36th Parliament, 1st Session

L256b - Thu 4 Dec 1997 / Jeu 4 Déc 1997



The House met at 1830.



Mr Turnbull moved government notice of motion number 55:

That, notwithstanding standing order 6(a), the House shall continue to meet commencing Monday, December 15, 1997, until Thursday, December 18, 1997;

That pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on December 15 and 16, 1997; and

That pursuant to standing order 9(e)(i), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to midnight on December 17 and 18, 1997, for the purpose of conducting government business, at which time the Speaker shall adjourn the House without motion until the next sessional day.

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



Hon David Turnbull (Minister without Portfolio): Thank you, Marion, for that generosity. I know we always would want to extend the same to you.

I'm very pleased to rise tonight to debate the government calendar motion. I want to put this in a little bit of perspective. We have come from a period of probably the most intense year in terms of the number of hours this Legislature, I suspect, has ever sat in history. It's been a very busy year and it's been a very challenging agenda. There have been a lot of promises that the government is delivering on that it made during the last election. It has called for some tremendously tough decisions on the part of the government. We have faced significant obstruction from the opposition which has demonstrated itself in several ways.

I'd like to quote from a doctoral paper that I glanced at recently. It states, "Legitimate dissent becomes obstruction when it serves no other purpose than to delay, when it is not exposing weakness or moulding opinion, but simply preventing legislation being passed." That was written by C.E.S. Franks in The Parliament of Canada.

One way to measure obstruction would be to look at the number of bills passed as a percentage of the number of bills introduced. "If the percentage were less than 100%, a prima facie case would be made that the opposition had been successful at obstructing the government's agenda." This is lifted directly from a doctoral paper by Chris Charlton, in fact the wife of a former member of this House who sat in the NDP government.

I'd like to compare some of the statistics we have with regard to the amount of debate on both second reading and third reading. When we look back to the average amount of debate time on second reading between the years 1975 and 1990, there was less than half an hour; in the 35th Parliament there was three hours and 53 minutes; and in the 36th Parliament, six hours is the average amount of second reading debate time.

Let us move on to the question of third reading debate time. Between 1975 and 1990 the average amount of debate time was less than 15 minutes; in the 35th Parliament, 68 minutes; and now in the 36th Parliament, 2.17 hours of debate.

I think it's instructive that everybody understands what has happened. There has been a concerted effort by the opposition to stop the agenda of a legitimately elected government, a government that was elected with a majority of the members in this place, on a very clearly stated platform, a platform which was known as the Common Sense Revolution. Unusually, this platform was put out one year before the last election. There has never been a case in Canadian history, to the best of my knowledge, where a political party has put forward an agenda that was available to the previous government because it was put out during their term, a year before the election. We encouraged the opposition to embrace many of the measures to make Ontario competitive again. Competitive means that we will have jobs for our children and that we won't find that our children are driven from this province, that there will be a prosperous future and that we can protect all of those services that Ontarians are used to.

I want to review some of the challenges this government faced when it first came into office. In 1990, when the NDP came into office, they found that the previous government had misstated the severity of the recession that was coming on and had misstated the fiscal situation of that government. The Liberals went to the electorate in 1990 suggesting that they were going to have a balanced budget. In fact, the year prior to that they had stated that they'd had a balanced budget and the interesting facts in the matter are that the Liberal government had projected in its budget document a deficit in that year of $550 million. In fact, they received an unusual payment from the feds because the economy was so booming in the whole of Canada that they hadn't anticipated the amount of money that would come in. They received an unusual payment from the federal government of $888 million.

One would assume that given the fact that the Liberal government of the day had projected a $550-million deficit, then they would have had a very significant surplus. In point of fact they had a surplus in the area, if I remember correctly, of about $90 million. How they had achieved that, notwithstanding the fact that they got this large payment from the federal government, was that they had used techniques called pre-flow where they had taken revenue that should have been attributed to the following year and moved it forward into that year and they had moved expenditures that they should have recognized in that fiscal year to the following year.

The NDP government came into power with a mandate that they believed in, and while I respectfully disagree with the NDP, I will say that at least one knows where the NDP stands on many issues. I don't happen to subscribe to those views, but I recognize that the NDP holds those values to be dear and is consistent about them. One never knows where the Liberals stand on any particular issue. But the NDP found that, when they opened up the books, they had a deficit in excess of $2.5 billion.

In fairness, the NDP's Treasurer, Floyd Laughren, admitted that there were some charges they were taking which would not necessarily have had to have been taken, and that was as a result of some of their election promises. But notwithstanding that, they would have had a significant deficit in that year. The NDP faced many challenges and, within bounds, I would say they made an honest effort to try and address those challenges. We believe they made some substantial mistakes and, had they taken the advice of the Conservative third party at the time, they would not have got into some of the difficulties they faced.


However, moving to the last election, in 1995, this government came in to an accumulated debt of around $100 billion. I have to repeat that slowly: $100 billion. I certainly find that I still have to write it down to count the number of zeros, it's such a mind-boggling figure. The government of Ontario, based on the budget the NDP had set for that fiscal year that we came into government, was spending at the rate of $1.2 million an hour more than we were taking in in revenue. Ontario was in decline. Ontario, which had led Confederation, was at a point where we had lost a net 10,000 jobs in the years the NDP had been in power.

There's no doubt about it, the NDP faced many challenges which were of a worldwide nature. There was a significant recession on. Nobody could have calculated the depth of that recession, and I fully acknowledge that. However, many of the actions they took exacerbated the problem to the extent that we had a government which was going further and further into debt.

Let's think about debt. When you're talking about government deficits and debt, so many of the population don't know the difference between deficit and debt. They think when you get rid of the deficit, you've suddenly cleaned up the problem. No, that's the amount more you've spent each year than you've taken in. But what successive governments of all three parties have done is put that on the credit card for our children to pay.

One would say, "Oh, it's just simple; you just work away at that," but unfortunately our tax rates were so uncompetitive that we had gone from being one of the most competitive administrations in North America to one of the least competitive administrations. When you took the summation of all the taxes and all the burdens and all the charges that were put on to employers together, when you looked at the total picture, we were one of the most heavily taxed administrations in the whole of North America, and that was what was making the situation of job loss even worse.

In putting forward our plan for the revitalization of the Ontario economy, we were very careful to go around the whole of the province and listen to people in all walks of life as to what their solutions would be. Clearly, being a political party - we are a Conservative Party - we would place more weight on some solutions that we heard than others, but we heard a full spectrum of problems and solutions.

We put forward, as I've said, an election document called the Common Sense Revolution a year before the election and we committed to cutting the provincial portion of income taxes by 30% over our first term in office. Why did we choose 30%? It wasn't a number where we stuck our finger in our mouth and felt the air and said, "What feels good?" It was a number that was arrived at to very closely approximate the lowest income tax rate in Canada, which was that of Alberta. That was how we arrived at that number; it wasn't happenstance.

The Common Sense Revolution said we would cut government spending. In point of fact, in that 10-year period since the last time the Conservatives had been the government, spending had more than doubled in this province. Had we taken the spending of the last Conservative government and adjusted it for inflation and increase in population, we would have had a budget which would have been somewhat like $8 billion a year less than the one we took over. But we found we had a very profligate Liberal Party that didn't come across an expenditure they didn't like. They spent millions upon millions of dollars on advertising.

I am fascinated to see my good friend Mr Bradley, the member for St Catharines, here tonight. I'm sure he will be commenting on this. I have heard him on so many occasions criticizing this government for the fact that we have taken paid advertising to explain something to the public which would go beyond what the press would put down in any interpretation, to give the unbridled truth as to what the government was doing. Every party in Canada that is a governing party spends money on advertising. That is a fact. The NDP did it, the Liberals did it and the previous Conservatives did it. We were very clear: We were determined to cut the cost of government, and the amount of money we are spending on paid advertising is substantially less than the Liberal government and the NDP spent. However, the Liberals were the ones who spent the most money.

We took over the government and we said that we were going to balance the budget by the budget year 2000-01. When we first came out with our document, the Common Sense Revolution, we had said we would balance the budget one year earlier than that and in later editions of that same document we adjusted it to reflect the new situation in Ontario. We had a choice. We could have gone ahead, barged ahead and said, "Oh, we'll balance it in three years," as the NDP did, notwithstanding the fact that they had added more to the debt of this province than any other party in history. And we didn't do the four years that the Liberals, in typical form, did.

The NDP, in fairness, said they weren't going to make any tax cuts. We respect them for that. We don't agree it was the right approach, because in the first place you added taxes and so did the Liberals. We remember: 33 tax increases from the Liberal government and 32 from the NDP. You two opposition parties were the genesis of the tax problem we faced in this province. Nevertheless, we said we were going to balance it in five years.

The Liberals had criticized the Common Sense Revolution for that full year. They said: "It will never work. You shouldn't cut taxes. You shouldn't do all of these things." Then guess what? I know this is going to be a surprise to you folks, but just very shortly before the election, when they realized that this document was having an attraction, they said, "Oh, we'll cut taxes too, but we'll only cut them by half of what you're doing and we'll spend more money in other areas." Well, if spending money was the criterion for a successful province, we would be the most successful administration in the whole world because we are among the very highest spenders in almost every category one cares to mention.

We came forward with a platform where we said we would cut provincial income taxes by an average of 30%. In fact, the final plan that was worked out gives a higher-than-30% provincial tax reduction to people at the low end of the income spectrum and the people at the high end get less than 30%, but on average the cuts we're putting through are about 31%. To date, we have delivered on 22.4% of the tax reductions, so we are already significantly into the plan we laid out to balance the budget.

We took over a deficit which that year was projected to be I think $11.3 billion and we're down today to about $6.6 billion. That's a $4.7-billion-a-year reduction in the amount we're spending more than we're taking in. The tax reductions have been completely self-funding, because contrary to the naysayers, revenues have gone up as a direct result of the fact that we have cut taxes, and so the plan is working.


Turning to other areas of the economy, in the health care field we made a commitment that we would not cut health care spending. To be precise, the commitment that was made, if I remember correctly, was that the NDP said they were going to freeze spending at the current level, $17.4 billion that year, which was exactly the same commitment we made. The Liberals, on the other hand, said that they were going to freeze spending at $17 billion. They've never told us where they were going to get that $300 million in savings, but I'll tell you where the cuts were made.

There were cuts made by a Liberal government, but it was the federal Liberal government that cut transfers to Ontario with respect to health care and education, by some $2.4 billion in the fiscal year. Our government has made up that $2.4 billion, and then on top of that we have added some more money. We are spending this year at the rate of $18.5 billion, substantially more than was being spent when we took government. Part of that money is not ongoing funding, part of it is restructuring money, because the health care system in this province needs to be restructured, and I believe whichever government was in power would be dealing with this reality today, because Ontario is somewhat behind the eight ball in terms of restructuring the health care system.

When we go back 20 years or so ago, we had a system which was heavily oriented around long hospital stays. Today, with less-intrusive surgery, we know that people can often have day surgery and go home. The challenge is to move the money out of the bricks and mortar and into the services which support people in the community. As our population gets older, they will need more and more services in the community, and we have announced many initiatives in the area of health care where we are reinvesting savings that we are achieving out of the closure of hospitals.

The two previous governments had criticized the earlier Conservative government for closing a few hospital beds. Then the Liberals, who had been very vociferous in their opposition to hospital beds being closed, came in and closed a significant number of beds. Then the NDP came in. Of course, we had been peeling them off the ceiling in terms of hospital bed closures, but - I know you'll find this hard to believe - they came in and they closed more hospital beds, so we had the situation where by the end of the NDP's mandate, one third of all of the hospital beds in this province had been closed. They hadn't made the wrong decision; the only mistake they had made is they hadn't done the next piece of the puzzle. In fairness to the NDP, they had contemplated the next piece of the puzzle.

