36e législature, 1re session

L033 - Thu 30 Nov 1995 / Jeu 30 Nov 1995












































The House met at 1001.




Mr Bisson moved private member's notice of motion number 5:

That in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should maintain a fair and equitable rent control program, similar to the present rent control system introduced by the previous New Democratic Party government which protected tenants from abusive landlords, rather than creating a market-based system that allows abusive landlords to gouge tenants, and leave tenants vulnerable to unfair rent increases.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member has up to 10 minutes and each party will have 15 minutes after that.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): In this, the first 10 minutes, I'll try to go through this as quickly as I can. I think the issue is clear enough for most members in the province of Ontario.

Since the mid-1970s, first under the Conservative government of Mr Bill Davis and onwards to the Peterson government and then on to the Rae government, the province of Ontario as a matter of public policy has always recognized that in order to protect tenants from large rent increases that would have the effect of throwing a lot of people out of their apartments, the province needs to have a law in place in order to protect tenants from abusive situations with their landlords when it comes to rent increases.

Over a period of 20 years, governments sought, first, to introduce legislation under the Tory government and then strengthened it two successive times after, first under the David Peterson government and the accord with the NDP in 1985, where a number of modifications were made to the law, supported by this House, and then again in 1991-93, when final changes were made to the rent control legislation that provides for a fair and equitable system in the way we treat landlords and tenants in Ontario.

The reason I brought this motion forward is quite simply this: In the last provincial election, the Conservative Party, at the time the third party, and a number of its candidates were trying on a local level to reassure tenants that they would indeed protect tenants, that they would not take away our present system of rent control, that if they made any changes, they would ensure that those changes would reflect our current rent control system; that is to say, a system by which the government, through the Ministry of Housing, has a rent control registry and controls the amounts that rents could be increased.

As recently as this fall, there were some public musings on the part of the Minister of Housing, Mr Leach, that the government tends to want to go away from that particular policy. Case in point: An article appeared in the Toronto Star on November 24 entitled "Tenants Must Fight Increases: Leach." I just want to read a couple of things from this particular one.

"Ontario tenants who are upset with rent increases will probably have to appeal their case to the government `as a last resort' once rent control is scrapped...."

That's a little different from what was being said during the election. In fact, there was no mention of scrapping rent control during the election, from Mr Leach especially, coming from a riding with a very high percentage of people living in apartment buildings. I dare say that if Minister Leach, the then Tory candidate, had tried to float that idea in his riding, I don't think the electorate would have sent him here to Queen's Park. Tenants in that riding especially, one of the highest-tenant ridings in the province, would not have brought him to this House.

It goes on to say, "Marketplace rent control will instead take `the sledgehammer' out of the hands of tenants and provide a level playing field for landlords and tenants, Leach said."

First of all, there is no tough sledgehammer. The government is trying to make us believe that the current rent control system isn't working, and that is just not the case.

It goes on to say: "Though the Tory government has not said when rent controls will end, Leach said they'll be gone once he implements a tenant protection program to shield them from unfair rent increases. But he didn't specify how it will be done."

Our fear is that what we're going to go to is the system that existed in this province prior to the 1970s, with basically no protection for tenants, where the landlord would charge tenants the rents the marketplace could afford. In many cases -- I wouldn't say all, because I don't want to alarm every tenant in the province -- if the landlord is able to increase the rent because somebody is willing to pay it, the person who now holds that apartment would be put at risk over time because they would not be able to pay the increases and would have to vacate that apartment in favour of somebody who is able to pay higher rent. I think most members in this House would not want to see that happen, including the Conservative government.

Another article appeared in the Globe and Mail on November 24, and this is the scary part, really what triggered it, the Fair Rental Policy Organization of Ontario had a meeting which Mr Leach attended, and this is really what got the alarm bells going for me and a number of people present in the gallery in terms of what the minister is up to:

"The loudest applause at the annual meeting of the Fair Rental Policy Organization came when Mr Leach said he is going to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act -- `one of the most unbalanced pieces of legislation I've ever seen' -- to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants."

That's pretty strong wording, if you ask me.

It goes on to say, "`My government is here to help you,' Mr Leach began, and went on to promise that his ministry will stop interfering in their business and `let the private sector do what it does best -- balance supply and demand.'" That sounds like marketplace, fairly clearly. "He said his government will ditch rent control because `it's bad for landlords -- and it's bad for tenants.'"

I'm here to tell you, it is not bad for landlords and it is certainly not bad for tenants. If you talk to most tenants in this province, they will agree that the present system of rent control is a system that does have balance and protects the rights of both the landlords and the tenants. Our party is prepared to take a look at the Landlord and Tenant Act to address some of the concerns of the landlords, but we're not prepared to start putting tenants in this province at risk by going to the kinds of draconian measures the minister is putting forward.

There is a number of other articles: "Rental Crisis Feared" was one that appeared in the Toronto Sun, that bastion of democracy in the city of Toronto. Even they thought, "Thousands of Torontonians will lose their homes if Ontario's Tory government removes rent controls...." Jeez, if the Toronto Sun says it's so, it must be. I have no other argument.

I'm coming down to about four minutes left, and I just want to point out a couple of things. During the last election, as I said, a number of Conservative members ran on platforms to support rent control, and I'm glad they did so, because I think all members in this House, especially those members but no matter what party they may come from, are here to advocate on behalf of their constituency. If you come from a constituency with a high tenant population, you certainly would be doing your job in trying to protect tenants. I want to call on a few of these people.

Mr Shea, who I see is in the House today, put out a little pamphlet during the last election. It's fairly clear. It says, "Protecting You: The Mike Harris new tenant protection policy will maintain rent controls for all tenants in rental units." It talks about rent control; it doesn't talk about going to a market-based system.


Bill Saunderson, the Minister for Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, has even a stronger one. I would not be confused at all if I had a candidate in my riding present this leaflet. This is pretty clear support for tenant protection through the Landlord and Tenant Act.

It says: "Despite what you may be hearing from my opponents," I suppose the New Democrats and Liberals, "Mike Harris will strengthen rent controls, not cancel them." That's endorsed by his riding association.

I see there is strong support within the Tory caucus, including within cabinet. I welcome that support and certainly hope that the Conservative members here today will endorse this motion to make sure we keep our rent control system in place.

I'd like to make another point. Another candidate in the last election, namely, Mike Harris, the now Premier, in a debate on CITY-TV on May 28 was very clear to the people of Ontario. I want to read what he said on that CITY-TV program, which was later quoted in the Star. Harris said, "Tenants would still be protected under a Tory government and rent controls would be set as they now are under rent control guidelines."

He talks about rent control; he does not talk about a market-based system. In fact, in response to my questions yesterday in the House and questions from the Liberal critic for Housing, the Premier did give us some assurances that he didn't want to leave tenants out in the cold. I certainly got the impression that he was at least willing to hear the case. I would imagine that in the end he will err on the side of caution and on the side of good judgement and common sense and make sure we keep in place rent control in the province of Ontario.

I just want to say another thing. After the election, Mr Saunderson was called to a public meeting by some 400 tenants in his riding in order to defend what they had been hearing through the rumour mill in regard to the government scrapping rent control. I'll just read a couple of articles very quickly:

"A Conservative Tory MPP was forced to defend his position on tenants' issues after his home riding constituents feared he'd changed his stand on the main platform that got him elected." This is about Mr Saunderson. He goes on to say, "I can tell you very sincerely there has been no discussion on rent control in the cabinet."

It must be so, because I know the member is honest and straightforward and would not want to mislead the House or the people in his riding.

"Saunderson went on to say he had not spoken with the Premier on rent control and accused the media of alarming the community by printing Harris's comments." I find it kind of ironic that the Tories would be worried about the media. Anyway, that's another thing.

Even the staunchest defender of capitalism, Mr David Turnbull, in a press release dated January 28, 1993, showed some of the tactics that can be used by landlords if we don't have proper control. He talks about a situation in his riding where a landlord was trying to evict a number of tenants, and this is what the person reverted to:

"On January 8, 1993, pressure tactics escalated when the owners hired two heavyweight champs to force tenants to leave. One of the boxers had reportedly admitted that the owner agreed to pay him `a thousand bucks' for each occupant he persuaded to leave the apartment."

I think that speaks droves about why we need to have --

The Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to make a couple of comments with respect to this resolution this morning. It really gets to the crux of the whole housing policy for the last decade.

The housing policy for the last decade has been, without question, an absolute mess. As the member for Cochrane South has mentioned, there have been abuses by landlords. There have been some terrible scenes by landlords. All we had to do was to sit through some of the scenes that occurred during the two rent control bills that went through this place and the stories of tenants that came forward.

There are also abuses of tenants. In my view, the Landlord and Tenant Act goes too much in favour of the tenants, specifically with respect to evictions. There are tenants who abuse the process, so there are abuses on both sides.

The whole issue of rent control, which is the crux of the member's resolution, I believe, together with the non-profit housing philosophy, has created an absolute slowdown, in fact a stop, with respect to the construction of housing development in this province. There has been none, very little. With the exception of the construction of non-profit housing buildings, government-constructed buildings in this province, there has --

Interjection: Yes, there has.

Mr Tilson: Well, you name one. I'd like anyone in this place to name substantial private development of apartment buildings in this province in the last decade. And why hasn't there been? Because it's impossible for landlords to make a dollar in this province. So naturally, the government has felt that it should get into the housing market and it did get into the housing market. The NDP government got into it very heavily and we learned a lot about non-profit housing and rent controls through some of the hearings with respect to non-profit housing.

The auditor has spent considerable time dealing with this issue, criticizing the government's philosophy and policy of non-profit housing. This was dealt with in the public accounts committee. Some of the members of this House -- I sat on that committee through a number of hearings and we spent a great deal of time on that philosophy.

So both of these philosophies blend together: the whole issue of non-profit housing and the whole issue of rent control, and it hasn't worked. It hasn't worked. We're still --

Mr Bisson: It hasn't?

Mr Tilson: It has not worked. We're still hearing problems from tenants who are complaining about landlords. Why? Because the system is not working. I can tell you that I have tenants speak to me who complain about abuses by landlords. The housing stock in this province -- there has been none. They're starting to fall apart, and why are they starting to fall apart? Because there's no way of fixing them; there's no way of fixing them whatsoever.

I will not be supporting the resolution and I would encourage members of this House not to support the resolution. This government has a concern for the tenant and there have been questions put by the opposition -- I believe the member has put questions of Minister Leach -- with respect to rent control. Minister Leach has said that this government will be putting forward a tenants' protection act. He has said that; he has said that over and over in this House and outside this House. At that time, he will be repealing the rent control laws, which have proven draconian, haven't worked and are causing great problems with this province. That's what he said. But what you forget to talk about in your resolution is that the government will be protecting the tenant. We will not withdraw rent control legislation until we have a tenants' protection act in place.

The current legislation is complex. Have you ever tried to look at that stuff and the myriad of regulations? Well, if you have looked at it, I don't know about you, but I find it unbelievably confusing; I find it that. I'm just an average guy and I'm sure that tenants and landlords around this province find it unbelievably confusing as well.

I think the real problem with the current legislation is that it has eliminated the private sector from rental production and ushered in the vacancy rate scares of the 1980s. That's what it's done, and I can tell you --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): That hurts tenants.

Mr Tilson: Exactly. Someone has said it hurts tenants, and it does hurt tenants. It hurts tenants; it hurts landlords; it hurts the economy of this province. I know that the NDP government in particular tried to solve the problem, but what it did was make things worse. Government doesn't have the ability to take over the whole housing market, and that was your plan. That was the grand plan. When Mr Rae first became Premier he was interviewed by, I can't remember his name, a socialist housing advocate and he was quoted in this House many times. Maybe he's here today; I don't know. His intention was to take over the housing market, and you can't do it. That's why we're broke in this province. That's why we're spending money we don't have.

When you invested in non-profit housing it generally cost double what it cost for private enterprise to put forward. They had consultants; they had lawyers; they had architects coming out of their ears. You don't need all those people to develop housing, and that's what the government got into.

We intend to eliminate all that. We have eliminated the issue of non-profit housing. There's no more non-profit housing that's going to be built by this government. That's come to an end, and we are going to end rent control, but we're going to introduce a bill which will be called the tenants' protection act or something similar to that. The minister has indicated that. There will a comprehensive policy set forth in this legislation which will be in favour of a simple market-based policy which will treat landlords, tenants and taxpayers fairly.

That's what the previous Liberal and New Democratic governments have failed to do with their rent control legislation. That's what they failed to do. We will have a system which will preserve the essential tenant protection in the Landlord and Tenant Act. You don't have that now. You don't have that protection. It will be a far less restrictive regulatory system that will encourage the supply of new, private rental housing. That's what we will be doing in this province in answer to your resolution. I recommend that everyone in this House oppose your resolution.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I too welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. Before I get into my colleague the member for Cochrane South's resolution, I just have to make some quick comments about my colleague the member for Dufferin-Peel.

I don't know if it's the mercury in his fillings that makes him have this absent-minded attitude about things. I think he forgot that it was the Tories that brought in rent control in this very haphazard way; that at one time they had to really scrap it, and the fact is that he's now saying it hasn't worked in the last 10 years. I think he also forgot that it was the Liberal Party which brought a comprehensive housing policy in on December 4, 1986, when we had landlords and tenants working together to bring about what we called Bill 51, although it did not solve everything.

But let me address my colleague the member for Cochrane South who has presented this resolution, which first I think I should read in order to emphasize it the proper way. It says, "That in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should maintain a fair and equitable rent control program," -- now, I have no problem with that; I have no problem and I'm sure my colleagues in the Conservative Party have no problem with that, but here is where it went all downhill -- "similar to the present rent control system introduced by the previous New Democratic Party government which protected tenants from abusive landlords, rather than creating a market-based system that allows abusive landlords to gouge tenants, and leave tenants vulnerable to unfair rent increases."

Let me tell you what's wrong with that. This is a typical way of pitting one against the other, pitting tenants against landlords. As you can see, in December of 1986 what I had done as the then Minister of Housing, I brought landlords and tenants together and said: "Governments are too intrusive in all these situations. You tell us what we should be doing." All landlords and all tenants sitting on that board confirmed that and brought that bill forward.

The government of the day in 1990, the New Democratic Party government, interfered with that process, went in and tampered with that process and, the fact is, pitted landlords against tenants.

Now we arrive in 1995, and this government has arrived and started playing around with it and saying it's going to scrap rent control. But yesterday, as a matter of fact, in putting a question to the Premier, I was much encouraged by the fact that he talked about protecting tenants and not dismantling the whole thing, not throwing out the baby with the bathwater like he did with employment equity, like he did with labour reform. That's what he did with the Advocacy Act: "Let's throw everything out." But then he realized that the fact is that this matter must be dealt with, with landlords and tenants, in order to bring a reasonable matter forward and bring something that we can work with.

Let me tell you the villain in all of this. The real villain is the government. One of the greatest causes of high rents is the taxes that are paid -- or you want to call it hidden taxes -- the property tax that is paid by people who are in residential units. They pay four to five times more than people in normal residences. That's where the cost is. If the government can just grab the bull by the horns and decide to address that issue of property tax, quite possibly the price will go down.

But this is not to say that this is the fault of landlords and tenants. I fully agree that landlords should be protected in the sense that with some tenants not paying their rents and destroying the property, they should be able to have some access in getting those tenants out. Also those tenants who have consistently been gouged, of course, by landlords, there should be some regulation, some protection that is there. Government has a role.

Let me just remind the member for Dufferin-Peel: Government never built one home. They just supplied the mortgages. Don't start saying all this about, "We're out of the construction business." They never did build anything, so don't start saying, "We're out of the construction business."

Government is there to protect those who are vulnerable in these kinds of conditions in the sense that there are people and regulations that must be put in place to protect them, protecting landlords and protecting tenants. Stop giving the people outside this kind of version that this is the case. It is not the case.

When you have bad administration, like all that the MTHA went through with and the bad administration on behalf of government, do not blame it on landlords and do not blame it on tenants. Governments must get their act together in order to bring affordable housing to all that. That is the situation itself.

When you brought in your rent control bill -- that's the Conservative Party, Mr Speaker, you may recall -- you were maybe at that time paying attention to them, but the fact is that they brought in rent control regulation. What happened? More flipping went on than anything else. It was disgraceful. It was utterly disgraceful.

I say to you, members, I will not be voting for this. I will not vote for any regulation that pits one against the other. I think we should have a proper regulation in itself, a protection for landlords and tenants in this province.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Riverdale.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Mr Speaker, you look very smart in your new suit.


Ms Churley: That's enough; you're using up my time. Sit down.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Those kinds of remarks will get you everywhere.

Ms Churley: I'm here to speak in support of my colleague's resolution before us today. I want to say to the Progressive Conservative Party, although I really hate to call this party, this government, Progressive Conservatives -- if you look up in the dictionary and see what "progressive" means, I think we're way off base here, but that is indeed the name of this party. I want to say to the member for Dufferin-Peel, and I'm not going to try in this speech right now to respond to all the myths that he came out with today to try to justify this government's scrapping rent control, a bill that was put in place to protect tenants, many of whom are sitting in the public gallery -- I can tell you I asked the tenants, of which there are many in Toronto, in my riding of Riverdale if they thought this government should scrap the rent control that our government brought in, and they said no. I can assure you they're not all New Democrats; some of them are even Tories, and they gave a resounding no. They want to be protected.

What I'd say to the member for Dufferin-Peel is that he may have forgotten that under our bill any new rental units that were built were exempted for five years from the new rent control bill, so that cannot be used as an excuse for people being deterred from building new low-rental housing. That's nonsense. It's just perpetuating the kinds of myths around affordable social housing and rent controls.

I want to tell the members here today why I support this resolution, why I supported our government going ahead with, again, extensive consultation with all sides of the issue and trying to find a solution that would stop the gouging in many cases of tenants in buildings who are on fixed incomes -- seniors on fixed incomes, people of low incomes, single moms trying to support their kids in these buildings -- who were facing double-digit increases. This was not uncommon under the old laws, not uncommon at all. These people were facing double-digit raises in their rents. They couldn't afford it.

Furthermore, if they wanted to appeal those rents, the waiting list could be so long that that they would have to wait months and months to be heard. Then if they lost, that would be retroactive. So many people were thrown out of their homes.


It's very clear that that kind of system is not fair. Once again, we are talking about real people here. As we get up in different parties and argue the merits of this system over that system over this system and try to one-up each other as parties, "We can do a better job than you," I can assure you, Mr Speaker, in this House, when we're discussing these kinds of bills, let us bear in mind who we are talking about here. We are talking about some of the seniors who are here today who cannot afford to go back to the old system.

I agree with my colleague here. It sounds to me, despite what's been told to us today and despite what some ministers and other members of the caucus said in the election campaign, that in fact we really are going to be looking at going back to the pre-1970 market-driven system, and that we're very fearful about.

I heard the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, in the debate on Rogers Cable, talking about not only not scrapping this, but if it were scrapped, our bill, his government would improve on tenant protection. There are a lot of people who believe that, and I want this government to commit to going forward and making sure that tenants are protected no matter what we do.

I have no doubt that this government is going to scrap this bill. I hope, and I would ask today, that you would consult with the many tenants out there, not just the landlords. We're talking today about rent controls. I want you to hear directly from the tenants about some of the things that happened to them under the old laws. I want you to talk to them about the pain that it has caused in their lives and why we went out, in our government, and talked to these people, and why they said they needed a better rent control system to protect them.

I'm very worried about what this government is doing in general around housing. There are all kinds of myths out there about social housing and how evil it is and how it hurts the economy and hurts people. Yes, there were problems, there were problems in some very small percentage, but those were the ones that were talked about and seen in the media, a very small percentage of existing social housing -- very small.

The fact remains that government spends about $2 billion a year, which is far more than it ever spent on social housing, putting money, subsidies for people of low income, directly into the landlords' pockets. That's already happening. What this government is talking about and is going to do is get out of social housing altogether, get rid of rent control and bring in a complete subsidy system.

How much money are we going to be spending, are taxpayers going to be spending, on directly subsidizing landlords to subsidize the rents of people who can't afford full rent when there are no rent controls? It could be a phenomenal cost, and I ask the people of Ontario to look very carefully at what it is that this government is going to be introducing.

I want to say a couple of words before I complete my remarks today about the Liberals' position. I also saw Lyn McLeod, the leader of the Liberal Party, in the Rogers TV debate with my leader, then Premier Bob Rae, and with Mr Harris, say very specifically that if she were elected, she too would scrap rent control.

When she was asked what she would do, she wasn't sure, but she'd try to balance for landlords and tenants. So I don't see what the big difference today is. I know that some Liberal members, to be fair, would not support her position on that, but after all, she is the leader and that's what she said she would do.

I'm disappointed that the Liberals are not supporting this resolution today. They might not like some of the wording, but certainly the member for Scarborough North, who just spoke, said in general he was in support but he just didn't like some of the wording.

I would ask the Liberals to reconsider because this is a very important bill to the tenants who are here today and in our communities. Bear in mind that we're talking about these real people who need protection and show some solidarity today with my colleague the member for Cochrane South and with our party to show the tenants that we're on their side, we're there to protect them from this government. As they make up their minds as to where they're going with this bill, we will be there for the tenants and we hope to have the Liberals on side with us.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): When I was told that the NDP member for Cochrane South would be presenting a resolution on rent control to this House, I was absolutely delighted. For years, as a member on both Toronto city council and Metro council, I worked to address the growing concerns of the large tenant population in High Park-Swansea.

My constituents are worried about poor maintenance and rents increasing while buildings crumble and a dwindling supply of private rental stock that has reduced their accommodation options to virtually zero. It has become increasingly clear that the root cause of these problems is the flawed approach to rent controls which the NDP brought us in 1992.

When I heard that my friend from Cochrane South was going to address that bill, I was pleased. As a veteran of the previous government, I reasoned, surely he had to be very familiar with the issues that are of chief concern to tenants today. I was wrong -- wrong and bitterly disappointed. He is obviously out of touch with the real world in which tenants today are living.

I assumed he would offer constructive suggestions on how to deal with deterioration of rental housing. You know, almost two thirds of Ontario's rental stock is more than 25 years old. Much of it is falling apart. I also assumed he would have had a solution to the problem of poor building maintenance.

I hoped he would address the expensive, unfathomable and protracted landlord-tenant dispute mechanism. That system serves no one well. It takes, on average, four months for a dispute to be settled; and if a tenant loses, he or she has to pay retroactive rent increases.

Since my friend from Cochrane South knows that tenants pay a hidden property tax through their rents, I also expected him to examine the assessment system. It forces tenants to pay an unfair share of the tax burden. On that issue, his resolution is silent.

I dared to hope this resolution would address the issue of development charges. Those construction fees are hidden in rent payments. They can drive private investment dollars which could be used to build new apartments out of the industry or, worse yet, they become rolled into unnecessarily higher rents.

I even dared to hope that he might at least speak to the administrative costs incurred under the current rent control system. We spend $28 million on it every year, and my friend failed to ask whether or not tenants are really getting their money's worth.

Tenants fear for their personal safety as they walk through poorly lit garages. Security in many buildings is simply not adequate, and the current law leaves landlords with very little incentive to help.

Does this resolution address any of these concerns? I think not. We could be discussing how to get away from subsidizing bricks and mortar and instead offer shelter subsidies to those most in need. Such reforms don't seem to interest the third party any longer.

The member for Cochrane South calls on the government to protect tenants from abusive landlords and unfair rent increases. I applaud that. It was Bill Davis's goal when the Residential Premises Review Act was introduced in 1975. It's the goal of all Progressive Conservatives who campaigned for a new system, it is the goal of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and it is my personal goal. Let's be clear: Tenant protection is a paramount objective of this government.

I was delighted at first to hear about this resolution. Then I received my copy and carefully examined its wording. I realized that the member for Cochrane South only wants to maintain today's failed system. The NDP seems to think tenants are doing just fine under the existing Rent Control Act. I disagree. I don't believe tenants are currently being treated fairly or equitably. The current system is broken and the province desperately needs an improved system of tenant protection.


The socialist government left us with an incomprehensible system of regulation, with deteriorating buildings and with almost no new private rental stock coming on stream to give tenants freedom of choice. It has left a system costly to administer and, for municipalities, costly to enforce. It has left courts clogged with tenant-landlord disputes. The final insult is this: All of these costs impact eventually on property taxes which, in turn, get lumped into rising rental rates.

This hopeless situation is all that this NDP resolution offers today to tenants. It's not good enough. The tenants of High Park, the tenants of Parkdale and indeed the tenants of Ontario have a right to expect better. With this government, that is exactly what they get: better tenant protection, infinitely more effective and considerate than the previous government ever offered.

Tenant protection is a major objective for this government. Meanwhile, the NDP has nothing new to offer. My friend asks us to endorse a legislative framework which does not work. I believe the new government will soon offer dramatically improved legislation. You can be certain it will enhance tenant protection and it will encourage the private sector to start work on new apartment buildings so tenants can begin to enjoy freedom of choice in a marketplace that works to the tenants' benefit. Most importantly, I believe it will also set in place a tenant-landlord dispute mechanism that is fair, understandable, accessible and quick.

This NDP resolution is more of the same old stuff which simply has not worked. The tenants of my constituency have every reason and right to expect better. On their behalf, I have no intention of settling for second-best. This is what the tenants of my constituency expect, this is what they deserve and this is what this government will deliver.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): The whole thing here, in a nutshell, is that, as yesterday, this is the government that said, "We will not cut one cent out of health care." This is the government that now is going to say to you, "We will protect tenants." How can you believe that when they just broke the so-called solemn promise to health care. Now they're promising you they're going to come up with a better rental protection system than what's in place. I say to every tenant in Ontario, remember what they promised you on health care if you think they're going to deliver on protecting you as a tenant.

The thing that really concerns me is that in my riding most of the tenants are people on fixed incomes; in fact I think over 50% of the residents in Oakwood are tenants. They are people who, again, have perhaps not had the money to buy a home, a big house, but they have done very well in their apartments. I don't think, as the previous speaker said, that we have this unbelievable crisis that we have to destroy the system in order to fix it. I think there are ways of improving the system for tenants, but this government basically wants to scrap the rental protections that have been put in place.

These protections are even more critical than ever because in the cities across Ontario people are losing their jobs, and they're going to continue to lose their jobs because of the draconian tax cuts this government is introducing, which are going to make people more vulnerable. Then you're going to add another fear in the cities across Ontario because people on fixed incomes now are going to be told perhaps, "Your rent is going to go up because the rent control system is going to be scrapped by this government."

I would say to the members across that if they're serious about doing something, they should address the property tax inequity that every tenant faces, because per square foot tenants pay 30% to 40% more in property taxes than do homeowners. When you bring across your omnibus bill, or ominous bill, about rent control changes, I hope that is one of the planks in your new bill, that you are going to address the property tax inequity that each taxpayer who lives in an apartment is faced with and has been overpaying for the last 30 years.

The present system obviously is not perfect and, as we know, there are inequities in it. I think there are ways of doing it without jeopardizing people who are now, as I said, living in good accommodation. Certainly in apartment buildings there are people who have problems with their landlords, but many tenants would rather -- in fact, if you ask them, and I don't think this government will ask them because they've talked to the landlords -- but go to the tenants' organizations, go to tenants in buildings and ask them whether they want to scrap rent control and replace it with the new system, whatever it is.

If they did that, if they had public hearings and went to the people who are living in apartments across Ontario, what would they say? What have they said? The people I talk to are saying they fear that this government is essentially going to impose unilateral change that will favour the landlord and the tenants will be given marginal protection, a lot of public relations rhetoric but very little concrete protection.

I feel that unless tenants across Ontario start to realize that the candidates of the Conservative Party are about to break another major commitment they made -- because in all their campaign literature they said they would protect rent control, they would make it stronger. Instead, the first thing they're going to do, and they said -- they had ministers running around the province saying, "We're going to scrap rent control."

Then yesterday the Premier said he's going to look at a system called marketplace rent control. To me, that's a pure oxymoron. Marketplace rent control? In other words, the rent of tenants is going to go according to what the price is in the marketplace. That means that you will have no idea, six months from now, a year from now, what rent you'll be paying and what protections you'll have because it'll go according to the market. And you know what the market does, Mr Speaker: It goes up and down like a toilet seat. You don't know where you're going to be from day to day.

I would also say that the members opposite always say, "The reason we don't have rental housing is because of the rent control legislation." I think that is an outright piece of misinformation, because there are many other factors that have caused the lack of private --

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): Ask the landlords.

