LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Tuesday 8 March 2005 Mardi 8 mars 2005
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance): I move that the Minister of Finance be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing April 1, 2005 and ending June 30, 2005, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation of the 2005-06 fiscal year following the voting of supply.
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent to have debate for up to half an hour per caucus and that any vote would be deferred until tomorrow at deferred votes.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Is there consent for what the government House leader has just proposed? Agreed.
I recognize the Minister of Finance to lead off.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: I'm pleased to lead off this debate on the interim supply motion. It's traditional in the Legislature that these motions arise. As I said, the purpose of interim supply is simply to ensure that the government has the resources to pay its bills during a period before we have actually passed the supply motion and before a budget is presented. As is stated in the motion, this interim supply motion, if approved, simply provides the authority to pay our bills, to do things like send money to municipalities, hospitals and school boards around the province; to pay the benefits owing to people with disabilities; and to appropriate the payment of salaries to the dedicated people who work for this government across the province.
Generally, motions for interim supply give the finance minister the opportunity -- I tell my friend from Trinity-Spadina, who is smiling -- to reminisce a little bit about what the government has achieved over the course of the past year. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that, but there are a couple of things I am particularly proud of over the course of the past fiscal year, which comes to an end on March 31.
I say to my friend from Trinity-Spadina, because he is a renowned education critic for his party, that I'm particularly proud of the changes we're bringing about in Ontario's public education system: the fact that there are thousands of new teachers at all levels of the system, that we are working on a plan that has specialty teachers in numeracy and literacy across the province. If you just compare the mood in our schools to what it was prior to the election of October 2, 2003 --
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): It's night and day.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: -- as my friend from Mississauga West says, it's night and day. I think we've made some real progress in our education system.
As well, we have made some tremendous progress in our health care system. We need to remember in this Legislature and in this province that health care represents 45% of all the revenue we spend in the programs that governments operate. It's a massive undertaking, some $31 billion in expenditures per year. The changes, the improvements and the move toward a more responsive, community-based system have been the hallmark of the work of my colleague, the Minister of Health. Not that there's not a lot more to do; the transformation that's necessary in that sector is very significant indeed. But I think we've made very significant progress over the course of the past 16 months.
The other thing I'd just like to point out, referring back to the budget I presented in this House on May 18 last year, is the fact that we began, through a new allocation of gas tax revenues, the process of funding what I believe, 10 or 15 years from now, will be a total transformation of public transit right across the province of Ontario. It's particularly important for the greater Toronto area where, every working day of the year, our streets become increasingly congested. With the allocation of two cents per litre of gas tax, ultimately, toward public transit, I think we are going to be providing the funding that will ultimately transform that system.
But enough of the past. As you know, the motion for interim supply deals with appropriations beginning April 1 for the next fiscal year. I want, in the time available to me -- in anticipation of the budget, which will be presented in this Legislature in the fullness of time -- to just share with my friends some of what I heard during my own pre-budget consultations.
As you know, Speaker, I had an opportunity to travel right across the province and into a variety of different communities. Let me put it this way: I have a particular affection for the 12 million-plus people for whom Ontario is home. When you have the honour and the luxury of going from community to community, sitting and listening to people speak about what issues affect them in their daily lives and how an Ontario budget might help them, I must tell you, it is a moving experience indeed.
We started off in Peterborough. Although Peterborough is not known as the centre of agriculture in the province of Ontario, certainly it has a very significant agricultural base. It was the first time I had an opportunity to hear directly from the agricultural community about the devastating impact of the collapse of grain prices.
I don't think anyone works harder in the province than the men and women who cultivate the soil. We've just been through a terrible period with mad cow disease, the closing of our borders and a number of other circumstances that have hit at the income base. And after all that comes what can only be described as an international collapse of grain prices. In Peterborough I heard farmers say to me, "There's no value in planting our crops this year, because when we harvest them, given current grain prices, we won't be able to recover what it cost us to put the seed in the ground." Since that time, I've had discussions with my colleagues in cabinet and in caucus about the appropriate response this government should be taking to the plight of farmers across the province.
I had an opportunity to have a marvellous pre-budget consultation in Ottawa. I was reminded there again that an Ontario budget delivered by a Liberal government must address the interests and needs of those among us who are most vulnerable, whether because of disabilities or because of circumstances. The submissions made at that meeting will certainly be the part of our thinking as we prepare the budget.
By contrast, the meeting in Kitchener was filled with the vibrancy of a part of the province which is in the midst of an economic boom of great proportions. You think of a company like Research in Motion. Most of you are carrying around -- indeed, Mr. Speaker, you're looking at your BlackBerry as I speak, but I'm sure it's off. I say to my friend from Trinity-Spadina that I'm sure the Speaker is not actually using his BlackBerry.
When you think about it, people all over the world now are communicating with this marvellous new device, and it's because of the genius and insight and determination and science of a group of people who are absolutely determined to keep that wonderful business anchored and located in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of this great province. The submissions there about making sure that this kind of vitality can be replicated in other businesses was the thing I was reminded about in the pre-budget consultation in Kitchener.
In Stoney Creek and New Liskeard and in several hearings in Toronto and Thunder Bay and Markham, the theme of the enormous vitality and enormous potential that is locked up in this province was repeated over and over again.
My time is limited here, but --
Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): No, no. Take your time.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: My friend from Trinity-Spadina says, "Take your time." I don't want to trouble him with all the submissions, but to sum up, I'll just tell him that the theme emerging from those pre-budget consultations was the capacity of government, deploying its resources wisely, to make a true difference, not just to our economic potential but to our potential as a people in all areas of activity: cultural, social, economic, community-based etc. I just want to say to you, Speaker, that it is my firm intention to make sure that when we present a budget in this Legislature, the people who participated in those consultations, and the 12 million people on whose behalf they were speaking, will see their own fingerprints on that budget, and it will reflect their aspirations in all areas of public enterprise and public undertaking.
