38th Parliament, 2nd Session



Thursday 23 March 2006 Jeudi 23 mars 2006














LOI DE 2006





































The House met at 1330.




The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The member for Waterloo-Wellington.

Mr. Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): Welcome back, Mr. Speaker.

Last year, in my newsletter to my constituents in Waterloo-Wellington, I included a questionnaire. The most decisive response I received on any questions was 90% support for my private member's bill that is intended to protect double-hatter firefighters. My constituents understand that this issue has the potential to put rural communities at risk when firefighters are harassed by their union and forced to quit volunteering in their home communities.

The fire marshal understands this too. A few months ago in Shakespeare, two double-hatter firefighters were forced by their union to sit at home while a neighbour's home was ablaze. That house sustained considerable damage, and a family pet died in the fire. After the incident and his investigation, Fire Marshal Bernard Moyle wrote to the Stratford Beacon Herald, saying that his office will continue to support legislation to protect double-hatters.

Recently, Ted Droog, president of the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario, wrote to the Premier urging him to support my bill, saying, "It will accomplish and ensure justice, fairness and protection to career firefighters from losing their employment and permit them to be a volunteer firefighter in their home community."

This week, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record published an opinion column by Teresa Brown. She wrote that without double-hatter firefighters, "rural townships would not enjoy the high-quality fire service they now have. In fact, Ontario would essentially have two-tiered fire protection, one for the wealthier municipalities and a vastly different one for poorer rural areas."

So far, the government has refused to express support for double-hatters in any meaningful way --

The Speaker: Thank you. Be seated. Thank you.


Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): I rise today to acknowledge and honour the bravery of the firefighters and rescue workers who responded to the tragic accident involving 38 cars and killing five people on Highway 417 near Limoges on February 17. Led by Fire Chief Aurèle Constantineau, fire departments from Embrun, Limoges and Ottawa worked alongside paramedics from Prescott and Russell, and Ottawa, and the OPP.

About 90 emergency personnel worked for over 20 hours to evacuate the injured and clear the road.

OC Transpo a fourni le transport des gens légèrement blessés à la station des pompiers de Limoges, où les gens de la communauté leur ont servi un goûter chaud pendant qu'ils attendaient leurs parents ou leurs amis.

Samedi prochain, le 25 mars, le Service d'incendie de la municipalité de La Nation, caserne Limoges, célébrera son 30e anniversaire de fondation. Trois pompiers de la caserne seront honorés pour leur contribution et leurs décennies de service : Timmy Tolsma, 20 ans de service; Guy Longtin, 30 ans de service; et le Chef Aurèle Constantineau, 30 ans de service.

Au nom du gouvernement McGuinty, félicitations à nos trois récipiendaires ainsi qu'à ceux et celles qui ont contribué au succès des services rendus à la communauté.


Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I seek unanimous consent for members to wear the "Farmers Feed Cities" button in support of agriculture.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Agreed? Agreed.


Mr. Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): I rise in the House today to express my frustration and that of the council of the city of Owen Sound over the lack of action, promised by this Liberal government. I'm referring to the dispute over who should pay for court security costs and the refusal by the minister to resolve it. He has stated, and I quote from a letter sent in August 2005 to the city of Owen Sound, "It has always been my position that municipalities with regional court security obligations should not have to pay the full amount of court security costs."

On another occasion he stated, "The current state of affairs, where the provision of court security is the sole responsibility of the local municipality that houses court facilities, is untenable."

Court security costs for 2006 are estimated to reach $500,000, and with only half of the cases heard occurring in the city of Owen Sound, why is Owen Sound paying all the costs? Why doesn't the minister step up and resolve this inequity?

Not only have I written letters and arranged and attended meetings, I also participated in a forum in Owen Sound last June. The 2003 Hugh Thomas report recommended that either the province pay the bill or municipalities share the costs willingly, or the province would legislate cost sharing. This government chose to ignore that report and, as reported this past February in our local newspaper, the minister "has no intention of helping the city deal with the contentious court security cost issue."

Another 20 municipalities experiencing the same problem have joined our fight, and still this government refuses to act. The studies --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you.


Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I rise today to talk about Agnes Macphail. As the members of this Legislature walk up the grand staircase to come into this Legislature, they will see that there are eight or nine busts of prominent parliamentarians, and only one of those busts is of a woman. That is Agnes Campbell Macphail, who was the first woman to take her seat in this Legislature -- the first one -- in 1943.

Tomorrow, 24 March, marks her birthday, and in great tradition the former borough of East York, now part of the city of Toronto, marks that occasion for the 13th straight year by giving an Agnes Macphail Award to the person in the community who best epitomizes all of those great social causes that she stood for, not only in Ottawa but in this Legislature -- causes like women, causes like poverty and causes like penal reform. We honour a citizen once a year, and will do so tomorrow night in the same tradition, because in East York that part of us is still very much alive.

At 7:30 tomorrow night -- and we invite the people from Grey-Bruce to come down too -- we will award this year's recipient, the person who has best done what is necessary for our community in the great spirit of Agnes Macphail. We invite people to come to the East York Civic Centre at 850 Coxwell Avenue and honour the new recipient of this year's award.



Mr. Ted McMeekin (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot): Exactly three weeks ago today, residents of the Burlington-Hamilton area awoke to the startling news that their beloved mayor, Rob MacIsaac, would not be a candidate in the next municipal election.

Members of this assembly will know of His Worship's work with the provincial Smart Growth panel, and more recently, as chairman of our government's greenbelt initiative. When it comes to building a strong community or a strong Ontario, the mayor has always been generous with his time and expertise. Mayor Rob has understood as well as any person I have ever met that decisions should be directed by reason, supported by principle and designed to achieve the greatest good.

The people of Burlington know their mayor as a straight-up, thoughtful, progressive and pragmatic visionary. The truth put, his simple decency and integrity have earned the widespread admiration and respect of all who know or have worked with him.

I understand why my good friend is temporarily leaving elected public office. He needs a break and wants to spend more time with his lovely wife, Anne, and their two charming daughters, Sarah and Catherine. We'll miss him and hope to see a return to public life soon. That said, I'm sure all members of this assembly would want to join me in expressing thanks to Mayor Rob for his wonderful years of service and wishing him all the very best in the years ahead.


Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo): There is a health care crisis in this province as 9,000 children wait for services from 19 children's treatment centres.

More than 1,000 of these children are served by KidsAbility in Waterloo region and Wellington county. These children with special needs are being forced to wait an average of nine months, and up to 24 months. These children include those who need therapy to learn to walk or talk, premature babies who need therapy to develop normally, preschoolers who need support and therapy to be successful in school, and children with complex conditions such as autism.

These long, unfair wait times penalize our young children with disabilities and jeopardize their future in school and in life. They also place an expensive and unfair burden on our schools and undue stress on families. Research from Dr. Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain tells us that early intervention from conception to age six is vitally important to enable these children to achieve their full potential.

On behalf of all of these children and their families, I call upon the Liberal government to immediately provide $2.2 million to KidsAbility to eliminate the long wait times, as well as funding to all children's treatment centres in Ontario to eliminate their existing wait lists.


Ms. Jennifer F. Mossop (Stoney Creek): I would like to describe for you a room that I visited yesterday. It had enormous picture windows with a lovely view of evergreens. The walls were tastefully done in the richest tones of cornflower blue and pale bisque. The artwork on the walls was engaging. The capacious reclining chairs enveloped you in comfort. And the telephone, television set and Internet were conveniently placed at one's fingertips -- no need to move an inch, which is a good thing, because once seated in those chairs, you are not allowed to move for several hours. That is how long it usually takes for the kidney dialysis machine to work its life-saving magic.

I have just described for you, not a luxury hotel room, but the newest kidney dialysis satellite centre, located in my riding at St. Joseph's centre for ambulatory care.

It is Kidney Health Month. It wasn't that many decades ago that dialysis and transplants were in their infancy, and making the three- or four-times-weekly trek to a hospital that might not have been that handy to sit hooked up to a noisy machine for hours on end was an ordeal to be endured. For decades, dialysis has been making the difference between life and death, but what I saw yesterday makes the difference between quality of life and mere survival.

This year, our government has put an additional $30 million into chronic kidney disease services, with an emphasis on making dialysis more accessible and providing more in-home care. This is a dollar-wise investment that better promotes health and well-being and soothes and nurtures a body and soul engaged in a battle for survival.


Mr. Phil McNeely (Ottawa-Orléans): When we think about the March break and what it means to our youth, we normally think of young people vacationing, spending time with friends, skiing, snowboarding, or even escaping to a beach. What we don't think of is youth selflessly devoting their time to serving the less fortunate in countries like Jamaica or the Dominican Republic.

C'est ça qu'un groupe d'étudiants d'Orléans ont fait pendant leur congé au mois de mars. Jeun'Espoir, un groupe de 12 à 15 étudiants dans leur 12e année à l'école secondaire, ont passé leurs vacances en offrant leurs services bénévoles dans la région de « Trenchtown » à Kingston, en Jamaïque. Là, les étudiants ont aidé avec des projets de construction et ils ont offert leurs services dans une résidence pour les gens âgés ainsi que dans une résidence pour des enfants abandonnés.

This year, another group of teens departed on a similar mission in the Dominican Republic. Seventeen-year-old Camille Juzwik is a member of the Global Outreach Club at Lester B. Pearson Catholic High School in Orléans and was happy to participate in the program for the first time this year. The students left on Saturday, March 4, to spend two weeks performing humanitarian work in a town called Cambita Garabitas, about 40 kilometres outside Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Monsieur le Président, je voudrais applaudir tous les participants dans le groupe bénévole Jeun'Espoir et le Global Outreach Club. Jeun'Espoir and the Global Outreach Club are two inspirational groups of students who have demonstrated a remarkable ability to put others before themselves.


Ms. Monique M. Smith (Nipissing): This past weekend, a group of dedicated school bus drivers were officially thanked for their hard work and professionalism at the Let's Remember Adam school bus driver appreciation day at Northgate Square in North Bay. A group of about 70 school bus drivers from across Nipissing were honoured for their hard work in ensuring that our children get to and from school safely.

The Let's Remember Adam campaign is a campaign that has been mounted in memory of Adam Ranger, a five-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a large truck after getting off his school bus, which had its lights flashing, in Mattawa in February 2000. This tragedy was the catalyst for the Let's Remember Adam awareness campaign that has grown over the last two years. First introduced in October 2004 as signs on the back of school buses, we now have decals, posters and billboards all over our community with Adam's face reminding motorists to stop for the flashing signals on school buses. The campaign has most recently added posters in our hockey arenas.

Dave and Debbie Ranger, Adam's parents, took part in the bus driver appreciation day together with representatives of the OPP, the Ministry of Transportation and other community leaders. This partnership of parents, law enforcement agencies, government agencies, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and community-minded businesses has created such a successful campaign that the local OPP detachment has had requests to expand it throughout the province.

I want to take this opportunity to add my thanks to our bus drivers who keep our children safe and to the Rangers and our community partners who have worked so diligently on this tremendous public safety campaign. As our children get ready for spring and want to get out and play, I remind all drivers across the province to please remember Adam and stop for the school bus.


