L031a - Tue 23 Jun 1998 / Mar 23 Jun 1998 1
The House met at 1330.
FÊTE DE LA SAINT-JEAN-BAPTISTE
M. Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa-Est) : Demain sera la Saint-Jean-Baptiste et je serai ailleurs dans la province pour fêter ce jour cher à tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes de Whitehorse jusqu'à Saint-Jean, Terre-Neuve. Je m'en serais voulu de ne pas souligner, comme je le fais à toutes les années, une fête qui a de l'importance pour tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes qui aiment leur pays. Je sais que c'est surtout le temps de célébrer, mais je m'en voudrais de ne pas lancer un message tout spécial au ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones.
Beaucoup d'entre nous sommes conscients que le transfert de services provinciaux aux municipalités peut très bien signifier la perte de plusieurs droits durement acquis depuis 20 ans. Nous n'avons pas les moyens de perdre les quelques services sociaux et de santé de première ligne dont nous jouissons. Nous n'avons pas non plus les moyens de perdre notre temps à nous battre pour sauver nos services pièce par pièce. Monsieur le ministre, nous n'avons pas de temps ou d'énergie à perdre. Pourquoi ne pas agir ? Pourquoi ne pas garantir aux francophones de l'Ontario qu'ils vont bénéficier des mêmes services ? Pourquoi ne pas inclure ces garanties dans la Loi sur les services en français ?
Le gouvernement conservateur essaie de se donner l'image d'un gouvernement moins dur qui écoute la population. Si c'est le cas, prêtez l'oreille à ce que vous demande la population francophone de l'Ontario et faites quelque chose de vrai pour elle au lieu de la prendre en otage comme vous l'avez fait pour le projet de loi 108.
ALGOMA ORE DIVISION, WAWA
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise today to pay tribute to the men and women who have worked with Algoma Ore division in the iron ore mine operation in Wawa for over 55 years.
Wawa is famous for the wild goose statue, and those who know the community will know that the Algoma Ore division, AOD, has had a sintering operation there for many years, which ceases today. After about 60 years of mining and serving as the primary industry and main employer in Wawa, AOD shuts down for all time this Friday.
Algoma Ore division is the only underground iron ore mine in North America. It is one of the most efficient underground mines in the world. Algoma Ore division and the steelworkers who work there, if they were competing with other underground mines in Canada, would be one of the most productive and profitable.
Wawa is indebted to the commitment, skills, innovation and hard work of the employees of AOD over these many years. They've helped to build a vibrant community. They've provided many of the facilities the community has come to rely upon.
AOD will continue operating until this Friday. On Saturday, I will join the people of Wawa in celebrating the achievements of AOD and the Steelworkers in Wawa.
YOUTH ASSISTING YOUTH
Mr William Saunderson (Eglinton): I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about an organization in my riding of Eglinton. Youth Assisting Youth has a proven track record, with 22 years of experience in preventing crime and school dropouts.
Youth Assisting Youth has worked hard to find innovative sources of funding and continues to be proactive and successful in its funding approach. The organization is strong in every respect and its programs are not in jeopardy, as has been suggested in this House.
I want to stress to all members that Youth Assisting Youth has many sources of funding, and it remains a proactive, well-funded and recognized contributor to youth services in Toronto. Indeed, Youth Assisting Youth is now examining the feasibility of expanding into other parts of the province and invites interested MPPs to contact them, or they can contact me if they would like some direction.
I have personal knowledge of the excellent work done by this organization and I am sure all members of this House would join me in congratulating Youth Assisting Youth for their commitment to young people.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement is directed to the Minister of Labour. Today marks the second anniversary of Goldcorp's strike. As we are aware, this strike is the longest in the province's history. It has placed more than 180 workers on the street, and we have a community trying to deal with the economic impact such a strike imposes on business, social agencies and the community in general.
The minister has done nothing for the Goldcorp workers. He has done nothing in the community that is affected by the strike. He has done nothing for them. As I pointed out to his predecessor, this strike is tearing the community apart while he and his government show little interest in it.
My constituents want to know what progress the minister has made, since taking office, to settle the strike, now in its 730th day. The minister and his government are not interested in settling this strike; they're more interested in taking away workers' rights through legislation such as Bill 31. They are more interested in doing this than they are in protecting the workers.
I call upon the minister to show some interest in this strike, rather than have his anti-union policies, which are encouraging Goldcorp to continue the strike. As the Premier refused to set up a meeting with the workers during his visit to the region, I again call upon this Minister of Labour, as I have his predecessor, to travel with me to Balmertown, not only to meet with the strikers but to meet with their families and their community.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Residents across Niagara region are being hit hard by this government's downloading on to them. This government is hitting them right in the pocketbook, whacking them hard with property tax increases and new user fees.
Let me tell you what the regional municipality of Niagara has been forced to do. Ms Zimmerman, who's our regional chair, said: "The budget process has been a long and difficult one; downloading has hit regional services much more significantly than at the municipal level." She points out that they've got a responsibility, as the regional council, to educate and inform their ratepayers; in other words, to let them know exactly what those new property taxes are and why they're there. It's because this provincial government doesn't care about the welfare of people in Niagara and, quite frankly, residents across this province.
It has downloaded, resulting in massive increases in property taxes and other user fees. I tell you, it's going to hit the lowest incomes the worst. That includes seniors, that includes the increasing number of lower and lower paid workers. It means a high level of unemployed people, because in Niagara unemployment is still among the highest in this province, notwithstanding, but as a direct result of, three years of the Mike Harris Tory reign.
The information ads that are being published are going to make it clear to Niagara residents that there's one person and one person only to blame for their new property taxes, and that's Mike Harris and his henchpeople here at Queen's Park.
INTERNATIONAL PLOWING MATCH
Mr Bill Vankoughnet (Frontenac-Addington): I would like to invite all members and their constituents to this year's International Plowing Match to be held in Frontenac-Addington. The 1998 International Plowing Match and Farm Machinery Show, to be held September 15 to 19, will be hosted in the municipality of South Frontenac, the hamlet of Sunbury, Storrington township, north of Kingston.
This event is one of the premier agricultural showcases in North America, attracting some of the best plowpersons from around the world, and is one of the largest machinery shows on the continent.
The 1998 theme, "Quality Living: A Partnership" represents the relationship between rural and urban residents and aptly represents all that eastern Ontario has to offer.
In Ontario, agriculture is our second-largest industry, surpassed only by the auto industry. Eastern Ontario is one of the province's best agricultural areas and boasts a wealth of historical and cultural sites that showcase our Loyalist heritage, as well as the best natural and scenic beauty anywhere. The plowing match is an excellent opportunity for us to promote this area that includes Kingston, Rideau Lakes, the Thousand Islands, Quinte, the Land O'Lakes and the highlands of Hastings.
The tireless work of the many volunteers ensuring that this year's match is the best ever is further proof that, just as during last winter's ice storm, we in eastern Ontario have a way of pulling together and supporting our communities at all times, good and bad.
I encourage everyone to attend the International Plowing Match.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): It was with great interest that we read this morning's news clippings about a potential cabinet shuffle, because it appears as though there are lots of changes going on over there. We read with great interest about who's coming and who's going and why they're going and where they're going, and moreover, who's being left out and who's not being looked after.
We read with great interest that still no decision has been made about the Solicitor General's role, even though we all know where that problem started, don't we? We see, even more interestingly, that Mr Baird is going into cabinet as the environment minister. What happens to Mr Sterling? What's going on? How many contested nominations? And what about all those poor, hardworking members who have been overlooked, who may in fact have contested nominations as well? Why aren't they being looked after? What's going on?
What about people like Jim Brown and Frank Klees and others, members who have done a yeoman's service for the government, not being considered in this cabinet shuffle? What about Steve Gilchrist? Overlooked again. We see with interest what's going on. How could they overlook that? What is happening over there? What about all those other members who have contested nominations? We would have thought the government leader would have wanted to ensure the re-election of all of them.
What about our beloved Speaker? What's going to happen to him in all this?
CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETIES
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I rise today on a very serious issue with respect to children's aid societies and how they're being starved in this province. Right now, children's aid workers who are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union are holding information pickets to protest the ongoing starvation of children's aid societies. Ontario's children's aid workers protect all of our children, all types of abuses that are going on, and they are there on the front lines, in the home or elsewhere.
The problem is that they can't do it any more. They can't protect Ontario's children. Ontario's abused children need our help. Across Ontario, child abuse complaints are not being investigated quickly enough. Children's aid staff live in fear that a child will die because a case could not be opened in time. The stress is unbearable for many children's aid workers. Burnout is high and stress leave is routine.
There is much that we can do, joining with people in Ontario. I have the first two boxes of thousands and thousands of cards that are being sent to the Premier. There are about 5,000 here and there are more on the way. These are ordinary Ontarians demanding that this government put children first; that you stop the starvation of children's aid societies; that you put the resources in place to hire enough front-line workers to do the job of protecting Ontario's children.
SAUGEEN DISTRICT SECONDARY SCHOOL SENIOR BAND
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): It gives me great pleasure to share with my colleagues an outstanding accomplishment by a group of young people from the town of Port Elgin. I refer to the Saugeen District Secondary School senior band. This 61-member, extracurricular concert band, led by music teacher Wayne McGrath, competed in the Ovation Music Festival in Boston, Massachusetts, in April this year.
The band won gold in its class and gold overall at the festival and was ranked in the top 20% in North America. The band was also voted grand champions of the festival. The top soloist award was won by Kelly Irvine for flute and piccolo. Further, after all of the 30 adjudicated festivals were completed, the Saugeen District Secondary School senior band achieved top marks and placed first in North America.
This extraordinary accomplishment demonstrates the dedication and talent of our young people. Band members arrive early at school for rehearsals which begin at 7:30 am. The Bluewater board of education offers strong instrumental music programs and the area benefits from a solid network of private teachers who offer help in piano and guitar.
I am very proud of the band's accomplishments. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many of these young people and will encourage them to strive for excellence in all they do over the course of their lives.
I congratulate Wayne McGrath, Kelly Irvine and all band members, parents and teachers who helped make this possible.
IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Solicitor General. We heard today about a concern of information regarding Ipperwash not being kept for future use. This is a serious matter. The Solicitor General must have known it was a serious matter shortly after the shooting. Can the Solicitor General assure the public that you have secured all the files regarding Ipperwash and that nothing has been destroyed since the shooting took place on September 6, 1995?
Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour, Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): There has been an interim order by the Information and Privacy Commissioner directed to the ministry and a response is being prepared, including the affidavit that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has requested. That response from the ministry will be provided within the time limits expressly stated by the privacy commissioner. That response will be forthcoming in this ongoing process between the ministry and the office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Mr Phillips: What I'm searching for and would like from you, as the minister, the Solicitor General, the individual primarily responsible for law enforcement in this province, is your personal assurance that you have now looked into the situation in your office, that you have reviewed with your civil servants, with our public service in your area, what has taken place with the files. Can you assure the Ontario public that nothing, no information that is central to Ipperwash, the shooting of Dudley George and the criminal investigation of the OPP, has been destroyed or gotten rid of in your office?
Hon Mr Flaherty: The present information request arises out of a request made in April 1997 to which a response was made in May 1997. The result of that is that the Information and Privacy Commissioner has reviewed the material and has expressed the view that a further response is required, and the deputy minister certainly has assured me that he will be responding as directed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner. That is her job; she's performing her function pursuant to her legislative responsibilities and we're responding accordingly.
Mr Phillips: Nothing could be more important around the whole Ipperwash episode than the preservation of essential information in the Solicitor General's office. We know that the OPP had serious concerns about the direction the government took on Ipperwash. We know that the OPP expressed concerns about the way the cabinet was proceeding with the injunction. We know there were serious concerns about the direction that was going on at Ipperwash.
What the public have a right to know from you, the Solicitor General, the minister responsible for law enforcement in Ontario - can you today give us your assurance that you have reviewed with your staff what they have done with all of the files since that shooting on September 6 and can you assure the public that nothing has been destroyed or gotten rid of that is pertinent to the Ipperwash affair?
Hon Mr Flaherty: I can assure the honourable member that I have been assured by the deputy minister that, in all of his inquiries and his searches to date, he has found no evidence that any pertinent records have been destroyed. Further, all reasonable efforts have been made and will continue to be made to respond to the request from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, which is entirely the appropriate course of conduct to be taken by the ministry.
The deputy minister has also indicated to me that the ministry has gone so far as to search the electronic mail backup system and no responsive records could be found. The deputy minister himself has assured me that the interim order from the Privacy Commissioner will be responded to as soon as possible.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the Minister of Health. Minister, I want to talk to you today about home care and in particular about respite care.
I have a particular case to bring to your attention. This involves 60-year-old George Kennedy of Sudbury who has been caring for his 59-year-old wife, Silvia, since 1988. Silvia is a former school teacher. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1988 and underwent radiation treatment. She has been on disability since then. In 1992, she was operated on because of a brain aneurysm. She can't walk, she can't talk, she's tube fed 12 hours a day, she takes medication 19 times a day and she needs round-the-clock care.
Her husband, George, quit his job in 1994 to look after his wife. He currently receives 37 hours per week of home care and some homemaking services but he was just recently denied access to any respite care. Do you know what he did get, though? He was looking for a nurse or a nursing assistant; what he got was a pamphlet costing $1.3 million, telling him that everything was fine in Ontario in so far as health care was concerned. What's your answer to him about respite care?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): One of the reasons we have been restructuring health services in Ontario is so that we can ensure that we are responding to the needs of the population.
One of the points I think I need to make is the fact that we have in this province a rapidly aging population. In fact, between the years 1996 to 2006, we're going to see an increase of 35% in those over the age of 75. So one of the areas where we have seen it necessary to make investments is in the area of community services. That, of course, provides support to people within their homes. People throughout this province, no matter where they live, will have increased access to services within their own homes as a result of the new investment we will make over the next eight years.
Mr McGuinty: This minister is exceptionally good at talking the talk when it comes to health care in the province. She is very good at making the promises.
This is a man who has worked hard all of his life and paid his taxes. He quit his job to look after his sick wife. All he is looking for from you is a little bit of help to give him a break. His doctor has told him that if he doesn't get somewhere between eight and 12 hours every week of respite care so he can get the hell out of the house, he's going to get sick. All he's asking for is a bit of a break from you. All he's had to date, by means of contact, is a pamphlet costing $1.3 million. He's asking for help that's valued at $200 a week.
I am asking a simple question: Why is it we can afford to pay for a pamphlet costing $1.3 million and ship it around the province but we can't help out George and Silvia Kennedy, costing $200 a week?
Hon Mrs Witmer: Our government's plan for health is in response to the needs of people. I would say to the Leader of the Opposition, despite the fact that the federal government has cut health care transfers by $2 billion since 1993, our government has not only absorbed the $2 billion that was lost in transfer payments but in response to the needs of people of all ages is presently spending $1.2 billion more than we had said we were going to spend. We recognize, as the Leader of the Opposition has just indicated, that there are people in this province who have needs and we are endeavouring to respond to those needs. That's why we're making the changes to health care. That's why we're introducing the $1.2 billion in long-term-care services. That will go to facilities and also community -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.
Mr McGuinty: Listen to what Mr Kennedy's doctor has told us. The doctor has told us that Mr Kennedy hasn't been out of the house for years. He hasn't been to a dentist in years. He hasn't even been able to get out of the house to go to physio for his back. He's got a problem with his back and his knee and his groin because every day he's got to spend time lifting and caring for his wife.
My question, once again, is very simple: Why is it that in Ontario today, the Mike Harris Ontario, we can afford to spend $1.3 million on propaganda but we can't afford to come up with $200 a week to help Mr Kennedy and his wife? Do you know how much respite care $1.3 million would get us? It would get us 125 years of respite care for Mr Kennedy. Or another way to put it: It would get one year of respite care for 125 families like the Kennedys today in Ontario who are going without some basic help. Why is it that, according to your priorities, we can pay for this propaganda but we can't help people who need the help?
Hon Mrs Witmer: Our government, with the changes we are making, is helping people in this province. In fact we have 43 community care access centres in this province. The community care access centres, as you know, are set up in such a way that there are local boards that make decisions.
The funding to the Sudbury CCAC has actually increased 50.5% since 1991-92. The funding to the Sudbury CCAC in 1996-97 was $16.7 million. The funding to the Sudbury CCAC in 1997-98 is going to be increased to $20 million. You can see that we continue to respond to the needs of people in these communities across Ontario, and in Sudbury there's going to be an increase of $3.3 million.
IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Solicitor General. For almost two years now we have been asking questions of your government concerning the death of Dudley George, an unarmed man who was taking part in a non-violent protest. We've asked for a public inquiry so that the facts could emerge. We've asked repeatedly in this Legislature for information and your government continues to provide no information. Frankly, you continue to stonewall.
This latest revelation is perhaps most troubling of all. Here we have an OPP officer who signs a sworn affidavit, who says that when he worked for the Deputy Solicitor General of your government during the time of the Ipperwash incident he left behind all of his records, all of his memoranda, all of his notes, yet your government now says those notes don't exist. What happened to those notes, Minister? What happened to those records?
Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour, Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): In response to the leader of the third party, as I mentioned earlier in response to the question from the Liberal Party, the deputy minister has assured me that in all of his inquiries and searches to date he has found no evidence that any pertinent records have been destroyed, and further, that all reasonable efforts have been made and will continue to be made to respond to the request.
The status is that the Information and Privacy Commissioner, as is her job and her statutory duty, has indicated that she is not satisfied, and with respect to the response she had received previously she has made an interim order and the ministry will be responding within the time limit set out by the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Mr Hampton: The minister's answer gives away the problem here. Minister, it is not for you or the whiz kids in the Premier's office to decide what is pertinent in the investigation of the death of Dudley George. That responsibility rests with the privacy commissioner. For you to say, "Well, we'll decide what's pertinent, we'll decide what documents are pertinent for public scrutiny and for public information," shows how little you understand the privacy law and how much your government is prepared, I say quite frankly, to abuse that privacy law.
It is unprecedented that somebody who worked in the deputy minister's office would swear an affidavit saying, "All these records exist; I left them in the care and control of the government," and now your government says, "We can't find any of the records," records that pertain to the wrongful death of an unarmed man - and your government says, "We can't find any of the records."
The deputy minister has been asked to swear an affidavit. I'm asking you, will you do everything in your power to find those records?
Hon Mr Flaherty: As the leader of the third party knows, there is a process that has been established through the legislation governing the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. It applies to all the various ministries in the government. It also applies to the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services.
The information commissioner has indicated that she requires an affidavit from the deputy minister, and the deputy minister has confirmed to me that he will provide a sworn affidavit that will address all the matters raised in the interim order which we have received from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
The process is being followed. The directions of the Information and Privacy Commissioner are being followed according to the law in Ontario.
Mr Hampton: The only process that is being followed here is a process by the government of stalling, of trying to put this off. This request to the Information and Privacy Commissioner went in over a year ago, and for a year you have done everything possible to avoid providing this information. The privacy commissioner is having to head off the same frustration that we're dealing with.
We wanted some of these questions answered by a legislative committee, so we scheduled a mere 12 hours before the justice committee. What does your government do to head that off, to avoid having to answer those questions? You send a budget bill to the justice committee, a budget bill so you won't have to answer these questions about how an unarmed, innocent man was killed. Now we try to schedule it before another committee and you refuse to meet. You refuse every step of the way to answer these questions.
Minister, I asked you a moment ago, will you give a personal undertaking that you will do everything possible to find those records or explain what happened to them?
