L263b - Wed 17 Dec 1997 / Mer 17 Déc 1997
The House met at 1831.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
FARMING AND FOOD PRODUCTION PROTECTION ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR LA PROTECTION DE L'AGRICULTURE ET DE LA PRODUCTION ALIMENTAIRE
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production / Projet de loi 146, Loi protégeant l'agriculture et la production alimentaire.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure for me to rise tonight to say a few words on Bill 146. I want to give a bit of historical background as to what led up to this bill, and also a bit of historical perspective from my own personal viewpoint. You might be interested to know that in starting to wear bow ties in this place, this evening I am wearing a bow tie that was once worn by Lester B. Pearson in the 1962 federal election. When I wear this tie, I feel inspired, so I hope I can do justice to it tonight, although I certainly wouldn't be able to do quite the eloquent job that Lester B. Pearson could do.
Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): The same tie?
Mr Crozier: The very same tie that Lester B. Pearson had worn, yes. It was given to me recently by Delroy Prescott from Manitoulin. It was found in a box of a relative of his after he had died and there was a note with it that this was Mr Pearson's tie. They didn't know who they could give it to to wear, so now I'm wearing it.
Mr Crozier: My colleague from Essex-Kent wants me to pass it on to him so he can then say he's worn a tie worn by Bruce Crozier. Isn't that great?
Anyway, to the debate. Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production, is a bill that's very important to the agricultural industry in the province and to my riding of Essex South, which is the southern half of Essex county.
We know, for example, in the report of the Mike Harris task force on rural and economic development, that the government would introduce amendments that would ensure farmers retain the ability to operate without fear of nuisance lawsuits. They pledged to work with all major farm organizations to produce amendments which are fair and reasonable, and that, I suspect, has resulted in Bill 146.
The only thing is, on a bill of this importance, it's a little surprising to me that it has taken from 1995 to some two and a half years later before it was introduced. In fact, it's being introduced at the very 11th hour of this sitting of the Legislature. I want the members of the Legislature to know that the first reading of this bill was on June 26, 1997. We started second reading on September 3, some three months after it was first introduced, and now we are another three months down the road and we are finally debating Bill 146.
I would also want the members of the Legislature to be reminded that my colleague from Essex-Kent, on December 3, almost a month ago, pointed out to the Legislature in a statement that he wondered why this bill, since it was brought forward on June 26, 1997, and brought forward for second reading on September 24 - the question was, why has it taken so long? Our caucus has agreed to facilitate the passage of this bill, so we wondered what the problem was. Why does it have to be handled so late in this legislative calendar? Of course, we have many new amalgamated municipalities that are coming into effect on January 1, 1998. I believe one of the members of his own caucus brought up in the Legislature earlier this month that this type of legislation should be brought forward.
I also want to point out the importance of agriculture to my riding and to the broader area of Essex county, in which I've lived all my life, and the importance of the agrifood industry. In our county alone, it creates over 6,000 jobs, with over $40 million in wages. In Essex county alone, we grow over $200 million worth of field, vegetable, greenhouse and fruit crops, and we have a greater agricultural output than any one of the Atlantic provinces, as some comparison.
The agrifood industry has become a $400-million industry in the province, second in economic importance only to the automotive industry. It would interest some of the members, I'm sure, to know that in the way of field crops, soybeans, winter wheat and grain corn are planted on 93% of the agricultural land in Essex county.
The greenhouse industry is a fast-growing industry in Essex South. Essex county is the largest and most intensive greenhouse vegetable growing area in Canada, and we are approaching 500 acres under glass and plastic. There are also 10 acres of mushroom houses in Essex county.
When it comes to processing vegetables, of course my hometown, Leamington, is the home of the H.J. Heinz Co in Canada. It's been an important agricultural industry in my area all my life, and in fact since 1907. It's a leader in the food processing industry.
Field vegetables: Essex county is the province's earliest source of fresh vegetables because of the temperate climate, our southerly location and the fact that we're surrounded on three sides by water.
In the area of fruit crops, nearly 200 growers are involved in the production of Essex county's diverse fruit crops.
Livestock, dairy and poultry are also thriving industries in Essex county. We have over 28 dairy farmers in the county.
Fishing - and fish processing, which is a related industry; some think it's the agricultural industry of the sea - is also located in the county.
We have honey, Christmas trees, popping corn, maple syrup, deer and rabbit farming.
So Essex county is a very diverse area, and we're very proud of that.
More to the bill and the fact that we are supporting this bill, we want to just point out that we find it interesting that in the fall of 1984, the current minister voted against right-to-farm legislation, albeit it was a private member's bill at that time in the name of Mr Jack Riddell, who later was an agriculture minister in the province. The bill contained a section allowing the minister to set guidelines on normal farming practices. This section was to provide a mechanism to determine what was normal and what was abnormal.
In 1984, Jack Riddell recognized the need for legislation such as this, but the current minister for some reason was opposed. From the debate on the bill, the comment was that section 3 of the bill concerned the now agriculture minister in that it gives the minister absolute power over all of agriculture, which should not occur. We certainly don't want to see any absolute powers of the minister misused in this bill, and I would hope they would not be.
Also, section 10 of this bill, when it comes to powers of the minister, allows him to unilaterally define the nature of farm operations that qualify under the earlier general definition of normal farm practices, including additional crops and activities, and "limits, expansions or clarifications of activities described within the definition." The existing legislation does not give this ability to the minister to specifically define agricultural practices, but the minister now, I assume after consultation with farm organizations and municipalities, feels the Minister of Agriculture should have this kind of power and responsibility.
The compendium notes to the bill say that the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs may issue directives in relation to agricultural operations or normal farm practices, or may adopt in whole or in part any directives, guidelines or policy statements prescribed under other pieces of legislation by other ministries. Any decision made by the Farm Practices Protection Board must be consistent with prescribed directives and statements. This provision should ensure that other government priorities and policies are maintained and respected.
We know that farms are increasing in size in the province. Again, for example, in Essex county in 1981 there were 3,088 farms that covered an acreage of 349,345 acres. In 1991 there are some 800 fewer farms and the acreage is down about 19,000 acres, so the size of the farms has increased. I suppose that's for a number of reasons. With farm prices not always keeping up with inflation, many in the agrifood industry have found that a larger operation can be more productive, and consequently we find fewer farmers working larger acreages.
With these farms expanding, I agree with and suggest that the reason for this bill protecting farming and food production is for that reason: that farms are able to grow in size, because when they do, it may be inevitable, but it happens that there are sometimes concerns with neighbours and the practices of farming. We want to be able to make sure that with those who move from small urban or large urban areas into the farm area, for reasons usually of quality of life, that won't affect the ability of farmers to carry out their chosen field, so to speak.
As I said, farms are increasing in size, and producers are specializing in the choice of commodity that they want to specialize in.
As I mentioned earlier, the greenhouse industry is one of these areas. It's an expanding agricultural component of Ontario. I know the minister has visited greenhouses in southern Ontario and in fact in Essex county. They are large, efficient, highly productive operations. I visit practically every one of these because, as they expand, I'm interested in their future. I think you'll agree that it's quite interesting and marvellous to see tomatoes growing on plants that are 20 or 30 feet long and to see greenhouse operations that cover 25 to 30 acres in size.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): It's a beautiful sight.
Mr Crozier: My colleague from Timiskaming, a former agriculture minister, says it's a beautiful sight, and I agree with him of course.
The investment in agriculture, as we all know, is indeed a large and a high-risk venture. We know that market fluctuations exist and in some cases can make or break a farm operation. I was in a retail lumber business for some 22 years and I think I can say that I appreciate the investment that farmers have to make in their operation: the capital investment, the annual operating costs they have.
Unlike a business that's more or less housed in a series of buildings, the weather obviously can have a great deal of effect on farming, as well as the type of marketing and pricing they have to contend with. I can remember in 1986, I think it was, we had a significant hailstorm in the Essex county area that caused millions of dollars in damage in the greenhouse industry and in some cases almost ruined them. The fruit industry is another one that is highly affected by weather.
In spite of the debate and further adoption of this act, we all realize that farmers have always tried to appease their neighbours. They have always tried to do what is right for the community as a whole, and often this is done at some cost. Shifting from one type of grain drying, for example, or another type of facility that increases their productivity but improves their farm operation and improves their relationship with neighbours is often a step that farmers take without any encouragement from anyone, just because they realize that it's the right thing to do.
But in any society or in any one group within society, there may be a few who disregard those around them and the rights of those around them. That's why legislators must bring forth laws that have regulations and guidelines for many situations, not just with agriculture. We find this in the broad spectrum of industry and business. Examples could be those who choose to drive too fast on highways, and we have laws for that. My colleague from Essex-Kent often reminds us that we must have laws for those who pass school buses when lights are flashing. He has a very good private member's bill that's still on the order paper that should be passed because it would enable us to identify those vehicles that offend and in the end would save lives.
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I agree.
Mr Crozier: I have agreement from the government side. We have to get agreement from a few more than just you, but we appreciate those comments.
Through this bill, we need to address legitimate complaints regarding farm practices, but we must also allow for normal farm practices to take place. We need to be able to deal with those complaints that may be of a frivolous nature, and when those complaints do come forward, we need to develop a dispute resolution process to deal with the legitimate complaints. This bill, I am very hopeful, will do just that.
There are occasions when personalities intervene in these situations and we have to have an arm's-length body that will deal with them. This act, of course, has been expanded to include and bring about some help to the farm community in the area of these types of complaints, and it has been expanded to include odour, noise, dust, light, smoke and vibration. These are welcome changes.
In summary, I just want to say that I think we all in this Legislature realize the right of farmers to carry out their chosen occupation. We think they should be able to do that without any frivolous intervention. The minister has reminded us, as any of us who live particularly in small rural areas realize, of the importance of the agrifood business to Ontario. Those in the city should realize, again as the minister has often reminded us, that if it were not for the farmers of the province and the high-quality food they produce and their ability for high productivity to make them competitive - that it's the agrifood industry in Ontario that, along with some other provinces, helps feed not only our province but our nation and the world at large. We see the benefit of this bill and hope that after its eventual passage it will prove to be an aid to the farm community in the province.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments? Further debate?
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I'm pleased to participate in this debate, and in participating in this debate I want to first just review a bit of history in terms of this legislation.
The irony of being here on the next-to-last night of the Legislature and now debating this legislation is something that has to be commented on. This bill was introduced into the Legislature on June 26. The Legislature sat through most of August, the Legislature sat through September, but the bill was not called for debate until September 24, and then for only two hours. Despite the fact that the bill was introduced in June, it was not called again by the government until September 24, for two hours of debate.
The House sat through most of October, it sat through most of November, and now here we are into December and it is only on the next-to-last night that the government calls this bill for debate again. I have to tell you that when we saw the government's list of priority legislation earlier this week, this bill wasn't even there. We received a letter from the government House leader, and he listed things like the fuels tax, he listed things like Bill 164 -
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): We waited for you.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): What a silly comment. It's on the list because of us, not because of you.
Mr Hampton: He listed things like the two red tape bills. This piece of legislation was not even on the government's priority list.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: We waited for Howie.
The Acting Speaker: Minister, order.
Mr Hampton: When we informed the Ontario Federation of Agriculture yesterday that this was not even on the government's priority list, I gather some telephone calls were made, and I gather now that the government is going to allow some time for this bill to be debated. So we are thankful at this very late hour, after the government spent all kinds of hours debating Bill 136 and then after - what was it? - five days of debate decided maybe they didn't want to do Bill 136 anyway and so went back and readjusted it and we debated it some more; after the government spent days - nay, weeks - on Bill 160; after the government has spent all kinds of time in this Legislature with one time allocation motion after another dealing with other pieces of legislation, in the last 24 hours of the House the government rediscovers Bill 146, the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. We're glad that finally the government recognizes that it does have some obligation to farmers in this province, even at this very late hour.
I want to talk about just the general context of this piece of legislation, because sometimes with legislation, context is everything. I want to talk about what's happening to rural representation in this Legislature.
The government is going to reduce the number of seats in this Legislature from 130 to 103, and people need to know that of the 27 seats that are going to disappear, 20 of them are rural constituencies, that the people who live and work in rural Ontario will in the next Legislature have the least representation, the lowest representation ever in the history of rural residents in this province. While people who live in rural Ontario and who work in rural Ontario contribute substantially to this province's economy, in terms of the representation they will have in this Legislature, in terms of the voice they will have in this Legislature, never before in the history of the province has it been or will it be so low.
But it doesn't end there. It doesn't just end in the number of rural constituencies which will disappear in Ontario. It goes far beyond that. Just a while ago this government, in its omniscient wisdom, sent a commissioner to Chatham-Kent, to the city of Chatham and the surrounding Kent county. The reason the commissioner was sent there, we are told, is that he was going to make government simpler. What did this commissioner do under the direction of the Minister of Municipal Affairs? This commissioner essentially did away with all of the rural municipalities in the county of Kent - did away with all of them.
Now what you have in Chatham-Kent is essentially one government for the city of Chatham and all of the rural municipalities. But guess where the population is. Guess where the power is. Guess where the decision-making is going to be. It's going to be in the city of Chatham. The city of Chatham now will make all the decisions for those rural residents, for those farmers who live in Kent county.
When this decision was brought down, I have to refer to the remarks of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, because his remarks were essentially this: that people in rural Ontario had better pay attention to this. People in rural Ontario had better understand that a whole bunch of rural municipalities are going to be removed in Ontario.
I would suggest that the only reason more municipalities in rural Ontario haven't developed already is because the government recognizes that in about 16 months, 18 months, it will have to have an election. It has started to understand that if it goes out there and continues to eliminate the voice of rural Ontario, if it continues to do away with rural municipalities and fold them into large cities or large urban municipal councils, it will be in political trouble.
But I think people in rural Ontario had better know that that is the direction of this government, that is the stated direction of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the stated direction of the Premier: to do away with the municipal voice of rural Ontario in this province. The government has started on that, and I would suggest they are merely hesitating in doing it further because they recognize that a provincial election will have to happen very soon.
There is one other piece of context that I want to talk about, one other bit of context that I think people need to understand. The Minister of Municipal Affairs brought down the downloading numbers just a few days ago. They said it was going to be revenue-neutral. In fact, right off the top it is a $560-million download on to property taxpayers across the province.
Much has been made of the fact that $163 million of that will fall on Toronto, and the rest will fall elsewhere in the province. But what people had better understand, and people had better go back and read the fine print of that downloading announcement, is that what the government has done is split the downloading into two parts.
The first part, the $560-million part, happens now. They put in place a special transition fund - that's what they call it, a special transition fund - which will last two years. But in two years, that special transition fund disappears, and the downloading that will happen then will be even greater than $560 million.
Guess who gets hit in the second whack. Yes, Toronto got hit in the first whack to the tune of $163 million. Who gets hit in the second whack? Who gets hit the hardest? Rural and northern Ontario communities get hit the hardest in the second whack. The big property tax increase now may be in Toronto, but two years from now, after the next provincial election, the big property tax increase is going to be in rural Ontario.
These are all useful in terms of setting context. What I believe is happening is, rural Ontario is losing its voice here in the Legislature, because as I indicated, 20 of the seats that are disappearing are rural seats. Rural Ontario is losing its voice in terms of local decision-making, because the government is hell-bent to consolidate and amalgamate rural municipalities into larger urban packages, and we know when that happens that the decisions will be made by the far greater number of urban residents. The government is hell-bent to download when the final numbers are in, two years from now, $1 billion on to municipalities, and substantial property tax increases are going to fall on rural municipalities once that special transition fund runs out in two years. That's the context now in which this bill is happening.
What is in this bill and what should we be focusing on?
First off, let's acknowledge that this is really a rewriting of the existing Farm Practices Protection Act. It expands a few categories that are in the existing farm protection act. I think we should make note of those. Many of the so-called categories that are being expanded have been the subject of complaints or have been the subject of hearings since the initial act was passed, and some of them are frankly nuisances.
Let's get down to what's added. The bill includes an expanded definition of "agricultural operation." It adds fur-bearing animals. In terms of the diversity of agriculture that we're trying to promote, that's good. It includes the culturing and growing of fish. As the Minister of Natural Resources who played some part in that, I think this is a good idea too, that we promote aquaculture out there and we take aquaculture out of some of the strict regulations that have existed in the past.
Game animals are included. Frankly, we know that some animals that have been classified as game animals in the past are now being produced on farms, and there seems to be a market. And there are game birds.
It adds maple syrup, it adds sod production, it adds tobacco and it adds pre-farm operations. I don't think anyone would have any disagreement with those. Most of us would agree that those things were implicitly acknowledged in the past and ought to be explicitly acknowledged now.
The bill includes, as I said, changes to the definition of "normal farm practice." I want to deal with this, I want to dwell on this just a bit here, because here is where there has been some disagreement between the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the minister. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture wanted to use the term "accepted"; in other words, the bill talks about and defines "normal farm practices" and uses the definition "conducted in a manner consistent with proper and accepted customs and standards." That's the language the OFA wanted. What the government has done is they have changed "accepted" to "acceptable." Some folks may say, "`Accepted' to `acceptable' is not a great change; we won't worry about that." I think people ought to spend some time thinking about that.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Do you want to delay it for six months, have a bunch of hearings?
Mr Wildman: Why didn't you call it before this? You wasted time.
Hon Mr Harris: You don't even know what a farm looks like.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Give it a rest, Mike. They don't have 18 holes on them. Turn every farm into a golf course.
The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Nipigon.
Mr Hampton: I gather from the Premier's comments that he would like to explain how it is that the government introduced this bill on June 26, didn't call it again for any debate until September 26 -
Hon Mr Villeneuve: We were waiting for you.
The Acting Speaker: Minister.
Mr Wildman: What a stupid comment.
Mr Hampton: - called it for two hours of debate, and now here we sit, close to December 22 -
Mr Wildman: Since when did you wait for us to do anything?
The Acting Speaker: Member for Algoma.
Mr Hampton: - and is only now calling it again. Maybe the Premier would like to explain why there was absolutely no priority on this bill, why the government didn't consider it a priority at all, and now when we get down to the last few hours, suddenly the government rediscovers it. In fact, Premier, you can explain why earlier in the week it wasn't even on your House leader's priority list, why, when caucuses met on Tuesday morning, this bill, Bill 146, was not on your House leader's priority list for legislation to be passed before the House prorogues tomorrow evening. Premier, if you want to explain that, we give you the chance. In fact, we welcome your comment.
Hon Mr Harris: Nobody believes you. That's the explanation.
The Acting Speaker: Order. I would advise the people on that side, the government side, you'll have a chance to rebut. In the meantime, be patient. The leader of the third party.
Mr Hampton: Speaker, I think what we'll have to do is take the government House leader's letter and make it available for everyone so they can read it. If the Premier wants to say that I am not telling the truth, we'll make the government House leader's letter available to everyone and people can read it for themselves.
I want to go on because, as I say, there are some important pieces to this legislation that I think need to be looked at, and looked at carefully. The fact of the matter is, when you produce legislation like this and you know that this legislation will be the subject of tribunal hearings, when you know that this legislation will be utilized to deal with disputes, you want to be sure what the legal definition of the word "acceptable" will be. You want to be sure how it will be interpreted.
Again, the reason I think this is important is because if you look at the farm practices protection legislation in Saskatchewan and British Columbia - Saskatchewan I think is relevant here; it's a very large farming jurisdiction - they use the term "accepted." They do not use the term "acceptable." There is a fair amount of legal jurisprudence around the word "accepted." There's a fair amount of certainty around the word "accepted" - what it means, what it includes and what it doesn't include.
I think the minister, before we are done, should stand on his feet here and give an explanation as to why the government wants to use the word "acceptable" rather than the word "accepted," which was put forward by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and is used currently in Saskatchewan and used currently in British Columbia. I think you owe it to the OFA, you owe it to the farmers of this province, to explain in detail why you want to use the word "acceptable" and not the word "accepted," which has a legal definition in this context, is used in other provinces and was preferred by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
There are some other issues that I think also need to be discussed about this bill, but we said to the government that we wanted this put on, we wanted this brought forward, we wanted to have an opportunity for discussion here, we wanted the opportunity to finish second reading debate on this, so I'm going to save my further comments until some later time.
But again, I want to say very clearly that you must put this bill in context. This is a government that has done away with almost all the land use provisions in this province. This is a government that is essentially throwing rural Ontario open to every developer who has a wallet and is willing to spend money. This is a government that has very clearly given a signal that it intends to do away with many of the rural municipalities and their capacity to make decisions on behalf of the rural residents they represent.
This is a government that I predict, because they have decided to throw land use open, they have decided to throw open agricultural land to developers, is going to increase the conflict between development in rural Ontario and farmers in rural Ontario: inevitable. All you have to do is look at where other jurisdictions have said: "We're not going to put in place land use guidelines to protect farm land; we're going to let the market rule. If a developer wants to move out and he has the money and he has the moxie and he has the will, he can move in." When that happens, you inevitably create all kinds of conflicts between those people who farm and those people who want to develop, and ultimately between rural residents who are not interested in farming, who are interested in urban development, urban lifestyle, and farmers. That's what this government has done.
I look at how they have dealt with the farm tax rebate, and I put that in this context. The message that's out there, because I hear it - I get phone calls; when I'm out there in small-town Ontario, I hear it. What the government has done around the farm tax rebate is again set the fox among the pigeons, because the message that's being translated is that the local residents will have to now pick up the farm tax rebate.