The next piece of the puzzle was that the NDP - I hope that my colleague across the floor recognizes that I am giving you credit for the things I believe you did right - had asked the district health councils around the province to do a study as to how hospitals should be restructured. A proposal came in from the district health councils, of which the majority of all the members were NDP appointments, which recommended that a group of hospitals, in Metro particularly - since I'm a Metro member, I'll dwell particularly on that, but in fact they recommended hospital closures across the province -

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to hear your speech on MVA.

Hon Mr Turnbull: I will get to that, my friend.

The recommendation was that they should close I believe one less hospital than the final recommendation made by the hospital restructuring commission. When our government started, we recognized that there was the potential for political conflict in terms of which hospitals would be closed. We felt that it was more appropriate that these decisions be made completely out of the hands of politicians, so we appointed the hospital restructuring commission under Dr Duncan Sinclair, and Dr Duncan Sinclair is from Queen's University and a very eminent academic who has some considerable knowledge of the field.

The recommendation that the hospital restructuring commission came forward with was that, yes indeed, there were substantially too many hospitals in Metro. They were concerned that one third of all the beds were empty, because this gave an undue burden of administration that was soaking up money which should have been spent and reinvested into health care and delivering health care in the new paradigm of a lot more assistance in the home.

One of the first things our government did was announce the doubling of the number of magnetic resonance imaging machines in the province, and to date approximately half of that doubling has already been delivered and is up and running around the province. This is a non-intrusive method of determining certain illnesses, which can significantly help the medical community in determining the nature of the illness and in diagnosing the problems. That was the situation in health care.

If one were to start with a blank piece of paper and design a health care system anywhere in the world today, I suspect we would not have exactly the same configuration. Certainly you wouldn't place all of the hospitals in downtown areas, but remember that these grew up as independent institutions and most of the population was concentrated in the downtown area. Today we have a vastly dispersed population, and with immigration and new housing moving out into the outskirts we have to make sure that health care is available to all the people. Indeed, retirees who live across the province in some fairly distant places are going to have to have the availability of renal dialysis, and we have increased the number of renal dialysis units around the province to make sure that long distances are not having to be undertaken by those people who need that assistance.

That really gives you a sense of what's happening with health care. We have recognized the good work which was done by the NDP in terms of getting ready for hospital restructuring and we're moving ahead with it in a non-political way. I recognize that my friends across the floor would like to politicize this, but the fact is we have said we're not going to do favours for members; we are going to make sure that the care goes where it needs to go, and that is where the population is. That is what Dr Duncan Sinclair is doing, and I think he is doing a fine job.

There can be some times that frankly as a politician I cringe a little and think, "Gee, for political purposes, it would be nice if they did" fill in the blank, but the fact is we owe it to the taxpayers and the patients of Ontario to make sure that the money is spent where it deserves to be spent, where it needs to be spent.

When we move to the area of education, we are now spending more on education than we have ever done in the history of this province. We're spending at the provincial level substantially more money, and most of that money is actually being soaked up in the pension plan. This is a very interesting story. The NDP, during its trials and tribulations, went to the teachers' unions and said, "We don't want to make that contribution we've been making towards the pension plan for a while. Guess what? We'll have a three-year holiday," which just conveniently took it beyond the next election - I think by then they already knew that they wouldn't have to pay the piper - and then they committed to freezing in time the amount of money that was supposedly underfunded in the pension plan, an $8.5-billion unfunded liability, and they committed to a regime where they would pay for that at an accelerated rate for the 30-year period. So this year we are spending on the teachers' pension plan some $1.1 billion. Actuaries have indicated that, based upon the experience in the fund, there is no reason to be putting that amount of money in. Correct payment this year should be in the region of about $550 million still a substantial amount of money.


Now let us be very clear in case any teachers are watching and think that in some way we're trying to chisel away at the money in their pension plan. There is no suggestion of that because they have what is known as a defined benefit plan. Therefore, they cannot get less, but they also cannot get more. If the pension plan does exceedingly well and this amount of money goes in and builds up as a surplus, the teachers cannot take any benefit from it. It is just money that is not available for the education system. This was the deal our friends in the NDP made in the last government. So we have this challenge.

We are spending today the second-highest amount on education in Canada. However, we find the fact that some of the school boards are being remarkably profligate and others have been making do with less money. I look across the floor and I'm reminded of the North York School Board which a few years ago had the great embarrassment when it came out that they were having shrimp for dinner, the school trustees were having shrimp dinners. That's what the money was being spent on.

I challenge anybody to go into any school board office. They will find extremely expensive, elegant furniture in the school board offices, wonderful school board offices, but the money is not being spent in the classroom. We made a commitment that we will adhere to, and that is we will not cut classroom spending. However, we are sending a message very clearly with our new funding formula that those school boards that are profligate will not have the money to spend on all of these silly frills. They have to spend it in the classroom because there will be benchmarks set all across the province.

This, by the way, is something which is done in many of the provinces today. There's nothing unusual that we did in Bill 160. We are already in the situation in Canada, in many provinces, where money is being allocated by the province and that's exactly what we're going to do.

Successive governments have had recommendations from all kinds of commissions to do this, but most people have been too weak-kneed to do it. Quite frankly, when you're in the situation that you have to make tough decisions, guess what? Politically, it's very easy to run. You need to have the guts to say, "No, our young children deserve better," and that's what we're going to do.

So our agenda in this House this year has been correcting huge past mistakes that have been made by governments, and we are determined to deliver on all of our promises to the extent that in the next election we're going to be able to look people in the eye and say: "Do you know what? We did all of the things we said we were going to do and you vote on the basis of that." Some people may not like all of the things we've done, but we told them a year before the election.

We recognize that in this province, with three parties, you don't get elected typically with a majority. In fact, there has been no majority government in living memory in this province. The NDP was elected with 37.8 % of the electorate and they had a majority government. They did some things which I know my party didn't agree with, and when you got some sense out of the Liberals as to where they stood on the matter, they said they didn't agree with it. They never said what their alternative plan was. I remember so well when Premier Rae got up and said: "Where do you stand, Liberals? What would you do? The Conservatives have already told us what they would do. We're not going to do it because we don't agree, but they very clearly" - Bob Rae said he recognized that we had an alternative plan.

Who knows where the Liberals are on any day of the week. It is not surprising that in the last election, we had people dogging the leader of their party in great big slippers going flip-flop, flip-flop.


Hon Mr Turnbull: My good friend, Mr Phillips, has suggested that I should comment on the question of reassessment. I remember that in the 1990 election his election platform was he wanted market value assessment. I, on the other hand, fought against market value assessment and I make no bones about it. The NDP brought in a bill when they, by surprise, got elected. The Liberals had already said that they were going to implement market value assessment, and when the NDP came in they said they were going to implement it too, on the basis of 1988 assessments, the year of the highest level of values. I had opposed it and I make no bones about it.

The plan which we have brought in is a modified plan. It is still based - I want to be very clear, I'm admitting - it is still based on a value of the building, but it is significantly modified over the Liberal and the NDP plan because it is not based on the 1988 assessment and it will be updated each year. As well as that, it will mitigate a lot of the very serious problems. But it is not market value assessment, I emphasize, because had it been market value assessment, the shifts would have been too large and would have been unfair.

Mr Phillips is very interesting; he's a typical Liberal because he was in favour of market value assessment when they were the government, and now he's against it, because I saw him voting against the bill when we brought it forward and yet he says it's the same. Can anybody figure out what that means? He says it's the same, but he voted against it, and I have election literature saying that he was in favour of it. It's very, very difficult to understand.

Perhaps what Mr Phillips doesn't like is the modifications that we've made to it which make it a much fairer plan and will not drive the railways out of Toronto as a result of the heavy burden that is placed on railway land because there will be a standardized fee based on utilities. Let's be very clear about this: The Liberal and the NDP plan was that they would tax railway rights of way at the value of the average of the adjacent property, which would mean that if a railway went through Rosedale, they would be paying Rosedale residential rates. This is how silly their plan was. We have addressed those very serious concerns. I wish that I had won the argument against going on something based upon value, but I didn't. But frankly, I'm man enough to say this: I'm not inconsistent as my friends on the Liberal benches are.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm not. No, it's Al that's not consistent. He said he wasn't against it, now he's in it.

Hon Mr Turnbull: I see Mr Phillips seems to have a little bit of trouble with the fact that he was in favour of it, then he voted against it even though he says it's the same. Try and figure out which of those positions you belong to.

We're moving ahead very well with our plan to revitalize the economy. We now have in Ontario the best job creation in the whole of Canada: About 60% of all of the net new jobs are occurring in Ontario even though only 37% of the population is in Ontario. Isn't that a change from the days when we lost a net 10,000 jobs in Ontario, even when other provinces were gaining jobs?

Mr Phillips: There are more people out of work now.

Hon Mr Turnbull: My good friend Mr Phillips, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, says there are more people out of work. In point of fact, what happens is an interesting effect. When the economy turns around, you have what is known as a higher participation rate. I suspect I should go back to the things Mr Phillips was saying when he was in government because he has selective memory as to how he expresses things. There is a participation rate, and as people see jobs being created then they move to want to get a job. So they come forward again. There is significant job creation in Ontario. In fact, Ontario is leading the OECD in job creation; Ontario and Alberta have led this year. It's probably just coincidence, of course, that we have Conservative governments in those two provinces. Next year, Ontario and Newfoundland are set to lead the job creation.


Our agenda is moving along very well despite all of the tactics of the opposition parties to delay: useless tactics, tactics which instead of adding to the debate have gone into all kinds of very poor displays where we were sitting overnight for 10 days, not debating, mind you, but a silly tactic in terms of reading a motion which was very clearly a delaying tactic as opposed to something which added to the quality of the debate.

I think it's important that we deal with the motion as quickly as possible. I've outlined what our government has done. I'm proud of the achievements of our government. It's been difficult for members of all parties because we have all been here for a long period of time. I do apologize if I have woken up some of my friends on the Liberal benches. I've no doubt that as the debate continues tonight, I will hear back - the boomerang effect - but I look forward to what they have to say.

I think it's in the best interests of everybody that we complete our agenda and that we move forward and then that we have time in our constituencies, all of our members, speaking to the people out there and doing the other very important part of our job.

With that, Mr Speaker, I will thank you very much for the opportunity to debate.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bradley: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I'm assuming that applause I heard was for your calling me to speak at this time, and I appreciate the strong support of the members on the government side who now recognize that I've been fighting on their behalf to help them wrestle control from the unelected advisers to the Premier, the people we call the whiz kids.

I want to indicate that I am sharing my time with Gerry Phillips, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt. He'll have an opportunity to correct the misimpressions that have been created as a result of Mr Turnbull's speech this evening.

I want to congratulate David Turnbull, first of all, on now having the title -


Mr Bradley: I'm being heckled while I'm trying to do this by the member for Rexdale.

By the way, I should say before I actually congratulate you, to the member for Rexdale, that none other than Gary Carr's mother lives in his riding. Mrs Carr watches the channel all the time. I want to say hello to Mrs Carr and say that she should be very proud of her son, who, despite the browbeating that was being administered by members of the government caucus, had the intestinal fortitude to vote for his constituents and against Mike Harris and the whiz kids on Bill 152, which is the bill that downloads onerous financial responsibilities from the provincial government to the local government. I know that Gary Carr's mother is proud of him. She should be proud of him for that, along with Toni Skarica, who also, unlike many of the other government members, decided that he would vote on behalf of his constituents. I want to congratulate both of those individuals. I watched what happened that day. I watched them go over. I saw the member for Brantford, Mr Johnson, come down -


Mr Bradley: I know you're surprised. I hear surprise expressed that he would be here to do this, but he was over to see in this case Gary Carr. I saw a couple of other members around. My friend Bill Murdoch, who fulminated out in the hallway about how he was going to vote against the government, turned out to be a good government man when it came down to the vote. But he was talking to Gary Carr and several others. You'll recall this, Mr Speaker. Then I saw the Honourable Cam Jackson and Mr Trevor Pettit, the member for Hamilton-Mountain. They were over trying to persuade Toni Skarica that he should vote with the government and not with his conscience.