Mr Colle: Yeah, ask the landlords, right.

Mr Ron Johnson: Ask the builders.

Mr Colle: That's who they always talk to, the developers and landlords.

The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Colle: But we know there are other factors that have caused that, one of them being sprawl, where you can build housing all the way to Lake Simcoe now, and you can make money building ranch-style bungalows, so why would you make affordable housing in Toronto?

I will support this bill because I think the government opposite is about to break another fundamental promise and I don't want them to even get near the tenants.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I just want to take the few moments I have in support of my good friend and colleague Mr Bisson from Cochrane South in the resolution that he's brought forward as far as rent control is concerned.

I might point out that this is the third government that -- rent control was introduced by the Conservative government Tories back in the 1970s, and now we see there's a possibility that after what they said during the campaign about protecting tenants, they might come forward and scrap the rent control legislation that was good.

Ms Churley: Another broken promise.

Mr Len Wood: It would be another broken promise, as my colleague has said, because we know that they promised during the election campaign that they wouldn't put user fees on, they wouldn't affect health care, they wouldn't affect classroom education, and yesterday we saw them take a chainsaw to every program we have in Ontario and take billions and billions of dollars out of the economy in order to give a tax break which is about equal to or maybe a little bit more than what they have cut in their slash-and-burn program.

I listened to the member for High Park-Swansea, and in his opening comments he said that he was --

Mr Ron Johnson: But 80% of that tax break goes to --

The Deputy Speaker: I'm warning the member for Brantford, I'd like to see you stay in the House a little bit longer.

Mr Len Wood: We know that some of the Tory backbenchers are in a very bad mood this morning, because a lot of them had to go and hide last night and weren't able to show their faces around. So it's understandable that they would be upset and in a bad humour this morning.

I was starting out to say that the member for High Park-Swansea said that he was happy to see the resolution and the motion brought forward by the member for Cochrane South, yet he was making comments from a prepared speech that was probably prepared yesterday. Even after listening to the speech from the member for Cochrane South, he still wanted to continue on with that.

We have all kinds of campaign promises that were made by the Conservatives. Mike Harris had made promises. Mike Harris said he would strengthen rent controls, not cancel them. Yet now our fear is that this is going to be another promise that is going to be broken and the tenants in this province are going to be put at great risk.

The last thing I want to see is tenants who are expecting that they're going to pay a certain amount of rent for the next year or two years to come -- they're on a fixed income, they have no way of making extra income, and all of a sudden Mike Harris and his Tories scrap the rent control program and leave it up to the landlords to decide how much they're going to increase the rent, when they're going to increase it and whether a lot of these tenants are going to be thrown out on the street and become homeless people. We already have enough homeless people right now. We already have enough people who have to live in slum conditions throughout this province. We don't want to see more.

This is why my colleague Mr Bisson has brought forward this motion and resolution this morning to protect the tenants in this province against landlords, and now it seems like they have to be protected against the Tories.

We have an obligation on this side of the House. Even though this is considered to be private members' hour, we have an obligation to make sure that the message gets out there loud and clear to the population of this province that it's very important that they speak out loud and clear to some of the changes that they're unhappy with.

As Rev Jackson said the other day in Toronto, it might mean that people are going to have to start marching in the streets in order to make sure that this Tory government understands that cut and slash and burn and take a chainsaw to everything so they can give a tax break to the rich people in this province is unacceptable.

With that, I'd like to leave some time for my colleague. I know he wants to make a few comments.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'd just like to make a couple of observations. We're supposed to look at this private members' hour as looking at an issue independently, with some sort of reality. Two comments I'd like to make about the member for Cochrane South's resolution: Why doesn't he insert in there at least that he would want a system that is (a) workable and (b) results-oriented? Right now, the present rent control system in this province is neither.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I enter this debate with a little bit of mixed feeling. I'm one of those people around here who has been through these wars on a number of occasions, particularly in the 1990 and 1991 versions of rent control introduced by our colleagues in the NDP.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, I think. I don't think any rent control, rent review, whatever you want to call it, system is going to be resolved in this province. All you had to do is sit through those committee meetings and find the laws of unintended consequence that come from the best-intentioned legislation you might see.

I remember sitting through Bill 4. That was the draconian measure where the NDP actually retroactively froze rents. I remember sitting in the chair, as I chaired that committee, listening to folks, not big corporations but individuals who owned five or six units, actually crying, grown men crying because they had a legal order to increase rents and retroactively they were being told they could not increase rents. They'd done the capital improvements, they'd taken out the mortgage with the bank, and now they could not meet their obligations and they were going bankrupt. I'm sure that was not the intention of the former government, but that was clearly the result.

The second thing is, this bill that the NDP put forward was supposed to help tenants, and one of the most amazing things, Mr Speaker, if you look around at the way it actually worked, just in terms of rent increases, it provided the largest real rent increases in the history of this province. Adjusted for inflation, the NDP bill provided the greatest increases to the tenants of this province and at the same time made sure that landlords could not improve their buildings: just totally unintended; well intentioned, but wrong.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm happy to have less than a couple of minutes to just stand and voice my support for the resolution that's in front of us in the name of the member for Cochrane South, Mr Bisson, and to say that in supporting this, I really hope that all members will take a good look at the words of the resolution and see that what essentially the resolution calls for is the maintaining of a fair and equitable rent control program. Obviously, Mr Bisson feels, as do I, that the present system is essentially that, and that before the government begins to do away with that system, it should take a good hard look at the basic sense of equity and fairness that exists in that system.

I think we know that in this area, as in many other areas, what we need is a sense of balance, that is, legislation and provisions that protect tenants, that give people a fair sense that they have protections, because when we're talking about this issue, we're talking about people's homes, where people live. We're not just talking about commodities or luxuries or things of that nature. We're talking about people's homes.

I think there is also a sense that the rights of the landlords have to be taken into account too. Certainly I know in a riding like mine, although there are not very many high-rise apartment buildings, a large proportion -- I think it's about 40%, the last statistics I saw -- of the residents in my riding are tenants, most of them in very small tenancy situations in small buildings. So there is a need, I think, for that balance to be there. I think the present system provides that, and I would urge members to support this resolution.

Mr Bisson: Very quickly, I just want to go through a couple of points. First of all, I want members in the Conservative government to understand something here. The argument is that what you want to do is take a whole larger approach. You want to move away from the current RGI system, which is rent geared to income. You want to give that money, rather than to non-profits, directly into the hands of landlords to be able to give them the subsidy, and then you want to be able to repeal the Rent Control Act and go to a system that's market based.

That is a recipe for disaster not only for tenants; you will bankrupt the province. Understand: You need rent control in order to make darn sure that the rents don't go through the roof. If you're having to pay as a government a subsidy to a landlord and you don't have protection from rents being raised up, what'll end up happening is that the cost to the province will be far in excess of the $2 billion that we spend now, and I want to put that on the record.


The other thing the member for High Park-Swansea came in here saying, he was one of the guys who had a leaflet out there saying he was in support of rent control and what he was going to do, if elected, is protect landlords' rights under rent control.

Then he came into this House and said, "Well, you know, I was really happy to see the member for Cochrane South coming in here and bringing forward this motion, but after having heard his speech and read it a little bit more carefully I've now changed my mind." I just want to point out, he wrote the speech that he read yesterday, so he obviously did listen to my speech. He made his mind up a long time ago. He's a Reformer like the rest of you, so that does not surprise me at all. I would just say --


Mr Bisson: That's true. That's what we've got here. If you guys were Conservatives, you would be supporting the policies of Bill Davis and you would support rent control. You're obviously not Conservatives; what can you be? You're only left with the Reformers and that's what you guys are.

What you will do, if you open this legislation -- and I warn the Liberal Party -- is really go after tenants. Rents in this province will go through the roof. People will end up on the streets and that will be on your hands and on your conscience, and I urge you to support this resolution in order to make sure that the government does not do so.


Mr Carr moved second reading of Bill 17, An Act to amend various Statutes to freeze Realty Taxes / Projet de loi 17, Loi modifiant diverses lois et visant à geler les impôts fonciers.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Mr Carr has moved second reading of ballot item 10, and he has 10 minutes.

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I'll be very brief. I understand there are some speakers.

This bill, very simply, freezes property taxes in the province of Ontario for one year. I must say that it's rather appropriate with what happened yesterday, although I knew this was coming and knew fully a couple of months ago that we were going to be heading down this direction.

I must say off the bat that I fully support the government actions that we took yesterday. They are needed, they are necessary, they are tough, but it had to be done. We're going to see a year now of restructuring like this province has never seen, and I'm going to say right off the bat, that is good because it has to be done.

We won the election, and if you can sum up the Common Sense Revolution at all, I will sum it up this way: It was about 31 pages, "Our taxes are too high and our government spends too much money" is what the Common Sense Revolution was all about. The Premier of this province, the Honourable Mike Harris, when he was leader of the party, went around and said, "We do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem in the province of Ontario," and each one of our members agreed with that 100%.

The Common Sense Revolution was about reducing taxes and cutting spending. The big problem we have, as we found out the reality yesterday, is now we have given that responsibility on where the cuts will be to our transfer partners. I firmly believe, because other jurisdictions have gone the different routes -- what happened in Alberta, they took taxing power away from trustees and went to province-wide bargaining because they knew they wouldn't make the tough choices. I can say this without batting an eye: There is no doubt that municipal politicians and trustees will not have the courage to do what we did yesterday. I can say that without a doubt. There are very few politicians who will make the tough choices that we had to make yesterday.

Now the problem that comes up with the transfer cuts that were necessary is what happens to the local property taxes as a result, because now it's into the hands of the school boards and municipalities to make those decisions. In Halton, we have an additional problem in that we're going into market value reassessment and I'm not being alarmist when I say there are some people getting increases of $800. A senior came to see me and said that she's going to be forced out of her home because of the reassessment. I almost introduced a bill to deal with that issue, but I wanted to bring this in so that every member could be involved in it.

I think there is going to be a major restructuring. Another chap came to me, a lawyer with one of the law firms. His property taxes now are $15,000; under the reassessment it's going to $22,000. I can tell you this: We're going to have a major problem in Halton because we're going to have assessment problems similar to Scarborough because everybody is appealing their assessments.

I don't want to spend too much time on that because my bill will also kill the reassessment for a year while we do the restructuring. This restructuring is going to be profound in municipalities and school boards, and then we see that the bill we introduced yesterday allowing the restructuring to take place and again the omnibus bill, as it's called, is completely necessary.

The problem I've got with this is I firmly believe school boards and municipalities will not make the tough choices. I think they're going to have to, at some point, cut spending. There's no doubt about that. But they are also going to go the property tax base, and that is wrong because I honestly, truly believe we cannot afford any tax increases in the province of Ontario for any reason.

While this restructuring takes place, this freezes property taxes and forces municipalities and school boards to make the same tough choices. I agree 100% they should make those choices. I don't want the dictation to come from Queen's Park and say: "This is how you'll restructure. This is what'll happen to your school boards." But I can tell you this: If we do not force them to do it on spending cuts, a lot of politicians will go to the property tax base to try and not make the tough choices.

I was down in Elgin, down in London, at Gavin's hockey tournament on the weekend. They say if the cuts come through, the property taxes down there will go up 30% as a result of our transfer cuts. I'm saying that cannot happen, that it has to be spending cuts that come in place, not property tax increases.

I won't spend too much time talking about what's going to happen in Metro, because I will say they have managed poorly, notwithstanding some of the good folks who have come from Metro. They've got one heck of a problem. But I can assure you, the Jack Laytons, the Howard Moscoes and all the people on Metro council won't make the tough choices we made yesterday; they will attempt to go to the property tax base. I say that's wrong.

I'm not here to speak too much about Metro, although I grew up in Metro Toronto and I know it, but I can tell you the problem with Metro is they're already losing industries because of the high property tax rates. As we sit here today, we are the highest-taxed province in Canada, the highest-taxed jurisdiction in all of North America and our property taxes are highest in all of the industrialized world. What this bill will do is force municipalities and school boards to make the same tough choices.

Part of my riding is in Burlington as well, and Burlington councillors said, "I'm not going to increase property taxes." I said, "That's fine, you're going to make the tough choices in Burlington," and I believe they will. My brother's on council there, as a matter of fact. You think I'm a hard-liner; you should see him. When I talked to them, they said, "We'll make the tough choices," and I said, "That's great, you'll cut out local busing, you'll make the tough choices in parks and rec," and you know what's going to happen? The school board's going to jump in and say: "Oh, that's great. Now we can increase by 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% the property tax, because municipalities have frozen theirs."

I warn every member in here, we are going to spend the next spring in this Legislature legislating teachers back to work if we do not deal with the property tax. As you know, the arbitration changes that we introduced yesterday -- and some of the members might not be aware of it -- are very profound. It basically says to arbitrators, "You're going to take a look at the ability to pay." I agree with that 100%.

But the ability to pay now means they can go to the property tax base to increase taxes. What I'm saying is, we introduce those major provisions in this omnibus bill and we do it based on saying to them that it has to be done within the existing fiscal framework. If we don't freeze property taxes, we're going to allow school boards, we're going to allow teachers, we're going to allow fire and police to say, "The fiscal framework is you can increase taxes on the property tax."

I make no illusions that this is going to be easy. I think I'm one of the few going up to yesterday who comprehended what this is going to mean. It's starting to sink in to some of the other members, the most profound change. I agree with it 100%, but I tell you, it must be done on the spending side. The municipalities and school boards must make the tough choices that we're prepared to make. I think, unless we force them to do that with a property tax freeze, they will not.

So I will say this: The measures are very tough and the government has already taken some provisions to do that. The government will say, "We want them to make the choice" -- I had this discussion with the Premier -- but I say to him, then why did we have to freeze development fees? Because we did that on November 16, and I agree with that. If we do not deal with the property tax base in the province of Ontario, our tax cuts that we believe in and are still fighting for, in spite of the opposition -- I guarantee you they will not go to creating jobs.

The ministers a lot of time missed what that tax cut was. When I see Bob Rae ask a couple of ministers, that tax cut is a job creation remedy. We said during the election campaign -- and we had a little formula that we all used. Tax cuts equals more money in your pocket, equals more consumer spending, equals more jobs.

Our tax cuts will not go to creating jobs, is my big fear. Because what will happen is our tax cuts that we're making the tough choices to pass along to the beleaguered taxpayers will go right to property taxes because school boards and municipalities don't have the political courage. My big fear is how we're going to get the job creation with our tax cuts like we said we would if in fact property taxes go up.


I will say this to the government, on its behalf: It has said very clearly to municipalities and school boards, "We don't want any increases in the property taxes." One of the announcements today I got said, "We're going to try to work with them." I say to the government, however you do it -- it may be a proposal where they go back to them and say, "If you increase taxes by whatever, we're going to cut the transfer payments even more to make up for that." That may be what we end up with, I'm not sure, but as we do this restructuring, I firmly believe the provincial government must have the political courage to stand up and do what is necessary.

Just very briefly, in closing, I commend the Premier. I will disagree on some things, and Lord knows, by even bringing this in, there will be times when I'm going to challenge him like never before, but I must say he had the political courage to do what is right. All I'm saying is, school boards and municipalities have to do the same thing.

I'm encouraging every member of this House to do it. I hope it will go to committee. I hope it will pass. I can tell you this: Over the next two months, as municipalities and school boards go through their budget process, this issue is going to come back. At the end of the day, if property taxes do go up, I'm going to be able to say to some of the people, the seniors, who are going to lose their homes as a result: "I introduced a bill that was defeated. I did the best I could to prevent property taxes from increasing in the province of Ontario."

I hope all honourable members will feel the same way. Let's push this bill, let's pass it and let's help the beleaguered taxpayers in the province of Ontario.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): This proposed bill comes at a very inappropriate time. I could sympathize with my colleague on the other side if the municipalities were given a chance to deal with the massive cuts which they were presented with in yesterday's announcement. I find the timing of this bill totally inappropriate. It was totally inappropriate to impose upon the local municipalities huge, massive cuts yesterday, and then today, we are saying, "Don't do it." You want it both ways.

Then I'm totally flabbergasted when I hear the honourable member saying that this will kill reassessment for a year. For goodness sake, the people of Ontario, especially in Metro here -- perhaps the member comes from out of town; he doesn't know the plight that we're going through in Metro here -- have been waiting for tax reform for the last 50 years.

On the books, the Conservative Party says, "We are going to tackle this problem of reassessment." If there is one very specific, fundamental problem within Metro, it is the inequities that live within the present tax system. Metro is losing some $60 million a year. Companies are leaving, businesses are leaving Metro for greener, richer pastures out of Metro.

To say to the people of Metro here, and Ontario, "We are going to freeze this and we're going to tell the municipalities, `You cannot do that,'" is totally unjust, is totally unfair, when homeowners in Metro have been waiting for 50 years for a break.

We would comment really that this would be a very commendable act if municipalities were given a choice, saying, "Okay, we are going to give you the power to deal with your own affairs, with your own municipalities," but then we are saying, "But you cannot do that."

With all due respect, how am I going to tell that to Mayor Lastman of the city of North York; M. Faubert, the mayor of Scarborough; Miss McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, when they so diligently have been bringing, for the last two, three, four, five years, zero budget increases?

The only thing this proposed bill does here is say, "Despite what the bill says, we will not allow any tax increase over and above an increase in 1995." How can we tell the municipalities that we're cutting almost $700 million in funding, in transfer payments, and then we're saying, "You cannot even suit yourselves if you should cut services and where, or raise taxes"? The Minister of Municipal Affairs has been saying, "We are going to give municipalities more powers." This is totally contrary to what they had been preaching and this is totally inappropriate after the announcement of yesterday.

Is the government telling the local municipalities, "Conduct your own affairs; we are eliminating everything we've been giving you and now we're going to give you one block of funding, so we give you more flexibility," and then it's saying, "But hold it a second; in spite of everything we have been telling you, you cannot run your businesses the way you would like to, the best way you think for your local municipality"?

Let me tell this House something: It is not the Premier; it's not us in this House here; the people best to deal with local issues are local councils. How will we judge how well a community's progressing, it's living, if it's doing very well? Only when you walk in those residential communities. If you see the sidewalk in good repair, if the streets are clean, if the boulevard's grass is cut and stuff like that, that's how we notice it.

Why don't we give the flexibility that the government has been saying we would be giving the local municipalities? I find it totally unacceptable that today we are presented with a bill which freezes for one year practically, and now this leaves the municipalities with a decision where they say, "We have been cut yesterday and we have been told, `You cannot raise taxes today.'"

I think my time is up. I would hope that the mover of the bill would reconsider it and give the local municipalities the autonomy they deserve.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm pleased to have a chance to speak to this bill today. I have to say, and I know, Mr Speaker, you and others have heard me talk, on and on sometimes, about the importance that I place on private members' hour because of the ability it gives all of us as individual members to bring forth bills or resolutions that we feel are important.

I find this one puzzling and somewhat troubling, because I listened carefully to the introductory comments made by the member for Oakville South. I have to say I'm still perplexed as to why this bill is here, because on the one hand it sounded like he was bringing it in support of what his government is doing, and on the other hand it sounded like he was bringing it here because he wasn't able to convince the government to, in effect, make this a part of the omnibus legislation. One would have thought that in fact, given all the other draconian measures that are in that omnibus bill that comes out of yesterday's statement, this is something that should have been there as well, from their perspective.

I'm going to listen more and more intently as the debate goes on to try to understand what the motivation is behind this bill. I certainly don't want to impute motives, not because that's against the rules but because I don't believe that that's an appropriate thing to do in any circumstances, but if I were a cynical person, I would say that perhaps one strategy that's being played out here today is for this bill to be passed and to be held out there hanging over the heads of municipalities and school boards in a bit of a threat in the event that school boards and municipalities start to increase property taxes.

Now, if I were a cynical person, that might be a conclusion that I would draw.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Oh, but you're not.

Mr Silipo: But I'm not. I tend to be an optimist at heart, and so I have to conclude that the member for Oakville South has brought this bill because he wasn't able to convince his government that it should include this as part of its omnibus legislation, which I find really intriguing, because I didn't know that anyone in the government caucus could actually make the Premier and the Minister of Finance sound like Progressive Conservatives. The member for Oakville South has just managed to do that, at least for this one instance.

Let me say that I will not be supporting this bill, and I want to explain why. I certainly don't believe in increases in property taxes, for a number of reasons: First and foremost, because property taxes are the most regressive form of taxation; secondly, because I think that people are taxed to the extent that they can be taxed and so I don't, for one, support the notion of property tax increases.


However, I have to say that this bill, coming at this particular point in time, on the heels of what we heard yesterday from the Minister of Finance, is just completely inappropriate in terms of what I can support. So I will not be supporting it, because when you look at what the Harris government did yesterday, it will be cutting funding to municipalities by almost $700 million over the next two years. That's almost half of what the government gives municipalities now. So we're not talking about small cuts here. We're talking 43% to 44% cuts; almost cutting in half what the government gives to municipalities on a year-to-year basis. School boards: similar range of cuts, 9% -- $400 million -- just next year alone, because they haven't told us what they're going to do in subsequent years with respect to school boards.

The question that's left is, what are school boards and municipalities going to do? Clearly, what the member for Oakville South is saying that they should do is to basically cut the services they're providing, because he believes they should not be raising property taxes. He talks about having the courage to make those cuts. I would say that if I were back at the school board and if people here were municipal politicians, I think it would take a lot more courage to be prepared to raise property taxes than it would to make some of the cuts the member is suggesting should be done. Because this is not a question any more of just trimming the fat and streamlining and restructuring; everyone is in support of that. What we are talking about here is cutting basic services, whether it's child care, whether it's classroom programs, whether it's transit -- having to pay more to get on the subway and on the buses -- and on and on and on.

The difficulty I think this bill poses is that it tries to presume that we as provincial politicians are in the best position to know what should be happening, school board by school board and municipality by municipality. If the government wanted to do that, it had the chance to do that because it certainly is giving itself, through this omnibus bill, lots of powers, including passing on to municipalities the right to levy user fees.

So why would they not have put this in as part of that omnibus piece of legislation? The only conclusion that I can come to is that they did not agree to do that but would be interested, I would suggest, in maybe holding this out as a possibility, because we did hear the Minister of Finance say yesterday that they will have to deal with the situation if municipalities and school boards dare to raise property taxes.

The point I want to conclude on is this: If there are going to be property tax increases, it should be up to school boards and municipalities to make that decision, particularly in light of what has happened. But if there are going to be increases, let there be no mistake that this responsibility will come back to lie on the shoulders of this Tory government, because it is the draconian and unnecessary level of cuts that they are doing, not for the sake of balancing the budget, not even for the sake of creating jobs, but for the sake of paying for the tax cut that is going to benefit the wealthiest citizens among us the most, those cuts, in the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars to municipalities and school boards, that are taking place.

I find it a bit presumptuous for us to be dealing today with a bill that says to freeze property taxes as part of that. I think the choice needs to be left locally. The responsibility, however, will come back to lie on the shoulders of this government. I regret having to deal with this kind of a bill today because I think it usurps somewhat the nature of discussions and bills that we should be having in this House, but given that it's here, I can't but be as clear as I've tried to be in my opposition to this.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): Mr Speaker, I'm very pleased to stand up and speak to this bill, but before I do that, I want to say that I'm happy to see that your gowns have arrived, although clearly it's not the gown that makes the Chair.

I want to thank the member for Oakville South for spending a considerable amount of time on a rather important piece of legislation. I'm going to be speaking today to this particular bill as a member from the Peel area, the member for Mississauga West, but also as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance.

I think I understand what the member for Oakville South was attempting to do here. You know, we've made statements many times, and we heard it yesterday through the economic statement from the Minister of Finance, that it's crucial, in solving the deficit problem of this province, that we spend a considerable amount of time working with our transfer partners in encouraging them to be part of the solution here and not a continuation as part of the problem.

It's not as though, by the way, this deficit problem landed on us mysteriously. All levels of government have participated in the spending binges that have occurred over the last while -- all levels of government -- all of them.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): It started with Davis and Mulroney.

Mr Sampson: My friends over here in the opposition tell me it started with Davis. That may have been the case, but it was clearly accelerated and went way above proportion by both of these parties. That's the dilemma we're faced with now. What we have to do is somehow, in partnership with our transfer partners, in partnership with the municipalities, in partnership with the taxpayers, solve the problem. We've got to collectively spend less money. So I can understand my friend from Oakville South's concern when he drafted this legislation, because what he was trying to say to the municipalities was: "Listen, you were part of the problem. We were all part of the problem. We have to together be part of the solution here."

My friend from Oakville South has suggested, by this piece of legislation, that the way to encourage that is to force a tax cap on the local areas. But I'm afraid that's where I, as the member for Mississauga West and as a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, have to part from my friend's position because what we're trying to do in solving this with our transfer partners -- and the statement was made in the House by the Minister of Finance yesterday -- is to hand back to these transfer partners the responsibility and the tools to deal with their share of the spending problem. We can't effectively do that by taking away one of their tools, and that's their ability to manage their access to the revenue base in this province: the one taxpayer.

While I understand the member for Oakville South's direction here, and I'm concerned with his concerns, I understand where his concerns are coming from, I think what we have to do, though, is say to our transfer partners, "Here are the tools; work with us in solving the problem," as opposed to going to them and saying, "I'm going to give you all the tools but one of the very important ones, being a spending base."

I'm afraid I'm going to have to, on behalf of Finance and as the member for Mississauga West, vote against this particular piece of legislation. But I want to say to the House that clearly the message here to our transfer partners should be that we have to collectively be part of the solution. We're prepared to work with them in dealing with the overspending that we all participated in over the last while, and the only way to do that is to hand the local people the tools to deal with the issue and deal with it effectively.


Mr Colle: I think the member for Mississauga West made some very good points and it was a very thoughtful presentation that he made. I agree with him that the deficit problems we're in weren't started in the last 10 years. There was some acceleration, obviously, but for the genesis of it, we have to go back further than 10 years.

In terms of this bill, it's something that looks very good on the surface. It's got a very appealing phrase about freezing property taxes, and that's something most municipalities and most property taxpayers across Ontario would like to support.

But in terms of the context of this bill, we have to remember that there's a new form of municipal tax being introduced by this government. That's why I'm not going to support this bill, because it doesn't go far enough to meet the new property tax that's will be imposed across the cities and towns of Ontario. These are the new taxes called user fees. If this bill said there would be a freeze on property taxes plus new municipal user fees, I could support it. Even though you may freeze property taxes, it doesn't say anything about freezing these new user fees.

As a result of the 50% cut in transfer payments to municipalities, the government is encouraging municipalities to impose new user fees. It's a new tax that people will have to pay in the cities and towns. There will be a user fee to go to the library. Fees to take your pet to the local animal shelter will go up. There will be fees on things like ambulance services, perhaps. There will be fees on garbage pickup.

These are new taxes, which are going to increase the dollars taken out of the pockets of taxpayers right across Ontario. What this bill should introduce is, how can we control these new series of levies that are going to be imposed on taxpayers right across Ontario?

We could see new taxes imposed on water that comes into your home, sewage that leaves your home. There is going to be an increased cost to every person who lives in a city and town in Ontario as a result of the new taxes that this government is encouraging.

The property tax situation, as we know, is very regressive in that you could be a millionaire living in a home and you could pay the same tax as a person who's just lost his or her job. Freezing it doesn't do justice to the difference between the millionaire and the unemployed person. That's why freezing wouldn't help them.

The new user fees will be regressive taxes too, because perhaps the millionaire can go to the library and take out a book and not be bothered about the new user fee, but the ordinary person, the senior or the person on a fixed income, who goes to the library is now going to have to pay an extra tax.

That's what is missing from this bill. Attention should be paid to the new round of taxes we're going to see right across Ontario, whether your dog or cat needs rabies shots, whether you go to the library to take out a book, whether you use the blue box system, whether you use public transit across Ontario; the fares will go up in every municipality -- and they've gone up already -- to use a bus or a streetcar or the subway.

These are the fees that should be frozen. Freezing property taxes alone is not enough, because we're into a whole new wave of property taxes we'll be hit with because this government has taken almost 50% of its transfer payments away from municipalities. In fact, in cities like Ottawa and Metropolitan Toronto, it's going to impose negative grants and even take more property taxes out of Metro and Toronto school boards. What about a freeze on the negative grants?

I do not support this bill because it does nothing about the new property taxes, the new user fees this government is going to impose on every citizen in Ontario, even in your home town -- Oxford, is it? -- Mr Minister. Not "Minister"; I mean Mr Speaker.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'm glad to see, Mr Speaker, that when you put the robes on they confuse you with a minister.