Mr. Tony Ruprecht (Davenport): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to recognize a very distinguished visitor to the east gallery of this House, Dr. Mehrdad Hariri, who is representing the Iranian Canadian council.

Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I request unanimous consent to move a motion inviting those farmers outside into this chamber to sit in the visitors' gallery.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Mr. Kormos has asked for unanimous consent to ask the farmers outside to come in to the visitors' gallery. Agreed? I heard a no.



LOI DE 2006

Ms. Marsales moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 80, An Act to name the first Wednesday of October Hamilton Day / Projet de loi 80, Loi visant à désigner le premier mercredi d'octobre comme Jour de Hamilton.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

The member may make a brief statement.

Mme Judy Marsales (Hamilton-Ouest): La ville de Hamilton est reconnue pour sa riche histoire, sa musique et sa diversité culturelle.

Today, Hamilton continues to grow with a zeal that is unmatchable. It has become home to a new generation of immigrants who will leave their own distinct mark on the city, as have all the others before them. Hamilton's medical and educational sectors are experiencing an unprecedented expansion that is creating innovation and new opportunities.

It is truly fitting that Hamilton should have its own distinct day of recognition, and the first Wednesday in October of each year provides a perfect day for Hamiltonians and Ontarians to celebrate and pay respect to a city that has provided so much to Ontario and to Canada.



Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo): My question is for the Minister of Colleges and Universities. Minister, 150,000 full-time students at Ontario's 24 community colleges have been locked out of their classrooms since their teachers walked off the job on March 7, 17 days ago. Can you tell us what the key issues are in this dispute?

Hon. Christopher Bentley (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): Yes, 150,000 students have been out for quite some time, and that causes this government a great deal of concern. I was happy that after not talking to each other, the two parties agreed to return to the table on Monday to resume negotiations, following our discussions with them. I was happy that last night, although they couldn't reach a collective agreement, the two parties agreed that the matters in dispute would be solved by a third party by way of arbitration.

They haven't agreed at the moment on what that should look like, so I have asked the parties to sit down with Mr. Whitaker, who is chair of the College Relations Commission, so that they can sort out what form arbitration will take. In the meantime, the 150,000 students should go back to class with their faculty and get on with their year and complete the year.

Mrs. Witmer: The minister did not answer the question. I asked you what the key issues are in this dispute; I didn't ask you for an update. We can all read the news releases that have been flying out all over the noon hour. If you don't know what the key issues are in this dispute, how can you propose to resolve them? Is there going to be any money in today's budget to do exactly that?

Hon. Mr. Bentley: One thing all the parties agree on: They are absolutely unanimous in agreeing that 15 years of underfunding by previous governments left the colleges in a state that needs a great deal of investment. They are agreed that the previous government, of which the honourable member was a part, was a party that underfunded colleges for years. With the Reaching Higher investments last year, this government made the biggest investment in post-secondary education in more than 40 years. Those investments are now working to make the system that the previous parties underfunded a much better one.

We're determined to improve the quality of students' education. That's in the best interests of the students and in the best interests of the province of Ontario.

Mrs. Witmer: Despite all the rhetoric, the minister has still not identified the key issues in this dispute, and despite all the rhetoric, he also knows that the union has declared that they are not prepared to take down their picket signs. So I ask you today, can you guarantee that the students will be back in class on Monday? And what are you going to do to make sure that happens?

Hon. Mr. Bentley: Of course, the students are why the system exists. The students are the priority of the system. Everybody needs to focus on the interests of the students. That's the reason I spoke with the parties last week and got them back to the bargaining table on Monday. That's the reason this government has taken such an active interest in the students. That's the reason I was pleased that the parties agreed last night that the issues that have been in dispute for 14 months would be referred off to a third party by way of arbitration. That's why I've asked the parties to sit down today with Mr. Whitaker, the chair of the College Relations Commission, to sort out what that looks like, and in the meantime get those pickets down and get the students back into class. For those who say this is about the quality of education: Quality begins with students in the classroom. That's our position.


Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo): Mr. Speaker --

Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): You should be the leader, Liz.

Mrs. Witmer: I should. No, we have a wonderful leader. And --


The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order. Stop the clock. I need to be able to hear the question from the member for Kitchener-Waterloo.

Member for Kitchener-Waterloo.

Mrs. Witmer: Well, Mr. Speaker, it looks like this is going to be a great session: a sense of humour on all sides of the House.

My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, a simple question: Do you support health promotion and disease prevention?

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): Yes. The evidence of our government's commitment to health promotion was found in the Premier's decision in June this past year to create a new ministry, the Ministry of Health Promotion, and to give that ministry important leadership in the form of our colleague from Ottawa.

Further evidence of our commitment to a disease prevention model is found in the commitment that we made to aligning our primary care capacity, that is, the access that individual Ontarians have to nurses and doctors at the community level, with a view towards helping people to stay healthy in the first place.

There is of course more to be done on chronic disease models and other forms of preventive health care, but we're very proud of the steps we've taken and feel that this is one of our three fundamental commitments to work with Ontarians to keep them healthier in the first place.

Mrs. Witmer: I'm glad the minister supports that because I want to talk to him today about a clinic that does promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent heart disease. The provincial government has been providing funding to the Ontario Aerobics Centre, a cardiac rehabilitation clinic that has been serving people in Waterloo region, Wellington county and beyond since 2001. I ask the minister today to guarantee that stable funding will continue for this clinic beyond June 30 this year.

Hon. Mr. Smitherman: The honourable member will know, because this has been the subject of a conversation between the two of us, that we are committed to working to find a resolution. But the honourable member should also be a little bit more forward in her question to acknowledge that during her term of office as Minister of Health and during the work of her government, in a variety of places in Ontario they did establish one-offs or pilot projects -- in this case there are three of them -- which have created unequal access to these services for Ontarians. So while we see the merits associated with the model that is in play in the member's area, we do have a concern that these are services that the previous government established, and by doing so, created tremendous inequities for the balance of Ontarians.

Our view is that the principles of a public health care system, one of the most fundamental ones, is equitable access. Accordingly, while we are working with that health care provider to provide stable funding, we're seeking to do so in a fashion which recognizes the necessity of equitable access to service for all Ontarians.

Mrs. Witmer: The minister knows full well that this community clinic does increase access to services. This clinic, I can tell you, according to patients who testify, has saved their lives. In fact, I was there yesterday with Mr. Arnott and Mr. Martiniuk and heard first-hand from Joseph Hertelendy, who said, "I came back from holidays to beg you to save this establishment. If you close it, you're breaking our hearts and digging our graves."

Minister, if you believe in health promotion and disease prevention, will you respond to this desperate plea, and those of many others, and guarantee today that you will provide stable funding beyond June 30 this year?


Hon. Mr. Smitherman: I've already indicated in my earlier answer that the ministry and the health care provider in question are working together with a view towards establishing just that.

I really think it would have been appropriate for the honourable member, in the minute that she had, to acknowledge the decisions she took, as part of a government and as the longest-serving Minister of Health in that government, and that in deciding to fund that operation, at the exclusion of other, similar opportunities across the breadth of Ontario, she has created an inequity which we have a challenge to address.

We have an obligation not just to serve people in our local area well but to serve people well across the breadth of Ontario. There is an anomaly in the health care system that three of these clinics have been funded in Ontario but not all Ontarians are able to access them. Accordingly, while we will work to provide sustainable funding for that organization, we will do so in a fashion that underscores our fundamental commitment to a public health care system with equitable access.


Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): To the Minister of Community and Social Services: My question is not about what you are doing for the poor; my question is about what you are not doing for the poor. Take, for example, the case of Mr. Dan Warburton, from Hamilton. He receives disability support and needs a special, doctor-ordered diet to keep himself out of the hospital. He used to receive $240 a month for special formula and healthy food. You've slashed that, by 82%, down to $45.

Minister, what is your response to Mr. Warburton when he asks how you expect him to carry out his doctor's food regimen on such a pitiful food budget?

Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for women's issues): I appreciate the question regarding the special diet allowance. It certainly has been an item in the media over the last couple of months.

Yes, we did make changes to help people apply and register for the special diet benefit. The reality is that in working with the Ontario Medical Association, even this member opposite will realize that we need to rely on our medical professionals to tell us what those medical conditions are that actually warrant this special diet benefit. We have done that: We worked with the Ontario Medical Association to revise an application form so that those who are applying for a special diet allowance in fact have the medical conditions that these physician experts are telling us are required.

Mr. Prue: Madam Minister, we've heard these words before, but it still doesn't put any food into the bellies of people like Mr. Warburton. You promised people receiving social assistance and ODSP some three years ago that you would bring in cost-of-living increases to ensure that they didn't sink further into poverty, but you broke that promise. Last year, you gave them nothing. This year, you've slashed all the rates for their food. Poverty is growing, and Ontario's most vulnerable people are hurting more now than even in the Mike Harris years.

Minister, why do you not just raise the rates of social assistance and ODSP, like you promised, to the level where people can live on them? Or do you simply enjoy carrying out the legacy of the Mike Harris government?

Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I would like to see on record whether the member opposite would agree that the changes we've made to social assistance in this province are something that he supports. In fact, we took a system that was rife with barriers to move people back into work and we're removing them. To this member opposite, tell me that you agree that the barriers need to go. We have made significant reforms to our social assistance system to do exactly that.

This is the same member who was also opposed to our Jobs Now pilot project, which so far has seen over 2,000 people move from welfare into work, a true work experience for people that means actual jobs.

I hope the member opposite also agrees that social assistance for people on our system, who are on welfare, is in fact supposed to be a transition system to move people back into work. We anticipate that we will have more of that kind of change, and I expect that the member opposite would agree that we need to make sure that people can work, if they can work, and give --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr. Prue: What I do not agree with is that you allow people on social assistance only $2.14 a day on which to feed themselves. That's the lowest amount in 15 years. You should be ashamed.

Across this province, there is a movement to fight what you are doing to low-income people. Doctors like Mary Randozzo, Diana Ahmed of Hamilton and Gary Bloch, for example, have demanded help for people who need it most, like the woman who phoned my office and said that she needed special vitamin supplements deemed essential by her dietician, and you say -- and I quote -- "Tough luck." Another woman suffers from excruciating IBS. She used to receive $120 for a doctor-recommended diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and fibre supplements to keep her well. Now you give her only $10 a month, a 92% reduction.

Minister, do you feel it is okay to treat people in this unjust way? When are you going to raise the social assistance rates like you promised before the last election, and as you used to demand when you were on this side of the House?

Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I can tell you that the member opposite is telling information to this House that is simply inaccurate. I have to be clear: It's simply inaccurate. People who have been receiving a special diet allowance and who had a medical condition before are also receiving a special diet allowance if they have that medical condition today. What has changed is that when there was an opportunity for those to receive a special diet for a medical condition that was never identified and may not in fact have existed, yes, that's been a change for these people. We have had to line up a form so that when individuals have a medical condition that requires a special diet, they in fact are receiving the special diet.

In addition to that, we have gone well beyond what we have always suggested we would do in our very first budget with a 3% increase to social assistance, beyond the cost of living in that year. I can tell you that we have more work --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question?


Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): My question as well is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, families in this province are hurting. It's increasingly harder for them to pay the rent, to put food on the table and to put clothing on their children's backs. You promised to reverse the clawback on the national child tax benefit, yet you've broken that promise. When will you live up to your word and stop clawing back the national child tax benefit from the most vulnerable families in Ontario?

Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for women's issues): I hope the member opposite recognizes the millions more dollars that remain in families' hands today that never used to before this government took office, because those are the facts. Millions of dollars more that have flowed from the federal government are being left in the hands of families.

Another important note that I hope the member opposite would appreciate is that there are fewer families today on our welfare system than were there on the day we took office. That's because of programs that we are initiating, such as better housing programs, such as better child care, such as opportunities for employment that line up with what people who are on our system need.

Please tell me, to this member opposite, that you do agree that it's better when we have fewer people with children on our welfare system and when millions more is being left with families in Ontario thanks to this government.

Ms. Horwath: I hope this minister responsible recognizes the many families that are living in poverty in the province of Ontario. The national child tax benefit was intended to prevent and reduce child poverty in Ontario. You've promised many times and you've talked many times about your desire to end child poverty, but your government continues to claw back this benefit from Ontario Works and ODSP recipients in Ontario. With budget leaks suggesting that your government is awash in cash, will you finally honour your promise and end this disgraceful clawback?

Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I hope this member opposite agrees that the policy change we made from the moment we took office was to stop clawing back the increases coming from our federal government, and we did that on day one. The result of that policy change is tens of millions more dollars left in the hands of families. I have been the first, as the minister of social services, to say how difficult it is for people to live on our system, and that is why our focus from day one has been to move people off the system if they can be in employment. I expect support from the member opposite. When we take down barriers to move people into the workplace, I expect support from that member opposite, but she has been opposed to every change, every reduction of every barrier in our system. That is unacceptable. She was opposed to our Jobs Now pilot project, and that is unacceptable. Join us, with the changes that we're making to make life better for people who are on our system.


Ms. Horwath: Do you know what, Minister? Your blame-shifting and your doublespeak do not make any difference to the people who are living in poverty in this province. We are shocked that vulnerable families are being forced to use food banks because they simply cannot make ends meet.

You've been advised that ending the child tax benefit clawback was the single best way that you could show your commitment to ending child poverty in Ontario. It's about your responsibility as minister. I'm going to ask you one last time, when will your government help these families out, get them out of poverty and end that clawback?

Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I guess a question about poverty in general for Ontario. It begs me asking the NDP here in Ontario, why were they opposed to the initiatives to provide more housing for people in poverty? Why? I ask this party in this House, why were they opposed to the changes that we've made to child care? Why were you opposed to those changes? I ask this party, the NDP, why, when we go fighting with the current federal government that wants to rip up our agreement for child care, you are opposed. These very changes make life better for people who do live in poverty in this province, and we strive every day to make their life better.

Again I say, when we have made changes to make this a system that will move people from welfare into work, you have a responsibility to support those changes because, above all else, people who are on our welfare system want to be in the workplace. You have a responsibility to help them get there.


Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): My question is to the Premier. The Toronto Star reported earlier this month that your government plans to spend $1.5 billion to expand the Spadina subway line to York University in today's budget. The mayor of Vaughan tells a similar story after he met with your MPP from Vaughan-King-Aurora and former Minister of Finance at a Liberal Party fundraiser. He says that Mr. Sorbara told him a "good news story" was coming up in today's budget. In this morning's Globe and Mail, there is an article that explains how Mr. Sorbara is "poised to reap the benefits of higher real estate values" if your government expands the Spadina subway line to apartment buildings and commercial properties that his family owns at Keele Street and Finch Avenue.

It would appear that if today's budget does in fact include a commitment to the York subway extension, then there has been a very serious budget leak. Will you inform this House whether select individuals were advised of the coming budget announcement at a recent Liberal Party fundraiser and whether Mr. Sorbara knew about this proposal?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): The member is asking me to engage in speculation about the upcoming budget. I can appreciate his impatience in this regard. I know that many Ontarians have a genuine interest in the contents of the budget, which will be introduced in this Legislature at 4 o'clock this very day. I'd ask him to continue to be patient. I too look forward to the presentation of the budget in this Legislature.

Mr. Wilson: If there has been a leak, then it puts a real cloud over this budget. The information in today's Globe and Mail just raises more questions and underlines the need for the potential budget leak to be carefully investigated. If this turns out to have been a leak, Premier, will you turn this over to the OPP for a full investigation?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Again, I will not engage in any kind of speculation whatsoever about the contents of the budget. I can say with respect to our budget that we will continue to emphasize those priorities shared by Ontarians and informed by the values also shared by Ontarians. We will continue to make progress with respect to health care, to education and to growing this economy.


Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): A question to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. Minister, college faculty members in Ontario are eager to end the strike and submit their dispute to arbitration under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act. Why won't you support them in their efforts to shut down those picket lines?

Hon. Christopher Bentley (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): We're enormously supportive of the students getting back to class. In fact, last night, both sides to this issue indicated that they were prepared to have the issues in dispute resolved by a third party through arbitration. Unfortunately, they can't seem to agree on the form of the arbitration, so I suggested today that they sit down with the chair of the College Relations Commission and work out the form of the arbitration. But in the meantime, having agreed that it goes to be resolved by a third party, let's bring down the pickets and get the faculty back in the classrooms and the students back to class. Let the students finish their year. There's no reason the students should wait outside the class while the parties talk about what form the arbitration will take.

Mr. Kormos: Students are waiting for you to accept some responsibility and display some leadership. Final-offer selection is hardly arbitration. It's the Russian roulette of industrial relations. You know full well that final-offer selection is not the way to achieve a balanced and fair result where both sides can live with the resolution.

So I say to you once again, Minister, rather than playing cute, why aren't you supporting the call of those OPSEU members for binding arbitration under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act so that those picket lines can come down and those students can get back into the classroom along with their professors?

Hon. Mr. Bentley: We are very supportive of the students getting back in the classroom, and when both parties agreed the matter would be resolved by third party arbitration, that should have been the end of the work stoppage. The parties can talk about the form of it and they can resolve the form of it with the chair of the College Relations Commission, Mr. Whitaker -- extremely experienced. The parties can talk about that, but you don't need to keep the students out of the classroom while they talk about that.

The reason for the work stoppage is over. All the issues will be resolved by third party arbitration. The real question today is, are the NDP going to support the pickets coming down and the students getting back in class? Are they going to support 150,000 students getting their year?


Mr. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre): My question is for the Minister of Energy. Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of welcoming the Premier, the Minister of Energy and noted environmentalist David Suzuki to my community to visit Photowatt Technologies, one of our country's leading manufacturers of solar products. There, it was announced that our government was making it easier for entrepreneurs and businesses to sell clean power from small projects to the grid through a standard-offer contract. This is an exciting time for small power producers, who now can afford to sell energy to the grid.

Through this plan, farmers, community groups, First Nations and even municipalities can play an important role in boosting renewable energy production in this province. For years our energy supply was neglected, first by the New Democratic government and then by the PC government.

Can the minister share some of the details of last Tuesday's announcement and the public response thus far?

Hon. Donna H. Cansfield (Minister of Energy): I would like to thank the member from Kitchener Centre for being such an advocate for renewable energy, and in particular for photovoltaics. Well done.

It's an exciting time in Ontario. We are actually the first jurisdiction in North America to have such an extraordinary offer to put forward, as the member indicated, to farmers, to small businesses and to individuals in the standard offer for wind, water, solar and biomass. It's an incredibly bold step that this government has taken and, as Dr. Suzuki said, puts us at the forefront not only of every other jurisdiction in North America but in actually providing cleaner energy, renewable energy, and cleaner air for our children to breathe. We anticipate that over the next 10 years, over 1,000 megawatts will actually come from this program for over 250,000 homes from the standard-offer contract.

Mr. Milloy: I want to thank the minister for that answer. My community is home to such companies as Photowatt, which I've already mentioned. We also have ARISE Technologies. In addition, the University of Waterloo is home to some of the country's leading solar power research.

Last Tuesday's announcement, by offering a competitive price for renewable energy, will provide a tremendous boost to the market for their products and be of economic benefit to my region. The announcement was not only about the environment; it was about creating jobs and economic prosperity. Already I have been hearing from groups and individuals eager to sign a standard-offer contract. Can the minister explain to the Legislature who is eligible to be part of this program?


Hon. Mrs. Cansfield: Under the standard-offer contract, all small-scale renewable energy producers will be able to sell renewable energy directly into the grid for a 20-year contract at a fixed price. There is no limit to the amount of renewable generating capacity that can be brought online through this program, and the projects can be located virtually anywhere in Ontario. Each individual project can produce up to a maximum of 10 megawatts, with the exception of photovoltaics, which has no maximum. The program is open to all interested individuals and small companies, with the exception of Ontario Power Generation. All new projects must connect directly to the distribution system. This is the best part of the program, because it is local. The eligible projects must have been in service after January 1, 2000.


Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Royal Victoria Hospital's phase 1 redevelopment project includes expansions to the emergency department, diagnostic imaging, additional in-patient beds and construction of the 73,000-square-foot cancer centre, featuring three radiation therapy suites, with construction scheduled to start in 2008. In your letter to the chair of RVH dated February 8, 2006, you indicated, "The project will be subject to legislative appropriation and all applicable approvals of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care." Minister, can you be more specific as to what you mean by "legislative appropriation" and "ministry approvals"?

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): What this speaks to is very customary elements of accountability, which would include, of course, before a project goes to tender, making sure that the plan about what is to be constructed has been signed off by the ministry. The references in that letter would be very standard language that either of the former health ministers in your caucus would be able to tell you, I'm quite certain, is exact and carried on over a period of decades.

This really just speaks to the idea that a letter should not be received by a hospital as carte blanche to take a project all the way to tender, that there would be a series of steps along the way that ensure we're all on the same pathway with respect to what services will be delivered there and, accordingly, what the makeup of the physical construct is like. It's necessary for our accountabilities to operate within the budget allocated to us through the processes here in the Legislature. Accordingly, all of the language referenced in the letter is part of those accountability procedures.

Mr. Tascona: The RVH expansion and Cancer Care project has received, as you know because you've been in the riding, unparalleled support from the community. The community financial support for the funding of this project is on track to be met in 2006 -- this year. The Ontario Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal, in its press release of September 29, 2005, states, "Construction is scheduled to start in 2008," which I interpret to mean shovel in the ground. Given that the community financial support will be met this year, would the minister commit to considering having construction begin prior to 2008, and if not, why not?

Hon. Mr. Smitherman: I think it's very, very important, as I've had the privilege of speaking about before on this issue, to remind the honourable member that as it relates to the construction of new cancer facilities, we do take advice and guidance from Cancer Care Ontario. While you used the word "unparalleled" to speak about the community support that exists for your project, I think that members from the Niagara region would tell you about the unparalleled level of support that is there for their project, that the member from Sault Ste. Marie would most certainly tell you about the unparalleled support that's available for their project, which includes a cancer bunker. We have facilities coming to life as well in your colleague's riding in the community of Newmarket. New cancer capacity is necessary, and development of it is under way in communities including Kingston and Ottawa.