You're going to see two things. You're going to have to see a general tax increase out there, both on the farm residents and on other rural residents, in order to handle the farm tax rebate, and you're already getting complaints about that. You're getting complaints from rural residents who are saying, "I don't want to pay a higher property tax rate to compensate for the loss of the farm tax rebate," or, if you want to put it another way, to compensate for the rejigging of the farm tax rebate. This government has really set the cat among the pigeons on this.
Now the government brings this in at a very late date and wants to say that this legislation will solve the whole picture. I don't think that's true. I think people need to reflect on that, and I think people need to reflect on the fact that the government was in no hurry to bring this legislation forward, that this legislation wasn't even on the government House leader's priority list for the last three days of the Legislature. I think if people do that, they'll get a better context for what is actually happening here.
I'm pleased to put these comments on the record for second reading, and I hope the Minister of Agriculture will have an opportunity now to speak to some of the issues that have been raised by members around the Legislature.
The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I was very interested to hear the member for Rainy River discuss this matter, and I wanted to add a bit to the context of what he has said. Indeed, we have been waiting for a long period of time for this bill to be called for consideration by this House. The government always had some other bills that were much more important to them.
For instance, back in June of this year there was a large chunk of time where we could have dealt with a number of bills such as this if the government had wanted to bring them forward, but the government was busy trying to change the rules of this House. We spent a number of days because the people in the Premier's office, the people who really run the government, insisted that they wanted to change the rules so the government could easily put through any legislation it wanted to put through.
Even after having spent its time changing the procedures in this Legislature to restrict and minimize debate and to remove from members of the opposition any levers we might have to influence legislation, even after doing that, the government still refused to bring forward Bill 146, which deals with an important matter, particularly to those who reside in the rural areas of the province and especially to those who are members of the farming community.
When I hear it said that somehow it is always the other side, the opposition, who control this House, I can assure all who might be watching that the government, whenever it wishes to do so, imposes a time allocation motion, and in fact earlier this week took five bills in one and swished them through the House with one stroke of the pen, with one short debate.
This was obviously not a priority.
Mr Wildman: I'm pleased to rise to comment on the remarks of the member for Rainy River on Bill 146 and to point out that the context in which he put the debate was very important. I'm pleased to see members of the OFA executive in the gallery tonight, including Ron Bonnet from my riding. I'm very pleased to see that. I hope they all understand, as my leader indicated, that two days ago in the discussions among the House leaders, Bill 146 was not a priority for the government House leader, that it wasn't on his priority list, that it wouldn't have been called; it would have died on the order paper and the agricultural community would have had to start over again in the spring.
Thank goodness we were able to persuade the government House leader that he shouldn't do that. I'm glad I was able to help the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in persuading his own colleague of the error of his ways in not calling Bill 146. I'm pleased that because of our intervention, we are now debating Bill 146 and it will pass second reading and it will have the support of all three parties. I'm very pleased about that, because I did not want to see this die on the order paper because the Conservative government has other priorities and doesn't care about rural Ontario.
I think it's important that issues that have been raised are properly aired. I'm pleased that the government House leader has suggested that we will have hearings in the intersession and that we will be able to pass this at third reading in the spring by carrying it over into the next session. I'm glad that all three parties have agreed to that, that we will be able to carry it over and that this bill will not die on the order paper and that the interests of the farm community and rural Ontario will be met because of the efforts of all three parties in this House.
The Acting Speaker: Now it's your turn if you wish to comment, the government side. Questions or comments? No? The member for Essex-Kent.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): As the minister will know, I spoke back in September to this bill and gave our presentation as we viewed it.
I also want to mention to the government that since May, 56 bills have been discussed in this House, 56 bills have been brought forward, and here we are at this late juncture in our sitting and we're still dealing with Bill 146. On behalf of our party, I would ask that we have unanimous consent to go into third reading of this bill without delay.
The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? No. Further questions or comments?
The Acting Speaker: Order. Stop the clock.
The member for Fort York.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to comment briefly on the comments made by our leader, the member for Rainy River. Context, in my view, is always something that is very important to me, and it should be to those who are watching, because that gives you a good sense of where we are coming from and where the government is coming from.
Our leader spoke about the reduction of seats, 20 of which will come from the rural areas, as a result of which, I add, their voice is diminished. It is inevitable that when you eliminate 20 seats from rural communities, their voices are diminished. I never saw le ministre de l'Agriculture come up to the defence of the loss of those seats. Not once did he speak, as he did in the past, for a voice for those rural communities. Now they got rid of 20 of them.
Further, our leader talked about the issue of Chatham-Kent, where Dr Meyboom came. I call him Dr Doom, because in spite of what rural communities in Kent said, he imposed an amalgamation on those communities that was fought vociferously by many councillors and many of the residents of those communities.
Our leader speaks about the downloading effect of over half a billion dollars on property owners and the serious effect that is going to have on individuals and families as people struggle to deal with property tax increases or decreases of services.
I add as a last comment, the Minister of Agriculture said to our leader, "We were waiting for you," to deal with this issue of Bill 146. Imagine the government members saying to our leader, "Our Highness, we were waiting for you." You've got the numbers and the wheels. You deal with it.
The Acting Speaker: The leader of the third party, you have two minutes.
Mr Hampton: I only want to say this: It is passing strange indeed that the government has a huge majority - they have 82 out of 130 members - and they can't manage their own Legislature. They can't manage the Legislature in which they have a majority. So we find ourselves here at the 11th hour getting in a couple of hours of debate on a bill that was debated for the first time for only two hours back in September.
The government has to figure out how they want to manage their legislative agenda, why it is that they want to use time allocation to whistle five bills through here in the space of a couple of hours, and yet they had absolutely no time for this piece of legislation until the 11th hour.
I thank members on all sides of the House for their comments and I hope we will hear from someone, either the parliamentary assistant or perhaps someone else the minister designates, who can hopefully help us address, either here or later on tomorrow, some of the issues that have been raised.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): It's a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to speak tonight with respect to Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Yeah, let's get it over with.
Mr Arnott: I would like to also acknowledge and welcome the members of the OFA who are joining with us tonight to watch the debate. Thank you very much for coming.
Bill 146 is crucial to protecting farmers' ability to continue producing an abundant supply of wholesome, high-quality, affordable food and other agricultural products for Ontario and for our world markets. It reasserts this government's commitment to agriculture and food production as a vibrant, competitive and growing sector that annually contributes $25 billion to the provincial economy, employs more than 600,000 people and creates more jobs every year, and exports products worth well over $5 billion annually to the far reaches of the globe.
In order to continue feeding all of us as well as to create the new jobs that we need and the economic growth -
Mr Wildman: Why didn't you call it before and quit acting like silly buggers?
The Acting Speaker: The member for Wellington has the floor.
Mr Arnott: - our farmers need assurances that they can conduct their normal business practices without fear of nuisance lawsuits and unnecessarily restrictive bylaws.
Hon Mr Harris: The reason we agreed was because you couldn't have 12 members here tonight. Tell the truth.
The Acting Speaker: Premier, order please.
Mr Wildman: Go ahead and do what you have to do. Do whatever you like.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Algoma, order, please.
The member for Wellington.
Mr Arnott: While we do have a law in place that provides this kind of protection, it is limited, out of date, and no longer entirely effective. In the 10 years since the Farm Practices Protection Act was introduced, the population mix in rural Ontario has changed, with more urban people moving into our rural areas. New and innovative kinds of farming are being introduced involving non-traditional livestock and crops. Modern normal farming practices include activities not covered under the current legislation, and on-farm activities in which farmers add value to the commodities they grow are increasing.
Times have changed, and the current act has not changed with them. Before this government was elected, we went out and talked to farmers and rural residents. This legislation was one of their key concerns. They told us that the protection provided in the old legislation was simply inadequate. The legislation didn't cover a number of modern farming activities, it didn't apply to new, innovative farming operations that were starting up all over the province, and there was concern about increasing conflict over restrictive bylaws.
We made a pledge then that we would put into place a law that was more in step with the times should we form the government: a law that protected the rights of farmers using normal farming practices to continue raising the food products we all use without having to resort to unnecessary, time-consuming and costly litigation, a law that would protect Ontario's ability, both now and in future generations, to maintain a growing, thriving, job-creating agrifood sector.
The bill before us today does this and much, much more. It balances the rights of those who conduct their farming businesses in rural Ontario with the rights of all those who live in rural Ontario. It adheres to our strong health, safety and environmental standards. It is forward-looking, providing much-needed protection for today's farmers and for generations to come. And it builds on the tremendous environmental work that's been done by farmers and farm organizations over the past 10 years.
There's a real sense of community in small-town and rural Ontario. Neighbours generally get along and help each other out. That's why so many of us have decided to make the move from the streets of Toronto or London or Ottawa to the concession roads of Durham or Middlesex or Lanark or Wellington. But make no mistake: For farmers, it's also a place of business, with all the challenges and all the opportunities this entails.
The business of farming has evolved rapidly over the years. In the year 1900, each farmer fed only about 12 people on average, and about 50 cents of every consumer dollar earned was spent on food. With growing populations, farmers have been called upon to boost their productivity over the years, and they've responded. Today the average farmer feeds more than 120 people, more than 10 times the number at the turn of the century, and our food prices are among the world's lowest, with food costing less than 13 cents of every dollar earned.
Fewer than 3% of Canadians today operate farms, yet they produce enough food and other commodities, such as herbs for pharmaceuticals, flowers, flax for fibre, and feedstock for alternative fuels, to supply most of the domestic and many export markets around the world.
Let's not forget that they accomplish all of this in an environmentally sensible and responsible way. Farmers are the original environmentalists. They more than anyone know the importance of taking care of our air, our water and our soil. These elements are literally the lifelines for farmers. They more than anyone understand that you need a productive, safe and healthy environment for the future. That's the first step in the production of wholesome, high-quality food. It's also a driving force for some non-farm commodities like ethanol. It's what consumers demand and, as important, it's what farmers expect of themselves.
That's why farmers and farm groups invest their time and money in many initiatives aimed at protecting the environment. Besides environmental farm plans, there are countless projects involving millions of farmers' hard-earned dollars aimed at such things as reducing pesticide use, improving tilling practices, developing more efficient manure management practices, and erosion control. Farmers see these projects as investments both in the environment and in their business. For farmers, the two are connected at the most basic level.
I think we can all agree that creating a climate in which farmers can continue to provide us with high-quality, affordable food without unnecessary restrictions is a worthy goal.
I would like to thank the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association - ROMA - and the many commodity groups who contributed tremendously both to the consultation leading up to this bill and to its development. I would also like to thank the rural residents who took the time to share their concerns and issues. They helped us immensely in bringing balance to this legislation. Many of those suggestions are incorporated in the bill that we have before the House today.
I believe, and I think most of my honourable colleagues would agree, that the bill does what we have set out to do, strengthening the protection of farming and food production while keeping it in harmony with health, safety and our environment. The proposed act provides added protection for farmers without overriding or duplicating other legislation and policies designed to protect the Ontario public.
Farmers have said again and again that their interest in strengthening this legislation is so that they can get on with their day-to-day operations. They have said emphatically that they do not want a licence to pollute. Therefore, the new law would continue to be subject to the provincial Environmental Protection Act, the Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act. Further, it would adhere to cabinet-approved policy statements. Farmers understand thoroughly the need to have these safeguards in place. That's why they have wholeheartedly agreed with these provisions.
At the same time, the proposed act deals constructively with the emerging concerns around unduly restrictive municipal bylaws. Before its implementation, the ministry, farm groups and municipalities will be working together to increase awareness among municipal decision-makers about modern farming practices. Under the new law, the minister would be able to issue farm practices policy statements which can be used by municipalities as guidelines in developing their bylaws. At the same time, a public awareness program would focus on the realities of living in rural Ontario. This would be accomplished in cooperation with farm and rural groups and real estate agents.
We have to do a better job of informing people who move to rural areas that farms are also places of business, where sometimes the crop can't wait until after the weekend to be harvested, where at the height of the season, greenhouse operators may have to run their lights all night long, where weather conditions mean that farm machinery during some periods could be running 24 hours a day. We must also do a better job of reminding everyone that Ontario's economic roots are firmly planted in our farmers' fields and that we all depend on the healthy, wholesome and affordable food supply and all the other non-food products that we grow that come from those fields and farms.
I know that in Wellington, many farmers already regularly advise their neighbours when they need to combine or to spread manure on an adjacent field. Often the timing of these activities can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction. If this doesn't or can't happen, staff of OMAFRA are knowledgeable and adept at helping mediate resolutions between neighbours before disputes can escalate.
In the interests of time, I'm going to move now to my conclusion.
This government has encouraged and will continue to encourage a strong agrifood sector and rural economy. We're doing it today with the second reading of this timely and much-needed Farming and Food Production Protection Act. I believe, and I think all members can agree, that it achieves a balance between protecting the rights of those who farm in rural Ontario with all those who live in rural Ontario.
As with this legislation, we'll continue working with the people of Ontario who contribute so much to our high standard of living on several other initiatives. We'll forge ahead with research and technology advances, explore new markets here at home and around the globe, and boost investment and competitiveness throughout the province. We'll do our utmost to assist rural communities to reach their full potential as full participants in the bright economic future that lies ahead for Ontario. Most of all, we will continue to create a climate in which those who produce our food and those who consume it can go on reaping the rewards of one of our most highly respected and vital industries, because when the agrifood industry does well, everyone in Ontario benefits.
The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?
Mr Hoy: We know the farm community has always tried to appease their neighbours. They have always tried to do what is best for the whole community. I might add that this was done at some cost as they changed their operations to meet the needs required to maintain the best interests of the whole community. But in any society, or within any one group within that society, there may be a few who disregard those around them and the rights of those same people. That is why we as legislators must bring forth laws, regulations, guidelines for many situations, not just for agriculture, but in many regards throughout many ministries.
We need to develop a Farming and Food Production Protection Act to meet the needs of an industry that is ever-changing and one that I expect will continue to change to meet the needs of new technologies and to meet the needs of the new demographics that we experience today in rural Ontario. We need to address legitimate complaints regarding normal farm practices, but we must allow for normal farm practices to take place. We need to develop a dispute resolution process to deal with those same legitimate complaints and also to deal with those that are frivolous. There are occasions when personalities intervene in these situations and it's difficult to resolve what is occurring between those two parties, so we need a dispute resolution process for both the legitimate complaints and the frivolous.
This act has been expanded to include odour, noise, dust, light and vibration. It is a required change and a welcome change.
Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate my friend from Wellington for his reasoned intervention in the debate. He always approaches these issues in an evenhanded and sensible manner, and I appreciate his comments.
We do need this legislation, and all members in the House support the passage of the bill as it amends the current legislation. As he indicated, there are many people moving to rural Ontario because of the tremendous advantages that those of us who live in rural Ontario and the farming communities understand there to be for raising children and for perhaps living in your retirement or simply living there and commuting to the urban centres to work. This does lead to disputes and, as my friend from Essex-Kent indicated, sometimes nuisance complaints about farm operations. That's why this legislation is useful, in that it will make it possible for those kinds of disputes to be dealt with in a way that will make it possible for normal farm practices to be carried out.
As someone who lives in a rural area and has a very good friend and neighbour who is involved in a large dairy operation, I know that his operations sometimes cause some discomfort for his neighbours, but those of us who are not involved in farming and who moved into that neighbourhood understood that when we moved there. It was helpful for me personally that I was familiar with farming, but some others were not, and perhaps they didn't understand what is necessary in a farm operation. This bill will help make it possible for those farm practices to be continued and the disputes to be resolved.
Mr Gilchrist: I'll keep my comments very brief. As an operator of a farm myself for 20 years now as a sidelight to our main business, I'm looking forward to the passage of this bill. I just want to put on the record again how pleased I am and proud of the comments from our colleague from Wellington, who once again has stood up and passionately defended the interests of farmers in his riding and across Ontario. I congratulate him for his ongoing efforts on behalf of that important aspect of our economy.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'd like to comment on the fine speech of my friend the member for Wellington. I was one of the few members around here, I think, who back in 1988 participated in the first right-to-farm act brought forward by Jack Riddell. I remember those hearings, but I also recognize, as all members recognize, that over those years there has been considerable change not only in the farming community, but in the number of people who are moving into the farming community.
I'm pleased today to have the opportunity to stand and support this act and just to say that although the government has been quite tardy in bringing this forward, it has been the position of my party that we should have this in place for January 1 and that we should proceed with this as quickly and as expediently as possible in order to have this legislation in place not only for the people who are farming, but also for municipalities, many of which are facing amalgamation about that time. They are going to need this kind of legislation in place with some certainty so they know how their bylaws will apply with regard to farms.
I'm just standing today to offer my support and to say to the government that although you have been very tardy at this, we are fully supportive of attempting to have this in place by January 1.
Mr Arnott: I'm pleased to thank the members who made comments relating to my speech. I compliment the member for Essex-Kent on the constructive approach that he is taking to this issue in working with the government. Thank you very much. To the member for Algoma, who listened intently to most of my speech, I saw across the floor, I appreciate that and thank him for his reasoned intervention and his response to my speech. The farmer from Scarborough East, my colleague Mr Gilchrist, I thank also for his approach, and the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, who mentioned Jack Riddell, a former Minister of Agriculture whom I remember fairly well.
It's interesting. This month we all think about our own anniversaries. It was 10 years ago this month that I started working for Jack Johnson, the former member for Wellington, so I'm celebrating an anniversary too. I remember Jack Riddell very well as a fine Minister of Agriculture.
I want to compliment our Minister of Agriculture, though, who farmers increasingly tell me is the finest minister since Bill Stewart, so we're very pleased to have his participation within our caucus.
I was very pleased that this bill was introduced in Wellington county, in the area that I'm privileged to represent, at the farm of Neil McCaig. He has a family farm in Puslinch township near Guelph, which is in the southern part of Wellington county. That's Puslinch township. You remember it well, and so does the member for St Catharines, I know, from the gravel issues of the late 1980s. This farm is a dairy farm. There aren't that many farms left in Puslinch township, but this is an important economic enterprise in Wellington county, and it's on the fringe of the city. This is the kind of protection he needs to carry on and hopefully to pass his farm on to the next generation.
I also want to thank my colleagues the member for Hastings-Peterborough and the member for Lambton for the terrific job they did in terms of getting this bill as far as it has been. Certainly they undertook a very thorough consultation process involving all the stakeholders in rural Ontario, and I think that's the reason we've got such strong support in this House today for this bill.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Timiskaming.
Mr Ramsay: I'm very pleased to be able to stand in my place tonight and speak to this bill, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production. I think it's a good follow-up to the original bill that was brought forward, as my colleagues have mentioned, by the Honourable Jack Riddell, who certainly served as one of the finest agriculture ministers this province has ever seen, absolutely.
As was mentioned, in the late 1980s, Jack brought in a bill that really started to wrestle to the ground a very contentious issue. With the changing living patterns in Ontario and with the unfortunately shrinking farm population, urbanites were moving into rural Ontario, and there were a lot of conflicts that occurred because of that.
I want to get into that in a minute, but before I get into that, I would like to acknowledge the presence of and congratulate Ed Sedgewick, who is the newly elected president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. I welcome you here, Ed, and your executive. I think you've got a great team there in the federation to lead Ontario farmers into the next year and almost to the next century. It's a great, strong team.
It's groups such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture that really make legislation like this possible, that come to us in our riding offices and present the facts and the reasoning of why we need to have legislation such as this, why we need to update legislation such as this, and that keep us sharp and aware of all these issues. It's very important work, and I'd say to you, Ed, that it was the Ontario Federation of Agriculture that is probably responsible for my being in this place, because that was the first sort of community activity that I got involved in when one of the neighbour farmers came over and sold me a membership many years ago.
I got involved in that organization at the local level and became a provincial director and really understood the importance of representing the people you work with at home, and doing it on that level, it sort of whetted my appetite to do it on a broader base in my riding of Timiskaming. So I owe the federation a lot and really respect and admire the people who work in it. In fact, my wife, Kathy, and I were at an Ontario Federation of Agriculture in Timiskaming curling party on Saturday, and it was a lot of fun. They rented the Englehart curling rink. I've curled once in my life before -
Interjection: And not very well.
Mr Ramsay: - and as my colleague said, not very well, but it's a lot of fun and interesting, and the federation offers that also. Besides being advocates for farmers, they're also a great group that I think develops social cohesion among our rural residents, especially our farmers, and kind of lets you bridge that gap between all rural residents and just the farmers in inviting all the rural community together. We had quite a good crowd and we had a lot of fun and it was most enjoyable. I salute the group and the organization they did. It's very important work.
Tonight we're here to talk about this act, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production, and it is very important. I'd like to say to the people at home who may be watching why such an act is important.
I think the new name is maybe a better description to reflect the values of the 1990s today and really encapsulate what this is all about, that it's an act to protect farming and food production. What that means is that farmers who historically have practised various methods and adopted new methods in order to produce food - one of the most important functions, I'm sure all members would agree, in society - have to be protected so they are enabled to do that. It's very important that they can do that.
Those of us who have lived in the country for years understand what those practices are. In fact, very good practices can tend to be messy. If you're a good steward of the land, for instance, you want to make sure that you are putting manure back into the ground, that you're spreading that on the fields, that you're plowing that in. That is good stewardship of the land. Farmers were the first environmentalists, because they understood they had to take care of the land in order for it to be productive and sustainable.
