LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 24 November 2003 Lundi 24 novembre 2003
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent to split the time available this evening between the two recognized parties and the seven independent New Democratic Party members in the House and that the debate will wrap up this evening upon completion of the debate.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean-Carleton): On a point of order: I would certainly agree to dividing the time equally between the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and our friends in the New Democratic Party.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): If I may, Speaker, that was the agreement the House leaders of the three parties reached earlier this evening.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bruce Crozier): Is there consent? Agreed. The government House leader.
Hon Mr Duncan: Do I have to read the motion? I apologize.
I move that, notwithstanding standing order 6(a), the House shall continue to meet until Thursday, December 18, 2003, at which time the Speaker shall adjourn the House without motion until Monday, March 22, 2004.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Duncan has moved government motion number 2.
Hon Mr Duncan: I'm pleased to join the debate on this notice of motion. Let me begin by saying that we are actually extending the calendar period and recalling the House as per the standing orders and what's set out in the standing orders. The standing orders are an important document. These are things we've all agreed to. And this time frame, by the way, is the first time in a long time that the House has actually been called back according to the calendar that's established in the standing orders. That's a significant development.
Why do we want to come back? Because this government has a positive agenda for change. We are going to undo the mess that was left by the previous government, by the Ernie Eves government, the $5.6-billion deficit that was left for this government, the McGuinty government, to clean up. We're going to clean it up in a fashion that treats all people in this province fairly and with respect.
Let's talk about the $5.6-billion deficit and why we need to sit until December 18. We need to do that so we can begin to implement better education, better health care and a cleaner environment. These are commitments we made in the election, these are the undertakings we made to the people of Ontario and we intend to continue to do that.
It wasn't just some stranger who said there was a $5.6-billion deficit. It was the former Provincial Auditor, Mr Erik Peters. Now the Conservatives opposite would like to have you believe that somehow we invented this number. Well, the facts are there; they're verified by the Provincial Auditor. The only way that government could have dealt with its own deficit was to have sold assets. I've been reflecting on just what they might have sold, had they been re-elected, in order to balance the budget. Would they have sold the Liquor Control Board of Ontario? I wonder if they would have done that. How much revenue does that contribute to provincial coffers every year? About $720 million?
Interjection: Closing in on a billion.
Hon Mr Duncan: Closing in on a billion dollars. The thing that really troubles me about the whole situation is that they would have done what they did with the 407: given it away in the run-up to an election or just after an election to pay for their promises, forgoing a future stream of income that would have benefited generations from now, well into the future. Those are the kinds of things that were on the table, and they were seriously looking at this.
They were going to sell a series of hydroelectric dams in northern Ontario. That's what they talked about. The former energy minister, my colleague and friend, said that as we discussed it on Studio 2 a couple weeks ago. It would have been a penny-wise and pound foolish decision in this government's view, and that's why we want to sit until December 18. We want to deal with those things.
Today the finance minister, Mr Sorbara, tabled his bill that will repeal the Tory tax boondoggles for the rich. It's significant, because the opposition doesn't want to acknowledge that we're keeping our promises. We said that we would get rid of the 25% corporate tax cut. We said that in the election. We were clear, we were unequivocal and we're doing it.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): And we won.
Hon Mr Duncan: And we won the election. We have a mandate from the people of Ontario to do that.
Our corporate taxes are among the most competitive in the world today, and we need no lectures about giving away money like that when we don't have enough teachers and we don't have enough hospital beds, and this government's correcting that.
We're getting rid of the private school tax credit, because this government believes in public education. If anyone chooses to send their children to a private school, that's their decision, but for us we need to invest in our public education. That was neglected by that government for too long, and the changes that came about on October 2 are beginning to be implemented today in that tax bill or a variety of other measures.
Tomorrow I'll be bringing forward legislation to deal with the electricity cap, something that's cost the treasury close to $800 million in red ink, something that makes it impossible for any government to deal with the real problems confronting our hospitals and schools. Without that, we can't proceed.
This government will be moving in this session to deal with automobile insurance to keep the commitment Dalton McGuinty made and that we actively campaigned on.
That's why it's important to sit until December 18 and come back on March 22. We have a full agenda. I expect the Minister of Labour will have announcements soon about a variety of issues where we will again keep the promise to the people that we made in the last election. We're going to move prudently and responsibly in those areas where we can now to move forward on our agenda. I remind my friends opposite that we are only now on day two of our mandate in terms of the House. We have four years. Believe me, at the end of the four years we'll have a record second to none in terms of keeping our promises and delivering what we said we would do.
There has been no man sitting in that Premier's chair who has more integrity, more honesty, in my view, than Dalton McGuinty. There is no individual in this province more committed to public education and public health care than Premier Dalton McGuinty.
We fought a tough campaign, and we're ready to move on the commitments we made and fulfill them with the kind of vigour and prosperity that we know we can deliver, that the people of Ontario four years hence will say, "They said they would do what they did and they came through with it." So we have and so we begin. That's what this motion is all about.
We look forward to sitting and debating. I look forward to my friends in the Conservative Party explaining away their $5.6-billion deficit. That was not something you promised. You were supposed to be good managers. Well, your record is laid bare, not by a partisan body, not by the Ontario Liberal Party, but by the former Provincial Auditor, who gave an unequivocal and professional opinion on that. It lays bare and exposes all the phoniness of that previous government.
There are a lot of new members on this side. I remember them sitting here saying that our health care had improved, that our schools had improved, and so many of you joined us in the election and became Liberal candidates because you know how phony those things were and how much the previous government tried to spin and paper over its sorry record.
