36th Parliament, 1st Session

L263a - Wed 17 Dec 1997 / Mer 17 Déc 1997



























































The House met at 1330.




Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Almost exactly a year ago today the Ministry of Transportation in Thunder Bay installed a set of advance warning lights on the Thunder Bay Expressway at Balsam Street. Various organizations in my community, including the OPP, city council and long-distance truckers, had lobbied for 14 years to get these lights in place to improve safety on the expressway.

On behalf of all those who worked towards this goal, including the Hodder Avenue citizens' advisory group, I want to thank former minister Palladini for giving this project the green light.

I am pleased to report to the Legislature that the system is working. People use the warning light system and no major accidents have taken place at Balsam Street since the installation last year.

Because of that success, I am asking the new Minister of Transportation today to make the decision to extend the advance warning light system to all the intersections on the expressway. The OPP, truckers and all of us in the region who use the expressway on a regular basis are still very conscious of the real danger we face as we travel this section of the Trans-Canada Highway.

A full system of warning lights at John Street, Oliver Road, the Harbour Expressway and Arthur Street would clearly be a good and inexpensive investment to make, particularly if the installation can help avoid future accidents and fatalities.

At a time of year when many of us feel less secure driving the roads and highways due to cutbacks in winter road maintenance, I hope the minister will see this request as an opportunity to improve safety, alleviate all drivers' concerns and make a decision that will be of benefit to us all.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): In Riverdale, our schools are very much a part of our communities, as I'm sure they are all over Ontario. I spent this morning, instead of down here at the Pink Palace, going to some events in schools in my riding. Two of the schools I went to are inner-city schools. One is the Jones Avenue adult learning centre and the other the Dundas elementary school.

I would say to everybody that if they need some good reasons why funding should not be cut any more in education, go and visit those schools. At Jones Avenue school, adult students from all over the world, in their native costumes from their home countries, performed.

At the Dundas school, the lunch program served about 500 children today, many of whom are poor and new Canadians. The community is very involved in the food program there. Shirley Lam, who is a lamb, is from the community. She is one of the supervisors there and the chief cook. This program has been around for a very long time. We do not want to see it end. I can guarantee you that it will end if these cuts go forward. That school will also lose its international language program, after-school activity program, clerical assistant, full assistants and on and on and on. We cannot let that happen.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I am pleased to rise in the House today as the member for Scarborough Centre to provide the House with an example of the type of generosity and caring that exists within my community in Scarborough.

This holiday season will mark the eighth annual Christmas family dinner for the needy that is put on by the Q-Ssis banquet hall in my riding of Scarborough Centre. The Q-Ssis Christmas dinner will provide about 8,000 people who are clients of the Salvation Army, women's shelters, children's aid and neighbourhood churches with a wonderful Christmas dinner, and there will even be toys for the children which have been donated by the generous men and women of the Scarborough fire department.

I'm going to be pleased to volunteer my time on Monday to help serve the dinner. In fact, every one of my staff members has also chosen to volunteer his or her time to the dinner.

This is what the word "community" is all about, and I am proud of my community in Scarborough Centre and proud of Harry Kioussis and his wife, Gina, for taking the initiative to care for our community.

I challenge every member of this Legislature to volunteer their time this holiday season within their own communities, and I challenge every Scarborough member to volunteer some time at the annual Q-Ssis dinner next week.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I would like to comment on the last set of numbers on downloading for the municipalities of my riding, Prescott and Russell. First of all, I would like to say that I have received two different sets of numbers. Which one is the right one, I don't know. As far as I'm concerned they are both wrong.

Another thing that has me confused is the fact that every municipality in my riding will have to pay for policing, but only the regional government will benefit from the provincial offences revenues. According to the figures, the counties of Prescott and Russell will be receiving $442,000 from provincial offences collected by police services provided and paid for by the municipalities.

Les gens de Prescott et Russell n'auront pas seulement à payer des taxes pour contrer ces transferts aux municipalités. En plus, ils devront payer 442 $ mille en contraventions provinciales.

Your charts fail to recognize that the community reinvestment fund and the special transition assistance are nothing more than grants that will be phased out in the next two years, so in fact these two amounts, a total of $8.1 million for the united counties of Prescott and Russell, are actually cuts that will be implemented in two years.

Yesterday the Minister of Municipal Affairs offered an interest-free loan to the mayor of Toronto. I would like to know if this offer is also on the table for other Ontario municipalities.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): This government has amended Bill 160 to remove principals and vice-principals from teacher bargaining units. The government has stated that during the discussions over Bill 160 between the teachers' federations and the government, the federations made a commitment that principals and vice-principals would not participate in any province-wide protest by teachers. This was supposedly, according to the government, a tradeoff for keeping those individuals as part of the federations.

It would appear that the government and its caucus have either accepted a particular version of events from the Minister of Education and Training or that the whole caucus is part of a deliberate conspiracy to promote misinformation regarding what transpired during the teacher-government discussions.

At no time during these discussions did the representatives of the teachers' federation make any commitment that principals and vice-principals would remain in schools during any teacher protest. The announcement by the Minister of Education and Training that the government was presenting amendments that would remove principals and vice-principals from the federations was clearly a punitive and vindictive move in response to the extent to which the government lost its public support during the teacher protest over Bill 160, because parents and other people interested in education really determined and found out what Bill 160 was about and what the government was intending to do, and that is remove more money from kids' education in this province.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): In recent media stories there were reports of massive bank profits. Canada's Big Six banks had cumulative profits of $7.5 billion, and we all know that the banks nickel-and-dime consumers and small business people. The $7.5 billion for the Big Six banks across Canada is another record year. Many say these profits are excessive and obscene and come at the expense of the little guy, and I agree.

But the banks are not the only ones making billions in profits. The Ontario teachers' pension fund will make $6 billion to $8 billion this year, nearly as much as all the banks all across Canada. If you thought the banks were making excessive profits, Ontarians need to take a closer look at our teachers' pension fund, which is being bonused by taxpayers to the tune of $430 million per year for 22 years. We spend $1.2 billion a year on teachers' pensions, nearly 10% of our education budget. We're paying a bonus on an already profitable public pension fund. That deal was struck by the NDP and we're only two years into it with 20 to go.

If teachers' unions reduced the retirement factor to 85, thousands of teachers would retire, saving $400 million annually. Net take-home pay difference is negligible and thousands would get a chance to teach. I urge teachers to use your pension surplus wisely and think of the kids.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to request the member be given 15 seconds more to say how much the Conservative Party has collected from its corporate friends.

The Speaker: Agreed? No. I heard a no.



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): We have an interesting story that comes to us from Hamilton in the Hamilton Spectator, "Welfare Fraud: Who's Fooling Whom?" This must certainly be an embarrassment for the current government.

People in Ontario don't want to see welfare fraud. They would be very happy with the facts about a government that is taking the time to ensure that people who are abusing the system are removed from the system. But what this government does is it goes much further than that. It decides to take numbers and completely and very creatively overexaggerate and in fact give out inaccurate information about welfare fraud and what this government's record is on it.

But you're not getting away with it. People who are actually like a dog with a bone are after the Minister of Community and Social Services to find out the real numbers, and find out that the numbers are bogus, that you have overinflated numbers to show how much fraud is in the system and what you are saving the taxpayers.

This is absolutely unconscionable. The truth of the matter is that this government's credibility is on the line and today in this House I would like to see the Minister of Community and Social Services on her feet to give the real numbers. You don't need to give inaccurate bogus information. It's a good thing if you stop the fraud, but it is a bad thing when you give inaccurate and overly exaggerated numbers. We expect an apology in this House and the people of Ontario want to know what you're really doing with the numbers.


Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): We know that the real havoc and confusion in our public school system over Bill 160 is just beginning. This government's failure to listen will mean that newly elected school boards are expected to be up and running by January 1 without any clear mandate and without knowing what their funding formula is going to be, and we still don't know what the regulations will be that will centralize power in Toronto.

Bill 160 gives Ontario's 5,000 principals until April 1 to decide whether they wish to retain their jobs, but according to Jim McMahon, principal at St Bernard school in Windsor, there are just too many unanswered questions to make a well-informed decision. They have no idea what the impact of this will be on issues like job security, contract length, seniority and job description.

What does this government have to hide? Why don't they come clean to the thousands of people who are going to be impacted directly by this government's haste to ram through their worngheaded agenda?

The removal of principals and vice-principals from teachers' federations is another example of the Mike Harris heavy-handed, vindictive approach to government. It has absolutely nothing to do with improving the quality of education and I fear is likely to lead to managers and accountants running our schools, not something I look forward to on behalf of my son Brett who's a senior kindergarten student at King Edward in Windsor.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): In the spirit of the season, I rise today to advise the House that a cherished 400-year-old German tradition has been introduced to Canada in my riding of Kitchener.

Christkindlesmarkts have been a cherished tradition in Germany for more than 400 years in commemoration of the special place that the Christ child holds in German celebration at this time of year.

As the custom of giving gifts at this festive time grew, so too did the markets. They became a popular venue for the sale of toys and other presents, for craft items and gifts and for seasonal German food specialties.

Today the Christkindlesmarkts are world renowned for their special ceremonies, festivities and entertainment, outstanding selection of gifts and foods and elaborate city decorations.

The image of a golden candlelit angel, the Rauschgoldengel, has become a beautiful symbol of these celebrated German markets. The Christkindlesmarkt held at the Kitchener city hall marks the first time this wonderful tradition was held in Canada. It honours the city's German heritage while welcoming everyone to share the special magic of the festive season.

I want to congratulate the organizers of this event, in particular, Tony Bergmeier and the Kitchener German business community, for their tremendous work in bringing the tradition of Christkindlesmarkt to Ontario.

I want to express my best wishes of the season to everyone in this House. I wish you happiness and joy this Christmas season. Stille Nacht, Heilege Nacht.



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 bills without amendment:

Bill Pr94, An Act respecting The Jamaican Canadian Association

Bill Pr95, An Act respecting Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies.

Your committee further recommends that the fees, and the actual costs of printing at all stages, be remitted on Bill Pr94, An Act respecting The Jamaican Canadian Association, and Bill Pr95, An Act respecting Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies.

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



Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 95(a), the House will meet in the morning of Thursday, December 18, 1997, from 10 am to 12 noon for the consideration of government business, with routine proceedings to commence at 1:30 pm.

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



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and it's a question on your downloading or dumping announcement. You acknowledged yesterday that you dumped about $500 million of extra costs on to municipalities. You said to municipalities that you feel they can easily cut $500 million. In fact, you went on to say that any councillor who wouldn't cut their fair share of it "should go out and look for another job."

I talked to the mayor of Kitchener this morning, Mayor Zehr, a responsible individual, and he indicated that in Kitchener alone they're going to have to cut roughly $5.3 million because of your dumping. In the region of Waterloo I gather it's $19 million. They've already cut to the bone and they don't know how you came up with that number. My question to you is this: Did you, before you made this announcement, review the impact municipality by municipality and did you assure yourself that these cuts were realistic?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): In response to the member from the opposition, what we've asked the municipalities to do is to assist the province in getting the fiscal house in order. We've asked municipalities of less than 100,000 people to find 1.7% of their expenditures - if they can find it, there would be a zero tax increase - and municipalities between 100,000 and 500,000, 3.1%. We believe that municipalities should be able, without any difficulty, to find 1.7% of their expenditures. If they do that, there would be absolutely no tax increase. The 1.7% relates to the elimination of the municipal support grant which the municipalities were advised of some time ago.


Mr Phillips: I think the mayors and the councillors listening to you understand you don't know what you're talking about. I understand your comment yesterday, that flip sort of, "Well, they should go out and find another job." That's how much you think of them.

Our municipalities, for years, have been cutting their sources to the bone. Police services, fire services, cut to the bone. They have been going through years of reductions, and they're under pressure without your dumping $500 million of added costs on to them. With your announcement you have dumped $500 million on to the municipalities. That is about 4% of their spending, an enormous dumping of your responsibility on to the property tax.

I talked again this morning to the mayor of St Catharines. Since 1992 they've had no tax increases in St Catharines, but you've dumped about $3 million of extra costs on to them, about $25 million in the region, and they say you're cutting the heart out of municipal services. You're the municipalities' voice. They assume you know what you're talking about. Was this proposal to dump $500 million on to the property tax a proposal that you personally brought to cabinet?

Hon Mr Leach: The member of the opposition is very quick to point out areas that say they are having difficulty, but I can refer perhaps to another municipal politician, and that's your former colleague Mr Chiarelli, who is presently the chair of Ottawa region. Mr Chiarelli has taken over the chair, has had an opportunity to review the numbers and review the effects on the municipality and has stated quite categorically -


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: I think that, as can be seen, a member of their own caucus of just a few months ago said he can keep his vow to keep a zero tax increase in Ottawa. In Peel the treasurer of the region of Peel says, "We're in good shape." The new chair of York region also says: "This doesn't put us in too bad a position.... We've always been concerned about whether it would be revenue-neutral, and it looks like it...is."

That's the response from responsible politicians in responsible areas of the province. That's what they believe can be done when they're asked to assist the province in getting rid of the mess that we had to inherit financially.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Just for the record, Mr Chiarelli, the chair of Ottawa-Carleton, is looking for a further $56 million as a result of your downloading.

As you know, Minister, the Kingston area municipalities have worked with you collectively to restructure and to jointly find savings of some $16 million. Now, with two weeks to go, the new city of Kingston finds it has to cut at least another $5 million in addition to the $5 million they've already lost in municipal support grant. I say "has to" because it cannot raise property taxes under the restructuring agreement.

Minister, when you spoke at AMO you promised municipalities like Kingston a new partnership. Let me just quote you what you said:

"What I do know from my days at the TTC is how frustrating it can be to attempt to plan, only to have assumptions change because of a change in transfers from other governments. This points to a need to get a system in place that advises you early so that you can plan to deal with transfer and manage local issues, and that is my commitment to you."

Kingston and other municipalities feel betrayed by you. They are stunned by your government's incompetence, by dropping this information so late, and because the information is still wrong. Minister, be a real partner: Stop the dumping, stop passing the cost of your irresponsible tax cut on to municipalities.

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: I can say to the member of the opposition that the city of Kingston is to be congratulated. They did a great job of restructuring and I think they're going to find there are substantial savings as a result of that restructuring. We know that, just as in the city of Toronto, the city of Kingston may experience some difficulties in the initial year in realizing those savings. We're quite prepared to make an offer to the city of Kingston, in the same manner as we made to the city of Toronto, that if they have some problems in 1998, we will be there to assist them and they can repay that out of the substantial savings they'll realize in future years.


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): My question is to the Minister of Health. Last week I asked about funding in Ottawa-Carleton to meet the growing demand for home care and the fact that home care services were being cut as a result of your ministry's refusal to meet that need. You referred the question to the minister responsible for seniors, who gave a non-answer.

Yesterday, in reply to the member for York South, you told this Legislature that your assistant deputy minister had met the day before with the Ottawa-Carleton community care access centre and that he had indicated to them there would be no reduction in services, implying that last month's service cuts to home care were being rescinded.

Today we learned that last month's cuts only met 60% of the targeted reduction and that in fact your officials met with the CCAC in order to avoid a second round of even deeper service cuts, which would have eliminated 75% of homemaking services throughout the holiday season, created waiting lists for new clients and cut services by a further one third.

Your statement yesterday involves one-time funding to avoid this second round of cuts only; it doesn't fix the cuts that were announced in November, it doesn't meet the increase in demand. Will you ensure there will be sufficient funding to meet the needs of our sick and frail elderly in Ottawa-Carleton?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, through you to the minister for seniors.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. You get to ask them, and they get to answer them.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): First of all, I want to indicate that we have had a series of conversations with the CCAC in Ottawa-Carleton and we have undertaken a review. In the course of the meeting we had yesterday, we did not talk about services cuts; we talked about the amount of expanded service that has been made available to seniors and the disabled in the Ottawa area. In fact, we are awaiting some additional information from that board, which they agreed to, that will assist us in ensuring Ottawa-Carleton receives all the services it needs to provide services for seniors.

The Speaker: Supplementary, the member for Cornwall.

Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is to the Minister of Health. One of my constituents, former taxi driver Joseph Charbonneau, had all his fingers amputated in 1996. Without fingers, he cannot even open a can of juice. Mr Charbonneau was grateful for the service he had received. Four hours each week a homemaker would come into his home to help him with his cooking, cleaning and other things. However, because of your ministry's cuts, he will only receive two hours every second week, four hours a month. Mr Charbonneau is afraid and upset over the services being cut. He is only on a meagre disability allowance and he cannot afford extra help. According to the director of the local community access centre, the problem is financial. The centre is reassessing all cases and making cutbacks. They are forced to do this, leaving Mr Charbonneau helpless and unattended. Minister, will you pledge to protect people like Mr Charbonneau? Will you ensure he receives the services he needs?

Hon Mr Jackson: I'd like to reassure the member opposite that the community care access centre in his constituency is doing an outstanding job. One of their requirements is to review each case on its own merits. We know the previous system of delivery of home care service in this province did not have adequate checks and balances to ensure that those people receive service only as long as they need it and not any further. Part of the review is designed to ensure that services are given to those who require them and that when services are no longer needed, they are removed from individuals.

The suggestion that service levels are being cut across the board is inaccurate. Home care programs are constantly under review and the program delivery is constantly being changed and updated. We're pleased that there are no cuts in that area.


The Speaker: Final supplementary, member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question as well is to the Minister of Health. We know that the long-term-care situation in our area requires a lot more funding, but I want to address to you the closing of hospitals, which is precipitating a lot of this problem.

Premier Harris, when he was leader of the Conservative Party during the last campaign, said, "Certainly, I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals." The local commission which was set up to close hospitals in our area was given a mandate which included a $44-million cut in hospital operating funds. As a result, Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie, Port Colborne hospital, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby and the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital are all under the knife, could all be shut or radically altered.

Will the minister assure the House today that in the area of the province which has the largest per capita number of seniors in all of Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula, you will guarantee that none of those hospitals in the Niagara region will be closed and that you will stop kicking them out of the hospital more sickly and more quickly?