When somebody moves in from town or from the city and they've worked very hard and they're maybe looking forward to the weekend in the backyard, and the backyard kind of fronts on my field, they maybe get upset that as farmers you're working at least six days a week and you're having to carry on activities that may be a bit distracting for that person.
I think as long as that activity is within the norm of farm operations, that farmer has to be free to carry out those operations. As long as they are environmentally sustainable and within normal practice, it's very important that there is no interference to that. If we allow interference in that farm operation, then we have impinged upon our ability to produce food. As I'm sure the Minister of Agriculture would agree with me, being a former Minister of Agriculture myself, Ontario stands second to none when it comes to food production. A very interesting fact that I picked up when I was the minister is that if you compare Ontario, for instance, with the state of Michigan, which is on the same latitude as Ontario and similar in size, although Michigan is a little smaller than Ontario, we produce 200 different commodities in Ontario; in Michigan, it's about 80.
A lot of that has to do with the tremendous resourcefulness of our farmers and the advancement of our research and development in Ontario that we're able to be so diverse in our agricultural base. There are not too many jurisdictions in the world that can say they produce over 200 different commodities. If it wasn't for our winters, we could be absolutely sustainable for food production, and if you didn't mind not eating oranges in the year, you could be sustainable in Ontario. We could grow our food to sustain Ontario and even beyond every year. There's no doubt about that. It's a very rich agricultural resource. We owe it not only to our farmers but to ourselves to protect our agricultural land base and the sector of the economy that is so important in producing that food source for Ontario.
I think people need to realize too that we produce our food for way beyond the borders of Ontario. Our agricultural economy is so strong that we are exporting commodities right around the world. Because we are so efficient in pork, for instance - when I was the minister, I know this was a big battle with the United States. The Americans at that time wanted to ban Ontario and Canadian pork from coming into the United States. Why? Because the American processors preferred the Canadian pork because it was a leaner cut of meat. They could make more product from the Canadian pork than they could from the American pork with its higher fat content at the time.
That was a result of the great research done at the University of Guelph, the great techniques and development that Ontario farmers had developed and our ability to raise pork very well and produce pork in this province. That's just one of the areas that we're leaders in. We are leaders in many other commodities. It's important to note that and how important it is to our economy.
I would also like to say, about the politics of this bill, that our agriculture critic, Pat Hoy, the member for Essex-Kent, has been asking this government to bring forward this bill. It's very, very important that this bill be brought forward. In fact, on December 3, the member for Essex-Kent stood in this place and made a statement because he was getting frustrated. I'd like to put this statement back into the record because I think what Mr Hoy said bears repeating. He said:
"Over the last few weeks we have seen this government rush to push its contentious legislation through the Legislature as quickly as possible. While they cannot move quickly enough to steamroll public opinion, they drag their feet when it comes to legislation that has wide public support.
"On June 26, the Minister of Agriculture introduced Bill 146," this bill, "the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. This act is intended to update existing legislation which governs farming practices in Ontario. The act was brought forward for second reading on September 24, and after receiving minimal debate it was shelved in favour of other legislation.
"The question," Mr Hoy went on to say, "is why? Our caucus agreed to facilitate the passage of this bill and we have seen in the past that the government has nothing against the prompt passage of legislation. So what's the problem? Why does the minister not continue with second reading of Bill 146?" Well, we're finally here tonight, a few weeks later.
"Many of the new amalgamated municipalities, which include rural and urban areas, are eager to see this legislation pass before January 1, 1998. The minister should be getting pressure from his own caucus. I suggest he bring the legislation back to the House so we can discuss issues surrounding this bill. We see no reason for delay and urge the minister to bring this back so we can pass it by year's end. Minister, get your House leader on side today."
Minister, in order to be helpful, I would again like to ask for unanimous consent that we could go immediately to third reading so we could pass this bill tonight.
The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Did I hear a no?
Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Nobody said no.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: No, you didn't hear a thing.
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I said no.
The Acting Speaker: I didn't hear you. So it's not agreed upon.
Mr Ramsay: It's really unfortunate that we're not able to proceed with that because I think it's important that we do get on with this because it's my understanding that all three parties are agreed with this bill and we really should get on with it.
As I said earlier, this bill is designed to protect farmers in their pursuit of normal farm practices and, as I said, that is a very, very important part of this act. The reason this bill is necessary to come in right now and to strengthen the original bill that Jack Riddell had introduced, the right-to-farm legislation, is that the attacks on farmers' rights to carry out normal farm practices have increased. Urban people who have moved into rural Ontario have now taken up a greater share of the population base. In fact, in some cases, because they have the time, they take a very keen interest in municipal politics and can absolutely take over a municipal council.
Quite frankly, it's not fair, even though I guess it's democratic, because I think, as people have realized, farming today with all its great mechanization and going into the computer age is still a very labour-intensive operation. Farmers find very difficult to have the time to devote to municipal politics. It's very difficult to take the time to get to council meetings twice a month, to do the committee meetings and to abandon that farm operation, if you don't have a really large operation and a staff behind you to dedicate that time.
Many rural councils can be dominated by newcomers who have come into the township and sort of want to now run the township the way they see it. Yet some of these farmers and their families have been there for hundreds of years, carrying on food production for all of us across this province and around this world. They deserve to be protected and this industry deserves to be protected. While, as a rural resident, I welcome anybody to come in and live in our area, it's a free country and it's great to see more people living in rural Ontario, it is important that those newcomers respect the traditions of rural Ontario and good farming practices, because of the necessity for farmers to carry on a living and produce food for this country.
It's important that this act be brought up to date, as this bill will do here tonight, that it strengthens the rights of farmers and allows farmers to work more closely with their municipalities and allows the government to step in and to protect farmers, as the province of Ontario understands and recognizes the importance of the agricultural community and the agricultural sector in this economy.
Again, I'd like to take my hat off to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture because they have provided the minister with the model of how this should work and also some definitions - not all of which were taken up by the minister, and I think we need to point that out. I'd like to again talk about the federation and other farm groups, because they have really changed their approach in the last few years. I think politicians used to joke about when farmers came and they just talked about the problems and didn't bring solutions.
In the last 15 years, farm organizations have come before politicians and governments and not only pointed out to us what the problems are, but they've got their research together and they've put forward proposals. They've got solutions for us to consider. They've come with the answers and they're good answers, they're well researched, they've got good staff because they're well resourced now. That's very, very helpful to governments of all stripes when groups such as the federation of agriculture come in with very solid proposals as to how to fix problems in rural Ontario.
That's the case with this bill, that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has done its homework. They've got great research and brought in a model right-to-farm bill. We'd actually like to see more of that model incorporated in that bill. We hope while this government is still in office - hopefully not too much longer, but while it is still in office - maybe they'll have a chance to reconsider as we pass this and bring in some amendments next year, so that we can make this bill even better and more closely modelled to what the OFA had considered.
Part of what is missing from this bill, as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has provided, is a definition of "right to farm," which I think needs to be looked at by the minister, and a definition of "farmer," which I also think needs to be looked at. Right now, the way the bill is written, it maybe leaves open a little too wide an interpretation of these definitions. I think we need to have that debate. I'd be quite interested to hear from the minister or parliamentary assistant in their remarks why that's there. But we could do that next year because we're quite prepared to approve this now because, on the whole, this is very good.
One thing we should talk about too, I think it's important, because in many cases farmers don't have the ability to take the time to run for municipal office, is that the government should consider talking to our municipalities and seeing if it's possible if municipalities would appoint at least one farmer on their planning boards. I think that would go a long way to getting some direct input from the farming community on the different planning boards that our municipalities have so that those people on those planning boards could understand at first hand from farmers working out in those fields day in and day out the problems and challenges they have in the farming world. I think that would be very, very important.
It's very difficult to talk about any agricultural bill without commenting about what's happening with the farm tax rebate. I hearken back to those days when I was working with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and how we wanted to make sure, quite a few governments ago, we got a program such as the farm tax rebate.
Now we've come full circle to a plan that in a way is the way we should have had it, the way England and France have it, that farm land, and in this case 75% of the assessment of farm land, will be exempt from taxation. But without some sort of compensating funding to the municipalities of course, what that's going to mean in many of these small townships such as where I live and many of my colleagues live, where the assessment base is still primarily farms and maybe a small hamlet, is that the burden of that 75% deficit to the municipality is going to go across the farm residences.
While the farmers may think they're getting away with only paying 25% of the assessed value of the land in their property taxes, of course that is just going to be thrown back on the farm residence, when there's not a good balance, as there isn't in many of our municipalities, of commercial and industrial assessment. This is something that is going to put an undue burden - and I've seen it in many municipalities. In fact, my township clerk has said to me that in Casey township, in Timiskaming district in northern Ontario, without the transition fund that we know is only temporary our tax bill would go up 200%.
I know that's not going to happen because there's no way the Harris government is going to allow that to happen because they've got wads of money and they're going to throw wads of money at it this year. My prediction is they might throw wads of money at it maybe for one more year or to whenever the next election comes, but after that, boys and girls, we're on our own out there. All of a sudden the property tax bills are really going to rip because that's what they're saying, "Let `er rip on the property tax bills," and they're really going to go, which surprises me because Mike Harris said "No new taxes."
The Acting Speaker: Order, member for Nepean.
Mr Ramsay: Now Mike Harris has raised property taxes and of course they're going to be setting the mill rate pretty soon for the education portion of that also. We thought that was coming a few months ago and then this month; I understand now it's January, maybe. That's going to be coming, so there's another new tax that's coming from the Mike Harris government.
But all that's going to be piled on rural Ontario, and I think we're going to have to be very careful of that. Maybe this bill goes partway to protecting rural Ontario and farmers but I think we have a lot of other things we need to be doing and not offloading down on to the farmers of Ontario, so they can stay productive and be some of the best agricultural producers in the world.
The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?
Mr Marchese: I'm happy to have these two minutes to respond to the member for Timiskaming. First, I would say that the people - hopefully the rural community members who are watching tonight should know the dictatorial and autocratic modus operandi of these folks across the way. They need to know that.
We've witnessed it in Bill 26, where they gave themselves autocratic dictatorial powers as ministers in the government to do what they want. We have witnessed that in the amalgamation of the city of Toronto with all the other cities around, where they refused to listen, in spite of the referendum we had, to the people who opposed it. We've had the amalgamation of Chatham-Kent where they refused, through Dr Meyboom, whom I refer to as Dr Doom, to listen to the people of Kent in particular.
We have witnessed the changes of the rules in this House where these people across the way have done it in such a way to make sure that bills get passed quickly in a way that suits them, not the opposition or anybody opposing them. They've changed the rules that permit less scrutiny on the bills that these people are trying to rush through with incredible haste. Then, M. Villeneuve, mon ami, le ministre de la Prospérité, me dit, "We're waiting for your leader, Howard Hampton, to deal with this issue." Good God. I thought the Royal Highness was on the other side, not on this side of the third party, for God's sake.
Then we have the ultimate problem where we have a number of Liberal members asking for unanimous consent to move this to third reading. But the member for Timiskaming raised questions that he's got that he wants you, M. Villeneuve, and others to answer. We have similar questions. We just attacked you over the last couple of weeks for going ahead with incompetent bills, with changes that you had to have Bill 164 to correct, and now you want us to rush through with this. We need scrutiny. That's why we want this to go in committee, so we do it right, not wrong.
Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I would like to say that this is really a good-news bill for the province of Ontario and rural Ontario, because it's protection for the agricultural operations.
We have a situation now where the urbanites are moving to rural Ontario to enjoy the rural life and we have to respect that, but at the same time we have to set rules and regulations so those people can move to these areas and not be a hindrance to our agricultural operations. I was a member of municipal council myself in my previous life and we have to set directions for municipal politicians so they can respect what's happening with our farm operations. By setting this direction to the municipalities, therefore they can adhere to what we feel is necessary for the people of the province.
I have to use the example of my own operation with a subdivision next door. By having in the offer to purchase, and also stipulated in the deed, the noise and odour effects of the operation next door, it certainly made a better circumstance between myself and my neighbours by their knowing what is taking place next door before they purchase. So this way we're certainly making progress towards seeing that this happens throughout the province and that our farm operations can enjoy the prosperity they've had in the past.
M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Tout d'abord, je dois féliciter mon collègue de Timiskaming. Je peux dire que c'est un projet de loi qui est attendu depuis nombre de mois. C'est un projet de loi que vraiment les administrateurs attendent depuis longtemps.
Nous savons que de plus en plus, les personnes, les familles démenagent des grands centres urbains et s'en viennent dans le secteur rural, et tout le temps, ces cultivateurs qui sont en place depuis nombre d'années se font harceler à tous les jours : la poussière, la senteur, les lumières durant la nuit. Ces cultivateurs-là doivent produire. On dépend sur les cultivateurs.
Mais une chose que je regrette, c'est de voir que nous avons attendu si longtemps. Tout récemment, mon collègue M. Hoy a présenté une déclaration disant, qu'attendons-nous de présenter le projet de loi en deuxième lecture afin qu'on puisse le présenter en troisième lecture ? Je peux dire que lundi dernier, ce projet de loi ne paraissait même pas à l'ordre du jour. Hier soir, j'en ai parlé dans mon discours. Au lieu du débat que nous avons eu hier soir, je disais, on aurait dû discuter sur les projets de loi 146 et 170.
Mais une chose que je peux voir dans ce projet de loi, c'est qu'on devrait s'assurer que toute municipalité qui dessert un secteur rural ait sur son comité d'urbanistes une personne qui représente l'agriculture, parce que nous savons que la municipalité va avoir le dernier mot.
Nous allons définitivement voter en faveur de ce projet de loi parce qu'on l'attend depuis longtemps ; nous sommes en faveur. Mais sans avoir un projet de loi présenté par ce gouvernement qui protégerait nous agriculteurs pour l'avenir, le futur, il va être encore très, très difficile pour eux de survivre encore pour de nombreuses années, parce que dans les municipalités, les développeurs mettent toujours des pressions sur les conseils municipaux.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I, with my colleagues, want to express my satisfaction and thanks to the government for finally bringing this bill to the House tonight and bringing it forward for debate. I remind them that the process in this place, as has been developed over a number of years, is very clear. Some of the criticism that we on this side of the House have had of you over the last two and a half years is that you've pushed through with an agenda that, after it saw the light of day and people began to see how it was going to impact them in their lives and their communities, they found it was flawed and was in need of further refinement and further discussion and in fact the need for you to bring in further bills to correct the mistakes you've made.
That's why we have the processes in this House that we do and that's why we were so anxious for you to bring this bill forward, so that we might debate it in this House at some length as the importance of this piece of legislation warrants and deserves, so that we might then, as is the custom of this place that has been developed over a number of years, bring it out to the people of the province so they might have a say about what's in that bill and how it affects them, to tell us, as the legislators elected to take responsibility for the laws that we pass that affect everybody who lives in this province, whether they on one hand think it's good stuff or on the other hand might have some criticism of it.
The member for Timiskaming laid some questions he had on the table here tonight but, alas, if we don't respect the process that we've all bought into in this place - we call it democracy, we call it the legislative process - it will all be for naught.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Timiskaming, you have two minutes.
Mr Ramsay: I thank the members who commented after my speech tonight on this bill. I want to say, to really explain why I think we can get on with this bill is because of the length of time it has been before this House. It is unfortunate that since it was called in June, we haven't had the opportunity to get to debate before this. We've had a lot of input over this time from the various groups involved and the people from rural Ontario, but it looks like we will have to wait. We will have hearings and, from that, maybe we'll get some improvements to the bill beyond that.
As I said, we would be willing to go ahead with this bill as it is now, but some time in the intersession, I guess we will be able to have some sort of hearings, if that's what the House leaders agree. I hope, Minister, that you would talk to the government House leader and the Premier to call back this Legislature in the winter or to make sure that by mid-March, when you are planning to come back, you call this bill as the first bill when we're back.
I think it's important that, instead of leaving it, like last time, sitting on the order paper since June, we carry this over. If we are to prorogue tomorrow night, bring us back as soon as possible, and when that does happen, bring this bill forward so that we can get on with it and give it the third reading it deserves.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's certainly a pleasure to rise to address Bill 146, the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. I think just for a moment we should review some of the things that have been going on in developing this act. This minister, along with the parliamentary assistants, first travelled this province extensively to do consultations to sort out the kind of bill that should be brought forward, and that's how this bill was developed.
They then introduced it in the late spring or early summer, back in late June anyway, for first reading and it was received by all parties with great enthusiasm. We then had second reading in the early fall, and one of the things that held it up was that the Leader of the Opposition wasn't here to take his regular hour in debate as the critic for this particular bill. Because he hasn't been here ever since and willing to debate it, we haven't been able to proceed with second reading. We should be honest about that and where it's at.
Now we're able to proceed. It would be awfully nice if we could get on with third reading either tonight or tomorrow. All we need is unanimous consent. Certainly this bill is tremendously important to our Minister of Agriculture, who has worked extremely hard on it. I think it's only fair that we get on with it.
Mr Galt: The leader of the third party is suggesting we could do it on Monday, and I think that's a really good idea if he'd like to do it on Monday.
Mr Wildman: Are you out of your nut?
Mr Galt: Thank you very much.
I grew up on a mixed farm cum dairy farm. I practised veterinary medicine in Seaforth and Napanee and in a diagnostic lab in Brighton. This subject is extremely close to me and very dear to me. It's a very, very important topic. It relates around a lot of nuisance issues such as noise, odour and dust. I can tell you, as a veterinarian practising large animal medicine, I have run into odours of all kinds and I certainly know what odours are about. Even today out in rural Ontario, yes, I find some that I don't particularly find pleasant and I can understand why some of the newcomers to rural Ontario have some concerns and issues. They need to be addressed and this bill certainly addresses them.
One of the experiences I had was moving to Northumberland, buying 10 acres with a lot of apples on them and wondering how to handle them. I asked a neighbour to look after them and his first comment to me was, "Would you mind if we end up spraying around your house at 4 in the morning?" That's a normal farm practice when you're looking after apple trees and looking after apples, and of course I didn't mind at all. He was looking after them, it was a normal farm practice and we got along just fine.
Farming has been practised in this province for a very, very long time. It has been practised in the world for a long time. Agrarian society started somewhere around 10,000 years ago, but there have been some very radical changes in farming in the last century.
For example, at the turn of the century the harvesting of hay was scythed with a new horse-drawn sickle mower that was able to cut it, but we still stooped hay and pitched it on with a pitchfork. Later came a hayloader and then balers; small square and small round bales and then big round bales and now big square bales. There were hay crimpers and all kinds of equipment to handle these bales, along with forge harvesters that chop hay. That is just one area of harvesting that has changed dramatically. You could go into other areas of harvesting that have changed: automatic stable cleaners and all kinds of computerized watering and feeding devices used for various classes of livestock.
At the same time, our society has changed. A hundred years ago, somewhere around 80% or 90% of the population were either directly or indirectly very close to our farms and to producing food, and that's still true in many of our Third World countries. Today here in Ontario somewhere around 1% of our population are involved in farming, so one farmer feeds 100 other people. In Northumberland that's probably closer to 3%.
Part of that is related to the efficiencies and the kind of technology we have today that would absolutely dumfound people 30 or 40 years ago. They couldn't possibly imagine the kind of agriculture we're practising today. But we need this kind of high-yield agriculture if we're going to have the environmentally friendly society we've gotten used to. Just imagine, if we did not have high-yield agriculture today, we would have to put under the plow an area equal to South America and another half of South America, in other words, one and a half times South America, just to feed today's world population. That's the kind of efficiency that industry has created in this past century.
More and more, we are seeing people of retirement age moving from the city to rural Ontario. This demographic trend is well-documented, both here in Canada as well as throughout the US. It has only been recently that we've reached a milestone never seen before in this century where more people are now moving from the city to rural Ontario than are moving from rural Ontario to the city. Up until now, throughout this century it's been unprecedented the number of people moving to the city.
Professor David Foot from the University of Toronto wrote a very interesting book a few years ago called Boom, Bust and Echo.
Mr Wildman: Sounds like your speech.
Mr Galt: In that book it talks about how rural migration will be speeding up the next century. It will be really dramatic. Boom, bust and echo; you're right on.
Also, it cites that particularly east of Toronto this will be very true and that, of course, is Northumberland, Peterborough county and those general areas. We're going to see in the next century a tremendous expansion.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): And Durham East.
Mr Galt: Durham East as well, you're absolutely right, and Hastings. We're going to see tremendous expansion and pressures out in that area.
This trend is also identified in Faith Popcorn's book. She talks about future trends in her book called The Popcorn Report. It talks about people cashing out on their expensive homes, moving and buying a cheaper home in rural Ontario. Certainly this is true, as Foot talks in his book about people cashing out their expensive homes in Toronto, moving to rural Ontario, buying homes at half or a quarter of the price and, with the difference, investing it for a really nice pension while they're living in their retirement years.
Foot also indicates that they're not just moving to rural Ontario, moving to small towns; they tend to be moving to lots that are five to 10 acres in size and sort of mixing in with the agricultural community. This is becoming a real challenge to local and municipal politicians, to farmers and to planners, because we don't want to end up as victims of urban sprawl, reducing and taking away all kinds of productive farmland. That is very, very important to the people of Ontario.
But this migration to rural Ontario is creating all kinds of problems for farm land and for agricultural production. Now is the time to plan, because as we move down the road, these baby boomers who will soon be retiring will be moving to rural Ontario. This particular bill, the Farm Practices Protection Act, will be proactive to address some of the traditional areas of conflict that occur between farmers and non-farmers and also between farmers and farmers. Certainly some farmers are not very tolerant of what some other farmers do.