I look forward to my friends in the independent NDP rump of the House over there talking to us about keeping promises. This was the party that said it would do public auto insurance upon assuming office. Did they do it? No, they didn't do that. This was the party of organized labour that opened up and stripped collective agreements right across this province. Even my friend Mr Kormos, the member for Welland-Thorold, had to part with his party's company on that one. A shameful record of broken promises, lost jobs and higher welfare rates.
I'll predict today that Dalton McGuinty's government will have a strong economy upon leaving office and a record of keeping its promises second to none. That's why it's important that we sit and debate until December 18. We're pleased to stretch the agenda until that day.
I urge all members of the House this evening to join with us in voting for a longer calendar so we can come here and debate the people's issues. No government in the history of this province had a more sorry record than the Harris-Eves government when it came to stifling debate in this House -- not one, not in history. They changed the rules unilaterally to prohibit debate or to make it more difficult to debate. They didn't send important bills to committee. They did all kinds of things to take it out of here, and probably the most offensive was the Magna budget. We remember that.
This government and our Premier, Dalton McGuinty have pledged in the throne speech that every budget will be delivered in this House where it belongs. We will never, ever acquiesce to that kind of practice again. So I invite my friends in the official opposition and among the independent New Democrat members of this House to join with us in voting in favour of this motion to allow the House to sit until December 18 so we can debate the important issues of the day, resuming that debate again in March. Premier McGuinty has promised an unprecedented consultation, over the course of the winter, in how we deal with the mess left to us by the Harris-Eves government. We look forward to that debate. We look forward to being in this House. I know all members of this caucus will look back in four years and say we kept our promises.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): It's a pleasure to rise tonight on my first opportunity as a member of the opposition. First of all, I'd like to begin by congratulating the Liberal Party for a job well done in the campaign. You ran a good campaign and I have to acknowledge the fact that you won a sweep across our province. I do think you deserve my opportunity to congratulate you.
I'm also in favour of speaking on the House calendar motion. I will be supporting this because, in spite of what Mr Duncan the House leader said, I'm looking forward to another week of debate. In fact, I'm surprised we're waiting until March 22 to come back. If you've got so much to offer the citizens of the province of Ontario, why aren't we back here in January? The Harris government came back in January for the first few years in 1995, 1996 and 1997 to get legislation through, and already you're taking a three-month vacation. We're only going to sit 16 days out of the three months since you've been elected, as Christmas comes around.
I'm interested in the spin Mr Duncan's putting on tonight. Obviously, he's been reading the papers over the last week. Already the perception is that you're breaking promises. Over 200 promises were made during the election -- closer to 300 depending on exactly how you perceive the wording of the promises -- and the citizens of the province are slowly finding out, even before we go back for one day, that Mr McGuinty is a promise-breaker. That's the one thing that Mike Harris, our Premier from 1995 to 2001 -- promises made, promises kept was something that was known throughout the political circles all across Ontario. Promises made, promises kept was a motto and a theme that we went with, and to this day we're very, very proud of those.
In his comments, Mr Duncan is also trying to make it sound as though we've mismanaged the economy. I didn't hear him say anything about West Nile tonight. I didn't hear say anything about mad cow disease. I didn't hear him say anything about two cases of SARS. I didn't hear him say anything about the blackout. Somehow you've completely eliminated any thought of the tragedies that the province of Ontario faced. What did you do? The very first promise that you broke as a new government was hiring a private consultant to do that so-called audit review.
Hon Mr Duncan: We hired the retired auditor of Ontario.
Mr Dunlop: Unfortunately, he's a private auditor, and that was the first mistake you made. One of the very first promises you made -- not to have any private consultants -- you broke immediately with the private consultant who did that so-called review, where he inflated numbers etc. You've still got four months to balance the budget. You've got an opportunity to get around to it. You said you'd deliver balanced budgets immediately. I've seen nothing of the kind yet. You're going to try to drag it out over four years.
What you're also forgetting -- I'd like to see some numbers on what your plans are for job creation in the province. You've got quite a legacy to fill. We created over one million new jobs in four years, one million net new jobs.
Mr Dunlop: Well, our economic policies created a million. Paul Martin never balanced a budget until Mike Harris was Premier of this province. You know that as well as I do. Paul Martin never balanced a budget.
Mr Dunlop: Well, I'm glad to hear that gets under your skin, because obviously the fact that there were one million new jobs bothers you. Those are the theories, those are the sorts of ideas you'll have to come up with. We're going to look forward to what kind of impact your corporate tax increase will have on our corporations across our province. I believe it will drive jobs out of the province of Ontario. We'll look at those numbers very, very carefully as they come in, and we'll look at the types of promises that are broken around that as well.
There are two issues here. One is the so-called inherited deficit you refer to in the throne speech over and over again. The second that the citizens of the province of Ontario are looking at and will be much more carefully thinking about will certainly be the number of broken promises you actually are making. We'll look carefully at that over the next four years. In the next three weeks we'll look at that as well. We're looking forward to being here until December 18 and looking at all the different promises you'll come up with, the new legislation you'll introduce.
Maybe we'll do something with law and security as well. I heard nothing about that in the throne speech. Of course, that's a topic for another day. Hopefully we're going to have an opportunity to debate the throne speech over and over again in the next few weeks, and hopefully maybe even in January, February or March.
I thank you very much for the opportunity to say a few words tonight. Again, congratulations to the Liberal Party on its victory. I look forward to the next four years in opposition before we take control of the government again. Certainly it will be a challenge, but we're up to the job.
I also want to say at this time special congratulations to all of our municipal friends who have been elected, acclaimed and re-elected across the province. I think as a government, as an opposition, we have the challenges to work with the municipalities as well as the federal government. I look forward to those types of debates and issues we face as well.
