LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 15 December 2003 Lundi 15 décembre 2003
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE /
DÉBAT SUR LE DISCOURS DU TRÔNE
Resuming the debate adjourned on December 11, 2003, on the motion for an address in reply to the speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Before we set the clock for my 20 minutes, I'd like to first mention that I believe there is unanimous consent among all three parties that our leader's response to the speech will be held later this evening and at that time the clock will be stopped. Is that agreed?
The Acting Speaker (Mr Joseph N. Tascona): It's agreed.
Ms Churley: Here we are debating the throne speech. I must admit, it was so long ago, even though it was read twice -- remember? -- and I listened very carefully both times, I've almost forgotten what was in that speech. Does anybody here --
Ms Churley: I know I'll get reminded time and time again tonight as members -- the government in particular -- get up and tell us what a wonderful throne speech it was; won't you?
I can guess what some of the members will say, but I wanted to read to you a little do-it-yourself oral question form, which I'm actually releasing under "Phony Liberal News Release," for the lobbed questions. It reads something like this:
"My question is for the fabulous minister of" -- blank; you can put in whoever you want. "Your hair is so clean and your teeth are so white. The previous government left our" -- whatever problem you want to insert -- "in a huge mess and have hung our" -- whatever sympathetic people or cause you want to put in -- "out to dry. The Conservatives showed such" -- and then you can choose disdain, scorn, badness; you insert what you want to put in. Then, "Tell us, Minister, how could the" -- you could choose horrible, awful, nasty, brutish -- "previous government have been so irresponsible, and what are you, our hardworking, clean toothed and shiny haired new minister, going to do to fix the problem?"
I can hand that around, and you can just fill it in so you won't have to really do much work on it.
That is, of course, if we don't have -- we may have a deal by tomorrow. We're getting close, because we know that the lobbed questions, six or seven a day -- it's unprecedented in this place from a government party. That may change because now the pressure is on, and we may in fact -- I've got to hand it to the Premier for speaking to our leader and coming to what we hope are reasonable terms. Neither side is going to be totally happy, because that's what negotiations are all about. There are a few dangling problems there, but hopefully we'll sort those out overnight and we'll be able to have at least a few more questions from the New Democrats tomorrow. I'm sure we all want that.
So the throne speech: One of the things I noticed in the throne speech, and that we all noticed -- it was a very careful throne speech. The first thing the government said when they got into power and looked at the books -- anybody who saw me on Focus Ontario the day after the election, along with Greg Sorbara, who was probably not appointed finance minister then but we all knew he would be, and the outgoing finance minister, Janet Ecker, talking about what we were expecting to see in the new government, may have noticed that I said some of the things I expected to hear in the throne speech. One of the things I said we might hear is, "Oh, well, we opened up the books and, lo and behold, to our absolute horror and surprise, there was a huge deficit left to us by the previous government."
Now, I've had some experience with that. I remember that when we won the government in 1990 -- admittedly unexpectedly; not a lot of people thought we were going to win -- but you'll recall at that time that the then Liberal government called an election within three years of its mandate, and we were left with a deficit after we'd been told that there was going to be a surplus. These things happen. I submit that --
Hon Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): How much was that?
Ms Churley: I think it was a couple of billion, but it was quite a shock because, I say to the government House leader and poor energy minister -- I know you've got your work cut out for you. I don't envy you. He's smiling at that. But deficits get left, and it doesn't matter which party stripe it is. Whoever is elected is going to try to capitalize on that when there are deficits left behind by another government, especially when they say there are going to be surpluses. You make promises in an election and you find that you just don't have the money there to keep them.
The interesting thing, though, that I noticed about this throne speech was how often that was mentioned in terms of having to first -- I don't have my notes in front of me, but there was a lot of talk about building that foundation first and not being able to keep all of the promises made. I believe there were about 231 promises made during the election campaign. Since that throne speech, we've seen -- and we got fair warning, in a way, in the throne speech that there would be a lot of promises broken because of the deficit. We've seen, day after day, a lot of promises being broken as the government, as it's saying, is going to lay that foundation of getting the fiscal books in order again.
I remember saying on that TV show that that's what would be said. We didn't know what the number was -- at least, the Liberals said they didn't know what the number was at that point. I recall that Mr Gerry Phillips, who was then the finance critic and now is Management Board chair in the government, said in the finance committee -- he said it -- that he believed there was at least a $5-billion "risk," is the way he put it. I know many Liberals say, "Well, he didn't quite say there was a deficit for sure. There was a risk," which is essentially what the auditor has just said as well: There's a risk. Certain members of the government knew that, and the most respected -- and I say this, actually, with great respect for the Chair of Management Board, who sat right over here not that far from me in the previous administration. I have to say, I used to listen very carefully to Mr Phillips when he got up and spoke about economics and finances. He's probably the expert in this Legislature. We all listen to him. If I wanted to know what was going on, many times I would get Hansard out and read his remarks from the day before if I missed them, because he always knew what he was talking about.
So when the now Chair of Management Board said in that committee that he believed there could be a deficit of up to $5 billion, I believed him. I believe that anybody who knows Mr Phillips's work respects his ability to suss these things out. That includes all the members of the Liberal caucus who would have heard that remark. And it wasn't just him; it was the member -- I forget his riding, but I'm trying to stick to the riding and the ministry, so I'll just say the new Minister of Corrections -- who also said that he believed there could be at least a $4-billion deficit. I believe that at another time he said there could be a $5-billion deficit. So come on, folks. People knew that there could be a huge deficit.
Just before the election was called, a rather desperate, I have to admit, Janet Ecker, who was then the finance minister in the government, held a press conference with all kinds of background documentation to show there wouldn't be a deficit. I sat there with one of our more talented staffers, Charlie Campbell, the head of our research department, who has since been let go since we didn't achieve party status. Going through those documents with me, he noticed -- we sussed it out ourselves in those documents; we could see, and I said to the press and it was published after. I don't have the same respect among the public and the media on financial and economic issues as Mr Gerry Phillips does -- and did, at least then -- but I believe I was quoted in the media as saying we found within that document, on the day of that press release and that press conference, up to a $5-billion deficit.
I've got to tell you, folks: It wasn't that hard to find. We didn't need the auditor to tell us that that deficit was there. I saw, along with Mr Charlie Campbell, that there was that kind of deficit. It was dangling there in plain sight.
Our leader, Howard Hampton, in the debates and in the campaign, repeatedly told your leader and the then leader of the government, Premier Ernie Eves, that there was a huge deficit, and that all of the promises that were being made -- you couldn't make them without taking that into account. But nobody listened within the Liberal Party. The Premier said repeatedly, over and over again, "We believe that there could be, I believe, up to a $2-billion deficit," is what he said. He always said, "Don't worry; we've got that covered." When asked by the media, "How can you keep all these 231 promises when there's a deficit?" they said, "Don't worry; it's only going to be a couple of billion. We factored that in. We've had it costed out, and there's not going to be a problem here. We can keep all of our promises on time and also be able to pay down the smaller deficit" that they said they were then projecting.
This isn't just a budget deficit; in my view, this is a credibility deficit. That was a time when most people could see, anybody who was paying attention, that there was going to be a major, major deficit left behind by the Tories. We New Democrats, as you can well imagine, get quite a kick out of that: the Tories, of all the parties in this place.
I remember when they took over from us in 1995, when we left, yup, a huge deficit. We were left with one by the previous Liberal government and then we hit a bad recession. I know; people didn't agree with our strategy. That was their choice. They elected Tories in 1995 who gave huge tax cuts to people. It took them longer to pay off the deficit than New Democrats would have. We did have a plan when the economy was getting better, when the election came. We didn't have the opportunity to do that, but these Tories, time after time after time -- I've got to say this in support of the Liberals, in this case: You've got Tories standing up now, day after day in question period, saying, "You're the government now; stop blaming us." I have to say, for the eight years I was here it never stopped, day after day. They were still blaming New Democrats eight years later for all kinds of problems, eight years after being the government, and sometimes even the Liberals before New Democrats. Remember the famous phrase, "the 10 lost years," meaning our government and the Liberal government before?
So I have to laugh when I hear that. They of all people, who ran on being fiscally responsible, leaving such a huge deficit behind in good economic times. Mr Speaker, I know you're one of them. You're in the chair right now so you have to be nice to me, but you know what I mean. You know what I mean. Tories, of all people, fiscally responsible Tories, leaving behind such a huge deficit -- and I don't think you needed to. You gave these 30% tax cuts, mostly to wealthy people and big corporations; borrowed money to give tax cuts to these people.
New Democrats, when in government during a terrible recession, borrowed money to help people. We did. A lot of people disagreed with us. We didn't lower welfare rates; we kept on giving money to schools and education and health care and environment. We made all those choices to keep people afloat and try to create employment during a very bad recession. That's what we borrowed money for. After us, Tories borrowed money, instead of paying down the deficit and building up programs, tore programs down and then, because of these tax cuts to the wealthy, left us with a huge social deficit.
This gets me back to the issue we're discussing here tonight; that is, the throne speech and the need for this new Liberal government, from which the shine is very quickly coming off -- and I understand that; it came off us pretty quickly too. It's pretty tough when you make a lot of promises. We did keep a lot of ours, but we broke some too, no doubt about it. But I think this government has broken the record for the most broken promises within the first couple of weeks of taking over government.
I want to talk for a minute about the importance of this Liberal government keeping most of those promises. The reason I talked about the deficit the Tories left behind -- both a financial deficit and a huge social and environmental deficit -- is that it has to be dealt with. People voted for Liberals because they wanted that social deficit dealt with and they believed Dalton McGuinty and Liberals when they stood up time after time and said, "We can do it all. We can pay down the deficit that we believe to be there, a couple of billion" -- some knew it was bigger than that -- "and we can keep those promises." People voted for the Liberals actually for two reasons: to get the dreaded Tories out -- and it worked this time, and I think we can all applaud that, and the second reason people voted for the Liberals was that they believed your promises, and now you're breaking all those promises. Day after day we hear those promises broken because of the deficit. I'm not saying that all of you knew about the over $5-billion deficit. I believe there are honourable members here who, had they know that, might not have felt so free in making some of those promises.
Education: Look at the huge deficit created in education here into Toronto -- child care, children's mental health, autism, which my colleague from Nickel Belt brought up the other day, health care in general. The environment, water: The previous government laid off at least 750 -- actually more, but that's the number that's out there most, and you can calculate it differently -- and cut the budget, depending on whether you combine capital and operating, by up to 60%. Six zero per cent: That's a lot of cutting from a very important ministry. We had the Walkerton tainted water tragedy.
The only way we're going to be able to fix a lot of these problems is through investing again. The only way to do that is to take back some of that tax cut, not just the cancellation, which I applaud and agree with and support.
Mr Jeff Leal (Peterborough): Did you vote for it?
Ms Churley: I certainly did on second reading, and I will on third.
Liberals say, "Did you vote for it?" Let me tell you something: At first reading, the seven so-called independents, who are now called New Democrats, thanks to the Speaker, didn't get a copy of the bill. You learned too from previous experience that when there's a bill before the House and you're told it's about one thing and haven't had an opportunity to see if there's something else in there -- and it's happened to all of us before -- you could end up voting for something and finding out there's another little thing inserted in that bill that you didn't know about that might get you into hot water. It might be something you might not agree with. So on principle I will not support a bill -- and it was partly protest; we wanted an opportunity to have a look at what we were voting for. But I certainly fully support, and have said on many occasions when I had the opportunity to speak -- and that's not a lot these days, but when I do -- that I support --
Ms Churley: What was that?
Mrs Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): You've had plenty of time to speak.
Ms Churley: Somebody from the Liberals disagrees with me, but that's another story. She doesn't like me very much, but that's OK.
Ms Churley: I've only got a couple minutes left. What's important for all of us to remember here -- and it's going to get you into huge trouble if you don't grapple with this; I know there are people in the backrooms trying to grapple with it -- is that you're going to have to take back some of those mammoth tax cuts. Many of the members weren't here -- the new members -- but some were, and were on their hind legs day after day when the Tories were giving these huge tax breaks to big corporations and wealthy people, time after time. We now have to be able to take some of that back. New Democrats ran on that, and we will continue -- and now we can prove it. You're proving it for us. You cannot deal with the social deficit without doing something about those huge tax breaks that the Tories gave to rich people and corporations when they were in --
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Oh, come on.
Ms Churley: It's true. Now the Tories are complaining. It's true. Liberals then, you remember, were over there on their hind legs every day, saying you can't take that much money out of the revenue coming in and be able to keep the services. That's what we saw happening.
Now the Liberals are in a position -- you shouldn't smile at this, because I can tell you right now that a year from now you are going to be in such trouble after making all of these promises to fix the environment, to fix the education system, to fix health care, to fix all of these things. You're not going to be able to do it, because you don't have the money, and you're blaming it on a huge deficit that you knew about before you won the election. People are not going to buy it for very long. They're giving you a little bit of wiggle room now. The meetings have started in my office; the phone calls are coming from people who wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. It's going down the tubes. You're going to have to grapple with that, my friends, and find a way to deal with it.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): I'd like to make a few comments on the throne speech and the words put forth by the member for Toronto-Danforth.
Let me first of all say that it was indeed the highlight of my political career, and I'm sure it was a highlight for many of the new members and senior members of the Liberal colleagues that I have here, to sit here on that day and listen to a throne speech. We all worked hard. We took our platform to the people of Ontario, and they rewarded us with the seat of government. Of course, we then heard a throne speech, and I have to tell you that it was a proud day for me to be on this side of the House and to have received the vote from the people of Chatham-Kent Essex once again.
What we're going to do, as enunciated in the throne speech and the days following, is work hard. We're going to work hard to ensure that our water is safe for each and every person in Ontario to drink. We're going to be guardians of our environment in a very vigorous way. We're going to make sure the food that we eat is protected, as witnessed by the new meat inspectors that we have announced. We're going to make sure that our hospitals are funded. We're going to ensure that our schools -- and I'm so very pleased to hear the announcement on rural schools that came last week. We're going to ensure that those schools have a way of thriving. We're going to fix the flawed formula that came from the government of some days past. And we're going to work diligently, day in and day out, to deal with the $5.6-billion deficit that we inherited from the party across the aisle. We're going to work hard with the revelation of $800 million of hospital debt in this province on top of a $5.6-billion deficit. We're going to work hard when we learn that the children's aid society was $25 million in debt. We're going to work hard to correct all those wrongs.
Mr Dunlop: That was a little painful, listening to that. We'll carry on a little more this evening.
Mr Dunlop: Well, you can say what you want. But before I make any comments, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce to you, Mr Speaker, and to the members of this House some folks who are actually from Norm Miller's riding. I want to introduce you to Millie and Doug Graham, who are in our gallery here. If I may, because this is very important, Doug is, first of all, a new councillor in the township of Seguin. Millie suffered a stroke about 10 years ago and is a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation across our province. She has visited my riding, and I do want to wish a warm welcome on behalf of all the members here in the House to Millie and Doug tonight.
Thank you very much for not heckling me on that.
I'm looking forward to a lot of debate here this evening. I want to debate what I call Barney's budget, the purple budget, the so-called fiscal outlook by a consultant you hired, someone by the name of Erik Peters, who should know better than to put a piece of garbage like this together. Of course, that is the thrust of your throne speech here. You followed this $5.6 billion crap, eight or 10 or 20 times through it. Instead of actually facing the reality that you are the government, what you're trying to do, as a new party, is blame everything on the previous government. Start acting like a government and quit trying to be the opposition. Get real about this issue.
I'm looking forward to a lot more comment. I'll talk to you later.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): My friend Mr Garfield over here from -- which riding?
Mr Dunlop: Simcoe North.
Mr Bisson: Boy, that's a bit of a stretch, I've got to say. This is an interesting debate, because my colleague from Toronto-Danforth raised the point that the Liberals knew about the deficit. Nobody in this province was surprised about the size of the deficit. There may have been an argument, is it $5.2 billion we're expecting at this point? Was it $5.3 billion, $5.6 billion or $5 billion? But for sure, everybody knew there was going to be a deficit this year of at least $5 billion.
Why did we know that? Because last spring I sat on an estimates committee, along with the now Chair of Management Board, Mr Phillips, who was at that time the opposition finance critic, who said that there was going to be an at least $5-billion deficit.
So this is an interesting situation we find ourselves in in this House, because you've got the Liberals, who have said, "We didn't know. Really? There's a deficit? Oh, my God, we're so surprised." You've got the Tories saying, "There is no deficit. It never existed." And we're saying, "Everybody knew there was a deficit." So the same number is seen three different ways in this Legislature, depending on which party you're in.
I'm going to go by the record. There is a deficit. I agree with the Liberals. There is a deficit; it's at least $5.6 billion. If you listen to the finance minister, Mr Sorbara, it's probably higher than $5.6 billion. Ask yourself the question, why are they pushing up the numbers? The Liberals can't meet the expectations they've created among stakeholder groups, such as the heart and stroke people. They're going to try to find ways to break some of those promises by saying that there is not enough money.
The reality is that we knew going into the budget of last year that, quite frankly, there was going to be a deficit. For the Tories to come to the House today and say there wasn't a deficit, that the Liberals are making it all up -- no, no. Listen, I have confidence in Erik Peters, the auditor of the day. He is a respected person. We know. We've worked with him for a number of years. We had him as our NDP auditor, the Liberals had him and the Tories had him before. At the end of the day, one thing is agreed: There is a deficit of over $5 billion. The Liberals knew it, the Tories knew it and we know it. Let's move on.
Hon Mr Duncan: I'm pleased to respond to the member for Riverdale.
First of all, let me say to the Tory members opposite that you can't quibble with Mr Peters in this, as much as you'd like to. In fact, the province's audited financial statements eventually will attest to what we're saying. Let me say, without saying too much, there is a lot more to come on this story, and it will be coming out in due course.
I say to my colleague from Riverdale, whose response to the speech from the throne --
The Acting Speaker: Toronto-Danforth.
Hon Mr Duncan: I'm sorry, Toronto-Danforth. I apologize.
I say to my colleague, who is always impassioned, that when she was the government, they refused to deal with the financial situation. Their first budget began building a series of deficits that left the province $10 billion in the hole.
Unfortunately, due to those missteps at the very beginning of their term in government, not only were they not able to keep their commitments, they were able to do things that one never would have thought would be done by an NDP government: a social contract which opened and stripped collective agreements across this province. They had committed to public auto insurance. That was at the core of their value system, and what did they do? They broke their promise on that, along with a range of other issues.
So I suspect that that's one of the reasons why in roughly nine short years we've gone from 70-some of them here to seven of them here. Until they come to terms with the fact that you have to deal with the province's financial reality before you can deal with the real and pressing needs, they will not have much to say in the public discourse in that regard.
In short, we will keep our promises. We have four years to do that. We're laying the groundwork to do that by cleaning up the mess of the previous government and the NDP government before that. The government has to take tough decisions in order to move forward. We're doing that and we will move this province forward in the course of the next four years.
The Acting Speaker: Reply, the member for Toronto-Danforth.
Ms Churley: I thought we were going to get to hear Frank. I'm sure the Speaker knows what he's doing.
Thank you all for your comments, and there were some fair comments made. It's true that certain promises were broken by New Democrats, promises were broken by Tories, although they say they didn't break any. Remember the hospitals that were closed, and other things? Yep, some promises were broken, but I think, as I said, this government has broken a record on broken promises. Here's what some people are saying. Where's the one I wanted to read in particular?
"Dalton McGuinty was wrong, dead wrong, when he said `the world has changed' because of Ontario's $5.6-billion deficit.
"The sad truth is that the world's the same as it's always been -- and in this world politicians like Premier McGuinty continue to deceive and mislead a gullible public for their own gain.
"Having heard the same, poor-me line too many times before, we are left wondering what other Liberal promises are expendable." That's from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
There are also comments like those from Terry Graves, Public Concern Temiskaming:
"It's a sellout. During the election campaign" -- this is about Adams mine and the take-water permit -- "the Liberals committed to a moratorium on water-taking permits.... They haven't done that ... and they committed to a comprehensive review of the environmental assessment processes as it applies to the Adams mine, and they haven't done that."
Somebody else says, "I voted Liberal for one reason -- Dalton McGuinty promised without a shadow of a doubt that he was going to stop the building of 6,600 houses on the Oak Ridges moraine.... If he can change his mind on the moraine after the election, I should be allowed to change my vote.
"Tony Moretto, Oakville."
These are the kinds of things that are being said now. People voted for Liberals because these promises were made, and they've been broken.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Ms Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): I am going to speak to the throne speech tonight, but I'm going to speak to it in the context of my values and some information about Don Valley West. I understand that as this is my maiden speech, I have some latitude; the Speaker will give me some latitude. Thank you.
First of all, I want to acknowledge the speakers who have spoken before me tonight, including the member for Toronto-Danforth who as a fellow Toronto MPP has served her constituency well for many years.
It is a great privilege to stand here tonight where so many distinguished Ontarians have stood before me. This room has been a backdrop for many profound words and memorable moments, and I know that knowledge weighs on all of us, those of us who are new here. Although I have spoken here before, I hope that what I say tonight will give some impression of my values and my intentions as I take up this new role that I'm so honoured to have attained.
First, I want to thank the people of Don Valley West, who have expressed their confidence in me and in our vision of Ontario, and especially the people who worked for me in my campaign. We knocked on 40,000 doors in Don Valley West over the course of our campaign. So every community we went into, we knew people and we really came to know the riding.
Over the next four years there's going to be a lot of rhetoric, I trust some intellectual wrangling, and much partisan conflict here. I have watched this chamber as an outsider for many years and I know that at times the debate will be raw and the remarks scathing; now I know this first-hand. At the same time, I know it's the hope of the residents of Don Valley West -- and I join with them in this hope -- that at the end of the day we, as a government, will have been able to improve upon the situation we find ourselves in today.
The throne speech delivered on November 20 demonstrates our commitment to tell Ontarians the hard truths about our collective situation and to move forward to implement the changes we've promised, having put our house in order. That is what the speech says and that is the exercise in which we are engaged.
I am here, I ran for office provincially, because I believe that we are at a critical juncture in Toronto and in Ontario. We have had eight long years of disillusionment and distress as we've watched the undermining of our schools, our hospitals, public transportation and environmental protection. I am a 50-year-old woman. There are other things I could be doing, but I feel it is so important that we promote this agenda at this particular time in our history. The disabled, the old and the poor have become increasingly worried about their future as their services have been cut, their rents have been increased beyond their ability to pay and food bank usage continues to rise, because for eight long years the root causes of poverty have been allowed to flourish. At the same time, citizens have felt that they have less say in the decisions affecting their lives.
Our platform recognized this crisis. That's why we got elected, because we understood what was happening in the province. People responded to that, and that's why we're here. The throne speech, in its turn, reflects our commitment to deal with these issues in the most responsible way we can. Eight years of neglect cannot be undone in a few weeks, but thinking people understand that we can rebuild this province by making decent, responsible changes, and that is what we're about.
