36th Parliament, 1st Session

L253b - Mon 1 Dec 1997 / Lun 1er Déc 1997



The House met at 1830.



Mr Carroll, on behalf of Mrs Ecker, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 152, An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers by eliminating Duplication and reallocating Responsibilities between Provincial and Municipal Governments in various areas and to implement other aspects of the Government's "Who Does What" Agenda / Projet de loi 152, Loi visant à améliorer les services, à accroître l'efficience et à procurer des avantages aux contribuables en éliminant le double emploi et en redistribuant les responsabilités entre le gouvernement provincial et les municipalités dans divers secteurs et visant à mettre en oeuvre d'autres aspects du programme «Qui fait quoi» du gouvernement.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Chatham-Kent.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): Mr Speaker, I'd like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Oxford and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Today, I am proud to move third reading of the Services Improvement Act. This bill is designed to provide better services at a lower cost to taxpayers.

This government was elected on a mandate for change. Government was too big, it was too inefficient, it cost too much. The roles of the provincial and municipal governments were often unclear. Taxpayers would get some services from local government, some from the Ontario government and some from both. It was clear that change was needed. The roles of the two levels of government had to be clearly defined in order to provide taxpayers with services that were logical, accountable and affordable. That's what this bill is all about. It's about the realignment of government roles and responsibilities in Ontario.

Last January, we announced many significant reforms to accomplish this. These reforms were designed to deliver better government services at a lower cost to the taxpayer. The package we announced had three fundamental goals. One was to reduce taxes by ending the spiralling cost of education. The second was to reduce taxes by reducing duplication and realigning delivery of services between the provincial and municipal governments. The third goal was to bring tax fairness to the people of this great province regardless of the municipality in which they live.

When we announced our initiative to realign local government, some people expressed concern about the impact of two particular changes: the requirements that municipalities would share half the cost of social assistance and half the cost of long-term care. We listened to those concerns and responded by agreeing to cut residential education property taxes in half and to take on additional responsibility for education funding. This will take the pressure off property tax and give municipalities additional room to fund other services that are best delivered locally.

On August 6, we released preliminary figures that showed the estimated cost of this local government realignment. On October 6, we released further details on the numbers. In October and November, ministry staff met with officials from municipalities to review the financial information that had been provided and to answer questions.

Bill 152, the Services Improvement Act, is the next step in the implementation of local government realignment. If passed, this legislation will allow us to move forward with changes that will provide better services at a lower cost to the taxpayers. The services included in this legislation --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I'm just waiting to hear about these improved services, and I'm sure a lot of other members would like to. Could you check to see if there's a quorum?

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Chatham-Kent.

Mr Carroll: The services included in this legislation are child care, social housing, public health, land ambulances, GO Transit and onsite septic systems. This legislation would give municipalities responsibility for program delivery and funding, in whole or in part, for a number of local services effective January 1, 1998.

We paid close attention to what people told the standing committee, both here at Queen's Park and then across the province. We have addressed these concerns through several amendments which we have since introduced to the bill. While many of these are technical in nature, I'd like to draw attention to a few key amendments and re-emphasize the intention of the legislation.

Under the Services Improvement Act, we are proposing to amend the Day Nurseries Act to make it mandatory for municipalities to cost-share and manage delivery of child care services within provincial standards. We have done this for two reasons: First, because parents have told us that quality child care is a necessary support to getting and keeping those parents in the workplace, and second, municipalities told us that we needed to improve our child care system so that it could better meet local needs and priorities. Let me briefly outline these changes.

At present, child care is discretionary. Municipalities can choose to cost-share child care fee subsidies for low-income parents and manage the fee subsidy system. Some do and some don't. Many other municipalities also are direct providers of child care services. This legislation builds on this local experience. By making it mandatory for municipalities to cost-share and manage delivery of all child care services, not just fee subsidies, over time parents and children will have access to a wider range of services across the province and the system will be simpler, more effective and ultimately more accessible to families.

We believe that communities are in the best position to design a system that meets their needs and the needs of their families. Through these changes, child care will continue to be delivered locally. However, at the same time there must be provide-wide standards. Provincial standards will protect the safety of children and the quality of child care services.

To assist municipalities in meeting these new responsibilities, the province has changed the regulation regarding how municipalities allocated their share of fee subsidy costs to give them more flexibility to include parent fees as part of their share of the costs. This was in direct response to municipal requests and will allow municipalities to maintain their service levels during the transition period and beyond. Municipalities now have more flexibility to offset their costs.

Under Bill 152, we propose to reduce the number of municipalities which will be delivering child care to encourage a more effective delivery system. Larger municipalities could manage child care services for small municipalities or they could combine their resources to deliver services more effectively.


It is also proposed that the municipalities acting as delivery agents for child care would be the same for delivering Ontario Works, the government's mandatory workfare program. This will ensure streamlined and consistent delivery of social services.

By reducing the number of service deliverers, the people of Ontario will benefit from more efficient services, less duplication and waste, and consequently lower taxes.

The legislation we are proposing includes measures to improve and strengthen the system of social housing in Ontario. Social housing is one of the community services needed by low-income people that can be better provided at the community level. It should also be integrated with welfare and other social services delivery at the local level to make the entire system work better and to provide better service to the people who need help.

Currently, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp and the province share many of the costs of social housing. This includes costs associated with the Ontario Housing Corp, non-profit and cooperative housing, and rent supplement programs. The total annual subsidy is just under $1.45 billion, of which $905 million is contributed by the provincial government and the remainder by the federal government.

This legislation is the first stage of a three-stage process. The first stage is the transfer of the estimated $905-million provincial cost of social housing to municipalities effective January 1, 1998. Keep in mind that municipalities will be relieved of half of their current education costs so that they can afford these changes.

The second stage is to reform social housing programs based on the recommendations of the report of an advisory council. The report of the council gives us an excellent starting point. We are moving on the advisory council's recommendation that several working groups meet and deal with the precise details of social housing reform. Social housing stakeholders, including both municipalities and housing providers, will continue to be actively involved in the reform process through working groups and the subsequent social housing committee which will be announced shortly.

The third stage will involve a period of between two and three years when the administration of the social housing system will be gradually transferred to municipalities. We expect to complete the transfer of the administrative responsibilities of the improved system to municipalities by the year 2000.

I want to stress two things that this bill will not do. First, it will not have any impact whatsoever on the tenants of social housing, and secondly, it will not have any impact whatsoever on the current operating agreement between housing providers and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Let's talk now about public health and land ambulances. The current funding system for public health is needlessly complex and inconsistent across the province. Our changes will simplify the way these services are funded. As of January 1, 1998, municipalities will assume 100% funding responsibility of public health programs. This legislation will provide direction on how municipalities will fund these programs and how they will share costs in multi-municipality health units.

Let me assure you that public health will not be jeopardized through this transfer. Our legislation requires municipalities to deliver mandatory programs in three key areas: chronic disease prevention, including heart disease, cancer, and prevention of injuries; infectious disease control, including AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases; and family health, including child health, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, and tobacco use prevention.

Within the context of these three key areas, the provincial chief medical officer of health is currently leading a review of the mandatory public health programs, something that has not happened since 1988. Mandatory public health programs will continue to be delivered by local boards of health. The province will continue to set program standards for each program and will monitor and enforce those standards. Municipalities will have added flexibility in delivering mandatory public health programs as long as provincial standards are met.

Amendments for public health as a result of further consultation will also allow local boards of health more flexibility in consolidating administrative functions. The definition of a board of health changes to allow other bodies, such as county councils, to become boards of health. The Ministry of Health will review requests to ensure that county councils and other entities can perform all the functions of a board of health effectively before making a change in regulation.

Beginning January 1, 1998, municipalities will become fully responsible for funding land ambulance services. The province will retain responsibility for province-wide coordinated dispatch and for air ambulances. The province will also continue to license operators, set standards, and monitor ambulance service, vehicle, equipment and training standards. Funding land ambulances gives municipalities more flexibility to look at integrating their emergency services to better serve their communities.

Under the proposed legislation, the province will be providing the existing land ambulance operators and municipalities with a two-year transition period until January 1, 2000. This period is intended to facilitate the implementation of the Services Improvement Act without disruption to service delivery. During the transition period, amendments to the legislation will make it possible for upper-tier municipalities to choose to take over the responsibility for contracting with and funding directly existing land ambulance services; that is, if they are ready to do so and have ministry approval.

The Ministry of Health will continue to work with municipalities to ensure that land ambulance services and public health programs are accessible and consistent for all Ontarians.

Under our local government realignment initiative, we recognize that GO Transit service primarily meets local and regional transit needs. It is recommended that this responsibility should be transferred to the municipalities served by GO Transit. The benefit will be that GO Transit will be more accountable to local communities. The delivery of GO Transit at the municipal level will also encourage greater integration of local transit services across the greater Toronto area. This legislation proposes to amend the Toronto Area Transit Authority Act to enable municipal funding of GO Transit for the interim period until a permanent municipal governance mechanism is in place.

Currently, taxpayers from every region of Ontario subsidize GO Transit's operating and capital deficit by approximately $100 million a year. The proposed legislation would create a mechanism for these costs to be shared by the regions that benefit from GO: the regions of Peel, York, Durham, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, and the city of Toronto.

My colleague the Minister of Transportation and senior ministry staff have consulted with affected municipalities to discuss options for a cost-sharing formula. We intend that this be a simple, equitable method of cost-sharing to allow GO Transit to meet its capital and operating requirements. Regional chairs who sit on the board of directors will continue to have a say in the operation of GO Transit during the interim period.


This legislation proposes that provisions of the Environmental Protection Act regulating smaller onsite sewage systems be transferred from the Ministry of Environment to the building code, which is administered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Municipalities would be responsible for the approval and inspection of smaller onsite systems. This would streamline service through a one-window approach to homeowners and builders. The building industry and the public would only have to deal with one permit, one code, one appeals process and one ministry for small on-lot septic systems. This would reduce red tape and the regulatory burden on business. Large-scale septic systems, communal systems and hauled sewage systems would remain a provincial responsibility.

Because of the ongoing discussions regarding northern service delivery, the responsibility for enforcing standards for onsite sewage systems in northern municipalities and unorganized areas would generally remain with existing delivery agents. In addition, the rules governing septics will be strengthened to protect public health and the environment.

On January 1, 1998, municipalities will assume responsibility for the cost of these programs. The province will continue to deliver some of these programs on an interim basis until an appropriate, planned transfer can occur. The recently approved supplementary estimates will guarantee the cash flow that will be needed to protect the continuity of service of these programs. This will ensure that the transfer of responsibility proceeds smoothly for taxpayers who are receiving the services.

The government will continue to work with the municipal sector, through the provincial-municipal implementation team and the social and community health services implementation team and others, to ensure a smooth transition to the new provincial and municipal responsibilities.

Mr Speaker, we have been firm in our commitment to untangle the system, improve services and make things work better for the people of Ontario. We are confident that these changes will lead to better services and more efficient and accountable government.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I am pleased today to participate in the third reading debate on Bill 152, the Services Improvement Act. Bill 152 is an important piece of legislation, as it allows the government to move forward with changes that will provide for better services to the taxpayers at lower cost.

As part of the Who Does What process, the services outlined in the proposed legislation will be delivered by municipal government, the level of government that is closest to the people and the government that is most knowledgeable about the needs of the area.

The changes we are making through this bill will improve customer service, as those wanting to access programs will no longer have to guess which government office can help them --

Mr Wildman: They'll know the municipality can't.