Hon Mr Jackson: I will refer it to the Minister of Health.

Hon Mrs Witmer: As you know, those hospitals are going to be reviewed. What we need to remember is that under previous governments we had a tremendous closing of hospital beds. Unfortunately, we were spending resources on space that was not being used; we were subsidizing administrations that no longer had the responsibilities they formerly had.

Our government recognized that there was a change in responding to the needs of the Ontario population. We recognized that we needed to start investing money into long-term care and into community-based services. That's exactly what we've done: We have invested money where there is the need. That is in the long-term care and in the community-based access. We will continue to respond to the needs of people.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Education. The more we learn about the government's tuition increases, the worse it gets. Let's consider the case of one student at Durham College. With tuition currently at $1,700 a year and rent of $550 a month, plus groceries, a phone bill, plus a bus pass, she manages to get by on an annual budget of $8,800. Currently, she borrows $7,200 from OSAP, so this student is well on her way to being in serious debt by the time she completes her post-secondary education. Now you've come along with your tuition increases to make it even worse.

Your per capita funding for post-secondary education ranks at the bottom of the heap in all of Canada. Can you tell us why this student at Durham College and other students across Ontario should pay for your tax cut to the wealthiest people in Ontario?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I would say that this student and all other students would be interested in the excellence in our education system at the post-secondary level, in the universities and the colleges, being maintained and being improved. The announcements made by the Minister of Finance provide for an extra $80 million into the universities and colleges student loan program over the next two years, to start with.

In addition, to the degree that universities and colleges decide, if they do decide, to put tuition fees up, 30% of that revenue will go to assist students such as the very student that you've outlined here today, students who are in need. To this point in the history of this government, some $57 million have been allocated to students in need through tuition increases in the previous years, that 30%.

In addition, of course there is the student opportunity fund, some $600 million across universities and colleges to help students in need.

Mr Hampton: The gist I got from the answer is that the government's going to help the wealthiest people in Ontario, but poor kids should help other poor kids. That's this government's answer.

The Premier brought his own special wit and his own special perspective to the issue yesterday, and I'm sure every student in Ontario would appreciate the Premier's comments. He was asked if soaring tuition fees aren't a problem for middle-class Ontarians. Here's what he said: "Yes, it's quite true, although I have been told that the income tax cut to middle-income people was very handy." How incredibly arrogant.

Minister, let me tell you how much money this student at Durham College gets from your tax cut to the wealthy. She doesn't get a penny; not one penny out of your tax cut.

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

Mr Hampton: Or take someone with an income of $30,000 a year. They might, if they're lucky, get $6 a week. Can you tell me, is that going to be -

The Speaker: Minister.

Hon David Johnson: The leader of the third party gets away with making an incorrect statement that the tax cut is to help the wealthy. People of all income categories benefit from the income tax cut. Indeed, who benefits the most are those at the lower end in terms of the fact that their reduction is actually higher than those at the higher incomes. So people in all income categories benefit. As a result, we see that the economy is doing much better. People are investing the taxes they've saved back in the economy. There are more jobs; more people are employed. There's no question about it. Ontario is leading the way in terms of economic growth across this nation.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon David Johnson: The opportunity fund has not been funded by students. The $600-million opportunity fund is funded by people of all ages.

The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I don't believe that poor and middle-income students believe your convoluted answer to that question. The Premier expects middle-income families to use their tax cuts to pay for their children's education, but I want to tell you a little secret: Most of your tax cut is going to the wealthiest in Ontario and they're not using it to pay for their children's education; they're using it for fancy cars and expensive vacations.

Now the Premier's answer is to push an income-contingent loan plan, and he's wondering why students aren't embracing that with open arms. But they recognize that your plan would put them in the grips of compound interest, that heavy debt loads are just going to increase based on that income-contingent plan, and by the time university students graduate and send their own kids to university, they could be faced with debts of up to $50,000.

Why are you making parents and students pay for your tax cut to the most well-off in Ontario?

Hon David Johnson: To reiterate again, the tax cut is of benefit to people of all income groups. Indeed, 64% of the benefit goes to income earners with incomes of less than $75,000 a year.

I can only say in response to the member opposite that the movements we're making in terms of post-secondary are to ensure excellence in our education system in future years, to ensure colleges and universities have the ability, the leeway, to deal with their situation. In addition to the $80 million that we're investing over the next two years, they will have latitude through tuition.

At the same time, we need to help those students -

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon David Johnson: - who are at the lower end of the ability to pay, those who are in need. We do that through 30% of any tuition increase going to help those students in the opportunity fund, the $600-million -

The Speaker: New question, third party.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Education again: Perhaps the minister can explain at some point why all kinds of Ontarians haven't seen this tax gift, but certainly those in the highest-income brackets like it very much.

In only 14 days, Ontario school boards will be entering a new fiscal year, and this is called the stub year because it's going to run from January until June. Amazingly, with 14 days to go they still don't know what their budget's going to be. On Monday the Minister of Finance repeated the government's mantra that school boards will receive stable and secure funding, but that doesn't fit with what an ad hoc committee of education finance officials have been saying. They have said that your proposed funding formula will not provide stable funding as initially stated by the Minister of Education.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question.

Mr Hampton: Minister, can you tell us, has the stub-year funding model changed substantially since you received your report from the ad hoc committee of financial officers?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): Staff from the Ministry of Education have met with a number of officials. I believe we're referring to the same group of people; you call them an ad hoc committee. The Minister of Finance has met with them earlier this month, taken into account their views, and there are different circumstances across Ontario. There are different spending rates etc. The formula, the amount of money that will be involved is being fine-tuned. The Ministry of Education is working on it to ensure that not only it is stable, as we promised, but it is fair and equitable to each and every board across Ontario.

Yes, we do listen when people come forward, such as this ad hoc group, and we do try to incorporate their views into the final result.

Mr Hampton: The question was, has the funding formula changed substantially since the education finance officers said the existing one was not good enough? I take it from the minister's answer it hasn't changed substantially. He didn't mention any changes.

Here's the crux of the problem. Let's take the Durham Board of Education. You know the Durham board, the one that won an international prize, international recognition for being one of the best boards of education in the world? Despite your government's cuts to funding junior kindergarten, the Durham board wanted to keep JK, so they said they were going to use some of their reserve funds to fund junior kindergarten. They weren't going to raise property taxes; they'd use some of their reserves to fund junior kindergarten over the last couple of years.

The Speaker: Question.

Mr Hampton: The question is this, and it's an easy question: When the Durham Board of Education receives its funding allocation for the stub year, will it include the amount of money that the Durham board is spending on junior kindergarten out of their reserve funds now?

Hon David Johnson: I am not here today to make an announcement with regard to the stub-year funding. But I will say to the member opposite that I am aware of the Durham Board of Education's program with regard to junior kindergarten, and there are a few other boards across the province in the same situation. That is one of the issues we are studying at this time, along with a number of other issues. We want to make sure that the formula that comes forward is fair to Durham and to all the other boards. The formula is being fine-tuned at this time and it will be released in the very near future.

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's obvious that the Minister of Education and Training is not here to make an announcement on the stub-year funding formula. He wants to wait until the Legislature is no longer sitting, either Friday or Monday, so he doesn't have to deal with questions in the House. As a matter of fact, I believe one of the large periodicals in Toronto here referred to the government's cowardice in this regard because they intended to make the announcement after the House is closed down.

Could it be that the government is having a difficult time coming up with a formula that meets the criteria for stable and secure funding or could it be that the new Toronto mega-board will indeed find itself $60 million short in the stub year as it anticipates? Can the minister guarantee that when the stub-year allocations are finally released for every school board in the province, every board will have exactly the same money to spend in the first eight months of 1998 as they had in the first eight months of 1997, allowing for enrolment changes?

Hon Mr Johnson: It's interesting that the member opposite and his party, I'm sure, have accused the government of going too far, too fast. "You're doing too much, you're trying to go too fast."


The Speaker: Order. Minister?

Hon David Johnson: There may be others who think the government is going too far, too fast.

Here's an issue where the government is considering this matter very carefully. The member opposite has raised the issue of enrolment, for example, and junior kindergarten has been raised. These are issues that are under study and require careful attention. The government is doing that, is looking very carefully at all the issues that are being brought forward by the ad hoc officials, for example, and others who are communicating, attempting to be as fair and equitable as we can.

We are fine-tuning the formula. It requires a great deal of effort to ensure fairness. We will be arriving at the final numbers in the very near future. The boards will have those numbers, and I believe they entitle each and every board and enable each and every board across the province to carry on the same kinds of programs they're carrying on in 1997 in an excellent fashion.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. When it comes to tuition fees, your government is indeed going too far, too fast and in the wrong direction.

You have allowed another 20% increase in tuition fees on top of the 30% you have already jacked up fees for college and university students. Under your government, tuition fees have soared to become the second-highest in the country and they are going to go even higher. You have, overall, sanctioned a 60% increase in fees and you have guaranteed that debt loads for graduates will go higher and higher.

Your answer is to say that you'll make it easier for students to repay their loans, that if their incomes aren't high enough to repay their loans, they can just take longer to pay them back. Minister, do you really think this is an answer: just give students more time to pay and leave them crippled with debt for years and years?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): First of all we need to recognize that tuition fees have not gone up at all as of this point in time. The individual colleges and universities will make those decisions based on local situations and local needs.

Second, I would remind the member again that this government has taken I think one of the most important initiatives in post-secondary education in establishing the opportunity fund, some $600 million and still growing, for students in need at universities and colleges.

Finally I would say, if the member opposite wished to be helpful, I hope she would join with me in discussing this matter with the federal government in terms of the $2.1 billion the federal government has cut out of health, post-secondary and social programs, and second in terms of establishing a fair income-contingent loan repayment program for the students in Ontario.

Mrs McLeod: Do you not understand that whatever repayment plan you put in place, it is unacceptable to have students graduating with debt loads of $27,000 or $28,000 or more? Do you not understand that you cannot use a new, proposed loan system as a cover for higher and higher tuition costs and higher and higher debt loads? That's the point I'm trying to get you to address, Minister, because tuition fees have gone up and they will go up again.

It's not just the new 20% increase that you've sanctioned, it's the fact that you are allowing deregulation of fees in a whole host of programs. Deregulation means no limits whatsoever, that tuition fees can go wherever the universities and colleges want to take them.


The MBA program at Queen's costs $52,000 for two years. If costs in a deregulated world even start moving in that direction, only the wealthiest students will dare go into professional fields or graduate programs. Minister, are you not prepared to set any limits at all, or are you prepared to let certain programs and certain -

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

Hon David Johnson: I'm reminded of what the vice-chair of the Canadian Federation of Students said earlier this year. She said, "I think the biggest cause of tuition increase is the funding cuts that have come down over the last two years in the form of Canada health and social transfer from the Liberal federal government." That is what the vice-chair of the Canadian student federation has said on that matter recently. I agree with her. I think she's right.

What we have done is set up the opportunity fund to assist students - it has attracted money from people in the private sector all across the province to assist students who need that sort of assistance - and we have indicated, to the degree that any university or college does put the tuition fee up, that that 30% of that money must go right back to help those students who need assistance.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the minister responsible for native affairs. It's well known that this government's barrage of legislation over the last year has been forced through without adequate consultation. Many of these bills - Bill 160, Bill 104, Bill 142, Bill 149 - have serious implications for first nations and all aboriginal peoples in this province. You made these changes without any consultation or discussions with first nations. I don't want to even speculate on what the courts might decide in the face of your failure to consult with regard to the application of these pieces of legislation.

The Premier, in his meeting last month with the Ontario chiefs, acknowledged that your government has made a mistake in not consulting with them about these bills. If you made a mistake, what are you going to do to fix that mistake? How are you going to ensure that proper consultations take place and you amend the bills to deal with the concerns of first nations?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The government of Ontario has entered into a very formal discussion with the Chiefs of Ontario to regularize meetings with the Premier, with myself and with the cabinet. We have had that process while we are attempting to negotiate a formal agreement. We have had a series of those meetings, certainly over the course of the past two years, where the Chiefs of Ontario and other first nations leaders have been able to get together with members of the cabinet to discuss the very issues the member is talking about. We are now taking steps to formalize that process and I hope that will be completed very shortly.

Mr Wildman: It's typical of this government that you pass the legislation first, you ram it through, in many cases don't allow any amendments, and then you consult afterwards - a little bit like the Minister of Education consulting now with principals and vice-principals, after the legislation has been passed.

In this country, a provincial government doesn't have the power to make changes that affect the rights of first nations without at least talking to them first. This is what your government tried to do: change their rights and then talk to them afterwards. That's why you're in trouble.

I'll take one example: Bill 149. This government abolished the exemption for off-reserve land purchased by first nations and held in trust. This has implications for school financing because some first nations may withhold tuition for their students if they have to pay taxes on off-reserve land. How do you intend to resolve this problem so that school boards -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Mr Harnick: Any legislation that is passed by this government is legislation that has been reviewed by constitutional lawyers. We have ensured as well that treaty obligations and constitutional obligations as they relate to first nations are always complied with, and the advice that we have been given in regard to the bills that the member has talked about have followed that process. I think we have done what we have to do to ensure compliance with the law, as we do in all situations, and that has been confirmed by constitutional lawyers.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for my friend and colleague the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. In my community of East York. the arts play a very important role in our economic development plans. We are home to Todmorden Mills, as you know, a museum that is built on the site of the original sawmill granted by Governor Simcoe in 1796, which stood as the foundation for the present community of East York. That site is now home to a very fine museum. Minister, I want to thank you for the grant of $22,590 to that museum. I know that John Bertram and his board and Susan Hughes and her staff will make very good use of that grant.

You and I both know, and I'm not sure my friend from Kingston and The Islands is aware, the arts mean jobs. They definitely mean investment and jobs in my riding of York East. What I want to ask you is, what other steps is the ministry taking to encourage the cultural industries in the province of Ontario?

Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I want to thank my colleague and friend the member for York East for his question. First of all, if he was referring to the member for Kingston and The Islands, who knows very well you have the Etherington gallery in Kingston, which is outstanding and moving more and more towards that goal - all of us can travel all around Ontario -


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Could the member for Kingston and The Islands ask the member for Essex South to move, and you can go to your seat and heckle.

Hon Ms Bassett: One of the exciting things that has been announced by the Art Gallery of Ontario is the great acquisition from the Courtauld gallery in London, England, which will be coming here this summer. We in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario will be the only venue in North America. We expect it to equal the revenues and full-time jobs over a long period of time that visitors at the Barnes exhibit brought in. In terms of outside tourism which will have a spinoff effect, it's going to be terrific.

In terms of other areas, we have given tax credits in film -

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Parker: I am pleased that you are aware that the question I was driving at was with reference to the Courtauld exhibit particularly. But in a more general sense, what is the ministry currently doing to fulfil its mandate to promote arts throughout the province of Ontario? What is your ministry doing to be supportive of this particular very important lever of economic development?

Hon Ms Bassett: As the member for York East knows, we are not in the business of giving out grants, but what we are in the business of doing is finding corporate partners to support things, as other municipalities across North America have done. There are all sorts of sponsors out there who are just looking for the right fit, and we're out there getting the right fit, as they did with Gluskin Sheff and the Barnes in the era of the opposition members across. I see the the member for Beaches-Woodbine nodding in acknowledgement. We are finding the right fit with the private sector to help us to finance job-creating, tourist-attracting artistic venues. That is one of the things we're doing.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. As you're aware, in Hamilton-Wentworth we have a waiting list of in some cases up to eight months for MRIs. Your restructuring commission, when they came into Hamilton and recommended a number of hospital closures, was absolutely silent on MRIs and made no reference to any future funding proposal for that.

I have a case of a six-year-old girl who as a result of severe headaches had a CAT scan and then was referred for an MRI. Her parents took her to Buffalo, New York, to get the MRI done immediately. OHIP then denied the reimbursement of funds for that. Let me quote from the letter from the appeal board. It says the general manager of OHIP has denied the request, submitting that the service is available in Ontario in a timely fashion.

Minister, can you outline to the House what would be considered a timely fashion for an MRI for a six-year-old girl who's suffering from severe headaches and whose parents obviously are scared, are concerned, and want to get quick attention to her? What is a timely fashion for a six-year-old girl getting an MRI in Ontario under your government?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): Obviously, if you have a situation which you would bring to my attention, I would be pleased to follow up.

Mr Agostino: Minister, again, it's not necessarily just this specifically, but it's a belief that it's a timely fashion for MRIs. I'm trying to get you to explain to us what that timely fashion is.

As you know, in Hamilton we have a regional cancer centre which serves a catchment area of over two million people. We have a head trauma injury unit at the general hospital; it has a catchment area of over two million. These two facilities are the only two facilities that are regional centres that do not have MRIs. They serve over two million people.

A cancer patient with a brain tumour at the Henderson, in order to begin therapy, must be sent to Buffalo, New York, for an MRI before they can begin radiation therapy at the Henderson hospital. With a car accident injury, someone has to be sent to the General for assessment, then back to McMaster for an MRI, and then back to the Hamilton General Hospital for treatment.

It is unacceptable for a city the size of Hamilton, for a region that catches over two million people at these centres, not to have two more MRIs. Will you commit today to fund two additional MRIs to take care of the need at the cancer centre and at the general hospital in Hamilton?

Hon Mrs Witmer: Yes, the reason we are doing the restructuring and doing the reinvestment in this province when it comes to health is in order to respond to the needs of people throughout the province. I would just indicate to you that when it comes to these types of situations, obviously these are clinical decisions, and these decisions are made by the medical community.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is also to the Minister of Health. Last week you responded to a question in this House about the abrupt closure of two community mental health programs in Kingston. You promised to look into it and the ham-fisted way that your ministry handled it. More than 150 vulnerable people have been left in the lurch. There's no longer a crisis line or a drop-in centre in Kingston. These are services that the community has built and has come to depend upon, and yet you eliminated them in one thoughtless act.

