot of the people who are watching -- we started off on this topic and I think we should close on what we're supposed to be debating.


Additional burdens were place upon families by the disruption of school service. In my riding of Oshawa, many parents and employers had to demonstrate a great deal of flexibility during this period. Parents were required, by disruption, to stay at home with their children or find alternative means of caring for them during what would regularly have been school hours. I had a number of calls from them at that time wondering what could happen or how we could help out.

Employers were also required to work around the child care needs and responsibilities of their employees. I'm proud that the local business community, parents and community as a whole, were able to rise to the challenge of finding alternative child care arrangements, as well as groups such as Simcoe Hall Settlement House, the YWCA or the Boys' Club and others that helped out during this time.

As the honourable members of this Legislature are aware, Oshawa and the region of Durham are growing at a rapid pace. It is one of the fastest-growing regions in the province. Much of this growth comes from young families who have young children and many of whom are first home owners. The two-week school service disruption placed a significant additional burden on these young families and this bill seeks to assist them with this by providing each household with children at the age of 13 or under with up to $40 per day for each day of the school disruption.

In addition, this legislation would also assist families with children with special needs. This assistance under Bill 161 would extend to those families with children with special needs who attend secondary school, no matter how old the child was. Parents or guardians whose children attended child care facilities or day nurseries located in schools closed due to the illegal strike would also be eligible for up to $40 per household payment under the bill.

This bill would greatly assist families who incurred significant child supervisory, transportation or other child-care-related costs over the period of the illegal strike. I know that in my riding one of the most asked questions by parents and guardians that they have expressed to me is when they'll be able to make application for the payment. For many families the school services disruption during the two-week period, as I noted earlier, placed a significant additional burden on them.

The Minister of Labour has indicated that should this bill be approved by the Legislature, forms will be immediately available to apply for payment through their children's school and other local school boards. I hope and expect that the constituency office and other locations of the members will have copies of the forms available for their constituents. Simple, user-friendly forms are to be provided so that the parents or guardians who were forced to seek alternative child care arrangements may obtain their payment.

Many of the parents and guardians whom I've spoken with, and who have contacted my office, are concerned that this bill may not be passed in a timely fashion in light of the up-and-coming holiday season to assist with the additional burdens placed upon them during the illegal strike. I know I've had a number of calls on this issue. Parents are truly concerned about this and how it is to take place and when.

I am going to summarize and give the detail specifically on how we hope to implement this entire process. I urge all the honourable members in this Legislature to lend their support to this piece of legislation so that those parents and the guardians who require the assistance this bill offers may apply for the assistance as soon as possible. I support Bill 161, a bill which will provide some reimbursement to families for the difficulties and expenses that many of the parents and guardians in my riding of Oshawa and across the province had to shoulder as a result of the inconvenience of the illegal strike.

To summarize:

"What is it? Payment of up to $40 per day per family for each day schools were closed because of the teachers'" -- illegal -- "strike.

"Who can apply? Parents or guardians of school children 13 years of age or younger; children in child care facilities or day nurseries located in schools that were closed; or special needs students in secondary schools. One payment per family regardless of how many children.

"How to apply? Entitlement depends on approval of the bill by the Ontario Legislature" -- obviously, and we're hoping to have it passed as soon as possible. "Application forms available in schools, from school boards, and on the Ministry of Education and Training Web site.... Completed application forms submitted to the school or to the local school board."

Hopefully we should have those available at the offices and at other locations, as I mentioned earlier, such as the Boys' Club, the YWCA and other facilities that provided those services, to make it as convenient and as easy as possible for those individuals.

Thank you. It being almost 9:30 of the clock, I'll conclude my remarks.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Bradley: What's unfortunate is that the debates in this House will not be covered as extensively because Conrad Black has made yet another move to restrict the amount of coverage this House will have. It will be to the glee of this government.

For instance, I notice that Greg Crone, who is with Southam News services, will now be leaving Southam News services, having done an excellent job here at the Legislative Assembly, and is moving to the Financial Post. He will not be here. Carolyn Abraham is being sent downtown for the Southam News services rather than being right here in the building. Dan Nolan may end up leaving as a result of this cleaning of the office. Supriya Kant is going to be leaving from this assembly. We've lost the bureau of the London Free Press. We've lost some people from Canadian Press. All kinds of people are leaving because of the corporate downsizing within the news media initiated by Conrad Black who obviously wishes to --

The Speaker: Conrad Black is going to collect his $40 a day. This is where you are leading to.

Mr Bradley: And who may well be eligible to collect. I'm sure if he were eligible, he would certainly be collecting it.

What I'm pointing out is that all of the activity taking place in this House is going to have diminished coverage. Even the government has initiated some new method of bypassing the legislative press gallery. They have this new electronic service that will go directly to newspapers and to people who don't know the intricacies of Queen's Park. So Conrad Black once again appears to be working hand in hand with the Harris government to deny people this access.

The Ottawa Citizen for the first time will not have a reporter at Queen's Park, a correspondent at Queen's Park, so we'll have all those right-wingers who now occupy the editorial pages with all the comments in the Ottawa-Citizen.

Mr Lessard: I am quite surprised at the comments the member for Oshawa made and that he didn't spend more time talking about the lack of coverage of the events in this place that is the result of the moves Conrad Black has made. I'm glad the member for St Catharines has pointed that out. One of the cities he neglected to mention in his remarks was Windsor. We once had a reporter here in Queen's Park to report to the people in Windsor in the Windsor Star, Rick Brennan, and now he's gone to Southam as well. So the Windsor Star as well won't have a reporter to report directly to the Windsor Star on bills like Bill 161. Because of that, the comments of the member for Oshawa about the bill probably won't be reported in the Windsor Star tomorrow, and that's unfortunate.

I appreciated the member's comments about how easy it is to fill out the forms and where they might be available and who it is who may be able to apply, but I have news for the member for Oshawa: When you offer to give people 40 bucks a day or $400 or millions of dollars to parents throughout the province, they're not going to have a hard time trying to find out where to get the forms and how they're going to be able to -- they'll figure out a way to get their hands on this money giveaway, this bribe that this government wants to offer to them.

The Speaker: It being 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2130.