Hon Mr Flaherty: The member opposite talks about stalling. He should be aware of the facts, if he's not aware of the facts, that the initial request to the Ministry of the Solicitor General in this particular matter to which he makes reference was April 15, 1997. The response was May 16, 1997, from the ministry. The correspondence, including the interim order from the Information and Privacy Commissioner, was June 19, 1998. So there certainly has not been stalling on the part of the ministry. The ministry will respond within the time limit set out by the Information and Privacy Commissioner in her order, which was only forwarded June 19, 1998.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is for the Deputy Premier, and I would say yes, it's taken the privacy commissioner a while to chase this down, and the only reason is because you're not forthcoming with the records and the information.
Deputy Premier, I have a press release here. It is from Newcourt Credit Group, a company that specializes in providing capital financing for companies that want to get into the production of private electrical power, private electrical plants. This company has just announced that the chair of Hydro, the Premier's good friend Mr Bill Farlinger, is now not only the chair of Hydro but is also on the board of Newcourt Credit.
I understand Mr Farlinger's job at Hydro. He's supposed to be looking after all the people in this province who purchase power from Hydro. What I don't understand is what he's going to do for this private company. Can you tell me, Deputy Premier, whose interest is Mr Farlinger going to look after here, the public at Hydro or the private -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Deputy Premier.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I do not know of the press release or the contents therein. I'd be more than happy to look into the matter for you and get back to you about it. I would presume, though, that if Mr Farlinger or anybody else who was appointed to any board had a conflict or even a perceived conflict in any manner, they would declare it and not take part in any discussion related thereto.
Mr Hampton: Oh, the government that says, "We see no evil and we don't want to see anything." It's your job to protect the public interest here. It's your job to ensure that Mr Farlinger is serving all those ratepayers in Ontario who are purchasing hydro from Ontario Hydro.
The problem, as I see it, is this: You've announced that you've got a competition policy for Hydro. Newcourt is in the business of helping private firms set up power plants and get into the competitive business. Is Mr Farlinger working for Hydro here, is he working for all the hydro-electric purchasers of Ontario, or is Mr Farlinger working to help some of these private companies get into competition with Hydro? It seems to me he can't be doing both at the same time. If he is, it's a conflict of interest.
Which is it, Minister? You're supposed to protect the private and the public interests in this province. Which interest is he serving here?
Hon Mr Eves: Mr Farlinger is entitled, as is any other private citizen in the province, to do whatever he wants in his own time. The province did not appoint him to any board. He can decide in his own mind - he's subject to the same conflict-of-interest rules that everybody else in government is subject to -
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): We know what they are worth.
Hon Mr Eves: Well, they're worth a heck of a lot more, I say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine - do we want to start going through the litany of Bob Rae cabinet ministers who had to resign from cabinet because of conflict-of-interest allegations?
Mr Hampton: The Deputy Premier tries the defence here that when you don't have an answer, throw some mud, even if it's irrelevant. Just for the record, Deputy Premier, no one in the Bob Rae cabinet -
The Speaker: Order. Leader of the third party, hold on. I'm having difficulty hearing you.
Mr Hampton: Let me get back to the point, and that is that Mr Farlinger himself said only two weeks ago that, given your government's plans for Hydro, the stranded debt could reach $30 billion. In other words, the taxpayers of the province and the public that buys power from Hydro could be stuck picking up $30 billion in stranded debt due to your policies. On the other side of things, the private power producers may stand to come in and literally cream the market.
My question is, who is Mr Farlinger serving here? Is he going to be looking after the taxpayers of this province, who could be stuck with some of that $30-billion stranded debt, is he going to be looking after all the hydro ratepayers who may be stuck, or is he going to be looking after the private companies that can come in and cream the market? He is not a private citizen; he has public responsibilities here.
Hon Mr Eves: He is also subject to conflict-of-interest regulations and guidelines. I might point out to the leader of the third party some of the Hydro board appointees, who I presume had absolutely no conflict of interest, under the Bob Rae government: Michael Cassidy, former provincial NDP leader and federal MP; Kealey Cummings, former national director of CUPE and executive of Ottawa Centre NDP; Elmer McVey, prominent Canadian Labour Congress member and NDP member; John Murphy, former CUPE vice-president and president of the Power Workers' Union. You don't think that's a conflict? You are on a one-way street, and it's one way to last place.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Health and it has to do with the tragic death of a constituent. The minister is familiar with the case because I sent her two letters and some considerable background. Just to familiarize her, though, the woman was 35 years old, 30 weeks pregnant and entered the local hospital, a terrific hospital, Scarborough Grace. She then had a brain haemorrhage. Scarborough Grace notified an organization called CritiCall, that was assigned to find her a neurosurgery bed. This was at 7:21 pm; it happened last September.
CritiCall made 21 phone calls to four different hospitals, trying to get her a bed. They were unable to get her a neurosurgery bed here in Toronto. They phoned Scarborough Grace back at 9:38 and said they were unable to find her a bed. The closest bed was in Hamilton. They then phoned air ambulance, and air ambulance was unable to respond. She was then transported by land. Tragically, she passed away. The baby was saved.
I've been waiting now, as you know, Minister, for nine months for you to give me an answer regarding how this could happen. Can you inform the House now how this could happen in Ontario?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I would be pleased to follow up and provide information for the member.
Mr Phillips: Minister, I sent you all the details. I personally phoned you but only talked to your executive assistant. I sent you another letter three weeks ago asking that you, on an urgent basis, look into this.
The reason I'm pursuing it is that, tragically, this woman is dead now, but I want to be sure that the ministry has taken steps so that this couldn't happen again. That really is my question. Here in Toronto, 21 calls to four hospitals and they knew it was critical, but they could not find a bed. The closest bed was Hamilton. I might add that even when she arrived in Hamilton they had to phone another hospital to get an obstetrics surgeon over to save the baby.
Knowing how serious this is, what steps has your ministry taken since this death to ensure that something like this could never happen again?
Hon Mrs Witmer: These situations are certainly very tragic. As you know, we have undertaken communications with the hospitals. Also, in response to some of the situations that had happened as a result of emergency overcrowding, we set up a task force with the Ontario Hospital Association, because we want to make sure that these types of situations don't happen again. This had been going on for some time. When the task force made its recommendations to the government and the Ontario Hospital Association, there were recommendations for the hospitals to follow through and also for the government. We responded to every one of the recommendations to ensure that - certainly we were prepared and the hospitals are doing their part to ensure that we can deal with these situations and take the appropriate steps necessary to prevent these types of situations in the future.
CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETIES
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the minister responsible for children's issues. Today 1,500 children's aid workers, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, have set up information pickets to tell the public about the ongoing crisis at children's aid societies. A recent workload survey found that their caseloads are 36% higher than the acceptable level established by the ministry.
CAS workers are suffering from burnout and stress, and as one Ottawa-Carleton intake social worker told his society: "All of us have files, five, six, seven or more, on our desks that we've been unable to get to. All of us worry that some tragedy will take place. All of us fear a child will be hurt or killed." That CAS has implemented a pilot project on the new risk assessment model. They find that it takes six more hours per case. That means that in Ottawa they would have to hire up to 95% more staff to reach the acceptable workload level.
Minister, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Not one child will be helped by the new tools unless the staff are there to implement them. Will you guarantee there are enough front-line workers to make kids safe in Ontario?
Hon Margaret Marland (Minister without Portfolio [children's issues]): I appreciate the question from the member for Beaches-Woodbine. Our government has made the commitment that the children's aid societies in this province asked for. They asked for increased funding, they asked for universal assessment tools and they asked for a database that interlinked all of the children's aid societies around this province.
When we announced that $170 million in funding, that was welcomed openly and actually on the record in many public venues by the children's aid societies, because they told us that with that funding they could meet the increased workload. We knew there would be increased workloads with the new assessment systems and the universal reporting through the database. As far as our government is concerned, our pledge to protect these children, the most vulnerable children in our society, is ongoing.
Ms Lankin: I don't know how to respond to that. The key demand that you missed was they asked for enough front-line workers to use the new tools so that kids would be safe. The key response to your funding announcement that you missed was that it was only enough to make up for past cuts and that you didn't guarantee the emergency funding wouldn't be rolled into that and that it wasn't enough to keep up with increased caseloads. How did you miss that, Minister? I don't understand.
Kids are at risk. Caseloads are going up. In Ottawa-Carleton in less than two years the caseload has gone from 739 to 960. In London it has gone up in the same period by 33%. John Liston, the executive director there, says he doesn't have adequate staff to protect those kids in that increased caseload.
Minister, how bad does it have to get before your government will take action? As minister responsible for children, will you do just two things: Will you step in and conduct, with the CASs and the workers, a caseload workload survey? And if you find, like I'm saying, that you need more workers, will you convince your government to fund the front-line workers to protect Ontario's children?
Hon Mrs Marland: I'm happy to assure this House that the $170 million is going to front-line workers. That's what the children's aid societies asked us for.
In terms of the priority of this government in the protection of children, we have already reported on the reports that our government asked for. Incidentally, we asked for three reports on the welfare and the protection of children in this province. We are acting on the recommendations of those reports, which in turn will help the people who have the front-line responsibilities in the children's aid societies.
ARTS AND CULTURE FUNDING
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a question for the honourable Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. I was pleased to hear the government's announcement yesterday of a commercial theatre development fund. My riding of Durham-York is home to a vibrant commercial theatre community, including the Red Barn Theatre, the oldest professional summer theatre in Canada. Can you tell me what this fund will mean for the small theatre groups in my riding and across the province?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I'm pleased to say that small and medium-sized commercial productions right across the province will be eligible for funding and consideration under the commercial theatre development fund pilot project. Any production or theatre that is outside of Toronto will be eligible for an additional $10,000. That will be available to those productions.
If I could just add, to the member for Durham-York, I'll be attending the Red Barn season opener, the 50th anniversary, on the 30th. I wish you well with that.
Mrs Munro: Can you please tell me what the selection process is for this fund?
Hon Ms Bassett: I want to say that since the fund was created by the theatre community, it will be managed by the theatre community, the Toronto Theatre Alliance. They will be considering four applications next year as part of the pilot project.
Mr David Caplan (Oriole): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. Last week, on June 15, you announced with great fanfare one-time, $70-million funding for special education and lower class sizes across the province. However, I don't think you're really doing anyone a favour. I spoke with the Toronto District School Board finance department and they tell me there are no new dollars. What your plan is that for every dollar you transfer you will reduce -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.
Mr Caplan: I can understand that the members opposite don't want their masks to be revealed. I can understand that they don't want the public to know that for every dollar you transfer to the Toronto District School Board, your plan is to remove, through other places in the funding formula, dollar for dollar the exact, same amount. The Toronto District School Board finance department confirmed this with me. Will you confirm to this House that this is your policy?
Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I will confirm in this House, exactly as we announced last week, that this government is going to ensure that the needs of the special education students across Ontario are met. To do that, we have put more money into the system such that the intensive support amounts which are required by individual students, through an audit process that'll take place this fall, will be funded by the boards.
In our estimate, this will involve perhaps up to $40 million of additional funding, new funding, more-than-has-been-announced funding in the past. But we're committed to this because we believe that the special education needs of the children which were served in the past must be served and met in the future.
Mr Caplan: That is a very interesting answer. I'm going to give you another chance, but maybe this time you should consult your own funding formula before you answer. Let me refer you to page 35 of your revised technical paper dated June 18, 1998. It clearly states that for boards there are limits to the increases they can have, dollar for dollar, and that anything above will be reduced in their operating grants. I'll quote:
"The new funding formula will be phased in such that boards will not experience changes in revenue due to the funding model exceeding 4%. Where the change in revenue is 4% or more, a mitigation grant adjustment for the difference will be made to the board's grant allocation."
This is your policy - a complete and utter shell game. You're going to make some grand announcement to put more dollars into the schools but take them away from other places. Stand in your place today, Minister, and guarantee that there will be no reduction from any school board budget because of your announcement and because of this policy.
The Speaker: Member for Durham East, you don't sit beside the member for Etobicoke-Humber.
Hon David Johnson: I'll guarantee that for the first time in the history of the province, including Liberal and NDP governments, this government is focusing on the classroom and the students. We're putting more money in the classroom. We're insisting that -
The Speaker: Order.
Hon David Johnson: This government is going to meet the needs of the students, it's going to meet the needs of the special education students, as no government before has met the needs of students.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon David Johnson: I don't know why the opposition parties find this problematic. We're going to ensure that every board has more money in the classroom. We're going to ensure that every board has money to meet the needs of the special education student. The announcement of last week will involve about $40 million extra to meet the needs of the special education students across Ontario. I think that is good news.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Yesterday I met with representatives of the Frontiers Foundation - in fact, they're here today - Dr Charles Catto, Marco Guzman and Tony Lew.
Since 1964 Frontiers has built and renovated over 3,000 homes for aboriginal families. These are families living in substandard and often unsafe housing; people with little electricity, water or sanitation. The problem is that the federal government has cut their funding and now you have done the same. This cut means that 37 families that were scheduled for renovation or rebuilding are going to continue to live in unsafe housing.
Minister, in January your office contacted Frontiers and said you were willing to look at this again. But since then they have not been able to get a meeting with you. Another construction season will be completed unless you do something today. Minister, are you going to help them?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): First of all, I must give my condolences to Charles Catto on the death of his father. I also want to say of course I have been in touch with him. My ministry has looked at some of the very valuable work he has done and we are trying to consider ways that we can help him, I think, to repay a considerable loan that may not exactly fit under the mandate we have right now.
We are not in the position in the ministry to hand out grants. They have to be considered in a careful way, and Charles Catto knows that very clearly. We have been working with him and now the ball is in his court to come back with a viable means whereby he can meet our criteria, and then we are happy to work with him.
Mr Marchese: Money has been flowing from your ministry to them for years. You just cut it. They have been living in these types of housing conditions. You can see it; it's a big picture. All they want is to live with some dignity, some very basic things. We're talking about warmth, shelter and safety.
Minister, I want to share with you some of the successes they have had, and you're aware of them. Last year they built a house for a native senior in Whitefish Falls. Mr E.B. Eddy, as you know, donated all the lumber. The house was built by volunteer labour and a new fridge and stove were donated by Camco. In total, Frontiers spent $19,000. The Ministry of Housing estimated that this house, if it were built by government contractors, would cost over $100,000. It's a program we should all be proud of, a program that spends carefully and leverages many times the amount they spend in volunteers' hours.
Minister, why is it that you can't find the money to help these people at a time of great need?
Hon Ms Bassett: We are working with Frontier College, we do appreciate the work they are doing and we are working now with the aboriginal programs unit, who are the ones who decide what is and is not important to their community. We are in the process of working out something that will be viable for everybody concerned.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): My question is for the minister responsible for children. Recently there have been a number of articles in the media discussing children's readiness to learn. Essentially studies are now proving that children who go to school healthy and well-nourished have a greater capacity to learn. Children who have empty stomachs can't learn. They can't concentrate on their school work. They don't have the capacity to retain information.
Minister, we are focusing on building the best education system possible but we have to make sure that our children are able to benefit from their daily lessons. Our government has a commitment to fund the Breakfast for Learning program, but is this alone going to help our children get off to a healthy start?
Hon Margaret Marland (Minister without Portfolio [children's issues]): I'd like to thank the member for Kitchener for his question. In 1996, as he knows, our Premier made a series of very important announcements that affect the lives of children. He recognized that early intervention and prevention are what get children off to their best start.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. It's okay. Minister.
Hon Mrs Marland: This could include help for families on the birth of a child or help with speech and language programs for them before the child begins school. It also includes help for families with school-age children who frankly aren't able to provide a healthy breakfast for those children before they start school and leave for school each morning.
We've created a variety of programs to meet the needs of individual children in Ontario and to ensure that children can get the most out of their future. I am actually very proud of what our government has done to help these children get our new programs.
Mr Wettlaufer: Families face a vast number of challenges in their upbringing of children. We know that. We also know that the government is truly committed to helping children get off on the right foot.
The Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, you've got to maintain your place. Thank you.
Mr Wettlaufer: I want to ask you specifically, however, about the breakfast programs. As you stated, it was in 1996 that the Premier announced the formation of a partnership between the government and the Canadian Living Foundation. Since that time we have seen child nutrition programs all over the province, and I know that they are of benefit to a vast number of children.
I also remember that a few months ago there was some concern raised that these programs were in financial difficulty. When the interests of the children are paramount, what has been done to help families and communities feed their children?
Hon Mrs Marland: You will remember that when we were in opposition as a party, the priority of children and the breakfast program had been a priority of this Premier since he became leader in 1990. I am delighted to say that, as promised, now the government will continue the child nutrition partnership with the Canadian Living Foundation.
In fact, last Tuesday we announced an additional $2.5 million for the program that has already served 56,000 children in 714 child nutrition programs. We have partnered with the foundation and with local communities to help ensure that children are well fed and have the ability to concentrate on the lessons before them when they get to school.
This government feels that it is critical for children to be able to learn and grow to their full potential. This is just one way that we're helping children in this province today.
Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. It's obvious to everyone that your government has given up on GO Transit. Mississauga and Toronto are about to experience a huge loss in service and you're sitting back and not taking any responsibility for the cuts in service. You have refused, your government has refused to listen to the advice of the Crombie commission, which told you not to dump the cost of GO Transit on to municipalities.
Now you're refusing to listen to your caucus colleagues and cabinet colleagues. The member for Mississauga South, Margaret Marland, chastised the GO Transit board for cutting service and refusing to consult with the public. The member for Scarborough West, Steve Gilchrist, has been out collecting names for a petition to protest these cuts. Why are you giving up on GO Transit and refusing to listen to good advice from your own members?
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Transportation): This government is not giving up on GO Transit at all. We wish GO Transit well. We think we have found a way to ensure -
Hon Mr Clement: I'm glad to see we can all see the humour in this situation.
I want to assure this House that GO Transit is an integral part of the interregional transit system in the greater Toronto area. Indeed, by virtue of the board that exists, representing all the municipalities in the region of the greater Toronto area, it allows each of the municipalities to have their say. In fact, as a result of the changes that Minister Leach and this government are pursuing, we are giving those municipalities more of a direct say than they've ever had before. I think that's a good thing for Ontario as well.
Mr Cordiano: I would like to wish the minister good luck in the coming cabinet shuffle. I'm sure he'll need it, with an answer like that.
Minister, it's obvious you have the power to intervene and to fix this problem. The city of Toronto just passed a resolution formally requesting you to review the funding allocation for GO Transit. Again, I ask you, why are you refusing to listen to that kind of request, which makes a lot of sense? After all, you have dumped the cost of GO Transit on to municipalities and you have burdened them. It's becoming fairly obvious that these municipalities are having a difficult time funding the services. They are looking to you to rectify this problem. It's your responsibility. Why are you giving up on GO Transit service in the greater Toronto area?
Hon Mr Clement: I can say again to this House that this government is not giving up on GO Transit. In fact, we think we have been able to give the tools to the municipalities to make sure that GO Transit succeeds and thrives in the future.
I would say to the honourable member - perhaps to both him and to those who passed the resolution dealing with the funding through the gas tax that the honourable member was referring to - that through our decisions in terms of the transfer of local services and provincial services, we have just given the municipalities $2.5 billion in tax room; $2.5 billion to deal with local transit issues, to deal with local water issues, to deal with other local issues, so they can deliver those services better.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Members, come to order, please.