I'd like to take the seven-odd minutes I have in response to get to the crux of what this is all about. When all of us here, from all sides of the House, go back to talk to the electorate from the counties and ridings we represent, people often say they're cynical about politicians. This is a good example of what fuels that thought and fuels that fire.

What you've got here today is, simply put, a political bill put forward to try to cast the member in the right light in terms of wanting to protect municipal ratepayers. But it's quite contrary to what the government is actually doing. That's what I want to say at the outset of this debate, that what we've got here is purely a political bill.

Everybody understands; nobody back home would have any illusions about the fact that municipalities have the right to tax. That is clearly an issue that lies solely within the purview of municipal councils, and school boards also have the right to tax.

If we were to vote in favour of this bill, it would be tantamount to the federal government of Canada passing a law saying that provinces cannot raise taxes in any way for a period of a year. I would suggest that the Conservative government would be outraged if Mr Chrétien of the Liberal Party in Ottawa were to pass a similar piece of legislation about the provinces of this country. The Conservatives would be howling, along with the opposition parties, the New Democrats and the Liberals, because we would see that as an intrusion into our right as a provincial assembly to deal with provincial matters and provincial policy. To provide services and govern the province, you need to have the revenue to do so.

I'm not advocating and neither, I thought, were any members here from any side of the House advocating that we should be encouraging municipalities to raise taxes; that's not at all what we're encouraging. We hope municipalities, in light of what happened yesterday in the massive transfer cut of some 43% to municipalities, will be able to deal with that without a tax hike. I don't think it's possible. I don't think they're going to have a lot of choice.

But I'm certain that all members in the House hope that municipalities don't end up doing what I think will happen in the end, which is to allow Mike Harris to say, "I'm the Taxfighter; here's a 30% tax cut," on the one hand, while at the same time the municipal politicians, because of the reduction in transfers, will take more money out of your pocket through municipal taxes. I think this is what it'll lead to.

On that point, and I won't belabour it any more, I would say this is pure political cynicism. No member of this House would stand for the federal government passing such a piece of legislation, hampering our ability as a provincial assembly to raise or levy taxes in this province. For us to try to do that to municipalities is utterly ridiculous. What we've got here is a private member's bill strictly for political purposes.

In Ontario, and I'd say in most of this country, we take pride in how our municipalities across this country and across this great province are strong, safe, clean communities to live in, have a strong infrastructure, have the services necessary to make our communities safe. I have always been proud when I hear people visiting Toronto say, "My God, I come from Cleveland, I come from Detroit, I come from New York, I come from Los Angeles, I come from Europe, and I can walk through downtown Toronto and many side streets of this city and not worry about being mugged or being harassed by criminals." They're amazed and they wonder how do we do that.

We do it, first of all, because we have a different tradition in Ontario, as we do in the rest of Canada, but also because municipalities take quite seriously, along with the federal and provincial legislators, our responsibility to maintain safe and clean communities. I'm very much afraid, with what we had yesterday, with the introduction of what I guess we can now call a budget that takes 43% of transfers away from municipalities over a two-year period, as well as a large percentage, 10% next year, from school boards, and with the omnibus bill that came yesterday that allows municipalities to levy taxes through user fees and through various licensing schemes, that we're jeopardizing that whole notion and that whole reality we have in this province of safe, clean communities.

If municipalities do not have the revenue to pay for the infrastructure to maintain our water and sewer systems, maintain our road system, maintain the environmental protection systems we have through our blue box program and other recycling programs; if they don't have the money to maintain policing in our communities to make sure our streets are safe and that we don't have to worry about being mugged on the corner of whatever street, wherever you might be in northern Ontario or in southern Ontario; if the municipalities don't have the money to provide services and fire protection through our fire departments; if municipalities don't have the money to provide for proper garbage pickup, then our cities and towns will go the way that many have gone over a period of a hundred years in the United States, and that's right down the drain.


We can look at cities in New York as a good example of where they don't provide a good infrastructure. Nothing really works in those cities. They're glamorous to go to because they've got the fashion district and the good theatre districts, but when you look at those communities, the infrastructure, both hard and soft infrastructure, has fallen apart because the state, municipal and federal governments in the United States have not seen fit to do what we've done in Canada and Ontario for years, which is to maintain our communities as safe communities to live in.

I very much fear, as I think a lot of members in this House do, that in our haste to deal with our deficit here in Ontario -- and I don't disagree that the government should be trying to find ways to reduce our operating deficit and balance the budget; I think we all agree -- but I really fear that the decision the government made yesterday, first through its budget and second through the omnibus bill, is really going to put our municipalities at risk.

When I look at communities like Timmins, Sudbury, Thunder Bay or Toronto, I wonder, how are those communities going to be able to maintain the services to keep our communities safe and clean if they don't have the money? To boot, the member for Oakville South would have us try to vote on a bill today that would say the community of Timmins or Matheson or Iroquois Falls or Cochrane or Kapuskasing or Oakville or Belleville can't raise municipal taxes above what they were in 1995. It's bad enough that you're hitting them on the one side with a 43% reduction in transfers, but to hamper them to the point of not being able to deal with it on the tax side is utterly ridiculous.

The member makes the argument that you've got to be politically strong, that it's weak and the easy thing to do to raise taxes. I can tell you from personal experience that raising taxes is the most difficult thing any politician has to do. We had to do it in the 1993 budget, and I didn't like it. I'll tell you, I took heat for it, and it was a difficult decision. My municipal aldermen, Mr Welin, Mr Dewsbury, Mr Lou Battochio and others on council making their decisions, didn't like to do it. It's not a courageous thing; it's a very difficult thing to do.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to make a few comments with respect to this bill introduced by the member for Oakville South. Contrary to what some of the members from the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party think, it did come at a rather opportune time, at a time when yesterday the Finance minister made a statement with respect to how this province intends to restructure.

The fact is that we in this province have too much government. We've got too much government municipally; we have too much government with school boards; we have too much government with provincial government. We've got too much spending by all of these governments. That is what the Finance minister intends to correct with respect to his statement yesterday.

For the life of me, I do not know how anyone in this place -- I've listened to the speakers, particularly from the opposition -- can possibly state that they support the status quo. The previous speaker, the member for Cochrane South, talked about how services are going to be lost, and he's right, there's going to be change. No one said this was going to be easy. But when you look at some of the stats -- and I don't mean to provoke the members from the opposition, but I'm going to refer to some of the facts the Finance minister has in his statement.

We are currently spending in the province of Ontario "$1 million an hour more than it receives in revenues.... In the last 10 years government spending has almost doubled, while the accumulated debt has almost tripled.... Fewer jobs today than in 1989, higher unemployment and nearly three times as many people on social assistance as 10 years ago."

How in the world can the members on the opposition side, the Liberal and New Democratic Party, say we have to remain the same?

"Over the past decade, previous governments financed some of their overspending by raising taxes...65 times." It was roughly half from the Liberals and half from the New Democratic Party over the last 10 years.

"Ontario's personal income tax rates are now among the highest in North America."

Mr Eves's statement goes on, "In the past 10 years our provincial debt has...tripled. Soon it will exceed $100 billion."

And I could go on and repeat some of the things we all heard yesterday.

The government had no alternative to change. We have to change drastically; so do municipalities and so do school boards. I'm sure we all agree in this place that all governments are going to have to change drastically, and they've known it's coming. We've given some pretty broad hints on this side to municipalities and school boards that we were going to make rather drastic changes, and we have made drastic changes.

The bill introduced yesterday I know will be controversial today and in the days ahead, but this government will be providing the tools to the municipalities and the school boards and other transfer partners to assist them in the restructuring process. It is on that point that I differ from my friend the member for Oakville South. I certainly support him on his principles of the need to restructure, but I have confidence in the school board trustees, confidence in the municipal councillors. They do have the courage. Someone suggested in one of the earlier comments that these councillors do not have the courage to make the change.

They can restructure and they will restructure. They have no choice. If they don't, if they raise taxes, as has been suggested by some of the other members -- the member for Cochrane South, who is suggesting that -- I can tell you, they're going to be thrown out of office. The property taxpayers in this province are overtaxed and overregulated.

I believe my friend the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay said that in the municipality of Muskoka -- and there was an article in the paper yesterday that Toronto council has passed a resolution that they're not going to have any more tax hikes. Mayor Hall was quoted as saying, "We don't want to increase taxes and we're going to work very hard to make that possible even in a situation where we're facing very serious cuts in our transfer payments from the provincial government and certain other pressures upon us."

The municipal councillors are ready for what happened yesterday. I have the faith that they will do that. Certainly the taxpayers' groups around the province are concerned about increasing taxes, but the municipalities and the school boards will not be raising taxes, because if they do they're history. They will be forced to restructure, just like every other institution in this province has done.

I support the principle of what the member for Oakville South has put forward, that we all must restructure, including municipal councils, but I'm afraid I cannot support the bill because I really believe we must give some jurisdictions and some rights to municipal councils and trustees to exercise their rights.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): The first thing I want to point out is that my colleagues like to talk about tax increases, but they forget the years prior to 1985 and the 70-plus increases under the Davis government.

I also want to point to your own document, not ours. When you have a second, look at page 32 of your own Fiscal and Economic Statement and the chart at the top that talks about Ontario's deficit. Notice that by your own acknowledgement, 1989-90 was the first time there had been a balanced budget in Ontario. That is not a Liberal document; this is your own document. You should make yourself familiar with that.

I don't doubt the good intentions of the member for Oakville South in what's before us. It's really somewhat ironic that it is coming today, the day after the largest municipal grants decrease in the history of this province. Having served seven years on municipal council, I can tell you that the track record generally of municipal governments across Ontario in regard to tax increases in the last 20 years is better than any of the three governments that have served here at Queen's Park in the last 20 years. Municipal governments generally do a much better job of controlling spending than we do. Municipal governments don't have the opportunity to go into deficit as we do, because of the Municipal Act, so there are plenty of controls in place already at the municipal level.

But the timing I find ironic. On the one hand, this government introduces a massive, 600-page bill yesterday that is going to give municipalities this wonderful power. It's going to give municipalities the power to be the butchers, to make the decisions that this government doesn't have the guts to do. "We're going to give you the power to decide what services, but at the same time we're going to cut your funding by 50%." On the other hand, we have a bill today that says, "But we're going to take away your ability to raise funds in order to finance these cuts."

The Tories like to believe that user fees are not taxes. My colleagues across the floor think that when you impose a user fee, it is not a tax. It was your own Premier who told us that. So yesterday, when your government imposed user fees on seniors and disabled, you taxed seniors and disabled across Ontario.

What you're going to do through this, it's a smokescreen. It is an absolute smokescreen in front of us, because what's going to happen is this: Municipalities are not going to raise taxes. You don't have to tell them how to do their jobs. Municipalities can tell you how to do your job. But you are taking away the autonomy of municipalities and elected officials to do their job. Let them make those decisions and let them be accountable for that.

At the same time, what you have forced municipalities across Ontario to do is to impose user fees on everything from garbage pickup to hockey arenas to swimming pools and double and triple those user fees. They're going to go substantially higher as a result of your move of yesterday, but that's not taxation, according to the Tories. That's back-door taxation.

If you were committed to eliminating and not having user fees, you would not have imposed user fees on 1.3 million senior citizens across Ontario yesterday. It is disgraceful what you did. Now you have the guts to sit here and lecture to municipal governments on how to do their job. It is an absolute embarrassment what is in front of us, I think, what this government did yesterday and the timing of this today.

The intent of my colleague from Oakville South makes sense. It would have made a lot more sense before these massive cuts that came down yesterday. To turn around and cut school boards by 9%, cut municipalities by 43% and then the next day tell them what to do, the next day try to tell them what to do with this bill, doesn't make any sense.

The reality that you're going to find is there has been a massive downloading, there has been a massive passing of costs to municipal taxpayers. You have imposed user fees on some of the most vulnerable people in our society and you're forcing municipalities to impose user fees on homeowners in the years to come.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It really is unfortunate that the members opposite, especially in the official opposition, can't at least speak to the contents of the bill. The bill is dealing with freezing property taxes, but our member opposite there, he talks about the moon, the sun and the stars. I guess he can't make a fundamental distinction between private members' hour and government business, and it would be nice if the Chair around here occasionally would rule that we at least focus broadly on the contents of the bill.

Having said that, I can appreciate very much my colleague's attempt and intent in his bill, my colleague from Oakville South, about freezing property taxes. But as the member for Dufferin-Peel has noted, and I have to share his outlook, I think it would be very, very unfortunate if we took the opportunity to take away a fundamental tool that we're trying to give municipalities in being more creative in their management of their affairs, rather than going the other way.

If the honourable member for Oakville South had said as well that we'll freeze property taxes and make a changeover in the next two years regarding the assessment function, so that the assessment function would move from being provincially controlled and represented to a system of locally mandated responsibility, then you would be being really creative in helping municipalities run their businesses, instead of telling them.

That's the root cause of property taxes today: not the increases per se and not trying to attempt to freeze them, but actually going to the root cause of the problem, which is an inequitable assessment function that we have across this province.

Whether you're in favour of MVA, market value assessment, or average value assessment or a unitary approach to the assessment function, my firm, fundamental belief is that if the member for Oakville South had made an add-on to the bill that allowed municipalities to change the way in which assessment is developed and allowed them to create an assessment methodology that was most suitable to their local circumstances, then they would be much better equipped and able to control property taxes, to keep them restrained.

I also have to remind my honourable friend from Oakville South that actually many municipalities throughout Ontario, both urban and rural, small and large, have done a very effective job in managing to freeze local property taxes on their own. Within Metro, the city of North York, the city of Scarborough, the city of Etobicoke, and I think some component municipalities in the other regional government areas of, say, Ottawa-Carleton, have done the same thing in the last three years. So I think it would be most unfortunate if we made a sort of blanket rule that every municipality had to freeze taxes for a year without giving them the opportunity to have a change in the assessment function.

Mr Carr: In the wrapup, I want to thank all the speakers who participated in the debate. I very quickly also want to thank the author of the bill, Michael Wood, who in the legislative counsel did all the work on this and worked extremely hard on it.

To the member for Hamilton East I say this: If the cuts weren't as hard as they were yesterday, this bill would not be needed. It's only because the cuts were that hard that I feel this bill is needed.

To the members of the government, I will remind you when you say that the transfer partners have to be part of the solutions -- I agree with the omnibus bill that is coming in, but when you read the municipal section, I say to you as you come in, we have now taken away the ability of district health councils to shut hospitals. I agree that has to be done, but that omnibus bill, our transfer partners -- we shut hospitals in the province of Ontario as of that bill passing.

I say to my honourable friends who say the government has to work with the transfer partners, I support it 100%, but when that bill comes in I'd like you to say the same thing, that we don't want to force our transfer partners to do something. When you read that bill, the municipal section of it, it is going to be a fundamental change: The province is going to make the decisions. As we go through the restructuring, I will remind you of the same comments you made: We don't want to tell municipalities what you want to do. I will remind you of that when the municipal restructuring happens. Again I say 100% support, but when that happens, I'll remind you of what you said in this House.

Finally, the Common Sense Revolution, page 5, addressed this. I won't read it out because we're getting down to the wire, but we knew with this going in it was going to create a problem and we said there is only one taxpayer and we cannot allow historically what has happened: municipalities to pass it on to the tax. We said we would work with the municipalities to ensure those tax increases don't come through.

This is the only way to do it, in my mind, and I hope all members will pass this bill, support it, otherwise I'm afraid we're going to have massive tax increases and it's going to be as a direct result of this government.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is there anyone who objects to voting on the motion now?

Ballot item number 9, the resolution standing in the name of Mr Bisson: All in favour? Opposed? In my opinion, the nays have it.

This then will be deferred until after the next question.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Ballot item number 10, standing in the name of Mr Carr. Any members who oppose taking a vote on this at this time? Shall this motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

I my opinion, the nays have it.

I declare the motion lost.

Call in the members. It will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1201 to 1206.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): On ballot item number 9, the private member's notice of motion by Mr Bisson, the New Democratic Party has requested a recorded vote.

Therefore, all those in favour of the resolution will please stand and stay standing.


Agostino, Dominic

Kormos, Peter

Rae, Bob

Bisson, Gilles

Lankin, Frances

Silipo, Tony

Boyd, Marion

Martel, Shelley

Wood, Len

Churley, Marilyn

Martin, Tony


Colle, Mike

Pouliot, Gilles


The Deputy Speaker: Those opposed will please stand and remain standing.


Baird, John R.

Grandmaître, Bernard

O'Toole, John

Bassett, Isabel

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Beaubien, Marcel

Guzzo, Garry J.

Pettit, Trevor

Boushy, Dave

Hastings, John

Preston, Peter

Brown, Jim

Hoy, Pat

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Brown, Michael A.

Hudak, Tim

Ross, Lillian

Carr, Gary

Johnson, Ron

Sampson, Rob

Carroll, Jack

Jordan, Leo

Shea, Derwyn

Chudleigh, Ted

Kwinter, Monte

Sheehan, Frank

Cleary, John C.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Smith, Bruce

Curling, Alvin

Leadston, Gary L.

Snobelen, John

Doyle, Ed

Martiniuk, Gerry

Stockwell, Chris

Fisher, Barbara

Maves, Bart

Tilson, David

Ford, Douglas B.

Miclash, Frank

Turnbull, David

Fox, Gary

Munro, Julia

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Froese, Tom

Murdoch, Bill

Wood, Bob

Galt, Doug

Newman, Dan

Young, Terence H.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 13, the nays 51.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the resolution lost.

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Oakville South, I will not deal with a point of order now. It will have to be done later.

It being 12 o'clock, I declare the House adjourned till 1:30 o'clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1209 to 1330.



Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): "Not one cent from health care," that's what Mike Harris promised. Yesterday, the Conservatives slashed $1.3 billion from Ontario hospitals. "No new user fees," that's what Mike Harris said during the election campaign. That's what he promised, and yesterday the Conservatives slapped a new user fee on drugs prescribed to seniors by their doctors. "No hospital closures," that's what Mike Harris promised, and yesterday the Conservatives announced an 18% cut to hospitals and a fast track for hospital closings, without scrutiny.

Yesterday Mike Harris didn't cut the fat out of health care; he pulled the plug. Never before has a government shown such contempt for the voters of this province; never before has a government violated its commitment, its trust, with the people of this province so quickly after an election. When a government breaks its promise this quickly after an election, one can only conclude that the government never intended to follow through on its promises in the first place.

Every member elected to this House is deemed by the rules of this House to be honourable. After what Mike Harris has said and after what Mike Harris has done to health care in this province, I will not believe another word that Mike Harris ever says again on health care. Never again will I ever trust a word he says. If a man's word is his bond, Mike Harris's bond rating has been downgraded to zero in my books. Shame on you, and you should resign.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): It's going to be a bleak Christmas for a whole lot of folks in this province. Folks down in Welland-Thorold are scared and, I'm telling you, rightly so: senior citizens not understanding how they're going to afford to pay for the health care they were promised was not going to be tinkered with; young families who don't know whether they're going to be able to continue to live in the houses they've purchased because they don't know whether the increased realty taxes are going to force them out of those houses.

There are lineups at soup kitchens longer than they've ever been in decades and the shelves of the food banks are empty and bare. It's going to be a really bleak Christmas for lots of Ontarians. The cupboard's bare for seniors, children will be hard pressed to understand the poverty they've been forced into, and unemployment continues to loom over this province with no end in sight.

But not for Mike Harris and the Tories at Queen's Park. Oh no, it's going to be a jolly and merry Christmas for Mike Harris's gang as they wine and dine and dance at their caucus Christmas party at the posh, exclusive Westin Harbour Castle hotel on December 13.

This is an exercise in self-indulgence and extravagance and disdain and contempt by this Tory cabal. It's the height of arrogance. They're going to drop in excess of three grand while people are starving and shivering on the streets of Toronto and across this province. Shame on them; it's contemptible.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Further statements? The member for Kitchener.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): It's not taxpayers' money.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a leader in my community of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Lyle Hallman is the owner of Hallman Construction, and this year marks his 50th year of success in the construction industry. But I am not here today to talk about Lyle's business accomplishments; I am here today to recognize his philosophy of giving that has made a tremendous impact on the Kitchener-Waterloo community.

His most public gifts include financial contributions to a building for the children's aid society and to the Centre in the Square, our arts centre; $150,000 to the Waterloo Recreation Complex; and $100,000 to the St Mary's General Hospital fund-raising campaign. More recently, there was a gift of $500,000 so the Grand River Recreation Complex could build an Olympic-size pool, and an endowment of $1 million to the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation board.

But while these gifts are very generous, Lyle Hallman's real contribution is his willingness to do what it takes to help people. The time Mr Hallman has spent participating in various clubs and associations has always been driven by his sincere desire to help the community. Whether it was being president of the local Jaycees or spending a part of every Saturday directing a boys' program for the Christian Youth Centre, Lyle's dedication and commitment --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member's time has expired.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Yesterday, the Conservative government slashed more than $1.3 billion from Ontario's hospitals. You ask, is that a broken promise? You bet it is. But is about a lot more than a government not keeping its word. This is about people's lives.

"No cuts to agriculture." That's a broken promise. "No cuts to the north." That is a broken promise.

But let me make it clear: When you cut hospitals by $1.3 billion, you're taking money from emergency rooms, you're taking money that could reduce waiting lists for cardiac surgery, you're taking money from cancer care, you're taking money that often means a difference between life and death.

When Mike Harris repeatedly promised that he would not cut one cent from health care, I thought he did so because he believed, like the vast majority of Ontarians, that health care was far too important to cut. That is, after all, what he promised in the Common Sense Revolution. But now that the votes have been cast and $1.3 billion has been cut from Ontario's hospitals, all his words about "priority spending" and "not one cent" really make you understand why voters just don't trust politicians anymore.

I ask the Premier to reconsider his $1.3 billion in cuts to hospitals, not because the cuts violate his promise not to cut health care, but because his cuts threaten the one thing all Ontarians agree is our best asset: a quality health care system.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): My statement is to the Minister of Education and Training. Recently, I met with teachers' representatives in Kapuskasing who are concerned about cuts to education programs, specifically the junior kindergarten program. With funding to school boards now being cut by $400 million, this program is now threatened by your government's axe. I might point out that it's like taking a chainsaw to do heart surgery.

The junior kindergarten program, first introduced in 1944 and supported by government since its inception by grants to school boards to provide educational programs in junior and senior kindergarten, should not be threatened. Every dollar invested in programs for young children and their families saves $7 in remedial programs or criminal justice costs down the line.

Because of the benefits for children, the NDP government passed legislation calling for mandatory junior kindergarten. Your government has not indicated support for this initiative and your silence on this issue is thundering, suggesting that possibly you won't be supporting it.

There's a widening gap in Ontario between the children who arrive at school emotionally, physically and intellectually ready to learn and the children who come to school hampered by a lack of nurturing and stimulation. Providing early education to all children means all children will have the chance to live up to their potential in our society.

When you're evaluating education programs and cuts to them, I would suggest that you use your common sense, Mr Minister, and not cut funding to junior kindergarten programs in this province. You say that our youth will benefit in the future from your direct reduction efforts. I say they would benefit more from a junior kindergarten program that would educate them early for future success.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): It gives me great pleasure to rise today in honour of 17 individuals and groups who represent the hallmark of public service to Ontario's citizens. These Ontario public servants are this year's recipients of the Amethyst Award, the symbol of outstanding achievement in the delivery of services to the people of Ontario.

The honorees will be honoured tonight at a special ceremony. They are the aboriginal issues action group and George Al-Bazi with the Ministry of Transportation; Carol Gold, Jerome Krause and John Voskuil at the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; John Gunn and Bill Keller with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment and Energy; John Mochikas of the Ministry of Finance; Sheila McDade with the Ministry of the Attorney General; Sue Noga with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing; Gyan Rajhans of the Ministry of Labour; Sam Squire with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; the recycling committee of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services; and Sharon Suter with the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

We are honoured to have these individuals here today and I would ask you to acknowledge --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Time has expired.



Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): Just before the House assembled today I had an early visit from Santa Claus, also known as His Worship Mayor Mel Lastman of the city of North York, who was staging his own Miracle on 34th Street. The mayor was accompanied by Mr Jack Gallop, president of North York Branson Hospital, 12 other Santas and hundreds of citizens concerned about the proposed merger of North York Branson Hospital with York-Finch Hospital.

The proposed merger will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital and will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which Branson serves. Many of these people are elderly and require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions.

Santa and his helpers delivered to me 12 bags full of 55,000 letters and signatures in support of North York Branson Hospital. Now that the budget bill is going to give the Minister of Health the unprecedented, unilateral, dictatorial power to close hospitals, and having regard for the minister's own health, I'm going to send over to him just two of the 12 bags as tangible evidence of the major concern expressed by citizens who are desperate to see their health service maintained.

I'm sure that Mayor Mel Lastman and President Jack Gallop, who are sitting in the members' gallery, will agree with me that if you were to ask the citizens served by North York Branson Hospital who was supporting the changed role for Branson hospital, the answer would be a resounding "Nobody."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): As a result of yesterday's attack on the people of Ontario, the brutal assault on municipalities is now becoming quite clear: 47% in cuts over two years. In Hamilton alone, in the next budget, it's being estimated by Mayor Morrow at possibly $9 million. Yet this government has said: "You're supposed to do this, municipalities. Find all these cuts without raising taxes." What kind of options does that leave our municipal counterparts?

In Hamilton, Councillor Dave Wilson is suggesting it may mean 400 jobs. We know it's going to mean user fees in areas that have traditionally been a part of public service. Library branch closings are now on the table, seniors are having to pay an increased cost for their drug benefits, hospitals are being cut, public transit's being cut, junior kindergarten is being cut -- all of that affecting the most vulnerable people in our society.

Again we see this government going after working people, going after seniors, going after the most vulnerable. And what's the bottom line? Not to take care of the deficit. The bottom line is to make sure you've got enough money to give a huge tax cut to your wealthy friends. This is obscene, and eventually you will feel the wrath of the people of Ontario as all of this becomes very clear.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Tomorrow is World AIDS Day in Ontario and I would like to urge all members to join with me in recognizing its importance in raising awareness and understanding of HIV and AIDS.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 20 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV, including 1.5 million children. In Ontario, we have almost 12,000 people living with HIV, many of whom also have AIDS, unfortunately.

The theme for World AIDS Day this year is "Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities." This theme was chosen to underline how essential both rights and responsibilities are in the context of HIV/AIDS. Governments in particular have a responsibility to ensure that laws, policies and practices prevent the spread of HIV, and they must also work with those people living with HIV/AIDS to protect their rights and to create an environment of support.

Individuals with HIV/AIDS also have rights and responsibilities. They are entitled to all human rights, without discrimination based on actual or suspected HIV status. They also have the responsibility to avoid putting others at risk of HIV infection.

I am happy that the Minister of Health indicated in his AIDS Awareness Week House statement that --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member's time has expired.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Labour; Mr Tom Farrell, Deputy Minister of Labour; and Miss Caroline Sopuck, from the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Please join me in welcoming them here today.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege, as I attempted to rise on a point of privilege yesterday afternoon when I first became aware that my privileges as a member of this assembly, and I believe the privileges of all members of this assembly and particularly those in the opposition parties, were seriously breached yesterday.

You will know that it is my duty as a member to raise any concerns I may have about a bill that is presented, on the first reading of the bill. Yesterday, my privileges as a member, which give me the ability to carry out my responsibilities as a member, were breached. The government introduced a bill called an omnibus bill, in fact a budget bill, with wide-sweeping powers being given to this government at a time when it was impossible, because of this government's other actions, for me as a member to rise and make my concerns known on first reading.

In fact, it was impossible for me as a member and the leader of my party to even know that this bill was being introduced. It was impossible for me to be able to communicate with the members of my caucus so that other members of the caucus could raise their concerns about this budget bill.

Mr Speaker, I'm sure you're aware of the circumstances under which this bill was introduced yesterday. There was a financial statement presented yesterday. The government chose not to present a budget but nevertheless treated the information about the financial statement in the way a budget would have been treated. What that meant for me, as the leader of our party, was that in order to be informed about this serious financial statement the government was making I had to enter a lockup and could not leave that lockup until after, as it turned out, the minister had begun to read his financial statement.