The point I want to make to the honourable member is that while we recognize that Barrie enjoys a tremendous amount of support for expansion at RVH, we do have, by necessity, the requirement to phase these projects in consistent with advice from Cancer Care Ontario, which is based on the idea of where the need is most present. We sought to make sure that our work, alongside the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal, is well coordinated with the direction and advice that we receive from our friends at Cancer Care Ontario. We've done that, and accordingly, these projects are coming to life.


Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): My question is for the Minister of Health as well. On February 6, I wrote to you about finding a residential treatment bed for my constituent Eric Trimmer, who has a life-threatening eating disorder. He has been ill for about six years, has been hospitalized and nearly died twice from his illness. There are virtually no treatment beds in Ontario for 70,000 young people who suffer from eating disorders. Minister, why can't Eric get a residential treatment bed in Ontario when he is so desperately in need?

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): The honourable member will know that our government had the opportunity very recently to make a very significant advancement in the resources available for eating disorders. This is a challenge, of course, that a significant number of our population is facing. Accordingly, we felt it was appropriate to enhance the amount of resources available for them.

The nature of the challenge with respect to a bed is something I don't have a specific answer for, top of mind, for the honourable member, but as she has written correspondence, of course an answer from the ministry will be forthcoming. Part and parcel of the investments we're making across the breadth of health care is to address the challenges which remain -- there are, of course, very many. On the issue of eating disorders, our government recently made a very significant increase in our capacity to assist people who are struggling with those challenges.

Ms. Horwath: Minister, when New Democrats asked you about this critical problem back in November, you said that help was on the way. Unfortunately, the help was only to overcome some budget deficits of existing services. Seventy thousand young people in Ontario suffer from eating disorders, and Ontario currently has only 30 treatment beds -- for 70,000 young people. In the Hamilton region alone, there are 200 people like Eric Trimmer who are waiting for a bed. You spent $5.6 million last year to send patients to treatment beds in the US and you're skimping on those investments here at home. Some parents have actually lost their children to this kind of illness.

Minister, why are you turning your back on people with serious eating disorders, like Eric, who desperately need to have those treatment beds here in Ontario?

Hon. Mr. Smitherman: I would say to the honourable member that this is just one more example of the rhetoric being rather out of touch with reality. Only the honourable member, as part of that caucus, could talk about a 68% increase in resources over three fiscal years as turning your back on patients with these challenges. I will remind the honourable member that when you had the privilege of being in government, you spent $1 million a year on challenges related to eating disorders, and we've increased that to $24 million. Accordingly, I think 68% does speak to improvement. But let's hear from Mary Kaye Lucier, executive director of the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association: "We are overjoyed with the announcement of today's funding. This means that as the central intake for persons with eating disorders ... we will now be able to hire more staff to address the needs of ... people requiring intensive specialized treatment for eating disorders...." This is further evidence that our investments are paving the way to better access to these services for Ontarians who very much need them, and that is our goal and our responsibility.


Mr. Vic Dhillon (Brampton West-Mississauga): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. India is one of the world's fastest-growing economies and is more than ever becoming a burgeoning opportunity for trade and investment for foreign governments. Over the past decade we have not had a presence. Minister, can you please tell us what our government is doing to engage India and build on our current relationship?

Hon. Joseph Cordiano (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I'd like to thank the member for his question. It's an important question, because I'm happy to report that we just officially opened our new office in New Delhi on February 20. It is a co-located office in our Canadian High Commission, which will give us the opportunity to work with officials there.

India is an emerging economic powerhouse. We can ill afford to ignore the opportunities that exist in India to expand trade and attract additional amounts of investment. A significant number of Indian companies are already located here in Ontario. They view Ontario as the gateway to the North American market. It's a near shore location for those companies, many of them in the ITC sector, and there are additional companies that are looking to expand further into Ontario. By all accounts there are some 2,000 firms in India that are poised to make investments in North America. We want those investments here in Ontario.

Mr. Dhillon: Minister, it's great to see that our government's plan for our economy includes stimulating foreign trade and investment here in Ontario. Exactly how vital are emerging markets, such as India, to Ontario's future prosperity?

Hon. Mr. Cordiano: Two-way trade in 2004 between India and Ontario was about $1 billion, but we can do much better than that. In fact, it's estimated that India's need for infrastructure will amount to some $170 billion over the next few years. This is an enormous opportunity for many companies in Ontario to sell their services, their expertise and their products into a market that is expanding enormously.

We are expanding our relationship, as I say. We have an office and, more than that, we are dedicating additional resources in the ministry to back our efforts in India and also to work with the great, diverse population right here in Ontario. There are half a million Canadians of Indian descent and we want to make sure that they also assist us. We use their networks and leverage their contacts so that we can further --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. New question.



Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): To the Minister of Agriculture: Minister, as you will know, thousands of farm families are anticipating good news at 4 o'clock in this year's budget. Will your budget meet their expectations, or have you again failed the farm families of Ontario?

Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): The honourable member would know that I am not able to speculate on what is in the budget, but I'm very delighted to have this opportunity to talk a bit about our government's commitment to agriculture and to farmers.

A couple of weeks ago we invested $125 million for an industry very much in need: $80 million for grains and oilseeds and $35 million for fruit and vegetable growers. I know the member from Cambridge wouldn't have any of those in his riding; he doesn't seem too appreciative of this. But I can tell you, I have many, many letters from those folks who say that they very much support the investments we have made. I think that it's important that the honourable members would recognize as well that these dollars are going to the farmers on the concession roads.

Mr. Barrett: Cash crop, beef, tobacco, hort., dairy heifer export, cull cow, even beekeepers are presently in crisis. In fact, as you know, there's not a single commodity that's either not in crisis, anticipating a looming crisis or, at minimum, worried.

Minister, again, will this budget present the plan, to be specific, for risk management, BSE equity replacement, self-directed risk insurance -- you mentioned hort. -- the tobacco farmer buyout and other programs required, or have you again failed the farmers across the province of Ontario?

Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: Again, I am not in a position and -- I will not speculate about what's in the budget this afternoon. I invite all the members of this Legislature to pay very close attention to all of the good news that will be announced this afternoon.

I do want to talk about the level of government that's letting farmers down and that government is in Ottawa. That government has failed to come to the table to agree to partner with us on a multi-year strategy. We have been at the table since November, very willing to engage in the multi-year strategy that producers have been asking for.

I'm asking the federal government, and I would ask you to encourage your federal cousins -- Prime Minister Harper, your former colleague Jim Flaherty and Minister Chuck Strahl -- to come to the table with the Ontario government for the good of the farmers in this province.


The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order. Order. New question.


Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a question to the Premier. In your election platform you stated, "We will introduce mandatory biodiesel content in diesel fuel." Premier, when will you do that?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Agriculture.

Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): As the honourable member knows, we have implemented our plan with respect to ethanol content in gasoline; we are working very hard to get that under way. I am also awaiting a report that will enable us to move forward on our plan for biodiesel.

Ms. Martel: On September 12, 2005, a press release from the Ontario Trucking Association claimed that your promise to introduce mandatory biodiesel for Ontario's commercial trucks "has been put on hold."

Can you tell those struggling soybean and canola farmers who are circling the Legislature today when you will keep your election promise and introduce mandatory biodiesel content in diesel fuel?

Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: Again, as I've indicated to the honourable member, she has identified one of the stakeholders that has identified a concern and would like their interest considered as we move forward in developing a strategy. Our government has a very strong history of listening to the concerns of all people who bring their valid issues to us, and that will be part of the consideration of our strategy.


Mr. Jim Brownell (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. First I would like to say what a pleasure it was to serve you as parliamentary assistant. It was a great honour. I want to say that you were a mentor and a friend.

Through my time in your office, I learned first-hand of your commitment to every member of this Legislature and every last citizen of Ontario. In my own riding of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh we have seen great things happen under your watch. When you first gained your post as Minister of Health, I was there at your door. I came to you with three hospital projects: the Winchester District Memorial Hospital, the Cornwall Community Hospital and the St. Joseph's Continuing Care Centre project. Together, we were able to deliver far more than I had originally envisioned. My riding is beginning a true health care renaissance. On December 21 you came to my riding and talked about that renaissance.

Minister, could you share with this House some of the great health care projects that are being done in Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh.

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): See there: It's on the record about what a nice fellow I am. I appreciate that very much. I want to thank the honourable member for his hard work as parliamentary assistant, and I want to say hi to his mom, because I know she's a devoted watcher of question period.

The fact is that that fine riding has three distinct projects. At St. Joseph's health care centre in Cornwall there is a construction project under way. At Cornwall Community Hospital we're a very short period of time away from moving forward with a head-start project, which is a necessary development before the major redevelopment. At Winchester District Memorial Hospital, we have a significant redevelopment coming under way shortly.

The net effect of this, as I had the privilege of saying in that community on December 21 last year, is that within a four- or five-year time horizon it's safe to assume that this part of Ontario is going to see the most modern health care infrastructure of any area in the province of Ontario, rather than the rubber cheques of the past that that party promised --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. There may be a supplementary.

Mr. Brownell: Thank you, Minister. I would also join with you in thanking Bonnie Ruest and her team at St. Joseph's, Trudy Reid and everyone at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital and Jeanette Despattie and those who have worked so hard for the Cornwall Community Hospital. They have been joined by Tom and Gail Kaneb, who were chairs of the Our Hospital, Our Future fundraising campaign which just announced that they have raised $12 million for that Cornwall project.

The people of my riding have worked hard and will continue to work hard to secure a prosperous future for themselves and their children. They really understand what needs to be done to move forward. They get it and this government gets it. We understand that what the people need is not a handout but a hand up. We are providing that through funding initiatives, infrastructure projects and continued dialogue with community leaders.

Minister, we have done much for the people of the riding of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, and more is to come. Could you share with us some of the initiatives this government has undertaken in my riding in the past year alone --

The Speaker: Thank you. The question has been asked. Minister?

Hon. Mr. Smitherman: To the Minister of Economic Development.

Hon. Joseph Cordiano (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): Let me thank the member for his dedicated work for his constituents.

We have taken a number of initiatives. We've established an action centre to help employees find new opportunities in the region. We are funding a project manager to coordinate the social services that will be needed by workers who have lost some work there. We're developing a new economic marketing strategy for the region as well.

Also, there is good news this week with respect to the courthouse in Cornwall. Not only have we announced this, but there are now shovels in the ground. Construction is under way and that's great news for the city of Cornwall. I'm happy to report that. And additional work is going to be under way as well.



Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): My question was to the Minister of Transportation, but I'll direct it to the Premier. Premier, your Minister of Transportation has created, yet again, another conundrum by adding more red tape to getting a driver's licence in Ontario. It wasn't until this issue was raised by Bill Murdoch, Ted Chudleigh and myself in the Legislature, in questions, that the minister was even aware of some of the problems with the new procedures to acquire a licence. Finally, the minister agreed that new drivers would be recognized. If they had difficulty, they could get a guarantor form signed. But now there's another piece of red tape that I'm sure he's not even aware of and I'd ask you to direct it to his attention. He has been occupied with other issues. My question is, what are you going to do for newcomers in Ontario who need to have their driver's licence from another country validated?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I appreciate the question in the absence of the minister. What I can do, of course, is undertake to bring it to the minister's attention.