I just want to wrap up with a theme that the Premier has been speaking about for well over a month in the province; that is, the emerging gap, the so-called $23-billion gap, between what the federal government extracts from the province of Ontario in the form of taxes and levies and charges, and what it reinvests in the province in the form of transfer payments and transfers to governments and to individuals. I simply want to put on the record that when we speak about the $23-billion gap, what we're really doing is inviting the federal government, with the surpluses that are now available to it, to begin to reinvest in the province of Ontario in areas like immigration; in areas like a labour market agreement; in areas like infrastructure, where the previous government left an enormous deficit, whether it's in our hydro sector or our hospitals or our schools, universities or community colleges -- to reinvest in that kind of infrastructure, in this province's post-secondary system; to make the kind of investments in this great province that will ensure that Ontario continues to be the strong economic engine of this great country.
I have had an opportunity to meet personally with variety of federal ministers: the finance minister, Mr. Goodale, before he presented his budget; John McCallum, the revenue minister; Mr. Volpe, the immigration minister; and John Godfrey, the minister responsible for communities. I am feeling comforted that we are going to make some progress; not all in one day or in one decision or in one investment, but I'm beginning to feel that our message about the fact that Ontario needs further investment from the federal government certainly rings true right across this province and is being heard by the federal government. In that regard, I was delighted to hear that we may have a joint meeting of federal government ministers from Ontario and our own cabinet, and I think we should make some progress there.
Just in wrapping up on interim supply, I want to say that I look forward to presenting a budget in this Legislature in the near future that will ignite the great potential that exists throughout this marvellous province and that the inspiration I received from those who took the time to participate in the pre-budget consultations will continue to be my inspiration.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leader of the Opposition): I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on interim supply. One of the joys of interim supply is the fact that you have wide latitude in terms of the subjects that can be raised during the debate. You can talk about virtually anything the government is doing or not doing. You can even talk about other parties, like the NDP, but I'm not going to spend any time on that, despite Mr. Marchese's pleadings.
I do want to talk about a number of things. I've been scratching out some thoughts here in the past few minutes. I know I won't have enough time to touch on everything we should and would perhaps like to address this evening, but there are a couple of things that I think should be raised during this opportunity for discussion about the finances and other aspects of government operations.
As you know, for the past couple of weeks we have been talking about the boundaries that have been announced for the greenbelt properties, which are quite extensive. I think it's fair to say the Progressive Conservative Party supports the establishment of a greenbelt in that part of Ontario. Our problem has been with the process. The member for Erie-Lincoln, Mr. Hudak, our representative on the committee dealing with the greenbelt, has described this as a greenbotch, and I think that in many respects that is a very accurate description.
We have been trying for some time to obtain the science behind the final drawing of the boundaries determining the greenbelt and have been unable to obtain that information. As a result, this is just one element that has raised very serious concerns about what process was used and how arbitrary the process was. We see it being drawn along county lines. That fuels the speculation about the fact that this was not real, applied science, in terms of the determination of boundaries, but more likely was political science which was drawn in the Premier's office. We're hearing more and more in the past few days and hours to confirm that.
One of the elements of this that we've been bringing to the attention of members of the assembly and the public at large is the fact that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who has carriage of this legislation, said some months ago that he would not meet with developers to discuss the boundaries of a greenbelt. Of course, as you and anyone paying attention to the goings-on and proceedings in this House know, we've since determined that indeed he did meet with at least one developer, who has written to the minister and indicated his thanks for the minister meeting with him and for allowing a parcel of property, which we have conservatively estimated to be valued at approximately $15 million, to be exempted from the greenbelt boundaries, despite the fact pointed out by Mr. Silvio DeGasperis, the developer in question, that properties abutting his on both sides have similar landscapes and similar qualities in terms of waterways and so on. He asks the minister, "If I was exempted, why weren't these other tablelands exempted?" I think it's a very legitimate question. When you tie this in to the fact that Mr. Silvio DeGasperis was one of a limited number of people who attended a private, very expensive dinner at the home of the brother of the Minister of Finance, at $10,000 per person -- again, where Mr. DeGasperis stresses to us and to others that the greenbelt boundaries were the primary subject of conversation at that very select and expensive, secret soiree. When you tie that in with the fact that the minister was confused or bewildered in terms of meeting with the developer -- and I'm being kind here. Clearly, he has met with the developer and we know that Mr. DeGasperis, through his $10,000 payment, was able to get the ear of the Premier and the Minister of Finance to discuss his concerns with respect to the ultimate boundaries of the greenbelt.
This raises the spectre of favouritism. We heard the Minister of the Environment, who was the Acting Premier in the House today, talk about this in terms of the fact that Mr. DeGasperis's primary concern at this meeting was the agricultural preserve in Pickering. That's the argument that the Acting Premier made and that the Minister of Housing has made on a number of occasions. She suggested -- perhaps even more strongly than that -- that this was a trade-off: "We can't exclude the agricultural preserve in Pickering; however, on the other hand, perhaps we can do something for you," and that is this property exempted, which is valued conservatively at $15 million. That is what the Acting Premier said today. If you disagree, check Hansard. If she misspoke, she didn't get up and apologize and correct the record, and she had the opportunity to do that.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: You have no morals.
Mr. Runciman: The Minister of Finance is questioning my standards. The other day he sent me a note -- he didn't sign it -- questioning my integrity. I've been around here 24 years and I think my integrity is intact. When you're in opposition, sometimes you have to ask very difficult and tough questions, but that is the role of the loyal opposition. The government has no one to blame for this but themselves. Consider the optics surrounding this when they charge individuals $10,000 for a secret soiree at the Minister of Finance's brother's home. They get upset; I can understand them being upset, but they have to understand the optics surrounding this and why that raises legitimate questions and why the opposition has a responsibility to raise those questions in the assembly of Ontario. The government should feel a responsibility to respond, which they do not. Instead, they question the integrity of members of the opposition who, in their view, have the gall to raise these issues. I believe we have the responsibility to raise these issues.
Mr. Marchese: The obligation.
