36th Parliament, 1st Session

L259a - Wed 10 Dec 1997 / Mer 10 Déc 1997





















































The House met at 1330.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): We all know Bill 160 is wrong. Everyone except the government acknowledges that. But what borders on insanity with regard to Bill 160 is the amendment to remove principals and vice-principals from their federations. The government doesn't understand and hasn't comprehended the complexity of the problem the government itself is creating for the principals, the vice-principals and the board.

What happens to a person who assumes the role of principal or vice-principal as of January 1 of this coming year? The government didn't figure, didn't think, didn't analyse, hasn't come up with a solution for that.

What are the different classes of principals and vice-principals the legislation refers to? At a technical briefing, the ministry was asked that question: no answer. The government couldn't answer their own stipulation in their amendment.

What happens to the retirement gratuity a teacher already has with the board when they opt out and decide to become a full-time administrator with no rights? What happens to the years of accumulation? Again, the government has no answers. With this amendment, the government has no answers at all.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): This government persists in its reckless and dangerous plan to privatize correctional services here in the province of Ontario. I say it's time, and people across this province know it's time, for the public to let Mike Harris and Bob Runciman know exactly where the people of Ontario stand. What people across this province are telling this government is not to jeopardize public safety for private profits, because that's what privatization of correctional services is all about.

Private jails simply don't work. Private jails pose a danger to the community, a danger to the staff working in them and, quite frankly, a danger to the inmates serving their time in them. And the fact is that private jails are simply no cheaper to operate. The US government, in its report of August 1996, established clearly that private jails didn't save taxpayers money. What they did find out is that they expose communities to greater and greater risk.

We've got correctional officers, representative of the 3,000-plus professional, committed, hardworking, dedicated correctional officers across this province, sitting right here in the members' gallery this afternoon. These correctional officers are here to tell you, Speaker, and to tell this government that its plan to privatize jails is going to constitute a serious jeopardization of public safety.

I've got with me but a few of the thousands and thousands of petitions being signed by people across this province saying no to privatization -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough-Ellesmere): It gives me great pleasure today to rise in the House to pay tribute to a person who has contributed so much to advance the education and wellbeing of young, single women and their children through Rosalie Hall and the Rosalie Hall Foundation.

Sadly, Sister Therese Bonneville passed away on November 5 of this year. Sister Therese was born in Wolseley, Saskatchewan, the youngest of 14 children. She was educated in Haileybury, Ontario, where she began caring for others at the hospital run by the Misericordia Sisters. Sister Therese became a member of the Misericordia Sisters in January 1952, and in 1958 became the purchasing agent for the Scarborough General Hospital, which was owned and operated by the sisters until 1972.

During the last 18 years, Sister Therese demonstrated her talents as a leader and visionary in her capacity as executive director of Rosalie Hall and the foundation, leading board members, staff and volunteers through two expansions of the facility and many difficult years of funding a service for society's often forgotten young mothers and their babies.

Although she is no longer with us, Sister Therese's guidance, wisdom and commitment have had a positive and lasting impact for women in crisis who came through the doors of Rosalie Hall and were able to break free of the cycle of dependency, violence and abuse.

Rosalie Hall, located in Scarborough since 1956, has certainly benefited over the many years of tireless efforts by Sister Therese.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): There is no question that the number one issue of concern in my community of Thunder Bay is health care, specifically the deteriorating level of care that's being experienced by many who need access to the system.

While the medical staff continue to struggle to provide necessary services under extremely difficult circumstances, indecision by the health minister, or a complete lack of action, is putting pressure on the system that is simply unacceptable.

In the area of mental health, the ministry says it is completely changing the way services are to be delivered, and as part of that the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital has been ordered to close its doors on March 31, 1999. Yet the Northwestern Ontario Mental Health Agency, which was to be set up by March 1997 to plan and coordinate services all across the region, is still not in place.

Minister, why is the agency not up and running and just when will it happen?

Perhaps more important, how can you still plan on closing the LPH a mere 15 months from now when the comprehensive supports that are needed in the community are not being put in place?

The situation is grim. The fact is that we are having great difficulty in recruiting and retaining psychiatrists in Thunder Bay because there is no long-term plan in place. Indeed we've seen incidents where patients in need of help have been sent to Kenora because of the situation in Thunder Bay.

The provision of mental health services in our community is but one of many areas of health care concern. But the needs in the mental health area are great and cannot be ignored or treated as a lower priority. We need action from you, Minister, and we need it now.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Today on International Human Rights Day, I want to take this opportunity to tell members of the Legislature that I've recently given my support to Amnesty International's campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of Suresh Manickavasagam.

Suresh is a Tamil political prisoner who's been in the Don Jail here in Toronto for over two years. He's now facing imminent deportation to Sri Lanka, where he will face certain persecution and possible death.

Suresh was accepted as a convention refugee in April 1991 in Canada by the same authorities that are now attempting to deport him. There is absolutely no evidence that has been put forward, and the federal court has already conceded on the point that there are no allegations of criminal misconduct or criminal activity against Suresh, yet he's being deported.

I do not have the time to explain the complexities of the war going on in Sri Lanka, but I can assure you that there are atrocities being committed over there. Hundreds of thousands of people are having to flee their homes. Thousands are being captured, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Young women are routinely raped, tortured and murdered.

This is an opportunity for everybody in the House to take part in this campaign -

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


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): The year 1998 marks the 200th anniversary of the Backhouse Mill, the centrepiece of the Backus Heritage Conservation Area near Port Rowan in my riding.

The Backhouse Mill is the oldest grist mill in the country, and perhaps in North America, that is on its original site and still in running order. The mill was in continuous operation by the same family, the Backhouses, from 1798 until 1956. I can recall going to the mill with my father to have grain ground.

The Backhouse Mill is the lone survivor of all the other mills in the area, which were burned by American troops during the War of 1812. I was always told that a large straw stack was set afire near the mill, thus causing the enemy to think the mill was already alight.

The Backus property comprises 600 acres of Carolinian forest with hiking trails, a heritage village which includes several barns, two log houses, a carriage shop, a blacksmith's shop, an octagonal schoolhouse and a museum. There is also a new outdoor education centre.

This unique piece of Ontario's history will be celebrated next year on July 12 and will also include a large family reunion. I would offer an invitation to the members to attend. There won't be another chance like this for another 100 years.



Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Bill 152, the municipal downloading bill, received royal assent earlier this week, at 3:03 pm on Monday, December 8. However, with its passage, huge questions still remain. We are less than three weeks from the new year and municipalities and their taxpayers still do not have accurate numbers from the government about the services they will be required to fund.

Municipal officials from across the province have been telling you this for months: that your scheme is not revenue-neutral. AMO has been telling you this, we have been telling you this, even your own backbenchers have been saying this. In fact, in a brave and unprecedented move, two Tories voted again the downloading bill because they haven't seen the numbers to back up your claim of revenue neutrality.

Now we have reports that the government might be backtracking, might be admitting, months after the fact, that its scheme isn't revenue-neutral, and is looking at providing municipalities with additional funding.

I call upon the government today to do three things: (1) confirm that you will be providing additional moneys to municipalities and tell us how much and on what basis; (2) release, finally, the downloading numbers, the real numbers, to municipalities that they have been requesting from you for months; (3) issue in writing a guarantee to each and every municipality that if any of them are financially worse off because of the changes made to education funding and the effects of Bill 152, the government will cover their shortfall.

You must guarantee that we won't see municipalities forced to raise property taxes as a result of your power grab of education and the ridiculous downloading of health and social services.

Treasurer, we call upon you to respond immediately to this request.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): Based on information from a former vice-principal in my riding, I urge the Minister of Education to look for accountability from schools.

In Simcoe East school principals receive $213 per secondary student and $111 per elementary student. Originally, this allotment was for textbooks, library books and art supplies. Now this money is used by principals for various things. In fact, in 1996 Simcoe county schools received $7.5 million. Only 12.8% went to textbooks, library books and learning materials. That's less than $1 million going directly into Simcoe county classrooms.

Where did the rest of the money go? School principals spent the remainder on administration, magazines and professional books for staff, furniture and fixtures, and on vague accounts described as "supplies" and "miscellaneous."

It is my understanding principals are not formally audited for their spending practices.

Parent groups raise thousands for bands, choirs and playgrounds. Oro-Medonte parents paid for painting the gym and replacing curtains. The school board never sees an accounting for this money. In fact, auditors were recently dumfounded at how one school was mismanaging funds.

Recently a school council representative complained their school did not have enough money for textbooks. Examinations show the school spent only 10% of its discretionary funds on text and library books.

This government has shown great courage in reversing a deteriorating school system.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House that, pursuant to section 30 of the Members' Integrity Act, 1994, I have today laid upon the table a request by the member for Hamilton Centre to the Honourable Robert C. Rutherford, Integrity Commissioner, for an opinion on whether the member for Simcoe Centre has contravened the act or Ontario parliamentary convention.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I also beg to inform the House that today the Clerk received the 47th report of the standing committee on government agencies.

Pursuant to standing order 105(g)9, the report is deemed to be adopted by this House.



Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill Pr89, An Act respecting the City of Brampton.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.


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

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): Your committee presents the following report:

Pursuant to standing order 60(a), the estimates 1997-98 of the following offices are reported back to the House as they were not previously selected by the committee for consideration and are deemed to be received and concurred in:

Vote 201, Office of the Assembly -

Interjection: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Dispense? Dispense.



Mr Jim Brown moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr96, An Act respecting The Tamil Eelam Society of Canada.

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


Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to request unanimous consent to make statements on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Ms Bassett: I am pleased to draw attention to an event of major significance. Today the province of Ontario joins with nations around the world launching the 50th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this day in 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations voted unanimously to approve the universal declaration. The purpose of this landmark document is to recognize the dignity and inherent rights of all people. Today is the 49th anniversary of the declaration, and we are also kicking off a year of celebration leading up to the 50th anniversary. The coming year will be for reflection, education and rededication.

Human rights spring from a desire in everyone for fairness and respect. As individuals from different backgrounds, we expect to coexist peacefully. We expect not to be treated unjustly by governments, and we expect to be free of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, all of those grounds prohibited in the UN declaration.

Canada has played an important role in the human rights movement worldwide. The late John Humphrey of New Brunswick played a significant role in drafting the universal declaration. He and the UN team worked for three long years to give shape to these ideals, and as Canadians, we must continue to honour his legacy.

Ontario has played a defining role in the history of human rights in this country. The Ontario Human Rights Commission was established in 1962. This made Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to establish a Human Rights Code and a commission of its own. Ontario has for 35 years benefited from the expertise and guidance of the commission and its staff. The 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives us an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to protecting the inalienable rights of all people. We renew that commitment today.


We are joined in the gallery by members of the United Nations Greater Toronto Initiative, a group committed to promoting the cause of universal human rights throughout the 50th anniversary year. A short time from now they will be joining us at a signing ceremony at which the Ontario Legislature will formally rededicate our commitment to universal human rights. Throughout the year, we will work to raise awareness of this important event. I ask members of this House to go out into their communities and encourage the people of this province to learn, to educate, to commemorate and, most importantly, to join in the celebrations.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I am pleased on behalf of the Liberal Party to also comment on the celebration of the 49th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially as we approach the 50th anniversary year.

Some of the rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and these are just some, are the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to education; the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; the right to work; and the right to seek and obtain asylum from persecution in other countries, among others.

One of the drafters of this declaration, and its chair in the first year, was Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt. Today I would like to quote from her on her view of where human rights begin. She says:

"...in small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere," if they are not where people live. "Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Even though close to 50 years have elapsed since these words were first spoken in answer to the question, "Where, after all, do human rights begin?" the essence of that statement is equally applicable today, except of course for the gender bias.

The slogan for the 50th celebration is "All Human Rights For All." Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the founding declaration of the newly formed UN commission and its first major achievement.

It has been followed by several important conventions adopted by the international community, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, in 1965; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in 1966; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in 1996; the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in 1979; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in 1987; and of course the most recent one, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989. Canada is a signatory to these and many other international treaties.

Despite the progress made in many areas of human rights, we must not forget the many violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms that continue to take place in many parts of the world. Many Canadians and Ontarians, young and old, are concerned about human rights abuses not only in Canada but in other countries as well. This was recently brought to light at the APEC summit in Vancouver and the subsequent visit of Chinese president Jiang Zemin to Edmonton and Toronto, where he met with Premier Harris.

How does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights relate to Ontarians? Our individual rights are enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which is enforced by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

As labour, human rights and employment equity critic for my party, I'm particularly concerned about workplace equal opportunities. I noted with interest when the former Minister of Citizenship replaced the employment equity legislation with a Web site on the Internet as this government's initiative to work with employers, employees and community groups to advance equal opportunity for all Ontarians. I visited that Web site recently, and it seems to me that it is the only component of what was to have been an equal opportunity plan.

Statistics Canada data on the typical Internet user indicate that fewer than 50% of all Canadians have computers. Of those 50%, only 8% have modems to access the Net, and the average income of someone with a Net connection is $69,000. If the government has forfeited its role in equal opportunity to that of a facilitator, how is this going to build a competitive society and create jobs for those who do not now participate fully in the labour force because of barriers to discrimination?

Finally, in discussion of rights I cannot let pass the occasion to warn all members of the Ontario Legislature that the right of all members to fully participate has been seriously undermined and therefore democracy in Ontario is undermined and diminished as well.

During the 50th year, I urge all of you to examine how we as Ontario legislators are ensuring that we are living up to the 50th year commitment of a truly human quality of life for all Ontarians.

As the opening words of the declaration preamble state, "Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm pleased to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party today to add our words on this very important occasion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day. I certainly want to also note, as the minister has done, that 49 years ago on December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to formally recognize the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

I too want to welcome and recognize the people in the gallery today from the Greater Toronto Initiative, a coalition of volunteers from a variety of community organizations who are organizing activities to mark what is starting off today as the 50th anniversary year of the declaration. I know that, as we speak, one of those first events is taking place down at Metro Hall today, a panel discussion on the impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on local advocacy work.

On this occasion, I also want to note that as we, representatives from the three parties, go forward to recommit ourselves by signing the declaration that we will be signing in the ceremony that will follow later this afternoon, it is important, as the now Premier and then leader of the third party himself said only a few short years ago, that we understand that we too have responsibilities in this area as members of this Legislature, and certainly anyone who is a member of a government current, past or future, to ensure that we go beyond the rhetoric, to ensure we understand that, as he said a couple of years ago:

"Support, then, for equality of opportunity is hollow rhetoric unless you support efforts to enhance those opportunities. That means equal access to education, equal access to jobs, equal access to promotion opportunities and equal treatment under the law. It means no glass ceilings for women, no denial of access because of religious headgear, no quotas. Opportunity, like justice, should be blind," to use his words.

He further said:

"I believe the best way to advance human rights and dignity both at home and abroad is to provide an example that is consistent, credible, believable, and to provide greater opportunities. That opportunity doesn't come from words or politically correct phrases or interjections. It comes from education, protection under the law and economic development.

"One of the best ways we can enhance opportunity in Ontario is to provide a strong economy, a fair justice system, an accessible health care system, excellence in education, equal and accessible to all."

I quote those comments from the Premier and leader of the third party, as he was back on December 8, 1994, when he stood in this House and marked exactly this day that we are marking today, because I think it behooves us, as parliamentarians, on this day to not just see this as the great day of celebration it needs to be and we want it to be and we recognize it as being, that is, in accepting that great progress has been made since that day 49 years ago across the world when that declaration was signed and was introduced through the United Nations.

While it seems to be easier as we look at the successes that have come about to look at what jurisdictions outside of Canada have done, to look at conflicts that have been resolved across the world, to look at improvements that have been made, it is, too, part of our responsibility as members of this Legislature to also look at our own situation and see what has been done and what hasn't been done.

On this day we have to also reflect upon what has been happening in the last few years, because what we have seen is a situation in which the current government has continued to in fact attack some of those basic rights, some of those protections that the Premier himself was lauding a few short years ago.


We have seen this revealed and come about through such examples as when only earlier this year Ontario made the Amnesty International list of outstanding human rights violations with the Harris government's refusal to call an inquiry into the death of Dudley George at Ipperwash.

We have seen this government very slow to act on issues dealing with individuals circulating hate literature in Toronto schools.

We have seen this government slash the budgets and the ability of groups like the Human Rights Commissions to enforce the legislation that is in place and therefore the ability for people to exercise those same rights the Premier spoke about a few years ago.

We have seen this government scrap the employment equity legislation, which would have given people an opportunity to find their rightful place in society.

We have seen this government slash the pay equity program.

We have seen this government get rid of the Anti-Racism Secretariat in the Ministry of Citizenship and in other ministries, particularly the Ministry of Education.

