L080 - Wed 27 Sep 2000 / Mer 27 sep 2000
The House met at 1330.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES LEGISLATION
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): The broken promises to and shabby, tragic treatment of disabled Ontarians by this government has been one of its worst legacies.
I'll tell you about one story in my riding, the family of Madalena Silva and her brother, Daniel. I went to their home. Mrs Silva is saving this province hundreds of thousands of dollars every year by caring for her physically disabled mother and her developmentally and physically disabled brother at home. All they want and need is a wheelchair ramp so that Daniel, who is totally confined to a wheelchair, can get out of the house to go to medical treatments and can get out of the confines of four walls to enjoy everyday life. Yet she has been denied funding from this government at every single turn.
As a result, she has had to somehow carry Daniel up and down the stairs with the wheelchair, some 200 pounds, injuring herself, and as a result now she has to call for neighbours or ask her husband to take time off work. In turn, Daniel is missing medical appointments. He is unable to go down the street to get an ice cream and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Daniel is imprisoned by his own disability and the barriers this government refuses to tear down.
It's time for Ontario to assist these Ontarians to fulfill the dream, I know of mine, and I know of Dalton McGuinty's, of a barrier-free Ontario. Premier, let's get that ramp for Daniel and let's remove barriers for all disabled Ontarians.
ONTARIO AGRICULTURE WEEK
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I rise in the Legislature today to remind my colleagues that one of the most important weeks of the year is fast approaching: Ontario Agriculture Week.
This year Ontario Agriculture Week will be celebrated from October 2 to October 8. I hope that all members, especially those with urban constituencies, will join with me and representatives from Ontario's agricultural community for the breakfast and official kickoff on Monday, October 2, outside in front of the Legislature.
Agriculture Week is a great opportunity to recognize Ontario's farmers and the importance of the agri-food industry. It's important to note that agriculture injects $25 billion annually into the Ontario economy and employs more than 640,000 people. I would encourage all members to take a moment next week to help salute our agri-food industry in their own riding.
In my riding of Perth-Middlesex, Tourism Stratford, the Perth County Federation of Agriculture, and Perth County Junior Farmers are helping to kick off Agriculture Week with their annual harvest day tour on Sunday, October 1. This tour is hosted by farms and agri-food businesses in Perth county. These types of events help to remind Ontarians of the unique role played by all those who help bring food from the farm gate to the dinner plate.
Next week, join me in celebrating the third annual Ontario Agriculture Week. Invite Ontario home for dinner.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): Imagine our surprise and amazement to find out there has been another escape from a privately run, for-profit detention centre in Ontario. It happened on Tuesday, September 19, at the Genest Youth Detention Centre, a high-security facility. First, Camp Turnaround or, as it is called, Camp Run-Amok, on its first day of operation, an escape. Next, a few months ago, an escape from a facility run by the same company that runs Genest. The use of a stolen van during that escape nearly cost the lives of a dozen toddlers from a nearby daycare centre. Now this one.
Even with the cherry-picked, best-behaved offenders in private facilities, the Minister of Community and Social Services still just doesn't get it: privately run, for-profit detention centres don't work. Today, we find that Minister Baird has had a report since April that cites untrained staff, non-compliance with policies and staff shortages are increasing the risk of injury to both staff and community. All these previously predicted problems cost the ministry $2.3 million a year. Minister, your own commission report, submitted in April, is asking you to halt privatization drives.
Our party leader, Dalton McGuinty, supports the many communities across the province in their fight against private, for-profit detention centres and correctional facilities. Do yourself and the communities across this province a favour and stop the privatization.
Mr Brian Coburn (Ottawa-Orléans): I rise today to speak on a very important addition to my area of the national capital region. A year ago,the Cumberland Volunteer Firefighters Association received $8,000 for the purchase of a much-needed fire rescue boat. That money came from the city of Cumberland's portion of the advanced funding program for Ontario charities. More money was raised in my community of Cumberland in Ottawa-Orléans to complete the purchase with very limited impact on the fire department's operating budget. Since it was put into service, the boat and its team have responded to many incidents, including the successful rescue of three youths back in May of this year whose canoe had tipped in the Ottawa River. The conditions were fair, but the water temperature was frigid and all three were suffering from hypothermia. From the time of the first emergency call to the time the kids were pulled to safety by the firefighters on the boat was 12 minutes. One of the children's fathers was told by a doctor at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario that he came very close to losing his son. The Cumberland firefighters' quick response time was crucial in saving the child's life.
The opportunity provided through the Ontario charities grant program for the city of Cumberland and its volunteer firefighters continues to yield very positive results. If this rescue boat was not available, possibly another tragedy on the water would have been added to the growing statistics.
Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): I rise today to comment on the remarks of Minister Clement at last week's federal-provincial housing ministers' meeting. It was surprising to hear the minister say it's time for governments to act, there should be no more waiting and that money had to flow directly to address the problem. What Minister Clement failed to say is that when it comes to real and effective measures, he and the Harris government are all talk and no action. Let's look at his very sorry record.
He says he's provided a much-needed rent supplement program, but what he doesn't tell you is that he is paying for it with recycled federal dollars. There is not a cent of provincial money in it. He also didn't tell you that he can't get landlords to sign up for the program. His own ministry staff says that, as of June of this year, only 1,339 of 5,000 units tendered have been contracted. He complains about the lack of tax breaks for developers, yet when we give him an opportunity to give municipalities the power to offer these breaks, as outlined in Bill 83, the Affordable Housing Incentives Act, he does nothing.
Mike Harris ran on a platform in 1995 in which his party committed to bringing in a comprehensive shelter allowance program. Instead, they cut the shelter portion of welfare and have brought in no program. That's why I feel that the minister's remarks last week were so outrageous. He demands actions from everyone but himself. His record is clear: all promises, no provincial money, no action, no plan except a plan to transfer his responsibilities on to municipalities and to blame everyone but himself and his government. If he thinks he's done enough, he's wrong.
I hope that when people who are concerned about housing see the minister's pathetic record in keeping his own meagre promises, they'll join me in expressing their disgust for the insincerity of his remarks last week.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I rise today to express the concerns and outrage of many parents in my riding when they learned that a teacher who received an indefinite suspension for writing inappropriate letters to a young student was back in the classroom teaching their children.
When parents expressed concern for their children they were told that this is a teacher in good standing and cleared by the College of Teachers as fit to teach. To say that parents feel their young children are vulnerable in this teacher's classroom is a classic understatement.
Our government created the College of Teachers to enforce professional standards of conduct for our teachers to protect our children. Under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, the professional misconduct regulation ensures that the college has clear statutory authority to exercise its full disciplinary responsibilities. This doesn't appear to have happened in this case. Parents and the public alike are demanding answers from the College of Teachers and the Simcoe County District School Board with respect to this deplorable situation. In fact, many people, including my colleagues Mr Dunlop and Minister Wilson, ask one simple question: are the college and board really looking after the best interests of the children here?
I believe the board and the College of Teachers must review their policies and procedures to make sure it is the students-the vulnerable children, the precious offspring that parents place in their care-who always come first, with no exceptions.
Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): I want to say what a great day it is for me to have a chance to be here this deep into the millennium and to welcome the Premier, who has shown new leadership by being here, for the first time this year, three days in a row. But I worry, because I've seen the weather forecast for tomorrow and no rain is called for, and we all know what that means: golf.
I want to say we've also noticed that Mike Harris has been advising Stockwell Day up in Ottawa. One of the first things that new leader of that party wanted to do was shorten the work week: Mike Harris providing an example of leadership to his kissing cousin, Stockwell Day in the Alliance Party.
But I want to talk about the absence of leadership while the Premier is here and in the presence of three students from Inglenook Community School who earlier today surrounded the playground in their schoolyard and made sure it could not be torn down. I applaud them for their efforts and I recommend to the Premier of this province that kind of leadership: fighting on behalf of kids who want to have playgrounds to access, fighting to make sure that swimming pools and schools are not closed, that music programs are not withdrawn and that computer classes are not cancelled. That is the Mike Harris legacy. That is Mike Harris's leadership. On this side, we look forward to the day soon when Ontario will be restored as a place that has leadership that inspires and works hard.
HEALTH CARE SERVICES
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): Premier, the parents of Effica Mitchell came to Queen's Park to tell the tragic story of the death of their 10-month-old baby in a hospital emergency ward. It was a heart-rending account of parents who trusted the system.
Effica is dead, and the Mitchells, their community, in fact all of us, want to know why. Their story of long waits, little information and inadequate response is becoming all too familiar a story in Ontario's hospitals. Doctors are stressed and furious. Nurses are running non-stop and they don't have the answers to give to anxious families.
For the past two days, yet again, in all of the GTA and in some areas beyond, hospital emergency rooms have been on redirect. This summer I can tell you about a busy Scarborough emergency room where patients were lined up on stretchers, head to toe on every inch of the hallway, and some of those patients had to wait four days to get into a hospital bed.
Emergency room backlogs have been growing every year since 1996. This is a standard situation in ERs now. What's going to happen when the flu season and the peak season starts to come?
The emergency room, Premier, is like the canary in the mine for our hospital system. Your piecemeal solutions aren't a cure for Ontario's health care crisis, and a bandage won't stop the hemorrhaging.
Today again, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I am calling on you to stop emergency room closures, to have a major expansion of home care and community care and public health and immediate reform of primary care to bring about 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care in our communities so that others like baby Effica will never have to experience that again in Ontario's hospitals.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): I rise today to remind members that this is the 25th anniversary of the Ontario legislative internship program. Each year eight recent university graduates come to Queen's Park to work with backbench members of our Legislature. The program is non-partisan and is supported by the Legislative Assembly and the Canadian Political Science Association as well as more than 20 corporate sponsors.
Here's how it works. Interns spend half of their 10-month period at Queen's Park working with opposition members and the other half with government MPPs. While legislative interns learn about the political process primarily through their work in members' offices, there is also a formal academic component that involves exchanges with interns in other Legislatures and regular sessions where they have a chance to meet and learn from each other's experiences in the various offices. They must have a university degree and are chosen through a rigorous process placing value on academic excellence, personal maturity and an interest in parliamentary government.
Having hosted two interns personally in my own office, I can vouch for their diligence and the high quality of the work of these young people. All members in this House will by now have received an invitation to host an intern in their office. I encourage all MPPs to seriously consider this wonderful opportunity and to support a program, a program that is not only helping us as backbenchers here do our jobs for our constituents but a program that is certainly helping some of the leaders of tomorrow learn first-hand about how government really works.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Today joining us in the members' gallery west is the Honourable Dr Stephen West, who is the provincial Treasurer in the province of Alberta. Would all the members join in welcoming our guest from Alberta.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I beg to inform the House that today the Clerk received the 13th report of the standing committee on government agencies. Pursuant to standing order 106(e), the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SUR LA PROTECTION CONTRE LA VIOLENCE FAMILIALE
Mr Flaherty moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence / Projet de loi 117, Loi visant à mieux protéger les victimes de violence familiale.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The Attorney General for a short statement?
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): A minister's statement, Speaker.
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES AMENDMENT ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES SERVICES À L'ENFANCE ET À LA FAMILLE
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The member for a short statement?
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): This bill flows from the very difficult circumstance in Sault Ste Marie over the last couple of years known as the Ken DeLuca sexual abuse case. Consequently, the Robins report made some recommendations, that the Children's Aid Society from Sault Ste Marie and the Ontario Children's Aid Society responded to, to suggest that one of the reasons that difficult circumstance was allowed to continue as long as it did was that there were not clear, delineated lines of responsibility and authority on who could do what.
The bill I've introduced today will go a distance to clarifying who's responsible and who can do what and give the Children's Aid Society clearer direction as to what they can do and give them the power to in fact do that. The bill ensures that child protection workers have the authority to investigate allegations of physical abuse and sexual molestation of children by teachers and other caregivers to apply for appropriate court orders. The disclosure to caregiving institutions of the results of the investigation and information in the child abuse register will be authorized. The bill provides that the duty to report child abuse that is imposed on persons performing professional or official duties with respect to children will continue until the risk of abuse ends.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Very briefly, I bring the attention of everybody in the House to a couple of esteemed visitors in the members' gallery. The reeve of the township of Michipicoten, more commonly known as Wawa, Mr Jim Aquino, and Laurie Bordeau, an occupational therapist. They are both on the health professionals recruitment tour to southern Ontario today.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Government House Leader): I seek unanimous consent to put forward a motion regarding private members' public business.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Consent? Agreed.
Hon Mr Sterling: I move that, notwithstanding standing order 96(d), the following change be made to the ballot list for private members' public business: that Mr Gerretsen and Mrs Dombrowsky exchange places in order of precedence such that Mr Gerretsen assumes ballot item 55 and Mrs Dombrowsky assumes ballot item 41.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): People must be safe-and feel safe-on the streets, in their neighbourhoods and, above all, in their homes. As a government, we are committed to doing everything in our power to make our communities safer, to support and protect people, primarily women and children, who are at risk of domestic violence. We are committed to ensuring that abusers are held accountable for their crimes.
During the past five years, we have taken a leadership role in the area of domestic violence. We have created and expanded the domestic violence courts program and made it the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Canada. We have expanded the victim/witness assistance program, victim crisis assistance and referral program, the supervised access program, and the SupportLink program.
I am proud of our achievements in making our justice system more responsive to the needs of victims of domestic violence. The justice system is a critical component in our battle against domestic violence because it holds abusers accountable for their actions.
But we know that services and support outside of the criminal justice system are important as well. That is why in 2000-01 our government will be spending about $72 million on shelters and counselling.
We have also committed another $15 million in the spring budget for transitional supports and counselling for women and children who have experienced domestic violence, as well as funding for programs to identify school children at risk of harm.
While these are important steps, we know that there is more work to be done. Everyone in this House is familiar with media reports of tragedies that have occurred as a result of domestic violence. As individuals and as legislators, we have a responsibility to do all that we can to prevent these tragedies and to keep families safe. That is why earlier today I introduced the Domestic Violence Protection Act. The proposed legislation is intended to reform and improve the effectiveness of restraining orders to better protect victims of domestic violence.
Under the act, we propose to replace restraining orders with clearer and more effective intervention orders. The intervention orders would be enforceable according to the provisions of the Criminal Code to better protect victims. As a result, alleged abusers could face stronger terms and conditions for detention and release. This will send a clear signal that domestic violence is not tolerated in Ontario.
If passed, the Domestic Violence Protection Act would also help families at risk and victims of domestic violence to get a court order at any time of the day or night. It would make intervention orders faster to obtain and easier to enforce, and they would apply to a broader range of relationships, including people in dating relationships and family members who live together.
The Act sets out a clear definition of domestic violence and a list of specific prohibited activities and remedies that would make the new orders clear and enforceable. Our government's approach to restraining order reform goes even further by ensuring standardized order forms that clearly set out specific conditions for the alleged abuser, obtaining intervention orders faster through judges approving them and the court preparing them on the same day, and expanding counselling for alleged abusers to prevent further violence. These and other proposed changes complement, support and maximize the effectiveness of the legislation.
Keeping the people of this province safe is a battle no one level of government can win on its own. Each level of government has a role to play and a responsibility to ensure the safety of our communities, our families and our children. As I have demonstrated, our government takes that responsibility seriously. We want the federal government, as well, to live up to its responsibilities to keep our homes, streets and neighbourhoods safe.
Earlier this month, I called on the federal government to provide additional help to protect victims of domestic violence. I asked them to do this by making two small but important amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada. First of all, while breaches of intervention orders would be enforced under the Criminal Code, I asked the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to make breaching an intervention order a separate offence. This would provide victims with additional protection by allowing for more timely prosecution of cases and would send the clear and firm message that domestic violence is a serious offence.
Second, I asked Ottawa to reverse the onus of proof in bail proceedings in domestic violence cases so that accused individuals would have to show that their release would not endanger the victims.
These are changes that Ottawa can make easily and they are changes that would go a long way to protect victims of domestic violence. I'm sad to say that I have received no firm commitment from the federal government to make these changes.
Our reforms clearly show that the province of Ontario stands on the side of victims of crime. We believe they are important new additions to our government's continued efforts to support and protect victims of domestic violence and to hold abusers accountable. Restraining order reform is yet another action our government is taking so that the people of Ontario can be safe and feel safe on their streets, in their neighbourhoods and, above all, in their homes.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Responses?
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): Mr Speaker, let me be clear: Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals will support any step, however minuscule, in the direction towards assisting victims of domestic violence.
The problem is that this act would be better entitled An Act to Try to Protect a Fraction of Victims of Domestic Violence, for it is but a fraction of the victims of domestic violence who actually come into contact with our criminal justice system. It is in fact a great, silent, tragic majority of domestic violence victims who are in no way touched by this act and who are in no way affected by any of the measures, by lip service or otherwise, by this government. They have, frankly, been abandoned by this government in their plight.
We hear reference by the Attorney General to media reports of tragedies that have occurred as a result of domestic violence. What of the media reports over the last five years of all those who never turned to the police unaffected by this act? I am not suggesting that this government is directly at fault for these tragedies, but we must ask ourselves the question: are we doing enough to prevent domestic violence, as opposed to talking about crackdowns? The answer is clearly that this government basically has done nothing.
This is the government that cut funding to women's shelters, of all things, when they came to office. This is the government that refuses to give to women the right to find out whether or not they've had a date rape drug slipped into their drink the night before. This is the government that's watched the rise of domestic violence over the last five years and done nothing but talk about coroner's inquests and watched the excellent joint committee report from Judge Baldwin sit on the desk of the Attorney General for more than 12 months before he actually started, now, paying lip service to it.
This is far too little. It is far too late. It is the tip of the iceberg of this cancer on our society. It is cold comfort to victims past, it is cold comfort to victims present and cold comfort to victims future of domestic violence.
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): Minister, I stood up in the House yesterday and asked your Premier why your government did not sign the accord last week outlining emergency measures to end violence against women in Ontario. Your Premier did not even send a minister to this meeting. He sent a parliamentary assistant, who admitted she had no authority. Your response at the morning press conference was that you, the Attorney General, did not know about this request and that you did not see these emergency measures outlined by the 81 women's groups. In fact, your government's response was to reannounce last spring's funding for women's programs. What an insult to the women of this province.
Your announcement this morning, although overdue, is but a very small piece of the solution, as my colleague Michael Bryant has stated. Seventy-five per cent of abused women still do not report their abuse. Many women cannot access the legal aid to take advantage of the very changes you announced today. There are not enough shelters, contrary to what you said this morning, and women can't and don't want to stay in a shelter forever with their children.
Your government has washed its hands of the responsibility for social housing. The waiting lists are years long. Battered women in the north particularly have told me they are afraid to leave, afraid of the poverty, afraid for their children. But the crisis calls in the north have increased significantly.
Grants for public education from the Ontario Women's Directorate have also been cut back. Minister, surely you must realize how important prevention programs are. Counsellors were using these funds to go into schools and talk about the signs of abuse to female students and to warn male students and encourage them for anger management.
If you could only see some of my former patients in therapy, those who abused-that was a Freudian slip; they will abuse if they don't get therapy-those who observed their mothers being raped-yes, raped-by their partners in front of their eyes at times and how they had to dissociate and become other personalities just to escape that awful, horrific situation, I know you would have the heart and the mind to put back the money you cut in shelter programs and in counselling.