I think we should first recognize that the agricultural industry in Ontario is a $25-billion industry. It is tremendously important to our provincial economy and it does indeed deserve our support on both sides of the House. Second, it protects farmers' rights to produce safe, reliable and high-quality food that is enjoyed by so many of the people in Ontario, but not only in Ontario, because we export so much of our food internationally and it's recognized as high quality throughout the world. Third, it provides farmers with the assurance that they can conduct their business and produce food without nuisance lawsuits or unnecessary restrictive bylaws.
In reverse, it also gives some protection to the newcomer to rural Ontario, one who may not understand what normal rural practices are. They might complain or not complain, and they won't be taken advantage of. They'll better understand because of this bill what their rights are. I think that's tremendously important as well.
This act establishes a normal Farm Practices Protection Board. This will ensure that there is fairness, both for farmers as well as for the new residents, the non-farming residents who enjoy rural Ontario and want to live in rural Ontario. Farmers will be able to apply to this board to recognize rulings on practices under dispute and realize that it's two-sided.
There will be public education by OMAFRA to give information to potential rural property buyers, real estate agents, farmers and municipal authorities to let them know what normal farm practices are. There will be an information campaign that'll be a joint effort. This bill is certainly a proactive approach to deal with problems before they start. It's very important to realize that this will not override any provincial legislation in place; it will protect health, safety, the environment, and it certainly will not discourage anybody moving from cities to rural Ontario. Certainly we in Northumberland want to welcome those people with open arms.
In closing, this bill will lead to better, more informed bylaws. It will improve the public understanding regarding agriculture in Ontario. This bill seeks to establish a balance between the right of farmers to conduct their business and the rights of residents to live in our rural communities.
It was a wise farmer who once told me that if something is inevitable, then it is indeed not debatable. I'm confident that this bill will promote greater understanding and protection of the farm industry that provides Ontarians with the essentials of modern life: great food. I'm pleased, Mr Speaker, to be able to enthusiastically support this bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bernard Grandmaître): Questions and comments?
Mr Marchese: Mr Speaker, just two short minutes to respond to much of what he spoke about in terms of process. I find it a very curious thing that the member for Northumberland would say, like mon ami M. Villeneuve, that the reason they could not proceed with this particular bill is because our leader, Howard Hampton, hasn't been around. I find that a bit incomprehensible. Our leader has been around here all of the time, every day, with rare exceptions. But if I gather from his comments that he says, "We couldn't do much of that because he wasn't available," does that mean we should keep our leader out of this place so as to prevent most bills or any other bills that they might want to present from being presented? Is that the argument that they are advancing? It appears to me a ludicrous way of governing, if that were the case.
The way to govern as they have is that they have used their majority most of the time to do what they wanted. They've done it with Bill 26; they've done it with the amalgamation of the city of Toronto; they've done it with Bill 160, in spite of the tremendous opposition from over 100,000 teachers and people who were very interested in opposing that particular bill. In spite of that, they've used their 81 members, which in this place makes it a majority, to override the wishes of the opposition, not just members, but the wishes of the opposition outside of this place. They have governed in that way except, it appears, in this particular case, where they could not present the bill because our leader, Howard Hampton, hasn't been around, says he.
I find it a curious way of arguing. I hope they can advance the argumentation a little more effectively so that we can have better presentation of the issues in this House.
Mr O'Toole: It's my pleasure to acknowledge the remarks made by the member for Northumberland with respect to Bill 146, farm practices protection. I think it's long overdue and I really urge all members to allow this to proceed to third reading this evening.
I'm very proud to comment on not only the families but the amount of produce that's produced in the riding of Durham East. It's east of Oshawa. We're right on the very margin of urban growth. There's the pressure of urban growth and the pressures of farm practices. This is where the two collide; they don't coexist very well. I thank Minister Villeneuve for bringing this important discussion before the House to ensure the practices of farming today are allowed to exist.
In my riding we have a wide variety of production in apples. Certainly when I mention apples, I think of Irwin Smith from Ocala Winery. Imagine that, a winery right in my riding of Durham East. It's the most northerly winery, apparently, in Ontario. Also, I think of Archibald's. Just this past summer they opened up a winery themselves. The diversification in the farm business today is there meeting the future by changing its practices. This government is supporting those practices.
I'll also mention that an important commodity is the dairy and milk production. Immediately I think of the Van Camps who just invested over $180,000 recently in expanding a new, modern, up-to-date barn and milking facility.
I think also of the pork producers. Dave Frew and his family immediately come to mind, who have not only expanded their operations, they've improved their operations as well.
I could go on all night. When I think of the most logical explanation of our area, it is Garnet Rickard, who is well recognized for the development of the seed industry. Durham East is well represented. I thank the minister -
The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Thank you. Further questions and comments? Okay, the member for Northumberland.
Mr Galt: Just responding to the members who have commented, I certainly appreciate the comments from the member for Durham East giving support to the bill and to my comments earlier.
The member for Fort York is all excited about what's going on, but I can tell you that the minister has been pushing for this bill, has been pushing very hard. He's desperate to get this bill through. He wants it through. The farmers from Northumberland have been phoning me wanting it through. I've talked to him. He pleads for it. Why hasn't it gone?
I think you can see tonight, your critic, the leader, was the first to speak for an hour. That's because he wasn't here. It was brought forward in the fall, and now he got his hour. All you need is cooperation. It would have been here. You can see tonight, with the lack of cooperation, it's "No" when we want to move to third reading. The federation of agriculture representatives are sitting here watching you people say no. The Liberals want it, everybody here wants it and you are saying no, no, no. Try saying yes. We'd just love to put it through.
Mr Marchese: Tomorrow is the session's last day.
Mr Galt: It's just an excellent bill. It's all good news. I know it's tough to have good news but we just want to get on with it. Your leader suggested Monday morning. I'm willing to be here Monday morning to get it approved if your party will be here.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr Galt: You just say the word and I'll be here, because this is an important bill to get through and get looked after. Certainly the minister has been concerned. He's worked hard at it. He's gone across this province with his parliamentary assistant to find out what it is that the rural population needs, both farmers and the newcomers, those who are not farmers, to know what is needed in this particular bill.
I can tell you, it's been well worked out. It's going to address most, if not all, of the issues. All you have to do is say yes and we'll get on with third reading.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate? The member for St Catharines.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Now the voice of reason.
Mr Bradley: Here is the voice. I want to thank my colleagues. They should recognize that within the provincial constituency of St Catharines there are indeed some farms and within the expanded constituency of St Catharines there are a large number of farms. The Minister of Agriculture would know that over the years I have, as an urban member, spoken out on behalf of the farming community in this province, who I believe play a very significant role in both our economy and our environment.
I can recall when I had the opportunity to be Minister of the Environment that many of the people who were strongest in insisting upon the best of environmental practices were members of the farming community. The reason for that is quite obvious. That is because they would feel the impact directly of bad environmental practices within their own property. For this reason, I know that those who are supporting this bill within the farming community will have uppermost in their minds as well the protection of the environment. Many of the people over the years who have lodged complaints, legitimate complaints, I might say, have been members of the farm community who may have observed someone else not engaged in the kind of practices they would want on a farm. This bill, I'm sure, with the provisions in it, will continue to protect the environment, as it should be.
Some people have mentioned, and I heard it mentioned just a moment ago, the fact that a number of urban people are moving to the countryside, moving to areas where farms predominate. One of the problems that exists is that some of the people who move from the urban area to a rural area want to retain the urban services and the urban way of life they had, at least the best of that, and also enjoy the best of rural life. So a conflict can arise between those who move to the countryside and those who already reside there and are engaged in farming practices.
I believe that farmers are entitled on the lands that they hold to be able to farm as they see fit within the rules and regulations and legislation and policies of the government of Ontario and the government of Canada. It annoys me to no end when urban people move to the countryside and then express their views about noise, about dust and dirt and about odours, because one must recognize that if someone is moving to the countryside, if one is moving into an area where farming practices are being carried out, there is an obligation to fit in with that area and not to ask farmers to cease and desist from normal farming practices which may produce odours, may produce dust and dirt and may produce noise. I think those municipalities which, if not encourage, easily acquiesce to people moving from urbanized areas to rural areas should recognize that those who are in the rural areas farming their land should certainly be entitled to do so in a fashion that is conducive to good farming practices.
I am very concerned when I see the number of severances that are granted in certain parts of the province, because I think the severances are a problem for people in the farming areas. What often happens is that on those severances we have urban people moving out, and when a city allows several of these severances and allows the urban people to move out to the countryside, it is often detrimental to the normal farming practices which take place. I know many members of the Federation of Agriculture and other farm organizations have expressed concern when they have seen severance practices from certain municipalities which have not been conducive to carrying on farming as it should be carried on. When we see holus-bolus granting of severances, when we see urban services being thrust on rural areas and rural people then forced to pay for those, we see some discontent there.
I know that makes the developers happy. I know that in some cases some developers would like to develop on prime agricultural land. We have a unique resource in this province, and that is our prime agricultural land, but we cannot say to farmers in the province that you must stay on the land, that you must only farm the land, if we're not prepared to provide supports to the farmers. This can happen in two ways: either Canadians are prepared to pay the appropriate price for the product that farmers produce or they must be prepared to support farmers in many ways that aren't necessarily available to those who reside in urban areas.
To this point in time, it has been very difficult on many occasions for farmers to obtain from their land the appropriate price for the products they produce. Indeed, there have been occasions when farmers have produced product at a certain price and have had to sell it at a loss. Sometimes, and we always hope it's the majority of the time, farmers are able to produce product which provides a profit. But we do have an obligation as urban dwellers, as rural dwellers, as those in semirural areas, to ensure that our farmers are appropriately supported in difficult times, because of course their operations are subject to weather conditions, to climatic conditions, which can cause great damage. They also sometimes require some assistance or some special consideration in terms of the taxation policies of a province. I never begrudge this to members of the rural community, to those who farm the land, because I believe that is essential for our province.
It is extremely important economically and it is important in terms of our ethical position within the world that we continue to produce food, not only for our own people but for people in other countries. It is an obligation I believe we have as human beings here in our province because we are blessed with certain climatic conditions, with certain soil conditions and, of course, blessed with the expertise that our farmers have in this province and with some of the assistance that can be provided directly or indirectly through the Ministry of Agriculture, federally and provincially, and through some of our universities and colleges.
What we have to watch for is that we don't have developers buying up large tracts of land, refusing to have it farmed, having it lie without any specific use and then coming along to municipalities, saying, "See, the farmers aren't farming it so you might as well develop it." We keep encroaching further and further upon very valuable agricultural land.
Our country and our province are both large in mass, but when we look at the future needs of the world for food, or indeed for our own country, the land that is available where there is good soil or the combination of good soil and good climatic conditions for many products, particularly those which grow above the ground, that land is relatively limited. Yes, we're a bigger country than many, but that land is still limited. I think we have an obligation to work to preserve that agricultural land in our province.
I lament the fact that when I drive from St Catharines to Toronto, I see more and more an erosion of that land, erosion not in the physical sense, but an erosion in a sense of development which is taking over prime agricultural land. It's enough to make some people cry to see what happens to our good agricultural land. So I encourage all members of the Legislature to keep our farmers on the farm, to keep them viable. This piece of legislation is one tool that can be used to ensure in some way that farmers are able to carry out their farming practices and to be successful in doing so.
I recall when I sat on St Catharines city council and we dealt with the issue of land designation and urban boundaries that I fought at that time for very restricted urban boundaries for our city. I know some people, unless they have paved every last centimetre of the land in their community, are not satisfied. That is considered to be progress. I know the Minister of Agriculture and I would be in agreement that we wouldn't want that to happen and we would reject that kind of thought about the agricultural land in this province, so I will continue to advocate on behalf of agricultural land and on behalf of the farmers on that land.
One of my concerns, and I hope the Minister of Agriculture will share this with his colleague the Minister of Finance and his other colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs, is that with the downloading that is taking place - and you may believe I'm doing this in a very political sense, but I'm trying to talk about a practical consideration - with the downloading of responsibility my fear is that municipalities will be more inclined to grant severances which would not be conducive to the best land production out there. I hope that the downloading doesn't have that effect but I am not particularly optimistic about that at this time.
I also want to express regret that the government has decided, with its obsession for appealing to the extreme right wing, to remove seats from rural areas. I know that if you remove the seats from the rural areas, those of us in urban areas then probably have more say, but I think it's important that we have a significant number of members of this assembly who speak on behalf of farmers and people who reside in rural areas. This huge consolidation of seats in many areas of the province simply to satisfy the extreme right, simply to appeal to certain groups who think this is important, we are in that case not doing the right thing if we are to do so.
I want to say as well that with the environmental practices that we're involved in, farmers again, above almost everybody else, recognize that preventive practices are more important than curative practices. First, they're far more economical and, second, they prevent the problem before it exists. So for those who would be fearful that members of the farm community are somehow wanting to overshadow or overrule the Ministry of the Environment, they should know again that farmers have a vested interest in good environmental practices which will not end up causing them problems.
I remember the problem, as my friend the Minister of Agriculture will, with alachlor at one time, when alachlor got into the wells. It didn't so much get into the wells of urban areas, it got into the wells of rural areas, and so curative action had to be taken to solve that problem, and I know all of us would want to see action taken which would prevent this kind of problem, and I don't think this bill will have a detrimental effect on that.
Since I have the opportunity to do so, there are some farms on the Niagara Escarpment, and I want to tell my friend the Minister of the Environment, who was at one time responsible for the Niagara Escarpment Commission before it was wrestled away from him by the Premier - because he was doing too good a job, I suspect - that there are some farm operations on the Niagara Escarpment and on lands adjacent to the Niagara Escarpment, and I hope that we don't make the mistake of allowing widespread development on that.
I know within the confines of the cabinet that my friend Mr Sterling, the Minister of the Environment, will be bringing that message home. He will want to ensure, as would my friend from Dufferin-Peel I'm sure, that the people who sit on the Niagara Escarpment Commission are those who are dedicated to preserving that land, because I have seen some applications where there is already what we call - I discussed this earlier privately with my friend the Minister of Agriculture - the new buzzword is "agritourism," and it can be very beneficial. Let me assure you it can be very beneficial.
In the Niagara Peninsula we have wineries which sometimes have restaurants, and it's right at the farm, but you look out and all you can see for acres and acres, I assure you, are the vineyards. Now there are people coming forward who want to put more than just the winery or more than just the restaurant on the land, so what started out as a good idea, that is, agritourism, starts into development of this land where they are soon going to want to put, as I say, the Escarpment Hilton or some other development. I know my friend the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and my friend the Minister of the Environment will be resisting those applications, will be speaking out against those applications, because one knows the importance of preserving agricultural land and the other knows the importance of preserving the escarpment.
I wanted to make sure I did not take my full time this evening, just to demonstrate to you that there are occasions when it isn't necessary to take the full time. I am glad that we have had a debate on this bill. I am glad that it has come forward before us. I know that any who may make representations concerning this will have those representations listened to with care. If there are any modifications either in a legislative sense or a regulatory sense that would come later, I know they will come only with the appropriate consultation with those who are directly affected.
It is my pleasure to speak, as I say, in support of members of our farming community. I wish them well. I wish that we will preserve that prime agricultural land across the province and, most of all, I wish that we will preserve the viability of our farming operations right across Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments? Further debate?
Mr Villeneuve has moved second reading of Bill 146. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Speaker, may I take this opportunity to thank all of those who participated in the second reading debate.
Mr Wildman: It's a little out of order, but thanks very much.
The Deputy Speaker: It is out of order, but -
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Then I simply say that I do, to some degree reluctantly, refer the bill to the standing committee on resources development.
The Deputy Speaker: The bill is accordingly referred to the standing committee on resources development? Agreed? Agreed.
SUPPLY ACT, 1997 / LOI DE CRÉDITS DE 1997
Mr Baird, on behalf of Mr Eves, moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 175, An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 1998 / Projet de loi 175, Loi autorisant le paiement de certaines sommes destinées à la fonction publique pour l'exercice se terminant le 31 mars 1998.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Bill 175 provides the legal approval for expenditures made during the fiscal year ending March 31, 1998, based on the approved estimates. Supply bills, of course, are a normal part of the government spending process. However, the expenditures approved in Bill 175 reflect this government's commitment to spend less money while at the same time reducing the size of government. We know we are spending taxpayers' money, not ours, and we are accountable for every dollar the government spends. This government is committed to the principle of accountability to the taxpayer in everything it does. Our plan is based on the needs of the people of the province of Ontario.
During our first two and a half years in office, we posed many tough questions and looked for answers. We looked at how other jurisdictions changed the way they provided services. We faced very serious challenges and made difficult decisions, many of which had been avoided for many years. Madam Speaker, the results have been remarkable, and I know you'd agree.
We have drastically cut out-of-control government spending and are dramatically reducing its overbearing size. We have cut taxes a total of 30 times in two budgets. We are restructuring our relationship with local government and delineating responsibility for services best provided at the municipal level. We have refocused social assistance funding and rebalanced our labour laws. We have eliminated hundreds of unnecessary regulations, to let the private sector get on with creating jobs and growth.
This is a crucial break from past governments which saw the provincial government grow ever larger, more costly and more out of touch with the very people it was there to serve. We are demanding that government operate like a business by introducing a rigorous business planning process for every ministry.
The process identifies objectives and sets targets to measure results. It ensures accountability and signals which programs are no longer relevant to the needs of the people of Ontario. We are committed to maintaining the quality of services by finding ways of delivering them more efficiently. We are protecting priority services within a more affordable, innovative government. In other words, we are focusing on results that put the people of Ontario first. Our cautious and prudent fiscal approach has kept us on track for a balanced budget by the year 2000-01. The deficit for 1997-98 will decline to $5.6 billion from the $6.6 billion we projected just a few short months ago in the 1997 budget.
We are eliminating the deficit in a planned and manageable fashion. To date we have cut our own administrative spending in our government by 33% and have reduced our own bureaucracy by more than 17%, or 14,000 full-time positions. At the same time, we are making significant reinvestment into priority services and important restructuring that will save us money in the future and provide us with very important returns today.
For example, we are investing more than $2 billion into health care restructuring and an additional $140 million this year for essential services like dialysis, transplants and cardiac care services - cardiac care services like the excellent work they do at the Ottawa Heart Institute where Dr Wilbert Keon is the director-general and there is the tremendous staff they have there, Dr Higginson, Dr Beanlands and company - an internationally well-respected heart institute right here in Ontario.
In our last two budgets we announced major reinvestment into education, including $650 million for school capital projects, a tremendously important issue in the constituency of Nepean where overcrowding is a very serious concern. The government led by Premier Harris and the then Minister of Education, John Snobelen, announced $650 million, of which $20 million is going to Barr Haven, a community in my riding, where they're building two high schools, with the first high school already well under way, and the photo is here from the sod-turning.
The contractor is a well-respected Canadian company doing a good job. The member for Ottawa-Rideau should know they've already got the crane out there, the hole is in the ground and they're already putting the walls up. It's a very good project. I know the member for Ottawa-Rideau was very supportive of that initiative as well, and the Carleton Roman Catholic school board building that school is building it very efficiently, very wisely and very well. The Carleton Roman Catholic school board runs a very good, efficient operation. They spend 40% less than one of the neighbouring boards and actually get higher student achievement on many of the key indicators. They do a very good job.
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): How much are they going to be cut?
Mr Baird: The member for Windsor-Riverside says - under the funding formula they could very well get more money. They operate such an efficient funding formula and they get better results by spending 40% less than the board across the street, across Baseline Road. They do a very terrific job.
Mr Lessard: Then they should cut more.
Mr Baird: I know you don't want to hear about the good news in Nepean and how the Carleton Roman Catholic school board and Phil Rocco and June Flynn-Turner do business. That's the good news.
In this fiscal year we're also spending $300 million for the Ontario student opportunities trust fund and $500 million for the provincial share of the research and development challenge fund. R&D is a big job creator in my part of the province: Nortel, Newbridge and a lot of small high-tech firms, growing. This measure is designed to help more and to help our university system.
Ontario's second-quarter finances show that this government's plan is working. Ontario's economy is responding with both jobs and growth, and renewed confidence and optimism. I noticed a number of industries in Fort York in the riding of my colleague M. Marchese are making record profits this year, some very profitable enterprises in Fort York, creating a lot of jobs. In Fort York alone the endangered species of the crane is now reappearing across the skylines of Fort York riding, since 1995.
Mr Baird: I arrived here in 1995. I didn't see a lot of cranes in Fort York, but everywhere you look out in Fort York you can see evidence that the Mike Harris plan is working.
Ontario's economy is responding with jobs and growth and renewed confidence and optimism. Even while we are experiencing the largest restructuring ever undertaken in Ontario, consumer and business confidence remains high. Real economic growth is at 4.4% in Ontario, compared to 3.7% for Canada. So something is happening in Ontario that just isn't taking place in other parts of the country. The provincial government's plan is yielding some solid economic growth.
Madam Speaker, housing starts have increased by 27%, and I know you're excited about that because that's good news for home builders, it's good news for those enterprises which produce appliances and other products. It puts a lot of folks to work, whether in Fort York or Riverdale or Nepean or Etobicoke-Humber or Hamilton West or High Park-Swansea, and that's good news for people wanting to provide for their families.