Thank you very much for the opportunity. I look forward to what the NDP has to say. I look to forward to -- I believe we're voting later on tonight? Thanks very much.
Mr Kormos: It has been, my God, it seems like -- well, it has been months, hasn't it? Finally we're back, and we're back for, what? This is day one and the Liberals want to go on vacation already. The Liberals want to take three months off. It boggles the mind. I can't believe it. Here we are, day one. We haven't even begun debating the throne speech, and these guys are already planning a three-month vacation. Pathetic. Embarrassing. What a lazy gang of mongrels, that they would want to head off on a three-month paid leave of absence after being here but -- gosh, it's only been six hours that the House has been sitting.
What kind of message is that sending to your newly elected backbenchers here in the depths of the rump? It's not a very enlightened message. Now, I understand that the perk positions couldn't travel all around. Not everybody can make as much money as cabinet ministers or parliamentary assistants or committee Chairs or whips -- dare I say it? -- or House leaders.
But to be fair to the House leader, look what's happened. I really want to commend the sacrifice of the government House leader. I want to commend his sacrifice. I've known the government House leader for a good chunk of time. I knew him when he was young. I knew him when I was young.
Hon Mr Duncan: And you had blond hair.
Mr Kormos: I knew him when I had colour in my hair. And I say to you that here the government House leader is not only the House leader but he is the Minister of Energy. You understand what that means. It means the House leader's salary -- he doesn't collect both salaries, because the rules are that you can't double-dip, at least until you get out of here. Then you can. Remo Mancini -- he's not double-dipping; he's got one hand in each cookie jar and his toes trained in simian style, picking up coinage with every appendage on his body. You can only double-dip when you're out of here. So again I commend the government House leader. Albeit it means depriving one of his backbench colleagues of the extra salary of a House leader, I understand he's eager to take on these challenges.
What I wonder is where my good friend -- because he is a good friend, and I don't say that in the formal tone in which some people say it. It's often misused here in the House: "My friend from so-and-so." But I remember Jim's speeches -- the member for St Catharines -- about these types of motions. Jim, we need you. Jim, if you're watching and you're anywhere within this parliamentary precinct, get over here now. There's still some speaking time left on the government benches. Jim -- the member for St Catharines, Jim Bradley -- I know how vehement and articulate and indignant you can be about these types of motions. My goodness.
Garfield, do you remember when the Tories would take these long vacations, these long hiatuses, if that indeed is the plural of "hiatus"? Jim Bradley was on his feet and I would follow him, and we would tag-team. It would be like the World Wrestling Federation. We'd rip out a new larynx for the government House leader of the day, saying, "How dare you lazy Tories take such long vacations?" I tell you that as New Democrats we're prepared to be back here January 2. Heck, we'll be here January 1 if need be.
We're not going to support lengthy vacations after but not even 24 hours of House sittings. These guys are looking at a three-month vacation. My goodness. And you see, I miss my dear colleague Mr Bradley's speech on this matter. So Jim, if you're within watching distance, if you're close to the chamber, this caucus needs you now like they've never needed you before. They need your leadership and your guidance, and I say that in all sincerity.
I suppose I'm going to have to collect some of the Hansard speeches of some of these Liberal members and have them ready so I can remind some of the government members what they were saying when the Tories were pulling these kinds of stunts, which were quite frankly an abuse of this Parliament.
So New Democrats -- did I mention to you that New Democrats aren't going to be supporting this motion? We're not going to be supporting it. I want to be very clear about that. New Democrats are opposed to this motion. I tell you, shame on you for not wanting to be here and sit. Shame on you.
This government has every good reason to want to get its tail out of here.
The Acting Speaker: Order. Let's listen to the speaker who has the floor.
Mr Kormos: Thank you kindly, Speaker. I appreciate your interventions on my behalf.
I full well understand why this government would want to weasel its way out of here and get out of here, vamoose, get down to the travel agency and buy those tickets to warmer spots. Because at a promise a day, if we were to continue to sit without this huge hiatus -- how many is it, Ms Martel, 231? -- we would have gone through that 231 in short order.
At the same time, having said that, these guys actually want to prolong the pain. It's sort of like when you were a kid and you had a Band-Aid on. You were nervous about pulling the Band-Aid off because the little hairs on your arm would get pulled off, and your mom or your grandma always told you, "No, you just do it in one fell swoop." So I'm giving this government some advice right now: If you're going to break all your promises, just break them all this week. That way the pain is concentrated over a shorter period of time.
First, you had the good news -- oh yes, the good news for the folks down where I come from -- that hydro-electricity rates are going to skyrocket again, through the roof. Merry Christmas, folks in Niagara Centre. The Liberals are going to rip the hydro caps off, the ones they supported and promised, and let electricity rates go sky-high.
So I'm going to have to talk to folks again, small business folks like down at Celi and Presti delicatessen. Do you remember them? I talked to you about them here in the House. They are little business people, hard-working folks. You've never met harder-working folks than those people down there, the Ramundo family at Celi and Presti. The fact is, they simply can't charge that much more money for sliced prosciutto cotto etc to enable them to pay the sky-high electricity prices that the Conservatives imposed on them. Now they once again face the prospect of watching their business go south.
The seniors down where I come from, so many of whom live in modest apartments that, because of the nature of the private sector and development and because electrical heat is cheaper to install -- and it is; I understand that. So many of the low-rise, four or five -- down where I come from we don't have big, 20-storey buildings. You understand that. Down where I come from, a six-storey building is a high-rise, right? So I've got seniors living in modest apartments with electric heat. It's one thing for me to turn my heat down; I understand. But tell your mom or your dad or your 85- or 90-year-old grandmother to turn the heat down. It just doesn't work that way for senior citizens. And they're afraid too. In such short order the broken promises have created a climate of fear.