Mr. Runciman: And the obligation -- correct.
This comes from a government, a party whose leader, when sitting in this chair, occupying this desk, was sued for slandering a member of the government of the day; a civil suit for slander, which he had to ultimately admit and pay the legal fees and indicate, "Yes, I did slander a member of the government." That's the party that's now accusing us of lacking integrity because we ask legitimate questions, which I think are important, or should be important, at the very least, to the taxpayers of Ontario. So I make no apologies.
I indicated after question period the other day that I have difficulty with this sort of question and I do, but it is our responsibility. Those of you who have sat in opposition, who are not going to be holier than thou, understand that and appreciate it, although you may not be willing to state it, given your current circumstances.
I have a couple of other things that I wanted to mention with respect to this. We not only know that the minister met with Mr. DeGasperis, we also know that the Premier's principal secretary, his senior political adviser, also met with Mr. DeGasperis on four separate occasions in an effort at damage control and political cover. I saw the Minister of Finance running around on the third floor talking to members of the media, trying to pre-empt the opposition, saying, "Well, you know, it wasn't just Mr. MacNaughton. This is all innocent." But the Premier also met with Mr. DeGasperis. Don Guy, the chief of staff to the Premier, also met with Mr. DeGasperis. Now this is all innocent.
However, let's look at a comment the Minister of Municipal Affairs made in this House in response to a question I asked him with respect to meeting with Mr. DeGasperis. He said, "Maybe I did meet with him but I didn't meet with anybody after August 2004. The maps were drawn, the lines were drawn. The process, the recommendations, came back to us in July. I didn't meet with anybody after August. It wasn't appropriate to meet with anyone, after August, who had an interest in the development of these properties." That's essentially what the Minister of Municipal Affairs said.
Now we know that the principal secretary to the Premier met with Mr. DeGasperis after this cut-off time, which your own minister has set. Your own minister established this cut-off date: "It's not appropriate to talk to anyone with development interests after the end of July." He said it in this House. But now we know the principal secretary, after this date, met with Mr. DeGasperis. We know that the Premier and his chief of staff met with Mr. DeGasperis after this date.
The minister was asked in the House today, with respect to Mr. MacNaughton, "Was it appropriate? You said it wasn't appropriate for you, the minister responsible for carriage of this. Is it appropriate for the chief political adviser in the Premier's office to meet with this man, this developer, this significant property holder?" He refused again to answer this, to be upfront and accountable to the people of Ontario, the taxpayers of Ontario, who like to believe that the boundaries of the greenbelt have some legitimacy, that money didn't have any influence with respect to the drawing of these boundaries. We didn't get that kind of response and we haven't had it from any member of that government to date.
We asked for a legislative inquiry today. It has happened in the past. It happened with Evelyn Gigantes. It happened with René Fontaine. It happened with Elinor Caplan. A couple of those were in minority government situations, which I guess speaks to the advantages sometimes of minority situations.
We are being stonewalled in the House. The government is trying to pre-empt us by having the Minister of Finance run around to the media today, saying, "Yes, the Premier did meet and his chief of staff met, but this was all innocent. We told him we weren't going to give him what he wants. Come on, folks. This is all friendly stuff." Yet, they will not release the names of the people who attended this secret Sorbara soirée at $10,000 a head. They won't release that. We've been told by Susanna Kelley at TVO that at least seven of the attendees at this function have very strong connections to the development industry or are developers themselves.
This is a growing scandal and I think it's incumbent upon the government to lay everything on the table. Let's get the facts out there in the public. Let's have a real understanding of what happened here. Is this influence-buying? Is this money that really impacted on the decisions of the boundary, or was this appropriate? I think these are legitimate questions, which have been provoked by your lack of responses in this House and your actions that preceded it. You can't blame this on us. You sat over here, screamed and yelled at us for two and a half years about these kinds of issues. This is worse. You want to impugn our integrity and not question your own with respect to these matters.
This is an issue that --
The Acting Speaker: Will the Leader of the Opposition take his seat for a second.
I would ask all members to observe decorum in the House so that we can get through the evening.
I would ask the member for Simcoe-Grey to refrain from heckling while his leader is speaking.
Mr. Runciman: This is an issue, as I said, that is not going to go away. We're going to continue to pursue this. I think it's in the interests of the taxpayers of Ontario --
Mr. Marchese: What about citizens?
Mr. Runciman: -- and certainly the interests of citizens at large.
I want to move on to a couple of other subjects while I have some time. We know that a few weeks ago the Premier admitted defeat with respect to a balanced budget, a promise made by the Liberal Party of Ontario and, I think, made in the last budget of Minister Sorbara: "We will balance the budget by the end of our term in office in 2007." The Premier, when he was up in the riding that is now looking at a by-election, said, "No, I have to say that that ain't going to happen, folks. That's another promise that we can't meet." Of course, he wants to blame all sorts of other people for his failure to meet that promise. Certainly that is the game plan for this government: to blame someone, to blame everyone for their own failings. That's a consistent message coming from the Liberal Party of Ontario, the current government of Ontario. After only -- what? -- 17 months, 18 months, a year and a half in office: "We're admitting defeat, throwing up our hands and saying that we can't win this battle."
Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): We had an $11-billion deficit.
Mr. Runciman: Yes, my colleague indicates that we had an $11-billion deficit when we formed government. Through some very tough and difficult measures, we were able to bring that under control and balance the budget for a number of years in a row and, obviously, suffered some political damage as a result of that. But we did what was right for the people of Ontario and didn't take the politically easy way out by increasing taxes, increasing deficits and admitting defeat a year and half into our mandate.
One of my colleagues was suggesting that it's like Winston Churchill during the Second World War, when the Nazis invaded France, saying, "It's all over, folks. We can't win. It's all over. Let's wave the white flag."
You're into the war, in the early days, and here is a significant battle that you should be prepared to take on, but it is a battle, it's tough. Those of us who have been in government know how difficult it can be, with the financial pressures, especially in the health care sector. But you don't want to take on that fight. You want to take the easy road, the easy way, and simply continue to spend, spend, spend and increase the deficit and encumber future generations in the province. That is the easy way out. And it is a typical Liberal way out.