I had no choice about this, nor did I have any knowledge that while I was in that lockup with other members of my caucus -- a lockup orchestrated by the government, required by the government even though it was not presenting a budget -- the government was introducing a bill without prior notice to our House leader or to the House leader of the third party. We were aware that at some point there would be an omnibus bill introduced. We were given no information as to what would be included in that omnibus bill. We were told only that there would be an omnibus bill and that the government would expect to have that bill passed before Christmas; in other words, with virtually no debate in this House.

Mr Speaker, you've been a member of this Legislature for some long time, and I think you will know that normally an omnibus bill, which is quite in order for a government to present, would be basically a housekeeping bill, one which all members of the assembly would agree does not require a great deal of debate nor a great deal of public consultation and which, with us carrying out our responsibilities as the official opposition, could willingly have been both received and considered and potentially passed by Christmastime.

But in fact this was not an omnibus bill presented as any other omnibus bill has ever been presented or ever been defined in the history not only of this Legislature but I believe of Parliaments across this country, because this was indeed a budget bill by any other name. I believe again a breach of the privileges of members of this House that a government that is not presenting a budget can present a budget bill and can do that even before the financial statement has been read.


Mr Speaker, you will be aware, I'm sure -- and I became aware only when I sat down in my place while the Minister of Finance was reading his statement -- that the government had brought in a bill which affected no less than 26 acts, and there may be more, because that was a quick count while I was obviously somewhat diverted by the minister's statement. It is a bill which gives this government power to implement its financial plans, and that by any other name is a budget bill.

It is a bill which gives this government, act by act, the most sweeping, dictatorial powers that this Legislature has ever seen, and most particularly, sweeping and dictatorial powers to the Minister of Health to close hospitals unilaterally.

To think that a government could present a bill of this nature without notice, without any indication of what would be in this bill; to do it at a time when we were, under the government's orchestration, in a lockup, unable to even be aware it was being introduced and so raise our concerns on first reading as we are required according to our responsibilities to do; to think that they could do that; to think that they could then expect that this kind of bill would be -- not debated, because we will not have an opportunity for debate, but passed without debate, without consultation, without due consideration, before Christmas, is truly a breach of the privileges of every member of this House.

Mr Speaker, I suggest to you that the way in which this was introduced was arrogance of a kind that we have never seen in the Legislature of Ontario before, that it is an abuse of power of a kind that we have never encountered in this province before. It is an abuse -- and I ask you to rule on this -- of the privileges of the members of this House, because if this government can behave in this way, it takes away from us our ability and our duty to debate the issues that are of public interest. That is our very reason to be here.

Mr Speaker, if this government, with your acquiesence, makes this kind of action possible, then there is no democratic process, there is no role for the opposition, and the whole process of democracy is undermined in this place.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Windsor-Riverside on the same point of order?

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Yes, Mr Speaker, on this point of order, and I have a number of points of order that flow out of yesterday that I would like to raise.

Yesterday, as the Leader of the Opposition indicated, there was an incident in the Legislature, and there was actually another one earlier in the afternoon that was very similar. Earlier in the afternoon, attempts were made by the deputy House leader for my party, the member for Dovercourt, and, I believe, the House leader for the official opposition, when the omnibus bill was introduced, to raise with you a point of order. At that point, you refused to listen and the House was adjourned.

Points of order and points of privilege were called later in the afternoon, after the economic statement was given, by my leader, by myself, by members of the Liberal caucus, and this occurred after the Finance Minister finished his speech but before adjournment of the House.

I might say, we all wanted to raise a point of order earlier and we held off because we thought it was appropriate to let the Treasurer give his statement. It was on national TV, it was on province-wide TV, and we were attempting to be courteous. We paid the price by doing that.

Standing orders 21(a) and (b) outline what a point of privilege is. Standing order 21(b) states, and I quote, "Whenever a matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken into consideration immediately." This was not done by you, Mr Speaker.

Obviously, all of us consider this to be a very serious matter. I want to quote from Erskine May, the 21st edition, on page 307:

"Urgent matters which require the immediate intervention of the House, if they should occur during a sitting of the House, may be raised at once in spite of the interruption of the debate or other proceedings.... A complaint on such a matter is entertained by the House as soon as it is raised."

You wouldn't even allow us to raise it.

On page 28 of Beauchesne's, the sixth edition:

"By its nature, a question of privilege" -- because there were points of order and points of privilege that were being raised, or attempted to be raised -- "is of such importance that it may be raised at any time, and standing order 48 makes provision for the precedence of a question of privilege over all other business of the House. A question of privilege arising out of proceedings in the chamber, during the course of a sitting, may be raised without notice."

So clearly we were in order.

Again in Beauchesne's, page 97, sixth edition:

"Any member is entitled, even bound, to bring to the Speaker's immediate notice any instance of a breach of order." This is on a point of order. "The member may interrupt and lay the point in question concisely before the Speaker. This should be done as soon as the irregularity is perceived in the proceedings which are engaging the attention of the House. The Speaker's attention must be directed to a breach of order at the proper moment, namely the moment it occurred."

If anything, Mr Speaker, perhaps we were both wrong. We should have raised it immediately, and you obviously had the obligation to recognize it when it was raised.

"A point of order may be taken after a debate is concluded and the Speaker is about to put the question to a vote or after the vote has been taken -- in fact, at any time, but not so as to interrupt when the Speaker is addressing the House. Even the provisions in standing orders that action must be taken `forthwith' or `forthwith without debate' with respect to certain proceedings do not bar a member from raising a point of order when a serious irregularity occurs."

That is absolutely clear. Members must, Mr Speaker, have confidence in the Speaker and that the Speaker will be fair and evenhanded. They must, as a minimum, expect that points of order and points of privilege will be listened to. You can't just adjourn the House and say, "I refuse."

As I said earlier, we didn't raise the matter earlier during the budget speech. Maybe we should have, but we were doing it out of respect and as a courtesy to the House.

That's one point of order, and I believe that's in line with the point that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition. My second point, and it all is related, deals with the omnibus bill. Standing order 38(c) states very clearly:

"On the introduction of a government bill, a compendium of background information shall be delivered to the opposition critics. If it is an amending bill, an up-to-date consolidation of the act or acts to be amended shall be delivered to the opposition critics unless the bill amends an act amended previously in the session."

By our calculation, the omnibus bill introduced yesterday by the Chair of Management Board on behalf of the Treasurer amends 46 acts. We received a compendium yesterday after the bill had received first reading. We received copies, and very few were copies of the acts that were being amended. The introduction of the bill was not in order. We still do not have full copies of the acts that were being amended.

The Savings and Restructuring Act amends the Capital Investment Plan Act, 1993. We didn't receive a copy of that act. The Savings and Restructuring Act amends the Highway Traffic Act. We did not receive a copy of the Highway Traffic Act. The Savings and Restructuring Act amends the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991. We did not receive a copy of the Regulated Health Professions Act. The Savings and Restructuring Act amends the Forest Fires Prevention Act. We did not receive a copy of that act, and the list goes on and on.

Mr Speaker, clearly, on that point alone, the bill that was introduced yesterday is out of order.

I want to go on and talk specifically why the omnibus bill, even if you rule at that point that it was in order and has been introduced, why the bill itself is out of order.

First of all, I believe the bill introduced yesterday is clearly out of order if you take a look at precedents and you take a look at our rules and you take a look at Beauchesne and other books that we use to guide this place.

The bill amends 43 pieces of legislation, creates three new pieces of legislation and repeals two others. In effect, the bill is the entire legislative agenda for this government.

There is no reference, as you know, to omnibus bills in our rules. Therefore, we have to turn to Beauchesne, and I want to quote Beauchesne, page 192: "Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of a bill, there should be a theme of relevancy amongst the contents of a bill. They must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill."


The bill is entitled An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring, Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda. "The purpose of the bill is to achieve fiscal savings and promote economic prosperity through public sector restructuring, streamlining and efficiency and to implement other aspects of the government's economic agenda."

The bill enacts, as I said, three new acts and amends dozens of existing acts. As already stated in Beauchesne and quoted in Beauchesne, there must be a theme. All amendments must be relevant to the subject and the terminology of the long title of the bill, as I've already said from Beauchesne.

Let me give you some examples where that does not stick. Public sector salary disclosure is in schedule A of the bill. That's a brand-new piece of legislation that was referred to and announced a couple of weeks ago or a week ago by the Treasurer. It should have been a separate piece of legislation, and as a separate policy did not flow in any way, shape or form out of yesterday's finance statement.

Amendments to the Corporations Tax Act, schedule B: What does that have to do with restructuring the public sector? It's a tax bill; it's not a restructuring bill.

Amendments to the Income Tax Act: again, the same point.

The Ontario Loan Act: This has always been a separate act that flows out of a budget. It has nothing to do with restructuring.

Toll roads: It has nothing to do with restructuring. It's minor amendments to facilitate the implementation of toll roads in this province.

Hospital restructuring: a major section on hospital restructuring that, as the Leader of the Opposition said, centralizes power in the health care system as we have never seen in the history of this province; amendments again, in this section, with respect to independent health facilities and other areas of the health care field.

Schedule G, the Ontario drug benefit program, sets up an entirely new concept, not to restructure but to devise a way of having revenue. It's a revenue bill, that's what this section is about; it's not a restructuring aspect of the bill. It does not relate to the long title of the act.

Schedule H deals with physicians. Again, it gives power to the Minister of Health that we have never seen before. It does not deal with the restructuring of the health care system; it deals with empowering the minister to say who can go where and who can do what in this province, and it centralizes it all in the Cabinet Office with no public consultation.

Pay equity, amendments to the pay equity law: What does that have to do with restructuring the public sector? That's schedule J of the bill.

Freedom of information act: This imposes fees and deals with appeals and frivolous applications. That's a new policy. That has nothing to do with restructuring; that's a policy change.

Public service pensions: What do changes to public sector pensions have to do with restructuring the way that government is delivered in this province?

I ask the backbenchers of the Conservative Party to take a look at schedule M. Schedule M gives powers to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that I believe will make anyone who comes from a municipal council shiver when they read that section. The entire restructuring of the greater Toronto area could occur, if this is passed, without ever coming to the Legislature, without ever having public hearings. That's the kind of power in that section.

Schedule M of the bill: new fees, licences, all sorts of new powers that are given out, again not restructuring. That's a new form of revenue. It has nothing to do with the long title.

Schedule O, the Mining Act: Look at that section, Mr Speaker. That has nothing to do with restructuring.

Schedule Q, changes to a number of acts with respect to interest arbitration: again, not restructuring the public service, but simply changing the way that arbitration takes place in a very negative and controversial way, but not in tune with the long title of this act.

On a humorous note, this bill even repeals the Bread Sales Act. Now, I don't know what that has to do with restructuring.

Members get one vote, despite the fact that they may agree with parts of this bill or seriously disagree with other parts of the bill. On November 12, 1912, the Speaker of the British House of Commons made the following ruling: "The rule is if any honourable member feels embarrassed on voting on a resolution that the Chair shall revise the resolution in order that the member may, if he wishes, vote aye or nay to any part of the bill; or the other, not embarrass him by having to vote aye or nay to the whole of the bill."

I have radically different feelings about user fees for the Ontario drug benefit program than I do to a system of public sector salary disclosure. The fact that both these matters -- which, I might add, are completely unrelated -- are in one bill is a violation of my privilege as a member.

I may feel differently about the obstruction-of-licence-plate amendments to the Highway Traffic Act than I do about giving cabinet the power to completely redraw every municipal boundary in this province without ever coming to the Ontario Legislature.

I may feel differently about the repeal of the Bread Sales Act than I do about the Physician Services Delivery Management Act. But under this procedure, I have no way of expressing that.

On January 26, the Speaker of the federal House of Commons was faced with this issue. His response was: "In my view, it should be the responsibility of the Chair when such a bill is introduced and given first reading to take the initiative and raise the matter for the consideration of the House by way of a point of order, as I have taken the liberty of doing with a number of private members' bills. When those bills came before the House for first reading, I entered a caveat about them and gave honourable members the opportunity of expressing their views. At any rate, some of these bills were refused by the Chair."

In 1982, the Speaker of the House of Commons made the following statement in relation to omnibus bills: "When another omnibus bill is proposed to the House, it should be scrutinized at first reading when all honourable members would be given an opportunity to express their views and the Chair could express its view as to whether the bill goes too far or is acceptable from a procedural point of view."

Again, I return to what this is all about. This is not an acceptable omnibus bill. It is out of order. There is not one theme. All sections of the bill are not related to the long title of the act. I repeat, the long title of the act is An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring, Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda. Some aspects don't even deal with the public sector; they deal with the private sector.

The way the bill was introduced, in addition to the contents of the bill, was despicable. The contents of the bill are despicable. The overwhelming impact this bill will have on Ontario requires that this matter be taken extremely seriously.

Speaker, you must protect the procedures of this place, the rules of this place, the rights of the minority and the democratic process in the Legislature in this province. You must rule this bill out of order.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'd like to speak to Mrs McLeod's original point of privilege, though my remarks will touch on a number of the points that have been made by the previous speaker from the New Democratic Party.

I want to say at the outset that we have before the House this afternoon in this issue a matter of fundamental importance for this Legislature. I think it is fair to say that the budget bill, Bill 26, which was presented yesterday in the name of the government by the Chair of Management Board is, in my view, the most extraordinary piece of legislation that this assembly has seen since that day in March 1964 when the then Attorney General, Fred Cass, presented the notorious police bill, Bill 99.

I think I can say as well that never in my time has there been a bill that is so unprecedented in what it proposes to do, and we will have a debate this afternoon because of the extraordinary and unprecedented nature of Bill 26.

Let me say at the outset that Her Majesty's new Ontario government won a clear mandate on June 8 to form a government and to present a new set of policies and a new program to this assembly and to the province at large. I take no quarrel with their right to do that. But in the British parliamentary system there are rules that govern the way in which governments, oppositions and parliaments behave, and Bill 26, I submit, strikes at the core of the way in which we do business here and therefore the way in which our privileges are at issue.

Now, you might say, Mr Speaker, and my colleagues, new members particularly, might say: How is this bill extraordinary? What is in this bill that is unprecedented? Let me tell this House how it is that this is an extraordinary and an exceptional and an unprecedented piece of legislation. What we have here is a massive budget bill, all rolled into one enactment.

Yesterday afternoon, our friend and colleague the Minister of Finance, the member for Parry Sound, stood in his place and he read the Ontario budget 1995, for all intents and purposes; some might say an economic statement. Let me say that my friend from Parry Sound's address yesterday was, I believe, the most significant and controversial budget document, budget address that has ever been read in this assembly. There has certainly not been one in the post-war period that has had at its core such controversial aspects.

I say, again, the government has won the right to chart a new course. But we had a budget address that, among other things, is enormously important, enormously significant for everyone in this province and, make no mistake about it, enormously controversial.

Before the Minister of Finance stood in his place at 4 o'clock to present that budget address, the Chair of Management Board, surreptitiously almost, presented a massive budget bill to this assembly; and I might add, as others have, a massive budget bill was presented to the House while honourable members were locked up in another place.

Now let me turn to my concern about the privileges of honourable members. I can't think of a better place to start than the notion that budget bills will be presented to any self-respecting Parliament while members of that Parliament are, for reasons that we understand, locked up in another place.

One would not think to write in any parliamentary creed a rule to protect against that kind of activity, because I think all reasonable people would imagine that no one would inadvertently, or otherwise, attempt to do it. But that is what happened yesterday and, let me submit, that is a fundamental matter of privilege for all honourable members.

I can't imagine what Ernie Eves and Mike Harris would have done if Bob Rae or David Peterson, or Bob Nixon or Floyd Laughren, had locked them up while a budget bill was being presented. I can only fantasize at the eruption. The paint would have literally peeled off this chamber.

I want to also make a point that has been made by the member for Windsor-Riverside. In a judgement in 1971, Mr Speaker Lamoureux, I believe one of the most successful and highly regarded Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons in the history of that illustrious place, argued that it was his view that members had an obligation to object to these kinds of bills on first reading. I'll cite more specifically the Lamoureaux judgement if you would like it, Mr Speaker, but I have it in my hand.

So for those who might -- and I think, sir, this has to be something that you and our good friends at the table must reflect on. In a very relevant, related case, the omnibus bill brought forward by the Trudeau government in 1971 to reorganize much of the government of Canada, there was a very interesting debate about the propriety of a single bill that gathered together in one place a number of enactments that seek to change or amend several statutes. In that case, it was argued by the government that they could do so because the matters at hand essentially related to the way in which the government of Canada was organized.

But I want to cite very quickly from the judgement of Mr Speaker Lamoureux on January 26, 1971, when he dealt with the concern that members of Parliament -- the distinguished Stanley Knowles, among others. A former Speaker, Mr Lambert, engaged the debate, as did Bob McCleave, a very well-known and highly regarded Conservative from Halifax.

When those gentlemen raised the concern about the propriety of a single bill that did so much, Mr Speaker Lamoureux responded, in part, with some of the following observations, and let me quote from Mr Lamoureux's judgement:

"There is no doubt in my mind that there is considerable substance to the point raised by the honourable member from Halifax-East Hants, Mr McCleave, who raised the objection at first instance."

Mr Speaker Lamoureux goes on by saying that he was "quite impressed by the argument advanced by other honourable members in support of the objection," including the very illustrious Mr Stanley Knowles. Mr Speaker Lamoureux says: "I think that, in a way, he has a legitimate grievance and complaint."

He goes on, Mr Speaker Lamoureux, "My problem is of course whether he can advance a legitimate procedural argument, and there's where I find some difficulty. As the House knows, the Chair has to be guided to a considerable extent by precedents established over a number of years," and he goes on to indicate that in fact there are precedents, and I am sure that the table has in fact raised this with you.

But Mr Speaker Lamoureux in his judgement said:

"Honourable members who have raised the complaint about a series of initiatives that are gathered together in one place, having to do only with the way in which the government of Canada is organized, have a legitimate grievance and complaint."

Again from Mr Lamoureux's judgement at the time, and I won't go on unduly with this point but I think this is a very telling set of observations from I think the most illustrious Speaker of the House of Commons in many a time, he said:

"Perhaps honourable members might have wanted to say the same thing about the bill now before the House. There's no question, without going further into details, that there is a long-established practice of gathering some of these matters together." And he goes on to cite, but he says, and this I think is the telling point: "However, where do we stop?" says Mr Speaker Lamoureux, "Where is the point of no return?

The honourable member for Winnipeg North Centre, Mr Knowles, and I believe the member from Edmonton West, former Speaker Lambert, said that:

"We might reach the point where we would have only one bill, a bill at the start of the session for the improvement of the quality of life in Canada, which would include every single proposed piece of legislation for the session. That would be an omnibus bill with a capital O and a capital B. But would it be acceptable legislation? There must be a point where we go beyond what is acceptable from a strictly parliamentary point of view."

I think the point is very well made. That was in 1971.


Then we come to 1982. I was struck by a debate that members will remember, particularly Conservative members, that brought about one of the most controversial periods in the modern parliamentary practice of the Canadian Parliament. Interestingly, it was a speech that began moments after Mr Robert K. Rae announced his resignation from the House of Commons to come to lead the Ontario New Democratic Party.

The debate began on March 2, 1982, and it concerned the enormously controversial Trudeau government bill having to do with the implementation of the national energy program. It is fair to say that all hell broke loose for over two weeks. You will remember that the bells rang, members refused to come back into the House, because essentially the issue was, did the government have the right to gather together a series of energy initiatives in one bill and proceed in that omnibus fashion?

It was a nasty, ugly, unforgettable time for the Parliament of Canada. But I just simply raise the point today: The issue at stake in that notorious debate and bell-ringing was the Trudeau government's advance of a single bill incorporating several very controversial initiatives in one sector, namely, the energy sector.

We had in 1982 Mme Sauvé's response: "What am I to do? Technically, the government has the right, based on precedent." I think there is no doubt that looking at the precedents of the Canadian Parliament, which have to be a guide, there is a precedent that allows governments to bring forward certain omnibus bills.

We have in recent times in this chamber done it ourselves -- I think I'm correct -- in the previous Parliament, when we treated three collateral bills in the health sector -- the Advocacy Act, the Consent to Treatment Act and the Substitute Decisions Act -- as a piece. I think there was some agreement and understanding that those very interrelated initiatives could be dealt with as a piece.

Mrs McLeod: Fully debated.

Mr Conway: Fully debated, I agree.

Interjection: Hearings.

Mr Conway: I will come to that in a moment.

Again I mention the 1971 precedent in Ottawa, because there you had a gathering together of government reorganization initiatives. In 1982, we had a gathering together of very controversial bills to implement the national energy program.

What have we here? We have here an unbelievable budget bill that seeks to take and wrap into one place an enormous number of hugely controversial government budget measures. And we have more, we have more. Hellish as Marc Lalonde and Bud Drury might have been in 1971 and 1982, we had at least the willingness of the government to say, "We will provide ample debate for these initiatives."

What have we here? We have this draconian piece of legislation and we have more. We have the statement of the government that we intend to pass this unprecedented, extraordinary budget bill in 20 days, with little or no debate in the chamber and no opportunity or very little opportunity for anyone outside of this place to come and tell us what they think of its several significant and controversial measures. I say, and I say advisedly, that not since March 1964, when Fred Cass announced the police bill have we seen in this place anything so extraordinary and unbelievable.

You're asking me to wind up, Mr Speaker, and I recognize that, but I want to make it clear that there is a very important issue at stake here -- and I'm sorry if I'm trying the patience of some honourable members -- but I want to say that there are people in Orillia who will be deeply concerned that this unbelievable bill gives sweeping new powers to the Minister of Health to unilaterally shut down Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Orillia without reference to anybody or anything.

I expect that people in Orillia and Oro township and in Penetanguishene will want some honourable members to stand in this House and say: "Hold on. Hold on here." We may want and expect change, but any bill that gives sweeping powers, unilateral powers to the Minister of Health to shut down public hospitals, to take over public hospitals, any bill that gives sweeping powers to the Minister of Municipal Affairs to reorganize municipalities, to create by regulation new regional governments, is a bill that they will care about in Montague township and in Arthur and in Clarkson and in Listowel and certainly in Renfrew.

I say this is what this bill does. Make no mistake of it. Make no mistake that this is extraordinary because of those incredible provisions. The government has clearly won a right to change the course of Ontario's public policy; they have not won the right, no government ought to have the right, ever, to proceed with such unilateralism, with such callous regard to an appropriate time for legislative scrutiny and public interest.

Let me quote but one reference from Beauchesne's Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada. Let me just cite what I think is an extremely important reference that underlies the governing spirit of the British parliamentary world, from which we have descended and of which we are all undoubtedly proud. Reading from page 3, citation 1, in Beauchesne's Rules and Forms, sixth edition, 1989,

"The principles of Canadian parliamentary law are:

"To protect a minority and restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority; to secure the transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to enable every member to express opinions within limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time; to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse."

I think that is very good and timely advice. Let me conclude with a couple of observations. One of Ontario's oldest newspapers, now Canada's national newspaper, arrives on our doorstep every morning with an injunction. Let me read it to you. I'm sure our friends at 444 Front Street, the proud heirs to the great tradition of George Brown, the proud founder of my party -- I'm sure that Messrs Thorsell, Coyne and Co would want me on this day especially --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Get on with it, Sean.

Mr Conway: -- to read this, and it is the advice of Junius. I want my friend from Nipigon to listen, because this is on the editorial page of the Globe and Mail every day and I think it is good advice to every member of this assembly and to every citizen in this democracy we call Ontario.

Quoting Junius, the Globe and Mail reminds us, "The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures." Junius was right and the Globe is right to, on a daily basis, remind us of that.

I say in conclusion that I cannot imagine a more arbitrary measure than this bill, and most especially the concept that we would pass it almost on the nod between now and Christmas. It would be, to me, a complete and utter abdication of our fundamental responsibilities.

This may be the way of Cobb county, Georgia, this may be the advice of the Republican National Committee, but this is not the way of the Ontario in which I have grown up and of which I am proud.

It is one sad and terrible thing for the new Premier of this province to so abjectly, so transparently, so wantonly, break faith with the people of Ontario and break his word on matters of health policy. But it is to add insult to injury when we have presented to us a budget bill that seeks to give this government new and unprecedented and, yes, dictatorial powers to march down its road of reform.

When does revolution become dictatorship? It becomes dictatorship when this House is presented with, and passes on the nod, Bill 26.


Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: The member for Renfrew North owes the people of Orillia and the good people who work on the front lines of Soldiers' Memorial Hospital an apology for scaremongering. He does a disservice to that community. He knows that is a high-performance hospital and there are no plans to close the hospital.


The Speaker: Order. I recognize the member for York South, the leader of the third party.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): Mr Speaker, I hope you will bear with me. It is not for any political reason but because of a tendency of the cold virus I get to affect my voice that I have to speak quietly. I hope no members will confuse the fact that I'm speaking quietly with the emotion I feel on this occasion.

Mr Speaker, I don't think you're going to make a more important decision than the one you have to make with relationship to this bill.

My colleague from Renfrew, in his quotation from Mr Speaker Lamoureux, put his finger on the problem, and that is this: I think it's well-established law and precedent in the House of Commons and in this Legislature that a government may introduce an omnibus bill. I don't think there's any question about that. While some of us may object to particular aspects of such a bill, the premise that a government can combine in one piece of legislation a variety of amendments to acts in order to carry out a common purpose or a common cause or a similar theme is without dispute.

Let me make the task of the House leader on the other side a little easier by saying to the Deputy Premier that if he wants to bring forward the precedents where he will say, "You did this and you did that and we did this and we did that," there's no dispute about that.

I think the test you have to apply, sir -- and it is not an easy test, but I believe it is the one you must apply in this instance -- is whether the government has not in fact drawn the net so wide in terms of the number of bills and type of bills and type of powers which are now given to ministers in different subject matters and covering different pieces of legislation that what we have is precisely the monster Mr Speaker Lamoureux referred to in his judgement.

That is a government which in one bill, in one single piece of legislation, brings together such serious matters with respect to legislation and advises us of its plans to proceed before Christmas, which is to say in two or three weeks maximum, that I think, sir, we have no choice but to ask you for some relief. We do so not simply in our own names, but we do so in the names of those citizens of the province whose rights are going to be affected very clearly by the legislation which the government intends to bring in. Let me show you how.

First of all, members hold up this act. That's not the story. This is the story. This is what we are being told we must pass before Christmas. This is what we are told is the government's agenda with respect to implementing the Common Sense Revolution, whatever phase we're in.

I'm here to say to you, Mr Speaker, that I think you've got a real problem on your hands. So does the government, frankly, and so do the citizens of the province.

Here I want to try to distinguish between the spirit of partisanship and the problem we all face as members. I'm going to refer to a number of pieces of legislation. My colleague from Windsor-Riverside has quite clearly shown the number of areas of public concern that are touched by the legislation which is proposed.

Having said that, let me say that I fully endorse the comments that were made by the Leader of the Opposition as well as by my colleagues from Renfrew and from Windsor-Riverside with respect to the manner in which this legislation was introduced. It was underhanded, it was by the back door, it was done at a time when we were all in a lockup and had no way of knowing what the content of the legislation was, no particular notice. There are a number of issues which my colleague has raised which are relevant and which cast doubt on the act itself.

But I want to refer to some broader issues, if you will permit me to, Mr Speaker, because while I don't think your judgement can be affected by politics, we are all in the game of politics, and therefore I think we have to see the broad political context in which we are working.

The government was elected with a very clear program, which program was referred to specifically in the speech from the throne. That program is a document to which, sir, you now must have reference, because it is a document to which the government itself in numerous statements in this Legislature has made direct reference. It is the guide to which we are all referred. That document has a program which can be summarized perhaps most effectively on the single sheet which is part of the platform which the Harris government distributed and still distributes as the program of the government.


That program says this, and I'm quoting directly from this document:

"This is what Mike Harris will do for Ontario:

"(1) Cut the provincial income tax rate by 30%. The average middle-class household will save $4,000 in the first three years.

"(2) Cut non-priority government spending by 20%. Health care, education and policing will not be included in spending cuts.

"(3) Eliminate barriers to job creation. Abolish payroll health tax, labour laws, and freeze Ontario Hydro rates.

"(4) Cut the size of government. Do better for less through rigid standards, privatization and contracting out."

"(5) Balance the budget in four years.

"This is the Common Sense Revolution and it will create more than 725,000 new private sector jobs.

"For more information, call 1-800-903-MIKE."