Let me just try to articulate some general principles. Obviously, we are strongly supportive of the quality associated with the standards that we have in place in Ontario when it come to drivers' licences, generally speaking. Our intention would be to ensure that while we don't want to put new Canadians through unnecessary hoops, at the same time we don't want to do anything that would reduce the quality of the standard that we here in Ontario attach to the abilities that should be associated with an Ontario driver's licence.

Mr. O'Toole: Yes, you're right. In fact, Premier, the auditor was very critical that the minister was allowing people to use a Costco card as a means of identification.

Now you've just gone too far, and that's really the issue here. You know just how important it is for newcomers to Ontario and their families to be able to get around the province. To have a vehicle is absolutely critical for them to integrate into the economy and, indeed, into society.

I've received e-mails on this. Getting a letter of confirmation, they have to go to the embassy, the consulate or the high commissioner. In practical application here, who at the consulate would know who they are, to validate this licence or to sign a guarantor form? What is your solution for newcomers to Ontario to get through this additional red tape that your minister has created? What are you going to do to make their life of getting a driver's licence to integrate in this province easier in the future?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I believe that the honourable member raises a good point. I think it's really important that we understand that our responsibility on this side of the House, as those who are privileged to serve Ontarians as their government, is to recognize that we have to strike the right balance. We don't want to put new Canadians through hoops unnecessarily, as I said, but at the same time, we do want to ensure that we are taking necessary precautionary measures.

I will undertake, as I indicated earlier, to bring this to the attention of the Minister of Transportation so that he can speak directly to the member opposite about this.


Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a question to the Minister of Health. District social services administration boards deliver provincial services to organized and unorganized communities in northern Ontario. The costs to deliver these provincial services to the unorganized communities are covered by the various ministries. Every ministry except your own pays these costs on an ongoing basis. Your ministry pays these costs one year after they are incurred, putting DSSABs into a serious financial position when they're trying to provide emergency services. Minister, when will your ministry pay these bills on time?

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): If memory serves me right, that practice began under your government. But I will take the opportunity to take the honourable member's question under advisement with a view towards seeing if there is a capacity on the part of our ministry to be aligned with the practices of other government ministries. It's not an issue that I have had raised to me, that I can recall at least, directly by any of these service providers. Of course, we do depend on them to provide vital services and, accordingly, if there are opportunities for us to alter the mechanism in terms of the way that we pay, that's something that I would like to take a look at.

I do believe, by recollection, that that is a practice that may have been inherited, if you will, from decisions made by previous governments, but if there is a logical opportunity for alignment of these things, that's something that it would be very much my pleasure to work with the honourable member to address.

Ms. Martel: If I might, the DSSABs were created by the Conservative government, so no, Minister, you can't lay the blame on our government. This issue indeed has been raised with your government on more than one occasion. In fact, I raised it with your deputy at the public accounts committee on March 2. This is an ongoing problem that has been raised with your government now on many occasions and has yet to be resolved. Every DSSAB in northern Ontario incurs a serious financial problem because your ministry pays its bills for emergency services one year after these costs are incurred. This matter has to be resolved. I would ask you again, Minister, when can we expect a change in your ministry's policies so that the DSSABs in northern Ontario will not continue to be put at ongoing financial risk?

Hon. Mr. Smitherman: I think ample evidence of our commitment to the provision of appropriate land ambulance services can be seen reflected in the commitment that the Premier made recently at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting. The government of Ontario is committed to expending $300 million additional over the next three years to get back on track in terms of a very, very good partnership between health service providers, in this case related to land ambulance, and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. This addresses one of the most significant areas of concern for municipalities who felt like the provincial formula was not working well to their benefit. I do know that flow of funds, including to the DSSABs, is under way to be able to more fully address the costs associated with them.

Of course, it is not exactly imprudent to be able to flow funds on the basis of actual expenditure, rather than those that are projected. But as I said to my honourable friend in the earlier answer, we will take a good look at this and see --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. New question.


Mr. Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North): My question is for the Minister of Children and Youth Services, the Honourable Mary Anne Chambers. Recently, the federal government announced its plan to terminate, eliminate, the early learning and child care agreement signed by the previous government of Canada. I know that this is an agreement on which the McGuinty government worked long and hard, especially given the interests of the thousands of Ontario families who need high-quality early learning and child care. I raise this with you because this announcement will have a particularly serious impact in modest-income constituencies such as my own, the great riding of Etobicoke North.

Minister, would you inform this House, explain to us, what the termination of this agreement would mean to Ontario families, especially to the young families in the city of Toronto. What exactly is in play?

Hon. Mary Anne V. Chambers (Minister of Children and Youth Services): I want to thank my colleague the MPP from Etobicoke North for caring about families in his communities. In the Toronto area, in which Etobicoke would fall, the projection was for almost 6,000 spaces in the first three years of this agreement, $268 million. This is a huge issue, obviously.

The YWCA went across Canada doing a report recently that confirmed that the direction that our government has been taking on early learning and high-quality child care is the right direction. We are calling upon all parties to this issue -- parents, school boards, advocates in every single aspect of this area -- to support our call for the federal government to honour this agreement.

Mr. Qaadri: Clearly, from my own assessment at the riding level, this is an agreement that is of vital importance to Ontario families. I believe strongly that all members of this House, irrespective of party affiliation, need to deliver this message to the current Harper government. Minister, here is a rerouted question to you from my own riding: What can concerned families in my community of Etobicoke North do to advocate for the early learning and child care agreement that we signed with the government of Canada? And Minister, just as importantly, would you have any encouraging advice for opposition parties in this House so that they too would stand up for the thousands of Ontario families who have been anticipating the benefits of this child care agreement?

Hon. Mrs. Chambers: This agreement between the government of Ontario and the government of Canada was in fact a non-partisan agreement. We never viewed this agreement as an agreement with the Liberal government of Canada; we viewed this agreement as an agreement with the government of Canada.


I am actually very encouraged by what the federal NDP is saying and I would call upon our provincial NDP colleagues to support their federal colleagues. I'm very pleased with that. I am also asking Mr. Tory and the Conservatives here in Ontario to support the families and children in their ridings, to lobby their MPs and make it very clear that this impacts all families and all children who need high-quality child care. This is not about any political or partisan stripe; this is about --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. New question.


Mr. Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My question is to the Premier. I want to remind you that you stated after the federal election that it would be in the best interests of the new Prime Minister to follow through on commitments made by the Martin Liberals to the Ontario government. The people of Woodstock have been waiting for two and a half years for the McGuinty Liberals to honour a commitment made by a previous provincial government.


The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Stop the clock. Order. The member for Oxford.

Mr. Hardeman: Not only was a commitment made to fund a new Woodstock hospital, but $12 million was sent and spent. The minister said to my colleague, in answering his question, that there's a process they go through and the ministry follows through. The final part of the process is the final approval to go to tender. That is where Woodstock General Hospital is. I ask you, Premier, can the people of Woodstock be assured that in today's budget there is going to be funding designated to Woodstock General Hospital so they can go to final tender and do what the minister said: follow through the process, do what they were asked to do, get it done and get approval from the provincial government to get it finished?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Health.

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I might first say that I would have thought that this old-style grandstanding by the honourable member had really lost its place. We've had so much opportunity over the course of the last two and a half years to offer evidence of where the Conservative Party, in the run-up to the last election, ran all over Ontario with their big rubber cheques, promising this, that and the other thing, and not just leaving the kitty bare, but having overspent it by $5.6 billion. So it's a bit galling to hear the honourable member do that.

But notwithstanding that, the mayor of Woodstock, as an example, and the people from the local hospital have taken a more positive view. They've worked very hard, recognizing that across the breadth of Ontario there are many hospitals left behind by that government over a period of time, worked diligently with the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal in the largest single investment in hospitals in the province of Ontario, to rebuild them. I can give this assurance to the people of Woodstock: We have never lost cause with them, we have never found fault with the necessity of the proposal and we will continue to work with --

The Speaker: Thank you. It is now time for petitions.



Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I have a petition that reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario's health insurance plan covers treatments for one form of macular degeneration (wet), and there are other forms of macular degeneration (dry) that are not covered,

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario as follows:

"There are thousands of Ontarians who suffer from macular degeneration, resulting in loss of sight if treatment is not pursued. Treatment costs for this disease are astronomical for most individuals and add a financial burden to their lives. Their only alternative is loss of sight. We believe the government of Ontario should cover treatment for all forms of macular degeneration through the Ontario health insurance program."

I affix my name in full support.


Mr. David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Today we learned of the successful rescue of two Canadian hostages and one British hostage being held captive in Iraq. One of the hostages, James Loney, is from Sault Ste. Marie. Premier McGuinty and our government and, I'm sure it's appropriate to say, all members of this House are extremely pleased for the individuals and their families for their release.

James Loney and others put their values of peace and goodwill ahead of their personal safety, and we commend them for their perseverance under such extreme circumstances. We thank those in foreign affairs who worked so hard for their release. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are also with the friends and family of American Tom Fox.


Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislative Assembly regarding community mediation. It's signed by a number of individuals in Mississauga and it reads as follows:

"Whereas many types of civil disputes may be resolved through community mediation delivered by trained mediators, who are volunteers who work with the parties in the dispute; and

"Whereas Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services established the Peel Community Mediation Service in 1999 with support from the government of Ontario through the Trillium Foundation, the Rotary Club of Mississauga West, and the United Way of Peel, and has proven the viability and success of community mediation; and

"Whereas the city of Mississauga and the town of Caledon have endorsed the Peel Community Mediation Service, and law enforcement bodies refer many cases to the Peel Community Mediation Service as an alternative to a court dispute; and

"Whereas court facilities and court time are both scarce and expensive, the cost of community mediation is very small and the extra expense incurred for lack of community mediation in Peel region would be much greater than the small annual cost of funding community mediation;

"Be it therefore resolved that the government of Ontario, through the Ministry of the Attorney General, support and fund the ongoing service delivery of the Peel Community Mediation Service through Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services."

This is an excellent petition. I'm pleased to sign and support it and to ask page Zacharie to carry it for me.


Mr. Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas, without appropriate support, people who have an intellectual disability are often unable to participate effectively in community life and are deprived of the benefits of society enjoyed by other citizens; and

"Whereas quality supports are dependent on the ability to attract and retain qualified workers; and

"Whereas the salaries of workers who provide community-based supports and services are up to 25% less than salaries paid to those doing the same work in government-operated services and other sectors;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That the government of Ontario address, as a priority, funding to community agencies in the developmental services sector to address critical underfunding of staff salaries and ensure that people who have an intellectual disability continue to receive quality supports and services that they require in order to live meaningful lives within their community."

I've also signed this.