I was around here before, when the Liberals were in office, as was Minister Sorbara. During the five years of the Peterson government in Ontario, they almost doubled spending. In five short years in office, they almost doubled spending. They had about 32 or 33 tax increases during that five-year term of office. These folks are going down the same path. It was 9% their first year, and their spending is probably going to be increased over 9% this year. What are we talking about? We're talking about an 18% to 20% increase in the spending of the provincial government in two years in office. That is a shameful record in terms of coming to grips with the challenges that this province faces.
Instead, they want to increase the deficit and blame somebody else. Blame your predecessor. When that starts to get tired, let's blame the federal government. Let's blame the Federal Liberals. Well, that doesn't wash with the public of Ontario either. That does not wash, especially when you look at the track record of the Liberal Party of Ontario.
In the year 2000, the Harris government had a resolution before this House that was calling on the federal government, in terms of the federal fiscal arrangements, to give Ontario a fairer deal in confederation. We believe there need to be changes, not just in equalization but in all of the federal-provincial fiscal arrangements. What kind of a response did we get from the Liberals when they were sitting over here? They spoke against it vehemently, called it fed-bashing, no merit, a blame game.
Mr. Wilson: We're whiners.
Mr. Runciman: We're whiners.
Mr. Marchese: I remember that.
Mr. Runciman: The members of the current cabinet, the executive council, virtually every one of them, spoke against it and voted against it. Now all of a sudden, when they can't get their own spending under control, can't meet all of these wild and crazy promises they made to the electorate during the election campaign, say, "It's those damned Liberals in Ottawa. They're not treating us fairly." They're whining; they're fed-bashing day after day.
I've heard they have even set up a war room in the Whitney Block and hired Warren Kinsella to operate the war room against the federal Liberals -- Warren Kinsella, who, as we know, hates Paul Martin, so he will really lust after this job.
Mr. Marchese: And he's getting paid to do it.
Mr. Runciman: And he's getting paid a significant amount of money per diem to fight Paul Martin. They're hoping these guys are going to save their bacon. They can't save it because they're not willing to govern. They don't know how to govern. They don't have a plan. We've said day after day that what they are doing is writing things out on the back of a napkin. I think it's closer to the truth when we look at the greenbelt especially, but perhaps it applies to other policies. What they are doing is writing out their plan on the back of a cheque, and with respect to the greenbelt, a $10,000 cheque. It's a shameful, shameful, shameful record after only 18 months in government, and the people of Ontario are recognizing it.
In a poll done by SCS which was released about three weeks ago, people were asked, unprompted, "How would you describe Premier McGuinty? What word or combination of words come to mind when you think of Premier Dalton McGuinty?" Forty-one per cent of the respondents, unprompted, used one word, and it starts with a capital "l." It would be unparliamentary for me to use that word in this assembly, but I think everyone listening in Parliament tonight and those viewing and listening to us during this debate understands that Mr. McGuinty was described by 41% of the respondents, unprompted, with a four-letter word that starts with "l."
The Acting Speaker: I would ask you to withdraw that unparliamentary comment. You can't say indirectly what you can't say directly.
Mr. Runciman: Mr. Speaker, I'll respect your wishes and withdraw.
I'm very concerned about the financial situation in the province of Ontario, and I think more and more people are going to be concerned as we proceed through the next number of months.
We've seen issues in the manufacturing sector. The labour minister is bringing in legislation which I think is alarming significant numbers in the business community. They are doing real damage to the investment climate in this province. I think we are going to see growing alarm about this government's spending practices, its taxation practices, its efforts to change labour laws in the province, which again discourage job growth and investment.
Talking about the financial situation, there's the doctors' agreement. We know the minister has talked about an additional $120 million, a sweetener that's been thrown in. "This is the final offer." We heard that a number of months ago: "Final offer. You're not getting any more from us." Of course now, three or four months later, we've thrown in another $120 million. That's just a sop for the civil suit against the bullying of the doctors in the province, I guess, but we don't really know. That $120 million is the figure being bandied about by the minister. The incorporation of doctors: We're not sure of the costs. The government is speculating $15 million on an annualized basis. It may be significantly more. I've heard $100 million to $200 million. It depends, obviously, on the number of doctors who ultimately decide to incorporate. There are also the salary caps and what that will mean. The projections in terms of costs, we do not know.
The CUPE deal just arrived at is 3%. We yet have teachers and nurses. I think we should all be concerned about where this is all heading and what the end result might be in terms of the financial condition of this province. I mention the inability of the former Liberal government, the Peterson government, to control spending and the result, that the NDP inherited a situation where we were running into a recession, which no one knew about except Mr. Peterson.
That's why he called an early election. He knew what was happening, and he didn't want to go to the people and tell the truth. Three and half years into his mandate, he called an early election. And of course, the NDP walked in the door and found out that we were facing a recession. I don't agree with their response, which was to try, as a province, to spend their way out of it. That was inappropriate, and I suspect if they were sitting around having a beer with me later, they'd agree it was an inappropriate response. It might have changed their ultimate destiny in terms of the duration of their government.
In any event, I think we should all be concerned. The LHINs -- the local health integration networks -- are, again, resulting in the closure of district health councils, which are essentially volunteers who have done great work for the people of the province. They've been thrown out, tossed out on their ear. We don't know what the severances will be with respect to that. We know that they're advertising for CEOs for LHINs at salaries in the neighbourhood of a quarter of a million dollars a year, even though we don't know what the mandate of LHINs will be at this point in time. Again, it's a reflection on the lack of planning and the arbitrariness of this Liberal government.
The other element -- there are CCACs; we don't know their future -- is the impact on the boards of governors of local hospitals. There's a strong suspicion that these people are going to undermine and perhaps remove local input and local boards of governors in hospitals in communities that we all care for.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo): No autonomy.