We have consistently said, and now we have proven, that you can cut taxes and spending at the same time and still see an increase in revenue as the private sector creates more and better jobs across the province. Tax cuts are building confidence and economic momentum to boost private sector growth. Lower tax rates have provided increased incentives for investment, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): How right can you be?
Mr Baird: The member for St Catharines says, "How right can you be?" Well, we're obviously very right. The plan is working.
These in turn lead to a more dynamic economy and a permanently higher growth rate rather than short-term job creation. The private sector has created 204,000 new jobs in the past nine months in the province.
Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): How many?
Mr Baird: The member for Hamilton West asks, "How many?" It's 204,000. That's a lot of new jobs in places like Cambridge, where they are doing very well at Toyota, and in High Park-Swansea.
While a great deal has been done, while a great amount has been accomplished to date, the job is not yet done. We will continue to explore the most cost-effective ways for government to nurture new job growth. We will continue to work hard to ensure taxpayers' dollars are spent wisely and well. We will press on to do what is in the best interests of the Ontario economy and in the best interests of the people of Ontario, so that once again Ontario is the economic engine of Canada, so that once again Ontario will be a magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity, and not known as a mismanaged debtor that's overgoverned, overregulated and overtaxed. Ontario once again will be the economic engine of Canada.
In the second fiscal quarter of this year, April to June, we saw economic growth annualized at a rate of 7.2% in Ontario - incredibly good news. The plan is working and the economy is looking up. We're looking forward to a prosperous 1998 where we can build more jobs for those who have been left out to date and build on the successes.
This Supply Act will allow us to pay the salaries of the hardworking public servants in Ontario and to proceed to meet those important obligations. They have worked extremely hard in many areas of the Ontario public service. They have been an example of efficiency in the major changes that have taken place. They have responded and the efficiency rating in many areas is actually improving.
Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Morale is going up.
Mr Baird: "Morale is going up," the member for High Park-Swansea says.
This bill is an important part of the financial plan, where the deficit is coming down, where job creation is going up, where hope is going up, where opportunities for a brighter economic future are going up.
Mrs Ross: How many jobs did you say?
Mr Baird: I said 204,000 this year. I know the member for Hamilton West, like I, speaks out regularly for job creation initiatives. I suspect the member for High Park-Swansea, the member for Hamilton West and I are three of the leading proponents of job creation initiatives and are committed to ensuring that we change the way we do business, committed to ensuring that we can address job creation initiatives in the province, because we want to build on the successes of the government of Ontario.
The Supply Act before us today will allow the government to do just that. We look forward to a good debate on the financial issues before the province related to this Supply Act.
With that, I would pass on the rest of my time to my good colleagues in opposition. The member for St Catharines will probably get up and help us put this issue in context, which is always an important part of this debate. As always, we look forward to that debate. I also look forward to hearing my good friend M. Marchese, the member for Fort York. He'll tell us about the sightings of that endangered species in his riding, the crane, which is popping up everywhere, all along Bay Street. A lot of big enterprises in his riding are doing very well.
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): They're coming back from Buffalo.
Mr Baird: The member for Ottawa-Rideau says that all these business people are coming back from Buffalo, back to Toronto. That's good news. I know the member for Fort York is pleased with the job creation and I know he's going to want to get up and talk about the economic success stories.
This bill is needed to help the government of Ontario meet its financial obligations and ensure that the taxpayers of Ontario meet their obligations to the hardworking public servants in the province. With those comments, I yield the balance of my time.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions and comments?
Mr Bradley: I was surprised the member for Nepean did not have a situation where he mentioned the charity casinos. I thought he may be able to help me with the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who refuses to say that he will deny to those communities which have turned down those casinos by referendum or plebiscite a casino in those areas.
Clearly the people have spoken through the vote, through the ballot, and yet the minister wants to use - I use this advisedly - bribes, that is, $1,500 per video lottery terminal or electronic slot machine to offer to the municipality that's getting desperate now because of the downloading, or the intimidation factor, which is that he gets the local charities to phone the councillors and say, "If we don't have a charity casino" - or as I call them, the new Mike Harris gambling halls - "in our community, then our charities are going to suffer." So it's the combination of the bribe and the intimidation tactic that will be used on local councillors.
I want the member for Nepean to assure me that in no municipality where they were turned down by referendum or plebiscite in the last municipal election, or any other special vote, will there be a charity casino or a new Mike Harris gambling hall. He would recognize that they will operate potentially 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will vacuum all of the discretionary money out of that community, cause great social problems, prey upon the most vulnerable, desperate and addicted people with the most seductive machines, the electronic slot machines, and also have a detrimental effect on other businesses which will not enjoy those expenditures.
Mr Lessard: It was interesting to listen to the member for Nepean talk about how successful this government's program has been, how, because of what they've been doing, they've been able to increase spending on health care in the province of Ontario. How many people in Ontario think the health care system is improving?
In the city of Windsor, I can tell you there aren't very many who do. They see what's happening with health care restructuring and they see the closing of hospitals without suitable in-home services. They have no adequate facilities to take the place of the emergency rooms that are closing. It means there are longer waits for elective surgery. The emergency rooms are in chaos. Prescription costs for seniors are going up and I don't think anybody in the Windsor area really is happy about the health care restructuring that's going on there.
We had a plan. It was called the Win-Win report. It was money that was allocated to improve health care services in the city of Windsor. When this government got elected in June 1995 it said: "No way, we don't like your plan. It doesn't matter what was promised. We're going to send in our hospital closing commission to tell you a better way to do it." Nobody in Windsor believes it's a better way.
He also talked about improvements to the school system in Nepean, trying to explain to members opposite and members who happen to be watching tonight that if you spend less on education, you're going to be improving quality. Maybe that's a signal about what this funding formula is really going to mean. We know that some are going to go up, some are going to go down, but we think spending across the board is going to be ratcheted down. This is a race to the bottom. That's what we're talking about and that's what he means about decreasing spending on education to improve quality. Nobody's buying it.
He talked about job creation as well. We want to know where they are, what kind -
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Further questions and comments? Member for Nepean, you can wrap up.
Mr Baird: I want to thank my colleagues from St Catharines and Windsor-Riverside for their comments. I know they were just as excited as I was to see the columns in the paper the other day: "Economy Grows at Steady Clip in Third Quarter: Consumer, Business Spending Rises, as Does Personal Income..."; "Tories on Target"; and this exciting one, I know they'll be very pleased about this, "Ontario Biz Most Upbeat: Survey."
Do they want a number of reasons why they should vote for Bill 175? It permits the payment of the public service. A vote for this bill will help remunerate the hard-working folks who work in the Ontario government and around Queen's Park, hardworking public servants here in Ontario like Donna Duncan, hardworking public servants like Barbara Colantonio, like Michael Hamilton, like Erik Hempill. This will allow the government of Ontario to meet its obligation - hardworking public servants like Steve Pengally. There are a number of very good reasons to vote for this very important piece of legislation.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I'm very pleased to get up on this debate when we're talking about supply in this province. I think everyone should understand that sooner or later, and it better be sooner rather than later, we are going to vote for this. We're not going to prolong the debate. Of course the main reason for that is that we too want to make sure the public servants in this province are going to get paid, and we want to make sure all those people who rely on the social services of this province are going to get their cheques at the proper time, particularly around Christmastime.
Certainly the opposition doesn't want to be accused of holding anybody hostage. That's why this is called at one of the very last times, because governments know that the longer they stall supply, the less debate there will be on the supply bill. They know that sooner or later the opposition will have to allow the matter to come to a vote, because obviously we want to make sure the civil servants of this province get paid and also all the people who are relying on different kinds of services.
We also know that when we discuss supply we can talk about a broad range of issues, and I will be talking about a broad range of issues. I will be splitting my time with the member for Yorkview and perhaps the member for St Catharines as well.
Mr Bradley: And the member for Renfrew North.
Mr Gerretsen: And the member for Renfrew North, who is temporarily not in this room, but he'll be right back.
There's probably no better issue that shows the complete and utter incompetence of this government than the figures that were released, you may recall, last Thursday in the darkness of the night dealing with the actual downloading numbers for each and every municipality.
What was very interesting is that the Tory members immediately took a look at all the individual sheets for their particular municipality and said: "Net change? Zero. Hey, it's revenue-neutral. The amount that's being downloaded on to municipalities is exactly the same as the amount that's being uploaded with respect to education taxes to the province."
Unfortunately that's as far as they looked. If they had read the document a little bit closer, they would realize that the net effect of all of the changes of services and who pays for them in Ontario is the fact that in addition to the $665 million that has been withdrawn from municipalities in the municipal support grant system that has operated in this province for many, many years - so municipalities are going to be out that $665 million - they are expected to come up with another $565 million. So in effect, municipalities, as a result of all of these changes, have been shortchanged a total of $1.2 billion.
The government has a problem, because the Premier has said, both at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference and many, many times thereafter in this House, as has the Deputy Premier, the Treasurer, as has the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, that all of these transfers and changes were revenue-neutral. Now of course we know that they're not revenue-neutral, that one of two things will happen: Either the services in municipalities will be reduced if the municipalities really don't want there to be any tax increases at all or else taxes are going to have to go up.
What we have suspected all along is actually happening. That is the fact that the province expects the municipalities of Ontario to do its dirty work so that it can still get its tax cut on January 1 and have the better-off people in this province benefit to a much larger extent, and in effect the property taxes in the province of Ontario will go up. That is the tradeoff, and I think the people have to understand that.
I would just like to take an opportunity to read from an editorial in my local newspaper, the Kingston Whig-Standard, a paper that I think is well regarded throughout the province. Let me just read you some sections of this editorial. This is a paper, I might say, that hasn't always been all that much in favour of the Liberal Party of Ontario. There is another editorial as well, which I won't read, in which they feel that maybe we would have done a lot of these same things, because they somehow equate a 30% tax cut with the 1% tax cut per year that we proposed in the 1995 election. Anybody who knows anything about arithmetic knows there is a heck of a difference between a 30% tax cut and a 1% tax cut per year. A 30% tax cut is about 30 times larger.
In any event, this is what this paper has to say:
"In the cold, harsh light of a Monday morning in December, municipal administrators across Ontario sat down to review provincial downloading figures.
"Finance Minister Ernie Eves announced on Friday that downloading - the swap of services between the province and local governments - would cost municipalities an extra $565 million. The new city of Kingston will have to cut about $10 million from its budget next year - on top of about $16 million in savings that have been made through amalgamation efficiencies.
"Municipal officials across the province will be turning one key phrase over and over again in their minds - `revenue-neutral.' That's the promise made over the past year by Eves and Premier Mike Harris."
It then goes on to say, "The definition of what `revenue-neutral' meant prior to Friday's announcement, versus what it means now, will be debated for some time."
He talks about Mayor Lastman and what he called the Premier, and I can't say that in the House. I guess you can read it in your newspaper as to what he said the Premier had done.
Mr Bradley: Does it rhyme with "choir"?
Mr Gerretsen: It rhymes with "choir," but that's about as close as I can come to it because I do not want to say anything that is not of a parliamentary nature here.
He goes on to say: "And once again, Ontario's financially challenged municipalities are faced with either cutting services or raising taxes. Chopping nearly $10 million from the $216-million Kingston budget, increasing taxes by up to 12%, or a combination of the two, will be painful....
"In his letter to municipal councils last Friday, Eves wrote: `These numbers show the realignment is fiscally neutral across the province, as promised. The province is taking on about $3 billion of funding commitments and the municipalities are gaining control and management of about $3 billion worth of new responsibilities.' Still, there remains the small matter of $565 million."
Then he says, "Untruths, damned untruths and statistics" - actually, he used another word - "in this case, none of them add up to something called `revenue-neutral.'"
The same thing was said in the St Catharines Standard: Semantics of downloading don't obscure the sorry, sorry truth.
I guess the thing that I find surprising about this whole aspect of it, as we have seen so often with this government, is the fact that they are really being intellectually not honest. Why can't they just admit to the people of Ontario, "We have to find another $565 million and you're going to have to pay for it"?
Mr Gerretsen: Well, you wouldn't want me to say it now because you'd hold that I wasn't parliamentary in my speech, and I certainly wouldn't want to do that.
The point of the matter is quite simply this: The people of Ontario have to clearly understand that $1.2 billion more services have been transferred to them, or less revenues will be taken in by municipalities from provincial sources.
I guess we will see in the long run who is right. To my own calculation, we will probably find out some time in May when people start getting their second tax bills. I would think that in most municipalities the first tax bill that goes out some time in January, February or March of next year will probably take a percentage of last year's tax bill so that people still won't really know what the effect is going to be. But I would say that probably by May or so, or June at the latest, people will have a clear understanding as to whether or not in their individual case they will be paying more in property taxes than before.
That is what I refer to as the Tory math, that somehow a $1.2-billion download can still be called "revenue-neutral."
But there is also a tremendous amount of incompetence going on. I have here a lower-tier detail sheet for Frontenac Island township. This is a township that is newly created and made up of Howe Island and Wolfe Island, with a total population of about 1,500 to 1,600 people. The total tax revenue in real estate taxes on both of these islands probably amounts to about $800,000 or $900,000. According to this community reinvestment fund, the 1998 allocation shows that for residential education property taxes, $3.7 million has been attributed to these 1,600 people living on these two islands.
You may recall that the member for Essex South had exactly the same thing happen with respect to Pelee Island. I believe in his case it was something like two point something million for about 200 or 300 people.
When I asked for a clarification from the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, a member of this House, a man I have the highest regard for, I will say - I served with him municipally on AMO for a number of years - said, "Well, there's been a mistake." He said the same thing to Mr Crozier. "Oh, there's been a mistake on your forms too."
When I spoke to some of the financial people in Kingston, they said: "Well, there have been more mistakes than that. Did you know that the ambulance services for all of the county of Frontenac, including the city of Kingston, have just been allocated against what used to be the county's budget and none of these costs have been attributed to the city of Kingston budget?" Today, Mayor Gary Bennett himself, who is going to be the new mayor of the newly reconstructed city of Kingston, which takes in the former Kingston township and Pittsburgh township as well as the city of Kingston, said to me, "We obviously have to pay our ambulance bills," and in the download figures that they were handed last Thursday there was no mention at all about the ambulance services.
In other cases I have heard, for example, that social housing costs have either been attributed entirely to the county and none to the city in the county, or entirely to the city and none to the county at all. The point is that these figures aren't even correct. They are either totally manufactured, some have been left off - nobody really knows. That is just one aspect of the incompetence of this particular government.
The other issue I want to talk about deals with the incompetence in the whole area of health services. We have all heard stories about the restructuring committee going around the province and recommending that about 44 different hospitals so far be closed. We all know that all you have to do is walk into a hospital and you realize that the nursing service that's available isn't there the way it was three or four or five years ago. In my own case, one of my wife's relatives is in the hospital currently. They almost prefer to have family members stay there so that the nurses are freer to look after the other patients.
You may recall it wasn't all that long ago when visiting hours in a hospital were severely restricted. You were told to be there for maybe no more than two hours in the afternoon and no more than two hours in the evening. Now, in serious situations, they want family members to stay there because they realize they just don't have the nursing care available any more.
That is a really sorry indictment on our health care system. If there was one thing we were known for and one thing that really added to our quality of life in Ontario, it was the fact that we had good quality health care for all of our citizens. It was universally accessible and available to anyone who needed it, and it didn't matter at all how much money you had in your pocket before you got those services. As we have seen them deteriorate over the years, you wonder what is going to happen to our system. Is privatized health care around the corner, and what is it going to do to our public health care system?
Mr Gerretsen: I see that the member for Ottawa-Rideau, the former judge and heckler extraodinaire in this House, can't accept being told these truths. All I would say to you, sir, as you go home to Ottawa-Rideau this Christmas and as you spend the next three or four weeks there, is go and talk to people who have had anything to do with hospital care over the last couple of years or so and ask them -
Interjection: You're asking him to talk to people?
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, I know I'm asking something extraordinary; I'm asking him to talk to some of his constituents. Go and talk to them and see what they think about hospital care and how that compares to the hospital care that was available to them five years ago or 10 years ago.
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Oh, Bill 92 and Bill 94: That's what you're talking about.
Mr Gerretsen: The Minister of Agriculture has an awful lot to say. That's the same minister who waited until the very last moment to bring back two bills, one that was introduced a year or so ago; we started second reading in September.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Come on.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, come on. Why didn't you bring it back, sir? In any event, I'm a great believer in the old saying: Thou protest too much, sir.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Bill 92 and Bill 94 is what you're talking about.
The Deputy Speaker: Minister of Agriculture, come to order.
Mr Gerretsen: Madam Speaker, you heard today the member for London Centre ask a question as to what's happened to mental health services in the Kingston area. I asked a similar question of the Minister of Health last week, because something really extraordinary happened there a week or so ago. A centre that has been almost like a home to about 150 people who have had mental health problems was abruptly closed. Two individuals came down from the Ministry of Health, didn't talk to the residents at all, put the locks on the building at 4:30 in the afternoon and said, "This is closed, finished," an absolutely extraordinary situation.
This action has been condemned in our local paper by the editorial staff of the Kingston Whig-Standard. There have been letters to the editor written about this. I can tell you honestly that in my 25 years in public service in one way or another, I have never seen as bad an action as was taken in this particular case, where for no apparent reason the locks were changed on a building so that people who lived in the relatively immediate neighbourhood no longer had that home environment available to them in order for them to meet, in order for them to socialize, in order for them to again get their self-esteem and their self-confidence. As of today, that matter has not as yet been resolved.
The minister has been saying the money is still available and it has now gone from agency A to agency B. I say I am not interested in the turf war between different agencies. I'm interested in only one thing, and that is to make sure those services are reinstated to the individuals as quickly as possible, that the door is opened up.
We've got an OHIP building in Kingston. We've got many people who work for the Ministry of Health. If need be, put one of them in charge, open the building, ask the employees to come back. If you think there are any kind of irregularities, or whatever you might think - I have no idea - put somebody in charge and make sure that environment is available again for those 150 to 160 people.
This is not a laughing matter. This is a matter in which we have taken the most vulnerable in our society and we've literally locked the door on them. The strange aspect of this whole thing is quite simply this: We give the worst possible tenants in the province of Ontario a month's notice before they have to move out of a building. Then of course you have to go through a whole process and the tenant may not get out. Here in this particular case, nobody was given any notice whatsoever. They just came around and changed the locks on the door. I think it's a disgraceful action.
I understand the minister wants to do something about it. I say to her and I say to the government, there are some very simple solutions. Put somebody from the Ministry of Health in charge - you've got those people there - and ask the local community to come up with a new board, a new organization, to actually run this operation. You will be doing the people who are involved in these services, who need those services on a day-to-day basis, a big favour.
As a matter of fact, our city council last night, by a unanimous vote - and there are many differences of opinion on our city council in Kingston, people of both the right persuasion and the left persuasion and everything.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: Where do you stand?
Mr Gerretsen: I stand with the people. I stand with those patients. I stand with those people who need those services.
I know that sometimes in ministries you can get so hung up with all the technicalities etc that you don't realize what really needs to be done. What really needs to be done here is to appoint somebody, open the door, let those services be available again for those people. I am prepared to work with anybody in the government, including the minister, to see that this happens and gets opened as quickly as possible. I'll even see that you get credit for it if you do.
Anyway, they passed a resolution:
"That the Kingston city council petition the Minister of Health to immediately re-establish the Kingston Community Counselling Centre and the Kingston Clubhouse Activity Centre; and
"Be it further resolved that the Kingston city council petition the Minister of Health to consult with the clients and their families, caregivers, mental health agencies and other interested citizens towards a plan which will best serve the ongoing mental health needs of our community." Carried unanimously by all the members of city council.
I know that sometimes the whole notion of government may get too much and it may get too complicated etc. There are sometimes fairly easy solutions to these problems that will serve everybody's best needs, particularly the best needs of the people who need those services. So I say it was an incompetent act, to say the least, for somebody to take this kind of drastic action when other solutions were possible.
You are the government that's in charge of what's happening this area. You were incompetent with respect to the figures that you're putting out about the municipal downloading and you showed a callous disrespect for the feelings of those individuals who are involved in this service.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: John, be fair.
Mr Gerretsen: I try to be fair. I always try to be fair, sir, in each and every way. But the ministry has had an opportunity to do something about this problem now for 10 days and nothing has happened, sir, so I'm pleading with you to make something happen. We can make it happen if we work on the solution collectively.
I could go on for a long time. There really is so much to say.
Mr Guzzo: Don't stop, please. Come on. We paid our money, we want the whole show.
Mr Gerretsen: The member says, "Don't stop." Let's talk about some of the other issues, then. You were a judge in court, sir.
The Deputy Speaker: Could you speak to the Chair, please.
Mr Gerretsen: I should address my comments to the Speaker.
I wonder, though, if the member for Ottawa-Rideau has had an opportunity to look at the 1997 annual report of the Provincial Auditor, particularly in those areas - I've brought this up a few times now, but I feel I will have to again because something has to be done about it, that is, the whole courts administration program.
Mr Guzzo: Did they mention Patti Starr this year?
Hon Mr Villeneuve: No, Patti Starr is not in there.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr Gerretsen: The people of Ontario should understand that currently there are 225,000 criminal charges pending in the Provincial Division, which happens to be the same number that were outstanding back in 1990 when the Askov decision was made. Fully 70,000 of these charges are more than eight months old, so they could possibly be subject to an Askov ruling.