Hon Mr Clement: As a result of that $2.5 billion worth of tax room to the municipalities, as a result of $106 million that we are transferring to GO Transit for capital needs this year, I think this government can stand four-square in saying, "We are supporting GO Transit and we are supporting the municipalities in their transportation needs."
PEEL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. A serious problem has developed over the last several months at Dunrankin Drive Public School in Mississauga. The principal, Ms Claudette Neita, and now two teachers, have made formal complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Commission about racial discrimination on the part of the board. Ms Neita is the second black woman ever to be appointed as a school principal in Mississauga. She maintains that the Peel board has failed to implement its own racial discrimination policy.
There used to be an anti-discrimination and equal opportunity branch in your ministry, except your government eliminated it. You said that work could be done elsewhere.
Minister, will you ensure that racism is shut out of Ontario's education system, for teachers as well as students? Will you ensure that the incidents that are talked about here don't happen?
Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): To my understanding, the incident referred to by the leader of the third party is under investigation or under a review process through the local school board and is being dealt with accordingly. I would say that I concur in the sentiment that there is no room for racism, discrimination or bias, not only within the education system but within government in general. Certainly I can give him my assurances that I personally do not tolerate racism, do not tolerate any forms of discrimination, and would take the appropriate actions to ensure that they don't happen.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): We appreciate your sentiments but, as you know, to fight racism it requires more than just sentiments. As has been pointed out, Claudette Neita and at least two of her staff have been forced to go to the Ontario Human Rights Commission on this issue. The Peel board's answer so far has been to transfer Ms Neita to another school for next September. Some 85% of students and parents who are visible minorities at Dunrankin Drive school have petitioned the board to let Ms Neita stay at their school.
Your own ministry policy referendum number 119 on the development of school board anti-racism and ethnocultural equity policies states, "The ministry will conduct cyclical audits of the policy implementation." Your government, eliminated that branch that would have been conducting those audits.
The question to you is, what are you doing about it? What is your ministry doing? Who in fact is doing those audits to make sure that school boards enforce their own racial discrimination policies? Given that the branch is gone, how are you doing that job?
Hon David Johnson: I would say once again that this is a matter that is being dealt with by the local board. This is a matter that is being dealt with by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I think those are both appropriate bodies, given where the original situation developed, and I would not pretend to interfere in that particular process.
Within the Ministry of Education, we do not tolerate racial discrimination. I give my assurances to the member opposite that whatever is required to ensure that racial discrimination is not entertained or allowed to take place within the ministry, we'll take those steps and ensure that they are in place.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I'm just wondering whether the Minister of Citizenship would like to correct the record. I heard her mentioning that -
The Speaker: Hold on. What is the point of order?
Mr Curling: The point of order is, I heard her saying "Frontier College," when it's "Frontiers Foundation."
The Speaker: Hold on, member for Scarborough North. Let me just be clear. You may correct your record. You may not correct another member's record.
Mr Curling: I'm asking her if she would like to correct her record.
The Speaker: On a point of order?
The Speaker: The opportunity exists at any time for a member to correct their own record, but it's not a point of order for you to ask a member - we could be here all day if members want to stand up and check to see if another member wants to correct their record.
Mr Curling: We are here all day.
The Speaker: We are here all day.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition which reads as follows:
"To the government of Ontario:
"Whereas the Conservative government of Mike Harris is trying increase the limit on the amount of money that corporations and individuals are allowed to contribute to political parties and individual candidates in Ontario; and
"Whereas the Harris government plans to introduce legislation to permit political parties and candidates to spend far more money during election campaigns; and
"Whereas the Conservative government of Mike Harris would like to remove certain campaign expenditures such as polling and campaign headquarters equipment from the spending limits placed on political parties and candidates; and
"Whereas the Conservative government is proposing to abolish the Ontario election finances commission, the watchdog agency policing political contributions and expenditures; and
"Whereas the Harris government wishes to shorten the length of provincial election campaigns and to permit expensive media advertising throughout the entire period, thereby favouring the political parties and candidates with the most money; and
"Whereas the changes to the Election Finances Act proposed by Mike Harris will give undue and unacceptable influence to the wealthiest and most powerful interests in our province and will result in the problems that have plagued the American political system, where money plays a central role;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon Mike Harris to abandon his planned legislation which will permit substantial increases in the amount of money that can be contributed by corporations and individuals to political parties and candidates and the amount of money that political parties and candidates can spend on provincial elections."
I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement with this petition.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition with many signatures regarding abortion.
"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million; and
"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury, or illness, and abortions are not therapeutic procedures...."
It goes on, and the final, bottom line is:
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas Thunder Bay and district are suffering from serious deterioration in our health care system because of the closing of hospital beds before community services and long-term-care facilities are available;
"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make it an urgent priority to provide more long-term-care services in the home and to provide a sufficient number of long-term-care institutional beds and staff in order to restore the standards of health care to an acceptable level."
This is signed by hundreds of constituents of mine, and I'm very proud to add my name to this petition.
COMPENSATION FOR HEPATITIS C PATIENTS
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.
"Whereas many Ontarians have been infected with the hepatitis C virus as a result of transfusions using contaminated blood; and
"Whereas the current compensation package only provides funding for those people infected between the years 1986 and 1990; and
"Whereas in Canada there are at least 20,000 surviving victims who were infected with hepatitis C before 1986, who placed their faith in the blood system and are now suffering;
"Now therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislature of Ontario on behalf of the victims and their families in support of the Ontario government's call for a compensation package for Ontarians who are infected with the hepatitis C virus through the blood system prior to 1986, and that pending a resolution of the federal liability for the contaminated blood problem, Ontario agree in the interim that such new package be funded by the Ontario and the federal government on the same basis as the federal-provincial agreement covering 1986-90.
"We call on the government of Canada to do the right thing."
Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I have a petition signed in support of the proposed reforms to adoption information. I will summarize the petition.
The residents here are signing a petition that would call for reforms that would allow access to birth registration and adoption records for adult adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents and other relatives; implement a no-contact notice option; recommend optional counselling; offer access to other information, including medical; and acknowledge open adoptions.
I'm pleased to support it, and I'll affix my signature to it.
Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I have a petition on behalf of my colleague Noble Villeneuve, the member representing S-D-G & East Grenville. It's a very lengthy petition, which deals with health care in his riding and specifically supports the Health Services Restructuring Commission recommendations. I submit it on the behalf of the member and his constituents.
PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it reads as follows:
"Whereas nurses in Ontario often experience coercion to participate in practices which directly contravene their deeply held ethical standards; and
"Whereas pharmacists in Ontario are often pressured to dispense and/or sell chemicals and/or devices contrary to their moral or religious beliefs; and
"Whereas public health workers in Ontario are expected to assist in providing controversial services and promoting controversial materials against their consciences; and
"Whereas physicians in Ontario often experience pressure to give referrals for medications, treatments and/or procedures which they believe to be gravely immoral; and
"Whereas competent health care workers and students in various health care disciplines in Ontario have been denied training, employment, continued employment and advancement in their intended fields and suffered other forms of unjust discrimination because of the dictates of their consciences; and
"Whereas the health care workers experiencing such unjust discrimination have at present no practical and accessible legal means to protect themselves;
"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to enact legislation explicitly recognizing the freedom of conscience of health care workers, prohibiting coercion of and unjust discrimination against health care workers because of their refusal to participate in matters contrary to the dictates of their consciences and establishing penalties for such coercion and unjust discrimination."
I've signed my name to this document.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Mr Speaker, I have exactly the same petition to present to this House that was just presented by the member for Parkdale, and I submit that petition with my signature.
NURSES' BILL OF RIGHTS
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas nursing is key to quality health care; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to provide high-quality care; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to be heard and consulted on health care issues; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to be recognized and treated as equals in the health care system; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to have meaningful participation in all aspects of health care reform; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to be advocates for their communities and the people they care for without fear of reprisal; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to work in settings that are free from harassment and discrimination and that nurture learning, diversity, personal growth, job satisfaction and mutual support; and
"Whereas nurses want the right work in conditions that promote and foster professionalism and teamwork; and
"Whereas nurses want the right to deliver care in an integrated, publicly funded, not-for-profit health care system that is grounded in the principles of the Canada Health Act;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to honour, promote and respect the nurses' bill of rights as outlined above and to ensure that these rights are enshrined in all aspects of health care."
I'm proud to sign my name to that petition.
PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 30 people:
"Whereas nurses in Ontario often experience coercion to participate in practices which directly contravene their deeply held ethical standards; and
"Whereas pharmacists in Ontario are often pressured to dispense and/or sell chemicals and/or devices contrary to their moral or religious beliefs; and
"Whereas public health workers in Ontario are expected to assist in providing controversial services and promoting controversial materials against their consciences; and
"Whereas physicians in Ontario often experience pressure to give referrals for medications, treatments and/or procedures which they believe to be gravely immoral; and
"Whereas competent health care workers and students in various health care disciplines in Ontario have been denied training, employment, continued employment and advancement in their intended fields and suffered other forms of unjust discrimination because of the dictates of their consciences; and
"Whereas the health care workers experiencing such unjust discrimination have at present no practical and accessible legal means to protect themselves;
"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to enact legislation explicitly recognizing the freedom of conscience of health care workers, prohibiting coercion of and unjust discrimination against health care workers because of their refusal to participate in matters contrary to the dictates of their consciences and establishing penalties for such coercion and unjust discrimination."
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition to the Ontario government on rent control.
"Whereas the government has brought forth Bill 96, legislation which will effectively kill rent control in the province of Ontario; and
"Whereas the government has campaigned in literature during the York South by-election stating that" - listen to this - "rent control will continue; and
"Whereas tenant groups, students and seniors have pointed out that this legislation will hurt those who can least afford it, as it will cause higher rents across most markets in Ontario; and
"Whereas the government proposal will make it easier for residents to be evicted from retirement care homes; and
"Whereas the Liberal caucus continues to believe that all tenants, and particularly the vulnerable in our society who live on fixed incomes, deserve the assurance of a maximum rent cap;
"We, the undersigned, demand that the government of Ontario scrap its proposal to abandon and eliminate rent control and that it introduce legislation which will protect tenants in the province of Ontario."
Since I agree with this petition, I have signed my name to it.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I present this petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and
"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and
"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and
"Whereas the province has exclusive authority to determine what services will be insured; and
"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and
"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and
"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."
I affix my name to the petition.
Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): This petition deals with red light cameras.
"To the Legislature of Ontario:
"Whereas red light cameras can dramatically assist in reducing the number of injuries and deaths resulting from red light runners; and
"Whereas red light cameras only take pictures of licence plates, thus reducing privacy concerns; and
"Whereas all revenues from violations can be easily directed to a designated fund to improve safety at high-collision intersections; and
"Whereas there is a growing disregard for traffic laws, resulting in serious injury to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and especially children and seniors; and
"Whereas the provincial government has endorsed the use of a similar camera system to collect tolls on the new 407 tollway; and
"Whereas mayors and concerned citizens across Ontario have been seeking permission to deploy these cameras due to limited police resources;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"That the province of Ontario support the installation of red light cameras at high-collision intersections to monitor and prosecute motorists who run red lights."
I am pleased to add my signature, along with the many others who have signed it.
Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition concerning the attempt to fire a school custodian who does not speak French, and as I have previously mentioned, he will not be fired.
"Whereas the local French community and staff at École Sainte-Marie in Simcoe have signed a separate petition in support of Mr Santiago Reyes indicating that they want him to continue to work as a custodian at their school; and
"Whereas Mr Reyes has an excellent performance record and should not be discriminated against on the basis of language or in any other way; and
"Whereas the undersigned join the local French community's request that any further attempts to involuntarily displace Mr Reyes from his custodial position at École Sainte-Marie in Simcoe be stopped immediately and want him to continue to work as custodian in that location;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to guarantee to Mr Reyes his right to not be discriminated against on the basis of language."
I agree with this petition and hereby affix my signature.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition which reads as follows:
"Whereas the Mike Harris government is trying to impose so-called charity casinos on 44 communities across Ontario as a vehicle to make profits from gambling for government coffers; and
"Whereas these gambling halls will bleed from the communities on which they are imposed the discretionary dollars which might otherwise be spent on goods and services; and
"Whereas the Harris government is attempting to bribe cash-strapped municipalities to accept the new gambling halls by promising to pay a so-called administration fee to operate slot machines in the casinos; and
"Whereas the Harris government is attempting to coerce municipalities into accepting the new 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week gambling halls by suggesting that charities may not receive funding;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Mike Harris government to halt the imposition of new gambling halls, so-called charity casinos, on communities across Ontario."
I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement with this petition.
ADULT ENTERTAINMENT PARLOUR
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition I'm presenting on behalf of my colleague the member for Carleton and on behalf of a constituent, Rosemary McKee of Nepean, which reads as follows:
"To the Legislature of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, draw the attention of the Legislature of Ontario to the following:
"That the city of Kanata accepted an application for an adult entertainment parlour, based on a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada dated May 17, 1977, that confirmed that an adult entertainment parlour is a lawful business which a municipality has no right to prohibit. To do so would be to attempt to regulate public morality, which falls under the federal jurisdiction of the criminal law. The Ontario Municipal Act, section M-225, allows the municipality the right to regulate the business, not prohibit it.
"That pornography is harmful. In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that obscenity is to be defined by the harm it does to women, and not by what offends our values.
"That pornography portrays women as objects, which has a negative impact on the individual's sense of self-worth and acceptance. Pornography reinforces traditional sexual stereotypes and its attitudes towards women and children of male dominance and power, forcing women into subordinate, degrading and dehumanizing roles. It is a threat to the equality and the safety of women. It is also a threat to us as people individually and to our relationships and to the families.
"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislature to:
"(a) pursue changes to legislation regarding the Ontario Municipal Act;
"(b) pursue discussions with the federal government that would give municipalities the right to prohibit said adult entertainment parlours, goods and services, as well as broaden the restrictions on existing adult entertainment parlours to reduce the incidence of crime."
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 25, An Act to reduce red tape by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts, when Bill 25 is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill, without further debate or amendment; and at such time, the bill shall be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice;
That the standing committee on administration of justice shall be authorized to meet to consider the bill for six days at its regularly scheduled meeting times beginning at its first regularly scheduled meeting time following the summer recess;
That, pursuant to standing order 74(d), the Chair of the standing committee on administration of justice shall establish the deadline for the tabling of amendments or for filing them with the clerk of the committee;
That the committee shall be authorized to meet for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill at its regularly scheduled meeting times for a further two days for the purposes of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill;
That, at 4:30 pm on the second day of clause-by-clause consideration, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto;
That any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);
That the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than the first sessional day following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to have been passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on administration of justice, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
That one sessional day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At 5:55 pm or 9:25 pm, as the case may be, on such day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;
That the vote on third reading of the bill may, at the request of any chief whip of a recognized party in the House, be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding "Deferred Votes"; and
That, in the case of any division relating to any proceeding on the bill, the division bells shall be limited to five minutes.
Madam Speaker, I'll be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton West, the member for Lambton and the member for Simcoe Centre. I believe we have an agreement to share the time equally among the three recognized parties in the Legislature and I would ask for unanimous consent for that agreement.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is there unanimous consent for each of the parties to share the time equally? Agreed.
Hon Mr Sterling: Madam Speaker, as you know, this is Bill 25, a bill dealing with a wide range of subjects relating to this government's goal of reducing red tape where it's unnecessary in order to conduct business not only with the government but outside of the government in the private sector.
I'd like to ask the member for Hamilton West, who is the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who has responsibility for this bill, to now represent the government.
Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I'm pleased to address this bill on behalf of my colleague the Honourable David Tsubouchi.
I would like to speak today about the importance of the bill both to business and to consumers. I will also provide some detail on specific initiatives that the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations is proposing.
With this bill, we have looked across government and zeroed in on important red tape reduction initiatives. They focus on some of our key priorities and the priorities of the people of Ontario.
Bill 25 proposes amendments to streamline processes and increase efficiency in Ontario's health sector, in the justice system, the rural and agricultural sector and a number of other sectors. All these initiatives share a single goal: to help these and other vital sectors operate as efficiently as possible, maximizing their productive time.
For years before we came to office, business had been trying to get government to understand the crushing impact of red tape, but to no avail. The mountain of regulation continued to grow, stifling business people who just wanted to make a living, to create jobs and to contribute in a meaningful way to our economy. Report after report showed the same thing: that business was spending too much time on paperwork and regulation and not enough on productively creating jobs and generating prosperity.
In 1993-94, the Fraser Institute estimated that small business was spending $85.7 billion a year simply to comply with government regulations. That's an astronomical amount of money. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says that 43% of its member firms spend more than six hours a week just filling out forms and meeting a variety of government regulations. Clearly the old system was benefiting no one - not taxpayers, not businesses and not the customers and clients they served. We were elected to change that.
Right from the beginning we made a clear, concerted effort to reduce the regulatory burden. We cut red tape both in our internal processes and in what we impose on businesses dealing with government. We realize that it only makes sense, common sense, to attack both at the same time. We have moved aggressively to root out and abolish unnecessary regulations, rules that serve to thwart rather than advance economic prosperity and job creation. Many of my colleagues during this debate and others have talked about how red tape strangles business. There is indeed some significant evidence that red tape literally chokes the life out of business. When that happens, we all suffer.
Our government has introduced a host of changes aimed at turning this terrible situation around. It's a long process, admittedly, but we are keeping up the fight and will continue to do so. We have seen some proof that we are winning the war. Business and consumer confidence are up, so is investment, and Ontario has seen some of the most significant job growth in its history - 341,000 net new private sector jobs since September 1995, more than 260,000 of them since February 1997.
Three years ago businesses were clamouring to get out of Ontario. Now the same number or more want to get back in. They're impressed with our no-nonsense approach to business and they see an opportunity for themselves, an opportunity to be involved with one of the strongest, fastest-growing economies in the country. The bill before us represents our latest initiative to cut red tape and to stimulate growth. The red tape legislation we dealt with in the last session was a good start and there is more to come. The consumer ministry alone has already eliminated dozens of unnecessary requirements. In the process, we've helped create better business conditions for everyone from film projectionists, who no longer have to undergo more training than pilots, to licensed establishments, which can now use credit cards to buy LCBO products. This will help improve their cash flow without promoting overconsumption.
Bill 25 builds on our red tape success story. MCCR is proposing to streamline Ontario's regulatory environment by, among other things, amending the Land Titles Act to make the hearings process more efficient and to reduce the information required for registering power of sale documents; the Corporations Act to allow directors of for-profit corporations to hold meetings by telephone or other means of electronic communication, and directors of non-charity, not-for-profit organizations to forgo audits in certain circumstances and to buy liability insurance; the Registry Act to permit electronic payments and delivery of documents and to allow the ministry to accept notarized copies of certain documents instead of requiring the originals.
Indirectly, these measures will benefit consumers by ensuring that the businesses and organizations they deal with spend less time on paperwork and more on providing good service. But the bill also contains a number of measures of direct benefit to consumers. I'll give you two examples.
We have proposed amendments to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act to permit the Real Estate Council of Ontario, a self-managed body in business since last year, to establish consumer protection measures such as the compensation fund. Everyone operating as a real estate agent or broker in the province will be required to pay into the fund, which will give consumers protection similar to that which they now enjoy with travel agents and motor vehicle dealers.
We are also proposing changes to the Loan Brokers Act to allow the use of cease-and-desist orders against unscrupulous operators who continue to prey on vulnerable consumers even after their conviction in court.
Of course, there's a great deal more in this bill. The changes to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations statutes are important, but only in the context of the overall changes the government has introduced.