There are a lot of important questions, not least of which is the long series of unanswered letters that went from the Kingston Clubhouse Activity Centre to the Ministry of Health on February 27, on March 26, on April 8, in October, on November 5: all attempts to get information and to offer to the ministry their expertise. They had no response to any of that correspondence. Suddenly on November 5, the ministry walks in, fires the staff and closes the centres. You promised an answer. What's the answer?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): First of all, I think it's important that we understand that there has been absolutely no reduction in funding whatsoever that has been made. Also, it's important that we recognize that the present allocation is $1.8 million that is being spent at the present time, and that is being allocated to the Kingston Friendship Homes.

However, in light of the information that has been brought to my attention, and as a result of my request for information, I would indicate to you at this time that we are quite prepared to take a look at how we can best meet the needs of those individuals in that community and work with the board in order to ensure that we can respond to those needs.

Mrs Boyd: Work with what board? What you did was close down two agencies that had been under some form of trusteeship by the agency to which you've given the dollars. The reality here is that they do not have either the staff or the capacity at this point in time to take up the services that have been abruptly halted. They can't do that overnight. So 150 people have been left in the lurch. It makes no difference whether you promised them the money; the services aren't there. This is a very difficult time of year for people who are living in the community who have mental health difficulties and are suddenly left without the services they helped to create. This was very much a consumer-created group, and it is no longer available to them.

Last night the city council in Kingston voted unanimously to petition your ministry to reinstate the program. What is your answer? Those 150 people are waiting for your answer today; they're not waiting months out in the future for some agency that hasn't given those services to suddenly have the capacity to do so.

Hon Mrs Witmer: In my last answer, I indicated to you that I was aware of the request that had been made by council. I also told you that there has been absolutely no reduction in funding. There is still $1.8 million being provided. However, if the community has indicated there is a need for services to be provided in a different way, we are quite prepared to deal with it, and we are prepared to solve it right now.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): My question is also to the Minister of Health. This past fall the previous Minister of Health, Jim Wilson, announced a much-needed crackdown on health care fraud in Ontario. Those who act to defraud our health care system are stealing dollars from patients in need. They're stealing from the sick and the infirm. Minister, can you advise the House as to the status of our commitment to eliminating health care fraud.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I'm pleased to indicate to you that the government is very, very strongly committed to zero tolerance for fraud. We believe that any dollars that are being spent on fraud unfortunately are not being spent to deal with patient needs. We have introduced a dedicated fraud line. We have also created a new investigation unit. We are following through with our commitment to make OHIP payments more accountable. We are going to ensure that payments are made for health services only to those claimants who are legitimate.

Mr Jim Brown: I know members of this House and all Ontarians will be pleased to hear of our ongoing commitment to the elimination of health care fraud. Can the minister also advise the House how the public can help in health fraud crackdown.

Hon Mrs Witmer: As I indicated, we are concentrating on zero tolerance for fraud. Starting tomorrow, there will be advertisements appearing in the major provincial dailies indicating that we believe, and the message will be, "Every dollar lost to health fraud is a dollar taken from a patient who needs it." There will be a telephone line as well where people can phone in legitimate concerns. We would also encourage all Ontarians to make sure that they have a valid health card number and that they share this information with their physician. We will continue to move forward to ensure all health dollars are spent on patient needs and not on fraudulent claims.



Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services. You know that the community service order program has operated successfully in this province for the last 20 years. They provided programs that offer supervision to offenders necessary to complete court-ordered hours. These non-profit organizations have developed effective programs that actually reduce the cost of incarceration and promote public safety. Your decision to cut $1.2 million from a relatively small budget of $4 million is now becoming a threat to communities across Ontario.

In my community in Ottawa-Carleton, the CSO program of Ottawa-Carleton has been forced to close after 18 years of service. The impact in Ottawa will see approximately 400 offenders presently on CSOs left on their own without supervision, and 200 community agencies will be left without service and without support.

In a letter to you from the Hawthorne Meadows Nursery School, they said: "The new model for CSOs has eliminated screening of offenders and reduced supervision of offenders. These changes will effectively end our ability to provide placements."

Minister, will you review this in the light of everyone telling you that you need to have a strong program and it needs to be untouched.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): We have reviewed it with respect to the original proposal that was raised with the CSOs across the province, and I want to be clear that the funding has not been reduced to any community service order program. The changes are to take effect in the coming year. We have done significant consultation. We've amended our original proposal.

I think I have to remind this member and others that we have an obligation to the taxpayers of this province. We were faced with an extremely difficult financial situation when we assumed office, as he is well aware, and all of us in government have to find ways of operating and providing these services in a more efficient and effective way with fewer resources. We've accepted that challenge and we're looking to our partners to also accept that challenge.

Mr Patten: Minister, you know that this is probably one of your most cost-effective programs of any that you have in a $1.1-billion budget. One program is already closed; six are planning to close, given their new budgets, in the next couple of months, so you're obviously mistaken when you say you are concerned about the community and the offenders who are in these programs. They will not be able to find their own placements.

Even your own probation officers can't handle the load. They wrote to you and said that they can't handle the extra workload that would be caused by the removal of this particular program. Judge Paul Belanger wrote to you stating that it's very important to continue this program.

It costs $120 per day for an incarcerated offender; it costs $1 a day for a supervised person in a community program. And you're telling me that this has something to do with being cost-effective? The executive director, William Sparks, said that in his opinion this is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Will you review this program and make sure that it continues to exist and save you money?

Hon Mr Runciman: Certainly the program has worked well. I don't deny that it's a valuable program, and we're certainly intent on seeing it continue to operate and those services be provided across the province.

We have had indications from I think six agencies to date that they're not going to continue and we'll be issuing an RFP in those areas to find a new service provider.

We think we've come up with a formula that is acceptable and will provide the necessary dollars. We have to work together. Certainly we believe in the program and if indeed we have to make changes, I'll assure you that we'll review that. But we are quite confident, given the new formula that we presented recently, that we can continue to provide the fine level of service right across this province that we have in the past.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. You would know that earlier last week I raised the question around the whole issue of your transferring highways on to municipalities. We learned again this week - it's not new news; we've been dealing with this for some time - that the province of Ontario - you, the Minister of Transportation - wants to transfer Highway 67 to the city of Timmins and Iroquois Falls.

There's a little problem here. Highway 67 is a provincial highway. It's not a municipal highway. It connect Highway 101 on the west side and, on the east side, Highway 11, which is the Trans-Canada highway.

Minister, we, the citizens of Timmins and Iroquois Falls, along with the rest of the members of the assembly, would like to know, what do you consider to be not of provincial significance in this policy that allows the highways to transfer?

Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Transportation): What I can tell the honourable member and the members of the House is that our policy is to focus our attention on those highways that serve primarily a provincial interest in terms of inter-provincial or provincial transport and in terms of their importance to the web of provincial highways that are involved in more than local transport. That is determined by traffic volumes as well as destinations.

What I can also tell the House is that the reference by the honourable member is to 21.8 kilometres of highway in Highway 67; 11.9 kilometres will be going to Iroquois Falls, 9.9 to Timmins. I'm quite convinced that those local municipalities have the wherewithal and indeed know better about the uses and the needs of that piece of road than the provincial government does.

Mr Bisson: Minister, you don't seem to get it. The city of Timmins and Iroquois Falls got together and they did a traffic study. Do you know what it said? Only 10% of the traffic is of municipal significance; the rest of it is provincial traffic. It is people who are travelling through Ontario while they do commerce or travel within the province.

I have to ask you again, why are you transferring to the city of Timmins and to the city of Iroquois Falls? Mayor Graham is ready to come down here and meet with you. Mayor Power is here today to meet with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines about this exact issue. Why is it that you're transferring a provincial highway in which municipalities have no interest on to municipalities?

Hon Mr Clement: I don't know the study to which the honourable member is referring. I can tell the House that our own transport ministry has done a study and I stand by that study. I can also tell the House that there has been a one-time unconditional payment of $196,000 to Iroquois Falls and of over $1.185 million to Timmins so that they can deal with the road. I can also tell the city of Timmins that they will control the land use for that road, the zoning along that route. They can issue and control entrance and building permits. This is a big win, I believe, for the taxpayers of Ontario and for the city of Timmins and for the municipality of Iroquois Falls.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I wish to question the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services with respect to motorcycle gangs engaged in criminal activity. In the past month there have been a number of reports of increased activity by these bike gangs in Ontario. Reports have come in from all over the province: Niagara Falls, Toronto, Sudbury and Port Dover in my riding.

People are concerned about potential turf wars and violence as experienced in Quebec. It is well know the gangs are also heavily involved in drug trafficking and other organized crimes. Minister, can you tell the people of my riding and the people of Ontario what our government is doing to combat lawless behaviour of bikers?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I want to thank the member for Norfolk for his question. I want to assure him that the government is committed to a sustained law enforcement campaign against organized crime in this province and there's evidence that getting tough with organized crime and outlaw motorcycle gangs is having an impact.

There are charges laid in a number of cases. I can't go into great detail, but I can say that on Monday of this week the OPP, as part of a joint forces operation called Project Dismantle involving a number of police services, charged six people with a total of 37 charges related to the bombing of the Sudbury Regional Police station last year. In addition to these charges, since last May Project Dismantle has laid almost 1,200 more charges, the majority of them drug-related. Over $1 million in drugs and two marijuana labs with a potential annual yield of over $13 million have been shut down.

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

Hon Mr Runciman: The police have also seized 51 handguns, three machine guns, six sawed-off shotguns, 11 rifles, five stun guns, brass knuckles, knives and other weapons. Clearly, biker gangs are getting the message -

The Speaker: Thank you. Appreciate that response.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to take the opportunity to direct you to the Speaker's gallery to introduce Ms Anne Collins, Consul General of Canada in St Petersburg, Russia. Welcome.


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): Pursuant to standing order 37(a), I wish to advise you of my dissatisfaction with the response of the Minister of Health referring to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for seniors with respect to my question earlier today.

The Speaker: File the appropriate papers.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): To the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has recently strengthened its reputation as the Ministry of Medicine through its $1.7-billion three-year agreement with the Ontario Medical Association; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is restricting access to alternative cost-saving treatments for patients of the province; and

"Whereas two recent reports commissioned by the Ministry of Health called for increased OHIP funding to improve patient access to chiropractic services on the grounds of safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness; and

"Whereas over one million Ontario adults now use chiropractic services annually, increasingly those with higher incomes, because of the cost barrier caused by government underfunding; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has shown blatant disregard for the needs of the citizens of Ontario in restricting funding for chiropractic services;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to recognize the contribution made by chiropractors to the good health of the people of Ontario, to recognize the taxpayer dollars saved by the use of low-cost preventive care such as that provided by chiropractors and to recognize that to restrict funding for chiropractic health care only serves to limit access to a needed health care service."

I have signed my name to that petition.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): This is a petition concerning the killing of Dudley George at Ipperwash park in September 1995, and it reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas first nations demonstrators assembled at Ipperwash Provincial Park on September 4, 1995, to express legitimate and long-standing grievances and were asserting their constitutional, aboriginal, treaty and other civil and human rights; and

"Whereas the massive and deadly use of force by the government of Ontario and the Ontario Provincial Police against a small number of unarmed first nations demonstrators resulted in the killing of Dudley George and the beating and shooting of a number of other demonstrators;

"We, the undersigned, call on the government of Ontario to immediately call a public judicial inquiry into the killing of Dudley George and all other aspects of these tragic events."

This has been signed by some 400 individuals, and I have affixed my signature as well.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario and it reads:

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

"We urge the three party leaders to come together to discuss the issue of pay equity as it affects the Red Cross homemakers and the 73,000 clients."

I have affixed my signature as required.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I have petitions signed by hundreds of my constituents in the Ottawa Valley, all of which petitions call for the repeal or the withdrawal of Bill 160.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I have a petition here addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Canadian Vietnam Veterans National Memorial Committee, a body created of Canadian citizens who served as Canadians in the American armed forces and fought in the Vietnam War, is building a memorial and is presently seeking land to erect a memorial in Ottawa;

"Whereas honourable Canadians believed that the principle of freedom was at stake and gave their lives fighting for freedom in a foreign land. The United States and Canada share a long history of friendship with one another throughout the period. Canadians and citizens of the United States have repeatedly shown their strong commitment to each other during times of war;

"Whereas the memorial will be a fitting tribute to these courageous Canadian men and women who sacrificed their lives serving as members of the United States armed forces in southeast Asia;

"The pain that is felt at the loss of lives in war may be eased by the knowledge that the deeds of those taken from us are not to be forgotten;

"For the devotion exhibited while in military service, each person whose name appears on the memorial deserves nothing less than our respect and admiration;

"Wherefore, the undersigned, your petitioners, call upon the government of Ontario to provide a suitable land site in the nation's capital."

I'm pleased to add my signature to the list.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): This is a petition to the Legislature 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 cost required to refurbish Windsor Western as a chronic care facility."

I affix my signature.


Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I have a petition, which reads:

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

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

I affix my signature as well.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition of non-confidence.

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

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

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

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


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): "We, the undersigned, request that the government of Canada be petitioned to take appropriate action to amend the Criminal Code to clearly establish and define conduct which is criminal and clarify acceptable community standards within our society so as to prohibit female toplessness in public places."

I sign this petition.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have two different petitions that both protest the government's passing of Bill 160, and I will affix my signature to this.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I have two petitions in my hand, one from Wingham calling for the withdrawal of 160, and one with 16 signatures calling for the withdrawal of Bill 142.


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): "Whereas the Ontario government wants to take up to an additional $1 billion out of the education system this year and every year; and

"Whereas the Ontario government will remove up to 10,000 teachers from the classrooms across the province; and

"Whereas the Ontario government will have unbridled regulatory powers over public education; and

"Whereas the Ontario government wishes to remove the right to negotiate student learning conditions; and

"Whereas the Ontario government proposes to undermine shared decision-making among students, parents, educators, trustees and taxpayers;

"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 160."

I affix my signature to it.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I have a petition signed from the Stevensville Brethren in Christ church urging the federal government to enact legislation to ban going topless in public places, and I affix my signature in support.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario. I will just read the final lines.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to recognize the contribution made by chiropractors to the good health of the people of Ontario, to recognize the taxpayer dollars saved by the use of low-cost preventive care such as that provided by chiropractors and to recognize that to restrict funding for chiropractic health care only serves to limit access to a needed health care service."

I affix my signature.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today to read into the record a petition that was presented to me from the teachers of Waverley public school.

"We, the undersigned members of the staff of Waverley public school in your riding of Durham East, wish to remind you of our continued opposition to Bill 160. The reasons for this were clearly communicated to you and your government through our federation over the course of the last several weeks.

"We remind you that you are elected by the people of this riding, who have made clear statements to you by supporting teachers during the job protest. The protest organized by parents, the constant outpouring of public support for teachers on the picket line by the community and the reports in the respected media, as well as letters and phone calls, cannot be ignored.

"We have never before seen such a high degree of public awareness of a piece of proposed legislation as we have during our job action during Bill 160. This awareness has resulted in alarm concerning the negative impact of the bill on the future of our educational system and has exposed your misnamed legislation, which will neither promote quality nor improve the system. You have a responsibility to listen to our constituents and reflect their concerns."

I am aware that I am running out of time, but I am pleased to present this petition to the House.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): "Whereas many questions concerning the events preceding, during and after the fatal shooting of Anthony Dudley George on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Provincial Park, where over 200 armed officers were sent to control 25 unarmed men and women have not been answered;

"Whereas the officers involved in the beating of Bernard George were not held responsible for their actions;

"Whereas the Ontario Provincial Police refused to cooperate with the special investigations unit in recording the details that night;

"Whereas the influence and communications of Lambton MPP Marcel Beaubien with the government have been verified through transcripts presented in the Legislature;

"Whereas the promised return of Camp Ipperwash to the Stony Point Nation by the federal Ministry of Defence and the serious negotiations of land claims by both the provincial and federal governments could have avoided a conflict;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that a full public inquiry be held into the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Dudley George on September 6, 1995, to eliminate all misconceptions held by and about the government, the OPP and the Stony Point people."

I affix my signature to this.



Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition submitted by Sharon Nitschke of the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario and supported by Ivan Guertin, which reads as follows:

"A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas it is in the best interests of the public to have open market competition among professional accountants; and

"Whereas, under the Public Accountancy Act, only chartered accountants have full access to public accounting licences in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas the province of Ontario restricts certified general accountants more than all other provinces, with the exception of Prince Edward Island; and

"Whereas certified general accountants, whose training is identical to that of certified general accountants in the province of Ontario, have a statutory right to practise public accounting in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, are free to practise in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, can be licensed to practise in Nova Scotia and have considerable public accountancy rights in the province of Quebec; and

"Whereas this has created a monopoly in the province of Ontario since 1962 that is not only unfair to the public but also results in additional expenses, particularly to small business owners; and

"Whereas the monopoly results in NAFTA inequities for certified general accountants in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas according full professional rights to certified general accountants would lower costs to businesses by creating competition in accounting and auditing services, which is consistent with the current government's initiative to introduce measures designed to reduce government interference in the private and business lives of Ontario residents; and

"Whereas certified general accountants in the province of Ontario are qualified professionals whose governing body delivers a rigorous and demanding program of professional studies, examines for professional competency, requires practical experience to qualify individuals as certified general accountants, has an established code of ethics and rules of professional conduct and an accompanying disciplinary process to ensure that all standards of the profession are maintained and that the interests of the public are protected; and

"Whereas the Professional Organizations Committee rejected the notion of a monopoly over licensed practices for chartered accountants and specifically supported and recommended the extension of public accounting licences to certified general accountants with experience in the field of public accounting;

"We, the undersigned residents of the province of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to grant the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario their request for overdue amendments to the Public Accountancy Act to allow certified general accountants full access to public practice licences and to eliminate the present monopoly."


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have received another petition in French. I would like to read it to the House.