We have seen step after step taken by this government to have those basic rights denied.

I know that on occasions like this it continues to be the wish of the government members that we try and do these things in a non-partisan way, but I don't know how to stand up on this day and celebrate the accomplishments the human rights declaration means across the world and ignore the ongoing discrimination that is being caused by the actions of this government and by the actions of the federal government.

My colleague Ms Churley talked earlier about the situation of one Suresh Manickavasagam, in terms of being in prison under a law that was passed by the current Liberal government, without any right of hearing, even though he has been given the status in the past couple of years of a refugee in this country. Now he's very likely about to be deported. Even though there is no criminal misconduct alleged against him, no criminal activity, though there are no allegations that he has engaged in terrorism, yet the government of the day has seen fit to imprison him and keep him in prison pending his deportation.

We continue to see a situation in which, while we believe it seems that the barriers need to be open in terms of trade with other countries of the world, at the same time we continue to put barriers in the way of people to exercise their professions both here in Ontario and in Canada, and through actions of the federal government we continue to make it virtually impossible for people of low income and modest means to come to this country and become part of its fabric.

We have to challenge ourselves to go, particularly on a day like today, as the Premier himself said to us a couple of years ago, beyond the rhetoric and look at what we are doing as governments and as parliamentarians and, I hope, to understand that on days like this particularly, in recommitting ourselves, we are committing ourselves to much more than the rhetoric of believing that human rights is a fundamental part of any society that we can build here in Canada. That commitment means being prepared to put in place laws and put in place enforcement mechanisms that will truly ensure that we have a society of equality in this province and in this country.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I want to take this opportunity to make my contribution on this very important day. As we know, the International Human Rights Year starts on December 10, and it is the 49th anniversary. I would also like to make this comment, that the proposition that all human beings are equally entitled to be treated with dignity and fairness has been an ideal in world and local affairs for at least a century now. We may record as many setbacks as we've seen successes, but its appeal remains as fundamental as ever. According to a Supreme Court Justice: "Human rights is justice. When people don't have justice, it creates all kinds of problems."

Few countries have devoted themselves to the ideal of human rights as justice with more consistency than Canada. One might even suggest that the standards of equality and inclusiveness are an important measure of what Canada is about and of what it stands for on the international stage.

However, Canada's record as a committed proponent of human rights is only as convincing as its latest performance.

We have seen over the last couple of years, although we are very proud to be Canadians and very proud to be a country that stands as one of the best places in the world to live, some things that are happening which give us some concern. We are seeing, for instance in this province, where the most vulnerable are subjected to the denial of their human rights through the fact that sometimes we take fiscal responsibility more than human responsibility, the fact that legal aid budgets have been cut, denying those more vulnerable, not having any funds, the ability to defend their rights in the courts.

We are also seeing the Human Rights Commission in dire need of money to carry out its work to defend those principles and defend those most vulnerable in our society. Their budgets have been cut. We have seen backlogs in the Human Rights Commission and we are finding that the Human Rights Commission itself is using sections within the code to be calling things frivolous, therefore those individuals who want to bring forward some of the violations of human rights are denied those rights. The Ombudsman has complained about the cutbacks within their department and the fact that many issues that would be dealt with by the government have been delayed.

Those are denials of human rights. Those who are subjected the most to those denials are the most vulnerable in our society. We see individuals in our society on employment equity as we struggle, all parties here, with the fact of bringing in effective employment equity, the right to work, a part of the principles of human rights that today continue to be a struggle. We still don't have access to employment equity. Pay equity is another matter that has been half done - all these issues, we've got a long way to go. While we stand up very proud of the things we have done in our society, there are a lot more to do.

I applaud the appointment of the minister, Ms Bassett, who many of us realize is a sensitive individual. I want to say to her that we stand on this side of the House very supportive of the things she will attempt to do for there is much to do in those areas. There are high expectations of you in your role. That is where we draw the partisan line. We should not be partisan about this but make sure that human rights are being looked at.

We looked at the Ipperwash situation, trying to get a hearing on that. The government denies that. We have seen individuals who want to come forward to be heard about how they are being governed. That is also being denied.

As I applaud what we have done in Canada and applaud what we have done in Ontario, I am extremely concerned that the things that lie ahead are challenges that will take more than individuals, a collective force, to make sure that the discrimination, whether by race or class or colour, can be dealt with without being partisan and without regarding it as a fiscal issue more than a human rights issue. Today I am very proud to know that we continue to have a Parliament that can stand up to say we have to do more with regard to human rights. Thank you very much.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier. He will know that at noon today, senior members of our faith community met at Ipperwash Provincial Park. They issued a communication to you calling for a commitment for a full public inquiry into the events surrounding the shooting death of our first nations' Dudley George. Signing this were, among others, the archbishop of the Diocese of Huron in the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, the moderator of the United Church, the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith.

Eleven senior members of our faith community sent a personal memo to you, Premier, requesting that you hold a public inquiry. What do you plan to say to those senior members of our faith community?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I plan to refer that and the letter to the Attorney General.


Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): As I have said before, the incident at Ipperwash was a tragedy but the government has been clear and consistent that it will only consider other options after matters currently before the courts have been completed. We have indicated that that is the position of the government. We've made that very clear. There are court cases going on, both of a criminal and a civil nature, and we will consider other options once those legal matters have been completed.

Mr Phillips: Premier, I'll go back to you because it was our faith community that raised a very serious matter with you, and you personally. This is International Human Rights Day. They directed the question to you, Premier. They want a commitment. You don't have to begin the inquiry until all legal impediments are out of the road, but they want a commitment from you.

I talk often with first nations and they tell me: "Mike Harris will never call an inquiry. He's afraid of it. He will delay and delay and delay and delay." They say, "Gerry, you'll get nowhere because Mike Harris will refuse to call an inquiry." You won't even commit to call an inquiry.

I say to you again, Premier, that senior members of our faith community have called on you - you personally, you directly - to commit to holding a public inquiry. You can do it when all the legal impediments are out of the road. But I say again to you, Premier, the faith community of Ontario and all of Ontario are looking for you personally to stand today and answer: Will you commit to a full public inquiry into the shooting death of Dudley George as soon as all legal impediments are out of the road?

Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly I will say again that the government has been clear and consistent. It will only consider other options after the issues that are before the court are dealt with, and then that consideration will take place.

Mr Phillips: Premier, I'll go back to you. You have an obligation to Ontario, you have an obligation to our faith community, you have an obligation to first nations to say that they're wrong, that you're not going to stonewall this, you're not going to delay and delay and delay and hope it will go away. I give our faith community a lot of credit. As usual, when a voice is being silenced, our faith community has the courage to stand up and speak for that voice that you're trying to silence. Nothing could be more fundamental than this issue: the treatment of our first nations, the shooting death for the first time in this century of a member of our first nations.

We have heard from you several stories. You said they were armed; they were unarmed. You said there was no evidence of a burial ground; we found there was evidence of a burial ground. You said there was no direction given to the police; we found that you instructed the police to remove the occupants. There were 52 charges laid, and 43 of them you dropped, Premier.

The question is this: Will you today commit to our first nations to hold a full public inquiry -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Mr Harnick: The member outlines a set of facts that he really has no basis to outline, because they are just not accurate. The government has been clear and consistent.

Mr Phillips: Prove me wrong. I'll go anywhere you want. Prove me wrong.

The Speaker: Member for Scarborough-Agincourt, come to order.

Hon Mr Harnick: The minutes that the member has reflect exactly what has happened. First of all, he knows that the government would not negotiate on substantive issues while the occupation continued. Second of all, it indicates that no direction was given to the OPP regarding negotiations.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It says to get them out of the park ASAP.

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


The Speaker: Member for Scarborough-Agincourt, come to order, please.


Hon Mr Harnick: Finally, the evidence is very clear that the only step that the government took was to seek a civil injunction. That is the only step that the government took.


Hon Mr Harnick: I will reiterate: Insofar as the OPP is concerned, they received no direction. This was confirmed by the commissioner, and the only step the government took was to seek a civil injunction.


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): My question is to the Minister of Health. The minister will know that, from April 1st of this year to date, the Ottawa-Carleton Community Care Access Centre has experienced a 12% increase in demand for homemaking services and an 8% growth in demand for visiting nursing services. In order to meet this need, Ottawa-Carleton CCAC requested $3.1 million over the approved 1996-97 budget from your ministry in order to support this increase in need and address the projected growth in acute and long-term-care programs.

We know this increase in demand is a direct result of your government's cuts to hospital operating budgets. Our hospitals have been forced to lay off staff, cut services and implement increasingly aggressive discharge policies. Tragically, the CCAC has received word from you recently, Minister, that you have refused their request for funding. As a result, the CCAC is now forced to implement a number of major service adjustments, including reducing the number of homemaking hours per client per month; implementing a four-month waiting time for clients who need homemaking-only services; reducing the number of nursing visits; capping the number of clients per month; reducing the number of hours of shift nursing for palliative care.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I would refer that to the minister responsible for seniors.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I want to thank the member opposite for his question. I also want to acknowledge that his office, along with all the members of the Ottawa region offices, attended a meeting which I had with the CCAC in Ottawa some three weeks ago at which time we discussed concerns expressed by increased demand associated with home care access in the greater Ottawa area.

I want to remind the member that at that time I undertook a proposal to review their current budget. We have notified the Ottawa CCAC of our willingness to sit down and discuss with them the fact that service delivery for community care in this province will continue to be extended on an expanded basis across this province, but that services will only be available as long as they're needed by seniors and the disabled in Ontario.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Supplementary to the Minister of Health: A report on home care services released today showed very clearly the impact that the cuts are having and your hospital closures are having. It showed a tremendous gap and an imbalance in services right across this province. In my own region of Hamilton-Wentworth, this report shows that there's at least a $4-million shortfall in home care funding.

A baby discharged in Hamilton-Wentworth who needs home care in Hamilton, compared to other communities, is in bad shape. Actually 6.1 out of 100 babies in Hamilton-Wentworth have access to home care compared to, say, 40 in Kingston. Pregnancy problems: Seven moms in every 100 have access compared to 40 in Kingston. Mental health: Before you closed the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital, 8.5 of 100 had access to home care compared to 21 in Durham. There is a crisis today. Your closures, your cutbacks are adding to that crisis in Hamilton-Wentworth.

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

Mr Agostino: I'd like to ask you, Minister, will you admit that your cuts are now hurting home care? Second, will you admit and guarantee that you will fund every single -

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister.

Mr Agostino: Your cuts, Jim -

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, come to order.

Mr Agostino: Why don't you answer the question, Jim?

The Speaker: I warn you, member, I'm going to name if you don't come to order. Minister.

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to remind the member opposite that it was his government that stood on this side of the House in 1987 and promised one-window access and a coordinated, accountable home care system in this province and for five years of that government's life it did nothing.

This government has implemented increased funding, and Hamilton-Wentworth has received about an 80% increase in funding since 1991-92. We would also indicate that it is this government that made the commitment to increase funding, which is now over $2.2 billion for home care and facility services for the frail elderly and the disabled in this province. It's a record we're proud of. But the record we're not proud of is the failure of the past two governments to get a coordinated system of delivery and patients suffered as a result of that.


The Speaker: Member for Nepean, if you want to raise a point of order I'm willing to listen. No? Supplementary.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Minister, in the Niagara region, as you would know, patients and their families are being told that home care services will be cut and that people in vulnerable health care situations and medical circumstances will either be forced to pay out of their own pocket for very costly health care services or be forced to go without.

Five hospitals in the Niagara region are threatened with closure by the Harris government, despite the promise of the Premier that he wouldn't close any hospitals. Even without those hospitals being closed, there is a crisis in home care.

Would the minister commit in the House today - and perhaps I should ask the Premier to commit to give the money to the minister - would the minister implore the Premier of this province to provide sufficient funds for his ministry to be able to meet the existing needs in the Niagara region for home care, and would he inform the Premier that it is impossible to close the five hospitals that are under the axe in the Niagara region without causing great damage to the health care system in the Niagara Peninsula?

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to thank the member for St Catharines for his question, because he did accompany me some five weeks ago when I called him and asked him if he would attend with me at the meeting of the CCAC in Niagara. At that time we reviewed the fact that, in spite of the fact that this government has increased funding to Niagara region by 26%, we are experiencing some pressures in that area that may be as a result of increased funding from this government with respect to hip and knee surgeries and a variety of other discharging challenges that we are finding in the Niagara Peninsula.

At that time I had an undertaking from the member for St Catharines and all members in the Niagara Peninsula that we would sit down with the CCAC and examine the best way to better manage the large amount of resources. On provincial comparisons Niagara is doing very well. In fairness to the residents of Niagara, and the member opposite is aware of this, we have a greater number of senior citizens in the Niagara Peninsula than anywhere in the province. That is not unknown to this government and that is why I was in Niagara Falls and St Catharines to review their budgets with the honourable member a few weeks ago. But I will undertake to further -

The Speaker: New question, leader of the third party.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is to the Premier. On December 1, the day your government rammed Bill 160 through this Legislature, a number of students were prevented from coming into the galleries to watch the vote. As a result and out of frustration, they went outside and conducted a protest in the street against Bill 160 and your cuts to education. The police arrived and at least four of the students were taken to 52 Division, where they were charged with mischief, and one 15-year-old was held for several hours and was not informed of her right to retain counsel.

Premier, do you think this is an appropriate way to treat students who merely protested against your Bill 160 and against your cuts to education?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I am not aware of what they did, who arrested them, whose rights were violated or how it happened. I have nothing to do with the police, I have nothing to do with what goes on with actions outside this building, so I don't know why you're asking me.

Mr Hampton: Premier, I would assume that someone in your government would know something about this. You'd know about it before I did because this is a very serious matter. These were children. We're talking about a 13-year-old boy, one of them, and a 15-year-old girl.

Among other things, what happened is they were taken to 52 Division and they were detained for several hours. The 13-year-old boy was subjected to a body search and the 15-year-old girl was subjected to a body search. Premier, do you know what's involved in a body search? Do you know what it would be like for a 13-year-old boy to be subjected to a body search and for a 15-year-old girl to be subjected to a body search? All they did was protest against your government's education agenda.

I ask you again, Premier, do you think this is the appropriate way for children to be treated when they demonstrate against the government?

Hon Mr Harris: I think it's fair to point out, since you're on the record talking about an involvement here, that ejection from here has nothing to do with us; it's under the Speaker. You're free to raise that with the Speaker at any opportunity you'd like.

I have no briefing note; I am not aware of it. If you're talking about Metro police, I'd be happy to forward your comments on to Maureen Prinsloo, who is head of the police services board, or to Alan Tonks of Metro council.

Mr Hampton: I'm going to send the Premier a copy of the Charter of Rights.

We just heard the government stand and announce today that it salutes the 49th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. This is what the Canadian Charter of Rights says:

"Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.... Everyone has the right on arrest or detention...to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right.... Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment."

The only reason these young students were subjected to a body search and the treatment they were subjected to is because of intimidation. We saw it out here during the OPSEU strike, we saw it at Ipperwash, and we saw it with these young students. That's exactly what's happened.

My question is this. What kind of example about human rights and democracy have you set -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Mr Harris: I'm happy to raise your case with the chair of the police services board. I don't have a briefing note; I'm not aware. I might add that I don't know whether you're asking me to get involved and give direction to the Metro police. We don't get involved with the provincial police, let alone the Metro police. I think that's well understood.

I would further add, that as a former Attorney General, your question is an insult to the job.

The Speaker: New question, third party, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: My next question is to the Minister of Health, but I would say to the Premier what happened to those children is an insult and the way you react to it is an even greater insult.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Health: You're in the process of closing 30 hospitals, you've cut $650 million from hospital budgets, and all the while you've been saying that those services you're cutting from hospitals will now be available through community care access centres. It's great rhetoric. Unfortunately for the people of Ontario, that's all it is; it's rhetoric. We've found that 22 of the 43 community access centres around this province don't have adequate health care funding from your government to meet the health care needs of the people in their communities. They're already in a deficit situation.

Minister, can you tell us, what are the people of Ontario supposed to do? They can't get the health care services from the hospital any more because you cut them and they can't get them at the community care access centres because you won't fund them. Where are they supposed to get the health care services?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, I would refer that to the minister.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): First of all, I have indicated that we inherited a patchwork of services that had been underfunded, not regulated, not coordinated, no consistent form of assessment for persons. In fact, communities in this province were receiving in some instances four times more service than other parts of the province.

The truth of the matter is that this government has injected additional dollars into this program and is working now with our community partners to ensure that we have a consistent level of delivery of services across this province. We're proud that we're managing that part of the program.

Mr Hampton: I addressed my question to the Minister of Health. I guess she can't answer it because she's searching for a vision for Conservative health care in Ontario.