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

Mr Hardeman: -- or travel to two or three different offices before receiving help. It will be provided in their community by their local government. Ultimately, Bill 152 will ensure that the people of this province are getting the services they need in a more efficient and direct manner.

There is another very important aspect of the Services Improvement Act. It will also create a fairer system where everyone pays their fair share for the services they receive. This is an issue that has been discussed for a number of years. We presently have a very inequitable system where some people pay for services through their municipal taxes that others are receiving for free. We need to end this inequity and institute a process for fairness across this province.

I would like to take a moment to discuss the process leading up to the introduction of Bill 152. As you are aware, the initiatives to realign services between municipal and provincial levels of government and to create a better system were started more than a year ago. Through extensive consultations with the municipal sector, the government moved forward with a plan of trying to redefine the relationship between provincial and municipal levels of government.

It was the Who Does What process, led by a group of municipal representatives who provided the government advice on creating a better system, that started the process that we are discussing here today. The government had several goals which we intended to achieve through the Who Does What process: to reduce the spiralling cost of education, reduce taxes by disentangling the duplication in delivery of services between the municipal and provincial levels of government, and bring fairness to the people of this province.

After the initial consultation with the municipal sector, the government reviewed the advice and announced its plans to realign services. At the same time, we announced that we were open to suggestions from individuals or groups who had better ideas on how to achieve our goals.

AMO came forward with its view of a better package on Who Does What transfers which they believed was in the best interests of their membership and which still met the government's objectives. I am pleased to say the government accepted almost all of AMO's suggestions. The changes in the new package announced in May include the province assuming half the cost of education paid by the residential property taxes, the province continuing to fund social assistance at 80% of the costs, with the municipalities contributing 20%, and the province maintaining the full cost of long-term care.

These Who Does What trades do more than just sort out which level of government is responsible for which service. They will facilitate restructuring in many areas across the province, allow for less government, aid in the elimination of duplication of services, and help in facilitating change within the municipal sector. In return, municipal governments will be responsible for the cost of local ferries, land ambulance, police, public health programs, septic system inspections and social housing.

I would like to point out that in some cases, like public health, the municipalities are already providing and delivering the services, and part of the costs are being paid for by the province. It makes sense that the government delivering the service also has the responsibility and the accountability in paying for it. Not only will Bill 152 give municipalities more responsibility for these services, but also the tools they need to work more effectively and efficiently with their new role, and most of all, to be more responsive to the needs of the taxpayer.

The transfer of social housing is an excellent example of a service which can be improved and made more efficient through management by the municipalities. Social housing is one of the community services needed by low-income people that can better delivered at the community level. This legislation includes proposals which will improve and in fact strengthen the system of social housing in Ontario. Social housing, as we all know, is the rental housing that is financially assisted by the government and made available primarily to low-income families and seniors, with rent geared to income. There are also some tenants in social housing who do not receive any direct financial assistance.

We are reforming the social housing programs to make them easier to administer and better meet the needs of lower-income families before the responsibilities will be turned over to municipalities.

The transfer of social housing will be a three-stage process. First, we will allow the province to bill municipalities for the cost of social housing. The next step, which is presently ongoing, is to reform the social housing system in consultation with municipalities and stakeholders. The last step, which will occur within a two- or three-year period, will be the transfer of social housing administration to the municipalities.

Transferring this responsibility makes sense. Local communities and municipal councils know the needs of their constituents. They will be much closer to those who need this service and they will be able to gauge better how to deliver that service in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

With the province taking over half the cost of education starting on January 1, municipalities will have the financial ability to pick up the cost of social housing.


In this new tax room we will also allow the local level of government to pick up the cost of land ambulance services. Currently, there are myriad providers for ambulance services across the province, with 10 run by the province, 64 operated by hospitals, 16 by municipalities, 13 by volunteer providers and 69 privately run operations.

Municipalities will start covering the costs associated with land ambulances starting January 1, 1998, and will have the opportunity to take over the administration of the service by the year 2000. To ensure a smooth transfer, the bill provides for a two-year transition period. This two-year transition will help ensure that there is no service delivery interruption. To ensure that all people in Ontario can continue to receive accessible and acceptable levels of service, the Ministry of Health will continue to be responsible for licensing of ambulances in the province. The ministry will also continue to set, monitor and enforce standards of operation and response times.

Allowing the municipalities the opportunity to take over this service gives them the flexibility to integrate it with other emergency services or make arrangements with neighbouring communities to provide quality service at the best price. At the same time, having provincial standards will ensure that we can expect to have similar services across the province, all people having a right to expect a standard of service regardless of where they live or work.

Provincial standards will also play a role in the delivery of public health programs by municipalities. These programs are presently delivered by municipally run boards of health across the province. What Bill 152 proposes is to make the level of government responsible for providing services also responsible for paying for what they are providing. They are presently funded at a rate of 75% by provincial government, except those in Metro Toronto, which are funded 40% by the province and 60% by municipalities.

In January, all programs will be funded 100% by municipal government. Through this change municipalities will have the flexibility to tailor public health programs to meet the needs in their communities while still having to meet provincial standards.

This bill provides direction on how municipalities will fund programs and share the cost in multi-municipal health units. Municipalities will also have to provide mandatory programs such as chronic disease prevention, infectious disease control and family health. This change makes sense, as it makes the provider of the service more accountable to the taxpayer and the consumer of the service.

The same holds true for the management and delivery of child care services. Across the province many municipalities are presently involved with the government in providing this service. In fact, the municipalities are already responsible for the delivery and management of child care spaces within their areas. Making this program mandatory ensures that all municipalities are involved in providing spaces in their communities.

Children are a priority for this government and we are committed to child care in this province. This legislation will improve services to families in their local communities, while at the same time it clarifies the roles and responsibilities of municipal government.

In the past, municipalities have cost-shared child care spaces with the provincial government, but the program was an optional program and in some cases municipalities chose not to be involved in the responsibility of child care in their area. This change again makes sense for the municipality and the community and the users of the service.

How people travel via public transit in their communities also is affected by this legislation, as Bill 152 provides a mechanism for municipal cost-sharing of GO Transit in those areas serviced by GO. This is a change that should have been made long ago, as GO Transit meets mainly local and regional needs of commuters travelling throughout the GTA, Toronto and Hamilton-Wentworth areas. This certainly isn't a service used by the people outside the greater Toronto area on a regular basis, yet is subsidized by all the taxpayers in the province. Local transit should be paid by those who receive services. With the transfer of responsibility, GO Transit will be more accountable to its users and to the local communities it serves.

As I said earlier, this is an important piece of legislation. It is important for the province, the municipalities and, most of all, the people of this province, as it will help ensure efficient and accessible services. This legislation is not about providing more services but providing more equitable and economical services on behalf of the one taxpayer of this province.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's interesting to listen to the member for Chatham-Kent and the member for Oxford because those two gentlemen are responsible for a great deal of the hard work involved in the Who Does What exercise, in trying to bring some greater effectiveness -- I guess the word I'm searching for is a greater focus on what level of government ought to and should provide the essential services that affect most of the citizens, if not every citizen, in the province of Ontario.

That's why I would briefly like to focus on the name, the Services Improvement Act. We have been pilloried by members of the opposition parties, saying that this particular piece of legislation should not even have been presented, that we should have continued with the conventional wisdom, the conventional status quo and everything would work out okay. What would happen is that you would end up just shovelling out more money and the blurred lines of responsibility would continue for all taxpayers in Ontario.

The foundation or the building blocks of the Services Improvement Act deal with the whole focus, the whole raison d'être of what levels of services and what types of services ought best to be delivered at the local government level. If you look at a number of examples found in the Services Improvement Act, it deals with that essential philosophy.

If you take, for example, land ambulance, to some extent local governments have been involved for years in land ambulance, particularly the administration of land ambulance. If you associate emergency powers in the overall context of not only land ambulance but fire protection, you will see when you look at an accident -- unfortunately, we have too many in this province -- we have both emergency services going for their particular purposes.

The services improvement bill affords municipalities and upper-tier governments an opportunity to look at a more focused, integrated, combined and I would think more effective use of the fire service protection on the one hand and land ambulance on the other.

A lot of people who are not in the know and taxpayers in general would pose this question: "Is it absolutely necessary in a minor traffic accident that you must have both the fire service protection and the land ambulance go to the scene of an accident?" When I say "minor," it's probably where there is not a fatality or threat to life and limb in that particular accident. We're talking about minor property, where fire has to go in case of emergency from a fire starting in a vehicle affected by that accident. Ambulance has to be there to provide assistance to the folks involved. In serious accidents, naturally you need both services. But as the member for Oxford pointed out, and I think he's quite right, combining emergency protective services is to get greater value out of both and to allow local government, management and politicians at the local government level, to come up with an effective plan that allows you to use your resources in the most effective and focused way.

In terms of the Services Improvement Act, just in the transfer, the realignment of this responsibility, I think it's going to be proven correct in the next year or so that you will get better value out of that coordinated service.

The members opposite would say no, there's not the remotest prospect that would occur, because you have to keep everything the way it is, or if you combine them, as is proposed under this particular act --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Nobody's saying that.

Mr Hastings: They are. The general mantra from across the way is that realigning these responsibilities, what they call downloading, will inevitably lead to a tax increase, like there's no other choice in the matter; that local government politicians, councillors, reeves, mayors of the new amalgamated municipal entities throughout the province can't come up with better ways than people at the provincial government level of dealing with this issue.


We have heard, going back to last September, that by introducing this act, the Harris government risks the whole rationale of effective services as they're already provided. I could quote song and dance from I think the member from Nipigon, who quoted a whole set of northern municipalities saying they would end up with tax increases. That certainly reflects, from members of the third party at least, that by making any of these changes you're inevitably going to end up with tax increases, all the while forgetting that there is the community reinvestment fund and another fund available for municipalities who really have an extraordinary set of circumstances where they can't meet those particular costs. That's what those funds are for.

Basically, members of the official opposition party were remarking that if you make any of these changes, you're going to end up with tax increases or you'll have to reduce services or a combination of both, like there's no other way of dealing with the whole issue of change.

That leads me to a second priority of the Services Improvement Act. We have heard from numerous deputants and from members of the opposition parties that social housing or affordable housing belongs at the provincial government level. They fail to look at the origins, the original sources of how local social housing evolved. Granted through some financing from the federal government after the Second World War, wartime housing was essentially a focused response by local leadership in the communities which had provided many of the veterans to fight in the three major conflicts in this century that Canada has been involved in. It seems to me that members of both parties and even those deputants failed to acknowledge that social housing did have its start locally. So there is every justifying philosophical and practical reason for turning social or affordable housing back to the municipalities.

Why would you want to do that? The member for Fort York in his particular approach to social housing has said: "Where are you going to find the money? It's just impossible to find any money in the operating budgets of any the local housing authorities." All you have to do is take a look at the budget of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority over many years to see that there are enormous opportunities for making cost adjustments in the way MTHA operates.

For example, the two previous governments in the last 10 years failed to deal effectively with the whole capital cost item of social housing within Metropolitan Toronto, let alone across the province. You can go to place after place after place in the larger social housing projects of Metropolitan Toronto and find gaping needs that have never been addressed in terms of capital budgets. Why? Because look at where all the money was going at that time: to expand the stock of public housing or the newer form of non-profit housing. Look at the costs for that expansion that could have gone into upgrades of a capital nature in existing public housing stock.