As I said a moment ago, we recognize that cutting red tape takes time. We are doing it in a way that ensures adequate time for everyone concerned to raise and air the necessary issues. We in this House have already given this bill eight and a half hours of our attention. But because of its importance to us as a government and to the province's business community and taxpayers, we want to do more. That is why we are sending it to the standing committee on administration of justice for clause-by-clause debate. That is the proper place for the next stage of this discussion to occur. It will give members a chance to analyse the bill in detail.
Cutting red tape is central, not just to our government's agenda but to the sustained prosperity that Ontario's businesses and taxpayers want and deserve. We want them to be able to put their energy into productive job-creating work instead of paperwork. When businesses come calling in Ontario, we want them to see the red carpet, not the red tape. The benefits of this approach are clear. The economy grows stronger, confidence and optimism reign and people believe once again in their future and that of their province.
This bill represents an important step in the fulfilling of our commitment to cut red tape and help create a more positive business climate in Ontario. So far, we've eliminated more than 500 unnecessary regulations. But cutting red tape is not a goal in and of itself. It is a means to an end. That end is a stronger, healthier, more vibrant economy, an economy that supports business, creates jobs and protects consumers. This bill, Bill 25, moves us closer to that goal.
We are proud of the work done to date and believe it will accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves and that the people of Ontario have set for us. I would like to thank my colleagues on all sides of this House who have provided valuable advice and input. I look forward to hearing more of their views when this bill comes to committee.
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): It certainly is a pleasure for me to make a few comments on Bill 25, An Act to reduce red tape by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts. Let me start by saying that Diane Francis in Maclean's magazine recently had an article that read, "Canadians want and deserve less government and less interference in their personal lives and professional lives." That certainly refers to red tape. There is no doubt that government red tape has a stranglehold on our province and our economy. Red tape amounts to an average of 7% of a company's operating costs. In some companies the percentage is as high as 40%.
Let me give you another good example of what red tape is all about. My colleague from Kitchener-Wilmot recently gave me a chronology of a developer in his riding who is trying to develop a 70-lot subdivision. The process started on January 30, 1987. If I recall properly, today is June 23, 1998, and to this day this particular developer has not received approval. Mind you, I don't want to blame the province for all the red tape that this particular individual or this corporation has encountered. However, we have certainly played a major role. To this day, $200,465 has been spent trying to receive approval on this 70-lot subdivision. Madam Speaker, I don't know whether that is acceptable to you, but as the article written by Diane Francis points out, I'm sure it's not acceptable to many Ontarians. It certainly is not acceptable to me. It goes to show that red tape is a job killer in many instances.
Another point I would like to refer to is that during our deliberations debating red tape, health, safety and environment are not considered red tape, and I would like to point out that the sheer volume of unnecessary rules, regulations and government intervention does not have to impact on those three items.
There's no doubt that while the Red Tape Commission has accomplished a lot in the past two and a half years, an awful lot more remains to be done. Let's go back to what I consider was red tape in 1995 when this province was faced with a $100-billion debt. I don't want to blame any previous government, but there is no doubt that there was a good example of mismanagement, spending unwisely and creating an awful lot of regulations and legislation that were not conducive to sound economic principles. There's no doubt that this government saw this as a major roadblock to job creation in Ontario, and that is why our government wanted to make the province open to business again and to get rid of red tape in order to create jobs.
I keep hearing that the previous government had to introduce the social contract because of a major recession in Ontario. That is true. I think we have to recognize the fact that there was a major recession. However, there are other provinces in Canada that faced the same situation and did not have a social contract. So whenever the opposition keeps talking about, "The economy is booming and that's why we are creating an awful lot of jobs in Ontario," I would like to point out that the tax cut and elimination of red tape have been motives or catalysts towards creating jobs in the province.
We have to recognize the fact that since 1995, 341,000 net new jobs have been created in Ontario. It's the fastest job creation rate in all of Canada. More Ontarians today are working than ever before in the history of Ontario. I think that speaks well of Ontarians, because I am sure that as responsible taxpayers, as responsible citizens, as responsible legislators, it's much more interesting to have people working than to have people on welfare. If we look at what's happening in British Columbia right now, there's no doubt they are suffering from the Asian flu. However, they have raised their taxes, their employment is consequently declining and their welfare rate is rising. Again, it's good proof that by eliminating red tape and eliminating barriers, we can create a sound economic atmosphere in Ontario.
I think my colleague from Hamilton West mentioned eliminating some of the burdens, some of the obsolete regulations and a number of red tapes that we have introduced. I think that without doing this, we would not be experiencing the economic activity we are experiencing in the province.
I'd like to refer back to the bill. When we talk about amending the Public Lands Act to give the Minister of Natural Resources clear decision-making authority governing the use of crown lands based on the land use planning process, this will enable the minister to designate land uses and ensure that significant natural areas are protected. The planning process will result in the development of clear rules for land use and development in planning areas.
The forest and tourism industries in particular require greater land use certainty in order to make long-term investment decisions. I think we need a stable atmosphere that provides long-term stability. There is no doubt that, today, not only is Ontario competing with the rest of the provinces in Canada but we are competing in a global economy. As investors come into Ontario, if they find an area that does not provide stability, I ask you, why would that particular corporation or that particular individual invest in your community if you cannot provide that stability?
Eliminating red tape is also useless unless you find ways to stop it from being created in the future. It's just like being on a treadmill. It certainly is a big job and we need an awful lot of help, not only from stakeholders but from the average citizen, in order to reduce red tape.
To say that this government does not listen, well, let me tell you that I have experienced the other side of the equation. For instance, we recently conducted consultations on the one-window building permit approach. We consulted with 50 stakeholder groups over a period of three months. We wrote a draft report which was circulated to all the stakeholders for their input, and prior to finalizing the draft to the minister, we will take their input. In my opinion, that is certainly listening.
In closing, I'd like to mention that democracy, by its very nature, is about participation. It's only by hearing from the citizens of this province that our government can continue to make changes to improve our economic situation. It is only with these improvements that Ontario businesses will be able to continue to create jobs. I urge all citizens to get involved, to contact their MPPs at their constituency office and get engaged in the process.
Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): Mr Speaker, I believe we do not have a quorum here.
The Acting Speaker (Mr David Tilson): Check to see if there is a quorum, Madam Clerk.
Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Simcoe Centre.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I am pleased to rise today to speak about Bill 25, the Red Tape Reduction Act. The Red Tape Review Commission, which was established in 1995, has certainly satisfied its mandate in terms of looking at ways of removing red tape barriers and developing ways to prevent them in the future, with the fundamental purpose of job creation and trying to build this economy.
The first mandated accomplishment was the passage by the Legislature of 10 red tape elimination bills to simplify the government processes and improve efficiency. They made 132 specific recommendations to government to reduce and prevent red tape. They developed and coordinated implementation of the regulatory impact and competitiveness test, designed to prevent proposed regulation or legislation from introducing new barriers to job creation and better government. The government approved an extension of the commission's mandate in order for it to continue its efforts in red tape elimination and prevention.
Bill 25 is part of the process in terms of bringing about greater red tape removal. Some of the specific issues that have been dealt with in Bill 25 are designed to protect consumers. Two of the acts being amended will provide additional protection for consumers in specific areas of the marketplace.
The change to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act will allow the administrative authority set up by the real estate industry to establish consumer protection programs such as a compensation fund in which registrants would be obliged to participate. Such compensation funds have been proven to provide important protection for consumers in such areas as travel and motor vehicle dealers.
Another amendment designed to improve consumer protection is being made to the Loan Brokers Act. This change will allow the ministry to issue cease-and-desist orders against loan brokers who, for example, continue to violate the law even when charges have been laid and the broker has been convicted under the act. This will strengthen protection for consumers by preventing unscrupulous loan brokers from continuing to take money from a consumer before the consumer has actually received the loan.
Those are important changes with respect to loan brokers and with respect to the real estate industry. Quite frankly, in my riding of Simcoe Centre and throughout Simcoe county the real estate industry has flourished because of the measures taken by this government. We were seeing the real estate industry looking for direction from the government in terms of being able to self-regulate. I think it's good news for consumers to know that there's going to be the self-regulation to deal with compensation funds and other protections, so they know where to go.
With respect to the Loan Brokers Act, it's also fundamental in terms of dealing with those safeguards, because not everyone can go to a bank, a trust company or a credit union to get funding in terms of purchasing a home or getting a line of credit or a loan. So we have to put in standards and safeguards to deal with this.
The second mandated goals of the Red Tape Commission were to continue to work with the government and stakeholders to identify unnecessary or out-of-date regulations, to implement the recommendations from its first report, to provide advice on other policy initiatives, to pursue ways to reduce the paper burden and unnecessary and costly delays and procedures, and to improve customer service by government officials. To a large extent, that has been done, definitely through the measures taken by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in terms of the changes they've brought about.
Also there's a challenge to members of the government, the Red Tape Commission, the business community and the public to participate in the process of identifying red tape examples and solutions. A lot has been done by this commission, and you have to commend them for taking this initiative.
The initiatives of the government in terms of dealing with the economy were not only spurred by the Red Tape Commission but also by other measures they have taken. Ontario's personal income tax rate has been cut four times since 1995. The fifth and final instalment of the 30% cut is expected to take effect on July 1. Taxpayers earning between $25,000 and $75,000 will receive 64%, almost $3 billion, in savings from the tax cut every year. In my riding of Simcoe Centre, and I should say throughout Simcoe county, there will be $114 million more to be spent in that county in terms of taxpayers looking after their own needs and not the government looking after theirs.
Since the election of this government, 66 tax cuts have been implemented or announced during the mandate. There were 36 in the 1998 budget alone. This is part of the approach to try to help business cope in terms of making sure they can fulfil their role with respect to creating jobs, something that was taken away from them by the previous government, which was strictly anti-business in terms of the measures they took. One of the measures by this government was to eliminate the employer health tax for the first $300,000 of payroll. That will be up to $400,000 as of July 1, 1998.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: There's no quorum in the House.
The Deputy Speaker: Clerk, could you check and see if there's a quorum, please.
Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Member for Simcoe Centre.
Mr Tascona: I'm pleased to continue with respect to discussing Bill 25, the Red Tape Reduction Act. What I was discussing before was dealing with not only red tape measures but also tax cuts that have helped Ontarians create jobs. Cutting workers' compensation premiums by 5% certainly is a significant measure in terms of helping employers, as is cutting the small business corporate tax rate in half, to 4.75% over the next eight years.
The result of this is that 341,000 net new private sector jobs have been created in Ontario since September 1995. From February 1997 to February 1998 there have been 265,000 net new private sector jobs created. That's the largest 12-month gain in Ontario's history.
Ontario's budget deficit for 1997-98 was $5.2 billion. That's less than half the $11.3-billion deficit projected for 1995-96. The deficit is projected to be eliminated by the year 2000-01.
With respect to the economy and fiscal management, that demonstrates that this government certainly is a very good corporate manager with respect to creating jobs and creating the environment for the creation of jobs, and also has the fiscal awareness and the fiscal management skills to make sure that we not only manage the economy but also manage the government in a very responsible manner. I think the three years of achievement of this government that have come forth obviously show that we are good fiscal managers and know how to deal with the economy, something that has been lacking through the previous two governments.
I would say there's a lot more work to be done; a lot more work to be done with respect to the Red Tape Commission, with respect to dealing with fine-tuning the economy to make sure that the job creation environment is promoted. I think a lot of the measures being taken through the Ministry of Tourism will lead to that, because tourism is one of the big industries that has been forgotten in the last 10 years. This government is making sure that's an important mandate in terms of promoting Ontario. You just can't sit back in this era of international competition and say, "We're just going to sit back and be an isolationist." Ontario has to get out there and promote what the lifestyle is here and promote the best features.
That's very important for my riding of Simcoe Centre, because what we're dealing with is an area that depends a lot on the tourism dollar, not only for fishing, but in terms of skiing and other outdoor activities it is very fundamental. That has to be taken seriously and this government is taking it seriously with respect to the moneys that are going in there to promote tourism.
I certainly look forward to the chambers of commerce and also the municipalities within Simcoe Centre and throughout the province to make sure the tourism program and the strategy that is coming forth promotes Ontario, because that can only result in one thing: more jobs and a better lifestyle for Ontarians.
There's a lot more work to be done and the work that has to be done has to focus on job creation. There are a lot of areas that are getting in the way of not only job creation but also worker choice and in terms of how companies should be operating.
One area is the Employment Standards Act. There's a lot of duplicate legislation out there, not only with respect to the Employment Standards Act in terms of what it sets out. It sets out the minimum standards of employment conditions for workers in this province, but there are other pieces of legislation out there that have conflicting standards. What we should have are uniform minimum standards. For example, the needle trades act sets out a different level of standards for the particular workers it covers. So there's a duplication of legislation when you're dealing with minimum standards and that has to be addressed.
There's also another area that has to be addressed in terms of people getting on with their lives and trying to do the best for their families. Under the Employment Standards Act there's no choice in overtime compensation. If someone wants to work overtime or if an employer wants someone to work overtime, the worker basically has no choice in terms of making an arrangement. They either take overtime pay, where they work in excess of 44 hours a week, or the employer has a lesser standard in terms of overtime pay. They still have to be put in a situation where they have to receive the overtime rate.
A lot of workers out there and a lot of employers would like to be able to say, "We can have a pay-in-lieu situation," and that gives greater flexibility to the employer. It also increases the lifestyle flexibility for workers. That's something we should be looking at in terms of making sure there is choice in overtime compensation.
Also, another area that should have been looked at in the past and has been looked at by this government is recognizing greater benefits beyond the act. We should be looking at the entire compensation package that an employer provides to its workers, whether they're union or non-union.
At the end of the day, if the entire compensation package is better than the standards provided under the act, then that should be something that should be permitted. We shouldn't be living in straitjackets, where you have to live by this standard and that standard. That doesn't allow for flexibility. That doesn't allow Ontario to compete on the world stage. That's something that should be looked at in the future.
Also, we should be looking at dealing with exemptions with respect to who's exempt from overtime, to create greater flexibility in an operation. Currently, it's only supervisors and other designated categories within an employer that are allowed not to be paid overtime. For a supervisor, it has to be someone who only supervises. We know in this day and age that's something that's not realistic, that someone would be out there just supervising. We know that everyone is working and contributing to the situation. So I think we have to look at some specific type of workers and some specific type of industries to make sure that works.
I think the other area we have to look at in terms of stimulating growth, especially in the employment area, is simplifying and eliminating overtime permits in terms of the hours of work. We're not talking about changing the standard of 44 hours of overtime or 48 hours being the maximum work week; we're looking at situations where permits are not required when we're dealing with an emergency situation or a situation where there's urgent work needed or accidents involving perishable goods that can obviously and significantly affect an employer's operations. There are already provisions in there in terms of getting these permits, but they are very detailed and cumbersome and not realistic in terms of the everyday work world. If you're dealing with accidents or urgent work or perishable goods, you should have a situation where you can work through that. You shouldn't have to deal with a situation where you have to have a major crisis and then look for your permit. You should be able to work within the rules and not have to go to the government every time you need to be able to handle a situation that is very important to your business.
There are other areas that should be looked at. Certainly in terms of the Labour Relations Act, one of the areas that's very important is to allow for double-breasting of companies. Currently under subsection 1(4) of the Labour Relations Act, which was brought in in 1975, if you're certified by a union and you're unfortunately in a situation where your business goes bankrupt, if you decide to start up that company again you're going to be unionized when you start up. That's very unfair.
If you have to deal with the market forces of your business and you couldn't survive under the union relationship and you've gone bankrupt, then that should not be a situation where, for the rest of your working life, if you want to be in that particular industry you're always going to be unionized no matter what success you have with respect to your business. That's something that should be addressed in terms of allowing an operator that has been unionized and has gone under through the market forces to be able to start up their business again and not be automatically unionized, which is now provided under the Labour Relations Act.
It is also dealing with sanctions for unnecessary work stoppages. Currently when you're dealing with wildcat strikes, you can go to the labour relations board and you can seek a declaration to have that unlawful strike stopped and get a cease-and-desist order from the labour relations board. That's fine in terms of stopping the unlawful activity, but you need to have in place specific sanctions to make sure that activity stops.
Specific sanctions would certainly go a long way to dealing with the problems that companies have when they're not involved in an unlawful strike or, because it's brought about through political action, where their operations are shut down. There should be sanctions there. If a union wants to take action with respect to an unlawful strike activity, they should be punished in terms of monetary sanctions, in terms of the activity they've brought about that has resulted in damages to the company that has been affected.
I think that's a very fair way of dealing with something. If you're going to do something that's unlawful, you should be responsible for your actions. Unfortunately, the act is not designed to deal with that type of activity because trade unions are essentially private clubs. They're only given statutory authority by a statute such as the Labour Relations Act to bring them the statutory right to organize and to create trade unions and to operate under the Labour Relations Act. By the same token, what should be in place is to make sure that they're responsible for their actions if they decide to take unlawful strike activity. I think that would be a very positive message to be sent out there to the business community in terms of them being affected by unlawful strike activity.
There are also changes that should be addressed with respect to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Occupational Health and Safety Act was brought in around 1978. There have been piecemeal legislative changes to that over the years, depending on the government, but there hasn't been a wholesale change of that act in terms of what are the fundamental situations we should be dealing with to make it more relevant to today's workforce, to today's economic environment, and to make Ontario more competitive. That's something that the Red Tape Commission should be looking at and focusing on some specific areas. One of them is to eliminate unnecessary provisions that are just essentially redundant under the statute.
Also, they should be looking at introducing codes of practice by a particular industry. Right now it's so generic, it's very difficult for industries to understand what they're required to do under the particular regulations, and in some situations it doesn't make a lot of sense for them to be doing what is being prescribed under the legislation. That's one area where I think we have to look at codes of practice for each industry in making sure that the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which is designed to be an act for internal responsibility, is relevant to the workplace. That's something that is sorely lacking because of the fact that the act has not been changed fundamentally since 1978.
But also we should be looking at undertaking non-legislative changes in terms of targeting the enforcement, in terms of how inspectors should enforce in the workplace, in terms of what their powers are and in terms of making sure that there's immediate impact with respect to enforcement under the act. Under the current system you can have a situation where someone is charged under the act and they don't get to trial for another year or so, or if they have breached an order, there's a time limit with respect to bringing charges under the act, and there could be a one-year time limitation before they bring the charges under the act, and what's the immediate impact with respect to dealing with health and safety.
There should be immediate impact with respect to if you break the law, the enforcement mechanisms are in place. It doesn't necessarily have to mean going to court. It can mean simply a ticket system, to make sure that you get your point across. That doesn't apply just to employers; it obviously applies to the workers at the workplace, making sure that they comply with the legislation, because it's internal responsibility; it's the workers, it's the supervisors and it's also the employers that are responsible to make sure that the system works in a non-union environment. If it's a union environment, obviously the union has a stake in making sure that the system works.
Also we should look for clarification and simplification of the language in the act and have consistency throughout. Right now, we're dealing with promoting health and safety in the workplace and also with changes to the workplace safety act that has to be brought in line with respect to dealing with occupational health and safety, because the fundamental premise is an internal responsibility system under the act. We have to make sure that we're promoting safe workplace practices through a specific mechanism, not only through the Occupational Health and Safety Act but also through the workplace safety act. That's something that has to be fundamentally looked at when we're reviewing the Occupational Health and Safety Act to make sure that we have the best system in place.