But the reality is this: Your government has no problem affording a $5-billion tax gift to the wealthiest people in Ontario. That's not a problem for your government. You can find the $5 billion for your wealthy friends without any trouble, but the Niagara Community Care Access Centre is $3.6 million short and has been forced to cut nursing care by 22% and care for people who live at home by 50%.

In Ottawa-Carleton you've left the community care access centre $3 million short and they're having to make the same kind of cuts, and it's happening at 22 community care access centres around the province. In Metro Toronto you cut hospitals by $105 million last year and the six community care access centres have experienced a 20% increase in the demand for health care services. But there's no money.

Minister, you can find the money for your tax gift. Why can't you find the money for health care?

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to remind the member opposite that the legacy of health care reform in this province for 10 years was to reduce the total number of beds in this province by 10,000 without closing a single hospital and to promise seniors and the disabled in this province that we would have one-window access, we'd have a coordinated system of home care delivery and then not deliver it - and then stand in this House and ask the question, why are the services not in place?

I want to remind the member that those services are in place. This government is proud of the fact that it was the first government in a decade to implement 43 community care access centres, coordinated one-window access for seniors and the disabled in this province. We're proud of a $140-million injection into support services -

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): What about the deficits there?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Beaches-Woodbine, come to order, please.

Mr Hampton: My second question was to the Minister of Health as well, but I guess she's still searching for the vision, because I certainly didn't get an answer here.

I'll recite the reality again: This government has no trouble finding $5 billion to give a tax gift to their wealthy friends, but people all across this province are now going without health care. They can't get it at the hospitals because you're closing 30 hospitals, and the hospitals that you're not closing, you've taken $650 million out of their budgets. They can't get the health care services at the community care access centres because 22 out of 43 haven't been adequately funded by you.

What's happening here is this: Those people who can't get the health care services in the hospital and can't get them at the community care access centres have to go out and purchase it privately. That's what's happening. This is privatization of Ontario's health care system by the back door: You cut the hospital, you don't provide the funding to the community care access centre, you force people to buy it privately.

Minister, is that your vision of health care, privatization by the back door? Is that what's happening here?

Hon Mr Jackson: The member opposite's vision of health care reform is still logged in old ideology. The truth of the fact is that the member opposite is prepared to argue that the tax cut is a problem -


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Jackson: This government made a conscious decision to upsize and increase the financial support to home care in this province as its first step, before a single hospital closed in this province. Over $140 million has gone into home care and 100 million extra dollars has gone into the facility side. That is $2 million a day that is being spent on home care in this province. Your government refused to act on those reforms.

I want to remind the member opposite that the revenue lost from the federal government of over $2 billion has been more than adequately replaced by the tax cut that has generated new revenues in Ontario -

The Speaker: Thank you.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations about the new Mike Harris gambling halls he's trying to force on communities across Ontario, the gambling halls that voters rejected overwhelmingly and emphatically during the last municipal elections in referendums and plebiscites.

Minister, your former assistant, Mr Paul Burns, also the former chauffeur of the Premier, Mike Harris, told Metro Councillor Judy Sgro that the gambling promotion firm RPC Gaming had been granted a charity casino for North York. He said to her when she reminded him of the big No vote, "We have a contract with the province to put a casino into North York and, since it's going to happen, I'd like to work with you." It sounds like a done deal to me.

Will you reveal the contents and terms of these contracts between the Harris government and the gambling promoters, given these deals for the 44 charity casinos you've announced, or are you going to continue to keep the terms of the deals a secret from the people of Ontario?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): The member for St Catharines knows how things work. I assume he still remembers. The fact is that while the contracts have not been signed, they are not public; they are confidential. When the contracts are signed, they become public. That's the way the system works. That's the way the system worked under you.

I really did look at this article. We had this little exchange on December 8. It was actually almost the same question and we talked about this a little bit. The fact of the matter is that the Toronto Star was using hearsay. Judy Sgro said that someone else said this. I would remind you again that Judy Sgro ran for your Liberal cousins in the federal election, so perhaps there is some sort of interest there.

Mr Bradley: No matter how much he paid to Jan Dymond - $2,600 a day for political advice - nobody cares about that stuff. We care about what you're going to do.

The former Management Board chairman said the following: "People in positions of authority who have access to confidential or inside information cannot use it to gain an unfair advantage. Individuals are also prohibited from switching sides if they are involved in a government transaction. For instance, if they had worked on a government tender, they cannot then go to work for any of the bidders for that tender before the contract is awarded."

Did your former political assistant, the former chauffeur of the Premier, have anything at all to do with establishing the terms of reference for these charity casino contracts, and if this is not a done deal, what escape clauses are contained in these secret deals and how much will they cost the people of Ontario? Did your former assistant have anything at all to do with this file before taking on his new responsibilities?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I might as well refer again to what we said on December 8 because it's the same question again. I said:

"I'll answer the same way as I did before;" - so it was answered again before - "apparently it's not new news again. Mr Burns spoke to the Integrity Commissioner. The Integrity Commissioner gave him a clean bill of health. Mr Burns does not speak on behalf of this government." He doesn't work for us now.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a question to the Attorney General. Attorney General, you know that the French and Mahaffy families have been in our Court of Appeal seeking a ruling that would bar forever any public viewing or hearing of the awful, horrible, brutal, degrading video tapes of the torture and murders of their daughters. You've talked and your government has talked a big game about the rights of victims, but you made a choice on this one. You chose to fight the French and Mahaffy families in court. Attorney General, why aren't you backing up victims this time?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Again, as I've done many times, I extend in this horrible situation my sympathies to the victims, their families, during these ongoing proceedings. What has to be very clear is that we recognize the unique circumstances of this case and in fact we are supportive of the families' wishes that the video tapes not be disclosed in public in any future proceedings.

What the argument in court involves is something very different and something very much beyond this particular issue. We know that the tapes, which are the subject matter of the court issue, are sealed. They cannot be used. They're under court protection. The issue is the constitutionality of a section in the Criminal Code that goes beyond just the issue of the tapes.


Mr Kormos: Again to the Attorney General: You had a choice. You could have either supported the application of the French and Mahaffy families or, as you chose, to oppose it and fight them in court. They are seeking a ruling that will ensure them some modest comfort, which they surely deserve, for the rest of their lives, and some comfort in the event of similar victimization down the road, that video or audio tapes of such a nature could never be viewed by the public or discussed publicly.

You could have made a difference. At the end of the day the court is going to make its decision. You could have assisted these victims. You chose to oppose them. Once again, the question put to you quite clearly, Attorney General, is, Why did you choose to fight the victims rather than support them in their bid for relief?

Hon Mr Harnick: If the member looks at the court record, he will see that is not the case, and insofar as those tapes are concerned, we've been very clear. Certainly we are supportive of the families' wishes. We are dealing with an issue that goes beyond the issue of the tapes. It involves a constitutional review of a particular section. The case remains before the court and it would be really inappropriate to comment any further.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. Since October 14, this year, Highway 407 tolling began and residents have enjoyed the use of that highway. We know it goes from 404 to 410. I understand that this highway eventually will run from the QEW to Oshawa. Recently many of my constituents, and yours, I might add, have indicated there have been some traffic problems, both on the 401 and the 410 southbound. Minister, can you please tell us when the extension west of the 410 will be open for business.

Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Transportation): I'd like to thank the honourable member and neighbour of mine for the question relating to Highway 407. As a co-resident of Brampton myself, I'm well aware of the importance of this transportation link to the commuters throughout our communities and to the residents of this province generally. I would at this time be pleased to inform the member that the construction of this portion of the highway is one full year ahead of schedule, and I am further pleased to announce that the next phase of Highway 407, that is the section from the 410 west to the 401, will be officially open for business this Saturday, December 13, 1997, at 2 am, and I will further add that this adds to the convenience and productivity of the citizens of Ontario.

Mr Spina: I'm very pleased to hear that. I know that all of our constituents, as well as other people, will be happy.

Minister, there's been a lot of speculation about the success or not of the 407. I wonder if you can tell us how it is succeeding. Is it? Is it not? It's been open for a couple of months. We see traffic on it. Sometimes it's heavy; other times it's not. Can you assure the members that this highway is in fact working?

Furthermore, we understand that there are a number of residents who would like to see the completion of Highway 205. Could you comment on that, please?

Hon Mr Clement: Of course, the Highway 410 extension is a further priority of this ministry, but let me talk a little bit about the success of the 407.

In fact, the traffic volumes since tolling began are higher than originally projected. The weekday traffic has ranged from 95,000 to 115,000 trips per day, for an average of 105,000 trips per day. Over 80,000 transponders have been distributed to date, and approximately 550 registrations are still being received per day, which represents a demand of 700 transponders per day.

I would like to remind the member for Brampton North and the members of this House that the 407 was conceived and delivered as a user-pay highway 25 years ahead of schedule. It would not have been built were it not for the fact that tolling has begun and that the highway will be paid for by those who actually use the highway. We are pleased with the current success of Highway 407 and anticipate the success of that highway to continue in the years to come.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I don't know anyone who would willingly want to harm children. However, a situation exists that is disturbing to members from both sides of the House. A 1994 study found that 37% of teenagers in Ontario have a problem with gambling, as compared to 8.6% of adults. It doesn't help that there are almost 700 instant ticket vending machines that are easily accessible and that allow children as young as 13 to buy lottery tickets with virtually no supervision. Minister, what will you do to address this problem?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): First of all, there are a number of things we have done already. Yes, it is a very grave problem to have young people have access to gaming. It's very important that we do address it. First of all, we have.

Under Bill 75, which we passed last year, we increased the penalties to ensure that anyone who would allow access to minors to any type of gaming will face some severe penalties. We're looking at penalties of $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for corporations. We have reacted to many things.

I believe the issue came up last year. Someone had indicated to us that some of these machines were located in inappropriate areas that were not monitored. I had a conversation at the time with the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, who then not only proposed to but did remove machines from unmonitored spots. Certainly this is something that's important for us to ensure - that no minors get access to gaming.

Mr Morin: Minister, over $400,000 was spent by your ministry to correct that problem. You hired investigators. It didn't work. It still doesn't work. We open up boot camps to discipline young children, to make them good citizens, to abide by the laws of this province, and yet we tempt them every day, with 700 machines, to become addicted.

As you know, two weeks ago members from all three parties voted unanimously in favour of my private member's bill which would ban the use of ITVMs. Obviously, Bill 163 represents an issue of importance to everyone across party lines - that of underage gambling.

Minister, given the support this measure has received, will you urge the justice committee to consider this bill soon so that it can be passed as soon as possible? This is an important bill.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I agree with the member that no minor should have access to any type of gambling. I agree with you 100%. I will certainly pass on your comments to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, under whose auspices this initiative is.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, and I want to offer her my sincere congratulations on her new ministerial appointment.

Minister, you know that the Premier promised during the 1995 campaign that your government would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within your first term, and you know that he has in fact repeated that commitment here in the Legislature in response to questions from my leader and from myself. I'm not going to go through the quotes; I'm sure you're aware of the history.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has met with you and subsequently has had a telephone conversation. I've got to tell you they're very concerned. In that telephone conversation - and they've confirmed this in writing to you - they said they were concerned and that you indicated that you were, in effect, starting over again and reviewing all aspects of the process leading up to and including the introduction and passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The commitment couldn't have been clearer. By now you were supposed to have been starting the public consultation. They demand full and open public consultation. When will that public consultation begin?

Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I am very happy and not surprised that my friend from Beaches-Woodbine would raise a question that is of concern to all of us in this House. As you know, all Ontarians - and I don't think this should be a partisan issue - want to have a province in which everybody, regardless of their ability, has access to fulfil their potential as best as possible. You know I am committed to that. The Premier is committed to working towards the enactment of legislation for the disabled.

That said, you will understand, because members move from side to side depending on elections, when you are a new minister put in a position, you can't automatically accept absolutely every movement that has been made along the way. It doesn't mean to say that I'm tossing them out. I met with David Lepofsky very early on and in fact I told David that if I wanted a lobbyist, he'd be the first I would -

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

Ms Lankin: Minister, this is not starting off very well. You're right that the ODA committee has been pushing very hard. They pushed your predecessor. It took months before we could get a meeting set up. Finally meetings were set up and things were moving. In fact, your predecessor made a very clear commitment. She said that legislation would be introduced by early to mid-fall 1998. If there is going to be appropriate public consultation and you're going to keep that promise, you have to be starting now.

I respect the period of time it takes a new minister to get up to speed. But this is an issue that we have been pushing in this House. We've had the Premier stand up and apologize, in response to a question from me, to the community for the lack of action on the part of your government in living up to this commitment that was in the Common Sense Revolution. There have been a lot of broken promises.

Let me ask you clearly: Are you committed to the introduction of this legislation by early or mid-fall of 1998 or is that another broken promise?

Hon Ms Bassett: There are no broken promises that I can see. I am committed to working towards this legislation as quickly as I can. Everybody in the community I have met is aware of that. Naturally, they are pushing for more.

We already have moved in some directions with the building code. We are making steps for the disabled. What you do not understand, or you do understand and aren't using it in this House today, is that members of the ODA committee do not represent a lot of people who are disabled who are consulting me privately. I have to listen to them the same way. There is going to be consultation.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): My question is for the finance minister. I recently conducted a survey of small business people in my riding to ask them what issues they wanted government to address to assist them. I got a wide variety of responses, but there was a common theme: One of the greatest concerns for small businesses in my riding has to do with payroll taxes.

Minister, you recently met with your provincial counterparts in Ottawa. I wonder if you had a chance to raise this issue with them, particularly in regard to the expected federal budgetary surplus.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The honourable member is quite correct that all provinces' finance ministers met in Ottawa over the last two days and all provinces were unanimous as to how the federal government should use any fiscal dividend it may have next year.

First, we urged the federal government to restore basic health care funding, post-secondary education and social assistance transfers to the provinces, which they have cut by $7 billion in the last two fiscal years - $2.1 billion to the province of Ontario alone.


Hon Mr Eves: The Liberal Party members opposite can laugh at $2 billion worth of cuts to health care in their own province if they want. I don't expect them to ever ask another question about health care.

The second area where we urged the federal government to take action was in reduction of payroll taxes, primarily employment insurance premiums, where the federal government now collects an annual surplus of $7 billion a year, $5 billion of which comes out of Ontario employees' and employers' pockets.

Mr Grimmett: Minister, were you able to get a commitment from the federal finance minister as to how they would deal with employment insurance?

Hon Mr Eves: With respect to employment insurance premiums, by the end of this year, in a few short days, the federal government will have a surplus accumulated of some $13 billion in the EI account. The EI account was intended to be an employment insurance program; it was never intended to be a cash cow for the federal government on the backs of Ontario employees and employers.

All provinces again were unanimous in their approach to the federal government. They could reduce premiums from $2.70 to $2.20 immediately, they could totally eliminate premiums for all youth employees and employers and still have a $2-billion-a-year surplus left in the EI account. The provinces were unanimous in this approach; the federal Liberal government refuses to accept it. They don't want to help employers and employees and they don't want to do anything to help young employees across the country.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is to the Minister of Health. Over 18 months ago, Minister Jim Wilson promised dialysis for eastern Ontario and the Cornwall area. For the next 16 months there was a legal battle with the provider that had been picked. In August of this year, the court proceedings finally concluded and the minister still wouldn't act because he said he needed another 30 days. That's one 30 days, another 30 days and the third 30 days: over three months since the court proceedings were over and 18 months since the minister made his announcement.

Now that we have a new minister whom I've discussed the issue with on occasion, could you give us an update on the dialysis clinic for eastern Ontario and Cornwall? We were led to believe that we would get the announcement before the end of December. If so, it would be the best Christmas present that dialysis patients and their families in eastern Ontario could get.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I know the member for Cornwall is very concerned about this issue. We have discussed it, and I want to tell him at the present time we are still in ongoing discussions with the provider. It certainly would be my hope that we will soon be in a position where I would be able to give you some very positive information.


Mr Cleary: I met with the Legion members and they want to know what they can do to help because it's a real necessity in eastern Ontario.

I want to know what I should tell the dialysis patients and their families who are worried about the weather conditions, those who have financial problems and those who feel they're not strong enough to make the trip to Ottawa or Kingston three times a week.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Again, I understand and I appreciate the concerns of the local community and certainly also their offer to be of assistance. We will continue to be in contact with yourself, and if there is a way in which the community can be of assistance, we will certainly make that information available to you. But I want to let you know we are doing everything possible to facilitate these discussions and bring them to a very successful resolution as quickly as possible so that those services can be provided to people in Cornwall. I anticipate that we will have an answer for you shortly.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship. I want to draw to your attention another issue on which your government has a long-standing commitment and on which we have yet to see any real action, and that is the question of access to trades and professions.