In the schedule which is attached to the short form of the bill -- I can only call it the short form, because this is the long form. We are told that it is the government's intention to bring in a bill which will have several schedules attached. To some of those schedules we can really have no particular objection because they do relate very directly to the announcement which has been made; they do relate very directly to the direction which has been set out.

But I must confess to you that when I read, for example, under schedule F, where we are told:

"Part II

"Amendments to the Public Hospitals Act

"The minister is given the broad power to fund hospitals in the public interest. The present requirement, in sections 5 and 6 of the Public Hospitals Act, that the minister fund hospitals in accordance with regulations, is removed." I'm quoting from the wording that's here. "The minister is given the power to reduce, suspend, withhold or terminate funding to a hospital if the minister considers it in the public interest to do so."

That comes, if I may say so, from a government that was elected with a very specific promise that it would cut non-priority government spending by 20% but that health care, education and policing would not be included in the spending cuts.

We find that the powers being given to the Minister of Health are the most draconian, the most absolute, the most dictatorial, I would say, in terms of the power given to one minister to exercise his discretion when he sees fit that I've ever seen in this province. And that is in respect to a service that was so important to this government that they promised they would not cut it, and it was on that basis that they won a mandate from the people of the province. Now, in the space of two weeks, they are asking us to simply lie down and let them take this away as if nothing had been done, as if no commitments had been made.

We have amendments to the Private Hospitals Act, to the Independent Health Facilities Act, to the Drug Benefit Act, to the Health Care Accessibility Act, to the Health Insurance Act and to the Physician Services Delivery Management Act which give powers to the minister to decide who shall practise medicine, where they shall practise medicine, when they shall practise medicine, on which terms they shall practise medicine. I say with great respect to my Conservative colleagues, if I or any one of my colleagues had suggested this in our time in government or if any of these individuals had suggested it in their time of government, you would have gone down there and waved the mace and taken it out of the Legislature.

It is unparalleled for a government to be giving these powers to the Minister of Health and to the general manager of the Ontario health insurance plan without any indication of a willingness to dialogue, without any indication of a willingness to have hearings, without any indication of a willingness to have a process by which this province will come to terms with these kinds of powers.

I say to my colleagues in the Conservative Party who are listening carefully to what I have to say, I say to each and every one of you that you will have no more power or authority than I do with respect to what happens to your hospital in your area. You will have no more ability to deal with it. My colleague from Etobicoke laughs. Let me tell my colleague that when we see a government that moves entirely by regulation, entirely by ministerial discretion, without so much as a "by your leave" to a legislative or legal process, that is a step down the road towards a province which we truly, I believe on balance, do not want to have.

With respect to municipalities, the powers being given to the Minister of Municipal Affairs are equally grave. The Minister of Municipal Affairs now has the unilateral right to decide what form a municipality may take. The cabinet can, by order in council, redraw the boundaries unilaterally -- unilaterally -- without so much as a hearing, without so much as a process, without so much as a "by your leave."

I'm not suggesting that the government couldn't do this with respect to the Municipal Act if it brought this legislation forward in amendments to the Municipal Act and said: "This is what we want to do. What would the normal process be?" I will outline for the many members who haven't been here before what the normal process in this instance would be.

The government would bring forward a piece of legislation. It would relate to the single subject matter of the Municipal Act. It would then be debated and sent to a committee. There would be an agreement that it was of such importance that hearings would be held. There would then be a chance to amend the bill and to change it. There's no opportunity to do that with this proposal from the government. There's no chance for that to take place with this particular proposal. There's no opportunity for that to happen.

I say to my colleagues from any part of the province, whether you live in the greater Toronto area or whether you live anywhere else, all the reforms being suggested to the GTA, who can make those? The Minister of Municipal Affairs can go to the Premier and say: "I think this is a good idea. What do you think? Let's go to the cabinet and get it done." Done. Bingo. Pow. Over. Over.

This goes too far. It goes too far. It does too much. It takes away too many powers from too many people, not just the members of this Legislature. I say to my colleagues, reflect for a moment on the implication. You are changing the terms and conditions under which doctors will be allowed to practise their profession in this province. Do you not think you have an obligation to discuss that with the physicians, to have hearings, to have a process under which that is done? They're going to take you to court. They'll take you to court on Monday. They've done it in British Columbia. They're done it in every other province. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeal when it was done in British Columbia.

I would say to my colleagues, you cannot proceed in this way, and, Mr Speaker, you cannot allow them to proceed in this way. You have to consider the implications of what it is the government is trying to do in a single piece of legislation. I would say to you, sir, that in the traditions of this House sometimes the Speaker is dragged to his or her chair when elected to the speakership. I think we know now why that is.

It's not just the members of the opposition who are looking to you to provide some kind of balance and some sense of propriety with respect to legislation of this kind. I would suggest to you that it is the citizens of the province. I would suggest to you that it is people who right now do not have voice, and so far they are not even aware of the dimensions and of the costs and consequences of what it is the government is intending to do.

Let me repeat and let me summarize, Mr Speaker. I do not think there is an argument that can be made that says that any and all omnibus bills are oppressive; I do not believe they are. I do, however, believe that we can think of such an instance where an omnibus bill presented in this way would be oppressive. I believe that on any fair test which you would apply, you would have to come to the conclusion that legislation which is so fundamental to the civil rights of the citizens of this province and to rights with respect to property, the right to practise a profession, the right to have a community institution which provides health care, the right to security with respect to the nature of the municipality in which you live -- all these are issues which, sir, you must recognize need to be dealt with by this House in a certain fashion.

I would say to you, Mr Speaker, that they are not being dealt with in that fashion in this instance. That is why I'm asking you to apply that test, the test that was put forward by Mr Speaker Lamoureux. There's too much here. But it's not just the fact that it's a big bill and that it's complicated; it's that it has too many implications for the civil liberties of the citizens of this province for you to allow it to be considered in the fashion in which the government is proposing it be considered.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, yesterday I attempted to rise in the House to register an objection on a point of order to the minister responsible for Management Board of Cabinet when he introduced this bill while most members of the Legislature and virtually all members of the news media were locked up across the street for the purposes of dealing with the financial statement of the government of this province. I did so because I was under the impression that something underhanded was happening and I was concerned that you, as Speaker, and members of the House would want to have a major piece of legislation of this kind introduced at a time when members were expecting it would be introduced and would be aware of its contents, because of its ramifications. Indeed, many of the items contained in this legislation, in this very important piece of legislation, reflect and deal with the statement that was made by the Treasurer in the House yesterday.

So I am concerned, as I know all members are, first of all, with the manner in which this was brought into the House. I'd refer to it in my language as sneaking it into the House while others were preoccupied. I don't think that is healthy for our democracy.

Second, I want to make a point very plainly and practically that the ability of members -- and this is why I believe it's a point of privilege -- of this House of all parties to deal with all of the provisions of this bill appropriately within the period of time that the government contemplates, and that is before the Christmas recess -- it is simply impossible to do justice to this legislation.

While I disagree profoundly with many of the powers that this allows for members of the government, with many of the provisions that are contained within this bill, I recognize the right of this government to introduce the bill and ultimately to pass the bill if it has the support of this House and is able to do so. My objection is to the fact that the government's almost entire agenda is contained in this piece of legislation. I indicated to the government House leader this morning at the meeting of House leaders that if the government were to ram this bill through, this piece of legislation -- very complex, dealing with over 40 different pieces of legislation in this province -- before Christmas, you might as well shut down the Legislature for the next four years and let the cabinet rule this province.

I think it's important for all members of the Legislature, not just those of us in the opposition -- and I've said this on many occasions -- I hope that the government non-cabinet members, those who aren't in the inner circle, Mr Speaker, as you and I are, individual members of this Legislature, will approach the cabinet and reproach it for the manner in which it has introduced legislation of this kind.

We are limited in the House, as you know, by the rules of this House to a 30-minute address on a piece of legislation, and yet this is so complex, it contains so many provisions, so many sweeping powers that take power away from the elected members of this Legislature and give it to non-elected people and to the cabinet that we cannot possibly do justice to this piece of legislation.

I think this government has made a big mistake. I think that you, as Speaker, have an opportunity to assist the government in overcoming this difficulty, even though I recognize it's not your responsibility to do so but rather to act on behalf of the members of this Legislature. But I believe the government has made a major error and that the government should withdraw this legislation. It would save you the problem of having to deal with this. But this could be solved if the government House leader were to withdraw this legislation and introduce the bills on an individual basis.

You can make a judgement on a government, or in fact on individuals, on what they do when nobody is looking, on what they do when they know they can get away with it. Now, those who are in charge of finally dealing with what gets into the printed media and on to the electronic media, the editors who make these judgements, have never found procedural matters or rules of the House to be particularly interesting. You'll find very few articles in newspapers or in magazines; you'll see very few clips, unless it's something unusual happening in this House, on television; and you'll hear little on radio about the rules and regulations and procedures and tactics that governments employ in a House.

Yet it's so vitally important to our democracy, because what this government is doing -- and you are part of this Legislature and I know you feel strongly about this parliamentary democracy that we have -- is circumventing democracy, not only through the provision of these bills -- and I would like to debate that later and will debate it later -- which take away from elected members.

We're the only people the people can get at. They can't get at the bureaucrats; they can't get at the advisers to government; they can only get at those of us who are elected on a term basis -- every three, four or five years' basis. So when you take that power away from the elected people and transfer it somewhere else, your democracy is diminished in this province.

The haste is understandable in some ways. The government is eager to get on with its legislation. If it were to pick out as a priority three, four or five bills that it would like to see get through this Legislature because it feels they are important and would have those debated, and have the others debated in January, when my colleagues and I and, I'm sure, all members of the House are prepared to return to debate important legislation, then I think democracy would be served.

Ultimately, the government can carry the case with 82 members, and that is the judgement the electorate has made and I always respect the electorate's judgement, whether or not I happen to agree with it. That is what democracy, that is what elections are all about.

If this is allowed to proceed, if this House is forced to deal with this matter in a very short period of time, with time allocation and closure motions, then I would say to you, Mr Speaker, that our democracy is the loser and the people of this province lose.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I will attempt to make my remarks brief and not repeat the points that have been made. There are three areas that I want to touch on.

First of all, with respect to the point of privilege that was raised and your actions yesterday in not receiving points of order from the floor, I want to indicate to you, as the Speaker, that you take actions and set precedents that of course the deputies who work under your guidance follow suit. Of course, I'm referring to the event that happened today in private members' hour at 12 o'clock. The Deputy Speaker, who was in the Chair, upon announcing the results of the vote on a private member's resolution, refused to recognize the member for Oakville South, who stood on a point of order, and indicated that that point of order would be dealt with later, much like your statement yesterday. I ask you to review that action at the same time as you respond to the points that have been made with respect to your actions yesterday.

Secondly, on the point of privilege with respect to the introduction of the bill while members of the opposition in particular were engaged in a review of the Minister of Finance's economic statement in a lockup, much similar to a budget procedure, I want to also ask you to look into an allegation that I have heard made.

It is my understanding that there were members of the government party who were also in the caucus lockup who received the same information and briefing as members of the opposition but who were in fact allowed to leave that lockup under escort to return to the House to be here in time for the Minister of Finance's economic statement, which is the normal procedure on budget days and the procedure that we in the New Democratic Party and, in my understanding, the members of the caucus of the Liberal Party, who also participated in their caucus lockup, were led to believe would be the case.

At 3:45 we requested our escort. We were told we would not be allowed to leave the lockup. We continued to request for that procedure to be observed as in past practice so that we could be here as members of this Legislature when the Minister of Finance was delivering that economic statement so that our privileges would be respected. We were refused the right to leave that lockup, as were the members of the Liberal caucus, as was the leader of the Liberal caucus and the leader of my party. As a result of such, many of you may have noticed that we arrived subsequent to the beginning of the reading of the economic statement and missed the first part of that.


I believe that is an intolerable infringement on the privileges of members of this House, and particularly in the discriminatory fashion, in the way in which that was applied, in that the members of the government back bench and members of the cabinet who were participating in their caucus lockup were allowed to leave and be escorted back in to be present for the reading of the economic statement in its entirety, and the members of the Liberal caucus and the New Democratic caucus were not treated in the same fashion.

Lastly, I just want to add to the points that have been made with respect to the omnibus bill that, as you review the comments of those who have raised and spoken to the point of order today, as you review the precedents from other legislatures and parliaments of this country, as you review the precedents of former governments in Ontario who have introduced omnibus bills, I believe the question and the test you must apply is, has the government stepped over the bounds of what a democracy will tolerate?

I believe, Mr Speaker, that you must, with the assistance of the Clerk and the staff of the Clerk's office, read the entire bill and read all of the compendiums, including the acts that are being amended that were not, and have not yet been, supplied to members of the opposition parties. You must read through it all, Mr Speaker, because I have been through this now three times -- I have not yet made my way through all of the compendiums; it will not be possible, I am sure, until some time next week, to have completed that -- and each time I am amazed at some other little piece that I find. For example, in schedule M, which is "Amendments to the Municipal Act and various other statutes related to municipalities, conservation authorities and transportation," I find that at the end of that, under a miscellaneous section, the Public Halls Act is being repealed.

I also find in another section that the word "vendor" is being repealed from the Milk Act, subsections 20(2), (3), (5) and (6) of that. I have no idea what that means, but I certainly know it's not related to statutes related to municipalities, conservation authorities and transportation, let alone the larger bill.

The only reason I draw that example out is to suggest to you that, in order to rule on this point of order, you must in fact read this entire document and all of the compendium documents to understand the variety of initiatives and the import of that variety of initiatives which have been strung together and are somehow being put forward as a response to the economic statement in a budget bill for this government. In fact, I believe as you go through that, you will find it is not.

Lastly, let me just say to you that I believe, in terms of the resolution of this issue, if you agree with the members who have risen on this point of order, the only option available to you would be to rule this bill entirely out of order and the government must revise its plans in terms of how it brings forward any piece of legislation related to this or proceeds on any of these initiatives.

It is not satisfactory at this point in time to say that we will have parts of this ruled out of order or that we will force a division into sub-bills. This bill, in its entirety, is out of order, and I believe when you review all of the precedents, the comments that have been made and the rulings in other jurisdictions, you will find that. I urge you to rule the entire bill out of order.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I would like to speak to the point of order raised. Unlike some members, I will not be dealing with the merits of the contents of the legislation, because I don't believe that's what the point of order is all about.

First of all, I heard an allegation that some standing orders were breached. I want to reiterate that, in my opinion as the government House leader, absolutely no standing orders were breached.

The opposition members who have spoken on this point of order have, I think, tried to leave the impression that they had no way of knowing that such a bill was going to be introduced. The opposition House leaders will know that they were contacted by my office and, as has been the tradition in the Ontario Legislature following an economic statement or a budget, as some members opposite absolutely insist on calling it, which actually relates some credibility to my argument, we asked for consent to revert to introduction of bills at the conclusion of the statement to introduce this bill. They steadfastly refused.

The NDP House leader said, "We're not going to do anything that would facilitate you passing legislation on this economic statement." That was their attitude. The opportunity was offered to them, as has been the tradition in this place since its inception. They turned it down. So I want to get that on the public record, because I notice none of them bothered to mention that that offer was made. They've totally ignored it.

Mrs McLeod: I can't believe this.

Hon Mr Eves: That is the way it has always been done, I say to the leader of the official opposition. She knows that. We've always reverted to introduction of bills to introduce a budgetary or economic bill --


Hon Mr Eves: No, the same day.


Hon Mr Eves: I have it right here, Jim, I say to the opposition House leader, the last budget that Floyd introduced.

Ms Lankin: Then you are going to lose it.

Hon Mr Eves: I'm not going to lose it. I noticed how you 'fessed up about how open and honest you were about it.

Mr Speaker, you will know that this is not the first time that we have had this discussion here in the Legislature regarding omnibus bills, which is what this point of order is all about. Omnibus bills have been around for a long time. There are many precedents and rulings about the acceptability of omnibus bills.

The former NDP government used omnibus format at least five times during its tenure. Three of those bills combined budget measures into single pieces of legislation. Speakers have been asked to rule on the admissibility of omnibus bills many times. Speakers in many parliaments have invariably ruled that they lack the authority to stipulate what can or cannot be included in a government bill. Speakers' rulings on the procedural propriety of omnibus bills time and time again ruled that they are in order. Bill 26 is not precedent-setting.

Bill 175, introduced in 1994 by the NDP government, amended 139 statutes involving 14 different ministries. By comparison, Bill 26 amends 47 statutes involving 10 ministries. With regard to Bill 175, Deputy Speaker Gilles Morin ruled, and I quote: "Previous members, both in this House and other parliaments, have often expressed their concern about omnibus bills. I do share these concerns. However, it is not the responsibility of a Speaker to take upon himself or themselves to split proposed legislation. Furthermore, in the past, when omnibus legislation has been split, it has always been as a result of an agreement between the House leaders."

Another Speaker's ruling, Acting Speaker Villeneuve, on another NDP omnibus bill, Bill 143, stated that the Chair did not have the authority "to dictate to any cabinet member what should be in an omnibus bill."

In the Canadian House of Commons there have been many rulings by many different Speakers who have all ruled that omnibus bills are in order. In one of these rulings, Speaker Sauvé stated: "It may be that the House should accept rules or guidelines as to the form and content of omnibus bills. But in that case, the House, and not the Speaker, must make those rules."

The only procedural criterion to which omnibus legislation should conform is set out in Beauchesne, which was quoted today, and I will reiterate it: "Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of a bill, there should be a theme of relevancy amongst the contents of a bill. They must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill."

The long title of this bill is An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring, Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda. As long as the pieces in this bill relate in some way, shape or form to that long title that I have just read, Beauchesne has ruled that it has to be in order.

Bill 26, the short title, Savings and Restructuring Act, does indeed have a theme of relevancy among its components. Quite simply, it provides the tools the public sector needs to achieve fiscal savings and restructuring. Our economic statement and this supporting legislation will help us build a new relationship with our transfer partners and it will help us to redesign the public sector to improve productivity while delivering important services more efficiently and at less cost.

Nevertheless, Speakers' rulings, precedents and the tradition all support the practice of using one bill to demand one decision on a number of different, although related, subjects. Speakers have been quite clear that they cannot dictate what is in a bill, nor can they intervene to divide a bill.


I want to talk to you now, Mr Speaker, about some of the omnibus bills in the 35th Parliament, which the members of the third party may be familiar with. They introduced the following omnibus bills when they were in government:

Bill 29, the Budget Statute Law Amendment Act, 1993, amended 14 acts to effect the government's restraint program and eliminated the commercial concentration tax.

Bill 81, the Expenditure Reduction and Non-Revenue Statute Law Amendment Act, 1993, amended seven statutes in order to implement revenue-raising and expenditure-reducing measures announced in the 1993 budget.

Bill 160, the Budget Measures Act, 1994, amended 16 acts to implement measures contained in the 1993 and 1994 budgets.

Bill 175, the Statute Law Amendment Act, amended over 100 statutes affecting matters falling within the jurisdiction of 14 different ministries.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): You said this wasn't a budget. There is a difference.

Hon Mr Eves: And you say it is. You can't have it both ways over there.


The Speaker: The member for Essex South, you're out of order.

Hon Mr Eves: As the honourable members opposite seem to be concerned about this, I would like to briefly run through how the individual contents of Bill 26 indeed do have relevancy and a common theme and relate to the long title of the bill.

Section A, public salary disclosure. Mentioned in the financial statement. Accountability is a key element of public sector restructuring.

Corporations tax changes and income tax changes. Mentioned in the statement. Cleaning up issues is an aspect of our agenda, those left over from the 1993 and 1994 budgets of the previous government that didn't even have the legislative decency to pass a law but did bother to collect the revenue for two and a half years, in some cases. Talk about parliamentary democracy and decency.

Section D, the Ontario Loan Act. Not explicitly mentioned in the statement. Made clear we have a deficit. As long as there's a deficit, there will be need to borrow. It is a routine piece of financial legislation. It is an aspect of the economic agenda.

Section E, toll highway legislation. Making sure Highway 407 pays for itself is indeed an aspect of public sector restructuring. The previous government obviously thought so, or they wouldn't have done it. Changing the way we do business. Completing the 407 will promote economic prosperity.

Section F, health services restructuring. Explicitly mentioned in the statement. These provisions are all about public sector restructuring, streamlining and efficiency.

Section G, Ontario drug benefit plan. Mentioned in the statement. These changes will achieve fiscal savings. Again directly related to the statement.

Section H, health insurance and related changes. Physician supply and control. Mentioned in the statement. Part of public sector restructuring. Streamlining and efficiency will also achieve fiscal savings.

Section I, physician services delivery management. Will allow us to get out of OMA agreements implicit. Mentioned in the fiscal statement. Stop paying doctors' malpractice insurance premiums. Gives the government the flexibility to restructure, streamline and achieve efficiencies. Will also achieve fiscal savings.

Section J, pay equity. One of the tools some transfer partners asked us for, one of the ways we are helping transfer partners do better with less. It's an aspect of public sector streamlining and efficiency.

Section K, freedom of information. One of the tools some of the transfer partners asked for. By reducing costs, will help us achieve fiscal savings. By streamlining and simplifying the process, supports streamlining and efficiency in the public sector.

Section L, pension amendments. Gives the government the flexibility it needs to implement public sector restructuring. Can also be said to be a streamlining and efficiency measure.

Section M, municipal redesign. Specifically mentioned in the statement. Helps the government achieve fiscal savings. Provides for public sector restructuring, streamlining and efficiency.

Section N relates to MNR statutes. Implicitly mentioned in the statement. When you take a long hard look at what the government should or should not be doing, getting in our out of certain businesses, it will certainly help us achieve fiscal savings and involve streamlining and efficiency.

The Mining Act will achieve fiscal savings. Helps promote economic prosperity throughout, streamlining the operation of the Ontario Mining Act.

Section P, Correction Services Act. Mentioned in the statement since this change was not part of the July reduction. It achieves fiscal savings. Reducing the parole board quorum also is an exercise in restructuring, streamlining and efficiency.

Section Q, interest arbitration. Helps us achieve fiscal savings, one of the tools requested by the transfer partners. Part of restructuring, streamlining and efficiency, an aspect of the economic agenda.

Mr Speaker, I understand where the opposition parties are coming from. I understand that they don't like the legislation, but when you look at what the previous government has done --

Ms Lankin: We want fair debate, public scrutiny.

Hon Mr Eves: I'm glad the honourable member for Beaches-Woodbine mentioned public scrutiny, because I'm going to tell how much public scrutiny they gave two of their big omnibus bills.

Bill 160, the Budget Measures Act: They let it be debated in the House for all of two days, they sent it to committee for all of 45 minutes, and they gave it all of 35 minutes' debate on third reading. That was their version of democracy on a gigantic omnibus bill, but they're complaining about it today.

Bill 175, another omnibus bill: The previous government gave it three days of second reading debate, let it go to committee of the whole for all of 20 minutes -- that was big of them -- and gave it one hour and 45 minutes' debate on third reading.

And they're complaining about the amount of time this proposed omnibus bill is going to get in this place? Give me a break.

To quote Mr Laughren with respect to Bill 29: "This bill amends 14 acts to effect the expenditure-reduction and revenue-raising measures referred to in the budget. In addition, the bill eliminates the commercial concentration tax this year and implements expenditure-reduction measures announced last April as part of this government's deficit reduction strategy."

They did the same thing with respect to Bill 160 and with respect to Bill 175.

I at least give the honourable member for Oriole marks for consistency because when she was speaking against the omnibus bill, Bill 160, she said: "This will set a precedent which I predict will be used by future governments. The precedent has been set and established to deal with budgetary matters flowing from the provincial budget in one piece of omnibus legislation."

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): And what did you say?

Hon Mr Eves: You know very well what I said, and you know very well what Mr Charlton said and what Mr Cooke said before him and what Mr Laughren said, and the Liberal members know exactly what they said when they introduced omnibus legislation before that government.

I understand their frustration, but the point is that there is nothing out of order and Bill 26 is entirely in order.

Mrs McLeod: A point of privilege, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: A new point of privilege?

Mrs McLeod: Yes it is a new point of privilege. I believe the Minister of Finance has attempted to present a technical defence of the indefensible. But Mr Speaker, I would ask you to return to the original point of privilege which was raised in this House.

I think many speakers this afternoon have made it clear that you face an exercise of judgement, quite clearly an exercise of judgement on the issues both of order and of the original point of privilege which I raised. I suggest to you that it is not a matter just of process; it is a matter of the way in which process and substance have worked together in the introduction of this bill to violate the privileges of the members of this House.

The point of privilege, Mr Speaker, is anything which makes it impossible for us as elected, responsible members to carry out our responsibilities, and I submit to you again that this bill, in its substance as well as in the way in which it was introduced, makes it impossible for us to carry out our duties.

Further, I think the Minister of Finance has just made it abundantly clear that there was considerable time and considerable effort over a long period that went into the development of what are clearly not just housekeeping amendments but extensive changes to an extensive number of acts providing sweeping new powers and changing the very way in which government is exercised in this province.

Mr Speaker, I submit to you that if the government had the time and the effort to carry out in secret and without consultation this kind of an exercise, it must provide to the members of the Legislative Assembly sufficient opportunity to debate it. I do not believe that the Minister of Finance can possibly suggest that responsible members of this House would ever agree to the introduction, the debate and the vote on something which clearly cannot be fully considered in this place.

The Speaker: I've listened fully to all of the remarks that have been made and I will reserve any judgement and report back to you next week.




Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Earlier today, I announced changes to the Ontario drug benefit and Trillium drug programs that will bring fairness to these programs. I'm pleased to share details of these changes with members of the Legislature.

Too many people have found the current deductible under the Trillium drug program beyond reach. By lowering the deductible, we are now making the program accessible to 140,000 more low-income earners in this province. That's 140,000 more Ontarians who will now receive assistance with their unmanageable drug costs.

Ontario is the last province to introduce cost-sharing for its drug programs. For example, in British Columbia, there is a $200 deductible for seniors, and then they pay the whole dispensing fee up to another $200 per year. In Saskatchewan, social assistance recipients pay about $2 for each of their prescriptions.

Ontario is now asking ODB recipients to pay a small portion of their drug costs. We must act now to keep the Ontario drug benefit program affordable and sustainable for the neediest and most vulnerable in our society. These changes will also allow the government to add new drugs that come on to the market, something that's long overdue in this province.

As we have promised, we are making these changes while protecting low-income seniors and social assistance recipients. Seniors earning less than $16,000 per year, senior couples earning less than $24,000 per year and social assistance recipients will pay only a $2 copayment for each prescription filled. Residents of our nursing homes and homes for the aged, as well as home care recipients, will also pay only the $2 copayment per prescription. This means that 80% of all social assistance recipients will pay less than a total of $20 per year, and 60% of all low-income seniors will pay less than a total of $40 per year.

The program will also be fair for seniors earning more than these amounts. We are now asking higher-income seniors to pay the first $100 of their prescriptions each year, and then up to the maximum $6.11 ODB dispensing fee for each prescription thereafter.

Ontario drug benefit program spending has tripled over the last 10 years and now costs us over $1.2 billion each year. But these changes will save an estimated $225 million and will now cover 2.5 million people, or 21% of all Ontarians.

Under new rules, by comparing prices, consumers can find the best price when it comes to the prescription costs and dispensing fees.

Unlike the previous two governments, who had it all figured out, who'd done all the studies and all the testing of these programs, we have the courage to move forward, to follow through with real drug program reform to keep our program affordable and sustainable for the people of Ontario.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): It's in great sadness and enormous anger that I rise today in the House to respond to the minister's statement, where he has admitted to breaking his most important and first commitment to the people of this province, the promise that they would not introduce new user fees. The Premier himself admitted that a copayment is a user fee. You promised in the election that there would be no new user fees, and your proposals today are user fees by any other name.

There are 400,000 children on welfare in the province of Ontario. As a mother of four children, I know they get ear infections and strep throats, and each one of those children, whose parents have just had their welfare payments cut by almost 22%, are now going to have to pay $2 for every prescription when their children get sick.

There are seniors and disabled persons in this province that you promised would not be hurt by your cuts. That was a very clear statement in your election document: You would not hurt seniors and disabled persons. There are tens of thousands of seniors and disabled persons who will have to now pay $2 per prescription, and there are others who will pay your deductible and your dispensing fee on top of that, and that is clearly a broken promise to seniors and disabled persons.

Minister, I would point out to you that in this statement it is not only what you say, it is what you don't say.

You don't say that you repeal your requirement as a minister to negotiate with pharmacists. That's gone.