«Attendu que le gouvernement de l'Ontario est demeuré indifférent aux protestations du public sur le projet de loi 160 ; et

«Attendu que le gouvernement de l'Ontario a choisi de duper la population ontarienne en camouflant les objectifs réels du projet de loi 160 ; et

«Attendu que nous, les citoyens et les citoyennes de l'Ontario, croyons qu'aucun gouvernement n'a le droit d'agir contrairement aux désirs de l'électorat de cette province ; et

«Attendu que nous avons perdu confiance en ce gouvernement ;

«Nous, les soussignés électrices et électeurs de l'Ontario, demandons par cette pétition à la lieutenante-gouverneure de dissoudre la présente Législature et de déclencher une élection générale immédiatement.»

I do agree and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): I have a petition addressed to the Premier and to the honourable Minister of Community and Social Services and members of the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas the gap between the rich and poor in Canadian society continues to widen; and

"Whereas Bill 142 continues the favouring of the strong while weakening supports for the vulnerable; and

"Whereas the punitive measures of Bill 142 will continue the cycle of poverty in the families of the poor;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the undersigned petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 142 immediately."


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Mr Sterling, on behalf of Mr Tsubouchi, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 64, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations / Projet de loi 64, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère de la Consommation et du Commerce.


Mr Sterling, on behalf of Mr Palladini, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 65, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism / Projet de loi 65, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Développement économique, du Commerce et du Tourisme.


Mr Sterling moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 66, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Environment and Energy / Projet de loi 66, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère de l'Environnement et de l'Énergie.


Mr Sterling, on behalf of Mr Hodgson, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 68, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines / Projet de loi 68, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Développement du Nord et des Mines.


Mr Sterling, on behalf of Mr Runciman, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 69, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Correctional Services / Projet de loi 69, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Solliciteur général et au ministère des Services correctionnels.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I'd like at the outset to ask for unanimous consent to share the time. I believe it's a limited debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.

Hon Mr Sterling: I will be sharing my time with the member for Dufferin-Peel, the member for Hamilton West and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. I have already spoken in the time allocation motion on this, and I would yield the floor to the member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): This is the third reading debate on a number of bills, as have been read by the Clerk and introduced by the government House leader and which of course are set forth in the orders and notices of today and which are known more commonly as the red tape bills, or some of the red tape bills. I think there are five of them from five different ministries.

As you know, this government has been doing a number of things trying to put the Ontario economy back in order again. One of those things has been making attempts to eliminate the deficit, and of course we heard from the Minister of Finance this week indicating how that deficit has been reduced and we are on track to eliminate the deficit by the end of our mandate, by the year 2000.

The other issue of course that is part of the overall economic package has been that of reducing high taxes. Of course, we have been monitoring our commitments with respect to that proposal as well. Provincial income taxes have been reduced, and there will be a further reduction on the 1st day of 1998.

The other part of the package is that we have felt there have been unfair labour laws, and we have introduced a number of bills to provide a better economic climate in this province to encourage investment from other parts of the world, other parts of the country, to encourage small business to develop in our economy again and to make it easier, which leads to the whole purpose of these bills before the House today for third reading called the red tape bills.

This province, I think we will all agree, over time has literally been sinking in paper, sinking in regulations. Mr Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, I believe has spent hours and hours with other members of the government caucus trying to put forward a proposal to reduce the red tape and the regulations around this province. I'm looking for the names of some of those members. I know it was chaired by the member for Lincoln, who has done an admirable job in coming to the position that we are in now. This Red Tape Review Commission, which was chaired by the member for Lincoln, did put out a report which was tabled in January 1997. It was called Cutting the Red Tape Barriers to Jobs and Better Government. If members haven't read this report, I have the executive summary, and even reading that would be useful to show why the government believes that cutting red tape and making it easier to do business in the province is simply mandatory. We are attempting to do just that.


This final report that was put out by the commission talks about how the Fraser Institute estimated that government rules and regulations cost the Canadian economy in 1993-94 $85.7 billion. That's across the country, mind you. In a Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey, 70% of Ontario members described government regulation and paperwork as significant problems. A Carr-Gordon research survey of 500 Ontario businesses found the regulatory burden accounted for an average 7% of a company's operating costs. The same survey found that 71% of Ontario businesses would be more likely to invest here if red tape was reduced.

This series of bills which are put out by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the Solicitor General are prepared strictly for the purposes of eliminating red tape and trying to make it easier to do that. I'm not going to cover all of these bills. I will spend some time with some of them.

One in particular is Bill 69, which is one of the five bills before us. That is a bill of the Solicitor General and Ministry of Correctional Services. It's called An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Correctional Services. That bill amends five statutes that are currently administered by this minister. These amendments have been set forth in other debates in this House, and for clarification I would like to set forth what some of these amendments are.

The purpose of these amendments is to simplify government processes and improve efficiency in a number of areas. This bill, like a lot of other bills, is in my estimation considered housekeeping in that it removes red tape from routine actions of the ministry. I don't really believe it will be contentious with respect to the opposition - at least I hope it won't be contentious - because I think they will see that it is trying to make life a little bit easier in doing business in the province of Ontario. I'm going to run down what some of these bills are.

There's the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, just as an example. It sounds monotonous, but just imagine what it's like for the people who have to deal with these things. Two court forms currently set out in the act are repealed and will be completed through ministerial regulations instead.

In the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, Bill 69 eliminates the need for a warrant to transfer inmates from one correctional institution to another. Under this bill, ministerial regulations will be able to prescribe the form of a warrant to arrest a parolee who has violated their parole functions, instead of that being done by an order in council as it is now, by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Under this bill, the minister is also given the power to require other fees and forms without a regulation, which is what it is now, which means more paperwork and quite frankly more administration and more time consumption.

As to the Coroners Act, Bill 69, the bill before us today, allows a form summons to a witness before an inquest and a bench warrant form to now be prescribed via regulation. The bill also allows for creating forms and the setting of fees and allowances payable to persons who provide services to coroners to be done by the minister's regulation instead of by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Finally, there's the Anatomy Act. The bill allows various forms previously in legislation to be specified by the minister without regulation. It also provides one court form previously in legislation to be prescribed by regulation.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand that it was important enough for the government to get these bills through that they did an omnibus time allocation motion, and yet there's no quorum when we're discussing them.

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

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel may continue

Mr Tilson: The fifth bill that Bill 69 amends is the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act. The powers and duties currently given to the Ontario Provincial Police commissioner in the act are now transferred to the deputy minister or delegate. The private investigator and security guard licences are made to expire on the day set out on the licence itself and not on March 31 of each year, as is the case under the current act, which means they all fall due on the same date now as opposed to perhaps spread out throughout the year. Finally, under this bill, the minister may, without regulation, specify uniforms, badges, shields, insignia and identification cards to be used by security guards. The identification cards for private investigators are also to be specified by the minister, and appropriate fees and forms may be set by the minister.

As you can see, these measures are, in my submission, routine and really could have been made a long time ago. These are typical of the types of changes that are made in the other four bills which we are debating. The measures in these bills will make the operation of the government of Ontario, the operation of doing business in the province of Ontario, more efficient, and hence will benefit everyone in Ontario.

Perhaps just to elaborate a little bit on the last act that I referred to that Bill 69 is amending, which is the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, as I indicated, currently all licences that are granted under that particular piece of legislation today expire on March 31. This leads to a tremendous amount of paperwork and bureaucracy all at the same time of the year. The ministry is forced, because of the vast numbers of licences and applications it has to deal with, to bring in temporary workers to deal with it, just that one issue.

Bill 69 will allow for these licences to expire and to be renewed throughout the year, similar to automobile drivers' licences, which expire throughout the year. That of course has been in existence for some time, and temporary staff are not needed because it's spread out more evenly throughout the year. So this is really only common sense and will save the taxpayers money, and I believe will improve service to those involved in that particular piece of legislation.


Another example of the way Bill 69 will assist the government to deliver services more efficiently is how it will help our correctional staff transfer inmates. Today, correctional staff must obtain what is known as a removal warrant in order to transfer an inmate from one jail to another. That's done about 22,000 times a year. Changes in technology will soon allow the ministry to transfer these sorts of documents electronically. Therefore, this change in the bill will enable the Ministry of Correctional Services to use technology this way. It amends the Ministry of Correctional Services Act.

Finally, Bill 69 is the result of the hard work of Mr Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, the various members of his committee and a large number of public servants of the government of Ontario, as well as other members of this House who have worked with the Red Tape Review Commission with one overriding goal in mind, and that is to remove obsolete regulations so that government can work better. I believe Bill 69 and the other bills, Bills 64 through 69, are doing just that.

We have discovered that red tape, as has been set out in the final report of the commission, hurts everyone. It hurts everyone who has anything to do with job creation in this province, which is what we're really trying to improve as far as the economy of this province is concerned. Red tape kills jobs by discouraging outside investment in Ontario. Quite frankly, if you asked anyone outside the province, up until some of these changes take place, "Would you do business in Ontario? Would you invest in this province?" many of them would say no because of the overburdened regulation that our government has and the red tape that exists.

Red tape makes it more difficult and expensive for job-creating businesses to start up. Just ask anyone who starts up a small business in this province what you have to go through, what forms you have to fill out, what ministries you have to deal with, the number of copies of these forms, and it goes on and on. The member for Lincoln and his commission, with these and other bills, have hopefully alleviated that situation.

Red tape makes the government less efficient, creating additional costs, delays and service problems. Again, to do anything, any form of business with respect to the government of Ontario, at any of the ministries, because of the regulations that have been built up over the years - and I'm not being political, naming any one particular government. It goes back for many, many years. It has gradually built up through time and it was certainly time that we removed many of these regulations and this paperwork.

Finally, red tape impedes Ontario's economic growth and our ability to compete in the global economy.

In conclusion - and I do conclude because there are other members of the House and caucus who wish to speak in the time allowed today - red tape wastes valuable time and money for everyone in business, in the government and for the taxpayer. I would encourage all members of this House to support all of these five bills, which I believe are very straightforward and are, to use that time-worn expression, housekeeping bills, to remove the red tape and to make life a little easier with respect to doing business in Ontario. Thank you very much for your consideration.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Unless the government has someone else they wish -

The Acting Speaker: The member for Hamilton West.

Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): Sorry, Mr Speaker. I thought we were going in rotation.

I am pleased to rise in support of the red tape bills that are under discussion today. When we were elected in 1995, as everyone knows, we promised to eliminate the deficit so that we could begin to tackle the debt so that our children didn't have to bear the horrendous burden of the debt that we face today.

Part of that eliminating of the deficit was to look at the paperwork that is distributed across the various ministries and through which businesses have found an undue burden in doing the business that they do. What we planned to do was to reduce the red tape, to break down the barriers to jobs and economic growth.

Research has proved that government red tape and paper burden are significant barriers to job creation. As a matter of fact, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business showed that 43% of firms spend more than six hours a week on government paperwork and 17% spend more than 10 hours per week. That's a lot of time, energy and money that businesses spend on fulfilling government requirements to fill out a lot of paperwork. It's a very significant amount of dollars, dollars that could be better spent in creating jobs.

I believe that getting rid of red tape and the paper burden can make the difference between profit and loss, between a new job or one less job. There's a lot of effort that goes into paperwork that really should be eliminated so that we can concentrate and so that businesses can concentrate their energies on creating jobs and helping the economy grow and prosper.

The Red Tape Review Commission was set up by the Premier in 1995 under the leadership of the member for Lincoln, Mr Sheehan. It was originally given a one-year mandate so they could look at all the paperwork that was distributed through the various ministries to businesses and look at a goal of reducing that paperwork. I am sure you can appreciate, when you look at the paperwork that's distributed through the numerous ministries, that the amount of paperwork is pretty significant. Just going through the bureaucracies alone is a heavy task, let alone looking at the paperwork involved in each one of those ministries.

The Red Tape Review Commission has already identified 132 specific recommendations, including the repeal of 45 acts and the amendment of another 181. Already they've gone through a significant amount of elimination of that paperwork that is so desperately needed throughout the ministries.

The commission is now looking forward to its next phase. The Premier felt the amount of paperwork they were reducing was so significant that it needed to have another go at it so they could see what else they could do to eliminate further red tape. They are now embarking on their next phase. The key recommendations of the Red Tape Review Commission's report show that the government has relied on them to continue their efforts so their one-year mandate has been extended and they can pick up where they left off and try to eliminate further red tape.

I know in my riding of Hamilton-West, I am fortunate enough to have both McMaster University and Mohawk College in my riding. They have both indicated to me that there's a significant amount of red tape and paperwork that they go through just to satisfy the various ministries in government. We've made a commitment to sit down with them, and Mr Sheehan will sit down with them through the Red Tape Commission, to talk about what they can do at the post-secondary level, both at the colleges and at the universities, to reduce the red tape that is involved through the services they supply so they can get on with what they do best, which is provide education to our young people.

As the previous speaker has mentioned, the bills that we're talking about include Bill 64, which is the Government Process Simplification Act for the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. This particular bill amends three acts which are administered by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations: the Consumer Protection Act, the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act and the Motor Vehicle Repair Act.

Most of the red tape amendments that are brought forward are pretty much housekeeping: Bills 64, 65, 66, 68, and 69 as well, which is the one the previous speaker just talked about.

Most of them really look at a lot of the housekeeping things we should have done a long time ago. When you look at some of this stuff you sometimes wonder how the heck we continued enforcing all this paperwork on some of our businesses out there. We should have made these changes a long time ago. It would have made things a lot easier and perhaps created jobs a lot sooner and turned our economy around a lot quicker.


I know that, for example, under the Motor Vehicle Repair Act, "The bill deletes the power to make regulations under the act with respect to the size, form and style of signs that a repairer is required to post for prospective customers." That is a pretty onerous requirement. A lot of that, size and signs and that sort of thing, is a municipal requirement and the municipalities enforce those kinds of things in their municipalities anyway.

A lot of the things we do here should have been amended a long time ago and red tape should have been reduced quite a bit sooner than it has been.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Didn't Bill Davis bring in all these regulations?

Mrs Ross: I know Bill 69 amends five statutes that are currently administered by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services. That bill particularly looks at the Anatomy Act, the Coroners Act, the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act. There are a lot of things in there. If you look at them, sometimes you just shake your head and you wonder, "Why the heck are we requiring people to do those things?"

In my discussions with Dr Peter George at McMaster University, he has also said the very same thing. He's looking forward to the discussions he'll have with the member for Lincoln and with the Red Tape Commission so they can sit down and really get down to the nuts and bolts of what they should be doing and why all this paperwork is necessary to be looked at. They can look at getting rid of a lot of it and reducing the time, energy and dollars they spend at their place of business so they can spend them better in other ways.

I very much support these bills and I am looking forward to the further elimination of red tape, which the member for Lincoln and his Red Tape Commission will be looking at. I very much support these bills and I hope all members of the House will support them.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Actually, Bill Davis brought in some of these regulations on an orderly basis. What has arisen over the last number of years, probably 15, is that there has been no real evaluation of which particular regulations are useful in terms of honouring or affirming principles of safety for the public, environmental protection for the public, public health and safety and occupational health and safety.

What has actually happened over the years is that when a group of people was adversely affected in whatever area, they usually ran to the government and ended up getting some kind of bill through - we won't name any specific ministry, political party or what have you. But the result at the end of the day was that you had a specific bill, a set of regulations, some interpretations that were conflicting regarding the regulations when the bureaucracy were the folks who had to carry out and implement the regulations from the Legislature, and you ended up doing this time and time again, until the Red Tape Review Commission started up in I guess late December 1995 to look at the accumulation - that's a key word I'd like to press on members here - an accumulation, thickets of red tape and it was difficult to figure out: "What regulations under which acts are the most useful, relevant and protective of the public safety in a whole set of areas? What are the regulations that have become irrelevant, duplicative, self-cancelling and really serve only to create possibly conflicting interpretations?"

Let me give you an example. Look at the whole area of the Ministry of Health, which isn't touched on in these bills but is illustrative of what is happening at other levels of government in terms of protecting the public that perhaps at the same time have created layers of overlap and duplication. Look at the drug industry, pharmaceutical or generic, in Canada. You have the food and drug directorate in Ottawa, which sets out a whole set of requirements, protocols, mandates before any new drug can be introduced to the marketplace. Research and development costs and the whole set of requirements in terms of chemistry, in terms of the molecular structure, in terms of a whole set of issues of public safety have to be dealt with. The usual time frame for the introduction and approval of a new drug federally ranges from at least seven to 10 years. That used to be the general ambit of time. That has been brought down somewhat.

When you look at the Ministry of Health in Ontario, we have what is called the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee. Its role is to examine the drugs that were already tested for public safety, efficacy and all those things federally. They do the same sorts of things with new drugs in Ontario to qualify under the Ontario drug benefit program.

While I'm sure there is some value - but it's really hard to press on this issue - where's the value-added benefit of a group of people who are dedicated to doing what was done federally? Why is it necessary in every instance to duplicate, to have overlap when you have done it federally? So you have a constitutional situation in which two levels of government deal with an issue that surely could be done by one, get the job done and yet protect the public, get new drugs on to the market if they are useful in terms of expanding one's life, whether it be in cancer research, women's osteoporosis, all the diseases we have in modern society. But no, here's an example where we have two agencies doing somewhat similar work.

You'll find the same situation if you look at transportation across Canada. You've got regulatory regimes for a whole set of issues in transportation. You have in many areas an accumulation of red tape where you have the ministries being the regulator and providing the service.

To be fair to the previous regime, there was to some extent set in motion by the interest groups, whether they would be in real estate, the travel industry or any other industry that would come under the ambit of the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, a movement to create a self-management model within the regulated environment we still have today honouring to protect public safety, protect the public interest, occupational health and safety, those sorts of matters. What has happened in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations is that you have had a movement out of a ministry in a number of areas under this government including amusement devices, elevating devices, stuffed articles.