They were the only two. I knew there were other people in the government caucus who were beside themselves over this unwise policy which would add in future years to the tax burden of local municipalities. I wanted to say this because I know that Mrs Carr, who lives in Rexdale -

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Bradley: They want to say Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Phillips: Etobicoke is gone.

Mr Bradley: Etobicoke is gone. I would like to say Etobicoke, but under the megacity bill, Etobicoke doesn't exist any more. All the members for Etobicoke except the Speaker voted to abolish Etobicoke and have one huge megalopolis in Toronto. That's why I say to Mrs Carr, it's quite all right to refer to herself as a resident of Rexdale.

I want to deal first of all with the overall style of this government, because I know that all the people who sit in the Speaker's chair are worried about the changes to the rules of this House. The government came in, and it had been handed some rule changes from the previous government that allowed much more power into the hands of the governing party. But that wasn't enough for this government. The people who advise Mike Harris, the unelected people, the Tom Longs of this world, the John Toogoods, the Guy Giornos of this world, said to Mike Harris: "You know, that democratic system they have in Parliament is slowing things down too much. We should be rushing forward. It doesn't matter if our own supporters believe that we're moving too quickly, too rashly, too radically, too recklessly, and not looking at the consequences of our actions. It doesn't matter. We've got to move faster."

It got to a ridiculous point in June of this year when Al Palladini, if I may call him that, the Minister of Transportation of the day, was trying to get a bill through the Legislature dealing with truck safety. We in the official opposition had been asking, as were the NDP, for the government to bring forward this truck safety bill that we heard a lot about, because we saw a press conference and a lot of furore at this press conference. Then, when the Minister of Transportation of the day tried to bring in his truck safety bill, we found out that it had to be shoved aside because Guy Giorno wanted the rule changes through.

Let's look at a sports analogy, where you would have two normal hockey teams with people of normal size and normal temperament out there, and one team decided to get a lot of huge players who were very physical. In hockey they call them goons - I'm not suggesting this for the government, but that's used in hockey analogy - so a team that was very rough and tough, the way the old Philadelphia Flyers used to be, say about 1975. Then they decided, "Let's rig the rules to favour the team which relies on intimidating tactics," like the Philadelphia Flyers did in 1975, the rough, tough Broad Street Bullies. They changed the rules so they favoured one team over the other team, that is, the government over the opposition.

Some government members were convinced by some people in the cabinet that this was good for the whole Legislature, that this would hurry things through. "This is just like the business we run. We've got to just rush things through."

There is a difference between business and governing in a Legislature. Yes, governments should apply some business practices in many instances. That's healthy, that's good, and it helps with efficiency. But this House cannot be run like a business, where somebody simply snaps his or her fingers and something is done. The healthiest democracy is one where there is a full debate, where all sides are heard, and ultimately a decision is made and the public renders its decision at election time.


Instead, this government has done the following: It has severely restricted the amount of time for debate. It has now produced a situation, which many people would find amusing, where it can now count an afternoon session and an evening session as two different days for the purpose of calculating how much time is spent on a bill. That's called two for one. It has relegated question period down to seventh place from third place in the order of procedures during the day. It has removed virtually all of the bargaining chips, if I could use that term, that the opposition might be able to utilize to help slow down the government agenda.

My friend Norm Sterling, now the House leader of the Conservative Party, made an impassioned speech where he said that it was essential that as a member he have the right to at least slow down a government, and occasionally, in extraordinary circumstances, bring the government momentarily to a halt so it can reconsider its position.

It's important that we draw to the attention of the people of Ontario the policies which are coming through, but instead the government wanted to grease the skids and rush everything through the House. And that's not enough for the government, because now they keep utilizing what are called time allocation motions. That's a nice term used for closing off debate, slamming the door shut on debate. Time after time after time, on very controversial and far-reaching revolutionary legislation, this government has done exactly that and has restricted, unfortunately, the amount of hearing time that people might have across this province to have their input into the legislation and perhaps suggest positive changes.

The minister responsible for privatization is here this evening listening in rapt attention to the debate. That minister has been given the responsibility of privatizing many of the institutions which have served Ontario extremely well over the years. I hope he proceeds with a good deal of caution in doing so.

Certainly there is a group of people within the government, mostly the unelected people and some of the right-wing revolutionaries - the Reform-a-Tories, as we prefer to call them in opposition - who would like, for instance, to get rid of TVO. TVO is looked upon almost worldwide with envy for its productions: outstanding productions, outstanding service.

Interestingly enough, the government probably thought it was going to very easily get away with privatizing TVO. But I think our friend Isabel Bassett, who is now a minister, has found that there are many friends of TVO, our educational network, out there. When she was asked a question the other day on this subject, she quickly flipped the hot potato over to the minister of privatization. I don't blame her for doing so because I know there is an agenda in this government to get rid of some of the good institutions, which in that case a Conservative government had established, the government of Bill Davis: a government of the moderate centre, a government of pragmatism, a government which understood mainstream, middle-of-the-road Ontario, unlike the present administration, which is far into the ditch on the right wing.

Another institution that you'll be concerned about if you have one of these in your community is the Province of Ontario Savings Office. I see in Bill 164, a new piece of legislation brought forward, ill-conceived - half of it has to be torn apart now because there were big mistakes made. As my friend from Scarborough-Agincourt would say, they rushed ahead, threw Bill 164 on the table and found out there were many errors in it that had to be corrected. We in the opposition are going to try to help out with the correction of those.

One of the things we don't want to see, of course, is the Province of Ontario Savings Office, a very successful operation which many people like, being turned over to the big banks, which are already making huge profits while they are laying people off. I like the Province of Ontario Savings Office. I hope some of the government members will, behind the closed door of caucus, follow the good example of Gary Carr and Toni Skarica and stand up against this government's proposal.

I was glad the government whip mentioned the government advertising. I haven't seen a government which has used political propaganda and self-promotion in the manner that the Harris government has.

Mr Hastings: Like the Peterson regime.

Interjection: Is that the member from Bedrock?

Mr Bradley: Other governments have provided advertisements which simply said: "Here is the legislation. Should you wish to comment, here are the public hearings." I can remember, for instance, in the Ministry of the Environment, because we were promulgating many changes -


Mr Bradley: Is there a barking dog somewhere in the House?

Mr Hastings: Yes, there is.

Mr Bradley: I hear some barking coming from somewhere. I don't know where it is. There's a grumbling or a barking going on. It's the member for Bedrock, somebody over here said. I don't know where that is. I diverge from the right topic.

Mr Hastings: Keep meandering around over there.

Mr Bradley: I've now provoked another comment from the member for Rexdale, who is busy reading his newspaper and commenting to me.

My friend the member for Cambridge interjects as well. I remember he had to order Carol Jones out of the hearings in St Catharines. Remember, she was Bob Welch's constituency office person and she appeared at the hearings. She wanted to make a presentation on Bill 160 and they wouldn't let her on the agenda. Steve Kaiser, head of the Urban Development Institute, the developers of Ontario, was given half an hour. He's entitled to have a period of time before the committee; we all want to see that. He got half an hour and other people got 10 minutes, and poor Carol Jones got nothing. So she stood up at the back and she created a commotion.


Mr Bradley: The member for Rexdale makes noise about this, but she had worked for the Conservatives in the last provincial election. Frank, did she work in your riding? I think she worked in Lincoln riding: a long-time Conservative supporter. I'll tell you, she was very critical on that day, beside herself by the fact that she had been shut out from making comments.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): She got her picture in the paper.

Mr Bradley: She had her picture in the paper, my friend says. I know he wouldn't say that that's why she did this, because she was Bob Welch's constituency assistant. I admired her in that role. Our offices worked well together. Here was a Conservative being shut out of the process because she didn't agree with the government.

I'm sure she would be concerned about the government advertising, the kind of attack ads that we saw. Every time you turn around now, you see Mike Harris on television and he's advertising some new government program. It isn't, for instance, the Ministry of Health saying: "We're going to have new health cards. Here's where you get them. Here are the requirements." That's normal information. Nobody objects to that. Or if the government is making a change to a significant regulation, they put a big ad in the newspaper that says: "Here is what we propose for change. Could we have your comments? Here is when the hearing will be held." Nobody objects to that. That's exactly what should be done.

I know my friend from Quinte, who interjects this evening, would want some advertising done for people to appear before a committee dealing with predatory gas pricing, because when I asked questions of the government before, they just handed the hot potato off somewhere else. The Premier huffed and puffed: "Oh, gas prices. Aren't those oil companies awful." I said, "Well, Premier, what are you going to do about it?" "I'm going to get the feds after them." Of course he has it right within his own jurisdiction. He could pass in this Legislature - I've called for them to bring it forward - a predatory pricing law for gas; that is, so that the major oil companies cannot sell their product to their own dealers at one price and to independent dealers at a higher price, thereby in the long run forcing the only competition, the independents, out of business. But all I heard from the Premier of Ontario was huffing and puffing; no action. I was disappointed, because he sounded very firm. My colleagues will remember how firm he sounded when he was chastising the oil companies, but when it came down to calling them on the carpet, he was nowhere to be found.


I wouldn't mind that kind of advertising. If you're saying, "Here's the bill that's going to be before the Legislature and we want some comments," I would say that's good. But I'll tell you, the government reached an all-time low when it used taxpayers' money to present attack ads on television against one segment of our population; that is, those who deliver the education services on the front line, the trustees and the teachers of this province.

I mentioned time allocations. The Speaker made an interesting ruling the other day where he as much as said, "We know the government has changed the rules." I know that and you know that, Mr Speaker. The government has changed the rules, stacked the deck in favour of the government, concentrated the power in the hands of a few cabinet ministers and unelected political advisers, and yet the government can now bring in closure motions or time allocation motions which throw all the rules out the window and say, "Notwithstanding the fact that we've changed the rules, rigged the rules in our own favour, we're still going to bring in special motions which rush legislation through the House."

Even those who agree with the government say they should slow down, that they're moving too quickly, too recklessly and not looking at the consequences of their actions. Even some who agree with the government say that. They want the government to take time to do it right rather than simply to rush it through, to do it quickly.

I heard mention of tax increases. I always listen to the tax increases. They say, "Well, the NDP or the Liberals had 32 or 33 tax increases." I have counted 187 tax increases by this government so far - 187 tax increases and there are probably some I haven't found yet. Do you know why that is? Because Mike Harris, when he was - that's why I call him Mike Harris; then he was the third party leader, he wasn't Premier Harris. He said, when they asked him about user fees, "A user fee is a tax." This government has initiated all kinds of new user fees and taxes. I've just caught up with 187 of them. You can imagine that there are far more.

I know that he said in the Common Sense Revolution, as you people like to call it - others have called it the Nonsense Revolution; I wouldn't be that unkind - he talks about health care. He says, "Under this plan, there will be NO new user fees." "NO" is in big letters. I think we all know that there have been many new user fees -

Mr Phillips: The drugs for seniors.

Mr Bradley: - the drugs for seniors particularly. They know there have been new user fees.

When I see this government move so far to the right, it reminds me of the former member for London South, who sits in the gallery tonight, the Honourable Gordon Walker. I introduce him and I hope the members will applaud for him as he rises.


Mr Bradley: Now I want to say that the right wing is in good hands because Bob Wood is as right wing as you are, or more, Gordon. I'm not supposed to address people in the gallery, I know, but Gord was a man who believed that there should be a solid right wing to the government. I remember when I was the correctional services critic and he was correctional services minister, we toured many of the institutions in Ontario. It always seemed that after we left, Gord, there was some kind of ruckus that took place for some reason. I can't figure out what that is. But we certainly welcome our friend Gord Walker this evening to the gallery of the House and wish him well, as I'm sure all of us will.

So I've found 187 tax increases by this government so far. I'm looking for more; I'm sure there are more.