Look, I make no bones about it: The rush to defeat the Tories was Mach 1 in its magnitude. These folks weren't even given the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of saying, "Yes, maybe things indeed are different." The caps on hydro rates -- gone. Hydro rates are going to skyrocket.
Reducing auto insurance premiums: Talk about déjà vu. I happen to remember 1987 and a former Liberal premier, one David Peterson, who said, "I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums." He had zip. That's what he had. In fact, insurance premiums continued to go through the roof. I know darned well what's going to happen, because the insurance industry has already predicted that if you try to cap, never mind roll back, rates, the industry simply won't write new insureds' policies. That means more and more drivers -- good drivers -- are going to be forced into Facility Association, where they're paying $5,000 and $6,000 a year. You will overpopulate Facility Association just like you did in the late 1980s when David Peterson did nothing more than write his auto insurance policy hurriedly on the back of an envelope on the campaign bus, having no idea what he had in mind.
All that happened was the insurance industry was allowed to rewrite the rules to make larger and larger profits. When is this government going to learn that the private auto insurance industry in this province can't be regulated? It cannot be reined in. It cannot be controlled. It is a mad dog that can't be leashed. It's a beast that can't be tamed or caged.
You announced freezes? Well, how come, since you announced freezes, my constituency office is deluged, as my colleagues are, with letters from drivers who continue to get 15% and 20% and 30% premium increases, who continue to get mugged by the private insurance industry, who continue to get robbed and rolled and their pockets picked by the private auto insurance industry?
Jeez, I was speculating the other day whether Conrad Black should have gone to jail for stealing the money he stole from Hollinger -- Tubby. I fear he's not even going to be adequately investigated. But you know, having said that, the auto insurance industry has stolen more money -- I used to be a criminal lawyer. I used to defend some pretty bad people. Most of them were innocent, I want you to understand, but I used to defend some pretty bad people charged with some pretty bad things. I tell you, I've acted for mean bikers with big biceps and tattoos and earrings and piercings, and not one of those has ever stolen as much from as many people as the private auto insurance industry has from drivers and innocent victims here in the province of Ontario.
This government rolls back the 220-threadcount cotton sheets, fluffs up the pillow and crawls right into bed with this very same industry that has been picking the pockets of drivers and innocent victims for all of my legislative career, the 15 years that I've been here at Queen's Park. So I look forward to this government's, oh, "initiatives" on auto insurance. I look forward to the committee hearings. I look forward because I know that there are some of these Liberal backbenchers who have had experience with the private sector auto insurance industry who know that they're the thieves they are. I look forward to this government having to explain to drivers and innocent victims why it couldn't keep that promise either, just like it made it very clear -- the throne speech talked about folks in the broader public sector having to "temper their expectations." We know what that means. As a matter of fact, it sounds very much like what the Tories were touting. It sounds very much like "doing more with less."
And the Oak Ridges moraine. My long-time colleague, Mr Colle -- what riding is Mr Colle from so I can refer to him properly? Folks, you've got to help -- Mr Colle?
Mr Kormos: Eglinton-Lawrence. His heart must be broken. I was here when Mr Colle was such a passionate advocate for the maintenance of the Oak Ridges moraine as this unique environmental, ecological space. He and I spent time on committees and we collaborated on some of his legislation -- the defibrillator bill, for instance -- and it was a pleasure to work with him around some of those bills. I remember Mike's excitement and passion. The voters decided that Mike Colle's excitement and passion at realizing that, my goodness, his party had been elected to government and now they could do what they promised to do about the Oak Ridges moraine -- you not only destroyed the future of that sensitive, irreplaceable, environmental, ecological bit of land, but I fear you've broken Mike Colle's heart as well. You've probably broken his spirit. It's one thing to slash somebody with a knife -- those kinds of wounds will heal -- but you break their spirit and those wounds never heal; the blood continues to seep.
So I'm telling you, folks: You've got the Liberals already -- man oh man, what am I going to say to my folks down in Niagara Centre, Welland, Thorold, Pelham South, St Catharines or the folks down in Port Colborne and Wainfleet who work so hard, for whom vacations are a rarity? They're the scarce, occasional thing. They save up. Old folks who pinch their pennies all year long so they can maybe spend a week down in Florida in one of those trailer courts with the shuffleboard things and little trailers. When they're down there they go shopping in the supermarket, and they clip coupons when they're in Florida. They deserve that much, but they do that maybe once every two or three years.
The legislators' minimum wage here is 85,000 bucks, with most of these members making well in excess of $85,000. I want people to understand that. And they're taking a vacation of three months. I'm afraid that -- well, I acknowledge it -- all of our best efforts aren't going to be able to stop this one. But I call on the public out there, I call on public opinion to prevail. I call on people to start writing the Premier, to start writing every Liberal backbencher, start writing every Liberal cabinet minister, start writing every newly elected Liberal, saying, "How dare you? You promised. Oh, you were going to be different. You promised you were going to be better than the persons you were running against." You did. You promised that you weren't going to be as slothful and lazy and indifferent to the public as the predecessor government. Well here you are. The colour of the uniforms has changed, but it's the same old palace guard.
I repeat, New Democrats are opposed to this motion. We're eager to work. We will be here come January. There are important debates that have to be held, and it's clear that the Liberals don't want to participate. I thank you kindly, Speaker.
Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): It is indeed a privilege to be back in these august halls again. For the new people here in the Legislature, I want to tell you there is no job like this.
Mr Kormos: With three months' vacation, no kidding.