Forty women were killed by their partners or former partners last year. Please, I implore you, let's say "No more." This is Ontario. Let's say here, together, what we can do, what we need to do. We'll work with you to say zero tolerance and zero potential for domestic violence toward women in Ontario.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): To the Attorney General, I say we'll support your bill. Let's get it done and over with. It is OK, but it is virtually irrelevant to the vast majority of women who suffer abuse in this province.
So I want to use my time to speak to you, Premier, as the head of this government, as the Premier of this province who said he was going to make domestic violence a priority this session. I can't tell you how upsetting and insulting it is that your first announcement would be yet again another small step on the criminal justice side of things, when for months and months women have been trying to talk to your government to say that we need a response in terms of our community, our social and economic security. We need to prevent women from being abused. We need to give women the power, in their own hands, to leave situations of abuse. The vast majority of women will never, no matter what you do, go to the criminal justice system.
Over 80 women's organizations from across this province tried to talk to your government last week. They spent a month in advance trying to set up meetings to have an opportunity to share with you their direction before they came here.
Ms Lankin: The minister for women's issues says that's not true. Those women are here. You confront them out in the hallway. They spent time from August on trying to get that meeting set up. They tried to coordinate it with all three parties. They brought forward their response.
Premier, the question to you is, are you going to invest the $350 million and implement the emergency measures in this fall sitting of the Legislature that will in fact do something to save women's lives? Forty women have died this past year. Every year that happens. You can't tell me that this bill that's being brought in is a response to the six women who have died in the tragedies of this summer.
When are you going to listen to women's own voices? The whole issue of domestic abuse is an issue of gender power. Why is it that when women who are on the front lines working on this issue, who are working with those women who are abused, who are bringing their voices forward, try to talk to this government, they're ignored? That's an issue of gender power. Listen to women's voices. They know what needs to be done.
The money they have asked for-the parliamentary assistant says that's a substantial amount of money-is 10% of your projected surplus this year. It can save women's lives. They are asking you to expand the help line. What good is a help line that's centred in one city that women from across the province can't access? What good is it when women call up and get a busy signal because there aren't enough telephone lines and aren't enough counsellors at the end to help them?
They're saying, expand the number of shelters and shelter beds. The minister today at the press conference said he believes there's enough to handle the emergencies. That's not true. There are not enough shelter beds. There are not enough shelters.
You cut out second-stage housing programs. How are women, with their children, supposed to move on, get to a new life? You must reinstate that. You must ensure that community organizations, settlement programs, Franco-Ontarian programs have the resources to reach out to women in their own communities and help them, help them take the step to free themselves from domestic violence. Give women the power in their own hands and we can take care of ourselves; continue to put it in the hands of police and the courts and others and there will never be a satisfactory solution.
Every time I have raised this question in this House, every time I have asked any one of your ministers, I get the litany of responses back of all you've done in the criminal justice system. God bless you. Thank you for doing it. Let's move on and deal with the bigger issue. Not one of your ministers has ever, ever taken it upon themselves to give us an answer as to why you will not move on these recommendations. The community recommendations were embedded in the May-Iles recommendations. You say with great pride you've implemented so many of them. Just tell us why. Why won't you implement the community-based solutions from May-Iles?
You talk about the joint report and that you've implemented those recommendations. There were community recommendations there. Just tell us why: why have you ignored those recommendations? These women are here. They want you to sign the pledge. We will all work with you to implement those measures this fall. Let us do it together. Let us join together and save women's lives.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know that you and the members would be pleased to know that Vance Badawey, mayor of Port Colborne-although not in the riding of Niagara Centre, still a fine community-is here in the visitors' gallery with us today.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): That is not a point of order.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to speak on the 25th anniversary of the Franco-Ontarian flag.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): La semaine du 25 septembre est une semaine bien spéciale pour les francophones de l'Ontario. Il me fait un immense plaisir de me joindre à mon chef, Dalton McGuinty, à mes collègues libéraux de cette Assemblée, ainsi qu'à mes amis francophones pour célébrer le 25e anniversaire de notre drapeau.
Le drapeau fut dévoilé pour la première fois le 25 septembre 1975 à l'Université Laurentienne à Sudbury. Nous devons cette belle initiative à Gaétan Gervais, professeur et concepteur de ce beau drapeau, ainsi qu'à un groupe d'étudiants et étudiantes de cette université. J'aimerais rendre hommage à ces concepteurs qui ont su refléter l'esprit des communautés franco-ontariennes.
Monsieur le Président, saviez-vous que le blanc et le vert reflètent l'été et l'hiver d'Ontario ? Sur le drapeau, deux fleurs sont représentées : le trille et le lys. Le trille est l'emblème floral officiel de l'Ontario, tandis que le lys évoque la francophonie mondiale.
Depuis sa création, le drapeau franco-ontarien a su se faire connaître dans l'ensemble de notre belle province. Aujourd'hui, il est présent dans toutes les communautés francophones de l'Ontario. J'aimerais prendre ce moment pour dire aux 500 000 francophones de l'Ontario, soyons fiers de notre drapeau et de notre héritage culturel. Soyons fiers d'être Franco-Ontariens et Franco-Ontariennes. Nous ne devons pas oublier que la population mondiale compte plus de 500 millions de francophones répartis dans une cinquantaine de pays.
Encore une fois, bon 25e anniversaire et longue vie à la communauté francophone de l'Ontario. Vingt-cinq ans, ça se fête.
M. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-Baie James) : C'est avec plaisir qu'on a la chance aujourd'hui, de la part du caucus NPD, de déclarer ce que ça veut dire d'être francophone dans la province de l'Ontario et, plus important, ce que symbolise ce drapeau.
Mais je veux dire en commençant que le fait qu'on a besoin de demander en anglais le consentement unanime dans cette Assemblée me dit que nous les francophones avons un problème non seulement dans cette Assemblée mais, franchement, dans cette province.
Comme vous le savez, monsieur le Président, les francophones ont été majoritaires dans cette province beaucoup d'années passées dans notre histoire. Avec l'immigration et beaucoup d'autres situations qui sont arrivées, nous les francophones sommes devenus minoritaires dans notre propre province.
Il a pris beaucoup d'années, beaucoup d'efforts, beaucoup de batailles et beaucoup de luttes pour que les francophones s'organisent pour s'assurer que nous ne disparaissons pas de notre propre place en Ontario. On a eu beaucoup de batailles pendant ces années. On a connu des succès, oui, dont on peut être très fiers. On peut regarder à la loi sur les cours de justice qui a été mise en place par M. McMurtry des années passées qui a donné aux francophones le droit d'aller aux cours et de s'exprimer en français et de demander un procès en français. On a eu la Loi 8 sur les services en français, qui était mise en place par unanimité dans cette Assemblée, qui a dit que dans certaines régions de cette province nous, les francophones, pouvons aller rechercher des services en français, dans notre langage, chez nous. On a eu beaucoup d'autres succès avec la création des trois collèges francophones à travers la province, à l'est avec la Cité des Jeunes, avec le Collège Boréal au nord et avec le Collège des Grands Lacs dans le sud-ouest ; avec la création des centres de santé communautaires ; et, oui, il faut dire au gouvernement conservateur avec la création des conseils scolaires francophones dans cette province, sans mentionner la création des garderies.
Je veux dire que, comme francophone, je me sens un peu troublé. On trouve aujourd'hui, en l'an 2000, que l'on a encore besoin de lutter pour s'exprimer en français dans cette Assemblée et de s'assurer que les services qu'on avait mis en place sont assurés non seulement pour nous mais pour les générations qui vont venir après nous. Je dis aux députés francophones dans cette Assemblée, n'ayez pas peur de vous afficher en français ici. Utilisez votre langage. C'est notre langage ; c'est notre province. Aussi, aux francophones qui regardent, c'est la journée du 25e anniversaire de ce drapeau, et on n'a pas besoin d'avoir peur d'utiliser le français chez nous en Ontario. Qu'on s'en serve et qu'on devienne fier d'être francophones, parce que l'Ontario, c'est chez nous.
Je veux dire, sur le dernier point, que Gaétan Gervais il y a 25 ans, avec beaucoup d'autres individus à Sudbury, a créé ce premier drapeau franco-ontarien. Je vous propose, monsieur le Président, que moi-même comme député de Timmins-James Bay, et aussi comme critique des Affaires francophones pour le caucus NPD, je vais vous demander formellement à travers ce discours, et suivi par une lettre, que le premier drapeau franco-ontarien que M. Gervais a encore chez lui soit affiché ici quelque part à l'Assemblée où nous, les francophones, pouvons être fiers de regarder notre drapeau dans notre province qu'on appelle l'Ontario.
L'hon John R. Baird (ministre des Services sociaux et communautaires, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : En tant que ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones, c'est avec un grand plaisir que je souligne aujourd'hui le 25e anniversaire du drapeau franco-ontarien. Il y a 25 ans, le drapeau vert et blanc flottait pour la première fois au-dessus de l'Université Laurentienne à Sudbury. Il est un moment important dans l'histoire des francophones dans notre province et dans l'histoire de notre pays d'avoir un symbole d'identité maintenant très reconnu dans toutes les régions de la province. Aujourd'hui le drapeau est présent partout dans les institutions francophones de la province, et représente encore une communauté pleine de vitalité et de dynamisme.
Je suis sûr que le drapeau continuera de flotter en Ontario pour les générations à venir. Je suis confident que les jeunes Franco-Ontariens et Franco-Ontariennes en feront leur emblème et continueront de participer pleinement au développement de leur communauté et contribueront à la préservation de leur culture et de la langue française dans notre province.
En terminant, je salue toute la communauté franco-ontarienne et je vous offre mes meilleurs voeux pour un avenir propice avec la majorité des francophones hors Québec au Canada. L'Ontario est une meilleure place à cause de notre population francophone.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I seek unanimous consent of the Legislature that a member from each party have the opportunity to make remarks about three former members who have passed away during this past summer: Mr Frank Miller, Mr Robert Welch and Dr Morton Shulman.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I do rise today to speak of a man who was a member of this Legislature for 14 years, who once sat in this very chair, a man who served the people of Muskoka and of his beloved Bracebridge and of Ontario with integrity, with conviction, and with tremendous energy. I am, of course, referring to Frank Miller, the 19th Premier of the province of Ontario, who passed away on July 21 of this year.
Frank Miller was very much a man of his time, and in some ways he was a man ahead of his time. His decency, his honesty, his integrity, not to mention his famous plaid blazers, made him not only an outstanding but also a colourful representative of the people of Ontario. That decency and that honesty and that integrity earned Frank the admiration of his colleagues on both sides of this Legislature.
Frank never forgot that government exists to serve the people and not the other way around, and it was an important lesson and reminder that I would say members of my party needed to hear on a regular basis. Indeed we all need, from time to time, to hear this message.
That's why, throughout his long public career, Frank worked tirelessly for smaller and for more open and more accountable government. He believed that without strong leadership, government would continue to grow unchecked, just for the sake of government itself. He said-and this is a quote that I always liked-"There are no forces on government to make it grow smaller. They're all there to make it grow bigger." It takes a tremendous amount of energy to combat those forces.
That's why we are grateful for the leadership and support that Frank provided, leadership that helped keep the size of government in check. Here at Queen's Park and back home in Muskoka, Frank worked tirelessly to put people first, to make sure their tax dollars were spent wisely and that their government remained accountable to them. During his last days as Premier, Frank was asked what he would do next. Again, I quote. He said, "Almost all of us can do a lot more than we think we can, so I don't worry about the future."
I think if you reflect on that, many of us have probably found that to be the case; certainly most successful people have found that to be the case. It was certainly true when it came to Frank Miller.
Even after he left provincial politics, Frank then continued to contribute to the life and prosperity of the people of the region and of our province-I suggest to you there are probably not many examples of Premiers anywhere in the country who, upon retiring from provincial politics, went back into local politics-and continued to represent the people of Muskoka.
And, for awhile, he even found time to sell three or four cars a month. I mention that because we've all heard of that, but when he was asked about this, Frank said, "I've never been ashamed of what I do." He was a car salesman and he was never ashamed of where he came from or of what he did. He was indeed this small-town guy at heart.
On his last day in the Legislature, he wore one of his trademark plaid blazers and he received not one but two standing ovations. And yet, true to his roots, he tried to downplay the thanks, saying he preferred the nasty questions he was used to in question period. I think he was wrong there, but nonetheless, that's what Frank said.
Frank was always a devoted husband and father. Today our thoughts and prayers are especially with his wife, Ann, and his children, Lawrence, Ross, Norman and Mary Ann.
I'd like to add that Frank Miller had a stronger influence on me personally than I'm sure he realized, and my sense is that he probably had a strong and positive influence on many others in this province in a venturing kind of way, I think far more than Frank realized. And while he may no longer be with us, our memories of him will be with us always.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): Somewhere above me in some celestial space, Frank Miller is this very instant selling tickets for the Bracebridge rotary club. I know because for all the time I served with Frank, I, like every member of all caucuses, bought more tickets than we could ever remember from Frank S. Miller, P.Eng.
The Premier is absolutely right. Frank was an incomparable salesman. He didn't just sell tickets, he sold cars; he sold cars to Liberals, to New Democrats, to Tories, to prominent and less prominent members of the press gallery. He delivered the cars. In at least one case of which I have some knowledge, he put the licence plate on the car that he had just sold. The Liberals of my acquaintance kept going back to buy more cars, some of them from small-town Ontario. I used to wonder, "How do you explain buying your car up there in Muskoka when you get into your part of southwestern Ontario?"
Frank Miller was, I think I can say, about the most genial and popular member-Bob Welch running a very close second-in all the time that I served with him. There was an elfin quality about Frank Miller in the worst days here. Let me say to my friends in the government-you think you've got a bad brief to carry-you ought to have been here in 1974, 1975, 1976, when Frank Miller was out there in southwestern Ontario, and not very far from this place, trying to explain the case for closing Doctors Hospital and small rural hospitals in Grey, Bruce and Huron. Boy, it was not an easy can to carry.
It was in the midst of one of those awful moments when Frank had his first heart attack. No one railed more against Frank Miller in this place than the notorious Eddie Sargent, and if memory serves me correctly, Eddie took Frank to the hospital that day at Maple Leaf Gardens, I think in 1976, when Frank had that first heart attack.
I think that story says it all about Frank, that as controversial as some of the policies were, Frank was able to do the public's business reaching across the divide. I noticed in the obituaries that Stephen Lewis said-and by the way, in 1974, the small-c conservative Frank Miller avoided a very worrisome hospital strike in Toronto by working behind the scenes with Stephen Lewis to make sure it didn't happen. Frank was a Conservative. Frank was, to some degree, ahead of his time. He wasn't a Progressive Conservative, I suppose, in the sense of a Bill Davis or a John Robarts, and I say that honestly. We knew Frank didn't approve the Suncor purchase. We knew what Frank thought about rent controls. But Frank, nonetheless, was able to make things happen, and the 1974 arrangement with Stephen Lewis to avoid the hospital strike ought to be a good reminder to all of us about what is sometimes required in the public interest.
I think most of you who knew Frank knew, because he would have told you, that he was a child of adversity and of poverty. His father died when he was 13. Frank knew tough times, and I say that because, Conservative as he was, in all the years I knew and worked with Frank Miller, I never heard Frank Miller demonize poor people. In those dark days of the late spring and early summer of 1985, when one of the great dynasties of the free world was slipping away, Frank Miller, to his enduring, everlasting credit, resisted advice being given to him from some quarters to uncork the poisonous vapours of sectarianism. He said no, because Frank Miller understood, Conservative that he was, that there are times in the public interest when leadership demands rising above those things that divide us.
Frank Miller left in-14 years ago, the Premier said. I thought Frank was elected in 1971 and left in 1987. I'll have to check the record. The last six or eight months were tough. Frank didn't blame a soul. The Premier's right; he went back and he became the regional chair of Muskoka. I remember talking to Frank about that. He told me it was a more challenging time than he had expected.
To his wife Ann, to his kids about whom he was so proud, we express, as the Liberal caucus, our condolences. More importantly, we express our thanks and our appreciation.
In his wonderful eulogy delivered that day in July, Eric Dowd, who knew Frank Miller very well, rightly observed that Frank spent most of his public life knowing that he had a bad heart. As Eric Dowd observed, Frank Miller would probably still be alive today if he had put Frank Miller's interest first. The Frank Miller I knew and liked so very much was someone, Conservative as he was, who always put the public interest first. And that's a legacy of which he should be very proud and it's a legacy to which each and every one of us should aspire.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I did not serve in the Legislature with Frank Miller, but in spite of that he's somebody I got to know. When I was a student at the University of Toronto in the mid-1970s, this actually was an entertaining place to come to at night-members actually carried on some sort of collegial relationships-so I used to enjoy coming here and sitting up in the visitors' gallery watching.
Occasionally members would go out for supper and then come back for a very late sitting having had too much to drink, having had too good a time. I remember one particular occasion when Frank Miller, who was sitting in the cabinet of a Conservative government, took particular pleasure in challenging some of the members of the opposition to get to their feet, if they could, to speak. I won't mention any names; some of it might come back to haunt those close to me. But it was a particularly intriguing evening to watch Frank Miller taunting all and sundry in the Liberal benches and the NDP benches, "Get to your feet, if you can, and speak." Of course, most didn't; some tried.
I first met him face to face when he came to my hometown in I believe it was the fall of 1984. He came to support the Conservative candidate. The Liberal member of the Legislature had stepped down to take an appointment from the Conservative government and Frank Miller had come to support the Conservative candidate. I was with a group of people leading a protest on behalf of the Association for Community Living, the workers at which had not a pay increase for about five years, if this sounds familiar. I actually had a face-to-face meeting with Frank Miller. It was quite pleasant. He put up with the protest, the picket signs and shouting quite well, and more or less said, "This is all part of politics."
I got to meet him, not even a year later, about six months later, when he came to my community in the run-up to the provincial election, and by then I was the NDP candidate. He was walking down the street and he was introduced to me as the NDP candidate, and he looked at me and said, "You again. Why don't you get a real job?" That was the kind of humour of Frank Miller. He was a very funny person on the occasions when I met him, and particularly the occasions when I saw him in the House.
But that was one side of him. The other side of him was someone who was tremendously serious about his work. Here is someone who, in his 14 years in the Legislature, was the Treasurer, the Minister of Health, Minister of Economics, Industry and Trade, Natural Resources, and he took on most of those jobs at a time when it was particularly tough to take on those jobs. He, I think, in the mind of Bill Davis, was someone who could be counted upon to handle the tough jobs under the toughest of circumstances.
I think it's a measure of the kind of person he was that, when he was asked about his life, he said, "The smartest decision I've made in my life was to marry my wife of 50 years." I think that's one measure of him.
The other measure was following his loss of government. It must have been particularly difficult for him because it had been a Conservative dynasty for over 40 years, and then the failure in the 1985 election and the Liberal-New Democrat accord following that. It must have been a very difficult time. But when he was asked about it, he wasn't bitter. He said, "No, this is public life. This is politics. This is how decisions are made." I think that's a real measure of the person.