Mr. Jeff Leal (Peterborough): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas, without appropriate support, people who have an intellectual disability are often unable to participate effectively in community life and are deprived of the benefits of society enjoyed by other citizens; and

"Whereas quality supports are dependent on the ability to attract and retain qualified workers; and

"Whereas the salaries of workers who provide community-based supports and services are up to 25% less than salaries paid to those doing the same work in government-operated services and other sectors;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to address, as a priority, funding to community agencies in the developmental services sector to address critical underfunding of staff salaries and ensure that people who have an intellectual disability continue to receive quality supports and services that they require in order to live meaningful lives within their community."

These are from residents of Peterborough. I will affix my signature.


Mr. Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): My petition is intended to be addressed to the Ontario Legislature, and it reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, find it disturbing that children with disabilities in our communities are forced to wait two to three times longer for basic therapy services than in other parts of Ontario. Further, we find that the current wait times are excessive and contravene the government's own research findings regarding the importance of early intervention. We petition our MPPs with the following message:

"Early intervention for children with special needs is critical. Our children deserve fair funding for KidsAbility services. We want the April provincial budget to include an additional $2.3 million to serve the wait-listed children in Waterloo region and Wellington county."

It's signed by a significant number of my constituents.



Mr. Kim Craitor (Niagara Falls): I'm pleased to introduce this petition. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario's health insurance plan covers treatments for one form of macular degeneration (wet), there are other forms of macular degeneration (dry) that are not covered,

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"There are thousands of Ontarians who suffer from macular degeneration, resulting in loss of sight if treatment is not pursued. Treatment costs for this disease are astronomical for most constituents and add a financial burden to their lives. Their only alternative is loss of sight. We believe the government of Ontario should cover treatment for all forms of macular degeneration through the Ontario health insurance program."

I'm pleased to affix my signature to this petition in support of it.


Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm very pleased to present a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which reads as follows:

"Whereas long-term-care funding levels are too low to enable homes to provide the care and services our aging seniors and parents, who are residents of long-term-care homes, need, with the respect and dignity that they deserve; and

"Whereas even with recent funding increases and a dedicated staff who do more than their best, there is still not enough time available to provide the care residents need. For example, 10 minutes, and sometimes less, is simply not enough time to assist a resident to get up, dressed, to the bathroom and then to the dining room for breakfast; and

"Whereas those unacceptable care and service levels are now at risk of declining;

"We, the undersigned, who are members of family councils, residents' councils and/or supporters of long-term care in Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to increase operating funding to long-term-care homes by $306.6 million, which will allow the hiring of more staff to provide an additional 20 minutes of care per resident per day over the next two years, 2006-07."

I affix my signature in support.


Mr. Lou Rinaldi (Northumberland): "Whereas the people of Ontario expect the government of Canada to honour existing agreements with the government of Ontario;

"Whereas provinces and territories negotiated agreements with the federal government to ensure Canadians would have access to early learning and child care programs that are high-quality, affordable, universally inclusive and developmental;

"Whereas parents in Ontario have demonstrated a high demand for greater access to high-quality early learning and child care programs;

"Whereas Ontario's early learning and child care agreement with the government of Canada would provide Ontario families with at least 25,000 new high-quality, regulated child care spaces in the first three years;

"Whereas Ontario's early learning and child care agreement represents a $1.9-billion investment over five years in high-quality early learning and child care;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the government of Ontario in calling on the government of Canada to honour Ontario's early learning and child care agreement, for the sake of the thousands of Ontario families who would benefit from it."

I am happy to sign this and will pass it to Charlotte to deliver it to the table.


Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

"Whereas the safe operation of a motor vehicle requires the driver's undivided attention; and

"Whereas research has shown that the operation of devices such as cellphones and other in-car technology detract from a driver's ability to respond and concentrate on the task at hand," driving, "and

"Whereas more than 30 jurisdictions around the world have already passed legislation to restrict the use of cellphones while driving; and

"Whereas Durham MPP John O'Toole has introduced a private member's bill that would enact regulations, raise awareness and gather data on distracted driving;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows: That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario support Bill 68, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Cellular Phones), 2006."

I'm pleased to sign this, on behalf of my many constituents who support Bill 68, and present it to Raelene, one of the new pages here.


Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I've got a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas rebuilding our post-secondary education system is critical to the future of our communities and our province; and

"Whereas high tuition user fees are resulting in massive student debt; and

"Whereas Ontario ranks second-last amongst all provinces in terms of total PSE budget received from government grants, and has the highest percentage of total post-secondary education revenue from private sources; and

"Whereas working and learning conditions must be healthy and safe because working conditions are learning conditions; and

"Whereas the deferred maintenance cost at Ontario university campuses is estimated to have already reached the $2-billion mark;

"We, the undersigned, support the Canadian Union of Public Employees' call on the provincial government to invest sufficient public funds that will:

"(1) Restore public money cut from operating funds since 1995 and bring Ontario up to the national average for funding post-secondary education;

"(2) Finance the $1.98 billion needed for deferred maintenance; and

"(3) Provide the funding needed to continue the tuition freeze beyond 2006 and increase grants to working-class families."

Signed by scores of people and by myself as well.


Mr. Kuldip Kular (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the people of Ontario expect the government of Canada to honour existing agreements with the government of Ontario;

"Whereas provinces and territories negotiated agreements with the federal government to ensure Canadians would have access to early learning and child care programs that are high quality, affordable, universally inclusive and developmental;

"Whereas parents in Ontario have demonstrated a high demand for greater access to high-quality early learning and child care programs;

"Whereas Ontario's early learning and child care agreement with the government of Canada would provide Ontario families with at least 25,000 new high-quality, regulated child care spaces in the first three years;

"Whereas Ontario's early learning and child care agreement represents a $1.9-billion investment over five years in high-quality early learning and child care;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the government of Ontario in calling on the government of Canada to honour Ontario's early learning and child care agreement, for the sake of the thousands of Ontario families who would benefit from it."

I support this petition and I affix my signature on this one.


Mr. Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it's signed by a great number of my constituents and constituents from ridings surrounding the great riding of Oxford.

"We, the undersigned, who are members of family councils, residents' councils and/or supporters of long-term care in Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to increase operating funding to long-term-care homes by $306.6 million, which will allow the hiring of more staff to provide an additional 20 minutes of care per resident per day over the next two years, 2006 and 2007."

I affix my signature to the petition, as I agree with it.


Mrs. Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the people of Ontario expect the government of Canada to honour existing agreements with the government of Ontario;

"Whereas provinces and territories negotiated agreements with the federal government to ensure Canadians would have access to early learning and child care programs that are high quality, affordable, universally inclusive and developmental;

"Whereas parents in Ontario have demonstrated a high demand for greater access to high-quality early learning and child care programs;

"Whereas Ontario's early learning and child care agreement with the government of Canada would provide Ontario families with at least 25,000 new high-quality, regulated child care spaces in the first three years;

"Whereas Ontario's early learning and child care agreement represents a $1.9-billion investment over five years in high-quality early learning and child care;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the government of Ontario in calling on the government of Canada to honour Ontario's early learning and child care agreement, for the sake of the thousands of Ontario families who would benefit from it."

As a mother and an OMA, I endorse this one as well.

Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent to suspend proceedings until 4 p.m.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Mr. Bradley has asked for unanimous consent to suspend proceedings until 4 o'clock. Agreed? Agreed.

We'll therefore suspend the proceedings until 4 o'clock, and I will cause the bells to ring to call the members at 3:55.

The House suspended proceedings from 1510 to 1600.



Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Finance, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I move, seconded by Mr. McGuinty, that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Mr. Duncan has moved, seconded by Mr. McGuinty, that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

I'd like to ask the indulgence of the House as we ask the pages to deliver the documents.

Have all members received a copy of the budget?

Minister of Finance.

Hon. Mr. Duncan: I think I speak on behalf of all members of the House when I say how happy and delighted we are at the release of the Canadian hostages today in Afghanistan. I'm sure all members of the House join us in that sentiment.


Hon. Mr. Duncan: I bet that's the last applause I'll see on that side of the House today.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present the McGuinty Liberal government's 2006-07 budget.

Opportunity is the foundation upon which our society -- and our economy -- is built.

Giving each Ontarian the opportunity to build success has always been the right thing to do.

Today, in the global economy of the 21st century, it's also the right economic strategy for the province of Ontario.

This budget represents the next step in our plan to build opportunity.

Monsieur le Président, le budget que nous déposons aujourd'hui représente la prochaine étape de notre plan visant à créer des occasions de réussir.

And before I tell you about our plan, I want to provide some context.

When we came to office in 2003, we inherited a health care deficit, an education and skills deficit, an infrastructure deficit and a fiscal deficit.

In the last two and a half years, we have set about addressing each of these challenges in a planned and deliberate way.

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that it was in part through the hard work and dedication and vision of my predecessor, Greg Sorbara, that we have come so far.

Family physicians are seeing more Ontarians. First-year medical school spaces will increase by 23%. More nurses will attend to our sick and infirm. Dozens more MRI and CT machines have been purchased for the public health system. Wait times are down, and in key procedures such as radiation treatment are down 16% in just one short year.

We have launched the most significant investment in higher education, delivering 75,000 new spaces, doubling student aid and investing an additional $6.2 billion in improved quality, accountability and accessibility in post-secondary education.

We have made great progress for our younger students. Half our students in the critically important grades of junior kindergarten to grade 3 are now in classes of fewer than 20 students.

Sixty-two per cent of grade 3 and grade 6 students are now meeting the provincial standard in reading, writing and math, up from a little more than half just two years ago.

All of this has been achieved with a prudent and balanced approach that allows us to invest in our future prosperity while keeping our taxes competitive.


We are on track to eliminate the fiscal deficit no later than 2008-09. A balanced budget will be achieved a full year earlier if the reserve is not needed.


Hon. Mr. Duncan: We'll teach them how to balance the budget, Mr. Speaker.

In 2005, the Ontario economy, in spite of what they said, outperformed the average private sector and government projections, resulting in additional revenue. We have made a strategic and prudent choice to invest over 60% of this additional money to begin paying down Ontario's infrastructure deficit.

We're on track to pay down the mortgage, but we have to make sure that the foundation is solid.

The next step in strengthening that foundation -- in building opportunity -- is our plan to address the infrastructure deficit.

Infrastructure is the schools where our children learn, the hospitals where we are treated, the public transit systems we ride, the roads we drive on, the plants that clean our drinking water and the power stations that keep our lights on.

It's how we get our goods to the world's markets and a big part of how we market ourselves to the world.

Each generation is called upon to build and renew our vital infrastructure.

Today, our focus is transportation infrastructure. Quick, reliable, safe transportation is vital to our economic success. It's also essential to our quality of life.

It means the opportunity for our economy to be more competitive by moving goods more efficiently.

It means the opportunity for Ontarians to travel more safely on improved roads and bridges.

That's why I am proud to announce Move Ontario, a new $1.2-billion investment in public transit, municipal roads and bridges that will build opportunity for each and every citizen of this province.

C'est la raison pour laquelle je suis fier d'annoncer Transports-Action Ontario, un nouvel investissement de 1,2 milliard de dollars dans les réseaux de transport en commun, les routes et les ponts municipaux de la province, afin de créer des conditions favorables dont tout le monde bénéficiera.

Move Ontario has the potential to create 27,000 new jobs.

The centrepiece of Move Ontario is a landmark $838-million investment to enable the expansion and modernization of public transit in the greater Toronto area.