I represent a riding in Toronto, Don Valley West, that is among the wealthiest in the province; in fact, it's among the wealthiest in the country. But that only tells a very small part of the story. Don Valley West, like so many Toronto ridings, is large and diverse, comprising at least seven discrete neighbourhoods, where 53% of the residents are tenants and more than 40% are immigrants to Canada. The extremely wealthy coexist with the extremely poor in this riding. Families whose roots extend back to the early days of Upper Canada vote alongside families who arrived in Canada within the last five years. Children from dozens of countries share public school classrooms and learn to appreciate their differences and celebrate their similarities.
Don Valley West is an exemplary microcosm of this country, especially its urban face. Physically, Don Valley West is more uptown than downtown, and has an intricate web of walking paths connecting the streets of Don Mills. Small businesses, greengrocers, hardware shops and flower shops serve the same communities they've served for 50 years along Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue. The industrial and commercial park in Leaside is at the heart of that community. Our promise to revitalize brownfields is of particular interest to those folks.
Along Bayview Avenue sits a whole row of important institutions: Sunnybrook and Women's College hospital; the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College; Glendon College; and Bloorview MacMillan Centre. These are all institutions, which, like the city, draw people from around the province, from across the country. So they belong to the riding I represent, but they belong to all of you; they belong to the entire country, not one riding.
Like ridings across the province, Don Valley West is at the same critical juncture. Residents of Leaside and Don Mills want to know that we're going to reform the Ontario Municipal Board to strengthen the local democratic process, and they'll be happy with the changes to the Planning Act that were introduced by Minister Gerretsen today. They're fed up with local decisions being overturned by a body that seems to be biased against neighbourhoods.
Parents in North Toronto and Bennington Heights want to know that we're committed to public education and that we'll work with local school boards to keep their community schools open, and to ensure that their children's schools once again have frills like librarians, phys-ed teachers, music teachers, textbooks. Those are the things that they're looking for.
People living along Bayview Avenue in York Mills want to be assured that they're not going to lose their bus service because the TTC can't afford to buy new buses and keep them on the road. Youth and parents in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park want to know that their school gyms and meeting spaces will once more be available to them in the off hours. Those schools are the community public space, and they're locked tight in the evening. We need access to those buildings. We can't afford to build new community centres in every community in this province. We need to use our school buildings, and that means community use of schools after hours.
We have a remarkable pool of talent living in these communities. It would be foolish of us, as a society, to let enthusiasm and hope turn to bitterness. That's exactly what has been happening for the last eight years.
Families who are new to Canada want reassurance that we will help them to use their professional skills here. Senior citizens across the riding want to know that home care will be available to them so that they can stay in their homes and not be moved into an institution prematurely.
Like any riding in a large city, there's a range of agencies that exist to serve those in need. Some, like the Aphasia Institute in Don Valley West, target a very specific problem. Others, like the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services, meet the needs of a huge cross-section of people thrown together by circumstance. Volunteers and staff in these agencies work miracles on shoestring budgets that have not been adjusted for eight years. I think that is something that is common to service agencies across the province. Their operating budgets, their base budgets have not gone up, so they are not able to provide the services now that they were eight or 10 years ago.
The Flemingdon Community Health Centre is one of the models we will look to when we're reforming primary care in Ontario. It is the agency, it is the centre where Premier McGuinty, during the campaign, released our health platform. It is a model that we should be looking to.
Churches, mosques and synagogues in Don Valley West, in all their variety -- we cover the range -- provide sanctuary for people of faith from around the globe.
At the heart of every community, there are schools: public, Catholic, French, French immersion, private schools, nursery schools and child care centres in church basements.
We have some unique experiments in education in Don Valley West. One of those is the Overland Learning Centre, which combines delivery of English-as-a-second-language classes with community adult education programs. Those programs service seniors, parents, preschoolers and a wide range of people who wouldn't have access to continuing education unless that school that was closed previously had been turned into this vibrant learning centre. Those are the models that we need to be looking for. Those best practices need to be spread across the city and across the province. Unfortunately, food banks are also a part of the Don Valley West landscape. Far from disappearing, they're actually a growth industry.
When I speak in this House, I'm speaking in the interest of all of those people who elected me and who I represent, all of the residents in Don Valley West who work in those agencies, who work in those schools, who access those services. Like all Ontarians, they are concerned about their children's education, their health and the health of the parents, their grandparents, the air they breathe, the food they eat and the water they drink. Their interest is my interest. There's no separation because I'm here and they're out there, going about their lives, doing the best they can. I'm just here doing my piece of that job.
I know they'll be watching and listening to me as we deliberate. They may not be watching right this minute, but they are paying attention. I will get their e-mails. I will meet them in the riding and I will meet them outside of the riding. I know that they're hoping they will find reflected in our words and actions, and in the policies that we put forward, the intention and the implementation of policies that will make this province a better place to live. I know that that's what they're looking for.
They expect us to continue to tell them the truth. They expect that we will indeed work with city governments to put infrastructure back on the rails. They expect that we will work with democratically elected school boards to improve publicly funded education, and work with health care providers to make sure that Ontarians get the care they need in hospital and at home.
We have made a start in the throne speech. We all know there's more to do. We've charted our course. I believe that we will stay on track and that we're on track. We all have responsibilities as individuals in this collective government, and I just want to talk for a couple of minutes about my own individual responsibilities. I've talked about my responsibilities to the people who elected me and to the people whom I represent. But I believe we have personal responsibilities beyond the geography of our ridings, and those responsibilities define us and, in the words of sociology, they locate us in terms of who we are and who we speak to.
I have an historical responsibility, for example, to the members of my family who came here from Glasgow, Dublin and Bournemouth, who cleared land and farmed, built churches, went to war, educated themselves as teachers and doctors so that I could have a better life. I can hear their voices as I make decisions in my life.
I'm a lucky woman. I've had the privilege of a solid, intelligent upbringing, surrounded by a loving family. I've never known poverty; I've never known ill health. My blessings have been abundant. I've benefited enormously from this society. I owe a debt of gratitude, and I see my service and behaviour here as part of the payment of that debt.
I have a responsibility to my own three children, one of whom is here in the gallery -- Jessie -- and to my partner, Jane, who is also here. They have every right to expect me to demonstrate that position and status cannot be allowed to undermine fundamental decency, honesty and integrity.
I believe I have a responsibility to women in Ontario, who are certainly better represented in this House than in the past. I went and looked at the picture outside from 1888, which was when my grandmother was born, and it was a very different face on this Legislature than today. Having said that, women still continue to be underrepresented in terms of the general population, so I feel I have a responsibility to women.
As far as I know, I am the first openly lesbian MPP in Ontario. As such, I have a responsibility to young lesbians who are looking for examples of hope and success. I have run for office three times, twice successfully, and in each campaign I have had to confront overt homophobia. Homophobia, like racism, ageism, ableism, sexism and all the destructive hatreds, has to be challenged at every turn, and I believe that it's part of my responsibility -- not my whole responsibility, but it's part of my responsibility -- to do that.
I was a young mother with three children under four, and I have a personal responsibility to young mothers who are trying to balance the needs of their children, including finding decent child care, with their own needs to express themselves in the world outside their homes. I know that out there there's a young woman who's trying to figure out how to write a novel or become a lawyer or become a politician, and she's trying to look after her children at the same time. Their voices are often silenced because their lives are so full, so I have a responsibility to them.
I was a parent activist. I have a responsibility to listen to activists who struggle without resources to fill the gaps left by government. Their voices are often silenced because they don't have a photocopier, but simply because they have no access, or think they have no access, to the table where decisions are being made. We all have a responsibility to listen to them, but I was not long ago there.
These are responsibilities that I take very seriously. They will inform my work and my contributions here.
I want to talk briefly about an issue that has been in the press most recently and has been documented in the report of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in its report Paying the Price: The Human Cost of Racial Profiling. It's almost trite to say that this country and this province, in particular, have been built by diverse populations from around the world, but I think we need to keep saying it because we need to recognize the struggle inherent in weaving a society that respects and celebrates difference.
Professor Ursula Franklin, for any of you who have heard her speak -- the scientist and peace activist -- contends that our public institutions, and particularly our public education system, are at the heart of our civil society and our relative peace and calm. If we expect to get to the bottom of the troublesome issues of racial profiling in our streets and in our schools, we will have to look frankly at the educational opportunities we're providing our children and their teachers. We will have to look honestly at the resources we provide teachers, the breadth of the curriculum we ask them to teach and the opportunities we give them to explore their own attitudes.
Racial profiling, which can be a manifestation of racism, like homophobia, sexism, ableism, ageism and all the -isms that I mentioned earlier, is systemic. Racial profiling is obviously a particularly destructive force, but if we are ever to address the systemic attitudes that target, exclude and blame, each of us is going to have to examine his or her own attitudes. As legislators, I believe it is a fundamental task for us to put forward the frameworks in which individual Ontarians can then look at their own attitudes. There should be no shame in recognizing that each of us has internalized prejudices and fears; we're all the product of an imperfect society, but we can change behaviours and, by changing behaviours, we can change attitudes.
We can teach children empathy. There are brilliant educators in this country who are teaching children to look at the world through another's eyes. Some of you may be familiar with Mary Gordon's work, a program called Roots of Empathy, where a baby is brought into a classroom and rough and tough grade 7 and 8 kids start to interact with the baby and start to watch and learn how the child is responding, and develop those empathetic abilities.
But that doesn't happen without resources. If we want our children's emotional quotient to be as high as their intellectual quotient, then we're going to have to put the resources into developing those attitudes. I can tell you, folks, those programs are disappearing from our schools. Those programs that provide a fundamental base for a tolerant, civil society are disappearing, and we're going to have to stem that tide very quickly if we want to be able to move forward.
I ran for provincial office because I believe that Ontario expects its government to be compassionate, responsible and even-handed. That is the message I got loud and clear from thousands of people I talked to in Don Valley West. That is the vision that I am here to promote and to work hard to implement.
I'm going to talk about one of my role models, one of my heroes, Nellie McClung, who served in the Alberta Legislature from 1921 to 1926. Her life and words resonate with me. McClung was 48 years old when she was elected, two years my junior, but still not a young woman. She was a slightly older contemporary of my grandmother, so only one generation removed from me; we're not that far away. McClung was an unapologetic suffragette with a deep belief in social justice, for which she fought all her life. She said, "Never retreat, never explain, never apologize -- get things done and let them howl!" Had Nellie McClung lived 80 years later, with us, she might have softened her delivery, but maybe not. She might have used exactly the same words, and I have to tell you that those words ring true. I hold on to the fire of her conviction in my dark moments.
One of my contemporary role models is Dianne Poole, who sat in this House representing the former riding of Eglinton, parts of which are now in Don Valley West, from 1987 to 1995. In her maiden speech in 1987, she remarked that it was "the desire of the people of Ontario to be governed by a balance of fiscal responsibility and social conscience." She called that balance "liberalism." I am proud to be a member of a Liberal government whose objective it is to achieve just that balance. November's throne speech reflects our commitment to that goal.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): It's my pleasure to respond to the member from Don Valley West. I recall the previous member who sat in that very riding, David Turnbull. It brings fond memories because he was the whip. Nonetheless, I'm sure you don't want that role, to be the whip of your party, as Mr Levac would regret that.
Anyway, I think it's important to just put some context around the throne speech issue, which you didn't speak about. But the people have to be reminded. I think the best speech, objectively, was given by Howard Hampton. I'm going to cite the Hansard of November 24.
Mr O'Toole: He has nothing to gain by telling the truth. In fact, he talked to some extent by saying: "I just want to say that the Premier, in his speech, referred to character education in our schools." I stress the character education component. What he said is that the government should start with itself by not making promises they can't keep.
I've got a little barometer in my office, it's sort of like one of those fundraising events, and the red line keeps going up. They had 231 promises. By now I think it's up to 240 promises, and the fact is, they've even broken the new promises. It's frightening. What kind of message does this send to our children of failing to keep your promises? This is kind of a code of ethics in the culture of Canada, the fair-minded culture of Canada, that members here want to embrace.
I think if you want to look to other references -- this is what the people of Ontario want you to do. They voted for you to do certain things. For instance, we're discussing the tax bill, Bill 5, today on auto insurance. You promised one thing. Do you know what they did today? I don't know whether it's in order, in the few minutes left -- they failed to show up, and there was no public input on Bill 5. The victims were left without a voice. It's almost embarrassing to have been a member of that committee.
Ms Churley: I want to congratulate the member for Don Valley West for a superb speech. It makes me think that I should write my own speeches from time to time and think through it a little before I stand up.
It's not often in this place that we can listen to basically a non-partisan speech, because this is a very partisan place; it's the nature of our work. I like the opportunity to listen to a maiden speech. As a feminist, I have to say that in this modern day and age, I wonder why we still call it the "maiden" speech, if you know what I mean. However, it is really nice to be able to hear somebody stand up and talk about who they are, what they believe in, what their aspirations are, and certainly talk about their community.
In many ways the community she describes is my community. I was listening and reflecting and thinking about the diversity in my community of the wealthy and the poor and the different ethnic groups and all of the things. She painted a very realistic and very nice picture of her community, the community that she is here to represent.
I have to say, in this non-partisan speech that I rarely give, I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the member for Don Valley West. I thought she did a tremendous job as a critic, in many ways, against the former government as a school trustee in the city of Toronto. I know I relied on her frequently, along with Paula Fletcher and others.
I just want to say that I really enjoyed her speech tonight and I look forward to working in any way that we can to further her community and indeed all of our communities within this province, which after all, she reminded us we're elected to do.
Mr Leal: I thoroughly enjoyed the maiden speech of the member for Don Valley West.
It's really interesting, because I have an aunt who lives in Don Valley West. She lives on Millwood Road, and a couple of weeks ago she provided me with a book that was written by Councillor Jane Pitfield on the history of Leaside. It was very interesting to hear this evening some of the elements that have been described about the unique characteristics of Don Valley West that are indeed in Councillor Pitfield's book. As a person who has had a long-standing interest in all parts of Ontario, it's really interesting that, when you think of Toronto as being a rather large place, there are indeed these great pockets of community interest that have the great community characteristics so ably described by the member for Don Valley West.
I know she has a great interest in education, a very distinguished career as an education trustee here in Toronto, and is a person who I know will be a real driving force over the next four years to make sure that some of the commitments we made in our platform do come to fruition. We know that she has an absolute commitment to public education in Ontario, and with her talent and interest I know that agenda will be certainly driven forward.
What I really took into account from the member from Don Valley West is -- one of my political heroes was the late Senator Hubert Humphrey in the States. When Senator Humphrey made his last speech to the American Senate, he was dying from cancer. He said that the measure of any society is how it looks after its disabled, its disadvantaged and disenfranchised. When I heard the member from Don Valley West this evening, she certainly touched upon those elements of our society that I think need help and that our platform will help to address over the next four years. It's a real privilege to have an opportunity to reflect on the remarks of the member from Don Valley West.
Mr Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): I certainly want to congratulate the member from Don Valley West on her presentation tonight. A maiden speech is always a very important historical occasion for members in this House. I appreciate the member's enthusiasm for what she has taken on in terms of public service, and I wish her well in her career.
I would say at the outset, though, that I believe this member is going to have a very challenging time. As I listened to the values that she indicated drew her into public service, she's going to have a very difficult time dealing with the party that she has affiliated herself with and a very difficult time explaining to her constituents how she can on the one hand campaign, and I believe honourably so, for all of these initiatives that now are falling by the wayside, all of these commitments, these promises that are being made that are not being kept.
I gather from the honourable member's background that she would know full well that many of the explanations and the spin that's being given to her and other members of the backbench of this new government -- I'm sure this honourable member sees through that, that these promises cannot be kept because of a so-called phony $5.6-billion deficit which, by the way, we still have five months left to deal with. That is the challenge of this government. I look to the honourable member to do her part in the government benches to bring them into compliance and in fact to honour those very important values of which she speaks.
The Acting Speaker: A response from the member for Don Valley West.
Ms Wynne: I want to thank the members for Oak Ridges, Durham, Peterborough and Toronto-Danforth for their comments.
The only thing I want to say is that I don't spin. That's the thing about the people of Don Valley West. I'm just going to tell them the truth. I'm going to tell them what's happening.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a ratepayers' meeting in Leaside actually. There was a huge number of people for a ratepayers' meeting. It was an AGM; there were 200 people in this room. We were just at the beginning, and I thought, "What's this going to be like?" It was fine. It was just after the throne speech had been delivered. What was in the throne speech made sense to people because they are thinking people. They're watching us, and they're looking at a reasonable implementation of what we said we were going to do, so I am very confident that the less we try to spin and the more we try to tell people the truth, the better off we're going to be.
What's so refreshing is that there hasn't been that for the last eight years. We haven't experienced that for the last eight years.
Ms Wynne: I'm saying we need to have that move away from spin. I am really looking forward to working with my colleagues to tell Ontarians, people who live in Don Valley West, exactly what's going on, exactly what our plan is, every step of the way. I look forward to working with everyone in the House on that.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Ms Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): Thank you very much for the warm applause. It's kind of a nice change since I've been here.
I would like to thank the electors of my riding for the faith that they have shown me by electing me as their MPP.
The constituency of Haliburton-Victoria-Brock, in my humble opinion, is one of the finest regions in Ontario. It has a little bit of everything: urban and rural, forests and farms, lakes and rivers. It stretches from the unspoiled expanses of Algonquin Park to the borders of the GTA. Thousands of Ontarians flock to our area every year to enjoy nature at its finest. Haliburton-Victoria-Brock is a coalition of small towns, picturesque villages and rural settings. From Carnarvon to Sebright to Beaverton, to Sunderland, to Pontypool, to Fowlers Corners to Burleigh Falls to Apsley, to Cardiff and to all the points in between, it is rural Ontario at its finest.
Mr O'Toole: It has good golf courses.
Ms Scott: Yes, it has good golf courses also. We hope to get more.
Haliburton-Victoria-Brock has also produced some outstanding citizens. It's the home of Leslie Frost, a widely admired Premier of the province. He used to sit in the barber's chair in Lindsay and said that was the best view of what was going on in Ontario. More recently, we had Chris Hodgson, who represented our riding-
Ms Scott: These are both great men who worked unselfishly for the betterment of their communities and the province. I hope I can carry on that great tradition, established by these predecessors and many others who have served our constituency and Ontario.
I hail from the small hamlet of Kinmount, situated on the edge of Peterborough county, Haliburton county, the old Victoria county and now the present city of Kawartha Lakes. The little street where I was raised contained only four houses, but it produced an MP and two MPPs, myself the third servant of the people to call this street home.
I grew up in the rich tradition of community services. Communities are only as strong as their volunteers and service organizations. My family taught me to work hard and participate to make community a better place to live. My fondest memories are of community events: parades, parties, anniversaries, birthdays, festivals or the local fair. My brother Guy and I are the fourth generation to serve as members of the Kinmount fair board. The community spirit is still strong in my corner of Ontario, and I want it to remain vibrant and grow even stronger.
I am not a complete novice to the art of politics. My father, Bill Scott, represented the same riding in the House of Commons for 28 consecutive years. Of course, with my young age, I've lived most of my life in politics. I'll simply state that I had a really good teacher.
I was taught by my constituents to work hard for the betterment of the whole country and represent my riding with dignity and pride. My mother was a businesswoman who juggled owning and operating a business, raising a family, being a political spouse and contributing to her community.
That past campaign was a great learning experience for me. I believe you never stop learning, and I've listened to the people of my riding. I have heard their concerns, their cares, their problems, their worries and what issues they feel are important. I believe it is part of my job to carry these issues and concerns before this assembly. I aim to be their spokesperson.
What do I hear in the rural hinterland of Haliburton-Victoria-Brock? What is on the minds of these constituents?
Some 25% of my constituents are over the age of 65. Many of these seniors have chosen to make this section of rural Ontario their retirement home. They have selected this area for its quiet, slower lifestyle and rustic charms. Many converted their summer cottages to retirement homes. But concern does lurk amongst the senior population. Rising taxes, combined with a fixed income, threatens their ability to remain in their long-sought dream homes. A recent tax relief proposal would have taken a small step to address this danger, but alas, this small measure of aid to a threatened group of nation-builders has been revoked by our new government.
Today I rise to debate the government's throne speech. I would first like to discuss some of the financial areas of the speech that affect my riding. The main economic contributors there are not giant corporations with high-paid accountants or business advisers who can help them absorb the impact of higher taxes and higher hydro rates. The main economic contributors in my area of the province are the agri-industry and the small tourism operators.
My riding contains some of the finest farms in Ontario. The farm sector has endured some tough times in the last few years. Agriculture was one of Ontario's founding industries and is still one of our most important and proudest sectors. The family farm is under siege. I strongly urge the new administration to protect, encourage and revitalize agriculture.
Tourist operators have proudly trumpeted the natural beauty of my area for generations. Once again, tough times have darkened this traditional industry. The government must act with vigour and determination to prove to Canadians, Americans and the world that Ontario is safe and a spectacular and splendid place to visit. Driving up these costs on these already overtaxed small businesses could mean the difference between opening and closing their doors this year.
Since 1995, we've created a lot of jobs in Ontario. In my riding alone, over 2,500 people have been taken successfully off the cycle of dependence. We helped find them jobs.
Infrastructure is important in my riding. Transportation is important. The previous Conservative government made upgrades to Highway 7 through Omemee, Highway 35 north to Minden and south to Lindsay, the Highway 118 expansion to Carnarvon, planned expansions of the 404 and four-laning of Highway 35 to Lindsay. We've put the basis down for infrastructure. We need to continue it.
Increasing taxes and hydro rates are damaging to the economy of my riding. An outcome of these increases which is real but often unforeseen is in the ability to attract new businesses.
Consumers and small business alike were able to forecast the economics of this business over many years and therefore make personal and corporate decisions based on knowing that their taxes were going to go down and their hydro rates were stable. By making and breaking your promise on hydro rates and increasing corporate taxes, you effectively removed any sense of assurance that the people and commercial interests in my riding have on these important components of fiscal planning.
You are stimulating driving up costs to the consumer and creating uncertainty among small business owners. This can only produce a disastrous effect on our local economy.
The residents of this corner of the province have also expressed a concern over the availability and reliability of electricity at a reasonable price. The blackout vividly pointed out how reliant our present society is on electricity. Urban and rural, we need a plentiful supply to make our world run. Your recent broken promise not to raise hydro rates has worried and enraged many Ontarians. We'll be watching our hydro bills with interest over the next months. I will be bringing the concerns over increased hydro rates to the government's attention.
Health care is also a priority issue. I am a nurse. I've seen the system operate from the outside and the inside. I've worked as a nurse in the United States and in Ontario. Our system is one of the best in the world, but it is not perfect. I work in Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, where I specialize in intensive care. Right now we have a $44-million expansion in progress. We have modern facilities in Haliburton and in Minden. We have nurse practitioners coming to Brock township, to Lindsay and to other parts of the riding. We have a CAT scan in Lindsay now. We have heart catheterization in Peterborough. We had a commitment from the Minister of Health the other day of the continued new building of the hospital in Peterborough. We do hope he lives up to that promise. We'll be watching closely.
These have all been put in place by the previous Conservative government, and yes, they were Chris Hodgson and Gary Stewart initiatives of both those ridings. So our health care system has made great strides under the previous administration.