I say to the government, why don't you follow the recommendations of the Provincial Auditor and do something about it? The Provincial Auditor states, "Despite the initiatives taken to date, the following chart indicates that backlogs have been increasing since 1994 and have the potential to develop into a situation similar to the one which resulted in the Askov decision." He is saying that the provincial government "can exercise considerable control in ensuring courtroom availability and providing adequate information to the judiciary and crown attorneys."
Something has to be done with this backlog. Do something about it. You are a former member of the judiciary. I'm sure you have tremendous influence with the Attorney General. Perhaps you could even show him some of the practical things you used to do in Ottawa to help him resolve this situation. I wish you would do something, sir.
The other thing that I find absolutely fascinating for a government that knows the cost of everything - you seem to know the cost of everything but the value of absolutely nothing in our society. There are $139 million worth of fines outstanding under the Highway Traffic Act. You like to pretend that you run government in a businesslike way. What I can't for the life of me understand is why you aren't trying to collect this $139 million. It's very interesting that 16,000 individuals have unpaid fines for five or more offences and 15,800 have at least $1,000 owing. The interesting thing is that the ministry knows where these people are.
Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): The judges refuse to -
Mr Gerretsen: No, sir, the judges have nothing to do with this. You can garnish these people's wages. You can garnish their bank accounts. You can put a lien against their real estate and property. What does the Provincial Auditor say? He states: "The payment notices from the ministry warn that, in addition to the licence suspension, failure to pay fines can result in other measures, such as... informing the credit bureau...requiring banks to deduct the money owing from the person's bank account or registering a lien against the person's real property. We noted" - now you listen to this, sir - "that none of these measures have been initiated by the ministry."
This is unbelievable. Why aren't you doing that? That way, we may get some of the $139 million that's owing to you and me as taxpayers of this province into the funds of the province so that money can be used either to reduce the deficit for the year or pay it on the debt or maybe even put it out in different programs or whatever. But right now that money is out there and we're not doing anything about it. That's under the Highway Traffic Act.
The other one that's very interesting is that there is something like $316 million owing in the collection of fines. Can you imagine that over $200 million are fines that have been outstanding for longer than two years? It's truly unbelievable, so I say do something about it. Have the Attorney General do something about it. Have the member from Ottawa-Rideau, with his tremendous amount of experience, do something about it. You're so eager to talk about welfare fraud and various other things, but this is the one area you're not doing anything about. Why aren't you doing anything about that?
There really is so much to say and so little time to say it in. I will be turning this over momentarily to my colleague from Yorkview, because I'm sure that he too has much to say about this.
I would like to finish by saying that, yes, some people in this province are better off than they were two and a half years ago, but there are also many people who are worse off. Probably the most stunning statistic, which the government has not revealed because it obviously feels this would somehow negate everything else it talks about, is the fact that we actually have more people unemployed in this province now than we did two and a half years ago. The Minister of Finance's own documentation clearly shows that in June 1995 there were 499,000 people unemployed in Ontario; in November of this year, according to your own documents, there are 502,000 people unemployed.
We are concerned to make sure that everybody in Ontario, to the best of their ability, is able to make their way in life through work. Most people want useful work, and the fact that more than half a million people are unemployed, more people than when you took office in 1995, is a shame and it's an indictment on your government. With that, I will turn the balance of my time over to the member for Yorkview.
Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Let me answer first the comment that was made that we should be fair. I think the member for Kingston and The Islands was more than fair in his comments. We on this side have been recognized to be reasonable in our approach when we have approached the government with our many amendments on a number of bills. We have been very reasonable in this House with our criticism of the government. We have applauded the government and have voted with the government when they had sensible legislation. But we have been actively engaging in forceful debate in this House on those matters where we were divided, where we had views different from the government, not necessarily on some of the things they have done but on how they have been doing things. When we hear them lauding their own government, that they have done this and they have done that, have brought down the deficit to just below $6 billion while the debt is going higher and higher, there is nothing to toast. I think you have to measure the accomplishments of your government on how you have accomplished those cuts, on whose backs. That's how you measure the success of your government and the program.
If the government were to look back at the two and a half years they have been in power and would honestly realize how they have come to reduce the balance of our budget, they would see that they did it on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our province. I don't think anyone can be proud of that particular record.
They have failed and they have alienated the workers in our province, they have alienated our parents, the teachers, the students, the nurses, the doctors, the seniors and everybody else. So who can argue that those programs were a success? I don't think so. Can you believe now that school boards are starting to charge Brownies, Scouts and seniors for the use of schools? This is unheard of, that now schools, in order to compensate for the cuts imposed upon them by the provincial government, will have to start charging Brownies, Scouts and seniors for community space when they already have been paying for those facilities through the nose.
I wonder what would happen if the local municipality, the city here in Metropolitan Toronto, for example, were to say to some of my seniors' groups, "If you want to come into the school and use a room or use a community centre, you have to pay." I think they would be lynched. I think the local councillors or the mayor would be run out of the place, because those are the people who have been paying for those facilities.
How can we stand by and not criticize a government that is going to now let the school boards, strapped, charge those parents for the use of the schools by their own children to have evening programs for the Brownies and the Boy Scouts or seniors' programs? I don't think any local politician could withstand the ire of those taxpayers.
Indeed, if you're trying to balance the books by the year 2000-01 with all the cuts you have done, on whose back have you done it? At whose expense have you done it? Certainly, the seniors, the students, the tenants, the single wage earner. How can we speak on behalf of our kids, the ones who are going to elementary school, if you will, college, university? Not only are they being faced with a big increase in tuition fees for them to get through the school years, but then they are faced with $25,000 or $30,000 if and when they come out of school or college. What a beginning, what a wonderful opportunity we give our young people. After many years of sacrifices, not only by the students, but single parents perhaps or their parents, with all the cuts and expenses - and life is getting more difficult on a daily basis - finally they have managed to send a kid to school, college or university, and now they are saying, "Now we are out of school, we have finished, congratulations," and now you have a big debt. So first you have to worry, worry about paying the debt, looking for a job, getting settled, getting on with a family or whatever. Is this what we are passing on?
We cannot pat the government on the back and say: "Yes, your cuts have been very helpful. Yes, we can applaud your cuts." We cannot. There are ways of doing things, ways of accomplishing the goals that a government sets out to accomplish, and there other ways as well. Certainly the ways this government has chosen to accomplish its goals are not the right ways. It is not to do it on the backs of the students, it is not to do it on the backs of seniors.
Did you hear that when seniors go to a pharmacy, they're told, "You already have to pay, as of now, for April 1, 1998," an increase of over 10% on their drug benefit program? The government, in order to get the money they need to satisfy the 30% tax cut for the rich and famous, is telling the seniors that as of April 1, 1998, the drug benefit program is going to go up from $100 to $112 for seniors, for those who make $24,000. Isn't that nice?
We are telling universities and colleges, "Go ahead, increase the fees up to 20%." Isn't that nice? First we are doing the unloading and then we are telling the same institutions: "Go ahead and raise taxes. Go ahead and install user fees or increase your user fees." Is this the logical way for a provincial government to conduct the business of the province on behalf of its people: just pass the buck and let somebody else do the dirty work? I really don't think so.
What are we going to say to junior kindergarten? What are we going to say to a very successful program for adult education? What are we going to say to those people? "That's it, you're on your own." This is exactly what the government is doing.
I only want to take a few more minutes. I was hoping to have a couple of hours, and now those two hours have been shrunk to about 15 minutes. I want to make a couple of other very important points.
The government must have realized that in our nation, and especially in our province, we used to pride ourselves on the universality of the health care system. It was something we cherished, something about which people from outside our country would come here and say, "You have the best system in the world."
Hon Mr Villeneuve: And they came here to siphon it off, eh?
Mr Sergio: This is very unfortunate. I hear a minister of the government say, "And they came here to suck our system." That is a most unfortunate comment because it comes from a very respected member of the government. I find comments like that - our country has opened its arms to people from all over the world. If Canada is what it is today, it is thanks to those people, thanks to the people who came to Canada to make a home. I agree that we have to be very watchful, that we have to see that those people who would come here - and it's not only the people who come here. We have people who were born in this country who abuse the system, so let's not download now on some other special group of people our problems.
The minister who made the comment was on the bench, perhaps on this side, when the now Premier made a comment saying: "It's not an income problem. It's how you spend the money. You're getting lots of money; it's how you spend it." It is so ironic that in a time that is booming, with lots of money coming in - we heard the Minister of Finance yesterday and the other day say we are doing better than expected. As a matter of fact, he was blowing the horn in this House and outside saying that instead of $6 billion, we are at below $6 billion in order to balance our books. That's wonderful. If that is the case, why don't you then stop downloading on the local municipalities? They keep saying, "Yes, we only have one taxpayer; therefore we have to cut more." My goodness, if this is what they really intend to do, if they don't do it, somebody else has to do it.
It is incredible that the government does not read newsprint like everybody else. Let me quote, because I don't want to be misunderstood, like somebody thinks it's coming from me. This is today's Star. This is what it says here: "Premier Mike Harris did not keep his word." Somebody else would use other words, and saying so is the mayor of London, Ms Haskett. She doesn't say that because she wants to say that; she says that because she has good reason. They were fine, as were the cities of Ottawa, London, Windsor, Hamilton.
But do you know why they are so upset now? Because, for example, the city of Ottawa had zero increases for three years and now they're being stung by the provincial government with a loss of $60 billion - "billions," wow - $60 million. What are you going to say to the people of Ottawa when they had terrific management by their local government, their local municipality, with zero increases for three years and now we have big daddy, the provincial government, saying to the local municipality, "Well, we are going to download on you a number of other services to the extent of $60 million"? Wouldn't you feel infuriated? Wouldn't you feel hurt if you were a taxpayer?
The mayor of London, Ms Haskett says, "`We are not only frustrated...we were infuriated,' she said yesterday of the budget cut of $13.9 million imposed on London."
Hon Mr Villeneuve: You are still with her?
Mr Sergio: Absolutely. "Transferring much of the costs of such services as welfare, public housing, homes for the aged, child care, ambulances and public health to the municipalities `has no foundation in fairness.'" That is a heck of a good comment. It doesn't make any sense, because somebody has to pay. You know who pays? Always at the bottom line.
When we speak of being fair, this is what we talk about. Cutting is not difficult. Any minister can say to their bureaucrats, "I want you to cut me another $50 million," or "I want to cut another couple of hundred million dollars." They'll do it. Cutting is not difficult. Difficult is to provide the people of Ontario with the quality of service, acceptable service, such as the ones that they used to know. If you were to approach anyone in our province and say, "We won't close the hospitals, but we're going to charge you an extra $50 a year," I would say that every resident in Ontario would agree with that. The cuts are unnecessary.
Oh, yes, they are necessary for only one reason: to provide the funds necessary to give to those who don't need them. Absolutely. When the government insists on saying, "Well, we are providing the same service for those who require it," let me tell you that is not so. You cannot provide a health care system when there is none available. You cannot provide the same assistance when that facility is not available. You cannot provide that assistance when accessibility is not available. You cannot tell to any resident in Ontario, especially the seniors community - and everyone has been saying today that it's on the rise - 10 miles away that their facility that used to be in their area is now as accessible as it was before. I don't call that accessibility or availability.
As I was saying before, a 50% increase in tuition fees in three years is a lot for our young people. It's a shame we have a government that is turning its back on the people it should be assisting the most.
As I said before, first they do the downloading - I don't know with what faith we can have the Minister of Municipal Affairs in the House - and then outside he says, "Well, if a municipality needs any help, we are going to give them a bridge loan, bridge financing, interest-free for a couple of years." Isn't that wonderful? Aren't they ashamed to face the Ontario people and offend them in such a way? They're saying: "We are going to make such big cuts that the local municipality won't be able to afford so many services, but if they want to provide those services, they can come to us and we'll give them the money. We'll give them a loan." It's their money. Why should the government force the local municipality to invoke even more cuts or reduce more services or say, "Well, give us a loan"? I don't think that's the way they should govern.
As a matter of fact - and I come from municipal council, with some experience - municipalities are not allowed to run a deficit, according to the Municipal Act, which is given to local municipalities by the provincial government. But now it's more convenient for the provincial government to say: "Go ahead, run a deficit, even borrow. We'll give you the money interest-free for two years." Then what happens after that? I don't think this is the way to do business in Ontario, balancing the books in such a way. I don't think so.
I want to leave a little bit of time because my colleagues have been most generous allocating time for me, but let me just make a couple of points. This came to mind when we were dealing with Bill 98. We had a few days of public hearings. Wherever we went, from city to city, individuals, groups, developers, whoever, said, "This is not good for us." No one said to the government, "Yes, this is good for us." You know what? Bill 98 gives carte blanche to a land developer to go into a community and the only thing they have to do is bring in the roads, bring in the water, get their money and get out. The local municipality can't say, "You have to provide some recreational facilities for the new occupants." The government says, "Let them go to the existing facility." Do you know what this is going to do, on top of everything else, let alone the expenses? It is going to pit small municipalities against bigger municipalities, local councils against regional councils, community against community.
Are we supposed to look after the people of our province in our community? Bill 98 allows developers to go in, rake in the money and then let the problem be solved by the local municipalities and the existing residents. We don't think that is a good way of doing business in Ontario.
With that, I will allow my friend and colleague the member for St Catharines to speak. He's got a couple of hours reduced to about seven minutes. With your indulgence, Madam Speaker, I thank you and I pass it along to my friend the member for St Catharines.
Mr Bradley: Indeed there is a certain amount of time with which to deal with a number of issues this evening, but let me zero in on a couple I'm very concerned about.
I heard the member for Scarborough West today, one of the crime commissioners, talking about the banks and the great profits the banks have been making. He was being very critical of this. My concern is that at the very time that major banks are making unprecedented profits, they are shrinking the workforce. I am very concerned when I hear about that happening. I wonder where people are going to work. If the bank is losing money, if the profit margin is very small and there's a lot of competition out there, it's still regrettable that people lose their jobs, but it's more understandable.
I know, for instance, that a lot of banks are now reducing the number of hours which they serve the public; not the Province of Ontario Savings Office, which this government is trying to privatize and turn over to the private sector, but rather several of the large banks. They'll have signs up that will say: "It will be cheaper if you do this at the machine. We think the machines are more convenient." They keep trying to encourage us to use their technology instead of dealing with the people who work for them, people who often don't make very much money when you compare their jobs to those of others.
I notice that a bank I deal with in St Catharines, which is the largest-volume bank in Ontario outside of Toronto - in other words, the busiest bank - is now reducing its hours once again. I applauded the banks, because some in this House will remember that years ago the banks were open from 10 am to 3 pm. I don't know who could get there, but I know there were a lot of people who felt like firing a brick through the window when the bank was closed. I was never one of those, but there were people who felt that way.
Then they opened up the banks, and banks started to open from 8 am to 8 pm to serve real people. On Saturdays, they were open from maybe 9 am to 5 pm. Then a couple of years ago they started to shrink those hours, and now I notice that I received a banking notice that effective January 12, 1998, a major bank in the city of St Catharines is reducing its hours even more. I think that's a step backward for a couple of reasons. First of all, if you look at it for employment opportunities, it means more and more people are getting fewer and fewer hours, as temporary or part-time employees. This does not bode well for our economy. The reason is the services. I think there are still a lot of people out there - I know many of them are seniors - who like to deal with an individual; they don't want to deal with a machine. It's not that they're intimidated by machines; they like to be able to discuss their banking requirements with actual people.
It seems to me that when banks and other major corporations are making unprecedented profits, there is some kind of obligation to maintain an employment force out there. I'm not suggesting that government can dictate to the private sector in this regard, but I remember the Premier went over to Davos in Switzerland. The person who sponsors that conference for provincial premiers, politicians, business people in particular, put out the challenge to people who were there and asked the question about what jobs are going to be available to people in the future. I hope the banks will reconsider that particular option.
By the way, I heard a question in the House the other day from a government member to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I think we should be wary of some of the scams that are going on, and that was the question that was asked. There's a scam, for instance, involving offices that's taking place out there. People are being contacted recently by companies offering toner and office supplies at special prices. When the bill comes in, the prices may be 50% to 300% higher than usual and the toner may be substandard quality, which could damage equipment.
Here are some common approaches that I want to warn people about that are used by sales reps to trick people over the phone and how our Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations suggests you respond to them.
Someone calls from a market research company and asks for the make and model of your office equipment. This is a typical setup call for the sales pitch which follows. Don't give out this information over the phone. The authorized suppliers already will have this information.
Someone calls and offers an incredible deal on supplies but you must act now to take advantage of the special prices. The advice from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations: Don't buy anything. Ask for the person's name and phone number so you can check that they are a legitimate office supplier. Office suppliers, the regular ones whom you deal with, do not contact clients to solicit sales.
Another one: You receive goods that you didn't order or that you realize are a scam. Immediately call the distributor, advise them that you are not accepting the goods, you will not pay for them and you want them removed at their expense. Give them a time limit to pick up the goods or you will dispose of them.
These companies can be reported, by the way, to the OPP Project Phonebusters squad at 705-495-8501. That's for the Project Phonebusters of the Ontario Provincial Police: 705 is the area code, 495-8501. This is a bit of a public service announcement because this is happening around the province.
Often when you confront these people, they are completely rude to the staff of the office who contacts them. They try to bully and intimidate those people and insult those people. I hope those people who are perpetrating these scams in the province know that a lot of people are watching, and a lot who watch this channel tonight know what's going on and they can contact our consumer and commercial relations department which can provide advice and assistance in this regard.
I would love to get into the topic of gambling, but I don't have that opportunity. I want to make a pitch on behalf of private members in this House. I know there are a number of good private members' bills - I see about a dozen from the Liberals right now, there are several from the Conservatives and New Democrats - that are worthy of consideration for carryover to the new session. I hope all members will prevail upon their House leaders, including myself, to try to have many of these bills carried over so that the individual member does have a meaningful role in this House.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?
Mr Lessard: I want to make a few comments about the presentations that have been made by the members for Kingston and The Islands, Yorkview and St Catharines. I really think that they hit the nail on the head on a lot of the issues that we're debating tonight with respect to Bill 175, a bill that this government waited until the last possible moment, almost, to introduce to ensure that public servants in the province of Ontario are able to get paid. In fact they waited so long to introduce this bill that we don't even have a copy of it on our desks so we can use it for the purposes of debating here tonight.
The members talked about the impact of this government's tax cut and what it means to the provision of important public services like health care and education as well, and also mentioned job creation and how this government is way behind in creating those 725,000 jobs that they promised in the Common Sense Revolution. Where are these jobs?
The member for St Catharines especially mentioned the jobs in banks. Maybe there are some jobs that are being created, but there are certainly a lot of jobs that are being lost at the same time. We see that in the banking business, a business that is incredibly profitable right now. A lot of these sorts of businesses that said they were going to create jobs as a result of the free trade agreement or the North American free trade agreement - they said, "Just pass those treaties and we'll create lots more jobs" - are eliminating thousands of jobs in Canada and in Ontario.
I was a bit disappointed that he didn't say anything more about that tax-generating scheme that is going to bring in revenue to help fund the Tory tax cut, and that was with respect to casinos in the Niagara region. He didn't say anything about that, but he may have some further opportunities later on tonight.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I want to commend my colleagues the members for Kingston and The Islands, Yorkview and St Catharines on their fine presentations this evening. I think if one was to sum up what the three members were talking about, and to sum up, perhaps, what this government has been up to in the last two and a half years, it would be the creation of New Jersey in Ontario. This is the Christine Todd Whitman Ontario. It's a province which is going to be funded by higher property taxes; it's a province which is going to be funded from revenues from casinos, from gambling; and it's a province where people at the top end of the scale will pay far less in income tax. It is exactly what's going on in New Jersey, and that should be no surprise to anybody. The Common Sense Revolution document is an absolute lift of the Republican document in New Jersey. What we are seeing here is what was promised to us in many ways. They just did not have the courage to stand up and say, "We're bringing New Jersey to Ontario."
If that's what you want, you can always move to New Jersey, but I think Ontarians have different values. I think the values that we have in terms of our health care, in terms of our education, in terms of our standard of living are far different.
When our critic for municipal affairs talked about the most recent revenue-neutral downloading, I think he illustrates what's happening all across my particular constituency of Algoma-Manitoulin. While I believe most communities will be able to cope in the short term, when the transition fund goes, there will be huge tax increases - they are not absorbable - and they will go, funny thing, just after the next election.
The Deputy Speaker: Further questions and comments? Somebody from the Liberal Party who spoke can sum up.
The Deputy Speaker: I'm sorry, I missed you. Further questions and comments, the member for Northumberland.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for recognizing me. Just a couple of comments in recognition. I heard the comments about the CSR, the Common Sense Revolution, and where it came from. I wanted the honourable member to realize where the red book came from, that so much of the red book was copied from the Common Sense Revolution. I think it's only fair that he would understand that the content of the red book was copied from the Common Sense Revolution. To leave that unresponded to I think would be unfair to the Liberals to not know the content of it.
I recognize him for seeing good information, a good platform and picking up from it and using it to best advantage. It didn't work very well for them, but I compliment them for their foresight in being able to see where a good platform was coming from and some of the positioning. So much of what this government has been doing, I'm sure that you're very pleased, you can go through the red book and check off the things that you copied from the Common Sense Revolution and see that we're following through on those activities. I just know that you're absolutely thrilled.
Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the chance to be able to respond and explain to them about the red book and the Common Sense Revolution.
The Deputy Speaker: Further questions and comments? Okay, the member for St Catharines.