Mr. Runciman: "No autonomy," as my colleague and former Minister of Health says.
So that, again, should be a concern. These people seem to be feeling their way in the dark in many of these areas, which we're all going to pay for, and pay heavily, I'm afraid.
Quickly, I want to talk about agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture is in the House, and I hope he doesn't start yelling at me. I represent a riding that has a strong rural component, and he knows as well as I do that these are extremely difficult times for the farming community and for people who live in rural Ontario.
We can talk about the farming community, and we raise their issues on a regular basis. We've had an opposition day sponsored by our party in the House to make sure those issues are elevated in the assembly, and we've been critical of the government for the fact that they made a promise during the election campaign that agriculture would be a lead ministry. Then the first thing they did was cut its budget by 20%. I think the minister, if he were being frank about it, would indicate his own frustration with respect to his colleagues and the fact that they haven't given him the support that he merits and requires to make sure that we adequately address the real concerns.
It's not just farmers; it's the rural way of life. We'll see that frustration expressed here tomorrow with the tractor protest, as it's called. We can knock these folks -- I know some of them, and they have legitimate concerns about a way of life in this province which is being lost when you have the Ministry of Health coming in and saying you can't have a potluck dinner, or when the church hall or community hall is threatened because of water regulations and Big Brother coming in and saying, "You can't do that," and government being influenced and controlled by urban Ontario, people who have never been to a potluck dinner in their lives and who have no appreciation or understanding of what the rural life is all about. These are the people who are controlling this place, regrettably. If you take a look at the executive council of the Liberal government, how many members are from Toronto? I think it's 10, at least 10.
Mr. Wilson: Only three from rural areas.
Mr. Runciman: "Only three from rural areas," my colleague tells me. They don't have a voice in this government; they are not a lead ministry. I don't want to be critical of the minister. I like him. I consider him a friend. I think he has a very tough job to do in the current circumstances. He doesn't have the support around that cabinet table. These folks are what I call Toronto-centric. I don't want to knock Toronto either, but I don't think they understand, they don't appreciate and, from the perception of people in rural Ontario, they don't care. They don't care because there are not enough seats there, there are not enough votes there. That's the reality. You're not going to win government looking after rural Ontario.
You've got to look after the big cities, you've got to look after the urban areas. That's their priority. Those are their lead ministries, not agriculture, not rural life in this province. But those of us who care about the history of this province, the heritage of this province and the future of this province think it is important, and we're going to continue to fight for rural Ontario and the farming community in Ontario.
I have exhausted my time. I can't believe it. I have another three or four pages to go, but I'll have to reserve it for a later time. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Mr. Marchese: I'm happy to participate in this debate around interim supply. I just want to welcome the citizens of Ontario to this parliamentary channel at 7:30. I've got about 25 minutes or so. I hope that you're going to sit back, have a glass of wine or a beer, if that's what you like -- for me, it would be a glass of red wine and some popcorn, some cheese, some olives, some prosciutto -- and enjoy the rest of this time, because it's a fun place.
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North): It's live too.
Mr. Marchese: And it's live. We are all live.
This interim supply bill is about money, and I want to talk about money. I want to say this to you, Minister: I want to admit to a weakness. I have a bias and a weakness for liking the Minister of Finance, so it's a problem. It's a real problem because, when you like people, you just don't know how to go after them. I want to tell you, you're a lucky guy. But your government is not going to be as lucky because I'm going to attack you as best I can in the next 25 minutes.
I want to begin by making reference to the fact that the Minister of Finance talked about what great things they're doing in education. Here's what they're doing. The Minister of Education, just last July, announces at the end of the school year $100 million for special ed, something that boards were awaiting for approximately seven months -- seven to 10 months, they argue. The Minister of Education waits and waits and waits, and when does he announce the 100 million bucks, the money they were entitled to, that they all signed off on? At the end of July. Not even the end of June, when they might be able to sign a couple of cheques and get some expenditures out of the way, but in July, when the children and the teachers are not in the classroom. They're not in school.
What does the Minister of Education then do? In August, he takes that $100 million away from the boards, so that we are now in a revenue-neutral situation. He, in effect, has given no money for special ed.
Mr. David Zimmer (Willowdale): Calm down, Rosario.
Mr. Marchese: Not only that, David; he says that 50 million bucks of that 100 million that he stole, that he took away, is going to be made available to the boards -- money they were entitled to before July. And guess what? You know, Speaker, because your wife is a teacher; she's been waiting for that application that Gerard Kennedy, the Minister of Education, said would be available in November. We are now in March. He takes $100 million from the boards, says he would make $50 million available, would produce some kind of application process, and the money would just roll back.
We don't even have an application yet in process, and we are in March. April, May and June are coming. It'll be the end of the year, and guess what? The Minister of Education is going to announce not the $50 million of the $100 million he stole from the boards, but another $100 million by the end of this July, and none of that money will flow because it's all about a game that Liberals love to contrive around. They are great at conniving and allowing people to believe that they're doing something good for you when, in effect, they give and they take. They announce millions and millions of dollars that never get delivered. It's a brilliant Liberal strategy. That's what they're good at, and they are good at this. They are amongst the best in this place. They are fooling people, but I'm telling you, Minister of Finance, it's coming to an end. It is so beautiful to witness.
This is a Minister of Education who, when he was in opposition, talked about, "Oh, my God, the Tories are leaving us with 42,000 kids waiting on special education lists, kids who need the attention, who need to do better, who need to be assessed by psychologists." It wouldn't happen if Gerard Kennedy was the Minister of Education. Oh, no. That waiting list would be eliminated in no time.
He gets elected, and that list is growing by the day. That $100 million he gave in July, he took away in August, and nothing is coming our way. And those poor special education kids that the minister has a heart for? Well, they just have to wait a little longer, because I guess he really cares but he just doesn't seem to have the money. That's the Minister of Education, the guy with a heart; that's Premier McGuinty, the guy with a bigger heart; and that's the Minister of Finance, who has a heart too, all contriving together to give and to take, and then people are left waiting for the money they so desperately need: special education kids, kids who are needy and have either a physiological problem, a psychological problem or a combination of both that makes them vulnerable. What does Kennedy, the Minister of Education, do now that he's in government? "You can wait."