As I'm sure you're aware, your Premier committed during the election to taking swift action on this, but two and a half years into your mandate we haven't seen very much other than a Web site. I know there have been some fact sheets that have gone out. But people in the community have certainly told your predecessor and your government that what we need in place in Ontario is what we have in other provinces of this country, which is an academic credentials assessment service that will ensure that people who have skills and trades and professions from other countries, who have that training and those qualifications in other countries, are able to get those qualifications translated promptly and fairly into the Ontario context and then are able to use those skills to get jobs at an equal value here, as opposed to having to accept lower-paying jobs or indeed, as in many cases, having to go on welfare because they can't get those jobs.

When are we going to see some real action that will result in an academic credentials assessment service put in place in Ontario such as we have in other provinces of this country?

Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): First of all I thank you for that question, because it's something that has been bugging me for years. I have met during the OCASI conference with several people and made a commitment that we would sit down and have a committee that could help us steer and put pressure on - I see the honourable member across is saying, "Another committee." This is an advisory committee to me that would help me put pressure on the professions. As you understand, it's not the governments that are holding up this thing; it's the individual professions. I am committed to working with the professions to try and point out that we must open up the doors more so that we can get the full value of the immigrants who are coming to this society.

Mr Silipo: This is another case where the tale is really in terms of whether you're prepared to go beyond the rhetoric and beyond the façade of having a series of discussions with people. The action that is required lies in your hands as minister and in the government's hands. Yes, the professions have to come on board, the various professional bodies have to come on board, but in order for that to happen, what you need is the government taking the initiative, yes, to work with various organizations like OCASI and many of the member agencies like Skills for Change and others, but you need to put in place a process that exists in provinces like Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia, a provincial service which is an academic credentials assessment service that has buy-in from the professions, which won't happen until and unless you say as a government that you want that to happen.

Minister, I want to ask you and be very pointed: Can we expect that in six months' time we will finally see something we can call an academic credentials assessment service in this province?

Hon Ms Bassett: What we have already put in place and we are working on - hopefully they'll get there in six months: The ministry has retained Price Waterhouse to conduct a business assessment to examine the range of self-financing delivery options for accurate, fair, credible and consistent assessment of foreign academic credentials. As you know, that's one of the main drawbacks.

Second, we are developing occupational fact sheets which provide comprehensive, up-to-date information for prospective and landed immigrants on entry-to-practice requirements and job market conditions for specific professions. In some cases there's a move afoot to have those papers in the site of immigration so the people could see before they come what's lying ahead of them.

We are also supporting innovative projects by key partners, ie, licensing of professional bodies, certification boards, to produce best-practice models and tools for assessing skills, including the use of prior learning assessments. So there are a number of -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Minister, it's over. New question.


Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I have a response today for the member for Windsor-Sandwich, who on Monday, December 8, asked a question regarding the Malden Park centre and also asked, "Why will you not now fund it as a chronic care hospital?" I indicated at that time that I was willing to take the question under advisement and I would respond today.

First of all, I think we need to put on the record that Malden Park was built under the previous government as a long-term-care facility. In fact, in 1993, the Honourable Ruth Grier wrote to Malden Park outlining the ministry's position that Malden Park would operate as a long-term-care facility and that the relevant standards and legislation would apply. I have a copy of the letter here. It's dated December 1993. It is stated here it will be funded in this way, and it also indicates -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I think I was clear when I asked the question, Minister. We recognize that the NDP did not clean up this mess. We also know that you are now the minister. The only thing that is important to the people in Windsor -


The Speaker: Order. Member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: The point, Minister, is that the people who live in Malden Park don't care whose fault it is. The people who live in Malden Park need to know that they will get the level of service required -


The Speaker: Members, we've got to get this question in. It's going to be the last one, but we have to hear it.


Mrs Pupatello: The only thing that matters is that the people who are in the beds at Malden Park get the same level of service that they are getting today and that they got last year. While the last government red-circled this centre for appropriate funding of those beds, this government under the previous minister and the current minister is now not taking responsibility for appropriate funding, but your commission is prepared to spend up to $25 million to refurbish old beds in some old wings when you already spent the money to build this centre. The taxpayers have already paid for these beds for chronic care.

Minister, it's inappropriate for you to waste money in health care and it's inappropriate for you not to fund these beds at appropriate levels for chronic care. I would ask you again to review the file, to look at the letter I sent you yesterday -

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate to the member for Windsor-Sandwich that the funding that is being provided for the residents of that facility is based on their needs and it will continue to be based on their needs.

As you know, the commission has indicated in its interim directives that there will be 180 more chronic care beds required, but there will also be 1,200 additional long-term-care spaces needed, so that is certainly indicative of the fact that this reflects Malden Park's status as a long-term-care facility and not a chronic care hospital.



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition that reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We are very concerned about the Red Cross pay equity issue. We are asking the three party leaders to put people before politics and come together in a non-partisan effort to resolve the homemakers' services pay equity problem.

"The legislation affects Red Cross differently than any other provider of homemaker services in Ontario and makes it impossible for the society to compete on a level playing field."

That's signed by many of my constituents, and I add my name to that petition as well.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a petition that reads:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is intending to privatize the superjails in Penetanguishene and Lindsay, Ontario; and

"Whereas the superjails will be run privately and for profit; and

"Whereas the private operation of these superjails for profit will jeopardize the safety of our communities; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario will no longer be held responsible for the operation of these superjails;

"We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to stop the privatization of superjails in Ontario and continue public operation of the jails."

I endorse this petition signed by hundreds of people. I pass it on to Meghan Summers from Belleville to deliver to the Clerk.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition here. It says:

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

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

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

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

That is one of several petitions I have received with regard to Bill 160.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas during the last election campaign Mike Harris and the Tories said they would not force casinos into communities across Ontario without the consent of the voters; and

"Whereas over 70% of Metro voters in the recent municipal election voted a resounding no to the spread of casinos into their neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas the voters of the Toronto megacity have spoken loud and clear against casinos in all of Metro's six municipalities, with over 460,000 voters saying no to Mike Harris's spread of casinos into neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas there is already too much gambling in Ontario that preys upon the most vulnerable and desperate;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly that Mike Harris listen to those who voted overwhelmingly no to the spread of casinos and stop the introduction of any further casinos in Metro by Mike Harris."

I affix my name to this petition


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): "Whereas the government of Ontario is intending to privatize the superjails in Penetanguishene and Lindsay, Ontario; and

"Whereas the superjails will be run privately and for profit; and

"Whereas the private operation of these superjails for profit will jeopardize the safety of our communities; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario will no longer be held responsible for the operation of these superjails;

"We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to stop the privatization of superjails in Ontario and continue public operation of the jails."

Madam Speaker, if you like, I can read the names of all the people who signed the petition, but perhaps I'll leave that to another day and affix my name to this petition.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I wish to present a petition in opposition to Bill 160 that was sent to me by Ivan Parkinson and Andrew Armstrong, who are students at Norwell District Secondary School in Palmerston.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The following petition is in regard to Bill 160. It has been collected by Rhonda Auld and Barbara Hamibault, chairpeople from Churchill public school advisory council and Cyril Varney public school advisory council. It's simple.

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

"To halt the attack on the Ontario school system and withdraw Bill 160."

It's signed by over 300 people, and I affix my signature.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): "Whereas the government of Ontario is intending to privatize the superjails in Penetanguishene and Lindsay, Ontario; and

"Whereas the superjails will be run privately and for profit; and

"Whereas the private operation of these superjails for profit will jeopardize the safety of our communities; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario will no longer be held responsible for the operation of these superjails;

"We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to stop the privatization of superjails in Ontario and continue public operation of the jails."

It's signed by about 25 or 30 members, and I also affix my signature to the petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have now received close to 15,000 signatures on petitions and letters concerning rural hospital care. These petitions are from Dunnville War Memorial Hospital and Hagersville-West Haldimand hospitals.

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

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

I agree with these petitions from both hospitals and hereby affix my signature to them.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a petition that has been signed by a number of residents from St Joachim, Comber, Tilbury, Wheatley, Staples and other areas within my riding.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Bill 160 is detrimental to our education system;

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

"That Bill 160 should not be passed."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a number of petitions on health care.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"That the Fort Frances ambulance dispatch not be moved to Kenora."

This is signed by several hundred residents of the Northwest Bay First Nation and a number of other communities in the Fort Frances area. I've affixed my signature as well.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have two petitions sent to me by Richard and Hiske Bruggink and by Myles Dear, which read as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

I have affixed my own signature thereto.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas it took 20 years and $10 million in local donations to create a 225-bed chronic facility known as Malden Park; and

"Whereas this community believed that its donations were going towards the creation of a new chronic care hospital; and

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission recommends putting chronic care beds in Windsor Western Hospital at a cost of $14 million to $25 million; and

"Whereas the funding levels for Malden Park have been deteriorating over the past two years;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to restore funding levels to Malden Park to the average per day rate for chronic care and designate Malden Park as a complex continuing care facility, which is what this community raised $10 million for, and to save the $14-million to $25-million cost required to refurbish Windsor Western as a chronic care facility."

In complete support of this I affix my signature.


Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I support that petition as well, but I have another one. It says:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is intending to privatize the superjails in Penetanguishene and Lindsay, Ontario; and

"Whereas the superjails will be run privately and for profit; and

"Whereas the private operation of these superjails for profit will jeopardize the safety of our communities; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario will no longer be held responsible for the operation of these superjails;

"We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to stop the privatization of superjails in Ontario and continue public operation of the jails."

I affix my name to that petition as well.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This petition is signed by 180 constituents of Lanark-Renfrew, and I affix my signature.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Despite the forced passage of Bill 160 last week, petitions keep flowing into our offices.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

"Whereas sections of Bill 160 allow the government unprecedented centralized control over education in Ontario; and

"Whereas sections of Bill 160 remove our democratic rights as citizens to comment or respond to education reform; and

"Whereas sections of Bill 160 allow the government to make further massive cuts to education funding without public consultation or debate;

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

"Amend those sections of Bill 160 listed above."

I am pleased to sign my name to this petition.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition here signed by 17 people from the town of Cochrane.

"We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for a woman to appear topless in any public place, except in clearly marked designated beach areas."

Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas it took 20 years and $10 million in local donations to create a 225-bed chronic facility known as Malden Park; and

"Whereas this community believed that its donations were going towards the creation of a new chronic care hospital; and

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission recommends putting chronic care beds in Windsor Western Hospital at a cost of $14 million to $25 million; and

"Whereas the funding levels for Malden Park have been deteriorating over the past two years;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to restore funding levels to Malden Park to the average per day rate for chronic care and designate Malden Park as a complex continuing care facility, which is what this community raised $10 million for, and to save the $14-million minimum cost required to refurbish Windsor Western as a chronic care facility."

This is several pages in length and was put together by the Royal Canadian Legion from Chatham south to Windsor.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further petitions, the member for Brampton North.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Thank you, Madam Speaker. You are gracious.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas abortion is a lifestyle choice which is never medically necessary; and

"Whereas the Ontario government's injunction against 18 pro-life citizens initiated by the NDP in 1993 is an unwarranted suppression of free speech and of peaceful and lawful activity; and

"Whereas health care workers are experiencing coercion to participate in procedures contrary to their consciences and unfair discrimination for acting according to their consciences;

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

"That public funding of abortion should cease, that the injunction against pro-life witnessing should be dropped and that the conscientious rights of health care workers be given new, explicit protection in the law."



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 164, An Act to implement job creation measures and other measures contained in the 1997 Budget and to make other amendments to statutes administered by the Ministry of Finance or relating to taxation matters / Projet de loi 164, Loi visant à mettre en oeuvre des mesures de création d'emplois et d'autres mesures mentionnées dans le budget de 1997 et à apporter d'autres modifications à des lois dont l'application relève du ministère des Finances ou qui traitent de questions fiscales.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I am pleased to join this debate. I can't help but point out something I've pointed out just about every time I've stood up in this House to make a speech on anything: We're talking about tax cuts here in this bill. Let me just say, and although it's not directly in this bill it's closely related, that the one thing that makes absolutely no sense at all is for Ontario to hand out a tax cut to individuals, as it will be doing once again on January 1 of next year, when at the same time we're increasing the public debt in this province.

As has been stated many times before, the public debt in this province while this government is in office will go from $100 billion to $120 billion, and the interest we're paying on that will have gone from $7 billion per year to $9 billion per year. That's very difficult to understand because interest rates have gone down. Can you imagine if interest rates were still where they were two or three or four years ago? We'd be paying much more. It makes no sense.

Today we had the Minister of Finance get up in this House in answer to a question. He was berating the federal government for not making further transfer payments to the provinces. What he's basically saying to the federal government is, "We want more money from you." He sounds like a tax-and-spend Tory to me from the sound of it. I suppose what he wants to do is get the money from the federal government and then apply it by way of a tax cut to the people of Ontario. So let's get that straight.

It makes absolutely no sense to give tax cuts while we're still running a debt, while we're still having a deficit in this province on an annual basis and while we're still increasing the debt in this province.

What I basically want to talk about today as it relates to Bill 164 is schedules F and G. Those are the two schedules that deal with the setting up of the property assessment corporation, which will be independently run from the province of Ontario.


What's very interesting about it is that the one group that has made an extensive presentation on this is the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. I'm sure the people of Ontario realize that these are the people, the civil servants, who work in each of the individual municipalities. They are not aligned with any political party or with any political group. They look after the finances of each individual municipality.

Let me just read you a comment they have made about Bill 164. This is very instructive to the people of Ontario and to the members of this Legislature. They say that the cumulative effects of Bills 106, 149 and 160, and now Bill 164, are that we no longer have a municipal property tax system. This is what the clerks and treasurers are saying in the individual municipalities in this province. They are saying that as a result of these bills we no longer have a municipal property tax system. There's a really stunning indictment of what this government is doing to local government in this province.

They go on to say that we have a provincial tax system administered by municipalities. It is a provincial tax system administered by municipalities. The province controls the education tax. It determines classes and subclasses of land, it allocates tax ratios and transition ratios and now it may determine what will go on the tax notice as well. That I think probably says better than anything what the professional clerks and treasurers who put out the tax bills in each one of our municipalities are saying about the effects of the legislation that has been passed by this government, that in effect the tax rates aren't set locally any more and all they really are is an administration agency on behalf of the province.

Let's just examine for a moment two or three of these concepts they're talking about. The idea that the province would come along and tell the individual municipalities what they can or can no longer put on the tax notices that they send out to their individual taxpayers is absolutely unbelievable.

Why is the province doing this? Why is the province saying to the municipalities, "You cannot put anything other than what we tell you on an individual tax notice"? I would like somebody to explain that to me; perhaps the Minister of Municipal Affairs, perhaps his parliamentary assistant, perhaps the Minister of Finance. The question has been asked in the House, you may recall, on a number of different occasions and nobody's answered that question. Are they afraid that the municipalities may say something like, "The province of Ontario is causing your property taxes to rise?" Is that what they're afraid of? Because we all know that property taxes will rise; we all know that. The clerks and treasurers told us that before. AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, told us that. Everybody has told them that.

We have simply come into this House on a day-to-day basis and asked the Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who have been saying all these transfers are revenue-neutral, "Why don't you put it in writing to the municipalities?" I'm sure the municipalities would feel an awful lot better and, more so than the municipalities, the individual taxpayers would feel an awful lot better in each one of those municipalities, as a result of all these shifting different responsibilities that the municipalities are now going to be involved in, if they were given a letter in writing from the province of Ontario that in effect puts their money where their mouth is.

They're saying it's revenue-neutral. Why aren't they willing to say to the municipalities of Ontario, "If it's not revenue-neutral, if in your particular case there is a shortfall as a result of these changes, then we will make up the shortfall"? What is wrong with that? Surely to goodness, if they really believed in what they were saying, they would have no problem at all with the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Municipal Affairs actually putting out such a statement. Of course they're not going to do that, and they have told us they're not going to do that. They have talked around the issue, but they haven't really dealt with it at all. Now they've gone even one step further and they're telling municipalities exactly what they can or cannot put in a notice.

There's another aspect that is very interesting, and that is that the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers also says that the new transition ratios, where there is going to be a significant shift in taxation among the different classes of real properties in the municipalities, will create an administrative nightmare for municipalities. These are the comments from our municipal clerks and treasurers, that it's going to create an administrative nightmare. It could be a vehicle for those municipalities who work with the prescribed ratios and later on discover that the figures are unacceptable, and they may demand assistance from the government.

What the people of Ontario should clearly understand is that there appears to be no one in charge provincially or indeed at the local level who knows exactly what is going to happen to the property tax system here in the province next year. The reason is that there are basically three things at work that are counteracting one another, and nobody knows exactly what the bottom line is going to be.