You say that you'll be able to add new drugs. What you don't say is that you will unilaterally be able to deny adding any drug and that any due process for pharmaceutical manufacturers is gone.

You don't say that your new legislation gives you arbitrary new powers to cut funding, when only you decide that there is a public interest.

You don't say that you will have the unilateral power to close hospitals in this province.

You don't say that you will have the unilateral power to appoint supervisors who will take over the boards of any hospital that deems to stand up and shout, for no other reason than that you will decide it is not in the public interest. You can walk in and wipe out that board.

The powers you have in this omnibus bill will allow you day-to-day interference with the running of those hospitals. I predict that if this legislation passes, it is nothing short of expropriation of Ontario hospitals. It is not only government control, it is potentially government-run, and any individual who now serves as a voluntary board member will fear your powers, because they are wrong.

Minister, I sat in your chair. Yes, I did. As Minister of Health for the province of Ontario, I said: "I don't want those powers. I know what the options are. I don't want those powers because I don't believe that any Minister of Health should have those powers, today or in the future."

I can tell you that your powers to conscript doctors in this province, to determine where they will practise, how they will practise and how they will be paid goes far beyond your statement today simply on drugs.

This minister has an obligation. Not only was I locked up yesterday and not given the opportunity to object to first reading of this bill -- and I would argue that all the components simply of health legislation would make this omnibus bill contrary to the statutes and out of order -- but today, when I nicely asked the minister if I could attend the briefing he has offered to interest groups, I was told no, I could not attend and neither could my staff, that I was not invited. Yesterday I was locked up; today I was locked out.

I am not even speaking to the powers under the Independent Health Facilities Act, which according to my reading, and I stand to be corrected, could declare any doctor's office in this province an independent health facility under the act and give the minister or his designate the power to enter those offices and to disclose private information, because he talks about disclosure. He repeals any liability powers the government would have for anyone to challenge in the courts any edict he would make.


I would say not only are these powers dictatorial, but after a $1.5-billion cut Mike Harris lied to the people of this province during the election, Jim Wilson lied to the people of this --

Mrs Caplan left the chamber.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Further responses? Third party, the leader of the third party.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): I thought I might read to the House some of the statements made by the Conservative Party prior to the election.

"`If I don't live up to anything that I have promised to do and committed to do, I will resign,' Harris said." Toronto Star, May 31, 1995.

"Over a three-year period beginning immediately after the election, total spending, except for health care, will be cut by 20%." Common Sense Revolution, page 7.

"We will not cut health care spending." Common Sense Revolution, page 7.

"We should be talking about ways to create jobs -- not how much to cut health care." PC news release, March 7, 1995, with a heading, "Mr Chrétien: Don't Shrink Health Care -- Grow the Economy."

"Quality, accessible health care is at the top of my list of essentials." PC news release, March 7, 1995, same heading.

"One of the most important things we can do is safeguard our health care system, a treasured Canadian institution." PC news release, May 3, 1995.

"Mike Harris government views full protection of current health care spending as a crucial investment in our future." PC news release, May 3, 1995.

"`Our detailed program ensures that we can cut taxes and government spending while protecting Ontarians' priority areas of health care, classroom education and community safety,' Harris said." PC news release, May 3, 1995.

"Key to Harris health care management reform plan are the following commitments: `No cuts to health care spending. No new user fees.'" PC news release, May 3, 1995.

"The demands on the health care system will only increase as the result of demographic changes, primarily the aging population and population growth. For this reason, a Mike Harris government views `full protection of current health care spending as a crucial investment in our future.'" PC news release, May 3, 1995.

"Mike Harris and his caucus publicly rejected new user fees as an effective way to ensure adequate funding for our health care system." PC news release, May 3, 1995.

"Aid to seniors and the disabled will not be cut." CSR, page 10.

With the changes introduced yesterday -- it is very clear that one's choice of parliamentary language is obviously dictated by precedent -- but I can only conclude that this government has broken every single pledge it made on health care before, prior and during the last provincial election, every one.

It promised no new user fees; it is introducing new user fees. It promised it would not cut aid to seniors and the disabled. Think about this: Disabled people who are on social assistance are the people who use the drug plan the most. They are the most dependent, they are the most reliant on the drug plan and they are the people who are part of the 50% of disabled people who will be paying far more than $40 a year for their drugs. This is a cost which has been imposed on them that no government in this province since the 1970s has thought it wise, advisable or fair to do.


The minister opposite says, "You never did it." You're darned right. We looked at it; of course we looked at it -- I'm sure the Liberal Party looked at it as well -- and having looked at it, we concluded that there was no way to impose a user fee on seniors or on the disabled in a way that would not end up being unfair and would not end up being purely and simply a tax on the sick.

This is a government which now says it is the policy of Tory Ontario to tax sick people, to tax sickness, to tax the disabled, to tax seniors and to tax them --

Hon Mr Wilson: You delisted 380 drugs; 380 you took off.

Mr Rae: -- and at the same time the minister who is shouting from his place has accruing to himself more arbitrary powers than any Minister of Health, has dared to come forward -- and he doesn't even have the guts to present the bill in his own name. He doesn't even have the guts to present the bill as if it's a health bill. He has to hide behind the cover of the breaches of faith and the breaches of commitment that are contained in the Common Sense Revolution.

We heard the Premier on many occasions go on talk shows and elsewhere saying: "I'm a different kind of guy. I'm Mike. I'm big and gruff." The Premier has not kept his promise. The Premier, if he had an inch of political integrity in him today, would say, "I did not keep my promise and therefore I'm going to resign." That's exactly what the Premier should do.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): It's difficult to know how to begin this question period, because we all remember the absolute commitment which the now Premier made to the people of this province.

It was a commitment that he said was his first and most important commitment: that a Conservative government would protect health care. It was a commitment that he made and that he put in writing: that a Conservative government would not introduce any new user fees. Today his Minister of Health has the sheer arrogance to come into this House and make an announcement which not only confirms the broken promise, but rubs salt in the wounds of the welfare recipients and the seniors who will now be taxed because they are sick.

It was a commitment that the now Premier made over and over again that he would protect health care: Not a penny would be cut from health care. He could protect the services that people need and not a penny would be cut from health care. It was this Premier's first and most important commitment to the people of this province by his own words.

Premier, I ask you, how could you break your first and most important commitment? How could you break your promise to the people of this province? How could you break your promise on health care?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the question and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the health care envelope. What I think was one of the most significant commitments we made was to maintain health care funding at $17.4 billion. I might add that I believe in the red book there were four references that the Liberals would maintain it at $17 billion, but we felt $17.4 billion was the figure when we made the commitment, and we'd stick to the $400 million more than the Liberals would commit to.

We went into the campaign with this commitment. In fact, when we did our health care announcement in the campaign, it was, I think, at University Hospital in London, Ontario, where we said we must find savings in the health care systems. We said we are going to find savings. We made that commitment. Then, the same day, we said we will reinvest those savings back into health care.

There will be savings over the next three years as a result of the announcement that was made today. As those savings are made, our commitment is that we will reinvest them back into those priority areas of health care.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Lawrence is not in his own seat.

Hon Mr Harris: This, I believe, is consistent with statements made by the government. I have all their quotes about taking money out of institutions and finding smarter ways of spending it. I have all the quotes from the former Minister of Health, who was thrown out of the House today in disgrace, who said the same thing.

I would say to the Legislature that we will honour our commitment. The only difference between our approach and the approach of the other two parties is we want to find the savings first so that we don't end up with $10-billion deficits before we reinvest our money.


Mrs McLeod: Not today, not after this government. It won't work today. It won't work the day after a government that said it wouldn't cut a penny of health care takes $1.3 billion away from the hospitals of this province. It won't work after a government that said "No new user fees" brings in a user fee for health care for seniors and for welfare recipients.

We have heard all the weasel words before, smooth words that simply serve to try and hide the reality of what happened. This government said, "Not a penny out of health care." Yesterday, Premier, you took $1.5 billion out of the health care budget. It was a cut. It can't be described as anything else.

Your Minister of Finance said he was cutting $6 billion to help to solve the deficit problem that was keeping him awake at night; $1.5 billion of that $6 billion in cuts was a cut to health care, and his ministry officials confirmed that this $1.5 billion was going to show a reduced deficit. It was a cut, and the biggest single cut that you announced yesterday, Premier, was a cut to the health care budget.

How did "Not a single penny from health care" become $1.5 billion?

Hon Mr Harris: To the honourable member, as you know, we have already made significant reinvestment announcements in the health care field, almost weekly there by the minister, into paramedics, immunization, a number of other areas. The minister can go through the litany of new costs that will be there.

In the statement yesterday was an indication that as part of the restructuring to really do our best to stay within the $17.4-billion envelope -- we're still concerned that we may be in excess of that -- but to be able to stay in there, we ought to listen to the health care professionals, we ought to listen to those that are there. We ought to respect many of the things that you have said in your party and the other party, that there are smarter ways to spend; that the problem in health care wasn't the dollars, it was how they were being spent.

We're confident, and the hospitals themselves have told us that over the three-year period they believe they can restructure themselves to live within these commitments. There will be reinvestments that will have to be made. There will be restructuring costs, I'm sure, that you will hear the minister have to announce over the three-year period. There will be other areas of health-funding pressures, I'm sure, to seniors, to new technology, to heart surgery, as you know. The minister is talking about this as well.

In order to fund up to $1.5 billion in new areas of priorities over the next three-year period, starting with the budget, it was actually three and a half years, what we are going to have to do is find that amount of savings. That's what we are doing, with the help of our partners.

Mrs McLeod: Yesterday the Minister of Finance made a statement to the people of this province in which he said he had reduced his budget, he had made spending cuts of some $6 billion. But $1.5 billion of those spending cuts were cuts to health care.

The issue that is on the table today, Premier, is your words and your commitment, which seemed so very clear just a few short months ago. It was so clear during the election campaign. The seduction was not even very subtle, because you told the people of this province that they could have it all: that they could have a balanced budget; that they could have the cut to income tax; and that they could have their health care protected, not a penny of health care would be touched. Over and over and over again, "Not a penny of health care will be touched."

Yesterday you took $1.5 billion out of the health care budget as your spending cut to help pay for your income tax cut for the well-to-do. Premier, it became apparent yesterday that you had lied to the people of Ontario. Why did you lie to the people of this province?

The Speaker: Order. You cannot accuse another member in this Legislature of lying. Would the honourable member withdraw them, please.

Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, I acknowledge your concern. I've been a member of this Legislature for eight and a half years. I care about what we do here, but I will withdraw voluntarily from the Legislature rather than condone the hypocrisy being perpetrated by this government.

Mrs McLeod left the chamber.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Why did you lie to the people of Ontario, Premier? Why did you lie?

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Colle: Why did you lie to the seniors? Why did you lie? No new user fees, you said. You lied to them. Why did you lie to them?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): Be a man.

Mr Colle: He lied to the people of Ontario. You be a man and stand down. You talk about being a man?

Hon Mr Palladini: Well, you are not.

Mr Colle: Don't you preach to me about being a man, Mr Palladini.

The Speaker: Order. I have no alternative but to name the member for Oakwood. Would the Sergeant at Arms please take the member out.

Mr Colle was escorted from the chamber.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): The second question is to the leader of the government. Oh, these are the people. These are the kneecapping, groin-kicking Republican National Committee men of Ontario. Oh, yes. They think they can sashay through the Victoria by-election and pull the stunts they saw and did in the last general election, and then they think we should come into this chamber today and on their behalf play by the rules of mid-19th century Victorian gentlemen. I'm sorry, ladies and gentleman of the Newt Gingrich Ontario club, you can't have it both ways. Don't be surprised at the level of anger and upset when today those of us who were in the election campaign hold you to account for what you said and what you promised.

Premier, my outrage today on health care concerns this budget bill, Bill 26. How dare you, after cutting $1.5 billion out of the health budget -- and make no mistake about it. Your officials were in that budget lockup yesterday telling anyone who asked that those were $1.5 billions that were directly credited to the savings figure that the Minister of Finance was bragging about. How dare you, having broken faith on health and hospital care, having cut $1.5 billion, that you said would never happen --

The Speaker: Put your question.

Mr Conway: How could you possibly walk in here today and defend this draconian budget bill, which, among other things, seeks to give the Minister of Health the unilateral power to close down any public hospital in this province that he cares to?

Hon Mr Harris: I appreciate the opportunity to be able to respond to the campaign, the Common Sense Revolution, to the commitments we made to the people of Ontario and to the --

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Not one cent will be cut from health care, Mike, remember that?

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East.

Hon Mr Harris: -- $17.4 billion envelope. I'm proud and pleased because it's $400 million more than the Liberals were prepared to commit to, and we are seeing through the response and the questioning that the Liberals in the campaign had no commitment to balancing the budget at all. They've not supported one cent of expenditure reduction there, and so they've joined the -- we knew the NDP wouldn't. They were prepared to tax and spend and deficit. But now we've found the Liberal Party just the same.

Let me quote, and obviously some people have seen the statement yesterday in different ways, but let me quote, if I might, Tom Closson, president of the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, and what he read into the statement yesterday:

"I think it's a really good plan for the hospital sector. One, the plan commits to the $17.4 billion at the end of the term for health care and that's good."

Not only is that commitment to $17.4 billion --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Why don't you defend your statement? You said not a penny would be cut. You've cut $1.5 billion.

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine, come to order.

Hon Mr Harris: It is recognized by many people that are out there as a commitment and that it was honoured in the statement that was made yesterday, and indeed it will be.

Mr Conway: I'm not surprised Mr Closson and the Sunnybrook are happy and that you would cite them, because anyone who knows anything knows that Sunnybrook, with your blessing, will be taking over Women's College Hospital. Let there be no confusion about that.

But I want to come back, Premier, because for me the real issue here is honour. I know something about electoral campaigns, I know something about the give and take, but I'll tell you -- and I have known Mike Harris for 15 years. I've watched him, I've listened to him, never more carefully than in the recent electoral campaign, where he would say anything, he would sign anything. Oh, he was a man for all seasons. You made a solemn, sacred promise on health care which has been widely quoted, but let me repeat: "Not a penny will be taken from the health budget, because we consider that a priority. Trust me. I won't touch it."


Now, having cut $1.5 billion out of the health and particularly the hospital budget, how can you possibly justify the kinds of dictatorial measures that are contained in this obnoxious budget bill that you want passed within 15 to 18 days from this moment? Isn't it unconscionable that having broken your promise on health and hospital care, you now have the unadulterated gall to walk in here and say, "Give my Minister of Health and my government the unilateral power to shut down and take over any public hospital in Ontario"?

Hon Mr Harris: The question is based upon a premise that somehow or other we're going to go back to the people in the year 1999, 2000, 2001, whenever the next election will be -- maybe 1998 -- without having reinvested the savings that we need to find in health care. With the statement that was made yesterday, not a penny was cut from health care today, but there was an indication that beginning next year -- in some cases not till June, in other cases later on next year -- we would be seeking to find $1.5 billion through restructuring savings, through spending smarter, in the health care system so that we could accommodate the announcements that will be made over a period of time and over the next three-year period, as we're there, for reinvestment --

Ms Lankin: Then your deficit number is not true. You applied those numbers against your deficit. Which is it?

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine is out of order.

Hon Mr Harris: A false premise, I would say. We have no plans not to honour our commitment to the penny on the health care envelope, and since the questioner didn't like Mr Closson's quote, let me then go to Humber Memorial Hospital, which some outsiders, independent analysts appointed by the former government, suggested shouldn't have the same fate as Sunnybrook. Mark Rochon, president and chief executive officer, says, "I think it's important people recognize these actions are required if we're to preserve medicare for future generations." We're interested in preserving medicare for future generations.

Mr Conway: That, Mr Premier, is a canard. That and your several other utterances today are nitwittery, incessant nitwittery. You said publicly a few months ago that you had trouble with numbers. Well, it's quite clear you have trouble with numbers. I think you have some kind of selective amnesia, because you don't seem to remember what you said, and you said it clearly and you said it repeatedly. You promised, and you've advertised yourself as a new kind of politician. Well, yesterday with the budgetary statement, we saw the true colour of the real Mike Harris. You broke faith fundamentally and blatantly on your most important commitment.

Mr Premier, what we now see and what we now know is that over the several months leading up to and during the Ontario election campaign, with ease and with frequency, with aplomb and with amorality, you lied. You lied through your teeth. Where I come from I am afraid, notwithstanding your 19th-century Victorian conventions --

The Speaker: Order. Order.

Mr Conway: -- you call a spade a spade and you have to call a liar a liar. I regretfully have to, Mr Premier, call a liar a liar, because that's what you are on health and hospital care.

Mr Conway left the chamber.

The Speaker: When he comes back tomorrow, he will have to withdraw.

Leader of the third party.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): I'm sending, and I hope the Premier will bear with me --

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Order. The member has a point of personal privilege.

Mr Sergio: Mr Speaker, you have uttered some brand-new rules which I have missed. Can you please repeat them to this House?

The Speaker: Order. Leader of the third party, question.


The Speaker: A member is not allowed to call another member a liar in this Legislature. If the member gets up and walks out on his own without being named, then he will have the opportunity to withdraw the next time he comes back in the chamber. That's what I uttered.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): You uttered the word "apology"; you said "apology."

Mr Agostino: You said he should apologize.

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Agostino: Point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I have ruled on the point of order; the point of order is over.

Mr Agostino: Mr Speaker, I rise on another point of personal privilege: What you said was, he has to apologize.

Mr Sergio: You have one rule for this side of the House and another for that side of the House.

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Agostino: That's what you said, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: We will review what the record said. Order.

Mr Crozier: You know you said it; it will be in your mind.

The Speaker: Order. Would the member take his seat, please.

Mr Agostino: Can you rule on the point?

The Speaker: Would the member take his seat.

Mr Agostino: Will you rule on the point?

The Speaker: Will the member take his seat, please. The leader of the third party has a question.

Mr Rae: I have sent over to the Premier a copy of a leaflet that was widely distributed in my constituency on behalf of the Conservative Party. It was the simplest expression of the Common Sense Revolution. The second statement in that document is quite simply: "This is what Mike Harris will do for Ontario: (2) Cut non-priority government spending by 20%. Health care, education and policing will not be included in spending cuts."

Premier, the question I have for you is this: There are today watching, I'm sure, and there are also in the gallery today, senior citizens who took your pledge seriously. It was a twofold pledge: first, expressed in different ways, that health care spending would not be cut, and second, that you would not introduce user fees for health services -- which many people, in a commonsense fashion, interpreted as meaning that you would not introduce user fees for drugs. Particularly, they felt that way because another clear sentence in the Common Sense Revolution is, "Aid to seniors and the disabled will not be cut."

I want to ask the Premier, would he at least allow that there were and are a lot of people who thought that what the Premier clearly meant by those remarks and what the Conservative Party meant by those remarks was that we would not have the kind of cuts to hospital expenditure, the kind of cuts to drug benefits in terms of the additional $225 million being extracted from seniors and from disabled people? Would you not agree with me that they might be entitled to expect at least an apology or an explanation from the government for why what it is doing is so different from what they are now about to experience?

Hon Mr Harris: I believe that the member raises a serious question and it gets to the credibility of governments and of campaigns. While I would be the first to say I'm not sure we need to take any lessons from the two parties raising these questions, let me respond to the question as it pertains to our campaign.


I would acknowledge that if some listened to the member questioning -- his interpretation -- they might get that view. But what I would ask people to do is to reflect on the election campaign, to the health care announcement and the release that went out referencing the Common Sense Revolution.

We said, "The key to the Harris health care management plan" -- this is the release on health care that referenced it. We said, "No cuts to health care spending," to the overall health care spending.


Hon Mr Harris: Just a minute. "Reinvest savings from eliminating waste and fraud."

Where do these reinvestments come from? We've got to cut out waste and fraud. "Local cost recovery incentives, identifying provincial priorities for reinvestment of provincial savings." These were the parts we talked about.

In the same press release we cited a recent Queen's University -- University of Ottawa study which found that health care expenditures could be reduced by 9% through new efficiencies. We haven't identified --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): That is not what you said in the election.

Hon Mr Harris: This is what we said during the election, excuse me. This is the election press release. We haven't identified the 9% yet, as others have said, but we did say we must find savings within the system if we're going to be able to reinvest and fund new priorities, and that is exactly what we are planning to do.

Mr Rae: When people read the words "Cut non-priority government spending by 20%. Health care, education and policing will not be including in spending cuts," perhaps senior citizens and others could be forgiven for taking the government and the leader of the Conservative Party at their word.

Perhaps I could, by way of supplementary, ask with respect to the drug plan, I wonder if the Premier can tell us why it would be that those seniors and those disabled people who are the poorest and the sickest will now be paying the most every year with the drug prescription cost of two bucks a shot?

I will say to the Premier, he will know perfectly well that whether you call it a copayment or whether you call it a user fee, it amounts to the same thing: a tax on sick people, on sick people who are old and on sick people who are handicapped. What is the logic of taxing those people and giving a tax break to a stockbroker who's making $250,000 a year? What is the logic of that? Just what is the fairness of that?

Hon Mr Harris: When 80% of Ontarians get not a penny from the government for their drug plan, under the Rae government, the rhetoric that was used by the then Premier wasn't that this was a tax. When the then Premier brought in the Trillium drug program to give some relief, which we all supported, to some of those lower-income Ontarians, but still with significant copayments and deductibles, the then Premier and now leader of the third party didn't call it a tax or a health tax at that particular point in time.

We are dealing with drugs that are not covered by the Canada Health Act, that are not covered by medicare, that are not covered by OHIP, that in all other nine provinces there are significant copayments, many far in excess of what is being proposed by the minister today, and quite frankly, along with that announcement, a significant reduction in the amount that has to be paid today and under your Trillium plan by over, I think, 140,000 low-income Ontarians that we will now be providing some assistance to. This is in a plan outside of the Canada Health Act, outside of OHIP, that we are moving to be far more progressive than you were, and I don't know why you're opposed to that.

Mr Rae: Ultimately, it's the patients of the province, it's the people who use the health care system and it's the people who use the drug plan who will judge the Premier for whether or not he's lived up to his promises. The rhetoric and the anger and the sense of genuine frustration which members on this side feel, I think, is something that all of us understand and all of us share, but I would just say to the Premier, this ultimately is something that is going to be judged by people with respect to the credibility of the government on this particular question.

Let me just come back, if I may, for my final supplementary, to the Premier on this point: If we take you at your word that the money that is being extracted from the hospitals is going to be reinvested in health care -- and that is your word, that is what you have now told me, that is what you have now committed yourself to do -- can you explain why in the accounting and in the statements made by the Minister of Finance yesterday, that money was not set aside in a special fund, which fund would be used for health care, as opposed to what you have done, which is to put it up against the deficit number and put it up against the tax cut? That's what you've done.

How can we conclude anything other than, perhaps in an election year, you'll do everything you can to jack spending up to $17.4 billion? But that was not your commitment. Your commitment was that the $17.4 billion would be maintained year after year, not that it would go from $17.4 billion to $16.5 billion to $16 billion and then be jacked up. That's the concern we have with the way in which you're doing this and why the only conclusion we can draw is that you broke your word with respect to the commitment to maintain health care funding. That's the question at stake here.

Hon Mr Harris: I understand, given the record of politicians and political parties in Canada and particularly this province about keeping their word over the last number of years, why people are sceptical. I understand that.

Let me say very directly to the member that we believe we are proceeding down a path that you asked us to. For example, the former Treasurer of the province, the Minister of Finance, Floyd Laughren, said in North Bay, on health care, "We are trying to get out of so many dollars being spent on institutions and more on people, communities and home care." So the former government set up these restructuring committees across the province to see if there could be some savings in the institutional sector. The preliminary indications are that there can be. We've worked very closely with the Minister of Health when we thought they could come out over the next three years.

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance committed to funding for this year, even though there were some reductions in July and then reinvestments in the health care envelope, actually in excess of $17.4 billion. In next year's budget, it will be up to the Minister of Finance to try to make projections into 1996-97 and into future years.

I want to tell you this: We believe our challenge in health care, with the restructuring costs and the new pressures --

The Speaker: Wrap up your answer, please.

Hon Mr Harris: -- will be to keep spending at or below $17.4 billion, not the other way around. We're quite confident, while it may not be minute to minute or week to week or month to month or even year to year, that through our plan, which is a long-term plan, not a short-term one, you will find health care spending will be at $17.4 billion.

The Speaker: New question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Rae: I have always said, in fact in the speech that I gave in response to the speech from the throne -- the Minister of Health, I think, has quoted it on a number of occasions -- I have said a number of times that, having set up restructuring committees right across this province and having taken as much heat as I took as Premier for beginning the process of change in the health care system, I am not about to turn around and say now, "Oh, now there shouldn't be any more restructuring." I'm not going to do that. That's not our position; it's not my position.

My position, though, is to hold the government to its word; that is to say, if you say you are going to reinvest the savings year to year, reinvest the savings when they are found, when they are done, not four years later, not four years down the road -- because people get sick every day, people have needs every day. We have bottlenecks in the system. We've discovered a new one. A new one's come back with respect to cardiac care. We know that problem. We had it solved for a while and now it's come back again. We know these problems arise again and again.


I therefore want to go back to the Premier and say, if we're to take you at your word now with respect to what the position is, I wonder if you can explain to us why, in the accounting which was done yesterday by the Minister of Finance, the money that is being saved was not set aside and in fact is being put against the deficit. That's where it's going. It's being put against the deficit and put against the tax cut for years out. It's not going back into health care.

Hon Mr Harris: Until we see the spring budget, we don't know a number of areas where the spending will be going or a number of the priority areas.

Mr Cooke: You applied it against the deficit.


Hon Mr Harris: No. Excuse me, but I think if you reflect and read the statement, what the Minister of Finance wanted to do was to assist with the restructuring that the member acknowledges his party began, and we applauded them for doing that.

They needed to get some sense beyond this year, beyond next year, beyond the year after that and beyond the year after that, so the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health held extensive consultations with those who were involved in the restructuring discussions and with hospitals, and these were the targets that they believed made sense. But they said: "You must announce for us three years out. You don't have to announce where you're going to spend the money three years out, but you must give us an indication three years out so we can plan properly the restructuring over that period of time."

Most of those who are seriously involved in those restructuring discussions said: "Thank you. We appreciate knowing. We know you're serious about continuing the plan of the former government." Quite frankly, the majority agrees. Not everybody always agrees, but the majority agrees. It is only in this way they'll be able to restructure.

Yes, it is your job to hold our feet to the fire on the total envelope over the life of this government, and we're prepared to stand up to that scrutiny.

Mr Rae: It's very difficult for us, given the impression we have from commentary being given by the Dominion Bond Rating Service and others. Mr Miron, for example, said two days ago that the size and the severity of the cuts is greater than it would otherwise need to be because of the Tories' promise with respect to taxes, and therefore it is very difficult for seniors, very difficult for people who are sick in this process of restructuring.

The process of restructuring is difficult enough without taking out 20% in three years in terms of the overall hospital budget. That is a lot of money. That is an incredibly ambitious project, I'd say with great respect to the Premier and the Minister of Health. I frankly don't think you're going to be able to do it in the way in which you're planning to do it. I think the costs are too high and I don't think communities will be able to withstand it. I don't think so.

With great respect once again, can you tell us why it is that in the statement yesterday, and even in the statements that have been made up till this time, this is the first time you've indicated that on a year-to-year basis you're prepared to commit that every cent you take out of the hospital budget will be reinvested in the overall Health portfolio? Are you prepared to make that commitment today?

Hon Mr Harris: I don't think we ought to be held accountable penny in, penny out on a day-to-day basis. I don't think on the same day -- we've freely said that -- on the same day, on the same week, on the same month.

What we need to do is do something completely different, if we're to balance our books, from the previous governments. We need to identify the savings, know we're going to get them, before we commit to new spending. This is the only way, you see, we're going to undo the damage of the massive debt and deficits that have been built up.

I have clearly indicated that could include year-to-year. I don't know from one day to the next exactly to the penny what will be spent, but I'm prepared to tell you this: I will go to the people in the next election with health care spending at or in excess of $17.4 billion.

Mr Rae: I would say to the Premier that the test will not be any speech I give or any speech the Premier gives. The test will be the quality of health care that the citizens of the province receive. That will be the test.

I'm saying to the Premier that he's taking too much money out of the system too quickly and that he's doing it because he's got a tax cut on his back that he feels he has to do.