All those sorts of activities are now placed into a group called the technical services corporation of Ontario. This is a group which is responsible for monitoring these industries. You have a situation where the regulated and the regulator are working together to protect the particular public interest, whether it be public safety, occupational health and safety, that sort of thing. Especially if you look at elevating devices, practically everybody uses those across Canada, in Ontario, in an urban or rural environment. You want to have that assured. On the other hand, we did have a thicket of red tape in many areas which had become questionable if it was not only duplicative of protecting these principles of public safety, the environment and so on, but repetitive and didn't really help in terms of producing results.


I'm afraid to say that in many, many instances in government the emphasis of the whole regulatory regime has been on process: "Let's have a process to deal with a particular issue, but don't for once, or hardly ever at all, stress results. You don't want to know whether you're getting good results out of the way you handle things."

If you look at a whole series of areas, the responsibility of this government or the previous regimes, and you can see it reflected in questions in this Legislature, in areas such as birth registration, access to Ontario student loans, getting health cards, the issue comes down to - unfortunately, I think you will hear a different perspective on the other side - the fact that we should retain and build up the number of resources you have to deal with any backlogs in these areas. If you hire more people, you obviously will reduce the backlog, or ought to, but the reality is the more people you hire doesn't necessarily mean that your backlog is reduced if you do not accompany it by an investment in technology, whether it be computerization or automation, to deal with some of these issues.

I know members opposite are sensitive to pooh-poohing that kind of technology, because it reduces access by people to other human contact. A point of illustration is that my colleague the member for Grey-Owen Sound introduced a resolution dealing with the whole use of voice mail and how many people are turned off by having to hear voice mail, when in fact it's a technology which can be useful in some instances. It sometimes is misused unfortunately.

What I want to get to here in terms of these bills is not only trying to reduce the duplication and overlap and repetition which the member for Dufferin-Peel mentioned in the Ministry of Correctional Services bill. Do you have to have a warrant every time you move an inmate from one institution to another if you can do it, serve the result of making sure that inmate doesn't escape from custody and get that inmate from provincial jail A to provincial jail B? It seems to me as politicals we're more interested at times in process than in results.

Another fine example of this -

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): And you are sure getting results on two hours' debate on six bills.

Mr Hastings: I know the member for Kingston and The Islands is constantly obsessed about how these bills were introduced and who is responsible for the lateness etc, but let's look at the actual exercise of what the Red Tape Review Commission has produced in terms of coming to grips with some of this situation. While there's often a joking attitude over there - there certainly was last night and some other nights - that this isn't really that big an issue, I don't want to be unfair to them, but there's a little bit of a dismissive attitude about all the efforts we have made in these areas, even though the member for St Catharines has mentioned that he is in agreement with most of these red tape bills.

But one of the other problems we, as red tape commissioners, have found, whether it's the government or previous governments, is the culture in which government functions today, and that is, it does not have a really strong, really vigorous customer service ethic. If it is alive, it's rather lackadaisical: "I'll get to that when I get to it. We don't have the resources. We don't have the technology." There isn't a great urgency in dealing with front-line people, customers, whether it's a student loan application, birth registration, health card or what have you. The culture tends to emphasize a sort of slow, methodical - that person will get served when they get served. There's more of a rules-oriented attitude, unfortunately, by some of the civil servants than there is the other way.

That's a criticism, yes. There are good people in the public service who do try to be accommodating, but I think the culture overall is to a great extent not emphasizing the priority and need of customer service. If you go back and look at this issue, not from a red tape perspective but from previous administrations, if you go back to the Davis regime of 1981-85, there was a task force that dealt with customer service, trying to ensure access for people. On the other hand -

Mr Bradley: Good people.

Mr Gerretsen: Good people, excellent people. Gave city grants every year.

Mr Hastings: Yes, here we go again. "Good people," but when it comes to dealing with the issue, it'll be interesting to hear what specific, solid alternatives the opposition parties can offer to these bills. For example, the Ministry of Correctional Services bill, if it's not adequate, if it doesn't deal with a repetitive situation specifically dealing with the warrants and the transfer of inmates from one provincial institution to another, it would be interesting to hear how they would have handled this situation. Keep the existing arrangement? Reduce it by half? What is the specific alternative they are going to embrace on this? We haven't heard very much in that area. Do they agree with that specific provision? Is that something they would support if they were the government over here? I don't know.

I want to go back to the customer service task force that the Davis administration presented many years ago. It certainly illustrates, from at least 1981 through till now, that many, many governments, opposition parties and third parties tried to deal with this issue in terms of some of the things red tape has recommended, yet they never seemed to get implemented, or were only half implemented. It would be interesting to hear the critics point out what is the adequacy or inadequacy of the customer service recommendations on page 11 of the report that was issued last January, the first part of the report.

Mr Wildman: Give us the floor and you'll find out what we think.

Mr Hastings: What's the problem for the member for Algoma?

Mr Wildman: Give us the floor and we'll tell you.

Mr Hastings: You have it. I'd be interested in hearing whether we have managed to deal with some of these issues and which are the ones that still need to be dealt with.

Let me conclude by pointing out that the bills that the previous speakers have dealt with are to some extent housekeeping. They are reflective of duplication, repetitive activity, which I think will to some extent liberate public servants to get on with doing the job that a lot of them want to do, rather than being tied up with all kinds of paper. That is one of the overwhelming aspects that you find in the whole governmental regulation, rules-making activity of today. What criteria need to be set to ensure that you have the preservation of principles and yet at the same -

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Time has expired. Further debate?

Mr Gerretsen: The member across just accused me of being obsessed with how these bills got here. Let me tell you, yes, I am obsessed. I am obsessed with the democratic process and the democratic system. Sir, ultimately, a society is judged by the way it rules or by the way it deals with its minorities, whether we're talking about minorities in people out there or whether we're talking about the elected minority in Parliament.

What I cannot understand is, if these red tape bills are really such a housekeeping measure, if they're really such a good measure to implement, why it has taken one year and 13 days between second reading of these bills and third reading. Why wouldn't you have called them as the first item of business back in January of this year?


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Gerretsen: We did, after all, come back here about the third week of January. Why didn't you call them at that point in time? We could have implemented them and saved an awful lot of the red tape that you say these bills are going to prevent. So, yes, we are obsessed with the democratic process and the way in which we do things here.

I know of no other time in the history of this province when, in effect, six bills have been called at once as the result of a time allocation motion. Six bills have been called at once, without there being consent in the House, for a two-hour debate on all of the issues, which leaves you 40 minutes for each party to deal with five different bills. I know of no other time in the history of this province when a government has passed the kind of time allocation motion that the Speaker agreed with yesterday.


Although I respect the Speaker, I think he's wrong in his decision, because basically what it will allow is that at some point in time in the future a government is going to come in with about two days to go in a particular session, take every bill that it has on the calendar and put them all into one giant time allocation motion and that will just be the end of it.

It is somewhat unfortunate that the people of Ontario weren't more awake at the switch back this past summer when these rule changes were brought into effect. It's also kind of interesting that it was only when Bill 160 was brought forward - and we all remember the chaos that created - that a lot of people in this province finally for the first time realized the rule changes that have been implemented, the rule changes that were implemented to silence the minority in order to get legislation through as quickly as possible.

Yes, we agree with the major content of these bills that are called here today. We believe that needless red tape ought to be taken out of the system, that the system should be improved. However, we should always be concerned that the environment and indeed the public interest of Ontarians are protected at all times. Sometimes, in the needless haste to get rid of red tape, safeguards that have been put into the different systems, regardless of what ministry we're talking about, have been put there in order to make sure that we weren't in too large a haste and thereby that the environment or the public interest of this province was somehow being affected.

Why haven't we seen these bills for the past year? If they are really of such necessity and since they knew that the opposition parties basically agreed with the contents of these bills, why weren't they called earlier?

What we've heard time after time in the last two or three weeks is that the opposition somehow has denied the government from calling these bills. We have consistently on a week-to-week basis at the House leaders' meetings requested that these bills be called forward and that they be debated one at a time, given the due process that is due to them, and the government has refused to do so. Maybe it knew back then that somehow it was going to pass this or try to get this huge time allocation motion passed.

That's all I have to say about it. I'm very concerned about the process. I think it's time that the people of Ontario wake up about what's really happening in this House, that we the minority have the right to question the government on its day-to-day activities. That's the whole purpose of the minority. I think that process is important and the democratic process and the democratic institutions that we have here in Ontario are well worth protecting.

I will now refer it to my colleague from Yorkview.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I'm delighted to take advantage of the few minutes that have been allocated to contribute on the subject matter.

Let me say to the Premier and the members of the House on the government side, especially the member from Etobicoke-Rexdale who spoke on behalf of the government, when he says we have to measure the success of our government because this is what we have done, they can measure the success of their government according to the benefits that they have afforded with the approval of every bill. Let me say that there aren't too many bills that have provided a positive result for the people of Ontario. You really have to measure the success of those bills, including these bills here, by the positive results and positive delivery that they have had on the people of Ontario.

We certainly cannot say we are streamlining or eliminating red tape by implementing voice mail. My goodness, if there is one thing that the people of Ontario expect, they expect some leftover service from a government that has been on a burning sensation, if you will, and cutting so that there is nothing left.

Let me tell you that there is quite a difference when you get voice mail on the other side and you get somebody to answer a question that really may be of importance to some constituents and stuff like that. There is nothing more annoying than spending hours on the phone trying to get through to some of the departments and you get voice mail. Is this what streamlining means? Is this what eliminating red tape means? I don't think so. I would ask any member on the government side if they can substantiate that indeed applying voice mail is providing better service to the people of Ontario. I don't think so.

Just one particular case in question: the family benefits program. What a disaster. What a mess. Is this what they are planning to do with all the other bills, creating chaos with all the other bills throughout every other department? I don't think this is the intent of the members on the government side. I don't think this is the intent of the government itself. But indeed they are succeeding in doing exactly that. Let's not try to confuse new technology with service, in response to the previous speaker.

Let me just say one thing now. When you say eliminating some of the red tape and duplication and stuff like that, we have said, on this particular side of the House and the people of Metro especially, no to the amalgamation, no to a new city council composed of 57 members when 28 were suggested.

Do you know what this has brought upon us? For example, in my own case, representing my own riding, now I have to deal with six councillors, let alone the mayor. I ask the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs how this is streamlining things, not only for the government, not only for myself in my own office, but for those people we have to represent? Every time I have to send out a letter about a particular problem in one of the three ridings, I have to send letters to two councillors. Why is that? Only because the government wanted that - not because they were trying to streamline matters to improve the system.

God knows how many times we have heard from members on the government side: "You know what? We have to make changes because no one knows who their councillor, who their representative, who their school trustee is." Can you imagine now, having two councillors and having community councils and stuff like that, how even more entangled the web is going to be and how more irresponsible this is going to become, let alone more expensive?

I didn't pay attention to the clock when I got up, so I think I'll terminate in about two more minutes. I get a sense I have two more minutes. Wow, what a great pleasure.

Thanks again to the government, because now our time here has been curtailed as well, itself another "improvement." There are so many other things I'd like to say and we don't get so many chances, really, to rise. Because they have larger numbers, I can sympathize with the members of the government, who also would like to get on their feet and show their constituents that they're addressing certain issues, but unfortunately, on this particular topic, this is not the way to improve the situation here.

Yes, the government has been ramming through bill after bill, right or wrong. For example, here today we have been presented with Bills 64, 65, 66, 68 and 69. It's not a question that they are unimportant bills, less important. They are all important bills because if they were not important, they wouldn't be necessary; they wouldn't be introduced in this House.

I have addressed some of my thoughts on the five bills. I will let my colleague now take over here and continue.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'd like to congratulate my colleague on those insightful remarks on these unprecedented pieces of legislation. As I think people know after watching the debate last night and I'm sure has been mentioned this afternoon, the government has consolidated in this case five of these red tape bills this afternoon together into one bill and wants to have them all passed after two hours of debate.

It's interesting to note that these bills were not introduced just at the last minute. These have been on the order paper since before the summer, in the spring session. Of course, the way this place works, the government can call these bills at any time, but chose not to do so until the last minute, as we are out of here by midnight tomorrow at the latest for the Christmas recess. It wasn't really necessary for the government to do this, but it's very typical and consistent of this government to ram pieces of legislation down the throats of Ontarians.

In this case, we think it's important that these bills be debated, but by and large, we are in agreement with the reduction of the bureaucracy here, the red tape in dealing with these particular bills.

There are a couple that are of particular interest to myself. One, because it deals with my riding in northern Ontario and mining, this government has set out before us trying to eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy involved in the Mining Act, to try to streamline the processes for the people involved in this industry. I receive, from time to time, complaints from people in the mining industry that they find it very difficult to access the government officials to really find out what approvals they need.

Mr Bradley: Are there any left?

Mr Ramsay: As the member for St Catharines mentions - which is something I hope to be able to speak on maybe this evening when we get on to supply - he says that there's not any left, referring to the good men and women who work very hard on behalf of the people of Ontario in our public service. We have been particularly hard hit in northern Ontario. Unlike the more affluent areas of southern Ontario, we have depended upon that public sector employment in northern Ontario as a bit of an underpinning to our economy. It's probably difficult for somebody who may live in a more affluent area of southern Ontario to appreciate the vagaries of the northern economy, which is very much dependent upon resource demand.

As people would realize, we are in a period right now of very little resource demand, if you look at the prices of most major commodities that are produced in northern Ontario. Nickel, for instance, comes from Sudbury, the largest producer in the world, a big generator of the economy of this province, but centred in the north. That is down. Forestry: Because of the Asian financial collapse, housing starts in Japan and other Asian countries have tumbled and therefore our timber resources are not in demand, so prices have plummeted. These sorts of things make it very difficult in the north.

I thank the member for St Catharines for prompting me to this aside because these are some of the effects that this downsizing of the civil service has caused for us in the north. In trying to refine some of these pieces of red tape, part of that is too because there are no longer people there to manage a lot of the regulation we once had in place. We have a bureaucracy that is very much overworked and cannot even cope with a lot of the regulation we had in place.

We had it in place for a very good reason. It's interesting to note that when we go into an exercise like this - and I'm certainly not against an exercise of taking a look at rules and regulations that government has placed upon its citizenry. We should be examining that all the time and looking at what we could change, what we could make easier, but one must remember these were placed here originally for a very good reason. There were always very good reasons why these rules and regulations were there in the first place. Yes, circumstances change and standards change and people's behaviour patterns change and therefore one has to modify our rules and regulations.

Mr Bradley: We have to watch for the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Mr Ramsay: No doubt about it. But we have to always be careful that we are vigilant as the people's representatives, that we do have a sufficient number of rules and regulations to protect the interests of Ontarians, not only the people of Ontario, but her natural resources. It's very important, and a lot of these regulations that have been in place and continue to be in place do that.

Another area of interest that I have in regard to these red tape bills regards a bill that the Solicitor General has put forward that will simplify some of the regulations involved in the Ministry of Correctional Services. As the Liberal critic at Queen's Park for the Solicitor General and correctional services, this is of particular interest to me. I think these changes are going to make the system more efficient.

For instance, there's a change to the Anatomy Act. A court order may now be applied for under the current legislation if there's a doubt as to whether a person is entitled to claim a deceased person's body. The form this court order takes will no longer be set out in the act; it will be prescribed by the minister by regulation. The way we designed so much of our legislation in the past was that even prescribing the way the form is laid out was in the legislation itself and not put aside to regulation, where it does not have to come before the House. The bureaucracy can update at any time, at its desire, to streamline a form and not have to come through the Legislature, which can be a cumbersome process. It takes many of these menial jobs, these jobs that support legislation, out of legislation itself and means that this can be handled away from this place and makes things more streamlined. We certainly agree with that.

With the Coroners Act there are some changes. A number of powers are transferred from this legislation to the minister. A coroner currently has the power to issue both summonses and bench warrants for an individual to give evidence at an inquest. The form these take will no longer be set out in the act, but will be prescribed by the minister by regulation. Again, this is to allow the ministry to stay modern, to stay current, to allow itself to change forms that support the legislation, but you don't have to go back to the Legislature in order to do that.

Under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, the need for a warrant to transfer inmates from one correctional institution to another is eliminated by Bill 69. The bill also allows the minister to prescribe by regulation the form of a warrant in the case of a parole violation, rather than by order in council.

As you probably are aware, in managing a jail system as large as Ontario's, with 4,000 employees in the Ministry of Correctional Services, there is a lot of paperwork involved every time you have to transfer an offender from institution to institution, and to get involved in paperwork there is really becoming redundant in today's society. It just slows things down and requires more people to keep track of that paper. The important thing here obviously is to keep track of the offender. Sometimes we lose sight of what the core function is and we start hiring people to keep track of paper. Then I think we're off the mark. It's important to streamline legislation such as this, and this bill is going to do that.

With the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, Bill 69 also transfers the regulatory power to collect fees to cover ministry costs to the minister. Again, it's just simplifying some of the red tape that would allow fee collection to be simplified.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is another act that comes under the auspices of the Solicitor General. Under the current legislation, a search warrant may be issued on the basis of information on a note by a justice of the peace allowing an inspector to determine if an animal is in distress. The forms taken by both the oath and the warrant will no longer be prescribed in the act itself, but will be prescribed by regulation by the minister.

Again, this is a change that will allow the ministry to respond to day-to-day changes that may required in enforcing the act. The act stays the same, the protection for animals remains the same, but what changes is basically not having to come back to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to get a change for how the form is prescribed. That sort of thing I guess was just an oversight in the past, with past assemblies and past governments, and I think today we have a better sense of how we should be streamlining our legislation.

I'll just wait for the whip to give me an indication. I know we have some more members to go. I think then I will sit down. I understand the member for Ottawa West wishes to contribute to this debate.


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I'm pleased to join this debate with respect to the government process simplification legislation, otherwise known as the red tape bills.

One of the issues we have to look at in terms of balancing the needs of government to try and seek efficiency is the requirement for due process, the requirement to ensure that there is proper public scrutiny over the exercise of these responsibilities. We have to make sure we do not simply abdicate these responsibilities in the name of efficiency, and that's part of the debate here dealing with these particular bills.