On behalf of New Democrats, on behalf of New Democrats who are here now and those who served with him in the past, and personally, I want to say that Ontario has obviously lost someone who made a tremendous contribution to the province. We want to offer our condolences to his family but to also say he was someone we all respected very much.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I'd like to thank all of the members for those kind words and I will make sure that the families receive copies of today's Hansard.
It is now time for oral questions. Oh, I'm sorry. Minister of Education.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): It's very much a privilege for me stand on behalf of my caucus and say some words in memory of another very fine legislator here, Mr Bob Welch. While I don't have the memories that some would have as contemporaries of his in the caucus, I certainly remember Mr Welch, as one editorial writer called him, a jack of many ministries, and when you looked at all the different ministries, the posts he held under three different premiers, he certainly could be described as that.
I very much remember him from when I was a staffer here in those days, and I think his first memory of me, unfortunately, will be when I left a large, black briefcase in his office which his secretary mistook for a bomb and they had to clear out the whole wing of the building, including his office, and disrupted his meetings. So he probably had some rather interesting memories of me, but I do remember him very much as a minister who believed in public service, who believed in doing good for the people he represented.
He was first elected in 1963 and was there until 1985-a very long and distinguished career. He had just about every ministry you want to name: Minister of Citizenship, Minister of Education, social development, housing, Attorney General, secretary for justice, culture, recreation, government House leader, energy, minister responsible for women's issues and, yes, was one of the first Deputy Premiers, as one of my colleagues has just mentioned. He served exceedingly well in all those roles.
He certainly was a man of modest roots. He talked about how his father, who was a railroad brakeman, had worked hard for their family and how he himself had taken odd jobs to pay his way through university. He sold fruits and vegetables at one stage in his career and he said when he knocked on doors he was amazed at how many people remembered that he had done that many years before. His slogan, I understand, was, "Summer, winter, rain or shine, we're at your service all the time." I'm not sure if that was for the vegetables or for one of his political campaigns; he was not clear. He came from modest roots. He came from a community that instilled in him the value of community service and it was something that he very much put back, not only in his political career but also with his family, with his community and very much as the chancellor of Brock University, a post he took up after he left political life.
I had the privilege of being at that memorial, listening to many of the people there talk about, even though he was chancellor, the personal interest he was able to take in every student who came before him to get his or her graduation certificate and how he knew them very personally, and that certainly speaks well to him.
In closing, I would just like to say that he was once described by a reporter in the Globe and Mail who wrote: "Mr Welch sounds almost too good to be true-the clean-cut, all-Canadian guy making good in the service of his country. Mr Welch's highly developed sense of public duty keeps him working 16 hours a day."
Our thoughts go out to his children, Mary-Jayne, Beth and Rob, and the grandchildren at the memory of a very fine and distinguished public servant in this Legislature.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to associate myself with the remarks of the Minister of Education and I'm sure the thoughts of all members of the Legislative Assembly as I have the honour to pay tribute to Robert Welch who, in our part of the province of Ontario-and I know this is difficult in the Anglican Church-has reached the state of virtual sainthood in terms of how people feel about him and the role he played in our community and indeed in the province of Ontario.
Bob, to those of you who knew him, was small in stature, I suppose you would say, in physical stature, but in terms of his contribution to this House he was most assuredly a giant. In terms of his contribution really to the country as a whole, one could say the same thing.
He was a natural choice for Deputy Premier of this province-extremely loyal to Premier William Davis, well liked within the Conservative caucus and indeed among members of the Legislature, and easily able to assume the mantle of leadership whenever he was called upon to do so, and he handled those duties in an exemplary fashion.
He was one of the last genuine orators in the House. We have a lot of people who make some interesting and good speeches in this House, but Bob was what you would call a genuine orator. His speeches almost always were sprinkled with good humour, which would be appreciated, again, by representatives of all three parties in this Legislature. They were always oozing sincerity, because Bob most of all was an extremely honest and sincere individual, and they were always delivered with a good deal of enthusiasm: hands waving, smile on his face, voice rising at the appropriate time.
He handled a number of different portfolios, as the Minister of Education has indicated. I thought there were about a dozen portfolios that he had at one time or another, and he handled them extremely well. He was often put into trouble spots, hot spots in government, because he could cool off those hot spots with the manner in which he carried out his responsibilities as a minister. He was agile. He was skilful in dealing not only with his own cabinet colleagues and with the general public, but even with the members of the opposition, who from time to time could be quite vociferous in their opposition to government policy.
As House leader-and those who have served as House leader would appreciate this. The Premier has, as have others. Bob was government House leader in his particular case. He handled the responsibilities extremely well. He knew that it was important to make the House work as it should. He had a great liking for the House, had a great respect for the rules of the Legislature and the importance of this not simply as a debating society, but as a Legislature which made the most important decisions affecting this province. He respected the viewpoint of the opposition, he respected the responsibilities of government, even though he in his lifetime had not served on the opposition benches.
Bob had a wonderful sense of humour, a self-deprecating sense of humour. He always took his responsibilities seriously. He never took himself seriously and was always an individual who would put himself down on any occasion, particularly when he was introduced with a long litany of cabinet posts that he had held. He would simply apologize to the audience, after being introduced, for not being able to hold any job for any particular length of time. That was the kind of humour that he had.
He was dedicated to his constituents in Lincoln, in Brock, in St Catharines-Brock-the ridings change names but they were generally St Catharines and some of the surrounding area-and was virtually unbeatable in terms of the electoral process. That was because he drew support from people from every economic stratum, from every social position in life and regardless of political affiliation. Bob Welch was able to overcome any of the opposition that might come from those who are partisan because he was so dedicated to his constituency and to his constituents, and quite frankly because he was such a nice man, a nice individual.
He was genuinely interested in people. You know how often we ask, "How are you?" When Bob Welch asked how somebody was, he really wanted to know. He was genuinely concerned about our families, about our friends, about people in the Legislature who had gone on to other things in life. You could just sense in what he said that he genuinely cared about people, and he would write a note later on to somebody to cheer them up at the appropriate time.
He was a moderate, a consensus-builder, one who listened to other people's points of view and accepted them from time to time and at least respected them. He never sought a confrontation. I can't think of any occasion in which Bob Welch sought a confrontation. I sat in the Legislature on the opposition side when he was on the government side. We didn't work against each other; we worked together for the good of the constituents. That's because that's the way Bob Welch wanted it to be.
He was very kind to me as an individual. I'm a person on the other side who ultimately, I suppose, in the game of politics, wants to defeat the governing party. But Bob always saw the people who surrounded him in other constituencies as being people who were interested in working for our part of the province and treated all of us extremely well in that regard.
Service with Bob Welch is what was expected. There was no question that the Welch family was going to provide services. Bob Welch, from a very young age till his last days of life, was providing service to his fellow citizens in his constituency and across the province and country. A devoted Anglican, he held senior positions in the church. He was a chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara from 1965 to 1992. Even when he had political responsibilities, Bob was very devoted to the Anglican Church, and he never left his compassion on the steps of the church as he left. He always took it with him, because Bob was ultimately an extremely compassionate individual, always down to earth.
To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, he did walk among kings and always kept that common touch. He could relate to people of all backgrounds within his constituency. As chancellor of Brock University, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Dianne Cunningham, dealt with Bob. She was there the last time I got to speak to Bob Welch, and perhaps the last time she got to speak to him, when there was an announcement of the expansion of Brock University.
It wasn't an actual sod-turning-or it may have been a sod-turning-but is was a celebration at the time. There was Bob in the front row. My gosh, he had played a tremendous role with Brock University over the years. But he wasn't a person who would thrust himself forward for the credit; he was a person who simply knew in his own heart that he had contributed greatly to Brock University and to its students as he contributed so much.
One story I can tell you is that Bob was the chairman of the board of education-they were called chairmen in those days; now chair of the board of education-in St Catharines. He was the Conservative candidate in 1963. He came to Grantham High School. I was president of the student council. I had the job of thanking Bob-they made me do this-after he made his speech. You could see there was just a little bit of partisanship creeping in, because I held up the clipboard and I was reading the thank you on it, and on the back was a bumper sticker for his Liberal opponent at the time. Bob found that extremely amusing. Bob had invited me before that to his nomination meeting. I attended to watch; some suggested to spy, but I was only there to watch and observe. He encouraged me and so many others to become involved in the political process.
There were 800 people at the funeral. Everyone who could possibly make it to the funeral did. They said it was a who's who of Ontario politics and law and business and so on, but listen, a lot of other people who would describe themselves as ordinary folks in our community were there to pay tribute to Bob Welch. I can't think of anybody who was respected as much as he was.
Bill Davis said something about him that I'll conclude with, because Bill Davis gave quite a eulogy, along with some other people, Dr David Atkinson, Archdeacon Ian Dingwall and his son Rob Welch, who was very proud of him. Bill Davis said this of Bob Welch:
"We both shared the same point of view, that we entered public life not for the power perhaps it would give us but more importantly for the responsibility it holds upon us to do those things that were right and we felt were of interest to the people we were to serve. Power was never the motivating thing for Robert Welch. It was service, responsibility, sensitivity and decency." That was Bob Welch.
To members of his family, to Rob, to Beth, to Mary-Jayne, to the grandchildren, to all who were friends of Bob Welch, we extend our sympathy and our admiration. On behalf of my colleagues in the Ontario Liberal caucus, we send our very best wishes to the family. We know they will be proud for their lifetime of the service that their father and their grandfather provided to the people of Ontario.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I consider it a distinct honour to say a few words on behalf of the NDP caucus in remembering Robert Welch, and although I only met him once, I'll refer to him as Bob Welch because everything I've heard about his reputation tells me that's the way he would want it.
He had a long, long, illustrious career. It hasn't been mentioned yet, but at 16 he was a junior mayor of St Catharines. I guess that's where he was bitten with the political bug and the desire and the need to serve.
As I was listening to the members speak before I rose in my place, I thought to myself, "Is there a one of us in this place who doesn't, for at least a moment when we take time to do this, wonder what will be said about us when the time comes?" It can be a scary thought. But the fact that Bob Welch has such a reputation-in commenting on former Premier Miller, the member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke used, as a comparator, Robert Welch-I think that to have that level of sincerity and to have a reputation so strong, so powerful and that leaves such an imprint on this place has got to be one of the finest rewards that any of us could have for the time and the service that we spend in this place.
Bob Welch, it has been mentioned, was a troubleshooter, put into very difficult portfolios. He sat as a minister in a dozen. I don't know if people realize that of those 12 ministries, he served as minister eight of nine years. That's enough to flatten just about any politician I've ever met politically. He not only survived it but seemed to thrive on it.
I note also in researching Bob Welch that he was given the difficult task of introducing the first government lottery in 1975 as the new Minister of Culture and Recreation. This was a very difficult decision and a very difficult process for him because on a personal level, his involvement in his church and his deep beliefs told him that lotteries were wrong. But obviously he felt that public service and the priority of providing the best service that he could as an individual was more important.
I've watched some of my own cabinet colleagues when they've struggled with very difficult moral decisions where there is no clear right or wrong, where you're pulled between on the one side public service and on the other side personal beliefs. I think it says a lot about Bob Welch that he felt enough about public service that he accepted that challenge and did an excellent job.
There aren't very many politicians these days in Canada-the one that comes to mind is former Premier Bob Rae-who speak with pride about being a politician, who speak with pride about the opportunity and the honour of public service and the importance of public service and the importance of a politician's role in our democracy. Bob Welch believed in that, and believed in it so strongly that here we are today reflecting on the fact that one of his greatest achievements was to send that message, not just through words but through action.
I met Bob Welch once when I was a minister, during one of our more difficult times. No one else was around. When you're going through tough times-and I'm sure that current cabinet ministers can appreciate this-there's a good chance that somebody who's active in politics is going to take a moment, the opportunity to go up one side of you and down the other. I hadn't met Bob and didn't know a lot about him and didn't know really what to expect. His only concern in the few moments that we had was how I was coping; a personal question from one politician, from one citizen, to another: "How's it going? How are you handling it? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you spending time with family? Are you doing the things that will make you a better politician, a better minister and therefore provide better public service and therefore give us a better province?" To leave that kind of impression on any of us is a phenomenal legacy to leave behind.
It is with great pride that I offer our condolences in the NDP caucus to the family members of Bob Welch, and I say to Ontarians that regardless of political stripes, Ontario could use a lot more Bob Welches.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): Members will know that a short time ago Dr Morton Shulman passed away. I wanted to say a few words about Dr Shulman, a former member of the NDP caucus. There are some members who served with Dr Shulman, so they will have first-hand experience with what I'm about to talk about.
Morton Shulman was indeed an unusual individual. He was in fact a Conservative. He worked to elect Conservatives to this Legislature, but he was also the chief coroner of Ontario. When he couldn't get the Conservative government of the day to move on some of his recommendations and when they fired him as chief coroner, he decided he would be a thorn in their side in some other way, so he got elected as a New Democrat. I'm sure that every day after that the Conservatives in this Legislature wished they had never fired him, because during the whole time that he was in this Legislature, he was nothing but torment to the Conservative government of the time.
What could describe Morton Shulman? Populist, loud, brash, outspoken, marching to a different drummer. In this place he bent every one of the rules, and when he couldn't bend a rule, he simply broke it. Speaker, I know that some days you look like you are under great stress in this place but, believe me, I used to come here and witness Dr Shulman in his activities, and you have a very easy task.
Some of the things that Morton Shulman accomplished: while he was chief coroner he forced the Ministry of Transportation to enact tougher regulations on lifejackets for small boats. He succeeded in having the government regulate car safety. He was so successful in some of his work that they made a television show about him. The series Wojeck is based upon Morton Shulman, the coroner who goes everywhere, who raises all the issues, who is not afraid of the government of the day even if they threaten to fire him, so they made a television series about him.
He had his own television show as well. It was called The Shulman File. When he wasn't raising issues in the Legislature, he simply took over the journalism airwaves directly. Some people believed that he actually created what is now called confrontational journalism, that Morton Shulman was the source and the creator of that. Some say he spent his whole time living on the edge, that he was always on the edge of controversy, that he was always on the edge of another battle over another issue. But I think we need to reflect on what he accomplished: what he accomplished as coroner, what he accomplished in this Legislature in terms of raising issues and forcing the government of the day to respond and what he accomplished in terms of everyday life.
After he left politics he didn't stop raising issues. He fought a lengthy battle in Canada for the approval of Deprenyl, a drug which is now widely used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. At the time it was being used in Europe but it had not been approved for use in Canada. He took the cause on single-handedly and accomplished that too.
So, on behalf of New Democrats-and we had our engagements with Dr Shulman as well. I'm sure Stephen Lewis, if he were able to be here, would tell lengthy stories about his occasions with Dr Shulman. I think we all need to recognize someone who in the course of his life here in politics as a civil servant, and then finally as someone who went on to journalism after this, accomplished an incredible amount and accomplished it over a number of fields.
I think we can say that this is someone who was never afraid of a battle and who won most of the battles he took on one way or another.
We offer our condolences to his wife and his family and once again we offer our respect to an incredible individual and an incredible parliamentarian.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): I rise to speak on behalf of my colleagues here to say a few words about Dr Morton Shulman. I share the sense of inadequacy that the leader of the third party mentions when trying to find the right words to describe Dr Shulman. I will be eternally gratefully for the fact that I was not serving as a cabinet minister when he was in opposition.
As a staffer around Queen's Park, I got to witness first-hand his style in this Legislature. His questions ranged from the provocative to the outrageous. Some of his activities in this chamber could also be described as outrageous. The leader of the third party says that the Speaker is very lucky not to have Dr Shulman in the House, and I would say so is the leader of the third party not to have Dr Shulman in his caucus. He was a thorn in everyone's side, fighting very hard-
Hon Mrs Ecker: The third party is pointing to their colleague from Niagara Centre. With no offence to the member from Niagara Centre, I think on your most colourful day Dr Shulman was at least a match if not-
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): You shouldn't have said that.
Hon Mrs Ecker: I shouldn't have said that. It's now going to be a challenge.
He was known, yes, for fighting for the little guy and fighting for what he believed in and making change and making it happen.
He was also-this was in a different era, I should say-concerned about security around the Legislature. His way of making the point was to actually walk into the building with a weapon which he unwrapped in the Chamber, to the great consternation to the members of the government who were convinced that this was it, that he had finally crossed the barrier. It was, I'll say, amusing to watch many cabinet ministers of the day diving under their desks. He did make the point and, as usual with him, it was effective if a tad unorthodox and a little colourful.
He described himself once as "a skinny Jewish kid in a WASP north Toronto area who was no good at sports and too good at school." Mr Bradley across the way talked about orators in this place. I don't think I would have used the word "oratory," but he certainly had a very colourful way to describe the issues he was talking about at the time.
Yes, he did run, he did serve as a member of the NDP, but he was also known for his incredible ability to be financially successful at whatever he did. It was one of his rather interesting talents. Having lost $400 on the stock market, he got his revenge by becoming overwhelmingly successful financially. He wrote a book, Anyone Can Make a Million, and wrote another book, Anyone Can Still Make a Million, just to rub it into all those people who didn't think he had the ability to do that.
He was someone who I think will be sadly missed in the politics of the day at whatever he turned his hand. He had an impact as a physician, he had an impact as a coroner and he certainly had an impact as an elected official. Even in-I will use the word loosely-retirement, his fight for those who suffer from Parkinson's I think also very much had an impact.
Just in closing, a comment that was in one of the obituaries written about him at the time of his passing. His son-in-law said, "He was living four times the life of any normal mortal. Contemplating doing half of what he did would exhaust me-he lived at a speed which is different than the normal mortals I know."
He certainly was no normal mortal, and the thoughts of our caucus, as with everyone in this House, go out to his son, Dr Geoffrey Shulman, his daughter, Dianne Saxe, his eight grandchildren and his former wife, Gloria Bossin.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I want to congratulate the Minister of Education, because I think we all hope that when our time comes whoever gets up to eulogize us gets as close to the truth as one should under these circumstances.
How do we talk about Morty Shulman? Well, I think the truth has to be acknowledged that there probably has never been in the post-war period a more colourful and more controversial member of this Legislature than Dr Morton Shulman.
I beg to differ with the leader of the third party. Morty didn't just torment Tories; he tormented the New Democrats. I well remember New Democrats-Morty left in 1975, and I think of the late Mr Speaker Stokes, for example, telling me about what it was like to be whip of a caucus where Morty was part of the band. Morty could torment, and he did, always with good intent.
I was thinking as well that we are a very antiseptic place these days, some would even say banal. Morty Shulman reminds us of a time when the Ontario Legislature had really outrageous characters, and he was leader of that band, ably assisted by the likes of Elmer Sopha, Frank Drea, Eddie Sargent and a few others-colourful, iconoclastic, independent. Morty wasn't a Tory, he wasn't a New Democrat; he was an independent. He led the Morty Shulman party.
In 1966 he wrote a best-selling book, Anyone Can Make a Million, and then looked across the political landscape and decided to join the NDP. He did that. And what was his first question when he got up here in 1968? A question to Bob Welch: "Are you going to lay charges against E.P. Taylor and the Canadian Brewing Co for their failure to comply with certain provisions of the Corporations Act?"