But there's a big tax cut they were giving. I've talked to conservative economists, because I said, "Look, I don't want to talk to socialist or liberal economists. I want to talk to the conservative economists and let them tell me about a huge tax cut while you're running a deficit." One of the people I talked to was Dr Joseph Kushner, whom they refer to sometimes as Professor Negative or Dr No - it might be Dr Negative and Professor No, one of the two - because on St Catharines city council for the last 20 years he has been the voice of caution, the voice who always said, "Can we afford it?" He would characterize himself as a small-c conservative.

I said to him and some other people who are economists: "Does it make sense to have a tax cut which will cost about $5 billion a year in revenue, maybe $5.5 billion in revenue, at a time when you're running a deficit? Don't you have to borrow the money to give a tax cut if you're running a deficit?" The answer is yes. Some of my Conservative friends really thought about this carefully and said, "It can't be the case." I said, "Well, are we running a deficit?" "Yes." "Are we giving an income tax cut which benefits the wealthiest people in our society in actual dollars the most?" They say yes. I say, "Well, there it is."

The conservative economists can't understand this. They say it would make sense maybe if the budget was balanced. That's the time when you contemplate tax cuts, or if the government hadn't embarked upon such deep tax cuts, because now we're paying -

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): What about sales tax?

Mr Bradley: Or sales tax cuts, which help everybody. But they didn't do this.

I wanted to know, where did I see this before? It was New Jersey. The Republican governor of New Jersey who was narrowly re-elected against a relatively unknown opponent -

Mr Phillips: But she didn't borrow the money for the tax cut.

Mr Bradley: No, but she didn't borrow the money. That's right. One thing she didn't do was borrow the money for the tax cut. But they had a 30% tax cut there and huge property tax increases. Does that sound familiar?

Mr Kormos: Say it ain't so.

Mr Bradley: It sounds familiar. That's what's going to happen. I should leave this to my colleague Mr Phillips, but I can assure the municipalities out there that there's going to be a slush fund in this year. Don't worry. You will have to eventually assume a lot more financial responsibility, but there will be a slush fund to tide the government over to the election. They'll be doling the money out. The Tories already on local councils are saying to their treasurers when somebody else asks the questions: "Oh, well, don't worry. Won't we really be looked after?" They may be looked after for a year, maybe two years if the election takes a little longer, but after that you're on your own. When they see the minister coming with a bag of money in his hand, maybe two bags of money in his hand, they should beware, because that's only temporary transition money coming.

Mr David Caplan (Oriole): Either that or Al won the 649.

Mr Bradley: Exactly. Now I look at the hospital funding cuts. In my area, the Niagara Peninsula - my friend from Welland-Thorold would know this - we have seen hospital funding cut by some $43 million in operating funds for hospitals. That's had an effect. People try to paper it over and say: "Oh, well, it has no real effect. Hospitals are still able to cope."

Ask anybody who's been in a hospital. Ask a patient, ask the family of patients, ask the friends, what the hospital care available is today compared to, say, 10 years ago and they will tell you it's nowhere near what it was. Is that because the staff is uncaring? No, the staff is very much caring, but there are so few staff available, so few financial resources because we have to pay for that tax cut, remember. It's important to give the wealthiest people that big tax cut and we have to pay for it in terms of hospitals.


In the hospital struggle it's like every other public institution that the right wing likes to attack. What they do is they discredit it. They underfund it. They make it not work as well as it should. Then it opens itself to privatization or closing.

In the Niagara Peninsula they want to close or radically alter five hospitals: Douglas Memorial in Fort Erie, Port Colborne General Hospital, West Lincoln Memorial in Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake General Hospital and Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines.

They had a local committee that was set up and I made a presentation to them. I said: "Where I disagree with you is this: You've accepted what I call crackpot realism, and that is, we have an excellent system of health care - it does cost money but we have an excellent system - so we've got to punish ourselves now. We've got to underfund this system. We've got to close hospitals."

I remember Dr David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, a bestseller, a Canadian book. He talks about demographics. He was asked by a university student at Brock University: "Sir, taking into account the demographic picture of the Niagara Peninsula" - keeping in mind that we have, I believe, per capita the oldest population in Canada, that is, the greatest number of people per capita 55 or over in the Niagara Peninsula - "what would be the first recommendation you would make to Mike Harris as Premier of Ontario?" He said, "Don't close hospitals."

What are we doing in the Niagara Peninsula? Well, the local committee, because they knew the government was going to withdraw $43 million from the system, said, "I guess we'll have to close hospitals." I reject that. To me it's sheer madness to be closing hospitals and to be underfunding hospitals when we should be providing sufficient funding to have them operate appropriately.

Now they say, "People are going to be served at home with home care." Well, the telephone calls I've had in the last couple of weeks have all been from people saying, "They're cutting our home care." Fewer physiotherapists -

Mr Kormos: A 30% reduction.

Mr Bradley: A 30% reduction, my friend from Welland-Thorold says.

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Is your mother complaining again?

Mr Bradley: My friend from Cambridge says, "Are they complaining again?" I think the people have a right to complain about it in the Niagara Peninsula because they have seen these cutbacks taking place.

Mr Martiniuk: You guys were overfunded for years. Too much money down there. Too much health care.

Mr Bradley: I want to repeat what the member for Cambridge has said. The Progressive Conservative member for Cambridge has said we were overfunded for years in Niagara, and what else?

Mr Phillips: Too much money.

Mr Bradley: And there's too much money being put in there. I recall a couple of years ago the Niagara District Health Council said that just to bring us up to the provincial average per capita, we'd need $16 million in funding, I believe. The people of the Niagara Peninsula will be interested to know when I send them the Hansard that the Progressive Conservative member for Cambridge says we've been overfunded.

Mr Phillips: Too much money.

Mr Bradley: Too much money being spent in the Niagara region. I know those people who are now being kicked out of the hospital in a more sickly condition and much more quickly, and therefore will need much more sophisticated home care, are going to be flabbergasted by the comments of the member for Cambridge, who says the government is already spending too much money on people in the Niagara Peninsula. Well, I don't agree with him.

I must say, I'll have to talk to Tom Froese and Frank Sheehan and Bart Maves and Tim Hudak. I'm going to have to talk to them because they're going to be surprised that the member for Cambridge says the government is spending too much money in the Niagara region. My friend Mr Maves has indicated in a colourful way that that is in fact the case.

I know my friend from Scarborough-Agincourt is looking for some time, so how can I wind down? Here is something the government should never do, very dangerous ground to get on. I heard my friend the chief government whip, the minister without portfolio, start to talk about shrimp dinners. I'm going to tell you, cabinet ministers should never lecture others on dinners and expenses. I'll leave it at that. I think it's very dangerous ground to get on when you attack others for that. One of my favourite biblical quotations, and it's not exact, is, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." I think we should always remember that.

I'm going to end my portion of this this evening by talking briefly about video lottery terminals. The member from Agincourt believes this will take some time; it will not.

Interjection: Conrad Black -

Mr Bradley: I will not talk about Conrad Black tonight, but I want to say that I know that the family values caucus who go to church on Sundays, who are proud of their religious affiliations, as they most certainly should be, must be telling the Premier of this province that it's time to call a halt to the escalation of gambling opportunities in this province.

We now have a casino in Niagara Falls which we call a tourist casino. There's one in Windsor and there's one in Orillia. I'm not a fan of casinos anywhere, everybody knows that, but they exist. I'm not going to fight old battles. I'm not going to go back and say, "Tear them down." What I am saying to the government, however, is let's pause. Let's not move forward with an escalation of gambling opportunities.

The charity casinos are different. While the tourist casinos bring people in who are tourists, the charity casinos in various communities, like a vacuum cleaner, simply suck all of the money out of that community. People with afflictions, people who are very vulnerable, people who are desperate, people who are addicted to gambling are the ones who are hurt most by those kinds of gambling opportunities.

I suspect some day, I say to my friend from Agincourt and others, this will lead to video lottery terminals, which are electronic slot machines, in every bar and every restaurant, on every street, in every neighbourhood of every village, town and city in Ontario.

Mr Rollins: How about school yards?

Mr Bradley: And who knows, as the member for Quinte says, perhaps even the school yards of the province. Heaven knows, with the billions of dollars this government is removing from the education system, I agree with him that they may well need that money. I hope they don't get it from that particular source.

I'm anxious to get to the remarks of my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt, so I will terminate mine now and listen in rapt attention to a very credible voice.

Mr Phillips: I'm pleased to continue the debate on the motion for the House business. I want to focus my first comments on the property tax issue because we are going to be dealing next week with Bill 164, which amazingly enough amends a bill that passed the Legislature only yesterday.

Mr Bradley: How can that be?

Mr Phillips: My colleague says, "How can that be?" It is typical that we continue to see this government need to patch up legislation, so we will be debating the bill next week to amend the bill that we passed simply a matter of 24 hours ago.

I want to spend a fair bit of time on this bill because the people of Ontario, as of January 1, are going to experience a dramatic change in the property tax system in Ontario. Mr Turnbull indicated earlier that I have been supportive of changes in the property tax, and that's absolutely 100% correct. He quotes a document from my 1990 campaign where I said that I'm supportive of a certain change in property taxes. I said it in 1990, 1991, 1992. I've always said that. I haven't changed a bit. I still continue to be supportive of it.


I might say that view contrasts with the view of some of the government members. I know Mr Leach indicated before - I've got it right here actually. The reason I raise this is because the member quoted from a piece of literature that I put out in a campaign. I said I was in favour of market value assessment. That's true. Mr Leach put out a position before the election. He said, "My party and I will never support market value assessment." That's signed by Al Leach.

Mr Bradley: It's a misprint.

Mr Phillips: It's not a misprint. It's the way Al Leach won that election; there's no question about that. Now the bill that we have just passed implements, word for word, market value assessment. The only reason I keep raising that is the members keep quoting from a campaign document of mine. I'm proud to say I believed in it five years ago, four years ago, three years ago. But Al Leach, on behalf of Mike Harris, said they would never implement this, and I might add that Ms Bassett said the same thing.

The problem with the property tax bill is, without any question of a doubt, it is going to create chaos. I will use not my language, but I will quote from the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers. These are our senior municipal officials, our senior municipal bureaucrats, widely respected, the organization of the senior officials running our cities and towns and villages. They have been begging the provincial government to listen to their concerns. It is they who will have the responsibility for implementing the property tax change.

I want to just go through a series of issues they have raised and share them with the people of Ontario. First, Mike Harris would have us believe that this new property tax system is going to simplify, clarify things, make it easier, make it simpler. What the municipality clerks and treasurers say to us is that the tax "system will be immensely complicated by the institution of some 84 classes and subclasses of property and up to 156 tax rates. Appeals will result from assessed property value. The combination of these factors will increase the complexity of the property tax system rather than streamline it." So when the members ask why we voted against it, listen to the clerks and treasurers. We are complicating the system rather than simplifying it.

They then go on to tell us: "Implementation on January 1, 1998, is a high-risk situation for the stability and financial health of the municipal sector. There are some municipalities in Ontario that simply will not be able to cope with this situation." They're telling us in as clear language as possible that this thing is being badly implemented.

The third thing they say is, "The association...finds overwhelming the amount of regulations to be set by the minister and the extent of the minister's involvement in a process that is supposed to be municipally driven."

There is perhaps no more tangible evidence of that than the fact that now Mike Harris will set the property taxes on businesses. Well over half of the business taxes on properties will be set not here in the Legislature - the municipalities will have no opportunity to debate it - they will be set by the Premier. The municipalities and the clerks point out that's wrong.

They went on to say in an analysis of the next bill, Bill 164 - and again I stress this is an organization that represents 93% of our municipalities. It's an organization that's been in existence since 1937. These are the equivalent of the deputy ministers of the province; these are the senior bureaucrats. They're careful with their language. They have no axe to grind one way or another. They are simply there to serve the public. They say, "If Bill 149 is passed in its current form, it will create serious problems in municipal administration." Of course the government has passed that.