The changes under Bill 25, which I have focused on in terms of dealing with other changes that could be put into place with respect to removing red tape and bringing about recommendations: The actual Bill 25 has a very specific area that it has addressed through different ministries, and that is the beauty of the way this commission has worked. It has dealt with specific ministries and making sure that they are addressing the needs and the concerns not only of the ministries, but also of the stakeholders out there.
There are a lot of areas that have been addressed throughout this, as mentioned by the member for Lambton and also the member for Hamilton West, giving the reasons why red tape is being eliminated and giving examples with respect to the Land Titles Act, the Corporations Act and also dealing with other business changes through the Registry Act. Those changes are long overdue to make sure that the government isn't putting in place a system where they're getting in the way of this type of business activity and also charging fees for almost anything that's going to happen in the real estate area. One knows it's expensive enough to buy a home, but to put more hurdles in the way of homeowners in terms of the red tape that has to be dealt with at the registry office and the Land Titles Act and also to put in place fees for all of these makes it very cumbersome for home buyers.
One other area I'd like to take a look at with respect to the changes under this is the Liquor Licence Act. This is a very important area in terms of the process if anyone has ever dealt with getting a liquor licence. Certainly, for someone who wants to get a liquor licence, it has to be proven that it's in the public interest for them to be able to get a liquor licence. It's a very touchy issue, because obviously there are people out there who don't believe that they want a licensed establishment within their community. Obviously they're against this particular operation in their area because there are too many licensed operators or because they're against liquor and licensed establishments per se, and that's basically what they're about.
Speaking from experience, because I've been involved in that process, it's very difficult. These are very charged hearings. What you find is that everyone takes a side. It's very difficult for the people who have to decide on this issue because of the situation becoming so highly charged in terms of where the licensed establishments should be and trying to create a proper balance within the area. But at the same time, the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario, in administering the Liquor Licence Act, has a very important job exercising its mandate, protecting the public interest with respect to the awarding of licences.
There's a right to have a liquor licence because you have a process under a statute by which you can apply. It's not viewed as a privilege. There's a right to have that licence as long as you satisfy the legislation and it's in the public interest to have that licence. One of the changes we've brought about in the amendments is in terms of the Liquor Licence Board's ability to refuse requests for public meetings when there is a complaint about a potential licensee, because inevitably there's going to be a complaint with respect to this type of activity, even from people who may not live in the area, just because they are against alcohol.
The purpose of the amendments to the Liquor Licence Act is to stop frivolous or vexatious objections from creating unnecessary delays in the processing of a liquor sales licence, and that's fundamental. If, for example, you're in the process of leasing a building and you've done all your renovations and you're moving towards trying to open your establishment, and you have obligations with respect to your creditor, be it a bank or anyone that's going to be lending you money to deal with this operation, you certainly have expectations as to when you're going to be able to operate. You've leased the premises, you've gone ahead and done the renovations, you've made sure you've got your line of credit in place, you may have gone as far as to hire your employees. You've got to make sure that what you're doing is establishing your operations so when you hit the market you're going to be successful.
The problem is that you've done all that, you've done all your homework and then you go and you apply for your licence and you're put in a process where there's a frivolous or a vexatious objection because someone doesn't believe in licensed establishments and all your timetable is put off. That results in a delay which could result in the business not being successful or in the business never getting off the ground because of this type of process, and it's not a short process. You have to wait to get your hearing, so that's a delay, and you also have to go through the process of arguing and trying to substantiate why it's in the public interest for your operation to get that liquor licence. This is a very important area.
Some of the examples of where the objections come from are objections from people who oppose liquor in general, those who are not area residents, and other businesses that simply want to reduce competition or stall the approval of a bona fide application. There's nothing more fundamental than interfering in the market process to protect your business interests. Unfortunately, that occurs and is something these amendments will deal with, because a competing business should never be put in a position where they can say it's not in the public interest for company X to set up their restaurant. The fact of the matter is that they have a licence and it's obviously in the public interest for them to operate, so why shouldn't company X be able to operate in the same environment?
Those are very fundamental reasons to make sure, and I think you have to agree that those are frivolous or vexatious if you're just per se against alcohol consumption or you don't even live in the area, you're not even going to be adversely affected, you won't even be affected by this operation, or if basically you're in competition and you want to make sure they do not enter the market at a specific time, because the time you enter the market obviously, depending on the community, is very important.
I think those changes are fundamental because it gets away from the delay process. What we're trying to create by reducing red tape and getting rid of barriers is to make sure that everyone can get out there and compete on a level playing field. I think these amendments to the Liquor Licence Act allow that. It's a sensitive enough area right now because of the fact that if you live in an area where there has been a proliferation of a number of licensed establishments, you are going to be sensitive about it, or if there's a licensed establishment that is going to be going close to a residential area or to a high school or to an area where it could be perceived to not be in the public interest.
Obviously there are legitimate cases where there should be a hearing, where we should be dealing with whether this licensed establishment is in the public interest, but we shouldn't be dealing with situations where it obviously has nothing to do with the public interest; it has everything to do with removing competition, it has everything to do with basically saying, "I believe in this particular type of society and I'm against alcohol consumption, period."
Other amendments: The ministry obviously has consulted and dealt with community groups and stakeholders about these amendments to the Liquor Licence Act. The amendments are meant to streamline government operations, which is fine, simplify requirements for the public and business, and even the playing field. That's the bottom line: even the playing field with respect to this area. You really shouldn't allow a government process which is being used deliberately to make sure that the playing field is not even.
This is what these amendments are about. These amendments don't reduce any existing controls or eliminate the need for public input. Far from it. There will continue to be considerable ongoing consultation with community groups and stakeholders as we go through this process, but the bottom line is that the existing controls have not been eliminated. That's fundamental for the Liquor Licence Act, because thousands of businesses are created every year through restaurants and people who want to get into the entertainment business that entail their wanting to get a liquor licence.
It's a difficult enough process to get a liquor licence in terms of meeting the controls. We do not need to put in place or have in place any longer mechanisms that can be used to basically fund it at the public purse in terms of providing the hearing mechanism and the location to deal with this which result in businesses not being able to at least get a start, because once they get started and there's an even playing field, the bottom line is they're going to have to make it on their own.
But when you're dealing with the entertainment business and you want a liquor licence, you should be allowed to make sure that you can at least plan intelligently and say, "I'm not going to be stopped by my competitor, I'm not going to be stopped by someone who has no interest or involvement in this because they live in another area, or by someone who per se is not in favour of alcohol." What we're dealing with is a situation where under the Liquor Licence Act we have evened the playing field, and it's long overdue.
I think because of the job creation - and you have to respect the entrepreneurial spirit of anyone who wants to go into business, especially the restaurant or entertainment business. They shouldn't be put in such a situation where the raison d'être and the fundamental way they're going to be able to compete is to have that liquor licence. We have to make sure there is an even playing field.
The red tape bill, Bill 25, certainly is directed at repealing certain acts and amending certain acts to make sure we have a competitive playing field within Ontario. I understood that we have something like 45,000 regulations. Being a business operator, you not only have to be up with the law, up with the regulations, but you also have to be aware of the changes in terms of the forms that different bureaucracies want you to fill out.
It's tough enough to be a business entrepreneur in this day and age, to make sure you meet your payroll, to make sure you're successful. You shouldn't be put in a position where you have to hire staff or you have to hire experts to basically make sure you haven't broken any laws. The bottom line is that the government should be putting in place an environment in which you know how you can compete. They shouldn't be putting in restrictions that you possibly could be running afoul of because they're interfering with your operation.
What we have tried to do throughout workers' compensation and throughout different labour relations changes and in other statutes is to make sure we're removing the impediments and barriers to someone getting into business but also staying in business to remain competitive. This bill addresses that. As the member for Hamilton West indicated, this will be going through public hearings, and obviously the purpose of that will be to get more input. What's wrong with getting more input when we're trying to remove barriers? Quite frankly, we might find more barriers being removed because of this public input process.
I would like to say that I am very pleased to support this bill, and I am looking forward to its expeditious passage.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on what, as the NDP House leader who goes by me would know, is yet another government motion to shut down debate on yet another bill of great controversy.
What the people of Ontario have to know is that this government refused to call the Legislative Assembly into session until very late in the month of April. In fact, they did it on a Thursday afternoon to try to control the spin, control the news media, by having a speech from the throne on a Thursday and having it disseminated around the province all weekend without the opposition having the opportunity to present its point of view in this Legislative Assembly. So they waited until the very end of April before bringing the House back and then proceeded to bring in legislation which they wished to ram through the Legislature before the end of the month of June without appropriate consultation, without appropriate discussion, without appropriate debate. This is yet another bill that fits in that particular context.
I noticed - the House leader of the NDP may want to know this as well - that just as I am speaking, yet another closure motion has been dropped on my desk. I don't know whether we are at 25, 26 or 27 motions now that I have seen from this government closing off debate on legislation.
The next one is on Bill 35, which is the Hydro act. Madam Speaker, in your capacity as the environment critic for the New Democratic Party - are you energy as well? Just environment critic, I think, for the NDP. You will know how important it is to have a full debate on the changes which will be made to the hydro situation in Ontario, the governance of hydro, the provision of electric power in this province, and yet I see dropped on the Clerk's table yet another time allocation motion choking off debate. What we're seeing continuously from this government is not a chance to have a wide-ranging discussion of issues in this Legislature and indeed in the public, but rather simply an opportunity for the government to ram through its legislation.
The red tape reduction bill which we see before us, Bill 25, is essentially window dressing in many areas. It carries forward initiatives in nine red tape bills that were introduced in February 1997. The government again, to prevent adequate debate on individual bills, has put together several bills. You'll remember Bill 26, the famous bully bill which was introduced in the fall of 1995 and eventually culminated in a major confrontation in this House in January 1996, when there were hearings held across the province as a result of the opposition uniting to block the government from imposing its will on the House.
Subsequent to that, we've had a change in rules. The Premier didn't like the rules under which we were operating. It's like having a hockey game where you don't like the rules, so you change the rules and you fire the referee. That has happened in some cases. Fortunately, in this House the referee in our circumstances is the Speaker of the House, who is totally independent of political influence and bullying by the government, one should always hope. This of course is carried through all of the people who sit in the chair, and that is the one deterrent we have against the bullying forces of the Harris government, because that has been its style over the past several months.
Just as with the eight red tape bills introduced in 1996, this bill has less to do with reducing red tape for business and consumers and more to do with providing new powers to implement fees and give new powers to cabinet ministers. Neither is particularly helpful. Let me explain why. Mike Harris said, during the Conservative leadership campaign and subsequent to that, "A user fee is a tax." In other words, when anybody suggested that a user fee was different from a tax, that when you increased a user fee you weren't increasing a tax, Mike Harris, as Conservative leader, said: "Forget about that. A user fee is a tax."
I have now counted 397 new taxes imposed on this province by Mike Harris, because he said, "A user fee is a tax." If you look at the user fees in this province, they have gone up very substantially in a number of areas.
There may be a case in certain circumstances outside of health care, for instance, and other areas. In certain business circumstances where a business benefits directly from a particular action by government, there may be in some circumstances justification for a user fee. But by and large, the principle of user fees says, "In fact if you have enough money, you can get this service from government, and if you don't, it's just tough luck for you."
If you want to apply user fees in an area where I think a lot of Canadians would understand, you might have girls or boys playing hockey in a particular league. When the municipality, as a result of the downloading of responsibility and financial obligation from the provincial government, is forced to either raise taxes or cut services, or the third option, raise user fees, they have in many cases raised user fees. This means that the children of people who are less fortunate, people of modest income, people of modest wealth, have less of a chance of playing hockey than, for instance, the children of the well-to-do in the province.
Even in house leagues now, you will see that people have to pay hundreds of dollars to register their children, and a lot of people don't have that kind of disposable income. If you're Conrad Black, of course, you can afford that. If Conrad Black had children playing hockey, it would be no problem. Conrad would just write the cheque and away they would go, no matter how high the user fee. But if you are a regular person who has perhaps fallen on some difficult times, then your children might have a difficult time being able to participate in hockey. You just multiply those user fees in other areas. I use that as an example because Canadians often have their children playing hockey, the girls and boys both now playing hockey, and it gives an example of how user fees work.
When I hear them over there talk about the opposition, when they were in power, raising taxes, I have now counted 397 tax increases by Mike Harris. If he keeps doing that, he's going to catch up to his mentor, Brian Mulroney, in terms of raising taxes. Indeed, some in this House would know Brian Mulroney very well. They were Mulroney staffers. The member for Nepean I think was a Mulroney staffer and the former Minister of Health, now the Minister of Energy, was a Mulroney staffer. They've permeated this government to a very great extent.
Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): You're still running on free trade, the GST.
Mr Bradley: I have now annoyed the member for the Etobicoke-Humber with my reference, because he likes Brian Mulroney. He always has. I want to give this to him. I want to say this positively to my friend from Humber: One thing I will say for him is that, unlike many of his colleagues, who when you mention the name Mulroney run in all kinds of directions, my friend the member for Etobicoke-Humber doesn't. He likes Mulroney and he says that. I'll give him credit for that. I don't mind seeing a person who says, "I am a Mulroneyite." He knows that when the Premier gets up in the House, when a hot potato question comes to the Premier - he comes to the House once a week now, sits down in his seat, and if there's a tough question, just like Mulroney, he gives it to somebody else. He gives it to the Attorney General or the chief government whip or Mr Sterling.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Wait a minute. He's never done that.
Mr Bradley: Well, some day he might do that.
I look around, and I hear there's a cabinet shuffle coming. That's a possibility. Jim Rusk said that in the Globe and Mail, so it must be true.
If I were putting somebody in, I'd be looking to the member for Dufferin-Peel, who has some considerable experience in this House. One of the problems is that he isn't as close to the Premier as some. In fact, I would contend that these days, if the Premier stopped quickly, there could be some collisions taking place. But one of the people -
Mr Marchese: On a point of order, Speaker: I usually enjoy his speeches, as you know, but there is only a meagre number of people in this House, not sufficient for a quorum. Please check.
The Deputy Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?
Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Member for St Catharines.
Mr Bradley: I think I was in the midst of promoting David Tilson to the cabinet in this particular case and making a case for it, but saying that it was difficult for him to get there because there's a long lineup behind the Premier and he would be far back in that lineup.
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'll get out of the way.
Mr Bradley: The member for Burlington South has certainly made it there. I won't go beyond that, because I was looking at the last shuffle and saying, "Boy, if he's not in the big-time cabinet, then what's happening in this world?" because he's got lots of experience and political knowhow and so on.
But I digress, and I shouldn't do that, because we're talking about a time allocation motion, although I see Downtown Brown, as they affectionately call him - I call him the member for Scarborough West - who is here now, one of the crime commissioners. I saw him. He's not allowed to wear his trench coat in the House, I'm told, but he was looking very fierce. I was wondering whether he would make it or whether perhaps Steve Gilchrist, the member for Scarborough East, would make it into the cabinet, because he's the chief spokesperson. From time to time I have some interest in polls, and I notice that whenever he's on television for a prolonged period of time, the government results seem to be not quite so favourable. So I encourage the member for Scarborough East, who is a true disciple of the extreme right, to speak often and with determination in this House.
I notice one provision of this bill; it's the only new provision, and this is dangerous. Some of you who have been around this House for a while will know this, and some in the cabinet must be concerned. The only new provision eliminates the policy and priorities board of cabinet, effectively giving more control of government decision-making to the Premier's office. Well, we know who that means. The means Guy Giorno's got more power. The member for Grey-Owen Sound used one word - I forget what it was - to describe these people, the people who are in the back rooms. He will perhaps tell us some day in the House what it was, but it was not a complimentary term.
The policy and priorities board of cabinet is the most important committee of cabinet. It is the committee that deals with the priorities for the government and the general policymaking for the government. Now that's taken out of the hands of the cabinet and I think that's going into the hands of Guy Giorno and the whiz kids in the back rooms of the Conservative Party, the 20-something and 30-something YPCs who have all the answers to the problems of this province and are far wiser than any elected member of this Legislature.
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Far wiser than the entire Liberal advisory committee.
Mr Bradley: Of course those who are still hopeful of getting into cabinet interject in favour of Guy Giorno and that crew, because they know that Guy is going to be checking off checkmarks for who's getting into cabinet. The member for Burlington South is in trouble now, because he doesn't necessarily cater to those people.
Mr Spina: At least they know how to do a petition that's acceptable, Jim.
Mr Bradley: I tell my friend from Brampton that if he wants to get into the cabinet, like his colleague, he should be good to Guy Giorno and Deb Hutton. Deb's now been with the Tory caucus 10 years; celebrating her 33rd birthday in mid-August. She has all kinds of power. Tom Long has something to say about this. He's not yesterday's man yet. He has power.
All these people advise, so what I'm saying to the members of the Conservative caucus who want into the cabinet is, yes, be nice to Mike, laugh very loudly at the jokes, lead the applause when Mike speaks and gives an answer and zaps the opposition, but the most important thing is to ingratiate yourself with Guy Giorno and the whiz kids, because they will be advising the Premier on who goes into the cabinet, who gets shuffled one way or another.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): What bill are we doing?
Mr Bradley: I thought the member for Grey-Owen Sound would enjoy this diversion, because I have heard some of his comments in the hallway about some of the people who have far more power than he within this Legislature.
What I'm saying is that by abolishing the policy and priorities board of cabinet, you're giving more power to the whiz kids, just when you thought that when you went to the caucus meetings and the Premier said: "Oh, I'm going to listen to you people. You're the real politicians out there. You have your fingers on the pulse of your ridings" - you all thought he was being honest with you, being true to you, and now you find out that Guy Giorno is going to have even more power and all those people, the whiz kids in the back room, are going to have even more power.
Some of them get elevated to the cabinet. I see that my friend Tony Clement, the member for Brampton South, has less power now that he's in the cabinet than he had when he was a whiz kid. Some of you people should perhaps ingratiate yourself with the whiz kids.
It says here in my briefing note, because we get some briefing notes too, "All of Bill 25 is, for the most part, window dressing." That's what it says, right in the notes. It says it's window dressing. You're not the only ones who can get some notes; I can get some too to refer to once in a while. It says: "While some schedules in the bill remove obsolete legislation or provide a minimal amount of government operations streamlining, for the most part the legislation implements various government downsizing projects, such as eliminating regional assessment review offices, and replaces licensing fee and regulatory controls previously governed by orders in council with direct ministerial control. Downsizing and ministerial control over fees have little to do with eliminating red tape and everything to do with cutting services and raising revenue."
Do you know something? I even agree with this. That is what's happening in this bill.
What happens when you give the power to the minister and not to the whole cabinet? Let me tell you, I want all members of the cabinet to know what's going on, because what will happen is that the Minister of - I'm not being personal; just take it generically - Natural Resources will have a fund-raiser, let's say.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Someone else.
Mr Bradley: Someone else? Okay. The Minister of Transportation will have a fund-raiser and people will come to the fund-raiser and pay - what's the new amount you can get now? You can pay up to a thousand bucks a person and $7,000 from the people - Conrad Black will be there. They will come to the fund-raiser and they will whisper into the ear of the minister, or better yet, into the ear of the minister's assistant, the ones who carry the briefcases. They will whisper in their ears and then you'll see something change, when only the minister has control.
I want Cam Jackson to be able to have some say, I want David Turnbull to have some say when there's a minister wanting to jack up the rates for any particular service in that ministry, to increase the fees, or to lower the fees, for that matter, or to remove certain regulations. I want all of cabinet to view that, but instead only the minister is going to do that. That becomes dangerous and that means, again, that the people - you know who the minister reports to: the deputy minister, who reports to the Premier's office. It's more and more -
Mr Baird: That was the Liberal way, Jim. The ministers don't report to the deputy ministers.