Number one, we've got an awful lot of restructuring going on in this province. We've seen it here in the megacity of Toronto, but we've also seen it in other areas of the province, in my own area, for example, of Kingston and The Islands. The old city of Kingston has in effect merged with two adjacent townships, Pittsburgh and Kingston townships. It's fair to say that there are going to be adjustments as a result. In some areas the taxes will go down; in some areas the taxes will go up.

If that alone were to happen, that would cause enough confusion in the whole system already to give people a real concern about what is going to happen to the property tax system. But the second issue, thrown on top of that, is the whole notion that the whole province is going through a market value assessment re-evaluation. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and the now Minister of Culture will say, "No, it is an actual value reassessment we're going through." Of course they have to say that, because you may recall that those two individuals handed out leaflets during the election of 1995 in which they both, Ms Bassett and Mr Leach, said they would never ever impose market value assessment.

We've seen in this House in a number of different debates and in a number of different examples I've given, by actually giving the definition of "market value assessment" and "actual value assessment," that it's exactly the same thing; there's no difference. They've just given it a different name, I assume so those two individuals can go back to their particular ridings and say, "What's really happening is different from what I said was never going to happen on the little piece of paper that I handed out during the election campaign."

But to all intents and purposes, the entire province is being re-evaluated, and that's going to make some differences. I know that the well-meaning provincial officials we have in the various assessment departments will give you all sorts of ideas in terms of what will happen in individual municipalities with regard to what percentage of properties will go up or down, but in actual fact what usually happens later on is that the fluctuation is much greater than that. Nobody really knows what those numbers are going to be.

Then of course we have the third major factor, and that was the downloading bill, Bill 152, in which a number of services that have always been dealt with by the province of Ontario will now be funded exclusively or to a much larger extent at the local level.


Ambulance services will be funded at the local level; social housing, on which even the province admits the municipalities are picking up something like $905 million in extra costs. Welfare costs are going to be split on a 50-50 basis rather than on an 80-20 basis, and that's going to cost $2 billion more than was anticipated. Public health, for the first time ever - I shouldn't say ever. I guess maybe back in the 1960s public health was funded at the local level, and then enlightened governments said: "No. We want to make sure there are standards across Ontario. It's going to be funded as part of the health care package of delivery of services that the province is involved in." The province took over most of it, but now that's going back to the local municipalities to be funded on a municipal basis.

We can just go on and on. We know all about those services that municipalities will now have to pay for, and what came off at the other end is about $2.5 billion in education taxes. But as municipalities have been saying throughout, there is still at least a $600-million difference between the amounts that are coming off the property tax roll and the amount that's going on to the property tax roll.

When you add those three things together, which are all happening at the same time, no one seems to know, and certainly no one within the provincial ministry knows, exactly what the effect is going to be on the average person out there who has owned a home for a number of years, on those who have lived in single-family dwellings and duplexes clear across this province, who have honestly and faithfully paid their real estate taxes on a yearly basis. I can tell you that those people don't know what they are going to have to pay next year, and the reason they don't know is that the government has never revealed the figures as to what they're going to pay next year. The local municipalities don't know what the bills are going to be next year. They have been asking the province for help to try to sort this out.

I can tell you that according to my own personal assessment, the people probably won't know exactly what they're going to be paying when they get their first tax bill next year, because their first bill next year will probably be based on a percentage of last year's tax bill, but when they get their second or third tax bill next year, when all these costs have finally been sorted out and the reassessments have finally taken place, the people may find out that if they were paying $1,500 per year for property taxes, it may be $1,800 or $1,900, or if they were paying $3,000, it may be $4,000 or $4,200.

I predict that will be some time next May or June. That's when we'll finally know what the real costs are going to be with respect to all these property tax changes to the average Ontarian who owns their own home and is trying to make a go at life in Ontario today.

I think it is very important that the people of Ontario realize that their own municipal clerks and treasurers, people who they probably see in the grocery store or at the market on a Saturday afternoon, people who have devoted their whole lives to making sure the property tax bills were prepared and delivered and distributed in a proper and efficient manner in each municipality, themselves don't know what's going to happen next year, and the province won't tell them or give them any inkling at all as to what's going to happen next year. We'll just have to wait and see. I can almost be assured that most Ontarians will be extremely disappointed and will be paying much higher property taxes than they will this year.

The other thing that's very interesting, in other aspects of items that are dealt with in Bill 164, deals with errors that the government has made with respect to Bill 149 and Bill 160. I guess what this talks to is the real incompetence and haste and bully aspect of this government.

You may recall, Madam Speaker, that on a number of occasions in the last couple of weeks, the Speaker has had to rule on such issues as whether or not amendments to Bill 160 that are contained in Bill 164 were in proper order, because at that time Bill 160 and Bill 149 had not as yet been passed or given royal assent. It is a matter the Speaker had to deal with, and yes, the Speaker eventually ruled that 164 was not out of order. But the mere fact -

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Bill 149.

Mr Gerretsen: Bill 149. You're right. For once you're right. You've got the right number. But the fact that the Speaker even had to deal with an issue like that shows you the haste and arrogance of this government. Why didn't they get it right in the first place?

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): They did.

Mr Gerretsen: They did not, sir, because there are amendments right in this act. Let me just tell you what the clerks and treasurers say about this, if I can find it here in my lengthy notes that I have prepared for this occasion.

This is in schedule F, section 3. I've only got 45 seconds left. It states that, "On the later of the day this section comes into force and the day the Fair Municipal Finance Act...being Bill 149...receives royal assent, section 71 of that act, as numbered in the version of Bill 149 reprinted as amended by the finance and economic affairs committee, is repealed and the following substituted."

As the municipal clerks and treasurers say, isn't that wonderful? The government wants to amend legislation that it hasn't even passed yet. That surely has to be a first. Why didn't they do it right the first time? My assessment is that they're bullies, that they're just pushing ahead, and rather than getting it right the first time, they would much rather cause chaos and confusion in Ontario.

Madam Speaker, thank you for your kind attention.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions and comments.

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I think the member for Kingston and The Islands made some excellent points in that he said it really makes no common sense to be offering tax cuts to taxpayers in Ontario when the government is continuing to run a deficit, and it makes even less sense to be asking the federal government to increase their tax payments to the provinces at a time that they're running a deficit as well, because we know what these guys are going to do with the money. They're just going to pass that on in the form of a tax cut to their rich friends.

He also posed the question as to why this government would want to prevent municipalities from putting additional information on their tax bills. It really is an interesting question, why this government would want to muzzle the right to free speech of municipalities. Why would they want to invoke censorship on municipalities when they are sending out notices to municipal taxpayers? Maybe they're afraid that municipalities are going to begin a counter-revolution to the Common Sense Revolution and they're going to bring in those radical insurrectionists, the members of the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario, along with them as well.

He also said that taxes are going to be going up in some areas; taxes are going to be going down in some areas. If his area is like mine, we expect that those taxes are going to go up.

Today in the Windsor Star, Mayor Ed Renaud from the town of Tecumseh said that "provincial downloading is not revenue-neutral and could mean stiff tax increases for local ratepayers next year.

"`They (the Ontario government) have made sure the province of Ontario will be taken care of and municipalities will be made the scapegoats for tax increases,' the mayor said." That's what they expect in Tecumseh, a town where I grew up when I was a youngster.


Mr Baird: I would like to comment on the speech by my friend from Kingston and The Islands. I always enjoy his speeches. He spoke about the property tax forms and why there would be the same form. I'm pleased to provide him with information on that.

This measure would ensure consistency of tax bill reporting methods in order to increase transparency and understanding for taxpayers. Consistency in tax bills builds on one of the more key principles of property tax reform: that taxpayers, no matter where they live or operate a business, should be able to easily compare their tax burden to make sure it's fair. They are free to include other information with that tax form and are of course free to send things under separate cover.

I look at my own tax bill, which I have a copy of right here. It's very confusing. It's not straightforward; it's not transparent. There is no indication with respect to changes in the mill rate. It's very confused. Of course, no tax increase in Nepean for the last four or five years. What we want is a more transparent system.

He also mentioned the property tax assessment corporation in the bill. When the Liberal government was elected in 1985 it implemented a review of local taxation called Taxing Matters, and indicated a desire to deliver on promises to devolve assessment service delivery to the municipal sector. In April 1990 the then Liberal Minister of Revenue introduced a bill into the Legislature in support of the government's budget, establishing a crown corporation called the Property Assessment Corp. So even the Liberal Minister of Revenue, the honourable member for Essex South, Remo Mancini, agreed with that principle.

What I thought was most interesting, as did my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville, was that he talked about tax cuts, cutting taxes before the budget was balanced. Who else promised to cut taxes before the budget was balanced? Lyn McLeod and the Liberal Party. All the Liberal MPPs ran - I have a press release, "McLeod reinforces commitment to cut taxes," a $2-billlion tax cut. I thought, was that in year five when they were going to start that, once the budget was balanced? No, it started in year one. If you elected a Liberal government, right away they were going to start to cut taxes because they know tax cuts create jobs.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I want to commend the member for Kingston and The Islands on his speech. As usual, it touched on a number of the important elements in this bill. One the member failed to bring to the attention of this House is that this is an omnibus tax bill; that is what this really is.

I just want to point out that one of the sections of this bill deals with the government placing a new tax on northern drivers. The $37 fee that all northerners will have to pay to license their cars every year has been placed on motorists in northern Ontario. The government does not seem to understand that there are increased costs in northern Ontario for operating a vehicle. There are increased distances. Any northerner who goes to the gas pumps knows the cost of operating vehicle in northern Ontario is tremendously more.

I've been waiting for a government member to stand up and explain this $37 tax grab from the people of northern Ontario on all their vehicles, when at the same time they've reduced registration on vehicles in some parts of Ontario. Northerners don't really understand why this particular $37 fee on northern vehicles needs to be included. We think the government, in its wisdom, has decided that northerners should have more money extorted from them and that the people of northern Ontario have to pay more money to get fewer services.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I am pleased to respond to the member for Kingston and The Islands. I too thought it was interesting that he commented on the issue of the conformity of tax bills and tax notices that will go out. I listened with interest to the government member's response to that and the rather weak explanation that this is for transparency, "This is so we can show fairness."

If you really want to have transparency then I suggest that all of the additional costs that are being downloaded by the province on to municipalities, which are going to force the municipalities to increase taxes, should be attributed to the provincial government on those tax notices. That's all the municipalities want to do and this measure is explicitly there to prohibit them from doing that.

I also want to comment on the member's journey through the legislative process as he talked about Bill 164 and how it was amending another bill that hadn't even been passed because the government moved so quickly on the first bill, that they had errors didn't have time to correct it and didn't want to go to committee.

Some of this might sound a little arcane, but I'll tell you, in this last week or so we've seen a major tax bill tabled, an omnibus bill, Bill 164; we've seen the Milk Act tabled; we believe, if it hasn't come already, there is a budget bill number 3 coming on fuel taxes, all of which the government wants to introduce and have second and third reading done by the end of next week.

I can't think that is anything but incompetence in governing. The problem with it is, when there is not the opportunity for the House to have full reflection on these pieces of legislation, an opportunity to see all the detail, to work through it and to talk to people outside, mistakes get made, bad laws get passed. Then the government has to bring in further bills to fix the problems.

I suggest it is a moment in time here, as we approach the holiday season, where the government should rethink its strategy and understand that good governing means listening to people. It's a lesson this government needs to learn.

Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to thank the members for Windsor-Riverside, Nepean, Algoma-Manitoulin and Beaches-Woodbine for their comments.

I hear more about history in this House, about what other governments did in 1985, in 1990, what have you. Do you want to know something? The people out there don't care. They want to know what this government is going to do. They want to know what the future holds for them. Quite frankly, I am absolutely convinced that the average person out there couldn't give a hoot what happened in 1980, 1985 or 1990. What are you going to do and why are you making it a lot worse than it is right now?

If you want to have true transparency, why don't you make it a regulation that on each tax bill it shows not only what the tax bill is going to be for this year, but also what those same taxpayers were paying last year? Then you'll find out whether people are paying more or not, because they will be able to see it right on their bill. Why don't you give me that sort of guarantee? Then people will be able to see exactly how much the downloading is going to cost.

He talked about the Ontario Property Assessment Corp. It could be that the former Liberal government had that idea as well, but I wonder, sir, whether or not that Property Assessment Corp included a clause such as the present one has in it, which states that the minister will "establish policies, procedures and standards for the provision of assessment services by the corporation." In other words, we've got a situation where the municipal taxpayers are going to pay for the property tax corporation but the province is going to set all the rules and regulations and is going to tell them what they can or cannot do. I ask you, sir, is that fair? If the old bill did, it shouldn't have included that either. I think he who pays the piper - what's the expression again? Whoever pays should be making up the rules for it.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Lessard: This is just another chapter in a litany of bills that have fancy titles that have a whole lot to do with public relations and really don't have anything to do with what's actually included in the bill.

This bill is An Act to implement job creation measures, blah, blah, blah after that, but we know that this really has nothing to do with job creation and not very much to do with tax credits either. This is a bill that's jammed full of items. We know it's 199 pages long. For most people it would be time consuming to sift through everything that is in this bill, but there are people who are out there who are interested in knowing what's in this bill. I think that's a reason we should be encouraging the government members to have, and they should be agreeing to have public hearings on some of the important items that are in this bill.

One of the things this bill does is introduce amendments to a bill, Bill 149, we just debated a mere couple of weeks ago. It corrects some of the mistakes that were made in that bill, and rather than get it done right - finish Bill 149 and introduce amendments during committee of the whole - this government wanted to ram through that legislation, introduce amendments in Bill 164 before that bill had even been passed, even though they knew that bill had serious flaws.

What this bill, Bill 164, really does is demonstrate the incompetence of this government, their failure to manage the agenda, their failure to deal with legislation on a competent basis and take the time to ensure that the legislation they're introducing and passing is doing what they set out to do.


What this bill also really does is show how this government is not only moving too far, too fast but they're moving in the wrong direction as well. They're failing to listen; they demonstrate that on a regular basis. This is not only a demonstration of that incompetence but is taking us into a headlong dash in the wrong direction.

One of the things Bill 164 does is it introduces a section, appendix G - that's what it is, it's buried in the middle of this bill - to establish the Ontario Property Assessment Corp. This is another piece of the Who Does What recommendations that came from the mega-week announcements that download $120 million of provincial responsibilities on to municipalities, you'll recall.

I think it's important for people to know that the assessment work that is being done right now is being done by 1,700 members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. We have some questions and they have some questions about what is going to happen to their employment when this corporation gets established. I believe that's an important question that should be answered during committee hearings.

Also, municipalities are going to be picking up the tab for this assessment work beginning on January 1, 1998, but they're not going to have any say as to how this work is going to be done. This is really another example and raises the issue of municipalities having to pay for services when they have no say as to the way they're going to be done.

David Crombie and his Who Does What panel said that transferring assessment "should occur when the revised assessment system has been stabilized." "Moving sooner," according to Crombie, "could jeopardize the accuracy and the quality of assessments and undermine the integrity of the process."

When it was anticipated that this legislation was going to be introduced, I received a call from a fellow who works in the Windsor assessment office who had some questions about what this was going to mean for his employment and for the employment of about 50 other people who are currently working in the Windsor office. He makes some comments about the type of service that may be anticipated in the future once this corporation is fully implemented.

He said in an e-mail to me that the contracting out of services to companies like Sentinel life underwriters, who was awarded the contract to provide maintenance services across Ontario and provide assessments of new homes in their area, was doing the work of qualified assessors and that when that work was contracted out, the public really wasn't getting the quality of work that they should have been getting or would have been getting from people who were doing assessment work who were well qualified in the Windsor offices.

Mr Mero is a person who has taken the proper educational path, he's graduated from the appropriate training, and makes the point that if this government is really interested in improving the quality of education in the province, why is it that they would be contracting out services to corporations and individuals who have people working for them who don't have the same high level of qualifications as the people who are currently doing that job.

Finally, he poses the question, "Does that make any common sense to you?" I think that's a very good question and is one that is worthy of public scrutiny during hearings.

We're concerned as to what's going to happen to the employment of people who are currently providing assessment services at local offices like Windsor. At the very least, we would be interested in introducing an amendment to this legislation that would ensure that the government uses its best efforts to make sure that this public corporation retains the services of the qualified assessors who are currently doing that job. We think that's an important amendment and that's something we should be permitted to do during the course of public hearings with respect to this bill.