I got into politics originally as a candidate in the 2000 election, because I saw health care at the front line -- I have family in the health system, and I knew we could do better. I had an opportunity to become involved in politics at the federal level and to try to make some changes. I can tell you that since my family were patients in hospitals and looking for long-term-care centres, the expansion of the long-term-care centres in my riding alone has increased immensely. Now there are not waiting lists anywhere near where they used to be for the long-term-care centres, so our seniors can get the care they do need. Please, we need to continue this. I want to work with this government and continue the good work that the former MPPs have done and the present ones on this side of the House want to continue to do in health care.
We see expansion and improvements in health care every day. I want you to continue, not based on outdated ideologies but looking to the future of what could be the best health care in Ontario, not the politically correct health care. We need more doctors and nurses in all our rural areas. In Lindsay alone, in the last two weeks we've heard of three family doctors leaving. I've been working with the community to encourage more doctors to come to rural Ontario. Our government laid some great groundwork for free tuition for doctors and nurses to come to underserviced areas. I want to be watching closely to encourage more doctors into rural areas. I truly hope the new government will keep its promises on health care and not damage the system that we were making progress in.
The education system in my area is also important to my constituents. Progress on educational standards is moving forward, but stability is also critical to future progress. Our solution was to bring labour peace by banning teachers' strikes. Your government has rejected that as an option. I hope you're able to provide the important stability, which is required, through other means.
Your first steps in financial assistance to school boards have already been criticized in my area as bailouts to the big urban boards and little assistance to the equally important rural boards. Equality for all students across Ontario was a hallmark of our government.
In my riding, we saw additions to our rural schools and we saw a new high school in Lindsay. Sir Sandford Fleming College is continuing with a $27.4-million expansion. I invite all of you to come to the Frost campus in Lindsay to see the modern, updated, energy-efficient campus that is there. I'll be speaking more about it in the new year, as it progresses. We have a new expansion in Haliburton at Sir Sandford Fleming College which is going to be a big boost to the economy and culture of the area. We need to continue to ensure that this is a cornerstone of the future, that the educational system is maintained.
Another issue specific to my region is municipal restructuring. A non-binding referendum was held on November 10 in which the people chose to re-examine the municipal boundaries issue. I hope that this government acts swiftly to address these concerns and works closely with the newly elected council toward a positive outcome. I want to congratulate all the newly elected councillors, mayors and reeves in all of my riding. The tradition in our family does continue, as my brother, Guy Scott, was elected as a councillor for Galway-Cavendish council in Peterborough county, one of the many.
Interjection: Kinmount's going to take over.
Ms Scott: Kinmount produces a lot of politicians, like Barry's Bay there, the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.
In its throne speech, the government emphasized the importance of democratic renewal. I sincerely hope that this renewal is aimed at benefiting all the members of this House and the people of Ontario. Already, this government has weakened democratic renewal in this chamber by ignoring the 15% of the population who voted on October 2 for my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. They're being denied official party status in this chamber by the government. Fair treatment of these members is an important symbol of your commitment to democratic renewal, and so far this government is shown to be lacking.
As well, the standing committee on government agencies, where I have been selected to participate on behalf of my party, has become another symbol of antidemocratic tactics by your government. It has long been a tradition in this House for the Chair of that committee not to be a member of the governing party. Last week, your government broke that tradition to appoint your own member to the Chair of the committee. This can hardly be progress on democratic renewal. I hope that in the months to come your actions on democratic renewal in this place match your rhetoric, because the loser in these battles will not be the members --
Mr O'Toole: The people of Ontario.
Ms Scott: -- but the people of Ontario. Thank you, member from Durham.
I would once again like to thank the constituents of my riding of Haliburton-Victoria-Brock for electing me. I would like to thank my colleagues on this side of the Legislature for welcoming me into their caucus and showing me the ropes. I can appreciate the new members; it's quite a learning experience and becomes loud and boisterous at times. I plan on bringing forward the concerns of my riding. I want to work hard and productively, adding my opinions on issues vital to this great province and to my riding.
I look forward to working with members of the government and with the New Democratic Party. I think we can work well together when we move things forward.
I hope and pray that I can live up to the expectations of the constituents in Haliburton-Victoria-Brock.
Mr Dunlop: When is the Kinmount Fair?
Ms Scott: I invite you all to the Kinmount Fair every Labour Day weekend.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Ms Churley: We're on another maiden speech. Are there any more coming tonight? Ah, a lot.
Ms Churley: No, you've spoken before.
It was again really pleasant to hear a bit of background about one of the new members in this Legislature, whom I really haven't had the opportunity to get to know yet or speak with, to find out about her background and her riding.
Mr Khalil Ramal (London-Fanshawe): She must be good.
Ms Churley: Yes. She's very good. Also, as the member for Don Valley West said earlier, it's good that we've had some women elected too. We don't have nearly enough. Anybody who survived -- not only survived, but she's a new member, elected in a Liberal sweep -- has got to have a lot going for her. So I congratulate her and look forward to working with her as well.
She did talk about some of the policies of the Liberal government. I have to say to her that I don't agree with her on many of the Tory positions, as she well knows. I agree with the Liberals on the private school tax and always have.
When you talk about seniors, I think we would all agree that too many of our seniors are living in poverty and we need to do something about it. But I believe that giving them a tax break on something as fundamental as the education of our children -- I'm a grandma. I believe I should be contributing to the education of my grandchildren, and I believe, as all grandparents believe, that we should do that.
I'm not poor. I know many older people who are who want to pay into the education system. They also want to make sure that when these children grow up, they're going to be willing to pay for our health care as we get older and older and need their support.
Although we don't agree on many of the issues, I look forward to working with the member.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): It's a real pleasure to sit and listen to members in this House make their maiden speech. I say that because I hear from a lot of the debate that there are some incredible values that everyone brings to this chamber.
Listening to the member from Don Valley West, as I said, it's an inspiring commentary to listen to the words and to the commitment and the sincerity.
Listening to the member from Haliburton-Victoria-Brock, I have to say that it is interesting to listen to some really good comments about some of the ideals and also to listen to the places from which you come and how proud one is of the area that you represent. On the other hand, it's also important to remember that the government has a responsibility, and that responsibility is to lay out for the people of Ontario where it is going. That is what the throne speech is about: It's about the vision and it's about where we're going to be in the long term.
What is harder to do in a throne speech that takes a little bit more courage is to speak candidly to the people of the province about the issues that the government has to face. That's what our throne speech did: It presented the straight goods to the people of Ontario.
So I'm going to sit and listen to more maiden speeches this evening with great interest. I thank the new members for their inspiring words, because someone like myself who's been here for a little bit longer than four years needs to hear your inspiring words.
Mr Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): It's my pleasure to join in the debate tonight. I'd like to congratulate our new member, one of the two new Conservative members in the Legislature, Laurie Scott, on her maiden speech. Congratulations, Laurie, member from Haliburton-Victoria-Brock, who I think is going to do just a wonderful job here in the Ontario Legislature. She follows in the tradition -- her father was a member at Ottawa for 28 years. This is year one for Laurie. I'm sure she's just getting warmed up for 27 years here at Queen's Park.
Laurie spoke from the heart about what's really important in her riding. She talked about the farmers whom she's going to be looking out for. She talked about the tourist operators -- particularly close to my heart, seeing I am a tourist operator from Muskoka -- and I know she'll be looking out for their interests.
She noted a couple of the many broken promises from the Liberal government: the hydro rates -- of course, they said they were going to cap electricity prices at 4.3 cents, and that has fallen by the wayside. They said they weren't going to raise taxes. What are we going to see? A 27% increase in corporate taxes for medium-sized businesses in the province, something I'm particularly worried about. She talked about reliability of electricity and how important that is in a rural riding. I know a lot of my constituents are also voicing concerns about that.
She talked about health care and, coming from a health care field as a nurse, about how important that is and all the improvements we've seen under the past MPP, a fine MPP, Chris Hodgson. Someday maybe we can talk a bit -- representing a different riding, of course, but coming back here to this place. She talked about the many new long-term-care beds that have been built in her riding.
I'd just like to congratulate Laurie. I know she's going to do an excellent job representing the people in her riding for many, many years to come. Thank you very much.
Mr Bisson: I want to congratulate the member from Haliburton-Victoria-Brock. First of all, to be elected as a Conservative in the last election -- now, think about that -- first time out says a couple of things. I think it says something about her individually, but I think it also says something about her constituency. I don't know how long Haliburton-Victoria-Brock has been in Tory hands, but I remember once upon a time holding that for a short while, from 1990 to about 1993, when Mr Drainville sat as a New Democrat in that riding. When he left, it was won by Mr Hodgson. So I just want to say to her, your comments are well taken.
I also want to say, I remember her father somewhat -- not in detail, but I do remember a Mr Scott who sat in the federal House, who was in his own way a bit of a legend -- well, not in his own way; he was a legend within the riding. I think when you come from a political family that has had the opportunity to serve and you've built up a bit of a dynasty as far as putting together the organization and stuff, it obviously serves you well. I know being elected, I'm the first in my dynasty. It'll probably be the last one. I don't think either of my daughters wants to get into politics, neither Natalie or Julie, but who knows?
I certainly say that it's not an easy life that you chose. You know well what you had to go through as a youngster or an older person growing up as the daughter of a person who was in politics. You understand the sacrifices that your father made; now you understand the sacrifice you may very well have to make.
I also want to commend you on your comments about democracy, because I think that is really what is essential about this whole place: making sure that this Parliament, this Legislature, works in an effective way. I think that your comments are well taken in regard to the role that all of the opposition parties have to play here at Queen's Park in order to keep this particular government accountable.
So I want to commend you on your maiden speech. I certainly don't think it's going to be your last, and judging from the amount of time that riding has been Tory, you'll probably be around for a little while.
The Acting Speaker: Response from the member for Haliburton-Victoria-Brock.
Ms Scott: Thank you very much to everyone in the House for their patience in my maiden speech. I appreciate that greatly. I want to thank the members for Toronto-Danforth, Sarnia-Lambton, Parry Sound-Muskoka and Timmins-James Bay for their comments.
I believe I am the first woman provincially elected from my riding, so I thank you for that comment. Somehow, through the campaign trail and through life, I just forget that little gender issue.
Ms Scott: I am.
The comment certainly of being born to a political family, I was two years old when my dad was elected and I don't think that I have ever stopped campaigning, in one sense or another, through fairs and on horses and through the community. I don't think he could wait until we were of driving age so that we could drive him around the riding. I remember many fall fairs and being put on merry-go-rounds for two hours at a time while my father socialized. My nieces are trying to get used to that, that you talk a lot when you go out in public. But that is what you are there to do, to listen to the people in the riding.
I appreciate your comments about Chris Hodgson. Chris's family was in the riding for generations. His grandfather Clay Hodgson taught my father the art of politics way back before I can remember. I know that Chris was very close to my dad while he was starting his provincial adventure. So the generations have come, and I want to thank Chris for all his help and mentorship throughout the campaign.
I look forward to serving the people. Certainly in our family, community service is a way of life. It was just something you got used to. You were always in your communities throughout a big riding, but I think our house is still the number that people call for all kinds of help. Being a nurse, you certainly get the medical phone calls also. So between medicine and politics, I look forward to helping the constituents in the riding and working with everyone in the Legislature.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate.
Mr Jim Brownell (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): I rise this evening to speak on the speech from the throne. But before doing so, I would like to bring Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh into this House. The word is Charlottenburgh. I know many people have a difficult time with that word, but I think before the evening is over you will know about Charlottenburgh.
I am overwhelmed and elated to stand before you as the elected member for Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, and I thank the constituents for their trust and support.
As an educator for the past 32 years, I conducted semi-annual trips to Toronto with my students and toured the halls of this great building. I would advise them that they could realize their dreams and that their potential would eventually lead them to this chamber some day. I pledge to these students that I will keep this seat warm until the day when one of them will follow their dreams and take my place.
The riding of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh has been represented by a multitude of qualified and distinguished members. In the east, as the former riding of Cornwall, Premier John Sandfield Macdonald, Ontario's first Premier, George Samis and Fern Guindon all fought for our area. In the west, Premier James Pliny Whitney represented Dundas county in the early 1900s. As the former riding of Glengarry, a dynasty was formed when both Osie and Noble Villeneuve served for 47 years combined. The late Peter Manley, who taught me so much about politics, served the riding of Stormont during the 1950s.
For the past 16 years, our Liberal colleague John Cleary had the privilege of representing our riding. Mr Cleary was deeply tied to the community and worked diligently for our community's agricultural businesses, indeed serving as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Food in the Peterson Liberal government.
Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh is a diversity of communities, industry and beauty. Being at the crossroads of eastern Ontario -- the hub in the wheel, so to speak, between our nation's capital, our province's capital and Montreal -- our riding is historically and culturally rich and is entrenched with a diverse population and history. Spanning over 2,500 square kilometres and inhabited by about 95,000 people, my riding is one of the larger ones in the province. Manufacturing is our area's main employer, with a thriving agricultural sector that specializes in dairy and agri-products. However, there is much more to my riding than simply statistics and figures.
We are largely a rural riding. Our east end, Charlottenburgh, encompasses progressive agricultural businesses, beautiful countryside along the St Lawrence River and a real awareness for the future.
The "Souths" -- both Dundas and Stormont, which are parallel to the St Lawrence River -- inhabit plentiful communities and hamlets and are home for our urban centre, the city of Cornwall. Cornwall is at the core of the riding, having been settled in 1784 by a strong group of Loyalist inhabitants quickly followed by an ambitious and dynamic francophone population. This has led to the rich and diverse cultural heritage that the city enjoys today. Moreover, the south of the riding is home to our First Nations inhabitants, who built communities along the St Lawrence River, in the Long Sault Rapids area. Today, they continue to showcase a proud heritage in the community of Akwesasne.
The "Norths" -- again, Dundas and Stormont -- are showcased with progressive dairy farms, picturesque agricultural scenery and stately country homes. In fact, the north is home to Canada's dairy capital, also known as the town of Winchester.
Our riding has a great history, St Raphaels being the home, and St Andrews West being the final resting place of Ontario's first Premier, John Sandfield Macdonald. His historic inn, now Quinn's Inn, which he had built in the historic village of St Andrews West in 1865, was the location for the unveiling of our Liberal platform piece, Growing Strong Rural Communities.
The Lost Villages Museum, located in my hometown of Long Sault, chronicles and documents the planned flooding of six communities inundated by the St Lawrence Seaway and hydro projects in 1954. The lost villages of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickenson's Landing, Farran's Point and Aultsville, the hamlets of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands, and the farming communities of Sheek's Island and Croil's Island were lost to these great engineering projects. Through the museum, these villages stay alive through memories and memorabilia of their former residents, which include my family.
Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh is a hub of recreational activities and tourist attractions. Our riding is home to Upper Canada Village, "where history is made"; the St Lawrence bikeway, which spans 44 kilometres along the St Lawrence River; Crysler Park; the Long Sault Parkway; Woodlands campsite and picnic area; the annual Dairy Fest in Winchester; Tubie races in Morrisburg; and Canada's oldest fair, in Williamstown, just to name a few. In the city of Cornwall on any given day, you can watch sports teams or see the Cornwall Colts playing in the Ed Lumley arena at the Cornwall Civic Complex or catch a race at the Cornwall Motor Speedway, play some water sports at Crysler Park or Gray's Creek Marina, or play a couple of holes at some of our area's premier golf links.
Evidently, our riding is much more than statistics. From east to west, and from north to south, the people of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh are eager and ready to begin the journey that will improve our social services, stabilize our economy, help us develop world-class hospitals and schools, and allow our people and riding to grow and prosper.
Now to the speech from the throne. "Let's get to work": With these four words of closing, the speech from the throne resonated the sense of change that our team disseminated throughout the campaign, which I can sense here in the halls of Queen's Park as well as back home in my great riding. Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh is ready and eager to grow. We are ready, and have been waiting for someone to guide us on how to get to work. We are a resilient community, and under a McGuinty government we will diversify our economy and invest in our people.
As one of the ridings in Ontario with a minimal post-secondary-educated population, I am committed to making certain that the citizens of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh receive and have access to both quality education and funds to further their education.
Rural schools are in need of special care, as is exemplified at Rothwell-Osnabruck School in Ingleside, where children are taught from junior kindergarten to grade 12. With the previous government, the funding formula certainly put our rural schools in jeopardy, and some closed. As a former reeve of the township of South Stormont, I remember the times I attended meetings and fought for our schools, especially our rural schools, and for Rothwell-Osnabruck in particular.
Under a McGuinty government, my community applauds our caucus's commitment to working with communities, parents and children to ensure that our schools truly are the world's best.
Le gouvernement McGuinty va tenir ses promesses. Il va s'assurer que la communauté francophone de Cornwall et de toute la région de Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh reçoive la qualité d'éducation qui leur est due.
In Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, and indeed throughout Ontario, we are ecstatic that the McGuinty government is committed to all Ontario children, from preschool education opportunities to giving students a second chance, as with the alternative education at our T.R. Leger School.
At the post-secondary level there are some real restrictions for students from my riding. Without a degree-granting institution in the riding, many students who have wished to achieve a university degree have had difficulty in doing so. Many students have had dreams dashed because of lack of funds, compounded by the lack of affordable housing at post-secondary institutions. I strongly support, and will advocate for, our post-secondary institutions.
St Lawrence College in my riding, which offers students of my community the necessary skills training and education needed to boost our economy, is an institute with which I will continue to work with my utmost interest and support. I laud Volker Thomsen, president, and Patrick Finucan, executive director, for their vision of the future of renewable energy and the program initiated thereof, and I encourage them to continue with the vision to having this institute become a degree-granting facility.
Our government realizes that post-secondary education programs and education equal prosperity, and my riding anticipates the long-term plan that will ensure accessibility to post-secondary education for future generations.
In smaller communities there are unique challenges we must face in terms of providing health care services. Recruitment of health care personnel, as well as raising resources, is challenging. Our riding will rise to and has risen to this challenge. A case in point is the Winchester District Memorial Hospital in rural Dundas county, where almost $13 million has been raised in the Renewing the Vision Campaign. Moreover, in Cornwall, where the hospital governance issue has been resolved, we must move on with a made-in-Cornwall plan for acute and chronic long-term care, and cut through the previous government's red tape, which stalemated our hospital restructuring project.
Our government's commitment to health care and our pledge to keep private business out of the health care realm and invest in a new, fully government-funded facility in eastern Ontario are the key to providing quality universal care for both Ontarians and the people of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh. I celebrate this commitment and pledge to fight for all necessary health services for our community, such as home care and long-term care. In these two sectors of health care, we must work diligently and treat our seniors -- our frail and elderly -- and all others requiring such care with the compassion and dignity they deserve.
There has been much debate in this House over Ontario's energy future. Moving toward renewable energy sources and increasing conservation opportunities are of utmost importance in Ontario. Ensuring that Ontario, and Ontarians, have a sufficient supply of energy is a key component in our government's plan to stabilize and renew confidence in our energy sector.
Citizens of my riding have told me that our children and grandchildren must not be held hostage to the energy debt of the present generation and that we must work diligently to paying our way regarding energy costs. May I say too that my riding is eager to aid our government and the people of Ontario in improving the quality of the air we breathe and developing a new market for our corn producers. Citizens are eager to see our community's ethanol project come to fruition, and they look forward to contributing to this important project -- in fact, many have already done so.
Our agricultural communities deserve the respect and care from government and people who know and understand the producers of its bread and butter. They want to know, when crises occur, that the resources are in place to assist them and that the rules and regulations are firm but fair. As a case in point, the agricultural community knows that nutrient management is important to the producers and citizens of this great province. The agricultural community knows too that all Ontarians benefit from these new rules and all Ontarians should be part of the solution.
Evidently, the riding of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh is ready to grow under a McGuinty government. Being strategically placed in eastern Ontario and having the workforce, community and drive to change, we are prepared and equipped to become a genuine force in the Ontario economy. In order to truly grow, we must improve the transportation links to the hub that I alluded to at the beginning of my presentation. I shall work, as I have done in the past, with local communities, businesses, the chambers of commerce, city, county and township councils and Team Cornwall to ensure that our riding grows and prospers and that new and modern links are made in transportation and telecommunications. Under a McGuinty government, we will have the tools necessary to achieve our goals as a community: better social service and responsible governance.
My great-great-great grandfather, John Brownell, was elected in 1808 to the fifth Parliament of Upper Canada, representing the people of Osnabruck, a township that disappeared due to amalgamation in 1998. If I could just digress for a moment, it was in January 1998 during that horrendous ice storm that we brought together the township of Osnabruck and the township of Cornwall, where I had served as reeve. We saw those two communities and townships disappear, only to become the great township of South Stormont. Alluding to John Brownell, to say that governing in his time was demanding and arduous is almost certainly an understatement. But these great forefathers of ours paved the way for representing our riding and the people of Ontario, something that I hope one of my students or relatives may say some day of me.
I believe in change -- I said that during the campaign. I was proud to go out and express the thoughts that were contained in Excellence for All, Growing Strong Communities and the like. I believe our government will make a difference. I believed it then, I believed it on the campaign trail and I believe it now. I believe that we can and will renew confidence and work for Ontarians in order to deliver high-quality social services, fiscal responsibility and accountable government.
I look forward to my time here at Queen's Park. I look forward to my time here in the House. I look forward to working with my colleagues, so many of whom have welcomed me to this House and helped me to develop my questions during question period and in my work in presenting a bill to this House. I look forward to the years ahead as we work to fulfill the promises we made in those party platforms.
Mr Speaker, I thank you, I thank this House and I thank the people in this House. I look forward to working for Ontarians and the people of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh for the next four years.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): As a fellow new member, I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new member from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh for his maiden voyage here this evening. Incidentally, I was presented with a copy of the book, "Voices from the Lost Villages," at a recent engagement in Cornwall. I want to congratulate him on his work on that society as well. From the brief time I've had to interact with the member from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, I know he's going to be a strong contributor to this House for a long time.
As for his party's speech from the throne, I'm somewhat less charitable. You all know the story of Christopher Columbus. This speech from the throne reminds me of Christopher Columbus. You see, Christopher Columbus was the first Liberal. If you ask me why, I'll tell you: Christopher Columbus had no idea where he was going, and when he got there, he had no idea what he was going to do, but he did it all on other people's money. That's what this government wants to do with the throne speech they've presented to this House.
The honourable member talks about his municipality being the place where they tabled the pamphlet Building Strong Communities. Well, I believe that pamphlet must have got lost with those villages in the St Lawrence Seaway, because this government says nothing about rural Ontario in this throne speech. I for one am very concerned about where rural Ontario is going to stand on their list of priorities. I am a member who comes from a rural riding, and my constituents are worried about where they sit on the list of priorities with this government. I'll be articulating that on a continuous basis in the future.
Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): It was indeed a pleasure to listen to the maiden speech of the new member from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh. It was a good maiden speech. It was full of hope and full of promise and full of the vigour of a brand new member in this House. I congratulate him for still having that sense of hope and that sense of vigour after a month. It has not been knocked out of you yet, and I hope it never will be.
But as I listen to you, although I could remember back to my first days in this House, you said a couple of things that I think need to be commented on.
The first was your hope for education. We in this House, I believe, all have great hope for education. We all hope that the education our children and our grandchildren have in this province will be a much better education than those unfortunates who happen to have been in the school system for the last eight years. I hope you will be able to deliver a sense of purpose to the education system, and I hope your government will move very quickly to restore the funds, so that children can expect the same decency in education that they once had.