I would say with great respect to the Premier that what he is saying today, "Eventually we'll get it back to $17.4 billion," which is the new Tory position, that by the time he goes to the people in the election the budget will be back up to $17.4 billion, is a very different position than the one the Premier and his colleagues took in the last election. It is a totally different conclusion.

I have no choice but to say, with great respect to the Premier, that I feel that in the last election he clearly misled the people of the province.

The Speaker: I would ask the leader of the third party to withdraw that word. Would the leader of the third party withdraw that word?

Mr Rae: Mr Speaker, I won't withdraw.

The Speaker: I have no alternative but to name the leader of the third party.

Mr Rae was escorted from the chamber.

Mr Crozier: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: How is it that when I suggest something to you, you won't do it, but when the Premier sits there and looks at you and says, "Aren't you going to tell him?" you do it?

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On the previous question to the Premier on health spending: I think it was crystal clear to everyone during the election that you promised you would not touch a penny of health care spending. In every document, in everything you presented, you said you would not touch a penny -- not that you would cut and then bring it back up, but that you wouldn't touch a penny. I think many people in the health sector felt comforted by that. I don't doubt that it was a big part of your getting elected.

But yesterday, Premier, we were told that the cuts you're making to the hospital sector and the cuts you're making to the drug benefit plan aren't being reinvested. We were told they were part of your recorded expenditure reduction for 1996-97. We were told they are not being reinvested in health but are part of your expenditure reduction.

So one of two things has happened: Either you are not being forthright with the people who have looked at your expenditure reductions or you're not being honest with what you promised in the election campaign. I'd like to know which of those two things it is.

Hon Mr Harris: Let me congratulate the member on having been able to phrase the question in such a way as to stay in the Legislature, as opposed to some of his predecessors.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): People only get thrown out if you say so, Mike.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): All the Premier had to do was nod.

The Speaker: Order. The member for Kenora is out of order. Member, you're out of order.


Hon Mr Harris: Might I, by way of response to the member's question, point out one thing about the statement yesterday, and then I'm happy to give you the campaign commitment we made, and here is our health care day from the campaign.

What you heard yesterday in the statement was an indication of where we felt some savings could be achieved in the hospital sector in next year's budget, starting 1996-97. Then, when next year's budget comes in, you will get an indication, along with any announcements that are made between now and the budget next year, of reinvestments that will be able to be achieved in the health care sector.

This was our commitment. We said there is waste; there are inefficiencies; we've got to find savings. Let me quote from our health care announcement, May 3, that we made in the budget, and this is how we're finding the money for cardiac care, for paramedics, for immunization for children, for out-of-province coverage for seniors. We said: "With savings like these" -- in other words, we identified some possible savings and said we'd look for more -- "we'll be able to reinvest back into the system to meet the changing needs and demands of Ontario's health care system. Every penny," we said, "we're looking to reinvest." That's what we plan to do.

Mr Phillips: The reason I'm choosing my language carefully is because I want an opportunity to respond to the statement this afternoon. Otherwise, I'd tell you what I really think of you.

I just want to say again that I think every single member of your caucus ran on the basis of, "We will not touch a penny of health care." I will say that yesterday we were told you are cutting $500 million out of the health budget next year, not that you're reinvesting it; you're cutting it out.

I'd ask the Premier directly, how can you possibly explain to the people of Ontario how this was a truthful document, where you said you would not touch a penny of health care -- not a penny of health care four years from now, but a penny of health care year after year? How can you explain the fact that you are now cutting $500 million a year right away out of the budget and up to a billion and a half over the next three years? How can you explain that to the people of Ontario?

Hon Mr Harris: I think the people receiving the new dialysis, I think the new 140,000 people who will be eligible for drug programs, clearly understand where the dollars are coming from. I can tell you one thing they understand. They understand we can't borrow any more from offshore with a $10-billion deficit.

The people of Ontario clearly, in the health care area, understand that every penny of savings we're able to achieve with greater efficiencies in the health care system is a new penny that can be spent and invested into improved health care in the province. That's our commitment; that's what we are doing this year; that's what we will continue to do throughout the life of this government.

In that way, in the overall plan, we will be able to balance our books, we'll be able to have improved health care, and most importantly of all we'll be able to have the hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will come to this province with an improved investment climate, with the financial affairs in order. We didn't just promise the people quality health care and $17.4 billion; we promised them a much improved investment climate, many new private sector jobs, and we're going to deliver.

The Speaker: New question.

Ms Lankin: I'm going to continue in this line of questioning to the Premier. Let me say to the Premier that I know there is restructuring that is required in the health care sector. I believe very strongly in that restructuring. I believe in reallocation of dollars from one part of the health care sector to the other, a shift in focus from institutions to community, a shift from illness treatment to illness prevention.

Having said that, I looked at those numbers yesterday, I participated in that lockup, I asked questions, and I am told by Ministry of Finance officials that your projection for 1996-97 of an $8.2-billion deficit includes in it expenditure projections for the Ministry of Health that has $500 million cut from it -- not put aside for reinvestment, not earmarked to reinvest in building community health-promotion, illness-prevention activities, which I and my colleagues on this side of the House would support, but to go to the bottom line of deficit and tax, paying for that tax cut. You are going to borrow to pay for tax cuts for the rich, but you won't borrow to pay for reinvestment in the health care sector.

Confirm for us, is it not correct that the $500 million you are cutting from that health care budget is going to the bottom line of your fiscal plan and that it is not there to be reinvested in 1996 in the health care expenditures?

Hon Mr Harris: No, I can't confirm that, because it's not true.

Ms Lankin: That's what your people said.

Hon Mr Harris: Maybe the officials already have printed and have the budget ready for the Minister of Finance next spring. I don't know that. Maybe some official is anticipating, if he or she were Treasurer or Minister of Finance, what he or she would do in the statement.

What is true is this: We have now identified some targeted savings that we believe can be achieved in the hospital sector as a result of your restructuring study and the studies that are going on. At the same time, we have not yet identified where new spending will be in health care between now and the next budget and then in the budgetary year of 1996-97.

As I have indicated to you, we are doing things a little differently from the former government. We're identifying and making sure we have savings first before we commit to spending new money. Only in this way are we going to be able to have any kind of province and provincial services and health care and education and welfare services in the future, because the track you had us on was bankruptcy and no money.

Ms Lankin: I am having a very, very difficult time. First of all, during the campaign I heard the Premier out there saying, "Not one cent will be cut." Yesterday I saw the numbers, and $500 million has been cut. Today I heard him say: "We won't reinvest that money until we go back to the people in an election. Then we'll get back to $17.4 billion." And I just now heard him say: "In fact, we'll be reinvesting next year. We'll see what that budget is."

I don't know what's the truth and what's not the truth. I look at this $8.2 billion. If I am to believe what you are saying on health care and that that money is going to be reinvested the next year, then I can't believe your deficit numbers for next year or the year out or the year out, because your officials confirmed for us that those cuts, that $1.5-billion cut in health care, has been applied against the fiscal bottom line, against that deficit.

What do we believe? Do we believe what you say today or do we believe what the document says in terms of the deficit?

I can't help but say that this Premier has misled the people of Ontario, not just during the campaign but in the document yesterday, in that economic statement, and here again in the House today. It is not acceptable.

The Speaker: I ask the member if she'd withdraw the word "misled." Would the member withdraw. The member's not withdrawing? I have no alternative but to name the member.

Ms Lankin was escorted from the chamber.

The Speaker: The Minister of Finance has an answer to a previously asked question.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): This is the first opportunity I've had to respond to a question asked by the member for Scarborough-Agincourt on November 22. He wanted to know what the current, up-to-date level of the Ontario public service staff was. I have now been provided with figures by the Chair of Management Board, who advises that as of August 31, 1995, the total head count for the Ontario public service was 92,930 people; the full-time equivalent was 89,026.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): Premier, there are currently 400,000 children on welfare in Ontario. They have just seen their benefits slashed by some 22%. Many of these children are living at a poverty level in my riding of Downsview. They're being asked by the minister of welfare to live on a $90-a-month budget for food.

I wonder what you would say to the parent -- I'm a parent and so are you -- of a sick child who has to choose between feeding that child or buying medicine. I wonder how you would tell that child and that parent that all this is in order to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest Ontarians.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): First, I would tell them that it is not at all to pay for a tax cut for wealthy Ontarians. That's not the government's intention; that's not our plan. We have plans to cut taxes most significantly for lower-income and middle-income and working people in the province of Ontario, clearly decreasing with higher-income people, to create jobs.

What I would suggest you say to the disgraceful figure of the number of people on welfare in Ontario -- more per capita than any other province is what we inherited, more than Newfoundland, more than any other province in this country. I mention Newfoundland because that province has lost its economy, lost its fishing industry, lost federal transfers, yet they have fewer people and fewer children on welfare than we do per capita here in Ontario.

I am embarrassed by this, and I hope the government sticks to its promises and its commitment to reduce this cycle of dependency, to give us more hope, to give us more opportunity, to give us more jobs and to give us a chance to dig out from under this terrible mismanagement of the last 10 years. That is indeed what we plan to do.

Ms Castrilli: I simply can't believe that answer. I asked about children. I didn't ask about people who were abusing the system. I didn't ask about people who were trying to get something they weren't entitled to. We're talking about children. I can't imagine that the Premier could say, with a straight face, that he would want to watch children have to choose between food and medicine in this province.

That's what I asked you, Premier. How does a parent make a distinction between food and medicine when he's being asked to live at a subsistence level? That's the question for you, Premier, and I can't believe the answer you gave me. I find it absolutely shocking. I don't know that anyone in this House can believe anything you say, Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I was asked what I would tell the children. I'd tell the children, as I said, that I'm disappointed and embarrassed to live in a province with this many children dependent upon welfare, higher per capita than Newfoundland. That's what I would tell the children.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Hamilton East is out of order.

Hon Mr Harris: I would also tell the children -- it's not difficult to comprehend and understand -- that there is hope, there is daylight at the end of the tunnel.

I'd tell them that in spite of the fact that here in Ontario the $2 copayment is less than in Saskatchewan and British Columbia but the welfare rates are higher than in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, in spite of the fact that we are still providing, on both drug benefits and welfare rates, far more generous programs than Saskatchewan and British Columbia -- I mention those two provinces because of the NDP governments there; there are other provinces I could mention -- in spite of that, we're going to balance the budget, we're going to have hope and opportunity and jobs for the future.

I'd tell them in addition to that that their parents, by working four or five hours a week, can earn back the difference to be at 30% or 35% higher than the rest of Canada.

I would say, is this province of Ontario great or what?

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): What a lot of hot air we've heard in here today from the Premier.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I'd like to ask a very simple question. Perhaps the Premier can clear up all the misunderstandings that are clearly in this place and right across the province with respect to his commitment, his personal commitment, on health care, a commitment he made after lecturing everyone else in this province who has ever been a politician that the reason there was no confidence in politicians is because they said one thing during an election and another thing once they got elected.

Now you're here. You got elected. It's very unclear to all of us. There was $1.5 billion pulled out of health care yesterday. Can the Premier tell us, when is that money going to be reinvested, which fiscal year?

Hon Mr Harris: I want to be very clear. Yesterday not a nickel was pulled out of health care, not a nickel. Not a penny was pulled out yesterday. What we had yesterday was an announcement that over the next three years, starting in the fiscal year 1996-97, beginning with the first budget announced by the Minister of Finance, was a signal of the transfer payments and the changes that would be made to assist with the restructuring of some money that would be pulled out. This is what they asked for. They asked, "Give us the dollar figures now as far as the hospitals for the transfers."

So what I want to say very directly, well, you could say we could have waited, but we gave three years' notice to help and assist with the restructuring.

Mr Cooke: When are you reinvesting all of the money?

Hon Mr Harris: Over the next period of time -- in the next budget, in the following budget, over the next three years -- you will as well see the reinvestment. The only commitment that I make to you is this -- well, I make two commitments: Number one, at the end of the restructuring exercise, before we go back to the people, the reinvestments will all have been made, and the second commitment is this: We will not do like the former government, spend money we don't have. We'll find the savings first and then reinvest. That's what we'll do.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly as follows from people concerned about services for children.

"The governments at provincial and regional levels are threatening cuts to child care programs. We see child care as an essential service to the community. A reduction in subsidized child care programs would result in unaffordable and unavailable child care, causing higher levels of unemployment and welfare dependency."

This is signed by a large number of people in the Niagara Peninsula and I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris said on May 30, 1995, `If I don't live up to anything that I have promised to do and committed to do, I will resign'; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised on May 3, 1995, `No cuts to health care spending,' but in his November 29 economic statement we see $1.3 billion or 18% in cuts to hospital spending over the next three years and a further $225 million in cuts from the health care budget; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to defend health care cuts in funding; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that, `This plan will create more than 725,000 new jobs,' but in his November 29 economic statement we see a prediction of only 253,000 jobs created over the next three years and an unemployment rate of 8.6% in two years, which is the same as it is today; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to create significant jobs in this province; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that, `Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut,' but in his November 29 economic statement Mike Harris is cutting the Ontario drug benefit plan and making seniors and the vulnerable pay for their drugs; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to seniors and the disabled;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris keep his word and resign immediately."

I affix my signature.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads:

"Whereas moose hunters must be in the possession of a valid moose tag to legally hunt moose during the designated hunting season in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources holds an annual moose tag draw for all applicants to determine those hunters that are to be eligible to hunt in designated wildlife management units; and

"Whereas the livelihood of many residents of northern Ontario depends on their ability to participate in the moose hunt; and

"Whereas in 1995, there were 106,013 applicants entered in the draw and over 66,000 applicants turned away without a tag; and

"Whereas some hunters have been unsuccessful in the draw for many years in a row,

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

"That the Minister of Natural Resources hereby revise the annual moose tag draw to automatically issue a moose tag hunting permit to individuals who have been consecutively unsuccessful in a given number of previous annual draws."

I've attached my name to that as well.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas recent cuts to programs for abused women and their children seriously endanger their lives and will be costly in both financial and human terms, we are committed to the preservation of services to abused women and their children in Ontario. We are particularly aware that our community of London has developed a respected and successful integrated model of service delivery aimed at ending woman abuse.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to preserve the existing services used in London to end woman abuse, and we therefore demand that cuts to services for abused women and their children in London be immediately restored and that no further cuts in funding be implemented."

I am proud to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch General Hospital;

"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendations contained within the report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads:

"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation is intent on reducing northern winter road maintenance services; and

"Whereas such downgrading places the lives of northern residents at undue and unnecessary risk;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these reductions in service and to guarantee that winter roads across the northern regions of the province receive the necessary maintenance to ensure the safe passage of drivers."

I have attached my name to this petition.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which is signed by 13 residents in the city of Toronto. It reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris said on May 30, 1995, `If I don't live up to anything that I have promised to do and committed to do, I will resign'; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised on May 3, 1995, `No cuts to health care spending' but in his November 29 economic statement we see $1.3 billion or 18% in cuts to hospital spending over the next three years and a further $225 million in cuts from the health care budget; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to defend health care cuts in funding; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that, `This plan will create more than 725,000 new jobs,' but in his November 29 economic statement we see a prediction of only 253,000 jobs created over the next three years and an unemployment rate of 8.6% in two years, which is the same as today; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to create significant jobs in this province; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that, `Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut,' but in his November 29 economic statement Mike Harris is cutting the Ontario drug benefit plan and making seniors and the vulnerable pay for their drugs; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to seniors and the disabled,

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris keep his word and resign immediately."

I have affixed my signature to it and I agree with the petitioners entirely.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My point of order is that when members in this chamber use unparliamentary language, they not only offend the individuals or the group at which the parliamentary language is directed --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I will deal with that matter after petitions.

Further petitions, the member for Prescott and Russell.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation is intent on reducing northern winter road maintenance services; and

"Whereas such downgrading places the lives of northern residents at undue and unnecessary risk;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these reductions in service and to guarantee that winter roads across the northern regions of the province receive the necessary maintenance to ensure the safe passage of all drivers."

I also affix my signature.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Mike Harris said on May 30, 1995, `If I don't live up to anything that I have promised to do and committed to do, I will resign'; and" --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): He said that?

Mr Martin: Yes, he did.

"Whereas Mike Harris promised on May 3, 1995, `No cuts to health care spending,' but in his November 29 economic statement we see $1.3 billion or 18% in cuts to hospital spending over the next three years and a further $225 million in cuts from the health care budget; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to defend health care cuts in funding; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that, `This plan will create more than 725,000 new jobs,' but in his November 29 economic statement we see a prediction of only 253,000 jobs created over the next three years and an unemployment rate of 8.6% in two years, which is the same as today; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to create significant jobs in this province; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that, `Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut,' but in his November 29 economic statement Mike Harris is cutting the Ontario drug benefit plan and making seniors and the vulnerable pay for their drugs; and

"Whereas Mike Harris" -- this same Mike Harris -- "has clearly broken his promise to seniors and the disabled;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris keep his word and resign immediately."

I affix my signature to this.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Earlier today the member for Oriole had used an unparliamentary word in the Legislature. I see the member for Oriole is back in the Legislature again. I would ask her if she would withdraw that word.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Mr Speaker, I've been in this House for over 10 years. I've always --

The Speaker: Are you going to withdraw the word?

Mrs Caplan: Unfortunately, I can't find any other word to describe my feelings.

The Speaker: You're not. Then, Mr Sergeant at Arms, I name the member for Oriole, Mrs Caplan.

Mrs Caplan was escorted from the chamber.



Mr Martin from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's first report.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Does the Vice-Chair wish to make a brief statement?

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): No, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 106(g)(11), the report is deemed to have been adopted by the House.


Mr Young presented the following report from the standing committee on general government and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill 8, An Act to repeal job quotas and to restore merit-based employment practices in Ontario / Projet de loi 8, Loi abrogeant le contingentement en matière d'emploi et rétablissant en Ontario les practiques d'emploi fondées sur le mérite.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

Shall Bill 8 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.




Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to begin the response to the minister's economic statement. I don't think there's any doubt -- I've said this statement is the defining moment for the new government. I think it very much spelled out what we should expect from the government. I think the people of Ontario now understand pretty clearly what the Common Sense Revolution is all about and I've said that we've seen the cold face of the Conservative government.

It has been presented as simply implementing the Common Sense Revolution. I would argue that it's not exactly what most people had been expecting from the Common Sense Revolution. My own judgement is that as the people of Ontario begin to see the full impact, they'll begin to realize that what they thought was going to happen isn't quite happening.

I'll use two or three examples as we get into the discussion on it, but I'm sure the government is quite pleased with the response in public opinion so far. The new government's ratings in the public opinion polls are quite high. I would imagine that you've gotten mixed reviews from the announcement yesterday.

Interjection: Positive.

Mr Phillips: Positive, some members say. Actually, the business community, I understand their point of view and they were almost tripping over themselves to get to the mikes out there, and that's understandable. But I will say this, that because all of us ran against this document, that there are already some surprises occurring.

I would say the first surprise is, without doubt, that you have broken your fundamental promise on health care. I don't care what the Premier says today; everybody in that campaign, including, I might add, I would think most of the members who got elected, thought your commitment was to not touch a penny of health care.

Make no mistake, this cuts health care. The hospitals of this province lost about 20% of their funding, and I predict that over the next little while the first thing this government will begin to trip on is health. Certainly, as our hospital sector goes through some very tough times -- and make no mistake about it, they are going through very tough times -- to at one and the same time be cutting 20% out of their budgets, that will be something that will be on the hands of each and every one of you over there.

That wasn't in the Common Sense Revolution. In fact, in the Common Sense Revolution you were so clear, and the Premier repeated it hundreds of times, "We will not touch a penny of health care."

Yesterday we saw, firstly, a 20% cut out of the hospital budgets. Then we saw a second solemn promise. You said you would introduce no new user fees, and yesterday we saw new user fees. You couldn't have been more specific about not doing that. Again, I said to you, you got a lot of support because people felt they could vote for you and you were going to protect health care. I will say, particularly to the backbench members who go to caucus and have some opportunity to have some influence on the cabinet, that you will regret that move.

The second thing in the Common Sense Revolution that I don't think many people had realized was going to happen, is that it is the government's intention to cut spending by 25%. Twenty-five per cent of government spending will be gone. Prior to the election, it looked pretty simple. The Premier said: "This is all very easy. We're going to cut welfare, we're going to cut education bureaucracy, governance, and that'll pretty much handle it."

I don't think anybody, when they voted for this government, realized that you were going to cut 25% of spending.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just wanted to clarify to help the opposition parties in their replies. We've had some discussion. It's my understanding, and I'm sure they will say otherwise if it's not theirs, that because this is not officially a motion, we have to establish some sort of ground rules for official responses and then continuing debate.

It's my understanding that the official responses would be as if you were having second reading debate of a bill or of a substantive motion. There will be 90-minute leadoffs by each of the opposition parties. We have agreed that they may choose to split up that 90 minutes as they see fit. There would be the normal question-and-answer time or responses. After those two 90-minute leadoffs are completed by each of the two opposition parties, we would then go into regular rotation of debate on the economic statement. We're continuing on with that, of course, on Monday, and the Legislature will be sitting until midnight on Monday as well.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Agreed? So be it.

Mr Phillips: I want to proceed with what I think some of the surprises have been for people as they realize what this really means to them in human terms. The first big surprise is the cuts to health care. That was something that was specifically ruled out. That was something that the Conservative government could not have been clearer on when it was running. They were not going to touch health care.

I think the second thing that reassured people was -- in fact, they used the term -- this plan guarantees full funding for law enforcement. I think many people are apprehensive about safety, so that was quite reassuring that somehow or other the Harris government had committed to ensuring that there would be a continuum of full funding for our police organizations.

The fact is, and this was never spelled out in the Common Sense Revolution, that what we call here transfer payments -- the money the province gives to municipalities in this province -- have been cut by 43%. Now, if any of us think that can simply be found in the cupboard of municipalities, we're dreaming in Technicolor.

The fact is that municipalities in this province have spent the last several years trimming down. I don't think there's a municipality in this province that hasn't gone through some very tough budget exercises. Yet we find that they are going to find their grants from the province cut by 43%. That was never in the Common Sense Revolution, but that's what's happened. If we don't think that is going to impact on the big part of municipal budgets, namely, police, then we simply don't know what reality is.

The third one is that we're not going to touch education; full funding will be guaranteed for education. We're only going to touch the bureaucracy. We saw yesterday that this budget cuts out of our elementary and secondary schools 10% of the provincial funding in one year, and it's clear the government plans further cuts. They said that there would be further substantial cuts. Once again, I think people are now beginning to realize that there is a limit to how much one can cut bureaucracy and I don't think there's much doubt we are going to see cuts in the classroom. I don't think there's any doubt at all about that.

Why is all of this happening? It is because this government has made a second big commitment, and that is for a 30% reduction in personal income tax.


I remember very well the day that promise was made. I was meeting with several economists and business people who provided our party with advice, and I said: "What do you think of this? Because they've just introduced this, I think the public will be quite attracted to it. What do you think of it?" They essentially said, "It's crazy. You can't cut $5 billion out of provincial revenues and still keep your fiscal house in order. It's nuts. Just leave it be. It will die of its own weight." It didn't. The government got elected, but it is a $5-billion tax break.

The reason we're going through this pain, and this is what the government says: "We have to cut $8 billion and we're going to take $5 billion of that for a tax break. We're going to take the other $3 billion to reduce the deficit."

I've said and actually the NDP also said, "Listen, if this were just about the deficit, if that's all we were fighting, if we all were in this battle to fight the deficit, we could understand that." We could understand the pain of the cuts to school boards and colleges and universities and what not, but how could it be that if we have this huge deficit problem that is all-consuming, if the deficit is so important, how can we afford a $5-billion tax cut?

By the way, I might add, for people who worry about debt and deficit and interest costs, that the government said just yesterday the budget does not get balanced until March 31, 2001. By the way, that's well after the next election, because legally this group cannot survive without an election well before that.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): You never know.

Mr Phillips: Someone said, "You never know." That may even be in what we call this omnibus bill, but there's no way that you are going to be able to balance the budget before we've had another election.

But I would say that the tax cut is money that has to be borrowed. It isn't as if we have this money around. Just the other day one of the cabinet ministers said, "The province is bankrupt," but we can still afford a $5-billion tax break. I would say that over the next five years the province has to borrow $20 billion just to pay for the tax break.

So when people now are starting to see the full implications of the Common Sense Revolution and what it really means, and the cuts are far deeper than you promised in the election -- you had said it's very simple to find $6 billion. Now we're finding it isn't $6 billion; you have to find $8 billion. Now we're finding that you are touching things that you said you would never touch. Health care, policing, classroom education, all those things are going to be touched, and why? Because you have to cut spending by $8 billion to find the $5 billion a year in a tax break.

Actually I suspect the tax break among many people out there is going to be very popular. I don't doubt that, and if you're making good money in this province, you're going to be very pleased with it, except this: There is more to our communities than just how much money you take home. I guarantee you our communities, as a result of this, are going to be far worse off. I believe our health care system is going to struggle very badly as a result of this, and the kind of caring, compassionate society that we've seen in Ontario, in my opinion, is beginning to be eroded.

And why? It's because you have to find $8 billion of savings that you had not planned. You had not planned to find that amount of savings.

I wanted to talk about some other things that weren't in this document, that concern me greatly. You may recall, some of the members may recall that we have been saying this really should be a budget, because it is in the budget that we get what's called a medium-term fiscal outlook. I would say to the business people and others that if you were to take this document to a bank, if this were your business plan, the banker would send you away and say, "It's missing the most important page, and that is your medium-term fiscal plan." It's not in here. Every budget has it. But the reason, in my opinion, the government --

Mr Baird: The bankers would love it.

Mr Phillips: I hear some heckling from over there, saying the bankers would love it. Business people, I think, understand that if you want to gain the confidence of people you should lay out your plans. What we've got here is no plan at all. There is --

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): We laid it out right there. It's a good plan.

Mr Phillips: The member for Grey-Owen Sound is also barking over there, but I will tell you, if you took this plan to a bank they would not lend you money. Why? Because the government refuses to put in what revenue you are expecting, what expenses you are expecting.

It is actually a bit of an embarrassment to the business people and others in this room that you would present this document without a fiscal plan. It's an embarrassment that you have no estimate of revenues for the next three years, no estimates of expenditures. You've got one little table in there that shows the deficit. As I say, you couldn't present a budget like this and that's why you didn't present a budget, because you refuse to divulge the real finances of the province.

I object to it. I frankly thought when the Minister of Finance responded to me when I said, "Why aren't you presenting a budget?" he essentially said, "You will get the same thing in this statement as you get in the budget." Well, that's not true and I didn't. I resent it, frankly. It was unfortunate and I think I was given some wrong information.

The Deputy Speaker: Would the member take his seat, please.

The member for Renfrew North was asked to withdraw some language earlier. Are you prepared to withdraw it?

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Sir, your every wish is my very command.

The Deputy Speaker: I would ask the member to withdraw the unparliamentary language that he used earlier.

Mr Conway: Whatever you want, Mr Speaker, is my first and my last instinct.

The Deputy Speaker: I would ask you to withdraw the language or I will have to name you.

Mr Conway: I withdraw whatever it is that has given offence, sir, to your illustrious person and your colleagues.

The Deputy Speaker: I and the House thank you for your withdrawal.

Mr Conway: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm glad that Mr Speaker Lamoureux has --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The Chair recognizes the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: To pursue the comments, I was saying that not many people in the province perhaps realize this will be the first time in the entire history of the province where we have not had a budget. I would think, particularly for the new members, you should ask the question: Why don't we have a budget? What have we got to hide? Why don't we have a budget? You say, "Well, we got elected in June, so what would you expect?" There have been lots of governments in the history of this province elected in June, but they always presented a budget. The reason you don't have a budget is because, in my judgement, you don't want to disclose the numbers to the public. I think that's wrong and if I were on your side and in particular on the back bench I wouldn't let it happen.

But back to the statement. This is, as I say, the defining moment. I think we are heading down a road that I feel very uncomfortable with to a meaner, less compassionate, less caring society. It's not the Ontario that I want. I'm not even sure that it's what many of the members thought they were running on in the Common Sense Revolution. For some of you it is. For some of you things are going along just great, but for others I hope you're beginning to see that what you ran on and what you're doing are two separate things. You never ran on cutting health care. You never ran on cutting assistance to our policing organizations. You never ran on dramatic cuts to education.


Even in the tuition area -- if I can lay my hands on the tuition document; I'm not sure I'll be able to quickly -- on the education front you made a commitment to the students of this province.