Mr Prue: And in the three months I hope you don't forget everything you're going to learn here in the next couple of weeks. Because this is a place of tremendous history. This is a place where you can occasionally hear some very erudite and brilliant speeches. It is also a place, unfortunately, where sometimes you do not. Tonight the debate is about extending the calendar. It's about do we work another week and, at the end of that week, how long a period do we take before we come back to do what we were elected to do?
I want to tell that constituency work is an important thing to all of you; it is absolutely important. But I want to also tell you that the public sees our most important role as the role that takes place in these chambers. They see the role of us day after day, night after night, week after week and month after month hammering out the legislation and keeping, if you're in opposition, the government to task. They see that as the number one role. They do not see the others, as important as they are -- going and opening fairs and cutting ribbons and meeting with constituents -- in the same vein.
I would tell you, in my considered view to all of you, that I have no problem with extending the week. What I have a problem with is that we are then going to take the period from December 18 until March 22 without doing the 100, or should I say 231, important things that this government has set out during the election period that they said needed to be done. We all had many debates and our philosophies may have been different, but all of us from all parties earmarked many of those same 231 problems in Ontario that needed to be dealt with. Some people may have put a bigger emphasis on schooling. Some people may have put a different emphasis on the economy or on auto insurance. But in the end, we were all dealing with the same problems that need to be dealt with.
It comes down to, are we going to be dealing with them properly? Today, a lot of the debate went on and on about who knew about the size of the deficit. All of you heard about the member from Scarborough-Agincourt, who at that time of the former government was the Liberal critic responsible for the finance department. He often went to blows against the Minister of Finance. You have heard what happened in the committee and how he successfully and correctly earmarked the $5 billion that this province was likely to be in deficit. We all knew that. We knew that in the Conservative Party, we knew that in the Liberal Party and we certainly knew that in the New Democratic Party.
Yet if there is any debate, if there is anything that separates or adds to this, it was during the election campaign when I had the privilege one night to go on TVOntario, Steve Paikin's show. It's called Studio 2. I was asked to go on behalf of the New Democratic Party, because our finance critic was not seeking re-election.
I remember that debate very well that night on television. There was the Minister of Finance, Ms Ecker; there was her Liberal critic, Mr Phillips, the member from Scarborough-Agincourt; and there I was, sort of the rookie finance guy from the New Democratic Party.
I remember the debate very well, because Mr Phillips made a great point, and I think some very good electioneering, on the fact that the Conservatives were going to come in with a $5-billion deficit. But he was using the same figures.
I remember at the end of the debate, the three-sided debate, turning to him on television and saying, "Mr Phillips, you know full well what is going to happen here. You are saying there's a $5-billion deficit and we agree with you. There is a $5-billion deficit. But what you are not doing is being honest with the people of Ontario during this election campaign. You are telling them that there's a $5-billion deficit, but you are also telling them that you are making these enormous numbers of promises that you cannot fulfill, because at the same time, you have signed a deal with the taxpayers' federation that you will not increase taxes. You can't have it both ways." I told him on TV that night that what was going to happen was precisely what is happening here this week, precisely what has happened since the election.
First of all, they're going to call in the auditors -- they picked a good one, Mr Peters; I have no problem with that -- and find out how big the deficit is. Then you're going to find out that the deficit is as big as you said it was. Then you are going to say, "Shame on the Conservatives." Then you are going to do one of two things: you are either going to start to say you cannot meet the promises you have made to the people of Ontario, or you are going to say, "We cannot meet the promises we have signed with the taxpayers' federation."
I did not believe that night that both would happen, but in fact this week I have seen that both have happened. We cannot meet the promises. This government cannot meet the promises they have made, and they are now talking about changing the Balanced Budget Act. I expect that that's going to happen sometime in the very near future. We have seen both.
The Lieutenant-Governor came into this august room just last week and read the throne speech. Unfortunately, it had to be read a second time, so I think we all have it down pretty pat where the government will be going in the weeks and months ahead. But I would tell you sadly that many of the problems that were enunciated, so carefully laid out, and the solutions that were offered to the people of Ontario are not contained in what the government is bringing forth in legislation in this early period, nor do I see any hope for that legislation coming before March 22 of next year. This is a wasted opportunity. It is a wasted opportunity for all of us -- those who will propose the laws and those who will criticize them.
We both have important roles in this House, one to advocate on behalf of the government agenda and the other to look for chinks in the armour, weaknesses in that legislation, to argue how it can be done better, to make changes in committee. We have that responsibility to the people who sent us to these august chambers. The election was not just about winning; the election is a covenant with the people who put their faith in you, whether you are a New Democrat, whether you are a Conservative or whether you are a Liberal, to maintain your promises and to do the best that you can. If you betray that covenant early, if you start changing what you stand for early, if you start obfuscating and changing the whole direction that you promised, then I think the faith is lost. With the greatest of respect, Mr Speaker, that is what we must deal with here. Part and parcel of that is being seen by the general public, those who elect us, as not being here when we are supposed to be here.
I heard the Premier today. He talked of a whole bunch of really great things that I think many of us could agree with, if in fact they are going to be done. He talked about lower class sizes. I have no idea how you are going to lower class sizes without having the teachers in the classrooms; how you are going to go from 25 or 26 children per room to 20 without having the additional teachers, without having the additional caretakers, without having the additional support staff and the secretaries, without having the speech therapists and the psychologists and all those who function in a modern school system. I do not believe that that can be done, quite frankly, unless there are the dollars to do it with.
I understand the difficulties of the government, but I also understand the needs of the parents and the children in those schools. They want to have something done. In the case of Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, I will commend the government for acting so swiftly in removing --
Mr Kormos: Oh, please. It wasn't that hard to do.