The second issue of course is what is buried in these bills, and that is the tendency towards user fees, higher user fees, greater costs for the taxpaying public to access services that up to now their taxes were paying for. Indeed, it's one of the hallmarks of this government, first of all, to seek more opportunities for regulation, to take it out of the purview of statute, to take it out of the purview of this Legislature, merely to have government by regulation, and as well to increase user fees when indeed the government party was elected on a platform not only to reduce government in the face of taxpayers but also to reduce the cost of government, particularly to reduce taxes. Well, if you reduce taxes on the one hand and increase user fees on the other hand, the public are not stupid; they will recognize that indeed a shell game is being played here.

I'm more concerned about the role of due process. We have seen with earlier legislation - I'm sure my colleagues have referenced Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, which allows, by regulation, municipalities to be restructured, hospitals to be closed and an immense amount of change in governance and operation of basic services by fiat, by regulation, by order of council or by ministerial dictate, without the ability to have appropriate overview.

We have seen more recently, in Bill 160, the ability for the minister to apply or to use the power of regulation. I believe that is mentioned over 150 times in Bill 160.

Today we are looking at these particular bills that seek to so-call cut red tape, but when you look at it again, you will see that an awful lot of the time things are being delegated to ministerial authority.

Some of these things are understandable. Some of these things actually are helpful and do move the ability of government, of administration, to do its job more efficiently. Those are the things that we on this side of the House do not oppose. But there is always that concern in terms of appropriate balance, because we on this side of the House know that there is a role for due process, that there is a reason why we have oversight, why we have regulation.

If we look at the specifics of the legislation, for example, with respect to Bill 64, which deals with trying to simplify the activities within the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, again one sees the kind of balance that's needed. It's a very small example, and that is the amendment to the Motor Vehicle Repair Act. The bill takes away the government's power to dictate the size, form and style of sign that must be posted in a conspicuous place by automobile repair shops for prospective customers. This was to ensure that customers coming into the shop knew the establishment was properly licensed and had licensed mechanics. The size would be uniform so people could look for and recognize that certificate, which would show that indeed this was a place that met certain standards and that the consumers' interests were being protected.

What happens here is that that's simply being taken away. Signs must still be posted stating information, such as that written estimates are available on request and the cost of labour etc, but the government will no longer require how the signs will look. What that means of course is that we will not have consistency. Clients may not be able to see the sign; it may be a postage-stamp sign; it may be cluttered up with other information, other posters, other advertising.

There are those who say: "Well, look, it's a responsible industry. We shouldn't have to worry about it." The reason why it is a responsible industry is that government has taken the public interest in ensuring that the signs were of a certain size, followed a certain format and met the public interest.

It is intriguing to have on one side the government saying, "We shall no longer have a common format, size and form for these particular services dealing with the public," but when it comes to property taxes and the ability for municipalities to provide information on property tax bills, indeed the government has taken that kind of power and is dictating not only the form, the size and the information that's going to be on the bill, but information that will not be permitted to be on the bill: as my colleague from St Catharines says, a form of censorship.

Why therefore is it good in the private sector not to require businesses to post those very things that we think are in the public interest, that there are such things as information about written estimates being available on request, what the cost of labour is etc, in a common format, in a conspicuous format - "Oh, no, government must get out of the way here" - but on the other hand they require this kind of intervention in another level of government's ability to provide information to taxpayers? It is somewhat contradictory.

The other legislation that we see here in Bill 65, which deals with economic development, trade and tourism: Quite frankly, what happens here is that this will simply allow certain agencies to set new fees, to set new user fees. We're looking, for example, at Ontario Place, at the St Clair Parkway. As well, under the Tourism Act the minister is being given sweeping powers to set new fees, and it allows the minister to deny permits unless the permit fees have been paid.

Again one might say: "We're just trying to get rid of red tape here. These fees will always be charged." But quite frankly, the previous process involved far more public scrutiny in ensuring that the public interest would be met in dealing with these things. Now it's simply a licence for increases.

Another bill that is before us today deals with Bill 66, which is a red tape simplification bill for the Ministry of Environment and Energy. This is one area where the government - how shall I say this? "Commitment" is too weak a word. It's a blitzkrieg attack on environmental regulations in the area of the environment which from their point of view is simply to reduce the cost to business. All these regulations dealing with the environment, going on and on and on, simply are seen as impediments to the cost of business.

We have to look at the other side, which is protection of the public interest. These regulations indeed are required to do that. What is happening here is that the ministry is being given sweeping approvals.

I could go on for quite a while on these bills. I just wanted to highlight some of the major points that concern us on this side. None of us here is addicted or dedicated to red tape, but there is a reason why we have regulation and due process.


Mr Bradley: I first of all want to mention how we're dealing with five separate bills in two hours of debate in the Legislature this afternoon. That is because of an unprecedented, in its specific terms, time allocation motion. That is a motion that restricts and closes debate off on a particular bill.

Last night I rose in the House along with some of my colleagues to indicate why I felt this time allocation motion, which forces us to deal with these several bills in two hours, was in fact out of order.

My view is that it was a very significant, substantial and landmark ruling last night, which will now permit governments, in the sense of and in the need for expediency, to simply introduce bills late in a session or introduce bills early and not deal with them until late in a session and then simply sweep them through the House with one closure motion. I think that is very destructive of democracy, I think that's exceedingly dangerous and I think every time the government moves on a procedural matter it moves more drastically and without thought of the future consequences, which is somewhat the style of the government.

The particular initiative this afternoon that we are dealing with, the so-called red tape bills of the Red Tape Review Commission, is not a revolutionary initiative as characterized. We had a big press conference and a dog-and-pony show to do with this. Governments routinely assess and look at regulations that are in effect to determine whether or not they are still relevant and still required and routinely eliminate them. This government, because it is so right wing, because it wants to appeal to people with this broad brush called "red tape," has made a major initiative out of this.

This is not to say, however, that there aren't some problems with some of these so-called red tape bills. What one always has to look out for is the wolf in sheep's clothing, that is, some regulations which are being eliminated in the name of getting rid of red tape which in fact do not represent benign initiatives on the part of the government.

All of this, of course, is part of the government's desire to reduce the role played by various ministries, and that is because it has to feed its tax cut. We will recall that this government, irresponsibly in the minds of many small-c conservative economists, decided to promise and implement a 30% cut in the provincial income tax. Of course, that would mean, when fully implemented, the government would lose, as a result, $5 billion a year in revenue.

That means the government has to borrow that money and pay interest on that money and accumulate even more debt, when the government contended its desire was to reduce that debt. It means as well, with this tax cut, that the wealthiest people in our society will get the largest amount of money in terms of the particular tax cut. It means as well deep and painful cuts in areas such as health care and education and other areas of a regulatory nature, such as consumer and commercial relations and the environment.

Even conservative economists, when you canvass a number of them and ask, "What is the combined effect of income tax cuts and at the same time deep cuts in government program spending?" will tell you it's a contractionary effect and that any additional revenues we're seeing coming in are as a result of the overall economy in the country and the province and the influence of the United States, where the economy is in fact booming. We benefit immensely from that because of our trade relationship with the United States.

I look at some of the provisions. Some of them, as I say, are quite benign, they are routine, we don't have a problem with them. But let's look at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and I think this is a very underrated ministry. I think if you ask the people of this province, "Would you like to have a ministry which would protect you from shysters and gougers and people who are engaging in illicit activities or bad business practices?" largely they would say yes. The people who would be most vociferous in their support for it would be the overwhelming majority of honest business people out there who don't want to see the crooks, shysters and con men and con women flourishing while they, who carry on their business honestly, are put at a disadvantage.

I look at the Consumer Protection Act. It removes the requirement for itinerant sellers, that's door-to-door sellers, to be registered with the government. I'll tell you, that's very handy, because you have a better chance of keeping track of those people. In terms of the economic development, trade and tourism act, I look at the Historical Parks Act, the Ontario Place Corporation Act, the St Clair Parkway Commission Act and the Tourism Act, and all this is about is the government imposing new fees.

Remember what Mike Harris said - one of the things I agreed with him on - when he said a user fee is a tax. Now we're going to go to over 200 new taxes by the Harris government. I count 198 with this bill and the new hikes we're going to see as a result, the user fees; we're going to see well over 200 increases in taxes by the Mike Harris government in just a little over two years. That is simply not acceptable to people, particularly when the government characterized itself as being tax fighters instead of tax hikers. What it means in effect when you raise those user fees is that it is then easiest for the people of greatest wealth to be able to afford to access the institutions and the parks and so on that I mentioned, and people of lesser means will be unable to do so.

It talks about changes to the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Energy Board Act. Other ministries no longer have to be given notice of pipeline applications. Let me tell you, a lot of ministries are affected. The Ministry of Agriculture is one that I think of right away that would be affected by this. It gives sweeping powers to set fees for copies of documents. Again, if you're well-to-do, then you're able to afford those fees; if you're not, you're just out of luck. But that's the way this government is moving.

There are several of these I look at. The Health Protection and Promotion Act: The power of the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations respecting slaughterhouses is removed. If we look at what's happening in Britain right now, wouldn't you want to see a strong regulatory regime in effect to protect our slaughterhouses, to protect the consumer? What everybody has to understand is that farmers and producers themselves have the greatest vested interest in a strong regulatory regime which ensures the very best of food safety protection. They're the ones who want to see it the most, and we see the government moving in the opposite direction.

We see amendments to the Mining Act. My northern members would be able to tell us more about those. New powers to the Lieutenant Governor in Council give these powers to the minister. In other words, taking them away from the whole cabinet, where there can be a discussion of the implications, and giving them to single ministers I think is very dangerous.

Fees in the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act: again a chance for the provincial government to individually gouge people.

While there are some provisions in these bills which are supportable and acceptable and somewhat benign, we have to assess carefully each of them, and unfortunately, when we sweep them all into one big two-hour debate on five different bills, that's impossible to do.

Mrs Boyd: I'm pleased to have an opportunity, even if it is only very brief because of the time allocation motion on these bills, to speak about the implications of these so-called red tape bills. One of the issues we have seen again and again from this government is its desire to take away from various levels of government some of the authority and some of the ability to ensure that the people of Ontario continue to be protected by regulation. By going into a very big publicity stunt, I would say, about the findings of the Red Tape Review Commission - you know, the little book with the little piece of red tape around it that had to be cut before you could open it - the suggestion was, very consistent with the kind of rhetoric of this government, that this province somehow is tied up in red tape and no one is able to do business here.

The Red Tape Review Commission of course made many, many recommendations that don't appear in these bills. There is another set, and all we can say is how amazed we are that the whole other set in the 100 series wasn't rolled into the same time allocation motion.

Mr Speaker, I need to interrupt myself. I'm going to be sharing my time with the member for Windsor-Riverside, and I realize I should have said that when I first stood up.


One of the things that frightens us is that with this set of red tape bills and the constant rhetoric on the part of the government that these are minor changes, housekeeping changes, and that the next set, which they've already put forward and some of which have already been passed, are just housekeeping and so on, some of the more terrifying, frankly, recommendations in that red tape report might come forward and people might be lulled into the belief that they are also relatively innocuous.

There is no question, when we look at these series of bills and the ones that were pulled out of it and passed previously - the red tape bill for health, which I believe was Bill 67, and the bill we passed the other evening, Bill 63, and the Attorney General's red tape bill, Bill 61 - these bills are not of momentous effect upon the way this government works, the way the province works. That means that the bills in and of themselves hardly make the kind of difference that the government appears to be claiming they would, when they take the unusual step of rolling these all together in one time allocation motion. One would think they were of momentous occasion, something very urgent to get through before this House rises and the government prorogues this session, when in fact they are relatively innocuous.

When I look at the number of hours that have now been spent, particularly by the House leaders in meeting after meeting, and then last evening, with the whole session being devoted to the time allocation motion, and then the two hours today; if we look at our experience with Bill 61, Bill 63, Bill 67, these bills could have been passed, had they been called by the government, in one session each, without the kind of outcry and the kind of demonstration, the muscle-flexing that this government has done with respect to the time allocation motion.

It is simply a demonstration of the government's belief that it ought not to have to come to the public forum and defend the ideas it has; its belief that if someone wants to debate and ask questions about an action that a minister wants to do or the government wants to do, or in this case, the right-wing Red Tape Review Commission wants to do, that somehow asking questions, debating issues, is holding the matter up, and that's what we see again and again.

One of the issues I want to raise, which the member for St Catharines raised just briefly towards the end of his speech, is the issue in all these bills, where powers that once could only be exercised through the cabinet, the regulatory powers of the various ministries of government, are systematically being taken away and given to ministers. One by one, these may not seem like extraordinary powers. Let's have some examples of that. In the environment and energy bill, for example, the minister will be able to classify pesticides, rather than doing it by regulation, which would require cabinet approval. Someone might say: "Doesn't that make sense? Does the whole cabinet have to look at the issues around pesticides?" People in the environmental community would say, "Absolutely they do." It's the principle of the joint responsibility of the government, the cabinet of the day, not the responsibility of one minister.

If it turns out that that regulatory power is exercised wrongly and there is a public disaster as a result, and I don't think it's overspeaking to suggest that many environmentalists believe that some of the pesticides that corporations have tried to get permission to use could indeed have disastrous effects on the health and the safety of the community - should that occur, the government can say: "But we didn't even know about this. It's this minister." So the government isn't jointly and collectively responsible for that decision; the minister is. Of course, it's very easy to lop off the privileges of a person and send them back to the back bench and say, "There, we've done our job," and the government not exercise that responsibility.

Again and again in these bills and in the other set of red tape bills, and certainly in all the suggestions in that fancy-dancey report the Red Tape Review Commission came forward with, this is what we see again and again: a downloading, if you like, of the responsibility of a cabinet-based responsible government on to individual ministers. The net result is an erosion of the responsibility of government as we know it.

Is it going to make things faster? Sure. I used to be in the legislation and regulations committee, and I believe you did too, Madam Speaker, and we know how often, as busy cabinet members, we wished we didn't have to sit there going over the detail of a lot of regulations. I don't think there's any question. So we have some sympathy for our colleagues who are now in cabinet, but you don't simply dump that responsibility. I can't tell you how often we found things in regulations that were brought in front of us by the bureaucracy that we were told were mere housekeeping items but in fact had very real impact and would have been a danger in one way or another to people.

In fact, I remember on one occasion - and Madam Speaker may remember it as well. It was an issue around the signage on school buses, which would interest my friend from Essex-Kent. Some suggestions had come forward which would have made the problem he has identified in terms of the safety of school buses much more serious, because it would have changed some of the familiar signage and, as I recall, would have allowed flashing lights in a way that, we discovered, because we wanted to go into that more deeply, might have caused even more confusion for drivers. Heaven knows, children are often in enough danger, as the member for Essex-Kent has pointed out again and again in this place, without adding to that confusion.

While when you're a busy person and you see things coming in front of first the legislation and regulations committee and then in front of the whole cabinet, there is a tendency for people to say: "Do we have to see all this stuff? Why can't the minister just look after this?" The minister is often the only one who has the details, unless of course the minister's colleagues on the legislation and regulations committee have taken their job seriously and are prepared to either advocate on behalf of a regulation or to point out the issues with it.

I would warn the government and certainly warn the people of Ontario that sometimes the easy way, the fast way, is not necessarily the best way or the safest way for the population and, as my colleague from Windsor-Riverside said, not necessarily the cheapest way, because if a mistake is made and it has to be rectified - if it can be rectified, because in some cases it might not be able to be rectified - then it costs us a great deal. Often that cost would not only be in terms of dollars but in terms of suffering, as it might have been in the case that I was thinking of around the signage and the stop signs for school buses.


Hidden in these bills are probably little details that would certainly not seem ominous even to those of us who have looked through them and worried about them initially, but the end effect may be different than what we expect. If that were to happen, because this has been done by the Legislature, we all of course have some joint responsibility, even those of us who oppose it.

Madam Speaker, you need to know that we have made it clear again and again on these bills, as on the others, that what we want in this place is discussion about the implications. Not necessarily that we intend to prolong that, not necessarily that we intend to oppose the bills, but that we believe part of our job as legislators is to make sure there is sufficient discussion of moves that come forward from the government of the day that people know what is actually happening. Because the government has chosen to act in a very draconian way in lumping all these bills together, it makes it difficult one by one to go through in a way that the general public gets a sense of what is going on.

I would say to you, and I'm going to go through them just briefly, that Bill 65, the economic development, trade and tourism red tape bill, which amends the Historical Parks Act, Ontario Place Corporation Act, St. Clair Parkway Commission Act and the Tourism Act, allows the fees that are applicable under all of those acts now to be changed without ever going through the regulatory process that I spoke of, the legislation and regulations committee and then to cabinet and then through the process of publication. The minister would still need to give permission for a fee change, but a regulation wouldn't be required.

We know what the process is when regulations change. There needs to be a publishing of those regulations. Of course the assumption has been that when regulations change all those affected by those regulations are going to receive information. I know from the many complaints I have received from constituents that in fact this government is not doing a very good job of ensuring that regulations reach those who most need them. I think particularly of the Ministry of Finance, where I know I'm receiving many complaints from people where regulations changed under the Corporations Tax Act and people weren't informed and they suddenly are receiving huge bills for taxes they didn't even know they were going to have to pay, because there was a different regime of calculating who was in what class of taxpayer under that act.

But normally governments, when regulations change, make sure that those who are covered by those regulations know that the rules of the game have changed. Now what will happen is ministers and ministries are able to make these changes. What is the notification process going to be? How will people know?

If, for example, there were to be an objection about fees charged - because of course we know that, with this government losing the tax revenue it is losing as a result of its foolish tax cut, they have a revenue problem, even though they don't admit it, and that's why they are making it easier to have ministers increase fees with no process, because then there's no way to object and there's no way for people to have due process in terms of objecting to those fees when the regulatory regime changes.

I wonder on the Historical Parks Act, for example, what are we talking about when we're suddenly saying the minister is going to be able to raise these fees? How are the rest of us, as people who might want to visit some of the parks that come under that act, going to know what the fees are and what our rights are with respect to any changes?