For the record -- the member for Scarborough East pointed this out most effectively last September; it has been documented in numerous cases, but he took an average -- it costs $200 per square foot. Imagine, $200 for every square foot of new non-profit housing put through these non-profit housing associations, whereas the capital cost for that type of housing built by the private sector was about $100. What explains the $100 differential? Why should there be such a large difference? I'm sure there are many variables that could be brought forward to explain it to the taxpayer, but suffice it to say that if you build millions of square feet of new non-profit housing and you're using as your benchmark cost the higher one of $200 per square foot, you end up with an enormous cost, in the billions.

For starters, if members of the opposition parties, particularly the member for Fort York, had their druthers again, I'm sure they wouldn't want to have used that higher cost. If they had taken even a moderate medium cost of $150, which I still find excessive, you would have that forgone economic opportunity to use that money to upgrade hundreds of projects in Metropolitan Toronto, let alone the province. But what happened? If you look at the record of capital expenditures on social housing across this province, you will find a gaping need for probably billions of dollars -- billions.

Why didn't they deal with it when they were here? They certainly didn't deal with it on a very cost-effective, coordinated basis, because this government is putting about $215 million into capital upgrades of existing public housing stock. Example: In my riding, in one particular public housing project that has been around for 30 years, one of the underground garages has not been open for at least eight years. That means the tenants in that particular project do not have the opportunity to park their vehicles in a safe, underground garage because your government and the previous regime failed to deal with that specific example and countless hundreds of others.

There is in these examples in terms of the social housing not just the cost of capital upgrades, but, in terms of the tenancy of existing tenants in MTHA housing -- if you go back and look at the record of many families still residing in Metropolitan Toronto housing units, you have families that had maybe four to five kids 20 to 25 years ago. They had four-bedroom units. The children grew up, became teenagers, went to school, moved out on their own. Yet I'm sure if you go to MTHA housing and other local housing authorities throughout this province, you will find that the same family that started living there in, say, 1970 or 1975 -- in 1997 those folks are still living in a four-bedroom unit when their children have all left and maybe one has come back.

So you now have in a lot of four-bedroom and three-bedroom units in urban housing people who are overhoused, yet you also have the dilemma of thousands of newcomers to Ontario who need adequate housing but aren't able to access that particular housing because the family who has been there since 1975 has chosen to remain for the rest of their lives. You have a tenancy block in place.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Is that the problem?

Mr Hastings: That's part of the problem. There are many, many other problems that --

Mr Gerretsen: Why aren't you doing anything about it?

Mr Hastings: We're doing an awful lot about it. If the member for Kingston and The Islands had read the bill, if he had looked at the announcement of the minister, we're putting moneys into upgrades.

What did the Liberal government do when they were here from 1985 to 1990? I'm sure they didn't put a lot of money into capital upgrades. If they had, we wouldn't have the gaping need that exists today. In other words, we have an accumulation of neglect. You have some examples of where there was money put into upgrades, but on an overall coordinated basis, not so.

Turning again to the whole Services Improvement Act, if you look at the management of social housing in Metropolitan Toronto and across the province, the local municipalities are now going to have an opportunity, and I believe they will exercise that opportunity most effectively, to deal with the problems of housing.

Mr Marchese: Finally, the municipalities are going take charge and fix the problem.

Mr Hastings: They certainly won't just be passive about it, as was the previous regime, which spent billions of dollars in expansion of social housing yet didn't resolve the problem we still have in Metropolitan Toronto and across Ontario within increased waiting lists. That's a fundamental issue which they failed to deal with.

I would also like to mention that the member for Huron wanted me to make some remarks about the importance of Bill 152, the Services Improvement Act, regarding land ambulances. What she has pointed out, and I think it has not been noted for the record, is, what benefits will the realignment of responsibility for land ambulance have for the whole health care system in this province?

Mr Marchese: Tell us about it.

Mr Hastings: If the member had any real imagination, I'm sure he would be able to look at certain benefits, such as the following: We believe we'll move to a high-performance emergency medical system, as I spoke to you about earlier, the necessity for a coordinated, focused approach to some of these services. We will achieve greater clinical sophistication in terms of --


Mr Hastings: Yes, whoa, because we know where the members opposite stand in terms of this whole bill, which is essentially: "Do nothing. Everything's fine." In fact, the member for Fort York, as I'll allude to later, had another name for this bill, very amusing but not very constructive.

A third fundamental benefit will bring about guaranteed response times determined between the provider and the municipalities.

Mr Marchese: How do you know? Have you tested it out?

Mr Hastings: Have we tested it out? In point of fact, we already have good practices in place that the municipalities will utilize with the existing land ambulance system. It's not as if we're going from a completely existing system down to a system which is disappearing; the reverse, in fact.

Finally, as I alluded to earlier, we will get hopefully better cooperation and coordination between fire and police, and we will allow for value added services by providers in assisting in home care and immunization.

In other words, this bill speaks to a proactive approach by the municipalities, by the municipal councillors and by the management/leadership in those municipalities, who see tremendous opportunities arising out of this piece of legislation.

Finally, let me point out that the member for Fort York, when we were having the hearings, brought up an alternative name for this bill: the "Local Government Destruction Act." I thought back on that and I wondered if what he was really alluding to is the status quo, the "Existing Distribution of Powers Act" or "Keep Everything the Way It Is Act." That's where our member for Fort York was in looking at the whole issue of realignment of responsibilities.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): It's called "Destroy the Municipalities Act."

Mr Hastings: You see, there we go again. The great washed and the great uninformed say it's going to destroy municipalities. If you take that to its logical stretch, there won't be any money anywhere from any source for a local government to finance any service. See how absurd the implication is when you stretch it to its ultimate absurdity.

This bill looks at the existing realities in Ontario of service distribution, of the ability of local governments to come to grips with many of these challenges. Many councillors and many municipalities that have been members of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario have asked over the years to be able to manage some of these things more effectively. They asked for them in single responses, in some instances land ambulance; other municipalities or upper-tier municipalities wanted to deal with social housing.

But we know that the member for Kingston and The Islands, like the member for Fort York, says, "Let's have hardly any change, or let's not get into the specifics of the change," because that would lead to some disturbing thinking. That would lead to trying to be imaginative and innovative. "No, no, we prefer to keep everything the way it is and hike taxes even further." You can see that through Bill 160. It goes on and on.

I simply want to add for the record on the whole concept of change as laid out by the great thinker, Marcus Aurelius:

"Change is the universal nature out of the universal substance, as if it were wax, now moulds a horse, and when it has broken this up it uses the material for a tree, then for a man, then for something else. Nature, which governs the whole, will soon change all things which you see, and out of this substance will make other things and again other things in order that the world may be ever new. The nature of the universe loves nothing so much as to change the things that are and to make new things like them, for everything exists in a manner the seed of that which will be."

Mr Len Wood: Who wrote that?

Mr Hastings: For the member for Cochrane North, I think Marcus Aurelius probably could be a constituent up there if it weren't so cold.

Let me conclude. The Services Improvement Act lays out a whole set of opportunities. It will be interesting to hear the conventional mantra from all the folks across the way that this is downloading: "There aren't any alternatives; withdraw the bill," and on and on. I'd like to see them make some really solid alternatives instead of the usual approach they take to bills.

Mr Len Wood: Stop the tax break.

Mr Hastings: The tax break is probably one of the best things this government has done, contrary to the 65 tax increases we've had across the way. Their idea would be, the higher the taxes, the better off we'd be, and we'd have no economic agenda of growth. That's what fuels making these changes affordable and effective.

M. John R. Baird (Nepean): Comme toujours, c'est un plaisir pour moi de parler du projet de loi 152. Allô à mon ami, M. Marchese.

A good quote I could put on the record to start off this process would be a quote that the Premier made. The Premier said, "I think it's important for us to get on with the job of making it clear to citizens who is paying, who is responsible for raising the money, whatever services are being provided."

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): The Premier said that?

Mr Baird: The Premier said that. And that wasn't Premier Harris, that was Premier Bob Rae, back in February 1991.

Mr Guzzo: Bay Street Bob. Wow.


Mr Baird: The member for Ottawa-Rideau says "Bay Street Bob." Yes. Le meilleur. The Bay Street lawyer now. Bob Rae said that.

Look to what our other colleagues said. The Minister of Municipal Affairs said in the Globe and Mail: "You can't really have accountability if you have two and sometimes three levels of government doing the same stuff. The main purpose is to sort out the roles." Was it notre collègue, M. Leach, qui sait ça ? No, it was Mr Dave Cooke who said that in the Globe and Mail on July 24, 1992.

This bill is about ensuring that taxpayers get the best level of government to provide the relevant service. It's extremely important.

Imagine if you had a grocery cart and someone were to say to you, "Whatever you put in that cart we will give you 80 cents on the dollar for." I suspect you would have a very different grocery cart than if the person were paying 100 cents on the dollar themselves. There wouldn't be too many yellow boxes in that 80-20 grocery cart.

The Minister of Community and Social Services said, "The result of disentanglement will be increased accountability, which is more important than ever in today's economic climate." Was it the member for Durham West who said that? No. It was our good friend the Minister of Community and Social Services in August 1992, the member for London Centre, and I agree with that. She was correct when she said that. That is very important.

I have some other interesting things to put on the record in this very, very important debate.

Mr Guzzo: What did the transportation minister have to say? Did he say anything in those days?

Mr Baird: One of his colleagues, the former Minister of Transportation -- not this former minister but another former Minister of Transportation -- as Minister of Municipal Affairs said: "Right now, responsibility is blurred and this overlap leads to inefficiency. Clearer lines of responsibility and more efficient government should ultimately save money." April 26, 1993. But of course they never followed through.

This government has had the courage to proceed with disentanglement, to save the taxpayers of Ontario money, to ensure that we can spend every taxpayer's dollar wisely and well. That must be and continue to be an important priority of all of our work here.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): It's always interesting to listen to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, a former university professor, I think. Certainly I'm glad that he referred to Marcus Aurelius. When you consider that his Premier refers to Mr Silly, it's certainly a step up.

But you know what? This government always says they listen to people. They listened to people with regard to the land ambulance, they listened to people regarding social housing, they listened to people with regard to Bill 160. They listen but they don't hear, because if they heard, they wouldn't be making the type of reform that isn't in the best interests of the people of Ontario. They wouldn't be making the type of reform that is going to provide hardship to individuals.

We can leave Bill 152 for a second and go to 160 again and speak about the new report card that this government instituted. The new report card is probably one of the worst pieces of reporting that's ever going to take place in education. It's cumbersome, it's meaningless and it provides for the teachers to have to spend an unbelievably countless amount of hours putting down comments. I heard a comment that said, "At the end of the report card, I'm supposed to know my student better than I know my own child." It fails.

That's what happened with 152. You didn't listen to the mayors and the reeves; you just went ahead and did your own thing. And you know what? You found out that what we were saying on the opposition side, what the mayors and the reeves were saying was right, that the downloading initiative the way you people divined it and defined it was going to lead to disaster. Your policies lead to disaster for the people of Ontario and it isn't changing. That's sad.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): There were several distinguished members opposite who certainly deserve some acknowledgement. They are consistent. They read from the same message, prepared no doubt in the Premier's office by those "little people," as the Globe and Mail described them. After you hear one of them for about two to three minutes on this very important piece of legislation, you've heard them all. It's a sort of competitive sameness, where they just turn the page. They're never on their own, they're never imaginative, they don't have a fresh idea.

But what never changes, on the eve of the downloading exercise, on the eve of implementation, because nobody knows what the impact will be, one thing is clear when you listen to the reeves, to the mayors from over 800 municipalities across this great land, across this great province: This will be costly. This is an exercise in dumping. No more responsibility. They're passing their responsibilities to the small units, yet they're not including la payola, the cheque to pay for those services.