Mr Bradley: I say to the member for Nepean, who knows all these things already, that what happens is that the Premier appoints the deputy ministers, and that's how you control the ministers. I can tell you that with the whiz kids, with the deputy ministers being appointed by the Premier and answerable to the secretary of cabinet and ultimately to the Premier - don't be fooled. The deputy ministers are not reporting to the minister. The Premier controls all. The deputy minister and that minister had better be synchronized, because over all it's controlled from the centre.
Mr Bradley: I've got some of the Tory backbenchers, or people who are wannabes, very exercised by what I'm saying. Maybe they have the connections with the people who really pull the strings. What I'm worried about is that if you give an individual minister this power, that can be somewhat dangerous.
When we talk about regulatory changes, it often means weakening regulations, regulations which were put in place to protect the health of people and the environment of the province and to protect consumers. If you're a person who thinks these regulations get in the way of your doing business because you have to undertake certain environmental activities, you may be applauding this government if it removes those regulations. The people of the province won't applaud it. The people who spend a lot of money and resources and time in their own businesses to comply with existing regulations in the province won't applaud it. But the people who don't like these regulations will applaud those kinds of changes.
I notice, for instance, now that they've taken the Niagara Escarpment Commission out of the purview, the control, of the Honourable Norm Sterling, who was, as Provincial Secretary for Resources Development, responsible for the development of the first Niagara Escarpment plan - now that they've taken it out of his control and given it to the Minister of Natural Resources and that ministry, we're seeing some substantial changes. I always call that "the ministry of the exploitation of natural resources."
The member for Grey-Owen Sound smiles because he's got one of the good ol' boys on there now, one of the good ol' boys who believes you should abolish the commission, that you should be able to have a severance with every sandwich, for dessert.
The former environment minister, the member for Guelph, knows in her heart of hearts why it should remain under the purview of the Minister of the Environment. The member for Bruce, who has a more progressive view, I understand, about the preservation of the Niagara Escarpment lands than perhaps the member for Grey-Owen Sound, will understand what we're saying.
I saw a decision that appears to be coming down in the Niagara Peninsula. Remember you people used to laugh when I'd say, "There will soon be an Escarpment Hilton, an Escarpment Holiday Inn, an Escarpment Ramada Inn, an Escarpment Embassy Suites" and so on. Well, it's starting.
With the new people now on the escarpment commission, there's a proposal that came forward just outside of St Catharines, which at the present time has a winery on it and a wonderful restaurant, a marvellous place, exactly what you should do to cater to ecotourism. That's not enough, you see. "We've got to get some development on that land," they say. Now there's a proposal that comes forward for some condominiums on that land and a culinary school on that land. What is beautiful now, a good business operation, an excellent use of the land, and I commend the owner for replanting all of these grapes, but now we've got a proposal for further development.
Do you think that the next winery isn't going to want the same thing? Do you think that the next person on the escarpment who owns land isn't going to want to do exactly the same thing? It's just going to be wild development taking place. You're taking what is an excellent operation today, which I commend the owner for, and we're going to set a precedent which will allow development all along the escarpment.
I'm not opposed to development in appropriate places and with good planning. I like to see it in the province. I think it's good. When I see development taking place in downtown Toronto, for instance, I'm delighted to see that happening, within urban boundaries and so on. All I'm saying is, don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. When you look out of this restaurant, for miles all you can see is Lake Ontario and vineyards, and that's what makes it so attractive for "agritourism," the word we use in the Niagara Peninsula. But if you start putting condominiums on it, you start putting other buildings on it, is it really agritourism then or is it simply development? It sets a precedent.
I know there are some people in favour of it. I'm sure my friend the member for Lincoln is all for it. I really wonder about it, though. Here I am complimenting what's already there, which is an aberration from what one would normally expect to find, because it has a wonderful restaurant and some ancillary buildings as well. It's a wonderful development, and I see that when you start removing regulations, when you start changing the makeup of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, you start destroying something that's pretty unique to this province, and unfortunately that's beginning to happen. I know there will be people who applaud it and say that I'm wrong and they're right. I wish that were the case.
In agriculture, food and rural affairs, I know my colleague from Oakwood is eager to enter into this and I will certainly turn it over to him in a very short period of time and he'll deal with some specific aspects of this particular bill.
I simply look at it and say, "Always be cautious when you see the removal of regulation and the removal of red tape." In some cases it's a good thing and the red tape should be removed - in some cases. I'm not dogmatic enough on this to say it's not so. But when you set up certain regulations - look at the number of people now affected in consumer and commercial relations, elderly people.
The minister responsible for senior citizens is with us this afternoon and through his portfolio he would know how vulnerable elderly people are to these shysters and con artists who prey upon elderly people. Elderly people are often very trusting of others in our society, people who like to believe in the best in their fellow human beings, and these people prey upon them. If you don't have the regulations, if you don't have a consumer and commercial relations ministry with the teeth and with the staff to deal with those problems, then they prey on them.
The crime commissioner would be interested in that as well. I know he will be advocating against removal of regulations which protect consumers and advocating in favour of tougher laws in this regard. There might even be some young offenders doing this, so that would certainly get him even more interested in this than otherwise.
In the field of health, Attorney General, agriculture and rural affairs, there are changes that are made. Don't get me wrong: Not everything in this bill is wrong; not everything in this bill is detrimental. Some of it is good; for some of it you'll find there's a pretty good consensus in this House. But I think hidden behind this is really the opportunity to raise user fees in this province.
The conservation authorities are very concerned. They believe there's an amendment that affects them that will leave gaps that will result in the elimination of regulations prohibiting polluted landfill to be buried near sensitive water areas. Previously, under the Public Lands Act, cabinet approval was required for the disposition of crown lands. The minister himself will now have sole approval. Again, don't give this power to one person. At least have the cabinet as a whole have a say over who's going to get the crown lands.
Mr Murdoch: But you just said one person can run it.
Mr Bradley: That's what you need. You need to spread that out.
Mr Murdoch: You've got to get your story straight.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Member for Grey-Owen Sound.
Mr Bradley: The member for Grey-Owen Sound is coming on as a government man now. He's usually an independent-minded guy. He says things out in the hallway from time to time which differentiate him from his colleagues, but I hear him this afternoon being a government man. I know there's a shuffle coming, Bill, but I've never known you to be the kind of person to line up for that.
Lastly, I hope the red tape that's eliminated, and my friend from Oakwood would agree with this, will eliminate the squandering of public taxpayers' dollars on a political pamphlet, blue and white in colour, which is put out by the Ministry of Health and costs $1.270 million, that's pure government propaganda. I know each one of us in this House would rather see this money applied to the provision of good health care for people. We could all think of instances where we could have this money used for something useful. Even in Carleton East, they'll be getting this particular pamphlet in French and English.
They've already received a pamphlet from David Lindsay, the former principal secretary to the Premier, former Conservative candidate, former director of Conservative caucus communications. He sent out a pamphlet, all propaganda, and it cost three quarters of a million dollars. Then we had this other one come out that I hope this red tape bill will have some influence on. It said, "Are We on the Right Track?" and again it was in blue and white. The taxpayers of this province paid for this: $700,000.
Now I hear the Solicitor General has got one coming out. There's going to be one coming out in the summer. I don't think it's going to say anything about the crime commission, but it's coming out. I want to tell the Conservative members - it's a bargoon this time - $400,000 is going to be spent on this next one.
I'm just giving you a little tease, a little preview. I want the person who knows this bill inside out, my good colleague from Oakwood, to be able to carry on and tell you why you should not be proceeding with this time allocation motion on this bill.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I want to congratulate my colleague from St Catharines for his incisive analysis of this bill and the time allocation motion which is before us. I was thinking when he was speaking it's like following Casey Stengel. As you know, Casey Stengel, after he managed the New York Yankees, managed the New York Mets, and you wonder who followed Casey Stengel as manager of the Mets. It's pretty hard to remember because all you remember is Casey. Anyway, I want to thank him for his comments, and he does talk about the importance of the traditions of this Legislature.
This bill we're debating right now - actually, we're debating a motion about the allocation of time that's going to be devoted to debate on this bill. What this government is doing, as it has done as a routine thing now, is to put forward what they call a time allocation motion, which is really a motion for closure, or a guillotine motion, as they called it in the past, cutting off debate. At one time this was done in this Legislature usually in extraordinary circumstances, but recently, especially in the last year, since they changed the rules in this place, time allocation and closure motions are quite the norm here. In other words, it's not something you do in an extraordinary situation; it's something you do almost on a regular basis.
It is one of the trademarks of this government that they invoke closure to cut off debate. The public sometimes feels that perhaps they shouldn't be debating as much as they do, but I'd just remind the public out there that one of the reasons debate is critical is that it gives the public and interested parties time to intervene on bills of this magnitude.
This is an omnibus bill. This is a very extensive bill. It may not have blockbuster issues in it, but it has a number of provisions which affect almost everyone in Ontario. There are amendments and deletions that affect everything from the Business Corporations Act to the Business Practices Act, the Certification of Titles Act, the Athletics Control Act, the Land Titles Act, the Collection Agencies Act. Almost everybody in Ontario will be affected by these changes. Not to debate these changes as being good or bad per se, but when there's so much change, it's incumbent upon a government to allow scrutiny of the changes. When you rush bills through and invoke closure, you don't give the public and interested affected parties an opportune time to do that. That is what we're debating here: this time allocation motion cutting off debate on this Red Tape Reduction Act.
The one negative part about this bill that I find most to my dislike is the fact that there is a continual movement towards more regulatory power in the hands of the ministers. There's the movement towards more executive power. Traditionally the Ontario Legislature has had a lot of power: the legislative branch, where the members of the House and committees had power to influence and affect the course of decisions in lawmaking. But as we've seen since Bill 26, which was introduced by this government almost three years ago, this erosion of legislative power continues.
This bill, Bill 25, continues on that path of eroding legislative power and giving more power to the executive branch, and that branch is probably the least in touch with the populace, with the ordinary citizens of Ontario. A lot of the regulatory enhancement here goes to the minister, and when the minister makes these changes to laws that affect all Ontarians, it's very difficult for ordinary Ontarians to find out, first of all, what the minister is even contemplating, and you don't find out until after the fact that the minister has made regulatory changes. They get reported in something called the Ontario Gazette and I wonder how many people in Ontario read the Gazette.
The changes which are made can affect people in everyday life in this province, yet this is the trend: the shift of power, where the minister doesn't have to answer to or be questioned by anyone in this House or by the general public in terms of making changes that affect commerce, that affect everything from health to just the general welfare of this province. These are some of the more negative aspects of this bill.
We no doubt need some changes and updating and modernization of old pieces of legislation; that is a given. But under that guise, they've put together this huge omnibus Bill 25 and thrown everything in there, with one of the underlying consequences being more regulatory power, less legislative power and the ability for ministers to, for instance, as the member for St Catharines said, do things about user fees. As Mike Harris, the Premier, said when he was in opposition, "A user fee is a tax." There is the ability for ministers to impose all kinds of extra user fees at their discretion without the public even knowing about it. But it will affect different segments of the population, so by the time the user fee is implemented, it's almost too late.
I ran across a user fee this week myself. It's an example of what can happen. There was a senior citizen who had just undergone some prostate cancer treatment, and he told me he was shocked that when he went to get PSA testing, which is a screening device for prostate cancer, he had to pay a $20 user fee. That is something that was a shock to this senior. He was a professional individual, but he said he could imagine what could happen to a senior who's perhaps living on a very small, meagre pension -
The Acting Speaker: The member for Nepean, the member for Cochrane South.
Mr Colle: Anyway, as I said, this senior was concerned. In fact, he had been a pharmacist his whole life and he was concerned that there'd be a lot of seniors who are on small, meagre pensions, who are trying to make ends meet, who if they were to go for this test, which most doctors prescribe, trying to find whether you might be suffering from prostate cancer, you have to pay a $20 fee to get your blood tested.
Interjection: Wow, 20 bucks.
Mr Colle: The member out there is laughing and saying, "Wow, 20 bucks." Perhaps 20 bucks isn't much to a Conservative member. I don't know what this is all about, but $20 is a lot of money. The $20 means that some man who may be suffering from this cancer will not take that test. This pharmacist told me there are a lot of seniors who aren't getting their prescribed medicines because of the user fees imposed by this government. There's the deductible and so much for every medicine, so there are seniors right now who are not getting the medicines they are prescribed. They're deciding not to take it because they're afraid they may not be able to make ends meet.
User fees add up, and in this Bill 25 there is literally the potential for hundreds of new user fees to be imposed by regulatory discretion of the minister without any kind of questioning from this House - no questions, no scrutiny - on all these changes.
If you look in this bill, you will see page after page, like on page 89, section 101.1, "Powers of Minister." "Except with respect to matters for which the director may make orders under section 100, the minister may make orders conferring on the director...; specifying...; governing...; specifying...;" - section after section, all talking about the minister's powers. For example, paragraph 17 of section 101.1: "requiring the payment of fees to land registrars upon the performance of any official function...." This is where you get all kinds of potential references to a minister and his fee allocation powers, which this bill does. It gives, as I said, the minister the ability to do that. We cannot question in the House whether he does this or not.
Then on page 59, section 163.1, "The minister may make orders...specifying the duties...; specifying the manner...." There's another 22 provisions there as to what the minister's powers are: "governing the mode...; requiring that printed copies..." - everything - and then, again, "19. Specifying the amount of fees payable under this act...." That is the power of the minister to levy fees on the citizens of Ontario without any question, without any, as I said, second look, by the members of this House and certainly not by the public. That's why it's important to have debate on bills like this, that's why it's important for the public to have input and raise questions.
You really wonder if the public is well served when they're rushing ahead with bill after bill after bill. Yesterday I was at the social development committee. We were pleading with the members of the committee to sit during the summer to take under their purview a bill that I have, Bill 20, which is about allowing municipalities to install safety red light cameras at dangerous intersections. The Conservative majority would not sit during the summer to discuss a bill which is of an urgent public safety nature. They said, "We're not sitting." When the committee has nothing charged before it, nothing to do in the summer and we ask that it sit for a week and perhaps get a serious safety bill like the red light camera bill through, they refuse to sit.
They're in such a hurry to jam bills through about campaign financing. They're jamming this bill through, bill after bill. Where are their priorities? Cities like Ottawa, London, Hamilton, Toronto and Mississauga have all asked for this government to do something about the rampant red light running that's happening all over this province. There's a total disregard for the safety of pedestrians, other motorists, cyclists. This government refuses to move quickly to bring forth the ability of municipalities to pass a bill which allows for safety cameras. This is incredible, a condemnation of this government's priorities.
They're always in a hurry for their political agenda, not the public's political agenda. The public is crying for help on this road rage and this rampant disregard for safety on our streets. This government has been stalling on this, making excuses after its talk about red tape. There's so much red tape about public safety that maybe this government should change its colours from blue to red. They refuse to move on something that's workable in other jurisdictions and they stall, make excuses, defer. It's almost a new excuse every day about why they can't have safety cameras at dangerous intersections. Every day from the minister and the Premier we hear excuses.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, that's the second time I warn you.
Mr Colle: If this government had its priorities straight, it would be putting forth bills that deal with what the public wants, and the public wants something done about cars that daily run red lights.
These cars are not just running red lights; they are hurting people at these intersections. There are 55,000 collisions at intersections across this province every year. Sixteen people were killed in the GTA last year at these intersections, and this government stalls, makes excuses. I was just appalled that yesterday they refused to sit for a week in the summer to help bring forward this safety bill. That's what I call a priority.
They say they're interested in cutting down red tape and getting things done. Why not get something done that the public wants for a change? There's nobody knocking at the door to say, "Give the minister more regulatory powers, give the minister more power to raise user fees." The public is knocking at the door saying, "We want something done about red light running, about cars that are not obeying basic traffic signals."
How far have we come in this province when the cars don't stop at, never mind the orange or amber light, but don't stop at the red any more? If you stop at a red light, God help you, because the car behind you may hit you from behind or pass you because you had the audacity to stop at a red light.
That's what this government should be doing something about instead of doing things that give ministers more powers to levy fees. That's what their priority is. Their priorities are about power, about shifting power from the legislative branch to the executive branch. As the member for St Catharines says, when you shift power to the executive branch, who gets the power? It's the unelected, invisible whiz kids who lurk in the back rooms of this Legislature and the back rooms of government offices. There's where the power goes.
When you talk about the power going to the executive branch, that's where the power is shifting. That is a very dangerous precedent, a very dangerous trend that this government has embarked upon. When they talk about the executive branch of government, we no longer even talk about the cabinet ministers.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, do you have any problem?
Mr Marchese: I beg your pardon, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Okay. Somebody has the floor. The member for Oakwood.
Mr Colle: Anyway, that is what is happening. The executive branch now means the whiz kids' branch. That's what it is. It's the branch of the whiz kids.
As I said before, I would like to see their pictures on these walls. Let's find out who these invisible power brokers are. Let's find out who these people are who make up bills like Bill 25. Let's find out their name, phone number, fax number and e-mail address so we can e-mail the whiz kids. If we've got a complaint about what this government is doing, let's complain to the real power brokers. That is what has to be done, bringing these people who make the decisions under public scrutiny. This bill gives the whiz kids more power. They don't need more power. It's the people, the taxpayers who need more say and more power, not the unelected, invisible whiz kids who lurk in the back rooms of the government offices.
In terms of this government and its trend, we see more and more examples of a government ruling by decree, by edict, by regulation. That means the government, which is not under public scrutiny enough, is a government that you can't question because they do things behind closed doors where you don't have to have the public present. That's what this type of bill does, it moves that behind closed doors.
If you look at this bill, one section here is about the Public Hospitals Act. If you try to go to a public hospital board meeting and ask them questions to find out why they're closing your hospital, why they're giving pay raises to hospital executives, you can't get any answers from them. These hospital boards, some of them that aren't open to public scrutiny, have unbelievable power over your local hospital, and the public has no say to change what they have done or what they plan to do.
In the red tape bill, Bill 25, there is no mention about giving the public more access to the hospital boards that run our community hospitals. In fact, it's getting so bad that my so-called community hospital, Northwestern General Hospital, was closed by this government, and now they have this mega-hospital called the Humber River Regional Hospital. You can't get near the place. They're sworn to secrecy. If any staff member ever gives the public any information, they're brought up on the carpet and told: "You'd better shut up. Don't talk to the public." That is what is happening. The public is being shut out from things like hospitals and how they are run, because now the hospitals are big corporate boards that are distant from the people.
In this red tape bill they did nothing about that. This would have been a wonderful opportunity for this Red Tape Commission to open the hospital boards up so that the public could actually ask questions of hospital boards, to find out why they're laying off nurses, why there are line-ups in the hallways, why you can't get into intensive care. These are the questions the public likes to ask, but you can't ask them. There's nobody who will answer these questions.
This government is embarking on closing 11 hospitals in the city of Toronto and 35 in the province, and it wasn't even debated in this Legislature. There's no bill. They did it all with another appointed commission, the Health Services Restructuring Commission. Who has ever seen these people? Where are these hospital restructuring commissioners? When have they ever been questioned by the public? This is the kind of thing this government loves doing. It loves setting up more power and giving it to invisible, unaccountable agencies or agents of the government who the public can't question. This is not good democracy, it's not good government, and it becomes very acute when bill after bill tends to reinforce this type of executive power in the hands of very few.