Something else Bill 164 does that's been mentioned already is that it permits regulations to govern the content of property tax notices. It's a form of censorship on municipalities to prevent them from conveying information to taxpayers that they feel is relevant. I think it makes a lot of sense for taxpayers to know what the cost of the downloading of services is going to be to municipalities. We've heard that for some taxpayers the taxes are going to go up; for some they may go down.

We know in the city of Windsor, based on the calculations that have been received so far, there's probably going to be a $20-million shortfall in the amount of services that are going to be downloaded on to the municipality. Where is that money going to come from? It can only come from increases in property taxes. I think the reason for those taxes or the increase in taxes or the cost of the services that are being downloaded on to municipalities is important information for taxpayers to know. There are a lot of people who are asking for that information, not only municipalities but taxpayers as well, who are saying, "Please provide to us the cost of those services that are going to be downloaded on us so that we can begin budget deliberations in our municipalities."

I listened to the treasurer in the city of Windsor a couple of months ago when he was making a presentation to city councillors and he really likened the downloading of services on to the municipalities as giving the provincial government access to the city's chequebook. That was the way he classified it. They are expected to take on these services beginning January 1, 1998. Those are going to be services like policing - not in Windsor but in the town of Tecumseh they'll be taking on the services of policing - public housing, social assistance, public health inspection. They have no idea what the cost of those services is going to be, yet they're going to be expected to pay for them. At some point later on in 1998 they will be presented a bill to say, "This is how much we expect you to pay for these things."

Another part of Bill 164 is to introduce some tax credits. These are tax credits that were announced during the 1997 budget. I've been listening closely to the debate with respect to this bill and on other bills as well, and this government continues to say they don't think there should be public assistance for corporations in Ontario, no direct assistance anyway. They don't think there should be loan programs from the government to corporations, but they try to distinguish the tax credits they're providing for in Bill 164 from loan programs, for example.


In my submission, there really isn't any distinction. This is a case where we really need to question who is going to benefit from these tax credits and who is going to pay. We've seen some examples of who is paying for the tax credits and the tax cuts of this government. Consistently, we're seeing it being paid for by the poor, we're seeing it being paid for by tenants, and soon we're going to see it being paid for by property taxpayers here, those who are in the least likely position to be able to shoulder the burden of those tax credits, those tax cuts. Those are the people who are consistently being faced with having to pay the price of those things.

Having said that, I want to indicate as a New Democrat that we're not really opposed to entering into partnerships with the private sector and giving assistance to private sector employers if we know that's going to lead to long-term job creation. The problem with Bill 164 and the budget in 1997 is that there is really no projection with respect to job creation that may be expected as a result of these initiatives. How much revenue is going to be lost as a result of them is clearly set out, but we're not going to have any idea as to how many jobs are going to be created, if any, as a result of this tax credit scheme in Bill 164.

As I said, we agree that there are occasions when the government should be involved in the private sector to create jobs. I think that Windsor is a good example of an area where that was done. Right now, a recent report from the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission indicates that Windsor is rapidly becoming one of the highest-paying regions in the nation. Retail sales have increased by 12.2% since 1993. The city's bond rating has been upgraded five times, from BBB+ in 1992 to AA- in 1997.

I wanted to make the point that a lot of those things were happening long before this government ever came up with this tax credit scheme. This was the result of initiatives that were put in place by the NDP government at the time. They didn't need any tax credits. They needed some positive developments in the city of Windsor to cause this climate to happen, and they did.

One of the things that was done was the establishment of Casino Windsor in 1994. These are some of the building permits that have taken place as a result of the casino development: $90 million for the 50,000-square-foot interim casino; $50 million for the Northern Belle riverboat casino; $550 million for the permanent casino. The casinos directly employ 3,817 people and have got a payroll and benefits that have exceeded $325 million to date. They are the third-largest employer in the city of Windsor right now, behind Ford and Chrysler. I would suggest to the members opposite that these are the sorts of job creation initiatives where the job creation impacts can be measured.

We've seen the positive impact that has on our community. This wasn't something that came about as a result of tax cuts or tax credits or any Tory job creation initiatives that have been taken. These have been things that have been done in our community as a result of the cooperation and the participation of the former NDP government.

This government is consistent in saying that governments can't create jobs, that only the private sector can create jobs and that the only way they can create jobs is to reduce taxes; you've got to give people a big tax cut to create jobs. I just want to indicate some of the statistics from the Financial Post between 1988 and 1997. These are some of the job creation initiatives by some large corporations. We've seen General Motors decrease its workforce by 12,000; Imperial Oil decreased its workforce by 4,000; Inco decreased its workforce by 2,000; Molson, 6,000; Stelco, 4,000. Large corporate employers have been consistently reducing the number of employees they've had working for them, notwithstanding the introduction of the free trade agreement which they said was going to permit them to create thousands of jobs in Canada and in Ontario. We haven't seen that.

We have a fear that the tax cut isn't going to lead to job creation to the magnitude that this government is saying it is and we're concerned that the tax credits that are part of Bill 164 aren't going to lead to the creation of the jobs this government says they will create.

We saw a few weeks ago that the teachers were involved in a political protest that really heightened the awareness of taxpayers in Ontario. People began to ask themselves why 126,000 mild-mannered, middle-income, mostly women teachers would leave their classrooms, risk breaking the law and leave their children to whom they've dedicated most of their lives in order to be engaged in a political protest against the government. They demonstrated to people what the cost of a tax cut really is going to be. They demonstrated to people that you can't promise to improve the quality of education and take out $667 million at the same time. When people found that out, they realized that what this government was doing just didn't hold water. They finally realized that tax cuts come at a price, and it's usually higher than what Tory politicians tell you that cost will be.

They also demonstrated that tax cuts sound better than they really feel. I think they also demonstrated that tax cuts and tax credits aren't the way to create jobs in the province of Ontario. There's a high price to pay. I believe people in Ontario are finally starting to determine what that price is. It means lack of quality health care and a diminishing of educational opportunities for people in the province. They don't want to see that continue.

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

Mr Tilson: I would like to comment on one area that was raised by the member for Windsor-Riverside, and that has to do with the allegations of censorship by the government with respect to tax notices. One of the problems, if he has any idea about assessment in this province, is comparing assessments around this province. If you think your taxes are too high in one area, you try and compare your taxes of your business or the house you live in to another, and it's almost impossible. Why? Because the assessment is a mess. One of the things this government is trying to do is to standardize the form of assessment.

What's wrong with that? What's wrong with trying to determine whether or not the assessment in one area is the same or similar to the assessment in another? If your taxes are too high, you should have the right to challenge that. That isn't censorship. That's a matter of fairness and enabling the public and the electorate to determine whether or not their taxes are appropriate.

These provisions are intended to ensure the consistency of tax billing methods in order to increase the transparency and understandability for taxpayers. Consistent tax bills would simplify the tax billing process, rather than having a myriad of tax bills as we do now around this province, and there would be a standardized format. Many members of the opposition seem to be opposed to standardization. They don't like the word. I'm saying we're going to make the tax system fairer in this province.


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I'm pleased to rise to comment on the remarks by the member for Windsor-Riverside. I did hear him speak in terms of one aspect of the bill. The bill, in my view, is a tremendous example of Orwellian Newspeak, and that's an issue I'll come back to later on in terms of its claims for job creation. As he very nicely pointed out, the job losses that we've had in our economy - even though we have economic growth in Ontario, we are suffering from persistent high unemployment, and that's another theme I will return to as well in my remarks on this bill.

One of the comments that was made by the previous speaker deals with the so-called standardization of property tax bills. There is a complete red herring being created here. I don't know if you know the origin of the phrase "red herring." It comes from Holland, as a matter of fact. It speaks to the herring fleets that would go out looking for great schools of herring to harvest and bring back to their markets, and of course the notion was that if you found one with a red herring, there would be hundreds of thousands of herrings to be harvested. So you always sent the other fleets off to chase the mythical red herring and you would stay in the more bountiful shores and capture the true harvest from the sea. Sending someone off on a red herring chase meant you were leading them down the garden path.

In this particular instance, when we're dealing with property tax bills, every property tax bill across Ontario shows the assessed value of your home and the mill rate that's being applied. What is the province doing with all its property tax legislation? It's compounding, complexifying, making more complicated to understand, to read what assessment is, and then it's going to come in and say, "Never mind the mill rates," which of course the province will set for commercial and industrial for education. "We will tell you what you will see." That's what's wrong.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I want to congratulate the member for Windsor-Riverside on the comments he brought forward on Bill 164. It is quite obvious that there were a lot of mistakes made in Bill 149, and now they're trying to correct some of their mistakes by bringing in another bully bill, Bill 164.

If you look at the title of it, you would think it's going to be good for the people of Ontario. It talks about job creation and it talks about tax issues, but there's nothing good in the bill for the province. They don't even set targets for creating jobs and reducing unemployment in the province, which they should be doing, rather than bringing forward a bill in the last few days of the Legislature sitting for this fall that's going to muzzle the municipalities, that's going to restrict the municipalities on what they can put on a tax bill.

In northern Ontario there are a lot of municipalities that would like to include an item in the tax bill saying, "Your taxes are going up or your services are being reduced as a direct result of what Mike Harris is doing in the province over the last two and a half years." I believe they should be able to put that in there. I know the mayor of Kapuskasing is very upset with Minister Al Leach trying to force amalgamation on to the area of 670. He has come out very clearly in the newspaper this week saying, "If the Conservative Party and the minister want their dirty work done, they can do the dirty work themselves rather than trying to force the municipalities to do it through the mayors and reeves." There are a lot of unhappy people out there.

I had heard earlier - I know the member for Windsor-Riverside would have included it in his comments - about a tax grab in northern Ontario as well, where they've put a tax on all the cars in northern Ontario, where nobody paid for their licence plates before and now all of a sudden there's a tax grab where everybody has to pay for their licence plates in northern Ontario.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): I'm pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the remarks by my friend from Windsor-Riverside. In doing so, I intend to support the observations made by my colleague from Dufferin-Peel.

I am intrigued that my friends opposite take such interest in section 9 of schedule F, the provision that provides for standardized reporting of municipal tax bills. I really do find it hard to understand why realistically our friends opposite would object to this provision. Their concerns are expressed in terms that I would suggest very effectively alarm the listener but do very little to inform the listener. There's nothing altogether new in this. We had this with Bill 160; we're having it again with Bill 164.

We are told that this provision is an example of censorship, that it will prevent municipalities from conveying information. No, that's not what this provision is about. This provision is about clarity, about providing clarity of the transmission of financial information, clarity of the transmission of tax information, to provide for reliability of information, for the understandability of the information, to make it consistent and comparable year by year and consistent and comparable community by community.

Taxpayers will understand the information that's in their tax bill. They will understand what is being conveyed by that information and they can compare this year's tax bill with last year's tax bill, and they can compare their tax bills with the tax bills for other communities. That is what this section in the bill provides for, consistency and clarity of information, so that the taxpayer can understand what's being told and can compare that information year by year and community by community.

I find it difficult to understand why anyone would seriously object to a provision like that. There is much in this bill to discuss. That is one provision that I would expect anyone realistically examining the merits of the matter would support. Why the opposition takes exception to it frankly is beyond me.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Windsor-Riverside, you have two minutes.

Mr Lessard: I want to thank the members for Dufferin-Peel, Ottawa West, Cochrane North and York East for their comments with respect to my speech on Bill 164. The member for Dufferin-Peel talks about the uniform assessment, section 9, schedule F, of Bill 164. He says that this is to introduce consistency in providing taxation information to taxpayers, and it sounded a lot like the briefing note we've been hearing read over and over as a response to this section of the bill.

He mentioned that that's to give people an opportunity to compare their taxes one municipality to another, so that they would be able to be involved in appeals. I haven't heard anywhere during this debate how this government is going to deal with the thousands and thousands of appeals that property taxpayers are going to be bringing in in the next couple of years as a result of market value assessment and increases in their taxes. There's no plan for that; it's going to be complete chaos.

The member for Ottawa West really hit the nail on the head when he referred to the title of this bill and what's included in here as a version of Orwellian Newspeak. The member for Cochrane North mentioned as well that the title is misleading, and the member for Ottawa West gave us a very enlightening discussion about red herrings. This government has become expert in trying to get people to pursue red herrings and get their eye off the bigger picture, which is the coming increase in property taxes to property taxpayers here in the province. When you talk about clarity, that's something the taxpayers are going to understand.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr Tilson: I would like to say a few words with respect to Bill 164, the short title of which is the Tax Credits to Create Jobs Act, 1997. This bill does implement a number of provisions of the 1997 budget which was presented by the finance minister earlier in the year.

We have known, of course, the state of the economy of the province and where it has gone in the last decade. We have been worried about the debt. We have been worried about the unemployment. We have been worried about bankruptcies. We have been worried about welfare. We've been worried about all kinds of things which we feel have resulted in the lack of jobs in this province.


Of course, one tries to determine how you can encourage new businesses to start in this province. How can you encourage investment from other provinces, investment from other countries to come into our province, to return to our province, to create the jobs we once had? I submit to you that this is one of the reasons for this bill and for the 1997 budget, the provisions that were introduced by Minister Eves.

We believe that in just over two years we've turned the economy around in this province, that the financial position of this province has turned around and has improved tremendously.


Mr Tilson: The members of the NDP in particular are laughing at that of course. I'd like to remind them exactly who put this province in debt. It was they. They are the ones who decided the only way to get out of the recession was to spend their way out of the recession. Of course, they created all kinds of jobs through the civil service, through public enterprise, as opposed to private enterprise. We discovered that that didn't work. Why didn't it work? Because we can't afford it, we don't have the money.

In 1995 we were spending over $11 billion more a year than we were taking in. That's $1.2 million an hour more than we were taking in. That system that was used by the former government, and to a certain extent by my friends in the Liberal caucus, didn't work. We discovered it didn't work. So that is the whole philosophy of how we create jobs, how we improve the economy in this province.

I would like to summarize the budget items that have been referred to with respect to this specific bill, Bill 164. The bill introduces measures to support youth employment and small business job creation, to improve the access to capital for small business, to promote cultural industries, to foster research and development innovation, to introduce a child care tax credit, to simplify and modernize Ontario's capital tax system for financial institutions and to establish a not-for-profit corporation to deliver property assessment services.

I appreciate that the last one is the one that provokes particularly my friends in the New Democratic caucus more than any other, and I understand that, because I understand what their philosophy is. It's the opposite of ours. It's exactly the opposite of ours. We tried your system and it didn't work. That's why we believe this is the system -

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): That's why your system is not working.

The Acting Speaker: The member for London -

Mr Tilson: This is the system, as you'll notice, where the creation of jobs in this province is on the increase.

The other issue of course was the amount of regulation and rules that started to pile up in this province. The red tape bills that we've put forward have tried to eliminate a number of those issues and to make it simpler and easier to create jobs in this province, to create industry in this province and to create a bustling economy that we once had.

It can't work with the overburdened regulation and rules and taxes that we have. Why? Because people weren't investing in this province. Why weren't they investing in this province? They weren't investing in this province because of the terrible labour laws that we had, because of the regulations that we had and because of the high taxes that we had. This bill creates approximately 30 tax credits to encourage businesses to create jobs for this province.

I will say that this year, the $11.2-billion deficit that we inherited will be something less than $7 billion. If you don't stop spending more than what's coming in, eventually you're going to go broke. If you don't stop doing that, you're going to go broke. That's what we're trying to do. My friends over here in the Liberal and New Democratic caucuses will say: "Don't give tax credits. Don't cut taxes. Spend."


Mr Tilson: My friend from Ottawa's cousins in Ottawa are doing just that. We on this side of the House are trying to encourage your Liberal cousins to make tax cuts and not spend, spend, spend.

By continuing to be vigilant and to find new ways of doing more for less, we believe we're on track to balance Ontario's budget by the year 2000, just like we said we would do.

We have cut taxes 30 times in less than two years. This includes the first three instalments of our income tax rate to promote confidence and stimulate spending. We cut the employer health tax and eliminated it completely for small business. We've introduced initiatives to help small businesses get access to the capital they need to succeed and create jobs. We're weeding out unnecessary rules and regulations through the Red Tape Commission. Workers' compensation premiums have been cut by 5%. We're restoring balance to the province's labour legislation.

The purpose of this bill, I repeat, is to encourage jobs, to stimulate youth employment and to stimulate small business job creation.

I would like to be a little bit more specific on some of the provisions of the bill that I summarized at the outset of my comments. One of them, of course, is the enhancements to the Ontario book publishing tax credit. This was announced in the 1997 budget, that the Ontario book publishing companies are eligible for a refundable tax credit at a rate of 30% on pre-production and promotional costs -

Mr Cullen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know this is an important bill for the government, but we lack a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would you please check if we have a quorum.