The trick here is a billion dollars. That's the difference between provincial responsibility and the new role of municipalities. You ask any one of them and they still don't know how much it will cost. They still don't know where it will end, yet they're responsible for paying for those services because Mike Harris and the members of the brigade, the commissars, have decreed that $5.4 billion shall be directed into the pockets of those who have the most. It's as simple as that.

Talk to me about economics, and it's all borrowed money.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I'm pleased to confirm to the member for Lake Nipigon that Mike Harris and the government members are following through on a commitment that we made to the people of this province to reduce duplication, to make government more efficient. This bill is a major step in that direction.

The fact of the matter is that municipal politicians for years have been asking for the province to hand over some responsibility to them that prior to Bill 152 they haven't had. But along with responsibility comes obligation, and we have an obligation in this province now, as various levels of government, to work together to make it happen, as Mayor Mel Lastman said in his campaign.

This is not about passing the buck any more. What this bill in fact does is that it will force the various levels of government in this province to work together and once and for all recognize that there is only one taxpayer. Regardless of what we do with a tax bill, how we represent it, at the end of the day I believe that taxpayers want government to ensure that the services that are delivered are being delivered in the most efficient way. They are not going to buy the fact that they're unable to do it or that they have had to offload on to a tax bill a notice that they were incapable of doing the job. Let me tell you that I believe at the end of the day municipal politicians across the province will realize that we are in partnership together on behalf of the taxpayers of this province, and all of the politicking that members opposite are doing is not going to do them any good.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): It's phenomenal listening to the government members of the back bench there talking about this legislation really as if it is actually a partnership that has been going on. The fact is, about a year ago they basically decided what the process was going to be. They realized at some point fairly early on they had made a huge mistake. They pretended to have some form of consultation with municipalities. It is just a joke, and the municipalities themselves have absolutely lost all trust in them.

I was fortunate recently to attend a meeting of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League. In northern Ontario they're setting up a new unit called area service boards. Again, they believe they're doing this in consultation with the various reeves and mayors of the municipalities and they have been talking as if they're going to give them a chance to have input into the process when in fact once again they're being told how it's going to work. In essence, another upper tier of government is going to be formed in northern Ontario in various large areas.

The fact is that the mayors and reeves -- Reeve Ron Nelson, reeve of O'Connor and president of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League, was there -- have absolutely lost faith in this government. Because they recognize that they simply have to survive, they're trying to work with the government, but they're not getting the information they need. They're not being allowed to look at the draft legislation that's coming forward. Apparently there will be legislation. My colleague from Sudbury, of course, will be speaking on that piece of legislation. They will not let the mayors and reeves have a look at it.

I advised them at the time, and what I said was: "If you really want to have a chance of this working, in that you're forcing it on the municipalities, why don't you let them take a look at the draft legislation? They'll tell you whether it's going to work." But they won't do that. They're saying, "Oh, no, we can't allow that to happen." The fact is this only adds to the continued mistrust that the reeves and the mayors in the northern communities and in communities all across the province feel about this government. I don't know who you're trying to kid, because you certainly aren't kidding them. The fact is they no longer trust you. You sweetened the pot because you had to. It will be a one-year wonder and then it will be trouble again.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Chatham-Kent has two minutes to respond.

Mr Carroll: I appreciate the comments from the member for Sudbury, Lake Nipigon, my colleague from York-Mackenzie and the member for Port Arthur.

It's always interesting to hear the member for Lake Nipigon. He talked about competitive sameness. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it's certainly interesting terminology. Then he brings up the $1 billion. Every issue that we get involved with, the third party talks about $1 billion: education, $1 billion; health care, $1 billion; municipal restructuring, $1 billion. Pretty soon they will have us reducing funding in ministries where we don't even spend $1 billion. It's just a nice, round number that the member for Lake Nipigon tends to -- it may have something to do with the assets of the northern part of the province that he represents where you can see the curvature of the earth, as he tells us, at various times.

The member for Sudbury talks about reform not being in the best interests of the taxpayers. Then he talks about our policies leading to disaster for the people of Ontario. I'd like to talk a little bit about disaster. Disaster is the Ontario that we inherited in 1995, an Ontario that had accumulated $100 billion worth of debt, that was spending $1.2 million an hour more than it was taking in, that had seen taxes raised by these two parties across the way 65 times in the past 10 years so that one out of every eight people in arguably the richest part of the world was trapped in a welfare system. That is disaster. That is what the Liberals and the third party continue to argue for, the status quo: "Don't make any changes." They argue for the status quo. The status quo is no longer good enough.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate. The Chair recognizes the member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: Mr Speaker, I'll be sharing my time with the member for Oakwood, the member for Yorkview and the member for York South.

The first thing I'd like to address is the fact that of course the people of Ontario should realize that this bill is very closely related to Bill 160, which was passed in infamy here this afternoon. They both have roughly the same effect. Remember, Bill 160 is going to take another $700 million out of the education system, according to the Premier's own words a week or two ago, and what is this bill going to do? It's going to take about $700 million of extra costs that it's going to place on the local taxpayer. I think the people of Ontario have to understand that there is a very close relationship in both these bills. They are both taking more money out of the system as far as the provincial finances are concerned. That's point number one.

Myth number two is that AMO somehow came forward with these recommendations. Let's just set the record straight. The initial plan that the province brought forward would have transferred more than $1 billion in extra costs to those municipalities. Let's just review once again the kind of offloading that was going to take place and the kind of property tax increases that were going to take place in just some of the municipalities. In my own city of Kingston, it was going to increase the municipal tax load by $28 million; Brantford by $32 million; the city of London by $57 million; Thunder Bay by $15 million; the region of Sudbury by $105 million; the region of Ottawa-Carleton by $120 million to $160 million. Those are just some examples as to how the costs were going to increase when the original downloading proposal was brought down by the province to the local municipalities.

AMO then said, "Let us take a look at it, Premier," and they took a look at it. They came up with a proposal that would at least cut that downloading by about half, to about $600 million. It's kind of like of saying, "Do you like to be kicked in the head?" and the person coming back and saying, "No, I prefer to be kicked in the shins." That was the AMO position. They would prefer not to be kicked in the head, and if they had a choice at all, they'd rather be kicked in the shins. To somehow take from that the notion that AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which speaks on behalf of all the municipalities in this province and is an organization which I had the privilege of heading some 10 years ago, somehow came back with this proposal and said to the province, "Please do this to us," is absolutely absurd and nonsensical.

Yes, there are some services that are much better served at the local level, no question about it. I think the local level performs and gives the best quality of service in many different areas, but certainly not in the areas of health care and social services.

Let's just hear what the government's own commission had to say about this, the Who Does What panel headed up by former mayor David Crombie. As a matter of fact, the Who Does What panel is even referred to in the title of this bill. Remember what he said about the offloading of social services and health care costs on to the local municipalities. I'll tell you what he said: "The panel" -- in other words, the entire Who Does What panel -- "strongly opposes such a move. We are unanimous in the view that if there is a choice between placing education or health and welfare on the property tax" -- including housing -- "it's clearly preferable to continue to rely on the property tax for the funding of education."

He also said it is the worst principle and devastating in practice to in effect transfer social responsibilities to the municipalities, so he was not in favour. The government's own commission was directly opposed to any kind of downloading.

Let's go back. Let's go one step further. What did the chair of the Health Services Restructuring Commission, on which the government so heavily relies, have to say about that? Duncan Sinclair, on January 12 of this past year, when he was asked what he thinks of municipalities taking over the responsibility of public health, said, "That's just stupid. It" -- shifting the long-term health costs on to municipalities -- "would mess up the overall task that we have in mind.... It will make it infinitely more difficult.... It's 180 degrees out of phase with the prevailing philosophy."

Mr Bartolucci: Who said that?

Mr Gerretsen: That was Duncan Sinclair. He too thought that taking health care and social service costs and dumping them on to the property taxpayer is totally the wrong thing to do.

Yes, municipalities can take over an additional amount of services and the costs relating thereto if you're going to take education costs off the property tax roll. But the worst place to do it is in the health and social services area.

The reason for that is quite simple. Most municipalities, indeed all of them, as far as I know, set their tax rate once a year. They figure out their budget and they budget in accordance with that. If during that year there's any shift as a result of, for example, a plant closure and there is a run on the municipality for social services, for health care services or any of the other soft services that are being downloaded on to municipalities, that municipality simply is not in a position to react to it as quickly as you would under the income tax system, which is basically the taxation system on which the province relies.

Let's get that clearly established. The government's own commissions, the heads of the two famous commissions they've set up in the last couple of years, the Who Does What Panel and the health restructuring commission, both think it's the wrong thing to do to transfer these kinds of costs to the local taxpayer.


The other thing that's interesting is that it's only been recently that the Premier has in effect come clean by saying, "Yes, maybe Bill 160 is about taking another $700 million out of the education system." You may recall that the other day he said, "Yes, municipalities may have to save perhaps another $667 million as a result of transferring and downloading costs on to them," but he's saying it's only 2% or 3% of their budget.

I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that as a result of grants being reduced to municipalities over the last number of years, most municipalities run in an extremely cost-efficient manner already, and to say they can handle another 3% is just totally unfair to them.

Why didn't he agree the other day, for example, that if as a result of these funding changes, municipalities are going to be short -- why won't he guarantee to them that he'll make up the difference from provincial funds? Because he knows they're going to be short.

In my own area of eastern Ontario, even with the latest downloading proposals as contained in this Bill 152, many of the municipalities will be mega-dollars short. Let me just give you some examples here if I can find them. A couple of them just come to mind. For example, in the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, they predict that taxes on the average residential property, as a result of the downloading that's taking place here, will go up $315 per unit. Let's see. What else do we have here?

Mr Bartolucci: That's per unit?

Mr Gerretsen: That's per unit. In Lanark county, they expect that as a result of this downloading legislation there will be a $3.9-billion shortfall in a relatively small rural county in this province.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Billion?

Mr Gerretsen: It's $3.9 million. If I said billion, I stand corrected.


Mr Gerretsen: Look at that. The government members get all excited because I may have said $3.9 billion for Lanark county when everybody darned well knew that we're talking about $3.9 million. If it's such a laughable matter, why don't you, Minister, being in the House tonight, guarantee that if they're short that amount of money, you'll make it up to them?

Yes, of course. You've got no answer to that one.

How about the new Frontenac townships? We're talking about a projected increase of 23.8% as a result of this downloading legislation.

The government is really relying on the fact that when the new councils get together, obviously no council wants to start off its first term in office, its first year in office, with a 10% or a 15% or a 20% tax increase and they will sharpen their pencils and they will do all the work they possibly can in order to get that number down as much as possible. What the government is really hoping is that they will do the dirty work for them. It's as simple as that. There may even be the odd municipality somewhere that might achieve it, but at what cost are they going to achieve it? They can only achieve it at one cost, and that is, if they are expected to take on greater responsibilities, there will either have to be a cut in services or, alternatively, taxes will have to go up. There's no other alternative.

But that's only one part of the equation. The other thing, of course, that is going to be just as interesting is how the market value reassessment process that is currently going on in the province is going to affect local property taxation. When you add on top of that that in some municipalities there has been major restructuring -- as in Metro Toronto here, as for example; in my own area, the new city of Kingston -- when you add that into the mix, no wonder nobody, including the local treasurers and the local politicians and the province, has any idea as to what the bottom line is going to be, other than that the costs that are being transferred to municipalities, the known costs, are going to be much, much higher than what the province is currently paying.