This government is hell-bent on doing this no matter what. As you know, this week they're also introducing the buying-the-election bill, where they're going to invoke closure. They don't want debate. They don't want public hearings on this bill they've put forth, which they're going to try buying the election with, the buying-the-election bill. They're going to have all this extra money to spend by the central party in power. They're going from $1.2 million to $4 million. They want to try buying the election by passing an act. They've asked: "Why would we have public hearings on this buying-the-election bill?" Well, they don't want public hearings on the buying-the-election bill. I wonder why they don't want it. What are they afraid of?
Let's take the buying-the-election bill out to the public. Let's have public hearings in all the ridings across this province and see if the public agrees with your bill on buying the election. I don't think the public wants you to pass that bill. That's why you won't go to public hearings. That's why you're going to invoke closure on the buying-the-election bill, as you've invoked closure on this Bill 25. That's because this government, when it has got something it doesn't want the public to debate and engage in, invokes closure and jams the bill through without any kind of scrutiny.
We've got fundamental changes taken in the way we are governed in this province, and the most fundamental shift we've seen, as I said, started with Bill 26 and continues with this Bill 25, with the buying-the-election bill they're going to ram down our throats in the next day or so. This government continually tries to, essentially, control things. It wouldn't be bad if it was control in the hands of all the members of the Legislature or even all the members of the Conservative government caucus, but it's not them; it's in the control of a very few in the back rooms. They make the decisions, they decide what bills will be passed, what laws will be passed with very little public scrutiny, little public accountability.
When you have less accountability, you have a public that's shut out from the way government works. Sooner or later, and it is happening in many parts of this province, the public becomes alienated. The public is saying: "Why didn't they ask me before they closed my hospital? Who gave this hospital restructuring committee the right to close my hospital without asking me?" These are people who went door to door raising nickels and dimes and dollars and $5 to build their community hospital; the government comes in with their hired guns and closes the hospital it took them 20 years to build by door-to-door campaigns.
That's what this government is doing. It's basically saying to people who have always contributed, who have always participated in their community, whether it be the hospital, whether it be at the local Lions Club - whatever it is, these are people who want to give to the province - now they're saying, "No, no, we are going to now start ruling and governing by edict." There are a lot of people in this province who are getting pretty fed up with that. They're saying: "There's nothing in an election that gives you the right to take away my powers of citizenship. There's nothing in an election that gave you the power to rule by edict or by regulation."
That's what this government is doing. It's saying: "We got elected. We are now going to rule by edict. We're going to rule by closing down debate. We're going to cut off debate. We're going to try to change election rules so we can win." That's the type of thing people are getting pretty fed up with. They're saying, "I may have voted Conservative, but I didn't vote to give you the right to basically control everything in this province."
Most Ontarians are fairminded. They want debate. They want questions. Most Ontarians want accountability. They want to be able to question ministers. They want to be able to question people who make decisions. But bills like Bill 25 and cutting off debate, as they do on all these bills, give Ontarians less ability and opportunity to question and find out if the law is good or bad. That's very fundamental in the precepts of responsible and representative government. That's what this province was founded on: responsible representative government, going back to Lord Durham back in 1837. That's what made this province great. Bills like this and closing down debate go against that tradition. It's not good for the province and it's not good for democracy.
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I'm going to be sharing my time with the member for Fort York and the member for Cochrane South.
It's kind of interesting that we're here debating a bill that is a guillotine bill, a motion to shut down the debate on Bill 25. I want to go into some of the information I've received on the reason why Bill 25 is being time-allocated today and we're debating that particular bill.
There's no doubt about it, there are a lot of sections in the bill that are major changes. The whole bill covers over 200 pages, and it makes amendments and what the government calls getting rid of red tape in basically every section of the government, in all of the ministries. They're red tape bills that were brought forward last year and, because the government was a month late coming back this spring, now they feel they have to shut down debate and use the guillotine on the opposition parties, who they fear might drag out debate.
I want to go back a little bit to question period today. So our listening audience out there will know, one of the reasons Bill 25 is being time-allocated and is being put into committee hearings that are going to be held when the Legislature comes back in October - because this is the last week. The government decided that they've taken enough heat in the Legislature and they're going to adjourn for about three months and come back at the end of September or in October.
Bill 25 is going to go to the justice committee at that time, but one of the reasons for that is that they want to make sure that the NDP does not have a chance to get some standing order 124 requests in to have some debate on how Dudley George died at Ipperwash three years ago. We have submitted in front of four different committees, and they have stonewalled and done everything to try to prevent the NDP caucus from bringing witnesses before the committee so we could find out who ordered the OPP in, the first time in over 100 years that we have ever seen a government do this. Shortly after taking office back in 1995, the provincial park at Ipperwash was shut down. The MNR had no problem with, after Labour Day, allowing the natives to enter the -
Mr Bradley: Oh, that's why they're sending everything to the justice committee. I wondered.
Mr Len Wood: This is why it's going to the justice committee, to make sure they can stonewall on the Dudley George death that happened at Ipperwash back in September 1995.
Our leader, Howard Hampton, posed the questions today to the Solicitor General, and he was unable to give us any answers. The Information and Privacy Commissioner is looking into where all the documents went. Were the documents that were supposed to be in the Premier's office or in the Solicitor General's office shredded, or what happened to them? The OPP officer who was assisting the Solicitor General at that time said he left all the documents there, and they should have been there. All of a sudden, they have disappeared.
The family of Dudley George and the first nations people all across Canada are not going to have any peace and there is not going to be any healing taking place until this matter of the Dudley George death has had a full and public inquiry, and we're going to continue to raise that issue in the Legislature and out there in the public with the media.
The Globe and Mail has picked up on the issue, and there's an article, "Efforts to Find Ipperwash Papers `Not Reasonable,' Privacy Boss Says." There are lot of unanswered questions out there, plus the fact that documentation that was supposed to be there, if it's still there - the Solicitor General in his response today said that any documents pertinent to that issue have been released or will be released. It's not up to him to decide what is pertinent to the wrongful death of Dudley George. It's up to them to make sure that these documents are brought forward and to have the case wide open. If they don't want to come in front of the committee - they have blocked us from going in front of four different committees now. The opposition parties are allowed to bring forward a standing order 124 request to make sure they have a chance to debate issues that they think are of interest.
Mr Bradley: Oh, well, the Premier comes in every day to answer questions on this.
Mr Len Wood: The Premier doesn't show up very often. He's out there campaigning, because he knows that if the economy decides to go for a loop - it could happen, because all the jobs that were created in Ontario, if any were created, were because of the massive growth that has happened in the United States. It has nothing to do with what the Conservative government has done here in Ontario. There are articles in the Toronto Star saying that is the case.
If we look at all the bills that are being rammed through this Legislature over the last week, they are being rammed through because the government did not come back when it was supposed to come back. They delayed for a month, and as a result they decided that instead of dealing with the problems we have in health care and education, the mess they created out there, where the funding for operating budgets in all the hospitals right across Ontario were cut and we're going to have 37 hospitals closed - we're already hearing that because of the funding cuts in the education system, there are going to be schools closed in southern Ontario and I'm sure we're going to see that in northern Ontario.
I've raised the issue here a number of times on health care that in Kapuskasing, for example, when we take in Kapuskasing and the surrounding area they're entitled to 14 doctors. Yet this government has done nothing, even though hundreds of letters have been sent to the Minister of Health and the Premier complaining, "Why don't they do something?" If the OMA is unable to come up with the doctors needed for the town of Kapuskasing, the Conservative government has a responsibility to make sure that people do not suffer because they live in northern Ontario. One of the doctors was saying that there is a two-tier health care system now, one for southern Ontario and one for northern Ontario, because no effort whatsoever is being made to deal with the issues in northern Ontario as far as doctors or health care are concerned. We have long distances that we have to travel.
I understand that this afternoon another time allocation motion was brought in on Bill 35, the Hydro bill, which is the privatization of Ontario Hydro through the back door. Consumers are going to pay higher rates if the stranded debt is not handled properly. The large corporations and industry are probably going to pay lower rates, but the consumers, the residential users, are going to pay higher rates. But they decided that they want to ram this one through the Legislature.
They brought in legislation on Bill 31. The titles of some of these bills are scary. It's An Act to promote economic development and create jobs in the construction industry, to further workplace democracy and to make other amendments to labour and employment statutes. Bill 31 is strictly another bill very similar to Bill 7, which was brought in during the first year of the Conservative government and made legal the use of strikebreakers, or scabs and blisters, as we call the workers who go in and replace workers out on a legal strike. Now the employers are allowed to go out and hire the people that they feel are necessary and bring them through the picket lines with OPP officers or the police forces right across this province.
Bill 31 is going to cause nothing but problems in the construction industry. I'm sure that before the next election rolls around we'll probably see a province-wide strike in Ontario as the direct result of Mike Harris and the Minister of Labour deciding that they want to reduce the hourly rates of all the unionized workers in Ontario and giving the employers the right to bring in non-unionized workers along with the unionized workers. That's going to create nothing but problems in the workforce in the construction industry right across this province.
There might be some aspects of the bill we're dealing with today - well, we're not actually dealing with the bill. We're dealing with the time allocation to make sure that the government can railroad Bill 25 through. But how can anybody be expected to digest 200 pages of amendments and changes that are being made to all of the acts? As I said before, instead of dealing with Bill 25, we should be dealing with some of the crisis situations out there. Northern Ontario has seen no benefits as far as job creation is concerned. Unemployment in most of the communities is around 15%, 18%, 20%. In some areas it's 25%. In some of the native reserve communities in Moosonee, Moose Factory, Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Peawanuck, Ogoki, it's at 85% or 90%. There's been nothing to create employment in any of these communities within my riding of Cochrane North.
Even when some of the presenters were coming forward to deal with the death of Dudley George - some of them came in front of the committee under Bill 22 and Bill 15, and the Conservative members on those particular committees decided that they were going to interrupt the presenters, one of whom was a person by the name of Father Barry McGrory, who was making a presentation on workfare. The Conservative members at that time decided they were going to disrupt him and his presentation. That's nothing but just being ignorant to the concerns that people have out there.
Mr Bradley: Remember when they went after -
Mr Len Wood: Yes, anybody who comes in and makes a presentation and they don't agree with their opinions, they decide to go after them and shout them down and whatever. This is not the way a caring, concerned, compassionate government should operate, but the feeling I'm getting in the north is that this is not that type of government. It's not the same Conservative government that was in power for 42 years prior to 1985 that ran up billions of dollars in debt.
This is more of an attack government that decides the teachers are bad, all the workers that are unionized are bad people. The people on unemployment insurance who are unable to find a job after a certain period of time and go on welfare are bad people. They have to be knocked down and their allowance for food and shelter taken away. At one point just a few months ago they decided that women on welfare who are expecting shouldn't be allowed to have vitamins, that they might use that money to drink beer. As a result, they cut off the $25 or $30 that women need in the last few months of their pregnancy to make sure they stay healthy and produce a healthy child.
It has been three years of attack, attack, attack. There is not a single person in this province who hasn't been affected one way or the other. When you download all the services the government was normally giving in the province, we know that property taxes are going to have to go up. Either property taxes go up or services get cut. There are going to be a lot of services cut.
I'll give you an example. The highway going through Kapuskasing is very similar to the Trans-Canada Highway. It's an extension of Yonge Street that goes from the Legislative Building here to Vancouver. The Conservative government said, "We think the section going through Kapuskasing is a connecting link to the town, and the taxpayers and property owners in the town of Kapuskasing should pay for this section of highway."
As a result, there are different standards. Even transport drivers, if you're talking to them in the winter months, are saying, "Where are the standards on these highways? We travel for 40 or 50 miles and the Minister of Transportation is looking after the roads and they're in one condition. Then as soon as we hit the towns there are different standards."
My explanation is very simple: You've got Mike Harris, who has dumped this on to the property owners along with paying for land ambulances, paying for the roads that have been dumped on them, paying for welfare and paying for the airports. The federal government got rid of all their federal airports and the province was subsidizing the airport in Cochrane and the airport in Hearst. As soon as the federal government got rid of the airports and passed them along to the municipalities - Kapuskasing, for example, is now having to pay for the airport through property taxes. It's a continuous attack on them.
Before I give my time to the member for Fort York and eventually the member for Cochrane South, I just want to raise once again, why is Bill 25 being time-allocated today? We have a muzzle being put on the opposition parties and time allocation that has to be voted on at 6 o'clock. The only reason this particular bill is being brought forward is to stop the opposition, especially the NDP - Howard Hampton was asking questions today to the Solicitor General - from asking more questions about what involvement Mike Harris and Chris Hodgson had in the wrongful death of an unarmed native at Ipperwash. That's the only reason we've got a time allocation motion here today. We have to get to the bottom of that. We're now going into four years of the Mike Harris government here, and they've done everything to try and stall and make sure that the NDP are is not going to get any answers to the questions.
As I said before, we've asked to bring this situation in front of four different committees and they've stalled and stonewalled on every occasion to make sure that we wouldn't get the answers and that the Dudley George family will not get the answers. I represent quite a few thousand natives in my riding and they are concerned, very concerned, and they're angry and frustrated about what happened. Why, for the first time in 100 years, would a Conservative government come to power and order the natives out of the park or the OPP to go in and, as a result, one unarmed person died? We have to get to the bottom of that and I'm sure we're eventually going to get to the bottom of that.
Concerning Bill 25, the only reason it's being debated here today and being put into committee in October is to try to stop us from getting questions or any public inquiry on that particular situation.
Mr Marchese: There are a number of aspects I want to touch on with respect to this particular bill, but first I need to put something aside. A number of the members have made reference to my light blue suit. I want to say that I dress for style, whereas many of the members who wear blue on the other side dress for ideology. That blue there is connected to a Tory ideology kind of colour; this is style. I just thought I'd get that out of the way.
The Acting Speaker: Get to the point: the motion.
Mr Marchese: Thank you, Speaker, for facilitating the discussion.
I wanted to add to some of the comments the member for Cochrane North made. It is true that this government has been behaving like many of the canine family - the German shepherd types, the Dobermann types, the pit bull types - snapping at everybody in this entire province. There isn't one single soul they haven't touched or barked against in this province.
People of course are defending themselves as best they can. These poor defenceless people out there have very few tools because all the tools are on the other side. The toolbox is there, and it's a big toolbox with a whole lot of things that have been whacking this province from one end to the other: north, south, east and west. No one is safe from this government.
Look at this title, as is typical of this government: It's called the Red Tape Reduction Act. Speaker, doesn't that alert you to a particular problem of reverse reality connected to this title? It does for me. I know that everybody out there is catching on. As soon as they hear a title like Red Tape Reduction Act, they say: "Something gives here. Something is up. What gives?" I would.
Mr Beaubien: They love it.
Mr Marchese: They don't like it. They know there's something reptilian about this whole thing, something lurking underneath the title, something that speaks to the true reality connected inside. While there may be things we will agree with, people also know that there's some stuff there that is likely to be hurting workers, consumers and ordinary citizens. People need to look at that.
A number of other folks have made reference to Mr Guy Giorno. Poor Guy Giorno. He's getting a beating from some of the members in this House.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): For good reason.
Mr Marchese: Well, I am not entirely sure, because I've got to tell you, every time they talk about Guy Giorno and Tom Long and others, it deflects the attention away from where power is centralized.
Mr Len Wood: The whiz kids?
Mr Marchese: Yes, the whiz kids and all that. They probably have a few good ideas, no doubt about that, but the real power is M. Harris, the Premier. We should not be deflecting our attention away from the big guy, and in mentioning these other little people behind the scenes, we give them undue attention and undue power. We distract ourselves from the real focus.
I'm not one who wants to spend too much time on these other little guys behind the scenes, because I know what power is. We were in power too at one point. I know that we had advisers and in the early years a few of our folks had tremendous power, very true, but eventually the Premier took control. Your Premier has exerted control over a period of time now. I would think by now he's firmly seated in his premiership and has of course exercised his power in a way that I think he wants. So the little guys, put them aside, stop talking about them and start talking about the leader.
One of the things this Red Tape Reduction Act does is to repeal the policy and priorities board of cabinet. This policy and priorities board has six members of cabinet sitting there scrutinizing some of the issues that come before them. It's like another chamber of second thought, as it were. They decide basically on the priorities; it gets back to cabinet for discussion, and from time to time it gets back to caucus. But in this case, if you eliminate the policy and priorities board, what it does is to centralize power in the cesspool of the Premier's chamber. That's what happens: It centralizes power in the cesspool of the Premier's chamber alone. Why we need to do this I have no clear idea except that I think M. Harris, the Premier, has decided that he needs to exercise more control; so it appears. I don't know.
There is no good explanation these folks have provided as to why this should fall under the Red Tape Reduction Act. It beats me. Maybe some of the other whiz kids on this side of the chamber might have some thoughts on this matter, but I certainly don't know. None of them have commented on this particular measure. That's why I say we need to focus our attention on the focal point of power, and that's M. Harris.
This is a time allocation motion. Speaker, you've been sitting there listening to a lot of these time allocation motions. There have been eight so far, eight time allocation motions that we in this House have had to deal with.
Mr Bisson: More than that. That's just in this session.
Mr Marchese: In this particular session. A number of people who have commented on this have already told us why time allocation is not a particularly useful or helpful thing for anybody. What it does is to make sure that the scrutiny that every bill should have is reduced by half at least. That is what they are doing. They are reducing -
Hon David Turnbull (Minister without Portfolio): We learned it from you, Rosario, ad nauseam.
Mr Marchese: Ad nauseam. M. Turnbull, speaking of ad nauseam - no offence. When they were here -
Hon Mr Turnbull: I'd never take offence with you, Rosario.
Mr Marchese: No, I appreciate that. When you were on this side of the House, you seemed to have a lot of things to say about some of the things we did. It seemed repetitive at the time. You were particularly loud in those days. Now I find you're very calm. Government suits you so well. It has calmed you down a fair bit, at least in this chamber. I'm not sure about the behaviour in the whip's office.
The Acting Speaker: Order. You're not holding a conversation now.
Mr Marchese: I find him kinder in this House, not as loud as he used to be here. A fine voice he had, I tell you.
Time allocation is a tool - and they use a lot of tools - designed to make sure that the scrutiny that is appropriate to every bill is diminished. That's what this is about, over and over again.
And you know what? They want to give this particular bill two weeks of hearings, as they did the Condominium Act: another two weeks on that particular bill, on the Condominium Act. Everybody says, "We don't think this is a serious type of bill that requires two weeks of debate and scrutiny," and this bill here, the red tape reduction bill, another two weeks of hearings. But on essential bills such as Bill 31, no hearings. On another essential bill, Bill 36, changes to the Elections Act, no hearings. But on this, two weeks.
I ruminate often on the politics of this government, on the strategies of this government. We articulate as best we can what we believe the politics of this government are all about. It's done for the purposes of speaking to the people who are watching this channel - no one else, really. We need to let them know that essential bills around which there are fundamental differences are getting no hearings, and bills that have very little debate attached to them are going to get weeks of hearings. Not only that, but this particular bill, as the member for Cochrane North has talked about, is going to the justice committee, where we are trying to deal with the matter of Ipperwash. This government has a stranglehold on what happens in this place.
The member for Simcoe Centre said red tape has a stranglehold on our economy. I tell you, Mike Harris, the Premier, has a stranglehold on this place, and they have a stranglehold on their members, as they do the opposition parties.