Mr Bradley: I'm sorry to hear the member for Northumberland living in the past so much, worried about old documents that he seems to be obsessed with, but I understand that he's going to raise that. That's fair game on an evening of this kind.
I want to thank the member for Windsor-Riverside, who understood many of the problems that I was raising, and my friend from Algoma. I do want to say this evening that we have a new Minister of Health now. Perhaps with the polls that are rolling in that indicate the government's performance in the field of health care is somewhat less than what the population is looking for, the government will now reconsider the closing of the five hospitals in the Niagara Peninsula, that is, the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby, the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital, the Fort Erie hospital, which is Douglas Memorial, and the Port Colborne hospital. We need all of those hospitals, as well as the others that have not been under the axe, to provide services.
If people have either been in the hospital, had family or relatives or friends in the hospital or work in the hospital, they recognize that there's a drastic difference today in the quality of service that's able to offered. Our hospitals want to offer top-notch service, they want to be clean and they want to be able to cater to the needs of the patients. However, in the Niagara region, for instance, the government has removed $44 million from hospital funding. Ask anybody who has been in a hospital 10 years ago and today, and they will tell you there's a substantial difference in the quality of service.
I believe all people in this province would support the appropriate investment of funds, the restoration of funds to hospitals so they can carry out their responsibilities. I make a plea again on behalf of the people of the Niagara region to keep our hospitals open. As Dr David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, said at Brock University when asked what Mike Harris shouldn't do, he said, "Mike Harris shouldn't close hospitals."
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments? Further debate?
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I'll be dividing my time with the members for Sault Ste Marie, Windsor-Riverside and Algoma. I welcome the folks who are watching this late show. It's live; it's not a repeat show. It's important for people to know that we're on until approximately 12 o'clock tonight. Hopefully, they'll tune in and stay with us for the rest of the time.
I want to speak briefly to Bill 175 because the member for Nepean gave us the context of Bill 175. We are indeed supportive of this because we wouldn't want our civil servants not to be paid, especially those who are still surviving the Conservative government. So many have left - involuntarily, I would add. We want to support the people who have stayed fully loyal to this province; perhaps not necessarily to this government. We are in support of that.
But I want to speak to the context that the member for Nepean spoke to. I suspect those of you watching will understand that we have a different interpretation of reality. The member spoke in his introductory remarks by saying: "We are reducing spending. We are reducing government." Presumably it's too big. "We are also cutting taxes and spending dollars wisely." That's what I want to talk about, these themes, because they are important in terms of understanding this government and the modus vivendi of their life on the other side.
Canada is being dismantled. It's being dismantled, I argue, at the national level as well as at the provincial level, and it is being done with the support of the corporate élite, the powerful élite who drive these folks. They are helping to change our culture in this society. We're seeing a cultural, political, economic shift that these fine Tories are helping to implement, with great assistance from those folks who've got the big bucks. They're doing it well.
They're helping to transform our relatively collectivist, sharing and democratic society into one that is individualistic, profit-driven and corporate-dominated. It's a revolution without a pause. These people are committed to this type of revolution, this type of individualistic, profit-driven and corporate-dominated revolution, and they will not pause. These folks have been at it ever since they got elected. I don't think they sleep at night. I don't think Premier Harris sleeps.
"Our country is being redesigned to serve a small, powerful élite and to fit it into a financially fluid global society," says Kathleen O'Hara, the writer I'm quoting here. She says, "Taking shape is a virtually borderless world dominated by transnational corporations" - the member for Nepean and the Speaker certainly would appreciate this one - "the top 200 of whom already control more assets than 182 countries. It is a world where nations are nothing more than `economies,' where government leaders behave like `chief executive officers,' and citizens are reduced to the status of `clients' or `consumers.'" That's what we're witnessing in this country and in this province. The Tories are willing recipients of this ideology and willing to be the instrument of this cultural shift. They're doing it to us at an incredibly rapid pace.
This is changing globally. It isn't just happening here in this province or Canada; it's happening everywhere. We've got the International Monetary Fund that is contributing towards this cultural economic shift to the extent that it has what is called a "structural adjustment program" that consists of paring down government, privatizing national assets, weakening social programs, opening up investments and liberalizing trade. Does that sound familiar to you guys? It should, because this International Monetary Fund group behaves no differently than you fine individuals here, you 81, controlling this great province of ours.
Mr Marchese: I know, Mr Ford, you've got a problem with this. I know that because you don't want the truth to be told. You would prefer that people remain as in the dark as possible as you implement the strategies for these small, powerful élites. Imagine, 200 companies controlling more wealth and more assets than 182 countries put together. Mr Ford smiles because he likes that. He drools at this thought, because their agenda, the International Monetary Fund, is your agenda. It is the same thing.
You haven't invented it, you're the instruments of that change. You are doing it hand in hand with corporate control. The control corporations exercise over public discourse through the kinds of information they disseminate makes it impossible for the few of us who disagree with the kinds of stuff you guys are doing. It makes it difficult for us and we are condemned as blasphemous. We are condemned as left-leaning individuals who don't have a firm grip of this type of economy you boys are trying to control.
You've got the big boys, you've got the corporations and you've got - let me tell you, former Minister of Education - a whole group of powerful friends. I want to read you that list, because they're big and they're powerful and they control the information through their power. Here are some of the principal agents of the corporate agenda in Canada. Minister of Education, I'm going to read them out to you.
Mr Marchese: Speaker, is there too much noise in the House, do you think? Do you want to control that, or no?
The Speaker: I do want to control it.
Mr Marchese: I appreciate that.
The Speaker: You're right. Member for Etobicoke-Humber and member for Algoma.
The Speaker: You're not in your seat, member for Etobicoke-Humber. Let's try and maintain decorum so the member for Fort York can get his comments on the record.
Mr Baird: Bring the two of them under control, Speaker.
The Speaker: The member for Nepean, you've obviously gone over the edge there. Just gather yourself back in.
Mr Marchese: I appreciate your assistance because you must have observed that I have a cold. It makes it a bit difficult to shout over the protestations of those individuals on the other side who obviously disagree with the things I'm telling them.
Here are the principal agents of the corporate agenda in Canada. There are 10 of them. Well, there are probably more, but these are the 10 biggies.
Mr Lessard: The top 10.
Mr Marchese: Member for Nepean, the top 10, here you go:
"(1) The Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters of Canada (AMEC). The Canadian Manufacturers' Association merged last year with the Canadian Exporters' Association to form this alliance." Powerful group.
"(2) The Business Council on National Issues." Good buddies of yours?
Mr Baird: No, no, no, no, wrong.
Mr Marchese: "The BCNI was formed in 1976 by corporate leaders seeking to exert more influence over a state they felt had become too large and interventionist." Sound familiar? I know it does.
"(3) The Canadian Bankers' Association." Big league, big bucks. "The CBA was established more than a century ago to promote the interests of Canada's chartered banks. Typical of most such industry associations, it provides information, research, advocacy and operational support services to its members." God bless them.
"(4) The Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
"Established in 1925, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the country's largest business organization with 170,000 members, including 500 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade, over 95 trade and professional associations and several thousand corporations." Big stuff, number four, the big buddies, the corporate élites, hand in hand with the Reform-a-Tories on the other side.
"(5) The C.D. Howe Institute."
Mr Shea: Oh, you hate them.
Mr Marchese: I knew you knew, member from High Park.
"This institute is named after the prominent Canadian industrialist who became `Minister of Everything' in post-war Ottawa, and was most noted for using American investment to develop Canadian industry."
Mr Baird: Which party?
Mr Marchese: Member for Nepean, I've got to get through this. I haven't got much time. You folks have cut my time. You have cut our time to the extent that we have literally been exterminated.
Mr Marchese: I know you would like to have complete and utter control, with little opposition. That is the way you would like it. I appreciate that. But don't worry, boys, these guys are helping you out.
"6. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
"The CTF claims to promote the responsible and efficient use of our tax dollars by acting as a watchdog over government and providing taxpayers with information about `wasteful spending and high taxation.'
"7. The Fraser Institute."
Mr Baird: Good group.
Mr Marchese: Member for Nepean, you will know them, of course. The member from High Park is becoming hysterical with his protestations over this.
"For many years after the Fraser Institute was established in Vancouver in 1974, it was considered to be a radically right-wing think tank on the fringes of the policy community.
"8. The Investment Dealers Association of Canada.
"As the Canadian investment industry's national trade association, the IDA represents about 120 member firms that employ more than 24,000 people.
"9. The National Citizens' Coalition." Monsieur Ford, tu le connais ? I'm sure you know them.
"The NCC claims to have more than 40,000 supporters but has no fixed membership. It advocates individual freedom and responsibility under limited government and strong national defence but has no democratic internal structure..." and on and on.
Mr Baird: Which group is this?
Mr Marchese: This is the National Citizens' Coalition. They are not protesting that. They like these guys.
"10. The Public Policy Forum.
"This Ottawa-based organization was formed in 1987 to promote private sector participation in public policy development, an efficient public service and mutual understanding among leaders from government, business, labour and the academic community."
Good Lord. Speaker, do you see what I'm saying? Are you aware what we're up against? This is not small, little people we're dealing with; we're dealing with big corporate guys with big bucks and deep pockets.
Mr Baird: What about the other three?
Mr Marchese: I mean with big bucks. The pecunia literally flows out of their pockets so much they have to defend and to protect these guys over here to make sure they get re-elected to protect the corporate interest - at whose expense?
For those who are interested in getting hold of this, this is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It's good reading. It's called the Monitor. I encourage it to all, and those who want to become members should because it is likely to be the only information you're going to get that is somewhat objective. I know it blasphemes against them, but you will like it because I think it is revealing.
That's what we're up against. We're up against a very ideological agenda, with big dollars to support it. When this government says, "We are reducing spending," it is in line with these big corporate individuals I have mentioned. This is what they want. When we see a reduction of the government, what they mean is elimination of 17% of its workforce, meaning people are fired, essentially. They are out on the streets.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Oh, no, no, it's just restructuring.
Mr Marchese: It's called restructuring, realignment, reallocation, re-engineering. It means they're gone.
Mr Lessard: Exterminated.
Mr Marchese: Exterminated, extirpated. If we're lucky, some of these fine individuals we have at the back who are there to defend whatever questions we might have around Bill 175 to help the government, if they're lucky and have particular expertise, they will be hired by the private sector, or if they're lucky, they'll become independent. That is where we're seeing growth in the economy. A lot of these people, to survive, are becoming consultants, are becoming independent to survive; some making a few bucks and some making a few big bucks, but that's what we're seeing.
As I say, a lot of these corporate folks are making big bucks and cutting back on people, and this government is no different. That's what this government is all about. That is the ethos of this government. It is in line with the corporations. The realignment is in tune with what they want and these are the instruments of that change.
Is cutting taxes, as the member for Nepean said, spending dollars wisely? Speaker, I know you're interested in this.
The Speaker: Yes, I am.
Mr Marchese: Is it spending wisely to give five billion bucks away to people who don't really need it? Just nod. No one will see you. Okay. It is not wise, Speaker. I know it isn't wise and a whole lot of people know it isn't wise. These people have got to borrow five billion bucks to give out to people who don't need it, because 60% of this money is going to 10% of their buddies; 60% of that $5 billion, give or take a billion, $4 billion or $5 billion they've got to borrow, is going away to 10% of their corporate folks.
You remember I read from The Atkinson Letter by one of the economists, Mr Donner, who says: "I would say that, to some degree, all government instruments are blunt instruments. But I believe the tax-cutting solutions being proposed and implemented today are basically ideologically driven. They are not really designed to create jobs, although they are sold that way to the public. The tax cuts are ultimately for the purpose of eroding the role of government and the expectations people have of government."
That's what it's about. It is an economist, a Monsieur Donner. I don't know him. I'm not an economist, and if I say it, people will say: "Ah, but he's a New Democrat. He's a socialist. What does he know?" Right?
Mr Baird: Right. True.
Mr Marchese: Yes. Tories will want to do that. Corporate élites will want to do the same with me, but they can't dismiss someone who is an economist. They can't. They will have to take him seriously, and he says, "The tax cuts are ultimately for the purpose of eroding the role of government and the expectations people have of government." They are "ideologically driven...not really designed to create jobs." I know the Speaker knows that.
Mr Shea: Oh, Rosie.
Mr Marchese: I know the member from High Park knows that in spite of his protestations otherwise. I know that he knows.
The sad thing is that the majority of the public know too because they look at their paycheques and they say: "Where is the money? Send me the money." If the income tax cut has been instituted by 23% already, where is the money? Why haven't they called the member from High Park to say, "High Park member, send me my money"?
Mr Shea: It's in the mail, Rosie.
Mr Marchese: I tell you, it's in the mail. Two years later it's coming. He's going to say, "It's in the mail," for the next two years. It's coming.
Mr Shea: The unions.
Mr Wildman: It's the unions' fault.
Mr Marchese: Sure, he would want to blame the unions for everything. They are a convenient scapegoat. It used to be the Soviet Union. They are not there any more so they've got to blame somebody. They've got to find scapegoats all of the time.
Mr Marchese: Mr Ford thinks who are the socialists?
Mr Marchese: Well, we will avoid that topic because we have so much to say and talk about.
Speaking of tax cuts, I've got another good article here. Look at this. It's the same CCPA, the Monitor, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Here it says: "Tax Breaks Don't Create Jobs."
Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): No.
Mr Marchese: Yes.
Hon Mr Sampson: It really doesn't say that.
Mr Marchese: Minister for privatization, I'm going to send it to you.
Hon Mr Sampson: I am shocked they would say that.
Mr Marchese: I'm going to send you a copy. Listen to this for a moment. Please quiet down and listen to this. Here's what it says:
"Advocates of corporate and payroll tax cuts often claim that they are needed to encourage employers to hire more workers and thus reduce the country's high rate of unemployment.
"A new study, however," - honourable member - "has found that there is no evidence to support a cause-and-effect link between business tax cuts and new hirings.
"The study, conducted by Ben Cherniavsky for the government's Technical Committee on Business Taxation, concludes that `there appears to be no evidence or linkage between the general level of taxes in an economy and the level of unemployment.'
"Cherniavsky points out that Sweden, with one of the highest tax burdens of all industrialized countries, also has the third-lowest unemployment rate; while Australia, which has one of the lowest taxation rates, still suffers from relatively high unemployment."
I know you want to run away from research. I know you'd rather listen to these other principal agents of the corporate agenda in Canada. I know you want to listen to them versus the studies we are alluding to, done by, obviously, people in the field. I don't know why the minister responsible for privatization shakes his hand thus, but these are studies done for governments. I'm not sure what you mean when you dismissively wave your hand. These are studies. He might do that to me, I appreciate that, but you can't dismiss the studies, surely. At least I would hope you wouldn't do that.
This is what this game is all about, right? We see banks gorge on profits while they have underpaid tellers. They're foaming at the mouth with profits, they're drooling. These guys say, "Hey, isn't this great?" but they're underpaying their tellers.
Here's another one:
"The way the Royal Bank treats its lowliest employees is typical of the Big Six banks in Canada, which collectively racked up over $6 billion in profits in 1996." They've done better this year.
"The Royal's profits hit a record level of $1.3 billion.
"Its chairman, John Cleghorn, was rewarded with a salary of $2.3 million." That's a big take.
"But its full-time tellers are paid an average of only $21,000 a year - barely above the poverty line set by Statistics Canada for a family of two."
How do you deal with that? How do Tories sleep at night with that kind of stuff?
The big boys, these bankers earning big salaries, who invest my money and yours, much of it going overseas, presumably creating jobs for us, who at the same time as they collect the big bucks fire individuals and at the same time are able to feel good about paying the tellers $21,000 - we witness in this country a problem of people who are being underpaid, and the salaries are going down. It is clear to me. I'm not sure what some of you are reading at night, but salaries are going down.
The member for Nepean says, echoed by my friend the member for High Park-Swansea, that morale has gone up, and the member for High Park-Swansea says, "Yes, more opportunities for our young, upbeat kind of stuff." My good friend the member for Nepean, unemployment is high, I would remind you. I know you would rather pretend that you don't see, you don't hear, you can't smell and all of that, but unemployment is at 9% nationally, 8.1% or 8.2% now in Ontario.
This is your good province, the one in which you have helped to open up them barriers, open up them windows so the private sector can come in and create good-paying jobs. I don't see them. Young university students, those who have degrees, college students and those who drop out, who have a worse time of it, are saying: "Monsieur Ford, where are the good jobs you promised? Member for Nepean, you said you were creating these jobs with the big cranes, were creating these jobs at $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 a year. When's mine coming? Send me that job. I want to be able to earn $70,000 a year."
But they're lucky to even have a part-time job. That's what we're talking about. Part-time jobs are on the rise. Everybody knows that. Optimism is not high. People are working two jobs to make ends meet.
Carol Goar here - I love Carol Goar as a journalist; she writes some good stuff in the Toronto Star - says:
"Moonlighting is a way of life.... Single mothers rush home from their office job and change into a waitress uniform. Computer salesmen give Internet lessons in their spare time. Professors double as management consultants. Factory workers set up repair shops in their garages. Professional women sell cosmetics on the side.
"Some do it because they're workaholics. Some want to improve their living standard. But many take a second job because they can't make ends meet on one paycheque."
So not only do people not have jobs, but those who do are working at two or three jobs because the money they make simply cannot sustain a decent quality of life in this country. We're seeing high poverty among our seniors. We see 1.5 million people who live in poverty in this country, which I find a national disgrace; we see it here in this province. We see this download of $560 million, which will create a hell of a problem for a whole lot of communities, property taxpayers and tenants. We see Bill 160, the education bill, that's going to take billions out of our education system. It's all under the guise of these fine Reform-a-Tories who say, "We're going to do more with less." I don't know how you do that, but that's the line from these guys.
We've got a problem. We have a problem when the Premier of this province goes around saying that the liberal arts, such as philosophy, sociology, French - I presume he would include English there as a course; English fits into the liberal arts if French, sociology and philosophy are liberal arts; he means English too as a subject which obviously is not relevant.
Mr Wildman: Geography. He didn't want geography.
Mr Marchese: Geography too.
Mr Lessard: They're frills.
Mr Marchese: I suppose they would be frills. But imagine putting these topics into that frills category, as irrelevant subjects. Come on. That's the Premier. I could understand that of some other member on the other side, but the Premier of this province saying stuff like that? I tell you, I'd be embarrassed when I heard those things if I were a Tory; I was embarrassed as just a member of the opposition and just a nice guy observing things on the outside, listening to that kind of stuff. I would be worried if I were them.
Member for Sault Ste Marie, my good friend, the government says they like to be accountable, right? They talk about that: greater accountability. The member for Nepean spoke about that.
Mr Wildman: That is the reason for the 400 bucks.
Mr Marchese: That's the one. He says government should operate like a business. Didn't you say that, member for Nepean? I heard you. I wrote it down. He says just like business, because they go hand in hand, they collude together, Reform-a-Tories and the big corporations. They do. He says, "We want more accountability."
Well, what about Bill 161?
Mr Wildman: Oh, no, no.
Mr Marchese: Member for Algoma, does Bill 161 give them the accountability these corporate people on the other side want?
Mr Wildman: No receipts.
Mr Marchese: Of course. They said they do not require receipts to get that $40 a day for two weeks, $400.
Mr Marchese: My good friend Ernie on the other side says, "Great," but, Ernie, you said you want to operate like a business. Bill 161 doesn't give you that. If you don't have a mechanism for some accountability as people take your money, don't you think that's rather anti-businesslike?
Mr Wildman: It's not their money; it's the taxpayers'.
Mr Marchese: Oh, it's the boards' money - yes, the taxpayers'. But they say there's only one taxpayer. How could you say you operate like a business and then give $300 million to people without receipts? What kind of people are you, that you claim to operate like a business and then you give money away, no receipts?
Mr Wildman: It's actually only $35 million.
Mr Marchese: That much? Up to. Anyway, time is running out, and my good friends from Algoma, Windsor-Riverside and Sault Ste Marie want to speak, but I wanted to point out the context. People need to understand the context. We're in trouble. Unemployment is high, extremely high; 8% is intolerable. That's under these folks, who claim to be able to bring that number down. Poverty is high. They've hit community agencies who deal with seniors and children, people who are single and looking for support. I'm not sure how we can sustain the kind of Canada and province we have built over the last 30 years with the policies of this government, and we urge people to fight back. Call us and talk to us about it. Better still, call these guys and talk to them.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I'm going to pick up from where my good friend from Fort York led off. He very effectively set the context for the debate tonight by sharing with us what it is that this government is about, who it is they're driven by, who their inspiration is, who it is who advises them, and then he presented some alternative thought and presentation.
I'm going to focus for a few minutes tonight, because that's all I'm going to take, on the issue at hand, which is Bill 175 and the paying of the civil service by the government of this province and the need to have this bill in order to do that. In that context, I think I would be remiss if I didn't for a moment reflect on the lot of those who have lost their jobs over the last two and a half years due to the downsizing, restructuring, cutbacks of this government.
I would ask, Mr Speaker, for unanimous consent of the House for a moment's silence for all those people who have lost their jobs, those thousands of civil servants in the province who have lost their jobs simply because Mike Harris wanted to give the money they were making, that they were using to put food on the table for their kids, to buy homes and cars, to contribute to the economy, to participate in the communities they belong to - so he could give a tax break to those in this province who really don't need it. If we could have unanimous consent for a moment -
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Spend more money, as the NDP says. Spend more money.