I listened to you talk about hospital health care. Of course, we in this House all believe we must have a much better hospital system. We have seen that hospital system, although it has received some small pittances over the last number of years, really decline as waiting lists grew, hospital staff grew fewer in number and people had to go to the United States or to other places to get the services they needed. I will tell you that we will work with you to do that.
Last but not least, I must mention that you talked about amalgamation. This is the very first time I have ever heard amalgamation of any towns or cities in this province lauded. I don't know what they have done, whether they did it right or wrong or the people really wanted it, but I will tell you it was far, far different from what I have ever heard before. I need to learn more about what went right in an amalgamation in Ontario, because we've never heard that before.
Mr John Wilkinson (Perth-Middlesex): On behalf of all the members of our caucus, I too want to congratulate the member for his maiden speech. I've learned more about your riding in the last few minutes than I knew. I think you've been able to share that with all of us.
It was interesting to hear the member of the loyal opposition talk about Christopher Columbus. I can only say, where would we all be without Columbus? I don't think any of us would be here. That's because Christopher Columbus was an interesting man. He decided to do something that conventional wisdom said could not be done. Every so often you have to change course, and people have told us they definitely want to see the course of this government change from that of previous governments of this province.
Particularly, I want to congratulate my colleague, who like myself is a new member, on being able to introduce his private member's bill. What a great honour for a new member, I'm sure all members of the House would agree, to have unanimous consent for a private member's bill so that this province will have Ontario Heritage Day in the month of June. I think that's a wonderful idea, and I think it's a testament to his ability to understand what we all are in this House and how we do want to work together on many issues.
I think I can tell the other members that the new member has a strong voice in our caucus. The people of his riding should know they've been able to elect somebody who articulates the position of his riding and that he's a very fair-minded person. In this place, that is an attribute -- there are many in this House who, I think, are not fair-minded but tend to be more partisan than fair. I know that in our new caucus we are looking for people who bring experience from their previous careers in municipal politics and other careers. On behalf of all of us, I just want to say, well done.
Mr Dunlop: I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the member from Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh on his maiden speech in the House. It reminded me a little bit -- if you get a chance to look in Hansard -- of when your predecessor, Mr Cleary, made his final statement in the House. He talked about his years in politics. I'd ask you to look this up at some point. One of the things I found amusing about that speech was that he actually said his wife wouldn't let him run for one more term -- if he ran again, he'd be campaigning alone, because she'd be working for the opposition. I really liked John Cleary, and I want to pass that on to you. He was a very valuable member of this Legislature, and as your predecessor, he's probably passed on a lot of valuable information to you.
I also got an opportunity to meet our candidate in that area, a fellow by the name Todd Lalonde. He seems like really nice guy, and I congratulate you on your victory over Todd. I did want to say, very briefly, that last year in the throne speech consultation we did in the spring, I was actually up in the Cornwall area, back in April and May, and did some throne speech consultations for then-Premier Eves. One of the things I thought I'd pass on to you was that the business community I talked to in the Cornwall area was very enthusiastic about a program our government put in place, the RED program, Rural Economic Development. I know some people from the economic development community were there and talked to us about the value of that program and how that was a major concern, keeping young people in that rural community. I hope you can carry on the tradition of John Cleary, and I look forward to your comments.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Brownell: I would first like to thank the members from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Beaches-East York, Perth-Middlesex and Simcoe North for their words of encouragement with regard to what I did in this House this evening. I appreciate that very much.
Just to take three words that the member from Beaches-East York mentioned, "sense of hope" -- yes, I came here with a sense of hope, and I still have a great sense of hope. Having been raised in a family of 12 children -- and yes, my mother is watching on television tonight back home -- I remember that she always instilled in us that drive and that desire and that sense of hope that, yes, we could do it.
I shall never wane in my desire to produce for my riding, to produce for Ontarians and to speak out on those issues that I feel are so important: those issues that were contained in Excellence for All; those issues that were contained in The Health Care We Need, my wife being a retired health care provider; and in Growing Strong Communities -- I shall never forget when Dalton McGuinty came to my riding to present Growing Strong Communities. There were great ideas. I know we have great financial burdens right now, and we will overcome those burdens and get on with what we have said we will do. Those planks are firm; we will carry on those planks. I look forward to working with my colleagues in delivering in the next four years.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Klees: I'm pleased to rise this evening and join the debate on the throne speech. I want, first of all, to say that I've enjoyed the presentations tonight, particularly the maiden speeches. It's refreshing to hear about the motivation behind everyone who comes to this place. I don't for a minute believe there's anyone in this place who doesn't come here with an absolute commitment and desire to make Ontario a better place. We all have that in common, regardless of which party we represent.
We do have a different way of getting there. There are different views; there are different philosophies; there are different attitudes toward economic policy and different attitudes toward social policy -- some we have had experience with in this province. We all well recall the years under the former Liberal and NDP regimes, which we refer to as the lost decade in Ontario, a period of time that took us through a lot of experiments in terms of public policy. What was learned through that period of time was that you couldn't be all things to all people. As much as you might want to continue to feed special interest groups and as much as you might want to respond to demands for additional resources by various well-meaning groups, there are limited resources in this province. As a result, we have to be careful where we spend our money. That's a responsibility that governments have.
We had the opportunity as well in this province, between 1995 and 2003, to have a government that believed very firmly in fiscal responsibility: We could not spend more than we had, and we had to rein in a lot of the demands and a lot of the spending that would otherwise have continued. That government, of which I was proud to be a part, also believed very strongly in social responsibility: For those people who cannot help themselves, there is in fact a responsibility on the part of government to look after their needs.
As we look at those eight years of Conservative government in this province, it's very interesting to see that spending on health care increased by billions of dollars, spending on education increased by billions of dollars -- there was no neglect of those needs in this province.
Mr Klees: The Minister of Education, who is here tonight, laughs at that. I ask him to look very carefully at precisely where the investments took place in the last number of years in this province. The priorities were health care and education, and there is evidence of that across this province.
I find the throne speech we're debating tonight interesting. I'm going to read directly from the throne speech that was read to us by the Lieutenant Governor. Here's what the throne speech, no doubt authored by the Premier's office, said: "There have been pulls on the seams in our social fabric -- but this fabric has refused to tear." Precisely. And why did it refuse to tear? Because of the strength in this province, a very strong province. It didn't gather that strength by accident. It was a result of eight strong years in this province, fiscally responsible government that gave this province the strength and the stability to withstand some of those tears that came our way.
I read on: "There have been challenges to the health of our economy -- but this economy remains strong." This, after eight years of Conservative government in this province. Even the Lieutenant Governor, in reading the throne speech, no doubt authored by Dalton McGuinty and his advisors, had to admit that while there were challenges to the economic health of this province, nevertheless this economy remains strong.
"There have been those," the throne speech continues, " who would dismiss our values as out of date -- but these values have proven timeless." Indeed they have. The values that we speak of in this province, that in fact have made this province great, are the values of a belief in the responsibility that individuals have in our society to do what they can do to look after their own needs; the values of a work ethic, that those who have the ability to work must in fact do that to contribute to society; the values of the opportunity to create wealth, not for the sake of creating wealth but for the good you can do through the creation of wealth; the values of social responsibility, that we indeed look after those who cannot help themselves, as that's the role of the collective, of government. Those values have been time-honoured in this province. We, over eight years, in fact strengthened our economy in a very carefully designed economic strategy that would free up the economy, that would allow those entrepreneurs and those corporations and those businesses that choose to do business in this province to invest so that additional jobs were created, so that the many who were not able to find work in those years leading up to 1995 could find jobs.
There were many thousands of people -- I remind the people not only here in the Legislature but across this province -- who, prior to 1995 and before a strategy that actually recognized how important it was to create a competitive environment so that businesses would invest here and would be prepared to expand so that jobs would be created, were trapped on welfare. Those shackles were taken off those people through what? Through the creation of jobs so that now those people have the opportunity to earn an income. They have the dignity of a job. They continue to contribute to this strong economy that this throne speech referred to.
I find it interesting that in the course of this election campaign, many, in fact all of the members opposite on the government side -- I'm certain that as they read those campaign commitments, as they travelled across their constituencies, they believed 100% that the promises they were making to the people of this province would be kept. And no doubt that's why they were passionate about carrying that message across their constituencies.
It would be very interesting to know what is going on in the minds of members of the backbench of the government as they hear their Premier and their finance minister and many of their cabinet now put the spin on the story as to why those commitments made in the course of the election campaign can't be kept.
I put a challenge out to members of the government backbench. Don't be drawn into the spin you're being given. What they're coming to realize is that that huge book of promises that was written was written by the same people who are now spinning them into excuses for not keeping those promises. This election campaign, on the part of this Liberal Party, was the biggest set-up that this province has ever seen. "Tell them what they want to hear. Tell them anything at all that will get their attention so they'll vote for you. Then, by the way, don't worry about it. We'll have an excuse as to why we can't deliver."
But the people of this province are catching on. Those excuses are wearing thin, because people are taking the time -- whether it's a corporation, a small business or a large business in this province, or even a household -- and are realizing, "We're only halfway through the fiscal year. How can these people tell us that there is a fiscal deficit when we still have five months to go to the end of the fiscal year?"
There isn't a business person in this province who, having incurred unexpected expenses in the course of doing business, doesn't understand that you then, before the end of the fiscal year, take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that by the time you get to the end of the fiscal year you have a balanced budget, that your books are balanced, whether that's in your business or in your household.
In Ontario's case -- I think it's important for people in Ontario to understand this -- we had some unexpected challenges that we faced as the government of the day. There was SARS.
Mr Klees: The Minister of Education sarcastically says, "Excuses." As one who will be responsible for teaching character education, he should know that the first thing he should do is be honest with the people of this province and not refer to SARS as an excuse but as a reality that this government had to deal with. Many people across this province suffered, and for him to be sarcastic about that issue is shameful. That was precisely a challenge that we had to face, at a cost of many millions of dollars to this province.
Another challenge our government faced was mad cow disease. A third challenge we faced was the West Nile virus. In addition to that, we had an electricity blackout that affected the entire northeastern seaboard of this continent.
So with all these unexpected expenses, what was the challenge that the government of the day faced? Indeed, they had the challenge of looking to the end of the fiscal year and saying, "How do we balance the books, given all these unexpected expenses?"
I can tell you what our plan was. As a member who sat at the cabinet table, as a caucus member -- and you yourself will remember, Speaker, because you were there -- we understood that we had significant challenges. There wasn't a cabinet minister who was not given the responsibility to go back to their ministry to do a program review and to come in with a plan that would be that ministry's contribution to resolving the issue before the end of the fiscal year.
When we made the statement in the course of our election campaign that the budget would be balanced, it was said with the full commitment that we were prepared to take the courageous decisions to do exactly that.
In this House even today, earlier, I asked the question of the Premier: Did he at any time give direction to his Minister of Finance and to the ministers of the crown to go to work and to bring in a fiscal plan that would balance the budget at the end of this year? On six different occasions I asked the question in six different ways in question period today. Not once was the Premier of this province capable of saying, "Yes, I instructed my Minister of Finance to come in with a balanced budget by the end of the year."
Why? Can you for one minute imagine why the Premier would not have charged his Minister of Finance with that responsibility, given that he made the commitment on the campaign trail that he would balance the budget?
Members of the backbench of this government know full well why. They're starting to understand the strategy of the Liberal Party as it took them for a ride through the election campaign. Not one of the backbenchers of this Liberal government clued in at any point along the way. If they had, they would have bailed, because I believe they're all honourable members.
What they are coming to realize is that they were taken for a ride. They were told in this book of promises, "We will deliver this to the people of Ontario." They now are realizing that they have to go back to their constituents and make an explanation as to why what was being promised would never be capable of being delivered. It's a sad day, because each day as these members come into this place they realize that they have made a commitment to their constituents that they can't keep and that the people on the front benches knew they couldn't keep. That's a hard road, my friends. You've got four years left of trying to justify that to your constituents. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. You may be in the government, but I can tell you, the record you will have four years from now will be very difficult to justify.
As to the fat cats that you say you have rolled back tax deductions for, the fat cats that you're increasing corporate taxes for, I ask you to remember that those fat cats are your neighbours. Those so-called fat cats are people who employ your children and who create jobs for graduating students in this province. You will find out what happens when the tax environment in this province becomes uncompetitive with our competing jurisdictions. You heard the federal Prime Minister say just this week that no, he will not roll back tax deductions, and in making that statement, he made it very clear why. He made it very clear that he believes that Canada's tax environment must be competitive not only with our neighbouring jurisdictions but globally.
I submit to you that this throne speech that we're debating today had it absolutely right when, in its preamble, it made reference to the strong values of Ontario, made reference to the fact that we have a very strong economy and made reference to the fact that the people of this province have values that have stood the test of time. What this throne speech, however, continues to do -- and in the ensuing days to that throne speech, we have come to realize that this government never had any intention of keeping these promises. This throne speech, I believe, will be the government members' worst nightmare, and the reason for that is that the well-intentioned promises that were made here are being broken one day at a time.
The people of this province will not forget that the very political party that said, "We are going to do politics differently. We will open it up. We will make it obvious to people in this province that we will do politics differently" -- they have. They are doing it very differently from our government over a period of eight years.
One thing that people had said and continue to say about the eight years of government under a Conservative Party in this province is, "I may not have agreed with everything they did, but I respect the fact that they did what they said they were going to do." The legacy of the Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty will be that, "They promised us the world and gave us nothing but broken promises." The people of this province will not forget.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bruce Crozier): Questions and comments?
Mr Prue: As always, it is a pleasure to listen to the member from Oak Ridges. He speaks very well. He is erudite. He is not always passionate in what he says, but he is always clear and articulate. But there were two things he talked about that I really feel I must comment on.
The first one was about the hydro system and the blackout and about how he and his government at the time found themselves in the situation of an almost universal blackout on the east coast of North America. But the reality is that his government had to take at least some of the blame for that blackout. Although it originated in the United States, we were at that time importing hydro, we were at that time totally tied into the grid, we were at that time unable to supply our own domestic demands, and we found ourselves, when they went down, going down with them.
It is instructive to note that the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec, which were both exporting hydro at that time, did not find themselves in anywhere near the same dilemma -- in fact, found themselves in no dilemma at all. I think that history must bear witness to the fact that when you find yourself deficient, as that government made us, you have the consequences.
The second comment I have to make is on his budget, where he admonished this new government for not being able to come to terms with a $5.6-billion deficit in some five months in the balance of this fiscal year. He said that you should have been courageous. Well, I really must state for the record that yes, you could be courageous if you dealt with that, but I would suggest that the Conservatives would have been even more courageous had they, in the weeks and months leading up to the election, admitted that they were running a $5.6-billion deficit. Had they told the people of Ontario what they were willing to cut, had they told the people what they were willing to do, had they told the people what taxes they were going to need to raise -- I would suggest that that should have been part of the statement as well.
Mr Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I thank the member from Oak Ridges for his analysis of the government's throne speech. The member from Oak Ridges is a man of conviction. He is a man of passion for what he believes in and in what he represents. The member from Oak Ridges truly believes every word he says. The people of Ontario believe otherwise. The people of Ontario chose change and they chose change in a government of men and women capable of delivering that change and of formulating it and delivering it over the next four years.
The member addresses the new members. He asks us to consider what he calls the platform we have inherited. I have had the privilege of sitting through the policy sessions in which that platform came together. I know how that platform came together. I participated in those discussions. I contributed some of those ideas. That is my platform. Those are the ideals I believe in. Those are the things I stood for. Those are the things that voters in Mississauga West voted for.
The member talks about keeping promises. The member refers to the promises that the former government kept. Did the previous government promise to close hospitals? They surely did. Did they promise to look the other way as our drinking water and our meat went bad? They surely did. Did they promise to keep the weakest members of our society down or to make sure that our elderly lived in nursing homes that are a disgrace? This surely happened on their watch. Did the previous government promise to hand over nuclear inspection to a private company that assembles components for the very reactors that they now ask it to oversee? This they surely did.
This is a new government, a government that comes in with hope and promise, and a government that will, over four years, deliver on those promises to the people of Ontario.
Mr Yakabuski: I too want to thank the member for Oak Ridges for his comments and analysis on the throne speech. The member for Oak Ridges has a great deal of experience and understanding of what has happened in this province in the past several years. I think the members on the opposite side would do well to listen to him.
This government's throne speech, and I'll paraphrase part of it, says, "We didn't get the job we wanted." What this government really wants is to be on the opposition side so it can freewheel and not accept the responsibilities that have been bestowed upon it by the people of Ontario. It wants to bury its head in the sand and keep running and hiding from its responsibilities. Well, it's time to fess up. It's time to accept the job. It's there. You've got to stand up and do it now. You've got to stop talking about this phony deficit. You're basing everything on this phony $5.6 billion that you are using as a justification for every broken promise.
When Mike Harris was elected in 1995, his throne speech pretty much mirrored the platform that he ran on. This throne speech is a complete abdication of the platform that you ran on and won the favour of the people of the province of Ontario on. It's a complete 180-degree turn. Now we're going to be talking about --
Mr Yakabuski: Look, they even have to talk about that when someone else is speaking. The $5.6 billion is a phony number. They're just using it. They've got to get on with the job and make sure that by March 31, 2004, this budget can be balanced. Fess up to the people of Ontario.
Mr Bisson: I listened in my office and was paying attention to my good friend Mr Klees in regard to his comments. I just want to say up front -- I've said this in this debate already -- the Tories can try all they want to say that the Liberals didn't have a deficit when they came to office, but the reality is that there was. You guys can cut that any way you try, but at the end of the day I agree partly with what the Liberals are saying, that the Tories, in the budget of last spring, first of all tried to do a budget outside of this House, they tried to do a budget at Magna. That blew up in your faces. The reason you wanted to be out at Magna was because you were trying to control the message. When you finally were forced to bring a budget to this House, that budget eventually went to the estimates committee. I sat there, along with Mr Phillips, now Chair of Management Board, who said that the budget was at least $5 billion as a deficit at that point.
Mr Bisson: Well, I agree with the Liberals. The Liberals are right: There was a deficit left by the Tories. The difference in the deficit as projected from the spring is a difference of from $5 billion to $5.6 billion. There was a deficit; you can't run away from that.
I do agree with the one point, that there are many things inside this throne speech that quite frankly are motherhood and apple pie when it comes to the Tories, and I just say, a Liberal is a Tory, a Tory is a Liberal, same thing -- no difference where I come from. Where I think it's rather unfortunate -- and I do agree with the member -- is that the Liberals are trying to hide behind the so-called deficit in order to not deliver on their campaign promises. That's what this is all about. We all know that the Liberals are saying, "Oh God, we didn't know there was a deficit." Come on, who didn't know there was a deficit? The Tories were trying to hide it. The Liberals acknowledged it. We acknowledged it. The think-tanks around the province acknowledged it. What this is all about is an attempt by the Liberals to not deliver on their campaign promises and to hide behind the Tories as they do so.
The Acting Speaker: Response from the member from Oak Ridges.
Mr Klees: I want to thank my colleagues for their comments. With regard to the member from Mississauga West, I fully respect that he and others were involved in developing the platform. That wasn't the issue. There are many things in that platform that are excellent policies. The point I was making is that those who understood what in fact the resources of the province were knew full well that they would never be able to deliver on those promises. That is the issue; that's the point I was making, which obviously the member missed.
I thank the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for his comments. One of the things we will continue to do is remind the people of this province that the $5.6-billion number that is constantly being drummed by this government is in fact a phony number. It is being used by the government to justify, as the member for Timmins-James Bay said, not keeping those promises. Somehow this Liberal government has forgotten about SARS, the multi-millions of dollars that it cost this province to deal with that issue -- by the way, the report that was being made, the Peters report, didn't take into consideration any of the funds that should have been and rightfully will be transferred from the federal government to the province, and all of the other issues. We never said there was not, at the time, a deficit; we said that there will be a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year. Yes, a lot of those additional costs had in fact caused challenges. We were going to balance the budget by the end of the fiscal year. This government has a responsibility to balance the budget at the end of the fiscal year, rather than to stand behind this phony, bogus $5.6-billion deficit --
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): Thank you, Speaker, and I even thank some of the opposition members for being here.
Mr Hampton: Well, some of the opposition members are here, and there are even a few of the government members, strange as that may seem.
I'm quite pleased to participate in this debate, because there's actually a lot that needs to be said. The first issue I want to deal with is that the Conservatives deny there is a budget deficit, and the Liberals claim to be surprised there's a budget deficit. No one should be surprised. I remember sitting in the estimates committee with the now Chair of Management Board, then a Liberal finance critic, who literally went through the numbers. He pointed out that an $800-million contribution from the federal government for health care was not a foregone conclusion. He added up the SARS number; estimated it at about $700 million. He agreed with me that a 1% drop in economic growth would mean a further $640-million loss. He agreed with me that there was $2 billion in the former government's budget that was supposed to be asset sales, supposed to be the sale of Hydro One, but we knew the announcement of the sale of Hydro One wasn't going to happen before the election. He and I agreed that there were $700 million of in-year savings that hadn't been found. When you add all these numbers up, he said, there's a risk of a $5-billion deficit. That was on June 3 of this year.
The now Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Mr Kwinter, told the Toronto Sun in August that it looked like there was at least a $5-billion deficit. The Fraser Institute, no friends of mine, friends of yours and friends of yours, came out in the middle of the election campaign and said there's a deficit of at least $4.5 billion. So for Conservatives to say, "There is no deficit" doesn't hold water. But equally, for Liberals to say, "Oh, what a surprise. There's a $5-billion deficit" doesn't hold water either. All kinds of people, at least two people who are Liberal cabinet ministers now, knew there was a $5-billion deficit, and your good friends, the Fraser Institute, indicated there was at least a budget deficit of $4.5 billion.
There's another reason why no one should be surprised that there's a budget deficit: There was a projected budget deficit last year. And how were the Conservatives going to deal with it? They were going to deal with it by asset sales of over $2 billion and then some other in-year savings. When the sale of Hydro One didn't materialize, what the former government did is they took all of the so-called Romanow commission health care money that was to be accounted for over three or four years and they jammed it all into the 2002-03 budget to take away the reality of a budget deficit and to give the appearance of a balanced budget.
Go back a couple of years before that; go back to 1999. In 1999, it was apparent that there was a budget problem, and so what the former government did then is they sold off Highway 407 for $3 billion and jammed all that money into one year in the budget, again to give the appearance of a balanced budget.
Sorry, folks. You can't say you're surprised that there was a budget deficit and you can't say you were surprised that it was a $5-billion budget deficit. There were lots of warnings -- warnings from Gerry Phillips, warnings from Monte Kwinter, warnings from the Fraser Institute. It's not going to wash.
On this side of the House, speaking for New Democrats, we understand the problem you're in. Having promised the sun, the moon and the stars during the election campaign, but also having promised, "We won't raise your taxes," and then having signed that silly taxpayer protection pledge, you're in a bind. You've got to find some convenient excuse to cover up the fact that you're not going to do any of these things. So the surprise $5-billion deficit comes in handy.