Janet was right to talk about the day in 1975 when, to make a point about the laxity of Ontario's gun laws, he went out and bought a semi-automatic rifle and brought it in here, to the shock and horror of everyone. He did more than that. In 1973 the morality squad decided to outlaw and ban The Happy Hooker. Do you know what Morty did? Morty decided to buy several boxes of the famous book, put them on sale in his Queen's Park office, offered members a 10% discount, and sold out in no time. He actually did that. He tells the story about how the author called to offer some consideration-his story, not mine.
He was bright, he was iconoclastic, he was intensely controversial. You either liked Morty or you didn't, and there were many in both camps. He was someone who was part Teddy Roosevelt, part John Diefenbaker and part Don Quixote. One day he was chasing the Mafia, the next day he was chasing Bay Street brokers. One day he was chasing the Minister of Health, the next day he was chasing the Toronto Telegram. Every day with Morty was a day of discovery.
There were lots of broken pieces as he tilted at windmills, and there were lots of positive benefits for individuals. He tells the story of the day his daughter applied for and obtained employment with the Ontario government. When the word got out that his very bright, able daughter, Dianne, was about to be hired by the Ontario government, the said Ontario government went apoplectic. It wasn't until Darcy McKeough, the responsible minister for the department about to make the hire, intervened and said, "If she makes the test of the interview, then we will hire her." She was a very able servant of the Ontario government for years, and may be still working for us, I don't know.
I just want to say in conclusion that, in the annals of Ontario legislative history, when people think about characters, colour and controversy, Morty Shulman will certainly lead that hit parade.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank all of the members for their comments, and, again, we'll make sure each of the families receive copies of today's Hansard.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would seek unanimous consent to complete question period in total for 60 minutes, notwithstanding that we will bump up against 4 pm, and that then we go to orders of the day.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. I believe that one of the most important things we can do through this Legislature is to ensure that each and every Ontario family has access to the best quality care and, in particular, emergency room care, that they can absolutely depend on.
I don't know what you believe, but I can tell you what you have done on that score. You closed 5,700 hospital beds, and you have put nothing in their place. You promised us 20,000 long-term-care beds, but not a single one is up and running.
The amount of time that our emergency rooms are turning people away is up 66% this past year alone. There was a time when we experienced crises in our emergency rooms on a cyclical basis, maybe every January of every year. But now it turns out that virtually every day of the year we are having difficulties, in fact a crisis, a real and genuine crisis, in our emergency rooms.
My question to you, Premier: why are you continuing to fail Ontario families when it comes to ensuring they've got access to reliable, dependable emergency room service?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the minister can respond.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I really find it quite surprising that you would make the comments that you do, because you know full well that this is a long-standing issue. In fact, it was the Liberal government that first had the headlines in the papers and offered absolutely no solutions. In fact, November 1986: "Overcrowding these patients on stretchers ... patients wait in line for hospital beds." You were the government that stopped-
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. Would the Minister of Health take her seat. We're going to start off bright and early. This is the last warning for the member for Windsor West. You can't right off the bat, when she immediately starts standing up, begin to shout at her right across. I've said on numerous occasions that heckling is OK if you say a few words back and forth, hopefully with some humour like some of the members do, but you cannot get up immediately when somebody gets up and just shout across for the entire time. This is her last warning.
I'm going to begin with each and every member. Again, I want to stress it, and I've said it numerous times. Heckling is OK in this place, but we are not going to tolerate people just continually shouting and talking across to the other side. This isn't a case of trying to cut down the other side and not hear answers. It's not going to happen. Last warning to her.
Sorry for the interruption to the Minster of Health.
Hon Mrs Witmer: As I just said, in the paper as recently as today, Harold Fisher, assistant director of the emergency department at Mount Sinai said, "This is a very old problem. It is at least 10 years old. It is not a new issue."
I guess what is new today is the fact that while it was a problem for the Liberals and you had no solutions, we set up an emergency task force involving the nurses, involving the doctors, involving the ambulance drivers, and involving the hospitals. Since 1998, those individuals have come forward with their very best advice. In fact, they continue to meet today in order to ensure that we have a comprehensive emergency room strategy.
Mr McGuinty: When are you going to have the guts to admit that our emergency rooms are worse off today than they've ever been before in the history of this province? Minister, you said you were going to make things better and, by the way, we are in the sixth year of the Harris government. You said you were going to make things better and you closed our hospitals, you shut down our emergency rooms, you fired our nurses and then you refused to put in place and get up and running long-term-care beds. That's what you did. This crisis is the result of your gross mismanagement and incompetence because of restructuring health care in Ontario.
Now I understand that this Sunday you're going to close down the emergency room in the Wellesley Hospital and in a few months from now you're going to shut down the emergency room in Women's College Hospital. It seems to me that the first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole and you want to get out is to stop digging. I'm now asking you to stop the emergency room closures in Ontario so that we can begin to safely accommodate those Ontarians who find themselves inside ambulances with no place to go.
Hon Mrs Witmer: The Leader of the Opposition really doesn't get it. They had no solutions when they were in office and they have no solutions today. That's why we've undertaken the comprehensive restructuring of our health system. That's why we know, in order to address the pressures in emergency rooms, that you need to construct 20,000 long-term-care beds. By the way, it was your government that stopped the construction in 1988 and there were 10 years of no long-term-care construction. That's why we've announced an investment of $1.2 billion, not only into long-term care but into community services. In fact, we have the highest per capita amount of money being spent. That's why our government is the first one in the history of Canada to announce primary care reform. That's what it means to have a comprehensive emergency room strategy, and when we want to talk about Wellesley-
The Speaker: I'm afraid the minister's time's up.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, in 1995 in Ontario hospitals we had a 90% occupancy rate. Today we have a 96% occupancy rate. That means there's only a 4% cushion to accommodate ambulances which are showing up with people in desperate need of medical attention. Experts tell us we should have a cushion of 15% so that we can comfortably accommodate people who are showing up in our ambulances.
There's a way we can relieve this pressure and avoid the disaster. Mark my words, we are going to have a huge disaster in this province in January if you don't do something. Here's a proposal: let's put 1,600 acute care beds back into the system so that we can comfortably accommodate all of those people who are otherwise going to be shut out of hospitals which they should be able to depend on and which you have been shutting down on them.
Hon Mrs Witmer: The Leader of the Opposition knows that not only have we developed a comprehensive emergency pressure solution, but we have done so with our stakeholders. This is not advice that unilaterally is being presented. The advice we are receiving is from the hospitals, it's from the doctors, it's from the nurses, it's from the ambulance drivers. It is a comprehensive strategy. We have invested $620 million.
Let me read a letter from Ron Kelusky from Toronto Emergency Medical Services. He said on September 26, "You should know that every patient transported by an ambulance within the city of Toronto is found a medically safe and appropriate destination prior to leaving the scene of the call. In general, the entire system works very well and we continue to work with the ministry and the hospitals to better respond to the surges in demand whenever this may happen." We will continue to work with our-
The Speaker: The minister's time is up.
SAFE DRINKING WATER PLAN
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is also to the Premier. I believe that one of the things we need urgently now is a safe drinking water plan so that we can guard the health and well-being of Ontarians by protecting their water, but you haven't been doing your job in that regard.
Today Dr Murray McQuigge-he's the medical officer of health for Walkerton, that genuine hero who blew the whistle on the toxic water that was coming out of their taps-said that your new regulations are inadequate to protect our water. He said specifically that your new regulations would not prevent another Walkerton from happening. That's what Dr McQuigge said. Your Environmental Commissioner calls your actions on groundwater "fragmented and uncoordinated." He said, "The ministries don't have a publicly recognizable strategy." All of this is telling us that today in Ontario, post-Walkerton, post-six deaths, we still don't have a safe drinking water plan. Premier, will you table that plan here and now today?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the Minister of the Environment can answer that one.
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): We have a tough new regulation in place to protect the drinking water for the people in this province. We also have Operation Clean Water. The objectives of Operation Clean Water are to ensure that we have tough, clear regulations in place that have the full force of law in our province. Operation Clean Water also calls for effective inspection and enforcement taking place within all the waterworks facilities in the province-630. It calls for tough new penalties for non-compliance and also delivers strategic investments and delivery practices to ensure that they're put in place to protect drinking water for everyone in Ontario.
Mr McGuinty: I appreciate the reassurances offered by the Minister of the Environment, but if I have to choose between Dr Murray McQuigge and this minister, I'll side with Dr McQuigge, who says you don't have a drinking water safety plan in Ontario.
Do you know what we did? We got hold of the freedom-of-information people. We sent over a letter, and they came back with a response and they said-and this is their wording-"After a thorough search of the water policy branch, we note that the groundwater strategy document is not finalized." What we've discovered from your own people is that in fact there is no safe drinking water plan today in Ontario.
This is the sixth year of the Mike Harris government. This is some four months after Walkerton; four months after we buried six people. I'm asking you now, Minister, when are you going to deliver to us in this Legislature a safe drinking water plan?
Hon Mr Newman: I say to the Leader of the Opposition you're wrong again. We have Operation Clean Water in effect right now. We also have the tough new regulations. We also have a consultation out there with small waterworks. But if you say you won't listen to me, perhaps you'll listen to the newest member of your caucus who said, "I think the Minister of the Environment needs to receive some kudos, frankly, for some of the-
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Shut your mouth.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. Minister take his seat and stop the clock. The member will have to apologize for that.
Mr Bartolucci: I apologize.
The Speaker: And withdraw it, please.
Mr Bartolucci: I withdraw.
The Speaker: Thank you very much.
The Speaker: Order. The tempers going back and forth on both sides aren't helpful. I say to some of the members that tough questions can be asked-
The Speaker: When we yell back and forth, personal insults don't do anybody any good. In situations like this, and I'll use the example of the leader of the official opposition, he asks very tough, passionate questions but he doesn't sit there and yell across to the other side. That's what question period is all about. This yelling across and personal insults like that are not helpful to anybody. I would ask all members to think before they yell things like that across again.
Minister of the Environment.
Hon Mr Newman: I was pointing out to the Leader of the Opposition what the newest member of his caucus said about the new drinking water protection regulation in this province. This is what Ted McMeekin, the MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot, said: "I think the Minister of the Environment needs to receive some kudos, frankly, for some of the action that has taken place for putting the water regulations in place." That's what he said. Why doesn't he listen to his own caucus?
The Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr McGuinty: Someone who lends some real insight into how we should view the minister and his commitments is the Environment Commissioner himself. This is what he said about the minister: "On at least two occasions, the Ministry of the Environment has appeared to deliberately mislead the public by announcing management measures that were not carried out." He's telling us that you did not do what you said you would do. This is your own Environment Commissioner. He says that you are misleading the public.
I'd ask people watching this to understand the gravity of that kind of a criticism coming from that individual holding that office. What he's telling us is that you are continuing to fail the people of Ontario. You are continuing to fail to protect their health by protecting their water.
I'm asking you again, on their behalf, when are you going to table in this House a real and genuine safe drinking water plan?
Hon Mr Newman: The Leader of the Opposition would know that last Friday he would have received a report on the update of Operation Clean Water. If you didn't get a copy, I'll send you another copy. But all members would have received copies of Operation Clean Water.
Operation Clean Water is our plan to ensure that there are tough, clear standards in place with the full force of law to protect drinking water in our province. It calls for the effective inspection of all 630 facilities. In fact, by the end of this year, all 630 municipal waterworks will be inspected in our province. Well over half of them have been done to date. We also have tough penalties coming in place through the force of law with new drinking water regulations. We also have a commitment of at least $240 million to the OSTAR program to supply smaller municipalities with assistance with waterworks.
The Speaker: New question?
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): Is the Premier coming back into the-
The Speaker: I don't believe we see him. He may go on to another question. I don't believe he is.
Mr Hampton: In that case I'll-
The Speaker: Stop the clock.
Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): On a point of order, Mr Speaker, in response to this comment regarding the Premier: I don't think any one of us here anticipated that we would be taking as long as we did for the tributes. We understand; we support it. I do think it's important that the House recognizes that the Premier had some commitments.
The Speaker: I thank the member for his comments. I will also say this: It isn't helpful when we have personal comments. That particular comment was directed towards the Premier. We know what he said. He was told to shut up.
On occasions I've said the same thing to the Premier, as everyone in this House knows, about personal accusations. I don't favour one side or the other. But when we get in a situation where we shout personal insults back to each other, this is sometimes what happens.
Again, I hate to embarrass the leader of the official opposition. He asks tough, passionate questions, but he doesn't shout across while the answer is being given. If other members could look to that leadership, as well as to some of the other members, that's the way it should be done. Leader of the third party.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the acting Premier. Your government continues to say that the Adams mine site is safe and that people who live downstream from it don't have to worry about toxic leaks from the garbage. You say there's no problem.
Acting Premier, six days ago there was an earthquake measuring 3 on the Richter scale only 36 miles away from the mine site; 27 days ago there was another earthquake 30 miles away. This is in the middle of an active earthquake zone. Are you telling people that they don't have to worry about leaks, that they don't have to worry about cracks and fissures in the ground in the middle of an earthquake zone? Is that what you're really telling people?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I know the Minister of the Environment would like to shed some light on this issue.
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): Indeed waste management is a growing global problem and it's a very emotional issue. Let me assure you that our government takes this issue and the protection of the environment very seriously.
This project, the Adams mine, has undergone extensive and thorough technical analysis to ensure that the environment will be protected over the long term. As part of that commitment to the environmental assessment process, a full environmental was completed in accordance with the Environmental Assessment Act. The Minister of the Environment requested that the Environmental Assessment Board review the hydraulic leachate collection and containment system to ensure that groundwater contamination would be prevented. Hearings lasted six months, and the board attached 26 conditions to the plan. There was a certificate of approval issued after further technical analysis of the project, and that certificate carried with it 66 conditions. There were an additional eight independent peer reviews that carefully analyzed the details of the plan, and they submitted their reviews to the Environmental Assessment Board.
Mr Hampton: The evidence shows that this ground, this rock, is full of cracks and fissures already. The evidence already shows, going back to the 1980s, that there are leaks from those cracks and fissures. Now we've had two earthquakes in the last two months, and if you go back to January 1 of this year, there was a further earthquake in the area, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale.
Are you honestly telling the people who live downstream from that mine site that with three earthquakes in less than a year, there is no risk of leakage over the next 100 years, no risk whatsoever that contaminated water will get out of that and into Lake Timiskaming and the Ottawa River? Are you giving them your guarantee?
Hon Mr Newman: Again, I tell the leader of the third party that a full environmental assessment of the Adams mine site took place. Again, there were also the Environmental Assessment Board hearings that took place; there was a judicial review and an appeal of that judicial review, because there was an environmental assessment in place. That's far different from what you did with the Lindsay-Ops site in 1991, sir. What you did was you granted an exemption to the EA process for the expansion of the Lindsay-Ops landfill.
Mr Hampton: We'll take up the Lindsay-Ops dump site some other time. The fact of the matter is that since you began this process, after you granted the environmental assessment approval, we have had three earthquakes, one of them measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale. It should be obvious to anyone that your plan is to dump toxic garbage into what is now a lake that is loaded with cracks and fissures and that is now, we know, an active earthquake site which is likely to develop more cracks and fissures.
It's not too late. You can call a halt to this bad process, this one-way process, before you have another environmental disaster on your hands. Will you do that? Will you acknowledge that an active earthquake zone is not the place to put 20 years of toxic garbage?
Hon Mr Newman: Again, there was a full environmental assessment that took place with respect to the Adams mine landfill. There was an Environmental Assessment Board hearing, a judicial review of that, as well as leave to appeal that was given. There were independent reviews given. It's the experts who decide whether or not that would go forward, and I can tell you that through all the data and all the reports, they have recommended this. We stand behind the environmental assessment process.
SAFE DRINKING WATER LEGISLATION
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My next question is also to the Acting Premier. We have a serious problem in Ontario in terms of your government being able to guarantee and assure people of the safety of their drinking water. You can't even guarantee the people of Walkerton that they will be able to drink their water before Christmas. You've got a real problem. We want to help you with it. This Thursday, Bill 96, the Safe Drinking Water Act, which goes through a number of the issues that your government must confront in order to assure people that their drinking water is safe to drink, comes up for debate and for second reading. Will you, Acting Premier, be supporting the Safe Drinking Water Act, Bill 96, this Thursday?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I know the Minister of the Environment would like to comment on that particular bill.
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): I just want to again take the opportunity to remind the member opposite that we do have Operation Clean Water in effect, a very comprehensive plan to protect drinking water in this province. We have a tough new drinking water protection regulation.
But let me remind you that we have been there for the people of Walkerton from day one. We've replaced 4.6 kilometres of water main. The pipe replacement is complete and work on the service connection is continuing. We've issued orders to stop using well 5 and we've issued a hydrogeological study in areas surrounding the other wells. The Ontario Clean Water Agency is installing the interim filtration system to be put in place by October 30. Every house and every building within Walkerton has been sampled as part of the confirmation program to ensure the efficiency of the house-to-house flushing that's taking place, and we continue to be there.
I want to remind everyone just what the mayor of Walkerton said about this government at the AMO conference. He said, "While there may be some who may have questioned the province's commitment to address our tragic circumstances, I can personally tell you from day one the Premier, the Minister of the Environment, the Attorney General and the entire Ontario support team have done whatever it takes to help us restore clean and safe water."
Mr Hampton: The question was, is the acting Premier going to support the Safe Drinking Water Act? What we got from the Minister of the Environment is more gobbledegook. Dr Murray McQuigge today has said that what you have put in place so far doesn't do anything that is effective.
So I'm going to repeat the question: will you be supporting the Safe Drinking Water Act? But I also want to ask you this. We now know that the E coli has been identified as coming from cattle manure runoff. Your government promised last spring that you were going to introduce legislation to control intensive farming. You said that last spring. Nothing happened. Now you have said it's going to happen this fall. Well, it's the fall, Minister. When are we going to see the legislation controlling intensive farming and are you going to support the Safe Drinking Water Act?
Hon Mr Newman: I'll refer the question to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Hon Ernie Hardeman (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): To the member opposite I want to say that, as he pointed out, we have been doing intensive consultation on the issue of nutrient management in the agricultural area of the province to make sure that, as an agricultural community, we are doing the best possible job of handling those nutrients from the livestock operations.
As he will be aware, we have been consulting through the summer, and as recently as last Saturday we met with a great number of stakeholders to discuss the issues that we've had out for consultation for the summer. We hope to be able to put that all together and come forward with a plan that will deal appropriately with the issue.
NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Health. A short while ago a story came off the newswire, and this is the title: "Harris Says Health Travel Grants Discriminatory to Southern Ontarians.
It says, "Ontario Premier Mike Harris admits there's discrimination in his government's financial help for medically necessary travel, but he says it's southern Ontarians who get less cash."
In one fell swoop, your boss, the Premier, has insulted all northern Ontarians, but especially their families and especially sick people. How is it that you can possibly justify your Premier making this kind of a statement? I would have preferred to put the question to him, but I can't. Can you now stand up and disassociate yourself from this comment and admit, finally, that if there is discrimination, it is clear that your government's policies are discriminating against cancer patients who reside in northern Ontario?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): As the leader knows, there are two distinct travel plans in the province of Ontario. If we take a look at the northern health travel grant, it is available only to people who live in northern Ontario. It is not available to people who live in southern Ontario, even though some of those people might have to travel long distances.