It is all right for member after member -- and I must admit that I'm somewhat surprised. The municipal members get up and say, "We know that some programs can be better delivered at the local level," and I agree with that. There are some programs that could be better delivered at the local level, and yes, AMO for years has been asking for more jurisdiction in particular areas. But they have never, as far as I know, asked to take over all of the health funding, all of the social services funding, which they're going to do now to a much greater extent, or all of the ambulance funding that they're going to be involved in to a much greater extent.

The other program that I don't ever remember municipalities coming to the province on and saying, "Please let us administer this for you and let us pay the bill for you," is the farm tax rebate program. You're from a rural municipality, and I know that many rural politicians are deeply concerned, particularly from the smaller municipalities, as to how they will be able to pay the farm tax rebate to their own farmers in their own particular areas. It's going to be extremely difficult for them. The farmers have come to rely on that kind of funding, and to ask rural municipalities that have a limited tax base to fund that will be extremely hard to accomplish, and in some cases they will not be able to accomplish it at all.

Finally, before turning the matter over to my colleagues here, let me just make one other comment. As you know, there are three islands in my own riding of Kingston and The Islands: Amherst, Howe and Wolfe. These islands have always enjoyed provincial subsidies to run their ferry system. All of these people, many of whom have lived on these islands for many generations -- there are about 2,000 of them on these three islands -- as of January 1 have still not been assured of any kind of service at all. I know that to some members in the House this is almost a bit of a jocular matter that we've talked about over the last little while, but to the people who are living on these islands it is no joking matter. They are less than one month away from not having any ferry service at all.

The reason for that is quite simple. The amount of subsidy that goes into these various ferries is about three or four times the amount that they collect in total local taxation, in real estate taxes on those islands. There is no way those islanders could ever pay for that kind of service. So far, for the entire last year, all the government has done has been to stonewall them and basically say, "On January 1, here's the boat and here's the key."

I would hope the government would realize at some point in time that, yes, there may be an additional cost involved here for these islanders that may not make any immediate economic sense, but it ought to realize that it's the government for all of the people of Ontario, not just for those people who may not at a given moment in time cost that government any money. I would suggest to the government that they re-evaluate their position on that particular matter, for the simple reason that this government was elected to govern all the people of Ontario. To unilaterally cut 2,000 people off from their livelihoods and their way of life completely, without any recourse whatsoever, would certainly be totally absurd and ridiculous.

I will simply leave it at that and turn it over to my colleagues. I would hope the government would realize that what it's doing here is placing a tremendous burden on the local municipalities, the kind of burden that the local councils may not be able to deal with.

With that, I will turn it over to the member for Yorkview.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I'm pleased to continue the debate on Bill 152, a bill that is supposed to make some improvements for the local municipalities and the local taxpayers.

As usual, it carries one of those misnomer headings, if you will, because it addresses as "An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers...." We have heard not only from one but several members from the government side how this is supposed to benefit the local municipalities, the local taxpayers. I have no idea, with all due respect to the members on the government side, where they have been during the various public hearings, because I attended those public hearings and I heard every single presenter, and I haven't heard of anyone speaking in support of Bill 152.


I don't speak of any particular individual who came to make a presentation to our committee, but I'm speaking of various groups, various agencies such as the Ontario Plumbing Inspectors Association and even including agencies such as AMO, which is well respected and speaks, I would say, for the majority of the municipalities throughout Ontario.


Mr Sergio: Yes, indeed. As a matter of fact, if this were indeed to provide some relief for the individual Ontario taxpayer, for the various municipalities, large and small, then I have to say with all due respect to the government members, especially those who were a part of that committee, that they have not listened to what the people were saying, to what those groups were saying: groups that largely favoured the Conservatives prior to the last municipal election.

Let me quote from the presentation of AMO, which I have kept full and intact:

"Despite numerous requests by municipalities, the government has not indicated a willingness to ensure comprehensive municipal input into the policy development process. In addition, the provincial ministries continue to make determinations regarding service levels for programs such as child care and social housing without engaging municipal funders in discussions on these important matters. We believe this is a violation of the pay-for-say principle, and call on the government to immediately engage the municipal sector in joint discussions regarding program standards and service levels for all programs being transferred to the municipal sector."

This is not one individual saying that. This is in writing from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario representatives during the public hearings. Evidently, there is no change in the bill; there is no amendment in the bill. Therefore, I have to say that including our own amendments, which were not accepted, the comments and the views of the municipalities of Ontario have not been taken into consideration.

It goes on to say:

"AMO is also concerned with the high level of provincial oversight which is enshrined in Bill 152, particularly in relation to public health, social housing and land ambulance. For example, Bill 152 includes provisions for the appointment of assessors, a new layer of oversight in addition to existing compliance requirements for public health programs. We believe that this high level of provincial oversight signals a level of mistrust of the municipal sector and perpetuates the continuation of an unnecessary and expensive provincial bureaucracy for what will be municipal programs."

This is to the core of the matter: If the government cannot trust the local municipalities, then why is the government downloading this responsibility with conditions on to the local municipalities? It can only be for one major reason, and that's where Bill 152 is terribly flawed.

Unfortunately, even in those conditions, what is it going to do? It is going to force local municipalities to take the blame, to be the scapegoat for the provincial government. It is going to make the municipality either increase taxes or come up with new user fees -- according to the Premier, any new user fee is nothing less than a new tax, and I agree with the Premier -- or cut programs, as we have already seen in the last 18 months to two years. Is this how we are going to improve local municipalities, by downloading all these responsibilities?

By the way, the province is reserving the right and the power to tell the local municipalities how far they can go in providing those services. Either you give them that right to govern by themselves or you don't. Unfortunately, I have to bring into the picture Bill 160, because this is nothing more than a photocopy of some of the issues emanating from Bill 160.

Premier Harris, I have to say, has made a fundamental mistake downloading all those social responsibilities on to the local municipalities. None other than the voice that spoke for the government and for everybody else, Mr David Crombie, said that you cannot download on to the local municipalities social services and social costs.

Let me say this: This is what two very well known and I would say well-respected provincial restructuring consultants had to say with respect to taxes in general, increases in general, if you will, because of the downloading costs on to the local municipalities. Mr Harry Kitchen and Mr Doug Armstrong predicted a 36% to 124% increase -- we are not talking 3.6% or 12.4%; we are talking 36% to 124% -- due to the unloading by the provincial government.

I have just a couple of examples to let the government side know how especially the small local municipalities will be adversely affected by the downloading of Bill 160, sure, and Bill 152.

For example, Chandos township is in the southeastern area of Ontario here. It's a wonderful area of small communities, beautiful little towns, recreational areas, and not too many industries or commercial areas. But in those industrial and commercial areas in those small communities, the highest will be up to 124%, and that comes from the consultant hired on behalf of the government itself. In Lakefield, it's 35.9%. These figures are not all wrong. I would venture to say I don't know how many members of the government have seen these figures, how many members have indeed read what those consultants have told the government, but with all of that, they went ahead and did it.

Commercial taxes and industrial taxes as well: 41.6% in Peterborough. What did some of the local municipalities say to the government members during the various public hearings? You know what the people in Halton were saying? Some $1 billion is going to be downloaded on to the local municipalities. Even the chair of the municipality of Halton said that $33.9 million will have to be absorbed by that small municipality. Those figures come from none other than the provincial admission as well. That spells some $473 for a residential home of about $175,000 to $180,000.

The region of Peel will have to absorb some $67 million. I'm sure that some colleagues on the government side who represent the southwestern area are well familiar with those particular towns and conditions. I can tell you that they won't have very happy regional councillors and city mayors. The region of Peel: $67 million, which spells about $252 for an average house. An average house in that municipality is going to be between $150,000 and $200,000. When you add everything else, all the costs of the total downloading, let alone Bill 152, it is going to come out to a lot more than $252.


Unfortunately with the time restrictions, because our time in this House has been curtailed by the government, I only have a couple of extra minutes. I wish I had a lot more time to pinpoint some of the concerns that people close to home have been telling me. But let me talk to you, if I can, for the next couple of minutes on Bill 160, because Bill 152 emanates from Bill 160. When the government keeps on saying, "We have taken some $6 billion off the property taxes," this is no big deal. No big thank you that should come from those people because they will be hit hard from the government come July next year.

The government has now given itself the power that the tax bill doesn't have to go until after June 29, 1998. Why June 29, 1998? Because that's the due date as to when you can file an appeal. Isn't that nice? This is part of a government that's supposed to be saying to the people, "We are open, we are accessible and we are here to listen to you." That means they have the power to juggle around the figures, set their own rates and there is no appeal whatsoever.

On top of that, they will be telling local municipalities how to draft their tax bills. Local municipalities are not allowed to criticize the government for the downloading expenses. Therefore, the minister, one person alone, can control the tax bills. The taxpayers are going to be very, very upset, very surprised come July next year, 1998, after the deadline is passed and there is no appeal for their tax bills.

Let me conclude with one thing, and that is the power the government has given itself, the minister has been given. There are some things I don't think many people, let alone some members of this House, know about this particular power. The nature of this power consists of getting some $6 billion from property taxpayers without a say or without coming to this House to see how they would get it. There is no debate, there is no vote, no legislation; solely done by the power of the minister. This hardly can be called an open government, doing things visibly and doing things for the betterment of the people in Ontario.

I have to say in general that Bill 152, in its present condition, with none of the amendments proposed being accepted, should not be approved by this House.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Oakwood.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I thank my fellow colleagues from Yorkview and Kingston and The Islands for their comments. I know the member for Kingston and The Islands was a long-time mayor, and also very involved in and I think a past president of AMO, so it's certainly an area of expertise that he has a lot of credentials in. He adds a lot of insight into this massive transformation that we see in Bill 152, which is, in essence, the downloading bill. It's the downloading of soft services or social services on to the municipal property taxpayer.

For years that has been the bane of the existence of most municipal property taxpayers, that they don't want to pay for income maintenance programs on their property taxes. The fundamental reason they don't want to do that is that, as you know, you could be a tenant paying property taxes, you could be an owner of a home or a business, and when your business is going poorly or perhaps you're unemployed because of recession, then normally what happens is welfare rates go up because people lose their jobs, people need social assistance and need housing during a downturn in the economy. The contradiction is that these homeowners or business owners will be doubly punished. They will not possibly lose their job or lose income in their business, but they will be forced to absorb the cost of income maintenance on their property tax. So their income is dwindling and being crunched. Yet the downloading of these services, which are usually fixed, on to the property taxpayers will cause a double whammy, you might say a double hit, on those property taxpayers. That's why for years property taxpayers across Ontario have always tried to get rid of these soft services, and that's why municipal officials for years have been trying to eliminate soft services -- social services, social housing, health care -- from property taxes.

What Bill 152, the downloading bill, does is just the opposite. In fact, it further aggravates a problem that has been festering for years. It now does a fundamental shift in even adding more burden on to the property taxpayer where the property taxpayer has very little room to operate.

For instance, the most frightening download is probably in the area of social housing. It's about a billion-dollar bill in Ontario. A billion dollars of social housing costs are being taken off the provincial government books and now, as of January 1, 1998, the local property taxpayers in every town, city, unorganized territory across Ontario will have to pay for social housing. It's a new $1-billion social housing bill. What this means is that 270,000 households across Ontario will now rely on property taxpayers to support them in their housing shortfall.

What you're going to do by this is, in essence, you're going to put in conflict the property taxpayer and those in need. You're going to have people who need social housing. Whether you like it or not, or whatever is happening in the economy, there will always be people who need social housing. Generally, its people who are unfortunate because of their health, because of their age, because they don't have work. There are 270,000 of these households in Ontario.