On transportation, the Minister of Education said, "We've got a new formula coming your way, and, by the way, it's a draft." But, lo and behold, this draft gives all the boards a 2% increase. He says to approximately 40 boards, "You're going to get a down payment this year and an increase in September," and then he says to the other 30 boards, "You're getting the 2% increase, but come September you're getting a decrease." So this funding formula change for transportation purposes that we were waiting for from the Minister of Education who's got a heart, it ain't coming. In fact, he took some money from some boards and gave it to others, and he calls that the equity transportation fund. No kidding. I asked him in committee, "Did you come up with that title?" He said no, and he turned around to ask his staff how it came about that they had this new title called the equity fund, which he calls a draft. How can a draft be such that some boards are getting money this year and the rest next year, and the other 30 boards are going to get a cut in September? How can that be a draft?
Mr. Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Do you know what a draft is?
Mr. Marchese: Yeah, a draft is a beer. And that's what our citizens are doing right now, enjoying the fact that we New Democrats are exposing the sham. That's what they're enjoying with that draft. That's what this is about. It's about exposing -- now, Speaker, don't get carried away. Just enjoy yourself.
Lisa, where are you going? All right. Are we okay? We're not?
The Acting Speaker: I would like to ask the member for Trinity-Spadina to keep his language within the realm of parliamentary acceptability. Thank you.
Mr. Marchese: You're absolutely right, Speaker, and that's what it's about. I try to stay as clean as I can, as antiseptic as I can, with my language, because that's what this place is all about.
Then we have the Liberals talking about school closures. Remember the Minister of Education implementing a moratorium last year?
Mr. Jeff Leal (Peterborough): It worked well.
Mr. Marchese: Yeah, it worked really well. He said to the boards, "You've got a moratorium in place, but, by the way, there ain't no money coming your way." How can small schools stay open without what I call in Latin the pecunia? How can you do that without having extra money for a principal, who doesn't qualify if you don't have the numbers? How can you do that without extra pecunia? Just implementing a moratorium doesn't do it. Even Liberals understand that, I think.
Mr. Patten: Of course.
Mr. Marchese: When the members say, "Of course," they contribute to the contrivance of the Liberal politics that say, "We're keeping your small school open but we've got no money for you." And Liberals understand again.
I attended a press conference a couple of weeks ago where the Premier and the Minister of Education went to Vaughan high school and said, "We've got 280 million bucks to leverage $2 billion of capital projects, and by the way" --
Mr. Leal: Hope is on the way.
Mr. Marchese: Yes, hope is on the way -- "small schools will be able to stay open."
How? How can giving money for capital projects help small schools when they need extra money for principals? They need extra dollars to reduce the class size so you don't have three or four classes in one. How can you get the extra money for a secretary, a librarian, a gym teacher or music teachers? You understand what I'm saying, right, Liberals?
Mr. Marchese: My friend from Hamilton East understands because she's a New Democrat. But I understand why Liberals wouldn't understand that or wouldn't want to understand that. It's part of that contrivance.
So small schools cannot stay open because you announced $280 million for capital projects that will never materialize, and I'll tell you why.
Mr. Leal: Why? Tell us.
Mr. Marchese: Because last May, your Minister of Education, the guy with the heart, announced $200 million for capital projects and none of that money flowed. Now he is announcing $280 million, and I'm saying to you, citizens, that money ain't going to flow. That's what Liberals do. They just keep on making big announcements and people hope that money will flow. The guy with the heart, the Minister of Education, says, "In the next 18 months, some of this money we are committing will flow." Maybe, but we don't know, because we have an example of a minister who announced $200 million last year, and not one cent of that money was channelled through the right channels.
Small schools will close. I guarantee that to you, Liberal members, and you can bank on it. Go to your friends in your ridings and tell them that. Tell them Marchese said, "The Minister of Education with a heart doesn't have a cent to keep small schools open."
By the way, do you remember your Liberal promises, the feel-good promises you made called Government That Works for You? The now-Minister of Education said in his education platform, "We are going to have an education finance committee so that people know what we're giving and what we're spending on education." It's almost two years into the mandate. Has anybody heard from Mr. Kennedy, the Minister of Education, about that education finance committee? No.
Mr. Leal: He's working on it.
Mr. Marchese: Working on it? Liberals working on it means an eternity. It never will come.
Mr. Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): You're a cynic.
Mr. Marchese: A big one. But let's see what the Liberals said about cynicism. I've got McGuinty here. He says, "Nothing inspires me more than the opportunity to combat the cynicism that far too many people feel about Ontario politics." Dalton McGuinty, the Premier --
Mr. Marchese: I got you there. The Premier said, "People have lost faith in their politicians and their institutions of government," and he is going to fix that, eh, David? You're yawning with excitement. I know that. You are yawning so much with excitement that I want to tell you about the $10,000 dinner that you guys had just a short little while ago. I love the way the member from Leeds-Grenville says, "That soiree." He says it so well. You notice how he says "soiree"? It's beautiful. It's a $10,000 meal. I've got to tell you there's a problem, David. Oh, no, it's not David; it's the member from Willowdale. You see, I am getting there. I am working with you, Speaker, me and you together.
Ten thousand bucks. Can you imagine a $10,000 dinner? For my little mind -- because I'm a little guy, right? I come from a family of modest means. Ten thousand bucks -- do you know what that will cover? It covers two years of tuition fees at these rates, $5,000 a pop. Do you know how hard it is to find that kind of money? Do you know how hard it is finding the money, 5,000 bucks per student, to get to university? Do you know how hard it is for that student to find it? It's hard. But no, all you need is a $10,000 cheque.
What's wrong, Speaker?
The Acting Speaker: It's a prop.
Mr. Marchese: It's a prop? OK. All you need is a $10,000 cheque, right? It's right here. It's in my pocket. You just get it right out and you go to that beautiful soiree.