Mr Prue: No, in acting so swiftly -- the timing was absolutely right -- in removing the supervisors. It will give an opportunity for the newly elected people who take office on December 1 in those three very large communities to take their schools back.
But I also have to question: How does this government intend, if we're not going to be sitting, if we have no plan, if we're not back here until March 22 -- how are we going to strive, as the Premier said today, to have higher student achievements? Where's the plan for this? Certainly the parents who have children in school this year want higher student achievement. They want their children to succeed.
I went to some commencement exercises, as I'm sure most of you did in the last few weeks. There I was in the largest collegiate in eastern Toronto -- it's East York Collegiate, in my riding; about 3,000 kids go to that school. It's the double-cohort year. Some 56% of the grade 12 students who were graduating last year are back in the classrooms of the same high school this year: 56%. We need to do something about that. We need to make sure that those students have a brighter future than repeating the last year of high school. I know it may not happen forever. I know the double cohort was a very horrible exercise for many of them to go through, but there is nothing here that's going to be done to help those students -- nothing there to do with helping their families.
The Premier talked today too about nurses, doctors and hospital beds and making those so much better. I agree. I think everybody in this room, everybody in this chamber, agrees that this has to be done. But where is the plan to do it if we're not going to be here until March 22? Where is the plan to do it? Where are we going to get those nurses? Where are we going to get those doctors, and, quite frankly, where are we going to build those hospitals? I'm not even going to get into P3s tonight. I'm going to leave that debate for another day, because I think that's a wrong direction this government has gone in already to adopt that.
There was a doctor in my riding who asked me to come and see him. I'm a politician who makes house calls. He was not a doctor who came to me, by the way; I'm the politician who went to him. He is a doctor, but he's not licensed in the province of Ontario. He was born in the province of Ontario. He was educated in the province of Ontario. He went to school in the province of Ontario. He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. He did his postgraduate degree at the University of Toronto. But then he made a huge mistake -- at least it seems now to me to be a huge mistake. He went to Germany to finish his doctoral studies, having been told that they would be recognized in Ontario. He has since come back to this province. He has come back to this province and has applied I don't know how many times to be a doctor in Ontario. He has been told that cannot be done because the first thing he must do is to pass an English proficiency exam. There are no exceptions to this rule, even for someone who was born here, even for someone who was educated here, even to someone who has spent virtually his entire life here. Unfortunately, he can't do that. He's going back and forth between here and Germany because he has to provide a living for his wife and children, and he cannot do that.
The last government said they were going to do something to change this. I have already written a letter to the minister responsible for doctors, the Minister of Health, and I have yet to receive a reply. I understand he's busy, but this is something that could easily be dealt with. This is something that could help this doctor. It would help the citizens of Ontario, in having another recognized doctor, to let him write the test in Germany, if he needs to write the test, so that he isn't flying -- and he does fly back every three months. But if he misses the day, he can't do it. Understand that his credentials are recognized throughout the European Economic Community. They are not something that we need to fear, but it is certainly something that needs to be addressed, even if he has to take a short refresher course or has to apprentice himself to a doctor in Canada. There are some who are willing to do it. Where is the discussion about that? That needs to be done and needs to be done now. There are hundreds of doctors needed throughout Ontario, mostly in smaller communities, cases exactly like this that are not getting an opportunity.
Where is the problem? The Premier talked today about strong communities. Where's the strong community in Toronto? We have a new mayor. I saw the news tonight. The city of Toronto is $355 million in the red in trying to get ready for this year's budget cycle. There was supposed to be two cents on the gas. Where's that? We're not doing that. Between now and March 22, when the city of Toronto will finalize their budget, there will be nothing done. Therefore, it is impossible for the city of Toronto, facing a $355-million budge crunch, to remedy that. They were looking forward and they were hoping that a new government might be just a little bit better in terms of understanding the needs of our particular city and our particular community.
What about the tenants who looked forward to the new government being able to introduce better legislation under the Tenant Protection Act, as they were promised? There is nothing that is going to be done for them between now and March 22, not one thing.
What about the auto insurance? People have talked about that tonight. During the election campaign, I had an opportunity to knock on a gentleman's door. His auto insurance went from $165 per month to $680 a month. Granted, he did have a speeding ticket and he did have an accident within that period, but he'd been driving for years and it just seemed that those two things came together. It went from $165 a month to $680 a month.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): For how long?
Mr Prue: A month. There it is. Who is saying anything about him? It's all right to freeze the rates. He doesn't want his rates frozen at $680 a month. He does not want that. I don't think it's fair to him, having had one ticket and one minor fender-bender, to have to put up with rates that skyrocket like that. A small increase, maybe.
We have the problems of the Oak Ridges moraine. They've been talked about many times today, but we have a government that promised to do something and now seems to be backing off on those promises.
And last but not least, because I want to leave some time for my friend the member from Nickel Belt --
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): I thought I was your friend.
Mr Prue: -- yes, you're my friend too -- is the whole problem about autistic children. I stood in this Legislature during the last session and I heard speaker after speaker stand up from the Liberal Party and from the New Democratic Party, and even some from the Conservative Party, and talk about the plight of autistic children.
Mr Kormos: Kids with autism.
Mr Prue: Yes, these children who can be helped, these kids who, if you get to them early enough, can be saved for their entire life. You need intervention therapy, and it has to be fast, it has to be rapid and it has to be early.
I ran into two --
Mr Dunlop: What did the NDP put in? Not a nickel.
Mr Prue: I don't know why you're heckling me. You should be heckling them. You're on this side now; you've forgotten. You're on this side, OK?
IBI is a new development that is working quite brilliantly, and there are children out there who can have tremendous benefit from IBI. They just need an opportunity.