Move Ontario can help build a new subway into York region and new projects to fight gridlock and speed travel across Brampton and Mississauga. We hope you'll support this. It's in the public interest.

The city of Toronto and York region will be able to use $670 million to extend the subway to the Vaughan Corporate Centre at Highway 7.

York region's population has grown by over 50% in the last 10 years, and the city of Toronto has said that this is its first choice for expansion.

For the first time in our history, subway service will be able to extend beyond regional boundaries, from the 416 to the 905, building opportunity for everyone in the greater Toronto area.

We're also providing $200 million in additional support to the city of Toronto's existing subway operations.

The province will provide $65 million to Mississauga. That city will be able to develop its Transitway -- a dedicated bus line along Highway 403 and Eglinton Avenue.

Brampton will benefit from $95 million. It will be able to build its AcceleRide project, providing express bus service through dedicated bus lines within the city.

I am delighted to have Mayor Miller, Mayor McCallion, Mayor Fennell and York Regional Chair Fisch, our partners in this great undertaking, here today in the gallery.

The Minister of Transportation will introduce legislation shortly to establish the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.

The GTTA could promote seamless movement of people and goods and could oversee an integrated fare card for use across the entire GTA transit system.

These investments are the beginning of a new era in public transit in the GTA. I know that all members of this House join me in urging the federal government to participate fully in this opportunity.

Our vision of transportation infrastructure extends right across this great province.

In keeping with our commitment to municipalities, in October we will again increase the share of gas tax for public transit to two cents per litre.

Over five years, this program will have delivered more than $1.4 billion to municipalities.

And I'm pleased to announce that as of today, municipalities will be able to use the gas tax funding for transit operations as well as for capital. Municipalities have been asking for this for some time, and we're proud to give it to them today.

Roads and bridges are crucial to the entire province.

Through our five-year ReNew Ontario plan, the government will provide a total of $3.4 billion to improve the provincial highway network in southern Ontario and $1.8 billion for highways in northern Ontario.

I am proud to announce today that Move Ontario will provide an additional $400 million in immediate one-time funding, with special emphasis on rural and northern municipalities, for municipal road and bridge repair and upgrading.

We believe in working as partners with municipalities, and that's why they will set their own priorities. This funding is enough to repair up to 800 local bridges or resurface 3,000 kilometres of municipal roads. Just to put that in context, that is the distance from Thunder Bay to Ottawa and back again. That is a real investment in municipalities.

Ultimately, this will mean safer roads and more reliable movement of goods and people across Ontario.

Timely delivery of goods is vitally important to the province, and exports are the lifeblood of our economy. Ontarians need to know that their borders are safe and secure while allowing the free flow of goods.

More than 70% of the value of Canada-US road trade is carried on Ontario highways.

We've already made highway improvements near our border crossings to help with traffic flow and safety concerns.

We'll be moving forward this year with the federal government on our $300-million investment in the Windsor gateway and the $323-million investment in the Niagara and Sarnia crossings.

Efficient borders are important to people and businesses, and so too is electricity.

The government has taken on one of the most ambitious building programs in North America for new electricity generation. Over the course of three years, we have initiated dozens of projects to provide, together with our conservation efforts, about 11,000 megawatts of supply over the next five years.

That's enough to power five million homes.

Hydro One is investing more than $3 billion over the next five years in its transmission and distribution systems.


We have also announced a three-year extension of stable pricing for electricity provided by Ontario Power Generation. Our pricing policy saved electricity consumers about $740 million in 2005 alone.

This government is committed to creating a culture of conservation. Our goal is to achieve 10% reduction in the government's electricity use by 2007, and we are encouraging consumers to reduce their use of electricity with the installation of 800,000 smart meters by 2007.

Be it through new generation or conservation, the McGuinty government will keep the lights on.

We're increasing supply, decreasing demand and increasing energy efficiency. That's how you reduce the price of electricity.

Moreover, I am pleased to announce today that for the first time, the people in Ontario have paid off $1.1 billion of the stranded debt from the old Ontario Hydro. That has never been done before.

Medicare defines us as a province and as a nation.

It's also a unique advantage when it comes to attracting jobs and investment.

It's why we've led the fight to prevent illness, including the ban on smoking in all enclosed public and work spaces; it's why we provided 2.1 million childhood vaccinations free of charge; it's why we have expanded access to doctors, nurses and other health care professionals; and it's why we've reduced wait times.

We're investing, this year, an additional $1.9 billion in health care. Our total additional investment in health care will be $34.4 billion over five years.

We have more to do. That's why I am pleased to announce that Ontario will now help families living with type 1 diabetes by funding insulin pumps and related supplies for about 6,500 children by 2008-09. The pumps will help to keep these children healthier and reduce emergency room visits. We're the first province in Canada to do this, and I hope every province will follow suit.

I would like to introduce two special guests in the gallery today: Zachary Smith and Alexander Tout. These young men and their families will benefit from this announcement, and when they benefit, we all benefit. Thank you for being here, Alex.

Terry Anne Thomson is also in the gallery today. She worked tirelessly to bring this issue forward. We all owe her a debt of gratitude.

I think my colleagues thank the honourable member from Thunder Bay-Superior North, Mr. Gravelle, who, typical of all members on all sides in this House, worked extremely hard on this issue. We congratulate you, Michael, and pay tribute to all members and the good work they do on behalf of their constituents.

We're also taking steps to prepare for the possibility of an influenza pandemic like avian flu.

For the first time in Ontario history, we have a Minister of Health Promotion dedicated to advocating healthy living and to developing programs that prevent illness and promote wellness.

We now have 100 family health teams approved in Ontario that will provide primary care to some 1.7 million Ontarians when fully operational. We're two thirds of the way toward our goal of 150 family health teams.

We have provided $27 million in 2005-06, growing to $35 million in 2006-07, to train up to 200 international medical graduates each and every year.

We are creating 104 undergraduate medical school spaces in Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo, St. Catharines and Windsor.

Surgical procedures are up and wait times are down.

Ontario's dedicated health professionals have carried out over 31,000 additional surgical procedures since 2004-05, including procedures that are most needed by Ontarians: cancer surgeries, hip and knee replacements, cataract and cardiac procedures.

-- Wait times for radiation treatment are down by more than a week -- an improvement of 16% over last year.

-- As a result of investments in MRIs and their operating hours, we've had a 42% increase in the number of exams compared to 2003-04. That's over 100,000 additional exams in two years.

We have created 14 local health integration networks, which will deliver a more integrated, seamless and community-based health care system.

Since we took office, we have improved community-based health care facilities and added and improved long-term-care beds to address the needs of our aging population.

We have started construction at the new regional health centre in Peterborough and on a major redevelopment project at the Ottawa Hospital.

This year we will tender 11 major hospital projects in Belleville, in Ajax-Pickering, in London, in Mississauga, in Toronto, in Sarnia, in Hamilton, in Sudbury and in Sault Ste. Marie. This is in addition to the projects we've already started in Barrie, in Oshawa and in Sioux Lookout, to name just a few.

The best jobs and the most investment go to the places with the best-educated and most highly skilled workforce.

We are building educational opportunity every day.

As planned, our education funding will increase another $424 million this year.

Ontario's Best Start plan to provide 25,000 new daycare spaces and increase subsidies for thousands of families was based on an early learning agreement with the federal government. Regrettably, the federal government has terminated the agreement, taking away $1.4 billion intended for child care spaces and help for working families.

In spite of this, the province has already provided sufficient funding to create over 14,000 new spaces, and we will use the final federal payment to provide $63 million every year for the next four years to support child care and make sure that those spaces stay open in Ontario.

We are building opportunity for school-age children:

-- We've funded an additional 4,300 elementary and high school teachers over the past two years.

-- More than half our schools have smaller primary classes.

-- Literacy and math scores for grade 3 and 6 students have risen to an average of 62% from 54% just two and a half years ago.

-- Six hundred specialist teachers are in classrooms to help struggling students and to teach physical education, music and the arts.

-- We've invested $61 million in extra funding for one million new textbooks and library resources.

Art, music and gym are back in our schools, along with proper textbooks, and we will never, ever let them be taken away again.

The centrepiece of last year's budget was the historic Reaching Higher plan for post-secondary education, a total of $6.2 billion of new investment by 2009-10 for our colleges and universities.


We are doubling spending on student aid.

We have reintroduced upfront grants and will provide them to 60,000 students this coming school year -- up from 32,000 last year.

We will guarantee that students who receive government loans of more than $7,000 per year will have the excess amount forgiven.

Finally, we are creating 75,000 new spaces for students in Ontario's colleges and universities this year.

We will only be at our best when every Ontarian has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential.

Reaching Higher is delivering real, positive change for 500,000 students. Our future depends on it.

When we speak of opportunity for every Ontarian, we mean every Ontarian.

In 2006-07, we will be increasing our spending to support Ontario's at-risk youth and vulnerable adults and families by $218 million -- to a total of $10.3 billion.

We have already made much-needed improvements to social assistance. Today I'm announcing that we're permanently flowing through increases to the national child benefit supplement for 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Additionally, in 2006-07 we will increase social assistance basic benefits and maximum shelter allowances by another 2%.

These improvements will mean that a single-parent family with two children will receive $1,620 more this year than they would have in 2003-04. That's an increase of 15.7%.

In 2006-07, we will also provide $80 million more for people with developmental disabilities. I know the minister has great plans for that, and she'll have more to say about that in the none-too-distant future. We have also provided more funding to help women escape domestic violence and additional services to protect the homeless.

When it comes to stopping guns and gangs, we need to be tough on those who choose crime and to be tenacious when it comes to giving our youth every opportunity to choose a better path.

Many youth in high-needs communities require support and encouragement to complete high school. The government's Learning to 18 strategy will help young people stay and succeed in school.

As the Premier and "Pinball" Clemons announced last month, a new youth challenge fund will provide up to $45 million in new resources for community-led programs targeted to young people.

Ontario's economy has created almost 200,000 net new jobs since we took office, about 90% of them full time -- and most of them are in higher-paying occupations. That's an unprecedented record.

Our task is to ensure that Ontarians are better prepared for the great jobs that have been created in this province.

Notre tâche consiste à faire en sorte que les Ontariennes et Ontariens soient mieux préparés pour occuper d'excellents emplois.

That's why, in addition to Reaching Higher, we're creating a $2.1-billion jobs and skills renewal strategy, a comprehensive plan to maintain and enhance Ontario's skills advantage.

Unemployed Ontarians and the working poor will have access to new training and employment supports and opportunities.

Apprentices and other skilled workers will receive more workforce training.

Social assistance recipients will get the work opportunities and the employment services they need.

New Canadians will have access to more and better language classes and bridge training programs.

At-risk youth will get employment counselling and participate in job placement and training programs.

This strategy will provide more opportunity for more Ontarians to participate more fully in our economy.

We know that the jurisdiction that is the first to come up with new ideas and the first to develop them into new products and services will have a prosperous economy and a high standard of living for all its citizens.

That's why we've created the Ministry of Research and Innovation, led by Premier McGuinty. Through this ministry, we will be investing nearly $1.7 billion in research and commercialization over five years to 2009-10.