If we take a look at the cancer referral program, everyone in the province of Ontario is eligible for reimbursement, no matter where you live in the province. It treats everybody the same.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Final supplementary.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Minister, on behalf of your Premier, I want you to stand in your place and apologize to the people of northern Ontario who have to travel for treatment. Apologize to Janet Skinner, who's spent $40,000 trying to save her life. Apologize to Sue and Dan Piché, who received their first travel cheque after their son had died from leukemia and they had spent $35,000 trying to save his life. Apologize to Paul Defant, whose 23 visits to Toronto fighting leukemia have caused him to spend thousands of dollars. Apologize to all those cancer patients who are travelling for care, who are paying from their pockets in order to get the treatment they require. On behalf of your Premier, I want you to stand in your place and apologize for your Premier's comments.
Hon Mrs Witmer: Unfortunately, the member has not always been interested in the facts concerning the two programs, and I would just repeat what I said before: the northern health travel grant is available only to people in northern Ontario who are travelling to receive specialized health services. There is no grant available for people living in southern Ontario, and some of those individuals have long distances to travel as well.
The cancer care program is a program of re-referral if care cannot be provided at the local location, and it is available to any Ontarian who is asked to leave their own site.
COST OF ELECTRICAL POWER
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is for the Minister of Energy, Science and Technology. Representatives from various electric utilities in my riding have approached me with concerns about Bill 100, the Ontario Energy Board Amendment Act. There is a perception that the intent of our government in introducing this bill is to have Hydro One take over most of Ontario's utility services and leave only a few other mega-utilities. They believe that this will not create better service for the consumer but, rather, create a more powerful Hydro One. If this is true, I can understand the opposing arguments. Could you please clarify the purpose of this bill and correct any misconceptions?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Energy, Science and Technology): Bill 100, which is An Act to promote efficiency in the municipal electricity sector and protect consumers from unjustified rate increases, was introduced in this Legislature in response to OEB procedures of this year. This past May, the 25 large municipal utilities were asked to file with the Ontario Energy Board their rate applications. What we found after we tallied up the numbers is that the average price of electricity for municipal ratepayers would go up about 17% in those 25 municipalities, like Toronto and like Mississauga. Since municipalities are responsible for a small portion of the bill-they're responsible for the wires portion, what we call the monopoly portion of the bill-that meant that most of those municipalities, on average, were asking for a 72% increase in the portion of the bill that they were responsible for.
Obviously consumers needed protection until the Ontario Energy Board, for the first time, is able to bring in performance-based regulation and put a lid on these large increases. In the meantime, I would ask members to support Bill 100.
Mr Galt: I realize that the purpose is to place the consumer first and to create a level playing field. However, with Hydro One's ability to earn a rate of return on acquired assets and its ability to write off interest on acquisitions, will this have any effect on how rates will be established down the road and give Hydro One a definite advantage over the other utilities?
Hon Mr Wilson: I remind members that when I was appointed minister some three years ago, we had 303 municipal electrical utilities. That's several times more than the rest of Canada combined. Quebec has 12 utilities; most of the provinces have one or two.
Today we still have over 250 municipal electrical utilities. Bill 100 and the directive we sent to the Ontario Energy Board try to encourage those municipalities, along with the tax exemption, to become efficient, to amalgamate and to pass those savings on to customers. Remember, they're given a monopoly business. This has nothing to do with the competitive side of the generation business of this province.
With respect to Hydro One, it is treated under the law the same as Toronto or Mississauga or any other large utility. It has the exact same rules and the exact same set-up. In fact, if Toronto and Mississauga or Toronto and any other utility would get together, they would be larger than Hydro One. We need our 257 municipal utilities to get together and become larger than Hydro One. It's a regulated monopoly. The Ontario Energy Board, on behalf of consumers, will determine those monopoly rates in the future, regardless of the size and regardless of ownership.
SCHOOL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): I have a question for the Minister of Education. Minister, I want to ask you about the turmoil you've caused in the high schools in particular, for the students in high school this fall. Last year virtually all, 70 out of 72 school boards, had substantial extracurricular activities, 97%. You insisted on bringing in a new law, and now we have students and parents demonstrating all around the province. They're being deprived of extracurricular activities because you have put a new burden on teachers because you changed the rules with your law last spring.
Now, Minister, O'Ryan, who is the student council president at Humberside Collegiate, where I was last week, wants to know, will you bring some peace back to the schools? Will you provide the flexibility and the funds to give back the extracurricular activities that you have taken away?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): First of all, I'd like to say to the honourable member that I certainly share the concerns of those parents and those students in those schools who are finding that the teachers in those schools are not doing extracurricular activities, have chosen not to do so. I share their frustration. I have certainly said to them that walking out of class, I don't think, is the most appropriate way to express that and have given them some suggestions for making those views known, because I think those are very important comments and concerns they are registering in their communities and with their school boards and with the other members in their school.
But I think the other thing that the honourable member does not wish to mention is that there are literally thousands of teachers in this province who, because they care about the kids, are choosing to provide extracurricular activities. They see it as part of their job, they see it as something that students need as part of their education.
The other thing to say-
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I'm afraid the minister's time is up. Supplementary.
Mr Kennedy: I'd like to ask the minister, on behalf of the students in this province, to kindly get her head out of the sand. The principals, as you know, because they sent you a copy of the results-the principals' association has done a survey of schools, and 74% of 92 high schools have either decreased extracurricular activities a great deal or completely ended them.
Minister, you are responsible. Last spring 97% of the boards and the schools had extracurricular; now 74% have either dramatically reduced or stopped altogether. Do the math. What kind of example are you setting for the students of this province when you refuse to take responsibility? You won't admit that when you give the teachers 25% more class time, extracurriculars are going to lose out.
Now, Minister, something does have to give. Will you-
The Speaker: Stop the clock; sorry to interrupt.
I asked the member not to yell that. What happens when somebody yells that? The person asking the question doesn't know if it's me or somebody else. It gets very confusing. I will handle the time. I appreciate it from the member. I hate to embarrass him, but when it starts with that, everybody does that and then we can't control it. Particularly down at the other end when somebody is asking, they sometimes have trouble with the time. Please don't yell that again.
Mr Kennedy: Minister, what right do you have to interfere with these students' lives? They're losing their sports, their help room, their orientation. Some of their classroom is affected, their dances, their academic clubs. You're taking it away from them, Minister. Will you put aside the sledgehammer? Will you find a way around your confrontational approach? Will you bring some peace to our schools by returning the flexibility and the funding that you took away and do some honour to the students-
The Speaker: Time is up. The Minister of Education?
Hon Mrs Ecker: The honourable member talks about an example. What kind of an example is it for students when they see in their own community teachers who see extracurricular as part of their job, who do extracurricular as part of their job, who choose to do that because it's important for the kids, and at the next school some of those teachers are choosing not to do it? Of course those students are frustrated.
We have set a workload standard, four hours and 10 minutes on average, for a teacher. It's set on the national average. It was set three years ago. I'd like to say to the honourable member, what level of workload would he like to see for teachers? How long does he think this political fight between a teachers' union and a school board or a teachers' union and a government-how long does he think they should keep that political fight going on on the backs of our students? I'm with those thousands of teachers who are helping students. I'm with those students who are out there saying to their teachers, "I want extracurricular activities"-
The Speaker: Order. The minister's time is up, I'm afraid.
Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek): My question is for the Minister of the Environment. I heard earlier today from one of my constituents that they read in the paper that a company called Rhodes Consulting is doing work for your ministry. Can you tell me what this contract is and how much it is costing the taxpayers in Ontario?
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): I want to thank the member from Stoney Creek for his question. In fact, the situation in Walkerton has created some considerable concern for the people of Ontario, and it was important to ensure that we as a ministry were effectively communicating the necessary information to the people of Walkerton in a timely fashion.
Given the increased attention to water initiatives, it was necessary to hire additional resources to communicate the initiatives that we have undertaken to assure the people of Ontario that their drinking water is safe. Yes, it is true that Rhodes Consulting has been contracted by my ministry for a three-month period. It was a tendered contract. Three companies responded with bids and Rhodes Consulting was selected. I want you to know that the ministry's current overall communications budget for all programs, including Drive Clean, is $6.1 million. Rhodes Consulting is being paid $50,000, or less than 1% of the overall communications budget.
Mr Clark: Minister, can you please explain to us in the House here, what are the initiatives you're undertaking to secure the water system for Walkerton residents?
Hon Mr Newman: Indeed, I want to remind everyone that we've replaced 4.6 kilometres of water mains. The pipe replacement is indeed complete and the work on the service connections is continuing. We've issued orders to stop using well 5 and ordered a hydrogeological study in areas surrounding the other wells.
The Ontario Clean Water Agency is installing the interim filtration system, and that's expected to be in place by October 30. Every house and every building has been sampled as part of a confirmation program to ensure that the disinfection program has taken place with respect to the flushing of all the houses.
We continue to provide an alternative supply of water to local long-term care facilities, the hospital and jails, with water trucked daily from the nearby town of Hanover. We continue to work with the municipality on longer-term supply options to ensure a safe and secure water supply for the community affected.
NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Health. Minister, my question is, when is your government, your Premier, yourself, going to end your discrimination against northern cancer patients? For 18 months now, your government has paid 100% of the costs for southern Ontario cancer patients to get treatment elsewhere: 100% of the cost of travel, food, accommodation, taxi fare. Your government did this because these patients have to travel far from home to access cancer care and you didn't want them to have to suffer a financial burden when they did so.
Madam Minister, cancer patients in northern Ontario travel far from home every single day when they access care in Thunder Bay, in Sudbury, in Toronto and in Ottawa. In contrast, your government pays them a mere 30 cents per kilometre one way from their home to the cancer treatment centre.
Minister, your government's discrimination cannot continue. When will it end?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): In response to the member, I find it very surprising, when the member's party was in office for five years and had the opportunity to make changes to the northern health travel grant, that it did not at that time choose to do so. In fact, it was the NDP government who decided they would tighten the criteria. You actually required patients to access the specialist nearest to them.
In response to your question, again, I would just remind you of the fact that Cancer Care Ontario has made a decision that if people are to be referred because their home centre cannot offer the treatment, whether that centre be Thunder Bay or Sudbury or London or Toronto, and they must travel elsewhere, that they have made funding available.
Ms Martel: May I remind you, Minister, that in early May your own finance minister admitted publicly on CBC that there was a problem with your policy of 100% funding of southern cancer patients and minor funding for northern cancer patients to access care. You yourself in this House on May 8, in response to questions we raised on behalf of Anna Watson who was here from Fort Frances that day, said that you would review this inequity. Four months later there is still no report with respect to this issue and still the discrimination continues. You have tried to argue that this funding is temporary and that it will end when the waiting list for cancer ends. This program has gone on for 18 months now, and in light of the announcement of a seven-month waiting list for breast cancer, it's going to go on a whole lot longer.
Minister, there is nothing fair, there is nothing just about this health care apartheid. When will your government end its discrimination against northern cancer patients?
Hon Mrs Witmer: We are reviewing the policy. I had indicated that we would do so. I think the member probably knows that we are one of only five provinces and territories to offer any travel assistance at all to people in the north. In fact, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan don't have any programs. We are presently spending more than any other territory or province on travel and, again, our program is under review.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. Yesterday in the estimates committee you gave some rather astounding and incredible responses to questions about your government's abysmal record in dealing with polluters. Fortunately, we have the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, which produced a report called Who's Watching our Waters? It's a report on who's polluting and the government that's permitting it.
Minister, you told the committee-and I quote you-"There would be no companies that can violate the laws of this province. There are no companies that are allowed to pollute our environment."
Minister, how can you, in all good conscience, tell such a bald-faced story when according to your own ministry they have admitted to over 3,300 cases of facilities breaking our water pollution laws and yet out of those 3,300 facilities, those polluters, you prosecuted only one?
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): I can tell you that we take the enforcement of the environmental laws of our province very seriously. That's why last week I announced an environmental SWAT team, a team of 65 new staff, a separate unit within the Ministry of the Environment, including 30 investigators-nine investigators, a program analyst, engineers and scientists who are going to be out there ensuring that all the laws in this province are upheld. We want to ensure that we're out there, the environmental SWAT team is out there, to go after the repeat and deliberate polluters, both individuals and corporate polluters who are out there polluting our land, air and water in our province.
Mr Bradley: The announcement was absolutely an embarrassment. You got mugged by the Chair of Management Board, by the Premier, because they gave you only 65 staff-heaven knows where they're coming from. But let me get to another question I asked you in the estimates. Now, I tried to hear the answer today. Three times I tried to find out how much you are paying Mike Harris's good friend, Paul Rhodes, that big-time Conservative lobbyist and public relations expert. I asked you three times this morning outside of cabinet. You did not answer. The cat had the Premier's tongue; he had no answer. Everybody was scrambling. Would you confirm now that what you said was you're paying him an astounding $50,000 to bail you out of the embarrassment surrounding the environmental problems and policies of this government? Fifty thousand dollars in the pocket of Paul Rhodes? Tell us it's not true.
Hon Mr Newman: The member opposite raises the issue of the environmental SWAT team. In fact, those 65 new positions are an important first step. This was a campaign commitment we had in our Blueprint document. A promise made is a promise kept with this government. Where are we going to get the members of the new SWAT team? We intend to hire the brightest and best people to fill those 65 new positions within the Ministry of the Environment.
I answered the question with respect to the contract with Rhodes Consulting. I indicated that there has been a contract for a three-month period within the Ministry of the Environment. It was a tendered contract. Three companies responded with bids, and Rhodes Consulting was selected. Rhodes Consulting is being paid $50,000, or less than 1% of the entire communications budget of the Ministry of the Environment, which is $6.1 million.
Mr Brian Coburn (Ottawa-Orléans): My question is for the Minister of Tourism. Eastern Ontario is one of the premier tourism regions in our province, with the nation's capital, the St Lawrence Seaway, the beautiful Ottawa Valley and more. Eastern Ontario borders Quebec, and Ontario has lost a share of the tourism market to Quebec, which increased its market share by 4% last year. Many of the visitors to this region enter by crossing the St Lawrence River from the US. I ask the minister what his ministry is doing to promote the St Lawrence River area as a gateway to eastern Ontario?
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Tourism): I'd like to thank the member for Ottawa-Orléans for his question. He's absolutely right. It's not just coincidence, but today is World Tourism Day. We're reminded that tourism is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the world and that it is also one of the most competitive. That's why it's important that we realize that eastern Ontario has room to grow in terms of its tourism product. That's why the Premier committed over $50 million in this last budget to expand our marketing and advertising efforts in the United States and in Quebec in order to attract more tourists to our province.
It's part of the $170-million, four-year commitment in marketing, and as a result, we've created a new industry partner proposal program, the first of its kind. One of the first applications is for a $100,000 commitment to the St Lawrence Parks-Seaway corridor area. They have leveraged a half-million additional private sector dollars, both from the US side of the border and from Ontario. This is a very exciting bipartisan agreement.
Mr Coburn: That is good, and it's encouraging news for eastern Ontario. The Thousand Islands, the St Lawrence River draw people from around the world to this region, where they are certainly invited to join us in the capital and the Ottawa Valley and throughout the St Lawrence River Valley. What additional steps is the minister taking to promote and develop tourism in eastern Ontario and create more jobs in this important industry?
Hon Mr Jackson: Not only have we invested this additional $100,000 to create a new marketing relationship on the St Lawrence, we've also recently put $3.1 million, capital dollars, into the St Lawrence Parks Commission. It's an important tourism property in eastern Ontario. This has enabled us to invest in the infrastructure, to improve the marina facilities and to restore the retail program at the village cheese shop.
I want to report to members that these efforts have netted some positive results. In fact, in spite of all the rain we had this summer, the number of people crossing the US border into Ontario is up 5% this year and the attendance at Upper Canada Village is up 7.7%, additional proof that the new programs developed by our government are clearly working for the people of eastern Ontario.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): My question is to the Chair of Management Board. I have in my hands registered documentation with respect to the sale of the OHIP building in Kingston, the Macdonald-Cartier Building, on Thursday, September 21, last week. The building was built under the Conservative government under Bill Davis at a cost of over $23 million back in the early 1980s. Until recently, it was assessed for more than $19 million. But, Minister, you sold it last Thursday for $12.3 million, half of what it cost to build.
The purchaser, Lape Holding Corp, immediately mortgaged the premises for $12.7 million: $10.8 million to Maritime Life and $1.9 million to TCC mortgage holdings, more than $350,000 over the price they paid for the building. Lape also then immediately leased the building back to you for a minimum of 15 years, with five renewable options for five years, for a potential 40-year lease.
Minister, why did you allow the sale of this building? Can you explain how the public interest of the taxpayers of Ontario was protected by you in this fire sale of this property, for obviously not only less than the market value but less than the value it was mortgaged for?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): First of all, I think the member opposite is aware that we have a board of directors of the Ontario Realty Corp who received unanimous support from all parties at the parliamentary committee level. They all voted for them. They are good people and exercise good judgment.
On this particular piece of property, I just want to say that if the member wants to sit down with the board and get all the facts, I offer that to him. From the information I have been told, it was appraised not for what he said, but they have received good value for the taxpayers. It was marketed. In fact, your quote-if the Liberal option is to hang on to property, we don't believe in that. We think those dollars are best freed up to provide for hospital beds and textbooks and other programs that are of benefit to the people of Ontario. This deal gives us more flexibility in our space, it avoids costs down the line, and they have received a good deal for the taxpayer, on the information I have been given. That has been substantiated by industry experts.
Mr Gerretsen: Let's review the facts once again. You sell a building. The guy mortgages the building for the amount you sell it for, plus he puts $350,000 in his pocket.
Minister, you know as well as I do that on most commercial properties, an owner can only arrange a mortgage for substantially less than the purchase price-unless a lease is so favourable to the owner that the mortgage holders are guaranteed their payments on their mortgages. Since you are the only tenant of the building, the lease you signed on behalf of the government and the people of Ontario must be so lucrative to the new owner that in addition to paying the interest on the mortgages-which, remember, is more than the total he paid for the whole building-he can also pay down, each and every month, the principal owing on the mortgages.
Will you table in this House a copy of the lease so that the people of Ontario can determine for themselves how you failed to protect the public interest? Why don't you admit that your sole reason for selling the property is to make your revenues look better at the expense of the people of Ontario?
Hon Mr Hodgson: To the member opposite, I'd be pleased to make the facts available to him, because I think he needs to see them. If he feels he is a better expert at real estate than the board of directors that they approved or Ernst and Young consultants, who did the business case-it was marketed. There were six bids on it. There were appraisals done as recently as June of this year.