I want to be very direct with people: That might get you out of a jam for the next five or six months, but it's not going to get you out of a jam for the next four years. The reality is this: If you look around North America, at other jurisdictions that went down the road of "A tax cut is the answer for every problem," they're all in serious budget difficulties now. George Bush took over as President of the United States three years ago with a $200-billion surplus, immediately implemented the "A tax cut is the answer for every problem" agenda, and now he is looking at a $400-billion-plus deficit, so a reversal of $600 billion in less than three years. That's just one of the examples.
There are 44 states in the United States that went down the "A tax cut is the answer for every problem" road, and there are now 44 states in the United States that are laying off teachers, laying off firefighters, laying off police officers, laying off nurses. They've got the same problem. They signed on to the taxpayer protection pledge, the same one you guys signed on to. For everyone out there who may be watching tonight, here is the conundrum that the new Liberal government faces. They promised -- in fact, I remember Mr McGuinty, with a big smile on his face, standing beside John Williamson. You know John Williamson, who usually speaks for the -- well, they were called Reform, then Canadian Alliance, now the Canadian Conservative Party. I remember Mr McGuinty standing there beside Mr Williamson signing the pledge that he would not raise any taxes and he would balance the budget. Somebody should have read for Mr McGuinty on that day, and read for Liberals, the fine print that comes along with that pledge, because the Canadian Taxpayers Federation spells out, when you read the fine print, all the things that go along with the pledge.
Hon James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): What do they say?
Mr Hampton: They say you should privatize health care. Oh, yes. I think that's where these P3 hospitals, the Liberal version of the P3 hospitals, comes in. They say that you should privatize a whole bunch of other services, like hydroelectricity. They say that you should implement cuts to a number of other social investments. That's the fine print that goes along with the Canadian taxpayers pledge that you signed. To draw the picture even a little more sharply, despite having promised that you'll put money into schools and cap class sizes, and despite having promised that you will put money into colleges and universities, into protecting water, into hiring 8,000 nurses, and into a number of other areas, you signed the Canadian taxpayers pledge, which says that you'll cut these things. In order to get a balanced budget, you'll cut, you'll privatize health care, you'll privatize things like hydroelectricity, you'll privatize other essential public services. That's your conundrum.
You may be able to hide behind your surprise at a $5-billion deficit, as I say, for the next six months, but it won't last much longer than that. Sooner or later, you're going to have to say to the people of Ontario which pledge was the real pledge: the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pledge, which involves more P3 hospitals, selling off essential services like hydroelectricity, privatizing water? Which one will it be? Will it be more privatization or will it be more public investment? If it's going to be more public investment, where do you find the money? I too remember the ad that said, "I won't cut your taxes, but I won't raise your taxes."
That's where this debate is now going to unfold. I simply want to lay out for the people of Ontario what I think the new government should do, and what New Democrats are going to prod them to do.
Let's start from fundamental principles. The reality of living in the 21st century is this: Societies now are more highly organized than ever. You cannot operate large cities like Toronto or Hamilton or Ottawa or London or even Windsor without a public transit system. Telling people that everyone should rely on a car and find their own method of transportation is simply going to lead to all kinds of transportation inefficiency, all kinds of economic costs and all kinds of environmental and social costs. The best way to organize transportation in large urban populations is through public transit, public transportation, getting people to move by subways, by buses, by streetcars, by GO trains, whatever. But that is going to require public investment.
Similarly with health care. We have essentially two choices in Ontario on the provision of health care. One choice is outlined for us in the United States. It is the choice which says that everyone is on their own, everyone has to find their own insurance. Those who can't afford it do without. Those who can afford it will pay sky-high private health insurance rates and, in many cases, get an inferior product. That's the private route. Some people who advocate the private route also advocate the P3 hospitals, advocate private home care, advocate more and more private long-term care, all of which we saw under the previous government, and which we're now seeing under your government.
The other option for health care is to recognize that we're all in this together, that health care is not an optional service, that it's absolutely essential for an organized society, and to recognize that the best way to do this, the most cost effective, the most efficient and fairest way to do it, is through a public system operating on a not-for-profit basis, where we all make a contribution through our taxes, but the benefit that we get individually and collectively is much greater than the contribution we may make through our taxes. Obviously, as a New Democrat I think the second choice -- a public, not-for-profit system -- is the best way to go. But one of the things that the people of Ontario will have to watch over the next year, year and a half, two years is which choice you make.
The P3 hospitals are instructive here. People across Ontario need to watch these carefully, because I suspect that what we're going to get from the Liberal government is an announcement of more P3 hospitals. I want to say that the P3 hospitals are not novel. One of the first things that Margaret Thatcher did in Britain after her Conservative government took power there was to move away from public provision of health care, public financing of hospitals to private financing of the hospitals. Now in Britain there's at least a 10-year record of experience with private hospitals.
What they have found in Britain with the P3 hospitals, which are privately financed -- a private corporation finances them, and many of the services that are operated are operated on a private, profit-driven basis -- is that when you look back at the end of, say, a 10-year or 15-year period, you actually end up paying for the hospital twice. What that means for patient care, if you have to pay for the hospital twice because it's privately financed and because there are all kinds of profit measures in the hospital, is that you've denied a lot of money that should have gone to patient care.
The Conservative version of a P3 hospital in Ontario was essentially a lease-purchase. A private corporation would arrange for the financing and would pay a very high interest rate. A private corporation would build. They would want to make a profit on the financing. They would want to make a profit on the lease. They would want to have, in the operation of the hospital, a number of privatized services, all of which were supposed to make a profit.
When you added in the additional financing costs, because a private corporation cannot get as good an interest rate as government can, and then you add in all of the profit-taking -- on the lease, on the privatized services -- you could very quickly see that that lease-purchase model of a P3 hospital, within 10 or 15 years, was going to cost the health care budget of Ontario double. In other words, it would be a bad deal for health care. You would be taking more and more money out of patient care and putting it into the corporate profit line or the corporate financing line, money not going to patients, money going to corporate profits instead.
One of the promises you made was that you were going to eliminate the P3 hospitals. But what we find now is that you haven't eliminated the P3 hospitals. What you did is you took the Conservative lease-purchase, with private financing and lots of private services, and you simply converted it into a mortgage, with lots of private financing and profit being made on the mortgage and on the other privatized services. The only thing that's changed is you took the Conservative lease-purchase and turned it into a Liberal mortgage, but otherwise all of the privatization continues, which means, once again, that when we look at those deals 10 or 15 years from now, we'll discover that they've cost the public twice as much to build those hospitals -- money being taken from patient care to feed the corporate profit line.
I don't think this makes any sense. In fact, I think it's a really bad precedent to create, and it's very bad to be taking money that should be going toward patient care and putting it toward the corporate profit line.
I just want people across Ontario to know that I suspect that over the next five months or six months, we are going to see the announcement of several more Liberal P3 hospitals. They'll be complete with the private financing. The private financier will want to make money on the financing deal -- they'll want to make profit off that -- they'll want to make a profit off the longer term of the mortgage, and they'll want to make a profit on any of the privatized services. I suspect we're going to see more Liberal P3 hospitals. The only difference between a Liberal P3 hospital and a Conservative P3 hospital is Conservatives set up a 20-year or 25-year lease-purchase; Liberals are going to set up a 20-year or 25-year mortgage. But, otherwise, it remains exactly the same -- more and more patient care going toward the corporate profit line, which is wrong for health care.
The other interesting aspect of this, of course, is going to be on the operation of long-term care. What we saw under the Conservatives was essentially that the not-for-profit aspects of long-term care got no money. Virtually all of the new funding went to the profit-driven corporations. It's going to be very interesting to see if any of that changes under a Liberal government. I want you to know we'll be watching very carefully.
In the past, what I have found is that the same corporations that used to give a lot of money to the Conservatives when the Conservatives were in power, just roll over and give a lot of money to the Liberals as soon as a Liberal government is elected. But they expect Liberals to provide the same kinds of deals that the Conservatives did. The experience around here in the last 16 years has been that, indeed, Liberals do that. So we're going to be watching this very carefully.
The other aspect of this, of course, is the privatization of home care. One of the things we'll be watching is to see -- will you do anything to reverse the Conservative move to turn home care over to private, profit-driven corporations? What we saw under the Conservatives is that the Red Cross has virtually been eliminated everywhere. Red Cross was a community-based, not-for-profit deliverer of home care services. Victorian Order of Nurses, a not-for-profit, community-based deliverer of nursing services and home care -- what we saw under the Conservatives is basically all of that was eliminated. Most of it was turned over to profit-driven, private corporations.
Other provinces have done this. Manitoba, under the Conservatives, started down that road. But they were required to, in fact, do an evaluation. The evaluation that was done in Manitoba of private, profit-driven home care -- home care provided by private corporations with a profit motive -- showed that it was a very inefficient system, it was not very cost-effective, and it also showed that once the private, profit-driven companies got their hands on the system, they immediately set to work lowering the wages of the home care providers and rationing the actual provision of service to patients.
The external evaluator said that the experience of Manitoba was this: The government ended up paying more for home care; more of the public money that went into the home care budget wound up supporting the profit line and the salaries of people who were heading up the corporation; the actual workers who provided home care had their wages cut; and patients who received home care found, increasingly, that services were being rationed. So in terms of what it did for the public, it was a very negative experience; in terms of what it did for home care patients, it was an especially negative experience. You get less home care; the quality of the home care is reduced; you get trained workers and trained nurses leaving the system because they recognize the system is losing its integrity; and more of the money in the home care budget is going to the corporate profit line, yet it's costing the public more money to provide even reduced services.
One of the things we'll be watching is, are the Liberals going to continue down the road that the Conservatives set? Profit-driven, private home care? I suspect you are. In fact, I very strongly suspect that that's where you're headed.
The next element of this will be the private MRIs, private CAT scans. I know that you promised before the election that you were going to get rid of the private MRIs, private CAT scans. I'm struck by the silence over there. I'm struck by the fact that nothing has happened. I would have thought that if you were going to get out of these contracts, you would have done it right away, before it costs you a lot more money. The fact that nothing has happened so far indicates to me that we're not going to see this, or, if we do see it at all, it's going to be very limited in its extent. In other words, we're likely to see more private MRIs, more private CAT scans in Ontario.
The next part of this I want to raise, because it too needs to be debated and thought about, is the whole issue of the environment. Having been around here for a while, I remember that the idea of privatizing water was not a Conservative idea. In fact, the Peterson government of 1987, 1988 and 1989 was seriously looking at privatizing certain aspects of water.
I know that the member for St Catharines would deny any personal involvement in this. That's why, as we understood it, this was all being organized under municipal affairs and it was going to be kept away from the then environment minister.
When we were elected in 1990 -- there's a certain file in the government that's called "projects underway" or "work underway," and one of the things that was underway under the Peterson Liberals was a strategy to turn many aspects of water delivery over to private corporations. I'm going to be very intrigued and watch as this government revives the ideas of the Peterson government in terms of more privatization of certain aspects of water.
Once again, those of us who've been around know that privatizing water is going to add more cost. It is going to result in all kinds of user fees, copayment fees, administrative fees, and the result for citizens, for taxpayers, will be much, much more expensive delivery of water and, also likely, much less reliability. But it will be interesting to see how this government that said, "Under no circumstances will taxes be raised," deals with that challenge.
I recite again, you should have read the fine print of that Canadian Taxpayers Federation pledge before you signed it, because it talks about water privatization, it talks about transit privatization, it specifically raises the issue of hospital and health care privatization. I just want people across Ontario to know that these are the issues that are actually in play under this government at this time.
Then there's the whole issue of the Oak Ridges moraine. Now, I remember that promise. That promise was repeated ad infinitum. It was repeated before the election, during the election and after the election. Then there was the nervous statement by the new Minister of Municipal Affairs when he said, "I guess we must have been naïve. The Liberal government must have been naïve when it promised to stop development on the Oak Ridges moraine." No, I don't think you were naïve; I think it's a simple case that you had one story before the election and then you were looking for an excuse to totally change your story after the election.
I simply want people to know that the development industry and the behaviour of developers in Ontario is very similar to some of the health care corporations. When there's a Conservative government in power, they contribute generously to the Conservative Party in exchange for certain development rules.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bruce Crozier): Order. Just one second. The member for Kenora-Rainy River was struck by the silence before. I think the level has come up a bit, so perhaps we could bring it back down.
Mr Hampton: Speaker, I didn't know you were here.
The Deputy Speaker: Just try me and you'll find out that I am here, yes.
Mr Hampton: Speaker, sometimes you tease the bears, and there are a few bears in the audience tonight.
Let's go back to Patti Starr and the development industry. The reality of the relationship between the developers and Conservatives and Liberals is this: When the Conservatives form the government, developers contribute generously to the Conservative Party in hope of getting development laws that work for them. The developers who are left behind and don't get on the gravy train funnel information to opposition Liberals telling them how bad the development deals are. When Liberals get elected, developers historically have contributed a lot of money financially to Liberals, and the developers who somehow don't get on the gravy train then give lots of information to the opposition Conservatives complaining about how bad the development deals are. I suspect that's really what happened on the Oak Ridges moraine. A really determined government could have stepped in and said, "We are stopping this." Yes, it would have cost you some money. That was a consideration. I suspect that the really important consideration is that you wanted to maintain a good relationship with those developers, especially a good financial relationship with those developers, in terms of contributions in the future.
But we will watch what goes on in Pickering and we will watch some of the other development issues. Believe me, if we see any more free fridges, then we'll know that Patti Starr is alive and well and still well connected.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Don't go there. We'll talk about your five years and the scandals you had.
Mr Hampton: Any time, any time.
The other issue I want to raise here is of course hydro rates, hydroelectricity. I must confess, it is very difficult to pin down the Liberal Party over the last three years as to exactly what their position was with respect to hydroelectricity. Going back to 1991, they were absolutely 100% onside with the Conservatives that privatization and deregulation of hydroelectricity was the thing to do. That position continued throughout 1991 into 1992. In fact, I remember that when the then Premier, Mike Harris, announced in early December 1991 that he intended to privatize both Hydro One, the transmission system, and Ontario Power Generation, the then Liberal leader, now Premier, said absolutely, that he fully supported privatizing both the transmission system, which is Hydro One, and the generation system, which is Ontario Power Generation.
The interesting thing is that since then we have seen a number of waffles in the Liberal position. The Liberal position, depending on the audience it was being spoken to, has sometimes been in favour of full privatization; at other times it has been in favour of privatization of generation but not transmission; at other times it has been in favour of some privatization of generation but not full privatization. So it's very, very difficult to know where you're at.
Now the Liberals are the government. I've been trying, through reading the minister's speeches and looking at the legislation that they have so far presented, to figure out where they're at today. What is the Liberal policy with respect to hydroelectricity? Is it public ownership? Is it some public, some private? Is it full private? What it seems to be, when you look at it, is more or less what the Conservative position was when they left office, that is, that you continue to move toward privatization, continue the deregulated wholesale market. But then you have some phony rate caps sort of layered on top of everything to hide from the electricity consumers of Ontario what is actually happening. That's what the Conservatives were doing and it certainly seems, when you look at it, that that is what the Liberal government is doing.
I simply want everyone to know that that strategy wasn't working for the Conservatives and it's not likely to work for the Liberals. It hasn't worked for Ralph Klein in Alberta. Mr Klein professes to be a full-fledged supporter of deregulation and privatization, except he keeps pushing back the date. He keeps pushing off the day of reckoning, when deregulation will be fully implemented and when he forces cities like Edmonton and Calgary and Medicine Hat to sell off their municipal hydro utilities. Of course, we all know about the fiasco in California. California is busy trying to re-regulate and in fact busy trying to re-establish the public element of its hydroelectricity system.
It will be very interesting to watch. What seems to be indicated right now is that the Liberals are more or less going to continue the hydroelectricity policy that we saw from the Conservatives. I simply want people to recognize that when the Conservatives started down this road with Liberal support back in 1998-99, they said that privatization/deregulation would result in lower costs for hydroelectricity; they said it would result in cleaner air; they said it would result in new supply; and they said it would result in a more reliable system. Here we are in 2003, almost five years later, and if people look at their hydro bill and compare it with their hydro bill in 1999-2000, the hydro bill in most cases has almost doubled and in some cases has doubled. There is no new supply; in fact, there's becoming a chronic problem of supply. There is no cleaner air; in fact, the dirty coal generators are running longer than ever and more intensively than ever, and much of the electricity that we are now importing from the United States is electricity produced from dirty coal. And as to reliability, I think everyone knows the lights went out, and the lights could go out again. That is where the Liberal and Conservative fascination with hydro privatization and deregulation has delivered us in Ontario so far.
I believe the evidence grows stronger everywhere that hydroelectricity is an essential service. We all need it; we need it every day, and the best way, the most cost-effective way, the most efficient way, the most environmentally responsible way to provide that essential service is through a public not-for-profit system. We will see over the next six to nine months, year, year and a half, exactly where the Liberals are going to go, but the initial indication is that they're simply going to follow the Conservative policy and implement a Liberal rate cap, substitute it for a Conservative rate cap.
Then there is the issue of how the Liberals will provide 8,000 new nurses -- not only 8,000 new nurses, but replace the nurses who are due to retire in the next couple of years. The reality is, when you look at the demographic studies that have been made, that there are thousands of nurses who are going to retire over the next few years. This will be quite a challenge. When you then factor in the aging of the population and the growth in population and the fact that our seniors are living longer, the equation becomes even more interesting.
Then, when you factor in the footnotes to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pledge, the pledge which your leader, now Premier, signed, of course the footnotes say that the way to deal with this is to turn over health care to private, profit-driven corporations. This is all going to make for an interesting mix, a very interesting mix.
Hon Mr Bradley: I hope you have a good Christmas, Howie, so you aren't so cranky when you get back.
Mr Hampton: I think I've touched a nerve with the member from St Catharines. He doesn't like me reciting the footnotes that went along with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pledge. He doesn't want me to remind you of what you actually signed on to. He doesn't want me to remind you that all the Liberals who were in this House voted for the then Conservative government's Taxpayer Protection Act -- the same Taxpayer Protection Act that you're now saying is phony; the same Taxpayer Protection Act that you're now saying doesn't make any sense; the same Taxpayer Protection Act that you're now saying is ridiculous. You all voted for it. Not only did you vote for it once, but you voted for it on second reading, you voted for it on third reading and you went out there and supported it from one end of the province to the other. That's where you're at.
In the time remaining, I just want to talk about what I believe the agenda needs to be. I think I've outlined for everyone the fact that the Liberals are in two places at once. On the one hand they're saying they sign on to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's taxpayer protection pledge, with all of the footnotes that say, "Privatize hospitals; privatize health care; privatize hydroelectricity; privatize public transit; cut social investment." On the other side, when they're talking elsewhere in Ontario they say, "Oh, no, we're going to make these social investments." I think people appreciate the conundrum, shall we say, that the Liberal government is in.
Now I want to outline for people what I believe the agenda needs to look like. The health care front -- and I'll be quite honest with people; this is a fundamental challenge for people -- is going to require some really thoughtful intervention. I read from some of the media clippings that this government hopes that if it forms a warm relationship with the new Prime Minister, somehow money will flow. I just want everyone to understand and to reflect upon the fact that the federal government that cut the most from medicare, the federal government which reduced medicare contributions the greatest, was not in fact the federal government of Brian Mulroney; it was the federal government where the now Prime Minister of Canada was the finance minister. Paul Martin made the greatest reductions to the medicare budget ever in the history of Canada, going back to the creation of medicare. You want people to believe that Paul Martin, who cut substantial amounts of money from medicare, is suddenly going to be your saviour in terms of providing you with new money, more money for medicare? I don't know what you've been smoking over there, but obviously it has completely overpowered your good sense.
Then there's the urban agenda. You're hoping Paul Martin is somehow going to be your saviour on the urban agenda front, that Paul Martin is suddenly going to come up with some money that you can inject into cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor, London or virtually any of the large cities. Let me remind you again that if you go back to 1993, 1994 and 1995, when Paul Martin was the federal finance minister, he cut the heart out of federal funding for cities. Whether it was urban transit, whether it was affordable housing or whether it was for basic infrastructure like sewer and water, he cut the heart out of it. I don't know how long you think you can go along pretending that the finance minister who substantially reduced federal contributions and federal investments in cities is suddenly going to be the saviour for cities. I don't know how long you can pretend that, but I suspect that the illusion you're fostering is again going to be a very big disappointment.
Then there's post-secondary education. I'm glad the minister is here. I know she's facing lots of questions from colleges and universities who want to know, now that she has frozen tuition fees, where the money is going to come from to ensure that those colleges and universities continue to be able to offer their programs. I know you're hoping for a lot of money. You're hallucinating about a lot of money coming from Paul Martin. The reality once again is that Paul Martin, when he was the federal finance minister, cut more money from post-secondary education than even the Mulroney Conservatives. Once again, you seem to be hallucinating about the new Prime Minister suddenly changing his spots and reversing the decisions he made in the period from 1993 through to certainly 1997.
I just have to say to you that I look forward to watching this with some interest, I look forward to watching you with great interest, because at the end of the day I don't think Paul Martin is going to care a whole lot about your political future. He cares about his own political future. If you have to be offered up as a sacrifice, he's quite prepared to do that.
All this enters into how I think the promises or statements that were made in the throne speech are going to, shall we say, crystallize for people. Notice I didn't say anything about promises being fulfilled; I simply said the words that were used would be crystallizing, because I think they are going to crystallize in ways this government doesn't yet anticipate.
I said I wanted to talk about the agenda that I think we need to follow. Much has been made of the Conservatives'view that our taxes have to be reduced to the level of taxes in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania etc. We saw in some cases that the former government even wanted to have taxes that were lower than the taxes in those states. I want to, especially for people at home, reflect upon something. The reality for us and the reality for all Canadian provinces is that since we choose to pay for health care as a public expenditure, since we see health care as a public responsibility and not a private responsibility, that in fact means that we pick up a big responsibility and pay for it in taxes where American states do not. So reducing our taxes to American levels essentially means for people, how much of medicare are we prepared to cut? How much of medicare are we prepared to privatize? How much of our medicare system are we prepared to do away with? That's what the equation is really all about.
I believe that our decision to provide health insurance as a public expenditure, a public responsibility, on a not-for-profit basis is one of the finest things we've done in Canada and it's one of the finest things we've done in Ontario. I also believe it's one of the central defining characteristics of Canada and one of the values that people, not just in Ontario but across Canada, point to and say, "This is special. This is unique. This is what we need to continue to struggle to sustain and improve."
But if someone comes to you and says, "Oh, you can have the same taxes as Michigan, you can have the same taxes as Ohio, you can have the same taxes as Pennsylvania and you can continue to sustain medicare," I suggest you ask them what they've been smoking, because you cannot provide something that is so important, that is so substantial and that is used and utilized across Ontario in a public way and yet reduce taxes to the level that they are in the United States. If we want to have a good medicare system, a good, publicly funded, not-for-profit health care system, then we will need to pay for it through our taxes. Anyone who says to you that you can then reduce our taxes to the level that they're at in the United States, where they don't pay for health care publicly, where people are on their own, is simply telling you a fairy tale.