When they decide to introduce red tape so as not to permit this House to discuss Ipperwash under section 124, which permits us to have 12 hours of debate, when they decide they will not hear a debate on this issue, they introduce their red tape so as to prevent us from scrutinizing, from debating, from getting to the issue that is very important to many not just aboriginal people, but many concerned as to what happened to Dudley George. His death is something that has been raised in this House repeatedly by our leader and other New Democrats, but this government has been stalling for the longest of time. They want this issue to fade away. The way they want to deal with this issue is that it come back, if they want it to, in the next election, but not now.
Talk about red tape, therefore, to me seems inconsistent. It seems contradictory that they would on the one hand give two weeks of hearings on one non-controversial issue and no hearings on another issue that has a great deal of controversy.
For me, it brings many questions that we are trying to raise in this House. We do our best to say to the public that if you find what this government does as offensive as we often do, you need to raise that with the government members, because if you don't, they will assume that your silence is support. They do this often, on many issues.
The member for Simcoe Centre talked about how this government knows how to manage the economy, they know how to deal with the economy, something that obviously we as New Democrats didn't know how to do. These people have gotten the economy under control because of their expertise in economics.
They have cut billions of dollars from essential services in this province. They are health, education, environment, labour protections, cultural cuts that have affected all of our cultural workers, essential things that most of us value. We're talking billions.
It isn't something that some of us dream up. There was in the Globe an article that says: "Ontario Spending Claims Not True, Group Says: Analysis of Tory Budgets Shows Deep Cuts, Misleading Accounting."
They're good managers, all right. They're managers of Tory politics as it relates to corporate power in this province, and they do that well. There's no doubt about that. But the billions they have taken out of our economy is hurting us all, not helping. The $5 billion they are giving away in income tax cuts, $2 billion of which goes to 6% of their buddies, is hurting this economy. They're spending more than New Democrats were before. At the same time, they're saying they're spending less.
It's an oxymoron. It's certainly paradoxical that they want it both ways; usually it's Liberals. Liberals usually want it both ways, an elastic kind of politics. But in this instance Tories want it both ways. They're saying: "Oh, no, we're cutting. We're the real cutters." On the other hand, they say: "No, we're spending more than the others. Look at our health budget. Look at our education budget. We're spending more." Do you see how that is contradictory? You can't have it both ways.
They have spent more than New Democrats. It's not because they're putting money into programs; it's because the income tax cut is adding a big debt to our spending. That is what is causing this kind of budget problem we're all facing. The fact that we have to borrow five billion bucks means this government is spending more than any other government before them. Then they say they're good managers of money.
That's why we say to the people that we need to expose contradictions, those oxymorons, those paradoxes; break it down in such a way that people out there are able to formulate an opinion as to where the enemy is, because Tories will continue to say the enemy is on this side, that they're okay, that they're managing the economy well. As the member for Cochrane North said, they've got nothing to do with the economy. We are lucky that the US is doing well and all of that trickles down to poor little Canada. If it wasn't for that, these Tories would be in as bad shape as the rest, both Liberals and New Democrats.
Mr Marchese: Oh, please, come on. How else would you explain that the Liberals at the federal level are doing as well as they are? How would you explain it?
Mr Cullen: Better: 56%.
Mr Marchese: Oh, they're better managers at the federal level? The Libs are performing as well as you. Why? Because they are creating a better climate, like you? Or is it because, of course, the US is doing well and we fortunate little Homo sapiens here in Canada are doing better because of those other conditions that come as a result of that kind of an economy. A good economy brings bucks in.
When we had a recession from 1990 to 1995, New Democrats got whacked seriously. Not because of our policy -
Mr Marchese: Oh, they laugh. Let them smile. It's part of the game. It's part of politics here. Nothing to do with the politics of New Democrats; a whole lot to do with a world economy that was collapsing all around us. In fact, in Europe, South America - these Tories laugh. To think that these little people here in Ontario are causing this economic boom, to think that M. Harris with his bunch of cronies over there is causing this boom in this province - please. Who do you think you're talking to?
Mr Marchese: Mr Jackson, please, take a couple of minutes to speak to this. I know that not everyone is an economist in this place, or out there, but if Liberals are doing as well as the Tories, it isn't because of your politics but because the US is doing well. Trust me on this.
There are things to add. The member for Cochrane North has touched on some of these issues, I've touched on others and I know my friend and colleague the member for Cochrane South would like to add some of his observations to this bill, so I will pass that on.
Mr Bisson: We're speaking today on the red tape bill, and I think the comments made by both the members for Fort York and Cochrane North, when they talk about the economy, were bang on. The government is trying to make people believe that all of these initiatives they have, like this red tape bill and other bills they have had, somehow have created the economic boom in the province of Ontario.
But you know, there's a problem with that. As was pointed out earlier, if you look at what's really going on in the North American economy, the American economy has been doing extremely well, for a number of reasons. Because Ontario happens to export a lot of its products into the United States, and because most of those goods are produced here in Ontario, it only stands to reason that the Ontario economy has done fairly well.
For the government members to come into this House and say: "Well, you know, it's because we introduced the red tape bill. Boy oh boy, the economy in Ontario is doing much better because of that. We're entirely responsible for the economic boom that we've had in Ontario," I think is a stretch. I think it's more than a stretch. I can't say what I think it is in this House because it would be unparliamentary. But the reality is, what has happened here in Ontario is that we've been seeing the effects of what's happened in the American economy, just as we saw in the 1990s.
At the end of 1989-90 when the Ontario economy went into a slide, it was why? It wasn't because Bob Rae got elected to government. It was because of what we saw within the American economy. There was an overall slowing of the economy, and what ended up happening is that the demand for manufactured goods from Ontario went down from the United States. Basically what we saw was the slowing of the economy because of what we saw in the United States.
The other point I want to make is, I was fortunate last Friday to be in the city of Timmins when the Premier came to Timmins. He was at the Timmins underground gold mine tour to announce some $5 million that is going to be earmarked by the heritage fund -
Mr Len Wood: Trying to buy votes.
Mr Bisson: - I'm coming to this point - in order to put into place a tourism strategy to try to attract people from the United States and Europe into northern Ontario when it comes to tourism destinations. I think that's a good thing. I don't think there's any problem with what they announced.
But I was really a bit taken aback by a couple of the comments the Premier made at the time, and I thought, "No, I'm not going to respond to those comments while he's in Timmins announcing what is good news," because whenever the Premier comes to Timmins and wants to say something positive, we encourage him to do that and we'll give him the respect he deserves. But I want to bring back something that he said because it was raised again here in the House just a little while ago. That's this whole notion that since 1995, Ontario's economy has gotten better because of Mike Harris.
Mr Harris was in Timmins the other day and he said, "Soon Ontario will be number one," when it comes to the number one place in the world to live. Where have you guys been? The United Nations as far back as 1993 was saying the best place in the world to live is where? Good old Canada, and good old province of Ontario. In Welland especially, because of my good friend Mr Kormos -
Mr Len Wood: And booming Kapuskasing.
Mr Bisson: - and booming Kapuskasing. But I'm getting off topic.
The point that I make is, the government has tried to paint this picture that they're somehow responsible for everything that's good in Ontario and take absolutely no responsibility for what is bad in the province.
I just want to remind people that in 1993, Canada was chosen as the number one place in the world to live by the United Nations. Why? Because we had built up over a period of years, through our provinces and through the federal government, a system, a social safety net, as we call it, that was second to none across the world. We recognized that our communities were safe, that we had healthy communities and we had a healthy nation to live in. That's why they chose Canada as the number one place to live.
You know what else happened in 1993, 1994 and 1995? Ontario's economy outpaced all of Canada and the G-7. Who was in power then? Bob Rae was in power, the NDP government. My lord. The government is trying to make us believe that somehow the economy only picked up after 1995. I use that to make the point that Ontario's economy is very much linked to what happens in the United States. We benefited, the Bob Rae government, by what happened within the United States when the economy started to pick up again at the end of 1993 and into 1994 and 1995. That was reflected in the overall economic gains that were made in the province of Ontario.
It's interesting to note that as I was flying down from Timmins earlier this afternoon on the Air Ontario flight, I was reading a financial report - I forget which financial analyst it was - and they were speaking about our mutual funds, for those of us who are lucky enough to invest in mutual funds, which happens to be most members of this assembly because of all kinds of reasons we can get into later, what would be good places to invest in for the following year when it came to mutual funds.
One of the things they went on to talk about at fairly great length is how Ontario's economy would do much better if it weren't for all the cuts this government has made; that the cuts made by the Harris government to the broader public sector, as well as the public sector itself directly for the province and the programs they support, has slowed the Ontario economy. The point they were making is that if the government had not done that, Ontario's economy probably would have been stronger.
I don't pretend for one second those are all the problems we had in Ontario, but they were part of it. So for this government to somehow argue that they are responsible for all of this is quite something else.
We talk about red tape. The government said, "We need red tape bills to do positive things in Ontario." Let's talk about some of the red tape this government is dealing with, both by way of initiative through government policies and by way of red tape bills as well. I picked up a copy of the Timmins Daily Press, and I think it's actually today's paper, June 23. This is the kind of news that we read every day now in Ontario because of the Mike Harris government. Do you know what economic development in northern Ontario has come down to? "Kirkland Lake Garbage Plans Giant Boost for Railways." Under the Mike Harris government, our only economic boom in northern Ontario in three years is what? It's this government saying, "We're going to make money by taking Toronto's garbage into northern Ontario."
I want to be on the record as saying I'm opposed to the project. I was opposed to it when we were in government. My guess is that by the time the approvals process goes through, this government will be out of power and we'll never go ahead with this particular project.
I don't want to get into a debate about the Adams mine proposal, but the point I make is this: The government takes this attitude that the private sector has got to do everything, that we cannot as a government intervene in the economy in any way. We see McDonnell Douglas going down in the city of Toronto, over 3,000 jobs. We have Minister Palladini getting up and saying: "We shouldn't do anything. We have to allow the private sector to do these things." It's only 3,000 jobs; 3,000 jobs gone here, 3,000 jobs gone back over a year. The reality is this government has a laissez-faire approach when it comes to economic development, and we in northern Ontario are seeing the effects of that because we are not seeing the economic development that we saw during the early 1990s and into about 1996 in northern Ontario.
Everything that we saw happening that was positive, such as the expansion of the TMP plant in Iroquois Falls, the building of a co-gen station in Iroquois Falls, the expansion of the waferboard mill in Timmins, the building of brand-new greenfield mills across the area of northern Ontario, the Dome superpit expansion - over half a billion dollars of private sector investment was invested in my riding alone between the years 1993 and 1996. Why? Because our government, the NDP government - yes, Bob Rae - was at the table with the private sector saying: "Let's find ways to work together. Let's find ways how government can be helpful in creating economic opportunities for the private sector so that our communities can benefit."
This government's approach is: "We'll introduce a bill, we'll cut all the red tape and everything will be fine. Red tape? No problem. The government is just going to back off and the private sector is going to invent everything on its own and we'll just let them be. Everything will be fine." It doesn't work, that's the problem. When I look across northern Ontario, the place that I come from, I see no economic development happening whatsoever. We see the mines across northern Ontario basically dwindling, part of it because of commodity prices, but also because the confidence there used to be in the mining sector, because of the active role the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and others used to play, is just not there any more.
Don't believe me. Read the Timmins Daily Press, today's issue. Now we have, "Lands for Life Derailed, Members Say." Everybody in northern Ontario, the mining sector, the forestry sector, environmentalists, municipalities, tourists, anglers, hunters, local politicians, all have one thing in common. They're saying: "This is nuts. You are going to put a stranglehold on the economy of northern Ontario on the basis of you guys trying to make yourselves look as if you're environmentally conscious for some people in southern Ontario." People in northern Ontario are as environmentally conscious as anybody else, but they're saying, "We have to have a process that works and we have to have something that in the end is going to come to some results that are positive." But this government, no. Everything that they touch is the inverted Midas approach.
I was talking a little while ago about how Premier Harris came to the riding of Cochrane South, to Timmins, last week. I was there. It was a very positive thing. He didn't invite me; I just showed up. I thought it was a good thing. No, actually he did invite me. I shouldn't say that. Mr Harris did call my office and I did go, and I appreciate the call.
I was at the airport this morning and my father pointed out to me that there was an article I should read in the Timmins Daily Press on the editorial page. It's quite interesting. It's a letter written by Lucie Minard, a local resident of the city of Timmins, and it reads as follows: "Harris Spoils Saturday Morning." I think it's quite a telling thing. It goes on like this:
"The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the aroma of coffee fills the room, everyone is sleeping. I pick up my Daily Press to enjoy the solitude of a peaceful new morn...the dawn of another week....How I wish my newspaper carrier had been late delivering his bundle of bad news.... Could the Daily Press have put a bigger colour picture that lay on my kitchen table almost all day, his face staring back at me with that annoying smirk?"
What she's referring to is the huge colour picture that the Daily Press ran of Mike Harris. I don't criticize the Daily Press for running the picture because the Premier came to town and he gave -
Mr Bisson: I'm trying to give you guys some credit here. The Premier came to town and he gave us some good news and the Daily Press, rightfully so, put an article in, a great big picture of Mike Harris on the front page, about what he had done. But the thing that's interesting is that a whole bunch of people reacted the same way. Here's the Premier coming in from Toronto to try to announce something good and the reaction by most of the people in the community was: "Why did he come? Is he trying to buy the election?" I had never seen people so upset with the Premier coming to announce money.
When Premier Rae or Premier Peterson or Premier Davis came to town, people said: "Oh, the Premier is coming to see us. Oh, this is exciting." They let the people know that the Premier was coming to Timmins less than 24 hours before he actually came because they were worried there were going to be protests at this particular event, which is the truth, and people even within the chamber of commerce, good friends of Mike Harris and the Conservatives, didn't find out until the day before the actual announcement was going to be made because they were worried that people were going to go out and protest.
As I went through the riding on Saturday and Sunday, I never heard so many people say to me: "Gilles, is this guy really - it's unbelievable. He's been cutting us to death for the last three years. We're seeing our health care go to heck in a handbasket. We're seeing education cut to the point where we really worry about the quality of education for our children and the future of our children, which is the strength of our economy and the strength of our communities. And this Premier, my Lord, has the gall to come to Timmins and try to buy our votes." "It ain't gonna work," they said. It's not me who said that; it's the people in the city of Timmins.
Please go to the Timmins Daily Press Web site - they're on there - and read Lucie Minard's article. I'm not going to read the entire thing, but it's really quite to the point. What she's saying is that this guy basically has cut everything in sight for the last three years. "He's attacked our health care system. He's attacked education. He's attacked everything that's near and dear to us in our community and I really get upset," she says, "when I look at this man's picture on the paper with this smirk." She really gets upset, and I think it's an interesting one to read.
The other thing that was in the paper which I think is also very much in keeping with what we're debating here today when it comes to Bill 25 - there was another event that was reported in the paper. It's like it's bad news every day that we pick up the paper these days. The city of Timmins fire department and the volunteer crew were out all day Sunday, and they were going up one street and down the other street across the city of Timmins. Why? They were going out to pick food up for our food bank. Why? Because we have never had a demand such as we have now with people in our community in the city of Timmins, as across the riding in places like Hearst and Kapuskasing and everywhere else who have a need for the food bank.
The food bank, not more than about two weeks ago, announced in our community that, given the situation of the demand that has been put on the food bank, they would have to close their doors. That's even though they're being funded by the United Way of the city of Timmins. The total funding that they get with the demand that they're now getting only allows them food enough to operate for about three months.
Thank the Lord that our friends at the volunteer fire department, the good people in the fire department, decided to take things in hand. They went across the city of Timmins and picked up loads and loads of food and they picked up more food on the weekend. I want to thank the people of the city of Timmins for having provided that to the needy people in our community. They picked up over 11 tonnes of food, and I want to thank the fire department for what they did with the volunteers.
Mr Len Wood: That's in the Timmins-James Bay riding.
Mr Bisson: In the Timmins-James Bay riding. But the point I make is this: We would never have seen that kind of activity not more than three years ago. Red tape? The effect of red tape is that we're seeing people go hungry in our community, something we've never seen before.
In the four minutes I have left I also want to speak about another red tape item that this government snuck on us about two years ago, and I just found out about this one even though most of us read the bill, and that's some of the changes the government made to the Labour Relations Act.
Some of you may know that Abitibi-Price is out on strike and they have been for about a week, a little bit more than a week now. As we know, the Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada has, as do other unions, a system of pattern bargaining. They pick a pattern and they pick an employer they will negotiate the pattern with, in this case Abitibi. The union then sits down with all the mills that are owned by Abitibi and they negotiate one central agreement with the company, which would be basically the pattern. Once the pattern is set, they go out and negotiate that pattern for all the other CEP mills across the system. That system has seen some of the best working conditions and some of the best wages and benefits of any industry, bar none. The Paperworkers have a lot to be proud of because they developed the system of pattern bargaining that has worked to the benefit of the workers.
This government with one stroke of the pen two years ago decided to change the process. The Conservative member across the way smiles with great fanfare. He thinks this is a good thing. Go tell that to the guys on the picket line in Iroquois Falls and across this great province, because your government is trying to make it illegal for those people to negotiate by way of a pattern. What you're doing is undermining the collective authority, undermining the ability of those people to negotiate a free collective agreement with their employer. You guys sit there and smile. My Lord, I wish all the Abitibi workers from Iroquois Falls and other places could be sitting here and watching you smirk on the other side when we talk about this. I'll tell you, the people of Iroquois Falls are figuring out what is going on in this government.
You say it's innocuous. You say red tape is nothing. Well, what's happening in Iroquois Falls, as across all other Abitibi mills in the system, is that your government is saying that it's illegal to negotiate a pattern. Well, excuse me. I'll make up the same rules for the corporate sector. It's illegal for corporations to come together by way of amalgamation and become larger entities. How would you like that? You'd say it's unconstitutional. You'd say: "That's heresy. You have to allow the corporate sector to do these things so they can grow and become bigger and do better and have more efficiencies." Why is it good for the private sector to have efficiencies but it's not good for the working people of Ontario to have some efficiencies, when it comes to bargaining, so that they themselves can have a fair collective agreement?
I'll tell you, I understand why you guys do it. Some people may not but it's a really simple thing. You guys have made a choice. You're on the side of large business, not small business. I believe the small business sector is hurting because of this government, and you've said, "To heck with the working people of this province." I'll tell you, the economy gets hurt in the long run if people don't have the ability to negotiate fair collective agreements. Good purchasing power is what makes an economy run over the long run.
You guys on the other side can smirk all you want and you can feel proud about what you're doing to the working people in the town of Iroquois Falls and to other Abitibi workers across the province, but you will rue the day. I'll tell you as I stand here, when the NDP forms a government again, and we will, this NDP government will turn back the clock on the stuff you've done, bring back democracy to the people of this province and make sure that we have rules when it comes to labour laws that are not one-sided but basically say that employees have the right to free collective bargaining and have the right to negotiate fair collective agreements. We will take off the restrictions you're trying to put on them.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Sterling has moved government notice of motion number 24. 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 nays have it.
Call in the members; this will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1801 to 1806.
The Acting Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time.
Baird, John R.
Ford, Douglas B.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Jordan, W. Leo
McLean, Allan K.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Parker, John L.
Rollins, E.J. Douglas
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Young, Terence H.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will rise one at a time.
Bradley, James J.
Brown, Michael A.
Cleary, John C.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 59; the nays are 27.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:30.
The House adjourned at 1809.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.