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr Tilson: I was commenting on the enhancements to the Ontario book publishing business. I'm sure all members on all sides will agree that we should be encouraging Canadian publishing in this province and in this country. That's one of the items, of course, that Bill 164 is doing.

As I indicated, in the 1997 budget the Ontario book publishing companies are eligible for a refundable tax credit at a rate of 30% on pre-production and promotional costs and 15% on production costs for publishing the works of first-time Canadian authors.

We have a lot of talent in this province. We have a lot of talent in our schools, young people who are coming forward who are writing amazing things. We as legislators, without writing cheques and giving grants like we have in the past - we can't afford to do that - should be encouraging businesses to develop the Canadian talent we have. It's through the tax credit that we believe this will assist those people.

Following the consultations with the industry stakeholders, the eligibility has been expanded to include the following: children's books by first-time illustrators; educational titles; qualifying expenditures will include one half of meals and entertainment expenses of the author while on a promotional tour; and the publishing costs for books unpublished as of May 6, 1997.


It's really difficult to be a writer today. The competition is unbelievable, not just from within the province but outside the province. The cost it takes to promote one's book through the publishing business is rather unbelievable. I believe this tax credit will assist the publishing business and, in turn, assist the work of the authors of this great province.

Another item that the bill is going to put forward is the enhancements to the Ontario film and television tax credit. The budget, and indeed Bill 164, enhance the Ontario film and television tax credit by increasing the tax credit rate to 20% from 15% on qualifying labour expenditures after May 6, 1997, and by raising the annual corporate tax credit limit to $3 million from $2 million. This was to help ensure that Ontario continues to be a leading film and television production centre in North America. Ontario will be introducing legislation to expand the eligible genres under the Ontario film and television tax credit and to remove the per project and annual corporate tax credit limits for productions commencing after October 31, 1997.

You will notice that what our government is doing is different from the other governments we've had in the last decade. The governments in the last decade used to love to write cheques. They wrote cheques for everything, they gave grants to everything, things we simply can't afford. I think the government has an obligation to assist certain industries, certain aspects of the economy, and I've listed two of them: the publishing business and the Ontario film and television industry. But the governments in the past would write cheques. They would simply give grants. That, I submit to you, Mr Speaker, is not the way to encourage those industries to flourish in this province. The way to encourage those types of industries to flourish is through the tax credit system. It is that system that we are endeavouring to follow.

In the former system, of course, you wrote cheques for everything. The former Liberal and NDP governments loved to do that, and that's why the debt increased the way it did; that's why we were spending more than was coming in. We're going to stop that and try to encourage industries to develop on their own, with a real sense of economy.

Another area Bill 164 is promoting is the Ontario computer animation and special effects tax credit. The 1997 budget introduced the Ontario computer animation and special effects tax credit for digital animation and digital visual effects produced in Ontario for use in films or television productions. This, we believe, will encourage companies to expand and create jobs in this growing and dynamic segment of the film and television production industry. This tax rate will be increased to 20% from 15% effective July 1, 1997. That was in the budget, so I'm not telling you anything that's new. This piece of legislation implements what was introduced by Minister Eves. Again, we're implementing the tax credit as opposed to simply writing a cheque to these industries.

My final comments are going to be on a topic that I know - I have time to comment with respect to the child care tax credit. I think that is something we need to - I can't believe all sides of this House don't support that provision. The Minister of Finance announced the introduction of the Ontario child tax credit to begin in the 1997 taxation year. This tax credit is a new investment of $40 million in working Ontario families and children. As I say, I expect all sides of the House will support that credit.

The tax credit will assist working families who are not benefiting from current child care funding. There are about 90,000 families and 125,000 children who are expected to benefit from this child care tax credit. Child care expenses incurred to enable parents to work or to attend school full-time will be eligible for the new credit.

That is another area in which we are encouraging people to work, in which we are encouraging people to become better educated and to qualify for higher-paying jobs. The child care tax credit enables mothers and fathers to become better educated, to work and hence improve not only their own lives, but the economy of this province.

One area that I know provokes particularly my friends in the New Democratic caucus the most is the Ontario Property Assessment Corp. They keep seeming to suggest that this corporation is being run by the province of Ontario. If you look at the provisions, there will be 14 members on the board, all of whom will be municipal people: All but two will be recommended by AMO, six will be elected, six will be non-elected and all of those will be put forward at the recommendation of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

In the 1997 budget the Minister of Finance confirmed the government's commitment to introduce legislation to establish an efficient and effective assessment function at the municipal level and to work with municipalities to ensure the smooth transfer of assessment service delivery.

I think one of the problems we've had in this province, as I indicated in my response to the presentation made by the member for Windsor-Riverside, was to develop a standardization of assessment across this province. It's been a mess. People haven't been able to determine whether their taxes are fair in this province, whether they're paying the same in similar circumstances and in similar situations, whether it be residential or business taxes, in one part of the province as in another.

This bill proposes a statutory not-for-profit corporation to deliver assessment services. All municipalities in this province would be members of the corporation. The bill proposes that the corporation would have a board of directors, as I indicated, composed of six elected and six non-elected municipal employees or officers, and two members designated by the Minister of Finance to represent other stakeholders. This bill proposes that the distribution of assessment services costs among municipalities should recognize both municipal demands for services and the municipality's ability to pay.

The thrust of this particular provision of the bill is to develop a standardization of assessment around the province. It is not standard at this point in time and that is one of the reasons why the confusion that exists with respect to municipal taxes around this province exists today.

Why, for the life of me, the members of the opposition would contest this particular provision when it's going to assist members of the public to determine whether their taxes are fair, I don't understand. I don't understand why they don't want to create a fair and equal tax system across this province.


I would submit to you that this corporation, which is a non-profit, not-for-profit corporation and will be controlled by municipalities, is going to provide the assessment that the province requires and needs to make it a fairer system in this province.

The bill proposes that the Ministry of Finance would continue to provide assessment services on behalf of the corporation until the corporation is ready to assume the management of assessment functions -

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Time has expired. Questions or comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I found the member's speech very interesting. I was concerned that he didn't have sufficient time to mention the fact that his Premier, Mike Harris, is censoring municipalities. I don't think he had the chance, because now that we're down to 20 minutes per speech under the new Mike Harris rules in the House, the member did not have the opportunity, I'm sure, to deal with the fact that municipalities are being censored.

I know many of us who have served on municipal council, and I would say Hazel McCallion is probably among those people, would be perturbed that the provincial government would stipulate that municipalities couldn't include on the tax bill itself certain information about why there might be an increase in municipal property taxes. Many of them have complained to me about this.

I've also heard from the clerks and treasurers of Ontario, who say there's going to be chaos ensuing after this bill passes, as apparently it's going to, because now I see that the government is bringing in a time allocation motion. The member probably wasn't aware of that. Yet another closure motion to close off, to choke off debate has been filed by the government on this important bill. So not only is the government censoring the municipalities -


Mr Bradley: - and I know my friend from Mississauga South will be hearing from Hazel McCallion when she finds out that she is being censored.

I just wanted to help the member out, because Mr Tilson, I know, if he had the full 30 minutes that used to be available, would have mentioned his concern about the fact that his Premier, Mike Harris, is censoring municipalities, not allowing them to give information on the tax bill.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I listened carefully to all of the member for Dufferin-Peel's comments. What I'm concerned about is that in around 30 minutes, I'm going to be speaking to the bill and I'm worried that we've lost our audience. In approximately 30 minutes I'm going to have a chance - not a whole lot of time, but a brief opportunity - to speak to Bill 164.

Down in Niagara there's a snowstorm right now and a whole lot of people have gone home early from work to avoid the problems associated with unplowed streets, because that's part of the phenomenon of this government. If you think for even the briefest moments that it's just a matter of convenience, think again. That's a real safety issue in communities. It certainly is down in Welland-Thorold and across Niagara region.

One of the interesting things about this bill that I'm going to feel free to comment on at length is its title. They have more nerve than Dick Tracy, quite frankly, to entitle this An Act to implement job creation. Job creation, my foot. This government has failed miserably in even coming close to meeting its promise. Remember it was a promise of 725,000 new jobs, and people in Ontario thought they meant real jobs, not the part-time, temporary, minimum wage jobs or, as is increasingly the case, subminimum wage jobs, McJobs, jobettes, call them what you will.

The fact is that bankruptcies among small businesses are just skyrocketing through the roof under this government's policies. The fact is that wages are dropping. The fact is that unemployment remains stuck down in Niagara region at the double-digit level, and among youngsters, double that, twice that of their parents. There is nothing about which this government could be proud.

Hon Margaret Marland (Minister without Portfolio [children's issues]): I would like to just assure the member for St Catharines that Mayor McCallion doesn't need his help lobbying in this House. She has four very committed members for her city who do a very proficient job at looking after the interests of Mississauga. It may well be that they can't on their printed bill define those areas that are not their direct responsibility in terms of the cost of that bill, but they can very easily enclose any further information that they wish in the envelopes, and the member for St Catharines knows that very well.

The point that I really want to make about this bill is the very fact that it's called the Tax Credits to Create Jobs Act is something that we should all be standing up in this House cheering about. If you look at some of those tax credits and know what they involve - and I give you as an example the Ontario film and television tax credit. It is fantastic what is going on in Ontario in terms of Ontario film production. Both the previous governments supported the Ontario Film Development Corp with tax money to promote that industry and the result is that it is a booming industry creating all kinds of jobs in this province, all in the private sector.

Second, the Ontario computer animation and special effects tax credit: The leading program in North America is at Sheridan College, Oakville, in computer animation and special effects. The people who graduate from that course at Sheridan College get an instant job and in all the leading -

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: All I can say is they've done it once again. A time allocation motion has been filed that, after today, the next time the bill gets called it's up for third reading. This is the 16th time within the last six months that this bullying government is once again resorting to closure. This is all this is, it's closure, so that the elected representatives of the people of Ontario can no longer speak on very important legislation.

What's interesting is that you've done it on just about every piece of important legislation. You don't want to debate it, which begs the question - we had a budget when? In May of this year. This bill is intended to implement some of the items that are called for in the budget in May of this year, some seven or eight months ago. Why did the government only introduce this Bill 164 less than a week ago? Why did they wait for six months to introduce that? They are incompetent, and once they realize they are incompetent and try to do something about it, then they try to bully their way through by having another closure motion.

The member for Dufferin-Peel talked about tax credits. How can you give tax cuts to people when you are still going into debt by a further $20 billion during your term of office? How can you possibly do that? When we in the province of Ontario are paying $9.1 billion, almost 20% of the budget on interest costs, how can you possibly justify that? You can't. Your government is bullying and is doing so once again with another closure motion. This is holding Parliament in contempt as far as I am concerned.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel, you have two minutes.

Mr Tilson: Thank you for the comments, the member for Kingston and The Islands, the minister responsible for children's issues, the member for Welland-Thorold and, of course, the member for St Catharines, with respect to their response to the presentation I made.

The member for Welland-Thorold doesn't even like the title of the bill, which is called the Tax Credits to Create Jobs Act. What's wrong with trying to do whatever we can to create jobs? What's wrong with that?

Mr Gerretsen: Nothing.

Mr Tilson: The member says, "Nothing," but that's what the bill is trying to do. What's wrong with trying to create as many jobs as possible in this province? The member for Kingston and The Islands will say, "Nothing." Then I hope he supports the bill because that's exactly what this bill is trying to do. This bill is trying to encourage the support of as many jobs as possible in this province as we can to make it the prosperous place that it once was. We're trying to help to keep Ontario competitive and to help business grow in this province so that investment will come from other provinces, from other countries, to encourage jobs and to create well-being for all of us in this province. We haven't exactly had that in the last decade. We believe that the policies that as are being put forward by Minister Eves, the finance minister, which are set forth in this bill will do just that. I congratulate the finance minister for bringing forward this bill as a result of the budget that was introduced in May. Of course that is exactly what this bill is doing; it is going to improve the economy and the wellbeing of this province.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Cullen: I am pleased to rise to join the debate on Bill 164. This is a bill that's really an omnibus bill. It has seven schedules, five of which deal with tax credit measures. A further schedule amends some 13 acts and the final schedule deals with the whole business of the downloading of property assessment to the municipalities.

Quite frankly, I am getting sick and tired of the Orwellian Newspeak that I keep encountering time and time again with this government. You may recall that George Orwell wrote a seminal book called 1984, where he talked about the power of Big Brother government, and it's amazing to hear this in the context of this government, which has sought to centralize so much power within cabinet in an absolutely unaccountable way, in a way that is counter to transparency, counter to public debate and counter to public scrutiny. In fact it is even underscored today with the introduction of the time allocation motion.

Of course in 1984, Newspeak became famous. The Ministry of Peace waged war, etc, and I'm so reminded because as I read the title of this bill, An Act to implement job creation measures and other measures contained in the 1997 Budget and to make other amendments to statutes administered by the Ministry of Finance or relating to taxation matters, we find this 199-page bill covering so much more territory than that. I'm reminded of Bill 26, An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring, Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda. That was really the bully bill, the municipal destruction bill.

Then we look at Bill 96, An Act to Consolidate and Revise the Law with respect to Residential Tenancies, otherwise known as the Tenant Protection Act, which took away rent control from tenants across Ontario. Then we look at Bill 136, An Act to provide for the expeditious resolution of disputes during collective bargaining in certain sectors and to facilitate collective bargaining following restructuring in the public sector and to make certain amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Pay Equity Act, an act that sought to destroy collective bargaining here in Ontario.

Then we look at, of course, the famous Bill 152, An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers by eliminating Duplication and reallocating Responsibilities between Provincial and Municipal Governments in various areas and to implement other aspects of the Government's "Who Does What" Agenda, the provincial downloading bill which is going to raise property taxes across Ontario.

Then, of course, the famous Bill 160, An Act to reform the education system, protect classroom funding, and enhance accountability - not - and make other improvements consistent with the Government's education quality agenda, including improved student achievement and regulated class size, has zip-all to do with student achievement. I could go on.

Unfortunately, Bill 164 is simply another example of the Newspeak that this government so delights in. Quite frankly, the act supposedly implements measures contained in the 1997 budget. As the member for Kingston and The Islands has so eloquently said, "It seeks to implement that budget that was tabled in this House in May." Well, this act was introduced on November 25, 1997, six months later, and what is going to happen?

We are going to have this become law before December 18. In less than a month, this act, which not only deals with tax credits, but has the omnibus factor of dealing with some 13 other pieces of legislation as well as the downloading of assessment on to municipalities, is going to be passed with no public hearings whatsoever, with debate being shut down, closed down yet again.

It is true that efficient government and democracy are antithetical. Efficient government doesn't like debate, doesn't like people questioning or commenting on the government's agenda. The government itself does not like democracy, where it is forced to uphold its agenda and, lo and behold, find out what people think about it, what people think is wrong with it, what needs improvement. Good government requires that; efficient government finds democracy troublesome. All I can say is that you reap what you sow.

What is in this bill? Why, by gum, there are amendments here that seek to improve Bill 149 that was passed - how long ago was Bill 149 passed? Was it just a matter of days ago? Bill 160 - how long ago was Bill 160 passed? Was it just days ago? For heaven's sake, did we have proper hearings for these bills? How many people wanted to speak on Bill 160, a seminal change to our education system? Some 1,200 and some-odd. How many people eventually did get to speak to this major piece of legislation changing one of the major responsibilities shared with taxpayers and parents and teachers across Ontario? Was it 80? Was it even 80? Here, with this bill, no public hearings.

As I said earlier, this bill seeks to implement the May 1997 budget. It introduces seven new tax credits in an attempt to create jobs. We all remember the Common Sense Revolution and its commitment to create jobs. Let me just quote from this particular budget.

It says here, "We have cut government spending in a deliberate and careful way, because government was too big, too wasteful and was doing too many other things...." I'm sorry, what it has done is remove services, services that taxpayers wanted and needed. For those members who were here in the House when I raised my question about the community care access centre, here is a service that this government promised to maintain, the quality of health care services in Ontario, yet it is not providing the funding in the name of deficit reduction.

It says here, "We are reducing the size of governments in this province, peeling away the layers of red tape and bureaucracy." What is happening instead, we just have to look at the environmental sector to see the loss of public sector jobs that were there to enforce the will of the people of Ontario to ensure that we had a safe environment.

"We are redefining the role of governments in Ontario to make them more accountable to taxpayers." Again another example of Newspeak, because government, particularly this government, is becoming less and less accountable with its penchant for more and more regulation that's coming from the cabinet or the minister involved.

This particular piece of legislation seeks to implement job creation measures in an effort to follow up on the Ontario budget. So where are we in terms of the impact of this government's economic agenda since it took office in 1995? Have we had growth in the economy? My colleagues opposite will say that we've had record growth in this economy and they will claim credit to their own economic policies. But a careful scrutiny of the facts will show you that economic growth in this province has been led by the US economy; it's been an export-led recovery. As a matter of fact, when you compare it to the absolutely scandalous level of unemployment here in Ontario, this government should be very concerned.