Mr Phillips: No. What you said was "very modest increases in tuition fee" -- modest increases in tuition fee. That was your commitment to the students of Ontario. What's the first thing we see from the government? A 20% increase in tuition fees.

Many students did vote for you on the basis of, "Gee, I can handle a modest" --

Mr Baird: No, it's 10%.

Mr Phillips: One of the members is putting up 10%. You say 10% plus the discretion for another 10%. Let's just recognize that it will be a 20% increase in tuition fees to students. I don't think students understood that when they voted for the government. I don't think they understood that, but that's what this document calls for.

I also wanted to touch briefly on jobs, because I think it will be two things that people really hold this government accountable for. One is health care, and in my opinion, it's getting very shaky right now. The second is jobs. You often repeat the story that you're going to see 725,000 jobs created in this province over the next five years.

Mr Baird: We're on time.

Mr Phillips: The member says you're on time. If somebody says you're on time, then I don't think you understand the numbers.

As I say, this will be the second thing I think this government is going to have trouble with. If you look at your own document on page 5 -- I hope you've all read it -- first, jobs in 1995. When you put together the Common Sense Revolution you assumed 1995 would have a 115,000 job growth, but it didn't materialize. Believe me, I don't blame you for that; you had very little to do with the job growth in 1995. But when you put your plan together we now find it isn't 115,000 jobs, it's 72,000 jobs, so you're sliding well behind.

We find, even in October, that we still have 14,000 fewer jobs in Ontario than we had at the start of the year. We've gone 10 months with no job growth in the province of Ontario. We have a real serious job problem.

Then you assume that job growth will be 145,000 jobs a year for the next five years. I realize that you think the job growth will come on an upward trend, but next year, the first year as the full impact of what you're doing begins to hit, first you say the unemployment rate is not going to change. The unemployment rate next year is going to be exactly the same as it is this year -- no change.

For all the people out there who are hoping and thinking that this Common Sense Revolution is going to kick in and suddenly we are going to find unemployment dropping, your own numbers show that the unemployment rate remains totally unchanged through 1996.

I know you're anxious to chase people on welfare into the workforce. That's fine. But when, by your own admission, the unemployment rate is not going to change a bit next year, you are dooming them to a real challenge. You're saying, "Sorry, the unemployment rate isn't improving next year, but you go get a job." We all hope and pray they do, but I think we should recognize that it isn't going to be that simple.

You're projecting job growth next year of 81,000, the following year of 100,000.

In order to hit your numbers, your 725,000 jobs, you, by your own admission, have to see real growth in this province of 6% a year, but you're not predicting 6% a year. I say to the backbench members that I would start to ask some pretty good questions of the cabinet: "Listen, we promised 725,000 jobs. We're saying that every day, but it looks like we're starting to get behind the eight ball here. What's happening?"

I think it's clear, by the way, that the impact of this statement on direct jobs is going to be very significant. The minister himself acknowledged that there will be significant numbers of jobs eliminated as a result of this, so it makes the challenge of job creation even greater. I don't think it's unfair to say that we probably will see about at least 70,000 positions eliminated as a result of this economic statement.

Interjection: Where do you get that?

Mr Phillips: Where? Well, you've said you're going to cut 13,000 civil servants' jobs. You've said that you're going to cut $1.5 billion out of education, you're going to cut $600 million out of municipalities, you're going to cut at least $100 million out of admin and health. You've cut Jobs Ontario Training. You've cut the youth employment program. It's 70,000 jobs. That's just reality.

I accept that one can't spend money forever on creating jobs, but just in terms of the challenge of how we're going to deal with jobs, it's significant.

I've said this in the Legislature before for all of us, in as non-partisan a way as I can, that the young people of this province face an enormous challenge. I've looked at the numbers of unemployed and I think I could demonstrate to you that the unemployment rate among young people is at least 25%; it's probably closer to 30%. And I go back to the fact that even with your plans beginning to kick in, the unemployment rate does not change a bit in 1996.

On the two things that I think this government will be held accountable on -- health care and jobs -- I'd say you are beginning to sow the seeds of some major problems for yourselves, but more importantly, for the people of Ontario.

The way you're proceeding, none of this comes as a surprise. I said several weeks ago that I thought you would follow a certain model, and you're following it. You're on a game plan to implement your agenda. I realize that many of you totally believe in this agenda. The way you do it is, as Ralph Klein says, that you don't blink, so even legitimate, strong criticisms of your plan you will ignore.

If any of you have come from a municipal background, I think you can understand the rage people feel when their voices can't be heard here. I don't blame you for that. The system around here operates in a way that voices seem to have difficulty being heard. But it's increased to a greater extent than we've ever seen. The barricades out front I think are almost a symbol of rejection in this place. I've said this before, but even the road around this place -- this place is isolated. We are sowing the seeds of real distrust and unrest when people don't feel they have any access.

Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): That's fearmongering.

Mr Phillips: Scaremongering? The member across there says I'm scaremongering. Have any of you read the omnibus bill that was introduced yesterday? Have any of you gone through the omnibus bill, except perhaps some of the cabinet ministers? It is so far-reaching. It touches fundamental rights of people that have been earned over literally decades, and you want to take those rights away in a matter of days. You may think that the rights you're taking away they shouldn't have, but you are taking away some very fundamental rights from communities and people.


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): The responsibility is there too.

Mr Phillips: The member says "responsibility." I don't think you ran on the basis of taking those rights away. Even if you want to, people have a right to be heard. You don't have any right to be a dictator. You may have a right in the end to change it, but I would say to you that the anger you feel in here is going to grow.

If you go through those bills, the changes that are proposed, yes, they make the government's life easier; yes, they make implementing your economic plan easier. But it is tampering with people's fundamental rights. We heard just today about a few of them.

Closing hospitals: You may think it's right to close hospitals, but if there's one thing that communities feel strongly about over many, many years, it is their local hospital. They have put their tears and sweat in --

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): The Liberal policy now is not to close a single hospital. Is that what you're now saying?

Mr Phillips: We have the usual heckling from the minister of -- I don't know whether he still has the job or not -- workers' comp.

I'm saying that people have a right to express their views on things. You don't have a right to go around closing community hospitals. No, you don't have that right. You don't have the right to go and unilaterally set up new municipalities. You don't have the right to change people's arbitration without a fair hearing. You don't have those rights. You may think you do.

This is the problem, and the people at home I think should be aware. What we've got is a group of people who believe so fundamentally that they're right that they refuse to hear dissenting opinions. I guarantee you that it won't work.

Hon Mr Jackson: Why do you say that, Gerry? You saw the results on June 8.

Mr Phillips: The results of June 8. Now we're starting to roll, because what I think I'm hearing is: "We got elected. We will do whatever we want."

Mr Peter Preston (Brant-Haldimand): Whatever we promised.

Mr Phillips: He said, "We will do what we promised." You, sir, promised solemnly to not touch a penny of health care and you broke that promise yesterday. You broke that promise yesterday. You could not have been clearer on copayments. Now that you have asked for a discussion on this, I'd like to go over it. Here's what you said. This is the Common Sense Revolution:

"For some time now, there has been growing debate over the most effective way to ensure more responsible use of our universal health care system. In the last decade, user fees and copayments have kept rising and many health care services have been `delisted' and are no longer covered by OHIP." That's what you said.

"We looked at those kinds of options" -- in other words, you looked at delisting, at copayments, at user fees -- "but decided the most effective and fair method was to give the public and health professionals alike a true and full accounting of the costs of health care, and ask individuals to pay a fair share of those costs, based on income. We believe the new fair share health care levy, based on the ability to pay, meets the test of fairness and the requirements of the Canada Health Act while protecting the fundamental integrity of our health system.

"Under this plan, there will no new user fees."

You couldn't have been clearer that you told the people of Ontario --

Hon Mr Jackson: Diane Marleau endorsed this budget, the federal Minister of Health.

Mr Phillips: You above all, who go around saying you're the friend of the seniors, sit there and heckle when you've broken a fundamental promise. I appreciate the cabinet minister being here to heckle, and I'd like the seniors of this province to know exactly who that member is. It's Mr Jackson.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Burlington South will come to order.

Mr Phillips: Mr Jackson is heckling over here when I'm pointing out to the seniors of this province that you were promised something in the campaign. Mr Jackson went all around in Burlington and Halton saying to the seniors: "No user fees. Trust me. No copayments. Trust me. We have a different way. We're going to base it on ability to pay." That was a solemn promise you, Mr Jackson, made, and now you come in here to heckle when we're pointing out that you personally have broken a major commitment that you personally made.

You can keep heckling me, and I will keep pointing out to the people of Ontario who's over there, who's heckling, who used to say he was a friend of the seniors and a friend of people on social assistance and now has -- if I could use the term that was used earlier in the House, I would, but I want to keep speaking.

Hon Mr Jackson: You don't even have the courage to use it.

Mr Phillips: He says I don't have the courage to use it. The term we use, Mr Speaker and the people of Ontario, that will not allow me to stay in the House is that during the campaign, the member was not being -- I will use the term at the end of the day, and I'll specifically use it about you, because you did it.

You can sit there and keep heckling and I will continue to point out to people of Ontario that it was you who made that promise who now comes in and says: "Tough luck, seniors. We didn't keep our word." I'm so tempted to use what I really think about you, what I'd really like to say about you.

I'm back to the solemn promises that were made in the campaign on health care. If any of you can show me the document where you said, "We are going to cut health spending for two or three years," find me that document. Bring it to me. Show it to me.

You couldn't have been clearer in everything you did: "flat-line," that you wouldn't touch a penny. We looked the other day at the now Premier talking endless about not touching a penny of health care. Here we are now, five months into the government, and what's happened? You said it was your most solemn promise, and you broke it. You can characterize it any way you want, but it's a broken promise. And why? It's because, I know, you are dedicated to the tax cut. I know that for many members of your caucus, this is fundamental to them. They probably would leave the caucus if you didn't implement the tax cut. I think it's fiscal lunacy, I really do. I just don't think you can cut $5 billion of revenue out of the budget and still have a fiscally responsible plan.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The Dominion Bond Rating Service agrees.

Mr Phillips: As the member for my old home town says, the Dominion Bond Rating Service agrees. But you're going to do it because it's part of the ideology, and I understand that. But why are we cutting $8 billion when you said you were going to cut $6 billion during the campaign? It is because you've got to do that to keep the promise of the $5-billion tax cut.

You will go ahead with that, and I must say it will be popular among many people. I know that's what you're counting on. But the cost of that cut is a fundamental shift and change in the fabric of Ontario, in my opinion not for the better.

I go back to my concern about the lack of a fiscal outlook in this document. The first table people turn to in a budget is what we call the medium-term fiscal outlook, the three-year plan. It is those numbers that become the basis for people evaluating, where is this province going? What is its plan? I'm surprised that the members of the backbench haven't raised that issue with the government. You all want to run this in a more business-like way, you all want to be very fiscally responsible, but no business in Canada could ever prepare its fiscal plan without showing a three-year financial plan. It just is unacceptable. We don't have it in this document.

Mr Jordan: You'll get it in March.

Mr Phillips: The member says we'll get it in March, and I appreciate that comment. He says: "Just trust us. Leave it for a while."


I go back to, why don't we have it? Why is it that for the first time in the history of the province, there is no budget? It's not because there was a June election. There have been many June elections in the past -- always a budget. It's because, in my opinion, the cabinet wanted to keep everything to themselves. I have a feeling that not too many of you on the back benches were even given copies of the omnibus bill, have even been through the omnibus bill. I'm not sure many of you in the caucus on the back bench have had a chance to go over the fiscal plans.

This document is designed as much to hide the numbers as to reveal the numbers. If we were to ask any one of you, "How much are the reductions each year?" I don't think you could answer that question. "What is the revenue forecast for next year?" None of you could answer that question, not even for next year. There is one table in here. It simply shows the deficits over a five-year period.

I go back to the campaign document you ran on. It was successful and you're there and we're here, so I guess I take my hat off to you in that respect. But it's now proving to be a bit of a phoney document.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): We're at 58%

Mr Phillips: The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing says 58%. Yes, I know, 58% still think this is a government they would support. I say to you, and I feel very strongly about this, that I fundamentally disagree with the direction you're taking the province in. I fundamentally disagree.

Hon Mr Leach: That's why you're there and we're here.

Mr Phillips: The reason you're over there is because you promised people: "We won't touch health care. We won't introduce new user fees. We won't increase tuition fees. We won't cut $8 billion, we'll just cut $6 billion, and it will be mainly welfare and education bureaucracy."

This document is beginning to fall apart before your eyes, starting with this solemn promise on user fees and on health care, and now on jobs. Believe me, we will hold your feet to the fire on jobs.

Hon Mr Leach: It's better than the red book.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing being here, because we are anxiously looking forward to the debate between him and Mr Saunderson on rent control.

Hon Mr Leach: We're in unison.

Mr Phillips: You may be in unison here, but Mr Saunderson probably has a little explaining to do. He's one of the cabinet ministers, for those who aren't familiar, who got elected on a platform of strengthening rent control and making it tougher for those dastardly landlords and really putting it to them. Now that he's here, he finds he's not the minister responsible for rent control; somebody else is, who has quite a different opinion. It is going to be fun to watch.

Also, frankly, it's going to be interesting to watch as each municipality wrestles with the cuts in transfer payments. First, in the Common Sense Revolution that you ran on, there was never actually a mention in here, you can't find it in here, of the cuts to municipalities. You can't find it in here. It's not mentioned here.

But now that you're elected -- and you had lots of support among municipal politicians; no question of that -- it's, "Sorry, municipalities, now we've got to cut you by 40%, and by the way, don't touch policing and don't take taxes up." We'll begin to see the implications of -- it may not be a broken promise, but did any of you tell the municipality you're running in you were going to cut transfer payments by 40%? I don't think so. We'll be looking forward to the implications of the cut.

Why are we doing all of this? It's because you have to cut $8 billion dollars from your budget to fund the $5-billion tax cut.

There's another interesting table in here on what happens to the debt and deficit. I can't help it, but I found it interesting. Sorry about this; this should get you hooting and hollering. I see here in your deficit a balanced budget in the year -- when was that? This isn't my document; this is your document.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Which edition?

Mr Phillips: The one you put out yesterday. I never say Liberals are great money managers, nor do I say the NDP are great money managers, but I will just say to you that the Conservative government went 15 years and never balanced the budged -- never, ever. Now you're going to go five more years. You'll set, I think, a Canadian record: 20 years of Conservative governments without a balanced budget.

I know you don't like to look at this, but this is your own document, so take a look at it. I know you don't want to hear about a balanced budget, about us saying it, but take a look at it right here. There it is right there: 1989-90. That's not my document; it's your document.

I make that point because I know that the people in the Premier's office almost don't want you to know about the balanced budget. But somehow or other that chart got sneaked into the book, and there it is: the only balanced budget now in 25 years in the province.

I love this. I say to my business friends, "Don't assume, because their name is `Conservative,' that they know how to manage the money." As a matter of fact, many of the business people were thrilled when Mulroney got elected: "Finally, we got our person down there." What happened? Never made a dent in the deficit, never touched the deficit, made a huge mess of things, bigger now than we even thought. So I say to my business friends, "You may not love us, but don't assume these people have any idea of how to manage the finances."

As a matter of fact, in my opinion the $5-billion tax cut is fiscally irresponsible. It makes no sense to me to go out and borrow all that money for a tax break. I looked at it. I said, "You've got to pay at least $3 billion of interest on that tax break." You give people a tax break, it's all borrowed money, and you're paying interest on it. It doesn't make much sense to me to do that, other than that maybe politically your friends think it's great. But you've got to go out and borrow all that money to do it.

Mr Wettlaufer: You thought it was fiscally responsible to spend like you did in the 1980s.

Mr Phillips: I hear carping over here from someone. Believe me, I don't end up defending the Liberal record completely, but deficits went down every single year, a balanced budget, unemployment dropped dramatically, we had the best unemployment rate probably in 20 years in the province.

I'd say to this group, what are the first steps you're taking? What you're doing is cutting jobs dramatically. We understand that. But you're cutting jobs at a time when the economy is just barely getting off its knees. I don't know what other members felt, but I was amazed that we were in a recession in the first six months of 1995. It came as a surprise to me. I thought that we were heading to a very good 1995, but according to the document here we were in a recession in the first six months of 1995. The economy is just now kind of back on its feet.


I will say to all of us I think there's a distinct possibility that the statement that you announced yesterday will, at the very least, slow the economy down significantly. I hope it doesn't throw us back into recession. I'm not advocating spending our way out of it, but I am saying the reason why you are driven to at least cutting 25% more money than you promised in the campaign -- and that's what you're doing; you're cutting 25% more money than you promised --

Mr Wettlaufer: How much higher was the deficit?

Mr Phillips: The member over here asks, "How much higher was the deficit?" But you've chosen to cut 25% more spending but not to touch the tax cut. You're still going to go ahead with your $5-billion tax cut. So you've made the decision. You've made the decision that the cuts are going to be far deeper.

I was shocked that you have told the hospitals of this province you're going to cut 20% of their funding. I don't know how you feel about it. I have some idea of the challenges hospitals are going through right now. In Metropolitan Toronto I gather there's a major restructuring you're planning. At the same time as they're trying to work their way through a restructuring, you're going to cut 20% of their funding. I will say to all of us that the commitment you made on health care couldn't have been clearer, and you're all going to pay. You'll pay substantially for that.

On the debt and deficit, I think most people in the province kind of assume that the big money managers are going to get the deficit well under control. I'm not sure that they all realize that it is your plan to add $30 billion to the debt. You're all going to be around here adding $30 billion to the debt, and when you go to the next election, somebody will say, "Wow, you added $30 billion to the debt when you were down there?"

Interjection: Is that completely accurate? Is it $30 billion?

Mr Phillips: Yes, it's $30 billion. One of the members says, "Is it accurate?" I take it out of your own statements: $30 billion to the debt. As I said earlier, when do you balance the budget? March 31, 2001. When's the latest time for the next election? June of the year before. So you won't balance the budget until eight months after the maximum of the next election.


Mr Phillips: Pardon me? I really like the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I wouldn't say he's the most arrogant here, but I think he'd like to think of himself as the most arrogant.

I assure you that, come the next election, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing will have to explain the cuts to health care. He will have to explain the fact that the 725,000 jobs have not materialized. He will have to explain to the people of Ontario how we got into this problem with our policing, with our educational system, how we allowed tuition fees to rise. So I'm looking forward to the opportunity for the next election.

But here we are debating right now your first big financial statement. I'm saying to you, yes, it is a defining moment; yes, it is fully arrayed now what the public should expect from the Common Sense Revolution, and I said it earlier. I have no doubt that there are still a large number of people out there very supportive of this --

Mr Preston: It's 62%.

Mr Phillips: Sixty-two per cent now, the member said, are very supportive of it. I'm sure you go home and at the chamber of commerce and the various business communities you get a slap on the back. But the impact of this has not been felt yet.

The impact of this comes as the hospitals feel the full brunt of your cuts, as seniors who voted for you realize that you broke that solemn promise, as the jobs that you have promised fail to materialize, as municipalities are forced to cut back on their policing services and as classrooms finally get impacted by this and as fees on all sorts of services are added.

The number we were given yesterday from the officials is that the average senior in this province should expect to pay $200 more year for their drugs than they do currently. You may say, "Well, they can afford it," but if that's not a tax on the seniors, I don't know what is. If that's not a $200 tax on the seniors, I don't know what is.

I think seniors now listen to this and realize: "Wait a minute. If I'm making $150,000, I'm getting a $5,000 tax break. But if I'm a senior, I'm paying $200 more a year for my drug plan. Somehow or other this common sense isn't making as much common sense as I thought back in June when I voted for these people."


Mr Phillips: I appreciate the clapping because I gather you're saying that many seniors did vote for you, and they did. Why did they do that? Because they believed you. They believed you when you said you wouldn't touch health care. They believed you when you said you wouldn't put copayments and user fees on the drug benefit plan. Now they're starting to realize maybe they shouldn't have. It's going to take a while to fully work its way through, but it surely is beginning to do that.

I wanted to talk a little bit as well, once again, on the omnibus bill that was introduced today. My experience around here is that the public care very little about these matters of bills. They just assume it's squabbling going on between parties and tune it all out. But I would say to the public that this is a government that will take this to new heights.

You loved Bill 7, but the labour movement had a legitimate complaint about consultation on that. You made sweeping changes to a fundamental right for them, absolutely sweeping changes, and I was critical of the NDP on their labour bill because I felt it was basically a very one-sided bill. I think any objective observer would say this Bill 7 was very strongly a pro-management bill, basically 100% pro-management. But there was no debate on it. You changed the whole lives of the labour movement dramatically and they never had a chance to ever say a word about it. In the end, you can't do that, although you may be able to ram a few things through.

Now, having tasted that Bill 7 which you put through with no debate -- I was once responsible for a bill, it was Bill 208, and I can remember going around the province everywhere with the bill. It wasn't particularly pleasant, frankly, because the labour movement wasn't thrilled about it, but I had no difficulty in agreeing to hearings. As a matter of fact, we made some changes in the bill, and I think we made some improvements in the bill.

Mr Ford: People made changes in the party too.

Mr Phillips: The member is once again heckling over there, but I'd say to the member that people are owed an opportunity to express their views.


Mr Wettlaufer: They did that on June 8.

Mr Phillips: I'm not sure people at home could hear that. The member just said they did it on June 8. What that member essentially is saying is: "We were elected on June 8. We will do whatever we want."

Hon Mr Leach: Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: I'd like to ask the honourable member across if he would withdraw the word "arrogant." We have sat here this afternoon intently listening to his comments and offering constructive criticism, more than any member of his own caucus was prepared to do, and I think that was totally uncalled for.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair didn't see anything irreverent or unparliamentary about it.

Mr Phillips: If it offended the member, I withdraw the thing. I will withdraw what I said, not what I think.

The member over here said that on June 8 the people spoke. Essentially what he's saying is: "We got elected. We've got a majority. We will do whatever we want. People will not have an opportunity for their voices to be heard."

Mr Wettlaufer: I don't think I said that.

Mr Phillips: Well, you did say that.

Yesterday we had a bill introduced here that, believe me, is far-reaching. It allows the Minister of Health for the first time ever to unilaterally close hospitals. It allows the government to force through its copayments and its user fees. It permits the government to organize municipalities essentially in whatever way it wants to. It takes away fundamental rights from firemen, from policemen, from people whose collective bargaining is around arbitration.

You may in the end be right or wrong about that, but if I were a policeman or a fireman in this province, I would be up in arms. I would say, "How could you, with no debate, never talking to us, take away those fundamental rights?" You got elected on June 8. That's the reason you want to give people. You try it. As I said before, the reason why I think anger is building in this community, in Ontario, is for exactly that reason. It's the arrogance. It's the arrogance of "We will do whatever we want."

I will say to the members of the back bench, you can have some influence on this. If you find that behaviour acceptable, you'll live with it. You'll live with it in terms of groups increasingly distrusting you and you'll live with it in the next election. I wouldn't tolerate it. I wouldn't tolerate the introduction of an omnibus bill like that, that touches so many people's lives, and to say that we are going to pass all of this with virtually no debate.

Back to portions of the economic statement that we saw yesterday: I would say on the jobs front, the job forecast is beginning to get very shaky. The members can look at it whatever way they want, but job creation is very slow, far slower than the architects of this Common Sense Revolution thought it would be and far slower than it should be to hit your 725,000 new jobs.

The economy is far weaker than you thought, and my judgement is that one of the reasons we are looking at an $8-billion cut is because --

Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The honourable member has an obligation to point to accurate facts, in my submission. He indicates that our job creation figures are not in accord as forecast in our document. In fact, the Statistics Canada figures I referred to for the last two months indicate 27,000 jobs have been created in Ontario, times six is 160,000, times five is 800,000. They're right on track, so I don't know where my friend gets his figures.

Just one other fact: If he could look at page --

The Deputy Speaker: Would the member please take his seat. My ruling is that it's not a point of order, and I'd ask the member for Scarborough-Agincourt to continue.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that, Mr Speaker. Where do I get my figures? I'll tell you where I get my figures.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker --

The Deputy Speaker: Your point of order, please.

Mrs Marland: Very briefly, my point of order is this, Mr Speaker, that I think if we are talking about jobs, we could talk about the 36,000 people who were on welfare who are now working. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker: My ruling is that that is not a point of order as well.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): The fact is that in yesterday's statement they fired 100,000 people with their economic statement.

The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Cochrane North please take his seat.

Mr Phillips: I'll tell you where I get my figures. It's from the Ministry of Finance. From the Minister of Finance's office. Here is the chart they publish. This is straight out of their document. It shows job growth going on and then flattening out. That's not my numbers, that's the Ministry of Finance numbers. He's standing right there. You ask him where he gets his numbers. I just take the numbers from him.

I also see here -- this is straight from "Labour Market Economic Conditions," office of economic policy, November 3. Here are the numbers. This is straight from the Ministry of Finance: jobs in December, 5,254,000; jobs in October, 5,240,000; down 14,000 over the year.

So I frankly resent the member taking my time when he hasn't done his homework, but the fact is, I get them from the Ministry of Finance and I actually read this stuff and that's where I get the numbers and that's why I say this is a chart that's published by the Ministry of Finance indicating the problem with the job market.

If what you're trying to say is there isn't a major problem with jobs in this province, then this province is in bigger trouble with this government than I thought. We have a huge problem with jobs and that's why I frankly resented the attack on welfare people. I resented the fact -- and now that you've got me angry -- the government sent out a notice saying: "Stop welfare fraud. If you suspect anyone of welfare fraud, phone this number."

You know what you did? You sent it out to all sorts of community organizations, to municipalities and you said, "Go around and post this in public buildings." And nothing gets me quite as angry as this because you essentially made everyone on welfare feel that they have to feel somehow or other second-class citizens and worried about being hunted down. You did that. It was a "Dear colleague" letter from the minister saying, "Please post this on public buildings." That was, I found, objectionable.

I don't mind stamping out fraud with welfare obviously, but to essentially say, "Go out and" -- and then you know what else that made me mad in this document here? What does it talk about? It talks about hiring more tax auditors. Never a mention about this hotline to track down tax cheats.

This government has got two standards. If you're on welfare and you cheat, you deserve to be hunted down even if you're suspected. I found that totally objectionable, just suspect somebody. Do you know what that does to people? It turns people against people.


Mr Phillips: Yes, but then the tax thing, which is a problem that the auditor says is 10 times as big as welfare fraud, you decided to go out and quietly hire a few more tax auditors, and no mention of this hotline to track down tax cheats. Either you think tax cheats don't deserve the same treatment as welfare cheats or you've got two standards. I suggest to you you've got two standards. I say to you, this is symptomatic --

Mr Wettlaufer: Point of order, Mr Speaker: He's questioning motive.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm sorry. Your point of order?

Mr Len Wood: There is no point of order.

Mr Wettlaufer: Questioning motive. Alleging that we have two standards, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: My ruling is it's not a point of order. I'd ask the member for Scarborough-Agincourt to continue.

Mr Phillips: The reason I raise all of this is because we're starting to see a pattern, and if you are over on the back bench, I would object to it, pattern being the omnibus bill we saw being introduced that will change -- it will affect virtually everyone in this province in a very major way. That was introduced, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. You'll be able to continue when next we discuss this matter.

Hon Mr Eves: Mr Speaker, I have a motion with respect to the standing committee on resources development that has been agreed to by all three House leaders in terms of its sitting times for next week. If it's the pleasure of the House, could I have permission to revert to motions, please?

The Deputy Speaker: Do I have consent? Agreed.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding any standing order or special order of the House, in addition to its regular meeting times the standing committee on resources development be authorized to meet from 9 am to 12:30 pm and in the evening until 11 pm on Monday, December 4, 1995, and from 9 am to 12:30 pm and in the evening until 9 pm on Wednesday, December 6, 1995, to consider Bill 15, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Does the motion carry? I declare it carried.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, if it would please the House, I have the weekly business sheet. Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of December 4, 1995.

On Monday, December 4, we will continue with the replies to the economic statement and the debate on the economic statement, going in rotation, as we agreed earlier this afternoon, after the two replies are concluded.

On Tuesday, December 5, we will start second reading of Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act. We will continue with second reading of Bill 26 on Wednesday, December 6, and Thursday, December 7.

For Thursday morning's private members' business, we will consider ballot item number 11, standing in the name of the member for Hamilton East, and ballot item number 12, standing in the name of the member for Cochrane North.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): It being 6 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 o'clock on Monday, December 4.

The House adjourned at 1801.