Bill 66, which I mentioned before, is the environment and energy act. Again, the first item in the bill is what is called a streamlining amendment, a series of streamlining amendments, to another whole series of acts: the Consolidated Hearings Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Energy Board Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act.

Streamlining tends to suggest that there's a relaxation of the rules, because, of course, rules are what this government objects to. This government wants to do what it wants to do when it wants to do it without any rules. One of the ways to change the rules of the game is to pass these bills that deal with huge numbers of other acts and simply pass them off as streamlining amendments.

One of the ways they're going to streamline the Environmental Appeal Board hearings, for example, on wells would be that if people give evidence orally, it wouldn't have to be recorded. That may not sound too serious but it means that there's no record of what goes on at those appeal board hearings.

This is not the first time we've seen an effort to keep the record keeping of the actions of appeal boards to a minimum. We certainly saw in Bill 142 a lot of changes to the appeal process, many of which meant that people wouldn't even be informed of what the situation was in regard to their status with respect to an appeal. A lot of the relaxation of rules around keeping of records and informing of citizens about what was going on were changed in the entire welfare system by Bill 142.

I don't know and I couldn't tell you how often oral evidence is given in an Environmental Appeal Board hearing on wells. I don't know how many people this would affect and certainly none of the information provided by the ministry around this bill gave anybody any information about how many people would be affected by this. That's the other thing that gets lost when we have bills like this pushed through and supposedly just being housekeeping. We don't have the normal backup information which tells you how many people are likely to be affected and what the overall impact might be.

The Ontario Energy Board under Bill 66 is going to be able, if the minister says it's okay, and that's the only person who has to say it's okay, to impose fees for copies of documents. No more regulation around how those fees would be decided. Cabinet would not have to approve this. The Minister of Energy could simply say, "Oh yes, if you want these documents now you're going to have to pay this fee," and no collective responsibility about what the level might be.

It is a minor amendment, it may not affect a great many people, but when you add it to the many other actions of this government that have made it harder and harder for people to get a hearing, for people to obtain justice, it becomes a more serious issue.

Bill 68, northern development and mines: This is a relatively minor change that seems to affect nobody in the first part, the repeal of the Canada Company's Lands Act of 1922 and a decision that now the property owners who own the surface rights to land that's within the 571,000 acres that is covered by this act would also own the mineral rights and wouldn't have to go through a process of first refusal.


This I think is an example of red tape. It seems to me that this is a sterling example of taking away a process that may have made sense in 1922 when this act was passed, when the Canada Co handed its land back to the Ontario government, but doesn't make any sense now. Of course we wouldn't be opposing that, but as we say, we are not clear exactly why the government is repealing the part of the Mining Act that deals with licensing of mineral refineries. This piece of the act was put in place to try and ensure that people who are illegally refining ore, and in particular gold, could be checked, and by having a process where people paid a fee to be licensed to do this, they had a way of checking on who was able to do this and who wasn't.

I gather that the fee, which I think is only about $50, collected from the number of people who were licensed really wasn't very economically productive, so the government has decided to repeal it. It may be of very little consequence, but it certainly is of great interest to those who may have seen this as a protection against illegal refining.

I come to Bill 69, which I think is the most serious and possibly the one which indeed is the wolf in sheep's clothing, as the member for St Catharines talked about it, because in this act for the Solicitor General and corrections there are a number of cases where warrants no longer are necessary and where the need to have that kind of documentation around the movement of prisoners now is no longer necessary. The minister explained that for young offenders, for adult offenders who are in the corrections system, this is no longer necessary because, of course, there will at some point in the future be some kind of tracking mechanism through this wonderful new information system that we keep hearing is going to be put in place some time.

But right now, the only way often that you know, if you are the family member of an offender, is through the system of warrants, because people are moved around in our corrections system a great deal. We know about that here in this place, because we have heard the sad saga of the Bluewater, Exeter Road and finally the Wellington saga of James Lonnee and the many moves that that young man made within the prison system before his unfortunate murder while he was in the care of the Solicitor General.

It is important, and one of the first signs of a just society is ensuring that the rights of prisoners are respected and that no state is able to move prisoners around and keep their whereabouts hidden from those who are their advocates. If in fact this government is not quite as incompetent about the information system that supposedly is being developed to track prisoners as it was about the family support plan, as we clearly aren't getting anywhere with the social assistance information system that's supposed to be set up - we keep hearing that there's no information system around child abuse and neglect - maybe this is going to be a different issue.

But in the meantime, I would think that if I were a parent or a spouse of someone who is in the corrections system, this would send a cold shiver down my spine. I think we all should be very vigilant. Canada has criticized other nations that have had policies in place that allow for the unrestricted, unmonitored movement of prisoners within their system, and this seems to me to be the thin edge of the wedge, particularly when it's being brought forward by a Solicitor General who clearly has a punitive view of the entire notion of corrections. He doesn't believe in corrections. All the time he's talking about putting people in jail and throwing away the, so it's scant comfort to me to see this minister bring forward this act and say it's housekeeping when there don't have to be warrants for prisoners any more.

It's interesting, of course, that the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is also going to be changed so that a warrant isn't required, that the form for the warrant is going to be in the hands of the minister as well. Given the very sympathetic speeches from people on all sides of the House about the member for St Andrew-St Patrick's bill around expanding the ability of officers to act under this act to protect animals who are in danger of abuse or neglect, I wonder if this has been taken into that picture and what it really means in terms of the kind of protection she is bringing forward.

I am going to let my friend from Windsor-Riverside complete the time and just finish by saying that we continue to be very sceptical of a government that has acted in the draconian and undemocratic way this government has acted when it brings forward acts that it says are "merely housekeeping" and then takes additional draconian measures to ensure they are in place when they are apparently of so little effect.

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I would like to say that it's a great pleasure to be able to participate in this debate this afternoon with respect to I guess what you would call an omnibus time allocation motion.

Once again, we've seen this government introduce a time allocation motion to shut down debate, to limit the opportunity of opposition members to be able to participate in it. Unlike other time allocation motions, this one is an omnibus time allocation motion. It lists six bills that are going to have the time for debate limited, unlike many others where they only deal with limiting debate on one bill.

It really makes me concerned that if this direction continues, if this government continues on this track, after we've prorogued and the next session begins again in March, we might have a session that only lasts a week. At the beginning of the week the government tables all the legislation they have on their agenda. The next day they table the time allocation motion to deal with it all, require one day's debate and then pass it all for third reading by the end of the week.

That's the direction this government is going. They really treat the Legislature and the opposition members here as red tape, not just some of the regulations we have on the books here.

I think that as members of the opposition we always have to be very vigilant about what this government is doing and make sure that what they say they're going to do is what is actually in the legislation. We've seen, based on the direction this government is going, that we have to be even more vigilant to make sure they're doing what they say they're going to do and that the legislation actually says what they say it does.

We know there has to be a balance between what might be referred to as red tape and what might be referred to as necessary regulation. I would like to assume that a lot of the legislation that has been introduced that we're dealing with today had a purpose at some point in time when it was introduced. A lot of it was introduced during the time of Bill Davis's Conservative government. They thought it was important enough to introduce some of these regulatory and legislative requirements, so why are they now considered to be just red tape?

There is good reason to have regulations in legislation in existence. I think we need to keep a number of those things in mind when we're considering whether what's included in these bills we're debating here today is actually red tape or whether they are things that are necessary for the protection of the environment, for example, or to protect the health and safety of workers or of citizens, whether this is regulation that deals with the protection of consumers so that they don't get products that are dangerous or don't do what they claim to do.

We need regulations that deal with the protection of human rights and the rights of minorities. We also need regulations that protect the interests of those who find it difficult to protect themselves, like those with disabilities, children and senior citizens. When you consider those things in the context of the way this government has introduced legislation over this past session, we have to be very suspicious when the government says, "We're just trying to get rid of red tape," because we've seen what effect their move to become more efficient has had on children, for example, who are dependent upon support that is paid by parents through the family support plan. They closed the office in Windsor. They had no backup plans, no plans to carry out the services that were being carried on in Windsor, and left families suffering who couldn't pay the rent and couldn't feed their kids, all as a result of this government's bungling in the name of greater efficiency. That's why we need to be ever vigilant when we see these bills being introduced as a way to eliminate red tape.


My friend from London Centre has referred to many of these bills, and I think it's something we need to keep in mind, the fact that these bills were introduced by the government on June 5, 1996, not June 5 of this year but over a year and a half ago. Why is it that on Wednesday, December 17, the day before this Legislature is set to rise until March, we find ourselves, as an opposition party, being time-allocated to two hours to ensure that this legislation gets passed by tomorrow? That doesn't make any common sense to me. It really is a demonstration of this government's inability to handle the agenda they're trying to pursue. It's complete mismanagement. That's what it is.

One of these bills has to deal with the simplification of government processes and improvement of efficiency in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. That's one of the bills. The other one has to deal with the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. There are a lot of things this government says - that when they're eliminating red tape, they're doing it because they say it's going to save money, that all this is going to be used to help them fund their phoney tax cut. But in this Bill 65 dealing with the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism -

Mr Wildman: It doesn't save any money.

Mr Lessard: It doesn't save any money, the member for Algoma has indicated. What it does is eliminate the power to set fees by regulation and it gives that power to set fees to the minister without having to pass any regulation whatsoever. When it comes to the historical parks, when it comes to Ontario Place, when it comes to the St Clair Parkway and when it comes to other tourism facilities in the province, the minister is now going to be able to set fees without having to go through that nasty process of passing a regulation.

They want to have the power to raise fees because they don't want to say that they're raising taxes. They want to say they're lowering taxes, but they need to find that money from somewhere else. They're going to get that from families who, when the summer is reached, if they have any money after spending it on their children's increased tuition fees, if they have some money to travel around the province, are going to find that any savings, as insignificant as we think they are, are going to have to be spent on user fees. This Premier, Mike Harris, had said user fees were the same as taxes, but we don't hear him say that any more.

Bill 66, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Environment and Energy: If any one of these bills causes me the greatest concern, it's this one. One of the changes is to change the Environmental Protection Act so that the appeal board may have one-member panels instead of three-member panels. It also gives the Ontario Energy Board, once again, the approval to set fees without the need to do it by regulation, more fee-making power, increasing taxes through ministerial discretion.

When we see this government making changes to environmental legislation, it really makes me concerned, because I recall the comments that were made by the Environmental Commissioner, Eva Ligeti, who I was proud we were able to appoint when the NDP were in government. In her report from 1996, she had this to say about what this government was doing with respect to environmental legislation:

"Throughout 1996, ministries demonstrated an alarming lack of environmental vision. They failed to put their stated environmental values into action. Their activities were characterized by omnibus-style legislation, cuts to environmental programs and the shift of environmental responsibilities to municipalities and the private sector."

If there is anything that we need to keep our eyes and ears attending to, it's this government's haste to eliminate red tape, to reduce the amount of resources that go to the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the downloading of responsibilities on to municipalities and the private sector. We need to consider what impact that's going to have on the environment, especially in light of the comments that were made by the Environmental Commissioner in her most recent report.

She goes on to say in this report, when she's talking about specific impacts of what this government has been doing:

"For years, the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Health provided drinking water testing to municipalities. With little notice, these services were transferred to municipalities that had to find testing labs and the money to pay for them. The public was not consulted, nor were the municipalities."

This government would have you believe that the testing of drinking water is just a whole lot of red tape, a cost that the Ministry of Environment shouldn't have to bear the burden of, and it should just be dumped on municipalities and on the private sector.

The commissioner goes on to say, "This move to self-monitoring was motivated by saving money, not by better environmental protection." That's what it all comes down to for this government: saving money. But we find that time and time again their cost-saving measures don't save money; they cost more and they do not protect the public interest.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Mr Sterling has moved third reading of Bill 64. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion, please say "aye."

Those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Mr Sterling has moved third reading of Bill 65. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Mr Sterling has moved third reading of Bill 66. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion, please say "aye."

Those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Mr Sterling has moved third reading of Bill 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

Those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Mr Sterling has moved third reading of Bill 69. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion, please say "aye."

Those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'm awaiting your ruling in this matter. Is it parliamentarily correct to have all of these bills dealt with at once in sequence like this without any subsequent debate on each bill? I'm just asking for your ruling on that, because this must be highly unusual. It has got to be an absolute first in Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: To the member for Kingston and The Islands, I believe you know the answer to that. There was a ruling made previously that this bill, as you well know -

Mr Gerretsen: Do you agree with that ruling?

The Deputy Speaker: That's beside the point, isn't it? I made a ruling and we're going to stick to it.


Mr Villeneuve moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 170, An Act to amend the Milk Act / Projet de loi 170, Loi modifiant la Loi sur le lait.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I just have a question which I need some clarification on in terms of the orders. We have now approximately 45 minutes left in this sessional day. According to the rules, this bill cannot then be called this evening, which is another sessional day. I'm wondering, if we were prepared to give unanimous consent to allow for the bill to be called at second reading again in case it doesn't complete second reading by 6, whether it would be proper to do that now or at 6.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): If you'd just give me a moment, I think you can't do that, but I'll check with the table.

Actually, you can; there are a few things here and there that by unanimous consent can't be done, but as it turns out, this is one that you can. Do you want to move that now?

Mr Wildman: I'm just wondering if it's better to do it now or at 6. It doesn't matter to me.

The Deputy Speaker: It's up to you.

Mr Wildman: At 6.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I would like to ask consent of the House to share my time with the parliamentary assistant, the honourable member for Hastings-Peterborough.

The Deputy Speaker: Under the new rules, you don't have to ask for consent, but thank you for telling me.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: It's my pleasure to introduce Bill 170 for second reading, a bill that will ensure the continued supply of safe, high-quality dairy products that Ontario consumers have come to be accustomed to for many years. This is due to the very good job that has been done in the inspection of raw milk from farm to processing plant.

The amendments contained in this bill will enable the government to transfer the delivery of farm inspection services to the very capable hands of an organization known as the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. This organization represents some 7,500 dairy producers across the province. In May, we signed an agreement in principle with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario setting out the rules and the responsibilities of each of the partners.

I believe, as this government believes, there are many services that can be much more effectively delivered by organizations other than the government itself, and this is one of many examples. As the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, we've already proven this on a number of occasions, and I'll cite an example here, the creation of a crown corporation known as AgriCorp. This arm's-length agency assumed responsibility for delivering crop insurance, market revenue insurance and other agrifood services in January 1997. It is run by a board with majority representation by farmers, the people who are in the business and who indeed know best the needs of their peers. In fact, farmers and their organizations strongly supported the agency's creation and development.

AgriCorp's a terrific success story. It not only delivers services more efficiently and responsibly, it gets government out of micromanaging an area where really governments do not belong.

AgriCorp is also aggressively seeking out new business. In April of this past year, the agency contracted with the Ontario tomato seedling growers' marketing board to provide plant counting services for the industry. Plants must be counted to ensure that growers pay only for the ones that are viable and indeed survive.

AgriCorp provides much-needed third-party service that ensures fairness in the tomato-growing industry and it accomplishes the job on time and on budget. Two hundred million tomato plants were counted in a six-week period by a small team from the Leamington area.

This is only one of several services this agency is developing to better serve Ontario's agrifood sector from farmer to processor to consumer. While AgriCorp is still ultimately accountable to the ministry, the skilled people who run it have brought a more business-like approach to service delivery, with all the benefits for clients and taxpayers that this indeed entails.

The industry supports and depends on 32 fluid milk processing plants, two creameries, 15 industrial plants that produce everything from ice cream to cottage cheese to yoghurt etc and 40 cheddar and specialty cheese plants operated across the province.

It all adds up to a lot of economic activity, jobs in rural communities and jobs for the entire province. A good deal of this success can be attributed to the strong organization we have in the dairy farmers of farmers of Ontario and the many activities that they carry out as representatives of the 7,500 or so dairy farms across this province.

Besides establishing quality, it also assists in setting a price for milk that will provide the dairy farmers with a reasonable return. Dairy farmers coordinate the transportation of milk from farms to plants. It provides herd management advice and assistance to milk producers to help them to be as efficient as possible. It also develops policy and advocates strongly on behalf of producers that it represents.

The Dairy Farmers of Ontario has been and continues to be a strong contributor to numerous government policies and programs. Dairy farmers are well aware of their responsibility in continuing to produce dairy products that are the best in the world. That's been proven and will continue to be so. I'm confident the Dairy Farmers of Ontario will continue the raw milk quality program to the full benefit of Ontario consumers and taxpayers, and indeed we are 11 million-plus consumers in this province.

With the amendments contained in Bill 170 the program will be delivered in a way that simplifies the system, helps the food industry grow and, above all, protects Ontario's consumers. It is a real pleasure and honour for me to bring Bill 170 to second reading and hopefully to be part of the law of the province of Ontario before we recess later this week.

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I'm also pleased to be able to speak this afternoon in support of Bill 170. I feel it's a piece of legislation whose time has definitely come. The amendments contained in this bill will mean greater efficiency and better service in our dairy farm inspection system, while at the same time ensuring our high standards for milk quality continue to be met.

This government was elected on a platform that included increasing efficiency and reducing the waste that had driven up the deficit and hindered economic growth for many years. Bill 170 is one of the steps this ministry is taking to provide better service and better value for the taxpayer's dollar. As my honourable colleague has said, the amendments we're looking at today provide the legislative framework for a true partnership between the dairy farmers of Ontario and the government.


The transfer of delivery of on-farm milk inspection to the DFO is a logical progression in the evolution of the industry. For years this organization has distinguished itself by being a strong player with it's member producers, with the industry and with different levels of government. Its established organizational structure with a solid network of field representatives is well suited to taking on the job.

Since the agreement in principle was signed in May, the ministry has been working with the DFO to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of each partner are clearly defined. The bill before us will enable the DFO to assume responsibility for dairy farm inspection and enforcement; producer hearings and appeals; bulk tank milk grader training, certification, inspection and enforcement; and bulk tank truck inspection. These services would be provided to all milk and cream producers and transporters in the province.