What's going to happen, as these are now shifted to the property taxpayers, is that the local elected officials are going to have to make these unbelievably difficult decisions of whether or not to do the basic things property taxes are made for -- that is, maintaining roads, picking up garbage; all these basic services that property tax was created for. They're going to have to decide whether or not they're going to improve that social housing unit, build social housing units, whether they are going to have health programs in their community, or whether they're going to fix that bridge, fix those sewers, provide public transportation. Those are going to be difficult decisions that are going to have to be made by those elected officials. The property taxpayers are going to have a hard time trying to see the needs of those people in need.

It's going to be very difficult in some communities where there isn't a tradition of helping people with housing or health. They're going to have to decide not to fix the bridge, not to build the new road, and instead put it towards social housing. You can imagine the battles all across Ontario where people who are down and out are going to have to be battling for a roof over their head. There is going to be a legitimate battle going on, and in most cases there is going to be a lot of bitterness, there is going to be a lot of anger and vitriol as a result of the conflict Bill 152 does.

In essence, it puts people in need against property taxpayers across Ontario. You're going to have conflict all across this province. You're going to have a new battleground for social programs. The new battleground for social programs is going to be at the municipal council meetings, it's going to be at neighbourhood ratepayer meetings, because the debate will be whether or not to provide adequate ambulance service, whether to provide adequate day care service, whether to provide a home for the elderly. This is the type of argument and debate and conflict that Bill 152 unleashes upon Ontario.


I should mention that if you look at the experts -- and I know this government has either not looked at them or refused to acknowledge they have -- there is not one academic or business case study that this government has produced which shows that it makes fiscal, economic sense or social sense to download housing on to property taxpayers. They didn't produce one document that proved this is a proper thing to do, because there aren't any studies that would support this cockamamy idea of this government. The downloading of social housing is a cockamamy idea that came from who knows what. I know David Crombie, the expert the government paid to decide Who Does What, even said this came on the back of an envelope, it came out of the blue, it was never discussed, never recommended. Where does this cockamamy idea of downloading social housing for the poor on to the property taxpayer come from? There isn't one document, one study, one piece of evidence which justifies this cockamamy idea of downloading housing on the property taxpayer.

It is a foolish scheme. It is a scheme doomed to failure. It's a scheme that jeopardizes the vulnerable in our society and jeopardizes the property taxpayers right across Ontario. If you look at other experts who have looked at this thing, you'll see that, for instance, the Crombie commission report itself said, "We are unanimous in the view that if there is a choice between placing education or health and welfare on the property tax, it is clearly preferable to continue to rely on property tax to fund education." In other words, it's probably better to go back to the old system of having education on than putting welfare and social housing on. This is what Crombie said.

Also, in terms of shifting social services to municipalities, Crombie said it's "both wrong in principle and devastating in practice" if you do this; if you dump welfare on the property taxpayers.


Mr Colle: My friend from Kingston and The Islands said Duncan Sinclair said the same thing.

George Fierheller from the board of trade said, "They've got this one wrong." It's not sensible, it's not reasonable to dump social programs on property taxpayers.

Terry Mundell of AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said that it's just not acceptable to dump this on property taxpayers.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Paul Pagnuelo: "By shifting volatile social services, clearly a provincial responsibility, over to the property tax base, can only spell" --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. When conversations are louder than the person who addresses the House, there's something wrong. The member for Oxford.

Mr Colle: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Again, right across the board we've got almost a unanimous agreement from the experts that, especially in social housing, you can't put it on property taxpayers. It is too volatile, it is too much of a social responsibility. It should be on the provincial or federal income tax, not the poor property taxpayer or a tenant who pays property tax through rent. You can't do it; it doesn't make sense.

If you also look at the hearings that were held across the province on 152, the other area of concern was the area of health. As you know, with Bill 152, the downloading bill, public health will be a public responsibility at the local level. The fear expressed by experts in public health was that because the property tax base is so small, you'll have this competition between public health programs like smoke reduction programs, asking young people to stop smoking, AIDS education programs. Local municipalities will be so strapped for money they will not put money into preventive programs that will be cost-savers in the long run because they'll prevent these diseases from taking place in the future. These disease prevention measures in the field of health will probably suffer because of the shortsighted dumping of public health.

Ambulance services are now going to be dumped on local municipalities. You can imagine the hodgepodge, ad hoc system of ambulances we're going to have across this province, because every municipality will have control over ambulance services and who knows where it will be.

In terms of areas of public transportation, we are going to become the only jurisdiction in the civilized world which will have public transportation totally dumped on the property taxpayer. If you go to Malaysia, if you go to the Soviet Union, what is now Russia, if you go to Afghanistan, if you go to Italy, France, England, the United States, nobody dumps the cost of public transportation on to the property taxpayer solely. This government is doing this.

Which study, which documentation ever suggested that the cost of public transportation should be on the property tax? None. This was another whim on the back of an envelope, on the back of a serviette that was written down that makes no financial sense, because what it will do, it will again destroy public transportation across this province. It will mean that the gridlock that we have and are beginning to see in the GTA, in the Niagara Peninsula especially, which we see all around Metro -- we're going to see total gridlock where you'll be spending more money stalled in traffic than you'll be getting from Mimico to Markham. All your money will be spent stalled in traffic, all the cars will be pumping and spewing into our streets because there will be no money for public transportation.

The proof of it is, take a ride on the QEW parking lot any time, on the 401 parking lot, the Don Valley parking lot. It is bumper to bumper. If it is bumper to bumper now, when this government takes away funding of public transportation, as it's going to do with this downloading Bill 152 -- I see the former Minister of Transportation Gilles Pouliot. He knows it's a disaster that very few people are aware of that's pending.

Mimico will be known as smog city when this bill passes because of all the cars that will pollute because there will be no money for the streetcars, there will be no money for buses, there will be no money for GO transportation. Without provincial money in it there will be no expansion. It will dry up, it will wither on the vine. It will be just cars, cars, cars wherever you go. Cars are good, but not everywhere. You have to have a balance.

That's why every country in the world has put provincial money, state money into public transportation, except for this Neanderthal government that's now going to put public transportation on to the backs of property taxpayers. It makes no sense. It's a recipe for disaster.

I'll pass it over to my colleague from York South.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is a pleasure to continue with the discussion originated by my colleagues, and I particularly want to endorse the remarks of my colleague from Oakwood, the former chairman of the TTC, who knows something about how public services have to be preserved.

This bill is very obvious, as many of the bills from this government are. This is the latest in a litany of bungling by this government as it tries to cover up for the superficial promises it made in its Comic Book Revolution, with no idea how to run a good public transit system or any of the other services that it's now trying to fob off on to the municipalities under the worst circumstances imaginable, under circumstances of chaos and confusion that this government loves to foment when it comes to public services.

As my colleague from Oakwood has already indicated, this is not good for public transit, it's not good for public health, it's not good for ambulances. In short, it's not good for many of the things that make Ontario work, and all because this government, its members, the people who were sent here to represent a certain kind of take on things, instead have become fixated with one thing and one thing only: delivering on a tax cut, an ill-timed tax cut for Ontarians that's going to add $18 billion to $20 billion to the public debt of this province. That will give this government, like many Conservative governments, its deserved place as the people who generated most of the debt in this province, because they had $40 billion before we kicked them out of office last time.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is certainly a bill about reducing services in this province, about reducing efficiency, and certainly about creating more duplication than we've seen in this short a period of time.


Mr Kennedy: We hear some of the members opposite agreeing.

Certainly, when it comes down to the kind of cuts that our various municipal representatives are going to be asked to make, they're going to be done in areas that you would think even this government wouldn't trifle with; that even this government would show some due respect for the kind of things that have been accomplished in the area of public health, for the singular importance that people place on that part of the health system that brings an ambulance to their door, that makes sure they receive emergency medical attention in a timely fashion. Instead, in a very cavalier fashion, if you talk to any of the ambulance operators in this province, any of the people who deliver those services now, you know this is a government just sowing complete chaos over the next two years, huge uncertainty for the kinds of people who are out there.

We have to examine it in more detail to really surmise what, besides dumping the Meccano set all over the floor and letting the municipalities try and pick up the pieces, this government is trying to accomplish. What, for example, is it trying to do when it puts out ambulances in the municipal sector without setting appropriate standards, without really dealing with the way that ambulances need to function?


We have right now an integrated ambulance service in this province. People are given service no matter what happens. When we start looking at municipal control, differing standards from municipality to municipality, different ways of paying for things with no real established mechanism to make sure that people are going to receive this service, we can see the problems arising.

It is extremely problematic just from the standpoint of the so-called efficiency. This is a government that is going to pawn off $1 of ambulance costs which has within it another 40 cents in hidden costs. Why? Because when the provincial government, acting in concert, controlling a provincial system of ambulance services, was able to bulk-buy ambulances they could get them for a lot less. The same thing with the self-insured liability, which has kept some of the costs affecting ambulance services lower.

This government puts forward this bill to us tonight knowing full well that it's going to cost the taxpayers of this province more. But they're willing to do that because they're willing to take their simple gain, the idea of them cutting the taxes that they charge to some of the taxpayers, mainly those who are better off, and foist that in the way of extra user fees, reduced services and higher municipal taxes at another level. That's how crude this government has become.

When it looks at the costs of ambulance services, it isn't slowed down by that at all. It just cannot bring itself to govern effectively because, as I think many people are coming to realize, this is not a government that came to govern, that came to improve how government can work. This is just a government that knows how to take things apart and then has no idea how to put them back together again.

We see in the area of ambulances a whole environment being created where now we have Rural/Metro, we have Laidlaw, we have companies coming in from the United States wanting to take control of our local ambulance services. We are being given yet another blank cheque bill from this government that doesn't have the honesty, the integrity or the courage to tell us what it's going to do with local ambulance services. We may yet see in regulation fundamental changes that will allow the actual ownership of what has been at least a quasi-public system, there to provide services in the public interest. To have that taken away for the very cheap and very unsatisfying gain that is being offered by this government, I think the taxpayer will be able to evaluate for themselves.

But where this government really stumbles and distinguishes itself as the gang that couldn't shoot straight when they try to implement their Comic Book Revolution is in the area of public health. This government has abdicated its responsibility for hospitals, or at least tried to, but I think people know it's the Harris hospital policy, closing hospitals all across this province, 25 so far, and shutting them down all over the place; doing that, we hear now from no lesser authority than the new Minister of Health, with absolutely no vision, no plan at all for how they're going to be able to provide health services.

Incredible as it seems, two and a half years into this government, we find out they have no plan for health care and we find that there is a minister whose cupboard is bare and who is going to have to scramble around to do anything that looks like what the people of Ontario need. We see instead a desperate government that hasn't even got to first base to be able to define what services people need.

We should not be surprised that this is the selfsame government that could take public health out of the provincial sphere at the very time when all over North America -- every other jurisdiction in the world in fact -- public health is being made the agent of how to change health care systems. That tells us very singularly how little this government is interested in really making health care work, how small their commitment is to a publicly funded health care system and how many of the people who sit on the benches for this government must be looking forward to the day when we have a two-tier, Americanized-style health care system. That's exactly the path they're putting us on, by abdicating any kind of standards, by not being able to give us any kind of integrated health.

We have in fact the person this government appointed to be in charge of taking apart hospitals, with a promise of having some work later down the line, of being able to pull things back together, that person, Duncan Sinclair, last week in Kingston, at the association of public health authorities, said that the actions of this government in this bill, in Bill 152, are plain stupid, that in fact they're wrong when it comes to downloading public health, when it comes to taking away the services that people need.