The issue really comes down to this: What is this government prepared to do to find the revenues necessary to sustain our health care system? Is it simply going to increase sin taxes? I think the experience is that, yes, sin taxes are a short-term tactic, a short-term strategy. They don't work very well in the longer term for a couple of reasons.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that with the promised increase of tobacco taxes, we're already starting to see a renewed interest and renewed incidence of cigarette and tobacco smuggling. I suspect that over the next year, year and a half we're going to see more and more serious examples of tobacco smuggling, cigarette smuggling, all as an effort to avoid higher tobacco taxes.
I think what that's going to mean for government revenues is that you're not going to get nearly as much money out of increased tobacco taxes as you thought you were going to get. After all, it was the federal Liberal government in 1994 that dramatically reduced tobacco taxes, and the rationale they used for dramatically reducing tobacco taxes was that they had to do this in order to deal with the smuggling problems, that the tobacco taxes that were in place at that time were resulting in far too much smuggling and far too much tax avoidance. So I don't see a lot that's changed in the last nine years, except that I think some of the smuggling operations are probably more sophisticated than ever and probably have access to an increased number of means and mechanisms whereby they can engage in that behaviour.
But what does that mean, then, for the health budget? If you're going to overwhelmingly rely upon tobacco taxes and other so-called sin taxes, what does that mean for the budget? I think it's pretty clear what it means. Much of the revenue this government hopes to have, expects to have from those sin taxes is very unlikely to materialize. What does that then mean for the health budget? I don't think it means anything good. I think it then means that we're going to see more of the P3 hospitals and more moves like privatization of home care, privatization of long-term care and more private health care services. That's where I think this is heading, but we'll see.
The other point I want to make, and I found the Minister of Education's announcement about a week and a half ago very interesting. I believe he announced about $112 million for literacy and for English as a second language, for helping those students who probably have the greatest challenges in terms of developing literacy and acquiring a higher level of literacy. So he announced some money.
What I was struck by was that the announcement said one thing, but then when you talked to boards of education, particularly boards of education in Toronto or Ottawa or Hamilton, some of the large urban boards, what they said was, "This money is very unlikely to be used for that. We're probably going to use this money to cover this year's deficit." That's in fact what they're doing. They're using the money to cover this year's deficit, because we know that a number of the large boards were in a deficit situation under the Conservatives; they continue to be in a deficit situation with the Liberals. So that announcement was really a one-time announcement to cover off school deficits.
As I say, one-time announcements may get you out of the next six months, claiming surprise over the $5-billion deficit left by the Conservatives may get you through the next six months, but what's it going to do over the next year? Nothing. What's it going to do in year 2 or year 3? Nothing. Yet if Ontario is going to continue to have a productive economy, going to continue to have a workforce that is able to take part in what is admittedly a dynamic and ever-changing economy, new education funding is absolutely critical.
We read the Rozanski report. I know members of the government read the Rozanski report. The Rozanski report is a very good report. There are real problems with school transportation; there are very, very serious problems with special education, which remains under-funded; there are very serious problems with rural schools, smaller schools, older schools; there is continuing very serious underfunding of English as a second language. Then there's a whole long list of problems that are not as large as the ones that I've just referred to now, but when you add them all up, come to a cumulative in-year cost of $2 billion a year.
Government has offered no solution to that issue. Government has said over and over again that it's going to find the money for education, but once again, we see no indication of where that's going to come from. I have to remind people again of the taxpayer protection pledge. The Canadian Federation of Taxpayers taxpayer protection pledge that this government signed on to says that you can't raise taxes; it says that you have to move toward more privatization of education, more privatization of health care and more privatization of the essential services that people need. So this is going to be the debate.
Much to the chagrin of some of the government members, I'll make some predictions for them. The quicker you come out and say to people, "Look, if we want to have a better health care system, if we want to provide our children with the education that we need and they need, if we want to do a better job of protecting the environment, if we want to have cities that work, if we want to have urban transit systems that work, if we want to ensure that there's affordable housing, if we want to ensure that people who've had their incomes frozen now for nine years" -- I'm talking about people who have to rely upon the Ontario disability support plan because they are disabled and they simply are not employable -- "if we want to do those things, if we want to raise social assistance rates so that people are not living in grinding poverty day after day, then some of the tax reductions that were put in place by the Conservatives will have to be reduced."
Your position up until now that 90% of the tax cuts put in place by the Conservatives can be sustained and yet there will be money for health care and education and protecting the environment simply won't wash. It is simply untrue. It is simply factually not possible, not workable. The quicker you make that admission and the quicker you accept that what you said in signing the taxpayer protection pledge, that what you said, "We won't raise your taxes" -- the quicker you admit that that is false, that it's simply not possible to provide the quality public services, the absolutely essential public services that people need, and yet maintain that Conservative tax regime, the better off we'll all be.
I suspect, though, being Liberals, you won't come out and make that admission, that you'll try to get there by, shall we say, a longer-term, more indirect way; that you'll continue on the road of raising sin taxes, you'll continue the Conservative experiment of raising user fees, copayment fees, administrative fees, student fees other than tuition fees and hope that you can find the money in pieces here and pieces over there. But still that's not going to work. However, I predict that's what you're going to try to do.
Mr Agostino: You also predicted 30 seats. Look what happened.
Mr Hampton: We'll leave some of those predictions to another time. I'm sure in the next couple of years, we'll get to revisit some of those. Some Liberal members sound an awful lot like the arrogant Conservatives who were here not too long ago. You might want to remember that. What goes around comes around.
The final point I want to make is that many of the problems that I've raised here tonight are not going to wait. They're not going to wait for a two- or a three-year solution. Municipalities in many places across this province are facing the reality that they have water systems that do not work, that are not reliable. They increasingly face the prospect of seeing bad water get into the system. The hydroelectricity system cannot wait for a solution three or four years down the road. The eight-year experiment with privatization and deregulation has already left us in a situation where trying to extend it a little further, trying to experiment with it just a little more is simply not going to put us in the position that we want or need to be in. It's going to expose us to more and more prospects of blackouts; it's going to expose us to more and more dirty air, and it's also going to expose us to hydro costs which are increasingly going to be beyond the capacity of many individuals, many small businesses and probably the capacity of some industries to pay.
In terms of trying to wait for a solution in year 3 or a proposed solution in year 4, just before calling an election, it's probably not on. Many of these issues are urgent; they're pressing. They're pressing for individual people, they're pressing for communities, and they're very pressing for Ontario's economy. We're not going to give you a free ride and sit back and say that there's lots of time to arrive at these solutions. In fact, there's not a lot of time to arrive at them. For a government that promised the sun and the moon and the stars immediately before the election, I don't think the public is going to be very patient if you're not able to come forward with solutions that on the face of it look like they'll work and as they proceed to be implemented actually do work.
The experience of the Peterson government, I think, was very instructive. The Peterson government was elected with the second largest majority ever in the history of Ontario. The Peterson government had 95 out of 130 seats. It was a government that very much took the attitude that, "We've got a large majority, and we've got a lot of time. We can ride out a good economy." The economy was unbelievable. From 1984 to the spring of 1990, Ontario's economy boomed. Then of course the bottom fell out in the spring of 1990, and we remember that David Peterson thought, "Maybe I can call the election before the people find out that the bottom has fallen out of the economy." Of course that calculation didn't work. People discovered in the summer of 1990 that the bottom had fallen out of the economy, and they decided that they were going to punish the Peterson government for that. The Peterson government took the approach that with a large majority, they had a lot of time to work through some of these challenges. I would suggest to this government that if you follow the same logic of the Peterson government, you're likely to have the same result. There is a real pent up desire on the part of people to see real change, not just rhetoric but real, effective change and a real effort to deal with and address some of these problems.
Hon Mr Duncan: Is he still talking?
Mr Hampton: I notice the Liberal House leader said, "Is he still talking?" In fact, now that you've given me an opportunity for a second wind, I'm going to raise a few more things that are on my mind.
I want to speak briefly as an MPP who represents a region of the province, northern Ontario. In northern Ontario, there are some very pressing problems indeed. One of the very pressing problems will be the degree to which this province can engage First Nations in a strategy which is a win-win strategy.
We know that the former government was promoting logging north of the 51st parallel; we know that the former government was promoting all kinds of mining activity north of the 51st parallel. But there was a real reluctance on the part of the former government to sit down with First Nations and to develop a nation-to-nation agreement covering land use planning, covering environmental protection, covering how the revenue from resources would be shared, covering things like training and employment development, and also covering things like the recognition and implementation of aboriginal traditional and treaty rights in terms of that northern development. That will be a very real challenge. Again, I can say that there's not going to be a lot of patience there. First Nations have been trying to raise these issues a number of times. Some members who have been here over the last eight years will know that there were a number of private members' resolutions debated dealing with exactly these issues. That's going to be a very pressing issue.
The second issue from the north which I think is going to hit us very hard is if the government continues down the Conservative road of further privatization and deregulation of the hydroelectricity system. There are many industries in northern Ontario that are very heavy users of electricity: the mining industry, smelting industry, refining industry, steel industry, the pulp and paper industry, the sawmilling industry. I can tell you already that those industries are being hurt very badly, in terms of what industry has to pay, by the kinds of deregulated pricing that you see. For the northern economy, the issue of how hydroelectricity is handled and whether it is returned to a public not-for-profit operating basis or whether it continues to be deregulated and privatized is an absolutely critical issue.
Then there's the whole issue of supply of physicians, nurses and other health care practitioners. As much as that is a challenge in southern Ontario, it is an even bigger challenge across northern Ontario. In fact, it's a huge challenge. So far, any of the ideas I've seen floated by this government, or any of the discussion -- and there hasn't been much discussion yet -- goes nowhere toward addressing those problems or in any way even recognizing some of those problems.
Then there is the whole issue of how forest operations in this province are going to be regulated. Under the former government, forestry operations were essentially turned over to private corporations, and private corporations were told to police themselves; in other words, self-regulation. I don't think I need to review that both the auditor and the Pembina Institute found in their studies that we're seeing greater and greater infractions across the northern boreal forest. We're seeing overharvesting, we're seeing wood being harvested and left to waste, we're seeing more and more water crossings where fish spawning and fish populations are being damaged. The whole idea of self-regulation is doing nothing about that. In fact, the whole concept of self-regulation is simply adding to that problem.
What's the new government going to do about that? It seems to me that continuing down the road of self-regulation, which is really deregulation, is simply going to lead to a more and more serious problem there. That is another issue that is not going to wait for a patient answer. It's one that will need to be addressed very quickly -- I would say in the next year for sure.
Another aspect of the forest operations issue is simply the fact that across northern Ontario we're hitting a wood supply gap. The wood that is closest to mills -- whether those mills are in Kapuskasing, Iroquois Falls, Hearst, Longlac, Hornepayne, Geraldton, or whether they are in Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout, Kenora, Dryden or Ear Falls -- is rapidly being depleted. To access wood fibre to keep those mills running, we will have to move further and further north. But as I point out, to access wood further and further north, what will be required is an agreement with First Nations. First Nations are not going to simply stand by and watch the forests that are their traditional habitat being harvested without any agreement or any accord with the Ontario government in terms of revenue-sharing, in terms of environmental protection or in terms of land use. That too will have to be settled, and it will have to be settled in short order.
We look forward to watching this government that on one hand said it wanted to invest in health and in education and in protection of the environment -- we looked forward to hearing that speech -- but we also recognize that this is a government that signed the taxpayer pledge that said, "We won't raise taxes. We'll privatize more services. We'll cut more services." We look forward to seeing which Liberal Party the people of Ontario are going to deal with now. Which Liberal government are people going to see? Is it going to be the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's taxpayer protection pledge with all the privatizations, or are we really going to see the investments in health care and education and environmental protection that people want, and if so, how is the government going to pay for them? The whole concept of a surprise $5-billion deficit, as I say, isn't a surprise at all. But to the extent that this government wants to use it for a cover, it might work for about six months.
Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this debate. I look forward, of course, to the unfolding of all this in the next few months ahead.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Agostino: I enjoyed listening to the member from Kenora-Rainy River. It's certainly revisionist history at its best. It's interesting to listen to members of the Bob Rae government talk about promises. Remember those five long, miserable years when the member who just spoke was in cabinet? We remember public auto insurance, the centrepiece of their platform. They were going to bring that in. Oops. I guess the member must have missed that cabinet meeting and forgot all about it. Their hydro policy -- what did they do? They sent someone off to buy a rain forest in Costa Rica. That was the extent of the NDP policy during five years in power.
Of course, remember the gem of all gems, the social contract. The party that pretended to represent working women and men across this province, the party of labour, decided unilaterally to rip up collective agreements. You said to those hard-working women and men across Ontario, "We don't care about collective agreements. We don't care about negotiations. We are reopening your contracts and rolling back your wages." You'd expect that from a Tory government. No. We got it from the NDP government. You have the gall to sit there and lecture people on keeping commitments, coming from that party.
The reality is that the NDP didn't get it then and don't get it now. Premier McGuinty and the Liberals get it. We know we have to make fiscally responsible decisions now in order to ensure we keep our commitments to health care, education and the environment. It's easy to take your attitude. You racked up a $10-billion deficit in five years. The debt went up by $45 billion in the five years you were in power. Those were the irresponsible decisions that led to the Mike Harris government getting elected. We're not going to make those mistakes. We're going to govern responsibly. We're going to keep our commitments, but we understand we have to get the fiscal house in order first in order to do that and clean up the mess left by the Tories.
Mr Dunlop: I enjoyed listening to the comments tonight from the member from Kenora-Rainy River.
Mr Dunlop: Yes, everyone's here with me.
In all fairness to the member, he brought out something very important that you either agree with or completely disagree with. If you agree with the fact that the world entered a very difficult time in 1990, the very year that David Peterson called the surprise election -- Mr Peterson, in his wisdom, had an opportunity second to none in the history of this province to actually pay down a lot of debt, make a lot of efficiencies work in the province of Ontario, and he failed to do so. He actually left the NDP government, under Mr Rae, with a debt entering a very difficult time in our province's history and in our country's history. Let's not forget that.
I don't agree with the NDP policies, but I can tell you that they certainly had some very difficult decisions to make. Maybe they didn't make the right decisions, and there was a $45-billion or $50-billion accumulated debt in that period. But I think it's only fair for the members of the House to realize that that was a time in the history of the world when jobs were lost in our country and around the world, and they in fact inherited that from Mr Peterson.
I'd hate to think you're going to be that negative toward Bob Rae's history in our province, because I think he made some clear points on exactly what he was left with --
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Ms Churley: It's a pleasure to respond to the leader of the New Democratic Party, as always. If you listen carefully to the leader of the New Democratic Party, he has knowledge of this province from one end to the other; he's travelled it extensively. He just touched the surface of all the issues and problems that you as a new government are going to have to address, and you should listen carefully to that. There are a lot of problems out there that he outlined tonight, and a lot more had he decided to filibuster, which he didn't do. He could have outlined all night the kinds of problems and issues, many of course created by the previous government.
The people of this province had the stuffing knocked out of them over the past eight years, and they're counting on the Liberals, you guys, to invest back in their communities.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Ms Churley: You can tell the Liberals are getting defensive -- when they're on the defensive -- when they start bringing up things like the rain forest and the social contract.
I was here, and I remember the Liberals sitting over there then, and do you know what they said then about the social contract? That it didn't go far enough, given the deficit, given the terrible --
Mr Hampton: Lyn McLeod said the social contract didn't go far enough.
Ms Churley: That's right. She said we didn't go far enough.
But I'll tell you what we invested that money in -- I'll tell you just a few things right now. We continued to build affordable housing, even though there was a big deficit and a recession. We continued to invest in health care and home care and education. We created the Ontario Clean Water Agency and started to bring in conservation and energy efficiency programs. We used that money wisely to invest in the people of Ontario, and didn't borrow money as the Tories did to give tax breaks to rich people and big corporations. We're warning you tonight that you have to take some of that tax money back to reinvest in these communities and these programs.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): The member from Kenora-Rainy River offers us some predictions, and I'll offer a few of my own, I guess.
The first thing I'm going to predict is that the Tories will continue to say that the $5.6 billion doesn't exist. I'm going to predict that the member from Kenora-Rainy River will continue to talk about public power and say it's the only way to do it. I'm going to predict that the members of the NDP will continue to say the Liberals are wrong and that the Tories were wrong and I'm going to continue to say -- well, you get the idea. The idea is that the NDP will continue to stand up and rail against the government no matter who it is, no matter what idea it is.
I'm going to suggest to you that the members on the other side, the official opposition, will continue to tell us we're breaking promises, but they'll forget to mention all the ones we're keeping. I'm going to predict that the people of Ontario are sick and tired of hearing the banter back and forth about not getting things done.
I'm going to predict something else that's important for us to remember. I'm going to predict that Dalton McGuinty is going to continue to keep this province moving forward.
I'm also going to make another prediction; that is, once we get this fiscal house in order, we're going to see a social change that never has been seen in this province before. We're going to do it right. We're going to consult with the people of Ontario and we're going to take care of our social programs as has been promised by Dalton McGuinty.
I'm going to make another prediction, and that prediction is simple: The people of Ontario already have started to understand that we've got a major problem we've got to solve first, because you've got to get your fiscal house in order before you can do some of the things we've made the promise to do.
I'm going to make a final prediction: At the end of four years, when we've maintained all those promises, the people of Ontario are going to say to us again, "Do you know what? You did what you said you were going to do, and we're going to put you back in office again because we like what you've done."
The Deputy Speaker: The member from Kenora-Rainy River has two minutes to respond.
Mr Hampton: I thank the members for their participation, and I just want to respond to a couple of them.
Some mention was made of rain forests, and I do remember that a Liberal, Maurice Strong, came forward with an idea to buy a Costa Rican rain forest. In fact, the cabinet I was part of shut that idea down. But it was another one of those ideas that Liberals float every once in a while. Maurice Strong -- I gather he's now going to be an adviser to Paul Martin -- floated that idea, and of course we had to set him straight and let him know that if he wanted to make an investment in Costa Rican rain forests, he should make it himself.
Then I just note that it is surprising: I dealt in most of my speech with the kinds of challenges Ontario faces today and the kinds of choices this government will have to make, particularly given that one day you signed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pledge that you wouldn't raise taxes and you'd privatize a whole bunch of things, and the next day you're promising you'll invest in health care and education and protecting the environment.
Liberals somehow are fixated on the past, and so you want to raise the issue of the social contract. I want to remind you that your then-leader, Lyn McLeod, said the social contract didn't go far enough, that it didn't cut enough, that it didn't take enough away. That was the Liberal position at the time, so don't try to revise it now.
I simply want to say that the issue of auto insurance, for example, still hounds us today. What we find, looking at other jurisdictions, is that the solution of public auto insurance is gaining greater credibility everywhere and private operation of auto insurance continues to increase in terms of problems.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Ms Laurel C. Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): As the new member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, I'm very pleased to rise today and have the opportunity to reflect on the speech from the throne and the goals our government has set for itself over the next many months and years.
Before I do so, I want to say what a great privilege it is for me to be part of the Legislative Assembly, to represent the people of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, as well as to serve as parliamentary assistant to the Premier.
I am so very fortunate to have the love and support of my husband, Paul, our families, my parents, my sisters, who are here this evening on what has been somewhat of a long evening, their spouses and children, who were with me each and every day on a campaign that essentially began in 1998 and who have supported me without reservation over the years.
I also want to express my appreciation to a huge group of old and new friends who worked tirelessly through this campaign and the last, a group so large and determined that one might describe it as an army. In fact, much has been made of the army of volunteers who supported my campaign, an army of volunteers that put up almost 3,000 signs, made a record number of telephone calls, visited each and every door in the riding twice, some three times; who made sure the that volunteers and I were fed and watered, the data entered, the office running smoothly, the events a success, and the list just goes on.
I want to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you once again from the floor of the Legislature. You were amazing. You came from every walk of life. You were mothers, fathers, lawyers, teachers, journalists, engineers, artists, small business owners, students and more. You filled our office each and every day. We worked hard and we had fun. We accomplished our common goal to change the government. I am standing here because of you, your hard work, your dedication and your support, and I will not let you down.
Our government has before us an incredible challenge and an awesome opportunity to leave our world a better place than we have found it and a challenge to do so in the face of a financial burden we have inherited.
I know that you may not care about numbers on a spreadsheet. Your concerns for the future are about whether your kids' education will improve, whether the schools will be at peace, whether your hospital will be there when you need it, whether public transit will be better or worse, whether the air will be clean, whether our water will be safe to drink. But we must get the province's fiscal house in order because it is the foundation on which all of our common goals are based.
To the residents of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, whom I have the honour and privilege of representing: Thank you for your confidence and overwhelming support during the last provincial election. I want you to know that I am as determined today to tackle the challenges ahead and to create and embrace the opportunity for desperately needed change as I was when we spoke on each of your doorsteps during the recent campaign.
I share your concerns about health care, education and our economic potential. I have lived and worked in the riding for many years as a volunteer and advocate for a vibrant and healthy community. I know many of you through our work to clean up the environment and to build strong community organizations. I am proud of our community's efforts to date, but we must do more, and we will.
I know that on October 2 you chose to take the high road. You chose to restore confidence and quality in our schools and in our children's education. So did I.
You chose to guarantee the protection of universal health care and to improve home care and services for seniors. So did I.
You chose to live within our means and spend responsibly so as not to mortgage our children's futures. So did I.
You chose to clean up our air, protect our drinking water and to reform government. So did I.
A strong economy, good schools, quality health care, safe and clean communities: That's what you and I chose on October 2, and that's what our government will deliver.
The size of our mandate and the strong support you have given me in Etobicoke-Lakeshore underscores your desire for change and renewal in our province. However, if we do not get the deficit under control, we will not be able to accomplish the important things we were elected to undertake.
I want you to know that I have an idealistic vision of the province and of Etobicoke-Lakeshore and want to make Ontario the envy of the world, but I am not naive about the challenges that lie ahead. There will be setbacks and sacrifices along the way, but I can guarantee you that we will work just as hard as each and every one of you do in your daily lives. Together we will make a difference.
We cannot do everything right now, but we can do something, some very important things, and that is what we are doing and will continue to do.
We have given you the straight goods on the $5.6-billion deficit. We are taking concrete steps to tackle the financial mess our province now faces in order to put our fiscal house in order and live within our means.
We have brought forward our Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act and have supported the National Health Council, to improve accountability in the health care system and provide better service to the public.
We have moved to fulfill our key commitment to implement the recommendations of the Walkerton report to protect the water we drink.
We have created a Ministry of Children's Services and a secretariat for democratic renewal to improve services for children and strengthen our democracy.
We have removed the supervisors from the Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto school boards to give parents and kids a voice and restore local democracy. And we have provided the badly needed funds to better help our inner-city schools meet the challenges they face as a result of the diversity of their student population.
These are just a few of our accomplishments, and this is just the beginning. We are on the precipice of great decisions that will bring about great change, change that will be accomplished in responsible and carefully planned steps.
Some may say we are moving too slowly. Others may say we are charging ahead too quickly. We will be guided not by speed, but by what is reasonable, responsible and right.
As I move forward, tackling the challenges that are ahead, some now known to us, some of which we are yet unaware, I want you to know what ideals and influences will guide my thoughts and my actions.