They go on to say - this is the executive director - "The cumulative effect of Bill 106, 149" - those are the two property tax bills - "160 and 164 is that we no longer have a municipal property tax system; we have a provincial tax system administered by municipalities." They went on to say: "The association is concerned about the process by which municipal legislation is created and implemented. Bill 164 amends sections within Bill 149, Bill 160, but those bills have yet to pass third reading." They passed third reading in the last few days.

They go on to say - isn't it wonderful? This government wants to amend legislation that hasn't even been passed yet - "Surely this illustrates better than anything that this government, in its haste, is making legislation by the seat of its pants without proper thought or planning. Yesterday's bill is amended by today's, which will likely be amended by tomorrow's." Sure enough, the bill that we passed yesterday we will amend next week, I gather, according to the motion we're dealing with here.

I also want to comment a little bit on: "So what would you do? You're nothing but negative." We proposed dozens of amendments to try and fix the bill. I'll just give you three examples. We said that rather than setting taxes by regulation, they should be set by legislation. It's the same issue the clerks and treasurers raised. That was the feeling. This is a serious issue. One of the members over there is shaking his head. I'm not sure what his riding is - Northumberland.

Today I said to the Premier: "Why would we pass a bill when the final date for appealing your property taxes is June 29 and nobody in this province is going to get their 1998 tax bill until July or August or September?" Why would we do that? Why would we have the final date for appeal be a date that comes before you actually get your tax bill? Nobody will know what their property taxes are in 1998 until at least July, August or September. The Premier said I was wrong. I'm not wrong. The Premier does these sorts of things. He once said to me I used erroneous numbers here in the Legislature. I'll tell you what I did. I went back to my office and sent him a letter which was dated February 25. I said:

"Yesterday in the Legislature you said...I produced `erroneous numbers'....

"Now that you have chosen to make this serious public accusation that I produce `erroneous numbers,' I call on you to produce your evidence on this."

In other words, he says something like that and has nothing to back it up. Of course, that was February 25. He never responded to me. Today he said it was incorrect that the final date of appeal was June 29 and that the people will not get their tax bills until July and August. I'll tell you, phone any municipality, get on the phone tonight, and you will find that what I said was right and what the Premier said was wrong. He just sits there and says it, and I guess because he's Premier, he feels he can say whatever he wants to say. But we are making a huge mistake. Again, we proposed an amendment. We said, "Listen, for 1998 only, people should have up till eight weeks after they get their final tax bill to appeal their taxes." No, no, that was rejected out of hand.

We proposed an amendment to deal with the issue that my colleague from Ottawa South raised on the Daybreak organization, a non-profit organization providing wonderful community services that will be put at serious risk because of a bureaucratic mistake in the bill. We proposed an amendment to fix that, just a small issue perhaps in the total scheme of things, but a major issue for those organizations. But that was rejected.

I point those things out because, as I say, I think we proposed perhaps two dozen amendments to try and fix this bill.


I don't know whether the other members are beginning to get faxes and phone calls on the problems that this bill is creating. I will just say that the business occupancy tax is now coming off; January 1 it no longer applies. Here's what's going to happen. I'm not bashing the banks, they are fine organizations, but that one single move means that the bank towers, those large buildings we see when we look south from this building -

Mr Bradley: How do they do under this plan?

Mr Phillips: - on each building taxes will come down by $3 million to $5 million a year, just with the stroke of a pen.

Mr Bradley: What about small businesses?

Mr Phillips: My colleague says, "What about small businesses?" The value of those buildings on January 1 will go up by $25 million to $30 million a building. You reduce costs by $3 million to $5 million, the building goes up actually between $30 million and $50 million. But all of that lost revenue to the municipality has to be recovered. When those five towers reduce their property taxes by $3 million to $5 million a tower, $15 million of property tax has to be recovered from somewhere else. Where? We're seeing where.

I've got my first fax here from a small business, 14 employees. What's going to happen now is that the business occupancy tax is coming off. Banks pay a high rate, small businesses pay a low rate. It now will be applied uniformly. So the small business that paid a low rate will be raised; the big business that paid a high rate will come down. The bank towers will pay $3 million less; small businesses will pay more.

Here's a small business, 14 employees. Their property tax for 1998, the landlord has estimated - the landlord I think knows what he or she is doing - will go up by $4,000, roughly 10%. It may not seem like a lot of money to a bank tower, but to this business, a business of 14 people, you can imagine, $4,000 is significant. When people say, "Why would you vote against that bill?" I say, "Here's the impact."

I remember now when the government introduced this reform. They said, "We're going to protect small business." They did nothing of the kind. There is no protection in the bill for small business, although small business, believe me - I will bet a lot of money that all of us will be getting phone calls. In fact, I had another fax from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Mr Bradley: What did they have to say?

Mr Phillips: They sent an emergency letter off to the Minister of Finance on this issue, dated November 25:

"We would urge your ministry to take action to clear up the widespread confusion which exists among landlords, tenants and municipal governments with regard to the impending changes. We would urge you to consider the disastrous effect that rolling the business occupancy tax on to the realty tax will have on some landlords and to take action to rectify the situation."

Today, as we tried to raise once again with the Premier the concerns out there about his tax bill, in his usual arrogant fashion he dismissed them. He said I was wrong when I was right, which is frankly irritating. I think it must irritate the business community that when we're trying to get answers for them, the Premier simply dismisses fact as fiction and refuses to answer it. But on the business occupancy tax, without question, small business is going to be hurt.

The Premier promised there would be protection in the bill for small business. There is nothing in there that protects small business. There's a provision that would allow lower tax rates on property valued lower; in other words, on the first $500,000 of property tax there could be a lower tax rate, and then hypothetically on the next $500,000 to $1 million another tax rate, and above $2 million. But for many small businesses that I know, such as my friend here - he's in a large building, it won't impact him at all. He'll be faced with significant tax increases and no protection at all, no relief.

When we raise these issues, and we have in language as clear as you can imagine - bureaucrats are cautious with their language. The clerks and treasurers are an extremely responsible organization. I think you can tell by their language the frustration in saying: "Is anybody going to listen to us? We're telling you this is going to create chaos."

Yesterday Al Leach acknowledged he expects 600,000 appeals on this.

Mr Bradley: Won't the date be past?

Mr Phillips: People are going to have to appeal their taxes before they get their tax bill. They will get an assessment notice, no question of that. It'll have a number in there, but no one will know what it's going to mean until July or August. These are the Mike Harris property taxes. Every businessperson in this province, over half their property taxes will be set by Mike Harris.

I'll say that Bill 160 gives him absolute unfettered power to do whatever he wants. For anyone who follows this sort of stuff, it's actually in Bill 160, which is odd. But over half the business property tax will be set by Mike Harris and he gave himself the power to - get this. He can prescribe different tax rates for - this is on businesses - different municipalities, different parts of a municipality, different parts of a territory, different classes of property, different subclasses of real property, different portions of a property's assessment, different geographic areas, different parts of a municipality. Total unfettered rights for the Premier to do whatever he wants on setting property taxes. All he's said is, "I am going to recover from businesses at least $3.6 billion."

You can see, it doesn't take, as they say, a rocket scientist. The bank towers are going to pay $15 million less. Mike Harris wants the same money: $15 million less from the bank towers, $15 million more from everybody else. It's as simple as that. The promised protection for small business is nowhere.

I'm not sure what else we in opposition can do but say we have been supportive of property tax change. I will say that both ourselves and the NDP have done nothing to stop the process. We have tried every step of the way to amend the bills, to improve them, but there has not been one single amendment by ourselves or the NDP that has been accepted by the government, many of which I think would clearly have been in the government's best interests to accept, but they were all rejected.

The train leaves the station on January 1. This thing is now in law. The clerks and treasurers and the CAOs, our major officials in the municipalities, have given us due warning.

I wanted to just quickly touch on a couple of other things that were raised by my colleague. On the job front: I thought the person who was in the chair earlier, Mr Bert Johnson from Perth, yesterday raised a very good question in the Legislature. It had to do with youth unemployment. He pointed out that the youth unemployment rate was 17.3% for the first 10 months of 1997. That is up dramatically from the same time a year ago; the first 10 months of 1996 it was 15.6%.The number of young people with jobs has actually dropped. I think it's at probably a 10-year low. It's lower than it's been in years, at 773,000 jobs. The number of young people unemployed is up dramatically over last year, by 17,000. The number of people out of work in Ontario in October 1997 was higher than when Mike Harris became Premier.


I say all of those things because if we simply assume that the youth unemployment problem will go away - when we raise the question, that's essentially what the Premier says, "Everything's fine." I found it refreshing that one of the Conservative back bench would raise the 17.3% unemployment rate. That's a tragedy for all of us. It's unacceptable for all of us. It's substantially higher than in the rest of Canada. We used to pride ourselves on being the lowest in Canada. Now the rest of Canada is lower than us in that area.

I know the government thinks the public is behind them. I would say that increasingly the public is recognizing that the government is bungling these issues.

Mr Bradley: Moving too quickly.

Mr Phillips: Moving too quickly and not at all planned. I tell you, the property thing is bungled; a good idea is now screwed up. Education reform is bungled; a good idea is now screwed up. The downloading is bungled. Restructuring the relationship between the province and municipalities is bungled. You've dumped the wrong things on to our property taxes. All of the areas where we had the opportunity to improve have been bungled. That'll be the legacy unfortunately, a missed opportunity by doing the right areas badly.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's a pleasure for me to be able to speak tonight, and I'd like to share my time with the member for Welland-Thorold.

It may interest people who are watching at home to know that what we're actually debating here is a motion about changing yet again the calendar of the Legislative Assembly. Many people may not know that we have rules in this House. Those rules clearly set out at what points in the year the people of Ontario can expect the Legislature to be operating here and when the breaks from that would be. It gives them an opportunity to know when the appropriate time is for them to expect to find their MPPs in their constituency offices, when it's time to expect their MPPs to be working here in the Legislature, when they can expect bills to go out to committee and expect to present their views to government committees and when not.

A couple of days ago the House leader for the government party attempted to get this motion considered a routine motion, as though it was no big deal for the government yet again to change the calendar of this House. We were pleased, Mr Speaker, that you of course recognized that this is in fact a substantive motion, and that's why we're talking about it tonight.

It is quite clear this government has little respect for the institution of this Parliament and for the way it operates. One of the ways in which that disrespect has been shown has been that in absolutely every session we've had, there has been some change to the House calendar at one end or another.

I would not claim at all that this government is the first government to change the House calendar. That happened on a number of occasions during the five years we were in government, and it also happened a number of times when the Liberals were in government. So it's not that uncommon to have a motion before us, such as the one we've got tonight, which has us sit for a week longer at the Christmas break. It's almost a tradition that this happens as we try and complete legislation that's coming forward.

What makes this substantive as an issue is that this is - I've lost count actually. I think this is every single time the government has adjusted the calendar. Every single time we have met, either at the beginning or the end or in the middle of a session, there's been an adjustment to the calendar and the effect of that is that the people of Ontario have no way of knowing and expecting what the action of the Parliament is going to be.

There are members on the government side who may think people don't care in Ontario. I think one of the disconcerting things for them is exactly how much people do care. They like to know exactly what is going on. Particularly because of the revolutionary actions of this government, they want to know when the next blow is going to come. We fully expect that when this House rises there is likely to be a prorogation - in other words, it will be the end of this particular session of the House and the next time we come in it will be a different Parliament with a different session - and that we will be looking at the government's attempt to change the impression they have given during the first two and a half years of their rule. We know they have a number of matters that they want to shove through, to further the revolution before they take that action.

The member for York Mills, who I must say made a masterful debut speech in his role as a cabinet minister without portfolio tonight, pointed out and tried to prove that we are trying to obstruct the business of justice. He tried very hard to say that the actions of the opposition, in opposing the actions of the government, in asking questions and in attempting to get answers to matters and in attempting to get public consultation on matters, were obstructionist, and in fact the member from East York suggested dilatory. I think that shows the depth of misunderstanding this government has about the role of government at all and the importance of working things through in a democratic way.