In fact, if you were truly interested in the advice of some of the people who are trying to deal with some of the problems you are creating in health care, you would at least listen to this little bit of advice. Most of the advancements we've had for the quality of life of people in this province over the last 50 years have not been delivered in the hospital operating room. They've come about because of the activities of public health. This government is preying upon the public's lack of contact with some of those services and the way that people take for granted many of those services, to take them away.

If we look at the status today, we have in front of us a bill that the government purports will replace their responsibility to look after our public health, to do that as it has been done for dozens of years in this province. Instead, we learn that this bill talks about a structure of fines, of going to court, of all manner of things, but the reality is that the municipalities control the board of health in their local areas, and in future, for the first time, they're going to have to pay for it. Those municipalities will have no easy means of being given the ability or the suasion or the compulsion to provide important public health services.

We checked with the chief medical officer of health for this province, Dr Mowat, to find out how viable this plan is on behalf of these befuddled Tories who are trying to pull things apart and then put them back together and call that advancement. We find out from Dr Mowat that, here we are, approximately one month away from January 1, when public health is going to slip out of the fingers of this government, when it can wash its hands of some of the most essential services we provide to the people of Ontario, and it turns out there is no enforcement mechanism. There is no plan for enforcement and, in fact, not one staff member has been hired to make sure that public health is provided to people.

I see some of the members there starting to hang their heads in shame, as well they should. Perhaps there are other reasons why their heads are hanging. When we look at some of the reasons why health hazards in community health no longer will be looked after in the manner that they have been in the past, we have programs out there that are 80% and 100% funded by the provincial government. We see, for example, for chronic disease and injury prevention, that no longer will the province take an interest in making sure that those programs are going to be put in place, because they won't pay for them.

The role that public health has in early breast screening, a new role that has started and has gotten a lot of the people in public health excited, will now have to compete with potholes, with a whole range of things, especially the roads, extra welfare services and the other things that this government is dumping on those municipalities, giving to those councils a whole set of things with which they're unfamiliar but which ought to be covered by the provincial government, for the simple and, to most of us, very logical reason that if you're going to benefit, then you should pay for it.

These are the kinds of services that unfortunately no municipal council forced to deal with its water systems, forced to deal with its roads, forced to deal with all the new things that this government wants it to take on to the property tax, to take on to that static tax that has to be borne equally by older people as it is by renters, as it is by people who are out of work and those who have income.

Instead of putting it where it belongs in terms of income tax, the government is taking it off and it's going to make family health compete with those things. It's going to deal with sexual health. We heard this week from the sexual health association about the dangers. What they talked about is very clearly the dangers this government has opened up in turning back decades of progress that we have made with sexually transmitted diseases, the progress we've made in the disease of AIDS.

We talk about it particularly significantly today on World AIDS Day and here, on the very selfsame day when we're reminded to take responsibility for this societal problem, to do what we can to extinguish this new menace to health in our society, we have the regressive Ontario government pulling out of AIDS prevention, getting itself out of the business of making sure that AIDS is dealt with across the province, no longer paying for the 100% mandated programs that it had in the past; this on a day when we're supposed to be reflecting and redoubling our efforts to get rid of this disease.


We hear about the things that have been identified, the need to have testing for women who have HIV, to make sure that when they're pregnant we are catching that. We could save the health system millions of dollars by the simple act of doing that. One of the best agents for the education to make that possible is no less than the public health system we have, at least for the next 30 days, all across this province.

We look at the general child health that the public health system tries to contribute to in terms of breastfeeding; we look at the kinds of things they do to control infectious diseases in terms of food safety and safe water and rabies control, and basically working as our authority outside of the hospitals to prevent diseases. We look at the not-so-long-ago times when tuberculosis and other vaccine-preventable diseases were out there in the kinds of numbers that meant real harm to the children, to the vulnerable of this province, and we recognize that it makes no sense at all to take away the ability to coordinate approaches to those kinds of problems. Those are the kinds of things that no single municipality should be left to have to determine whether they have to be done.

We know, even for things like children's dental programs, that they'll save them and the rest of society all kinds of money in the future, but that isn't going to ring very well with a municipal council which has got to get on with the job of absorbing the kinds of services that they're having dumped on them by this government.

Certainly we recognize this is a failure on the part of this government of the first order. It's a failure of a government that has no vision, it's a failure of a government -- there are some people shaking their heads -- but admitted to by the Minister of Health, that this government has no vision, no sense of where it's going. It has taken away hospitals. It has cut every hospital in this province.

Every member of this government stood silent while its hospitals were being cut by 12%, while its emergency room hallways were being filled with cots of people who had to be there solely because of a Tory government lacking a perspective, the kind of perspective which would recognize -- and it's not too late, ladies and gentlemen, here tonight to recognize that the only way we can go forward with integrating health care, making it work for people, reducing some of the costs before we're faced with the large increase in demand that is associated with the aging of our population, is to do a good job of prevention.

Whether it's diseases or injury or education for children, or whether it's any of the things we've learned can be applied to the population at large, there is only one way to do that in this province and that is through the public health system. There is only one way to coordinate that in this province and that is by having it funded and coordinated by the provincial government.

For that to happen, as it did with social housing, there has to be a government prepared and courageous enough to stand up to its responsibility, to make public health and those other things work. It's not too late to do it, and I appeal to the members opposite to show that in place of a vision, you will at least understand the dangers --

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Hardeman: Just quickly, the members opposite seem to want to always look, but they always want to look back instead of ahead. I would just point out that the government has had discussions for the last year with the municipal sector to try to come up with the appropriate way of delivering these services.

The member from Kingston talked about the elimination of the farm tax rebate. I want to assure the members of the House and the members opposite that in fact the farm tax rebate was put in place a number of years ago to look after the cost of education on farm properties. As we look at removing the education cost from those farm properties, it seems that the municipal sector felt it was also the appropriate time to deal with the farm tax rebate and eliminate that program.

The other area I just wanted to touch on was that the member for Oakwood spoke about public transportation. Again, in discussions with the municipal sector, that was also one of the priorities they felt should be a municipal priority rather than a provincial priority.

To the member for York South, who spoke at length about public health and not being ready to deliver those programs starting January 1, I would point out that those programs are presently all delivered by municipal government. The only thing they don't do is pay 100% of the funding, which they will be doing starting January 1. I would suggest that this is not a major change, and I would assure you that the sector will be ready to deliver all those programs that they are presently delivering.

Last but not least, on the issue of land ambulances, I would also point out that the bill says that the land ambulance delivery of service will not change for the first two years, so the people of the province will be guaranteed the same level of service and the same type of service they have been receiving in the past. They will receive that for at least the first two years. This will give the municipal sector the opportunity to deal with the issues, as the member across the aisle suggested needed to be done, so they can carry on and deliver those services in the future.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Response?

Mr Colle: The member for Oxford talked about looking ahead and looking back. He says the opposition is looking back. This is probably the most backwards-looking -- it's totally regressive. This is what they used to do in the 19th century. Social housing, public transportation and health services were hodgepodge, ad hoc, at the local level. They didn't work. People were at the mercy of these hit-and-miss services. As we got more progressive and started to reach out to people and do things progressively and properly, they got to be more on the upper levels of government, the provincial and federal, where the impact was distributed on a more equal basis. That was the way things had gone for the last century. Now, with this Bill 152, we're regressing. It's like going back to the days of Charles Dickens in England. They're putting social housing, housing for the poor, back into the small neighbourhood churches and schools and into the cities.

Bill 152 and Bill 160 combine to be probably the most regressive, Neanderthal legislation ever put on the table here at Queen's Park. They're going so far back in time you can't even see or understand them. It is difficult for anybody who has studied municipal government or education to ever support Bill 160 or Bill 152. They are unsupportable. That's why they're jamming them through without debate.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm sharing the time tonight with my colleague the member for Fort York. Since there is very little time left for debate of this bill, I will take only a few minutes to emphasize what has been said before about the effect of Bill 152 in terms of the health of the population of Ontario.

I know it is quite common for the members of the government to accept, as apparently the member for Oxford has, the line that has been provided to counter the very logical and clear arguments that have been brought by those who work in the public health area and the ambulance area about the dangers of Bill 152. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me that members of the government can stand in defence of this bill when they know that this particular provision, in terms of public health and in terms of ambulance provision, is likely to ensure that any effective reform of the health care system can actually be effective and appropriate for the health of the population.

We rely as never before, in these times, on our ability to maintain a healthy population, to prevent disease, to ensure that we are encouraging healthy lifestyles, to ensure that we are encouraging people to understand what their part, what their role is in maintaining their own health and the health of their community.

Yet what do we find? We find this government downloading public health responsibilities on to municipalities and downloading them in a way that is, in conjunction with the change in mandatory services of public health departments, guaranteed to fragment the ability of the population health movement that has been so successful over many years in North America.


What you find, of course, when you take the power away from the medical officer of health, as this bill does, and when you put the responsibility for decision-making about the types and levels of public health services at the municipal level, is that you rely on property taxpayers at the municipal level to see what the appropriate action is in terms of preventive health care. Frankly, we know very clearly that this has been a problem for local authorities from the beginning of time. There are many stories about why it is difficult for local authorities, without an overriding standard that is there to require appropriate action, to make choices in areas of prevention in health care when the results may not be known for many years down the line.

One of the biggest tragedies of our democratic system, quite frankly, is that our way of having elections at regular intervals -- in the municipal field it's every three years -- does not encourage politicians to make decisions that have long-lasting effects rather than immediate gratification. That is one of the tragedies of our current system.

When you put the responsibility for preventive health care, for health promotion, at the local level, where the results may not be known for 20 or 25 years, we should not be surprised when we see those local authorities making decisions about the spending of their resources in ways that do not support those long-term measures, because there is no immediate gratification. In the next election you can't go and say, "People of my town, I have managed to improve the health of this population by X much." It's not measurable that way.

Unfortunately, the slow and insidious growth of various health problems with the download that has happened in terms of water and sewage and with the download that has happened in terms of the maintenance of our healthy communities under this act makes it even less likely that local authorities will choose to spend the dollars they need to spend on public health campaigns that improve the general status of health.

When I was growing up, I think when most of us were growing up and public health departments were active within our schools around health promotion and disease prevention, we all got told, again and again, we had signs in our washrooms about a simple measure: the importance of washing our hands after going to the bathroom. We had nutrition lessons as a regular part of what happened because public health nurses were in the schools.

Gradually, that form of public health intervention, that prevention and lifestyle form, has eroded and, I admit, not under this government any more than any other government. It has eroded over time. One of the reasons it has eroded is that kind of preventive measure does not have immediate results. They're not measurable. It's not easy for politicians to say, in times of dwindling resources, that this is where we should put our money because we know down the line we're going to save money as a result. That's a hard political sell.

If it's hard when public health is mandated and is under the control of a provincial government, how much harder is it when it's at the local level? A great deal harder. The programs my colleague from York South talked about -- the programs on sexually transmitted diseases, the programs on nutrition during pregnancy, the programs that are offered around hygiene matters, the programs that are delivered in terms of needle exchanges -- these are not popular in some parts of the province. There are some municipalities that don't want to get into the field of dealing with sexually transmitted diseases because they think that has something to do with sexual activity and they don't want to be involved. We will find many municipalities not participating fully in the very kinds of programs that have been shown to be essential in terms of the spread of disease, particularly as we talked about today on World AIDS Day, diseases like AIDS that are of epidemic proportions and that threaten all of us as a population.