It is often said that we learn everything we need to know about life in kindergarten, and there is a certainly a lot of truth in that statement. We learned to pick up our toys and not to litter. We learned to express ourselves. We learned to share. We learned to dream about our future with a family, a home and future jobs as doctors, lawyers, teachers and even dragon slayers in make-believe lands. We would do well by remembering some of these lessons as we tackle the issues facing our province in the months and years ahead.
There are a number of influential people in my life who have made me the person I am today, and I want to acknowledge the lessons I have learned from each of them.
My grandmother, Lauria Roy, an American-born francophone, came to Canada as a young child in 1911 with her family, seeking a better life. She later raised 10 children in a small town in southern Saskatchewan, getting by on her faith, sheer will, determination and sometimes her stubbornness. She taught me the value of hard work and instilled in us the need to take good care of what you have been blessed with. My grandmother is 98 years old and going strong, a testament to her good genes and her stubbornness perhaps.
My paternal grandparents, Hans and Mary Broten, reflect the diversity that is truly Canadian. He, an immigrant from Norway, and she, with roots from England, met, married, worked hard, raised a son and instilled in all of us a love for life, laughter and adventure. My grandmother Mary still lives in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where she is desperately trying to convince Saskatchewan cable to carry the Ontario parliamentary channel.
My parents gave my sisters and me a truly Canadian experience, as we grew up living in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario, and instilled in us a belief that we could do whatever we wanted to do, be whatever we wanted to be -- everything and anything was possible. They also instilled in us a strong understanding of the value of public service as, despite their busy lives, they were both active volunteers and participants in whatever community we were living in at the time.
If my parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be, my husband, Paul, through his support, encouragement and patience, has enabled me to make the vision a reality. Paul is my best friend, my confidante, my biggest fan and, at times, my harshest critic. We perhaps should have known that one of us would end up on the floor of the Legislature, as Paul and I met some 16 years ago when we ran against each other in a student government election at McMaster University. Who won, you ask? We both did.
Another significant influence in my life is Madam Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, who recently retired from the Supreme Court of Canada. I had the awesome privilege of serving as a law clerk to Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dubé at the court in 1993. She was one of this country's foremost advocates promoting human rights through substantive and contextual equality. Throughout her career she was steadfast in the protection of women, children, aboriginal people, people of colour and all disadvantaged groups in society. She provided a strong voice to those who were silenced by our laws, our entrenched systems, and she instilled in me an ideal of fairness that will always endure. She taught me by example to do what is right; not what has been done before, not what is popular and not what is easy.
Finalement, je ne pourrais pas compléter la liste de ceux qui m'ont influencée sans donner de la reconnaissance à mon oncle Albert Roy, qui a représenté le comté d'Ottawa-Est dans la législature de 1971 jusqu'à 1984. Albert était très fier d'être bilingue et a toujours été reconnu pour les efforts qu'il a faits pour protéger les droits de la minorité francophone en Ontario. Et j'espère que son amour pour la compétition et sa joie de vivre me piquera de la même façon que lui.
So what lessons do I take with me? Work hard. Take care of what we have been blessed with. Enjoy the adventure of life. Take time to laugh. Think of the possible, not the impossible. Do what is right; not what has been done before, not what is popular and not what is easy. Sois toujours fière de ton héritage. It is these values that will guide me as our government works to strengthen our battered public education system, protect with dogged determination our public health care system, renew our democracy, ensure a future with clean air and clean water and rebuild an economic foundation which is secured by the full potential of all Ontarians.
A better and brighter future is within our grasp, but it won't be obtained without hurdles. We do not have all the answers, but we do have these, and other old values that won't wear out, to be our guide: Look after your neighbour. Together we are stronger than alone. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
Our government will work to restore confidence and quality in our schools and in our children's education. Education is the ladder of opportunity for all of our children and helps them climb as high as they can and become the very best they can be. To all the parents I met during the campaign, you should know that we have a plan to make public education the best education available in the world, a plan that puts the needs of our students first.
We know that we need support students' success and raise student achievement, and we will. We know that we need to bring peace to our schools and make them safe, and we will. We know that we need to help the children who need it the most, those with special needs, and we will.
We will seek out creative, innovative and practical solutions to ensure the long-term viability of public health care in Ontario, a system that was once the envy of the world. I am proud that we will enshrine in law the protection of universal medicare.
To the many seniors who asked, "How will you make life in Ontario better for me?": I am proud of our commitment to establish better nursing home standards because, in addition to being a member of this Legislature, I am a granddaughter, and want to ensure that each and every senior citizen in Ontario is treated with the compassion, care, dignity and respect they deserve.
As my grandmother taught me, "Take care of what you have." Our vision for the environment is a future with clean air and clean water. We are committed to reversing Ontario's downward slide in the areas of preserving and safeguarding our environment. We are committed to doing everything we can in order to ensure that the Walkerton tragedy does not reoccur and that no one in Ontario ever again dies simply by drinking the water out of the tap in their own home.
We are committed to replacing Ontario's biggest polluters, our coal-fired power plants, with cleaner technologies by 2007.
We are committed to making our cities strong again, by tackling gridlock with new support for our public transit systems, ensuring affordable housing and managing growth.
The strength of our province depends on the strength of our communities. The community of Etobicoke-Lakeshore is strengthened by wonderful organizations like LAMP and Stonegate CHC, GASP, the Gatehouse, Women's Habitat, Lakeshore Arts, Daily Bread Food Bank, Out of the Cold, Storefront Humber, Etobicoke Services for Seniors, Lakeshore Community Partnership, the Etobicoke Rotary, ratepayers associations and the BIAs, and the list goes on and on. All of these groups work toward the betterment of the quality of life in our community, and I want to thank them for the work that they do each and every day.
Our vision on fiscal responsibility: to spend tax dollars wisely, to provide value for those dollars and to invest in the future. We need to live within our means, not as an end, but as a means to an end in order to protect our now damaged, vital public services so that they can once again become the envy of the world.
We are committed to encouraging the success and prosperity of all Ontarians by providing the foundations of public systems that work for everyone. We will win the race to the top, not to the bottom.
We know that the diverse cultures that make up Ontario enrich our communities and strengthen our economy. We are committed to accelerating the integration of immigrants into our province. When foreign-trained doctors, engineers and PhDs are flipping burgers and driving taxis, that is a betrayal of the pact that was made with them when they uprooted their families and signed on to come to our province. It is a terrible waste of their valuable skills that we so desperately need. We must put an end to exclusionary practices and invite every new Canadian to take a seat at the table of opportunity, and we will make that happen.
For all of the individuals who have not participated in our democratic process, I am proud of our commitment to renew democracy and to make government more relevant to the people that we serve. We need a full, open and public debate to examine voting reform and renew confidence in our democratic process. We will undertake such a debate. We need to ensure that our young and future leaders participate in the democratic process, and we will examine new ways to make your voices heard, so that you feel connected to the decision-making process.
The political pundits who comment on these things say that the reason voter turnout is low and people are disengaged from the political process is that power is concentrated in the hands of too few. That may be part of the reason, but my own view is that people are disengaged because governments and politicians fail to inspire. The job of a government is not simply to make sure that the debits equal the credits; it is to ensure that all Ontarians believe that not only is a better future possible, but that it is probable.
We can all think back to great moments in history where the government not only responded to the people's agenda, but led the charge. Whether it was the creation of universal medicare, the protection of human rights or the building of quality public education, Ontarians believe in these values. They are the very values that have defined us as a province and which should guide us today.
Why I ran and why I feel privileged to serve the people of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in this government is because I believe it is once again time for government to inspire the people. It is our privilege to serve, our responsibility to lead and our obligation to dream about what is possible. I am proud to be part of a government that is prepared to be honest, committed to solve the problems, but most importantly, determined to dream about what is possible, even probable.
When I come to work in this wonderful building full of legend and history, I think about the people who sent me here, the voters of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, who shared with me their troubles, their hopes, their dreams and their concerns as I walked the many streets in the communities which make up my great riding: Long Branch, Mimico, New Toronto, Kingsway, Sunnylea, Alderwood, to name a few. I listened and I learned, and I am committed to accomplishing what you have sent me here to do.
The throne speech marks both an end and a beginning. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity for sharing my thoughts with the House today. I sincerely hope that this throne speech does indeed mark the beginning of a new era of government: an end to conquer-and-divide politics and a singular mantra that tax cuts will fix all that ails this province; and a new beginning, where we will begin to work together instead of against, begin to create coalitions instead of scapegoats, begin to build instead of dismantle and begin to make government more responsive and more accountable.
It is my hope that those who have the privilege to sit here together will do so in the spirit of co-operation. I truly believe that despite our ideological differences, if we draw on the feelings that we felt the moment we were first elected -- pride, humility, awe, excitement, and the belief that everything and anything was possible and the opportunity to make that happen -- we can and will find a better way to serve the people of this great province.
I look forward to working with the members of this House, the citizens of Ontario and, in particular, the residents of Etobicoke-Lakeshore to seek solutions to the problems that our province must now tackle. I encourage you to bring forward your ideas and work along with our government to ensure that Ontario is once again the best place in the world in which to live, work, learn and raise a family. Take a moment. Dream about what is possible. Now let's get to work and make that dream a reality for all Ontarians.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Yakabuski: I'd like to congratulate and commend the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore for her maiden speech tonight. I certainly found some of the background and family history very interesting and am looking forward to learning more at other times in this House.
The member has a very optimistic view of what's going to go on in this House. I appreciate that, and it's good to see that kind of optimism. But with the throne speech that has been tabled in this House, I'm sorry, I cannot share that optimism. They've talked about their plan for energy in the province of Ontario. The member talked about their commitment to the environment and the decision to shut down coal-fired power plants in this province by 2007.
Mr Yakabuski: My colleagues opposite are applauding, but they know they're dreaming in Technicolor. It is not going to happen. I want you to stand up and say it is an absolute, because it'll be just another in the long line of broken Liberal promises.
We talk about the hydro rate cap. This is going to have a significantly detrimental effect on homeowners and businesses in rural Ontario, ridings like mine, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. When this rate increase is implemented, it's going to hurt farmers, it's going to hurt businesses, it's going to hurt seniors living in their own homes, and they don't live in 600-square-foot homes in rural Ontario. They don't live in apartment buildings --
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Ms Churley: I'll pick up where he left off.
It is my pleasure to respond once again to yet another maiden speech this evening. Let me say again for the record that as a feminist, I just want to do away with that description of these first speeches: maiden speeches. We'll deal with that another time.
I do want to thank the member. I'm getting tired. I find it very hard to be particularly partisan when we have such incredible members from all parties standing up tonight giving us their maiden speeches, telling us who they are and telling us about their ridings. It's very hard to stand up tonight and be partisan about that.
All I can say is that there's something a little weird about this, because normally these maiden speeches are given right after the throne speech is delivered, within days after it's delivered. We kind of get that out of the way. Of course, the Liberal House leader made a mistake. Under the rules, he wasn't able to introduce it and we weren't able, until now, to have that debate.
Ms Churley: Of course it was our fault. We were just following the rules. So to people out there who are wondering, after all these broken promises and all these things that have happened over the last few weeks, why we're here tonight having these speeches -- which I would say are very important for all new members to have the opportunity to talk about their riding, how they got elected, and what their dreams and aspirations are.
Now, I don't know if you know, but I was born in Old Perlican, Newfoundland, grew up in Happy Valley, Labrador, and moved to Toronto many years ago. Here I am now, in the Legislature, and very happy, like the new members here tonight, to be in this fine place.
Thank you very much for this opportunity, Mr Speaker.
Mrs Carol Mitchell (Huron-Bruce): It's certainly my pleasure this evening to also add my congratulations to the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. I would like to say that I find it extremely refreshing to hear such optimism. I look at it a bit differently. I believe that this is what the people voted for. Obviously, they saw what they liked and they marked their X accordingly. People want new hope. They want change. That's why they voted the way they did on Oct. 2.
I also would like to say to all of our families over here that so much of your time goes into all of the projects that we all begin, and obviously your support means a great deal. I know these campaigns remain successful with our families' and our volunteers' support.
I also would like to say, what an inspiration to the people of Ontario your speech was tonight. You can walk away tonight -- hopefully maybe a little before 12; around 12 -- with the confidence that you have inspired your fellow parliamentarians. I believe that your accomplishments will hold you in good stead for the rest of your career, which I'm sure will be many, many years to come. With the new Liberal government, a new change, a new attitude, a new future, the people of Ontario once again have hope and optimism.
I also would like to say, being from the most rural riding in the province of Ontario, that the rural people of the province share the same hope and optimism.
Mr Dunlop: I'd like to congratulate the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore on her speech this evening. Actually, we've heard three of our new female members give some really nice speeches tonight -- Ms Scott, Ms Wynne and also Ms Broten here -- as they give their first speech, one of their main speeches in the House.
I wanted to just say something. It sounds like a love-in here tonight -- how wonderful things are with the throne speech -- especially coming from the Liberal members. However, I have to tell you that the throne speech caused me a great deal of concern as a rural MPP in the province of Ontario. First of all, what was disappointing to begin with was the fact that Mr McGuinty, when he selected his cabinet -- 21 of the 23 members are from the cities in our province. Of course, the cities represent a very small geographic area compared to what we actually have in size, so we are really concerned in rural Ontario about the lack of interest, particularly the lack of interest in the throne speech.
Another thing I heard the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore talk about was the new thoughts or the new ideas behind universal medicare. That comes from the introduction of Bill 8. I've talked to representatives from the Ontario Hospital Association and the Ontario Medical Association in the last week, and I'm going to tell you, you've got big, big, big problems with Bill 8. If you think that's going to go smoothly in committee hearings etc, you're in for some major disappointments, I believe.
The thoughts are great. What's happening here sounds wonderful. I thank her for her comments in her speech tonight, but I caution her on rural Ontario and on universal medicare -- big problems coming up.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has two minutes to summarize.
Ms Broten: I want to thank my friends around the room for their comments. On October 2, the people in Etobicoke-Lakeshore voted for change. They voted for a government that would be optimistic, that would believe that we can have a better future and that would work toward ensuring a future with clean air, clean water, a strong public education system and quality universal health care.
This is not about talk and not about promises. It is about laying the groundwork for the future of our province. That's what we talked about in the 30 days when we went about in our communities and asked people, "What kind of future do you want to live in? What kind of future do you hope to have for our province?" What we heard back was that they wanted a government that would roll up its sleeves and solve the problems, that would come forward and inspire them and lead them so that we could once again dream about a better future. What parent doesn't hope their child will have a better future than they? I look at my own grandparents. Why did they come to this country? Because they hoped to have a better future in this country, one where they would have clean air to breathe, good water to drink, an education system that would prosper future generations, and quality health care there when they would need it.
Those are the things Ontarians told us on October 2, those are the things we fought for, those are the things the people in Etobicoke-Lakeshore voted for, and those are the very commitments that this government will deliver in the months and years to come.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): I'm pleased to rise to join in the debate. We're finally debating the throne speech. The motion to debate the motion to debate the throne speech I think was finally passed. The motion to debate the throne speech was passed, and now we debate the throne speech.
Ms Churley: Whose fault was that?
Mr Hudak: I don't know whose fault it was. I know I had to suffer through it. And here I am at 11 o'clock, with Monday Night Football going on, right in the middle of my CBS SportsLine fantasy pool. The game is on-line, and hopefully the Philadelphia defence is coming along strong.
I want to welcome our guests in the gallery as well, who must be enduring some awful penance to be here with us this evening. Then as soon as Hudak is up to speak, they head for the hills. They're out of here.
Mr Yakabuski: There's a limit to everyone's patience.
Mr Hudak: Yes, there's a limit to how much humans can endure. They're our own gallery too. Sometimes the support there is too rare, and we chase them out.
Nonetheless, I'm pleased to add some comments to the throne speech this evening from the point of view of Erie-Lincoln.
I think we would all agree that as far as throne speeches go, it's probably not the most ambitious document that has been before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It wasn't really earth-shattering. It had some very lofty, prosaic language to it. In fact, I think they might have borrowed some of the script writers from The West Wing and stolen a few lines from Martin Sheen to throw into the introduction. But once you got past the dressing, past the packaging, there wasn't that much to it in terms of grand ideas or even a theme that brought things together, aside from just a package of campaign promises tempered with a tone to hold off on what you can expect, to the interest groups out there, who may have been lured along with campaign promises and have been told now to hold off for awhile.
But as far the grand vision of what the Dalton McGuinty government is all about, what they stand for is hard to find as you parse through the words of the throne speech as we kick off this particular session. It's still early days, so if I look back at this speech a couple of years hence, it may prove that I was wrong in my remarks, but in these early days we can see that it'll be very much --
Mr Levac: Withdraw now.
Mr Hudak: I'm not going to pre-emptively withdraw my comments. I'm putting an asterisk around them for Hansard. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong, because I like those governments with a grand vision that are going to make big changes and launch us to an even better future. I appreciate the optimism of some of the members across the floor, but I just don't see it. It's like that old Wendy's commercial: "Where's the beef?" between the two buns. I don't see it. I think this will be very much "Where's the beef?"
Mr Ted McMeekin (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot): Where are the beef inspectors? That's a better question.
Mr Hudak: I'm going to get into the broken promises later on. I appreciate your jumping in to the middle of my speech. That's a good point about beef inspectors, I say to the member. This is another example -- and this is in the B section of my speech -- of a broken promise by the Dalton McGuinty government.
Hon Gerard Kennedy (Minister of Education): Is this the B section?
Mr Hudak: That's part of the B section. No, no, this is just the introduction, merely the introduction. I appreciate your impatience to get to the point, but I am going to talk about broken promises. They have plenty of time, I say to the honourable member across the floor. But he gives a bit of a preview about the meat inspectors, because I remember the campaign pledge from now Premier, then candidate, McGuinty that they were going to have a public inquiry into the meat inspection system, but once they got into government -- while they said one thing during the campaign, they said something entirely different once in office and have watered down that campaign commitment quite considerably. But I'll get to that.
Let's talk a little bit about what I see as likely a very managerial style of government, not one of bold visions but one of doing one issue at a time, trying to control the agenda. Granted, we had an election in the fall, but this session is a relatively short session. So I think we'll see, what, three bills passed in this session. I think it's symbolic what those bills are, symbolic of one of the biggest tax hikes in the history of Ontario, shattering the record of the previous tax hike kings, Bob Rae and David Peterson. That's one of the first bills in the Legislature that they're pushing through this session: the biggest tax hike. I say the biggest tax hike, in a single day, in the history of the province of Ontario.
The other important bill that I think they want to bring through is the "We're not going to give you the 20% reduction on your car insurance like we promised" bill. I'm not sure if that's exactly the title, I say to my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin. You know the bill I'm talking about, where you said you would cut rates by 20% within 90 days of taking office. My colleague from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke calls it the flim-flam rate freeze. Now, I don't know if that's exactly the name of the bill, but I think you know the one we're talking about. They want to get that through this session, the auto insurance bill where you had promised during the campaign a 20% auto rate reduction and are not producing it.
So we have the big tax hike bill, we have the no-cuts-in-auto-insurance bill, and the third one that I think you want to get through is the increase in hydro rates. Despite the campaign pledge to freeze hydro rates -- I remember that the member from Parkdale-High Park had committed, like his fellows, that they would freeze hydro rates in the province of Ontario. What a triumvirate. Three big bills and three big campaign breaks: higher hydro rates, higher taxes and higher auto insurance rates.
So we're seeing about three bills being passed in this particular session. There may be intentions to call the assembly back in January or February if there's an ambitious agenda to get through the assembly, but I don't suspect so. I don't think they're going to be calling the assembly back in January or February. Maybe they'll bring it back in March. I could be wrong. If it is, we'll be here to hold the government accountable.
I guess the point I'm making is that this is not a government that is full of ambition to make major change in the province of Ontario. It's one to do one item at a time in a very managerial sense, very much in the Chrétien style of government to try to keep issues down, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it's broke, maybe it'll fix itself, and ultimately, if you need to take action, then to take action.
Definitely as part of its strategy, which I think reflects the Chrétien approach, a managerial style of government that, is a very direct attempt to try to sideline the opposition parties, to weaken them as much as possible and then --
Mr Hudak: I could be wrong. As I said, I want to be an optimist; I want to think better of the government side. You might be right, member from Dundas-Flamborough-Shottenburgh --
Mr Brownell: Aldershot.
Mr Hudak: Aldershot, who may be my neighbour one day; I should be very careful about teasing him about the name of his riding.
Now, you made me lose my train of thought. Oh, yes: Sidelining the opposition parties is definitely an overt strategy of the government -- maybe not the members. Maybe the members don't want to play that way. They're convinced that, upon their platform and performance of government, they will be re-elected on their own. Maybe they're convinced of that, but I suspect that the backroom folks are saying, "You know what?" They're not so sure. "Let's try to reduce the strength of the opposition, sideline the opposition parties, hamstring them as best as possible," and then ultimately, come 2007 -- I don't know if they've set a fixed election date. Is that another broken promise? There's no fixed election date yet, I don't think.
Mr Dunlop: They're going to put that off a couple of terms.
Mr Hudak: We will see.
I suspect their goal is to win a war of attrition and to sideline the two opposition parties. Maybe they will continue to try this for some time, but that dog don't hunt, or he's going to quit hunting pretty soon. Every time they do a press release, every time they do a speech in the Legislature, it's "Tories bad. Tories bad." Granted, maybe governments, when they come into power, like to put down, to chagrin, the previous government. But I would say, having been there in 1995, when we came into office encountering a deficit of epic proportions -- about $11.4 billion -- I don't think you saw the same sort of partisan approach in terms of running down the previous government.
Interjection: No, never.
Mr Hudak: I would challenge you to go back and look at that. If you look at the press releases that you folks do, for example, the press releases you put on the government Web site continue to talk about the Tory this and the Tory that. Even the language is part of it. In fact, do you know what I think is really happening? You're still campaigning. We're the opposition party. You're still campaigning. I think you guys have developed a strategy of a perpetual campaign: "Liberal good, Tory bad." It's not about being in government; it's not about making decisions to make the province of Ontario a better place. It's really a continuation of the campaign. I suspect, in some backroom office somewhere, the campaign is in full force to try to pull down the opposition parties. It's obvious what they've tried to do to mute my good friends in the NDP. They've tried to mute the historically strong voice of the NDP by limiting how much time they have in question period and in debate. I believe the NDP deserves more time in the Legislature for question period. And you know what? I think Dalton McGuinty is going to cave on this; I do. He drew the line in the sand, and he said, "No, we're not going to give the NDP anything." He's going to retreat. I think Dalton McGuinty is going to retreat.
Mr Hudak: I don't think I'm going to get through all of my remarks, Mr Speaker. But as part of my introduction on this, I think Dalton McGuinty is going to retreat, because there seems to be a pattern of drawing a line in the sand, trying to hold fast, and at the first sight of trouble, Dalton McGuinty retreats.
A couple of examples: Oak Ridges moraine. He brusquely went out there and said, "You know what? I'm not going to allow a house to be built on that Oak Ridges moraine, not one single home, not a shack, not even one of those little Fisher Price villages to be built on the Oak Ridges moraine -- nothing." He said that during the campaign. Even after becoming Premier, presumably having been briefed on the issues -- you would assume he would have followed the issues, which were quite clear -- he kept saying, "Not a single house on the Oak Ridges moraine." And then what happened? Dalton McGuinty drew a line in the sand and Dalton McGuinty retreated. At the first sign of pressure, he retreated.