The member for York Mills was very proud to talk about how short a time debate was on average during the time the Conservatives were in power up to 1985. There's a reason for that. The governments of John Robarts and Bill Davis didn't try to change the face of Ontario overnight. They understood evolutionary politics, not revolutionary politics. They routinely did a study, put out a white paper for discussion, allowed people to build towards consensus, and when they brought bills into this House, they didn't try to truncate the public consultation. They tried to optimize those to build as great a consensus as possible. It couldn't be a more different style than this government under any circumstances because this government doesn't believe in consensus politics, and this government is making no effort to build consensus among the people of Ontario.

This government, as the member for York Mills said tonight, "We consulted before the election and we got elected and therefore we can do whatever we like." The reality is that's not how government has ever operated in this province before, including Conservative government. They have not done that kind of effort to truncate and to end discussion.

For the member for York Mills to talk about average length of debate without mentioning, of course, that that average includes extraordinary happenings, like the filibuster on Bill 103, which was done because this government was ignoring a referendum that had been held, was ignoring the protests of the people they were supposed to be governing.

Yes, it takes longer sometimes to get bills through when they are unjust, when they are not responsive to the needs of the people and when the opposition is very high. When things are extremely controversial, when there is no effort to build consensus but only an effort to bull things through and do things the way the government thinks they should be done, regardless of the response of those they govern, yes, it takes longer, one way or another.


When a government does what this government has done and changes the rules of this House so they can bull things through even faster by creating two legislative days out of one, and then use that tool again and again and again to simply push things through that much more rapidly, you can expect nothing but controversy and nothing but efforts to make you slow down.

We don't happen to think your biggest problem is that you're going too fast; we think your biggest problem is that you're going in the wrong direction. Here again I must say I would agree with the member for York Mills, who said that at least between the Tories and the NDP we know where each other stands. We know that in most cases that's diametrically opposed to one another, but at least we know where we stand.

I think there's a fair respect for the fact that although we interpret what we see differently - our perception of what the role of government is, what the role of society is, what social democracy is, what social justice is, and we're completely different in our impression on that - at least we know that those are deeply held beliefs we have and that we will act out of those beliefs even though we disagree. We respect one another for that and I think the member for York Mills is correct about that, quite unlike, as he pointed out, Liberals, who generally are able to be on any side of things. We certainly have seen in the past that when Liberals are running they sound as though they're New Democrats, and when they govern they seem more and more like Reform - at least in Ottawa.

Mr Bradley: Not last election, though.

Mrs Boyd: Not like last election, no. Last election you tried to outright your friends on the other side of the House, and of course again people said: "What is this? They talk one line and then they come out with this. Who are they? We don't know." As the member for York Mills said, flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop. It's not surprising the public parks their votes with Liberals, because the public can feel very comfortable sitting with people who can from one day to the next be any place they want. But when it comes to an election and you have to take a stand, look what's happened in the last couple of elections. The people who had 50% of the support before the election was called found it eroded very quickly.

From our perspective over here, quite frankly, half the time we look at these two parties and we can't tell the difference.

Mr Bradley: Tweedledum, Tweedledee.

Mrs Boyd: Tweedledum, Tweedledee - the Bobbsey Twins, if you like. When we look at the performance of the Liberals in Ottawa, who ran against the former Conservative government, saying how different they were going to be and then implemented the policies of that Conservative government much more efficiently than the Tories ever could, quite frankly we don't see the difference.

When we are talking about dealing with issues and ideas, part of the confusion about the discussion is that very often you're not really quite sure who's speaking when the Liberals are talking. The member for York Mills was quite right about that.

Mr Bradley: You can be sure I'm speaking most of the time.

Mrs Boyd: The member for St Catharines tells us that we can be sure he's talking most of the time, and he's right. One of the reasons for that, of course, is that as the House leader he has to be here and most of his colleagues often aren't, so he often, by default, gets to speak. He has, as you noticed in his remarks tonight, very set ideas about certain things that need to be discussed every day, and he is to be congratulated because he manages to discuss those things every day. His only loss is that, as the member for York Mills said, he doesn't have the MRI to talk about any more. It may not have a hospital to be in, but at least there is an MRI and we don't have to hear about that any more.

The reality is, all joking aside, what we do in here is much more important than most Tory members seem to appreciate. We constantly are hearing from our Tory colleagues in committee and in this place that they don't see the point of what we're doing. I think that is a very important issue.

If you don't see the point of what you're doing in here, of course you don't care what the calendar is on which this place meets, of course you jig it around to suit your purposes, of course you look at it as something that is there for you to manipulate instead of something that is there so the population you govern has an opportunity to participate appropriately in the process, so that there is some certainty that through the legislative year there will be periods of time when MPPs will be available in their offices, when they will be available to be confronted on issues or supported on issues, when committees are going to be going out. All the various organizations that have different issues they want governments to deal with have come to expect that there will be times they have to work their process in their organizations to have a response to government. What this government has done is not allow that time.

People who might have been natural friends of this government have found themselves in opposition because they find the government rushing ahead, not consulting with them, not giving them the opportunity to render advice.

That, I can't emphasize enough, is an important part of government. It is a different style in this government, understand. Building consensus demands some respect for the opposite point of view. Building consensus requires that you actually listen. Building consent and consensus mean that when you see there is extremely strong opposition to something, you might just have a glimmer that there's something wrong with what you're doing, that everybody out there isn't out of step except you, that if everybody out there is opposing what you're doing, and basically you've made enemies of virtually every sector of the society, maybe there's something wrong with what you're doing and maybe this is the place, this place here and our committees and our constituencies, to deal with that issue.

One of the things that struck me when the member for York Mills was speaking was that he really wanted to use this as an opportunity to go through the usual talk about debt and deficit, and how the government is in this position because of the actions of other governments. But I have to tell you I was very pleased that he at least, unlike many of his colleagues, was quite fair as he went through the chain of events from the last time the Tories were in government in 1984 and actually conceded that a world-wide recession might have had something to do with the difficulties our government had in trying to deal with the kind of spending Liberals had done during the very high years of the late 1980s.

What he didn't say was that when we came into government, the health sector in this province had been used to double-digit increases every single year during the time the Liberals were in office - on average, 11.5% - every single year, increases to those budget.

It's not surprising that it has been difficult for the health sector to get some decent control over spending over a period of time. It's not surprising at all and it certainly was very difficult for us in government to begin to rein in that kind of spending and try and get the year-over-year increase into some kind of reasonable sense.


I would say that the member for York Mills was partly right when he talked about the fact that the chain of events led us to the extremity of the government's position. When things are difficult, when we've been through a huge recession - and Ontario had never had a recession like this - the recessions that had hit our country, including the big Depression in the 1930s, had never attacked the industry base, the manufacturing prominence of Ontario and it was the first time that a lot of those industries that had never renewed themselves, had not kept up with the changes that are happening in the world, had not kept up with new processes and technological change, found themselves unable to maintain the kind of pre-eminence that they'd had before and, with the advent of free trade, of course found themselves unable to compete. That's what happened in the 1990s. That's very, very much the picture that was there.

The member for York Mills then complained that in Ontario we spend more on health care and on education, on some of these social spending areas than anybody else in Canada. Let's not be surprised at that. That's been true for a long time and was true through the 42 years that the Tories were in power before. Why? Because until that big recession in the 1990s, Ontario had been the richest province. Ontario had the wherewithal to build the kind of supportive society that spends money.

To hear this government talk, you'd think taxes were a bad thing. Well, they are not a bad thing in and of themselves. Of course they're not, because we all set up a tax system in which we would have a progressive way of assessing responsibility through taxes to each citizen and share the resources raised in a way that raised the general health and the general wellbeing of our population. And Tories did that. That's what people expected when they elected a Tory government. They expected a continuation of that respect for government services, for the value of having a tax system that spread the resources so that the general health and wellbeing of the population was better.

What this government is is not that kind of government. We know that you're mostly Reform-a-Tory. In fact, we know that basically your view is government is bad, government services are bad, public services are bad and taxes are bad. You want to go back to the bad old days where someone who was unfortunate gets blamed for being unfortunate and has to rely on charity, not on the mutual responsibility of citizens to build together, and you know it's going to cost in the long run.

The Liberals and our government had, over that 10-year period, Premier's councils, the Liberals' Premier's Council on Health Strategy, our Premier's Council on Health, Well-being and Social Justice, which looked very hard at what creates a healthy community. What gives us health? How do we attain the kind of level of health that we're capable of having? How do we maintain that in a society that cares about having a healthy society?

One of the things that became very clear is that the key component to a healthy society, to a healthy population, depends on the basic determinants of health. Do people have economic security? Do people have enough to eat? Do people have a safe home? Are people safe from violence? Do people have the kind of certainty that they are going to be able to care for their families over a period of time? Those determinants of health are extremely important in predicting how much we're going to have to pay on health care.

You people, this government, have reduced the funding in certain parts of health care with the promise that you're going to reinvest in other parts of health care. So far, the reinvestment has mostly been severance pay and reconstruction costs. In fact, your own member for York Mills admitted that, that that's mostly what any increased spending is right now. But what you also have done is undermine the very determinants of health in a consistent way across all areas.

The first thing you did was to reduce the subsistence incomes of the poorest people in the province by nearly 22%, making it impossible for many of them to maintain secure homes. In fact, the numbers of homeless are growing exponentially in most cities in this province: not enough money to have good nutrition, not enough money to buy warm clothing, not enough money to provide the supports that children need in order to be confident and to learn. That was the first thing.

Now you've also destroyed rent control, which will further attack the ability of people to maintain safe and secure housing. You have consistently downloaded from the tax system on to the very regressive fee-for-service system more and more of the costs of people's basic needs, prescription drugs, for example, and when I say regressive, it's very clear that $2 to someone who earns what a member of this Legislature earns for a prescription may not be too much, but if the only thing you earn is that subsistence income, that $540 a month that goes to a single person in this province, and you're not very well in the first place and you have to pay $2 per prescription, the impact on your budget is enormous.

Then of course you attacked the school system by reducing drastically the funds available for two years in a row, forcing school boards to cut out things like junior kindergarten, which have been shown to be extremely important as the determinant of health for young people. It's unbelievable when you look at the whole context of the way that your policies, one after the other, one after the other, actually attack the determinants of health.

Then when we come to the health system itself, the member for York Mills was talking about the restructuring and moving people back into the community, getting them out of hospitals so that we weren't saying that hospital care equals health care. He's right about that, we have done that, but what has the effect been? Hospitals and doctors are covered under medicare.


The Canada Health Act demands that there be no extra payment for doctors and hospitals. But the services that are delivered in the community, long-term care, home care, those services are not covered by the Canada Health Act and they are becoming increasingly more and more privatized, more and more dependent upon what people can pay. The Premier, who kept stating a tax is a copay is a user fee, suddenly has changed his mind.

Mr Kormos: And his tune.

Mrs Boyd: And his tune. All of a sudden, all of these added user fees that are happening are not taxes, but of course they are and they're regressive taxes because if I have to pay the same fee with my income as someone with an income that is a quarter of my income, they pay a higher proportion of their available dollars for that service.

Similarly, when you do a tax cut, those of us who earn at our level get more return than those who earn at a lower level. So they get it coming and going. You cut the taxes, they get little benefit from that and then you raise all these user fees, which take no account of ability to pay, and they get it coming and going. What is happening in this province is a huge redistribution of income, all going towards those who are more well off from those who are less well off. Every policy you bring forward increases the effect of that movement.

So what are we doing? We are building up for ourselves in the future huge health costs because we are increasing that gap between those who are well off and those who are not. We are increasing the pressure on those who are least able to care for themselves and allowing those who are most able to look after themselves more and more supports.

The reality is that whatever happens with restructuring of the health care system, it is not taking account of the increased problems in health care that are going to accrue out of the social policies of this government. All the predictions that we've made about what kind of health care we're going to need, how many beds and how many services, are probably already skewed because the determinants of health have eroded to the extent that the health of the population over time is going to erode. That's something that needs to be taken into account by this government.