I've got to tell you, the food can't be all that good, right? Maybe it was lasagna. I love lasagna, but I know how much it costs to make a lasagna because I've done it myself. I love making lasagna, but it doesn't cost that kind of money.
Ten thousand bucks. I remember attacking the Tories for having $700 dinners, and I remember attacking the Liberals for having $600 dinners. I used to say, then, "What's the difference between one party and the other? One hundred bucks." Seven-hundred-dollar dinners, $600 dinners. What's the difference? One hundred bucks.
And do you know what? The same people go to the same parties. We're talking about DeGasperis. He probably ran to Tory dinners as he goes to the Liberal dinners, and he probably donated as much money to the Tories as he's donating to the Liberals, because developers have no allegiance to a political party. But they love the Tories and they love the Liberals. They'll give to both parties, and they'll go to whatever party is called by any one of them.
But 10,000 bucks? I'm telling you, a whole lot of little people --
Mr. Marchese: Sir? You've got a problemo? Not you, the guy at the back.
Ten thousand dollars. Minister of Finance, you've got to -- Minister of Finance? I'm just trying to --
The Acting Speaker: One of the other conventions we're supposed to observe here is that you're supposed to speak through the Chair. If you would please do that, it would be most sincerely appreciated.
Mr. Marchese: Of course. Ten thousand bucks; I'm telling you.
So I attack Tories and Liberals for the kind of dinners they have, because I have events that used to be $25 dollars. Do you know how hard it is to get people in my riding to come to a $25 event? Do you know how hard that is? It's hard. It's not just like going to a dentist. It's like going to an orthodontist. It's worse than going to a dentist, I'm telling you. When people have to come to an NDP event paying 35 bucks or 50 bucks, it's like pulling teeth. It's hard.
So you can understand, for a little guy like me, thinking you've got to pay 10,000 bucks to go to some soiree, I've got to tell you, a whole lot of people out there think this is weird stuff. It's worse than going from 700-buck or $600-a-pop dinners. This reminds me of Emeril the cook. Do you guys know Emeril the cook? It's like going from $700 a pop, and then he goes, "Bam," and all of a sudden it's $10,000. You've got to turn it up a notch, right? Bam. What next?
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): Kick it up a notch.
Mr. Marchese: "Kick it up a notch," that's what he says. Can you believe it? The Liberal Party just kicked it up a notch. Bam. Ten thousand bucks a pop. I tell you, a whole lot of people in my riding think this is not nice.
McGuinty says he's going to deal with cynicism; people have lost faith in their politicians and their institutions of government. I don't think so. I just don't believe that.
I'm not feeling good about this. What it means is, if I've got 10,000 bucks, I can go and meet the Premier and some other bigwigs in the Liberal Party. All of a sudden, when we're dealing with the greenbelt, we're not dealing with a greenbelt any more; we're dealing with a greenback kind of influence. It's not greenbelt, it's greenback -- money. That's what it is. The science is, follow the money. The science is, follow the greenback. That's what the science is.
If you've got the Minister of Municipal Affairs saying, "We're dealing with the science," it's all yak-yak. Everybody understands that it's about 10,000 bucks, and that if you deposit $10,000 in the little pot as you enter that soirée, the line all of a sudden gets moved. The greenbelt moves. Because money moves, money talks. So trees are in, and then you get this, and all of a sudden trees are out. Then concrete is in and grass is out. That's what we're talking about.
Mr. Zimmer: What about big union money?
Mr. Marchese: Willowdale, here's big union money right here. Ten thousand a pop and the line just changes from grass to --
The Acting Speaker: The member for Trinity-Spadina is giving a highly entertaining speech, and I would like to hear it. I would ask all members of the House to refrain from heckling him so that I can hear him.
Mr. Marchese: I feel the same way. They're just so loud, I can't even hear myself. It's unbelievable. But it's about that cheque I just gave away, right? You deposit the cheque and, presto, the line moves. Grass is out; concrete is in. Trees are out; asphalt comes in. All you need is to come in with a little cheque. Come on, Minister of Finance, I'm not after you, because I like you. But 10,000 bucks, I'm telling you, is not good. It don't look good. It contributes --
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: So you say your principles would be for sale for $10,000. Is that what you're telling us?
Mr. Marchese: No, no. I'm saying your principles are for sale for 10,000 bucks.
The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member to withdraw that unparliamentary remark.
Mr. Marchese: I withdraw that, Speaker.
What is offensive to me is that someone could come into a place with 12 people and bring 10,000 bucks as a contribution to a political party. That's offensive to me. Whether it has influence and how much influence it has, I don't know, but it has a lot of influence. Ten thousand dollars has a lot of influence on politicians. How can you go anywhere and say that $10,000 means nothing? You bring a hundred bucks, you bring 200 bucks, I'm telling you, that wouldn't offend me so much. Even 500 bucks wouldn't offend me so much. You bring 10,000 bucks to a dinner, that is offensive to me, and it is offensive to anyone out there watching the proceedings.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: How much did you get from CUPE this year?
Mr. Marchese: How much did the NDP -- Liberals get as much from unions as New Democrats get --
The Acting Speaker: The member for Trinity-Spadina, please take your seat. I've got a point of order over here.
Mr. Delaney: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Aside from the needless repetition, the member for Trinity-Spadina appears to be making an allegation against the Minister of Finance. Indeed, he repeatedly imputes the fact that the Minister of Finance has a heart, which any member trying to get money from the Minister of Finance will know is simply not true.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Trinity-Spadina has the floor.
Mr. Marchese: I want to thank the member for his irrelevant motion.
I am telling you that citizens are offended with that kind of contribution that they make to any political party. We thought that the Tories were bad. When Liberals accept $10,000 to come to a little party, that is as bad if not worse than what they could do. Why? Because it wasn't even public; it was a little private affair. That's even worse. Because in a public event, at least you know who is going and who is paying and you can see them going into the place. In this little soiree, you don't even know. It's as bad if not worse than what Tories would do. Don't give me that crap.