Second, with respect to the so-called P3 hospitals, it's pretty much the same deal -- and I think Marilyn Churley would agree with me -- for the P3 hospitals that the previous Conservative government had. Maybe you put a red ribbon on it. You took off the blue ribbon and you put a red ribbon on it. Maybe you changed the order of the Ps: maybe it's not 3P, it's P3. It's the same deal. Again, Dalton McGuinty drew a line in the sand: "No private health care in the province of Ontario. No, these public-private partnerships are going to be gone." And then the pressure came forward. People started looking at the issue, and once again Dalton McGuinty drew a line in the sand and Dalton McGuinty retreated. So the P3 hospitals go ahead.
I suspect, with respect to the NDP, where Dalton McGuinty once again has drawn a line in the sand and has had some stiff resistance from our friends in the NDP for more time in question period, more time in the Legislature -- I expect that once more Dalton McGuinty will retreat and the NDP will win more time in question period and more time in debate.
That's what I have seen, a bit of a managerial style, treating one issue at a time. I felt the throne speech, as a result, was relatively bland in terms of vision.
There are a few major omissions that I don't think I can go without passing comment upon. There were 1,000 police officers -- nowhere to be seen in this document. I thought I remembered that as a campaign commitment. I thought I heard then candidate Dalton McGuinty say, "We're going to bring 1,000 police officers and put them on the streets," just like the previous Conservative government had committed to and had done, and 1,000 police officers, it's feared -- in fact, I think my colleague the member for Simcoe North, who's our critic for what used to be the Solicitor General's ministry and now community safety, has pointed out, rightly so, that the words "police officer" and "firefighter" didn't even appear in the entire throne speech, totally abandoned and cast by the side. So the 1,000 police officers commitment -- gone.
Secondly, they had a commitment to close the coal-fired plants by 2007. That was the campaign commitment. This is sort of the off-again, on-again coal-fired commitment. But what we saw in the throne speech, I thought, was instructive, where the 2007 disappeared with the police officers. So the thousand police officers and the 2007 had disappeared into the ether, a bit like a Twilight Zone episode. You'd think Rod Serling could read this throne speech, with the way the campaign commitments have disappeared.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): We saw a government disappear.
Mr Hudak: I appreciate the member's comments. We've seen a lot of campaign commitments disappear and we've seen a lot of courage to make tough decisions disappear. The member talks about things disappearing. We talk about the coal-fired plants disappearing by 2007, the 1,000 police officers disappearing, and the hard cap on class sizes morphed into a vague commitment to smaller class sizes. Granted, a good goal, an admirable goal to reduce class sizes, but Dalton McGuinty was clear: He'd have a hard cap of 20 students in the early years on every classroom in the province. We've seen some back and forth between the Minister of Education and the Premier on this. You know, if they can do it for what they say they can, for the cost, God bless 'em. I remain skeptical if they're going to keep campaign promises.
Mr Hudak: I know; I'm usually an optimist. I usually like to believe and hold in faith what I hear in a throne speech, but in this circumstance, forgive me, I'm skeptical.
The other comment -- and this was carried by our friend Jamie Wallace in Osprey News. I know it goes throughout northern Ontario and throughout rural Ontario. His comment on the throne speech: "Rural Ontario became a dirty word."
Mr Yakabuski: Forgotten.
Mr Hudak: It was forgotten. I don't think the word "rural" made it to the throne speech. Like those poor police officers, firefighters, coal-fired plants and the hard cap on class sizes that disappeared into the twilight zone, rural Ontario, under Dalton McGuinty, has become a dirty word.
I'm actually still surprised, now that some time has passed, that there is still no minister responsible for rural affairs. The member for Brantford, for example; I think he's doing an excellent job as whip and is well respected in the Legislature. I would make him my minister. He would be one of my leading candidates as a minister for rural affairs. Look, you've got about 30 of you here tonight. You're having no trouble. You need more to do. I'm going to suggest to Dalton McGuinty that he needs a minister of rural affairs and one suggestion could be the member for Brantford.
That's sort of symptomatic of the approach. Obviously, Ontario is a great and diverse province, and helping out the big cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor is important. We've got to make sure that the economic engine in urban centres is purring at full capacity and helping to create jobs. That having been said, you can't do that to the entire detriment of rural Ontario by not even having a minister at the cabinet table responsible for rural affairs, not even mentioning rural Ontario in the throne speech.
Then you look at what's happening in agriculture. I think my friend from Renfrew was speaking about that earlier this evening. They're putting the hammer to the farmers. Hydro rates are going up. Erie-Lincoln, I'm proud to say, is one of the leading areas in all of Canada in the feather industry. Whether it's turkey, chickens or eggs, it's one of the leading areas. I know your area too, Mr Speaker. Leamington and such are very big into the greenhouse industry, as are we down in the Niagara Peninsula.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): PoultryFest.
Mr Hudak: PoultryFest, exactly. I appreciate the member telling me, and I would invite all the members to come to Smithville for PoultryFest, which is a celebration of what the feather industry does for our community.
You know, the people of Smithville and West Lincoln are an exuberant bunch, a proud bunch. They are going to overcome this huge increase in hydro prices and the other hammers that are being put to the agricultural sector. They're still going to celebrate PoultryFest next year, no doubt to try to forget about the increase in the hydro rates and the increase in taxes that our farmers are going to have to face, let alone what I suspect is going to become the burdensome approach for the Ministry of the Environment on how farm issues are treated.
I think we would have handled it differently, with a greater role for the Ministry of Agriculture. They're putting more in the hands of the enforcers for the Ministry of the Environment.
In quick contrast, in 1995, when I sat right back there -- I think the member from Mississauga West sits there today. When I came in 1995 and made my own maiden speech, to say with great optimism that we were a government that made promises about what we're going to do as we said we're going to do, re-elected in 1999, I say based on that premise -- even if you disagree with some of the things we stood for, we did what we said we were going to do. With the broken promises, with the neglect of rural Ontario, with the attack on agriculture under this government in this throne speech and the growing list of broken promises, I fear that optimism of the members opposite will not be fulfilled.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Ms Churley: Indeed, I do want to respond to the member from Erie-Lincoln. I didn't get to hear where you're from and all about your -- oh no, you did that years ago, your maiden speech.
Ms Churley: Back in 1995, that's right, and here you are now, on this side of the House. I just wanted to point that out to the Liberals sitting over there. I must say, they've done a pretty good job of transitioning from opposition into government. Why, if the faces weren't different, I would think that there were Tories sitting over there. The transition has been so great; we hear some of the same phrases. Why, a member over there tonight said, "A promise made is a promise kept." Remember how often the Tories used to say that, even though we'd be standing up -- and you then were over there, yelling at them for breaking promises. But they'd say, "A promise made is a promise kept," and now you're saying it. So many of the same arrogant phrases that are coming out of your mouths now remind me of them then.
Ah, yes, but that was then. "That was then." Remember that line? We heard that a lot. How quickly so many of you on that side sound just like them. Some days I'm confused -- even the policies. Take the P3 hospitals. It's not just us saying that you broke your promise on that. The Toronto Star, November 22, 2003, said, "The new facilities will be built -- "
Ms Churley: Be careful what you say about the Toronto Star now, Liberal member. "The new facilities will be built and operated virtually the same way as proposed by the former Tory government. The buildings at the William Osler Health Centre in Brampton and the Royal Ottawa Hospital will be built privately and many non-medical services, maintenance, housekeeping, food services, parking, and security will be contracted out." That's the Toronto Star saying that, not just New Democrat members.
Hon Mr Kennedy: We listened intently to the member from Erie-Lincoln on this side of the House and it's with some relief, I think, that we learn that he failed to find the virtue in the throne speech. He failed to find it because it's outside of the frame of reference of what's left of his former government -- the idea that things will be done for the people, not because of some rented Republican ideology, not for some backroom backslapping down at the Albany Club, but actually what's in the public interest. He couldn't recognize it if he tripped over it.
The disappointment tonight, of course, is the continued allegiance of the PC-NDP. We see what happens when ideologues are in charge of the province, and we see them stand up in their self-righteousness tonight and wax and wane, mostly wane, unfortunately, about what would have been better in the Nirvana they were bringing us. Most of the things they talk about here tonight weren't even in their platform.
So we see ourselves in between and among, actually, some of the people who put themselves forward on a more ideological bent, and we stand proud on this side of the House with members like the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, who put forward a view of this province, a view of its people, that is much more in tune.
We hear the member opposite talk about rural Ontario, a member who represented a rural area and did nothing to save rural schools. I spent time at Humberstone school in his riding, and I call tell you right now that that member and his government let a school that led the province in EQAO tests become a vacant lot. You can go there today and see the tumbleweeds going right across where some kids are still trying to get some recreational advantage, because they painted a bull's eye on top. Well, the other day we called a moratorium on that kind of closing.
We say to the member opposite that the rural areas deserve better. The rural areas are seeking better from the member for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, from the member for Nipissing, from members on this side of the House. There will be plenty of representation in cabinet when this government has them.
Mr Dunlop: I am pleased to rise to speak to the comments made by the member from Erie-Lincoln. He is certainly one of our top members and has a very bright future.
I'd like to go back to some of his comments on rural Ontario. It's very disappointing to hear some of the comments coming from that side of the House tonight and, of course, what we read in the throne speech. First of all, as you folks over there know, nothing was mentioned about rural Ontario in the throne speech, and that's very disappointing.
On top of that, following September 11, 2001, when we had the tragedy across the world, I would have thought firemen and emergency service workers would have continually been brought up in throne speeches and that governments would be interested in what they actually do in our province. Again, nothing at all in the throne speech on our emergency service workers except one pathetic line. I almost felt sorry for the Lieutenant Governor when he had to read this: "A contractor hired to add rooms to the second floor of your house would be negligent if he discovered a fire in the basement -- and failed to put it out." Doesn't that seem like the most pathetic line you've ever seen in any throne speech? Why wouldn't you do that? You would call the firemen automatically, at least, and you failed to put it out. This is about the dumbest line that's ever been put in any throne speech.
Getting back to rural Ontario and Mr Kennedy's comments, it's almost pathetic to hear how little has been said about rural Ontario in this throne speech, about the environment, about our schools, about our health care facilities. Nothing has been said about all the small communities across our province that rely on a strong government to give services to our rural communities. They forgot about rural Ontario in this throne speech, and it's a disgrace that they've done so.
Mr Hampton: I listened intently to the member for Erie-Lincoln. Of course, because there is no Leafs game tonight, I was able to give it my undivided attention. I simply want to follow up on a couple of the points that he has made. In fact, I made these points earlier myself.
It would be very interesting, over the next six months, year, or year and a half to see whether the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wins out over there or if the people who said they want to invest in education and invest in health care and invest in protecting the environment win out over there. The reason it will be interesting to see who wins out is because I think most thinking people recognize that you can't be in both camps. When you're forced to actually make governing decisions, you can't be a little bit wet and a little bit dry at the same time. So it will be interesting to watch this.
I noticed earlier that the Minister of Education had something to say. It will be interesting how many more of these announcements we get about, "This is money for literacy, and this is money for people who are challenged in terms of literacy," and you find out that virtually no money went into literacy programs; it was used to cover up the ongoing operating deficit of boards of education for this year. You'll get away with those announcements maybe once, but trying to get away with them twice or trying to get away with them in years to come, I suspect, is going to become more difficult. So it will be interesting to see who wins out: the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and their pledge or the desire and the need to reinvest.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Erie-Lincoln has two minutes to reply.
Mr Hudak: I thank my colleagues for their comments. To the remarks of the member for Toronto-Danforth, she seems to think they were reflecting comments that we made. Were we that arrogant when we were in office?
Mr Hudak: She says yes. And they're just getting started. This is the first six weeks and they've already hit where we were in our worst days. So they're already there in six weeks' time.
To the member for Parkdale-High Park, who is never one to leave a partisan tool unused, I don't find virtue in a view that I think is in your throne speech that finds the people of Ontario to be gullible. I think any party that wantonly and smugly goes about breaking campaign commitments in its first number of weeks, a party that when the Toronto Star says, "Jump," its response is, "How high?" and a party that engages in a perpetual campaign and takes great joy in sidelining the opposition rather than finding joy in making the difficult decisions that are necessary to be part of a good government --
Mr Parsons: You're talking about the last --
Mr Hudak: No, no. I believe the people of Ontario are far better than that. I believe the people of Ontario now have reached a point where they expect governments to do what they said they were going to do. I could be wrong. Maybe at the end of the day you will win out and you will prove that governments can break promises wantonly and smugly, you can sideline the opposition and get re-elected. But folks, I think the people of Ontario are better than that, I think they're smarter than that, and I'm going to fight you every step of the way to prove that point, that as a basic element, people want governments to do what they said they were going to do. Dalton McGuinty, out of the gate, is heading in the opposite direction, with broken promise after broken promise.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Hon Jim Watson (Minister of Consumer and Business Services): This too is my maiden speech and I'm honoured to be here representing the people of Ottawa West-Nepean. I recall, the first time I came in this beautiful chamber, the story of a young parliamentarian who walked in the chamber for the very first time. He took his seat, looked around and saw the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker, all of these famous cabinet ministers and said with great humility, "How did I ever get here?" Six months later he walked into the same chamber, looked around, looked at the same people and said, "How did they ever get here?" I'm hoping I don't attract that kind of cynicism in my first couple of years here in the Legislature.
On October 2, the people of this province and the people of my riding chose change. They decided to take a different route, a different approach and we were honoured to receive the confidence of the people of Ontario. I was honoured in particular in my own riding to receive the confidence of the people of Ottawa West-Nepean.
Plus de 100 000 résidents se disent être chez eux à Ottawa-West Nepean.
My riding has many distinctions that I'm very proud of, but one that I'm most proud of is the fact that Ottawa West-Nepean has the largest number of senior citizens per capita of any riding in the province. The seniors of Ottawa West-Nepean are a vibrant element of our community and I have cherished my relationship with those seniors since I had the privilege of being mayor of the city of Ottawa.
Whether it's seniors participating at the Alex Dayton Seniors Centre at the Carlingwood Mall, or the wonderful work that Barb Lajeunesse and Michael Mason and the volunteers at the Old Forge centre do day in and day out, or the wonderful community event I was at on Saturday night at 31 McEwen Street, a Christmas dinner that the seniors had put on, bake sales, bazaars, all of these important things that make up the fabric of the seniors' community, mean a great deal to me. I look forward to working with that seniors community, just as I look forward to working with the many diverse groups that make up my riding.
The old city of Ottawa is about one half of the riding, and the old city of Nepean makes up the other half. I was honoured to serve the Ottawa side as a member of city council from 1991 to 2000. Thanks to great mentors like former Nepean mayor, Mary Pitt, and councillors like Rick Chiarelli and Gord Hunter, I have become very familiar with the many neighbourhoods, communities, parks and people that make up the Nepean side of my riding.
Ottawa-West Nepean is very much a microcosm of the entire province.
I am proud that about 25% of the riding's population are new Canadians. We have some very active communities from countries as diverse as Somalia, Turkey, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, as well as many different parts of Europe and Asia. I want to thank those people for their support and commit to do what it takes to live up to their high standards.
To those of you who have yet to vote for me, I hope to gain your trust through hard work and through dedication here at the Legislature and in my constituency.
My predecessor, Garry Guzzo, ably represented the citizens of Ottawa-West Nepean, and I pay tribute to his public service. I've known Garry for over 10 years and we served together on a number of organizations, including the Central Canada Exhibition. In fact, Garry was one of my predecessors on city council, representing Capital ward.
Capital ward produced a number of interesting characters, including former minister of the Bill Davis government, Claude Bennett, and probably the most well known mayor of the city of Ottawa, who hails from Renfrew, a woman named Charlotte Whitton -- I see that got Mr Yakabuski's attention -- the first female mayor of a major urban centre in Canada.
Garry was the one who told me probably the most famous story about Charlotte Whitton. She had a quick wit about her and a good sense of humour, and she was meeting the Lord Mayor of London one day back in the 1960s. The Lord Mayor had his chain of office on, all decked out, and Charlotte had a rose in her lapel. The Lord Mayor came to the front door of city hall and said, "Madame Mayor, if I smell your rose, will you blush?" Without missing a beat, Charlotte replied, "My Lord Mayor, if I pull your chain, will you flush?" So she always got the last word in. She in fact served on city council with Garry Guzzo.
Garry has served our community as a councillor, a lawyer, a judge and an MPP, and I wish him well in the next phase of his life.
I also commend my fellow candidates Marlene Rivier from the New Democratic Party and Neil Adair of the Green Party. Both were very good representatives of their respective parties and a real pleasure to work with.
I would also like to pay tribute to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, because they're an important part of our democratic and parliamentary process.
I congratulate the Deputy Speaker on his appointment, not simply because it is customary but because it is well-earned. Before too long, we'll be celebrating the 11th anniversary of Mr Deputy Speaker. His 10th anniversary is today and we congratulate him again.
J'ai eu le plaisir de servir avec deux Présidents de la Chambre des communes à Ottawa, l'honorable John Fraser et l'honorable John Bosley. J'ai un très grand respect pour le Président et son rôle. I have great respect for the role of the Speaker and the importance in this institution.
I recall one time a member of Parliament actually got quite exercised. Of course, we're starting to learn as rookie members of provincial Parliament what you can and can't say in the Legislature and the fact that there are certain things that are considered unparliamentary. I recall one time a veteran member of Parliament told me when one member got up very exercised, very upset, he said of another member, "The honourable member doesn't have the manners of a pig." The Speaker stood up and he said, "That's unparliamentary. You're going to have to withdraw that." The gentleman was quite smart; he said, "Mr Speaker, I withdraw. The honourable member does have the manners of a pig." I hope not to test the Speaker's patience. I do wish you the very best in the chair.
I also want to thank my campaign team for their tremendous effort leading up to October 2. Many of these same people who helped me were good enough to help me in my municipal and regional campaigns over the years. I'd like to thank the over 250 dedicated volunteers, without whose sacrifice and commitment I wouldn't be here today. We all know about the importance of volunteers.
On connaît bien les responsabilités et le devoir des bénévoles dans le système politique.
À mes parents, Frances et Bev, à ma s_ur, Jayne, à mon beau-frère, Peter, et à mes nièces Olivia et Nichola, votre amour et votre encouragement ont été une source constante de réconfort et d'inspiration.
I'd also like to thank Premier McGuinty for his vote of confidence in choosing me as his first Minister of Consumer and Business Services. I am deeply honoured with this added responsibility, and I want to thank the 1,300 men and women who make up that department. I know the member from Erie-Lincoln knows the dedication of those men and women who serve the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services. They're true professionals, very dedicated, and they are a credit to the public service of Ontario. I look forward to working with them and the many business and consumer stakeholders who rely on the ministry each and every day.
I was struck by a comment that my leader made when accepting his nomination for the provincial Liberal Party on the riding of Ottawa South: "Ontario," he said, "was commissioned by history to play a leadership role in the Canadian federation." This observation reminds us that our charge is great, and the impact of our actions and deliberations will be felt beyond the borders of this great province.
If Ontario suffers, then Canada suffers, and Ontario, sadly, is suffering. We're suffering from a deficit of at least $5.6 billion, the result of mismanagement and misrepresentation over the years. I fully expect that the sad fiscal state of our province will impel us to make some very difficult choices. We are going to have to collectively tighten our belts. We'll each have to do our own part.
Our undeniable priority is to right the wrong, to balance the budget. By doing so, we can then reduce the unacceptably high waiting lists for hip and knee replacement surgery for the seniors in Ottawa West-Nepean and across the province. We can invest in MRIs. We can keep the children's hospital cardiac unit in Ottawa.
As we heard today, we can hire more water inspectors in our province. We can invest in quality education by implementing limits on class sizes for students in kindergarten to grade 3 in schools like Briargreen and Agincourt and Lakeview, in my riding.
There is so much we can and must achieve. It takes commitments, it takes the right values and of course it takes leadership. But let us begin by defeating the deficit by being more fiscally responsible. But unlike other governments, as the Premier said today, we will not do so on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society. Let us begin by banishing the use of wedge politics and exploiting our fears so common during the reign of the last two Parliaments.
We are here to set a new tone for a new era, a tone of honesty and of respect, and giving the people the straight goods when we table our first budget in this Legislature. The public deserves a government that treats the budget process and the taxpayers' money with respect. To do less is not worthy of the trust Ontarians have put in us.
The throne speech was clear: This government should, and future governments will, show greater respect for democracy and for this Legislature. Politicians and governments they form must continuously earn the trust of their constituents. In order for them to do so, they must embrace the principles of accountability and transparency. The public knows that these two principles are the cornerstones of a functioning democratic system.
Study after study sadly shows that respect for politicians continues to fall. We must ensure that all Ontarians feel that their elected representatives speak on their behalf and act in their interests. If not, voter participation will continue to decline.
In Ontario's last election, the decrease in voter participation was significant. Turnout was just 57%. While I was pleased that the turnout in Ottawa West-Nepean was higher than the average, was 60%, it is still well below the level it should be.
Exercising one's right to vote is intrinsic to a healthy democracy and a fundamental aspect of keeping governments accountable for their actions. Our goal must be not just to meet the expectations of our fellow citizens but to raise the bar so that they demand more from us, and that we too demand more from each other.
That is why I am so pleased that the Premier has appointed a minister responsible for democratic renewal. This is a sign that this government and this Premier are serious about respecting the Legislature and its members and ultimately the people who put us here.
To those who say people don't care, I say we must appeal to their better natures. As we continue to bring forward commitments to increase the powers of the Provincial Auditor, to fine ministers who miss too many question periods, to end partisan taxpayer-funded advertising, we strengthen the role of Parliament and also ensure that the public's representatives have the authority to carry out the people's business.
Government belongs to the people of Ontario. We must provide the opportunities for the public to participate. The expanded role of government caucus members in policymaking committees will provide a more direct voice for the people of Ontario in the 103 constituencies of this province. We must not play fast and loose with the hopes and dreams of a better Ontario that are so dear to the people of this province.
Just as we want to strengthen the underpinnings of democracy in Ontario, we also want to improve the state of our health care system, our schools and colleges -- like Algonquin College, located in my riding -- and to improve public safety in our communities. But before we can do all we want to do, we must not only strengthen the province's finances but we must improve the way we conduct our own business.
Democratic renewal is an important first step, and I congratulate the Premier for his foresight in bringing forward these proposals and many more to come.
It is not by chance that I decided to return to public life. A sense of civic duty was instilled in me at an early age by hearing about my grandfather, a local councillor in his village. He taught me that from time to time we will be called upon to represent our community, our neighbours. We all, I believe, want to live up to the words of Henrik Ibsen, who over 100 years ago wrote, "A community is like a ship. Everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm."
We have all been elected to take the helm and help make this province a better place to live and work in. Let us live up to, if not exceed, the expectations of our constituents. Let us create opportunity for everyone in the province of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: It being almost 12 of the clock, this House is adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 2358.