In the last two or three weeks I have run into two families in Beaches-East York who are having huge problems. One, although the child has already been accepted to the IBI program, had to be removed from the socialization program that allowed him to play with kids his own age, his own peers, which is a huge developmental need that they have as well. Where is the government dealing with this?
The other family is in an even more precarious position because their child, although he is now two and a half years old and has been clearly said to have autism, has been told that the waiting list is going to take at least a year or a year and a half to get to him. He started out as number three on the list. After three months, the worried parents phoned back to find out if he was now number two or number one, if his turn was about to come up, and he was told he was now number four on the list because someone from a community outside of Toronto had moved into Toronto and had bumped him. So that child now is waiting for at least a year. The formative time, the time that he can best be helped, is now, and we are going to have to wait.
These are the issues that the government must face. These are the issues that the government must put its mind to. With all respect, you cannot put your mind to those pressing issues for the needs of these people, of these families, who want and need and are looking to you for guidance, are looking to this government to do something, if you are going to take a hiatus, a vacation, an absence -- call it whatever you want -- between December 18 and March 22.
If you truly have an agenda, if you truly want to be able to do something, if you truly want to help the people of this province, if you truly want to right what you think are wrongs of the previous government, or governments -- I don't care; let's go back 50 years -- then you have an opportunity to do it now. If you waste that opportunity and if you vote for this motion and take an extended period off until March 22, all of those people who are relying on you will be the losers.
The voters are very unforgiving. If they think that you are not doing the job that they have elected you to do, they will remember, and in the end they will not be the losers; those of us who are not doing our jobs will be.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): It's a pleasure for me to participate in the debate this evening. I want to make a few comments with respect to the remarks I heard from the government House leader. He began his remarks by talking about who talked about the deficit and he raised the name of Erik Peters. I have lots of time for Erik Peters, because I have been the NDP representative on the public accounts committee since 1996, so I've had lots of opportunity to work with Erik Peters.
It's worth pointing out that Erik Peters talked about the deficit after the election, after he had been hired by this government to take a look at the books. I waited, and it looks like I waited in vain, for the government House leader to talk about one of his own who talked about the deficit long before the end of the election -- about six months ago. That colleague of course was Mr Phillips, the Liberal finance critic, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt. Mr Phillips talked long and extensively about the Tory deficit. In fact, Mr Phillips was down in the standing committee on estimates on June 3, and it's worth pointing out that he was there, because the committee was dealing with the estimates for the Ministry of Finance. Specifically, the committee was dealing with the budget that had been tabled at the end of March. Mr Phillips, on behalf of the Liberal Party, was questioning Madame Ecker and Deputy Minister Christie about the shortfall in that particular budget, and he was very clear in his questioning at that time. This is in Hansard, June 3. I recommend it to all the Liberal backbenchers. Here's what he had to say: "We've been adding up the risks in the budget this year." "Risks." Don't you like that?
Interjection: "We, the Liberals."
Ms Martel: "We" meaning "We, the Liberals," because of course he's in committee representing the Liberal Party. As a matter of fact, he is the Liberal finance critic. That's what he's there for. That's what he's doing.
"There's $850 million of new money for SARS. There's $800 million of unidentified savings. You just said" -- he's quoting Madam Ecker -- "`We're going to find $800 million of savings,' but you haven't identified any of them. The normal savings is $200 million, so that's four times what you normally have. There are $2.2 billion of unidentified asset sales -- you won't tell us any of those" -- neither did the Liberals during the campaign, but they were only going to sell off $900 million worth of public assets -- "and risk of an economic slowdown, $600 million."
Here's Mr Phillips again to Madam Ecker: "I simply want to know because we're adding up the risks" -- we in the Liberal Party -- "...and we've come to $4.2 billion, and here's another $770 million, which gets us up to a $5-billion risk." That's the Liberal finance critic, June 3, in the estimates committee, talking about a $5-billion risk. Mr Phillips is there representing the Liberal Party. In fact, Mr Phillips had been the finance critic for many years. He knew what he was talking about. I assume his leader, Mr McGuinty, knew what he was talking about in committee. The rest of us who watched it on TV that day -- and I was one of them -- knew what he was talking about. He was talking about a $5-billion deficit, and what was the Tory government going to do about it?
That didn't stop Mr Phillips, Mr McGuinty and the Liberals from going out and making 231 promises to voters in Ontario in order to win the election, and that's what they did. The question I ask those who are watching tonight is, did they ever really have any intention of meeting those promises? How could they if they knew, as everyone else in this place knew, that there was a $5-billion deficit? Did they have any intention of meeting those commitments? Well, I think hardly not, because the throne speech last week certainly set the table for a hasty retreat, a hasty backtracking by this Liberal government from the promises they have made.
That's why we are dealing with the motion that we're dealing with tonight, a motion that would have the House sit one mere week more here in December --
Mr Kormos: Maybe.
Ms Martel: -- maybe -- and then a three-month vacation from this place, so that there won't be question period, so that ministers won't be in this place having to answer questions and being accountable for the 231 election promises that were made.
I disagree, obviously, with the motion that would have this House not sit for three months so that we can't hold the government accountable, but I can understand why the government members don't want to be here. I can understand, because we haven't even been sitting for -- what? -- one day and this government has broken a number of its election promises. Never mind those that are going to be delayed; let me talk to you about some of the ones that have already been broken.
Let's deal with the Oak Ridges moraine. Here's what the Liberals said: "The Eves government" -- the Eves government; I love this -- "secretly approved a plan to build 6,600 new homes on one of the most sensitive spots on the [Oak Ridges] moraine in Richmond Hill. We will stop their construction." That's from Growing Strong Communities: The Ontario Liberal Plan for Clean, Safe Communities.