This deal is in the interests of the taxpayers. I know the Liberals want to tie up a lot of resources and taxpayers' dollars in old buildings. We want to avoid the repair costs in the future and give ourselves more flexibility. Most large organizations in the world are getting out of areas that are not their core business. We want to make sure that experts handle the buildings. We deliver service to the people of Ontario, and we freed up $12.3 million for the taxpayers of this province. That stands on appraisals. It was marketed. It went through the forensic auditors to make sure the process was right, and the business case was done by Ernst and Young and it was approved by-
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. I'm afraid the minister's-
Mr Gerretsen: Point of order.
The Speaker: Stop the clock. A quick point of order; I'll be up very quickly.
Mr Gerretsen: Is he saying he will table the lease or not, Speaker?
The Speaker: That is not a point of order. Start the clock. New question.
SERVICES FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Last night I had the privilege of attending the opening of the Al and Faye Mintz Reena Eldercare project, a community-based facility in my riding of Thornhill that serves developmentally disabled seniors. I was very pleased and impressed at the services the community has.
My question stems from some concerns I have heard and from an article I recently read in the National Post that suggests that you would be changing the way services are provided for people with developmental disabilities. Specifically, the article left me with the impression that you may be closing the three remaining developmental facilities in the province.
Many of these people have never known any other home. Minister, can you assure Ontarians that the proper supports will be put in place to care for these people?
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Reena is a great organization in the member's community of Thornhill that does an outstanding job in supporting people with developmental disabilities.
We want to look at ways we can better meet the needs and the challenges that we face in the developmental services sector. All three political parties have supported community living, indeed back to the Davis era in this province, to move people into the community, back to their home communities. We certainly have supported this initiative in the past.
Our last round for community living expired in March of this year, and we want to go out and consult with the stakeholders in the community to find out what supports, what plans, would be best to meet the challenges and the needs of these most vulnerable residents of the province of Ontario.
Our bottom line is twofold. One, we will listen before we make any decisions, and two, we will ensure that there are supports available for every single individual with a developmental disability should one of the facilities close.
Mrs Molinari: Minister, I appreciate your answer, but I'm sure you can also appreciate that a lot of people's lives hang in the balance. It has been well documented that there are many challenges in caring for people with developmental disabilities. Having met some of the residents in the Reena elder home, I have seen first-hand some of the challenges they face. These are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Can you tell me what specifically you have in mind as far as improving services for people with developmental disabilities?
Hon Mr Baird: Building on the more than $120 million of increased funding that's gone into this important sector in the last two years, we want to go out and consult with stakeholders this fall, look at what opportunities and what challenges the sector has, and how we in government can begin to address them.
Some of the issues we will be discussing are how we address the needs of aging parents, many of whom fear what will happen to their adult children when they are no longer able to provide the care and the support that they have been able to provide for a long time; initiatives to help supportive employment to provide more opportunities for people to fully participate in Ontario life; initiatives to support day programming for young people leaving our school system; and more respite and family supports that these individuals need.
Our bottom line is that we want to do the very best job we can to support these vulnerable people in Ontario society to ensure that they leave with a good quality of life and that they can live in our community with dignity.
NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): A question for the Minister of Health. It concerns, once again, the inadequacies of the northern health travel grant program. As I speak, there are some 2,500 people in the city of Kenora who do not have a family physician. They have to travel 430 kilometres to and from Winnipeg to see a family doctor.
One woman has had to make 11 trips to Winnipeg in the last year to see a family doctor. She's applied for a northern health travel grant. They turned her down because, they say, she wasn't referred to Winnipeg. Now the family physician in Winnipeg has referred her to another specialist in Winnipeg that she must see. Again, she must travel 440 kilometres and the northern health travel grant says, no, she doesn't qualify because she wasn't referred by a family doctor in Ontario.
Minister, we know about your generosity toward southern Ontario cancer patients, but here is a patient who has to leave the province just to get a family doctor and to see a specialist. Your government says, "No help for her." Can you tell me about the justice of that situation?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): To the leader of the third party, speaking of generosity, I think if you take a look at what our government has endeavoured to do since 1995, we have endeavoured to ensure that the services will be provided in northern Ontario. In fact, we have a new hospital going up in Thunder Bay. We have more funding for a cancer centre. We have an MRI that began operation there in 1999. In Sudbury, we have contributed over $92 million to the hospital. We have tried to ensure we've also been able to attract additional specialists and additional family practitioners. We will continue to see that people, whether they live in the north, south or east, have access to the services as close to home as possible.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): I move that the Minister of Finance be authorized to pay the salaries of civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing November 1, 2000, and ending April 30, 2001. Such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Mr Klees has moved government motion 60. The government whip?
Hon Mr Klees: I'm pleased to lead off the debate on the interim supply bill that is before the House today. It's always a pleasure to stand in this place and to put on the record the facts and figures surrounding the tremendous turnaround of Ontario's economy, a turnaround that has been truly beneficial to all of the citizens of this province over the last five years.
Ontarians recognize that this government treats their tax dollars with respect. The results are evident in virtually every segment of our society. I know my colleagues on the other side never tire of hearing the good news about Ontario's economy, and I know that the people of this province, as well, are experiencing in their lives on a daily basis the benefits of decisions that we made as a government over the last five years in this province.
The people of this province never tire of hearing the fact that our government has indeed balanced the budget two years in a row; that the people of this province are the benefactors of some 166 tax cuts and the creation of 745,000 net new jobs, jobs for the unemployed, jobs for young people coming out of our universities and for people who before were condemned to welfare. Now some 500,000 fewer people are dependent on welfare in this province.
We have an economy that is growing faster than that of the United States of America. It's growing faster than the G7 and, in fact, is experiencing more rapid growth and more solid growth than any other province in this country. We have a commitment to the people of this province to create an additional 825,000 new jobs over the next five years.
The motion before us today allows the government to meet its obligations to continue to do the job of making Ontario the best place in the world to live, to work, to raise a family, to invest and to enjoy a quality of life that is truly second to none anywhere in the world.
It may seem easy to stand here today to talk about the benefits of our tax cuts and of a booming economy, but I think it's important that we be reminded, that the people of this province be reminded, that five years ago when we first came to this place, when we spoke of tax cuts both opposition parties decried tax cuts. They said, "You simply cannot cut taxes and balance the budget as well." The truth of the matter is that we did precisely that. We balanced the budget two years in a row now and we cut taxes 166 times. The economy is growing, jobs are being created, and that is to the benefit of all Ontarians.
But it's to the credit of this government that had the vision to see a new way of doing things because the old way of taxing and spending simply wasn't working. It was condemning Ontarians to a future of debt and interest payments, and it was mortgaging our children's future. Truly today, the future for Ontarians' children, for our children, is bright. There is opportunity, there is hope, there are jobs, and there is something for people to look forward to in this province.
Good fiscal management allowed us to assure, for example, that the people of Walkerton would have every single penny needed to address the needs they have in their community and put their lives back together, and to address the issues that we've been discussing in question period today of ensuring a safe water supply.
Good fiscal management will allow us to spend a record $22 billion on health care this year-record health care spending across this province in spite of federal cutbacks, in spite of an unwillingness on the part of the federal government to do its part. On that subject, I think it's appropriate that we give credit to the Premier of our province, who was willing to take on the federal government and to challenge them to at least restore funding on health care back to 1994 levels. I think it's important as well that we point out for the people of this province that the leader of the official opposition, Mr McGuinty, was nowhere to be seen in that battle, that he was unwilling to challenge his cousins at the federal level to do their part. He was not willing to take a stand for the people of this province, for health care in this province, to do what simply was a reversion back to 1994 levels, even though the federal government has significant surpluses. So we commend our Premier and we continue to look for his leadership in this and many other areas.
In the area of health care I'd like to acknowledge and for the record just state how it affects a particular region. In my own region of York this has meant an extra $28 million for front-line care on health care. It represents an additional 683 new long-term-care beds, something so desperately needed that other governments in the past have refused to do, have been unwilling to do. It represents an additional $20 million in hospital capital funding. It translated into a new cardiac care centre in Newmarket, at York County Hospital. It represents an additional $5.5 million for the Community Care Access Centre of York Region and providing home care to people in York region.
In June I had the pleasure of attending the opening of a new continuing care centre in Richmond Hill, at the York Central Hospital there. In fact, our government's contribution to health care in York region alone represents an additional $246 million since 1995. This would not have been possible if it wasn't for sound fiscal management, the kind of stewardship that the people in this province elected us to bring to the province of Ontario. As a member of this government, I stand here today proud of being able to say to the people in my constituency, to the people of Ontario, that we have done what we said we would do: that we would return respect to government through fiscal management, and bring that to the forefront in this province.
In the interests of allowing my colleagues to participate in this debate, I will cut my remarks short but to say that as we deliberate on the bill before us, let us be aware that the bills that we will be paying through this supply bill are being paid in a government that is smaller today than it was in 1995. There are considerably fewer civil servants today than there were in 1995, when we were elected. We have become much more efficient, much more specifically focused on bringing value to the people in this province for their tax dollars. We will continue to move forward with that kind of sound, responsible fiscal management on behalf of the people of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to join the debate on supply and to pick up where the previous speaker talked, and just to chat briefly about the finances of the province.
My business friends are always amazed when I say to them-because many of them are Conservatives and they just assume that because they have the word "conservative," they're managing their finances well-"Do you believe that when Mike Harris became Premier the debt of the province was about $90 billion and today, according to the budget"-this is the government's own figures-"it's $114 billion?" In other words, the Premier has added about $24 billion of debt to the province since he became Premier, about a 25% increase. I realize the government says-and I'll talk about this in a moment-the tax cuts have fuelled the growth in the economy so they've been a great investment. I say: "We've had to borrow every penny for that tax cut. We've borrowed about $10 billion. Of that $24 billion, about $10 billion of it is as a result of the tax cuts."
When Mike Harris became Premier, the federal government had a deficit of about $42 billion and Quebec had a deficit of about $6 billion. Both of them had substantially larger deficits by any measurement than the province of Ontario did. Both of them have balanced their budgets well ahead of Ontario. They haven't gone out and borrowed money for tax cuts. They balanced their budgets and got their fiscal house in order.
The evidence of this is if you look at what are called the credit rating agencies. They are the major credit rating agencies that are paid to evaluate the credit worthiness of governments and of corporations. I remember clearly when the NDP was in the power and Premier Rae was here, Mike Harris, then in opposition, really scoffed at the NDP because of their credit rating. Ontario had had three credit rating downgrades under the NDP and Mike Harris thought that was awful. Now we're into the sixth year of the Harris government and the credit rating is still exactly the same as it was under Bob Rae. The credit rating agencies have not upgraded the credit rating.
That's the first point I want to make, that Mike Harris has added $24 billion of debt to the province, about a 25% increase.
The second point I want to make, which I think is extremely important, is that what has been driving the Ontario economy-and you can ask any independent economist-has been our exports and our exports to the United States, particularly, I might add, the auto sector. If we don't recognize that and don't understand that that has been the primary motor driving the Ontario economy-it's nothing to do with cuts in personal income tax and everything to do with the ability of our Ontario industries to compete aggressively in the United States.
I might add also that the United States economy has been very buoyant for a considerable period of time. The auto sector has been particularly buoyant, and we have been fortunate to manufacture automobiles and trucks extremely well here in Ontario. But 10 years ago, international exports were the equivalent of about 28% of Ontario's gross domestic product. Today, they are the equivalent of 55% of Ontario's gross domestic product.
I regard that as the second extremely important point for us in the Legislature and for, dare I say, the government in particular to appreciate that while Premier Harris wants to pat himself on the back, my own view is that we would be better spent, rather than him spending the time patting himself, thanking Bill Clinton, thanking the Federal Reserve Board and thanking Mr Greenspan in the US for a strong economy that has driven Ontario's economy. I might add that, in my belief, that is something we have to focus on like a laser because while the US is trying to slow down their economy, in my opinion, one of the first jurisdictions that will feel it will be Ontario.
Auto consumption in the US will be one of the first things to be slowed down through the interest rate increases and that will have a more profound impact on Ontario than Michigan. We now produce more autos than Michigan. You will find, Mr Speaker, when you talk to, as you do, I'm sure, US experts, the US state that has the most fluctuation in its economy is Michigan because of the auto sector. It has more fluctuations because of the auto business. We now are more reliant on auto than Michigan is.
The third point I want to make is that-I carry this book around that describes to potential investors in Ontario why they should invest in Ontario. This is a government-produced document, a useful document that outlines, for companies that want to look at where in the world they should invest, why they should invest in Ontario. I want to quote two or three things from it. I found this interesting in light of Walkerton, which is going to be a legacy overhanging all of us. They talk here about: "What does Ontario mean? Ontario means"-this is the literal definition of it-"`Beautiful, sparkling, shining water' in the language of aboriginal Iroquois, Mohawk and Huron First Nations, who were among the area's first original inhabitants."
I just make that point. I think we're going to pay a significant price here in Ontario for the Walkerton problem. Incidentally, in my opinion-we will certainly await the outcome of Justice O'Connor's study, but there is considerable evidence that the Ministry of the Environment has been cut back dramatically, that responsibility has been turned over dramatically to municipalities, and my fear is that that has contributed substantially to the Walkerton problem.
Why should companies invest in Ontario? "It is because Ontario has remarkable health care and education systems which are publicly financed and open to everyone." Well, what has the government been doing about that? Tuition fees: up dramatically. This is a publicly funded education system available to everyone, and this document points out here that "Ontario workers are well educated and well trained: 60% of the 1998 workforce have attended university or college, 20% graduated from university, 30% have diplomas and certificates from our world-focused community colleges." But what has the government decided to do about that? Take tuition fees up. And for what? So we could fund the tax cut.
The second thing I would say is that on our health care system, the very first thing Premier Harris did-among the very first things; certainly in the first few months-was to cut hospital funding by 20%. That was, I think, one of the most major mistakes. This was in 1995, shortly after the election. That set in place a series of problems that we still have not recovered from. Today, our emergency rooms are in a significant and critical situation, in my opinion, because of that decision.
One of the key reasons our economy has worked so well is exports, and one of the key reasons is the auto sector investing here. In fact, this document says, "US manufacturers pay, on average, more than $3,100 per employee for the kind of health care coverage provided by Canada's publicly supported system, whereas Ontario employers pay about $540 per employee on health care." A huge advantage, one of the key reasons why corporations, the auto sector, want to locate in Ontario is because of the way we fund our health care system.
Now, as you know, the government has chosen, has decided, to cut corporate taxes virtually in half and they have urged the federal government to do essentially the same thing. So I say, all right, if we've decided we will cut corporate taxes-and the government is saying they want corporate taxes dramatically lower, lower than Michigan or New York or Illinois or Indiana, because that will help bring industry here. If the government goes down that track, the question for all of us becomes, how do we fund our health care system? On the one hand the corporations say we have an enormous advantage because we fund our health care system heavily out of public funds, but on the other hand we are being told we have to cut corporate taxes to a level the government is advocating here, a level that is virtually half that of the neighbouring US states. So I say to all of us, if in fact we have to do that to compete with the neighbouring states, how are we going to retain our health care system? How are we going to fund our health care system? There is no answer coming from the government.
The next point I'd like to make is that we are now in a position-I think this fiscal year, the year we're in right now, the surplus in Ontario should be probably $4 billion. I don't think there'd be much doubt of that. The federal government has a significant surplus, as the Premier pointed out, as do governments right across North America. So now the debate has to be, it seems to us, how should we be investing that? I submit that if the government is saying-and I agree-that universally accessible education is important, that our health care system is important, that the environment is important, surely we have to look at the investments in those.
The next point I'd like to make is that the government produced population projections. This is the Ministry of Finance. It came out in the summertime. This is done after every census, so it's quite an important document. It says here that Ontario's population will continue to grow fairly substantially, which is good news. For example, in Michigan their single biggest inhibitor to economic growth, according to the Michigan politicians, is a lack of available workers. In fact, they're recruiting workers from the southern US. They have an economic office in Michigan whose job used to be to attract industry to Michigan, and they've changed the role of that to attracting workers to Michigan. They are recruiting throughout the United States trying to get workers up to Michigan.
Here in Ontario we have a very different situation. Three quarters of our population growth comes from immigration. This document points out that over the next 10 years, three quarters, 75%, of Ontario's population growth will come through immigration. Coincidentally, there's a substantial article in the newspapers today talking about this very matter. We are not going to have the same issue that Michigan has because we are going to continue to be able to attract workers, heavily from other countries, to come to Ontario. But we'll only do that, in my opinion, if we make Ontario a welcoming place. It's going to be more and more difficult, in my opinion, to attract people to want to come to Canada, because the economies in the rest of the world are doing quite well, by and large-with several exceptions, obviously, but quite well, by and large.
A disappointment to me is that many of the services that are essential to helping newcomers adapt quickly to Ontario are not being adequately funded. We used to have what's called welcome houses; they're now gone. Funding for settlement services is virtually drying up. We simply don't have the resources in place to make sure that what I think is the unique engine of our economy, and that is a skilled group of people ready to enter the workforce-we're investing virtually nothing in it.
As I conclude my remarks, because many of my colleagues would like to speak as well, these are the points I'd like to make once again. The great fiscal managers have added 25% to the debt of the province of Ontario in a mere five years-$24 billion. We've had to borrow money for the tax cut. And the credit for the economy, while Mike Harris would like to take credit for it-the government's own numbers show that it has been international exports driving Ontario's economy. So it's time we changed the debate, looked ahead and recognized that the legacy we've had so far is that we've now got $24 billion more of debt than we had when Mike Harris became Premier.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): It's a pleasure for me to participate in the supply debate this afternoon. My colleague who is the critic for finance will make some comments about the economic situation, but because supply also entails the provision of government funding for government services, I want to spend the limited time I have to talk about an issue which continues to be a great concern for me, and that is this Conservative government's ongoing discrimination of northern cancer patients.
I listened carefully to the chief government whip as he talked about the surplus in the province of Ontario. I asked myself, why is it that this government, in the face of such a surplus, can't spend $6 million-because that's all it would be-to end the discrimination it is currently practising against northern cancer patients? Perhaps someone from the government side in the debate this afternoon can explain that to me.
For those who are watching out there, it's worth going back to the history of how we got to this situation.
Very early in the spring of 1999, Cancer Care Ontario, which is the lead agency for cancer for this government, recognized that there were long waiting lists for cancer treatment. If people were going to have treatment in a timely fashion to save their lives, they were going to have to start referring cancer patients to the United States and to northern Ontario to get that treatment. They decided at the same time that because people had to travel far from home, they should not suffer a financial penalty for having to travel away from their home, where they might be able to get cancer treatment, to a centre in the United States or in northern Ontario.
They recommended to the government in April 1999 that the government fund 100% of the cost for southern Ontario cancer patients being referred from Toronto, London and Hamilton to centres in the United States and northern Ontario, that the government fund 100% of their costs to travel there: 100% of their costs by plane, train, bus, car; 100% of the cost of taxi fare if they did take a plane; 100% of the food costs and the accommodations.
CCO justified that in this way; this is a reference to their comments when Cancer Care Ontario was before the public accounts committee earlier this spring, in February. Dr Shumak said, "We see this as an exceptional and temporary circumstance, as these patients would not normally have to travel long distances for their treatment." In the same committee hearing, Dr McGowan, who is also a representative from Cancer Care Ontario, said, "We felt that in the extraordinary circumstance of a re-referral from the cancer centre they should have been treated at to another cancer centre, we should not institute a financial barrier to care."