The ministry has been working with the organization to ensure a smooth transition. Intensive training is being provided to the DFO's field representatives who will take on the inspection jobs, and five of the ministry's current milk quality advisers will be hired by the organization to bolster their ranks. This will actually mean an increase in the level of service that is currently provided.

As Minister Villeneuve has indicated, we will also be investing $300,000 annually over the next four years in this partnership.

With Bill 170, we're committed to implementing an innovative, better way of delivering milk inspection services at a reduced cost to taxpayers. The framework for the transfer is built on a model that has proven successful with other government inspection services. Members of the Legislature and the public can be assured that ultimately the government remains accountable for the milk inspection system. We will continue to set health and safety standards and monitor the delivery of the services through a regular reporting mechanism that will be set up under the partnership agreement with the DFO. OMAFRA will also retain regulatory policymaking powers related to provincial responsibilities under the trade agreements.

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission will continue to be responsible for making regulations under section 19 of the Milk Act pertaining to the quality and safety of milk.

Getting OMAFRA out of micromanaging areas that others can do better is something we have already accomplished with great success. My honourable colleague pointed out earlier the advantages we have all realized through AgriCorp.

I'd like to talk briefly about our innovative partnership with the University of Guelph as well. As many members may know, on April 1 of this year the university assumed the operational management of the regional agricultural colleges, research stations and laboratories. By concentrating these resources under one administration, we are ensuring Ontario remains a global leader in both agrifood education, testing and research programs.

Under those partnerships, I would just like to define a few. About 600 research projects dealing with nearly every facet of agriculture and food are being financed now by the $34 million that flows to the university from the ministry for this purpose. Agriculture and food education has been standardized, with core courses becoming common across the province. The university's presence in the regional colleges and labs speeds the delivery of research results and new technology, resulting in a more knowledgeable, self-reliant and competitive industry.

Like the University of Guelph partnership, the ministry's new partnership with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario is bound to be a winner - for dairy farmers, for the industry, for the taxpayers and indeed for the consumers.

I would like to ask all my colleagues in the House to support the passage of Bill 170 and join with us in building a prosperous, healthy future for the dairy industry and indeed for the entire agrifood sector.

Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I am also pleased to participate in this debate. I would like to share my time with the members for Essex-Kent, Prescott-Russell and St Catharines.

Bill 170 amends the Milk Act to allow inspections to be provided by the farmer-run Ontario Milk Marketing Board - in other words, downloading. It reduces the size of government and transfers the costs and responsibilities to the farmer to take over and pay for inspection. The government indicated it's to make the dairy farmers of Ontario the regulatory body governing the raw milk of Ontario.

The legislation creates a framework in which the designated authority will have to maintain a range of operational standards set by the government, including maintaining adequate liability insurance; specifying which legislative responsibilities will be transferred; the right to implement fees; the cost of access to government assets and information; and requirements for regulatory performance reports.

Also, the inspection services will be transferred in two main areas: the ongoing milk sampling, where a sample of every milk shipment delivered from each dairy farmer in the province will be tested; and regional inspectors will do site visits to check the farm and the records, and follow up on problems discovered in the raw milk analysis process, levy fines and carry the process through.

For some time, the dairy industry has played an active role in the regular milk monitoring process. This testing process assesses the quality of the milk shipped, which is used to grade the farmers' payments. As we all know, higher cream content is higher payment.

The cost of the regular sampling process has for some time been paid from the dairy shipment payment. The regional inspection services have traditionally been paid for by government, but the Tory administration has moved to charge back the costs as part of a fee for service.

Notably, the legislation does not specify that the DFO, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, will be the designated agent for the inspection service. The only other entity that might conceivably take over the responsibility is the private sector. This leaves questions on whether the government would be interested in privatizing the legislation in the future.

Farmers say they know they will now have this responsibility, and it's part of the downloading of this government. We all know that the farmers of Ontario are good citizens. They want clean air, clean water and quality inspected foods, just the same as some of the dairy farmers in my riding whom I have spoken to lately. They tell me they know they're going to have to do this, so they might just as well get on with it now. Richard and Lorraine Lapointe and Peter and Brenda Beaudette say it's going to be their responsibility, so let's get on with it now.

I'm sorry it took so long for this to be brought forward, but as the previous member said, I think we will all be supporting this bill.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I'm pleased to at long last have a chance to speak to Bill 170, an amendment to the Milk Act. I want to start out by talking about the minister's management of this particular issue.

Back in May of this year, through a press release from the ministry, we learned that the minister and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario reached an agreement for the delivery of the raw milk quality program May 2, 1997. In part the announcement reads:

"An agreement in principle that paves the way for industry to deliver Ontario's raw milk quality program was announced today by Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Noble Villeneuve and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario," commonly known as the DFO. "DFO is the marketing group for all 7,800 dairy farms in Ontario and is totally financed by them."

In part it goes on to say:

"The raw milk quality program ensures the high quality and safety of raw milk prior to processing, through a combination of dairy farm inspection and laboratory testing. Ten milk quality advisors achieve these objectives by monitoring safety and quality test results and working with producers to take appropriate corrective action."

We see that the minister entered into an agreement with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario in May of this year, seven months ago. If the minister is going to force change on the dairy farmers of Ontario, it would only seem that from there should flow a reasonable timetable. Seven months ago the minister entered into this agreement, and we did not receive any legislation in regard to this change until first reading, which took place on December 4, 1997. Just a few short days ago, we in the opposition finally got to see the legislation that enables this agreement that took place in May to take place.

I noted that the minister only spoke for about six minutes at second reading. One can see that he realizes that the House has only got two days left to deal with the bills that the government believes they require.

Here we have the Dairy Farmers of Ontario in an agreement with the minister, but no enabling legislation yet has passed through this House. The minister wrote to our House leader and the third party House leader and said, in part:

"The Dairy Farmers of Ontario has been working towards a target date of January 1, 1998, for assuming responsibility for this program," just a few short weeks from now. "In anticipation of this additional responsibility, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario has undertaken structural reorganization and training of both their own staff and ministry staff that will be employed by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario as part of this transfer."

We see that clearly the minister entered into an agreement. The Dairy Farmers of Ontario, realizing that they had to protect the integrity of their raw milk quality program, sided with the minister in this regard. Here we are, as the House is about to rise, and we are only at second reading of this bill.

I say to the minister, if you are going to force change on the agricultural community, it is only fair that a reasonable timetable be given to this Legislature and the people of Ontario, and indeed the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, to have the legislation put in place in a timely fashion.

As a matter of fact, reading from a November 11 dairy farmer update from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, they say: "The transfer of the raw milk quality program from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was announced last May and should take place in early 1998. The transition date was dependent on timing of necessary legislative change." The Dairy Farmers of Ontario realized that there was legislation needed to implement an agreement that the Minister of Agriculture made in May of this year.

I want to speak a bit about this change. I want to start by taking some remarks from John Core, the chairman of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. He is widely respected within the dairy farmers' organization, and as well he's very well respected in the farm community at large. John Core is a very thoughtful man. He has done good work for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

In his May 30 chairman's message, he says in part: "It had become obvious that if we wanted to maintain our standards in the face of government cutbacks, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario had to assume responsibility for those standards. We were able to negotiate transitional funding for four years from the government."

What did this chairman say? He said "in the face of government cutbacks." Once again this government is cutting programs that are of benefit to the farmers of Ontario. Those are the chairman's words, not mine. He said "in the face of government cutbacks."

What could the Dairy Farmers of Ontario do to protect the integrity of their industry, a vitally important one to Ontario and all its citizens and vitally important to themselves in respect to raw milk quality? They had no other choice but to accept the program delivered in this agreement back in May.

I think that is a very important part of the debate here today. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food is withdrawing from this program and leaving it for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario to continue on. They could say, "We don't want this program any more," but of course they need that program to maintain the integrity of their industry and to provide the confidence they've always had for the public of Ontario that indeed their milk is of the highest standards. I don't think they had a lot of choice in this matter.

We know that the ministry is going to provide funding to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario for four years, but after that time I suspect the funding will remain in the hands of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and that's downloading. It's downloading on the farmers once again. This government started initially in 1995 to cut the agricultural community in the millions of dollars and they continue to do the same today, leaving the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, I suspect, with very little choice but to go into this agreement with the minister.

On December 9, the member for Guelph asked the minister a question in this House and in part it reads: "The constituents in Guelph and across this province are concerned about the health quality issues of raw milk testing and they're also concerned about the ongoing issues of giving a non-governmental organization a responsibility like this. I would like some further information on this and assurances about how the quality of milk will be protected for our consumers." Good question.

She's asking the minister, "What do you think about giving a non-governmental organization a responsibility like this?" The minister did not directly answer her question. In part he said, "...Bill 170, An Act to amend the Milk Act, in order to meet the needs and to meet the deal that had been done between the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food...." He didn't answer the question as to what he thought about a non-governmental body taking over this raw milk quality program.

As was the minister's wont, he went into talking about the prior government. He went on to say, "They cut by two thirds the inspectors in the raw milk area and now they're trying to preach to us." If the minister felt that the prior government cut the program by two thirds and was critical of that, why is he ending it and passing it on to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario? Why is he doing that? He's critical of something that happened in the past but he's taking it another step forward.

This $300,000 that the government is going to provide to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario is a cut from what it is now spending. After four years, this cost will be entirely borne by the producers. What is that? That is a user fee. I say that Mike Harris was right when he said a user fee is simply a tax.

Those are some of the remarks that I make at this point. I would, at another time, speak more about the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and this agreement.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a few comments I want to get on the record with respect to this piece of legislation.

I first want to look at just a bit of history. Here we are, about 24 hours away from the adjournment of the House, and, I would expect, the proroguing of this House. Now, finally, the government recognizes that Bill 170, the Milk Act, is important. I agree, it's important. I think this is very important. It's important in terms of some economic issues, it's important in terms of some food safety and health issues, but this bill could have been announced and brought forward in the spring. We know that in the spring the government and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario actually announced an agreement which is in essence the nuts and bolts of this bill.

As you remember, Speaker, we sat here until the end of June and then we came back for a couple of days in July because the government messed up the legislative schedule and forgot that the road safety bill was important. Then we came back again in the middle of the summer and we sat all through August and September and October and a good part of November and now towards the end of December, and no Milk Act, no Bill 170.

What was the government doing in July, August, September, October, November and December? I remember a Bill 136. The government brought it forward, we debated it for a couple of weeks and got it all the way through second reading and literally almost into committee and then the government decided, "Oops, wrong bill." So we had to spend a couple of more weeks doing it all over again.

This is a government that is in such a hurry to ram through its ideological agenda that really important pieces of legislation, pieces that are important to the public, pieces that are important to public health and food safety, get left until the dying hours. Frankly, dairy farmers across Ontario didn't know today whether or not this was going to be debated.

We actually gave the government a choice yesterday. We said: "Look, let's face facts. You've got six debate periods left before Thursday night. You've got to spend two of those debate periods on the Supply Act. You have to. You've also got another one of your silly time allocation motions that you have to deal with. So of the three debate periods you've got left after dealing with those measures, what do you want?" You know what came back from the government? Bill 170 wasn't on the list. The government wanted to deal with its so-called red tape bills rather than deal with Bill 170, the Milk Act.

So here we are, literally in the dying hours, dealing with a very important piece of legislation, and stacked up behind this is Bill 146, also dealing with some important farm issues which was introduced last spring and the government hasn't seen it as enough of a priority to bring it forward any time since last spring.

I think there's a message here for farmers and the message is that this government only considers farm issues, only considers issues important to the agricultural community after it has done all of its ideological agenda. Very easily, without the participation of my party, without the participation of the NDP caucus and I guess the Liberal caucus, this legislation would not make it through the House. It is only being debated here because we have called on the government, "Put it in the House, put it up for debate, get it in here," and finally at the dying hour it's here.

The government probably thinks we should just debate this for a few minutes and then pass it, but there are some important issues here. There are some very important issues and they need to be on the public record and, frankly, I want to know the government's position on some of these issues.

Let's recognize what is really happening here. The government is offloading a government responsibility on to the farm community and it's saying to the farm community, "You pay for it." It's true that they've put a little money in the pot to get this past the next election. There's a little money in the pot so that the new tax on farmers doesn't hit until after the next election. But let's call a spade a spade: This is a tax on farmers. You're going to give a tax break to the wealthiest people in this province. The folks over on Bay Street, the $200,000-a-year people, the $500,000-a-year people, the bankers with their $3-million-a-year and $4-million-a-year bonuses are lining up to take that tax break and they're walking to the bank with it. In the meantime, while you're giving that tax break to the wealthiest people in Ontario, you're saying to hardworking farmers across the province: "You pay more taxes. You pick up what was formerly a government responsibility and you take responsibility for it now and you pay for it. You pay the taxes."

This government may think this is a smart and nifty move. Speaking for myself and speaking for our whole caucus, we do not think it is a smart and nifty move when you increase taxes through the back door on the hardest-working people in Ontario and you give your wealthy friends on Bay Street another big tax cut. We don't think it's a smart and nifty move. In fact, let's face it. Right now, given what the milk industry is like because we've had a supply management, milk producers are not in too bad a shape. Milk producers and cream producers are not in too bad a shape. But as a result of some of the trade deals that your friend Brian Mulroney has negotiated and the evolution of those trade deals, in a few years milk producers and cream producers in this province are probably going to be facing a much tougher competitive position and they may not be as well off as they have historically been because of supply management.

After you have depleted supply management, after you have worn it down, farmers in this province may not take too kindly to this new tax that you're imposing on them as you give your wealthy friends on Bay Street incredibly rich tax cuts, incredibly rich tax gifts. I want to get that on the record because I suspect that three or four years from now, after you've pulled out the little bit of money you're prepared to put into this, a lot of small dairy farmers are going to get hit and it's going to hurt. I want it clearly on the record that at the same time that you are imposing a new tax on hardworking dairy farmers in this province, you are giving the wealthiest people in this province a $5-billion tax gift.


There are some other issues here that I think need to be dealt with, that we need to be sure of, because after all, part of this is food safety, ensuring that the food, the milk - milk is incredibly important; it is one of the farm products that people all across Ontario purchase and consume, so obviously the food safety and the health aspects of milk inspection and ensuring that we're getting absolutely the best product, the A-1 product, one that has a lot of consumer confidence, is important.

I want the minister here today at some point, either now or later on, to guarantee all the consumers across this province and all the dairy farmers across this province that he puts his name behind it, he puts his position behind it, that there will not in the short term and not in the longer term be any risks to the safety of the product, the health of the product and the confidence that consumers will have in the product. We want you to stand in your place and say that categorically.

There's a third part of this that I think is very important, because after all, it doesn't matter what part of our economy we're dealing with - it doesn't matter if we're dealing with the production of autos or if we're dealing with the production of pulp and paper or if we're dealing with the production of farm products or if we're dealing with public products, public services - not only do we want to continue to produce wealth in this province, not only do we want to produce products that we sell to consumers in this province and outside this province in other jurisdictions, but we want to want to distribute wealth. We want to distribute wealth, and we want to be sure that the people who work in our society are well paid and that the quality of their working life is as optimum as we can make it.

Part of this agreement is that some people who now work within the civil service -

Mr Wildman: Six of them.

Mr Hampton: - six people, will be transferred over to the new organization and they will perform not necessarily the same duties but very similar duties for the new organization which is going to be set up. I want the minister to stand in his place some time today, some time while this debate is going on, and give a guarantee that those people who are moving over to this new agency will continue to have those high-quality jobs and will continue to be paid and compensated commensurate with the important public service that they're performing, that this is not a strategy whereby the government, as I say, offloads another public service and gets the farmers to pick up a huge chunk of the cost and gets the workers to pick up the rest of the cost through taking lower wages, or no job at all. We want that from the minister too.

We want the minister to stand in his place and tell us that four years from now this will be ongoing, that eight years from now the same Dairy Farmers of Ontario will have this contract -

Hon Mr Villeneuve: You don't trust them, do you?

Mr Hampton: The minister says I don't trust the farmers. No, no. I'm like Mel Lastman; I don't trust this government. When the government says it's revenue-neutral and then people wake up and find out it has got a $500-million pricetag, I don't trust your government.

That's why we want you on the record. We want you on the record that this is not just a four-year or three-year quick and dirty deal and then you're prepared to slide it off to someone else who says: "Hey, we'll do it and we'll pay people minimum wage. We'll do it and we'll up the user charges to farmers. We'll up the ante, the administration fees or the copayment fees to farmers."

We want that assurance from you. We want the assurance that this is going to be a good deal for farmers and a good deal for the people who do this very important public work.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Read the bill.

Mr Hampton: The minister says this is in the bill. I want the minister to stand in his place here later on and tell us exactly where it is in the bill. You cite the sections; you tell us where it is. We want you to stand in your place and show us exactly where it is. What we want from you, Minister, are those assurances. We want to be absolutely sure and we want it on the public record that this is not just a strategy by your government to offload an important public service and then make the workers of the province pay for it, make the farmers of the province pay for it and ultimately perhaps make the consumers of the province pay for it. We want to be absolutely assured of that.

We already know that the impact on farmers is going to be a new tax on farmers. We know that. It's a user fee. Your Premier said not long ago that a user fee is just another name for a tax increase. We know farmers are going to pay more taxes on this, but we want the other assurances. We want the assurances that this is going to be a continuing body. We want the assurances that the people who work here and do this important public function are going to continue to work here and are going to continue to be well paid and well compensated for the important work they do. If you can't stand in your place and give those assurances, then I would say to dairy farmers and to a lot of other people, there's something wrong here and people had better beware.

Those are my comments. We're going to support this bill, but we want to hear categorically on the record from the government exactly what the answers are to some of the issues I've raised here today.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for S-D-G & East Grenville, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, has moved second reading of Bill 170. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.

It now being nearly 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned till 6:30 of the clock later on today.

The House adjourned at 1757.

Evening sitting reported in volume B.