Health care is, as the member for York Mills said, not to do with bricks and mortar. We agree, but the people who deliver the services are the ones who are losing their jobs. We're losing their expertise and they are not available to us in the community because of course the determination is to drive down the wages, drive down the standards, drive down the expertise of those who deliver those services, instead of taking advantage of that expertise and making sure that what we have in our province is that kind of expert and dedicated care that we've enjoyed in hospitals, delivered in the community by the people whom we have relied on for years to do that. Instead of that, what we see is every pressure on those delivering health care to lower standards, to de-skill workers, to offer the lowest common denominator of care.

The member for York Mills complained that we had the highest level of services. That's something we should be proud of, not ashamed of. It's one of the reasons we are seen as being such a successful province. We're the envy of our sister provinces, or were, and that's something to be proud of, not something to be sorry about.

Before I end my part of this, I want to make a few comments about the necessity for this government, if it's really going to change its visage, if you like, for the population, if they're going to try and convince the population that they're not as bad as they're cracked up to be, one of the best ways would be to build some actual respect for the legislative process. I think one of the most discouraging things for those of us who love the democratic process is working with people who have no respect for the process that we're working in -

Mr Kormos: Or understanding.

Mrs Boyd: Or understanding - who think that the object of the game is to rush things through instead of doing things right. That's why we spend a lot of time doing amendments to bills that if they'd been done right in the first place wouldn't have had to have all those amendments. But virtually every piece of legislation the government has brought forward has had to have hundreds and hundreds of amendments because they have been so carelessly done in the first place and the advice has not been taken in the first place.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): We have been listening and then we responded.

Mrs Boyd: Oh, you've been listening and you responded. Yeah, right.

Mr Galt: And then we responded.

Mrs Boyd: Yeah, right. That's why all the amendments are your own, right? Of course. They're mostly mistakes and you all know it. All of you sit in committee and all of you know that there's goof after goof after goof in that legislation that has had to be corrected, and you know that. I mean the absurdity of our passing of bills yesterday that we're discussing amendments to next week is part -


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Northumberland, member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, come to order. It's a quarter to 9. Member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: If you take your time and go through the process and build the consensus, you don't have the opposition. That's what you haven't been prepared to do. You've taken a style of government that says, "We have a majority; we can do what we want to do." That is not respectful of the process as it has ever been in Ontario before, and you cannot expect anything but very vigorous opposition, not just in here but out there in the streets, out there in your constituencies, when you are so disrespectful of the political traditions and the democratic traditions of this province.

That's not going to end and that's why at every turn when you flout that process, you will find us speaking up on behalf of the processes that have made this province a democratic province and have given us the kind of good government that we used to enjoy in Ontario.

The Speaker: Further debate? The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Kormos: First, let me express my gratitude to Marion Boyd from London Centre for allowing me to use some of her time out of her one-hour leadoff. It has become increasingly difficult in this Legislature as a result of this government to participate in debate because this government dramatically changed the rules to restrict, to inhibit debate. To ensure that people representing, as it is now, any one of the 130 ridings across Ontario - this government has done the thing that was necessary to ensure that their representatives won't have a platform here in the provincial Legislature. That's why I'm grateful to Ms Boyd from London Centre. I'm grateful for her comments and I listened carefully over the course of the last mere 35 minutes. I know she would have wanted to have gone on because I know she has a whole lot more to say, but I appreciate the chance to speak.

We're speaking to item 55, Mr Sterling's motion, and I want to assist in bringing this back on topic and addressing specifically the motion of Mr Sterling. You might have heard earlier today when we were addressing Bill 98, I talked about the folks down in Niagara from Castropignano, from that small town in Italy, who settled in Niagara, who worked to make this province the great place that it has been, who worked with enthusiasm and foresight and vigour. I spoke about that, though, in the context of Bill 98. I wish you had been here because I would have loved to have shared with you my evening of fraternity and sorority with those folks from Castropignano at Club Castropignano down in west Port Robinson last Saturday night.

One of the interesting comments out of it was that there have been some incredible responses coming from government backbenchers and, as has been the norm here for two years plus, government backbenchers will tell but a fraction of the story. One government backbencher stood up here and, by God, wanted to take credit for a 15% increase in automobile sales.



Mr Kormos: I thought that was interesting, so I checked the data. This government has been eminently successful, this government has been outstandingly successful at isolating increasing amounts of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and creating poverty and despair for vaster and vaster numbers of people at the same time. That has been its agenda.

Increasing car sales: Let's take a look at what car sales increased. I acknowledge that GM enjoyed a 12.9%, 13% increase in car sales. BMW enjoyed a 24% increase in car sales. That's not the low-ticket items. Porsche, in Mike Harris's Ontario, a 105% increase in sales. You see, there has been a great deal of wealth created in Mike Harris's Ontario, and it's being accumulated by a very select, small group of people at the expense of so many others.

Royal Bank: My God, the Royal Bank, as reported in today's newspapers, set the Canadian profit record this year, the all-time record: $1.68 billion in profits. How does the Royal Bank respond to these unprecedented profits? By laying off more and more of their staff, of people who work for them, by abandoning the community of Thorold, by pulling out of Schmon Parkway. They were the anchor there. They made a commitment to that development up by Brock University. So how does Royal Bank respond?

The Speaker: Can we clear the galleries, please.

Mr Kormos: I think you should, Speaker. I think you should. Again, there's precedent been set.

How does Royal Bank respond to these new profits? By abandoning the communities that generated those very same profits for them. Well, I've got an answer for the Royal Bank. I want to tell folks about it now.

Last Saturday, before I went up to Club Castropignano in west Port Robinson, I was at the annual general meeting of the Atlas and Civic Employees' Credit Union down at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre. It was the 47th annual meeting, if I remember correctly, of the Atlas and Civic Employees' Credit Union. You know the history of that credit union. It started out as a small, small operation, Atlas Steels employees, workers at Atlas Steels, my family among them, gaining control, just simply saying: "No more. We won't be victims of the big banks." They believed in things like cooperativism. They believed in working together. They believed in pooling their resources.

Ms Boyd was talking about that just a few minutes ago. They knew there was strength in community, and in that community of Atlas Steels workers - originally it was two separate credit unions, obviously, from the name Atlas and Civic Employees', and then the municipal workers. But they realized there was strength in that type of community and they didn't have to let their lives be run by the big banks. They didn't have to generate profits for the big banks by being nickel-and-dimed to death as the banks increasingly do. They could in fact reinvest the profits in their own endeavours.

I recall the history of Atlas and Civic Employees' Credit Union. I've been a member of it for a good chunk of time. From the smallest of beginnings it has become a substantial financial institution down in Niagara region, along with part of the whole family of credit unions, not the biggest, certainly not the smallest, quite frankly from my point of view the best, but I'm sure others who belong to other credit unions would say that about theirs in any event.

There I was at this annual general meeting in the Ukrainian Cultural Centre down on McCabe Street: three vacancies on the board of directors, four candidates, all good people, an illustration of the kind of enthusiasm people have, and had specifically that evening, to engage in that kind of cooperative endeavour and to take control. This is antithetical to this government's philosophy. They don't believe people should have control down at the community level. They don't believe you can trust democracy.

Speaker, you've heard what this government's had to say about local boards of education. They've held them in disdain. "They can't be trusted. The democratic process can't be utilized when it comes to community governance of education." That's what this government said. This government doesn't believe in democracy. It doesn't believe in community. It doesn't believe in cooperativism. It doesn't believe in people working together to acquire strength. This government isolates people. This government builds barriers. This government builds schisms between communities and between people within those communities.

Interesting. Why, it was just such a short time ago that Shelley Martel, the member for Sudbury East, was admonishing the then Minister of Natural Resources.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Must be Norm Seabrook.

Mr Kormos: As a matter of fact, and I don't want to diminish her role in the whole matter, she pleaded with him over a nominee to the Niagara Escarpment Commission. I know that she dealt with him privately. She was prepared to deal with it at a confidential level. She dealt with it here in this Legislature not just once, but several times. She dealt with it at the committee. She told the government: "You guys are courting trouble with this actor Seabrook. He's bad news." Ms Martel wasn't trying to make political points.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): Oh, no.

Mr Kormos: She wasn't. As the critic responsible for natural resources and as a critic concerned, as are her colleagues in the New Democratic Party, for the future of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, she was sincerely and dearly cautioning this government about the appointment of what was a pro-developer hack with a track record, with a history, with documentation, quotes, positions taken over the course of the last several years that made him entirely unsuitable for the Niagara Escarpment Commission, I suppose, from Ms Martel's point of view. Because, you see, Ms Martel believes in the Niagara Escarpment Commission. She believes that the community is entitled to work together to protect natural resources like the Niagara Escarpment. Ms Martel believes that; New Democrats believe that. I suppose the problem is that the government doesn't. It's a fundamental problem.

This government believes in big banks and big profits for the very wealthy. This government believes in tax cuts for the very rich. This government has done everything to impact and destroy community and cooperative efforts and has done everything to attack and erode and extinguish local democracy.

It wasn't inappropriate during the course of the megacity debate - what was the name of the citizens' group that developed? It was called Citizens for Local Democracy. It was antithetical to this government. Local democracy is the enemy of this government. Local democracy is contrary to what this government believes in. Go through the list, Joseph Stalin et al. They believed in centralization. They believed in consolidating power at the top. They believed in using the most brutal tactics to ensure their goals were achieved, notwithstanding what people said out on the street, out in neighbourhoods, out in communities. This government has adopted some rather peculiar models, wouldn't you think, Speaker? Some rather strange models indeed.

Ms Martel exhorted the then Minister of Natural Resources to please reconsider the appointment of Norm Seabrook.

Mr Bradley: One of Bill's boys.

Ms Martel: A very good friend.


Mr Kormos: I've got to get to the point here about Norm Seabrook, a former member of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, touted by Bill Murdoch, onetime dissident, onetime hero - hero merely in the past tense - in the Tory caucus.

Have you read the press clippings today? Speaker, you're undoubtedly going to read a great deal of incredible support from local press for members Toni Skarica and Gary Carr. The local press - Burlington, Hamilton - are indicating that any number of communities, oh sure, would like to have a cabinet minister representing their riding, but as the Burlington Post said, "It's nice to have a local MPP named to a cabinet post" - they're talking about Gary Carr - "but if the price for that means they won't stand up and be counted for the crucial votes, then we'll take a backbencher like Carr any day of the week." That's what the Burlington news had to say about Gary Carr. In the Hamilton Spectator, similar praise for the independence and the independent-mindedness of Skarica and Carr.

Mr Bradley: They tried to put the boots to them before the vote.

Mr Kormos: A whipping? The whip was just a-cracking. I'm not going to be overly praiseful for Carr and Skarica. How many hours prior to their independent stand on 152 were they part of the unprecedented full caucus presence for the support for Bill 160? A whipping like that this place has never seen. You were interviewed by the press. You, Speaker, were questioned, "Has it ever happened before?" I don't recall your exact comments, I don't recall specifically which press reported them, but it clearly was an unprecedented phenomenon for such an unpopular piece of legislation, Bill 160, to have every single backbench member from the Tory caucus present. That was one fine whip that was undertaken that day. You could hear the crack all the way down at Maple Leaf Gardens. You could hear that whip snapping; you could hear it slice the air before it hit the flesh. That was one heck of a whipping.

I tell you, this caucus has been a little bloodied and bruised as a result of it. It doesn't do great things for morale, nor does it do great things for their reputation. Once again it illustrates the disdain that this government has for democracy, the disdain that this government has for the role of individual members.

This government abhors democratic process. This government has no interest whatsoever in helping people develop democratic bodies within their communities. It has every interest in consolidating more and more power, just like Bill 160 does with respect to education, not here at Queen's Park but in those smoky, dark back rooms of the Premier's office, where the backroom boys, and inevitably they're boys, swing the deals, cut the deals, and determine the future for this province.