CCO did the right thing. It must be terribly traumatic to suffer from cancer and know you have to go for treatment. Imagine the additional trauma when you have a financial burden that's associated with travelling for cancer care.
That's what northern Ontario cancer patients face every day. I don't know why we can't get that into the head of the Minister of Health or this Premier or the Minister of Finance, although I think the Minister of Finance is starting to get it. Every single day we have cancer patients in northern Ontario who travel far to get treatment in Sudbury or in Thunder Bay or who have to leave the north altogether and come to Toronto or go to Ottawa to get cancer care. All they get from the government of Ontario is 30 cents per kilometre one way, from their home to the cancer treatment centre-not 100%, but 30 cents per kilometre one way.
When I went before the Cancer Care Ontario board in June, I tried to raise concrete examples with them of people who were affected to show them that on a daily basis northern patients travel farther for care and pay far more than even those patients who are being referred to Buffalo or to Kingston or to Detroit. I want to give you those four cases to make the point and hope the government starts to get the point.
Donna Graham lives in Pickle Lake. Pickle Lake is 525 kilometres one way from Thunder Bay. She made 14 round trips to Thunder Bay for treatment beginning in May 1999. She flew two times. Another time she was driven to Ignace and then had to take the bus to Thunder Bay, which was 235 kilometres one way. She's been driven 11 times to Thunder Bay and back. Her total travel costs associated with getting treatment in Thunder Bay were $6,077. Do you know what she got back from the Ontario government? Some $2,271 in total as compensation from this government for her care. She paid $3,806 out of her own pocket to access cancer care in this province. Do you know that Donna Graham travels farther by car in northern Ontario to get treatment in northern Ontario than a re-referral patient from southern Ontario who is referred from Toronto, London or Hamilton to Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit or Kingston?
The second case, Lorraine Newton, lives in Kenora. She can't access cancer care in Thunder Bay. She has a rare eye cancer and she has to be treated in Toronto. She has to drive 207 kilometres to Winnipeg and then fly to Toronto for care. Last year she made four trips to Toronto and she has to go again this month. The best fare she could get was $287; she usually pays $400 per trip. She has to pay another $23 when she comes down here from the airport, she pays $59 for one night in a hotel used by Princess Margaret Hospital and her food costs are added on to that. She receives from this government $146.40 in total compensation for each trip, matched against at least a $400 airfare. It's worth pointing out that Lorraine Newton travels farther by car in northern Ontario just to get to Winnipeg-not even to Toronto, just to get on a plane in Winnipeg-than a cancer patient from southern Ontario who is referred from Toronto to Buffalo, or from London to Buffalo, or from Hamilton to Detroit.
Two more cases, and I hope the government members start to get this. I hope they do because it's so important to people who live in northern Ontario.
Elizabeth Boucher lives in Iroquois Falls. It's a 360-kilometre trip one way from Iroquois Falls to Sudbury. She made nine round trips between December 1999 and March 2000. She spent $308 for four nights in a hotel in Sudbury when the cancer lodge was closed. She spent another $450 for meals at the hospital during her seven weeks of treatment. She spent another $240 for meals because she couldn't stay at the lodge and therefore couldn't access the hospital cafeteria for her food. She received a whopping total of $109.80 in total compensation for each trip. It wasn't even enough to pay the gas for a trip from Iroquois Falls to Sudbury and back. Elizabeth Boucher travels farther by car in northern Ontario just to access care in Sudbury than a southern Ontario cancer patient who is referred from Toronto to either Buffalo or Kingston, than a patient in London who is referred to either Buffalo or Detroit, or from Hamilton to Buffalo, Detroit or Kingston.
These are northern Ontario patients who have to travel every day for cancer care, and they are being discriminated against by this government because southern Ontario patients who have to travel far for care have 100% of their costs covered. That's discrimination.
One final case, because the government needs to hear about real people whom they are discriminating against.
Gladys Whelan lives in Fort Frances. It's a 336-kilometre trip one way from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay. She made three round trips between November and December 1999. She had to spend $469 for six nights in a hotel because the lodge in Thunder Bay was full when she went for treatment. She spent another $360 for meals over the nine days of her treatment. She spent $180 for gas for three round trips. She had a total cost of $1,009 and she received $306.54 in total from this government. She paid $702.46 out of her own pocket to access cancer care in the province of Ontario in the year 2000. Don't you think something is wrong with that, anyone over there? Minister of Health, Premier, don't you think there's something wrong with that?
This government has tried to justify its discrimination in two ways. Cancer Care Ontario and this minister have tried to say, "Oh, this is only a temporary funding mechanism. Once the waiting lists are over, we won't be sending southern Ontario patients out of province or to northern Ontario for care and the program will end. It's a temporary matter." Well, you know what? This temporary funding program has already gone on for 18 months. It began in April 1999.
The second point that has to be made is that the officials of Cancer Care Ontario themselves told our committee in February, and this was in February of the year 2000, that they expected the referrals of patients out of province and to the north to go on another 18 months from that point in time in February. Now we learn that in fact the waiting list for breast cancer are the longest ever in the history of the province-seven months-which means that this temporary program is going to go on and on. There's nothing temporary about the waiting list and there is nothing temporary about this government not funding 100% of the costs for northern cancer patients. Face the reality. There's nothing temporary, and the discrimination should end now.
Do you know what? The government has also tried to say-the minister said it again in this House today-that she would review this inequity. She said that as a result of a question that my leader and I raised in this House on May 8, when we had Anna Watson from Fort Frances in the gallery. Anna Watson had to pay thousands of dollars out of her pocket to access cancer care in Thunder Bay last year. She had to make at least 15 trips between Fort Frances and Thunder Bay and back and had food costs and accommodation costs and taxi costs and gas costs and you name it. She's out thousands of dollars.
We raised that case in this House that day. The Minister of Health said that she would review this inequity. Here we are four months later and this government has yet to produce the report that this minister promised would be done on this inequity. Four months. I suspect the reason the government doesn't want to produce this report, which we understand is complete, is because it will clearly show that this government from the beginning, from April 1999, has been discriminating against northern cancer patients.
Two weeks ago I filed a freedom of information request to the Minister of Health because I believe this report is done. I want it made public because I believe it clearly shows that the discrimination exists. Perhaps then, 18 long months later, the government will finally do something to end the discrimination.
The government has a lot to answer for with respect to this discrimination. I've outlined the cases of real people who have been dramatically affected financially by this government's discrimination. But the government has a lot to answer for outside of its ongoing discrimination of northern cancer patients. This government is directly responsible for the waiting list we have today that has led to the problem of having southern Ontario patients be referred, that has led to the problem of 100% of their costs being covered while northerners only have a small portion of their costs covered.
I listened to the Minister of Health in this House on Monday say, "I am also pleased to tell you that when it comes to radiation therapy, we never closed any program down; in fact, we have expanded the number of spaces from 50 to 75." I thought I'd fall off the chair because it was exactly contradicting comments that were made by her deputy minister and by Dr Les Levine, who is this government's main agent on cancer in the province-exactly contrary. I asked at that public accounts meeting in February the following:
"Ms Martel: I understand that in 1997 a decision was made to not offer any radiation therapy training anywhere in the province. Is that correct?
"Dr Levine: That is correct.
"Ms Martel: I ask again: As I understand it, the government made a decision in 1997 not to offer radiation therapy training anywhere.
"Dr Levine: The response to your question is yes. A decision was made, and it was made on the basis of a joint decision between the OCTRF, the profession, the radiation therapists, the regional cancer centres and the Ministry of Health."
As a result of that decision made by this government, 66 radiation therapists who would have graduated this year, and who would have been able to staff up our cancer treatment centres, aren't graduating because this government made a decision in 1997 not to offer training to the very radiation therapists who provide care, whom we need now as a result of not having and who are now being forced to send patients elsewhere.
In conclusion I want to say the following: The government can't justify its inequity in terms of funding for northern cancer patients. Every day-every single day-patients in northern Ontario have to travel very far from home to be treated in Thunder Bay or in Sudbury or in Ottawa or in Toronto. You know what? They're not second-class citizens. They deserve to have 100% of their costs covered now. In the face of a government surplus, spend the lousy $6 million that it would cost to fix this and do it now.
Mr David Young (Willowdale): I'm pleased to support the motion on the floor for interim supply. It's clearly a motion that's of some considerable import to this government, to any government. It's a motion that, if passed, will allow our government to continue to operate, to continue to send money to municipalities, to continue to send money to hospitals, to continue to pay for social assistance for those in need and to appropriate the payment of salaries to the dedicated members of the public service.
It also affords an opportunity for us on this side of the floor and for those opposite to stand and take note of where we are, where we've been and where we are going. I will take this opportunity to do that as well over the next short while. Because it is in fact quite a remarkable and fascinating five years over which we have had the privilege to be in government.
Speakers before me, in particular the chief government whip, rose to talk about how far we've come over that period of time. I want to repeat some of the things he's said and go a little further. It's worthy of repetition to say that five years ago, when our government took office, our province was faced with a level of pessimism that frankly had never been seen in the lifetime of most of us here. Hope for the future was consumed by pessimism and unemployment was a chronic problem. We'll come back and talk about that on a number of occasions over the next short while.
Unemployment was high, welfare rolls were bursting-at unprecedented levels-and deficits and debt were crushing the economy of this province. They were crushing the ability of the government of this province to deliver quality services to the people of this province. That's the key, to pick up where my friends left off, and that's the philosophical difference between those opposite and those on this side: we sincerely believe that the economy must be a healthy economy in order to sustain the social services that we as a province, that we as individuals within this province, depend on.
Ontario was essentially the first province to slip into a recession. Sadly, it was essentially the last province to come out of that recession. Unlike previous recessions, very few people could see light at the end of the tunnel five years ago. You will recall, undoubtedly, discussions along the lines of bankruptcy being contemplated. After our election in 1995, the challenge was in fact a great one. Indeed, it was daunting, so much so that there were a chorus of critics out there-some journalists, some economists and many members of the opposition; I dare say every member of the opposition at that time, in 1995-who said clearly that we wouldn't be able to do what we said we were going to do, that we wouldn't be able to stimulate this economy once again through tax cuts, that we wouldn't be able to create in excess of 700,000 net new jobs for this province over a five-year period, that we wouldn't able to balance the budget, that we wouldn't be able to reverse the trend, this juggernaut that saw us looking at an $11-billion deficit in the year we took office. That's the legacy that we were left; that's the climate that was there at the time. I guess in retrospect it's understandable why many of those pundits were pessimistic.
But as we look back, I'm proud to say that we have done what we said we would do. Certainly one of the mileposts, and there are many to look upon, was when Minister Eves delivered the first back-to-back balanced budgets in this Legislature last May. That's certainly the first time that has happened in my lifetime; the first time it's happened in 50 years.
As I said before, that's essential for the health of this economy, that's essential for the health of the citizens of this province, because with that sound fiscal management we are in a position to continue to make record investments in health care, in education and, thanks to the courage of our Premier, we are also, for the first time in a very long time, in a position to have some additional support from Ottawa. Since 1994 we have seen clawback after clawback from our federal partners. We have seen billions of dollars taken from this province and taken from other provinces, dollars that were intended for and would have otherwise been spent to provide health care for the people of this province. But thanks to the courage of our Premier, we are now in a position where we know at least for the next two years that there will be a renewed, albeit scaled down, federal commitment to the health of the people of this province.
I want to take a moment and talk a little bit about where we are fiscally and provide a bit of an update, because it's important to acknowledge just how far we've come and it's important to acknowledge the fact that our economy is so very healthy at this time. I will ask you to consider my comments, as well as the comments I made a moment ago, about where we have come from, just how great the deficit was-the human deficit and the fiscal deficit-five short years ago.
Our economy, as I indicated, continues to be very healthy. Consumer spending, business investment and exports are all contributing to the growth of this province. The most recent statistics would indicate that there is a renewed confidence among the people of this province. An example of that is that household spending remained buoyant through the summer. In July we saw, as one example, department store sales were up by 1.6% as compared to sales in the preceding year. Over the first half of 2000, retail sales were up 8.2% over the same period in the preceding year. The private sector consensus for Ontario real GDP, that growth, as measured by the private sector, is about 4.9%. That's an increase from 4.7%, which was what the forecasters in the private sector had suggested it would be just last May when the budget came out. For the first quarter of this year, real GDP grew by 1.2%, a substantial number, a very significant number.
What I've tried to emphasize, and I'm sure you will appreciate, is that the growth is growth throughout the economy. It's a very healthy and balanced growth. I want to pause to note there are many challenges left, and certainly the price of oil and gasoline is one that cannot be considered too lightly. That's why it's important for us to do our utmost to ensure that this province is in the best possible financial condition that it can be in as we go forward.
My friends opposite, as I indicated earlier, were certainly some of the most vocal critics, naysayers, when it came to our plan, the Common Sense Revolution, followed by the Blueprint, which we took to the people of Ontario in 1995 and 1999 respectively. My friends opposite, the members of the opposition parties, were quite outspoken. They said very clearly, publicly, that it couldn't work.
I'm going to quote now from a Treasury Watch. This was a document that the Liberals were good enough to put out with some regularity. I think Mr Phillips signed his name to it. Yes, indeed, Gerry Phillips signed his name to it. This is a document that was put out with some regularity by the Liberals, and it provided an overview from their perspective of where we were as a province economically, fiscally, and it went on to prognosticate in many instances about where we would go, given the leadership and the initiatives offered by our Premier, Mr Harris.
It's unfortunate I don't have a great deal of time this afternoon, because I could spend a good deal of time talking about the forecasting-almost like the weatherman-as to whether our plan would work. An example was whether or not we'd be able to achieve 725,000 net new jobs, have 725,000 more people working in this province over five years, 725,000 people who could go home and utter those magic words, "I've got the job."
Here's what the Liberals had to say in July 1996-of course, remember we'd been in office for in excess of a year at that point in time; our policies were well known-"Ontario now has a case of chronic high unemployment." Here's the best part, Mr Speaker. I know you'll appreciate the significance of this, albeit in retrospect. "There is no end in sight for the problem." For unemployment they saw no end in sight. They go on to say in the same bulletin, "Ontario will maintain an unemployment rate close to 9%." It seems to me they would have, by that point in time, realized the error of their ways; apparently not.
March 27, 1997, almost a full year later, we had been in office for almost two full years at that point in time. Our policies were very well known, not only to the members of this assembly but to the people of Ontario. This is what the Liberals had to say about where we were at and where we were likely to go. Again, I'll just focus for the time being on jobs, because I talked about our commitment to create 725,000 net new jobs. We've done that. We've exceeded that. We know that now, but they've offered all sorts of opinions today, and I think it's important to consider their opinion while considering just how effective and accurate their prognostications have been in the past.
Here's what they said on March 27, 1997: "The Harris government will continue to ignore the very serious unemployment problem in Ontario." They still thought unemployment was going to be an ongoing and chronic problem and they still thought our policies weren't going to address that. I'm sure they are pleased that prognostication was wrong. I don't anticipate we will see that explicitly in any written document, but in preparation for today's session, I did go and check the most recent economic document that emanated from the members opposite in the Liberal Party to find out if they had acknowledged in some fashion the great success we've experienced in this province.
Here's what I found, and Mr Phillips's name isn't on this particular document. They've changed it. I see Mr McGuinty's picture at the top of it. It's a document that was put out this year by the Liberal Party of Ontario. Remember their earlier documents from which I quoted talked at some length about chronic high unemployment; essentially, when are we going to get the people of this province back to work? That's what they wanted to know. In fact, I think they shouted it with some regularity in this Legislature, "Where are the jobs? Where are the job you promised?"
Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): That's right, they did.
Mr Young: I remember that.
Hon Mrs Johns: That's right.
Mr Young: We now know the jobs have been delivered. A promise made, a promise kept by this government.
But let's take a moment and examine what it is they're concerned about today. Enough about the past, let's talk about today. Here's what they say, "Ontario is entering a period where significant labour shortages could inhibit economic growth." But wait a second. It looks like a flip-flop to me. It looks like we've gone from the point where they were very concerned about unemployment to the point where they say, "You don't have enough people to work; too many jobs."
Mr Speaker, I'd encourage you, as you listen to the comments made by the members opposite, to consider what they have said in the past, the precedent, their track record. Mr Phillips, earlier this day, made some interesting points about a couple of issues that are of great import to me, and I will say that I share with him the desire to see Ontario's credit rating improved. I will tell you that it's because of that job yet to be done, that job yet to be completed that the revolution continues, to speak euphemistically. But before the member from Don Valley East chokes, let me share with him what occurred on August 14, 2000. You may wish to listen to this because this is yet-
Mr Young: That's exactly what I'm about to address. Thank you very much.
On August 14, 2000, Standard and Poor's-and I'm not sure if you're familiar with the organization or not; they're probably not-placed Ontario's AA rating on positive outlook. That's a significant revision from where it was before.
I want to emphasize-and I hope the members opposite will consider this fact; I don't anticipate they will actually acknowledge the significance of it publicly, but I hope they will at least reflect on it as they leave the chamber today-that that's the first positive rating development for this province from that organization, Standard and Poor's, in 12 years. Now 12 years takes us back well beyond the five years that we've governed this province and, to my friends in the third party, well beyond the time the NDP governed. It's the first positive step. But do we have a greater distance to travel? Absolutely. That's why we are going to continue to do what we've been doing. That's stimulating this province, that's cutting taxes, that's creating jobs and that's ensuring that the revenues continue to climb the way they should.
I heard the members opposite also talk about debt reduction. I want to stop and I want to pause and I want to tell them that if that is the tack they are going to take now, if that is going to be one of the emphases of their platform in the future, that's marvellous. But it's also new. We should all question why the Ontario Liberal Party's commitment to debt reduction plans somehow seemed to be abandoned when they prepared a formal written submission to the standing committee on finances. When they had their best chance to make a pre-budget submission in this year, the year 2000, they had the ear of the Deputy Premier, when they had the opportunity to try to influence the government to reduce the debt, the silence was deafening.
As one reviews-and I would encourage you to do so; perhaps not today, but perhaps tomorrow or when you have a spare moment on the weekend. I encourage you to take a few seconds and review the document that the Ontario Liberal Party submitted as part of that process. The standing committee on finance and economic affairs asked for and received from the Liberals their suggestions as to what should happen.
They made absolutely no mention, none whatsoever, of debt reduction in that document. I think that's shameful. I think it's particularly puzzling and yet another flip-flop to hear the members opposite today talking about how we must reduce our debt and, "Why isn't this government doing more?"
Let's talk about what we are doing by way of debt reduction. We campaigned in June of last year and we said that we were going to reduce the debt by $2 billion. A mere 11 months later, Minister Eves stood in this chamber, as he brought forward what many described as an election budget, albeit 11 month post election, and said very clearly that we were going to more than double that commitment. That was an undertaking that he was in a position to make 11 months after the election.
So we do agree that debt reduction must take place. We do agree that it must be expedited however and whenever possible. I know my friends opposite don't want to do it at the cost of stripping down the social safety net, the social structures within this province. I know they want to do it, as do we-or should want to do it, as we do-by building this economy, by having more revenue, by having more tax dollars. More people working, more people paying taxes-that's what has happened. As a result, there are more dollars coming into the public coffers than ever before.