Here we are just on Friday and there's poor John Gerretsen, Minister of Municipal Affairs, out trying to tell us how they didn't really know -- I don't even know what he said. It doesn't matter; it was a broken promise. Here we are, despite emphatic pre- and post-election commitments to put an end to the 6,600-unit development north of Toronto, and the government has instead been reduced to trying to extract what it can for the land developers.
Here's Dalton McGuinty: "We're going to make the very best of a bad situation." But it was OK for Dalton during the election and after the election to be telling voters and the media, "We will stop the construction of 6,600 units." What do we have going on there now? We have 5,600 units. Please.
Here's the second broken promise from David Ramsay, October 3, 2003: "The number one issue is the Adams Mine. My pledge is that we will put it to bed once and for all. We've got to kill that project," said David Ramsay, Minister of Natural Resources who, incidentally, represents the riding where the Adams Mine is located. What happened? Well, late on a Friday night about two weeks ago, at 5:30 in the afternoon to be exact, the Minister of the Environment allowed a permit to take water. The current application is to de-water, or pump out the natural water, so that the proponent can do preliminary construction work. Does that sound like putting the end to this project once and for all? Does that sound like, "We're killing this project?" Absolutely not. Here is the first step for this government to break its promise to the people in Timiskaming and to allow the proponent to haul garbage out of Toronto and put it in that pit. Shame on this government. They're not hauling out water in order to bottle it; they're hauling it out so they can have an empty hole to put in Toronto's trash. And I hope the people of Timiskaming remember, when that first train load of garbage comes through, what Mr Ramsay had to say about killing that project.
Look, here's one of my favourite ones: hydro. I can't wait until the government does that, and the backbenchers start to get those phone calls from irate homeowners whose hydro bills are going through the roof. Here's the promise from Hydro You Can Trust: The Ontario Liberal Plan For a Model Public Hydro: "We will keep the price cap in place until 2006. We do not believe that you should pay the price for the government's mistakes." Here's what Dalton McGuinty has to say now: "`The world has changed,' McGuinty said. `We now have a $5.6-billion deficit'" that we pretend we knew nothing about. "`That makes the price cap unsustainable.'"
I already pointed out just how the Liberals knew there was going to be at least a $5-billion deficit as of last June 3. That didn't stop the Liberals from going out during the election as well and promising Ontario voters that the price cap was not going to be removed, that it was going to remain in effect until 2006. And here it comes, and I bet it's going to come in this session: the legislation to remove the price caps. I can't wait. I can't wait until those irate homeowners start calling Liberal backbenchers.
I remember the scenario in here last fall when the previous government moved to the open market, when they were supported by the current government in that move to a private market. When people started to get their hydro bills, boy oh boy, were there Liberals in this House running for cover last fall. We had Liberal after Liberal up on their feet talking about poor Mrs Jones in their riding who just got a 300% increase in her hydro bill and how was she going to pay it because she was on a fixed income? Liberal after Liberal, in their place, talking about high hydro rates, when the same Liberal government had been a proponent of hydro privatization and deregulation.
I remember the fundraising letter that Dalton McGuinty sent to those energy corporations on Bay Street in the fall of 2001. Dalton and the Liberal Party have been consistent supporters of the move to hydro privatization and deregulation. That's what they said. Then they were scurrying for cover last year when the rates were so high and people couldn't pay their bills. So then, of course, they supported the rate cap because, by God, they didn't want to have to take some responsibility for being supportive of hydro privatization and deregulation, did they?
We should have been in this House last fall debating a bill to return hydro to public power, to have hydro in the hands of a non-profit corporation and sold at cost. All the rate cap removal will do is pick the pockets of Ontario seniors and small businesses even further, because the price we're going to be paying is the price of private power, where private corporations in this province are gouging consumers. We need a return to public power, and we're going to say that again and again when this bill to remove the rate cap comes before us.
Here's another promise made: "The Harris-Eves government opened private two-tier MRI and CT clinics ... [and] is opening the way to ... private hospitals. We will end the Harris-Eves agenda of creeping privatization." Well, do you know what? On Friday afternoon, I saw the Minister of Health pretend that he was actually ending the private hospitals in Brampton and Ottawa. You know what the sad part of it is? We're still going to pay more for those private hospitals, because they are going to be built by the private sector and because there are going to be services that are privatized out. Goodness knows what other details around privatization are in the deals, because this government refuses to release the details of those until after the contracts are signed.
I haven't heard the government say a word about private MRI and private CAT scan clinics. I'm waiting for the government to break that promise too under the guise of not being able to afford to break the contracts because they apparently knew nothing about a $5-billion deficit, even though the Liberal critic was talking openly about it down in committee on June 3.
There are promises about education, there are promises about the 407 tolls, there are promises about the balanced budget. The list goes on and on.
The reason we're here tonight debating a motion that's going to give us a three-month vacation in very short order is because the government doesn't want to be here to be accountable for the promises that it has already broken and for the promises it's going to continue to break, never mind the delay in promises like 8,000 nurses, a cap on class size, raising the minimum wage and dealing with autistic kids. This government clearly said it would provide the IBI treatment to kids over six. The government doesn't want to be here because we would make it very clear that it continues to break those. We'll just find other ways to do that same thing.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Jerry J. Ouellette): Further debate? Seeing none, is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say "aye."
All those opposed will say "nay."
I think the ayes have it.
Call in the members; this will be a 30-minute bell.
"Pursuant to standing order 28(h), I request that the vote on the motion by Mr Duncan be deferred until November 25, 2003."
The vote is deferred.
Hon Mr Duncan: I move adjournment of the House.
The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say "aye."
All those opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 1958.