That's why we're investing in research and innovation talent, with three new innovation awards programs, and investing $25 million in the Premier's summit awards for excellence in medical research.

And that's why we're providing $100 million for foundation science through two leading-edge research facilities: the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo and the University of Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing.

We are joined in the gallery today by Mr. Mike Lazaridis, our partner in this great endeavour. He and his family have contributed $150 million of their own money to this, and we're there with you, sir. We believe in research and development, and we're proud to be your partner.

Ontario's economic strength also comes from the diversity of our economy.

La vigueur de l'économie ontarienne résulte aussi de la diversité de notre économie.

We are home to Canada's largest manufacturing sector, we are home to the continent's leading auto sector, we are home to the country's leading information and communications technology sector, and we are the hub of Canada's financial services sector.

To help the financial services sector flourish, we will continue with regulatory reform that fosters fair and effective financial markets, including the need for a single securities regulator in Canada.

To encourage this diverse economy, we must ensure the vitality of our investment climate.

A competitive tax system is essential to attract business investment and encourage economic growth.

This budget has no new taxes or tax increases.

In our 2004 budget, the government announced plans to enhance Ontario's investment climate by gradually phasing out the province's capital tax. That tax taxes investment rather than business profits.

So today we are proposing a 5% capital tax rate cut starting on January 1, 2007, a full two years earlier than planned.

If the fiscal plan allows, we intend to eliminate the capital tax in its entirety in 2010; again, two years sooner than originally planned. That's important to manufacturers in Welland who give jobs to the people of Welland, and I know they'll support this --


Hon. Mr. Duncan: -- and we'll stand up against you and your likes any day of the week.


Hon. Mr. Duncan: Leave the workers of Welland alone, will you?


The Speaker: Member from Niagara Centre.

Hon. Mr. Duncan: Increased capital investment will lead to more and better jobs, and that's what this government is about.

One of the many success stories of Ontario's diverse economy is the entertainment and creative cluster.

This cluster has great potential to grow and create jobs, and it boosts economic growth by attracting tourists, businesses and investors.

Today, we're proposing to extend the enhanced 18% tax credit rate for film production services to March 2007.

We're proposing to expand eligibility for the Ontario interactive digital media tax credit and increase the credit from 20% to 30% for smaller businesses.


We're establishing an entertainment and creative cluster partnership fund -- $7.5 million over the next three years for skills development, product development and marketing.

We're supporting the 2007 Toronto International Arts Festival, which will highlight some of Ontario's cultural landmarks.

And I'm most proud to announce that we're providing a further $49 million to support capital projects at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Ballet School, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Canadian Opera Company.

Those institutions are in our greatest city but they belong to all the people of Ontario and they'll attract investment and jobs for many, many people and a lot of tourism dollars to boot.

Our manufacturing sector accounts for about 17% of Ontario's employment and 21% of our gross domestic product.

In 2005, Ontario's manufacturing sector came under increased competitive pressure due to a higher Canadian dollar and higher oil costs.

In Ontario, industry is rising to the challenge: production and exports are up, productivity is higher and investment is increasing. That bodes well for our recovery in the manufacturing sector. That bodes well for the working people of this province.

Ontario's strategy for automotive investment has leveraged almost $6 billion in investment in this sector, including the new Toyota plant in Woodstock.

Today I'm proud to propose a doubling of our maximum retail sales tax rebate for the purchase of hybrid electric vehicles to $2,000.

The Ford Motor Co., as a result of Joe Cordiano's good work, is investing and is going to build hybrids in Ontario for the first time, and we're proud to be a partner in that.

Our $500-million advanced manufacturing investment strategy, our Reaching Higher plan, our investments in infrastructure, innovation and commercialization, and the elimination of the capital tax will help manufacturing maintain its role as a mainstay of our economy and keep the good people of Welland working.

Ontario's farming sector employs 90,000 people and feeds our cities and towns.

While prospects for the sector overall are positive, some farmers face serious challenges. When there is a problem on the family farm, we all have a problem.

Ontario farmers need our help, and they are receiving it with more than $800 million over the last three years for farm income stabilization and support programs. This includes our recent $125-million announcement, part of the year-end money that you opposed, to help farmers right across the province.

The grain and oilseed farmers, horticulture farmers and livestock industry have all benefited from this, and it's time for the federal government to come to the table with our farming community here in Ontario, the way that Ontario has. Get on the phone and call them today to make sure they're there with us, investing in this vital sector.

Research is the most cost-effective support for agriculture. So over the next five years, $2.5 million will be awarded to outstanding farm innovators. The first awards will be presented at the next Premier's agri-food summit.

I'm also announcing today $25 million for the redevelopment of the animal health laboratory at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph to increase our capacity to research diseases like avian flu.

Ontario's research scientists can be assured that this government will stand behind them, because when they advance the frontiers of science, we advance the interests of all the people of Ontario, and that is a worthy public endeavour.

It is this province's communities that deliver so many of the programs and services that make a difference in people's everyday lives.

We believe in Ontario's municipalities. We've uploaded where others have downloaded.

Nous avons assumé des responsabilités alors que d'autres en ont abandonné.

We recently increased our supports to municipalities for land ambulance services. That's paid for out of the year-end funding, and we are surprised that you would oppose that. The province will spend an additional $300 million over the next three years toward a true 50-50 cost share of a program that you downloaded.

We have demonstrated our support for municipalities today:

-- $1.2 billion in Move Ontario funding for transit, roads and bridges;

-- gas tax revenues of more than $1.4 billion over five years;

-- $763 million through the Ontario municipal partnership fund in 2006;

-- up to $2.4 billion through Ontario Strategic Infrastructure Financing Authority loan commitments;

-- a $298-million commitment to renew municipal infrastructure through the Canada-Ontario municipal rural infrastructure fund; and finally,

-- with the year-end money we have this year, we're able to increase the share of public health funding to 65% this year and 75% next year.

Won't you please join us in helping our municipalities deal with the costs that you downloaded?

Northern Ontario is a region of great potential.

I am delighted to announce today $4 million to create a bio-energy research centre in Atikokan to conduct practical research on energy for the province and the community and to keep the Atikokan research centre up and running. Bill Mauro deserves a lot of credit for that, and for keeping our toes to the fire. This is good news for Atikokan today.

Provincial investments in support of prosperity for northern Ontario include:

-- $1.8 billion over five years for the upgrading and expansion of northern highways under the northern Ontario highway strategy; and

-- $259 million in low-cost loans from OSIFA to 47 northern municipalities for upgrading local infrastructure.

To help support the forestry industry, in 2005 the government announced $680 million in assistance.

We recently announced a number of new investments totalling $220 million over three years. Again, that's part of that year-end money and those expenditures you opposed. That will keep Ontario's forest companies secure and create jobs. When the forestry industry hurts, not just the north hurts; this entire province hurts. That's why their government is standing behind that vital sector.

Mineral exploration spending in Ontario has nearly tripled since 2001, and there is a new diamond mine opening in Ontario, the first in our history.

I'm pleased to announce that this year we are investing $10 million in Sudbury's Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation.

We're announcing new initiatives for aboriginal peoples, many of whom live in the north.


We're providing $6 million to First Nations and rural libraries to help strengthen literacy and promote lifelong learning.

And I'm very proud to announce that we're providing over $800,000 for the Lieutenant Governor's summer camp initiative that encourages literacy for our aboriginal children.

Our plan to build opportunity is working because we've been prudent fiscal managers.

We have made substantial progress on deficit reduction. We've reduced the deficit we inherited by 75% in two and a half years.

We have reduced the 2005-06 deficit to a projected $1.4 billion, an improvement of almost $200 million from 2004-05.

We estimate that the 2006-07 deficit will be $2.4 billion -- $1.4 billion if the reserve is not needed. We are on track to eliminate the fiscal deficit by 2008-09, or a year earlier if the reserve is not needed.

Prudence is important in a budget. The last time we didn't have it, we found a deficit of $5.5 billion. This government is about proper financial management.

The performance of the economy is vital to our fiscal plan.

The Ontario economy has added over 81,000 net new jobs in 2005, and we forecast another 85,000 net new jobs in 2006.

Private sector forecasters, on average, expect Ontario to see real GDP growth of 2.6% in 2006 and 2007.

Though we are optimistic about economic growth in Ontario, there are always risks that are beyond our control, including slower US economic growth, rising oil prices, and a higher Canadian dollar.

Our job -- and it's one that we take very seriously -- is to ensure that Ontario's economy is in the strongest shape possible to withstand these external challenges.

The new federal government has expressed a willingness to address the federal-provincial fiscal imbalance. Our government is optimistic about the potential positive outcome for Ontarians.

In making our case to the federal government, we will be stressing the importance of investment in infrastructure, in shorter wait times, in post-secondary education, in early learning and child care, in our municipalities, and in support, most importantly, to our farmers and forestry industries.

We need the federal government to help build a strong Ontario in a strong Canada by continuing to narrow the $23-billion gap between what Ontarians contribute to Confederation and what we receive back in transfers and programs.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank a very dedicated team of public servants in the Ministry of Finance who have worked tirelessly to prepare this budget. I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of them and, through them, to the entire public service in Ontario. We should all be proud of our public service. They're outstanding professionals.

The English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon once said that wise people make more opportunities than they find.

What we found when we assumed office was a health care deficit, an education and skills deficit, a fiscal deficit and an infrastructure deficit.

What we have done is turn these challenges into opportunities.

Under our plan, and thanks to the efforts of hard-working Ontarians:

Wait times are down, and the number of nurses is up.

Dropout rates are going down, and test scores are going up.

With the approach we're putting in place today, commute and travel times will come down as the quality and quantity of our highways, subways, roads and bridges go up.

Interest on the debt, the debt as a percentage of GDP, and the fiscal deficit we all inherited are down.

And take-home pay, corporate profits, jobs and high-paying jobs are all up, up, up.

There is much more to do, but the deficits we inherited are, one by one, being knocked down.

We are privileged to serve the people. They are one, by one, being lifted up.

Their education and skills are stronger.

Their health care is better.

And their prosperity is deeper.

And that means more and more Ontarians will have a fair shot at success, and more and more Ontarians are finding success.

That's what happens when we, as the Premier says, work and grow and dream together.

That's what happens when we build opportunity for all.

Chi meegwetch. Thank you.


The Speaker: Order. The member for Simcoe-Grey.

Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): I move adjournment of the debate.

The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

The Minister of Finance.

Hon. Mr. Duncan: I request that the House revert to introduction of bills.



Mr. Duncan moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 81, An Act to implement 2006 Budget measures and to enact, amend or repeal various Acts / Projet de loi 81, Loi mettant en oeuvre certaines mesures énoncées dans le Budget de 2006 et édictant, modifiant ou abrogeant diverses lois.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Does the minister wish to make a brief statement?

Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Finance, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I just did one, sir. Thank you.

The Speaker: Introduction of bills? The Minister of Finance.

Hon. Mr. Duncan: I have a message from His Honour.

The Speaker: Thank you.

Further debate? The government House leader.

Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I move adjournment of the House.

The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock, Monday afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1700.