That has left us in a position where we can spend more money on health care, an unprecedented number, $22 billion in this year alone, and again achieving the commitment that we made in the election campaign well in advance of the point in time that we said we would do so. But the need was there and fortunately the ability was there by reason of the fact that we had made those tough but difficult decisions. We'd reversed the trend in this province that I talked about at the outset of my comments, a trend that was peppered with pessimism and essentially no hope. So I'm very proud of how far we've come.
Before I sit down, I want to comment briefly upon one other subject that I'm also very proud of, because as historians look back upon this session, they're going to look upon the fact that, as a result of some initiatives emanating from this government, not only are more people working, but many of those people working are off welfare. Many of those people working are individuals who thought they would never have the dignity of a job, who thought they were trapped in a cycle of dependency that would never end. So I'm proud to say that as a result of these initiatives, including workfare, as it is commonly known, there are more than half a million people who no longer are relying upon the welfare system of this province. I am very proud of that, as I know the Premier is. Those individuals are in a position to add dignity to their lives and they will be coming forward, as they have in the past, to acknowledge the fact that their lives are back on track.
In closing, Mr Speaker, this province is back on track. That's why we must continue and that's why, just as the Premier said the day before last in this Legislature, the revolution must continue. We have started down the right road, but there is a great deal more to do. It's because we have the wherewithal, it's because we have the additional dollars, that we can do just that.
With that in mind, I will let you know what is probably obvious at this juncture, and that is that I will be voting in favour of the motion tabled by the chief government whip. I would ask all members of this Legislature to put aside their partisan politics for a brief moment to acknowledge the great distance that we've travelled and to join us this day in providing a resounding affirmation of our policies in voting for this piece of legislation.
Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): I rise to join the debate on interim supply. It's always a pleasure to speak on behalf of the residents of Don Valley East.
I must say to the previous speaker, I think the caddy for the Minister of Finance, that Ontario's credit rating-and he has the numbers-was AAA in 1990 when the Liberals left office. AA is a positive development for him and for this government? Well, I say to my friends, take comfort in that. I know the people of Ontario don't, and I know that when Mike Harris sat right over here, every time Ontario's credit rating was downgraded by Standard And Poor's, by Dominion Security, by all of the other credit reporting agencies, he was swinging from these chandeliers. So AA might be good enough for that crew over there; I can tell you that under a Liberal government that was not the case.
I also find an inherent inconsistency when I hear members of the government whine about how the federal government cut money and they've only given some back. I can tell you that municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals have felt substantial, even greater cuts to their operating funds from the Harris government, yet none of that money has been put back. It is inherently inconsistent for members like the member from Willowdale or others or the Premier to stand up in their place day after day and whine about it and not act on the other side.
I spend a great deal of time in my riding talking to groups and individuals, and there is an enormous impact from the actions of the government as it relates to their spending priorities and what they've done. I'd like to focus attention of this House on the impact of the education funding formula, and in particular what that's done to community groups in Don Valley East.
I did a survey about two months ago on the new permit fees that are being charged by the Toronto District School Board as a result of the funding cuts-continuing cuts that are going on, I might add, and will last for another two years here in the city of Toronto-as it relates to the schools. It's not surprising at all that the response that they gave, the community groups and voluntary organizations that make community life such an important thing, indicated severe concern.
You know, Mike Harris used to say that user fees were just another tax increase, and I think one of my colleagues has calculated that we've had over 900 user fee or Mike Harris tax increases. There was concern that these user fees would negatively impact on the groups and their ability to survive. They're concerned that the provincial government has no regard for the important role that schools play in our local community.
I have some direct quotes and some exact feedback from the responses that I have. Michael Dosman who's the president of the Victoria Village Community Association was very clear. His group used the staff room and the gym at the Victoria Village public school for monthly community action planning meetings and quarterly public meetings with the community. In fact, Victoria Village Ratepayers Association also sponsored a debate during the provincial election campaign.
He confirms that for his group there will be an increase in costs. If they are not able to fundraise enough to break even, "We will have no choice but to fold our 30-plus-year community association." This association has given voluntary service to Victoria Village for 30 years. Because of the direct actions of the Minister of Education, of the Premier, of this government, they may face the prospect of folding.
I also heard from Warren Ko, the president of the parents' association of the North York Mandarin school. On a weekly basis, they rent classrooms, the cafeteria, gymnasiums and, for special events, the auditorium and schools in the summer for day camps for Mandarin language students. He said there's been a steady increase in rental fees over the past three years-no surprise to you of course, Speaker; that's when we saw the odious Bill 160 which changed education funding in this province-which has had an impact on programming. There has been an enormous financial burden to his organization.
Programs have been reduced. "This coming September"-this very month-"we cancelled two more classes." They're worried that the new policy will soon force them to close all of their programming. I can tell you-I've been to the Mandarin school on many occasions-it is an enormous program; it is huge. There are children who come from far and wide, from all over North York. In fact, they come from Scarborough, they come from Richmond Hill, they come from Thornhill, just to be able to get that kind of community programming, oftentimes run by volunteers.
How about the concerns of Helen Trainor, president of the Toronto Interchurch Badminton League. Her group has rented gyms on a weekly basis at Don Mills Collegiate and at York Mills Collegiate. They also rent gyms at other high schools for tournaments. Their group has already taken a decision that they will have to decrease the hours of programming. There's a strong risk the club will dissolve because the membership fees will have to be significantly increased to cover the new rental costs. According to Mrs Trainor, this could mean, "No more badminton in the schools for adults and a community activity will be lost."
I recently attended an emergency meeting of the Pleasant View Community Recreation Committee. This group has served Don Valley East, my community, for over 27 years. They have been renting school facilities for community recreation and general interest courses. Hundreds, literally hundreds-in fact, I was at their registration night last week; you would not believe the numbers-of children and families come. Hard-working Ontario families come there for recreation activities. It's really a very special part of community life.
Esther Cutler, the chair of the group-along with her fantastic group of volunteers-feels that some of their courses are going to have to be cancelled, that there will be lower enrolment and that it will be harder to enrol more than one child in a family. The impact of the earlier closing of one of the schools has meant that the programs there have already had to have been moved. This group feels that this is "the beginning of the end of our committee."
What's very interesting about all of this is, this isn't the end. This is going to go on for another two years as the Harris government is determined to further cut funding to the Toronto District School Board and does not recognize these kinds of community uses of school activities as legitimate costs to be found in their funding formula. This is incredibly dangerous.
I have one further example. I really want to highlight this to you: the Arya soccer team. Last year they paid $280 for their permit. Because of the funding formula restrictions, directly because of what this government has done, this year their costs are going to be $6,246. The team has nowhere else to play. They need a double gym. Parks and Recreation facilities in the area are well oversubscribed and they can't move in there.
You can see that the funding priority for the Harris government is tax cuts for the wealthy. But community groups, volunteers and Parks and Recreation groups must continue to pay and pay and pay and lose access to valuable community resources. I can tell you, without reservation, that I will not be supporting this motion on interim supply.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I too would like to join this debate on interim supply, to talk about an issue affecting not only my riding but that I know is affecting everybody's riding here. I even heard the member from Northumberland question the minister about this yesterday or the day before. That is the whole question of doctor shortages.
You know, it's unbelievable to me, in a country and a province that has as much to offer as we have here in Ontario, that is regarded as one of the leading countries in the world, from the United Nations' viewpoint, that we have many, many individuals and families in the province who do not have the availability of a family doctor for themselves. Depending upon whose figures you use-I believe according to the ministry there's a shortage of somewhere between 400 to 500 in the province. According to some other agencies, it may be as many as 1,000 doctors that we're lacking in this province right now.
The point is that there are many individuals who cannot get a family doctor. It is high time that this government got all the various people together, and I have asked the minister about this in the House, I've spoken about it earlier, but it is up to the Minister of Health, who ultimately has the responsibility for the total health care of the people in this province, to get all the players together-by "all the players," I am talking about the medical schools, the Ontario Medical Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons and all the other subcomponents to that-to deal with this problem.
The minister has stated in this House and has made announcements that in effect 12 new additional physicians have been added to the residency positions that are available in hospitals. She's increased it from 24 to 36.
Another major announcement that was made is that there were 25 positions added to the university system in the medical schools, meaning five for each one of the medical schools in Ontario, for new admissions this year. They think this is really doing something about the problem. First of all, the students who are going in right now will not be graduating for another seven or eight years, but even if they were to graduate immediately, we're talking about 37 to 40 positions at most that have been created, when there's a shortage of 500 to 1,000.
Yet we have the resources available in this province immediately, if we only knew how to take advantage of them. I'm talking about the foreign-trained doctors. My local newspaper in the Kingston area, the Kingston Whig-Standard, did a major exposé on this in August and a number of different stories on it. One headline reads, "Doctor Must Mop Floors for a Living" and that's only one example; that was talking about Dr Rowani, whose case I've mentioned in this House before. Here we have an individual who was a fully licensed and trained doctor in Pakistan who has come over here, who has taken all the necessary medical exams; but now, to do the final exam, he has to wait a full year plus pay a fee of $2,000 in order to qualify and to write his final exams.
My point is quite simply this: if there is a shortage, and we've got these people in our country that other societies have paid for in training them to be physicians, why aren't we taking advantage of that? Let me make it absolutely clear, we want to make sure that these people are competent and qualified according to our standards, but shouldn't we speed up the process? I don't know how many of these people are around here, but in editorial it's stated that over 200 foreign-trained doctors apply every year for these residency positions. Two hundred apply each and every year. Why are we only admitting 36 of them? If they have the qualifications, admit as many as possible so we can deal with the situation right now.
It is beyond me. I know it has a lot to do with turf protection at all levels, whether we're talking about the Ontario Medical Association, whether we're talking about the college, whether we're talking about the ministry, whether we're talking about the medical schools. I know all about turf protection, and I'm sure a lot of that has to with this. In the meantime, the people of Ontario who need the services of the family doctors are denied that service. That, to my way of thinking, is absolutely and totally inexcusable.
I would urge this government, not in a partisan sort of way like I heard the member from Willowdale talk about earlier, to get on with the job. That's why you're in government. You are in government to deal with these problems, to get all the various parties together and try to get people qualified as quickly as possible to our standards so that the people of Ontario can benefit from their services. That isn't happening right now. So I would ask the member from Willowdale and all the other Conservative members who are in the House right now to get after the Minister of Health. The member from Northumberland has got this problem too. He talked about it in the House the other day. He asked the minister a question as to what's being done. The kind of answers that have been given aren't satisfactory.
I simply ask all the government members, together with the members of the opposition, to work together to try to resolve this problem as quickly as possible so that more people can have the use of the family doctors here in the province of Ontario.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): The first thing I'd like to do is just respond a bit to some of the comments of the chief government whip, who spoke at the outset of the debate today. He accused the opposition and other critics of the government of saying that you can't cut taxes massively and balance the budget at the same time. I'm paraphrasing, but I think that's pretty accurate, and I see the member nodding his head.
You got it close, but not quite. The reality is, you can cut taxes and balance the budget quite easily if you're prepared to hack away at spending. That's not hard to do. In fact, you could create almost a zero budget by simply eliminating every public service there is if the only thing that mattered was the bottom line and tax cuts.
What we criticized you for was not the notion of cutting taxes per se nor the notion of balancing budgets per se. In fact, the first province in the modern economic era to do that was Saskatchewan under an NDP government. What we take exception to is the price that it costs the public in Ontario in order to achieve this in the way you did. That's what you can't do. And we were right. You cannot cut spending from health care, education and environmental protection without people paying a price, a price that the vast majority aren't willing to pay. That clarifies one.
Two: at the very end, you were so proud of the fact that you'd cut civil servants, that there are fewer civil servants around than there were before. I'll say to the member, go to Walkerton and ask those people how they feel about the fact that there are over 40% fewer civil servants in the Ministry of the Environment. Ask them how they feel about that bragging right that you want to claim around here today.
Hon Mr Klees: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member knows that has absolutely nothing to do-
The Acting Speaker: That's not a point of order. The member for Hamilton West.
Mr Christopherson: We shall see, won't we? We shall see. Because no matter how much you want to try declaring that day is night and black is white, as your ministers do when they stand up and answer questions around here, the reality is that we do have a public inquiry, no thanks to this government but thanks to the pressure that the opposition put on this government to call that inquiry. Then we'll see.
But I've got to tell you, I don't think it takes a political scientist to determine that you cannot hack that many people out of a crucial ministry like the environment and cut out over 40% of the budget and not think that you're going to have a negative impact somewhere. You'd have to be crazy or a member of the Tory caucus to believe there's not a relationship between those two.
Hon Mr Klees: That's not parliamentary.
Mr Christopherson: I'll tell you what's unparliamentary-it's six dead Ontarians.
Hon Mr Klees: Come on.
Mr Christopherson: I want to say to you that if you don't like that, then you ought to think twice about standing up and bragging about all the tax cuts you've made and how there are fewer civil servants around as a generic statement, because all of those things mean people and they mean services.
It's interesting to keep in mind that in the last budget, the budget that the motion today will draw from, and the reason that we're having this debate, the government managed to find $5.2 billion in tax cuts. They'll say, "That's wonderful, that's great. Look at that, $5 billion; it should have been more, perhaps." What they don't clarify is that almost $4 billion of that $5.2 billion went to corporate Ontario. They had their corporate tax rates cut by up to 50%. Did the average working family in Ontario see their tax burden alleviated by 50%? No. In fact, if you use your figures, someone who earns $330,000 in Ontario-and for the vast majority of people watching that might as well be $500 billion, because it's so far out of reach from what they know, but there are people who make that kind of money-they're going to get $10,000. I wonder which party they're going to vote for? But somebody who makes 30 grand a year-and now we're starting to get into the real numbers, the mass if you will, the real population of the province-they're lucky to get 100 bucks.
Your $200 rebate, that bogus sham of a $1-billion expenditure where you're trying to bribe the people of Ontario with their own money-25% of the population doesn't pay income tax; they don't get any of it. But they are the ones who will suffer the most because health care has been cut, because education has been cut. They have the least means to offset those public services with private services, because they don't have the money. They don't get the 200 bucks. It is so obscene. A million people won't get any part of your $200 bribe. That says a lot about the priorities of this government.
We don't have a lot of time here. In that budget, while they're giving away almost $4 billion to corporate Ontario and their wealthy friends, in that same budget in April of last year, on the brink of the Walkerton disaster, what was in that budget? They cut the Ministry of Natural Resources by 17.9%, almost 18% cut from the Ministry of Natural Resources. And what about the Ministry of the Environment? In the last budget, which had $4 billion in tax gifts to their corporate friends, they cut the Ministry of the Environment by a further 9% and, in a matter of days after that the Walkerton disaster broke open. You cannot justify in any way, shape or form cutting money from the environment and cutting money from the Ministry of Natural Resources and giving, on the other hand, almost $4 billion to corporate Ontario.
What about health care? The government likes to talk a big story about health care. What did they do in this budget, the same budget that gave away $4 billion to corporate Ontario? What did they have for health? Well, if you combine the capital and the operating budgets, it went up by 0.0000002%, a miserly $49 million. That's all you had in that budget, with billions of dollars in surplus, billions to give away, a 50% cut in corporate tax rates, and you had $49 million to give to health.
That's certainly not going to make any difference for the almost $2 billion in deficits that our hospitals in Ontario are incurring. That's not going to do much about the emergency wards here in Toronto last week where for a number of days every one of them was on redirect. In the last couple of days, every hospital in my hometown of Hamilton was on redirect. What good is $4 billion being given away to corporate Ontario going to do for Hamiltonians who need emergency services in their hospitals? What good is that going to do them? And what good is 200 bucks going to do them? Are they all going to get together as a neighbourhood and open up their own hospital? What are you going to do with that 200 bucks?
Now, if we want to talk about what we could have done with the billion dollars that would benefit everybody, a billion dollars would make a difference in terms of nurses, in terms of health care. We've got VON home care workers on strike in Hamilton, and you know what? For one of the few times I can think of-and I've been in public life for a long time now-it's not their immediate employer they say is the problem and it's not the CCAC that funds them that is the problem; the problem is you guys. You won't give enough money to the CCACs so they can provide money to the service agencies that go into the homes of our families and our constituents and provide necessary care.
Oh, you made an announcement a couple of days before the by-election. The problem is, when the money was all sorted out, Hamilton got about $3.3 million; except that the deficit of the Hamilton CCAC is $6.7 million. I'll bet those VON workers and I'll bet Lois Boggs, who's the president of their local, wish they could call themselves corporate Ontario so they could get a little piece of that four billion bucks. But that's not available. That's not there for them because they're just working people. What do you care about working people? For all your talk, when you go into our communities, into our streets and into the homes of people in Ontario, you find out they're not benefiting from any of this.
We have thousands of people in Hamilton and Toronto-SPRINT home care workers are on strike also, the same situation-who are worried about where they're going to get the services they need. But I am so proud of my fellow Hamiltonians because they're not blaming the VON workers, much as you might hope that would be the case. They recognize that these are people who are doing a phenomenal job and they're doing it at less rate of pay-sometimes as much as $10 or $12 an hour-than their counterparts make in hospitals. And we don't have enough nurses even if we were able to pay them properly.
All those are your policies at play. I don't hear any of you bragging about how good you feel that VON workers have to go on strike just to get a decent wage or to get justice, or the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people in Hamilton and every other community who are in dire need of home care, and there's not enough money to give to the agencies, and there's not enough nurses to be hired to send them into the homes to provide the care. Let's face it: home care workers and nurses are performing work that most Ontarians don't want to do. It's very, very difficult work. It's got to be heartbreaking at times and gut wrenching, some of the scenarios that they face.
But you just want to stand up and brag about how you've cut taxes. What good is seeing corporate Ontario get $4 billion to somebody who doesn't have a home care worker coming in to take care of them and provide them with the medical necessities they're entitled to? What good does it do them to see that? Yet that's what you want to brag about. You never want to talk about the implications of your policies on real people, real communities.
Education: you've cut education since 1995, in real per capita terms, if you adjust for inflation, by $810 per student. You've raised tuitions by 60% since you've been in power and you've cut $1.6 billion from the operating budgets of our universities, placing us last in Canada. This is something that you purport to stand up and be proud of? Shame on you. Shame on every one of you. These are real issues that are happening to your people, yet you just blindly stand behind the ministers of the day and bow away and say, "Yes, it's a wonderful budget," and "Hey, corporate Ontario, don't forget me. I'm only in the backbench but I helped too. I voted for it." What I'd like to see you do is start standing up and talking about the people you represent rather than the corporations you represent.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Tony Martin): Mr Klees has moved government motion number 60. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1747 to 1757.
The Acting Speaker: Members will please take their seats.
We are voting on government notice of motion number 60, supply. All those in favour will rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Baird, John R.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Harris, Michael D.
Molinari, Tina R.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Tsubouchi, David H.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Conway, Sean G.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 50; the nays are 26.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
This House stands adjourned until tomorrow morning, Thursday, September 28, at 10 o'clock in the morning.
The House adjourned at 1800.