I tell you, this government, notwithstanding all of the advice given to it, appointed Norm Seabrook to the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Ms Martel, even at her most anxious moment, didn't anticipate that the crisis would develop so quickly. Within mere - months, Ms Martel? It seemed like mere weeks -

Ms Martel: Maybe three months.

Mr Kormos: - Norm Seabrook showed himself to be the character - I'm being overly generous. The guy's a racist. The guy's an overt, foulmouthed racist.

Mr Bert Johnson: He can't defend himself.

Mrs Boyd: He admitted he said it. Come on.

Mr Kormos: "Nigger in the woodpile" might have been acceptable 60 years ago among some circles.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's not acceptable now.

Mr Kormos: But "nigger in the woodpile," as used by Norm Seabrook as a member of the Niagara Escarpment Commission during the course of a commission hearing, I tell you -

Mr O'Toole: Rule him out of order.

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Bert Johnson: I'm offended by that.

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, I appreciate the comments you're making, but I must say that you're causing disorder and I would ask that you not use those comments any more.

Mr O'Toole: And he always will.

The Speaker: I appreciate your input, member for Durham East, but this isn't a debate with the Speaker.

Mr Kormos: I'm not pleased to have to use that direct quote, and I appreciate your direction and guidance in this regard. I'm not pleased to have to repeat that language. I find it repugnant, I find it racist, I find it contrary to what every fairminded, decent-thinking Ontarian would believe in. I regret having had to be explicit. I'll not utilize the language because I take no pleasure in using the language.

Sadly for all of us, though, that was the turn of phrase that Norm Seabrook, who the Tories fought to get appointed to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, chose to use during the course of a commission hearing. I tell you, Speaker, if it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it's usually a duck.

Ms Martel warned the minister. She warned the government. She did it privately; she did it confidentially. She finally did it openly, explicitly. Norm Seabrook, still defended by Tory backbencher Bill Murdoch, and I'm confident resigning only with some great regret, was the Tory appointee, the one, come hell or high water, they were going to get on that Niagara Escarpment Commission, because they've got an agenda. In this case, Norm Seabrook was part of it.

They wanted to stack the Niagara Escarpment Commission with pro-development types - let's cut to the chase - just like they've been stacking district health councils across this province with political hacks who have no purpose on those health councils other than to serve Mike Harris's agenda of demolishing public health care here in the province of Ontario, public health care about which we should be very careful, because a whole lot of generations made a whole lot of sacrifice to build that public health care. We should guard it as rigorously and with as much commitment as they built it, and we should guard it and be prepared to protect it with as much sacrifice as those people made to create it.

District health councils across this province being stacked, the process being circumvented: another illustration of how Mike Harris and his back bench have nothing but disdain for democracy. If they don't like the rules, they either ignore them or they change them. They use the brute force of their majority to simply change them.


We know what the standard is for appointment to district health councils. It's published; it's part of the process. It's clear. Quite frankly, it's one that served the province well as district health councils acquired increasing amounts of power, first under the leadership of the Liberal government and then under the New Democrats; people like Marion Boyd as Minister of Health -

Mrs Boyd: I wasn't Minister of Health.

Mr Kormos: You should have been - Attorney General - Frances Lankin as Minister of Health, people like this and their leadership, the process was held in regard. Did that mean that every appointment was one that might have left those respective ministers feeling hunky-dory? Of course not, but they had regard for the process.

This government ignores the process, has ignored the recommendations of district health councils, Niagara District Niagara District Health Council included, and don't think there's not going to be a price to pay for that because leadership at the Niagara District Health Council has been very vocal about this government's failure.

Mr Frank Sheehan (Lincoln): It's going to take a long time to straighten up that council, Peter.

Mr Kormos: Ah, I hear backbench remarks holding the district health council in disdain - exactly the point I'm trying to make. You guys don't understand democracy. You don't give a tinker's dam about it, and you will either circumvent it or you'll change the rules.

Mr Galt: That was bad language.

Mr Kormos: "Tinker's dam"? I'll explain the origins of that to you later, Speaker.

The Speaker: I'm okay. I didn't know what he said.

Mr Kormos: It's "dam," d-a-m, for the sake of Hansard.

Mr Galt: Why don't you go ahead and explain it to the Speaker.

Mr Kormos: It has an interesting historical origin, as a matter of fact, having to do with tinkers and repairing pots and solder and the use of bread to form a dam for the solder so the solder wouldn't spread across the whole bottom of the pan, so that it would be isolated to the area where the hole is. It's dam as in a beaver's dam.

Norm Seabrook is as illustrative as anybody or any appointment could ever be for this government's regard for institutions that have been carefully crafted over the course of years and decades and generations. I'm not pleased about the greater and greater schism that's growing in this province between the very wealthy and the rest of the folks. I'm not pleased about this government's attack on seniors, on the poor, on kids. I'm not pleased about this government's disdain for democracy. But I tell you that we in this caucus are committed to doing -

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Every time I rise in this House I realize that it's an issue of when one should express and get an opportunity to express the views of their constituency and find out that the government itself has restricted the time for individuals to do so. One feels that democracy has been undermined. I think it was Jefferson who said that the worst tyranny one should look at is when the representatives have taken democracy unto their own and have ignored the people who put them there.

In the last two years, what we have seen from this government is a government that feels they must muscle and muzzle their way into everything, first to put the brute force and then to make sure that people do not speak. We have seen how they have done it in their caucus, that they have not allowed them to express their own views.

Interjection: Free vote -

Mr Curling: They have defined "free" in a way that means what they say has to be done. Those bold members who have their own principles, who have spoken out so well, and say they will speak according to the wishes of their constituents in defending that, you can see the pressure, the muscle that is put on those individuals. We've been watching that very carefully. We're watching how they treat those two members.

I want to take this opportunity to commend those two members of the Tory party who have spoken out and voted against the government attitudes. I want to commend them because I think that's what it's all about. Some of the members would say this is a free vote, and we know what that means.

We have seen where time allocation is a way of life here, where they will restrict members of Parliament speaking, but I would say the day will come, and it's coming soon, when this will not happen, that the people themselves will vote this bully government out of power and that they will then start to understand that the wishes of the people will be responded to.

I just want to mention some very bold people who remembered very much the sacrifice one pays to have democracy in any country, who have fought for this, whose families have died, and I'm sure many members in this House have had family members who have died in wars fighting for democracy, who have had parents and brothers, cousins, relatives who have died fighting for democracy, for freedom of expression, for the vote so that representation of the will of the people can be expressed. Lo and behold, we see a government that actually declared open war on democracy. They were not even secretive about it. They call it a revolution. From what I know about a revolution, it's a war. They went on to say it's a commonsense revolution.

First, what they have done is declared war on the most vulnerable in our society. I've said this before in the House and I'll say it again, because many of the folks at home who are watching may feel rather helpless: How do they defend their own rights? They have allowed people outside who may need some assistance to feed their family, to pay their rent, therefore a system is set up in which to give some subsistence, which we call welfare - the first act of this government when they came was is to attack the most vulnerable in our society. They have cut 22% from their subsistence, and with arrogance, the open, blatant arrogance of this government going on to tell people, "If you can't find money to buy food, go and buy tuna, go and buy dented tuna cans because it is cheaper."

When they came to my constituency office with, and I'm sure when they came to the constituency offices of those opposite, what they stated was that they themselves weren't even allowed to see some of their members. Many of those members came to my constituency, who do not even live in that riding, wanting to express some of the oppressive manner in which this government is dealing with them.

When we come to this House to speak, what do they do? They shut down the time for one to speak. They have closure limiting the time in which to express the feelings of the people in our constituencies. They somehow want to change the calendar and the time we should have. We watch many bills here. I think it's unprecedented, the number of closure motions we have had.

The most frustrating thing too is that members of the same party, of the Mike Harris Conservative Party, who are feeling that frustration aren't able to express that in their own caucus. Some of them have expressed that feeling to me and I empathize with them. Some would gladly come to the Liberal Party because that is where some democracy is seen, where you can express how you feel and feel comfortable about it.

They have two choices. They can leave the party and maybe come over to the Liberal Party, and we will welcome you because we welcome those who have some sort of principle for representation. The fact is, the teachers - I think there were about 30,000 in August 1996 - expressed their views about the way this government was behaving and not allowing them to express their views. But we saw later on, just recently, that the entire 126,000 teachers left the classroom, gave up their salaries to express to this government that it is not speaking on behalf of them and that they are not being listened to and that, furthermore, it doesn't give the opportunity to members in this House even to speak because it has changed the standing orders to limit that expression.


They feel they are in here forever, that they can rule forever. Let me tell you the time will come, the time is coming, when the people will speak very loudly. I want to take the opportunity to commend those teachers for standing up to the arrogance of this government. They have told me personally - and they asked me to tell you, lest you have forgotten by their expression of protest and giving up their salary, that they need to be heard - that even if this government passes 160, which it has done, this is not the end of it all. They're going to make sure that every single one of you is targeted - that's the Conservative government, the Mike Harris bully government - to make sure that individuals like people in the Conservative Party do not return. I agree with them and I say to them that it's not only the teachers who are speaking; it's the parents who felt shut out of this process, who felt that their views could not be heard.

There's a pattern to this arrogance here. The pattern this government has shown from the beginning is to call any individuals who express their views as special interest groups and then dismiss them. So they are trying to dismiss those 126,000 people who are intelligent, quite organized and have a passion for contribution to their province in the field of education. The fact is that when they were denied that, they were stamped on and trampled by the arrogance of this government.

Now they're trying to organize the time to say, "Let's change the calendar so we can ram the things through." As a matter of fact, they feel very strongly that the province could be better governed without people. They feel that the people should just go away: "Let us get on with our job. Let us get on with handing over the things to our interest groups so we can let them run the show without the people." But the system will outlast many of us here because the democratic process is in place, and when you try to unseat that it comes back to haunt you. It will haunt every single one of you here.

Many times, when I was a minister, I would have liked to move my agenda a bit faster, and in doing so I realized I had left the people behind. But I realize that the importance of the contribution and the interests of those individuals must be recognized. Often, the more I listen the more I learn and realize I could be totally wrong, because what we are trying to do is put policy in place so it can react and deal with the interests of the people we govern. This government is not interested at all in that. What this government is solely interested in doing is to rule with an iron hand and ram things through, to change the rules to associate with their agenda. But the agenda of the people will rule over and beyond what you are trying to do.

The opposition has a role to play in this House no matter how you change these rules. We have a role to bring to you some of those attitudes that people are complaining about in the constituencies all across this province. To govern a province like Ontario, which is so diverse in many respects, from the rural to the urban to the various multicultural groups that want to feel a part of this society - to feel they have been shut out is one of the worst things that could ever happen in any democracy, and to change the rules so that you can do whatever you want will not see the light of day for long.

While many of you would like to see individuals like us go away, we are here to stay. We are here to make sure that the thousands and thousands of petitions that come forth to here will be read, telling you they do not agree with the way the government is going.

I'm in Scarborough North, as you know, and many of the petitions I'm getting are coming from beyond Scarborough North. When I ask them why they do not go to Mr Gilchrist's riding to give him the petitions, they feel they are not being represented. "Why don't you go to Mrs Mushinski's riding?" They say, "They don't want to read our petitions." They say they have no proper representation and they want to be heard. I ask, "What about Mr Brown?" They say, "A fine gentleman, but we hope the petitions we bring forward will be read." And there is Mr Newman.

They say to themselves, "What have we done in electing these individuals so they could represent us?" I say to them: "My doors are open all the time. Come right in to my constituency office. I will bring forth the petitions here and I will read them, and when I get the opportunity to speak" - like now - "I will speak to tell them that their representation in their constituency is wanting."

Therefore, in the next hour in which I get to speak, I will continue to tell the people, "If your representation is not that which you are comfortable with, vote Liberal and vote often."

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

The House adjourned at 2129.