The Acting Speaker: I would ask you to withdraw that. That is not dignifying the debate. I would ask you to withdraw.
Mr. Marchese: I withdraw "crap."
Then you've got York University. Forty-two acres of land are given away to a developer who has close contacts to someone else who is on the board deciding who gets the contract. It's not even a bidding process. They didn't even bid for that land. And you've got people at the university saying, "That's OK because this developer has the sensitivities we need to develop the land." What kind of politics is this? It's being harvested in this kind of environment. I'm telling you, it's wrong.
Six hundred and fifteen houses have been approved. Each one, when you break it down by way of costs, is worth $24,000. The house value for such a place, or the land value, would be about 200,000 bucks. This developer gets a sweetheart deal. They don't have to go into a bidding process.
All of this is happening in this kind of climate. I'm telling you, talk about cynicism. It's really, really bad. We're contributing to a terrible environment in terms of how the corporate sector has as much influence on the Liberal Party as they did on the Tories. The same politics applies. I have no faith in this Liberal government to change what the Tories were doing. You have the Tories giving the CEO of Hydro One close to $1 million in wages, then you've got the Minister of Energy giving the same amount -- $750,000, close to $1 million -- in salary to the new CEO of Hydro One. How is that any different? It's the same politics. You just changed the colour.
What individual in the public sector is worth $750,000? The Premier only makes about $160,000 a year. He's responsible for a whole lot, and he's under attack day in and day out -- including the Minister of Finance. This guy, the CEO of Hydro One, is getting $750,000 a year in salary, including who knows what, and that's OK with the Liberals.
Mr. Delaney: So you think we should pay the Premier $750,000?
Mr. Marchese: "Should we pay the Premier $750,000?" -- as if my point wasn't clear. I don't know what I'm saying that isn't clear to you. Where is this member from? This guy here is from Mississauga West. Holy cow. Please, go back to your seat. That would solve it.
Your politics are just as bad as the Tories'. When it comes to breeding cynicism, you're no different.
I leave you fine citizens with these thoughts. I know some of my Liberal friends don't like it, and I tried not to name anyone, because that's not nice. But it involves the whole Liberal Party here -- it does. It involves the corporate sector, in terms of its ability to get a hearing, and it doesn't come cheap.
I leave the next few minutes to my friend from Hamilton East, who wants to raise so many other points. I apologize to her for taking more time than I needed to.
Ms. Horwath: It's a good backdrop that my colleague has set for the comments that I want to make. It being International Women's Day, I think there are some important issues that need to be raised about who doesn't have the ear of this government. It's certainly the women of our province. I'm going to tell you why I say that. If you look at what this government has not done, in terms of doing the right thing by the women of this province, there are many, many things.
I had the pleasure this morning of attending an event in Hamilton at the Dofasco Centre for the Arts, the Theatre Aquarius venue. There was an excellent half day put on by a number of different sponsors, and I want to quickly mention them: Caribana food market; the Canadian Human Rights Commission; Fortinos Hamilton west and east; Hamilton Status of Women Committee; Metis Women's Circle; Native Women's Centre; Sexual Assault Centre, Hamilton and area; St. Joseph Immigrant Women's Centre; Status of Women Canada, Hamilton chapter; Strengthening Hamilton's Community Initiative; Catholic Family Services; Settlement and Integration Services Organization; access and equity group from the corporate services section of the city of Hamilton; the Sudanese League of Hamilton; Women's Centre of Hamilton; and Ryerson United Church.
Do you know what? The first speaker who got up to speak at International Women's Day celebrations in Hamilton pilloried this government for their lack of action on women's issues on International Women's Day. The first comment they made was about the lack of response of this government to their own promise in terms of getting rid of the clawback on the national child benefit. I can tell you, that's on the top of women's minds. It's not on the top of the minds of women who have $10,000 to pay to attend a soiree put on by one of the Liberal cabinet ministers. No, it's not on those women's minds. It's on the minds of women who are living in poverty in community after community across this province.
If there's one thing that this government could do to affect the lot of women living in poverty, it would be getting rid of that national child benefit supplement clawback, actually living up to the promise that this government made.
That's not the only way that this government is failing women. In Hamilton, we have a serious problem: We're losing second-stage housing units in Hamilton. I've brought this up with the minister. I've raised it in question period. To this day, we are still in a crisis situation with transitional housing units, called second-stage housing, currently being delivered by Family Services Hamilton. Why? The stand-alone board that used to be responsible for this service could no longer take responsibility for it, because they could not get a commitment from the provincial government to fund this service. We had 30 units of this transitional housing in Hamilton; we now have only 28. I'm urging this government to do the right thing by women on International Women's Day, by making a commitment to family services so that they can continue to fund second-stage service.
But that's not the only thing. This government has made a lot of noise and a lot of talk about services for children. They've talked about not-for-profit child care. I haven't seen it yet. I'm hoping they do the right thing when it comes to child care. I'm hoping that it is actually going to be not-for-profit, but I'm not hearing yet that this government is making that commitment. Why? Because the same people who tend to go to these soirees and have the money to spend $500, $600, $700 -- $10,000 -- on a soiree are not the ones who are going to be providing not-for-profit child care. I'm wondering if there isn't a bit of an agenda there in terms of who does and who doesn't get to get the money from the provincial government to provide child care services.
But not only that; it's similar to the shell game that was described by my colleague. The shell game is this: The provincial government gets money from the federal government. The provincial government then says, "We're going to be funding these great child care programs." But guess what? They didn't spend any of their own money on those child care programs; they spent the federal government's money on those programs. The bottom line is, it's subterfuge that is inappropriate in this Legislature.
The Acting Speaker: Pursuant to the agreement of the House, I'm now going to move forward with the vote on the motion.
Mr. Sorbara has moved government notice of motion number 318. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.
Hon. Steve Peters (Minister of Agriculture and Food): Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the House.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Peters has moved the adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 2002.