Indeed, when we look at the government's predictions, as a result of its budget, for unemployment in this province, we find that the government expected it to reach lower than 9%, a range of 8.4% to 8.7% unemployment for this year here in Ontario. What do we have? Well beyond that. We find unemployment persistently stuck at around 9%; as a matter of fact, 502,000 people, more people unemployed in Ontario than even when Mike Harris took office. When Mike Harris took office the number of unemployed in this province was less. What do we have today? Still a record level of unemployment for Ontario, more people unemployed than ever before.

The Common Sense Revolution, that this legislation, among others, is seeking to implement, promised that at the end of the term of this government, this government will have created over 725,000 jobs. It is failing. To date it has achieved less than two thirds of that objective. All the reputable economists floating around - I could point to the Royal Bank and to many other economic forecasters - are saying there is no way this government's going to achieve anywhere near close to its objective and it should therefore be concerned.


I heard one of my colleagues, a member opposite, talk earlier about the situation in Ottawa-Carleton and about the 5,000 jobs that were coming at Nortel, the 3,100 jobs that were coming at Newbridge: excellent examples of something that's happening as a result of trade and expansion happening offshore, in the United States and elsewhere.

But what is the employment situation in Ottawa-Carleton? Do we find as a result of these new jobs that the unemployment rate in Ottawa-Carleton is going down? Indeed not. We find still a record level of unemployment in Ottawa-Carleton, still matching or exceeding the unemployment rate for Ontario, something unheard of prior to this government's election, as a matter of fact, a short two years ago, still sitting at around 9%.

We find today, as a matter of fact with this government's economic policies, that youth unemployment is still at record levels, more than double, almost triple, the level of unemployment for the regular-base adult population in Ontario, over 17%; over 144,000 young people unemployed in this province and yet all the government can come up with is tax credits which for existing companies they will piggyback on, they will use. It won't create a new job for them, but yet they're still trying to achieve job creation. They are going to fail because they cannot match their promises.

What we find here in Ontario is that poverty has increased; child poverty has increased. Over 500,000 children are living in poverty, a direct result of this government's ill-thought-out, ill-considered economic agenda. Why is it that today this government still maintains the same credit rating as the previous government it seeks so much to denigrate? Why does it have the same bond rating? Because the bond raters on Bay Street know that you can't suck and blow at the same time, that you can't work on trying to achieve a balanced budget and at the same time cut income taxes. As a matter of fact, by the time we hit July of this year we'll have cut incomes in Ontario by some 22%, and where are the jobs? The jobs are not there. This piece of legislation is a sorry attempt to try and put it in place, to try and hustle this stuff through, and at the same time, as a Trojan horse, try to cover off other elements of the government's agenda.

This brings me to the other aspect of this bill. We can talk about tax credits, how useful tax credits are in trying to achieve the government's agenda, but I think I've quite simply proved that the government is failing in its job creation agenda. Even with this legislation that it's trying to hustle through six months after the budget, one month after tabling it, trying to bring job allocation, it is simply an effort to try and make up for lost time and will fall flat on its face because what we need in this province is job creation efforts and jobs, and we need educational programs that will meet the needs of our young.

What is happening with this government under Bill 160, as a sidebar? Bill 160 takes money out of education, takes teachers out of education and is going to reduce the quality of education across Ontario at the very time when youth unemployment is at record levels, where we have such scandalous numbers of children in poverty needing the break to get ahead and over 144,000 youth trying to find a job. There aren't jobs out there. What the government will point to is workfare programs, and yet what are workfare programs going to do? Is that going to create jobs? Is that going to find meaningful employment for these people? Not at all. Not even close.

One of the issues in this bill deals with property assessment, and in dealing with property assessment this bill establishes the Ontario Property Assessment Corp, a means by which it will devolve or offload the $120 million worth of cost on to municipalities so they can manage the province's responsibility. What is the province doing? It is changing assessment across Ontario. It is complicating assessment across Ontario. There will be appeals against this kind of assessment all over the place. So what does the government do? It offloads management, not policy. It says the municipalities will run this corporation. Well, fine. It will only mean that the municipalities will execute the Minister of Finance's regulations that deal with tax ratios, that deal with tax bands, that deal with property tax assessment, that deal with classes and subclasses.

What this government is doing in the guise of trying to standardize assessment across Ontario is creating such a massive, complicated system that as people try to understand this system and therefore try to recognize what's happening to their neighbour across the way, they will not get that information from the property tax bill, because the government of Ontario is going to make sure that only what it deems appropriate will be in that property tax bill going across Ontario.

I'm absolutely amazed. I sat on my municipal council for three years, my regional council for six years, my school board for six years, and I had a hand in setting the mill rate during that time. Quite frankly, it's a record of achievement that I was re-elected time and again in my own municipality.

I have to say to you, you look at that property tax bill. What does it say? It says, "Here is your home and it's assessed at so much, and here is the mill rate that's applied at your assessed value, and here's what you owe, and this is what you have to pay by this deadline, that deadline and the other deadline." Every property tax bill across Ontario says that. My friends opposite have the gall to stand up and say, "We're going to provide for a standardized means of providing this information and it's going to be better for everybody."

Why is the opposition so caught up on this issue? It's very transparent, because the bill that the municipalities were sending to their taxpayers showed the assessment, the mill rate and what you owed by what date. My friends opposite will now say it has to meet what the minister will set down in regulation what they say goes out, and so the ability for someone to cross-compare is going to be at the behest of the Minister of Finance.

Why do you take this away? Quite frankly, because there's a huge agenda going on. I mentioned earlier Bill 152, Bill 149, all these changes to assessment, provincial downloading, the shell game that's going on with property taxes. As much as my colleagues opposite will say, "Bill 152 won't cost property taxpayers more across Ontario," we know full well that with the game that's going on with reassessment, there will be winners and losers and all the transition funds they may have in place won't pay for those shifts in assessment going across Ontario.

But they're going to point their finger to, "Who levies property tax? The municipality," and the municipalities want to make very clear what they are responsible for. Yet, here we hear the Treasurer of Ontario saying that this budget and this legislation are going to promote accountability. We hear them using Orwellian Newspeak. "More accountability" means less accountability. Why? Because it will be the minister and cabinet setting these rates, because it will be the minister and cabinet telling you what class you're in and what the tax bands are, and it'll be the minister and cabinet that'll be saying, "What's on that property tax bill?"

I can tell you, my friends, that when the phone calls come in and the municipalities are saying, "All these things are happening; all we want to do is be able to tell you what we are accountable for," they will not be able to do that on the municipal property tax bill.

It is an absolute contradiction of the principles of accountability, transparency, accessibility. But I forgot; these are small-l liberal-democratic principles for good government, but they impede the effectiveness, the efficiency of Big Brother government, of which this government is the proud master.

I cannot understand. I actually have a copy of the Common Sense Revolution where the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative Party stood up and said, "We're going to take government out of your face; we're going to reduce government." What they do instead with this Orwellian piece of legislation is they take more power back, remove accountability by virtue of this act, Mr Speaker, and I know that you will be offended by this. By virtue of this act, other pieces of legislation will be amended by regulation. Didn't we just see this in Bill 160? Again, it's here. This government doesn't learn. This government remains insistent.


Earlier the member for Kingston and The Islands quoted from the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. I sat on regional council. I sat on city council. I went out to other municipalities, and I have to tell you that our municipal civil service is among the finest in Canada. They serve the public. They are a phone call away, not only from their elected representative but also from their taxpayers. You can't say that here. You can't say that the Ministry of Finance is a phone call away from their elected representatives; you can't say that the Ministry of Finance is a phone call away from taxpayers. That's simply not so.

What did they say? They said that the cumulative effect of Bills 106, 149, 160 and now Bill 164 is that we no longer have a municipal property tax system. We have a provincial tax system administered by municipalities. The province controls the education tax, determines classes and subclasses of land, allocates tax ratios, transition ratios, and now it may determine what goes on -

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired. Questions and comments?

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I would like to congratulate the member for Ottawa West on his presentation about the taxation measures in this bill and the concentration of power within the hands of the Minister of Finance. It seems to me that this government is attempting, through omnibus legislation, to bring in massive change that concentrates power in the hands of the government while at the same time avoiding having to deal with the House in a manner that is according to the rules and understood by everyone, by amending pieces of legislation that had not even been passed in the House. It's most unfortunate. I wish the government wouldn't act this way, and I agree completely with the comments of my friend from Ottawa West.

Mr Baird: I listened with great interest to my colleague the member for Ottawa West giving his remarks. It's funny, he spoke a lot about property assessment and devolving to the municipalities. I'm afraid in 1990 the last Liberal Minister of Revenue, Remo Mancini, put forward a piece of legislation to do just that, but again the Liberal Party changed their minds. I look opposite and I see a good number of New Democrats here, people who have one position. Take it or leave it, that's their position. They stand firm on their values and principles, and you've got to respect them for that. You can disagree, but they're honest and they have one opinion.

Hon Mrs Marland: They don't flip-flop.

Mr Baird: They don't flip-flop, the member for Mississauga South says.

I look at the Liberal Party, hearing the remarks of my colleague from Ottawa West. They're against tax cuts. They promised $2 billion in tax cuts in the last election, and now they're all of a sudden against tax cuts. If the Liberal Party were ever again to come into government, they would turn back the clock. The leader of the Liberal Party, Dalton Turn-the-Clock-Back McGuinty, would obviously want to raise income taxes to get all that new money for the new spending, because they're against tax cuts. They want to turn the clock back there. They want to turn the clock back on research and development tax credits. They want to turn the clock back on small businesses.

The whiz kids in Dalton McGuinty's office, the PR and media flaks, Matt Maychak, want to turn back the clock. They have shut out the caucus and they're running everything from Dalton McGuinty's office, and that is just unbelievable. They want to turn back the clock on young people and graduates and co-op tax credits. They want to turn back the clock on welfare reform. They want to turn back the clock and give a 20% increase in the welfare benefit rate. They want to turn the clock because they oppose workfare. They want to turn back the clock because they want to restore quotas in Ontario. They want to turn back the clock because there isn't one single spending reduction in Ontario that the folks in the Ontario Liberal Party have agreed with, not one.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I listened very carefully to the member for Ottawa West, how eloquent and informative he was about the facts that he put forward. Again, the problem, though, with this government - I don't know if they are listening, but I would suggest to them that they go back to Hansard and carefully observe what he has said. With the kind of experience he has and because he is offering this advice to the government, I think it's prudent for you to do so.

We know that with some of the things this government is doing - understanding that they are going to privatize the savings office - it's like they have gone wild with this privatization, and people are completely upset about that. But will they listen? We just hope they will do something about that and not run in the direction of trying to privatize all the savings offices around.

The fact is that on the downloading aspects of things, they have not even organized themselves. While the municipalities have complained about the process, again they did not listen. I urge you to examine the things the member has said. I want to commend him very well for bringing that kind of experience to the House so that we can continue to follow those procedures. But we hope this government will listen accordingly.

Ms Lankin: I'm glad to have an opportunity to comment on the remarks by the member for Ottawa West. I agree with the points he has put across. I think it is a real shame that with a bill like this - many of these initiatives were announced in the budget - we don't see it introduced in the House until the very last minute and there's no opportunity for appropriate debate or reflection and, more importantly, for some committee time for amendments. I think there is some merit to this bill. I would really like to discuss the possibility of amendments.

However, the government has moved a time allocation motion. We can see, once again, they're going to ram this through. I think it's unfortunate. The remarks of the member for Ottawa West, the many points he brought up, need to be addressed. There are points I would like to address. But yet again we see a government that isn't listening.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa West has two minutes to respond.

Mr Cullen: I appreciate the comments that have been made in this House with respect to my presentation. I apparently touched a nerve on the government side with respect to the whole issue of assessment. It is amazing, because all of us around this chamber know that assessment has to be reformed in this province. But it does not excuse the government from the kind of mistakes it's going to be making with, as the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers has said, Bill 106, Bill 149, Bill 160, and now Bill 164.

What is happening here is that the whole issue of property assessment has been compounded. The government is going to bear the brunt for this. It cannot turn around and point fingers elsewhere. The government of the day should bring in legislation that is balanced and should provide for hearings so that people can perfect that legislation. It's a shame in this particular instance: no public hearings and time allocation motion yet again. It is wrong; it is bad government; it's politics and it's certainly bad for democracy.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Kormos: I hope you understand how frustrating this is. This government changes the rules so that here we've got a bill 199 pages long dealing with dozens of pieces of existing legislation, impacting on a number of facets of life here in the province of Ontario, and I'm denied the opportunity to address it in any meaningful way, given a mere 10 minutes to speak to yet another omnibus bill.

You recall Bill 26. You recall how the repercussions of Bill 26 are still impacting on us. It's not an enviable position to be in, to feel compelled to speak on behalf of one's constituents, yet to find oneself virtually censored by this government because its rule changes prohibit, deny members the right to participate meaningfully in debate.

Add to that the admitted and clear position of the government that it isn't even going to contemplate public hearings on so extensive a piece of legislation as Bill 164. Add to that the bill introduced as recently as November 25, 1997, and already in but the first week and a half of December we've got a time allocation motion, a time allocation motion that is going to effectively kill debate. Even the modest 10 minutes allotted to members - because of this government's abuse of its majority in terms of the rules it created that are designed to silence members of the Legislative Assembly, time allocation motion once again.

There's been hardly a bill that hasn't been forced into third reading by way of time allocation. The government should have learned by now that time allocation motions carry with them the sort of disastrous haste it's been engaging in that result in mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake. Speakers have already commented on how this Bill 164, before Bill 149 is even enacted into law, is already trying to do cleanup on Bill 149. Do we have to go all the way back to Cafon Court or can we just talk about Bill 142? Can we talk about Bill 142 and the errors that were made there?

Mr Wildman: It's a comedy of errors.

Mr Kormos: It's not a comedy. My friend from Algoma speaks of comedy. This is the darkest of humour. I'm afraid a whole lot of Ontarians - one's hard-pressed to find one who would think this is at all funny. They're witnessing a trampling of a democratic process that has taken literally centuries to evolve, and one that Ontarians and Canadians hold and regard, in contrast to this government and its backbenchers marching in lockstep.

You know, Speaker, that's it. The time allocation motion is there. With the brevity of the time allowed, we might as well all go home. I'm the last speaker on this matter for the opposition.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions? Further debate?

Mr Eves has moved second reading of Bill 164. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.


Call in the members. There will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1732 to 1802.

The Acting Speaker: Those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Baird, John R.

Barrett, Toby

Beaubien, Marcel

Boushy, Dave

Brown, Jim

Chudleigh, Ted

Clement, Tony

Elliott, Brenda

Eves, Ernie L.

Fisher, Barbara

Flaherty, Jim

Ford, Douglas B.

Fox, Gary

Galt, Doug

Grimmett, Bill

Guzzo, Garry J.

Hastings, John

Hudak, Tim

Jackson, Cameron

Johnson, David

Jordan, W. Leo

Kells, Morley

Klees, Frank

Leadston, Gary L.

Marland, Margaret

Martiniuk, Gerry

McLean, Allan K.

Munro, Julia

Murdoch, Bill

O'Toole, John

Palladini, Al

Parker, John L.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Ross, Lillian

Runciman, Robert W.

Sampson, Rob

Saunderson, William

Shea, Derwyn

Sheehan, Frank

Skarica, Toni

Smith, Bruce

Stewart, R. Gary

Tilson, David

Turnbull, David

Vankoughnet, Bill

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

The Acting Speaker: Those opposed will please rise one at a time.


Bartolucci, Rick

Bisson, Gilles

Boyd, Marion

Bradley, James J.

Brown, Michael A.

Caplan, David

Castrilli, Annamarie

Christopherson, David

Churley, Marilyn

Cleary, John C.

Conway, Sean G.

Crozier, Bruce

Cullen, Alex

Gerretsen, John

Hoy, Pat

Kormos, Peter

Kwinter, Monte

Lankin, Frances

Laughren, Floyd

Lessard, Wayne

Marchese, Rosario

Phillips, Gerry

Pouliot, Gilles

Pupatello, Sandra

Ruprecht, Tony

Sergio, Mario

Silipo, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Wood, Len

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 49; the nays are 29.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be referred for third reading? No? It will go to a committee.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I refer the bill to the standing committee on administration of finance.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the wish of the House that this bill be referred to the committee on finance? Agreed.

It being past 6 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:30.

The House adjourned at 1807.

Evening sitting reported in volume B.