Mr Martin: If we could have, Bill, a moment of silence in the House tonight in honour of those people who this Christmas will -
The Speaker: Are you seeking unanimous consent?
Mr Martin: I am seeking unanimous consent.
The Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie is seeking unanimous consent for a moment of silence. Agreed? No. Continue.
Mr Martin: I appreciate the member for St Catharines actually standing and bowing his head, because he knows that there are literally thousands of people across this province who will have no paycheque this Christmas, no turkey this Christmas, no presents for the kids this Christmas because across the way we have the Grinch who stole Christmas. Literally, we have the Grinch who stole Christmas for thousands of families across this province, because they have chosen a program of downsizing for no other reason except to pay off those people who supported you in the last election, people who don't need extra money this Christmas.
Mr Murdoch: How about $10 billion a year? You want to spend $10 billion you are not bringing in.
The Speaker: Member for Grey-Owen Sound, I appreciate your activism, but I think you'll need to get the floor properly.
Mr Martin: I stand corrected. Obviously, the folks across the way do have a conscience, because what I'm saying here is somehow pricking it and bringing forth a display of concern. It shows itself in strange and weird ways sometimes, but that's what we're having here tonight.
I ask all of you, if you don't want to do it now in the House tonight, to at some point in the next week or two take a moment and think about those men and women who served us all in this province so well over so many years. Who are they? The people who kept our highways clear, the people who worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources in northern Ontario, who protected our forests, the people who delivered the cheques that we all depend on in so many ways, that the province of Ontario delivers for different goods and services.
Those are the folks, the people who run your office, the people who run the Mowat Block, the people who deliver education in this province, the people who work for the province of Ontario, who for years gave of themselves above and beyond the call of duty, took extra courses so they could be the best they could be, took their professions seriously, who now, due to no fault of their own, no shortcoming, no irresponsibility of their own, have no job this Christmas, thousands of them, because you've decided to restructure, to downsize, to terminate them so that you might give a tax break to those people in this province who really don't need it this Christmas.
I just wanted you to know that people out there, though, are catching on. They know what's going on and they're going to send you a message within the next two years that will affect your Christmas somewhere down the road, God willing.
I have a letter here that I want to share with you tonight.
The Speaker: Member for Grey-Owen Sound, you must come to order, and you can't show any disrespect to the Chair.
Mr Martin: Chair, is he being disrespectful to you? I can't believe it. But then again, as I think about the disrespect they've shown to thousands of civil servants across this province who will have no paycheque this Christmas, it doesn't surprise me, it doesn't surprise me at all.
The people out there aren't as gullible as you think they are. The people out there are paying attention and they know what's going on and they're writing to us. It's interesting: They're writing to you too, but you're not willing to listen, you're not willing to take their voice to this place and put it on the table. You don't have the guts to do that. Well, I'm going to do it for you. Here's a letter I got from a constituent, a letter that was actually sent to Mike Harris. I've got to read it into the record because he won't do it and neither will any of you. It says:
"I have been a Conservative ever since I began working and paying taxes, many years ago.
"One half of my wages went to pay taxes, which supported an excellent health care system. In turn, because of the excellent health care system I was able to work and pay taxes."
Does that make sense to you? It certainly does to me.
"Now that I am in need of medical care, the excellent system is no longer there.
"I do not know how many people have died since your government came to power, but I do think the people of this province have a right to know the number.
"I have been waiting three to four months to have angioplasty performed. The stress of waiting for a call from Sudbury is taking its toll on me. This will either mean more severe medical problems or else I won't be here to pay taxes at all.
"I have lost all faith in the Conservative government. What is the good of paying off the debt if all the people in Ontario are dead? There will be no more debt, but also no more taxes.
"Is this your government's way of looking after the people and making more jobs?
"I would like some answers and some help from the Ontario government so I can get cured, to pay my taxes."
They're not going to get any help. They won't get any answers.
Speaker, I want to end my few moments tonight with something that's a little more light-hearted and share with you a little poetry that was put together by one of my constituents that kind of sums up the way that we on this side of the floor are feeling about the program we're having to swallow for Christmas this year. It goes like this:
For he has the might and he thinks he's right
And he calls it common sense
But we have no doubt what it's all about
And it smacks of pure nonsense
It's a damn tough life, full of toil and strife, we citizens undergo
And we're mad as hell, as the story will tell, how the winds of politics blow
`Cause we're all downsized and were marginalized, and tired of Harris's bull
`Cause they don't give a damn who's out in the cold, as long as their pockets are full
It's Bay Street phoneys and backroom cronies who are calling all the shots
With greed and passion they rule in a fashion which treats us all like stock
They will privatize schools, play us all for fools, sell our children's futures short.
Our task is clear, have no fear, stand up against all their sort.
Harris and Johnson, Harnick and Wilson, Sterling, Witmer, and Eves
Ecker and Snobelen, Leach and Hodgson, each of these deceives.
Tsubouchi, Palladini, did I hear Houdini?
It's not very funny; all they want is power and money
Don't let these guys in their disguise dare pull the wool over our eyes
Make no mistake, there's a lot at stake, it's a foul wind out of North Bay
Common sense should tell us his vision will kill us if we let him have his way
Don't count on him, it's a crying sin if the corporate agenda succeeds
Spread the wealth around, it won't trickle down, don't expect him to heed our needs
Now Snobelen's toast and it's Johnson's post, please save our kids and schools
But Harris will say he's here to stay, God help us find a way
They are so damn thick that it makes us sick, run them out of town on a rail
We'll hit the bricks, get in our licks, let them put us all in jail
For he has the might and he thinks he's right and he calls it common sense
But we have no doubt what it's all about and its facts are pure nonsense.
That was written by a constituent of mine in Sault Ste Marie, and he wrote it while he was on the picket line. He's a teacher who was in support of -
Interjection: I'll bet it was you.
Mr Martin: No. He's an ex-Tory, if the truth were told, and his name is Ken Anstice.
Mr Wildman: I won't speak at length this evening on Bill 175. I'm going to concentrate on two things, that is, downloading and how it has affected the property taxpayers, and also what the government has done and is doing to education.
I must say at the beginning that I'm a little surprised that we're actually dealing with Bill 175 this evening. The member for Northumberland earlier said that his understanding of the way things work around here is that the government does not call legislation if the member for Rainy River isn't present. I don't understand why we're dealing with Bill 175, because the member for Rainy River isn't present, and the member said earlier that they don't call bills unless he's present. I'm not sure why that happens, but I guess he was wrong. I guess what he said about Bill 146, that they didn't call it because the member for Rainy River wasn't present, really doesn't apply and it's not true, because they have now called Bill 175 and the member isn't here.
As I said, I want to concentrate on two matters, that is, the download and what effects it has had, and also education. I'm going to take as my text two different types of literature that have come into my hands. The first is an editorial from a periodical that I read religiously, and that is the St Catharines Standard. Although it's not one that's delivered to my home, it's one I found. I believe it's owned by Conrad Black, so I always read it because I want to find out what the far right thinks and to help me understand what the government thinks, because they're in line with one another. I thought I'd read this into the record. It's called "Semantics of Downloading Don't Obscure Sorry Truth." This is from the St Catharines Standard of December 16, yesterday, and it goes like this:
"As the Ontario Tories continue their bold strokes toward rewriting the way all sorts of public services are administered and paid for, it has become apparent that the Harris government is painting itself into a corner of mistrust from which it will be unable to emerge before the next election."
I'm just reading portions. I won't read the whole thing:
"The problem is the government's credibility, which this past weekend suffered another major blow when it finally revealed the startling cost of downloading.
"...the Tories have had their share of problems getting from mission statement to real world. But their ballooning haemorrhage of public faith clearly stems from the autocratic contempt with which they go about implementing change.
"...when Queen's Park revealed the funding formula for downloading - just 19 days before municipal governments inherit the full cost of such services as public transit, social housing, public health, ambulances, and sewer and water. In return, the government picks up such considerable expenses as education and health care.
"For months now, senior members of the Harris government, Premier included, have insisted this whole exchange will be `revenue-neutral' and would not result in the need for property tax increases. Over the past few days, cabinet generals Eves and Leach have continued to preach that, through temporary stopgap bridging grants and still deeper budget cuts by municipalities, there should be no reason for property taxes to go up.
"But as we learned in Friday's bombshell, the government's definition of `revenue-neutral' seems to accommodate a considerable shortfall...in funding for those programs. Ratepayers will inevitably face not only tax increases, but cuts in some services, and bigger user fees for others."
I say this with trepidation, but it says here:
"This government lied to Ontario. Their `tax cut' is a tax transfer to the local bill. They may not have known the exact downloading numbers for different cities, but if the Tories were doing any homework on downloading, they obviously knew that the approach could not work without either tax hikes, substantial user fees, crumbling roads, service cuts, or all of the above. But for months they have opted to pretend otherwise....
"The government has maimed itself again by short-circuiting the democratic process. The Tories are not in the habit" -
Mr Murdoch: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I just heard the member across the floor talking about the government lying. I was wondering what kind of context he was using that in. When you mention that somebody lies, the word is there, and I'm just wondering what kind of context - maybe he would read that again and we'll see whether that's allowable in here or not.
The Speaker: I didn't hear the phrase he was speaking to, but I can only say to the member for Algoma that if you did suggest the government lied, that would be out of order.
Mr Lessard: No, it wasn't him.
The Speaker: It doesn't matter who suggested it. You can't say something indirectly that you can't say directly, so I would just caution the member for Algoma.
Mr Wildman: You're saying you can't quote?
The Speaker: No. You can quote, but you can't quote unparliamentary language.
Mr Wildman: Even if the word was used extra-parliamentary?
The Speaker: Even if the word was used extra-parliamentary, yes.
Mr Bradley: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: The member for Algoma was simply quoting the St Catharines Standard. I hope none of the Conservative members want to censor the St Catharines Standard.
The Speaker: Member for St Catharines, it has nothing to do with the government members. It's a Speaker's ruling. It's simply a question of this: You can't imply something that you can't deal with directly, so if that line is in there, I ask you to withdraw it.
Mr Wildman: Ironically, because the member for Grey-Owen Sound raised this, he emphasized what the St Catharines Standard actually said, while I tried to scoot over it quickly. But I do withdraw it.
Mr Murdoch: On a point of order, Speaker: The member didn't withdraw that, and I did hear him say that.
The Speaker: He did withdraw it. I heard him.
Mr Wildman: The member for Grey-Owen Sound seems to really want to emphasize what the St Catharines Standard said. It says here:
"But the government has maimed itself again by short-circuiting the democratic process. The Tories are not in the habit of seeking input from affected parties - mayors, doctors, teachers, hospital unions - before ordering a shotgun wedding.
"In being shortsightedly deceitful about the cost of downloading, the Tories were also politically foolish. As they disenfranchise themselves ever further from their core support of traditional fiscal conservatives who deplore tax hikes, it increasingly seems that this government's cynicism is eliminating its chances of being re-elected."
I'm not saying this; this is the St Catharines Standard. It's a very conservative editorial board.
"It is the lack of the integrity in the downloading exercise that reveals a character flaw which we find very troubling, a government's willingness to mislead its constituents in order to achieve its political goals."
Speaker, I withdraw that, but I was just referring to the St Catharines Standard and its view of what downloading will mean for the property taxpayers of Ontario and for the municipalities in Ontario. What it means, of course, is increased property taxes, cuts in services or both. It is not revenue-neutral, as the St Catharines Standard points out. The government knew it wasn't revenue-neutral, yet it continued to say so. Again, this is not a New Democratic periodical, the St Catharines Standard. This is a very, very conservative newspaper. I mean, it's so conservative that it supports my friend from St Catharines. At least I've been told it does at times.
I'd like to read another short thing into the record. This describes clearly what has happened with education under the Conservatives in Ontario, and it has a seasonal flavour. This is written by three people, Anne Brady, Ann McGregor and Mary Brand. I don't know these three people. They mailed this to me. I found it very interesting, very apropos. I thought it really does describe what's happened with education in Ontario, and as I say, it has a seasonal flavour. It's entitled, "How the Grinch Stole Education."
Kids in Ontario
Liked their teachers a lot
But the Grinch who lived way up in North Bay
The Grinch hated teachers, no matter what season
Now please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right
It could be, perhaps he just liked to fight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was 10 sizes too small.
But whatever the reason, his heart or his mind,
He knew that he needed to hurry and find
The money to pay for reductions in tax
Even though his economists told him these facts
To do such a thing would not make a difference
And in times such as this did not really make sense.
He had already taken huge amounts from health care
And mothers and children found their cupboards were bare
But he wanted to win in the coming election
And the only thing left was to gut education.
"I'll go after teachers," he snarled with a sneer. "They need to work harder in that easy career. Never mind that I quit `cause it was too tough, Preferring instead to hit balls in the rough I couldn't keep teaching without a degree And those university courses were too hard for me."
While counting his money he got from his pension
He said, "These teachers are causing me tension
I'll take several million and stop all their fund
Replace each old teacher with an unqualified one."
From his perch at Queen's Park he spied teachers on prep time
And their many vacations he felt were a crime.
He'd already taken many millions out
"There's still more fat there, of that there's no doubt."
Because all the teachers kept doing their best
He made up his mind he'd go for the rest.
The trustees had dealt with his previous downsize
With no other choice but an increase in class size
Forced to continue to raise local tax more
As increasing costs of education they bore.
Then he got an idea
An awful idea
The Grinch got a wonderful
"All I need is a dupe."
The Grinch looked around
And in Harris's party, one was easily found
He told his new henchman
What he knew must be said,
"If you can't find a crisis, just create one instead."
He directed Snobelen,
Who quit at grade 11,
"Just say children aren't learning compared to their peers
This way we can increase all parental fears
Test on untaught curriculum
And prove they are dumb
And compare them with students, where only the best
Are chosen to attempt to compete on a test
A bill like 160 we can use to mislead
As we slash education to get what we need."
The Speaker: Member for Algoma, "mislead" is out of order. Plus, I don't like these poems; they're very unparliamentary.
The Speaker: They are. I wouldn't let you say a lot of that stuff in the House just standing. They're discouraging and unparliamentary, and I ask you to be careful. You said "mislead" and that is out of order.
Mr Wildman: I wish to withdraw "mislead," even though it spoils the rhyme.
Then they loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
To go get some money
To replace all that tax
They went to the first school, saw a class of JK
He patted their heads and he sent them away
He said, "Go on home, from your mommies you'll learn
Education at your age is not our concern."
Then, a special-ed class where numbers were low
"These classes," he grinned, "are the next things to go."
Oh, I can't read the next line. I'll skip the first few words here, then it says,
...with a smile most unkind
Looking for any excess fat he could find
Librarians, gym teachers, music and art
He loaded them into sturdy golf cart
Resource, adult learners, and of course ESL
"All of these programs can be chopped as well
To ensure that more kids spend more time with each teacher
A longer school day and year we'll feature
And although it does not seem to follow this trend,
We'll cut out the OAC year at the end."
He then grabbed pencils and paper and books
Nothing of value did he overlook
He stuffed everything into his golf cart with glee
And turning around a small child he did see
She stared at the Grinch, then she said to him, "Why?
Why are you taking our resources, why?"
But you know that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up some words and he thought them up quick
"Why, my sweet little tot," the Grinch Premier [said],
"On television tonight you'll see I'm on your side
If I cleaned out these schools," explains the old [fellow],
"I know that improvements can only transpire."
Then he did the same thing
To all schools in the province
Telling the public,
"This is all common sense.
By the time they wake up to what this bill can do
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then teachers and parents will all cry "boo-hoo"
Because they will surely not know what to do
Who cares if they rally with chanting and signs
If they dare leave their classrooms, we'll hit them with fines
I'll get rid of Snobelen, they know he's finished
Dave Johnson's the one who can keep them in school."
As he turned around his cart and was starting to leave His ears heard a sound that he couldn't believe Every teacher in Ontario, the tall and the small Was talking of walking with no paycheque at all They know that their students would all understand That for what you believe in you must take a stand.
And what happened then?
We really can't say
If the Grinch's heart shrunk or grew bigger that day
But one thing for sure has come through loud and clear
You won't hear what you should from our Premier.
And most of Ontario became more aware
That the province's teachers really do care.
I thought that, with apologies to Dr Seuss and Green Eggs and Bacon I would -
The Speaker: Green eggs and bacon?
Mr Lessard: Green Eggs and Ham.
Mr Wildman: Green Eggs and Ham. Sorry.
Some people across the way said, "When would the teachers have time to prepare this?" Of course we know they had time to prepare this when they were walking the streets in protest of what the government was doing with Bill 160. That was something that I'm sure the people who authored this, with the help of Dr Seuss, Anne Brady, Ann McGregor, Mary Brand, even though I don't know them, did not do, that is, take that protest lightly. While they treated the subject somewhat lightheartedly by writing it in relation to Dr Seuss and the Grinch, entitled "The Grinch Who Stole Education," they really do care about students and were driven to a protest they did not want to have to make because the government was threatening the education of their students and they wanted to protect them.
I think it's most unfortunate that we came to this in Ontario. I regret it very much and I wish that the government would rethink their approach and understand that you can't improve education by ending programs, cutting teachers and cutting the resources for our classrooms. The government committed to maintaining classroom expenditures. It should live up to that commitment and not do what this poem says, even though I had to change the words, the Premier has done to the people of this province.
The Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Lessard: I want to thank the member for Grey-Owen Sound - no, not Grey-Owen Sound, his comments were out of order, I guess - but the members for Sault Ste Marie, Fort York and Algoma for their comments with respect to Bill 175.
I thought the member for Algoma really demonstrated the importance of a liberal arts education in Ontario. The Premier doesn't seem to recognize that importance, but it was a poem that was well written and the rhyming was well done.
Unfortunately, we have to deal with the sanitization of language. That's just one of those Orwellian types of things we need to deal with here in the Legislature, where sometimes black is white and white is black and good is bad and more is less. There are a whole lot of words you just can't say at all here any longer. We're all going to have to go back and refresh our liberal arts education so we can become more creative in making sure that we can convey our ideas here.
It really demonstrates to me why the Premier's favourite books are Mr Silly or Friends of Mr Silly. Mr Silly is his favourite book and that's probably why he feels the way he does about a liberal arts education here in Ontario.
I want to commend the member for Sault Ste Marie for demonstrating the sensitivity he did to the thousands of former public servants who used to work for the province of Ontario and in the municipal sector as well who are going to have a very dismal Christmas as they've lost their jobs because Mike Harris needs the income they were making in order to provide his tax cut for those who are the most well-off here in Ontario.
Mr Bradley: The only part I missed, because the member obviously didn't have enough time, was his evaluation of the time allocation motion which had five bills put together -
The Speaker: You have to comment on the things he spoke to.
Mr Bradley: He wants me to speak on that. He mentioned that he didn't have sufficient time, and when he said he didn't have sufficient time, I want to comment on what he probably wanted to put in in that insufficient time.
The Speaker: You can't comment on what he probably would say; you have to comment on what he did say.
Mr Bradley: I really appreciated the remarks of the member. I know he wanted to mention the time allocation motion which put five bills together and allowed the government to shove through in two hours, with one time allocation motion, a dangerous, precedent-setting time allocation motion, five bills this afternoon. I know he was very concerned about that.
I heard some rude interjections from the other side where members were mentioning the social contract. One member was saying it was the social contract that abrogated all the public sector contracts in Ontario. Of all the people, I ask - and my good friend from Algoma would know this - did they not vote for that? I think they did.
There is a word for the government member for Grey-Owen Sound, the government man who votes with Mike Harris on all votes. He speaks one way in his riding and out in the hallway with the news media, but he comes in here and votes with Mike Harris. People are wondering whether he's as independent as we think. I know he intervened with a point of order when the member for Algoma was speaking, and the member for Algoma didn't have a chance to point out that Bill is now a government man.
The Speaker: No further questions and comments? Then responses.
Mr Marchese: I appreciate the responses, but I just wanted to briefly summarize much of what we all said, and that is that there is a cultural and economic shift that these folks are perpetrating on our society.
The ethos of this government is as follows. They are downloading. Some people call it dumbloading, because it is dumb, because in the end people are hurt and it hurts the economy. In the dumping of the download, taxpayers will get whacked, and tenants too. In the downsizing, 70% of the people who have been eliminated by these Reform-a-Tories have been whacked as well. They are out of work. Unemployment is 8.1% in Ontario. This is serious for a lot of people who are looking for a decent standard of living and they can't have it under these fine Tories who have promised them the world.
University students who can't find jobs, college students who can't find jobs and those who have no degree having a hard time still - tuition fees. My daughter is in her first year, $3,800 plus the other expenditures, and it's going up. These guys just permitted, in a statement the other day, another 10% to 20% increase if the universities want, all courtesy of these fine Reform-a-Tories.
Some 1.5 million people who are poor, seniors living in poverty, educators have been whacked, teachers and the teaching profession whacked by these people here. Health care has been stripped to the bone by this government as they do the 17th-century alchemy by saying, "We're going to do more with less." Landlords are pocketing well from their policies. Developers are doing well. The income tax cut is benefiting many. Subservience will be handsomely rewarded by the corporation.
The Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Bradley: Are we allowed to speak twice?
The Speaker: No, you're not.
Mr Baird has moved second reading of Bill 175. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Hon David Turnbull (Minister without Portfolio): Mr Speaker, I move adjournment of the House.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 2327.