When you add to that the absolutely insane notion that you can have an integrated health care system but you're going to have the ambulance services governed and paid for by local taxpayers, when you're in a situation where you are closing hospitals and trying to amalgamate and bring services together to build a kind of level of expertise in regional hospitals -- a move which may be good in and of itself but which is certainly going to require more transportation by ambulance -- and then you download that ambulance service on to municipalities and you require them to pay at the local level for those services, even knowing people will travel across many municipalities as they access those ambulance services, you think somehow this supports any believable action on your part about the integration of health care services? Not on your life.

This is simply a measure that is focused on privatizing yet one more aspect of the health care services. To my amazement, you have absolutely no empathy for those who have invested their lives and their life savings into privately owned ambulance services now. You have provided in this bill for a takeover of those businesses by municipalities with no compensation. It's very strange that this business-oriented government is quite prepared to turn around and attack businesses that have operated in this province for a long time, but it's quite clear why: You're not interested in all businesses; you're only interested in some businesses.

What you are clearly doing in this act is opening the door to those large private corporations, mostly American, that through economies of scale are trying to convince you that they can offer services at a corporate level in a better way than the locally delivered services that are there now. You've bought that line and you've opened the door. This bill is going to see the takeover of our ambulance services by many services that have proven to be quite inferior in other jurisdictions where they operate.

You have put no standards in this bill. There is no guarantee that when they're in regulations those standards won't erode over time to make it even easier for these profit-making corporations to make even bigger profits.

You have not of course allowed successor rights, so if these big corporations take over these areas, what will happen to the current employees, the well-trained employees we trained with taxpayers' money?

When you talk about making these changes and making them for the good of the population of Ontario, or when you try to sell them by saying this is going to be a more adequate way for taxpayers to be sure that their tax dollars are spent appropriately, shake your head. People can only be fooled for so long, and this is one of those bills that, as time goes on, is going to hang around your neck like an anchor. You may now try and convince people that it isn't going to have that effect on taxpayers, but we can assure you it will and you will rue the day that you touted this bill as being good for the taxpayers of Ontario because they are going to find out very soon how bad it is.


Mr Marchese: I want to congratulate the member for London Centre because I believe she has very accurately reflected the views of those who came to depute on Bill 152 as they relate to ambulance services and as they relate to public health.

I will add to her comments by giving some historical view of what I believe the people of Ontario are facing and why this government is dealing with Bill 152, which is very much inextricably connected to Bill 160.

This government should have been able to do much better in terms of getting a hold of its finances, for three reasons. One is that the interest rates have been at their lowest in the last 30 to 40 years, as a result of which this government has saved a great deal of money on the debt and deficit. I think they obviously view that as a good thing, but they never talk about the savings they've had as a result of interest rates being low, and it's good.

The other savings they've had of course -- and these people, these Tories on the other side, talk about how great the economy is moving along, as a result of which presumably we should be rolling in money because of the thousands of jobs you people are creating, and as a result of that presumably we should be having a lot of money in our provincial coffers to deal with the debt and the deficit.

The third area is the $8 billion to $10 billion that these fine Harrisites, these Tories, have cut in a lot of the provincial operational programs that we control as a province -- $8 billion to $10 billion that these people have cut already.

Add it all up: 8 billion to 10 billion bucks you've cut from all of the programs from the ministries that you operate -- environment, health, education, social services, culture. My God, the list goes on. You saved big bucks by chopping, essentially getting rid of a whole lot of workers who were providing a service who no longer can. Add that to your improved economy and the income taxes coming in and the interest rates, and I presume these folks would have gotten a hold of the deficit.

Why is it that they haven't done so? I'll tell you why, for those of you who are watching. The reason they are not getting a hold of the deficit is because of the income tax cut. They're almost close to approaching the 30% income tax cut. He's done two thirds; he's got a little bit left. That income tax cut is costing $2 billion to $3 billion to servicing. In other words, the government has got to borrow to pay $2 billion to $3 billion worth of money that's going out essentially to the wealthy folks these people are connected to: two to three billion bucks. That's why they can't get hold of the deficit: They've got to pay for the income tax problem they have instituted to help their banker-type friends. Imagine bankers, who earn $1.5 million, at the end of a 30% income tax cut are going to get back $120,000. These fine limousine drivers, like ministers, who go to work, do you think these people who make $1.5 million need a new fridge or a new stove or a new appliance? These people don't need that. These are the people who are making the money. Those of you who are watching this program, who've heard about Mike Harris's income tax cuts and are waiting for the benefit to flow from these cuts, are looking at your paycheques still, and saying, "Where is it?"

Speaker, you're aware of it because I know your constituents are calling too. You know that too; I know that. I know you're neutral and you can't talk about it, but your constituents are calling you too. These boys are saying: "Look, if this income tax cut has happened, where is it? I can't see it in my paycheque?" "How much are you earning?" "I'm earning $40,000, I'm earning $50,000; I don't see it."

Mike Harris and the Ministry of Community and Social Services types are saying, "Give it back." Give what back? If they're not getting any, what can they give back? What you should do is ask your banker friends to give it back because those people don't need it. But Mike Harris says, "Don't worry about that because even if they make $120,000 on the $1.5 million they got, because of our income tax cuts they're going to invest. That will lead to productive jobs. It's going to create jobs." The people who are suffering out there are not seeing those jobs. They're not seeing it. Ask the people who are suffering.

Thomas Aquinas said, "To live well is to work well." You remember the great 13th century theologian, Speaker, a fine theologian. It's an important saying -- 13th century. He had it right, "To live well is to work well," but far too many Canadians today feel defeated and desperate. They see the 14,000 workers Mike Harris is laying off and the countless other workers who are being laid off by the cuts of the Mike Harris government; they're feeling desperate and defeated. This axiom, "To live well is to work well," is true if they have work. If they do not have work, they cannot live well. He had it right -- 13th century.

What you've got here is Mike Harris having to deal with a $2-billion to $3-billion income tax cut problem every year. Some people say $5 billion; I believe it's grossly exaggerated, but the $2 billion to $3 billion that we've got borrow to pay to wealthy bankers is very real. To get money, what does Mike Harris, the Premier of Ontario, have to do? He's got to introduce Bill 160 and consequently Bill 152. Why is Bill 160 in front of us? I'll tell you why: Mike Harris needs the bucks to deal with the income tax cuts. That's why it's here.

Mike says it's all about quality education. He and the Minister of Education cite three areas: They say accountability, they say keeping the class size down, and they say the contact time the students are going to have is going to improve the education system. That is all they speak to. Let me speak to all three as quickly as I can.

On the issue of accountability, what Mike Harris, this Premier of this Conservative Party, is saying is: "We're going to centralize power, we're going to centralize control and decentralize blame and the burden downward. But we're going to first centralize power in order to get hold of the finances." He needs to centralize control, to eliminate the trustees and the boards of education so they no longer have a hand in the money and Mike Harris now controls the pot. It's a $6-billion pot.

Why on heaven's earth do you think this guy wants to take control of education? To bring the level of education financing down. He's saying, "Everybody's going to be equal." I say everybody's going to be equally poor now. Separate school trustees who thought they were going to get more money are going to get less money for their education system, or they will be equal to the public school system. He's going to ratchet down, the billions of dollars. We're going to see that soon. When the Minister of Education brings the legislative grants forward in, I presume, a month or two, we're going to see that the level of education spending will be uniformly lower for both public and Catholic school kids in this province. That's what you will see.

On top of that, Mike Harris and the Minister of Education have found out, through the questions I've been asking these people, that there are $2-billion worth of programs run locally. These guys have no responsibility to fund those programs.

Mr Wildman: He's going to whack them.

Mr Marchese: He's going to whack them good. Mike Harris and the Minister of Education are going to say, as he's been saying, "We're going to treat everybody fairly." I say to the Minister of Education: Answer my question. You never answer the question. I say boards of education are providing $2-billion worth of programs and you, the province, have no obligation to those programs. I ask the minister: Will you continue to fund them? He says they're all going to be treated fairly. It's a chant; it's a constant -- in his low, mellifluous voice, making me feel good -- saying, "Don't worry, everybody's going to be treated fairly." One is tempted to believe him because he and the Minister of Labour are very mellifluous in their tone. You're tempted to believe them.


I say to the people watching, not only has it been exposed that Mike Harris has taken $700 million, identified in the contract to his deputy, but I tell you, Speaker -- and your folks in Etobicoke are equally as worried about education as I am -- he's going to take $1 billion from those $2 billion that the boards of education are spending and he's going to give it back to the boards of education by saying, "I'm going to now provide junior kindergarten for all the boards of education in Ontario." Mike Harris is going to look like the prince on a white horse saying: "You see, I've been listening. You guys have wanted a JK program and I'm providing it for you." But he's taking $1 billion away and then he's going to bring it back and say: "I've given you JK because I'm listening. I'm a good guy because I used to be a teacher and I know what it's like. I used to be a teacher a long time ago and I know that we need JK."

This is the same Premier who went to speak to some bankers the other day -- bankers, corporate élites and university presidents -- and said, "We've got to make education relevant." He alluded to the fact that things such as sociology or geography lead nowhere. I'm assuming he would lump into that category, that rubric, the lesser of educational programs: French presumably, philosophy presumably and all these other fine courses.

The Premier, this Renaissance man relegates these subjects as the little subjects that lead nowhere. Good God, I hope the presidents of those universities don't agree with him. I would be alarmed and ashamed to think those bank presidents and university presidents might agree with the Premier that these subjects are irrelevant. I would worry if I were you, Speaker, because you're in charge of this assembly, worried about everybody. I worry about a Premier who makes comments of that sort. I'm glad the Premier's here to listen to my comments. I respect the fact that he's here to listen to what we have to say.

I've got to tell you, on the issue of contact time, he's eliminating now not half of the preparation time, but a third of the preparation time, but if he's not putting the teachers back into the classroom and he's firing those people, how are you going to increase the contact time between teachers and students?

We talked about centralization of money to take it out. We talked about contact time. To expose the problem: If you're taking prep time away and you're not putting it back, you don't have the contact time.

Finally, class size: It takes billions of dollars to reduce class size by one; billions -- even two, three -- it takes billions of bucks. He's not putting bucks back into the system; he's taking them away. On the issue of class size to which he alludes and says, "We are getting hold of this finally," he's getting hold of a bull. That's what he's getting hold of, and nothing short of that, because everybody understands that in the classroom an average of 25 means very little, because when you lump in the principals and the vice-principals and the consultants and a whole host of other people, that class size is huge. He's not saying we're reducing it; he's saying an average of 25. It means nothing.

They say this is what's going to improve the education system. I tell you there is nothing in that bill that will do anything of that sort. Mike Harris --

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): It's Bill 152.

Mr Marchese: Minister of Community and Social Services, I'm coming to it. Janet, I'm coming to it. The Premier and his ministers are taking $2.5 billion out of the property taxes that go to education and say that's wonderful. They talk about all these poor seniors who have been waiting for this for a long time. "Finally," Janet, you, Minister of Community and Social Services and others say, "relief for these poor seniors." What kind of relief is it if you take $2.5 billion out for educational purposes and you put it back, if you load them, like Atlas who carries the world on his shoulders, with another heavy responsibility?

In Bill 152 you download housing, child care, welfare, ambulances, public health, $220 million. You unload all of that and more.

The Speaker: It being 9:15 of the clock, pursuant to the order of the House dated September 16, I'm now required to put the question.

Mr Carroll has moved third reading of Bill 152.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

Pursuant to standing order 28(h), I would like to request a vote on Bill 152 be deferred until December 2, 1997: The government whip moves that. It now being nearly 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2116.